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If you’re looking for the best backpacking essentials, this list has got you covered. After 16 years of backpacking, I’ve learnt a lot about what is truly a backpacking essential and what you can really do without.

I’ve come a long way since my first backpacking trip aged 17. Back then, I packed all the wrong stuff – I mean bright white t-shirts for jungle trekking?! Really?! Needless to say, they didn’t come home bright white!

But 16 years later (oh god that’s depressing) I think I’ve finally got my backpacking packing list sussed.

There are several backpacking essentials I would never leave home without again like my trusty packing cubes and a decent power bank!

packing the backpacking essentials

So today I am sharing my list of backpacking essentials that always make it onto my packing list!

Read next: My checklist of long haul flight essentials

Here are my backpacker essentials for your packing list…

A Sleeping bag liner (preferably a silk liner)

If you’re sleeping in hostels or even in a budget hotel, you’ll want to have a sleeping bag liner just in case!

Picture the scene; you arrive at a hostel late at night and nab the last bed. The sheets are a less-than-satisfactory colour & look like they need a good boil wash!

You will be able to whip out your sleeping liner and slumber in peace knowing hygiene has been taken care of!

They are also useful for hot nights when you want something to sleep in but don’t want to swelter under the thick blankets provided.

They come in cotton, silk and fleece. The latter are useful for colder climates and camping, The silk liners are more pricey than cotton liners but are lighter and compress into smaller spaces, making more room in your backpack.

Prices and images pulled from the Amazon Product Advertising API on:

Noise cancelling ear plugs

Trying to block out the screaming child on a flight? Or bunking in a dormitory with someone who snores louder than Shrek?! Some decent noise cancelling earplugs should definitely be one of your backpacking essentials. Let the snoozing resume…

Noise cancelling headphones

Speaking of noise-cancelling, you’ll want some decent noise-cancelling headphones to listen to your own music on long journeys.

Packing cubes

Packing cubes are a total backpacking essential if you want to keep your backpack organised and your sanity intact! They should definitely make it onto your packing list!

When you’re moving hostels and hotels ever other night, you need to have a well-organised backpack system where everything has its place and you know how to find it in a hurry. Enter, packing cubes…

Whilst I was in South America, packing cubes came in especially handy as I could split my winter and summer clothes and not have to fumble through piles of Peruvian jumpers to reach my bikini at the bottom of my backpack!

Get enough of them and they can also come in handy for laundry bags, shoe bags and a way to keep your electronics and various wires organised!

I’m naturally a bit of a messy person (Ok I finally admit it Mum) but with packing cubes, I was the tidiest backpacker in the hostel. Maybe I’m not doing so bad at adulting after all?!

A Power Bank

On my last big backpacking trip, I decided to take a solar charger instead of a power bank since I was doing a lot of camping. Total utter waste of money. I was never stationary long enough to charge it so it became entirely redundant.

Instead, now I carry a powerful power bank with me. A few hours charge will allow me to charge my phone up to 7 times. I can even multiple items at once so I never have to decide what’s more important – my smartphone or my GoPro?!

A Travel Towel

Okay so these are not as luxurious as your hotel fluffy white towels but a travel towel will be your best friend when you travel.

Lighter than an average towel, less space-consuming and they dry super quick so you can pack it up the following morning when you hit the road!

You can also get anti-sand towels which are a blessing on the beach.

Make sure you go for an antibacterial one to avoid a smelly backpack!

It used to be that travel towels were very functional looking. You can now get them in beautiful designs that are as much a fashion statement on the beach as they are a functional backpack essential.

A Head Torch

If you are planning to stay in any dormitories or do any camping, a head torch is an absolute backpacking essential.

Useful for late nights when everyone else is snoozing and you need to find your PJs or for packing up early in the morning before your roommates wake up. I take my headlamp every time I travel now even if I’m sharing with friends. It’s just respectful, isn’t it?!

It goes without saying that this is an absolute must if you are camping – you really don’t want to step on a snake or enter the wrong tent by mistake, do you?!

I recommend choosing one where you can angle the light, adjust the brightness and charge it via USB like this one…

A Kindle

I love my Kindle. it’s one of my favourite backpacking essentials. I rarely get time to read when I’m at home. Between working as a doctor and running two websites, there’s little time left over for luxuries such as reading!

But when I travel, I always carry a kindle loaded up with plenty of reading material for those long journeys.

I actually kind of enjoy a long journey as it gives me an excuse to read!

Click here for more boredom-busting ideas for long journeys.

