What's in your Backpack?

Trip Planning

How to pack for a short or extended trip in the Subcontinent?

Unless you have a back problem a backpack will be the most common way to carry your gear.

The idea is to carry all your things easily and efficiently using the magic your very own back, hence the backpacker. It is much better than dragging your things behind you in a trolley or hockey bag. Your backpack must be worn properly however, you should practice packing it properly and make sure the straps are correctly positioned.  By the by 'trolley packs' are really not practical in India, the little wheels will get jammed with cow dung very quickly...

What kind of backpack is ideal for India?

Look for a modern light weight pack that is adjustable and with enough compartments for you. If you want a water proof you can get the ARCTERYX but there are many other cheaper options around $100. You can go to some stores and try backpacks on then check ebay for the prices. Also Mountain Co-op has a few good ones.

What size of backpack should I take travelling?

Different shape people different shaped backpacks. Typically there are small, medium and large sizes of backpacks; for small, medium, and large size people. Look for a backpack that suits your body type.
I recommend that you take as big as possible 60-80 litres+. If you have less stuff you can always shorten the pack down to 10l. I use my 80 litre as 10l hiking pack works just fine.
Keep in mind how much the actual pack weighs can make a difference. These days you can get 2.5 kg packs that are 90 liters. While the Arcteryx is more than twice the weight.
A good idea is to try the pack out before or from a shop or buy from a place that will let you return it.

How should I pack my gear into the backpack?

Heavy items such as a laptop, camera, batteries etc should be packed close to the small of your back (as shown by the red bubbles.)

     A sleeping bag usually fits in the bottom compartment. and other sleeping items, a fleece jacket can be stored there too.

    I like a pack with two large side pockets that are big enough for a one shoe or sandal each. Keep a couple of plastic bags there to, to wrap your shoes.

    Try to make a 'packing plan' so you pack everything in the same way, same place and same order, every time. Keep all you bath item in one small bag. All electronic items etc. This will save a lot of time unpacking and packing again when your traveling. This will also help you from losing or forgetting something behind. 

Can use your cloths to pad everything down, any empty spaces to make it as full as possible.

Most airlines limited to 30kg's, which is too heavy enough for a backpack. 22kg is about max for a backpack for a average male.


Must Have: The SteriPen


Drink water is an important issue in India. As a traveler you should consume at least two-four litre per day.

There is a problem with bottle water in India - it's not so good quality.

You will find that local water tastes much better than what inside of a plastic bottle.


This is a thin grade, stainless steel, one liter, drinking canteen. The Steripen sits down in the top and hangs down. The Steripen emits Ultraviolet rays that kill all germs and viruses.

This technology has been thoroughly tested so you can consider it safe for use. It will not filter out pesticides or other heavy metals so you should be very careful in India where you get your water from. I suggest keep away from any water in Delhi or other city. This Steripen is ideal to use in the mountains or jungle, particularly after the monsoon there is lots of fresh water.

How to use the Steripen in India

1. Select a good source of water. You can ask locals and avoid any urban cities for water. You can filter the water with a coffee filter or select clean water. Try to pour the water in so it doesn't touch the rim of the canteen. Wipe the water off the edges of the canteen so you don't consume this untreated water.

2. You will have to good batteries, I suggest you get 4 AA NiHn rechargeable batteries. These will give about 50-100 uses.

3. Fill the container (16oz). Press the button x2, the light will flash, place in the container. It will take about 2 minutes and then the light will flash green. Then the water will be ready to drink.

4. It will flash red if you don't leave it in long enough or if the batteries are low.

5. There are metal prongs that have to submerged with water or it won't work. So there has to be enough water in the canteen.


There Steripen cost around $50-$80 while a litre of water in India cost around 15Rs or .40 so after 150 litre of water in India you will have paid for the Steripen. If you drink 3 liters of water per day you'll save about $30 per month.

It will save you a lot of time too, going to the shop when you are thirsty, sometimes it is late and there is no shops open. Of course you will also save the burning of plastic bottles.

Water will taste better too!


How can I keep my laptop safe?

Think of your net book in three parts. The laptop, the battery and the adapter. Guess which is the easiest to break? It's the adapter! Cheaply made, they don't like hard drops or jabs. I recommend you wrap it in bubble wrap. The battery, i like to pack in the lower compartment, separately.

