Figuring out what to bring backpacking can be quite a challenge! You have one small bag and so much stuff you could bring. How do you decide exactly what are the backpacking essentials, and what to leave behind? This all makes a huge difference!
One of the most common questions we get from folks about to hit the road is – what gear should I take backpacking? What are the essential items I need? Well, read on. We will show you exactly what to pack while backpacking by giving you my top-secret lightweight backpacking checklist.
This is the definitive backpacking checklist. We’ve put together this epic guide filled the backpacking essentials – just 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. Ready to be amazed by the ultimate backpacking gear list, let’s go!
- Backpacking Checklist
- Choosing What To Pack
- What to Bring Backpacking – 10 Essential Backpacking Items
- Best Backpacking Clothes Checklist
- Backpacking Necessities – Technology Checklist
- Backpacking Packing List – Adventure Checklist
- Backpacking Supply List – Hiking Gear Checklist
- Backpacking Packing List – Toiletries Packing List
- Backpacking Packing List – Medical checklist
- Backpacking Packing List – Documents checklist
- FAQ about the Best Backpacking Packing List
- Final Thoughts on Our Definitive Backpacking Checklist
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Our Top Tips and Packing Hacks…
Before we get into the details of this, let us start by sharing our absolute tip-top tip for travel packing – pack light.
Whether you are camping or hiking, travelling to Europe or Asia as a baller or on a budget, it doesn’t matter what sort of backpacking trip you’re planning. You need to travel as light as possible. This is why we’ll only be talking about the backpacking necessities.
Note that This is a purposely lightweight backpacking checklist to help you achieve this. We’ve only included things to take backpacking that you really need!
This is the most important backpacking packing tip I can give you. Travel light! And here are some of the reasons why packing light is so damn important;
- By travelling lighter you are saving yourself the strain and the stress of a weighted pack. Heavy bags suck, and more shit = more weight.
- Travelling 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 mum? 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 there are over 100 items recommended on your backpacking essentials checklist! I’ll need 4 backpacks to fit them all!’
This is true! We make a ton of backpacking travel gear recommendations in this guide, and it would be silly to try and bring all of them along with you on your backpacking trip.
We’ve done our 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. Not everyone is going to need a sleeping bag and hiking boots, some will reserve more room for specialist camera gear and extra batteries. Others will rightly prioritise room for emergency toilet paper!
One thing that everyone should prioritize though is respecting mother nature and not leaving anything behind. The less you pack, the less you can leave behind. Packing eco-friendly products is an extra bonus of course 😉
So keep this in mind as you peruse this list – only pack the gear that best fits your travel style and itinerary. Doing so will turn this epic checklist into your perfectly tailored minimalist backpacking list.
Choosing What To Pack
Another great tip is to always pack appropriately for your destination and for the kind of trip you intend to have. For example, keep a firm eye on climate – if you are backpacking Europe in July then you won’t need too much in the way of warm clothes (except a jacket for the UK!). Likewise, if you’re just going to be hitting the beach or exploring cities then hiking shoes are probably not all that essential! And if you aren’t a Digital Nomad or aspiring entrepreneur, then you can probably take that laptop off your backpacking list.
By keeping note of the travel style and itinerary of your backpacking trip, 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…
Looking for a backpacking clothes list, hold your horse a little because that comes later, first you need to check off these backpacker essentials.
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Out of all the things you could bring on your backpacking adventure, these are my 10 highest recommendations. This is the backpacking gear that we have been using for over a decade as we travel around the world.
There’s a lot of gear out there that you don’t need but in my opinion, every traveller should have these ten backpacking essentials on their checklist…
#1 Travel Backpack! (Like the Osprey Aether 70 Litre)
The most important item on this backpacking gear list is a good backpacking backpack! After all, you can’t be a backpacker without a backpack and picking the right backpack is key! I mean, it wouldn’t be a backpacking trip packing list without something to pack it all in!
I myself am a big fan of Osprey packs They are really bloody comfortable, well designed, ergonomic, hard wearing and they come with a lifetime warranty. Backpacks come in all kind of shapes and sizes but we suggest picking a backpack in the forty- to the sixty-litre (40l – 60l) range.
Picking the right travel backpack is very important; you are, after all, going to be pretty much living out of your pack.
