When you’re heading out into the big wide world with nothing more than a backpack, it can sometimes being a daunting prospect knowing that you’ll have to survive entirely on items you can fit into such a small bag.
In a previous post, we listed some of the very best backpacking gear that can help you to get the very most from your travels. This time though, we’ll be listing all of the most essential things you need to pack on any backpacking adventure.
This is the definitive backpacking list and will help you rest easy knowing that you haven’t left anything crucial behind.
This should go without saying but of course one of the things you’ll definitely need is a backpack. Without a backpack, it’s not backpacking! You can check out our full review of the TETON Sports Scout 3400 if you’re looking for a good option.
You’re going to need clothes, it’s that simple. How light you pack and what types of clothes you take will of course depend on what you’re planning on doing out there but either way you’re going to need some basics: a few pairs of tops, a couple of pairs of bottoms, underwear and something you can wear in wet weather.
For the latter, a light mac is the best option. Otherwise, choose clothes that are light and easy to fold and make sure they all work with one another to maximize your options.
It’s up to you what shoes you pack as this will be determined again by what you’re doing out there and how much space you have. Choose shoes that are light and versatile, like flip flops, light trainers or boat shoes.
While you’re backpacking so that you can explore the world and get away from modern living, any backpacker list should also include some entertainment for flights or lazy evenings in. A good choice is a Kindle, as this will let you bring limitless books, charge infrequently and keep things light.
A first aid kit is an absolute must for any backpacking list. This will allow you to fix yourself up if you’re hurt and also means you can carry things like activated charcoal in case of poisoning. These don’t have to be heavy but they are essential.
Bug spray is also a backpacking essential!
While we’re on the topic of health, vaccinations are also important.
Most of us will choose to go backpacking somewhere warm, which is why a backpacker list should always include sun block and a hat of some sort.
A towel isn’t just useful for staying dry it can also be used for sitting on sand and more. Check our gear list to learn about microfiber towels that take up minimal space!
I.e. toothpaste, a toothbrush, shampoo… Don’t rely on being able to get these in your hostel. You can choose smaller products though, like a folding toothbrush. Keep in mind restrictions on airlines and remember you can always buy things out there.
Women may want to take some makeup and again, you can look for a travel kit that will keep this light.
Make sure you have adaptors for the different countries you’re planning on visiting. You should also look for spare batteries for your phone and a USB charging device that you can use to top up juice on the move.
No matter where you are in the world, it’s unfortunately not possible to be completely off the grid and you’re still going to be beholden to local laws and requirements. Before you head out, get travel insurance, an in-date passport, a credit card (very useful for avoiding scams) and money in the local currency.
Of course if you have booked any hotels or flights before you leave you should also bring printed confirmation (even when you don’t think it’s needed!).
A slim fanny pack that can be worn under clothes is a good way to keep your money and travel documents safe before you head out.
You’ll likely buy most of your food and drink out there but make sure you have water and snacks as a very minimum so that you have a fall back option – you never know when the next opportunity to stock up will be!
Pack Wine Gums for instant energy and a Life Straw so you can drink water out of taps and even streams.
A camera is an absolute must for backpacking. If you’re going to be seeing so many amazing things, then you’ll want photos to show home! A GoPro is a good idea, so that you can get wet without worrying and it’s also very small and affordable while still offering HD.
If you can spare the space, then a small tripod can also be a great addition so that you can get photos of yourself! Bring spare memory cards and a spare battery too.
These will come in incredibly useful. Bring some light string bags and carrier bags and you can use these to separate dirty laundry, carry shoes and more. It also means you can buy more items out there and then tie them to your backpack as you hike.
Handy for staying in touch when you’re out and about. Not an essential one for your backpacking list but still very useful. It can also be a lifesaver when you’re trying to look up a local hotel.
This is mega handy for typing out emails and doing other admin on the move.
A small knife, something to start fires with and scissors will all be very useful. Duct tape is also incredibly handy to have on you! Especially if your bag breaks…
For sleep, a sleeping bag and even a light hammock can be very useful, as can a roll mat. These add some bulk though, so it will depend on the type of travelling you intend on doing.
For more entertainment while you travel and for giving your backpacking a soundtrack!
Some bonus items that are surprisingly handy…
Can you think of anything we’ve missed? Let us know in the comments below!