Packing for your gap year can be a tricky task. You’ll need clothes for different climates, cultures and activities, but you’ll also need to be prepared for everything life throws at you along the way.
You will probably get sick at some point and you’ll also need to be prepared for every situation possible, so we’ve put together a list of essential extras you’ll need for your gap year.
These are available from pharmacies and supermarkets and are essential if you come down with an inevitable bout of the ‘Cairo Quickstep’. You need to stay hydrated and replenish your body with vital salts as quickly as possible and rehydration salts are the best way to do that.
A roll of sticky bandage tape
You want the stuff that is extremely sticky and can be cut to any length. If you accidentally chop your arm off, you’ll never stick it back on with ‘individually wrapped waterproof but never stick properly’ plasters!
A roll of plaster is also useful for sticking other stuff like parcels to send home, notices to boards and broken equipment. It’s a great blister prevention too; just wrap it around your heels and toes to stop hiking boots rubbing.
Ask your doctor for a ‘broad spectrum antibiotic’. Basically, this is the hard bastard of the ‘Pill World’ as it kills all bugs. If you get a bad infection from a coral cut, or the flu which turns into a rattly chest infection (causing you to produce more green sputum than a particularly old decrepit bullfrog with a phlegm problem!), or any infection which you think has gone sceptic / bad – this will clear it up before the rot sets in and you have to go to hospital.
Check out our ‘Travel Health‘ section to find out more about treating / looking after yourself on the road.
A plug for your poop chute! If your stools have the consistency of porridge and the frequency of a well-watered gerbil, you may need to pop a couple of these to shut the gate before the horses get loose. If you are on a bus or train for ten hours, in the middle of India, it’s best to block it all up. However, be aware that if it’s a nasty bug you need to let it out first, so that it doesn’t sit inside your gut and fester.
Here’s a great article if you’d like more advice on traveller’s diarrhoea.
Cools sunburn or normal burns, also good for insect bites. Remember that it’s better to prevent sunburn and bites so lather on the factor 50 and insect repellent.
Whether or not you plan to get lucky on your gap year, pack a few condoms and be responsible.
Sterilised needle kit
This is essential, especially if you are going to developing countries or places with a high risk of AIDS. I know this is the scary world and, should you say to your parents that you need one of these kits, they may get a bit frightened and go off the idea of you trotting around the world. You HAVE to have one.
You can find these little packs which contains sterilised needles and all the bits and pieces that could be used by a hospital in the event of an emergency in outdoor camping stores and pharmacies.
Here are some of our top travel health tips to keep you healthy and safe while you’re travelling.
Knifeforkandspoon set or a spork
These things are great. Make sure you get the ones that can be separated, as you can buy ones where all three are attached at the base. Always having your own utensils means that in some hostels where cutlery may be lacking, you don’t have to wrestle with a big Belgian girl called Helga for the last fork. Also, in restaurants where you are worried about hygiene, you can use your own – although don’t make it obvious as to what you’re doing or you may cause offence.
Swiss army knife or Leatherman Tool
A Swiss army knife is an essential bit of kit and, if you don’t have one, I suggest you invest in one or get one from Santa Claus. Its multiple blades and ‘things’ come in handy at the weirdest of times. The bottle opener and cork screw are dead useful for the obvious reasons and the blades, if sharpened before you leave, will come in handy at some point on your trip.
Can you sew? It might be worth you getting a couple of lessons before you shoot off so that you have a feint idea of what to do should the time arise. If you really are inept, there will always be someone out there you can ask to give you a hand! You only need a small sewing kit – a couple of needles and loads of different coloured thread. You can nick them out of nice hotel bedrooms or buy them in the shops.
Travel wash is concentrated washing liquid in a tube, that can be used with hot or cold water. Wherever you are, all you need is a sink or bucket and fresh water. Put a small blob of this into the water, stir it around and hand wash you little heart out! Pants and socks, T-shirts and jeans – it does them all.
Small ‘sealable’ plastic bags
You know the ones I’m talking about. Clear plastic, about six inches long, which seal at the top with that stuff you squeeze together. Again, you will be surprised when these come in handy. Jewellery that has to be kept separate, sun cream with a leaky top, tickets or passes that have to be kept dry. The problem with backpacks is that everything you own is stuffed in there all over the place. Ask any backpacker about things that have leaked and you will usually hear an amusing story. Mine was a bottle of pure coconut oil which leaked all over my stuff. Not a happy bunny I can tell you. So, get some.
Under this title I am classing tissues, wipes et al. In one of the larger plastic bags I talked about above, it is always advisable to have a plentiful supply of these chaps. When you have a ring of fire or a nose that delivers more mucus than a particularly fat old slug, you’ll be glad you have them.