How about a backpack protector?

You don't need to spend money on a nylon or synthetic cover, they're not water proof anyways. An easy way to protector your backpack is with a large plastic bag.
There are light weight, water proof, disposable and of course. These are used for lawn cutting, very large.
Cheap. Take 2-3 bags with you. You will need them only on a few occasion while in India: Monsoon RAIN, protect in on the rood of the BUS (sometime they put the luggage on the roof and it may rain) If they don't put it on the roof they may put it in the back stow compartment which is always very dirty.

How to clean your backpack

After a while you probably will need to wash your back in India. Most decent backpack are re-constructable. You can remove the aluminum support rods on the back support. Once you figure out how to do this, you can put the backpack part into the washing machine. It will be difficult to wash while travelling, so try to avoid getting it dirty.  It's possible that sand flies take up residence in the dirt of the your pack too. 

Will I need a sleeping bag in India?

Most definitely yes, a sleeping bag is a very good idea to carry with you in India. As a budget traveller you'll find many cheap lodges  don't provide blanks and if they do they are of dubious cleanliness. North India and the mountains become cold at night and it is wise to carry a sleeping bag. Even Goa and various mountain location become cold in the winter month.

What kind to get of sleeping bag should I get for India?

Soft down is warm, comfortable and light weight. It also has a luxurious feel. Some prefer synthetic because it easier to wash. But synthetic is not as warm and much heavier. Something rated about 2' degrees Celsius (a 3 season bag) should be fine. Around 1 kg max. Also one that opens flat so you can lay over a bed I recommend rather than a mummy style.
Planning lots of mountains? better get a warm down one. Guest house don't have insulation or heating.
You should bring some liquid laundry detergent with you, and plan to wash your sleeping bag once per month or so.

Are Fleece liners necessary for India?

Fleece liners are handy because together with a sleeping bag it will be really warm. Or you can just use the fleece in warmer conditions. Or you can use it as mattress liner etc. A fleece liner is easy to wash and light weight.
You can also have a cotton sleeping bag cover made in India, with little buttons that attach to the inside of your sleeping bag. This way you can wash the slip cover rather than the whole sleeping bag.

Are Mosquito nets necessary for India?

You may want to carry a light weight net with dense mesh. They are cheap in Thailand around 150Rs but do not seem to be available in India. So if your not stopping in Thailand you should look around maybe eBay for one like this. It should be less than .5 kg.  A single is best, if your a couple still singles might be the better choice than a double. Often the beds are separate in India. Make sure you get the type of mosquito net with four corners on top NOT the top hanging one (fan is there)

natural mosquito repellent
Also get some permethim to treat the net or use this natural alternative to chemicals. See the Malaria and how to hang a net page.

Flashlight or torch an essential item for India.

Have you heard about new LED lights? Such as SSC P7 or R2 emitter? They are super high power!
India has numerous power outages, and even your room will be equipped with a low wattage bulbs. So this new technology is a god sent and a must for any traveler in India. 

LED bulb technology gives you an incredible source of light running on common AA batters. LED's bulbs also last a very long time and are durable. The SSC P7 is about that same as 150w bulb in your house!

Hammock, an adventurers option.

In India you can find cheap hammocks made from nylon or if you prefer you can being a nice Mexican one with you. Hammocks are useful in Asia because there seems to be shortage of comfortable chairs or sofas. A hammock is always useful because in a pinch you can sleep in it so it's a great budget travelers survival item. Look for one that is very light weight, less than .5 kg

Shoes, an important decision.

These hiking shoes, low cut, are ideal for India because they are light weight and not too uncomfortable in the hot tropics. Yet rugged enough to use for an extended trek in the Himalaya or south India hills. As you can see the quality is okay but after 6 months these $60 shoes are almost finished.
If you have weak ankles or such problem you may have no choice but to use a proper pair of boots. Running shoes are not adequate for trekking.  An important feature is thick rubber soles that can take the pounding of going down endless rock steps. I would avoid hard soles if I were you.
Remember to wear in your shoes before you leave. Blister are not fun and can lead to infections and either way can put a sudden stop to your trekking days.
Don't be foolish and not bring shoes. Sandals are not enough to protect your feet. In India there is a lot of rubbish and other bacteria on the ground.  
If your not planning on doing any hiking in India and comfortable pair of running shoes would be a good choice. You will want to bring a pair anyways.

