What’s in my backpack?

Figuring out what to bring backpacking can be quite the challenge! You have one small bag and so much stuff you could bring. How do you decide exactly what are the backpacker essentials, and what to leave behind?

One of the most common questions I get from folks about to hit the road is - what gear should I take backpacking?

Don't worry - I'm here to show you exactly what to pack while backpacking by giving you my top-secret backpacking checklist.

I've been on the road for nearly ten years now, backpacking across the world living out of my backpack. Not having a home on the road means I need to carry a fair bit of stuff, but I still try and keep my backpack as lightweight as possible.

And today, I'm going to unleash everything.

This is the definitive backpacking checklist. I've put together this epic guide filled with the things you do need, and some bold claims about the things you don't need to take backpacking.

Here you will find a complete backpacking packing list of everything you will need for a trip abroad so you can purchase your gear before you set off adventuring around the world.

IMAGE PRODUCT
tbb-table__imageOsprey Aether 70
  • Features: Stow-On-The-Go™ trekking pole attachment
  • > External hydration sleeve in backpanel
  • > New IsoForm? CM™ hipbelt
  • Features: Stow-On-The-Go™ trekking pole attachment
  • > External hydration sleeve in backpanel
  • > New IsoForm? CM™ hipbelt
Check on Amazon
tbb-table__imageZOMAKE Lightweight
  • Features: Ultra-light. Ultra-durable. Ultra-awesome.
  • > 20l storage space
  • > Made with high quality water and tear resistant nylon material
  • Features: Ultra-light. Ultra-durable. Ultra-awesome.
  • > 20l storage space
  • > Made with high quality water and tear resistant nylon material
Check on Amazon
tbb-table__imageActive Roots Microfiber Towel
  • Features: 100% microfiber material
  • > Weighs just a few ounces, includes mesh carry bag
  • > Portion of all sales donated to the elephant sanctuary in Laos
  • Features: 100% microfiber material
  • > Weighs just a few ounces, includes mesh carry bag
  • > Portion of all sales donated to the elephant sanctuary in Laos
Check on Amazon
tbb-table__imageActive Roots Security Belt
  • Features: Keep your cash hidden and safe
  • > Large pouch for easy access
  • > Sturdy and durable 
  • Features: Keep your cash hidden and safe
  • > Large pouch for easy access
  • > Sturdy and durable 
Check on Amazon
tbb-table__imageORIA Combination Lock
  • Features: 2 pack : set includes 2 zinc alloy 4-digit re-settable combination travel locks
  • > Offers 10,000 combinations
  • > Small volume, light weight, fit through the holes of a lot of suitcases
  • Features: 2 pack : set includes 2 zinc alloy 4-digit re-settable combination travel locks
  • > Offers 10,000 combinations
  • > Small volume, light weight, fit through the holes of a lot of suitcases
Check on Amazon
tbb-table__imageWorld Travel Adapter
  • Features: Input socket: Euro, USA / Japan, Australia / China, United Kingdom (UK version not in Switzerland)
  • > Retractable plugs: Euro, UK, USA / Japan, Australia / China
  • > Charge a laptop and two usb devices at once
  • Features: Input socket: Euro, USA / Japan, Australia / China, United Kingdom (UK version not in Switzerland)
  • > Retractable plugs: Euro, UK, USA / Japan, Australia / China
  • > Charge a laptop and two usb devices at once
Check on Amazon
tbb-table__imageKindle
  • Features: Higher resolution display (300 ppi) - with twice as many pixels
  • > Built-in adjustable light - read day and night
  • > A single battery charge lasts weeks, not hours
  • Features: Higher resolution display (300 ppi) - with twice as many pixels
  • > Built-in adjustable light - read day and night
  • > A single battery charge lasts weeks, not hours
Check on Amazon
tbb-table__imageMacBook Pro
  • Features: 2.3GHz dual-core Intel Core i5 processor with Turbo Boost up to 3.6GHz
  • > 8GB 2133MHz LPDDR3 memory
  • > 128GB SSD storage
  • Features: 2.3GHz dual-core Intel Core i5 processor with Turbo Boost up to 3.6GHz
  • > 8GB 2133MHz LPDDR3 memory
  • > 128GB SSD storage
Check on Amazon
tbb-table__imagePremium Hanging Toiletry Bag
  • Features: Toiletry Bag by Expert Travel offers enough room for all of his and her items
  • > Has a very elegant appearance that looks good in any bathroom
  • > Waterproof fabric can ensure you that your favorite items won't spill or leak out into your suitcase
  • Features: Toiletry Bag by Expert Travel offers enough room for all of his and her items
  • > Has a very elegant appearance that looks good in any bathroom
  • > Waterproof fabric can ensure you that your favorite items won't spill or leak out into your suitcase
Check on Amazon
tbb-table__imageUltra Light Mesh Stuff Sack Storage Bag
  • Features: Nylon
  • > Xl: Approx 24 x 48cm/ 9.45" x 18.90inch
  • > Uses an advanced multifilament nylon mesh
  • Features: Nylon
  • > Xl: Approx 24 x 48cm/ 9.45" x 18.90inch
  • > Uses an advanced multifilament nylon mesh
Check on Amazon

 Backpacking Checklist • The Definitive Guide to Packing Like a Pro in 2018

Pack light and feel free!

