Packing for a trip is undeniably one of the worst parts of a trip. Unless you’re someone that thrives in pre-planning, you probably find yourself where I did many months ago, watching the days until your trip countdown with an empty backpack and very little idea of what you need to put in it. Luckily for you, I’ve made enough packing mistakes for both of us so I feel equipped to share some items that I think are essential for your next adventure. So, without further ado, here are 10 backpacking essentials.
1. Wire Lock
Every backpacker that plans on frequenting hostels needs a lock. Most, if not all, hostels provide lockers to keep your valuables safe, but they often don’t come with locks and unless you’re willing to fork up a few dollars at every hostel bringing your own lock is essential. More specifically though I would recommend a wire lock. Each locker is going to be slightly different and sometimes the hole is too small to fit the full metal locks so do yourself a favour and buy a wired one.
2. Large Microfiber Towel
A large towel will end up being one of your most used items. Very few hostels provide shower towels for free, and even fewer offer beach towels. But beyond that, a towel can double as a blanket on your long train journeys or a curtain for your bunk bed if you’re looking for some extra privacy. If you have the space, I would even recommend bringing two that way one can be used for the beach and one for the shower to keep everything clean and dry.
3. Multiway Travel Adaptor
Every backpacker knows that a multiway travel adaptor is essential. If you’re going to be travelling between countries, not to mention continents you need an adaptor to charge your electronics because hostels won’t provide these very often. If you can find a small extension cord to go with your adaptor, even better. Sometimes the outlets in hotel dorms are very inconveniently placed and if you want to keep your valuables close to you as you sleep (like I do) an extension cord can be a game changer. If you’re travelling very light though, feel free to forgo it and only bring the adaptor.
4. Compact Portable Charger
Unless you are absolutely confident that your phone will not run out of battery at any point during your trip, I would recommend bringing a portable charger, especially a compact one that you can fit into your day bag when you’re out and about. When I’m travelling, I am constantly using my phone to navigate, take pictures, and communicate with all the people I’m meeting. So, suffice it to say, my phone runs out of battery quite quickly. And when you’re a solo traveller, especially a woman or woman-presenting person, you never want to be without a phone in the off-chance you find yourself in an unsafe situation.
5. Travel Pillow
Regardless of whether you’re interrailing, flying, or busing to get around you are going to want a pillow so that you can rest during your travel days. Also, sometimes the hostel pillows are not very comfortable and, unfortunately, I’ve had some experiences of them not being very clean, so I loved having a backup just in case.
Flipflops are essential if you’re taking a beach vacation. But beyond that, flip-flops also come in quite handy when you want to wear something on your feet in hostel showers (which I would 100% recommend). Even if the hostel is very clean, the hostel showers usually leave something to be desired and for your hygiene, I would really encourage you to use flip-flops as shower shoes.
7. Laundry sheets or packets
If you’re going to be travelling for a long time, finding someplace to wash your clothes is going to be a constant struggle. Sometimes a hostel will have its own services, and other times searching for the nearest laundromat becomes a full-day adventure. Then, when neither of these seems like the ideal option, you may end up washing your clothes in the sink, like I did. Regardless, for convenience and to save money, you’ll want to bring your own detergent. I would recommend laundry sheets which can pack down really small or something like the Tide Travel Sink Packets.
Carabiners are truly something you won’t realize you need until it’s too late. Their functions are endless. Throughout my trip, my carabiner served as a key chain, a water bottle holder, and a clothesline. I used it to keep my valuables safe by locking the zipper of my backpack and I hung all kinds of things off of it when my backpack was getting too big for them to fit.
If you’re going to be travelling for a while, I would highly suggest you pack more than just Band-Aids, preferably a small first aid kit just in case. But regardless Band-Aids are a necessity. With backpacking comes walking and if you plan on walking a lot, especially during the summer, you want to prepare yourself for the inevitable blisters coming your way.
10. Baby wipes
Sweating is inevitable when you’re carrying a 50+ pound backpack everywhere you go, especially in the summer heat. Then there’s going to be the long travel days stuck in a train surrounded by other smelly travellers. If you want to keep yourself smelling as fresh as possible (and I would definitely recommend this if you’re looking to make friends) then pack a small thing of baby wipes so that you can pat yourself down when you’re starting to get a little ripe in between showers.