Ahh packing – pretty much my favorite thing to do (insert sarcasm). I’m always super jealous of the travelers I meet who love packing, or who can properly pack within a few hours. For me, packing isn’t necessarily hard, it’s the decision-making process that haunts me (and often amounts to me questioning just how much clothing to bring). I created a list for my two-month backpacking trip to India, but after two-months, here’s what I really needed, and what you may find you need to pack.
Awhile ago I wrote a post on packing tips for the procrastinator, but overcoming procrastination is definitely a process (of which I’ve been undergoing for years). I packed for my 1-month solo trip to Costa Rica about 5 hours before my flight took off. When I went to Spain, I only realized my bag wouldn’t shut about 30 minutes before I had to leave for the airport.
The nice thing about backpacking is that you really can’t pack too much. On the flip side, you have to be really strategic with what you bring. You could overpack on clothing and forget toiletries. Or vice versa. I strongly believe that the more you travel (and talk to others) the easier it gets to pack and the more you realize what you actually need.
I did a lot of research before traveling to India, the first country I’ve been to in Asia. I knew the culture was different than the US, and that the temperatures would be different across the country. Knowing monsoon season was beginning was also key, as having a rain cover for my backpack and a raincoat for myself, came in handy.
Clothing in India is actually really cheap. I bought skirts and pants for around $3. The harder thing to find was shirts, especially plain t-shirts. I would suggest bringing more shirts, and only 1-2 skirts and 1 pair of pants. Then purchasing pants and skirts in India. The patterns and colors are absolutely beautiful! If you like working out, bring workout clothes from home, since they can be hard to find anywhere but in large cities, and don’t fit the backpacker budget!
** When purchasing clothes from India, keep in mind that the colors bleed like crazy. Sometimes my legs turned black from my pants, or my stomach blue from my skirt. My lighter shirts became dyed from my skirts when tucked in. Wash separately from your other clothing to avoid more stains. Some hostels charge per item of clothing, so I would have them wash my new skirts on different days to avoid any stains. **
For that reason, I would suggest only bringing clothes that you don’t mind getting ruined, or getting rid of. You’ll definitely want to pick up some fabrics, spices or souvenirs on your travels, so you’ll have to make room in your already limited backpack space.
1 Raincoat – Can be a thin, light one (which makes packing a lot easier). My coat was a multipurpose all-weather type, so it was heavier, but it functioned as a warmer coat so I didn’t need to bring a jacket or hoodie.
1 Purse or day bag/backpack – Useful for daily walking around town, hiking/camping trips and as a carry-on bag on flights.
1 One piece swim suit (bikinis can be worn in Goa, but a one-piece is safest for most areas. I noticed many females didn’t wear swimsuits, even while we were rafting – I saw a lot of women wearing leggings and a top.
1 Pair of pajamas
1 Lounge shorts – For wearing around hostel
1 – 2 Crop tops (can be worn with skirts or sarees!)
I pair of jeans – For wearing in cities or going out
1 Scarf – To cover your shoulders (or head) when going in temples or festivals etc.
2 Sports bra
1 reg. bra
1 Sweatshirt/ light jacket
4 – 5 Short sleeve shirts – Basic colors go well when you buy patterned skirts or pants here
1 – 2 pairs of leggings – Perfect for wearing with dresses or kurtas (pictured below)
1 Pair of nice sandals – For any fancy occasion that occurs (dinners, dancing/clubbing, weddings you’re invited to)
1 Pair of Flip flops – For wearing in showers/bathrooms at hostels (some bathroom floors are super dirty, as you can imagine when sharing with tons of other guests)
1 pair of Sneakers – For hiking, working out, long periods of walking, or any adventure activity
1 pair of Chacos (or other sturdy sandal) – This was my first time wearing chacos and I absolutely loved them. Extremely comfortable, strong, and I never felt sore after wearing them all day.
Many places in India require taking shoes off before entering (such as temples, restaurants, and some hostels), so having a shoe that slips on and off easily is key.
1 rain cover for backpack (folds into a tiny square)
1 duffle bag for storing backpack when checking bag at the airport (can be rolled and attached to the outside of the pack when not in use)
Don’t worry if you forget any of the items below, they can be easily purchased and aren’t very expensive.
5 Hair ties (maybe even 10 if you have thick hair like me and break them all the time)
1 Body Wash (more hygienic and a lot easier to transport than a bar of soap)
1 full size bottle shampoo (can bring travel sizes if you don’t have enough room, but the full-size was plenty so I didn’t have to buy any while traveling)
1 full-size bottle conditioner
1 Quick dry Towel – Dries faster than a regular towel which is perfect when you’re packing your bag and moving every few days)
1 Wash cloth/ face towel
1 small bag of Q-tips – Helpful for apply medicine to any cuts etc.
1 Pair of small scissors (Anything from cutting off a thread in your clothes, or your hair! (just kidding)
1 bottle of Ibuprofen/ pain reliever medicine
1 First aid kit (a few bandaids, antiseptic wipes, and gauze pad)
1 bag of multi-vitamins – Helpful when you’re not getting enough nutrients with your meals (and when your unable to eat fresh fruits and veggies in some areas)
1 tube of Neosporin or first aid antibiotic cream
1 small hand sanitizer
1 Phone Charger
1 Converter for charger
1 Pair of headphones
1 Lock (big) – Used for storing valuables in the hostel lockers
1 Small lock – Brought an extra small lock as a backup. Can also be used to lock your backpack zippers.
1 Waterproof watch – So helpful when your phone is dying or hasn’t updated to the time change.
1 Sunglasses (and maybe a hard case) – You can purchase sunglasses in most areas for around $3, but bringing a hard case to put them in would be wise, especially if you break or lose them multiples times like I did.
1 Headlamp – Especially useful for walking around unlit villages at night, or finding the bathroom at midnight bus stops
1 Flip belt – It’s an exercise belt that goes around your waist, but I also use it as a money belt because of how inconspicuous it looks!
1 Blanket – Some hostels (and most buses and trains) don’t have blankets, so this was so valuable at times. Can also function as a pillow.
$200 cash at least – To exchange upon arrival. Though if you can exchange outside of the airport, you’ll get a better rate and won’t be charged any service fees.
Roll of toilet paper – Helps to have one before you arrive to India, in case you can’t find any right away. Not every bathroom will have this. Most don’t. 🙂
1 Book – Which can be traded at some hostels if they have a book exchange
1 Journal (though you can purchase some really cool leather or fabric-bound ones in India!)
Could have used:
Portable phone charger – So helpful when the electricity goes out or you’re on a long bus/train ride
Internet SIM Card – Didn’t have one of these for the entire trip so I had to use friend’s or stranger’s internet sometimes. But being able to call people and hostels or search directions or tickets online would have been nice.
Baby powder – Can sometimes help with rashes from dirt and pollution
Sewing kit – Just a very, very tiny kit for the occasional clothing tear.
Thought I needed, but didn’t bring
The following were suggested from blogs I read before traveling.
Extra Ziplock bags
Bike chain for chaining backpack to train. I’ve heard this is what some solo travelers do, but I never saw it.
Pepper spray – I’ve heard some female travelers carry this for safety.
Metal reusable silverware – Incase the restaurant silverware is dirty. The only downside is having to keep your reusable silverware constantly clean while traveling.
Water purification packets – There was plenty of bottled water in every tourist place I was. If you’re planning on camping or staying in villages, purification packets may be helpful.
Your needs may vary depending on the type of travel you are doing and where you are specifically going to in India, but hopefully this list helps with the packing process. 🙂
What are some of your must-haves for backpacking?