Ask a seasoned backpacker: “Where’s the toughest place you’ve ever traveled?”
They’ll likely answer: “India.”
Ask that same backpacker: “Where the most amazing place you’ve ever traveled?”
They’ll likely answer: “India.”
Maybe it’s the struggles of navigating through a developing country and deciphering its unique social norms – combined with its ancient history, inimitable sights and immense spiritual richness that make India so alluring. And you hear it calling your name.
The first challenge of backpacking India, is packing for India. The climate does vary and you absolutely need to make sure you are prepared foe whatever India throws at you.
After reading this India survival guide, you’ll feel all of those things and be ready to take on the most eye-opening, mind-expanding, sensory-stimulating, life-changing experience ever.
So, without further ado, let’s begin!
The Ultimate India Packing List
Nomatic Travel Bag
- Capacity > 30L
- Price > $299
Nomatic Navigator Carry On
- Capacity > 37L
- Price > $400
GoPro Hero 11
- Resolution > 5k
- Price > $400
Arc’teryx Beta AR Jacket
- Price > $600
Insurance From World Nomads
- Price > Click For a Quote
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For the most part, traveling in India is hot except for in the mountains when it can be cool on summer nights and frozen all the winter. Before packing your bag, it is worth working out where you will be going, and at what time of the year you’re visiting.
Before you even take on the task of figuring out what to pack for India, you’ll need an amazing backpack to pack it all into. For all types of travelers and destinations, our number one recommendation is the Nomatic Travel Bag.
You have a choice between backpack or duffel bag carry, and extra carrying comfort for your back thanks to its innovative strap system and detachable sternum strap. And its black, waterproof material is every bit sleek and modern as it is durable and tough. There is a reason why most Broke Backpacker staff swear by this backpack.
Backpacks not your thing? That’s ok. Our friends at Nomatic are back again with a great alternative to their badass Travel Bag; the Nomatic Carry-On Pro.
This suitcase is ultra-durable, sleek, and comes with a handy tech compartment for transporting your laptop and other electronic bits. Note that traveling “Carry-On only” is going to limit the amount of souvenirs you can bring back!
We’ve tested countlessday packs over the years, but the Tropicfeel Shell is something else. There are a lot of flashy backpacks on the market but not many come with a detachable wardrobe.
Weatherproof, eco-friendly, durable, feature-loaded, and comfy as fudge brownies: these are just some of the words people might use to describe the Tropicfeel Shell. But we just call it bloody beautiful.Learn More • View on Tropicfeel
For most of us, our smartphones now feature cameras with stunning photo capabilities.
But… if you are an aspiring photographer who wants to take next-level photos and video beyond iPhone selfies, I recommend going with an action camera like the GoPro Hero9 Black. If you are looking for something cheaper for video specifically, check out these epic GoPro Alternatives.
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. These ones from WANDRD are great quality and excellent value for money. Get them on your India packing list now!
The good news about much of India now has 3g to 5g Internet coverage offering ready access to taxi apps and food delivery apps. The bad news is that your native SIM card will most probably not work 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 simply install a eSim onto your phone before you leave home. You just access the HolaFly site, choose the relevant package, 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.
What To Pack For India: Personal Gear
Deciding what to wear in India does take some thought, and definitely depends on when you’re visiting. It is generally way too hot and humid for western clothes and jeans and even cotton t-shirts are not ideal. On the other hand, you need to bear in mind “decency” standard as exposing flesh will attract unwanted attention – this is especially true for women.
The good news is that clothes are available to buy VERY cheaply in India so you can definitely pick up some local wares once you arrive.
Open shoe’s are very common in India and even business people will wear them. This makes perfect sense as the endless heat can make for seriously sweaty feet. These are ideal as they are easy to remove once your enter a cafe or temple (removing shoes is common in many places).
Your feet will be tired and sweaty from those long days wearing shoes so do yourself a favor: pack sandals and give your feet some well-deserved cushion and fresh air. These Olukai flip flops are ultra-comfortable, well-made, and come in a variety of colors.
Check out the women’s OluKai ‘Ohana Flip-Flops.
Did you know that the surface of the earth is over 70% covered in water? And you know how that water got there? Yep because it tends to here rain here on planet earth quite a lot! In India, the monsoons are very wet and a jacket may be advisable. Also, if you intend on visiting the mountains you will find it gets pretty nippy at night. Whilst you can easily and cheaply pick up clothes in India, good quality outdoor is hard to come by as a lot of the stuff on sale is cheap.
This is our pick of the many rain jackets we have tried. It’s reliable & stylish and looks good worn out in the mountains or in city bars. However, if you are going to the far mountains of Ladakh or taking a Kashmir tour, then go for the warmer Zeta version instead.
