Don’t we all try to pack light? Nobody likes to carry a heavy pack or more than one. But then again, once we start gathering stuff, the pile of essentials grows fast. We want a lot of clothing to choose from and we can’t go without our beloved electronics.
Every time we pack our bags, we try to pack it smaller and lighter than the previous load.
Still, there are a few things that make travel easier and more fun. We all want to have some things to improve our travel quality and above all, living quality.
In this post, we listed the stuff you should consider packing. Most of these items are also in our backpack each time we travel.
This list gathers all backpacking essentials!
Keep scrolling to find the ultimate backpacking packing list!
Note of warning!
This is a complete backpacking packing list for everything but clothing. We’re compiling a separate list for our clothing!!
The printable packing list you can download below includes clothing.
This also means that you might not need every single item on this list for your trip.
You should actually check the entire list and adapt it to your travel style and personal wishes!
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When backpacking, a decent backpack is essential… of course.
There are a few things you need to consider when choosing a backpack. Think about how you will be carrying your stuff around and how you will keep your valuables safe.
An important thing to remember is that you should be able to carry all of your stuff yourself at all times. You don’t want to have to rely on rolling carts, carriers, or taxi’s. You should be able to walk at least a kilometer or more without collapsing under the weight of your stuff!
Choosing your backpack combination
For backpack combinations, we’ve seen a few different options on the road.
You can travel with carry-on only, which feels liberating but limited at the same time. It’s liberating because you’re traveling super lightweight. But you’re limited in the amount of stuff you can take, especially when flying.
Another option is to only carry with a large checked-in backpack. But then where do you leave your valuables? In this option, you still need a foldable backpack to carry stuff on buses and in airplanes. I personally don’t find these foldable backpacks comfortable to carry my laptop and camera and…
So we choose a third option: a checked-in backpack and a daypack. I admit that it sometimes feels like I’m an overpacked mule, but it is still (after all these years) my preferred way of travel. In this setup, I can carry my laptop and other valuables with me in my day pack. The bulky stuff, like clothing, goes in the larger pack.
My daypack is slash proof, so thieves can’t cut through, but you can also shop for anti theft backpacks.
Backpack size is different for everyone.
Lobke caries a slightly smaller pack than I do. Her clothes pack smaller than mine and I’m a little bit taller. So just to make it look like things are in proportion, we have different bags.
If you want to travel light and minimal, choose a backpack of around 40 – 55 liter.
But if you rather make sure to have enough space to take loads of stuff, get yourself a 60 – 70-liter backpack.
Men can easily carry more than 70-liter, but I don’t recommend these large packs for women. It’s just not comfortable.
Waterproofing your backpack
We both have a Deuter Backpack.
These Deuter backpacks are super durable and comfortable. They even have a waterproof coating, but when you’re walking through the pouring rain, your stuff might still get wet. So you better take a backpack rain cover as well.
Just to express the importance of protecting your bags against water, we once had a minibus driver drop our bags in the middle of a pool of rainwater after taking them off the roof of the bus. Not sure if he was doing that on purpose or not…
The last thing you want is to only have moist clothing to change into after taking a refreshing shower!
Children of our age… We travel with a lot of electronics. As writers, photographers and travel bloggers, we simply need a few things to be able to work simultaneously.
As Android users, we prefer the Samsung Galaxy series a lot. These smartphones take the very best pictures ever. Thanks to that, we no longer have to take out the DSLR all the time.
Of course, it’s not the same as a professional camera, but they do capture great images.
For your smartphone use, make sure to get an unlocked phone, which is not exclusive to one carrier. When backpacking abroad, you might want to switch sim cards and that’s not possible with a locked phone!
We both work on our blog full time, so we need to be able to work simultaneously. At first, Lobke had a different computer (a Chromebook) but we ditched it after it had been thrown off a minibus and it was not really working properly.
Now, both of us carry a MacBook Air and we’re super happy with it!
Don’t forget to buy a padded sleeve for your laptop, as all equipment can take a beating at any time during your backpacking trip!
When traveling, we read a lot! During the flight, on the bus, while waiting for the bus, at night in bed, … and so on.
We read a lot when we’re at home, but we read a lot more when we’re on the road.
In our very first year of traveling, we took a paper book and exchanged it in book exchanges in hostels.