You can’t compile your ultimate backpacking gear list without the right backpack! Remember to throw in some good packing cubes too so you can keep everything organised, they’re another must have for backpacking.
#2 Daypack – (Like the Osprey Exos)
Most of us here at TBB travel with a big backpack which we use for keeping most of our stuff and traveling and then a smaller pack which we use for day trips and stuff.
We recommend looking at the the Osprey Daylite; it’s super comfy and of great quality. It’s versatile as hell so can be used for beach days, going shopping, day hikes, overnight camping trips or simply for carrying your backpack to the coffee shop.
Want a few more options? Have a look at our guide to the best travel backpacks to see which suits you best.
If you don’t like the look of the Exos then go and check out our detailed post on how to choose the best daypack for travel.
#3 A Proper Travel Towel (Gotta stay dry!)
Towels are essential backpacking gear as a lot of hostels don’t provide them or if they do, they may not really be all that clean. However don’t bring a ‘normal’ towel on your backpacking journeys, they are big and take up loads of room in your pack and they take ages to dry.
Travel pros like use micro-fibre dry towels series that roll up into tiny, space saving proportions AND they dry unbelievably quick. Granted, they are not quite as comforting as a cotton towel but its a trade of that travellers need to make. A good micro-fibre travel towers is essential travel gear on any ultimate backpacking gear list.
The Matador micro-fibre towel range are made by travellers for travellers. They are super light, and most importantly dry very quickly and are perfect for all types of backpacking trips.
#4 Travel Security Belt (hide your cash!)
I take travel security very seriously, so I never travel without this incredible product.
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…
I never travel without a security belt and it’s helped me keep my money hidden and on my body whilst travelling through more dodgy countries but it’s useful for all types of backpacking trips. Travelling with a money belt is a small investment that helps keep your money safe.
#5 Combination Padlock (For your backpack and hostel lockers!)
Travel Padlocks are very 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 also 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!). However, I don’t always trust hostel padlocks for security reasons and of course, little padlock keys are all too easy to lose.
Always pack a few good quality, combination padlocks. They slot easily into the little pockets and compartments of your backpack and are so very useful. Just remember to remember the combination…
#6 World Travel Adapter (a MUST have)
Travellers all hope for the same thing, that one day the world will unite, and all decide upon a universal size for power adapters…
Well until that happens, you’re going to need a travel adapter and they’re useful for all types of backpacking trips.
There are currently 15 different types of power adapter sizes in use around the world! 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.
In case you have never used them, packing cubes are little compression cubes that allow you to neatly pack clothes in in order to help facilitate better packing. They allow you to pack more stuff, and to keep it all better organised.
For the longest time, I thought that packing cubes were a superfluous indulgence, but boy was I wrong. Now I never travel without a few and they are the perfect way to organise yourself when you’re packing for a backpacking trip.
These ones from WANDRD are great quality and excellent value for money.
We only really recommend bringing a laptop traveling for a few reasons. 1) You make money or need to work online, or 2) you really really love your laptop. Otherwise, backpacking is a great opportunity to unplug and get offline for a while.
For the Digital Nomads and laptop enthusiasts out there, you’ll want a high-quality piece of technology – and we’ve got just the thing for you.
One of the best investments we ever made was our MacBook Pros. It’s got a great UI, it’s very durable, and it helped us take The Broke Backpacker to the next level.
If you looking to start a blog, or make money online, it’s our highest recommendation. Check out this post for a full breakdown of travel-friendly laptops.
#9 Nomatic Toiletry Bag (Convenience in ways you never thought possible)
Hygiene, haircare and skin care all need to be maintained during a backpacking trip and so you will need to bring along some toiletries.
The best way to do this is to invest a dedicated toiletry bag.
This one by Nomatic is possibly the best toiletry bag on the market. It is made from water resistant, wipe cleanable material that guarantees longevity and it offers excellent organisational capabilities. It is also comes with a hang-up-hook so you can hang it over the shower head or your hostel bed.
We like to say that we’ve never really feel like I’ve moved into a place until we hang up our toiletry bags. Backpacking travel toiletry bags rock!
Every traveller needs a camera, right?
The performance of action cameras has increased significantly, whilst the overall price has come down – making them more affordable. GoPro is the leading action cam brand for a reason: the image quality and stabilization technology of their cameras are unmatched. What’s great is that you get a decent piece of camera gear in such a small package.
