The Backpacker’s Essential

April 1, 2010 · Posted in Policy, Travel · Comments Off on The Backpacker’s Essential 

Having done a fair bit of backpacking in my time, I think I should provide some perspective on what exactly to bring when backpacking.  This can be around Europe, Asia, Latin America, wherever.  This list will ensure you look like every other backpacker out there and cannot be mistaken for someone who has recently showered.  This is not a comprehensive list and merely my tongue-in-cheek random compilation.


Backpacker packing list

– Che tshirt
– Hammer and sickle t shirt
– One other ironic t shirt from wherever you are that’s supposed to shout your independence but just makes you look like every other mildly rebellious American. The “same same” t shirt from SE Asia fits here…
– Two days stubble.  (not necessarily recommended for women)
– Birkenstocks
– Friend with dreds (okay if this is actually you)
– One item of your choice – ridiculously over priced compared to everything else you own (a Canon DSLR is an excellent choice here – it’s high saturation in this particular market means it’s less likely to get stolen. Careful of your lenses though.)
– Street vendor bracelets
– For women – combo shirt/skirt/sarong, unwashed.
– Unintentional sense of irony
– Condescending attitude to everyone with a real suitcase and hence, not a real traveler like you
– A stench
– A book by famous dead philosopher or poet or politician. Anything communist is a good choice here.
– A towel. See Douglas Adams.  He was right.
– A CD player or Walkman. You wouldn’t dare own an iPod.
– Nothing clean.
– A country more dangerous or exotic than everyone you meet, that you have traveled to that’s less dangerous than current country, so you can always interject and say “yes but when in east Timor don’t do THAT!”
– Cigarettes.

Specific instructions for Americans
– Your gear will look cleaner and newer than most, despite the dirt you tried to rub on it before you left home
– Leave 2003, skip the Canadian flag on your North Face backpack. You’re not fooling anyone and it’s a dead giveaway anyway.
– Check the WHO health rankings before you travel. A handful of third world countries have better health systems than we do – might pay to get hurt there.
– English words in a foreign accent do not a linguist make.

– Bush didn’t hurt travelers reputations that bad and Obama won’t help them. It’s up to you so don’t be a humongous ass and expect everything to be easy. There’s a reason people like Canadians.  They’re just nicer.

– Except parting with your money. That’s always easy.

This should get you started.  You’re practically ready to have your very own, full-blown backpacking adventure.

I’m serious about the towel.