To take or not to take? That is the Question!

by Kirsty on July 21, 2010

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It’s a tough decision choosing what to take on a trip with no time restraints. How do you go about deciding what items make the cut and get to take the backpack taxi round the world?

There are of course many items we would both like to take which simply just don’t fit the bill for example in my case:

trying to fit Road bike in a rucksack

I really hoped my beloved bike would make the final cut but even before trying I had a suspicion it wouldn’t fit. Shame.

But then there are those that we’re not so sure about. It’s easy to convince ourselves that some of these items are necessary but when you take a step back and really think ‘do I really need this?’ the answer is often a no.


So to start with here are the items that have been lucky enough to progress to round to of ‘Backpack Idol’

Samsung Netbook

Our Netbook – rarely out of arms reach the last few months.

ipod touch with a tottenham gnome

Ipod Touch – modelled by Tottenham Gnome.

I was unsure about having an Ipod Touch to begin with but Kirsty convinced me to give it ago. We’ve had it a week now but I would say after roughly half an hour I could see what a great tool it will be whilst travelling. A big thanks goes out to Jeremy at Living the Dream RTW who wrote a post on IPhone and Ipod Essential Travel Apps, thanks to this our Touch is now loaded with useful travel apps and some fun games to kill some time too!


Now for the items that are yet to convince us they deserve to make the trip but are not quite out of the running yet:

ipod speakers

Silence is deafening – but do we really need to take Ipod speakers with us?

lots of guide books

Guide Books!?!?! Where do you start.

When we started planning our trip we got a little bit carried away (like I think most people do) and picked up just about every guide book under the sun. I’m glad to say we didn’t pay full whack for all of them and made the most of charity shops and gift vouchers but now we are stuck with a problem. When you don’t really have a set itinerary or timescale which guide books do you take along for the ride?

Should we take none other than our first destination and pick them up as we go along or keep a few with us so we can plan ahead along the way. We’ve got quite a pile and still don’t know which ones should make the bag.

ghd straighteners

Hair Straighteners!

Are they essential, no! Does Kirsty scrub up quite nicely when she uses them, yes! I’m stuck on this one, I’ll leave it up to her.

No Thanks!

The next list basically consists of a load of crap that you’re told you definitely need by the people trying to sell them. Most of which will take up crazy amounts of space with no benefit what so ever. So here is a list of stuff that never came close:

  • Fold away bucket – what?
  • Sewing kit – We can’t sew and so would end is disaster
  • Hair Dryer – for the sake of space our hair can dry naturally
  • Travel plates and bowls – I’m pretty sure England is not the only place in the world that has these.

and last but not least…….Passports. I’m undecided whether to bother taking mine or not, after all it’s a lot of hassle if you lose it, what do you think??


{ 34 comments… read them below or add one }

Adam July 21, 2010 at 5:57 pm

Good post guys. This was excruciating at times for us to figure out what to bring. Now that we have came and come home, though, I do have a few tips that we picked up.

First, you can pretty much get anything anywhere else in the world. SE Asia, S. America, India, they all have everything on your list. Now I wouldn’t want to leave my laptop at home and then decide I wanted one and have to buy it on the road in some foreign country. BUT, if you did go that route, you could (same with the hair straightener).

As far as guidebooks went, we knew we were spending our first 5-6 months in S. America, so that’s all we brought. You will find out that guidebooks are everywhere when traveling, in so many book exchanged and hostels and second hand bookstores, so don’t get carried away as you will be able to find another one somewhere, guaranteed.

Speakers-well, I honestly do wish sometimes that we had our ipod speakers, but our laptop worked just fine. I hate silence and love music, so I needed to have some way to listen. Speakers would have been better, but the computer speakers worked well enough.

Good luck with all the planning. Just remember that you will be able to pick up most anything you want on the road.
Adam´s last blog post ..Will the Camaraderie Amongst Travel Bloggers Last


Poi & Kirsty July 21, 2010 at 6:16 pm

Thanks for the tips Adam!

It’s wierd how sometimes when planning a trip like this you feel like your heading off to live on a desert island for a couple of years. I’m often trying to remind myself, like you say, we won’t be in the middle of nowhere and things can be bought along the way.



Nick Laborde July 22, 2010 at 12:37 am

I’ll will soon face the same question.

I know for sure that my MacBook and my IPhone will be coming with me.

From what I here, IPod touches and I phones come in real handy. You can get guide books for them that can also save you space.

I know for sure that my mountain bike isn’t making the trek.
Nick Laborde´s last blog post ..Planning vs Not Planning for World Travel


Poi & Kirsty July 22, 2010 at 12:49 pm

The Ipod Touch is going to be great, I can tell already.
Shame about the bike, sure you can’t make room for it? I’m still trying.



Erin July 22, 2010 at 1:13 am

I would just take the guidebook for your first country as books weigh so much, and you can pick the others up along the way. We´ve never bothered with speakers. You can always play music through the netbook when you need to. And no to the straightners – you make the rest of us who haven’t brought them look bad!


