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What to pack for a long backpacking trip

If there is one thing which you should not ignore when you are planning to backpack for a long time, it is packing.

Efficient packing makes life on the road easier!
Efficient packing makes life on the road easier!

There is tons and loads of advice on what to pack and how to pack depending on where you are going and how long you are going. Here is what we packed for our trip and nearly after four months on the road, this is what we think about it –  we should have packed lighter.

Some ground rules:

  • Pack light. We cannot stress enough, you need to pack light. Believe us, running around to catch a tuk-tuk in Bangkok’s scorching hot & humid weather with your large bag is not fun.
Hitchhiking in Turkey!
Hitchhiking in Turkey!
  • Choose the right backpack. The right fit is one that offers:
    • A size appropriate for your torso length (not your overall height).
    • A comfortably snug grip on your hips.
  • Let go. Think about all the things you need, put them in front of you and discard half of them 🙂 Our home was filled with so much stuff and how could we possibly fit all of that into our bags? Here is the answer – you don’t have to.
  • Choose the right products. We bought most of our stuff in Decathlon, the French sporting goods chain store with stores located in all major cities all over the world. We got ours from Decathlon stores in Whitefield, Bangalore. It is one of our favorite places in Bangalore with a feast to the eyes for travelers and sports enthusiasts. The products here are of good quality and are affordable. In case you are wondering, no, Decathlon doesn’t pay us anything for writing about them here.
Our home is emptied into these backpacks!
Our home is emptied into these backpacks!

Most important documents  –

  • Passport with at least six months validity. Some photocopies of the same.
  • Flight tickets
  • Hotel confirmation vouchers, if booked in advance
  • Travel insurance documents
  • Forex cards/credit cards/debit cards
  • Passport size photographs(at least 10)

We carried two backpacks each.

  • We got a 60 liter backpack and think it is too big now. A 40 liter backpack seems ideal. We got a Forclaz 60 from Decathlon and are quite happy with its utility and quality. We also got a rain cover/poncho like this. Another advantage of this backpack is that it opens from the side instead of the conventional top-loading. This makes it easier to pull out things from it.
Opening from the side adds to the utility of the backpack.
Opening from the side adds to the utility of the backpack.
  • Another day pack for taking out with us when we go out. For this purpose we bought bags by Wildcraft, a Bangalore based company producing quality products. Check here.
  • Always use the backpack at least once before starting on the trip to know if it fits you well.

Vijay’s packing list:

Is this really all that we need for six months??!
Is this really all that we need for six months??!
  • 4 T-shirts (We got these dri-fit T-shirts from Decathlon which are fine after 5 months of continuous usage! Check here)
  • 1 Cotton kurta (It was torn in Mardin, Turkey. Not usable anymore)
  • 1 Pair of jeans
  • 1 Linen pants
  • 3 Shorts
  • 3 Pairs of socks (These blister-free ones are just great! Even after 6-7 km of walking on a daily basis we did not get even one blister! Check here)
  • 6 Under-wear
  • 1 Micro fiber towel (Very useful! Compact, highly absorbent, dries quickly. Check here)
  • 1 Woollen cap (3 weeks into the trip and I lost it in Istanbul,Turkey. Left in a dolmus a.k.a minibus )
  • 1 Foldable hat (lost it after 2.25 months in Plitvice national park, Croatia. It just flew off my head and fell into the valley below me)
  • 1 Regular cap (lost it after 2.5 months in Dubrovnik, Croatia. I simply forgot it somewhere!)
  • 1 Fleece (Gift from a friend)
  • Swimming gear (1 swimming shorts, 1 swimming goggles)
  • Shoes (We would recommend getting good waterproof ones for all weather conditions. Check here)
  • Sandals (A pair of good hiking sandals would be good. Check here) (Lost them on a bus from Ahvaz to Tabriz in Iran, had tied them too loosely to the bag 🙁 )
  • 1 Pair of flip flops
  • 1 Rayban Aviator sunglasses
  • 1 Swiss knife (A very versatile and useful tool. Check here. We kept it in the check-in baggage without any problems)
  • 1 Padlock (with passcode)
  • 1 Rain coat (Lost it in a bus in Vienna!Check here. Later bought a rain poncho in Ljubljana)
  • 1 Multi-purpose neck gaiter (We had bought this in Ladakh earlier. Looks like this)
  • 1 Woolen muffler
  • 1 Bed sheet
  • 1 Belt pouch (Check here. For keeping passport, money and cards. More about it below.)
  • 1 Electronic trimmer
  • 1 Dynamo torch (Check here)
  • 1 Day bag / laptop bag

