Guilty as charged… I have a serious case of the travel bugs! For me, one of my favorite aspects of travelling is planning trip details ahead of time and making sure that I have all of the essentials needed to get me through my adventures hang-up free. Prior to spending three weeks backpacking through Peru, I spoke with friends who had recently traveled abroad, read dozens of travel blogs and researched various gear guides online to ensure that I had EVERYTHING I needed for my trip. Unfortunately, the reality of travelling is that you have to prepare for the unexpected… and that often means that you will be left in a tiny village without electricity, wishing that you had an extra battery for your headlamp, or praying that your limited supply of bug spray will last you until you make it off the plane home. However, lucky for you ladies, I have compiled my list of Expect the Unexpected: Gear Guide Essentials for Summer Backpacking Abroad. Written for anyone who is excitedly anticipating their next travels abroad, this is a reference guide highlighting a few key essentials that I neglected to have during my summer travels… yet wished I had known about!

1). Bring a BIG Bladder…. and i’m not talking about THAT kind of bladder! Often times travelling to other countries means encountering water that is not purified or ready-to-drink straight from the faucet. And if you’re going to be backpacking and hiking consistently throughout your trip, then you will want at least a 2.5-3 liter bladder that you can throw into your day pack to ensure that you will stay hydrated all day long. On the same note, because many countries do not have clean running water, paying for water bottles is a must. If you are already in possession of a water purifier or camping water pump, I would recommend adding it to your packing list. This will help keep your intake of water high, your hydration to its max and your wallet fuller than you anticipated!

2). Comfortable Shoes that can handle varying terrains and offer support when carrying lots of weight are a MUST. While you may not be carrying your pack on a daily basis, you will still want to leave the states with a solid pair of hiking/trail running/light hiking shoes that have already been broken in and fit comfortably on your feet. There’s nothing worse than getting to your destination, hiking 10 miles on your first day and realizing that you have half a dozen massive blisters starting to form on the bottom of your feet. I chose to bring the Salewa Wildfire Women’s light hiking shoes on my adventure abroad. These shoes have the same ankle support and technical features as a traditional hiking shoe, however they are lighter and could easily transition into town for dinner.

3). Bring your Smartphone, even if you don’t plan to use it. Even if you don’t plan on getting an international data plan when traveling abroad, your phone still serves a multitude of purposes. The most important being that it is a quick and easy camera to pull out of your pocket and snap pictures with. There will ALWAYS be that picture perfect moment when you are crossing a waterfall, climbing over a steep pass or spontaneously witness animals running through the brush… and having to get out your hefty DSL camera might take too long before that picture perfect moment passes. Since we are accustomed to carrying our phones with us on a regular basis, throwing it in the side compartment of your backpack or in your jacket pocket will seem like a regular old habit and prove to be extremely useful.

4). A Backpack that offers easy access, as well as a separate compartment for dirty/wet/stinky clothes is a must-have for an extended backpacking summer trip. I would say that if you are travelling for over 2 weeks, odds are that you will need to stop and do laundry. Instead of trekking around with a huge pack that only has one compartment, invest in a backpack that have a few essential features that are necessary for travelling abroad:

  • — Top loading pack that also has front access zippers to access all of your items without having to throw everything out of the pack
  • — Pack that offers “extra +10” room for souvenirs and gifts that you are sure to collect throughout your adventures
  • — Waterproof tapping and raincover… for those summer rain storms that are sure to happen right when you least expect them!
  • — Separate bottom compartment that lets you separate your dirty and wet clothes from your depleting stash of clean ones — this is essential.
  • — I used the Black Diamond Onyx 55 + 10 Backpack during my travels abroad, and it provided me with everything I needed for a 3 week backpacking trip!

5). DEET, DEET, DEET. Deet, formally known as N-Diethyl-meta-toluamide, is the most common active ingredient in insect repellents, and a MUST HAVE for any woman travelling abroad in the summer. Whether you’re hiking through the jungle, rafting down the Amazon River, camping in remote locations or exploring local farmers markets, never underestimate the power of mosquito’s and your need for insect repellent. I recommend using the highest concentration of DEET that you can find, or opting for a less greasy form of repellent by outfitting yourself with some of ExOfficio’s Bugz Away tops that have a built-in layer of Insect Sheild Repellent. Either one is a great option to keep you protected as you endure the summer heat and bugs while travelling.

** If you fail to bring insect repellent on your trip, you may end up spending the night like this:


Written by: Jessica Barrett, with images taken on iphone4