Sandals, and important decision.

Sandals are an essential item for traveling in India. Cheap rubber is not good for the feet, such as those much lucks that are so popular. Try to get a decent quality sport sandal. Easy washing means easy to remove cow dung. Teva are an excellent brand and will last an extended trip and are recommended.
Remember to wear in your sandals before you leave. Blisters are not fun and can lead to skin infections very quickly.  Wearing socks with sandals is guaranteed to make you look like a German tourist, but it is a good idea as they absorb your sweaty feet and will help prevent blisters.

Socks, never can have enough!


These are Fruit of the Loom Work socks. I recommends these because they are great quality and cheap! Easy to wash, comfortable and strong. Cotton synthetic mix.
If you have larger than size 11+ feet you will not be able to find ANY socks in India or Asia what so ever. I usually bring about 6-10 pairs. Bring extras. A better quality sock maybe worth while for some, 3$ a pair vs $30...your choice.

Hat, sun no more.

Want a good quality hat? Try a Tilley. Actually it's better to get a light weight nylon cap with net protector that can fit in your backpack with little fuss. 

Cloths in India, can't bring more when your there.

You may have heard about the inexpensive (cheap) clothing in India. This is true. However the quality and fit is likely to be sub par to what your used to. If you are a regular large size Euro person, the sizes will not fit you. Such as 32" jeans are not really 32" for westerners but for small Indians, no ass!  If you are a small size you will have it much easier for cloths in India. This is unfortunately true for even name brand shops in the big cities. So to sum up: real western quality and sized clothing is hard to come by in India.
Indian made garments tend to shrink or not use color fast dyes.
Large t-shirt are actually medium in western size.
It is best to bring most of your own cloths for the duration of the trip because it will be difficult finding the quality or sizes you are used to.
  • 1-2 x pair of pants or jeans. Some people like synthetic, i prefer cotton.
  • 2-3 x T-shirts
  • 2 Pair of shorts, you know the ones with multiple pockets.
  • 1 x long sleeve shirt, good for keeping the mosquito off, also to wear in the airport.
  • 1 x Fleece, double sided, jacket. i have one from Nepal was only 6$, works great.
  • I suggest you bring what every cloths you feel comfortable with. If it's cold you can always buy a local sweater or fleece jacket and toss it when your leaving.
  • Protect your cloth and back them in a zip lock bag....

Small Bags and plastic zip ups, a travel hack

Zip lock bags are handy item for the backpacker. Pack everything in its' own zip lock bag. This will help organize and protect your stuff. Any bottles such as shampoo, toothpaste may break and spill into your other items, may ruin your electronic items  etc. Or you can get such a nylon bags.
Zip lock bags are good for any electronic such as laptop, IPOD, or camera, helps protect them from dust, humidity or sea air. You can create a bigger zip lock bag to fit your laptop or camera, this will prevent dampness for effecting the electronic components. Do this with some heavy duty tape and tape together the bags to create correct size of zip lock bag.
Small zip lock bags can even be used instead of bottles and will be much lighter. Double bag any liquid such as sunscreen, shampoo, toothpaste, hair gel, etc. You need some smaller 2"x3" size for this. Just squeeze a good amount in one baggie and then double bag it in case of leak. This is a handy tip short treks or day outings, instead of carrying the whole bottle just take what you needA small packet of hair gel

These insulated bag is a good solution, light weight, heat resistant almost water proof. I have two, that I pack all my loose items into.

Sunglasses, an important item.

The sunglasses they sell in Asia are low quality and often fake. It is better to bring your own. In fact two pairs because it is easy to break one and they you will have a hard time to replace it.I like polarized.

How to clean your sunglasses

In India you will find that your glasses become dirtier much quicker than usual, this is from all the particles and dust in the air. Don't just wipe you glasses with a cloth or even with microfiber cloth because you will scratch the plastic lenses.
You should wash your glasses with liquid dish detergent and water to safely remove the dirty and debris or you will eventually scratch your lens. I find dish detergent works best, even shampoo works okay. After cleaning dry with a microfiber cloth or any clean material.
This will remove the grease and oil from the lenses as well as the dirty that will scratch you sunglasses.

