Since coming back, I have been thinking what I would take on an overland trip if I could only pack one bag.
My fellow travellers seem to have managed to do just that - and they were travelling for more than 3 weeks. I never asked them what was in their rucksacks - a missed opportunity...
But here is what I've come up with as my minimum gear:
Long trousers in neutral colour (i.e. Safari-friendly) - I had a pair that could be changed into three-quarter length trousers and shorts, so I effectively had 3 trousers for the price of 1 (though I found the three-quarter length a bit of a gimmick)
Safari-vest with lots of pockets (saves carrying a daypack; mine had enough pockets for camera, sunglasses, money and other essentials. (My hubby had a Safari jacket that could be turned into a vest, which is even more practical - but really practical stuff often only comes in men's sizes!)
Kikoi/sarong - great for those long hours on the truck or on the beach (less great if a village walk turns into a 3 hour long march, as the wrap restricts free movement, especially when climbing hills)
2-3 T-shirts and 1-2 Long-sleeved shirts (to keep sun and bugs at bay)
Sturdy sandals (mine were washable, which was great, as they got dirty just from briefly touching the ground)
Socks (I know, I know, socks and sandals don't look great - but I prefer to look unfashionable to having my ankles scratched by thorns or eaten alive by bugs!)
Swim shoes (not just great when entering unknown water, but also shower and toilet cubicles of questionable cleanliness)
1-2 lighter load towels (strange texture at first, but you get used to it - and they are tiny)
Scarf (sometimes more comfortable to wrap around the head than a hat and also useful to protect neck from sunburn - I have also been told that a wet scarf around the neck is a great way of keeping the head cool)
No bug sleeping bag liner (Warning: You will feel snug as a bug in its cocoon, so if you are a very restless sleeper, you may start to feel a bit claustophobic wrapped up so tightly. Apparently, the liner can instead be used to cover the foam matress. I found that the liner was often sufficient as a sleeping bag, and if I were only travelling in hot weather I would not bother with the additional sleeping bag BUT if you do our journey in Oct/Nov, you need an additional sleeping bag, as temperatures can drop significantly!)
LED head torch - I think I've made it clear throughout this blog that a windup torch only serves one purpose: To wind you up (and probably everybody else as well, as it sounds like a mosquito buzzing right next to your eardrum when you are winding it)
Tent - is likely to be provided by overland company. You want one that's very easy to erect and dismantle, as you may have to do the job in the dark. Most companies seem to use dome tents, but they come in various sizes. Personally, I want mine as big as possible to avoid feeling claustophobic in heavy wind or when the tent heats up like a sauna!!
Thermos - our truck carried drinking water, but when the water heated up, it tasted disgusting! I had an aluminium bottle, which cracked when I tried to keep the water cool in the freezer... (I like herbal teas like Roibosch, and I find they are drinkable at any temperature, hence my preference for a thermos.)
Malarone - unless you are travelling for so long that docs advise against taking anti-malarials. Malaria is definitely to be taken seriously. Our tour leader got sick, even though we were travelling at a low mosquito season... Malarone taste vile and is expensive, but we experienced no side effects
Incognito Spray - I'm usually a bug magnet, but only got bitten once (and not by a mosquito)
Ibuprofen/Anti-Diarrhea tablets - I would pack lots of both. They aren't heavy/expensive, and better safe than sorry. You don't want to have pain or the runs in the middle of nowhere. Don't rely on a pharmacy being nearby when you need it. (Same goes for any sanitary products)
Olbas inhaler stick - helps to breathe more easily in stuffy environments
Tea Tree Oil - great allrounder
One World Citronella Soap - lasts forever and can be used for body and hair (and helps to keep mosquitoes in check). I tried Incognito Shampoo, which is also a 3 in 1 product. Liked the smell, but it wasn't economical. I had gone through the bottle in less than 2 weeks!
Facial cleanser that works even when hot water is not available (I used the Evolve cleansing melt, which is supposed to be washed off with water, but I found that a toner does the job equally well). The skin does get incredibly grimy. Sometimes it looked as if I had got a nice tan, but it turned out that the red earth had just acted as a temporary bronzer
Nailbrush - it is otherwise almost impossible to keep the nails clean and get the dirt off the soles of the feet
Aloe vera - great fragrance-free allround moisturizer
Suncream - I think Factor 30 for the body is enough if you stay well covered up. Haven't found one I can recommend. I generally like natural/organic products, but the trouble is that most are very hard to rub in! (However, I did like the L'Occitane Brightening Shield SPF 40 for the face. It's not exactly cheap, but economical and lightweight. I used it practically every day for 3 1/2 weeks on face, neck and decollete and still have product left.)
Toothbrush and toothpaste
Anti-bacterial handgel and wipes
Camera with at least one spare battery and plenty of SD cards (Yes, most camping sites have charging points, but there is often a lot of competition for electric sockets. Our truck was supposed to have the facility to download pictures regularly, but there was a virus on the computer, so don't rely on the equipment provided by the tour operator.)
Big fat notebook and pens: There are so many new impressions, and it's easy to forget things if you don't write them down. (Pens are also popular bargain items.) If you decide to take a Netbook, make sure it has a really decent battery!
I have not checked this, but I do think all the items can be squeezed in 1 big rucksack (plus all the jacket and trouser pockets!)
Oh, yes, and don't forget to bring curiosity, flexibility and a sense of humour!!!