In preparation for our gap year programs, we create detailed lists of things students should absolutely not leave home without. Our field advisors travel with our students through India, the Colorado wilderness, Costa Rica, and beyond, and never fail to come back with sharper insights.
These prep lists cover everything from technology, the bare essentials, safety protocol, travel bags, toiletries, daily wear, even swimwear and sun protection.
Here are six things we recommend if you're heading off for what could be the craziest year of your life.
1. Ziploc bags.
Ziplocs can be a lifesaver. They serve the same purpose as waterproof stuff sacks, but they can be used for a wide variety of needs and stuff themselves into the small corners of your bag. If you've ever needed to keep something dry, fresh, or not spilling over all your other stuff, you've known the value of ziplocs. They'll help you keep items like notebooks, medicines, cameras, high-calorie snacks, and other items dry. Pack 5-10 large ziplocs for your trip.
2. Immunization / vaccination card.
Too many people forget this item when traveling around the world. The thing is, you never know when you'll need to show your immunization history. You could get stuck by a twisty barbed wire fence, or it could be a matter of getting a visa for a country on your bus detour. Your immunization/vaccination card will help expedite some of the most stressful situations you will hopefully never face while traveling the world. Never leave home without it!
3. GoPro Hero 4.
Inevitably, you'll want great photos of your experience, something to remember all the crazy experiences you've had by. But if a camera can feel like it's pulling you out of the experience, strap a GoPro to yourself and you're good to go. You get to keep both your hands free and do whatever it is you're doing, knowing you can look back on it and laugh someday.
A solid camera will capture your experiences while not making you feel like you're walking on broken glass. The GoPro Hero 4 takes high quality video, photo, and timelapse, and won't break if you drop it under water.
4. Rashguard Shirts
If you're planning on doing any water activities, you'll always be running the risk of rashes, as well as plenty of sun exposure. A rashguard shirt will guard you from rashes, obviously, as well as keep you from getting super sunburned or having to put on sunblock every 2 hours on every part of your body. Plus the tanlines look really cool.
5. water bottles and bladders
Every time you leave your camp or hostel for the next place, as a rule of thumb, you'll want to have 2L of water on you. You never know when you're going to fill up next, especially if you're in a country or region without a lot of clean water (it happens). Wide-mouth Nalgene bottles are extremely useful for a variety of contexts, from just water, to mixing in hydration salts, iodine, and emergency medicines. They're also easy to clean. Bring two of them.
Nalgenes take up space, even when they have nothing in them. If you prefer a more flexible shape, a water bladder can be useful. It's not recommended to mix things into them, and they're less easy to clean, but they're adaptability and size is definitely a strong point.
Either way, don't go without water. 3 days without it, and "you'll perish."
6. moleskin blister padding
Nothing will bum your day out more than blisters (besides no water). Bring the right socks and break in your shoes before any long treks and you still may need a little extra padding and relief. Moleskin padding can keep you going when your feet are dead, but your legs are fine. Heck, even the US Army uses it. But it can be hard to find in far off places, so don't leave home without it.
If you're ready for a crazy skills-based travel experience, apply now for one of our programs. If you'd like to learn more about how we prepare for travel, sign up for our newsletter or fill out a comment below and ask us a question. You can also email us at email@example.com.