Saturday, February 28, 2015

What to Bring and What Not to Bring on a One Month Backpacking Trip

Since my crazy summer abroad (from Nepal to Bangladesh to Haiti), I've been asked so many questions.

Q - "How did you survive so long without regular access to the Internet?"
A - "It's easier than you think, and life is actually 10x better."

Q - "Did you have jet leg?"
A - "Only once but I didn't mind, because I was able to stay up late and read more books."

Q - "What did you eat?"
A - "Beans and rice, rice and beans."

Q - "Did you see any elephants?"
A - "No, but I saw hundreds of monkeys and even more lizards."

Q - "How do you use a squatty potty?"
A - "You don't want to know.

But one of the most frequently asked questions is what I brought when I backpacked the Himalayas. Since I am such a frazzled and my-mind-going-everywhere-at-once kind of person, I never give good answers. "Um..hiking boots?" So here I am, sitting down and writing a complete list of what to bring and what not to bring on a one month backpacking trip.


1. Good socks. They save your feet from blisters, which could make your trip miserable, and they keep your feet warm and dry.

2. Personal hygiene products. Girls, you know the obvious one. Trust me, you can NOT find tampax in Nepal. And all other personal hygiene products such as deodorant, lotion, soap, have bleach in it to pale your skin (the opposite of America's tanning sprays/tanning lotions). Speaking of...

3. A good deodorant. Trust me. When you're hiking in the 100+ degree heat with no electricity and no water available to you, you're going to want a trusty deodorant. I used Degree Motion Sense Anti-Perspirent, and it worked GREAT. I only had to put it on once in the morning and I was fine for the whole day.

4. Baby wipes. Might sound weird, but this is actually the number one thing I suggest that you bring. Most of the places we stayed had showers but sometimes they didn't or the showers they did have didn't work. Being able to wipe the dust and dirt off your skin before you crawl in bed is a luxury. Also, you can find ones that don't smell like gross babies. I used Huggie's baby wipes, in their Cucumber and Green Tea scent. Ahhh.

5. Bug spray. I didn't find that mosquito nets were necessary, but I suppose it depends where you stay. However, with all those viruses spread by mosquitos, bug spray is TOTALLY necessary. Or you might end up with dengue fever like me :(

6. Hairbands. The Himalayas is no place for curling irons and make up. So for any girls who feel like they'll die without something pink and floral in their backpack, I brought ALL the headbands I own, and boy do I have a lot! I wore them almost every day. Usually it was because my hair was CRAZY and I had nothing to do with it. But sometimes I wore them to spice up my outfits, considering I only brought about three t-shirts.

7. Layers. Although you'll be getting sunburned at 9 in the morning, the evenings get terribly cold. Think leggings, dri-fit long sleeved shirts, a rain jacket, and if you are cold-blooded like me, bring a hat! I wore my hat almost every night, I swear, I wouldn't have slept without it.

8. Head-lamp. I actually didn't bring this one. I brought a flashlight. But imagine it being 9pm in a village with no electricity, trying to balance in a squatty potty (aka a hole in the ground) with your hands full of toilet paper and a flashlight. Trust me. Get a head-lamp.

9. Germ-X. Get a little travel-size bottle. Although I'm sure that in the grand scheme of things, it doesn't do much to cleanse you, it makes you feel a little better after you use that squatty potty.

10. A journal. Write about everything! Where you went, what you saw, what you smelled, who you met. I re-read my journal so many times. I miss my friends so much, but I am thankful to have the memories written down for me to re-live.


1. Umbrella. When you are hiking up and down mountains, it's kind of silly to hold an umbrella. But when it rains, it pours. I suggest just bringing a rain jacket.

2. Many snacks. I suggest bringing a couple helpings of trail mix or even some gummy worms or something cute like that. But I was surprised by how many of my own snacks went to waste. We always ate either at a local's house or at a local restaurant. And any snacks could be bought straight from the many fruit stands all around.

3. Many clothes. I brought 2-4 shirts, 3 pants, 4 pairs of socks, 1 pair of hiking boots, 1 pair of sandals, 1 pair of Toms. That's it. And that was MORE than enough. Wash your clothes at night, if you feel the need to.

4. Technology. Leave the laptop, phone, and iPAD behind. You're surrounded by beauty. Look up at the mountains, not down at a screen.

5. Jewelry. There are so many bad things that could happen. You're climbing around in the dirt, hopping across rivers, and feeling your way through the electricity-free villages. There is no need for jewelry. It will get lost and/or stolen.

6. Perfume. First off, it will attract bugs. Second off, you're going to be smelly and sweaty and gross anyway, so you might as well quit trying.

7. Fear. I had no idea that spending a month in Nepal would involve teaching the village children how to play volleyball, going white water rafting with a guide who barely speaks English, eating daal bhat (rice and bean soup) for every meal for seven days in a row, parasailing above the Himalayan mountains, or taking a tour through Buddhist temples. If you're not going to go with an open mind, ready to take on every and any adventure that comes your way, you might as well stay home.

And of course, bring a camera. You're going to want to remember everything.