The Ultimate Packing List for Backpacking

As the first post on my blog, I wanted to write about backpacking. It is one of my favourite types of travel to explore new countries. Spending more time abroad, often in very local places, with other people who also want to learn more about the country and the culture, is one of the most immersive travel experiences. However, packing for such a long trip can often be difficult, especially if it is your first time. This post will help you pick the essential things you will need abroad, without ending up taking too much with you. The trips I have been on have been 2-3 weeks long, so not months at a time; however, I could have easily lived from the backpack for months in a row. So hopefully this guide will help you pack for any type of backpacking trip.

So, let’s start off with some essential packing tips!

Here are the essential tips to get you started.

  1. If you don’t have one yet, start by buying a good backpack. For the backpack to be good it doesn’t need to be very expensive. On some travel blogs, they recommend buying from specific brands or types. I can tell you that I have had this one from Decathlon for over 6 years now and it is still in perfect shape and comes with a 10-year warranty!
  2. The most obvious tip of all – pack light! This is actually much more difficult than it seems. One of my key tips here is to limit the weight of your backpack to max. 15kg to keep it comfortable to carry for longer periods of time, and take less than you think you need! Once you are travelling abroad you can always buy essentials that you might run out of, a couple of new t-shirts or something else you might have forgotten. So, don’t panic and don’t overload your backpack!
  3. Don’t overpack on clothing! This is one of the key mistakes beginners make. You really don’t need more clothes than you would wear for a week, as you will be able to wash your clothes at any accommodation you stay in. Try packing capsule-closet style so that you have plenty of combinations. This basically means that you should be able to combine any of your tops with your bottoms and take one or two layers with long sleeves that are versatile as well.
  4. Limit your toiletries. It can be very tempting to take all your different creams, hair products, make-up, etc. Really try to cut this down as toiletries weigh a lot. If you really think you can’t cut down on toiletries, then try taking miniature versions with you. If you struggle to organise your toiletries, get one of these trekking organisers. Bonus tip: if you are travelling with friends you can share shampoo, body lotion etc. so you only need to take half the stuff.
  5. If you want to take your own towel, buy some microfibre towels to save space. These are the ones I bought for my backpacking trips, they are cheap and of great quality! This one is size L which I think is great for showering, but they also come in smaller sizes and even in an XL.
  6. Take the right gear to keep your stuff dry. This is especially key when you are travelling to destinations where it is wet season such as was the case for me in Vietnam and Thailand. Rain can really strike at any moment, so it is essential to have items to keep your stuff dry. For example, I bought this cover for my backpack.
  7. Make sure that you don’t keep all your important stuff in one bag. When backpacking I always keep my technology in the day bag I use (that is another tip, take a smaller backpack with you to use during the day!). Always keep your passport close and if you have to take cash with you, make sure you spread it across your different bags. This will really help you if any of your luggage gets stolen. What I also found really handy is taking a bum bag, I used it to keep some of my money, room key, my phone and passport with me at all times.
  8. If you want to be super organised, you can also get some packing cubes for in your backpack, to keep everything separate and in its place.

Below is the list of basic items that I would recommend to take on a backpacking trip:

  • Luggage – a backpacking backpack, a day backpack, and a bum bag.
  • Basic clothes for one week – t-shirts, underwear, good socks, trousers/skirts, maybe one dress (if you are a woman), some long sleeve items for colder temperatures, trekking wear if you need it and rain protective gear like a poncho.
  • Good shoes – you want to take shoes with you that you are able to walk on all day, as a lot of sightseeing is done by foot. This can be anything from running shoes, another type of sporty shoes, trekking shoes, hiking shoes, it all depends on the type of trip you are making. A pair of flip flops is also essential, I always use them to shower at hostels!
  • Swimwear – especially if you are visiting a country with beaches, but also nice to have if you decide to go to a lake/river/spa.
  • A cap – or another type of protection for your head against the sun.
  • Toiletries – toothbrush, toothpaste, soap, shower gel, shampoo and conditioner, deodorant, nail clippers, sunscreen, mosquito repellent (very important!) and hand sanitizer.
  • Some basic medication/first aid kit items – painkillers (paracetamol & Ibuprofen), bandages or plasters, scissors, tweezers, antibacterial cream, anti-diarrhoea tablets, anti-constipation tablets, electrolytes, and your usual medication if you take any.
  • Travel documents – passport, visa, travel insurance documents, driver’s license, health insurance information, vaccination certificates, credit cards, printed reservations of your accommodation/travel, airline tickets and credit cards.

I hope that helps you get started and have fun on your trip!