First thing is first…

If you are wondering how to pack for backpacking, the most important piece of information I can give you is this – pack light.

Whether you are camping or hiking, going to Europe or Asia, traveling as a baller or on a budget, it doesn’t matter. You need to travel as light as possible.

This is the most important backpacking packing tip I can give you. Travel light!

  1. By traveling lighter you are saving yourself strain and the stress of a weighted pack. Heavy bags suck, and more shit = more weight.
  2. Traveling lighter will enable you to have spare space, meaning you can fit more stuff in your bag if need be. See a nice souvenir for mom? Want to pick up some camping gear? If you pack light, you’ll have the space to add more gear to your pack…

You might be thinking, ‘But Will, there are over 100 items recommended on your backpacking essentials checklist! I’ll need 4 backpacks to fit them all!’

This is true! I make a ton of recommendations in this guide, and it would be silly to try and bring all of them along with you on your adventures.

I’ve done my best to break this backpacking checklist down into several sections so you can pick what to take backpacking based on the kind of trip you’re doing.

So keep this in mind as you peruse this list – only bring the stuff that best fits your travel style and itinerary. Doing so will turn this epic checklist into your perfectly tailored minimalist backpacking list. 

backpackers

This backpacking gear list will equip you with everything you need

For instance, keep an eye on climate. If you are backpacking Mexico in July, you won’t need to worry too much about packing warm clothes.

And if you aren’t a Digital Nomad or aspiring entrepreneur, then you probably won’t need a laptop while traveling.

By keeping note of your travel style and itinerary, you’ll be able to quickly and easily identify which gear on this backpacking checklist is right for you to bring along on your travels…

What to Bring Backpacking – 10 Essential Backpacking Items

Out of all the things you could bring on your backpacking adventure, these are my 10 highest recommendations. This is the backpacking gear that I myself have been using for over a decade as I travel around the world. There’s a lot of gear out there which you don’t need but in my opinion, every traveler should have these ten travel essentials on their checklist…

#1 A Backpack! (I recommend the Osprey Aether 70 Litre)

Osprey Aether 70
  • Stow-on-the-Go trekking pole attachment
  • External hydration sleeve in backpanel simplifies refilling and protects pack contents from spills
  • New IsoForm⁴ CM hipbelt balances firmness and cushioning for optimal carry

The most important item on this backpacking gear list. You can’t be a backpacker without a backpack!

I myself am a big fan of Osprey packs, they are super comfortable, well designed, almost indestructible and come with a lifetime warranty… I suggest picking a backpacking in the forty to sixty litre range.

I myself have the Osprey Aether backpack (read the full review here) but there are lots of great options out there; check out my detailed post on how to choose the best travel backpack.

If you want to go for something a little bit smaller, I recommend the Osprey Exos; it’s super comfy and great quality. I’ve had mine for several years, it’s still in great condition.

Picking the right travel backpack is very important; you are, after all, going to be pretty much living out of your pack.

I want to fly like an Osprey!

 

#2 Foldable Daybag (Keep it light!)

ZOMAKE Lightweight
  • MULTIPURPOSE - Ultra-light. Ultra-durable. Ultra-awesome. The backpack is perfect for day-to-day use or day trips, vacation, travel, day hikes, school, camping and shopping, and great gift for everyone
  • CAPACITY - 20L storage space, keep things organized
  • INCOMPARABLE QUALITY - Made with High Quality Water and Tear Resistant Nylon Material. Duarable Abrasion Resistant SBS Metal Zipper Avaliable. Reinforced more than 31 places with Bartack Process

The second most important thing on this backpacking gear list – a foldable day bag is crucial. While you can get a cheap drawstring bag, I recommend coughing up the extra $10 to get a quality bag so that you can wander around town with your daytrip essentials in tow.

Amazon has tons of options for packable daybags, but I think ZOMAKE bags are pretty cool and efficient.

ZOMAKE bags are 20 bucks and are sturdy, light, foldable, and water resistant! Having a foldable daypack gives you a ton of options and it’s always worth packing one.

A daypack is a small investment that is often overlooked. A solid day bag can make the difference between a happy traveler and a pissed traveler. I recommend being a happy traveler.

Check for latest daypack prices

 

#3 A Proper Travel Towel (Gotta stay dry!)

