Backpacking Travel Essentials you NEED for your next big adventure

Backpacking Travel Essentials

When packing for a backpacking journey, my biggest piece of advice is not to overdo it, there are so many benefits to packing light. Remember, you will be carrying your bag on your back, so packing less, but more important items, is key. Careful thought should go into the packing process as you pack the items you know you will need and use.

If it is your first backpacking journey, it can be easy to get carried away and pack every travel gadget under the sun, but refrain from doing so. The items in this blog are the backpacking travel essentials I know you will need and use.

Obviously, a valid passport, a visa and travel Insurance are essential, but what other backpacking travel essentials will you need on your next big adventure?

Good Hiking Shoes and Comfortable walking shoes

When you backpack, you spend A LOT of time on your feet, so it is important to keep them comfy. I recommend a pair of lightweight sneakers for everyday use. I travel with these shoes. If you plan to do a lot of hiking, I would also pack a good pair of hiking shoes.

A comfortable backpack

When backpacking, it is likely that you will move destinations often, and have to carry your luggage long distances to get to and from the bus stop. A comfortable backpack at a comfortable weight will make your travels much more enjoyable. Trust me, trying to backpack with excessive luggage is not fun. I recommend a 50L backpack. 

Backpacking essentials

See my Packing for South America Guide here…

10 Benefits of packing light

A good camera and a Go Pro

You don’t want to miss the perfect shot. I travel with a Canon PowerShot SX500 IS, it takes amazing photos but doesn’t take up to much room in my backpack, in comparison to a DSLR. I am in love with this camera and would highly recommend it.  A Go Pro is another backpacking travel essential, perfect for capturing those action and underwater moments that I can’t get on my Canon PowerShot.

A hard drive and spare memory card

Photos are the best souvenirs money can buy, so you will want to do everything you can to protect them. I recommend backing up your photos to a hard drive frequently on your trip, and carrying a spare memory card so you never risk missing the perfect shot.

Portable phone charger

In this day and age, it is safe to say that most of us rely on our iPhones, whether it be for directions, keeping in touch with family or posting our favourite travel photos to social media. I would consider a portable phone charger to be the ultimate backpacking travel essential. It can come in handy almost EVERYDAY!

Travel Adapter and converters

Different countries have different power outlets, so a travel adapter/converter is a backpacking travel essential. You can purchase one when you arrive, but it is more convenient to be prepared and buy one before you take off.

Bag Locks

If you are staying in hostels you will want to carry padlocks to lock up your valuables. Most of the time it is fine, but it is better to be safe and lock up your valuables than sorry. A combination padlock is your best bet as it saves you carrying a key.

Travel towel and Baby wipes

Some hostels don’t provide towels so packing your own is a backpacking essential. You can purchase lightweight travel towels that take up next to no room in your bag. I also suggest carrying baby wipes for the times on your backpacking adventure when you aren’t blessed with the luxury of a shower – for example, those 40-hour flights. A baby wipe is the next best thing.

Plastic and Zip Lock Bags

This is an easy one to forget, but one you certainly shouldn’t. Plastic bags and ziplock bags have so many uses. They can protect your valuables if it rains, store your wet or dirty clothes and so much more. Trust me, they are a backpacking essential that always come in handy at some point.

Pen & Paper

There are so many times when a pen and paper comes in handy. For example, on an air plane when you have to fill out the customs form. Having a pen available will make this task much easier. I personally like to write a travel journal so access to paper and a pen is essential for me.

Smartphone with Google Maps

I think the convenience of this item speaks for itself. My iPhone is set up so I can see my location without wifi. This allows me to keep track of where I am and if I pinpoint where I am going, I can walk to my destination by following my location on the map.


Head torches come in handy in many situations, for example, those nights camping under the stars or the early morning hikes that start out in the dark. Headtorches are also great if you plan on staying in a hostel. They allow you to read at night without disturbing others – and stop you from being that guy that turns the lights on at 2 am to find your bag.


Don’t make the entire hostel room listen to your Skype conversation, playlist or movie. Invest in some earphones for your backpacking journey and I guarantee they will come in handy!

Mini First Aid Kit

I suggest making your own first aid kit with items you will use. I carry Band-Aids, Disinfectant cream, Sunscreen, Bug Spray, Aloe Vera, Pain Killers, Vicks and Cold and Flu tablets. I put these items in a ziplock bag to save weight.

If you want to buy a first aid kit there are many to choose from.


Keep items such as lip gloss, baby wipes, hand sanitizer, deodorant, a toothbrush and toothpaste, a hairbrush and headache tablets close to you at all times. I pack my toiletries in a large zip lock bag to save weight.

Travel Water Bottle 

A filter water bottle can save you tons of money on bottled water and can help you do your part for the environment. Find out more about the best travel water bottle here.

Life Straw

Another great backpacking travel essential is the Life Straw. Now I have never travelled with one, but I have heard great reviews! And when you think about how much plastic in the form of water bottles you can save, it is a no-brainer.

A copy of your passport and travel documents  

Having a spare copy of all your travel documents is very important. I recommend carrying a document folder with you, and also having an electronic copy in case something does go wrong.

An iPad

Now I suppose this item isn’t 100% a backpacking travel essential unless you are a reader. 1 kindle or iPad surely beats carrying 10 hardcover books on your journey. Not only is an iPad great to store books, but you can also download movies and store all your travel documents and itineraries. I would consider an iPad to be one of the greatest travel inventions since the aeroplane itself.

These are my backpacking travel essentials, what are yours?

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