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Backpacking is an amazing way to travel the world, meet new people and have a once-in-a-lifetime experience. Whether you're heading to Europe for a month or taking on South East Asia for a year, you need to pack the essentials!
Packing a backpack can be stressful. With limited space in your backpack, you need to make sure you're only taking what you need. When it comes to backpacking, there are certain items you just have to bring. Keep on reading for the ultimate backpacking packing checklist that will guarantee the trip of a lifetime.
Choosing Your Backpack: Start Off Right!
Heading off on a solo adventure or a trip with your mates is exciting and daunting. There are lots of things to remember before you jet off.
Organizing your backpack is the best way to start getting ready to travel. Packing in advance will help you feel prepared to take on new adventures. The list will vary depending on the length of your trip. But there are some essentials that should be taken on any backpacking adventure.
Selecting the right backpack is the first step toward successful packing. Some great reliable brands for backpacks like Osprey and Patagonia will never disappoint.
Let's dive into the ultimate backpacking checklist. I've broken it down into a few sections so that it's easier for you to follow.
As always, this is a guide and depending on your destination and traveling style you may want to add or leave out certain items. But these are the items that have always been helpful when I go backpacking...
In an age where electronics rule, a travel adapter is essential to keep your devices juiced up. This is the first thing I pack when I'm going abroad, because if I forget this, it's definitely annoying to find once you're traveling.
An adapter is essential because it allows you to plug your devices into outlets in foreign countries with different plug shapes. The PICKA Universal Travel Adapter is a versatile option that is also a breeze to pack!
On thing I never leave home without is a power bank—even if I'm only leaving to hang out with friends at a local cafe for the day. But it's especially important to have while traveling since running out of battery while on the move can be a nightmare.
I've tried multiple different charging banks, and the Anker Portable Charger, 325 Power Bank is one of my favorite. It's compact yet powerful option and can charge your smartphone multiple times over, making it an essential companion on your backpacking journey.
A sturdy lock safeguards your belongings, whether in a hostel locker or on a train. Peace of mind in a tiny package, that's what a good lock offers. Consider the TSA Approved Master Lock, known for its durability and ease of use.
A travel towel is compact, quick-drying, and lightweight—a helpful companion on any journey. Try out the Rainleaf Microfiber Towel, which is uber popular on Amazon with over 20,000 reviews. It also won't break the bank!
If you have trouble sleeping or concentrating in noisy environments, remember to throw a few pairs of earplugs into your bags. It'll be an invaluable item on long flights, in bustling hostels, or busy cities.
Try Mack's Ultra Soft Foam Earplugs for their comfort and noise-cancelling capability.
A daypack is your mini suitcase for day trips, holding essentials like water, snacks, maps, and a camera. The Osprey Daylite Daypack is a durable and spacious option, with a design that supports long-day comfort.
Hip Pack or Money Belt
A hip pack or money belt keeps your valuables secure and hidden, reducing the risk of loss or theft.
I actually love the SPIbelt Running Belt for this. Although it's not originally made for travel, it's a sleek, expandable belt that's up for the task. It'll hold your phone, cash, and cards securely.
First Aid Kit
A first aid kit is crucial for treating minor injuries or ailments on the go. Although you may not think you need this, it's better to be safe than sorry. This basic first aid kit from Amazon has everything you'll need with almost 300 items included!
Packing cubes simplify your packing process and the rummaging you need to do while you travel! Using cubes will make it easier to find your items and maximize space. Try Flightdeck's affordable packing cubes for an easy-breezy packing experience!
An eSIM is a digital SIM card that allows you to access data plans in various countries without changing physical SIM cards. It's all about staying connected on the go and eSIMs make your life easier.
Gone are the days you need to find a local SIM provider and pick up a foreign SIM card while possibly dealing with language barriers!
I recommend Airalo. It's a leading eSIM store offering plans in over 190+ countries, letting you stay connected wherever your adventures take you.
Other Backpacking Items You Can't Forget
Clothes and Footwear
These are the core essentials for your trip. You can't go to a full moon party without a good outfit or head to the beach without a bikini. It's all about packing smart. Select clothes you can mix and match, and you'll keep your backpack light and your style on point.
