Gap Year Packing List

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Written by: Lucy Jane Ayad

Packing for a holiday can be difficult. Packing for a gap year can be near impossible. You’re constantly packing, unpacking, packing again, checking that you’ve got everything, then you realise you’ve forgotten your toothbrush. Get used to it. It will happen more than once. What you need is a packing list.

One thing to remember straight away – what you don’t pack, you buy. Many travellers just take the bare essentials, buying everything they need once they’re on the road. You need to work out a happy balance for you.

Your backpack is your home. It’s your snail-shell. And much like a snails-shell you will take care of it and its contents, loving each and every item that is housed in your backpack.

A good weight for your backpack is between 10-12kg. Experiment before you go and pack your bag a couple of times to find out what fits where.

After a while packing will become so automatic that you won’t even know when you’re doing it and you won’t need a packing list! That’s the theory anyway.

If it’s your first trip then you will want peace of mind, constant reassurance. Hopefully this packing list will give you that…

We don’t expect you to take everything on the packing list! It’s just a guide to remind you if you’ve forgotten anything or not.

The Essentials

First off in the packing list is the essentials. Make sure you have got these well in advanced. Without these, no trip…

PASSPORT! – never, ever forget your passport. If you don’t trust a hostel to keep your passport then keep it on you


Health and travel insurance – see our insurance section for more ideas

Debit/credit card

Money – take approximately $200 with you as universal currency. It will help you out in tricky situations and pay for border visas

Prescription medicines (if you take any)

A spare pair of glasses and contact lenses (if you wear them)


It’s important to keep multiple copies of all your documents; keep one set in your day bag and one set in your backpack. That way you’re covered if you lose your bag!

Health and travel insurance documents

Photocopies of passport (X4)

International drivers licence – can be obtained from any Post Office

Student card – you’ll be surprised how many tourist attractions offer student discount. You’ll kick yourself if you don’t have it


Some people love taking lots of clothes, some people don’t. Whatever you choose from your wardrobe, choose wisely – you’re going to be seeing a lot of them! A travelling t-shirt probable has a life expectancy of 6-12 months. Saying that, buying a t-shirt in Asia only costs US$5 (£3).

Underwear X 7

Socks X 3

Bra X 3

Bikini X 4 (depending on how obsessed you are with bikinis)

Short shorts X 2

Shorts / boardies X 3 (no budgie smugglers)

Trousers X 2 (linen trousers are light and scrunch up)


Dresses X 2 (light, flowery, colourful)

Skirts X 2

T-shirts / strappy tops / vest tops X 5 (buy a ‘Chang’ top in Thailand – very cool)

Longsleeve top (for temples, protect against mossies)

Fleece (it can get cold at night, especially in the desert)

Hoodie (for when it rains)



Trainers / hiking shoes / sandals (Merrell are very popular)

Sarong X 2


Toiletries can take up a lot of room in your bag so decide on what you can’t live without.

Contraception (condoms, pill)

Sanitary towels / tampons

Toothbrush (with toothbrush cover), toothpaste, floss

Shampoo / conditioner (2 in 1 takes up less room)

Deodorant (remember, you can’t take aerosols in your hand luggage)


Razor (with razor blades)

Sun cream (SPF 30)

Aftersun / moisturiser (for that deep burn)


Sink plug

Make up

Make up remover

Lip balm (with SPF)

Cotton buds

Nail clippers / nail file (we call it a nail fail)


Insect repellent (DEET 50%)

Bite cream / bite zapper


Hair bands

Medical Kit

A good medical kit is really important. Try and get a needle – you never know when you might need a sterile needle. It’s a good idea to have a few plasters on you at all times, in your wallet or purse, and they’re essential on this packing list.



Safety pins

A needle

Antiseptic wipes

Antiseptic handwash

Antiseptic cream (Savlon)

Antidiarrhoeas (Imodium)

Antacid (for indigestion)

Ibuprofen / paracetamol

Antihistamines (hayfever can be a big problem abroad)

Inhaler (only if you’re asthmatic – pointless otherwise)

Oral rehydration sachets (guarenteed you’ll need these at one point)

Baby wipes (these babies come in handy everyday)

Gizmos and Gadgets

A lot of people say that their camera and ipod are the two most important items when travelling. Netbooks (mini-laptops) are becoming more and more popular too. Just make sure all items over $160 (£100) are insured.

ipod / MP3 player

Camera/video camera (+ batteries, 8GB memory card, films, cables, tripod)

Mobile phone


Spare batteries (rechargeable are best for long termers)

Solar chargers (for batteries, phones, etc)

External HD

USB stick (8GB)

Plug adapter (check which type you need beforehand)

Torch / head torch

Rape alarm (for men and women)

Alarm clock

Cheap digital watch (casio)


The best of the rest… some of these little gems can really make your trip – they come highly recommended on our packing list.


Hat (cap / bandanna/beanie)

Buff (for all situations)

Travel towel

Sleeping bag liner (for the occasional dirty bed)

Eye mask

Ear plugs

Travel pillow / squishtie pillow

Book / magazine

Playing cards

Safety pin / sewing kit

Leatherman / Swiss army knife (a man needs a knife, ok?)

Duct tape (for minor to major repairs)

Bin liner (for wet clothes or as an emergency rain cover)

Pen and paper

Diary / journal (you never know if you’re going to be the next Che Guevara)

Travel wallet/money belt

Waterproof cover for bag

Tea bags (a taste of home…)

Marmite (only if you love it…)


Print off this packing list and make sure you’ve got everything you need. This packing list is a guideline only! Don’t blame us if you’ve forgotten something!

It looks like a huge list. Well, it is a huge list. You don’t need to pack everything. It’s a good idea to over pack at first, and in your first week get rid of unwanted items. As eco-tourists don’t just throw your clothes away or leave them in your hostel room – go out and donate them.

Try to make your home away from home as comfortable as possible. It is called ‘backpacking’ after all…

Check out these top gap year packages


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