If you intend on doing any hiking, temple tours or even hitting the beaches of Goa then you will need a daypack. They are great for carrying water, hat’s and gloves and for packing sandwiches for lunch. We love Osprey products and this daypack is our personal pick.
The Osprey Daylite Plus has a mesh-covered panel to keep your back cool and fresh by minimizing contact with the back of the pack itself and allowing air to get between you and the pack.
Travel First Aid Kit
You don’t need to tote around half a pharmacy, but a well-stocked first aid kit should be in all our backpacks. Stuff happens on the road and it’s inconvenient and embarrassing when you can’t manage small situations like a cut finger or hangover migraine.
Tip: Add a few bits and pieces to the first aid kit after you purchase it, like extra headache medicine, any personal meds you need (like allergy pills), whatever you take to calm your stomach and a few more plasters.
Travel Insurance From World Nomads
ALWAYS sort out your backpacker insurance before your trip. There’s plenty to choose from in that department, but a good place to start is Safety Wing.
They offer month-to-month payments, no lock-in contracts, and require absolutely no itineraries: that’s the exact kind of insurance long-term travellers and digital nomads need.
SafetyWing is cheap, easy, and admin-free: just sign up lickety-split so you can get back to it!
Click the button below to learn more about SafetyWing’s setup or read our insider review for the full tasty scoop.
Keeping a journal is one of the best things to do when traveling. The Drifter Leather Journal by Kodiak is our favorite, it works great for digital nomads and organized backpackers and can be used as planner or a dream diary – whatever you want!
Keep on track with your goals, travels and save those precious memories, especially the ones you do not want to share online. This one is bound in beautiful leather so it looks beautiful and will withstand life on the road.
They’re built tough with triple-layer scratch-resistant lenses and trademarked Adventure-proof Frame Material. You can also customize them with your choice of lens and frame colors to reflect your own style.
Money Belt – By Pacsafe
Whilst India is not particularly dangerous, crime can still happen and tourists are sometimes targeted.
Therefore it is always a good idea to use a money belt to hide your cash just in case something does go wrong.
Packing a reusable water bottle is probably the best thing you can personally do to combat single-use plastic bottle use whilst traveling. There is simply zero need to buy small plastic water bottles. Whilst the tap water in India is deadly, you can buy big (re-fillable) 5 litre water bottles and then fill up your hydro flask each day before you go out.
We love the Hydroflask Vacum Bottle for its quality and because it keeps cold water cold for many hours and vice versa for hot beverages. This bottle is the ideal water bottle to get not just for your India trip but for daily use. Please don’t be that person buying plastic water bottles. We are all judging you…especially mother earth.
If you go with the Hydroflask, you’ll probably never need to buy another waterbottle again.
Headlamp – Petzl Actik Core Headlamp
Headlamps are great for traveling for many reasons. Firstly, they are useful as hell if you go camping or on an early sunrise mountain hike. Then, they come in useful for finding your way to your hostel bed at 3am without having to turn the lights on. They are also a Godsend if there is a power cut (pretty common in India) and great for navigating darkened alleyways in Turkey & Spain.
Not all headlamps were created equal and this is one of the best. The Petzl Actik Core comes with a USB rechargeable battery (full recharge in 3 hours or less); however, it is compatible with AAA batteries. Water-resistance is another critical feature. This product can withstand splashing; but keep in mind, water-resistant does NOT mean waterproof.
The Basic Stuff To Pack For India
On top of the essential items listed above, here is an additional suggested checklist of what to pack for a trip to India:
- A few pairs of comfortable pants/jeans
- 1-2 pairs of shorts (summer/late spring)
- A few pairs of socks
- (Sexy) underwear x 2/3
- Smartphone with a good camera for photos if you are not bringing an actual camera
- Portable power bank for charging your phone on the go
- Phone charger
- Amazon Kindle for long train journeys
- Copy of your passport just in case
- Cash (not too much, there are ATM can be found in most cities and tourist hubs)
- Packable Towel
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Final Thoughts on What to Pack for India
Well, friends – there you have it! Your India survival guide for with our top 22-needs packing list, appropriate clothing to wear in India, special tips for gals and guys and what NOT to pack for India.
We hope you feel prepared – and most importantly – excited! Pack the essentials for a comfortable journey, and leave your worries behind. Anything additional that you discover you need, you can buy along the way. Focus on this exciting feeling – a great adventure awaits you in the ever-changing, complex, beautiful world that is India.
We know that we’re excited for you and wish you bountiful, safe travels!
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!