Not needed



David Whitley takes a look at the commonly-packed things you really don’t need to take with you on a round the world trip


Most packing advice concentrates on the things you do need to pack, but just as important is what you leave out. If you’re planning to travel the world for a few months, then a bit of expediency on the packing front is going to save you a fair bit of back pain and stress in the long run. So here are a few things that should definitely stay at home…


The thick woolly jumper

Unless you’re planning to go somewhere really, really cold, a thick jumper is always going to be a burden on the backpack. It’s one of those things you pack “just in case” and, as with most “just in case” items it’ll be used infrequently if not at all. If you end up going somewhere cold, you can just buy a cheap jumper or fleece while there and ditch it later.


Beach towels

One towel can take up a bit too much room, but taking two – an extra, large one for the beach as well – is just madness. Again, beach towels are far better bought whilst on the ground if you need one. If you’re travelling around beachy areas for a while, you’ll probably want one. Fine – buy a cheap one locally and keep it in a plastic bag whilst travelling around by local transport. But the moment you have to get on a plane, it’s probably time to ditch it.


Travel pillows

There is some merit in having an inflatable travel pillow that you can blow up each time you’re on a flight or a coach, but only if you’re going to be spending a lot of time on planes and coaches. As for the fluffy pillows that aren’t inflatable? Well, they’re going to be nothing but a complete nuisance. You’ll be sick of the sight – and shape – of it within a fortnight, as they’re incredible difficult to pack around.


Soft toys

So you’ve brought a stuffed tiger or a teddy along so you can take photos of it in a series of weird and wonderful locations around the world. Brilliant! There’s absolutely no way that joke is going to wear thin after weeks of trying to shoehorn it into your bag, and lumbering up mountains with it in your hand, just for that photo op. Alas, the gag has been done many, many times before – the toy is best left at home.


Your guitar

No-one, and I mean no-one, wants to hear your version of Wonderwall. Got it?


Packing Panic



David Whitley wonders whether forgetting to pack something has to be a disaster after all


Where have I put my driving licence? The one important question runs through my head repeatedly as I ransack the house. I even have to tidy my desk in a bid to find it. Eventually it turns up in the drawer downstairs. Now where did I put my passport? It seems as though it got moved whilst tidying my desk. I scrabble around in the piles of ‘tidied’ stuff until it appears on the spare bed. I elected to put it safely in my plastic document wallet. Then it’s simply a case of finding where I’d put my driving licence again. And then remembering where I’d put the document wallet.


This is what tends to happen every time I go away. For all my best intentions, I almost always end up packing right at the last minute. It’s like I enjoy panicking. But if there’s anyone in the world who manages to go away without undergoing some degree of packing panic, I’d put them down in the possibly psychopathic serial killer category. It’s only natural; there’s always that nagging doubt that you’ve left something behind.


This is usually because you have left something behind. The crucial question is whether that something is truly vital to the operation, or just something that will prove a mild irritation once you realise it isn’t there.


Some things I almost always forget. Swimming goggles and towels are most common, which is annoying. But I can always borrow the hotel’s bathroom towel and buy a new pair of goggles. I always end up stealing the hotel’s laundry bag or – if it’s not posh enough to have one – the bin liner out of the bin in my room. That’s because I always forget to take a bag to put my dirty washing in.


There are also things that get left behind. I’ve left razors in the bathroom, guide books on a train and – most infuriatingly – phone chargers in the plug socket. In every single case it has been a nuisance. But aside from the cost of buying a new one and the couple of hours spent finding where to get one, it was a surprisingly minor nuisance.


And it has gradually led me to the conclusion that there are very few absolute necessities. The only thing that it would be a true disaster not to take would be my passport. And maybe my driving licence if I’m hiring a car. We live in an era of e-tickets so even if you forget to print yours out, chances are you’ll be able to go online and find it again. I don’t recommend this, incidentally – I just reckon it’s not an absolute catastrophe if you lose your print-out.


Everything else, pretty much, is easily replaceable or traceable. Now then... where did I put my driving licence?


What’s the worst thing you’ve forgotten to pack or left behind in a hotel room? Share your shame with the world by leaving a comment below.


Get your own Serial Killer eye mask here


Girl packing



I truly believe that what you pack and what you wear on your Round the World trip is far more complex if you are a girl than if you are a bloke. Champion packing guides can be found online by Mark Eveleigh (10 Essential Items for your RTW) here and David Whitley (The Art of RTW Packing) here, but there are a few extra things girls need consider when packing that guys don’t have to worry about.