Of course, not everybody needs a camera as many of us are quite content to use our smart phones. Still, investing in one of these means you can take some awesome videos and capture those special treasured travel memories.
#11 – eSim by Onesim
The good news about Planet Earth is that there is excellent 4g and 5g Internet coverage, taxi apps and food delivery apps in pretty much all cities and towns (but it does get patchy once you venture out into the wilds and wilderness). The bad news is that your native SIM card will probably not work once your leave your native country and so you will not be able to access any of this online goodness until you rectify that particular situation.
You can waste time hanging around phone shops queuing to get a plastic sim or you can is,ply install a eSim onto your phone before you leave home. You just access the OneSim site, choose the package for whatever country you wish to visit, download it and off you go – you are online the moment you land at the airport.
eSims are easier to set up and better than the environment than plastic sims. The downside is that not all phones are eSim ready.
#12 – GPS Luggage Tracker
You may know this, but right now airlines are losing record amounts of bags and suitcases some of which are never to be seen again. To help to find your bag in the event it does go missing, just pop a GPS luggage tracker inside it and you will be able to identify exactly where on earth it is.
A good, reliable GPS luggage tracker has emerged as an essential piece of travel packing.
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Best Backpacking Clothes Checklist
Whilst we were all born naked, and have some of our best times naked, clothes are nevertheless a part and parcel of life pretty much anywhere on earth. Whilst dressing for day to day life at home is presumably second nature to you by now, dressing for travel can be a bit more complicated.
As such picking the right clothes when backpacking is super important. Here are a few tips to get you all started when compiling your backpacking clothes checklist…
- Pack light clothes – Hot or cold weather, pack clothes that fold up small and don’t weigh too much – avoid denim jeans and pack hiking pants instead! Even if you are heading to freezing weather, it’s better to bring clothes that you can layer up with rather than bringing a big heavy jacket. Cotton is light and breathes. Splurge on the more sweat-resistant stuff if you can and always pack some rain gear!
- Dress dark – Unleash your inner goth and dress dark! Darker clothes hide annoying stains and can be worn for longer. This is extra important because you can expect your backpacking clothes to be on a quicker rotation than your normal wardrobe.
- Bring fewer clothes – Clothes can be found for 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. This is especially true for places like India and Thailand where you can find amazing, local made clothes for amazing prices.
These are my top recommendations for the best clothes to wear while travelling/backpacking. This travel packing list will see you through heaps of different scenarios.
- 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 hiking pants for years and swear by them – it’s tough, light, good value and keeps mosquitoes at bay.
- Long-sleeved mosquito repellent shirt: A long sleeve sun shirt is a backpacking necessity when travelling to certain areas, mosquito repellent shirts are a lifesaver when trekking or hanging out in tropical climates.
- 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. Many can also double as a long sleeve sun shirt.
- 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.
- 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 favourite 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.
- 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 Abaco; these are specifically built for travellers and are pretty much impossible to break.
- Warm Gear: If you’re heading into the mountains this is the most important section of the backpacking gear list. Do yourself a favour and pick up a pair of water-resistant gloves, a hat with ear-flaps, a down jacket, good quality rain gear and some lightweight hiking shoes.
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. They are a good lighter option to hiking boots.
- 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. Alternatively, you could pick up some lightweight hiking shoes.
- Flip Flops: Not all backpacking clothes has to be techy. You can make yourself comfy by packing a pair of these along. They’re essential on any backpacking clothing list!
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.
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. Whilst a laptop might not be on every backpacking trip list, if you’re blogger or photographer then you’ll be needing one.
Check out this incredibly detailed post for a breakdown of the best travel laptops for digital nomads and backpackers.
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.
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.
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.
Camping 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: Put a box-shaped net on your backpacking list if you’re headed to the Tropics.
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… They’re super useful on any backpacking trip checklist.
Sleeping bag liner: Useful when the sheets are not so clean or you want to sleep under a blanket but it’s damn hot. Check out all our favourite sleeping bag liners. If you’re serious about camping you might also want to look at some lightweight sleeping pads too.
Small sewing kit: Fix your own shit, you’ll save some money. In fact, whether you’re camping or not we reckon this should be on any backpacking packing list.
