backpacking advice (what to take/what not to take)

So, i may soon be off backpacking about in Europe, actually mainly in Spain.
What i am trying to work out is what i need to take, the balance between carrying too much and having to find a laundrette every three days!
Can anyone advise?
i’m looking for how many pairs of trousers i should take etc etc

I wasn’t backpacking, but with a tour in Germany and surroundings. The big thing is underwear and socks. Seriously, if you’re bumming around, people don’t expect neatly pressed clothes, so you can skimp on the outerwear. However, unless you enjoy the feeling of wearing dirty underwear and the prospect of smelly rotting feet, take plenty of socks and underwear.

Two really good websites you can use to get good information about backpacking in Europe (and backpacking in general) are and Both places let you do searches and you can find all kinds of good advice from people who have done lots of traveling! Have a great trip!

I travelled for 4 and 1/2 years. The key is take as little as possible. I met a pommy guy once who was a travelling genius. Everything he owned was the same. Two pairs of identical shorts, two pairs or identical trousers, a few assorted t-shirts, one tidy shirt and one jumper. you never knew if he hadn’t changed clothes or was wearing the fresh set :D.

You think you need lots of things, once you are carrying them you soon realise youi don’t need that much at all.

i second akennett. you need underwear snd socks. i the last thing you need while bumming around ia an itchy crotch and smelly feet. as for clothes, go for loose colored cottons. and a nice source of mineral water.

Pick up a copy of The Complete Walker by Colin Fletcher.

I’ve got a fair library of hiking and backpacking related books, and it sees the most use by far - an absolutely essential reference for general backpacking.

I also recommend the NOLS Wilderness Guide, but that’s specifically about backcountry and such.

Have fun!

(Cultural note for Americans: Read the last few posts in this thread before jumping in with your recommendations for camp stoves and water purifiers.)

Helpful things:
– Extra underwear and socks. (Otherwise, I agree with calm kiwi’s advice to take as few clothes as possible.)
– Pocket knife with corkscrew / bottle opener.
– Journal and pen.
– Heavily concentrated liquid soap, the kind that will double as clothes-washing liquid if need be. (To Americans, this means Dr. Bronner’s; I’m not sure what the UK equivalent would be.)
– Comfortable shoes, preferably ones that double as respectable-looking shoes.
– Water bottle.
– Lightweight backpack cover – the waterproof kind that also protects the straps from the tender mercies of airline baggage handlers. You can find one at most camping stores.

Unhelpful things:
– Powdered laundry detergent or, indeed, any powdery substance whatsoever.
– Clothes that show dirt easily and / or will be ruined by bleach. (N.B. If you make it to La Coruna, avoid the Lavanderia Glu Glu.)
– Any clothing you pack on the off chance you might go somewhere where you’ll need to dress up.
– Any shoes in which you can’t walk several miles comfortably.
– Silverware (apart from the trusty pocketknife)
– One-size-fits-all plastic ponchos. (Unfortunately, I have yet to figure out what the ideal rain gear is, but I can say definitively that this isn’t it.)
– Sleeping bag, unless your plans definitely involve camping out.

Actually, I regretted not having a sleeping bag. A couple youth hostels in Germany required them. And some of the tent city hostels heavily suggested them (rightly so). Just a light bag is all you’d need.
Bring some local interest t-shirts to trade with those you meet. High school, college, local teams, heck, even gas station shirts were all traded. I can’t emphasize enough how important good, comfy, shoes are.

I would recommend against taking along an anvil.

but what’s a trip without your anvil!

seriously though, thanks for the advice so far.

ok, so i’m looking at 3 pair of dark, cord/canvas trousers
(quick drying, won’t show dirt etc)
maybe 3 jumpers/fleeces, 4 t-shirts, a waterproof jacket
and loads of underscants.
then a good pair of walking boots and my running trainers
how does that sounds for clothing?
i reckon i wouldn’t have to visit a launderette for maybe a fortnight?

Actually there’s a “sleep sack”, which is basically a sleeping bag as thick as a bedsheet, for hostels where you need to pay extra for sheets.

A couple of notes: Dirty socks really stink, so you assume they’d be hard to clean, but basically they’re like sponges that need to be rinsed out. You don’t need a washing machine to wash your socks and underwear (skid marks notwithstanding).

Everyone’s right about comfy shoes. Pack lighter than you think you would, too.