I’m not referring to the kilos of emotional stuff here. One of the biggest ways you can muck up before you go is not having the right backpack. Girls need to ensure they get a hold of a backpack that is specifically designed for women and have it fitted by a professional at a travel shop. A correctly fitted backpack will put the weight across your hips and take the strain off your back. When you get caught walking for ten hours with all your gear through roadblocks in the north of Peru with all your gear like I did one time, you’ll understand why.


The hair bear

Ladies, the ponytail will be the greatest achievement your luscious locks will manage while you’re travelling. Get a wash and wear, low maintenance haircut. Invest in a quick dry towel for drying your hair- and remember the shorter it is, the quicker it dries. Forget about carrying a hairdryer or hair straightener. Seriously. I’ve only ever met one girl who was glad she brought her hair straightener with her, and that was mainly because her boyfriend carried her bag. Buy a jumbo 20 pack of hair ties or scrunchies and scatter then across the bottom of your backpack (you’ll end up losing 95% of them).


Say NO to heels

Shoes are one of the hardest things to work out when you are packing. After travelling to 40 different countries, I’ve still only just got it right. So here is my advice: have one brilliant pair of walking shoes (open toe or closed toe depending on climate). If you’re going to hike or trek it is worth investing in a pair of lightweight hiking boots or sandals. A pair of all-purpose flip flops can be used for hostel showers and the beach, while I’ve taken to throwing in a pair of ultra-light-weight black leather ballet slipper heels (purchased for a tenner at H&M) for my going out shoes. I don’t believe you need to take high heels, because in almost every country in the world, you’ll find a cheap store carrying cheap heels for ten quid or under. Grab a pair if you’re desperate; the ballet flats will do if you’re not.


Make up? Jewellery?

If you have to pack make up, go for handy airport compacts that cram everything into one small pouch. Beyond that, grab some eyeliner and mascara if you need it- but chances are you won’t. Jewellery has a terrible habit of either breaking or being stolen on the road. Take it if you want to, but be prepared to lose it along the way. There will be plenty of jewellery for you to purchase during your travels.


That shrinking feeling

Be mindful of the fabrics you pack and the clothes you take. Packing tight clingy synthetic clothes is not the best idea for your RTW. Most times your laundry continually shrinks as it’s put into heavy duty industrial dryers in developing countries. Or at least that’s what I told myself when my weight fluctuated from country to country based on what I was eating, and ahem, drinking at the time. Your diet and daily exercise can go up and down when you travel and it can affect your weight, so just be mindful of this when packing. A tiny sewing kit is also very handy thing to throw in, as rips and tears do happen.


Icky Stuff on the Road

Unfortunately the painters and decorators come whether you’re back home under the doona with a tub of ice cream or on an overnight bus across the Andes. Luckily getting your period is a universal issue and pads and tampons are in steady supply the world over. However, if you really feel uncomfortable, take a handy supply of your favourite brand. Panty liners are also a great way to maintain that ‘fresh’ feeling on long flights or overland journeys when you may not be able to change your knickers.


The Fine Print: Pads, Tampons & The Pill

As for contraceptives, you really need to take this one seriously and plan ahead, as getting knocked up or contracting an STD on the road isn’t an ideal way to spend your time away. ALWAYS carry condoms and discuss with your gynaecologist before you go away your contraception issues, including how you might be able to refill that script or get an IUD on the road, and how other medications you might have to take (like your anti-malarials) might affect them.


A luxury item

Take one thing you don’t need but will want while you’re away around the world- some small home comfort to help you relax. For me, my luxury item was a small bottle of metallic orange OPI nail polish. I’ve seen one girl carry her own pillow, the pillowcase hand stitched by her mum. Whatever you feel comfortable with that will make you feel good (and if it’s your hair straightener well.... so be it).


Other stuff

I’ve always been a advocate of getting one black sleeveless wrap dress that cuts off just below the knee, specifically purchased from a travel gear shop that you can dress up or down according to the country, weather or situation. Packing a shawl or sarong is invaluable, whether it is used to cover your head and shoulders in religious places, protect you from the sun, as a beach towel or instant dash of colour to a drab travelling wardrobe. Plus, a large oversized shawl has always been handy to keep my camera hidden. A fake wedding ring can be handy when warding off admirers, and you can never have too many wet bags or stuff sacs for keeping clean and dirty stuff apart.