Sunscreen, something not to forget

Seems every time I'm going to Asia there are sales at home on sunscreen. So when every i see a sale i say well it must be time for Asia!
The quality in Asia maybe dubious, bring your own from home, western countries sell a lot more of this stuff, so it is better quality and cheaper.

Always buy fresh sunscreen. Sun screen loses it effectiveness after one year.


Now a days there is some called a compression towel. That is very handy for the traveler. Other wise a piece of fleece or microfiber. A regular cotton town isn't so bad, just cut it in half.

Plug Adapter, don't blow this one.

 India uses 220v like Europe but the plugs are different so you'll need a plug adapter. A simple travel plug adapter is a common item and easily pickup in India. 110v is used in North America.
Most, but not all electronic items will say 110-220v on the back, if it doesn't say this and it was purchase in North America then it is 110V.  If you plug your 110v item into a 220v outlet in India it will be fried! Also you will need a plug adapter or your electronic item too will be fried!
If you want to run your 110v item in India you'll need a travel volt converter but it is much heavier than just a converter. Also note that high watt items such as a hair drier or heater will not work with a cheap travel volt converter. 

Travel Lock

The general run in India is to use your own lock. This is because one of the employees or the owner may enter the room other wise, to "check something."
The other reason is that thieves may check in for few days and make a copy of the key/lock, then sneak back in a few months later and simply enter your room.
One solution is to use a combo lock, you won't lose the key but you might forget the combo or the guest house may be in a power outage and you can't read the numbers. Confucius says: lock and key is better  

Travel Clock, you missed you flight!

You will need to know the correct time for flights, trains, buses and check out times etc. An alarm clock feature is a useful feature, it can wake you up for train stops in the night.travel clock

Music on the road.

Many people like to bring an instrument with them, this is a great way to break the ice with local people and also pass some time during the many delays in India.
Guitar: Bob Dylan did it, why not you? The best type of travel guitar is a Spanish Classical.This is best type of travel guitar to get because they weight almost nothing and sound very good. Guitars made in India are very poor quality and are heavy. You can find them in your local pawn shop or second hand guitar dealer. There are many 'hand made' guitar left of from the 1970's that can be picked up for a song. Nylon strings are light weight. Spanish guitar have no truss rod (a heavy, metal rod in the neck of the guitar.)
Remember to get a soft case. Your guitar can stowed in the overhead compartment of the airplane or bus.
Drums: You'll notice many tabla and drum seller targeting you in India. Be warned that these are not of any particular quality and are VERY heavy to carry around with you.

Keep in touch with cheap call using Skype

Sooner or later every traveler needs to call home, if you used a local service it may cost $1 per minute but with Skype you get it for .02 per minute.

What can't you get in India?

  • Large size socks, shoes or sandals. Big feet beware.
  • Sunscreen that works.
  • Sunglasses, maybe expensive or low quality.
  • Western clothing that fits.
  • Cosmetic and personal bath items that you may be used to. Brands are different or not sold in India.
  • Ear buds, Indian ones are poor quality without enough cotton
  • Condoms large sizes or good quality.
  • Real Beer, Rum etc, ha ha if you like beer get ready for a shock in India
  • Decent guitar

What should a foreigner not bring to India?

Satellite phone, Andy a chipper from England came overland to India in his chip truck and was soon arrest for carrying a Satellite phone (sat phone.)  Fact is that the military is actively scan for the use of satellite phones in India, which means if you use one you will soon have nasty knock on your door!
Plane spotting equipment, Another case of foreigners being arrested in India because they had equipment and were using it to monitor Indian aircraft traffic.
Handglider or drone.

What should a foreigner not do in India?

  • Kiss or showing affection in public.
  • Work or start a business without proper permits and visa.
  • Carry a drugs particularly in any large quantity.
  • Drive without proper international licence and insurance.
  • Buy property unless you know all the in's and out's, which a foreigner never does.
  • Befriend or do business with any street youth or criminal elements.
  • Take pictures of military or police.
  • Openly criticize religion or politics.
  • Experiment with prescription pharmaceuticals.
  • Promote Christianity
  • Make sexual advances toward local women.

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+1 # Mandy Foo Man Fong 2010-11-20 21:23
I like your webpage, and i like your adventure trip.And i think you must be learning a lots from your every trip and gaining a lots of experience and knowledge from your traveling.

Thank you, have a nice trip! From Malaysia.


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