Beginner's Guide to Travelling

Ultimate Outdoors13 min readBuyers Guides

The benefits of independent travel can hardly be overstated. Fun and adventure, lifelong memories and friends, and diverse foreign cultures are all out there to be discovered. The effects of independent travel on young adults can be especially profound. As well as many life skills that must be learned like budgeting, time management and job seeking, characteristics like self-confidence, independence and responsibility also develop.

What do we mean by Travelling?

Travelling differs from normal holidays by being longer in duration, more budget focussed and may include periods of work. Such trips include many destinations, have more interaction with local people and are on less ridged timetables that are subject to change.

What specialist clothing and equipment do I need?

From tropical white sand beaches to trekking in the world’s highest mountains, travel destination vary hugely, as do the clothing and equipment needed. To give you a starting point this guide highlights specialist travelling equipment you may wish to consider for trips to the most common destinations of;

  • Europe
  • Australasia (Australia & New Zealand)
  • South East Asia

The list is also designed with a traveller in mind who is;

  • Staying in backpacker or hostel accommodation
  • Travelling primarily by public transport

General Packing Advice

  • Light is right – You’ll be amazed how heavy even a moderately sized backpack is when it’s full. Keep what you pack to minimum especially heavy items like books, liquids and footwear.
  • Buy things on arrival – Your trip may cover numerous countries that require different items. Rather than carry everything you need for every destination considers buying what you need on arrival. Guidebooks, phrasebooks and warm clothing are examples of such things.
  • Leave your valuables – Lost, stolen or roughly handled baggage can all lead to you losing your prized possessions. Consider carefully if you need to take them.
  • Don’t buy too bigger bag – Most novice travellers will fill whatever bag they take. If you do buy a bag that is too small, and you keep it in ‘re-saleable’ condition, you can always exchange it for a larger one before you depart.

Travelling Kit Lists

Every traveller and every trip is different so these kit lists are only a guide to specialist travel items you might need. Everyday clothing, personal effects and consumables are not covered. Talking to people who have been to your destinations, reading guides and travel forums are all great ways of refining your packing list.

Clothing

Unless you are planning on doing a lot of trekking or camping much of your normal clothing will be suitable. Specialists travel clothing is mentioned for certain items as their higher proportions of synthetic fibres (as opposed to cotton) make them lighter, more compact and faster drying.

Europe or Australasia South East Asia Why do I need it?
Travel Shirt Optional Recommended These lightweight shirts are fast to dry, cool to wear and are especially useful if modest dress is required. Models with roll-up sleeves are most versatile especially for sun protection. Versions with insect repellency built-in are also available
Travel Trousers Recommended Recommended Lightweight, compact and fast drying. Useful if modest dress is required. Available with roll-up or zip-off legs for extra versatility. Versions with insect repellency built-in are also available.
Lightweight Waterproof Recommended Recommended From the tropics to temperate regions rain is always a possibility. Pack-away waterproofs or ponchos are compact and inexpensive
Micro Fleece Recommended Recommended Far light, more compressible and faster drying than warm clothing made from cotton or wool
Insulated Jacket Optional n/a If it's cold where you're going a down or synthetic fill jacket is the lightest and most compact thing you can wear to keep warm

Footwear

Footwear if often the bulkiest thing you carry so choose carefully if you feel the need to take an extra pair. Unless you are planning to do a lot of trekking or specific sports you should consider two pairs of footwear to be your maximum.

Europe or Australasia South East Asia Why do I need it?
Flip-Flops Recommended Recommended Compact and lightweight, a must have for many travelers. Great for beach wear, as slippers and for general use.
Walking Sandals Optional Recommended With more padding, grip and support than a normal sandal this versatile footwear is great for the beach.
Approach Shoes Recommended Optional Tough, comfortable and versatile outdoors trainers. More neccessary for cooler climates or for those wanting to do a significant amount of day trekking.
Lightweight walking boots Optional Optional Only necessary for those planning to do a lot of multi-day trekking. Can be used for everyday wear in cooler climates

Health & Security

Europe or Australasia South East Asia Why do I need it?
Bag Security Recommended Recommended Although tough cable nets provide the most secure option, a security leash and combination padlock is a cheaper, lighter and easier to use option.
Body Wallet Optional Recommended Waist or neck style concealed wallets keep valuables and cash out of sight and away from dishonest
First Aid Kit Recommended Recommended A good travel first aid kit not only has items for cleaning and dressing wounds but also emergency medical advice
Insect Repellant Optional Essential Used for bite prevention to protect from tropical diseases or just to improve comfort. Your destination will dictate your requirements. Always seek professional advice before selecting your repellant.
Mosquito Net N/A Optional Most accommodation in tropical/sub tropical areas will have nets or mosquito proofed roomsm if they don't ask for one or change accommodation. If you are venturing into more remote places, especially those with higher risks of diseases like malaria, you should consider carrying one.
Water Purification N/A Recommended Even if you are staying within civilisation you may run out of bottled water at night and be unable to purchase more. Chlorine dioxide tablets are a safe, simple and inexpensive way to purify water.
Dry Hand Wash Optional Recommended If hand wash facilities in toilets and restaurants are less than ideal 'hand sanitizer' is a quick and simple way to kill bacteria.

