Now that you have your backpack and your daypack, let’s talk about what to pack in them for your trip. In other words, your packing list. And when I say “list”, I literally mean it: making a good packing list on a piece of paper is half of packing. So what should you have on your list?
Well, first and foremost, clothes – duh. What you take depends on where you go. If your trip is short and you know you are not hiking much but spending all your time by the coast, beachwear will probably suffice. If you are an adventurous backpacker and plan to do multiple activities, you will need to be more prepared. There are plenty of countries, such as Peru, Colombia, Nepal or New Zealand, where you are likely to experience both tropical heat and freezing cold in a matter of a few days or even on the same day. Always remembering the “packing light” adage: make sure you have clothes for all occasions you might encounter. Useful things for cold weather are a compressible down jacket and a warm, light fleece sweater. The key word is “layers”. And don’t forget a warm hat and gloves.
For warmer weather, all you really need is your swim wear, a few t-shirts, maybe a nice-ish short-sleeve shirt for those beach parties, some sandals and you are good to go. When I say sandals, I don’t mean flip-flops, although they are very useful and should be a part of every backpacker’s packing list. I mean sandals you can walk in the streets comfortably, run if necessary, hike and wade puddles. Meaning, they should be waterproof and have straps around your ankles. Fortunately, there are some available models of both stylish and waterproof sandals in the market now. My favourite ones are Crocs Swiftwarer River Fishermans, as they are comfortable, waterproof and don’t have any material that would funkify with time. Quality is particularly important with sandals – once a strap rips off, they become useless. That is true even with flip-flops, that’s why you would see such a wide price ranges for this seemingly simple footwear.
You should also take at least one pair of light hiking shoes with you. Note that I said shoes, not boots. Leave your heavy-duty hiking boots at home. They are way too bulky and heavy to be taken on a backpacking trip. High-quality trekking shoes or any trainers with sturdy, good-grip sole are your best friends. And trust me, you can even go on multi-day treks in the Himalaya in those if you have a good pair.
In addition, you might want to take a pair of walking city shoes, preferably loafer style, that should be universal enough to be both comfortable for walking the streets all day and stylish enough to pass the shoe code in most nightclubs. I wish there was a pair that could be used both for hiking and nights out, but I have not seen one yet, which is not to say I haven’t seen plenty of backpackers in their hiking gear in third world countries’ fancy bars, surrounded by swanky-dressed locals. You’ve gotta represent – don’t look like a bum. Still, if you are not planning on much city activity on your trip, you can leave your city shoes behind.
Nowadays, it’s not a disaster if you leave anything behind – literally every country would have everything you need in stores in case you forgot something. However, footwear, especially shoes, bring your tried and tested pair rather than rely on purchasing them overseas. You really don’t want to test out new hiking shoes of dubious origin you’ve picked up in some remote town in Peru, especially if you are preparing for a multi-day Andes trek.