Gayathri’s packing list :

Living with less! Possible?
Living with less! Possible?
  • 4 T-shirts (Similar dri-fit ones from Decathlon)
  • 1 Micro fiber towel (Same as above)
  • 1 Pair of jeans
  • 2 Cotton pants (These are the harem pants which are baggy, long pants tapered at the ankle. I found them very comfortable which made me buy 2 more during the trip. Check here just to see what I mean)
  • 3 Pairs of socks (Same as above)
  • 6 Pairs of under garments and some sanitary napkins
  • 1 Rain coat (Same as above)
  • 1 Fleece (Check here)
  • 1 Woolen pull-over
  • Swimming gear (1 short, 1 top, 1 swimming goggles)
  • Shoes (I got these from Decathlon which I substituted for both shoes and sandals. I did have problems while walking in water and during rains. Getting water-proof shoes seems ideal)
  • 1 Bed sheet
  • 1 Flip flops
  • 1 Woolen cap
  • 1 Pair of sunglasses
  • 1 Padlock (with pass code)
  • 1 Dynamo torch (Same as above)
  • 1 Day bag

Toiletries – one set for each

  • 1 Tooth paste
  • 1 Tooth  brush
  • 1 Face wash
  • 1 Bottle of shampoo(100 ml)
  • 1 Bottle of body wash
  • 1 Tube of sunscreen lotion
  • 1 Lip balm
  • 10 Soap paper sachets
  • 1 Wet tissue pack
  • 10 Small packs of washing powder
  • 1 Deodorant.
  • 1 Toilet paper roll
  • 1 Nail clipper
  • Ear buds

To geek out:

  • 2 HDDs 500 GB each
  • 1 Battery pack – Anker, 13000 mAh
  • 1 USB drive – Sandisk 16 GB
  • 2 Smart phones – Nokia Lumia 920 with 32 GB internal memory
  • HTC one X+ with 64 GB internal memory and their chargers
  • 1 Kindle – 6″, Wi-Fi, E-ink display
  • iPad mini
  • 1 DSLR – Canon 1000D with 18-55 mm zoom lens and a 50 mm prime lens, battery charger
  • 1 Acer netbook with its charger
  • 2 Travel adapters
  • 1 Wireless mouse
  • 1 Running earphones
  • 1 Bose headphones

Some zip-lock covers can be useful for various purposes too.

Medical kit : A separate post on this awaits.

There are a few indispensable things which made our packing and traveling very easy.

Packing cubes – These are just wonderful! They are travel organizers which can fit all our belongings in an organized and efficient way.

They maximize the space and simplify packing beyond measure. They are available commercially like these. But we used some indigenous ones like below.

We packed our T-shirts and tops in one, pants and shorts in one and undergarments in one.

They made our life so easy! 🙂

Packing cubes - They make packing seem easy!
Packing cubes – They make packing seem easy!

Small sling/belt bag – one each.This is another boon! We keep our passport, money, credit/travel cards, ID cards in this and have this bag around all the time. As long as this bag remains attached to us, we don’t need to worry at all. Of course, don’t put all your eggs in one basket!

The small sling bag - my constant companion
The small sling bag – my constant companion
The most important bag! Can be worn as a belt pouch too!
The most important bag! Can be worn as a belt pouch too!

Swiss Army knife – A very versatile tool that is useful in wide variety of situations

The versatile and sometimes life-saving tool!
The versatile and sometimes life-saving tool!

Micro fiber towels and blister-free socks as mentioned above were very helpful too.

It’s best to have a checklist when you are travelling so that you don’t forget anything. Here’s a downloadable form of the same list.



Hope you find this article useful Let us know what you think!

