As a tip, many of the large chain travel / outdoor sports shops have sales after Christmas, and also at Easter. Keep your eyes open for a bargain. One little tip is to bring a few metres of string and some electrical tape. You never know when it will come in handy.
Look around! Every good travel shop will sell backpacks, so don’t be tempted to buy the first one you see or try on.
Price can vary significantly for backpacks, they can be found from $70 to over $700. So the question you have to answer for yourself, what is the balance between reliability and cost? Many of the top back manufacturers offer some kind of warrantee, so watch out for this.
Some brands that we would recommend include:
Essentially, there are three types of backpacks, Hiking Packs, Travel Packs and Hybrids.
Hiking backpacks generally are not lockable, they do not include a covering for your arm straps (harness) for transit (Otherwise they can easily get caught on things whilst they are in baggage handling), and tend to be long and thin in shape. They also tend to be a ‘top loader’ format, where all of your belongings can only be accessed via the very top of the bag.These are ideal if you plan to be doing a lot of wilderness trekking, but maybe not so ideal if you plan to be changing cities every few days. It is possible to buy a lockable bag cover to make your hiking pack airport friendly. Generally, the harness is more ‘back-friendly’ on a hiking pack, as they are designed to be worn for extended periods of time.
Travel Packs are almost the equivalent of a suitcase in backpack form. They are lockable, and have the protective cover for airport baggage handling. They generally open with a zip around the bag (as opposed to a top loader). However, their shape tends to be wider then a hiking pack, and they may not be as waterproof. Basically, they are good for travelling, but not so suited for hiking. Kinda obvious right? Travel packs also often include a daypack.
Recently, backpack manufactures have released Hybrid backpacks. These take the best of both words between a Hiking pack, and a Travel Pack. Generally:
Dean and I decided to go with Hybrid packs for the reasons above.
Size is also very important; however this is very dependant on you. For our 5 week trip we have both bought 85L packs. For myself, this volume is the total of the backpack and the day pack; where as Dean’s is 85L + a 30 L day pack.
Once we get back from this trip I will be able to report how well the sizing went.
Travel books and Guides:
For this trip I purchased the latest version of ‘Lonely Planet: Europe on a Shoestring’. I purchased this from www.bookdepository.com, this is a terrific website for any books, its generally very cheap, and free shipping!
A traveller should be careful when choosing their method of paying for items when overseas. After hearing countless recommendations, I decided to get a 28 Degrees MasterCard from GE Money.
Most Australian banks charge fees for ATM use, for EFTPOS, for credit card use. These add up and can cost quite a bit of money by the end of a 2 or 3 month trip. The 28 Degrees MasterCard charges none of these fees at all. There is no yearly fee, no sign up fee, and no cancellation fee (at the time of writing this article).
It also offers a very competitive exchange rate.
One thing to be cautious of with any credit card, however, is the fact that interest free periods only apply to purchases, not cash advances. In other words, interest is charged the moment you withdraw cash. This may seem a little frightening, but fear not, for this can be avoided by simply adding extra money to your credit card. Withdrawing your own funds, without using any borrowed credit, generally means you won't be charged any interest!
If you plan to do any camping when you are in Europe (Hey, some of us are crazy enough to spend almost a week camping just to see a motor race), it is important to do some research to find night temperatures in the time of year and area you will be travelling to. Once you know this temperature, use it to find the right sleeping bag. I know it sounds obvious, but there is nothing worse then being too cold (or too hot) when you are trying to sleep.
There are dozens of brands and types of travel sleeping bags. Find a bag with the right comfort rating (not extreme rating) for where you will be sleeping, and try to make sure it is as compact as possible. We managed to find the bags we needed (EPE compact sleeping bags – 5degrees C) new on ebay for less then $50 AUD each. Nice!
For this trip I wanted a small but powerful torch. After doing some research I ended up deciding on the LED Lenser P7. This little beauty puts out 220 lumens (in other words its bloody bright), it comes with 2 brightness settings, and the beam can be set to flood or spot. It takes 3 AAA batteries. I found mine on eBay for approx $50 AUD.