Medicines, toiletries and all that

Packing isn't just carrying your clothes and a few other accessories but also all those essentials we use daily.

Toiletries can be classified into two tiers, the essential items like toothpaste, shampoo etc. and all the other more individual stuff, like cosmetics, for example.  It would be impossible to focus on the latter, so we will just stick to the basic.  Your essential kit should consist of 

Toothpaste, toothbrush and floss if you use it.  Try not to go for a massive tube of toothpaste but a few smaller ones.  You will find them invaluable during the day.  If you use an electric toothbrush, you can buy battery-operated ones, but you will still find it more practical to have a couple of small ones to take with you in your rucksack. 

Soap and shampoo - although most hotels will have at least some liquid soap, a small bar or two is always helpful.  A couple of small shampoos and shower gel tubes would also be helpful.

Deodorant - of course, you don't want to be caught short and smelling like a fish, so never forget to pack your favourite deodorant.  Avoid sprays if at all possible.  They do not travel well by air; if you visit high-altitude locations, do not go for liquid deodorants but gel ones.  Nothing is more distressing than having to empty your toiletries bag because your liquid deodorant has leaked badly after travelling at 4000m above sea level!  A gel one will avoid many hassles.

Nail care kit - for either man or woman, this small piece of kit can be as valuable as a Swiss army knife you'd be glad to have access to a small pair of scissors, nail clippers and so on as these items can also be used for a variety of other tasks.

Suncream - if you travel in the summer or in mountains, you must have some suncream.  Studies have proved that there is little difference in protection between a factor 20 and 50 (aside from the higher price), so it's better to use more often than spend too much on a product that claims to give you more protection. 

That's it for the absolute minimum.  The rest is up to you but do resist the temptation to carry tons of cosmetics. Try to keep them to the minimum and to those products that are more versatile.  Perfumes do not travel well by air, so carry small bottles, or you will throw them away by the time you are back.

First aid kit and medicines

A first aid kit is a feel-good factor item.  You may wish to carry a small one, but in the end, unless you are a professional, you will unlikely need to tend to first-degree burns or anything above insect stings and minor grazes. A few plasters, some antiseptic cream and wipes should suffice, but also carry heel protector pads if you have trouble with walking shoes. Make sure you have a small torch inside your first aid bag. It may come in handy and will take up minimal space. 

Regarding medications, virtually everyone over 60 will take something, from a daily hypertension pill to more complicated prescriptions.  Before you go, you must ensure that you have sufficient medications for your journey and over.  Over? Yes. at least 3-4 days more.  For example, your flight may be delayed, so having a few extra days will give you peace of mind in emergencies without having to look for a local doctor.  Always write down separately the prescriptions you need to take and how frequently.  Some surgeries offer an international prescription writing service. Helpful to take with you and show to a local doctor if you need more medicines.  Lastly, never carry your prescriptions inside your hold bag while travelling by air, but always with you in your rucksack or bumbag.  In addition to the prescription medicines, some paracetamols, alka seltzer and some oral rehydration sachets would be very useful if you tend to suffer from a gippy tummy.  Resist the temptation to go through your medicines cupboard picking stuff up ‘just in case'.  Medical care is free if you travel to Argentina, and pharmacies are available even in small hamlets.  There is absolutely no need to take a dispensary with you.

Obviously, you'd have a wash bag to carry your toiletries. If you have a lot rather than a single colossal washbag, you may wash to have two. For example, if you are a man, you may want to separate your beard care bag from the other stuff. Packing in smaller containers is always better than using huge ones.   Other items would come with their bags, like first aid kits and so on. 

Don't forget that you may have a long flight ahead, so you may need to pack some of your spare toiletries in your rucksack to freshen up after your journey.  If you are fortunate enough to travel business class, you will certainly be given your complimentary toiletries bag, which may suffice. 

Our next blog will be on valuables and ID documents! Don't miss it