I want to collect some tips and tricks for budget travellers here. The idea behind it is that it might be useful to read about my experiences and the effect that this had on my equipment and the way I start my visits to foreign countries.
It is not up to me to give general health care rules, but if you plan to go to remote areas consult a doctor in advance. Use the Internet to check what can be done in advance like for example the:
Check what their suggestions are for the country you plan to visit and take it serious.
Check in advance, if some of the medicines must be taken prior to your visit and can't be used if there is not enough time left until your start date.
I suggest to use a mixture of banknotes, traveller cheques, and credit cards. The banknotes are usually hidden in a leather belt. The traveller cheques should be hidden somewhere else, for example in a waistbelt. The money hidden there should be sufficient to pay for a one-way ticket back home, and should only be used in case of emergency. For paying in a foreign country one can use the credit cards. Due to their widespread acceptance I suggest Visa- and Mastercard. In Germany it is also possible to get bank specific customer cards like for example the Postbank "Sparcard". It allows you to use any Visa ATM with a Visa PLUS symbol on it and they charge nothing for it as long as you only use it four times a year. If you use it more than four times they only charge approximately 5€. But other banks offer cheaper possibilities, like the "S-Card" of the Stadtsparkasse. They charge only about 2,5 € for using the Mastercard ATM outside Germany. Be careful to store them in different places inside your luggage. Like, for example, the S-Card together with the Visa Card in your backpack and the "Sparcard" (Visa ATM) together with the Mastercard somewhere else (perhaps in your wallet). After arriving at the airport in a foreign country try to change a reasonable amount of a foreign currency.
Take a bit of it and store it in one of the pockets of your trousers. The rest should be hidden in your purse, so that when you get robbed you can give this money away and the robber is satisfied with what he got. Be sure to give him something that looks like but isn't a credit card. I usually use some of the member cards of the International Youth Hostel Foundation. To have some of the money available in your pocket also has another advantage, mainly that you don't have to open you money bag every time you have to pay. No one can have a look and see how much money you really have.
I always liked to use a tent. It gives you the freedom to stay almost everywhere you like. It gives you a sense of freedom you will never experience when you use a Hotel or B&B. Also it is a part of the security system when you're trapped in bad weather conditions. I like to use a two person tent even when I'm alone, just to sleep comfortably (I'm about 1.94 meters tall), but also to be able to put all my luggage in my tent at night. Once I was trapped for three days in my tent because of some terribly bad weather, and was really lucky about my decision to have bought a two person tent. The vestibule should be large enough to be able to cook inside or at least build up to do it. This is just because you don't get wet when you have to prepare your meal.
Please do yourself a favour and buy an expensive tent. Don't think about buying one of these 50 € quick-and-dirty tents. A good tent is expensive but is sure worth the money. They are usually waterproof and stay waterproof even in constant rain for more than 5 days. Expensive tents also last a lot longer. I bought a The North Face Dragonfly in the 80's, and I'm still satisfied with it's performance. Unfortunately it isn't available anymore. It's lightweight, and can be built up to resist even stormy wind. The yellow colour is much more comfortable than the usual military green, because if I have to stay in a tent in daylight I prefer if it's bright inside instead of dark and (pessimistic). That makes me feel more optimistic (waiting for the rain to end).
I use a North Face Cat's Meow 3D Sleeping bag that weighs only about 1,6 kilograms. It is filled with Polarguard(R) 3D, that usually dries faster than the ones filled with down. I used to use sleeping bags filled with down but because it takes too long to dry and then I had to wait to be able to stow it away and because I usually want to start early in the morning, I prefer synthetic fillings now.
For sleeping comfort I normally put a Polartec Jacket into the stuffbag of the sleeping bag and use it as a pillow. The Cat's Meow has got a small pocket outside which is great to store the digital watch at night.
I now use a Therm-A-Rest UltraLite self inflating mattress, and although they are more heavy than the usual closed foam pads, sleeping on it is so much more comfortable, that I won't use the old foam mattresses anymore. It weights about 700 g.
