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As a backpacker carrying everything that you own on your back for weeks or months on end you need to ensure that you pack correctly and only take travel items that are useful and essential. Everyone has their own backpacking essentials and some may vary depending on where you’ll visit, how long you backpack for, and what your travel priorities are.
Ultimately though, what you want in your backpack is ultralight backpacking gear, quick dry, foldable and multi-use items that will save you space, time and money!
There are a number of travel items I will never travel without because they are so handy, and since being on the long backpacking trip I’m on now (nearly 6 months as of writing this) I have purchased even more items that I use on a daily basis that make my life so much easier, take up less room in my bag and save me money!
I wanted to share my must pack backpacking items with you so you can add them to your packing list as I know its hard to know where to start when thinking ‘what to pack for a backpacking trip?’. Along with everything else you need to do before you go backpacking too!
My list of essential travel items for backpacking may seem like a lot- a lot to pack and a lot to buy, but I promise that they will be so useful that you won’t mind carrying them, in fact you’ll be glad you have them, and once you’ve purchased them you’ll keep them for many trips and years to come so they are travel investments and the cost per use will end up being tiny!
Side note – I purchased all of these products myself for my trip, most of them from Amazon. Therefore I have linked either the exact product or a similar product to Amazon below.
If you buy the item after clicking on my link I will receive a small commission at no extra cost to you which helps purchase the drinks I buy when working on my blog in cafes!
1. Quick Dry Travel Towel – Most hostels will charge you for use of their towels and not all budget hotels give you a towel so packing your own towel is a must. Towels do not need to take up a lot of space though and a quick dry, foldable travel towel is the answer in a Small or Medium size.
2. Clothes Line – If you end up doing some washing yourself to save some money this will come in handy, even if it’s just for drying underwear. Often there is no where to hang your washing but with this you can create a washing line anywhere, with no pegs. Even if you don’t plan to wash your clothes yourself it will still come in handy for drying swimwear or sweaty clothes in your room quickly.
3. Packing Cubes – The best way to keep your backpacking gear organised is via packing cubes! I never take the big cubes that come in the sets as they’re too big but the smaller ones are life changing! They compress your clothes so they take up less space and you can organise your clothes into tops, bottoms, underwear etc and find what you need much quicker than rummaging in your backpack.
4. Hanging Toiletry Bag – Most bathrooms do not have surfaces for you to put your toiletries on or even a shelf for a toiletry bag but there’s usually always a hook somewhere which makes a hanging toiletry bag one of your backpacking necessities. This bag is a game changer when it comes to using shared bathrooms and tiny bathrooms with no space, you can still keep all your toiletries in one bag and just hook it to a pipe or rail.
5. 2 in 1 International Adapter and Power Bank – An international charger is a must pack travel item and so is a power bank these days with how much we use our phones, but remembering to charge a power bank is yet another thing to remember. This 2 in 1 device has 2 USB charging points and 3 international plug sockets. I use it to charge my phone and camera batteries overnight, in the morning not only are they charged but the power bank is fully charged too so I can use during the day! 2 in 1 Genius and one of the best travel items to save you time and give you one less thing to charge.
6. Wire Organiser – If you’re travelling with a lot of tech like camera’s, a laptop, e-reader etc which seem to be essential backpacking gear these days the wires can get a bit too much. A wire organiser not only keeps them organised but compresses them and will hold your plug sockets too to save space and time.
7. Packable Waterproof Jacket – No matter where you’re going in the world you need to be prepared for rain, however if you’re going somewhere where its unlikely to rain, you don’t want to bring a huge waterproof jacket and that’s when a foldable one comes in. Foldable waterproof jackets are not always the best quality but they are good lightweight backpacking gear for the odd shower and don’t take up much room in your backpack.
8. Foldable Puffer Jacket – Another ultralight backpacking essential you need in your backpack even if you go somewhere that’s not known for being cold, aka South East Asia. Most places can still get cold at night or in the morning and you never know when you’ll need a thicker coat. Again there’s no need to pack one which takes up a lot of room. You can get foldable puffer jackets the same size as foldable waterproof jackets yet they are much thicker.
Still need to get backpackers travel insurance? I am covered by WorldNomad’s and I really recommend them as it has been designed for travellers by travellers. They offer 24/7 emergency assistance, trip cancellation, protection of gear, and a lot more. Plus they’re flexible and simple! Just what us backpackers need! Get a quote here!
9. Insect Bite Pen – If you’re visiting somewhere with mosquitos, this pen is a saviour. After you have been bitten you press the end of the pen onto the bite, the end heats up and stops the itch completely. It’s a chemical free way of stopping those itchy bites for good!
