Backpacking Basics: What to pack

Now that you’ve chosen the perfect travel backpack to suit your needs, you have the difficult task of packing for limited space, as well as following carry on regulations. To make the most of your backpacking trip, be sure to include these essential items:

A combination lock

Most backpackers stay in hostels, which usually offer individual lockers to leave your bag in when you’re out and about. Bringing a lock will allow you to leave your items securely behind in your hostel room.

Earplugs and an eye mask

Hostels and other shared or unfamiliar living arrangements will mostly likely be loud, so using earplugs or wearing an eye mask will come in handy when you need to get some serious shut eye.

A smaller backpack or purse

Even though your backpack may feel comfortable, it will become heavy on your shoulders and you’ll need a break from carrying it. Having a small bag or crossbody purse will be great for exploring your destination once you lock your pack away.

An outlet converter

An outlet converter is critical to a trip as outlet sizes and shapes differ abroad, and you would not be able to charge your phone without it. I recommend purchasing one with multiple prongs designed to work in various continents and countries.

Travel size toiletries

TSA limits travelers to one quart sized bag for liquids for carry on, which means you may need to get creative to fit all your items. Sometimes buying mini versions of products like face wash and sunscreen can be pricey, so I buy clear mini bottles to pour my liquids in and label each of them.

Personal items that are hard to find/replace

Items like medicines, prescriptions and contacts would be very difficult to find abroad and need to be brought along with backups. Bringing other related items that you use with these, like contact solution or even your favorite feminine hygiene products, is advisable as you never know if you will find these readily available or affordable.

Versatile clothing

Since space is tight, packing items that can be worn many different ways will save space and reduce stress. Good pieces to include would be a light sweater, flowy dresses, comfortable tanks and denim shorts or pants. If more than one of your items cannot be worn multiple ways, you should reconsider its practicality for the trip.


Depending on the season of your travel, which is usually summer for most backpacking trips, wearing a solid pair of comfortable shoes cannot be emphasized enough. Chacos, a supportive strappy sandal, are high quality shoes that can be worn all day long. I cannot recommend this specific brand enough, but there are many other great shoes out there!

Wondering about the best backpack for all this stuff? Read Backpacking Basics: Choosing the right travel backpack.

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