Aaah, the good ol’ daypack. As every wanderer knows, a hardy daypack is essential when exploring. However, having one is one thing, efficiently packing it is something else altogether. In the early days I was the worst packer ever, and that’s no exaggeration. This perhaps stemmed from the fact that I’m a pre-planner and prefer to be prepared for every eventuality which may befall me along the way during the day. The thing is, you just can’t do that. Over time you come to realise that out of the twenty things in your bag, there’s around 5 key items that you truly need and use on a somewhat regular basis. And so, we return to the age old advice of travellers and hikers across the centuries: make sure to strike a balance between bringing the essentials and not being weighed down all day. Here are the 5 daypack items which I take with me every time, without fail, and the reasons why:
1. A ‘SECOND PURSE’
Perplexed? Don’t be, there’s a method to my madness. The fact is that anyone wearing a backpack is almost immediately singled out as a wealthy tourist and a prime target for pickpockets – and solo female travellers even more so, sadly. Some may argue that pickpockets are so large in number and so skilled in some cities, that it’s impossible to avoid. However, I’m still a believer in doing my utmost to prevent it – hence, the ‘second purse’. Many people tend to bury their purse or wallet right at the bottom of their bag in order to avoid someone sliding their hand in and taking it. The problem with this approach though, is quite simply that you’ll need to access your money frequently throughout the day (and without rummaging around for hours in front of the ice cream stall). Welcome, my friends, to the concept of the ‘second purse’. Your small ‘second purse’ should hold enough money to keep you going for several hours in a city, but not enough that if it were to get lifted, you would be devastated and missing most of your remaining money and cards. It works a treat, and also on beach holidays too, where you don’t want to constantly worry about money while swimming in the sea. If travelling to a particularly dangerous place prone to mugging, you can take the concept of the ‘second purse’ a step further. Add some more money and a somewhat unimportant card / credit card that can easily be stopped if stolen – suddenly you have a convincing purse which you can hand over to a potential attacker. They go away happy with a purse that has just enough money and cards to seem like the real deal, when in actual fact the real stash is still in your bag and can be used to call the police and get home safely . A girl I met on my travels ‘second purse’ actually saved her in this way while she was travelling in South America – she handed it over to the muggers, but still had money in her ‘real purse’ in her backpack to call the police and get back to her hostel safely. The moral of the story? Don’t underestimate the power of the ‘second purse’, and make sure to pack one!
2. A ‘NO-LEAKS’ WATER BOTTLE
Don’t waste time and money hunting around for water on a hot day – have a refillable water bottle with you! I know, I know, you’re thinking “but what if it leaks all over my bag and electronics?” It is, indeed, challenging to find a water bottle that isn’t going to cause a small waterfall inside your daypack at the first sign of movement. Luckily for you though I already did the trying and testing. My top bots? The Aladdin range is by far the best to ensure no leaks (and they are pretty too, so it’s a win, win!) I’ve lugged my Aladdin with me everywhere and haven’t had so much as a slight seep through of water yet. I also like the fact that these bottles are slimline too, so save space by fitting snugly in the side pocket of my daypack. Another bottle range I’m fond of is Nalgene. Durable and built for adventure, I tend to take my Nalgene with me on hikes rather than city trips, where I may not be able to refill my bottle as regularly and need to take more volume with me from the get go. Oh, and both of these bottle ranges are BPA-free, so no need for any concerns there.
3. FOOT REPAIR KIT
Your feet are your engine when wandering – when they pack in, so do you. I’m the first to admit that I often overdo it, so eager to explore that I tend to walk a lot further than I should without taking regular breaks. Even if you are wearing the comfiest shoes in the world though, it’s always useful to have a ‘foot repair kit’ with you incase any nasty blisters or cuts should occur. I pack three 3 things in my wonder kit: a Compeed stick, Compeed blister plasters and normal waterproof plasters. The Compeed stick is magic – pop some on any problem areas before slipping on your shoes and it will prevent any blisters from forming in the first place. It’s also pretty useful to have in your pack for other problem areas too – backpack rubbing your shoulders because they are hot and sweaty? Whack some of the Compeed stick on it. Compeed blister plasters are a must – they are just the best out there in my opinion, having got me through several half marathons. Normal waterproof plasters are a necessity for your feet and, in general, too. You never know what may happen so it’s always important to have some plasters on-hand in case you get an unforeseen cut on your feet or elsewhere.
4. AN EXTRA LAYER
The extra layer is key, and will vary depending on the climate of where you are going. Unpredictable weather? A lightweight, waterproof and windproof jacket that you can roll up in your pack will be your secret weapon when the heavens unexpectedly open. Warm during the day but due to get colder at night? Pack a big pashmina scarf which you can use as a stylish shrug when things get nippy. An extra layer is also key even in warmer climes. There’s only so much sun that any skin can take, or rather, should take. With sun safety in mind, make sure to have a cover-up which you can slip on after several hours sunbathing on the beach.
5. MEDICINES FOR THE THREE P’S
PAIN – when pain strikes, be it a headache from too much Italian wine or a sore foot from where you tripped after said wine, make sure to have some ibuprofen or paracetamol to hand to deal with it fast before it ruins your day.
POISONING – food and insect-wise. Let’s face it, almost everyone at some point is going to experience the hell of food poisoning abroad. And, when you do, it’s best to be ready for it because you never know when that icky stomach is going to strike. That’s why I always make sure I have something like Immodium with me in my daypack. An embarrassing topic, yes. But without the medicine it would be guaranteed to get way more embarrassing than requesting a few pills from the pharmacy counter. In terms of insect-poisoning, I’m not talking about the really serious kind, as soon as one of those bad boys bite you then take yourself straight to a hospital or walk-in centre at the first signs of something nasty. Although not exactly on the ‘poisoning’ scale, bites and stings from mosquitos, horseflies and wasps are still nasty and can sometimes result in unexpected reactions. That’s why it’s always good to have an antihistamine on hand in your daypack, as well as some SOS bite cream to keep any potential additional skin reactions at bay should they arise. And I speak from experience here – after having never been stung by a wasp since I was small, I got aggressively stung three times by one on a beach during my travels and had an unpleasant reaction. Thankfully my antihistamine, cream and cool pack did the job. Louise 1, Wasp 0.
PEELING – or rather, preventing it getting to the peeling stage. Suncream is a must, whether in warm or cold climes. If you’re on the slopes or hiking high in winter, you’re at just as much risk of a nasty sunburn as your friend sunbathing on a beach elsewhere. Pack a factor to suit the sun (I personally always use 30), and make sure to reapply regularly – one slather a day certainly won’t cut it. Sun exposure is a serious deal as we all well know, and getting a better golden glow than the next person just isn’t worth the risk. Embrace the pale, people!