What To Pack

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What To Pack

Having taken a couple of dozen short backpacking trips into Europe I've managed to realise exactly what I personally need and what I don't. Although what people pack is a subjective matter, there are items everyone requires in their backpack. Don't go forgetting this, else you won't get very far! A leather passport cover is a great idea; it will protect it from damage. A debit card is the most convenient way to withdraw cash when backpacking. Make sure you know the charges for withdrawing, though; it may be a good idea to shop around and find the card that offers the lowest foreign withdrawal charges. A credit card is also a good idea for emergencies only - I keep one separate from my main wallet. You want a backpack just bigger than the amount of stuff you intend to bring. For this reason, make your backpack the last thing you buy. The smaller the better; if you're carrying round a huge bergen, you'll find it harder to stash it in trains, buses and lockers. The less stuff you bring, the more manageable your trip will be.

For protection against the elements, some backpackers just bring an umbrella; I like to have a breathable waterproof jacket instead. It depends on what season you are going. I usually have at least one long-sleeved garment, either a fleece, again dependent on the season. In terms of everyday clothes, I bring enough for five days. I find any more is overkill; any less and you'll be doing laundry quite often (or wearing dirty clothes)! A pair of sneakers is great everyday travel footwear for Europe. If you're heading into the Alps, or doing a lot of walking, consider bringing your hiking boots as well. Although pharmacies are everywhere, a small first aid kit of aspirin, band-aids, anti-septic and any prescription medicines is essential. Try to get the travel-size versions of your favourite shampoo/shower gel; there's no need to cart about huge half-litre bottles. Bring a toothbrush, also a comb or brush, and any other little luxuries. And contraception for those wild nights. I bring a small point-and-shoot digital camera. I can't afford an SLR, nor would I want to bring one, given my record for breaking things! You might also consider an iPod or other mp3 player for those long bus/train journeys. You might need a converter to use the appliances you bring with you in European sockets. Backpackers in dorms snore, so bring some earplugs! Also a sink plug is a good idea if you're handwashing in basins. Bring a sturdy padlock too for your locker/bag, as well as a small flashlight for coming into dorms late at night. A considerate backpacker is a backpacker people will want to get to know!

It’s finally Bag Week again! The most wonderful week of the year at TechCrunch. Just in time for back to school, we’re bringing you reviews of bags of all varieties: from backpacks to rollers to messengers to fanny packs. Honestly, I’d thought I’d have grown out of backpacks by this point in my life. I had a year or two flirtation with messengers, but all roads eventually led back to the over-the-shoulder satchel. As a subway commuter who carries around a laptop at all times, it just works for me. Until recently, however, I never really had much allegiance to any bag companies. I’ve used JanSport and Crumpler and Herschel and have a closet full of promotional bags I’ve accumulated over the years, but any semblance of brand loyalty has been fleeting at best. Last year, however, I fell pretty hard for Timbuk2’s Never Check (as hard as a man can fall for a travel backpack). The carry-on backpack joined me for two weeks in Asia, traveling to a handful of different TechCrunch events.

It addressed my travel needs better than any bag I’ve used, and when I returned to the States, I purchased the company’s Authority Pack for my day to day commute. I like the bag just fine. It’s got a nice assortment of internal pockets, but lacks the kind of versatility I’d gotten used to with the Never Check. Hoping to split the difference, I asked the company to send its new Parker Commuter Backpack to take for a spin. So far, so good. The bag does a good job delivering much of the Never Check’s amenities on a scale that works for the nearly two or so hours a day I spend commuting in and out of Manhattan. Waterproofing was key to the choice, as well. I’d recently lost use of a work MiFi in a freak torrential downpour. It was stowed away in a zipped-up pocked I thought was sufficiently insulated against the elements.

Turns out, however, that a little water behind the display is a dangerous thing when it comes to a portable Wi-Fi device. The Parker has that part covered with a wax canvas front, including a couple of external pockets with covered zippers. I was a bit surprised how much of the storage space was monopolized by the trio of out-facing pockets. It’s a 180 from the two slim ones on the Authority. Here there are zippers on the top and bottom pouches, with the center and largest pocket snapping together with a magnet. It’s an interesting touch and one I’ve not seen much of in backpacks. It does seem to lack the relative security of a zipper, so you might want to skip storing valuables in there, but it makes for easy access, which is great for things like keys. I’ve also not had any issue with the three after getting caught in the rain a couple of times.