HOW TO PACK FOR YOUR FIRST SOLO ADVENTURE
Heading out on your first solo adventure and not sure what to bring? You’ve come to the right place. I'm Niamh and I’ve spent three summers backpacking Europe, South East Asia, and Central America. I’ve learned a lot about what to pack (and more specifically, what not to pack!), so here are some of my best packing tips that will take you through everything you need to be as prepared as possible for your first solo trip.
What bag should I bring?
Backpack or Suitcase
Let’s kick things off with a hot debate - backpack or suitcase? For me, it has to be a backpack. Having a backpack will make it a lot easier for you to get around, especially on trips like interrailing where you’ll face a lot of stairs. A backpack also allows you to have your hands free whilst you move around, meaning you can check Google maps on the go.
Packing Tip One: Invest in a good backpack.
There are some things you can save money on, but the last thing you want is for your bag to break midway through your trip. The most popular brand (and my personal favourite) is Osprey. You’ll find a wide range of bags, meaning there’s something for every kind of packer! If you can, you should find a local store where you can try the bag on and see how it feels. You’ll likely spend a lot of time with it on your back, so you want to make sure you’ve found something that’s comfortable and works for you before you commit!
If you’re more of a suitcase person, there’s no shame in it. Make sure you bring whatever works best for you, and what you’ll be more comfortable with. I recommend investing in a hardshell samsonite bag, to ensure all of your belongings are properly protected.
You’ll also need to bring a small rucksack for day trips. I absolutely adore my Brevite runner bag. It has a tonne of features that make it perfect for travel, including:
Designated Passport Pocket
If you also like to travel with a camera as I do, you’ll appreciate that this bag can be used as a camera bag, but doesn’t look like a camera bag. This can help you feel a little safer with expensive equipment while you travel.
If you're looking for packing tips on what camera equipment to bring on your travels, check out my recent blog on my equipment.
A lot of travellers like to bring a hidden money belt, like this Lewis and Clark one, to keep their belongings safe. They’re so discrete, you’ll forget that you even have one with you. If you’re looking for something a bit more stylish, Brevite also do a great crossbody bag.
Packing Tip Two: Bring packing cubes
A backpacking essential. Packing cubes will keep all of your clothing separate, and also makes organising your bag and picking out outfits a lot easier. I’ve previously made the mistake of using really cheap, low-quality packing cubes, and this is another area I recommend investing in. When your packing cubes break, your backpack feels so disorganised and a lot harder to manage. The LeanTravel Compression Packing Cubes have been my go-to for the past few trips, and I highly recommend checking them out!
Make sure to choose a brand which is machine-washable. If you have to share a washing machine with other backpackers, the packing cubes will help you to keep your belongings separate.
Packing Tip Three: Don't bring clothes you love
The most common mistake backpackers make is overpacking. In reality, you’ll need to bring about 7 - 10 different outfits. Another packing tip is to bring neutral basics that you can mix and match, because you’ll probably get bored of brightly-patterned clothing pretty quickly.
It’s also really important to leave any clothes that you love at home. When you’re washing your clothes in hostels, often things can get damaged, lost, or miscoloured, so it’s important to only bring clothes that you can live without. On the same note, if you feel passionate that your white clothes should stay white, you might want to leave those at home too.
As well as the usual outfits, you’ll want to include:
A foldable rain jacket
A scarf - this should be lightweight and can also be used at the beach or entering churches to cover up
Pro Tip: Pack Lavender Sachets and Colour Catcher sheets
When you’re travelling, your clothes and laundry are all chucked into the same big backpack. To keep things smelling fresh, pack a few Lavender Sachets that you can place in your laundry bag. You can pick these up in IKEA, or at a lot of tourist stalls along the way. Colour Catcher sheets can also help you protect your white clothes from turning blue, as mine did!
Packing Tip Four: Don't overpack on footwear
One of my biggest packing tips is that you’ll really only need three pairs of shoes:
Running/Hiking Shoes: These are shoes you don’t mind getting dirty that you can wear on adventures!
Sandals: Birkenstocks are the most popular option and are super comfortable! Can be worn to the beach and also for a day exploring the city
Walking shoes: Comfortable runners that you’d be happy to spend a day walking around in
But what about night's out?
Most backpackers will wear either sandals or their walking shoes on nights out. Often, nights out with people from hostels will be very casual, so there's no need to pack heels.
Packing Tip Five: The Sleepers Essentials
When sleeping in hostels, there are three essentials that you need to have a good night's sleep:
Padlock (so you can sleep soundly knowing your valuables are safely stowed away)
You’ll also want to pack a universal adapter like this one. If you’ve forgotten one you can usually pick it up at the airport.
You might also find it useful to pack a sleeping bag liner. In some hostels, bedlinen costs extra. Or perhaps the hostel just isn’t as clean as you thought it would be. In these situations, it can be helpful to have your own sleeping bag liner. I haven’t travelled with one, so this isn’t necessarily a must-have.
Packing Tip Six: Bring your EHIC Card or Health Insurance Details
More important than a backpack or packing cubes, make sure you have good health insurance! It's better to be looking at it than looking for it. If you're an EU Citizen, get an EHIC Card (it's free), and make sure to write down the details of your health insurance policy in case you need it.
Clothes, shoes, eyemasks etc can easily be picked up abroad, regardless of what country you’re in. It’s really important that you pack any prescription tablets that you might need, and that you have enough of them to last your trip.
I always recommend travelling with some packets of Dioralyte. This is a small sachet that you add to water, that helps rehydrate your body. If you’ve had a stomach bug this will really help you to get back on your feet. (And it also makes a great hangover cure after one of your nights out with the Tru Crew).
On the subject of stomach bugs, never leave home without Imodium. This is the least glam addition to your backpack, but by far the most important if you need it!
If you have some space, I also recommend bringing a small first aid kit. If you’re planning on doing a lot of walking or hiking, having a first aid kit with you can give you some peace of mind.
And there you have it - my best packing tips to make sure you have the most epic time on your first solo adventure!