Active Roots Microfiber Towel
  • ABSORBANT AND QUICK DRYING - 100% microfiber material!
  • COMPACT AND LIGHTWEIGHT - Weighs just a few ounces, includes mesh carry bag
  • SAVE THE ELEPHANTS - Portion of all sales donated to The Elephant Sanctuary in Laos

Don’t bring a normal towel on your backpacking journeys!

Regular towels are heavy, inefficient, and take up a ton of space. Travel pros use micro-fiber dry towels. And I like micro-fiber towels so much, that I made my own brand!

Active Roots micro-fiber towels are made by travelers for travelers. They are super light, and most importantly dry very quickly.

Check Price on Amazon

 

#4 Travel Security Belt (hide your cash!)

Active Roots Security Belt
  • HIDDEN COMPARTMENT - keep your money safe and never worry about pickpockets or thieves again. It's the perfect travel wallet.
  • EASY ACCESS - this money belt contains a large pouch - simply fold your bills in half and insert them into the hidden compartment
  • STURDY AND DURABLE - our travel money belt is made with the highest quality nylon to ensure your belt lasts for years

I take travel-security very seriously, so I developed my own travel security belt.

To keep your money hidden on the road, I strongly recommend picking up one of these beauties – it has a hidden inner pocket in which you can hide up to twenty notes, or some marijuana… 

Another Active Roots product, this belt is simple and gets the job done. It’s comfortable, functions as a normal belt and is discreet, unlike traditional fanny pack money belts.

I never travel without a security belt and it’s helped me keep my money hidden and on my body whilst traveling through more dodgy countries. Traveling with a money belt is a small investment that helps keep your money safe.  Check it out here.

Check Price on Amazon

 

#5 Padlock (For your backpack and hostel lockers!)

ORIA Combination Lock, 4 Digit Combination Padlock Set, Metal and Plated Steel Material for School, Employee, Gym or Sports Locker, Case, Toolbox, Fence, Hasp Cabinet and Storage, Pack of 2
  • 2 pack : Set includes 2 zinc alloy 4-digit re-settable combination travel locks.
  • Secure Bags & Lockers Perfectly : ORIA combination lock has 4-digit, offers 10000 combinations, which is more difficult to crack than the 3 digit locks, which cannot be removed by human force.
  • Excellent Design : Small volume, light weigh, fit through the holes of a lot of suitcases.

I used to frequently lose my room keys when staying in hostels, these days I just lock my room using a padlock, problem solved.

Padlocks are important for a few reasons.

First, you can lock your bag up when you need to. Connect the lock between the two zippers and BOOM! Your bag is safe from any intruders. This will help keep you at ease when you have to be apart from your bag.

Padlocks are very handy when staying in hostels. Most hostels provide some sort of lockers, but not all of them provide locks for those lockers (or even worse – they charge for them!).

But, if you’ve got your own padlock – problem solved! A small investment that’s well worth it.

Check Price on Amazon

 

#6 World Travel Adapter (a MUST have)

Power Adapter

Travelers all hope for the same thing, that one day the world will unite, and all decide upon a universal size for power adapters…

Until that happens, you’re going to need a travel adapter.

There are currently 15 different types of power adapter sizes! 15! The best way to ensure your beloved electronics get charged regardless of the country you are in is by using a universal adapter.

It’s worth splashing out a bit here and getting one that can charge a laptop and two USB devices at once.

Check Price on Amazon

 

#7 Kindle (Unless you hate reading)

I always read a lot, but when I travel, I crush books.

When you travel the world you are going to have a ton of spare time. Waiting for planes, waiting for buses, waiting for trains – lots of waiting! And that time waiting can be spent wisely reading life-changing literature.

But as much as I love the feeling and texture of real paperback books… they weight a lot, are awkwardly shaped and aren’t ideal to haul across the world in a backpack.

I introduce you to the solution – the almighty Kindle!

I always travel with an Amazon Kindle. They are durable, light, have WiFi, and most importantly – you can read and download an infinite amount of books!

Check Price on Amazon

 

#8 A travel-friendly laptop! 

Macbook Pro
  • 2.3 GHz Dual-core Intel Core i5 processor
  • Brilliant Retina display
  • Intel Iris Plus Graphics 640

I only recommend bringing a laptop for a few reasons. 1) You make money or need to work online, or 2) you really really love your laptop.

For Digital Nomads and laptop enthusiasts, you’ll want a high-quality piece of technology – and I’ve got just the thing for you.

One of the best investments I ever made was my MacBook Pro. It’s got a great UI, it’s very durable, and it helped me take my business to the next level.

If you looking to start a blog, or make money online, it’s my highest recommendation. Check out this post for a full breakdown of travel friendly laptops. 