Even though this was super fun and you never knew what you were going to get the next time, we now prefer to have thousands of books ready to read for a fraction of the weight of a paper book.
So… yes… we switched to eReader. Lobke has a real eReader and I use a tablet, which I can also use to surf and read blogs online.
At this time, we use the camera of our smartphone a lot. And it shoots beautiful images. So we almost never take out the DSLR anymore and it’s usually a point of discussion.
The DSLR weighs a lot and it takes up tons of space. Plus, we rarely ever use it anymore. While it is still on the list and we pack it more than half of the time, you can choose if this is equipment you need on your travels or not!
We did have a lot of fun with our GoPro before. When traveling to a hot beach destination or a hostel with a swimming pool, the GoPro is just fun and it gets you great results for images and movies.
Our drone is brand new and we still have a lot to learn about shooting photo, as well as film with it. We added it to the list and it will be an item that will be in our backpack a lot of times if the law allows it!
Keep your eyes on our blog for upcoming drone footage and user experiences!
Gear up your camera, your drone, your ereader, … everything is better with extra memory.
Make sure to check all of these items to know which memory cards are needed for each electronic device. Som might still require regular SD cards, while others are loaded with the smaller and easier to pack Micro SD cards.
Portable Hard Disk
This one is optional.
If you’re traveling for a long time, you should be thinking about all the millions of pictures you’ll take.
And more precise: where will you store them?
You can either get yourself a few TB cloud storage and upload them there. But then again, you might not always have internet. And when you have it, it could be very very slow!
Another option is to take a few huge SD cards to store loads of videos and pictures.
We used to take a passport size portable Hard Drive to store all of the images and some movies for rainy days (or for the days when you feel ill)
Noise Cancelling Headphones
You might think that Noise Cancelling headphones are a luxury item, but trust me: you will thank us for this tip later!
I’d been craving one of these for a long time. A few months ago, we finally bought one each and they’re glued to my head most of the time!
It’s just such a relief when you can shut out the annoying noises around you: crying babies, loud people or people with an annoying laugh…. could be anything really!
Put those headphones on your ears and the world is quiet again, accompanied with the music you love!
A travel adapter can be bulky if you get a universal one that you can take all around the world with you. We always carried one around and it works well. If you’re both blogging or working on the computer, there might be a fight for the adapter, so you really need two.
This is something I hardly leave home without, even when we’re not traveling.
You should always be able to charge your phone or e-reader on a long bus ride or on the airplane.
Sennheiser 4.5 BTNC
One toiletry bag does the job for both of us.
Previously, we used to carry bottles of shampoo, which were large and bulky. They’re also very heavy! Plus… you’re not allowed to have them in your carry-on luggage.
But now there are nice solutions for that: shampoo bars and conditioner bars.
- Toothbrushes and toothpaste
- Nail clipper
- Face cream
- Hand sanitizer
- Cotton swabs
- Lip Balm
- Other toiletries you use every day
First Aid Kit
It might be my medical background, but I can’t travel without having some medicine and basic first aid stuff.
I also carry extra stuff for my allergies, which includes an emergency adrenalin pen and other pills. You might have other medical conditions that require different medication. Hopefully, you can also fit all of that in one bag.
All of our first aid stuff fits in one bag. Lobke is usually the carrier of the toiletry bag, while I carry the first aid bag.
Our first aid kit
- Your personal medication
- Allergy pills for mild and severe conditions (Zyrtec or CetiSandoz anti-histaminicum)
- Jext Adrenalin Pen for severe allergic reactions
- Headache pills – Pain relief pills
- Motion sickness pills and Sea-Band (see below)
- Emergency antibiotics kit (x2)
- Malarone emergency treatment
- A few bandages
- Disinfection spray
Kitchenware for backpacking
So we always carry a cooking bag! Yes!
If you go backpacking, eventually, you will too.
When traveling from hostel to hostel, where you can use a kitchen to prep your own meals, you always end up with extra rice or pasta or something else you don’t want to throw out.
We also carry spices, left over garlic, a spoon, … etc.
What we have in our cooking bag!
After that, there just some miscellaneous stuff we take along.
This may sound weird under the ‘miscellaneous’ section, but well… Here it is!
Your travel documents are pretty important!
You need your passport and it should still have validity once you return to your home country.