You need to think about the activities you'll be doing while backpacking. This will determine what shoes and clothes you bring. Having a little extra space in your backpack means you can bring goodies back from your adventures for friends and family too!
Think weather. Are you backpacking in cold or warm climates? No one needs thermals in Thailand!
This backpacking list is suitable for all types of adventures, so cross out the items that don't suit your adventure:
- Pairs of socks (ankle and long, warmer pairs)
- Light, versatile pants
- A day backpack or bumbag
- Thermal layers
- Multi-purpose trainers
- Light waterproof coat
- Hats and gloves
Health and Beauty
Now you have the clothes under wraps. The next thing to consider is what essential items you need to stay healthy. And look cute, obvs. A great way to organize your toiletries is through packing cubes. These flexible bags help you pack your belongings away neatly. Who doesn't want an organized backpack?
A great tip is buying mini versions of your favorite at-home products if you're going on a short trip. Or, if going further away, buy reusable bottles to fill before you go, and you can top them up throughout your trip. It means that you don't have to lug around large bottles in your backpack. More room for snacks!
Let's dive into some of the essential backpacking supplies you need to bring on your backpacking trip:
- Shower gel
- Baby wipes (good for the face and body!)
- After sun
- Bug spray
- SPF lip balm
- Hand sanitizer
- Feminine hygiene products
It's also important you pack any personal medication along with the correct dosage so that you stay healthy throughout your travels!
This area of packing depends on how much you need while backpacking. But the general rule of thumb is that less is more. Take the essentials but remember you're away to travel and make memories. Backpacking is a time to switch off and soak in the moment.
These are essential backpacking gear if you need to have technology on the go:
- Phone (and charger)
- Laptop (and charger), if you're also working while traveling
- Portable speaker
- Kindle to satisfy your reading needs!
- Camera (and charger) if you like to document
Other Items to Consider Packing
Make sure you pack these extra items on your trip. They may not be backpacking necessities, but without some of these, you won't get further than airport security…
- Important documents like your passport, booking confirmations, and visa documents
- Travel journal to keep track of your trip
- Driver's license (or other government issued ID)
- Travel insurance policy documents
- Cash and credit cards
- Sewing kit
Keep all your important documents together in a plastic sleeve or document pouch so they're safe and easy to find. No hunting around your neatly packed bag for that one pesky paper.
What About If You're Hiking or Camping?
So, maybe you're not thinking about the backpacking that's roughing it in hostels around Asia or Europe. Maybe you're thinking about actually roughing it by doing a hiking trip or a camping getaway in wild backcountry.
Planning a camping trip, or even preparing for a long hike, can be challenging. If this is the type of backpacking packing list you're looking for, there are a few things I'd remove from the lists above, but also add quite a few items.
Here are goodies I consider important if you're hiking or camping:
A tent is more than a place to sleep—it's your home in the wilderness, a haven from wind, rain, bugs, and morning dew. That's why a good quality tent is probably the most important item you need to take backpacking in the wilderness.
The MSR Hubba Hubba NX 2-Person Lightweight Backpacking Tent is a pretty penny, but it's well worth the investment, combining durability, easy setup, and optimal space.
A good quality sleeping bag is your best friends on a chilly night in the great outdoors! As long as you get a reliable one it'll keep you snug, preserving your body heat and making sure you wake up refreshed for a new day of adventure.
If you think you'll be a regular, consider the well-known Hyke & Byke Eolus 0 Degree F 800 Fill Power Goose Down Sleeping Bag. It's quite pricey but worth the investment if this is going to be a long-term hobby.
But if you're on a budget or not entirely sure how much use your sleeping bag will get in the future, you can pick up something more affordable, like the TETON Sports LEEF Lightweight Mummy Sleeping Bag. It's still go lots of reviews but costs less than half of the Hyke & Byke sleep bag.
A sleeping pad is like a mini mattress between you and the hard, often cold ground. It insulates your body from the cold earth and adds a layer of comfort.
If you're like me and enjoy a bit of luxury even when camping, this is one of the must-haves! Check out the Gear Doctors Self Inflating Sleeping Pad. With over 5000 reviews and a 4.6 rating on Amazon, you know it's been tested!
Biodegradable Soap: Your Eco-friendly Suds
Environmentally-friendly soap is great even if you're backpacking your way through hostels.