 

Being Indian

In these two months of traveling across the Middle East and Eastern Europe we have been extremely lucky to have had amazing experiences! A common thing we have noticed is that most of the people love Indians! And there is no reason why they should not, isn’t it? We are a peace loving and friendly nation, aren’t we? 🙂 A lot of people wish us while we are walking on the street, they like to talk to us, ask interesting questions (see here for a detailed list of questions) and even offer to help us.

Of course, we like to talk about India and tell our hosts or their friends more about our life in India and try to clear any doubts or misconceptions they may have about our nation. We were extremely fortunate to have had opportunities to talk about India to a wider audience in a foreign land! 🙂

It all started in Turkey, in a place called Batman(No, it’s not a nickname ;)). We were taking a leisurely walk on the street after dinner with our host, Şefik, when he suddenly asked us if we were interested in giving a talk on India in a live radio program that night!! We were sure he was kidding! Realizing this he asked us again 🙂 And we replied in unison ‘Yes!! Most definitely!!’ The next ten minutes saw us rush to a radio station! It was the most popular one in that region – Batman Super 90.0 FM.

We met the owner of the radio channel, Mr. Hasan Oluk, who was earlier a movie artist and is now successfully running the radio channel since almost 15 years! He was very happy to receive guests from India, one of his favourite countries.

After a cup of Turkish chai we were ushered into the room where the program would be conducted. There was a radio jockey, our friend Şefik who would translate from English to Kurdish(the native language in Eastern Turkey) and us!

And for the next one hour we were live! Talking about India, answering their queries, be it about our Ganges river, political situation, Taj Mahal, Indira Gandhi, Bollywood movies, etc., We tried our best to answer their questions :). We even played a Hindi song for the audience at the end! Guess which one? It was ‘Ye jo des hai tera’ from A.R. Rehman’s  Swades 🙂

We were thrilled, to say the least! :)
We were thrilled, to say the least! 🙂

It was an unforgettable experience for us 🙂 Being local celebrities in Eastern Turkey for a night 😉

Şefik teaches theology in a public school in Batman. He invited us to his school the next day where we met the other teachers, the head officer in-charge of the school. Most importantly, the kids! Yeah, we went to Şefik’s class and spent some time with the kids. We even took their attendance. We spoke to them about India for a short while. These are some of the naughtiest kids we have met so far!

The naughty kids of Batman :)
The naughty kids of Batman 🙂

After almost a month and a half while we were searching for hosts in and around Krakow, Poland we were extremely lucky to get a positive response from a wonderful family – Jessica and Grzeg Kucia and their adorable daughters invited us to their home in Wieliczka, a village famous for its salt mines.

Jess, Grzeg and their adorable girls :)
Jess, Grzeg and their adorable girls 🙂

And Jessica suggested that we go to their daughter, Pola’s class to give a talk on India! We were excited, to say the least.

The public school in Wieliczka village where we were invited
The public school in Wieliczka village where we were invited

We thoroughly enjoyed talking to the kids (8-9 year olds). We even prepared a short presentation about India with lot of pictures which the kids liked a lot 🙂 These kids were expecting us and had come prepared with questions! Some really interesting ones are –

‘Which is the largest fruit in India?’

We were really amused and answered watermelon. It was pumpkin in Poland 😉

‘Do you recycle things in India?’

Very mature question! We think they were learning about recycling. As much as we would like to, it is not happening much in India.

‘Do you have sushi in India?’

Yeah, we do get it in some Japanese restaurants but it doesn’t belong to us 🙂

The curious  and inquisitive kids with their equally enthusiastic teacher :)
The curious and inquisitive kids with their equally enthusiastic teacher 🙂

And guess what? We even showed them a video of the song, “Bum bum bole’ from Aamir Khan’s ‘Taare Zameen Par’ 🙂 and made them dance to it!! It was such fun!!

We were really touched when they presented us some handicraft as a token of their love in the end:)

Handicrafts made by kids representing traditional Polish costumes :)
Handicrafts made by kids representing traditional Polish costumes 🙂
It was great fun! :)
It was great fun! 🙂
They even asked us about our blog! :)
They even asked us about our blog! 🙂

A couple of weeks later we were in Ljubljana, Slovenia where we met a very friendly host, Darja, who was a teacher in a public school. This time we suggested if we could go to her school to talk to the kids. She was very excited at this proposal and quickly made arrangements! 🙂 Luckily the kids were studying about Asia in their geography class and were surprised by our unexpected visit.