Check Price on Amazon

 

#9 Backpacking Toiletry Bag (Convenience in ways you never thought possible)

Hanging Travel Toiletry Bag for Men and Women | Makeup Bag | Cosmetic Bag | Bathroom and Shower Organizer Kit | Leak Proof | 2 Sizes - Large (34"x11") & XL Family Size (42"x13")
  • UPGRADED FEATURES AS OF JULY 1st 2018 - Our first release of this toiletry bag had some unfortunate issues (we were new to this and made some mistakes), but after taking all of your feedback into consideration, we upgraded the entire bag. The best zippers on the market, reinforced plastic, and deeper pockets make this the best hanging toiletry bag on Amazon. We guarantee it.
  • PERFECT TRAVEL TOILETRY BAG FOR MEN, WOMEN, & KIDS - With the unisex design and multiple colors options, this bathroom bag is suitable for the whole family.
  • ALSO FUNCTIONS AS A TRAVEL MAKEUP BAG OR COSMETIC BAG - Need something for your make up and other cosmetics as well as your toiletries? Don't spend money on a separate makeup organizer bag when you can fit all you need for travel right in here.

Hands down the easiest way to keep all your toiletries and meds in one place. I never really feel like I’ve moved into a place until I hang it up. Backpacking toiletry bags rock!

Check Price on Amazon

 

#10 Mesh Laundry Bag

Ultra Light Mesh Stuff Sack Storage Bag Travel Camping Hiking Drawstring Bag - X-Large
  • Material:Nylon ;Quantity:1Pc
  • XL: Approx 24 x 48cm/ 9.45" x 18.90inch
  • It uses an advanced multifilament nylon mesh, lightweight and durable.Multi-filament nylon mesh for strength the bag, prolong service time

Be sure to get a mesh laundry bag to keep your dirty laundry in, it stinks if you put it in one of the plastic ones.

Having a mesh laundry bag will enable you to keep your smelly laundry stuff separated from the rest of your clothes.

Spend the $5, it’s well worth it.

Check price on Amazon

 

Best Backpacking Clothes Checklist

Picking the right clothes when backpacking is super important. Here are a few tips…

  1. Pack light clothes – Hot or cold weather, pack clothes that fold up small and don’t weigh too much – avoid denim jeans! Even if you are heading to freezing weather, it’s better to bring clothes that you can layer rather than a big heavy jacket. Cotton is light and breathes. Splurge on the more sweat resistant stuff if you can.
  2. Dress dark – Unleash your inner goth and dress dark! Darker clothes hide annoying stains and can be worn for longer.
  3. Bring fewer clothes – Clothes are pretty cheap in most parts of the world, so rather than overpack, bring slightly less than what you need and pick up anything else you might need on the road.
safety for woman travellers in Central america

Wondering what to bring backpacking? These are our top clothes recommendations

These are my top recommendations for best clothes to wear while traveling/backpacking.

Underwear (x5): It can be surprisingly hard to find underwear that fits in Asia… Pack enough before you go backpacking!

Thin hiking trousers (x1): Craghoppers for both men and women make the best stuff and their NosiLife range is impregnated with mosquito repellent. I’ve been wearing Craghoppers gear for years and swear by it – it’s tough, light, good value and keeps mosquitos at bay.

Long sleeved mosquito repellent shirt: A backpacking necessity when traveling to certain areas, mosquito repellent shirts are a lifesaver when trekking or hanging out in tropical climates.

backpacking packing list

T-shirts / Tank tops (x4): Easy to find on the road, don’t stress too much about these.

Base Layer (x1): Crucial for keeping warm, I swear by my Helley Hansen.

Lightweight technical fleece: Essential when you’re on buses or trains that have the AC turned to ‘freezing’.

Evening wear (x1) While not quite backpacking necessities, it’s nice to have for a night on the town! Again, I tend to stick to Craghoppers; they have some smart shirts which are also tough and practical.

backpacking packing list

Sunhat (x1): If you’re heading to the scorched plains of Backpackistan, you need to keep your head covered. My Barmah bush-hat has accompanied me on many adventures.

Buff (x1): One of my favorite travel accessories on this backpacking checklist, I wear one on my wrist at all times; it’s great for keeping the sun off or covering your mouth and nose to keep dust out. I also use it as an eye mask on long haul transport and in dorm rooms.

backpacking packing list

Bandanas are cheap and versatile – some of my favorite budget backpacking gear

Indestructible sunglasses: I have probably destroyed over one hundred pairs of sunglasses… For a backpacking adventure, it’s worth investing in a decent pair of sunnies and I recommend Sungod; these are specifically built for travellers and are pretty much impossible to break. Best of all, you can design them yourself on the site. Check out my full review on Sungod Sunglasses here. 

backpacking packing list

For me, a pair of indestructible shades is essential backpacker gear

Warm Gear: If you’re heading into the mountains this is the most important section of the backpacking gear list. Do yourself a favor and pick up a pair of water-resistant gloves, a hat with ear-flaps and a down jacket.