But when bathing or washing dishes in the wild, it's absolutely crucial to minimize our environmental impact. Biodegradable soap breaks down naturally, leaving our beautiful wilderness pristine.
My go-to is Dr. Bronner’s Pure-Castile Liquid Soap—it's a multi-purpose, eco-friendly choice.
Headlamps may be an item most people don't think much about. But I find them an extremely useful accessory as they light your path, keep your hands free, and can even signal for help.
Whether you're finding your way back to camp or reading in your tent, a headlamp is an invaluable tool. Consider the Black Diamond Spot Headlamp, a popular choice for its brightness and durability.
A reliable GPS is your compass in a world without signposts. It helps you find your way, avoid getting lost, and ensure you're on track to your next destination.
The Garmin GPSMAP 65, Handheld GPS offers high precision tracking and is designed to withstand rough conditions.
Sometimes, especially out in the wild, your phone will let you down. Be sure to stay safe by packing a GPS!
A rain jacket is your personal shield against the elements. It keeps you dry, protects from wind, and can even serve as an extra layer on cold days.
Although this should be staple for any type of backpacking trip, it's especially important if you're planning to be outdoors 24/7. The Columbia Arcadia Ii Jacket for women or the Columbia Glennaker Rain Jacket for men are great choices since you know that you're getting good price and quality when you go with Columbia products.
Good hiking boots are to backpackers what noble steeds are to knights. This may sound like an overexaggeration, but your feet will thank you!
Ensuring you have the proper boots will support your feet, protect them from the rough and tumble of the trail, and keep them dry. Salomon hiking boots for women and men are a reliable and comfortable choice, offering excellent support and traction.
Clean water is essential, and in the wild, it's not always available. A water filter is a lifeline, ensuring you have safe drinking water wherever you are.
The Sawyer Products MINI Water Filtration System is a lightweight, easy-to-use option that filters out virtually all bacteria and protozoa.
In our LifeStraw review we also looked at it as an alternative to the traditional water filter system. Find out whether it's a better option for your upcoming camping or hiking trip.
What Should You Not Bring Backpacking?
Now that the backpacking necessities have been covered, it's time to look at the things you should simply leave at home.
It's easy to overpack when going backpacking. But considering the limited space of a backpack, it's essential you only bring what you need. And remember thadt carrying a large bag on your back all day can take its toll. You'll regret packing that extra pair of shoes!
There are a few things that need to be left at home when backpacking:
You think you may need them, but you don't. When you get out there, you end up wearing the same pair of shorts over and over again. Try to bring thinner layers and things that fold small and don't crease.
Make sure you don't bring anything of value with you when backpacking. You don't want to be carrying around expensive jewelry or sentimental items. They are best kept safe at home!
Dried snacks, sweets, and anything that doesn't melt is a great idea to bring in your backpack. It's good to have a little emergency snack stash. But perishable food items are a big no-no. And they'll probably be confiscated at customs anyway.
To minimize the weight, you'll be carrying while backpacking, leave behind heavy, bulky items. Not only will they take up loads of room, but they will also weigh you down! No heavy sweaters, boots, or that 500-page novel you've been meaning to read.
Should I Pack in Advance for Backpacking?
Start preparing for your backpacking trip 1 month in advance. This gives you plenty of time to finalize your itinerary and begin the packing process.
It means you have time to buy the right backpack and ensure everything fits in. You can organize any last-minute backpacking supplies and most importantly, you can enjoy getting excited about your trip.
What to Pack for a 3-Day Backpacking trip?
You will need:
- 3 Outfits
- Phone and charger
- 1 pair of shoes
- Travel documents
- Small bag
What to Pack for a 7-day backpacking trip?
For a 7-day backpacking trip, you will need:
- 7 Outfits
- Travel documents
- Phone and charger
- Laptop and charger
- Medium-sized backpack to hold it in
What Should I Pack for a Backpacking Trip to Europe?
Backpacking in Europe has many similarities to other destinations. But the weather and adventures you'll be doing can vary. No matter where you're traveling, make sure you check the airline's baggage allowance to ensure your backpack fits their requirements.
Pack Your Bags & Get Ready to Go!
Now that your packing is sorted, it's time to start the planning. Speaking of travel plans, give Pilot a try to help you plan your next amazing adventure!