Posted February 7, 2012 by in Backpackology 101

What’s In My Bindle?: The Ultimate Packing List

So you wanna see my package? You want me to unzipper that badboy and lay it all out on the table? Sure, I will, but let me tell you about it first. Alright… So, it’s really small. So small. It’s incredible, actually… And it smells revolting. Like foot sweat and sphincters. It’s usually sweaty, covered in dust, and sometimes I get chewing gum and feces on it when I ride public buses.

It’s a tough life indeed for my battered, old backpack. So allow me to take a few minutes to introduce you, and address the question that many of you have asked me:

What exactly does one need for two years on the road?

The answer: Not much…

#1: A BACKPACK. Surprise! Unless you have the mental facilities of a toaster, you probably deduced that backpacking would involve a backpack. If so, good work, Columbo. You’re already a step ahead of the game. Try to shoot for a pack that’s around 30 liters, and with an internal frame.

#2: CLOTHES. You’ll likely need clothes at some point in your adventures. And be it two weeks or two years, you only need to bring three pairs of clothes. Wear one and pack the other two. To this you might say: Only three pairs of clothes?! Gross, Steve! You wear the same three shirts for months on end, surely you must look and smell like a fetid, fucking pig farmer! In which case, your accusations would only be partially true. You see, if you mix and match outfits and wash your clothes every few days, you can keep your grunge factor startlingly low.


It is an inevitable backpacking truth that, sooner or later, hygiene will take a resounding backseat, and you will need to learn to appear feral and disgusting at all times. But don’t despair! Doing your laundry in the sink is easy (and free), which is great when you’re traveling with only three pairs of clothes. And if you’re in Asia, and you’re lazy like me, you can pawn the dirty work off to someone else for only a buck or two. It’s cool though, cause Asia totally digs outsourcing.


There’s not much to say about this one, I guess… The jacket goes on you, and you are warm. Oh, and even if you don’t think you’ll need one, if you’re traveling for a month or longer, consider it essential (worse comes to worse, you’ll use it as a pillow). Make sure that it’s both insulating and compressible. A light down jacket would be a worthy investment.


If you’re looking to improve your sex life, I’ve got the answer for you. It’s completely unrelated to the topic of money belts, however, so I shant be discussing it here. Instead, let me tell you about unflattering, elastic money belts, which should be mandatory. If you’re scoffing at the idea, know that I once did, too. That was before my third pick-pocketing incident, which was very much the opposite of fun. Your money belt is sweet, glorious respite from constantly worrying about your passport and credit cards. The elastic, around-the-torso varieties are the most comfortable and the least conspicuous.


Versatile, lightweight, and when the two are used in conjunction, unflinchingly badass. The bandana, in particular, can be deceptively useful. Use it as a towel, a head cover, a napkin, even a baggie. Use it to stuff up a drafty crack in a ramshackle bus window, or soak it in cold water and wrap it around your head to fight off the baking sun. Its uses are limited to your own creativity.


Of course you need a big, happy bag of pills. Don’t bring the whole pharmacy though, you can always buy medication once you’re there (often times for a fraction of the price).  Some useful medications include Immodium and Ciprofloxicin, which are both good for waging war against Third World toilet demons. If you’re going to countries affected by malaria, be sure to also bring plenty of malaria pills. Older malaria pills, like Larium, make you hallucinate goblins and babies and stuff. The newer ones, particularly Malarone, are safer, more efficient, and without the psychedelic side effects. Pity. Other useful items include a small First Aid kit for boo boos, and some condoms, which are fun for blowing balloon animals, and scaring hotel-room cleaners when cleverly placed.


If you’re considering bathing at any point in your trip, it would be wise to invest in a quick dry, anti-microbial towel. You should make sure your swimsuit is also quick dry. Mildewy towels and bathing suits can make even the tidiest pack smell like a butt hole in no time.