I’ve been using my RAB Neutrino for years and it was a great investment. I never travel without my RAB, I know that if I have to sleep rough I can survive a night as long as I have my trusty down jacket. It weighs just 650grams, folds down super small and will keep you very warm indeed.

Trekking trainers: Don’t go travelling around the world without decent shoes! I personally swear by North Face Hedgehogs and have been wearing them for nearly a decade.

Technical sandals: If you’re going to be spending a lot of time trekking in the jungle, hanging out on the beach or sailing then it’s worth bringing a pair of good quality technical sandals; Teva make the best hiking sandals in my opinion.

Flip Flops: Definitely worth packing no matter where you are going.

backpacking packing list

Quality flip flops are some of the best budget backpacking gear

Other Essential Backpacker Gear to Pack

Travel Day Pack – A very worthwhile investment on this backpacking checklist is a decent daypack, you can get something cheap (like the previously mentioned ZOMAKE), but if you want something reliable, Osprey and Berghaus (a little known British outdoor gear company) make the best stuff. I currently am using the Osprey Talon as my hanging out in town bag. Check out my comparison article on how to choose the best day pack for travel.

Travel Security BeltTo keep your money hidden on the road, I strongly recommend picking up a belt with an inner hidden security pocket in which you can hide up to twenty notes. I never travel without mine and it’s helped me keep my money hidden and on my body whilst traveling through more dodgy countries. For more cool ideas on how to hide money when traveling, check out this post. 

Compression Packing Cubes: The ultimate backpacker secret weapon in keeping your shit organized. Be sure to get a mesh laundry bag to keep your dirty laundry in, it stinks if you put it in one of the plastic ones.

backpacking packing list

A mesh laundry bag should be high on your travel essentials checklist

Dry bag: Well worth having to keep your electronics in… Mine has saved my gear on more than one occasion. A five-liter dry-bag is normally big enough.

backpacking packing list

A toiletry bag should definitely be on your backpacking supply list

Backpacking Necessities – Technology Checklist

Camera: If you want to take a camera and you’re new to photography I suggest getting something by Lumix, they offer great bang for your buck and is ideal for taking quality travel photos.  Check out this incredibly detailed post for a breakdown of the best travel cameras, or best travel tripods if you’re really interested in travel photography.

backpacking packing list

Laptop: Since I make a living online, I travel with some top notch tech. Buying a MacBook Pro was the single best investment I ever made. Check out this incredibly detailed post for a breakdown on the best travel laptops for digital nomads and backpackers.

backpacking packing list

USB flash drive: Endlessly helpful.

USB card reader: Essential if you’re into your photography.

World Travel Adapter: This could easily top the list of backpacking essentials. It’s worth splashing out a bit here and getting one that can charge a laptop and two USB devices at once.

screenshot-www.picmonkey.com-2018.07.30-13-04-20

Smartphone: If you have a good smartphone, you might not need a camera – it totally depends on how much you care about your photos.

Portable battery: Extremely useful for keeping your phone and camera charged whilst adventuring. I travel with two as I’m often trekking and away from power.

GoPro Hero 5: If you want an action cam, this is the one to go for…

Backpacking Packing List – Adventure Checklist

If you’re a keen hiker or adventurer, you know that you’ll need to carry more gear… It’s great to pack light but if you’re spending a lot of time camping out or hiking through the mountains, it’s important to be prepared.  This camping gear checklist has got you covered on everything you’ll need for your epic hikes and camping delights. 

Head-torch: One of the most useful items on this backpacking checklist! Head-torches are useful for caving, hiking and bathroom trips when the power’s gone out. Check out my post on the best headlamps for travel. 

Pocket Blanket: Lightweight, waterproof, super compact pocket blanket is a great addition to your backpacking checklist. Doubling up as an emergency poncho, a picnic blanket is worth its weight in gold when chilling, or camping, on the beach. This is a great item to have, even for someone looking for a minimalist backpacking list and if you want to roll around with your significant other, a picnic blanket is well worth packing. 

Hammock: Lighter and more portable than a tent plus chicks dig hammocks… I always travel with a parachute hammock. Not an absolutely essential item, but one of my favourite items on this backpacking packing list.

Mosquito Net: I strongly recommend getting a box shaped net.

Cable ties: Always worth packing a couple, especially if you’re off on a motorbiking adventure.

Carabiners: I always pack a couple of these, simply clip them to your pack and use them when you need to attach stuff to the outside of your pack, fix things, hang up mosquito nets…

Backpacking packing list

Sleeping bag liner: Useful when the sheets are not so clean or you want to sleep under a blanket but it’s damn hot.

Small sewing kit: Fix your own shit, you’ll save some money.

Pens and notebook: Don’t go traveling without it!