I assume you are just backpacking around and not hillwalking, and you will roughing it sometimes and well as whooping it up in the big city. I’ve been a hillwalker for some twenty-years but combined that with a general walkabout in Oz and NZ for three months last (UK) winter on which I learnt alot more about strategic packing. ** Less is more** sums it up.

The time of year is going to be a problem for you as you cannot guarantee good weather even in Spain this time of year.

Agree with the list of uphelpful things but…

** I would loose the journal.** Use internet cafes to write it up and post to yourself for a record.

** Loose the water bottle.** Go for a Platapus waterbag instead, 2 litres, it rolls up when empty!

** Loose the backpack cover.** Wash your pack in Nikwax wash-in a couple of times before you go and pack in lots of heavy duty plastic bags. I have never had a strap or pack damaged by an airline in twenty years, so long as you ties and crunch everything down tight and tie up all the webbing.

I would take a small headtorch, great for having a crap when your staying in a dump, or a campsite with no lighting. And take a length of line to tie stuff up, temporarily mend stuff, hang out your washing.

Two things I lived in, by might be a bit dorkish hillwalker for the man in the street, is a fleece and a pair of trousers that you can zip off the legs and turn into shorts. Rohan do a great pair with pockets and zip pockets within the pockets, although you pay a bit for them. Coolmax socks are great, no seams so no blisters. And if you can find it a New Zealand manufacturer of marino wool base layers - IceBreakers - you can not take them off for a week and you DO NOT SMELL. Amazing but true.

Have a fantastic trip!

** Nickannan**, I should have read your second post before the above.

I would loose one of your pair of trousers. One city pair - clean - one travel pair (combo with shorts) - on your legs the rest of the time.

But most definately you do NOT need three jumpers/fleeces. I would go for ONE. Instead take maybe one long sleeve shirt so you can get out of the T-shirt/fleece thing just one in a while and dress up a bit in town. Goes down well in southern Europe, trying at least to dress up. Maybe add some swimmers? The Med can keep it’s warmth for a good few weeks and they take up no room.

Hey you’re a Jockstrap, no laundry for 2 weeks is just SNAFU ain’t it? :wink: (well it was for the one I married!).

That list looks good but I would ditch at least one of the jumpers. Jumpers are heavy and don’t need washed as often as most things. In place of the ditched jumper take one decent shirt, nothing flash that needs heaps of ironing but just something that can “get you in the door” should the need arise.

KarmaComa mentioned a sleep sack and that is a really good thing to include, lots of hostels require it. You don’t need to buy anything special, just take a duvet cover and pillow case.

Packing hint…roll don’t fold. Stuff is smaller then and generaly less wrinkled so you look less like you slept in it.

I also would try and stick to one pair of shoes because they take up heaps of room in a pack.

Most important hint …have fun! Oh and bond with the Ockers and Kiwis they always know where the beer is lol

ha ha, i wasn’t optimistic enough to think of shorts!!
like you say notquitekarpov could still get some decent weather and they’ll also double for swimmers (mesh lined ones)
too many sweaters, ok, check.
thats the fear of the scottish winter i’ll have to shake off

Ooops I missed the post fromnotquitekapov but since we agreed we must be right :smiley:

How about one of those tube towels? The bits of fabric that ring dry after use?

And as far has fear goes, you haven’t experienced fear unless you were a sweet wee kiwi picking gooseberries in Scotland under the very grouchy eye of a cranky bloke from Aberdeen :slight_smile:

I should point out that notquitekarpov is recommending ‘losing’ things, not letting them loose…

I say travel light - I’ve been backpacking a lot, so I’d say (as I intimated in the other thread Fretful Porpentine mentioned) three of underwear and socks and wash one pair every night - that way you can wash one, dry one, wear one. And the compression sacks are for carrying these - one for dirty clothes and one for clean (doesn’t matter if they’re crumpled does it?). If I were you I wouldn’t bring heavy trousers - light ones will do fine (when was the last time you ever thought “God, my legs are cold”. Anyway, being a Scot you should have genetic protection against draughty legs) and you hardly need 3 pairs.

One thing I forgot in the other thread: small maglite flashlight.

Lose the travel journal?!? Then what am I supposed to pass on to the grandchildren? (Heaven knows they won’t be inheriting much in the way of material goods, the way things are going.) Besides, who wants to waste money on hours in the Internet cafe?

Different strokes for different folks, I guess, but I’d say paper journals are pretty close to essential. And they double as address books.