Home | travel blog | The 10 Essentials for the Adventurous Backpacker

The 10 Essentials for the Adventurous Backpacker

I’ve had a lot of adventures, like driving 10,000 miles across the world. Knowing what to pack for these epic quest  is literally the difference between life and death.

In the 1930s, the Seattle-based Mountaineers, a climbing, backpacking and conservation group, drew up a list of the 10 essential items that the backpacker of the day should carry with them. So what were they, should we still be carrying them in our backpacks or have they become obsolete and superseded?

Let’s discover some of the packing needs for today adventurous backpackers that will help whether you are backpacking Italy or traveling Thailand


Yup, you still need a detailed map and the ability to read it. Keep it in a waterproof cover and it will always be there for you – don’t be tempted to rely solely on electronic maps that rely on battery power or a cellphone signal.

There lies madness. When I was almost getting eaten by a bear in Alaska I would have been completely lost without a map, and at certain points my cell phone did not have service.


Some things never change and you still need to know which direction you’re heading in or need to go.

Of course, modern-day GPS devices have overtaken the traditional compass but don’t think they will do everything for you – you still need to know what you’re doing with them and some navigational basics.

On adventures such as the Mongol Rally a compass is key to success.

Sunglasses and Sunscreen

Baz Luhrmann was correct in his famous song back in 1998, and with the world continuing to heat up and the ozone layer in peril, make sure you wear sunscreen to protect yourself against those UV rays.

Always remember that even if it feels cool in the sunshine, those rays can still burn your skin. Shades are essential in sunnier climes too – protect your eyes and look cool into the bargain.

Extra food, water and clothes

To paraphrase the great Scottish poet Robert Burns, one’s best made plans can often still go wrong.

Therefore it pays to be prepared for a longer/wetter/colder trip that you are expecting. And with the advancements in nutritional food that’s easy to carry, collapsible water bottles and new windproof and heat-containing clothing, there is no excuse not to be ready for anything.

Headlamp / flashlight

Yes, smartphones have torch apps but they are no substitute for the original hands-free technology of a headlamp.

It’s an essential piece of kit while pitching that tent in the dark, when two hands are required. Always remember to carry spare batteries and bulbs.

First Aid Kit

The more you read the Mountaineers’ original list, the more you realize that they were spot on and 80 or so years later they still are.

You can now buy more advanced kits but they are useless unless you know how to use them so do familiarize yourself with basic first aid before heading off on any trip. This is just one of the crucial travel packing tips. It is an important piece of travel gear.

Fire starter

Whether it’s for starting a small campfire or for attracting attention, some kind of fire-starting device is essential. Waterproof matches are good but most people carry a reliable butane lighter or two these days as well.


There’s always those tricky little situations when you wish you had a decent knife – for example when you’ve fallen into a gully, your arm is wedged under a boulder and your only way out is by slicing it off . . . So pack a knife. And make sure it’s sharp.

So, those guys in the 1930s were right all along – and it wasn’t their fault that they didn’t include digital camera and iPod that may be high on many people’s lists these days . . . Finally, always pack your common sense, and if you’re struggling to plan your next trip I can help you with my travel planning services. If you’re camping in Big Sur or hiking in the wild then a knife is a good idea. If you are exploring cities and town then it is not needed.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *