Backpacking through Bangkok, volunteering in Vietnam or gap-yah-ing in the Ganges? Here’s a roundup and review of everything I pack in my rucksack for tropical trips.
1. RAINCOAT: Whip it on in a monsoon to stay snug when it’s thundering. Wrap your camera, phone and other precious bits in it for extra protection when it isn’t. My mint green stunner is by Adidas and costs a hefty £110. But it keeps your bonce dry.
2. METAL FLASK: More eco-friendly and durable than a plastic water bottle, a hefty metal flask will keep liquids cool longer too. Plump for one with a carabiner that’ll attach to your backpack for trekking.
3. SCUBA MASK: Spot manta rays! Spot angel fish! Spot sea slugs! A decent snorkel is worth investing in to save renting them on the beach, and having your own mask makes diving a lot more comfortable. I like split eye masks and have an Aqualung Favola (£54), but get a dive shop to fit a mask for you to make sure it feels snug on your mug.
4. GUIDEBOOK: Pick ’em up second hand on Amazon or do what I do and ‘borrow’ them from hostels. Hardcore travellers will laugh at you if you walk around clutching your copy of Lonely Planet and looking anxious, but they’re a godsend when a Thai bus drops you off at 3am in a town that appears to be populated by no-one ever.
5. COMFY SHOES: The uglier the better. I always pack my chunky-but-brilliant Keen Venice H2 sandals (£68) for trekking in as well as my more photogenic maroon Chucks for when I need to look less like an idiot.
6. BIKINI: My starry-printed beauty is from River Island (£7 top and £5 bottoms), but invest in a Sensi Bikini if you’re actually going to be doing anything more than posing on Koh Samui, as they are sea-salt friendly and stay on when swimming, diving and jumping about.
7. MOSQUITO REPELLENT: I swear by Lifesystems Expedition 50+ from Traveloutdoors.co.uk, which manages to acheive the triple whammy of smelling amazing despite containing 50% Deet, absorbing quickly and keeping mozzies away really effectively. Apply before a layer of factor 50 suncream for complete protection from the elements.
8. SUNHAT: I favour straw cowboy hats, as they’re breathable and are easily tied around your neck or to your bag when it’s cooler. Plus, you know, you look like a cowboy and you’ll swear blind you’ll wear it all the time when you get home (you never, ever will).
9. HEADPHONES: For interminable flights when hemmed in on all sides by screaming children. Skullcandy are my favourites, not least because they, um, give you free stickers. But also they are comfy and withstand sweat and water very well. Mine are UpRocks in Army Green (£29.99).
10. TRAVELLING PANTS: You know, drop-crotch, harem style gap-yah-uniform trousers. Yes, you will look like a dick. Frankly I couldn’t care less, as they are so comfortable you’ll instantly want to take up yoga just to get to wear them at home, and they great at keeping mosquitoes away from your calves (why do mosquitoes love legs so much? Why?).
11. RUCKSACK I’ve reviewed a few backpacker bags in the past and, let me tell you, my Karrimor Global Venture 55+15 Travel Pack is. The. Business. It has a removable rucksack for daytrips, a ton of space, useful pockets, handles and straps in abundance and you can unzip it like a suitcase. £79.99 from Sports Direct.
12. CLIMBING SHOES: Whether you’re a hardcore part-goat mountain tamer hell-bent on climbing your way around the world or as average (and secretly a little bit afraid of heights) as me, Asia has a ton of amazing places to climb, and carting along your own shoes will make the whole thing a lot less painful. I love my lace-up Scarpa Helixes, £59.99 from Ellis Brigham.
13. CHALK BAG: Well-chalked hands are even more essential when climbing in humidity than at home – pick one that’s easy to dip into mid-climb when you’re sweating like a beast.
14. DRY BAG: A lifesaver for surfing, kayaking, diving and other watery adventures – pop your precious stuff in, fold it over a few times and the ocean will no longer be able to claim your IPhone as its own. Mine is a 15l Ocean Pack in a banana yellow.