Backpacking Supply List – Hiking Gear Checklist

You may not need a lot of the gear below, but if you’re planning an epic expedition and will be away from civilisation a lot it does make sense to invest in some of this must have hiking gear. I almost always travel with a tent as it has saved me a ton of money on accommodation over the years. This is my hiking/camping gear checklist…

Multi-tool: I’ve been using my ultra-lightweight Leatherman Skeletool for years, it’s the perfect companion for any backpacking adventure.

Portable Stove: If you are hiking/camping, then this obviously needs to be on your backpacking equipment list. I have a pocket-rocket which serves me well – check out my post on the top backpacking stoves to find out if you really need a stove for your travels.

Backpacking packing list

Everything on my hiking equipment list looks like a futuristic weapon

Tent: If you’re camping, you’ll need a tent… Check out my detailed post on the best tents to take backpacking. 

Hammock: Even if you’re not sleeping on the beach, a camping hammock always comes in handy when backpacking and most hammocks take up next to no room in your pack. Check out my article on the best camping hammocks for traveling!

Sleeping pad and sleeping bag: Klymit make the best value sleeping pads. Check out my post on the best sleeping pads to take backpacking. If you are hiking and camping a lot, this is obviously a must when it comes to your backpacking equipment list – without a sleeping pad you will get seriously cold. 

Backpacking packing list

Water bottleEvery backpacker should hit the road with a water bottle – it’ll save you money and help reduce your plastic footprint on our amazing planet. For every Active Roots water bottle sold, we donate 10% to PlasticOceans.org – an awesome initiative aimed at educating people on the risk of single use plastic and helping to clean up our oceans. Active Roots 25 OZ Travel Bottles are tough, lightweight and maintain the temperature of your beverage – so you can enjoy a cold red bull, or a hot coffee, no matter where you are

UV steripen: The best option for purifying water.

Water purification tabs: A much cheaper option for purifying water.

Backpacking packing list

Backpacking Packing List – Toiletries Packing List

In my wash bag, my backpacking essentials are…

  • Microfibre travel towel -super lightweight and fast-drying
  • Toothbrush and toothpaste
  • Shower gel
  • Cotton buds
  • Pack of tissues
  • Decent sunscreen (often expensive to buy abroad)
  • Deodorant
  • Razor with replacement blades
  • Shaving gel
  • Earplugs
  • Condoms

This travel toiletries list has all the essentials. Ladies – pack more as you may need.

Backpacking Packing List – Medical checklist

It’s always worth packing a small first-aid kit. On my travels, I’ve been hospitalised three times, been in a couple of motorbike accidents and had more hangovers than I can count. My first aid kit saved my ass on more than one occasion…

I recommend picking up a pre-assembled first-aid kit and then pimping it out with all of the below.

  • Personal medicines such as inhalers
  • Paracetamol, ibuprofen and aspirin
  • Disinfectant spray
  • Disinfectant wipes
  • Mosquito repellent (at least 40% deet)
  • Antihistamines
  • Bandages and gauze
  • Plasters in various sizes
  • Steri-strips
  • Throat lozenges
  • Condoms
  • Ciprofloxacin (the best thing to take for traveller’s diarrhoea)
  • Malaria pills if applicable

Backpacking Packing List – Documents checklist

It helps to be organised before you hit the road; I travel with all of the below in a plastic wallet, it may sound nerdy but when you’re at a politically charged border crossing you will get across a lot faster if you are organised.

  • Flight, train and bus tickets
  • Travel Security BeltThe best way to keep your money hidden.
  • Address of your first hostel (even if it’s fake).
  • Valid Passport
  • Laminated copy of your passport
  • Debit Cards x 2
  • Credit Card
  • Dollars or Euros
  • Some, one dollar bills for tips
  • Driver’s licence
  • Student ID
  • half a dozen passport photos for visas on arrival (you normally need two per visa).
  • Insurance information, home contact details, health information as part of a laminated card.
  • The Backpacker Bible – Learn how to ditch your desk and travel the world on just $10 a day whilst building a life of long-term travel with an online income.  Shameless bit of self promo here but this book is basically my dissertation on backpacking, nine years of tips and tricks and your purchase helps keep the site going. If you’ve found the content on this site useful, the book is the next level up and you will learn a ton – if you don’t, I’ll give you your money back. Check it out here.

Backpacking Essentials – Travel Insurance!

Whatever you do, don’t hit the road without travel insurance. I’ve claimed my travel insurance three times. If I hadn’t had insurance, I would have been fucked.

Check out this post for plenty of intel on staying safe whilst travelling. 

I recommend getting your travel insurance through World Nomads.

Final Thoughts on my Definitive Backpacking Checklist

I’ve been around the world a handful of times. My recommendations come with ten years of travel blood, sweat, and tears so have a proper read over this backpacking checklist and heed my advice, pack light but be sure to pack the things you need for your own travel style…

With the help of these packing lists, you’ll be able to figure out exactly what to pack for your trip so you can gallivant around the world knowing you’ve got everything you need for your adventure…


Need More Inspiration?

