Packing your backpack before setting off on your travelling adventure can be a nightmare, especially if you are as bad at packing as I am.
There is one item that is a must have for any backpack, and that is a scarf. Not a woolly one, but a large, light and extremely versatile one that has many, many uses.
It is pretty amazing how one piece of material can be used in so many ways. It is small and light, so it won’t take up space in your backpack, and with 13 different uses, you can’t afford not to bring a scarf on your travels.
If you are like me, and a bit of a scarf fiend, you should already have one of these scarves. But if not, don’t panic, as soon as you touch down in your location, grab a sarong and prepare to be amazed!
The 13 uses for a scarf when backpacking
1. Scarf. Obvious, but true.
2. Towel. I was surprised how a really thin piece of material works so well as a towel. It is perfect for travelling in hot climates and frees up a lot of space by replacing a towel. I would also recommend it over a travel towel as they can get really smelly.
Pillow while on buses
4. Blanket while on buses or trains, and in places with no sheets, or if you are somewhere with a grotty mattress, use the scarf as a shield between you and the bed.
You can use your scarf as a shawl for when you are cold, like on the breezy pre-dawn drive to Angkor Wat
6. Mosquito protection- when we were sitting on our balconies we would wrap them round ourselves to stop them eating us alive.
7. Beach towel
9. Cover up for temples- can be used as a skirt to cover up your legs, or as a shawl to cover your shoulders if you forget to wear sleeves, and even on the head to cover your hair.
When staying in a hostel
bunk, it can be used as a privacy wall by tucking it under the mattress above. When we worked in a hostel in Auckland, we also used sheets and a pole to make a ‘fort’ for the top bunk.
With the help of your scarf you can have your own cosy space and it works at blocking out some light in the mornings. I love how it makes it easier to drift back to sleep in the mornings because you don’t have to wonder if there is someone watching you. (Or is that just me being weird?)
11. When sleeping in a car, can be used to cover the windows, because trust me, you do not want to wake up in a car that has been baking in the sun for a few hours. It is horrible.
12. When really drunk in Jakarta you can use your scarves to make a fun game of posing for photos as superheroes, a Mary-type figure, or as someone with wings. And when sleeping in a car it can also be used to keep you amused by turning it onto a hat.
13. We only realised this after A lost hers, that we should have made a series of photos of our scarves out and about all around the world.
I should explain that when I was travelling in Asia, my friend and I
both had big scarves and we fell in love with how versatile they were. They were with us through it all, from keeping our necks warm on our flight from Dublin, to sleeping with them most nights, to protecting us from those evil mozzies; the scarves soon had a special place in our hearts.
Then one sad day, after a long journey, we arrived in Kho Samui to spend a night before heading on to Kho Phangan. We had showered and eaten and were coming back to our room when A suddenly got a bad feeling. Where was her scarf? She couldn’t remember seeing it since we arrived. We both thought the worst, but didn’t want to believe it. We hurried back to the room and she started looking for her beloved scarf.
But it was gone. We tried to think back to the last place she had it on. After a little more denial, we had to admit that she had left her poor scarf on the bus.
We freaked ourselves out by how devastated we were about it. It wasn’t even my scarf but I too was grieving. That was when we realised how special our scarves were. They had been with us through it all. Every amazing place we saw, every night spent swinging in a hammock, every harrowing bus ride of insomnia, our faithful scarves were by our side. And A felt like she had abandoned her child. We couldn’t believe it had taken us this long to even realise it was missing.
Then we kicked ourselves for not having any photos of her scarf. It was gone forever and we had no evidence of their relationship. It was a sad, sad night.
The next day, our mission was to find a replacement for her. We chose a fabulous rainbow coloured one that was a lot more happy looking than the dearly departed one. It could never replace the original, but its bright colours and similarity to the gay pride flag made our grief a little easier to bear. In fact, I was a little jealous of her new one. Mine, although dear to my heart and very soft, was a dull green colour, and suddenly I wanted more.
When we got to Bali, I bought two brightly coloured ones and took turns using them. But my original was still number one.
As I plan my next trip, I am still tempted to bring it along, even though it now has some interesting stains on it, and is in Dublin. But maybe I should bring a newer one, and make new memories with that. I just hope I can somehow get Sean to form a equally strange attachment to a man scarf so that he doesn’t think I am a complete freak.