So you’ve booked your flight tickets and decided to go backpacking. Now what? It’s time to pack. Aside from your clothes, here are some backpacking essentials that you wouldn’t want to travel without. Don’t worry if you’re a first-time traveler, I’ve got here all the things you must pack when traveling.
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The Ultimate Backpacking Essentials List
First things first, you can’t go on a backpacking trip without a backpack! But don’t grab just about any backpack. There are a few factors you have to consider if you want to get the best one for your trip.
- Compartments – Your chosen backpack should have several compartments especially one that can store a lot of items.
- Size – Get a backpack that’s proportional to your body so you won’t have any back pain in the future.
- Material – What’s the best material in everything? Waterproof ones, that’s what! I also recommend you grab a waterproof cover that you can use when it’s raining cats and dogs.
- Padding – This one’s a bit of a bonus. You’ll want to choose a backpack that has padded hip and shoulder straps. This will really come in handy.
Aside from your backpack, get a money belt, too. This will come pretty handy when you need a place to store your cash and personal belongings during your travel days.
Aside from a money belt, you can also choose a bum bag. This will help keep your stuff safe and close to you when you’re traveling.
If you love going to the beach, waterproof pouches or dry bags will come in handy during your boat trips. It will also be insanely useful if your traveling during the rainy season. You can put your gadgets and phones inside this bag so they can be safe from all the water.
One way to organize your things is with the use of compressible packing cubes (seriously, these are lifesavers!). You can put your clothes on a medium-sized packing cube and store your undergarments and socks in a slim packing cube. This is especially useful if you are using a top-loading backpack that doesn’t have that many compartments.
Clothes & Shoes
Only bring clothes that you are sure to wear. Don’t bring ones that you think you “might wear”. Only stick to the basics that don’t need any ironing and ones that you can easily pair and match with your other clothes. Some that you could bring are:
- cotton t-shirts
- pajama pants
- a pair of jeans, leggings or hiking trousers
- rain jacket – grab a waterproof jacket that’s also wind-resistant
- cotton jacket
- sunhat and sunglasses
- sports bras (for the ladies) – you’ll thank me later especially if you’ll be traveling on trains and buses
- socks – bring hiking socks or thick walking socks if you are going on a hike
- swimwear – bring as much as you can (it’d be hard if you don’t have enough)
Walking sandals or shoes
When backpacking, always make sure to bring a decent pair of comfy walking shoes and a pair of walking sandals. If you are planning on going hiking, make sure to pack a pair of sturdy hiking boots. And to avoid blisters during your travels, invest in some high-quality boot insoles.
And of course, you can’t forget your toiletries!
- toothbrush and toothpaste – For the environment, it’s best to choose bamboo toothbrushes and toothpaste tablets. The tablets will work super great if you don’t want your toothpaste spilling all over your stuff.
- hair cream
- reef-safe sunscreen – Did you know that most sunscreens have dangerous chemicals in them that can destroy reefs and cause coral bleaching? Now, you know. I’d recommend getting a reef safe sunscreen that’s an ocean and eco-friendly brand.
- lip balm
- shampoo, conditioner, body wash or soap – For shampoos, I’d recommend bringing eco-friendly shampoo bars. This way, you can easily store it away and don’t have to worry about whether or not you’re over the 3.4-liquid-ounces limit or worse have your shampoo leak all over your clothing. Plus, they last longer, are cheaper, and greener. Start ditching the big bottles!
- deodorant – A roll-on deodorant will be more compact.
- wet wipes
- menstrual cup – Honestly, I don’t like napkins or tampons. Menstrual cups are much more comfortable for me. Plus, they don’t contain any bleach and dioxin which can harm your body.
Another tip that I’ll give is to get a toiletry bag so whenever you need to go to the bathroom, you can easily grab and go. Choose a toiletry bag that has a hook since not all bathrooms have enough space to put your toiletries. The hook will make things more convenient for you.
The day I got my first microfiber towel, it was one of the best days of my life. I was so happy to find a thin, fast-drying and pretty absorbent towel. It immediately opened up a lot of space in my backpack once I made the switch. I’d greatly recommend having a microfiber towel for every backpacker.
Other Backpacking Essentials That Might Be Pretty Useful
- travel mirror
- hair grips and bobbles
- hairbrush or combs – The Tangle Teezer is pretty compact and works great in detangling your hair.
- cotton buds
- nail clippers – Don’t forget your nails grow, too. I often forget a nail clipper whenever Ryk and I travel. He’s pretty obsessed with it and won’t stop bugging me until we find a nail clipper which is why I always bring one.
- mini sewing kit – If you’re planning on traveling long-term, something is bound to tear. You’ll be happy you brought one of these when that happens.