For more travel gear inspiration, check out my buddy Gianni’s ultralight packing list and for the ladies, this excellent travel packing list for women by Two Scots Abroad.

My friend Gemma has put together this detailed post on how to choose high-quality hiking pants for men. 



Yay for transparency! The links in this post are affiliate links. This means that if you buy anything, I’ll earn a small commission at no extra cost to you. I only link to stuff I’ve actually used and never endorse crap. Your support helps me keep the site going. 

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49 Comments

  • Emma Mann says:

    Digital copies of your preferred travel guides can be loaded onto your tablet. Save the weight, don’t take the book!

  • Serena says:

    Hi Will.

    Really good post you have there. One thing I would like to add is this Cocoon Grid It Organiser my boyfriend got for his Christmas present. It keeps all your techy electrical things together in one place and they never fall out. We have the one which stores his MacBook air, his kindle, charging cables, adaptor plugs, spare batteries and pens.
    You can mix and match. You should have a look as you have quite a bit of gadgets there.

    Thanks,
    Serena

  • TJ says:

    Bandanas (2), shemagh scarf, Paracord, pharaoh rod (metal match). What does your pack weigh? Mine is currently 35lbs. Id prefer 30 but doesn’t seem possible to lose anything.

  • vignesh says:

    for the more adventurous ones, hammocks and a good tent.
    travelled 4 months in SEA, and quite possibly spent a month in the tent to reduce accommodation expenses.

  • Indy says:

    Condoms?

  • Epic list Will! I wish we bought a GSP device when we started travelling. I thought it was a bit overkill but it would have saved the day a few times in India!

  • Chase says:

    All this goes in one bag that you have on you all the time? it all fits?

    • Will Hatton says:

      Nah, I tailor what I take based on what kind of trip it is…

      • Juan Carlos Deveze Garcia says:

        But i dont get it, what do you do to all the stuff, i mean, you are backpacking, if you have sleeping bags to go hiking and then you go to a city and you dont need it, you throw it away?

        sorry my english sucks haha love your blog, i click on every sponsor you have 😉

  • Jorge says:

    very nice post. thanks for sharing! will definitively check it before I travel next time.

  • Freya says:

    I love your bio. I from Venezuela

  • Mark says:

    Hello Will,It’s a good list for easy living.I have just done a 4 month motorcycle trip around most of S/East Asia and as far as electronics go,all I took was a $15 cell phone.My total pack weight was 18kg and did trip in the wet season.Lots of fun.I feel that too much gear and all the electronics you suggest,makes the trip to easy,(comforts of home)might as well stay home.It is fun getting lost,you do finish up in some cool places,you might never have,discovered.

  • fredwingg says:

    I agree that toiletries is the most important things we should carry with us whenever we plan to travel somewhere. If you’re going on a short trip and you don’t have any check-in baggage, you need to make sure that any toiletries you bring don’t fall foul of the 100 ml/3 oz limit.

    • Will Hatton says:

      This is especially relevant for women (who tend generally to carry more cosmetics type stuff) and first time travellers. The number of newly bought toiletries I have seen confiscated at airport security, by now, would number in the high hundreds of litres. Check it in or keep it under 100ml for hand luggage. I can only imagine where all that product ends up.

  • Simon owens says:

    Will, great list of gear…but how much does your kit generally weigh? Seems like it could be damn heavy!!!

  • Claudia says:

    Hi there,Im heading to south east asia for about 5 months end of november, i was just wondering the vaccinations you recommend which I should get done as hospitals try hook you up with things that are not really needed.

  • Tom says:

    Hey Will,

    After reading your list I tend to leave the laptop at home and just stick with my phone, I try to reduce the whole electronics and leave what I can behind.

    But I agree you have to pack for the kind of trip your taking. I tend to find that backpacking is a great way with getting to know yourself more and you do meet a lot of people from all walks of life. The amount of friends I have made over my time backpacking its nice.

    But I do try and stick to the essentials when I backpack. 🙂

    Great Read and great list 😉

  • Laura says:

    Great list and images alongside 🙂 Think we need to upgrade some of our gear before our next trip after reading this! Cheers.

  • I think this is a great list.Your Article is Wonderful! A lot of Great Tips and Very nicely written. I have learned a lot from your article Thank you for sharing with us.

  • Gary Wilson says:

    You have shared a great list. And I must say that a simple and light weight camera is a must. Who would not want to capture the great moments while on a trek

  • Liam Wright says:

    Great packing list!! Most of the time i over pack my backpack. This will help me a lot. Which size backpack do you prefer for travel?

  • Charlie says:

    Hi Will,
    Love the packing list and your blog in general! Despite having travelled for years I have just started in the travel blogging world. I’m developing my website at the moment and would love it if you have the time to take a look and give me your feedback. Apologies if you get requests all the time but if you are game then I would appreciate it!
    Kind Regards
    Charlie

  • Adam says:

    Great article! I love reading about what other travelers bring with them. A few of those I wished I realized before I started my travels (eg first-aid kit and ear plugs). I also love that you included condoms twice…you can never be too careful.

