Backpacking: The Packing Essentials

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When you’re backpacking, it’s about taking as little as possible but making sure you have all the necessities.

Most people find that it’s much easier to pack for an extended period of time as opposed to a quick two-week trip. Knowing that you’ll be carrying everything you’ve taken on your back is apparently a great motivator.

Always remember you can pick up most things along the way, so the only things that are crucial are those that you need straight away, and those that you can’t purchase.

First, it’s always best to write a list. And actually stick to it.

Take everything out that you wish to pack, and place it in ordered piles. Then take a step back and put at least half of the clothes away. You won’t need it all, we promise!

So what exactly do you need to take with you in that handy pack? Here’s our handy list.


Remember, anything that spoils, rips or gets worn out can be replaced. But here are the essentials.

  • Underwear – you probably only need enough for a week. You can easily wash underwear in the sink and hang it out to dry overnight, and there are usually laundromats somewhere along your route.
  • Socks – same as underwear.
  • Two pairs of long pants and two pairs of shorts. When one is being washed, the other one is available to wear.
  • T-shirts – four is sufficient. It’s not a crime to wear a t-shirt two days in a row (as long as you apply deodorant regularly!).
  • Two long sleeved tops, light-weight sweaters, or cardigans.
  • Two nice tops – If you’re going out for dinner or to a bar or club, you may struggle to gain entry in a t-shirt you’ve been in all day. With these tops, make sure they’re versatile, wrinkle-free and easy to wash.
  • And girls, remember to take one or two nice dresses/skirts. You never know what you’re going to be invited to.
  • A fleece or warm jumper. The weather can change at any moment, it’s best to be prepared.
  • Lightweight, windproof and waterproof jacket. It’s preferable if it’s one that rolls up into quite a small ball so it doesn’t take up too much space in your bag.
  • Shoes-wise, it’s best to take three or four pairs. Always pack good walking shoes with excellent support. You’ll be on the go and walking a lot, so you need to have good shoes that you’ll be happy to wear all day, every day. Also take another pair of casual closed shoes, a pair of thongs, and a pair of sandals.


With everyone so reliant on technology nowadays, most people wouldn’t be caught dead without a laptop, even while travelling. The primary benefit of taking one is the ability to store photos and back up your phone while on the go.

Here’s what else you probably need:

  • Phone and charger.
  • Camera – Some people may think this is a bit redundant with the excellent photographic ability of smartphones, but if you have a good quality camera then it’s definitely beneficial to have it.
  • Spare batteries – You’re out and about exploring a new city and suddenly, your camera battery dies. What do you do? Pull out your spare of course!Chargers.
  • Travel adaptors. There are plenty of brands that do multi-country adapters. Usually, they even come with a double adapter so you can plug it in and charge two devices at once.
  • Extra memory cards.
  • Torch/flashlight app on your phone. If you’re sharing a dorm room and you need something out of your bag, it’s not ideal to turn the main light on. Enter the trusty torch. Plus, you never know when you may be caught in a blackout.


Remember, most toiletries can be bought once you’re away, unless of course you’re going camping. It’s always best to take small bottles to get you through the first couple of weeks only, as toiletries create weight and that’s weight you’ll be carrying on your back.


  • Travel insurance – Who knows what may happen while you’re gallivanting around the world. Best to be prepared and covered by organising a comprehensive travel insurance policy before you leave.
  • Passport – Well that one’s a no-brainer. But it’s also handy to have some spare passport photos with you just in case.
  • Credit card and debit card – You’ll need access to your money while you’re away, and there’s also the option of a travel card. Most banks provide a travel card that you can attach to your account.
  • Driver’s license or another form of ID.


  • Eye mask and earplugs – if you’re sharing a room with others, or travelling on planes, trains or buses, then an eye mask and earplugs will never go astray. Keep the light and noise out when you want to sleep or concentrate without the distractions.
  • Duct tape. It’ll fix everything!
  • Travel sheet. Most travel shops stock these. They’re excellent to cover hostel beds or train bunks.
  • Small waterproof bag. If you’re going on a day-trip and have somewhere to leave your big backpack, a smaller waterproof bag is perfect. For the ladies, it’s also a good idea to take a small, cross-body shoulder bag to carry everything during the day. Make sure it goes across your body and sits on your hip – this is the safest way to carry your things.
  • Travel towel and/or sarong. Some hostels and motels don’t provide towels, so be prepared. If you’re heading to the heat, a sarong is a great alternative to a big beach towel. It’s smaller, lighter, and it can also double up as clothing as you travel to and from the beach or pool.