After the tragic murder of a young woman in New Zealand, many students are probably second-guessing whether it’s safe to go backpacking around the world. After all, New Zealand is widely considered a ‘safe’ destination – unlike many other countries. But the truth is, terrible events like this are an exception, not the rule. Students will continue travelling the world in search of fun, friendship, spiritual enlightenment, and new alcoholic drinks. As long as you take sensible safety precautions, you should be fine.

A student gap year spent travelling the world is a rite of passage for many young people. It’s a time to spread your wings, learn the art of coping with unexpected situations, and making friends with random strangers. Your backpacking adventures will teach you many things. Many of these skills will stand you in good stead when you eventually decide to enter the workforce and become a responsible adult.

One skill that all backpackers learn pretty fast is how to survive on very little money and carry your worldly goods in a small case or rucksack. If you are plotting to hit the well-worn backpacker trail this year, here are some packing tips.

Invest in a Sturdy Bag

Your bag will be your wardrobe for the next few months, so it needs to be sturdy. This bag will have to run the gauntlet of numerous budget airlines. Be prepared to splurge on a good quality, tough as old boots rucksack or wheeled case. Rucksacks are the traditional way to carry your gear, but some students prefer a wheeled case. The choice is yours.

Look for a bag that has plenty of pockets and zipped sections, so you can store away the little things that make a trip easier, such as notebooks, pens, gum, water bottles, deodorant, etc.

Take a day pack too. You can use this when you go off sightseeing. It needs to be large enough to carry a water bottle, some snacks, a camera, a jumper, a swimming costume, towel, etc.

Invest in a waterproof cover for your luggage, as it may rain while you are out and about and the last thing you need is a bag full of soaking wet clothes.

Essential Clothing

It is impractical to take your entire wardrobe when backpacking around south-east Asia. You won’t need tons of clothing and besides, clothing is often very cheap when you go shopping in local markets. Nevertheless, you do need to take some essentials. Pack according to the climate of your destination countries but include some or all of the following.

T-shirts and hoodies are staple garments that can be worn in most climates. Look for cotton garments that let your skin breathe. White is nice and fresh, but since you won’t have access to laundry facilities when you are on the road, t-shirts and hoodies in dark colours or patterned designs are a better choice. You can always supercharge your wardrobe with a few designer items. SSENSE has a great selection of designer separates, including a smart Off-White hoodie and an Off-White t-shirt. Wear cheap garments during the day and then step up a gear with a cool designer t-shirt when you hit the local bars.

Other Essentials

Other essentials include jeans, dresses, shorts, and a waterproof jacket.

Don’t forget to take swimwear and nightwear too. A few bikinis take up very little room in a bag, so you can afford to splurge on some new ones. A beach sarong is also handy.

Be very careful if you plan on visiting a conservative country. You will be required to cover up in public areas and in temples. Take a long sleeve, loose-fitting, full-length dress or tunic if you are a woman. Pack a headscarf too, so you can cover your hair. It is always better to err on the side of caution, as upsetting the locals comes with an element of risk.


A pair of trainers is ideal for everyday wear. Pick a good quality brand that can withstand a fair amount of wear and tear. They also need to fit well and be comfortable. For the beach, take some cheap flip-flops. For everything else, pack a pair of sandals. If you plan on partying, choose some embellished sandals that will look fabulous with a cute dress.

Non-Clothing Items

Pack a selection of basic toiletries to keep you going. In addition, take a small first-aid kit with you. This should include plasters, antiseptic cream, painkillers, insect bite treatment, and any prescription medication you need on your travels. It is also a good idea to take some travel wipes, so you can freshen up when you step off a long-haul flight.

Other useful items include a small torch, a pack of playing cards for nights when there is nothing else to do, a journal, and chargers for your gadgets. Don’t forget to pack a travel adapter too!

Have fun!