    I read one of the comments above that discussed how bringing as many electronics as you suggest makes it “too comfortable.” I disagree, I believe that travel is different for everybody and you should be as comfortable as you want to. I have no plans on going on any vision quests or anything, so making sure I have my laptop and chargers on me is a necessity.

    My trip might be a bit less intense than yours (less camping), so if you’re ever curious on what a city-dwelling traveler brings in his bag you can check out my new “what’s in my bag” post:

    http://www.citizensofeverywhere.cc/2018/02/09/round-the-world-packing-list/

    Look forward to reading the rest of your posts, looks like I have a lot to catch up on!

    Adam
    http://www.citizensofeverywhere.com

  • Sharon says:

    So very hard to know what to pack in that small bag, but your guidance and tips certainly help with the selection.

    Great work.

    Cheers Sharon…

  • Sarah says:

    Hi, I really like your list, my boyfriend and I have just started to plan our travels. We are going for a year, I’d love to go for longer but I’m a nurse and the longer I go without working the harder it is to get back into nursing.
    Is there anywhere in particular you would recommend? So far we are thinking a month of interrailing in Europe then getting the Trans-siberian railway to Beijing and winging it from there so any adivce would be appreciated!

    • Will Hatton says:

      A year of backpacking sounds like an epic trip! As for advise – can you be a bit more specific about what you’re looking for? There’s so many epic places in the world to visit…

  • Sarah says:

    Well, I don’t want to be rushing about from place to place, going everywhere and not really getting to see much if you know what I mean, so SE Asia?

  • Bob Franco says:

    Awesome checklist, man! I have to say that the most important thing I’ve ever brought with me on my backpacking trips—especially to South Sudan—has been a hammock. Having a hammock is like having a heaven bed and a partner at the same time. I’ve laughed with, cried with, and disclosed my innermost secrets to my hammock, whom I consider to be my best friend and potential marriage partner.

  • Grace Wiley says:

    Thank you so much for sharing your tips and experience. I always bring my travel towel and my hammock – it can be a lifesaver.

  • Wow what a tremendous checklist. I just love your list. I love travelling. And i have been thinking about my next travelling. Many time i love to pack my backpacking. This time i will must follow your checklist and hope so it will be more comfortable for me. From here i know some new items which is essential for bring with me when i am packing my backpack. If you had more insight i will greatly appreciate it. Thanks for the sharing such a informative also helpful article.

  • michelle Jones says:

    Hi question about the day pack you recommend, the zomake small pack… some of the reviews I ve read say it s not waterproof as advertised. what is your experience with it in the rain? We are traveling to Colombia at the end of their rainy season and I would like a day pack that is waterproof. By the way I love your website, Thank you.

  • Karen says:

    Great list. After reading this I realized my packing suit needs to be upgraded. And first of all, I need to replace the heaviest items with lighter ones. And it’s high time that I obtained a dry bag. Have no idea how I could do without it. Thank you for sharing this.

  • joshua says:

    Hi Will!!! Big fan of your blog as your writing is captivating and has inspired me to do more with the years left on my clock! and for that my friend I thank you! Now I was really curious how you keep your stuff save from petty theft when camping out with your hammock? Vietnam in particular.

    • Will Hatton says:

      Hey Josh! Personally, most or all of my valuables usually stay in my daypack which never leaves my side unless I’ve been able to lock it up somewhere… petty theft can be a problem for sure, for a longtime though I had nothing worth stealing 😛

  • ovigia says:

    hi all,

    there are items on this list that cannot be in a carry on backpack (like the leatherman multitool), how do you solve that issue?

    thanks in advance.

    • Will Hatton says:

      Valid point about the leatherman skeletool… normally however I travel overland or with hold luggage as I DO have a fair bit of stuff – camping equipment mostly 😉

  • ovigia says:

    that’s what i thought, thanks 🙂

  • Julia says:

    Hi!
    Great tips – great list, thank you.

    I have backpacked a lot – and am now dragging my husband and kids around the globe as much as I can. Sadly, I have discovered that I am getting more sqeamish about sleep. Really prefer to avoid other people’s grime and itchy blankets (argh the thoughts of wet, dirty, woolly blankets in a hostel i Nainitaal)… So, am thinking of investing in some ultra-thin sleeping bags for us – or travel sheets. Do you have any thoughts or recommendations? I realise something ultra-thin and backpack friendly won’t be warm, but it is just so we can sleep in our own dirt – dirty, wet woolly blankets can go on top…

    Wow, I do sound like an old, prissy lady!

    Thanks in advance

    Julia

    – where are you now? we are going to Iran next month 🙂

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