I always take my drivers license and sometimes, I get the international drivers license. Most of the time you don’t need the international license, but officially, you do.
For a lot of destinations, you also need a visum.
Take proof of your travel insurance with you, just in case you need it!
Flashlight or headlamp
A flashlight comes in handy very often. Not only when traveling to rural places, but in every hostel where you’re not sure where the light switch is or when you don’t want to wake other people in the dorm.
We also carry a padlock all the time. It’s conveniant to lock away your backpack in hostel cabinets. Sometimes, you can even use it to lock your room.
Most hostels offer filtered drinking water to their guests. Be kind to the environment and take a reusable water bottle with you!
Also, take some water purification tables with you. This can be convenient for emergencies and they don’t take up a lot of space in your bag!
Protect yourself against insects
Take some mosquito netting and mosquito repellent with you. The most effective mosquito repellent sprays are thos with Deet, but I must warn you for these! Prepare for lucid dreaming and nightmares. I’m not using Deet anymore and switched to natural repellent!
The combination of lemon and eucalyptus is the best natural bug repellent out there!
Packing cubes go a long way in organizing stuff and compressing your clothing. It keeps everything neat and easy to find.
We use three sizes of cubes: a small one for underwear, the medium one for shirts, and the large one for pants and sweaters.
A money belt is an essential item when traveling abroad.
Some people don’t know this, but you’re supposed to wear this money belt underneath your clothing, so potential thieves can’t immediately see it!
This way, your passport and credit card is not easy to access for grabbing hands. But, when traveling to a hot climate, prepare to sweat even more!
You won’t find this product below, because we don’t like travel towel!
If you want to take on of these light weight and fast drying towels, by all means: do so.
But we think they don’t work well and they don’t feel good.
We always take a medium sized regular towel. It does take up more space and it doesn’t dry as quickly. But it does double as a pillow or a semi blanket sometimes!
We reached the part everything thinks is actually the only stuff you need to pack!
However very important, definitely not the only thing you need!
It does take up the largest part of your backpack and it varies a lot depending on your own personality and style. But some things are still the same.
Lobke and I each carry our own clothing and we carry completely different stuff.
Since we have different sizes, we can’t use most of each other’s clothes. Another reason is the fact that I wear masculine clothing, which Lobke doesn’t wear.
Read this before gathering stuff!
So, we tend to overpack! And you might too!
Before we start collecting the stuff we want to take, we write down a packing list. And this list ensures a light backpack: exactly the way we like it!
But then, we start putting all that stuff on a pile and new stuff comes up.
Only pack stuff you really use and need
I should definitely take those pants I never really wear, because they will look good on me in Guatemala!
This goes for clothing, but also for other stuff. You don’t need to carry a pizza cutter or spices you never used before.
Well… I guess you know where I’m going with this! Try not to over pack!
Your backpack should never weigh more than 10kg for women. And men too! But they could carry more if they really want to!
Go easy on the electronics
Electronics are heavy! Very heavy.
The more you pack, the heavier your backpack will be!
Stay with the essentials or even invest in lightweight gear.
If you only travel with carry on luggage, don’t take liquids.
And forget about taking the Leatherman multitool and the steak knife too!
Take copies of your passport and credit cards
We carry a few sets of copies of our passports with us.
Our actual passports are in our money belts. Then we have copies in our day packs, in our large bags, … just at some different places. If your passport gets stolen, you still have the copy to take to the embassy and to prove you identity.
You should not have complete copies of your credit cards. But you should know the card number to block the card in case it gets stolen. So if you can access this number on your phone or with you computer, that’s fine too.
Complete backpacking packing list
We’ll get to the cloting in a different post.
But for backpacking essentials you need to travel the world, we covered everything you need.
This packing list is designed for people who want to travel from hostel to hostel. So in that case, you don’t need a tent or an air mattrass. We left the hiking and camping lists to the people who are specialized in this terrain.
We’re backpackers who travel to cities, as well as rural areas. Sometimes, we spend a sporadic night on a beach somewhere. But we don’t do that often enough to carry a hammock or a tent around the entire trip.
We’re very curious to learn if you pack more or less the same stuff… or not? Or maybe you find that our list is missing something essential! Please let us know if that is the case!
Happy packing! And moreover: happy travels!