Before heading off for my backpacking trip I’d done so much research on the best rucksack to buy and what what to put on my packing list. I knew I would be carrying the bag around with me for the whole of my travels, so comfort, functionality and durability were essential. Before even beginning to think about what to take backpacking, think about what type of bag you want.
Things to consider before buying your rucksack:
- What type of traveller are you? Do you require comfort, luxuries, that extra pair of shoes?
- What type of travelling are you going to do? Camping, road trip, all rounder?
- How much moving around are you going to be doing?
These factors may determine whether you want a pack with wheels, what type of opening the pack has, the size/weight, what funky extra pockets etc.
For me, I wanted to pack light (meaning about 10kg, 55L pack). It meant I could always squeeze some more goodies into my bag if necessary and I wouldn’t have to carry 20kg on my back every time I moved to the next place. Believe me, I saw the tiniest humans, carrying 20kg+ on their poor backs. One guy I met had two bags, a guitar, a stove and a tarpaulin.
By the end of your trip, I promise you will become an expert packer. Furthermore, you will be amazed how you can squeeze your life possessions in a little bag. When you do, please share your essential packing list too!
I went for the Osprey Farpoint 70, which has a 55L large pack and a 15L day pack. The small one zips onto the large one to transform into one huge pack. However, I wasn’t a big fan of that, because it made me feel quite off balance and I also look like a giant turtle wearing it like that.
Essential packing list tips
- In order to pack efficiently, consider buying packing cubes, you can get a few from the internet for quite cheap (pack of 3 around $20) and it makes your clothes organised and compresses them all so you can fit more stuff! I got the rectangular ones and fit all my clothes (minus bottoms) in them.
- Use the ties/clasps when packing, it makes it so much easier and you can squeeze everything right in there. I never used these when I used to pack my suitcases on holiday but this is a must for me now.
- If you can’t decide whether you’ll need it, leave it at home. I took lots of garbage along with me which I ended up leaving. Shoes, gone by the first week, extra locks to secure my bag, washing line, drain plug.
- Pack some jeans or something you can feel human in. When you read a blog post on what to take backpacking, most will drone on about not needing jeans. I can see their point of view, but if you ever want to look and feel like a normal human from time to time, put on your pair of jeans. I definitely wore them a lot when I got to countries where it wasn’t super hot.
- Buy a rucksack with a front loading system rather than a top loading one. While you are backpacking, this will be so much more convenient. It will mean you don’t have to empty half your life’s belongings to get to that sock you’ve left at the bottom of your bag. Many of the fancy looking bags with all the utility pockets and straps have top loading systems. Forget about all that, you don’t need it. Get a front loading rucksack.
What to take backpacking – my packing list
By the way… Leave these at home
As you can see I got rid of a few things. Consider removing these from your packing list.
- Washing line – most hostels have laundry facilities and will even fold everything up for you. And if they don’t there will be a laundrette nearby. Hardly anyone washes their own and uses a line. I never saw anyone.
- Plughole block – Bottom line is, you are never going to need this!
- Pacsafe lock or bike lock for your bag – there is a myth that your things will get stolen. Although, having a lock to secure your bag to a bus or train may seem logical, if every time you go on a train you whip your hefty lock out, you will look silly and attract more attention than you were already. you will find that hostels will also have lockers and luggage rooms before you are checking in and out.
- Malaria Pills – The cheaper Doxycycline is to be taken a couple of days before entering the malaria zone and 28 days after. If you are travelling through Asia (mostly, a malaria prone area), it means you will essentially be popping a pill every single day of your trip. That’s a lot of anti-biotics and can have significant adverse side effects. My advice is to slap on the bug spray and get to a hospital if you are feeling sick.
- Mosquito Net – hostels/guesthouses will have them if required. I never saw anyone whip out their own net. They are expensive, large and travel shops will try to scare you into buying one before you leave. They will also take up spare room in your bag.
- Normal towels – These are simply too large and don’t dry quickly enough. As nice and soft as they maybe, you will soon get used to the travel towel.
Don’t forget these Backpacking Essentials
When asking yourself what to take backpacking, add these not so obvious items:
- Diarrhoea medicine – You never know when you might need these and when you’re in a foreign land with weird medicines, you’re going to thank your lucky stars.
- Bag Cover – Very useful in the pouring rain or also in those dodgy bus situations. I’ve heard stories of people getting on the night bus, arriving to find that there bag was covered in wet stuff??! Therefore a cover is never a bad idea.
- Unlocked Phone – It’s always useful to purchase a sim card when you arrive in a country. In addition to being able to use online maps, it also allows you to message people you’ve met, when you want to meet up and allows you to look up places nearby whilst you are wondering the streets!
- Bags – These can be useful for wet items and dirty laundry.
- Student Card – You can actually get student discount even though it’s a card from home. Just blag it!
- Passport Photos – Useful for visa applications
- Photocopy of documents – For obvious reasons
- Portable charger/Power bank – This is so useful. If you go on 24hr train journeys or multi day treks, this can give you that little boost so you can take that amazing photo or listen to your music.
- Travel Neck Pillow – I know what you’re thinking… that is not very backpacker. However, I acquired one of these mid way through my trip and kept it all the way. So many times you will need to sleep on a dodgy van ride, in the airport, train station or any random floor. You will be so glad to have this.
- Playing Cards – These are a fantastic way to socialize and make friends. I learnt many new games and made lots of new friends. Never go anywhere without these (sound like a bad commercial).
These are my top packing list tips on what to take backpacking. I hope my experiences can help you guys a little before or during your trip. Please share what absolute must take items you couldn’t travel without. If you like this post please hit these share button!