The ultimate backpacking pack list

If you’re backpacking for awhile you’ll quickly figure out that the old adage of “less is more” is very true when it comes to packing.

Lugging around a heavy backpack on buses and trains from hostel to hostel is not fun.  After a week you’ll be taking a long look at what you’ve packed and wondering “why on earth did I think I would really need that?”

So, after you’ve chosen the right backpack, read this list of what you should put in it.

Don't overpack!

First time travelers tend to overpack big time.  A good rule of thumb is pack what you think you’ll need and then only take half.


The clothes you pack depends greatly on where you’re heading off to.  If it’s somewhere cold you’ll want to pack clothes that can be layered to keep you warm.  On the opposite end, if you’re going somewhere hot you’ll want clothes that are light and breathe well.


You should spend a little extra money to get some high quality socks for your travels.  Get 4 or 5 pairs of socks that are odor eliminating and quick drying as you can wear them multiple days which means you won’t have to pack as many for your trip.


Once again, as with socks, you really need to spend some extra money to get 4 or 5 pairs of high quality underwear.  Backpackers the world over recommend ExOfficio travel underwear.  The underwear is comfortable, chafe free and odor free so you can wear them for a few days in a row.


If you read up online about what fabric your t-shirts should be made of you’ll be bombarded by all sorts of answers that contradict each other.

Stop worrying about it and and just bring 4 or 5 solid color t-shirts with you on your trip.  If you end up somewhere hot and find out your shirts just aren’t cutting it, just pick up some cheap t-shirts at the local store down the road.


You can always pickup items you need along the way.  Clothes and toiletries are available worldwide and are very often cheaper as well.

ultimate-backpacking-pack-list-icon-4-long-sleeve-shirtsLong Sleeve Shirts

You should pack 2 or 3 non-wrinkle long sleeve button-up shirts.  Get shirts that mix and match well with your t-shirts so you can have some fashion combinations while you travel.  The shirts don’t need to be fancy and should be versatile enough to wear to a museum during the day and out to a club at night.


There’s no need to get extra fancy travel pants that cost over $100.  Just bring 2 or 3 pairs of casual pants with you on your trip.  Get wrinkle-free pants made out of lighter materials and stay away from jeans as they take forever to dry.


Buy clothes that mix and match well with each other so you have different combinations to wear giving you a new look each day with the same clothes.

ultimate-backpacking-pack-list-icon-6-shorts-swimsuitShorts & Swimsuit

If you’re going somewhere warmer, obviously you’ll want to pack some shorts and a swimsuit.  Don’t overdo it though – 2 or 3 pairs of shorts and one swimsuit is enough.

ultimate-backpacking-pack-list-icon-7-jackets Jackets

You only need one jacket for your trip and unless you’re going somewhere cold where you’ll need a winter jacket, one good fleece jacket is all you need.  Remember, if it does get cold, you can always bundle up with layers.


Most people only bring one pair of shoes for their trip.  That way, when you go from city to city you don’t have to pack them because you’ll be wearing them on your feet.

The shoes you buy should be sturdy enough to handle walking all day but also fashionable enough to take out for a night on the town.  Get a nice pair of leather sneakers in a color that can mix and match with your wardrobe.

You might also want to bring one pair of lightweight indoor shoes like slippers or flip flops to rest your feet in at the hostel.

ultimate-backpacking-pack-list-icon-9-other-clothesOther clothes

This is really dependent on where you’re traveling to.  If you’re going somewhere cold, you’ll want to bring a beenie, scarf, gloves and maybe a sweater.  If you’re going to be spending alot of time out in the sun bring a sunhat and sunglasses.

Laundry on the road

There’s really no need to pack a bunch of clothes as almost every hostel offers a laundry service at a nominal charge.  Simply drop off your laundry in the morning and it will be waiting for you when you get back in the afternoon.


Get yourself a toiletry bag that can hang up as most hostel bathrooms have limited shelf space.  As you’re loading up your bag you’ll quickly figure out you’re going to have to limit what you bring with you.  Only take the essentials and remember you’re backpacking not going to the ball.

Hair brush
Face cloth
Shaving kit
Wet Wipes

About the towel  Don’t bring that big bath towel you use at home.  It’s way too bulky and takes forever to dry.  Instead, get a microfiber towel.  They dry super quick and are thin and easy to roll up.