Poi & Kirsty July 22, 2010 at 12:52 pm

I think the speakers will be left behind and the netbook will have to do. I think Kirsty will have to leave the straighteners behind as I’m going for the dirty backpacker look and she might be a bit out of place next to me!



Dustin Main - Skinny Backpacker July 22, 2010 at 3:29 am

Agreed. I wouldn’t bring the speakers, too bulky. You can probably buy a small set really cheap along the way if worse came to worse.

You should consider getting one of those bikes that folds into a suitcase hah!

I used my fold-flat bowl a ton in NZ when camping, but not so much since then. Folds flat so no big deal at least. You can have things sewn for really cheap in many parts of the world, or use dental floss if worse comes to worse!
Dustin Main – Skinny Backpacker´s last blog post ..Photo of the Day – Reminders of Life &amp Death


Poi & Kirsty July 22, 2010 at 12:58 pm

If it’s not my special yellow number then it’s not worth having as far as the bike goes I’m afraid.

Again with the speakers I’ve decided I might just annoy Kirsty and sit around with my headphones in all the time.

I think bowls and things like that will be the sort of stuff we don’t pick up until we make a decision to start camping, which I don’t think will happen in Asia.



ayngelina July 22, 2010 at 3:35 am

Ditch the speakers, you can always play music on the netbook if needed.

Also please ditch the hair straightener, you are backpackers, not vacationers 🙂

I threw out my sewing hit after a month, I don’t know what I was thinking.
ayngelina´s last blog post ..Getting robbed in San Juan del Sur


Poi & Kirsty July 22, 2010 at 1:01 pm

It seems the speakers are a no no looking at all these comments and the hair straighteners by the looks of it.

I considered swapping the sewing kit for some knitting supplies and making some nice colourful scarfs for the ski season but I’m not sure it’s really my sort of thing?



Jenneil July 22, 2010 at 6:28 am

Personally, I plan to ditch all the guide books since I also have an ipod touch and laptop. The combination of those two should provide nearly everything you can find in a guidebook. If you have already scanned through them and have a general idea of the places you would like to go, you can grab a mini-notebook (3″ x 4″) and jot down the major points, hotels, activities for each country.

You can used the ipod touch for quick tasks such as currency conversion estimates, language tools, etc. And, you can use the netbook to pull up hotel reviews, prices, train times, and excursion details, etc.

I would recommend that you replace the guidebook with a novel or classic you have always wanted to read, but never had the time.


Poi & Kirsty July 22, 2010 at 1:03 pm

I think we may just take the guide book for China (first stop) and then a decent book to read like you suggest.

The Ipod Touch is loaded with useful apps so that should look after us, I hope.



JR Riel July 22, 2010 at 9:16 am

Great list! Too bad about the bicycle not making the cut 🙁 I pretty much have to agree with your list, even the “maybes”. The external speakers can be a tough decision, I eventually opted out on that one and am just fine. And I know what you mean about the guidebooks, way too much to choose from. Personally I almost always go with Rough Guides first, and LP as the back up. Have fun you guys!
JR Riel´s last blog post ..Drifter Series – Trek Through the Wilderness- Part 3 Corcovado- Costa Rica


Poi & Kirsty July 22, 2010 at 1:06 pm

We prefer rough guides over lonely planet but both of them are a bit bulky to carry around so it looks like most of them will be left at home.



Joel July 22, 2010 at 9:36 am

I didn’t bring any guidebooks. Now that you have the ipod touch, there are definitely guidebook apps you can download if you really want some.

That’s what I did for the language guides. I downloaded a bunch of them to my iphone and they’ve been a wonderful asset without carrying language books anywhere. And the search features are better than looking up in a book anyway.

The one thing I haven’t found that I would like is offline road maps… no great application for those yet.
Joel´s last blog post ..Antwerp- Quick Pics


Poi & Kirsty July 22, 2010 at 1:08 pm

Language guides will be pretty helpful and I guess your right about searching, a lot easier than flicking through pages and pages.

Hope your journey is going well!


giuliadventures July 22, 2010 at 12:02 pm

If you have a laptop and an iPod touch you don’t really need a guide!
Another option: Lonely Planet sells ebooks of single chapters (some are actually free) so you can print down just what you really need every now and then!
For me, as long as I have a laptop, my camera and cellphone, I feel safe, haha:) The only con is, camera lenses are big and heavy, so I’ll have to ditch something else!
Thanks for the post, I always like the packing-related posts as every single tip can be a great help!
giuliadventures´s last blog post ..NYC life guide – Part 4 My Top 10 things to do in NYC


Poi & Kirsty July 22, 2010 at 1:10 pm

I’m glad you enjoyed the post, we’ve got one about ourbackpacks coming up and another with our full packing list – It’s wierd talking about it though, been so long coming and now we’re just a few weeks away!