Luggage, Sleeping & Accessories

Europe or Australasia South East Asia Why do I need it?
Travel Backpack Essential Essential Robust, comfortable to carry, easy to pack and easy to live out of. See our Nutshell Buying Guide for more details
Day Bag Essential Essential For hand luggage and to avoid carrying your full backpack on day trips. Often come included with Travel Backpacks.
Travel Sleeping Bag Optional Recommended Not all accommodation supplies adequate bedding all of the time. See our Nutshell Buying Guide for more details
Liner Essential Essential Bedding standards can be mixed with 'bed bugs' being an issue in some areas. Liners improve hygiene and offer protection from insects.
Travel Towel Essential Essential These rapid drying, compact towels are the single biggest space saving you can make. With a beach towel sized version packing down to the size of a book it's space you can't afford to lose.
Head Torch Essential Essential The only way to safely navigate a shared dorm or outdoor toilet at night. Compact and inexpensive models are widely available.
Travel Wash Bag Optional Optional Packed with features to help you wash on the go. These may include hanging hooks, shatter proof mirrors, mesh travel towel pockets and leak proof soap pouches.
Eye Mask / Ear Plugs Optional Optional If you're a light sleeper hostel accommodation can take some getting used to. Masks and ear plugs can help.
Stuff Bags Recommended Recommended Ideal for organising clothing and equipment in your bag
Travel Adaptor Essential Essential Necessary for charing your UK gadgets. Major technology fans may require more than one. Be sure to check each of your destinations requirements.
Phrase Book Essential Essential Despite English being spoken in most tourist hot spots make the effort and learn the lingo, you'll have a better experience if you do.
Guide Book Essential Essential Despite taking a little of the adventure out of travelling most find the information guidebooks provide invaluable

Nutshell Buying Guides to Travel

The Nutshell Buying Guide to Travel Backpacks

What is a travel backpack or 'travel bag'?

Common Features Benefits
Detachable Day Bag Can be attached to the rear of the main bag or on the chest straps for easy transportation
Suitcase Style Opening Large zip around opening gives easy access to all areas of the bag
Wider Squarer Body Easier to pack and a more efficient use of space
Harness Cover Protects your carrying harness from baggage handlers and conveyor belts.

How big does my bag need to be?

Ask yourself the following questions;

  • Am I travelling in conditions significantly colder than a UK summer?
  • Am I taking any specialist sports or trekking equipment?
  • Am I taking any camping equipment other than a sleeping bag?

If you answer no to all of the above you should consider a 65 litre backpack the maximum size required. Experienced travellers can mange for such trips with 40 litres but this is a little unrealistic for a novice traveller.

The Nutshell Buying Guide to Travel Sleeping Bags

Do I need a sleeping bag?

One of the great travelling debates and one that is not easy to answer. If the following statements sound like you, you will probably manage without;

  • I’ll stick to the main traveler routes with many accommodation options
  • I don’t mind sleeping in all my clothes if I get caught out
  • I don’t especially feel the cold
If however these statements are a better fit you may want to take one;

  • I would like to go to remote areas or do some camping
  • I would like to make/meet local friends and stay with them
  • I feel the cold

If you are still undecided you can compromise by taking one of the lighter ‘travel only’ sleeping bags or a fleece liner. Both are very compact and offer similar insulation to a thick blanket.

What specifications are best?

Mummy Shaped with Hood – Maximises insulation giving you the warmest bag for its weight and the smallest pack size.

Which fill is best, down or synthetic?

Fill Type Pros Cons
Synthetic Relatively inexpensive
Quick to dry
Easy to care for
Heavier
Less compact
Down Ultra Lightweight
Ultra Compact
Expensive
Difficult to dry
Difficult to care for

How warm should it be?

Even within the same country factors like the time of year, how far north or south you are and altitude can all effect your requirements. There are no easy answers so do thorough research. Online resources, guide books or fellow travelers are all good places to start. With good research you will probably discover what ‘season rating’ sleeping bag you need or roughly what nighttime temperatures you might expect.

Season Rating Nighttime Temperature
Travel 10 to 15ºc
1 Season 5 to 10ºc
2 Season 0 to 5ºc
3 Season -5 to 0ºc

Once you know approximately what nighttime temperatures to expect select a bag with a ‘Lower Comfort’ or ‘Comfort Limit’ temperature that roughly matches. For the most reliable ratings choose a bag that has been tested to the EN13537 standard.

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