What to Pack – Part 1, Introduction

We come to the part of the pre-trip that always seems to cause the greatest anguish, where even the most assured of us fearless, intrepid, go-getting travellers seek solace in lists. Where the experience of others by way of second, third and more opinions matter, as we cling to the ‘life raft’ formed from the results of google ‘packing list’ searches.

Welcome to the packing list.

Let me say at the outset that the selection of items for your trip is not an exact science, so no list should be copied verbatim. Rather use it as a prompt, or a point of interest, a chance to be a voyeur and perhaps spot something useful. After all each of us have different priorities and ideas as to what is essential and necessary, these will mirror our interests, personalities and attitudes. That said there is a great deal of commonality, amongst the necessities of long term travel and a selection of what might be termed the ‘core items’ soon forms. My list reflects my interests, my priorities and I guess my personality.

If you’re a budding volunteer reading this then my pack is also generally quite different to that of other volunteers that I work alongside. They are often on a single destination trip and can afford the luxury of bringing the proverbial sink, alongside useful items such as water filters, teaching or medical resources and, of course, clothes to donate. So as well as compiling my own recommendations for overland round the world trip packing, I’ll also separately offer, based on my experience and observation, some bespoke packing advice for all you wonderful single destination volunteers.

First up a few general rules to keep in mind:

1. You can buy a version of almost everything you need on the road,

2. I tend to maximise equipment and useful gadgets at the expense of clothing.

There are a few simple reasons for this:

  • when rough camping it can be extraordinarily difficult to find facilities to adequately wash clothes,
  • it is exceptionally cheap to buy clothing en-route. In Africa this is often by vendors approaching the overland truck.
  • the most convenient and practical option is often to donate your worn clothing to the locals, who can hand wash your smelly, sweat stained clothes more effectively than us mollycoddled westerners and either personally make use of them or, gain an income by selling them.

All in all I find this a very neat solution to a tricky problem and it’s one that maximises income potential for the locals whose land we are visiting.

3.  More experienced travellers will always take less than first timers.

This is natural, if it’s the first time you’ve travelled overland it’s a big step into the unknown. So you’re going to want to make sure that you have everything and every eventuality covered: whether it’s the kit and gadgets you take or, the clothes you pack, there is comfort and re-assurance in bringing as much as you can. This guide will hopefully allow you to rest more easily in drawing up your list.

For ease of reference and navigation, for all you voyeurs, I’ll publish my packing list in the following sections:

What to Pack – Part 2, My Pack’s, Organising Packing & Security

What to Pack – Part 3, For a Great Night’s Sleep

What to Pack – Part 4, My Gadget List

What to Pack – Part 5, My Clothing List

What to Pack – Part 6, Health, Hygiene & Toiletries

and especially for single destination volunteers, this guide:

What to Pack – Part 7, Volunteering Resources & Donations

Baggage allowance watch:

Most scheduled airlines provide us economy class dwellers with a hold baggage allowance of between 22 and 24 kilos.

As I publish each section I’ll thought it would be useful to provide you, and future readers, with a running total of how much of this allowance my recommendations use up.

My aim is to make your packing task less daunting and also to help your awareness of how the weight of individual items and selection of simple and innovative kit should factor in your trip preparations.

4 responses to “What to Pack – Part 1, Introduction

  1. Pingback: What to Pack – Part 5, My Clothing List | wandering volunteer·

  2. Pingback: What to Pack – Part 2, My Pack’s, Organising Packing & Security. | wandering volunteer·

  3. great article. Looking forward to the following ones. You are so right people tend to think you cannot buy anything in developing countries. I have had clients ask if they have to bring their own toilet paper from home!

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