Frilly Pants

Your nice lacy knickers & bras will get pinched from the laundry - leave them behind.


One last word of advice…. 

Pack your backpack a week before you go and catch a bus to the local supermarket and go grocery shopping for an hour with the backpack attached to your back. I guarantee it will lighten your load before you jet off.




Art of Packing





If you’re going away for a long time, there’s a definite art to packing. Deciding what to take with you and how best to fit it all in becomes rather important, and while there’s no ‘right’ way of doing it, there are certainly plenty of wrong ways.


Pick the right bags

The first thing to do before getting any items of clothing ready is to pick the bag or bags they’re going to go into. The backpack versus suitcase debate will no doubt rumble on for centuries, but let’s just say that a backpack is a darned sight easier to carry around when you’re trudging a couple of kilometres between bus station and accommodation. That said, it’s a lot easier to keep things neat in a suitcase.



Assuming you do plump for a backpack, there are many types and sizes to choose from. Some are effectively cases with shoulder straps, others are the longer, more traditional type – choose whichever you’re most comfortable with and go with the biggest size you’re comfortable carrying. 


What is important is to make sure there are sufficient little compartments to keep things vaguely organised. It sounds silly, but it’s helpful to be able to go straight to your underwear or first aid kit.


First aid kit

Speaking of which, yes, a first aid kit is a good idea. You don’t have to go kitted out like a field surgeon, but a few paracetamols, the odd sticking plaster and a pair of scissors are unlikely to go amiss. 


Day bag

Only taking one big bag means that you have to lug that with you everywhere. Take a smaller day bag as well, and you can leave the big one behind whilst still carrying what you need (ie. book, towel, map, sun cream). They come in all sorts of sizes, but compartments are a winner again. The day bag also doubles as your flight bag, and the key thing when flying is to pack at least two changes of clothing into it. That way, if your main bag gets waylaid by the airline, you’re not stuck in just the clothes you’re standing in.


Check the weather

Before even starting on the packing, check what the weather in the countries you’re visiting is like at the time you’re visiting. Most people tend to follow the sun somewhat, and unless you’re planning to go to the southern tip of Argentina in mid-July, it’s unlikely that you’re going to need giant woolly jumpers and winter coats. Given that they take up acres of bag space, it’s wise not to pack them.



The other common criminal for taking up too much bag space is shoes, and I’m sorry ladies, but absolutely no-one needs to take more than three pairs of shoes with them. One pair of flip-flops for beaches/ every day wear, one pair of trainers/ walking shoes for pounding the streets (preferably a pair that look decent as casual wear in the evening) and one smarter pair that will do the job for both going out and any work you might end up doing along the way. You can easily argue that the smart pair isn’t necessary either. Then, once you have narrowed down your shoe options, stuff the ones you do take with socks – it’s a surprisingly effective space-saver.



It’s pretty much the golden rule that at least 25% of the clothes you take will generally end up staying in the bottom of the bag, largely unworn. That’s because when you get to the bottom of the bag, you realise you need to do some washing, and then put the clean clothes right back on top. This, in essence, means you should probably take around 25% less clothing than you initially plan to – after all, you can always buy some more on the way. The only exception on the cutbacks is underwear – that always runs out first, largely because you end up going through two pairs a day in hot, sweaty conditions.



But how do you start filtering things out? Well, first of all, ditch any items of favourite dress-up clothing. Work on the assumption that anything you take is going to be a tatty mess by the time you get back. Secondly, get rid of anything that can’t be worn with a significant number of other items you’re taking. If a top only goes with one pair of trousers (or skirt), then it’s hardly going to get worn and is taking up valuable space. If everything broadly matches, you’ve a lot more options. You should also think in layers – instead of taking one or two cumbersome items of warm clothing, a few items that can be layered on top of each other or worn independently will be much more productive (ie. a T-shirt under a long sleeved shirt, under a thinnish jumper under a jacket).


Specialist travel clothing

Are travel geek clothes (ie. zip-off trousers, quick-drying shirts with lots of pockets) worth buying? Well, if you get the right ones when they’re in a sale, almost unquestionably yes. Zip-off trousers eliminate the need for bringing extra pairs of shorts, whilst allowing you to cut back on the jeans (which are awful in hot conditions, and take up lots of space). 


