Backpacking Gear List: there’s a difference between what you need, and what you think you need
Backpacking gear gets tricky to buy. You don’t want to carry a lot because a heavy pack equals a hurting back. So when you create your backpacking gear list it’s smart to write down everything you think you’ll need, and then prioritize what you can carry. For a 5 foot 3 inch woman like me, I know that my absolute maximum comfort zone peaks at the international checked baggage weight restrictions of 22 kilos (40+ lbs). And even then, the pressure of my pack makes it challenging to carry for extended time. In actuality, my comfort zone probably ranges closer to 10-22 lbs. To figure out how much you can comfortably carry, pack your pack with the heavy items (i.e. hiking shoes or toiletries) toward the bottom/back of the bag near the small of your back. This will disburse the weight over the strongest areas of your body making it easier to carry. Then see how long you can wear your pack: walk up and down stairs, try to put in a load of laundry, do the dishes, stroll around the block. You’ll probably find that carrying a weighty pack is hard, and before long you’ll be eliminating stuff you really thought you needed.
Backpacking Gear: Avoid hitches on the road–pack light but be prepared
These packing techniques help you whittle down your backpacking gear list, but don’t get too crazy. Sacrificing essential gear, like hiking boots or a warm sweater or sweatshirt towel makes you unprepared, and you’ll probably end up spending unnecessary money to get comfortable again. (If you skip the sweatshirt thinking Greece is super hot in the summer, be warned. Greece gets cold at night and the last thing you want to do is drop 30 euros on a tacky sweatshirt with a Greek flag splashed across the chest.) To avoid hitches on the road, be prepared and pack light. Here are three backpacking gear essentials you should always have in your pack, no matter what country or climate.
Swiss Army Explorer Knife, $49.50
A good knife is a good investment. The Swiss Army Explorer knife features two blades and other tools essential for traveling: scissors (helpful if you need to cut a bandage, a tag on clothing, or during food prep) magnifying glass (handy for reading small maps), Phillips screwdriver (if your sunglasses need tightening or your camera screws come loose), and a corkscrew (for bottles of wine when you’re relaxing on a beach underneath the stars). The Explorer also includes a can opener, wire stripper, reamer with sewing eye, tweezers, toothpick and key ring. The Nylon handle, aluminum housing and durable, stainless-steel components make it great for rough use.
Quick Dry Towel, $19.50
The REI MultiTowel Lite is soft, highly absorbent, quick drying, ultralight and the best investment I’ve ever made. It absorbs up to 8 times its weight in liquid, yet 90% of the liquid can be easily wrung out to speed drying time. It’s ultra-light synthetic fabric is compact taking up little space in your backpack. It comes with a case and it’s quick-attach loop makes it easy to hang out to dry. If you’re in a hurry, clip it on to your pack and let the air dry it while you’re in transit. It’s machine washable and it’s antimicrobial fabric remains odor free.
Travel Clothesline, $10.00
It seems silly but a clothesline it’s really smart to bring a clothesline. You don’t want to be taking time at laundromats and waiting a few hours for washer and dryer cycles, and in fact, many smaller European cities don’t even have public laundromats. You’ll probably be washing your clothes by hand on the road, and once they’re clean you’ll need somewhere safe and clean to hang them. A travel clothesline suctions to glass and mirror surfaces, or can be tied around hostel beds or door knobs–travel forces you to get creative about your laundry and bringing a lightweight clothesline helps.