For women  Your toiletry bag is going to be bigger with makeup and feminine hygiene products, however, don’t go overboard and bring your entire collection.  Oh, and get a diva cup – it’ll be the best thing you buy for your trip!

Medical Kit

You should also have a little medical kit with your toiletries.  No need to buy those huge gimmicky travel kits you see.  Just put some bandaids, kleenex, aspirin, and any medication you need into a ziploc bag.

Travel Accessories

If you go to an outdoor or travel store you’ll be inundated with all sorts of “must have” travel accessories.  Truth be told, you don’t need many of them.  Here’s a list of some things you should definitely take with you on your trip:

Ziploc bags  Bring a few bags to store anything from extra food to small souvenirs.  You never know when they’ll come in handy

Travel wallet  Pick up a good travel wallet which is more compact and travels better and leave your bulky leather wallet or purse at home. 

Money belt  Another option to a wallet is to have a money belt that attaches to your body underneath your clothes.

Scissors  One of those things you’ll be glad you have when you actually need them.

Flashlight  For when you’re trying not to wake everyone up looking for something in the middle of the night.

Rain cover  Comes in handy when you encounter the inevitable rainy travel day.  A rain cover will keep everything inside your pack nice and dry.

Ear plugs  A little protection from all the snorers you’ll encounter along the way.

Sleep mask  Good for when you want to sleep on a bus or train.  Also comes in handy if you had a late night and want to sleep during the day.

Travel pillow  Get a good quality compressible travel pillow to help you sleep when you’re traveling.

TSA locks  Bring three locks and always make sure your bags are locked all the time.  TSA locks allow airport security to check your bag without having to destroy your lock.

Insect repellent  Good for keeping the mosquitoes away but be aware that some airport security won’t allow you to have the spray cans in your bag so you might be better off buying it when you get there.

Playing cards  A great way to meet your fellow backpacker is by breaking out your deck of cards.

Don't waste your money on...

Sink stoppers, doorstops, silk sleep liners, sewing kits, clotheslines, soap sheets, plastic travel utensils, and water bottles.

These are just gimmicky items you’ll never use once you’re on the road.

Gadgets & Gizmos

Unless you’re going to be blogging your trip you really should leave most of your gadgetry at home.

When you travel you should be out exploring the world and meeting new people.  Don’t be one of those people with their head down in front of a dimly lit screen.  Having said that, here’s a few things you should definitely have on your trip:

Digital Camera  Unless you’re a professional photographer and want to lug around a big camera, a point and shoot digital camera is all you need.  Don’t rely on your smartphone either as while it’s great for selfies back home, it just doesn’t cut it for photo quality when you’re travelling.  Oh, and bring along an extra battery and an extra memory card.

Smartphone  With a multitude of apps, a smartphone is a great gadget to have with you on your travels.  With the phone you’ll have a map, a watch, an alarm clock and a music player with you all the time.  There are also alot of great phone apps for traveling that you can download.

Sim cards

Before you go on your trip, make sure your phone is unlocked.  Ask your phone company or do a Google search on how to get it unlocked.

An unlocked phone allows you to put a cheap sim card in your phone whenever you visit a new country.  With a sim card you can get a local number and a data plan so you won’t have to rely on wifi all the time.

Universal travel adapter  Wall outlets overseas are not the same as the ones you’re used to seeing on our walls back home.  If you want to plug in while you’re traveling you have to use a universal travel adapter.  Get one with multiple settings so you can use it in any country worldwide.

Extension cord  Power outlets are a hot commodity in most hostels.  Sometimes there might only be a couple in a room for 8 people.  A simple extension cord with triple the outlets available to you.

If you're blogging...  then you’ll want to bring a laptop with you as well.  Bring something small and lightweight like the Acer Aspire Netbook that you can easily pack into your daybag or backpack.

Important Stuff

Keep your important documents together in a little folder or envelope tucked away in your backpack.

Here’s a list of what you should take with you:

Debit card
Credit card
US currency
Extra passport
Copies of

Don't forget travel insurance!

You should never leave on a trip without travel insurance.  It only costs you pennies a day and it will ease your mind if something bad or unexpected happens while your traveling.

Be sure to read my Travel Insurance 101 guide for more info.

packing, pretrip, product, travel tips
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