Travel. Whether by plane, train, or auto mobile, the act of exploring the world requires some preparation. Especially when it comes to choosing which of your worldly possessions you’ll carry with you on your journey.
From hiking boots and waterproofs, to high heels and caftans, your packing list will vary depending on travel style and chosen itinerary. However you should always make room in you backpack for a few travel essentials designed to help you make the most of your adventures.
Here’s my pick of 79 gap year essentials for backpackers who love adventure.
Essential documents for gap year travel
Before you leave home set yourself up with a cloud storage solution and take copies of all your important travel and identification documents.
Make sure you know the password and can log into the folder from any device in case yours are stolen as this can help you if you find yourself in a worst case scenario situation.
Passport and visas
Vaccination certificates – in some cases the original document is required so check this with your GP.
Travel insurance policy – really take some time to research which policy offers the best coverage.
Download the app of your flight provider and download your boarding pass
Booking confirmation for any trips/accommodation etc – remember to screen shot the booking reference in case you can’t get connected to wifi when you land
Credit and debit cards – travel with as few cards as possible to reduce the headache if you have your bag stolen
Cash in local currency or if you’re travelling to multipule destinations take some US dollars
From the EU? Get a European health card
Citizens of the UK, or travellers with EEA, EU, or Swiss nationality should consider the benefits of applying for a European Health Insurance Card when backpacking through Europe.
Card holders will be eligible for medical treatment in most countries within the European Union (EU) and the card can also can be used within Switzerland free of charge. However note that the card is not an alternative to travel insurance.
A sturdy, supportive, backpack like this 65l pack by Osprey is essential for gap year travel, however when you’re not in transit you’ll likely want a stylish, yet understated day pack to carry your day-trip essentials like tablet, beachwear, camera, and snacks. I recently tested out the Casual Backpack by Machir and rated it 4 out of 5 stars for its combination of classic design and durability.
A waterproof cover
A waterproof liner (some people think this is only necessary if your backpack is going to be exposed to the elements for a long period of time, for example during a hiking trip, however if you are planning to travel through the tropics, or on public transport this is a worthwhile addition to your list)
Travel document wallet
Plastic bags for dirty shoes or to separate your dirty laundry, it’s worth while taking a few along just in case
Vacuum bags to store really compact items such as clothing or sleeping bags
Gap year travel absolute essentials
Along with the general items you’ll find on any other packing list post here are my suggestions (based on seven years of long-term travel) for gear that will make your life easier, or just a little bit more enjoyable when out on the road.
A FLAT PACK WATER BOTTLE
Staying hydrated when you travel can reduce the symptoms of jet lag and help to keep you feel fit and healthy on the road, so I highly recommend taking a water bottle along for the ride.
Negate the often exorbitant prices of bottled water at airports and tourist hot spots, and carry your own flat pack bottle from the vibrant Vapur series. You’ll find that most restaurants and bars will oblige when you ask them to fill your bottle with tap water. Save money and stay hydrated.
PERSONALISED PRINTED T-SHIRTS
Whether you’re travelling solo, with a friend, or as a group, getting personalised printed t-shirts detailing your travel buddies and your route is a fun way to commemorate your adventure, and a stylish addition to your travel wardrobe.
STYLISH SUNGLASSES FROM SOLBOU
Let’s get real for a moment. Health insurance and neck support are both great additions to your list of travel essentials, but for EPIC travel selfies you’re going to need a pair of stylish frames that stand out from the crowd.
Get 10% off your order at Solbou.com with discount code WLUK10
A TRTL TRAVEL PILLOW
Long haul flights are a killer, especially if like me you travel in economy where (depending on the airline you fly with), leg room is somewhat restricted and it’s almost impossible to get comfy enough to drift off.
Having spent my fair share of hours in the air trying to constrict myself into various yoga-esq positions in search of the optimum position to snooze, I can tell that catching a few Zzzzzzz at 35,000ft is not fun. So imagine my elation when I discovered the Trtl Pillow (pronounced as turtle). This ergonomic sleep scarf props up your neck and makes getting comfy whilst sitting up easy as pie.
Grab one of these and snooze on the go with ease. Whether delayed at the airport, waiting for a train, or travelling on a bus, the neck support offered by this product will have you catching flies in no time, allowing you to arrive at your destination refreshed and ready for the adventures ahead.
Yes that is a pic of me catching flies en route to Antigua. Looks like the Trtl Nap Scarf was a success!
A MINI RIG SPEAKER SET
Yes quick dry clothes are advisable if you don’t want to be spending hours doing laundry, and no you probably don’t need more than two pairs of shoes. But hey, have you considered how you’re going to rack out some beats when you’re in the party mood whilst exploring rural Costa Rica?
Get yourself a mini rig. These rechargeable speakers project sound with incredible volume and clarity, and pack neatly into your backpack. Sacrifice that extra pair of shorts to make space for this speaker, trust me it’ll be worth it.
CLEVER TRAVEL CLOTHING
If like me the idea of losing your passport on the road sends you into fits of hysteria, consider packing a pair of Clever Travel Companion briefs and store your passport on your person when you’re on the go.
In certain parts of the world backpackers stand out like a sore thumb and can be the target of opportunistic theft. Keep your passport and some emergency cash or a credit card in the hidden pockets of these briefs, and in the event that you’re separated from your belongings you’ll not be without the bare essentials you need to get home.
A GPS APP FOR YOUR SMART PHONE
Having the ability to pinpoint your location can take the stress out of travel.
When you fly into an unfamiliar destination and you need to get from A to B, open up an app like Garmin, Waze, or Scout GPS and get your bearings within seconds.
A SCRUBBA WASH BAG
Weighing less than 145g (5 oz.), the Scrubba wash bag is the lightest and most compact “washing machine” in the world. It also transforms into a handy day pack!
So if you’re hoping to travel light and are concerned that you won’t have enough outfits to last you from one wash to the next, this travel product is a must.