Packing for a backpacking trip can be difficult. There are so many things that would be useful, and so many that just take up valuable space, it can be difficult for a backpacker to decide what to pack! These are the things I couldn’t do without on my ten month backpacking trip to South America, the 10 essential items for your backpack that I guarantee you will be glad you took with you!
Essential Items for your Backpack: The Basics
Lifestraw Water Bottle
Absolutely without doubt the item I used every day without fail on my travels, I cannot recommend it highly enough! A sturdy, refillable water bottle with a built-in water filter. It saves you money, and doesn’t waste plastic as it negates the need for buying bottled water every day. You can drink water from taps, rivers, streams wherever you are, without fear of a dodgy stomach. And a donation from every purchase goes to help provide clean drinking water for developing communities – according to their website every purchase made provides one child in a developing community with clean water for one year – all in all a great purchase!
See more on amazon : LifeStraw® Go – Water Bottle
Good Waterproof Jacket
Even hot countries have rain too – and when it rains, it rains; you don’t want to get caught in a monsoon with just a poncho! Good quality coats can be quite an investment to buy new, so if you are on a budget check second hand shops and ebay to find a bargain at a fraction of the price. Goretex jackets are good quality and waterproof I have one from Berghaus similar to this, which also comes with a carry sack for stuffing into your backpack. If you are going to cold areas, consider getting a size larger than you would do normally to leave room for a fleece or other layers underneath.
See more on amazon : Berghaus Women’s Gore-Tex Paclite III Jacket – Black/Black, Size 14
Personally I prefer combination locks as I have a tendency to lose keys, padlocks are a must for hostel stays. Although they may not prevent the most determined thieves, they are an excellent deterrent for most opportunist thefts. I took two with me, which can be useful if you leave your luggage somewhere overnight and take a smaller pack with you on a day or night visit elsewhere.
See more on amazon : ABUS 145/40 Combination Padlock – Orange
Essential Items for your Backpack: Electronics
Travel Plug Converter
When moving from country to country, plug sockets can change with annoying frequency, so a multi-plug converter is a must! Something like this SiFree universal charger socket is more bulky than individual adapters, but the two USB ports are very useful for hostels where plug sockets can be hard to come by!
See more on amazon : Worldwide Travel Adapter
Portable Phone Charger
A last minute purchase before I left for South America, I am so glad I bought this! Great for long journeys where you are zapping your phone’s battery with wifi, or playing music or games, and for hostel nights when the plug socket is on the other side of the room and you need to charge your phone, and of course for treks, camping or wilderness stays without electricity. It is even portable for day trips where you plan to take a lot of photos, or play a lot of Pokemon Go! Something like this charger from Anker is lightweight and effective to charge your phone when you need it most.
See more on amazon : Anker Astro E1 5200mAh Ultra Compact Portable Charger External Battery Power Bank with PowerIQ Technology for iPhone, iPad, Samsung, Nexus, HTC and More (Black)
Memory sticks or cards are vital for backing up all of your photos when poor internet makes cloud upload a mind-numbingly impossible task. If possible take two and keep them separate and backed up as often as you can. I can’t emphasize enough how gutted I was to lose all my photos when my one back-up got stolen! These Sandisk Ultra Fit memory sticks are small enough to leave in your laptop all the time if you have one with you, or to hide in secret places to keep safe.
See more on amazon : SanDisk Ultra Fit 32 GB USB Flash Drive USB 3.0 up to 150 Mbps
Essential Items for your Backpack: Personal Items
More compact and quicker drying than normal towels, these trek towels don’t take up much space, and mean you don’t have to hire towels at hostels. Life Venture or Little Bodhi are good brands. I actually have one of each so I have a beach towel and a wash towel when I need them. Check the sizes – a large one for the beach and a smaller one for showering could be enough.
See more on amazon : Microfibre Travel Towel – 180x90cm Blue
Essential for sleeping in dorm bedrooms to block out snorers, on aeroplanes, buses, and anywhere you need a power nap – I can’t do without earplugs! Buy them from pharmacists in packs of two or three, or bulk buy online before you travel.
See more on amazon : 20 Pairs of Howard Leight Individually Wrapped Laser Lite Ear Plugs (3301105)
Inflatable Neck Pillow
Long journeys on uncomfortable buses, nights in hammocks or beds without pillows – all these mean a neck pillow comes in mighty handy when you’re travelling! I prefer an inflatable one than the cushion type, to save a bit of extra space in the rucksack.
See more on amazon : BXT Ultimate Travelling Pillow Comfort-U Inflatable Velour Neck Aeroplane Pillow Car Head Rest Cushion+ Storage Pouch -Grey
Notepad & Pen
Often overlooked, and arguably not an essential item, I actually can’t do without a good old fashioned pen and paper. Make a note of hostel addresses, recommendations from other travellers, shopping lists, or start a travel journal. For me, no amount of iphones, tablets or laptops can make up for doing it old school! Hardcover journals are more sturdy, so if you plan to keep it as a souvenir then go for hardback, but if it is just for jotting down useful information then any old notepad will do.
See more on amazon : Travel Compact Journal (Magnetic Closure) (Notebook, Diary) (Compact Journals)
What do you think, have I got all of the essential items here for your travel backpack? If I’ve missed something please let me know in the comments below.
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The links contained in this post are affiliate links, which means that if you click and buy something from Amazon via this site I will receive a small commission, at no extra cost to you. I only recommend products that I have used personally, and have worked well for me – I am sure they will be the same for you!Last updated: March 5, 2019