We’ve all been there. Your room looks like your closet exploded, piles upon piles of clothing you attempted to organize but couldn’t overlapping into each other. The First Aid Kit and extra shoes sit in an awkward “maybe” clump, while your pack lays limp and empty next to the mess.
Trust me. I know it can be difficult to decide what to pack when embarking on a backpacking trip. Which is why I created the below backpacking packing list to give you some creative gear ideas and make sure you have all the essentials.
Tip: After reading about my favorites for unique backpacking gear, scroll down for printable/shareable infographics featuring additional packing tips and a sample backpacking packing list.
If you’re a light packer like me, then you’re probably a fan of products that serve multiple purposes.
And when they’re all natural, even better.
I recommend JR Liggett biodegradable Shampoo Bars because they’re small in size and act as a shampoo and conditioner.
Another reason to love them:
The wide variety of ingredient and scent combinations!
SmartWool garments are especially great when you’re doing something active as they wick away moisture (read: your sweat won’t soak your shirt and make you chilly). Their body temperating capabilities also come in handy on overnight buses in, say, Brazil where they crank the air conditioner up to frostbite-inducing temperatures.
The Gortex sneakers are great, especially as you can wear them for adventure sports and sightseeing. They’re breathable and waterproof, and have reliable traction to keep you from slipping. Let’s just say these were a lifesaver on the Inca Trail when it rained and the terrain was rugged. My favorite boots to hike in are my sturdy and rugged Timberlands, though only when it’s cold as they can make your feet hot.
Don’t get anything too puffy or plush. The one above is compact and quick-drying, and great for both the beach and the shower. Bringing your own towel means you never have to pay to hire one at a hostel.
Everyone has their own favorite brand/style, but I love my Deuter. It’s super comfortable, has a ventilated back (so you don’t turn up to your hostel sweating through your shirt), contours to the body and has many internal and external compartments to keep you organized. Other nifty features include a built-in rain cover, compatibility with camelbacks, a wet laundry compartment and loops to string gear on.
6. HP Netbook
This has to do with the fact that I’m a travel blogger and need to be connected on the road. I really think when you’re traveling you should try to avoid technology as much as possible — unless, of course, you’re blogging about it. I love my HP Netbook. It takes up little space and works just as well as a laptop or home computer. Moreover, unlike an expensive MAC or iPad, netbooks are pretty inexpensive, so it won’t be the end of the world if something happens to it.
7. GoPro Hero 4
This tiny action camera takes high resolution photos and high definition videos and takes up virtually no space in your pack. The many mounts and filters help the camera adapt to any adventure and setting, and the waterproof housing means you can even take the camera underwater. My favorite mount is the Head Strap, as you can simply pop it on your head and go (though try to move your head slowly while filming video to avoid making viewers nauseous). Because GoPros aren’t great in low light — though the newer ones are a big improvement of the older models — I’d also recommend a Joby Gorillapod Travel Tripod and GoPro tripod mount if you’ll be shooting then. An extra battery is also a good idea as they tend to die quick.
I don’t know about everyone else, but when I travel my skin goes crazy and breaks out. That’s why I carry facial wipes with me to always ensure my skin is clean and clear. They’re especially great during hikes and when you need to walk 10 hot miles with your huge pack on to find your hostel. I like the Josie Maran Bear Naked Wipes in particular because they’re gentle, free of parabens and synthetics, and a portion of all proceeds go toward protecting the vulnerable polar bear population.
They’re great for leftover food, keeping items separated, and having somewhere enclosed to put shampoos, soaps and lotions when they start to leak.
I love Clever Travel Companion products! Not only are they comfortable and cute, but they keep your valuables safe from pick-pocketers. The garments have hidden pockets that don’t bulge or show. I also find them convenient for nightlife outings, as carrying a purse can be annoying when you’re trying to dance.
The less you need to pack the better, which is why 2-in-1 items are the best. This chemical-free perfume is small — all their products are under three ounces — and is made from essential oils and alcohol to also work as insect repellent. According to Aromaflage, their product is as effective as 25% Deet.
12. Combination Lock
Combination locks are great for locking up your stuff at the hostel or your bike. I also use them to lock shut my backpack zippers so pickpockets can’t unzip me when I’m not looking.
This is one of my favorite every-day walkabout bags, as it’s small yet surprisingly spacious, not to mention has RFID-blocking capabilities to keep thieves from stealing your identity. Those concerned with travel safety will also like the attached whistle dangle. It’s my go-to purse for home and away, although if I am carrying my DSLR camera I’ll opt for the travel backpack or spacious satchel.
Of course you’ll need a travel adapter to charge your gadgets when backpacking internationally. Instead of buying a new adapter for each country, I prefer to carry one universal adapter that works in over 150 countries. This one is awesome because it also has dual USB ports built in for additional charging capabilities.
From a travel safety perspective and as someone who is constantly taking notes electronically, it’s important to keep your phone juiced up. This particular battery pack has the added bonus of having a mirror on it so you can see what you look like before snapping that selfie.
Leggings are one of my favorite travel accessories when backpacking. They can be dressed up or down, are super comfortable and take up almost no space. While I have black leggings, I also love ModCloth’s many funky printed options.
Doing laundry, paying for laundry and wasting time in a laundromat are all things I dislike — at home and while traveling. That’s where the Scrubba Portable Laundry System comes in. Simply put your dirty clothing in the bag along with water and detergent, roll the bag down, and clip closed. From there, you’ll press down and rub to clean clothes against the bag’s internal washboard, rinse and dry. You can use a microfiber towel to roll clothes and squeeze out excess moisture. Bonus: there’s an eco-twist, as the company estimates users use about 0.5-1.5 gallons of water less per load.
These are awesome for when you find yourself in a dirty bathroom on the road and you want to keep your belongings off the floor. I also like them for latching onto my backpack to dangle gear.
I try to keep a collapsible plate and spork with me for picnicking on the road as well as snacking on the go in general. Having to eat your yogurt with your fingers or drink your oatmeal is never fun, both of which I’ve had to do a surprising amount of times.
I mention this gadget a lot because it’s super tiny — you can wear it as a bracelet — and it can save your life. If you run into trouble simply pull the pin to sound an extremely loud alarm, similar to a firetruck or ambulance, meant to scare off an attacker.
21. Oatmeal Packets
Oatmeal is the easiest food to travel with. It takes up basically no space and is filling, especially if you add nuts and fruit in. It’s great as a snack or a meal.
Typically when backpacking you’re moving around a lot and don’t have a ton of time to spend in laundromats. Thus, every garment you pack should be quick drying. Quick drying shirts mean you can do laundry in your hotel or hostel room and pack up soon after. Look for nylon and polyester. I also love Craghoppers’ Nosilife line, which tends to be quick drying and repels insects. The collection features clothing suited for going out as well as having active adventures.
Simple Packing Tips [Infographic]
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Sample Backpacking Packing List
While your personal backpacking packing list can differ based on your destination and personal needs, this is for a general backpacking trip with a mix of mild temperatures. The list also reflects that I am female, so males tweak as needed.
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