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Backpacking Essentials

"Must-haves and backpacking basics
for your trip in Asia"

"Backpacking Essentials" was last updated on April 08, 2012

What are travel essentials?

It's about backpacking gear you need and can't live without because of the special circumstances in Asia.

The right essentials vary from place to place, and what is an essential for you might not be an essential for another traveler.

I'm quite convinced though, that there are some common things backpackers bring for their trips in Asia, to make traveling as safe as possible and to achieve maximum comfort.

Here's my selection of travel essentials, designed for backpacking in Asia!

Hope you find it useful! :-)

Backpacking Essentials

Here are some of the must-haves you should have in your backpack:

Towels made of microfiber (lightweight, take little space and easy to dry)

Victorinox Swiss Army Knife (choose a multi-functional knife)

One of the Maglite flashlights

Money belt

Ear plugs

Use ear plugs to isolate noise outside your room, crickets at night and the air-conditioner! (Air-conditioners can be loud and annoying)

Plastic tape for bottles (tape liquid bottles to prevent outburst in your backpack)

Mosquito bracelets!

Instead of pouring your body with DEET, wear these bracelets to avoid nasty mosquito bites.

Spare candles

Spare candles are practical during power outage, and also for places with no electricity at nights, for example Si Phan Don (Laos) and Goa (India).

Don't overstock, you can buy them locally.

One roll of toilet paper (have one ready for travel to India)

Transparent plastic ziplock bags (easy to keep order and compress items)

I'm a proud owner of Eagle Creek compression set. With these bags you can:

Pack your undies, tops and boxer shorts, squeeze the air of it and minimize the space in your backpack.

compression set from eagle creek
Backpacking essentials: My Eagle Creek compression set: (to the left)
This is how it looks like when the air has been compressed

You'll save lots of space, giving you more room for gifts and souvenirs. Your backpack will also become even lighter, and that will save your back for a lot of trouble.

Another practical thing about this compression set is organizing.

You can organize your undies in one bag, t-shirts in another.

A compression set can help you find the content you need right away, without emptying your backpack to find one pair of socks. You don't want to waste your valuable time on that!

Very thin duvet cover/cotton travel liner

Bring your own duvet cover/cotton travel liner for 3 good reasons:

  1. When you sometimes arrive in the middle of the night in a new place, the guesthouse has mistakenly forgotten to leave a duvet. Even better, the guesthouse does not provide service at night…

  2. There is a duvet (cover) at the guesthouse -- but either it`s stained, filthy, too short, too narrow, too thin or too thick.

  3. It protects you from bed bugs!

I got this tip from a well-experienced traveling companion. At first I was sceptic, but I don't regret it at all.

I've been bringing my cotton travel liner for every journey -- it's just something I can't live without while traveling!

"But doesn't a duvet cover take a lot of space and weight?"

Yes, it takes some space and weight in your backpack, but in my opinion it's still worth it.

Choose a thin, light, old duvet cover and roll it tightly.

If you can afford it, buy a cotton travel liner instead. They're compact and have the same functions as a duvet cover!

I needed it most of my time in Asia, because the standard there wasn't always top notch. So I was glad that I brought it. I met some travelers in Vang Vieng and told them about it.

They were like: "Why didn't I think of that..."

You'll likely thank yourself for bringing one, especially if you're on a tight budget and can't afford mid-range accommodation the whole trip.

And when you're done using it, throw it away before returning home!

Padlocks or cable wire lock

Padlocks are backpacking essentials for the night bus or train. Lock your backpack to your baggage compartment on top of your seat, or next to you before you go to sleep. Lock pockets where you have valuable or expensive stuff.

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Backpacking Essentials: Victorinox Swiss Army Knife

my swiss army knife
Backpacking essentials: My Swiss Army Knife

When it comes to Swiss Army Knives, I wonder how I would have survived without mine during my travels!

My Swiss knife has 6 functions:

  1. Scissors

  2. Small knife

  3. Nail clippers

  4. Nail file

  5. Tweezers

  6. Tooth pick

Best of all, you can choose from a large variety of knives, and find the knife that suits YOUR needs!

They're practical because:

They're multifunctional, and will help you in many situations that usually occur during backpacking:

I've cut ropes, bandages, plants and loose ends, cleaned my teeth and nails, opened beers and I could go on and on

Good quality: I've had mine since May 2006 and the blade is still sharp

They take little space in your bag

Weighs almost nothing

Any drawbacks?

Honestly, I can't think of none.

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Backpacking Essentials: Maglite Flashlights

Now I'm going to talk about my second survival tool when traveling in Asia -- my Mini Maglite.

Mini Maglite is superior to other flash lights because:

It's water and shock resistant: you can lose it on the ground and still not break it

I don't know how many times I've managed to drop my Maglite onto the ground. It's a miracle that it still works.

When walking in the dark after a night out in Asia you can use the Maglite to beam up your path so you don't step on cow poop, snake or other terrifying things in the dark.

With these flash lights you can switch from flood light to spot light.

Durability: Maglite lasts for a long time, if not forever. I've owned mine since 2007

Great size for travel - it's one of the lightest flash lights I've tried, and it doesn't take any space in your day pack. Great for lightweight backpacking!

Any drawbacks?

I have the older version of Mini Maglite.

The only thing I can put my finger on is the light beam's short range.

But the newer versions of Mini Maglite have better light range and an extended battery life.

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