Nothing overly exciting here. Toothbrush, toothpaste, floss, razor, deoderant, cologne or perfume (trust me, you’ll need it!), shampoo, and body wash, all in travel sized portions.


Absolutely necessary for those times when you have snoring dorm-mates, or when you’re on a nine hour bumpy bus-ride-from-hell in rural India, with puke on your shirt and a legendary hangover, compliments to an all-night rager somewhere in Mumbai, you think, and you’re trying to endure the POUNDING in your head, but for the last forty-five minutes, this nightmarish Bollywood song has been THUNDERING from the blown out, tinny speakers, on goddamn REPEAT, and you need it to stop RIGHT NOW because your scull is about to EXPLODE out of your fucking head, but that woman’s voice just keeps SINGING and SINGING, and she sounds like Donald Duck, and now the driver’s singing too and hell itself is flashing before your eyes as you fight with every fiber of your being not to shower the old man next to you with this morning’s breakfast, while simultaneously regretting the fact that you’re an idiot for not going back to your hotel last night like you promised yourself you would and instead buying that second fucking bottle of Coconut Feni, which was a bad idea from the get-go, because you well know that drinking Coconut Feni can only end in debilitating sadness,  you spineless, alcoholic coward. You can pick up earplugs at your local pharmacy.


You need it because I said so.


I recommend bringing a small, collapsible daypack that can fold up and store within your larger pack. If you’re romping through deserts, ruins, jungles, or tombs, a daypack lets you to bring just the basics along, like bug spray, sun cream, hand sanitizer, a small L.E.D. flashlight, snacks, and hopefully…


Uh oh. This one really splits the room. While the majority of backpackers rally behind the guidebook, there remains a camp of often self-proclaimed “hardcore” backpackers who deem guidebooks below them. I find it colossally stupid, and I feel a violent rant coming on, so I’m going to spare you by stopping myself now.

#14: CAMERA.

The things I do to take cool pictures…


Sorry to crush your sparkling, gum-drop backpacking dreams, but at some point in your glorious trip, you’re going to have to bed down on a filthy, horrifying mattress. In developing countries, few places supply you with a set of sheet, and in the unfortunate circumstance that they do, it will closer resemble a starched canvas of bed bugs and cum stains. Having a sleep sack remedies this. Almost.


If you’re in the third world for an extended period of time, you’ll probably start to realize just how many wondrous comforts of home you have taken for granted. Good hospitals, proper schools, roads, clean water, Maury Pauvich, nachos, ziplock bags, elastic bands… Those last two you’ll find particularly precious, and you’ll be hard pressed to find them in most corners of the globe. Trust me, they come in handy far more frequently than you think, so pack a bunch.


Ouch. You’ve stumbled upon my Achilles heel. Luxury items are perhaps the most common excuse for turning a thirteen pound bag into a thirty pound bag. But if you’re traveling for more than six months, or if you’re traveling solo, carrying some fun toys along might translate to extra weight, but consider it extra weight in gold. In my pack, I’ve succumbed to bringing a laptop and an iPod. But that’s not all. I share a turbulent love affair with smoking flavored tobacco, so I tote around a small, steel travel hookah as well (which never fails to make a scene at airport security).

So you’ve got everything you need for your big adventure. As a final test to see if you’ve over-packed, walk around with your backpack on for an hour or so. If it starts to hurt at any point, you lose! Back to the drawing board. When you get it nice and light, it’s time for the fun part: IMPACT TESTING!! Throw it, stamp on it, kick it, call it names. Pretend you’re Tonya Harding and bludgeon it with a pole. Laugh. Laugh. When you finally calm down and your hands stop shaking, check inside the bag. If anything’s broken, you lose again. Your bag is sure to take similar beatings on the road, so you need to be prepared. If you’ve passed the test, however, congratulations! You’re ready for adventures.

For more exciting and vital information on the art of vagabonding, you’ll find everything you never knew you needed to know by clicking the “Backpackology 101” tab at the top of this page. Happy travels!

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