23 Gap Year Essentials You Need In Your Backpack
Your flights are booked and the world is officially your oyster - now you just need to work out what you’re actually taking with you in that one not-very-big backpack.
Your flights are booked and the world is officially your oyster - now you just need to work out what you’re actually taking with you in that one not-very-big backpack. Let’s start with these 23 essentials, shall we?
The heavy duty kind, because nothing says the complete opposite of ‘footloose and fancy-free’ than aggressively itchy mosquito bites that you sit there scratching until they’re red raw. NB: avoid DEET-based products if possible - many experts think it’s real bad for the environment.
Malaria tablets (if needed)
OK yes so these can be seriously spenny, but if you’re going to an area known to be a habitat of mosquitoes carrying malaria, GET THEM. Not the place to try and save some cash - playing fast and loose with your actual health (and life) ain’t cool.
Photocopy of your Passport and debit/credit cards
Obviously, you’ll have your actual passport (we hope, otherwise it’s going to be a pretty boring gap year) but taking a photocopy is a really good idea. It will speed things up when applying for a temporary or replacement at your embassy if yours gets lost or stolen. As for credit/debit cards - photocopy the back so that you know what emergency number to call if it gets nicked.
So. Important. If you do get sick, doctors abroad need to know what you’ve been vaccinated against and what you haven’t, as it can affect the type of treatment they give you. Keep it in your purse or bag at all times.
Painkillers aka ibuprofen and paracetamol
Funnily enough, it can be hard to find painkillers in remote locations or countries where you don’t speak a word of the language. Avoid trying to decipher the back of some foreign packaging by taking a decent supply of your own.
Basically, if you’re doing a gap year abroad you are going to get the sh*ts at some point. And not just diarrhea, but biblical-proportions-of-DIARRHEA, in which having a solid poo becomes news. Again, it’s tricky finding the right medication when you don’t speak the language, and trust us when we say that acting out a charades-style ‘I need a drug that stops me pooping’ in the middle of a crowded Brazilian pharmacy ain’t the dream. True story.
Pickpockets exist all over the world, but having essentials like cards, money and passport stolen when you’re far from home is a nightmare. If you’re heading out somewhere a little bit on the sketchy side of life, stick it all in a secret money bag worn under your clothes instead and keep thieves at bay.
Padlock for hostels
Most good hostels provide lockers in dorm rooms for all your valuable shiz, but they’re pretty pointless if you have no way of locking them. Stick a (strong) padlock in your bag for gahd’s sake. Oh, and make it one with a combination - you KNOW you’ll lose that key within 5 seconds of arriving.
You’ve probably already noticed, but towels be bulky af, and you’ve only got one backpack. Make room for more clothes by packing a super space saving travel towel instead. OK so they’re not fluffy and tend to make everything slightly static, but you’re a traveller now - you can’t have everything.
Silk sleeping bag liner
Chances are you’re going to come across some not-so-clean-what-is-that-stain-oh-god-Karen-seriously-what-is-that-stain type sleeping situations. That’s where a silk liner sleeping bag comes into its own. Like a normal sleeping bag, just super lightweight and space saving. Some are mosquito proof too, which is always a bonus.
If you’re heading to multiple countries, a universal adaptor with different sized prongs that pop in and out (hashtag technical speak) is a must. The last thing you want is to be lugging around several different adaptors, so get you one that can do it all.
Laundry facilities won’t always be readily available, and while that t-shirt can probably go another few days without washing (just stand downwind), wearing dirty underwear ain’t hygienic, or pleasant. Handwashing is the way forward, we’re afraid, so pack some handwashing/travel detergent in that rucksack and prepare to get scrubbing. Lovely.
No matter how frugal you are when it comes to packing, you will still have too much stuff. Save valuable space with compression bags. Simply stick your stuff in, roll up to force out any air, and VOILA - flat packed clothes. Separate types of clothes (i.e. tops in one bag, shorts in another), and you’ll know where everything is, too. These bags have an added bonus: even if your rucksack gets wet, your clothes will stay dry.
Hostel dorms = snoring. You have been warned.
Kindle (or similar)
If you’re an avid reader, a kindle or similar electronic reading device is the best investment you’ll ever make as a traveller. Let’s face it, books are great but they are HEAVY, and you just don’t have the space to be carrying them around. Get one with an integrated light and you can read in bed when that snorer is keeping you awake - without disturbing/pissing off your hostel dorm-mates.
Safety first, kids. STIs are not fun, especially when it’s gonna cost you a fortune to get them treated. You know what else isn’t fun? Unplanned pregnancy.
Spare set of headphones
Because life without music isn’t worth living, basically.
You might imagine that your gap year is going to consist of nothing but unbroken sunshine. You would be wrong. Tropical climates = tropical rain, and while it’s not the cold, relentless British kind, a little poncho is still an essential.
Flip-flops are all well and good, but you’ll be cursing them to Lucifer and back when one snaps 10 mins into a hike. One pair of decent footwear will save you all sorts of tootsie related problems, and that’s a promise.
Sunburn ain’t cute.
Neither is sunstroke.
A dead phone can be an absolute nightmare when you’re travelling (arriving somewhere with no way of finding out your hostel address, for example), so make like Zac Efron and get your head in the game by packing a portable charger for those emergencies.
Waterproof phone case
If you snorkeled with turtles but have no pictures to prove it, did it really happen? That’s all we’re saying. Well, that and it’s quite hard to get a water-damaged phone repaired halfway across the globe with limited funds.
By Lizzie Cox