Jeremy July 22, 2010 at 1:25 pm

Thanks for the mention! I’m really excited to see that you picked up an iTouch before you left. My original intention was to just use my old 2nd gen iPod until it broke but after reading reviews of the apps I was hooked. Now to just have mobile skype, pandora, and new york times.. i’m hooked.


Poi & Kirsty July 22, 2010 at 1:54 pm

Same thing happened to me, I was going to stick to my good old reliable Ipod just for the music, then it broke….

Thanks again for listing all those handy apps! Big help!


David @ Malaysia Asia July 22, 2010 at 4:19 pm

Hiya, interesting choices. I would leave everything and take the Gnome. 🙂 Joking only. Well, laptop is for sure and for speakers, there are some really good ear ones out in the market instead of lugging the boom boxes.

David @ Malaysia Asia´s last blog post ..Travel Links from Malaysia Asia


Poi & Kirsty July 26, 2010 at 1:11 pm

The Gnome would be a good conversation starter!

Still unsure about the speakers, it’s either going to buy some little things or non at all.



Scott July 22, 2010 at 10:23 pm

You will probably definatly want your ipod speakers. Nothing beats sitting on a beach with your own tunes, in the hostel room relaxing or giving your movies that you watch on your netbook a little extra push. For us we were so sad when we lost our speaker in the last 2 months of traveling and really never found a good replacement.

I’d suggest getting rid of the guidebooks except for the country your going to be in the next 2 months. I downloaded the lonley planet guidebook for Vietnam to my iPhone and it worked pretty decent. Sure beat lugging it around but it’s not the best. But what I did like was the kindle app for my iPhone for reading books. Really made my pack much lighter.

Hair straightener? If you think you’ll want it, a couple comfort items isn’t that bad.

The netbook – for sure.
Scott´s last blog post ..Tubing in Vang Vieng! Finally!


Poi & Kirsty July 26, 2010 at 2:28 pm

Woohoo! nice to see a positive comment for the speakers!!

I think we’ll be taking along our China guidebook and maybe SE Asia depending how heavy the bags get.

Thanks for the tips!



Emily July 22, 2010 at 10:34 pm

I would say leave the iPod speakers behind–since you’re bringing a computer with you, it will be able to play the music out of its speakers. And you can still listen to your iPod with headphones! I know it’s tempting, but I think that’s extra weight you don’t need to carry.
Emily´s last blog post ..Belated Travel Blogger Exchange Pictures


Poi & Kirsty July 26, 2010 at 2:30 pm

I think we’ll have to wait and see how much space we have. They might be my one and only luxury item.



Andi July 22, 2010 at 11:44 pm

Haha, I liked this post. I looove my itouch. A laptop is a must. I think you’re going to have to get rid of some of those guidebooks otherwise you’re going to break your back.


Poi & Kirsty July 26, 2010 at 2:34 pm

Thanks! Don’t worry we don’t plan on taking all those guidebooks, like you say it would be nice to still be able to walk after the first week!

Hurray for Ipod Touches!



Jade July 24, 2010 at 11:42 am

Get smaller speakers. I bought some that hold my iphone (will work with ipod, too) in a water proof, unbreakable case. I found it pretty nice when we were somewhere we didn’t want to break out the computer.
Jade´s last blog post ..48 Hours on Kangaroo Island- Parndana Wildlife Park


Poi & Kirsty July 26, 2010 at 2:35 pm

They sound pretty good, have to have a little look as we planned on getting some smaller ones anyway. Thanks!



Suzy July 24, 2010 at 6:54 pm

This is such a hard question before a big trip. I tend to fret over that pile that doesn’t make it in my suitcase the night before, but once I am traveling, I never even remember what those items were. The guidebook thing is a struggle. So far, I have just been buying the books along the way or just reading up on places online. I recommend doing a test run of packing, putting everything in your bags and weighing them. If you have extra room, then why not throw in a few of those maybes. Good luck packing and I would say you could leave your passport at home. It is so heavy and cumbersome afterall.
Suzy´s last blog post ..Pangong Tso- India Wishes You Were Here


Poi & Kirsty July 26, 2010 at 2:38 pm

I plan on doing a packing test run this week, so we’ll see how that goes. I’m not to worried about the guidebooks as like you say everything is online anyway now.

I’m more likely to forget stuff than over pack I think!



Adventurous Kate July 26, 2010 at 3:59 am

Okay…since nobody else has said it…

What is “I <3 Poo" doing in your travel guide book pile?!
Adventurous Kate´s last blog post ..Travelers’ Night In — The Bucket List!


Poi & Kirsty July 26, 2010 at 2:40 pm

haha, I can’t believe we’ve had this many comments and you’re the first person to mention it! I was expecting it to be questioned in the first response! Well done you!

and to answer your question – It was a nice present from Kirsty to me at christmas I think, just had to be included.

P.s. I don’t love poo.



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