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10 Things Every Backpacker Needs To Pack

10 Things Every Backpacker Needs To Pack


If you’re anything like the hundreds of thousands of young Australians who head overseas at the first sign of freedom (gap years, university breaks, escapes-cos-you-wanna or even the occasional quarter-life crisis), then you’ll be thinking about what to throw into your backpack the night before (or maybe that’s just me?). Backpacking adventure here we come.


This list isn’t about how many t-shirts or pants you need to bring, these are the top ten essential things the backpacker next to you will be crying for because, unlike you, they didn’t listen to me when I said to pack the following. You can thank me later.



Ear plugs

And quality ones at that. Ear plugs are top of the list for those of you who are light sleepers and don’t enjoy listening to the comings and goings of the backpacker on the bunk above you. Also, odds are if you’re travelling cheap, your trendy hostel will have paper thin walls and a rooftop bar that is doof doofing into the wee hours.

Trust me, the sounds you will hear in that 16-bed hostel dorm room cannot be drowned out by covering your head with your pillow, no matter how hard you try. Ear plugs will help you sleep on flights, during transit, or at an airport during delays. An eye mask is a bonus.

Phone and travel apps

Part-camera, music player, flashlight, travel guide… part, um, lifeline? Depending on your social media obsession, your smartphone may already be connected to you 24/7. Even though I say a holiday is the best time to get away from it all and enjoy the sights as they are, a smartphone is a given for most travellers these days.

Just make sure you check out your data plan before you go. You will notice as you travel that backpackers are the bees and free wi-fi is the honey. Anywhere you see this sign, a swarm of backpackers will be sure to follow. Turn off your mobile data and find your nearest wi-fi hotspot (Maccas, coffee shops, even your hostel or hotel will usually have it). Tip: Download maps before you go (Google Maps has this feature now) and a translation app with offline languages before you leave so you’ll always find your way.

A Pair Of Thongs


For Aussies, this is a staple wardrobe item while but while backpacking they are a must for more reasons than just comfy footwear. Thongs (flip flops to the Poms, jandals to the Kiwis) are the essential item to save your feet from hostel showers and dirty floors, plus they’re refreshing to slip on after a long hike in the Andes. Just remember to explain to other travellers that you’re referring to footwear, not underwear, before you start yelling across the dorm for your thongs.

If you have the space and are travelling for a while, think about packing two pairs to cope with the inevitable devastation of a blow out or loss after a night out. Havaianas are hard to purchase overseas.

First aid kit

Yes, we know we’re not your mum but you’ll thank us when you’re dealing with a severe case of Dehli-belly or suffering from a night of partying too hard and the pharmacies are closed or won’t let you have paracetamol without a prescription.

Make sure you stock up on the essential painkillers, bandaids, throat lozenges and vitamins to keep the dreaded travel lurgy at bay and definitely don’t forget your best mate, Immodium. Word of advice – keep this in your carry-on. You never know when you’ll need something.

The 3 ‘T’s – Tissues, Towelettes And Toilet Paper

Whether you’re backpacking Asia, Europe or the Americas, these three things will keep you clean in every sense of the word while on the road. Tissues will save you from the death stares brought on by becoming the dreaded “sniffler” or may help as a makeshift wrap for that second breakfast you leave the hostel with.

Towelettes (wet wipes) are a great substitute for a shower when you’re stuck in transport or perfect for a quick washdown when you’re sweating up a storm in the Amazon or Sahara. They also act as bonus make up removal for the ladies.

Toilet paper is your best friend. You never know when or where you’ll have to go and if you’re heading to Southeast Asia those squat toilets rarely (OK, never) have TP. Keep them close and cherish them. You’ll be the group fave when everyone runs out.


Spare Bags

You might have your backpack but you won’t be carrying that every day so bring along a small daypack for general travel so you don’t look so obvious walking the streets of your favourite destination. Spare plastic bags are great for separating your clean clothes from your dirty ones until you find time to do some laundry too so stock up on a few before you go as well. Zip-lock bags are also fantastic – for keeping stuff dry, separate from your other gear, or just storing things in general.


Backpacking the world will most likely be the best fun you’ll ever have but there are still a few things you need to think about. Travel insurance, travel insurance, travel insurance. I can’t say this enough. Don’t be the fool in America that breaks their leg and has to pay millions of dollars.

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Alex looking off towards the beach in the Gold Coast

Book your travel insurance RIGHT NOW. As soon as you’ve spent any money on your trip. And don’t forget to pack some added protection – sunscreen for the sun (and aftersun if you’re likely to burn), repellent for the bugs, particularly for Southeast Asia and South America, and you-know-what if you’re planning to enjoy some international love (hell, take some even if you’re not). As the parents would say – better safe than sorry.

A Powerboard And Universal Adaptor Plug

Often forgotten, a universal adaptor means you can plug in all your technological bits and bobs and charge up no matter where you are. Bringing along a powerboard means you can do it all at once. Just plug in and you’re on your way to loading up your latest pics and sharing them across the web.

Image: Michael / Flickr

A Pack Of Cards

Have one of these and you’ll be the hostel favourite. Everyone knows a card game or two, so pulling out a deck is a great way to while away the hours when you’re stuck at the airport, sitting on a nine-hour bus ride or getting ready for a night out with your new dorm bunkmates.

More often than not, at least three in every four people backpacking will know the universal rules of Kings. Let the games begin!

Notebook And Pen

Yeah I know, it’s 2018 and we have phones and iPads and stuff, but sometimes while you’re backpacking you’ll find the urge to write stuff down the old fashioned way. Whether it’s keeping a day-to-day journal of your adventures, recording your artistic talents in a sketch or poetic memoir, or just having a place to jot down an email of a new friend, a notebook and pen is a must.

Scribble down your memories and save all your ticket stubs – this is something you can keep for the ages and won’t disappear the next you drop your phone in the pool. Hard copies > soft copies.


(Lead image: Elliott Scott/Flickr)

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