The best thing about a Kindle, other than its absolutely ridiculous long battery life, is that you can take as many books as you want without them weighing you down.

I’m a fussy reader. I’ve lost count of the times a book promises to be brilliant but I can’t push past the first 10 pages. With the Kindle, problem solved. Ditch the 1st book and move onto the next!

The latest kindles are also waterproof – perfect for taking to the pool or the beach!

Prices and images pulled from the Amazon Product Advertising API on:

Prices and images pulled from the Amazon Product Advertising API on:

A Travel Padlock

Most hostels have lockers for your luggage but you will usually need to provide your own travel padlock.

Choose one with a code rather than a key – it’s way too easy to lose a key on your travels!

Padlocks are great for deterring thieves when you are away from your luggage but be cautious using them on your day bag as it can draw attention to you. Like a neon arrow pointing out your valuables!

For transfers between hotels and airports, consider using cable ties. They are more discreet and you can cut through them with a penknife when you get your luggage safely to your next base.

Mosquito Repellant (DEET)

Don’t underestimate how much you need mosquito repellant! There is nothing worse than suffering hundreds of mozzie bites – it’s just miserable.

Choose an insect repellant with DEET and consider wearing an anti-mozzie wristband or anklet.

In the evenings, wear long floaty clothes to protect yourself whilst the pesky mozzies are out in force.

A Worldwide Adapter

Being a bit stingy I resisted buying a worldwide adapter for ages, instead buying specific country adapters along the way.

True they are cheap as chips but it really was a time-waster.

With a worldwide adapter, I know I don’t have to waste time after arriving somewhere hunting a plug down!

Choose one which has 2 USB points as well to make charging all your accessories a breeze!

Water purification tablets or a filter water bottle

Even if buying bottled water in plastic bottles is super cheap, it’s not exactly the most sustainable or green way of travelling. It’s also always a hassle making sure you always have enough bottled water with you.

I remember one horrific occasion where I was solo backpacking and got food poisoning in Peru. I was too sick to leave my hotel room to get more water but I was horribly dehydrated. Reaching the shop nearby felt like climbing Everest. Some water purification tablets would have solved that problem!

Alternatively, you can also get water bottles with inbuilt filters so you can fill up on the go. I recommend either a Lifestraw bottle or a Water To Go bottle. If you get the latter, quote GLOBETROTTERGP at checkout and get a 15% discount.

Prices and images pulled from the Amazon Product Advertising API on:

Biodegradable travel soap

Useful for washing clothes in the sink. Get some biodegradable travel soap and save money on your laundry!

A portable washing machine – Scrubba!

Yes, really! To save on time and money, do your own laundry with ease when you use the Scrubba. This travel washing machine collapses down to the size of your palm but makes washing clothes by hand a breeze.

Especially useful if you suffer from dermatitis as washing powder is likely to cause your skin to flare up if you do you washing in the sink.

A Portable Hard Drive

If travel photography is important to you, you’ll want a foolproof plan for keeping your photos safe.

Consider getting a portable hard drive to store your travel photos on the move. After all, the more places you store your photos, the less chance you’ll lose them for good.

Photos to me are far more precious than possessions. I’d actually be more gutted about losing my memory card than I would be the actual camera. Okay, this might not be the case when I get around to upgrading to the Sony A7iii which is on my lust list!

A Waterproof Dry Bag

This has been my best friend over the years and I’m still using the same one I bought about 7 years ago! It’s definitely one of my backpacker essentials!

A dry bag is a lightweight bag which rolls up to keep your possessions completely waterproof.

I go on a lot of sailing and kayaking trips and this allows me to keep my most important possessions on me in the knowledge that they are safe and dry.

When you’re not using it for protecting your belongings when you travel, it can also double up as a laundry bag!

An Anti-theft Travel Bag

For complete p[eace of mind when you travel, always use a theft-proof travel bag to avoid being a victim to pickpocketers – especially in busy crowded environments.

These days there are so many options to choose from that you don’t have to choose function over style. Check out this list of some of the nicest anti theft travel bags I found!

Prices and images pulled from the Amazon Product Advertising API on:

A Waterproof Phone Case

If you’re going to the beach and don’t want to worry about your phone, keys, money or bank cards being stolen then you will need a waterproof case that you can take with you into the sea, safe in the knowledge your belongings are safe and dry.


So there we have it, 17 travel essentials which will always make it into my backpack!

What are the backpacking essentials that you couldn’t travel without? We are all always learning so please let me know if you think there is something missing off this packing list!

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