I used the Campingaz stove for several years, but in 1999 I bought the Mountain Safety Research (MSR) Dragonfly, multifuel stove. The major advantage of it is that the flame can be adjusted just like you're using a Campingaz (or even better). Unfortunately it is quite loud but nevertheless I can't imagine using any other stove anymore. It is so convenient to be able to buy the fuel at a petrol station.
I use a Greyhound Backpack, that can be filled with up to 90 L. This is too much and makes the backpack more heavy than it needs to be. 75 L is enough to put everthing inside even for a 8 week trip. I like to be able to store everything inside the bag and not being forced to attach it to the outside of the backpack (except for the photo equipment). Having everything inside first hides your stuff from people that you don't want to have a look at your stuff and second makes it easier to carry your equipment in an airplane or on a bus.
What clothes you have to use heavily depends on where you travel and what you would like to do. If you travel to subtropical areas and do walking and trekking, you should perhaps have a look at the list of clothes that I use. Remember that in deserts it can become cold and rain often occurs in tropical and subtropical areas. So be aware that the weather might become bad even there. The weight of the clothes is vitally important to me because I must be able to carry everything on my back. This is the main reason why I don't like to use cotton clothes anymore, I prefer synthetic or a mixture of synthetics and cotton now. A main advantage of these synthetic clothes is that they dry much faster.
Most people don't even think about it, but protecting your head against sun is one of the most important things to do. I now use a 59/fifty Baseball cap (because it protects your eyes as well, and are available in different sizes) and a Buff and Polarbuff respectively. The buff can be folded in a way that it also protects your neck as well against sunlight.
Because I have to wear glasses, it was natural for me to buy sunglasses that can be snapped on the normal glasses. I also like to attach one of those ropes to my eyewear to be able to take them off without having to stow them away.
I now use Polartec 100 underwear, that keeps me warm and dry. It can easily be washed and if you wring it, it usually takes only a few hours to dry. Although it does not make sense I buy the shirts larger than they need to be. Normally you select a size so that the shirt fits tight, but I like them to be larger just because I feel more comfortable, and I can use them like T-shirts.
I use a North Face Celestial Peak GoreTex jacket together with a Denali Vest or a Lowe Polartec 200 long sleeve jacket that luckily can be zipped inside the GoreTex jacket. Alternatively if weight is more important I also sometimes use a Gore RideOn GoreTex jacket, that was originally designed to be used for bicycling, but because of it's weight it is useful for treking. By the way, after some time of usage you'll need to wash your Gore jacket and you have to take care because otherwise washing will destroy the expensive fabric.
Here's the way I do it: I use a foam without fabric softener at 40 degrees. Use two cleaning cycles with clear water to ensure to clear the fabric from the rest of the foam. Take it out as wet as possible; means switch off the spinning at the end. Now wait one week for the fabric to dry (only kidding), but never ever use a dryer.
I always preferred long sleeve shirts compared to T-shirts. They protect my arms from the sunlight without being too warm. Now I've found that the North Face A/T ventilation shirt is superior to any other. They are lightweight, can be compressed to a minimal packing size and dry extremely quickly. They can be ironed at high temperatures and that makes me think that this fabric is strong. I had one now since 1987 and usually wear it once a week - still the shirt looks almost like I bought it, no pill off the fabric, just like a new one. There is one other shirt manufactured by BigPack. They are made out of a 40/60 mixture of cotton and synthetics. These shirts really feel good on your skin, and for some reason - I don't know why - they dry as fast as the the ones made out of pure synthetics.
I like to use the pants where the legs can be zipped off. As always I prefer the ones made out of synthetics. They should have large pockets where the legs can be stowed away. When buying one be sure that the zipper is hidden, so that it does not rub on your skin when you walk.
I only use Falke TK socks. There is not much to say about them. They are simply perfect.
I use a Casio ProTrek Triple Sensor watch. "Triple Sensor" means that it can not only be used to measure time but air pressure (altitude), temperature and bearing as well. Although each of these sensors is not as excact as the ones used in dedicated tools they are far better than nothing. That makes this digital watch the ideal tool for trecking.
By the way: the two batteries can be changed by yourself leaving this watch waterproof. The only tool I use is a screwdriver. I never sent this watch to Casio and it still works. Here is a list of the battery types used in my equipment.
There are other great sources for information: