Gap year backpacking – your 20-piece essential survival kit

By Shaniqua Benjamin

Worried that you haven’t packed the necessary items to get the best experience out of backpacking?  Take a look at what makes up an essential survival kit.

Are you considering backpacking during your gap year?  Are you finding it hard to decide what you need to bring with you?  Well, we’re here to help with a checklist of items you cannot afford to leave behind.

1. Map
There’s nothing worse than getting lost in an unfamiliar area, especially if you don’t speak the local language.  You can try to avoid this by carrying a detailed map of the area you’re travelling to. 

2. Compass
Using a lightweight to medium-sized compass, as well as your map, will keep you going in the right direction at all times.  It would also be helpful to learn how to use your compass if you are unsure.

3. Clean Clothes & Underwear
It is essential to have some extra clean clothes and underwear, as you never know what you are going to encounter.  Extra layers would also be a great comfort during colder nights.

4. Sunscreen & Lip Balm
You’ll need to protect yourself while walking in the intense sun for long periods of time, as you don’t want to experience the discomfort of sunburn.  A small tub of SPF lip balm will also prevent sore and chapped lips.

5. Eye Protection
Purchase specialist eyewear to protect your eyes, as they could face damage from many sources including mountain skies, ultraviolet rays and sun reflecting off snow.

6. Flashlight
A small, lightweight, high-quality and water-resistant flashlight is important for whenever you are travelling, just in case you fall behind schedule.  Always have extra batteries/bulbs on hand in case of emergencies.

7. First Aid Kit
Carry a miniature first aid kit to treat any minor injuries.  Whether you are buying or making your own kit, be sure to stock up on plenty of plasters and sterilized bandages for those little cuts and bruises.

8. Waterproof Matches
Buying waterproof or wind and waterproof matches with a surface to strike the matches on will help you to start a fire in almost any weather conditions if you find yourself in an emergency situation.

9. Firestarter
A fire starter would quickly spark up a fire using your matches.  You can choose from commercial fire starters such as chemically treated fire-sticks, or homemade fire starters such as small flammable containers.

10. Pocket Knife & Multi-Tool
A pocket knife is a single item with multiple useful features such as wire cutters, tweezers, a can opener and a locking blade.  However, only buy a knife with the tools you need so that you will not be weighed down.

11. Toiletry Kit
Staying and feeling as clean as possible will make your travels more enjoyable, so make sure that you pack a toiletry kit with the essentials like toothpaste, a toothbrush, soap, deodorant, flannels and moisturiser.

12. Toilet Paper
You’re unlikely to come across toilet paper in the midst of the Amazon rainforest or atop the Himalayas. Bring as much toilet paper as you can comfortably carry, in a plastic bag to protect it from any wet weather.

13. Insect Repellent
Constantly itching and picking at your skin because of numerous insect bites will drive you crazy, but you can prevent this by bringing creams and sprays that will need to be applied frequently throughout the day.

14. Extra Food
It is essential that you bring at least an extra day’s worth of non-perishable food in case of emergencies or if you simply get lost. Backpacking will be no fun if you’re complaining of hunger or even fainting due to lack of energy.

15. Eating Utensils
It’s unlikely that you’ll want to eat all of that tasty food you packed using your hands, so it would help to bring some utensils.  Basic items such as a spoon, fork, bowl and cup will be perfectly fine.

16. Water Bottles & Filters
Always carry lots of fresh water in lightweight water bottles, and/or filters so that you can treat water you find from unknown sources, as hydration is the key to a successful and safe journey.

17. Emergency Shelter
Emergency shelters, such as a tube tent, emergency blanket or thermal bivvy, would be a great help to you in a crisis or unpredictable weather.  You never know when you might need to take sudden shelter.

18. Sleeping Bag
It’s likely that you’ll be sleeping rough during most of your travels, making a sleeping bag a necessity, but aim to buy one that rolls up in the most miniature way possible to save space.

19. Whistle
A whistle is ideal in emergency situations, like when you’re hurt, lost or in danger.  It is better for you to buy a pea-less plastic whistle, as the pea can freeze up and no one wants to have their lips stick to frozen metal.

20. Pre-Paid Phone
A pre-paid phone is convenient for short term use and would be extremely useful for making contact during emergencies.

Follow this checklist and you will have the necessary items to thrive and survive during your backpacking adventure. Don’t forget to take some ‘fun’ items like your camera too.  All you have to do now is enjoy!

Shaniqua Benjamin is a lifestyle blogger from London, who writes for the GKBC Writer Academy.  She enjoys learning about various cultures and visiting countries around the world.

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