A few lightweight shirts that dry quickly and have pockets that equate to extra storage space are great too – the right ones scrunch up really small, get plenty of wear out of them and are presentable enough in the evening as long as you’re not trying to enter a dress-to-impress nightclub. I use Craghoppers shirts, but it’s worth checking with the likes of Regatta, North Face and Berghaus.  Specialist travel gear that should be avoided includes walking poles (too much space, too little use), those awful chamois-like towels (they don’t dry you and stink after two uses) and neck pillows for flights (honestly, you’ll use it about once, and it takes up loads of space).



The general rule with reading books is to only be carrying a maximum of two at once. They can always be swapped with other travellers later on, and you can buy new ones in bookshops on the way. Guidebooks are a trickier task, but if you’re not travelling alone, share them between you rather than doubling up. You can always ditch them as after you’ve left the relevant country as well (although this can be somewhat heart-breaking to do).



Be careful about how gadgeted-up you get. After all, do you really need a smart phone, a laptop and an iPad? Also, if your laptop is gigantic, consider trading it in for a smaller, lighter netbook. Obviously, you’ll need to bring the chargers for everything as well. And this is where a everywhere-to-everywhere adaptor comes in handy. At some point, you’re pretty much guaranteed to leave a charger in the wall and have to buy a replacement. UK-to-everywhere adaptors are useless when you buy a replacement phone charger in Thailand or Mexico...



Some extra packing tips are included in our Guide to Staying Safe on a RTW Trip here



Here's a RTW packing list here


by Stuart Lodge

10 items


OK, admittedly none of these things are truly life-saving...but all of them have come in so handy on so many occasions that I now consider them an indispensible part of my travel kit.


Lightweight jungle hammock

I never leave home without one (unless I am going to completely treeless desert!) and it guarantees a good night’s sleep even in the most inhospitable corners. (I strung mine up in an abandoned African schoolroom just last night and slept like a baby). Most come with a fitted mosquito net and usually a rain shelter of sorts. However I prefer to save weight by buying a sheet of plastic for a roof when I know I will be camping out in wet conditions and then ditching it afterwards.


Sigg bottle

The Rolls Royce of water-bottles...although after more than a decade of serious use mine is beginning to look more like one of those battered Indian taxis. The advantage of these aluminium bottles is that it not only keeps drinks cool but will also keep coffee relatively warm. They can even double as a hot water bottle on very cold nights.


Gaffa tape

As expeditioner par excellence Al Humphreys says, “it’s like The Force: it has a light side and a dark side and it holds the universe together.” (Space saving tip: tape it around your water-bottle so that it takes up almost no room and is immediately to hand.)


Dental floss 

Ok, so your mum told you you should always floss but more useful still if you just chuck a needle into the container you have the perfect sewing kit with virtually unbreakable thread.


Petzl headlamp 

Infinitely useful for places where electricity is sporadic or just for pottering around camp in the dark while keeping your hands free. In dorms or on nocturnal buses and trains you can also read without disturbing your travelling companions. (Tip: ensure that as much of your kit as possible operates on batteries that are available everywhere. AAs are best but AAAs are also ok).



A pack of spices or a bottle of Tabasco. A good lightweight way to make otherwise boring bush meals far more edible.


Zipper belt

Not a moneybelt to be worn under clothes and not a ‘bum-belt’ – or fanny-pack to any Americans out there. (All hustlers and scallywags know about the former by now and the latter is too easily removed with a dexterous slash of a razor). A good-quality leather belt with a zip inside is capable of hiding as much as USD1000 of emergency funds. Carefully wrapped in plastic (or tied in condoms) for waterproofing it could be enough to get you back to ‘civilisation’ from almost anywhere.



To record songs/sounds etc and to take notes while on the move without having to take your eyes off the trail.



I’m a spoon junky and never leave home without my genuine ‘Nam issue American Marine’s spoon. However, the clever yet simple ‘spork’ (combination spoon/fork/knife) is also a must for any daypack.


Roll top canoeist’s bag 

Perfect waterproofing for your camera and other valuables on boat trips (or at the beach). Also fantastic dust-proofing on safari. It is also lightweight enough, yet resilient enough, to function as a ‘spill-over bag’ to carry all those unavoidable gifts and souvenirs you’re sure to have on the flight home.


Bonus tip for the romantically inclined

When you buy a sleeping bag ask for one with a left-hand zip. Most sleeping bags produced have right-hand zips...therefore when you meet the future love of your life on the road chances are better than average that your sleeping bag will be able to zip neatly into hers/his to form a cosy double!




By Mark Eveleigh