- swiss army knife -You’re going to need this for a whole bunch of things! You’ll thank me later.
- adjustable bungee – This will be pretty handy when you’re pretty unlucky and stumbled upon a hostel which doesn’t have enough space to dry your wet clothes.
For Health and First Aid
Don’t forget to pick up a first aid kit whenever you go backpacking. You never know when you need it. And just in case, you might also need some of these:
- throat lozenges
- hand sanitizer
- pain relief tablets
- diarrhea relief tablets
- muscle relief cream
- mosquito repellent – I never forget to bring this because, for some reason, mosquitos love me.
- glucose – To help treat hypoglycemia
- oral rehydration salts
- antacid tablets
- travel sickness tablets
- allergy tablets
Miscellaneous Backpacking Essentials
These miscellaneous items are things that only a handful of people remember to bring which can be very useful that you’ll wonder why you never brought one in your previous trips.
- Travel Pillow (for added comfort)
- Padlock – Keep your valuables safe in hostels or public transports. A sturdy combination padlock can do the trick so you don’t have to worry about losing your key.
- Headlamp – Instead of a flashlight, a headlamp can help keep your hands free as you navigate in the dark.
- Eye Mask – This is a must especially when you’re sleeping in hostel dorms and someone opens the light at 2 AM. Choose a padded one for the best comfort.
- Laundry Bag – It helps keep dirty clothes separate from the clean ones.
- Earplugs – It’s pretty hard to sleep when there’s a party downstairs in your hostel dorm or if someone is snoring in the room. Earplugs can be pretty useful during these times.
- Duct Tape or Climbing Tape – This can be used to fix your backpack, tent or shoes. Aside from that, it can also help secure a towel or a scarf over your bunk bed if you want a little bit of privacy.
- Day Bag/ Day Pack – This way, you don’t have to carry all your stuff when going around the city. You can just leave your backpack at your accommodation and bring the most important ones with you.
If you’re going camping or traveling to a place which you think doesn’t have any safe drinking water, better bring a LifeStraw. This item’s internal filter system will make contaminated water safe for drinking. Who knows? It might save your life one day.
Eco-Friendly Refillable Water bottle
Aside from the Lifestraw, bringing an eco-friendly refillable water bottle will help you save on buying a lot of bottled water whenever you feel thirsty.
Tech, Gadgets, and Chargers
Depending on how reliant you are on your electronics, you’ll want to bring your camera, phones, laptops, etc. If you do, here are a few things that will help you enjoy your backpacking trip a little bit more.
Traveling for a few hours to a whole day on a bus, van, airplane or train can be very exhausting and boring which is why I always bring with me my power bank so I can play on my phone and stay connected with my family and friends. Plus, I always rely on several travel apps like Grab and Google Maps whenever I travel.
A camera can help preserve all your memories. Bring something light and small like the Canon Powershot G7X II to capture the best photos.
I love reading books and the Kindle helps me store hundreds of books in just one gadget. If you’re like me and love to read on the road, definitely get one of these. Also, here are some of the best travel books I’d recommend to fuel your wanderlust.
World Travel Adaptor
Don’t forget this or you’ll have a hard time traveling around the world. Multiple countries have different sockets so you better bring your world travel adaptor whenever you go backpacking outside the country. This way, you can avoid bringing several adaptors and save space.
Chill out once in a while and watch movies. Your portable hard-drive will help store all the movies you want to watch. Plus, if you like taking photos or videos during your trip, this will help serve as back up.
The powercube is perfect for plugging several USBs and devices at once.
Rubber Twist Ties
Hate tangled wires? Keep all of your cables in place. Use rubber twist ties.
Noise Canceling Headphones
If you want to get lost in your own world, better bring some noise-canceling headphones. These are well worth it especially when you’re on a flight near a crying baby.
If you’re going camping, here are a few backpacking essentials that you might want to bring aside from the tent, camping stove, sleeping bag, and trekking poles.
If you love to drink hot coffee or chocolate in the morning, having your own cup will make your camping trip unforgettable.
Save space and just get a spork instead of a spoon and fork.
Here’s also other camping articles that you might enjoy:
- The Best Camping Cookware
- 10 Tips for an Unforgettable Hammock Camping
- Best Tent Heater: Reviews & Camping Heater Buyer’s Guide
- Best Camping Stoves: Keeping Your Stomach Full Off the Beaten Track
- Camping Checklist: 20 Essentials To Bring
- 5 Of The Best Camping Pillows
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Johanes is a digital nomad and a web content writer who loves to go on spontaneous travels. She also likes to go camp under the stars and play with her dog and cats.