1 Jun 2014

Ten Travel Essentials For Female Travellers

After seven eventful and fulfilling months backpacking across India, South East Asia and South America there are a few things in my backpack, well, ten to precise, that I would struggle to travel without. Unless you're flashpacking or a journalist for Condenast Traveler backpacking is a very unglamorous life, you literally carry everything you need/own with you as you go.  Yes, whatever you decide you 'need' you're going to have to carry so the idea is to travel as light as possible and the selection process of what to take is very daunting. 

It took me at least five attempts to satisfactorily fill my backpack and begrudgingly leave my hairdryer, nail varnish, dancing heels as well as other 'essentials' behind. Yes, I admit there are a couple of things in my backpack I haven't used like those shorts I love that are never going to fit or that cropped tee that maybe one day  my abs will be ready for! Below are ten essential items that I'm so grateful I have with me.

1. Kiehls Activated Sunscreen For Face If you’ve read my Six Beauty Must-Haves For Female Travellers you’ll know how much I love this product. It's been my go to sunscreen for this entire round the world trip and at £26 its such a bargain. Even if your daily moisturiser contains SPF you will still need an extra layer of sunscreen, when the climate gets humid you´ll sweat your moisturiser off in an hour. A thin layer of Kiehls will give you protection all day and unlike most suncreams its lightweight and oil free so won't lead to any outbreaks.

2. Sarong Ask any female traveller and they will tell you that a sarong is an essential piece in their backpack. It’s so true! My sarong is not only a beach cover up its also my beach towel and when there is nothing else its my bath towel, blanket and pillow too. I bought mine in India for £3 at the start of our trip and its been there for me in so many situations from freezing overnight train journeys to beyond basic mountain lodges in Nepal. I’m very attached! Just think what you can pack into that space where a bath or travel towel would be.

3. Maxi Skirt On flights and long bus journeys I always wear a maxi skirt. It’s so comfortable and dare I say stylish! I’ve noticed that most women like to travel in leggings however with a maxi you can layer both if you get really cold. And take them off again when you get too hot, typically when the sun is blaring through the curtains of the bus at 6am or the AC breaks at midnight.

4. Day Rucksack To be honest I actually find rucksacks pretty gross but it’s difficult (and vain!) to travel without one. I’m really not into the sporty look so a branded sports one was not an option for me and it took me ages to find one I liked. Two days before we flew out of the UK, ASOS delivered a cute Mi bag to me and its perfect as my carry on luggage for flights, boats, buses etc Plus, I use it for overnight or two night stays when I can’t take my big backpack i.e. jungle lodges, remote island. It’s amazing how much I can squeeze inside especially the overflow from my big backpack after a shopping trip.

5. Headscarf Perfect for bad hair days (of which I've had many) when humidity and frizz strike or when you’re unable to wash your hair. Simply fold corner to corner and tie around your hairline either knotted or tucked under. Choose cotton as it has more friction with your hair and will stay in place longer. I always keep one in my daypack and use it as an eye mask for sleeping on buses, flights and/or in light rooms. I lost my eyemask within a couple of weeks but for some reason these multi-tasking pieces don't manage to escape me.

6. Denim At home you’ll always find me in skinny jeans, obviously these don’t work well in hot, humid climates but I do have a pair of boyfriend fit jeans with me and they are perfect for cooler climes. Denim shorts are a big cliche but they are so comfy and versatile and I wear mine every few days. And the more worn they get the better I like them so they have lasted the entire trip. A lightweight denim shirt makes an excellent cover up when its cold or the mosquitos are out in force, they look great over pretty much everything and work with all colours and prints. You can never have too much denim! 

ten packing essentials for female travellers
"These are a few of my favourite prints..."

7. Prints I have the basic white and black tees like any other traveller but to dress these up is tricky as flaunting your jewellery (even the cheap stuff) is a big no no in most countries especially in South America where muggings are common. So, to liven up my wardrobe I love to wear prints! Don’t worry about packing lots of printed pieces as you’ll find them as soon as you land, head straight for the market and enjoy the fantastic shopping at backpacker budget friendly prices.

8. Folding Toiletry Bag As a fairly messy person when it comes to my dresser and wardrobe this simple organiser has changed (or most likely delayed) my unruly ways. It's always at the very top of my backpack waiting for me with my beauty kit when I arrive at a new destination so there is no need for an "I can't find my face scrub/nail file/toothbrush" kind of drama. Its a great space saver as it folds and rolls, plus it’s waterproof and you can hang it rather than sit it on a soggy sink or shower floor. This bag is excellent value at just £15 from M&S. Do not leave home without one of these.

9. Running Shorts I'd be lying if I told you I've been going for regular runs during my travels but I have been wearing my Nike Running Shorts a lot. They are the perfect piece of kit for trekking on hot days and any water based activity such as whitewater rafting or tubing. For the latter I'd definitely advise wearing a pair unless you're comfortable flashing a little extra at strangers. Lets leave that to the builders! Choose a pair in a quick-dry fabric with an inner short. They wash really well and are much more chic than beige cargo shorts despite what the sales rep in your local outdoor pursuits shop tells you. 

10. SLR Camera So far on our trip my partner and I have taken over 7,000 photos. Are they all fantastic? No. I am guilty of taking ten photos of the same landscape, llama or sunset! However, I’m a firm believer of its better to have too many than too miss out besides, practise will one day make perfect, right? I’ve been lucky enough to visit some incredible places on this trip and it’s great when you capture that perfect shot to give you memories to last forever. 

sloth peru amazon
"My favourite photo from our trip!"

I’m very far from a professional but the quality of an SLR photo is fantastic and four years later my Nikon D3100 is still going strong making it a great investment. This is definitely not a camera for evening though as its too bulky to carry, a smartphone camera is more than sufficient to capture your drinking sessions! Don't forget to carry at least a couple of memory cards and backup your photos as you go on a laptop or file sharing platform like dropbox.

So, above are my favourite material possessions and there is one thing that doesn't cost us a penny which i believe we should all travel with - An Inquisitive Mind! I hate to preach but we really should question everything when we travel. Why am I able to ride this elephant? Why was it trained? Why can I hold this sloth in the middle of the jungle? Why do I have to pay a little bit more than the locals? Why is there so much rubbish on this beach? Is there another option that what this person is giving me? Where is the money I spend on this really going? The answers you find may surprise and give you a new perspective, they certainly have at times for me. Basically, try not to be ignorant about the positive and negative impact you are having on your surrounding environment.

Are you currently travelling? Have you just returned? or, are you about to jet off on your own amazing adventure? I'd love your feedback on my 'travel essentials' and hear about your own packing list.

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