Pens and notebook: Don’t go travelling without them!
You may not need a lot of the gear below, but if you’re planning an epic expedition and will be away from civilization a lot it does make sense to invest in some of this must-have hiking gear. Some of us at TBB always travel with a tent as it has saved a ton of money on accommodation over the years. This is our hiking/camping gear checklist…
Multi-tool: We’ve been using our ultra-lightweight Leatherman Skeletool for years, it’s the perfect companion for any backpacking adventure. Check out our guide to the best multitools here for some more options.
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.
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 travelling!
Sleeping pad and sleeping bag: Klymit makes 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.
Water bottle: Every backpacker should hit the road with a water bottle – it’ll save you money and help reduce your plastic footprint on our amazing planet.
Grayl Geopress: The best option for purifying water. – Once upon a time I lost my original Grayl… and soon after contracted a parasite from some questionable water. Since replacing it with the Geopress, I’ve been able to stay parasite-free at multiple high-altitude campsites and other escapades. It’s revolutionized my travels, and by buying one, you’ll also be helping out the planet by not adding to the plastic problem.
Water purification tabs: A much cheaper option for purifying water.
Backpacking Packing List – Toiletries Packing List
In our wash bags, my backpacking essentials are…
- Microfiber travel towel -super lightweight and fast-drying
- Toothbrush and toothpaste
- Shower gel
- Cotton buds
- Pack of tissues
- Decent sunscreen (often expensive to buy abroad)
- Razor with replacement blades
- Shaving gel
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 our travels, we’ve been hospitalized multiple times between us, been in a couple of motorbike accidents and had more hangovers than you can count. They’re essential on any backpacking packing guide and our first aid kits 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)
- Bandages and gauze
- Plasters in various sizes
- Throat lozenges
- Ciprofloxacin (the best thing to take for traveller’s diarrhoea. Prescription only in the UK so please take medical advice before taking)
- Malaria pills if applicable
Backpacking Packing List – Documents checklist
It helps to be organized before you hit the road; we 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 organized.
- Flight, train, and bus tickets
- Travel Security Belt: The best way to keep your money hidden.
- Address of your first hostel (even if it’s fake).
- Valid Passport
- A laminated copy of your passport
- Debit Cards x 2
- Credit Card
- Dollars or Euros
- Some, one-dollar bills for tips
- Driver’s license
- Student ID
- half a dozen passport photos for visas on arrival (you normally need two per visa).
- Insurance information, home contact details, and health information as part of a laminated card.
Do you need Travel Insurance for your trip? Even if you’re only going for a few days, that’s more than enough time to get smote by wrathful angels. Have fun, but take it from us, overseas medical care and cancelled flights can be seriously expensive – insurance can, therefore, be a life-saver.
Travel mishaps can and do happen and it is well worth thinking about insurance before you leave home. This is a backpacker’s essential item that many either forget about or ignore and we don’t want you to regret that!
We use World Nomads which specialises in covering digital nomads and backpackers. Why not get a quote from them yourself?
Do be sure to read the terms and conditions to make sure that the policy covers your needs.
It’s good to get lost sometimes, but it’s also good not to get too lost. There are people that want you home in one piece.
There’s one travel insurance provider The Broke Backpacker trusts for all his wildest shenanigans… World Nomads!
Click the button below to get a quote on your insurance or read our in-depth review of World Nomads’ coverage. And then… let the shenanigans begin. 😉
FAQ about the Best Backpacking Packing List
Still, have some questions about our backpacking travel essentials guide? No problem! We’ve listed and answered the most commonly asked questions below. Here’s what people usually want to know:
Final Thoughts on Our Definitive Backpacking Checklist
We’ve been around the world a handful of times. My backpacking list comes 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…
My friend Gemma has put together this detailed post on how to choose high-quality hiking pants for men.
Have we missed anything off our backpacker checklist? Are there any backpacking must-haves that you swear by that we’ve forgotten? Let us know below.
Bye for now, but not forever!
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And for transparency’s sake, please know that some of the links in our content are affiliate links. That means that if you book your accommodation, buy your gear, or sort your insurance through our link, we earn a small commission (at no extra cost to you). That said, we only link to the gear we trust and never recommend services we don’t believe are up to scratch. Again, thank you!