10. Extra Long Phone Charging Cable – Often hostels and hotels will not have plug sockets close to your bed or someone has nabbed the one close to you. That’s where an extra long charging cable comes in. I have a 3m one which is so great. I’ve often thought ‘if only I had a longer lead’ and then realised, I do! I packed one!
11. International Adapter – Even with the international charger I recommended above you’ll still need another adapter for actual plugs. It’s always best to get a full international adapter at both ends so you can use it all over the world and use any plug type in it meaning you only ever need to buy one adapter, so add this to your backpacking gear list.
12. Eye Mask & Ear Plugs – These are a travel essential and a must in hostels, it surprises me how many people do not pack an eye mask and ear plugs, even seasoned travellers! They are not only useful in hostels but even when you have your own room if you’re close to a busy street or people are being noisy nearby, or there is light coming into your room. They’re great for plane, bus and train travel too and they take up zero room!
13. Inflatable Travel Pillow – Travel Pillows are never really comfy but always better than nothing, however carrying a big one around is a total pain and they use up a lot of space, so a foldable blow up / inflatable travel pillow is the best travel pillow to buy. They’re comfy when they’re in use, small in your backpack bags when they’re not and you can wash them easily.
14. Padlock – A must pack item for backpacking is a padlock. Most hostels will have lockers but won’t provide a padlock. A padlock is also good to put on your big backpack on travel days or to keep your valuables safe in your day pack.
15. Filtered Water Bottle – Not an item many backpackers travel with yet but I believe filter water bottles will become more and more popular, or at least I hope they do! Not only do they stop you buying and using so so many plastic bottles but they will save you money buying water too. Initially they seem expensive but generally after 2 months of use they’ve paid for themselves.
Related Post: LifeStraw Go 2 Stage Filtered Bottle Review!
16. E-Reader – Reading is such a good way to pass journeys but also most of us say we want to read more but in our busy life at home it’s hard to. When you’re travelling you have much more time to dedicate to reading (if you get off your phone that is). I used to find and buy books as I travelled but I’ve really enjoyed having an e-reader on this trip with me. I can instantly buy a new book from Amazon and even read it in the dark!
17. Flip Flops – Even if you’re going somewhere that’s not hot, flip flops are a packing essential. I always wear my flip flops in shared bathrooms when I shower and go to the toilet and they’re much easier to slip on than other shoes.
18. Dry Bag – A Dry Bag doubles up as a few things. The most obvious use of a dry bag is for boat trips to keep your camera, phone, purse/wallet etc dry. However they’re also great for keeping your passport, tech, money etc dry if you’re travelling from place to place and it’s raining! It’s hard enough trying to keep your bags dry when finding your accommodation in the rain but at least with your important documents and tech in a dry bag in your bag, you don’t need to worry about them getting wet! I have a M size which I think is good, not too big and not too small. Plus when you’re not using it it takes up zero space! If you’ll be hiking a lot on your trip a dry bag is a item that should go on your hiking gear list!
19. Menstrual Cup – A must pack item for female backpackers. Tampons are quite hard to find in many Countries, especially Asia and when you do find them, they’re expensive. Sanitary Towels can be found but they are so bad for the environment. Having a menstrual cup when travelling not only creates less waste, it saves you money and saves space in your toiletry bag because you can get foldable travel menstrual cups like mine. I really recommend adding a menstrual cup to your travel packing list as a female.
20. A Backpack – Lastly, you need a travel backpack to pack all of this in! I know people do go on backpacking trips with a suitcase but unless you have real reasons for taking a wheeled case, from my experience it is just not practical! Backpacking Backpacks are heavy yes, but they are much more practical and offer so many benefits over suitcases. I’ve been using the Osprey Farpoint 70L S/M Backpack which I see a lot of travellers use and I recommend it too.
There you have it, my practical travel packing list for your backpacking essentials.
Remember you also need to get travel insurance before you go on your trip!
It’s something I know a lot of us forget or think isn’t important but it is! If you still need to purchase travel insurance I’d recommend World Nomads. Firstly you can get insurance even if you’re on your trip right now! Secondly they offer 24/7 emergency assistance, trip cancellation, protection of gear, and a lot more. Plus they’re flexible and simple! Just what we need! Get a quote here!
For More of my Packing & Backpacking Posts see:
I’m Ellie Quinn!
I’m a travel addict who has been travelling on and off since 2010. In the Summer of 2018 I quit my office job in London, left my flat and I now travel and blog full time! Yes, I’m living that dream!
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