Our impromptu visit was a sweet surprise for the students :)
Our impromptu visit was a sweet surprise for the students 🙂

We told them many interesting facts about India. They were astonished especially about the number of  languages spoken in India!

We were delighted to have even the headmaster of the school sit in the class to listen to us 😉 He was a very nice and highly educated person, holding a PhD in computer science!

Another important part of our travel has been FOOD!! We are so proud of our Indian cuisine and have filled almost all kitchens in most of the countries with our aromatic curries and dishes 🙂 But let’s reserve FOOD for another separate blog post 😉

As you can see it’s been great so far! We are so happy we are doing this – traveling around the world, to great places, meeting great people, learning so much and spreading something so unique to us – Indianness! 🙂

Questions people ask us

It’s been almost two months since we left home. We have met loads of interesting people. Some of them have asked us interesting questions about India and about our travel. Here are some of the most common questions we encountered.

  • Why are you traveling?Because we love traveling! We want to see and experience the world. We met an Indian guy in Budapest for business who even asked us – What do you mean by backpacking? Have you gone mad to quit your jobs and travel around the world, wasting time and money? He even suggested us to go back home.

    Into the wild @ Vitosha mountains, Bulgaria
    Into the wild @ Vitosha mountains, Bulgaria
  • Do you know how to dance?Yes, all Indians are expected to dance! It’s mandatory according to some. So, the next time we are off on a trip like this (oh! How we wish this one doesn’t end!), we are definitely going to learn some typical Bollywood moves 😉 Not that we did not try some this time 😉
Dancing to Hookah Bar in Shiraz, Iran ;)
Dancing to Hookah Bar in Shiraz, Iran 😉

 

  • Why is cow regarded as a holy animal in India? If you don’t eat cow, then what do you eat!?
    Well, how about some veggies?

    Yummy Indian veg food which doesn't remind you of absence of meat :)
    Yummy Indian veg food which doesn’t remind you of absence of meat 🙂
  • Is it true that woman always proposes first to the man before wedding?
    What! Now, where did you get that from? Women in India will definitely be amused 😉
  • How do arranged marriages exist even in 21st century? Please explain the process 🙂
    Haha! Yeah, they are still common and we have adapted to the system. But of course, the trend is changing these days. The process? Well, the family shortlists few guys/girls who meet each other a couple of times and make their decision! Yes, it’s simple and it works 🙂
  • Why is river Ganges considered holy?
    While we are not completely sure, we think the scriptures have made it holy. Sadly, it’s one of the most polluted rivers in India! 🙁
  • Is it true that the emperor who built Taj Mahal, also ordered to chop off the hands of the architect? That’s so cruel!
    Well, we are not sure. If true, we do agree it was cruel.
  • How can you be a vegetarian all your life? Where do you get energy from?
    Try it! 😉 It’s not so tough. Especially when you live in a country where almost ~50% of the population is vegetarian and more than half of the menu in most of the restaurants is veg! Still don’t believe it? Invite us to your home and we’ll blow your minds away by making yummy veg food 😉
  • How many languages are there in India?
    Total – 1652!! Not kidding at all! Check Wikipedia if you want. Official and regional – 24! Yeah, it’s crazy, we know!
  • What’s your national language?
    Nope, sorry, we don’t have a national language! Hindi is  one of the many official languages and is widely spoken.
  • Is it all true what they show in Balika Vadhu?
    What!  How do you know about Balika vadhu, of all things! Guess what? Balika vadhu is a popular soap opera in Bulgaria! We were shocked to know that it has a big fan following there. We even watched an episode of it along with our friendly hosts and answered their doubts 🙂
  • Is it safe for people to travel to India?Especially female travelers, after what they show in the media about rapes, etc?
    Hmm, it’s a matter of shame even for us, to come across such incidents! 🙁  But if you take necessary precautions, we think we are a safe country to travel to.What do you think of the questions? Have you been asked any interesting questions about India during your travels? 😉