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10 Essential Items for your Backpack

Essential Items for your Backpack

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!

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Essential Items for your Backpack: The Basics

Lifestraw Water Bottle

Essential Items for your Backpack: Lifestraw water bottleAbsolutely 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

Essential Items for your Backpack: Waterproof JacketEven 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 amazonBerghaus Women’s Gore-Tex Paclite III Jacket – Black/Black, Size 14


Essential Items for your Backpack: PadlockPersonally 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 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! [amazon_link asins=’B01KLMW9GY’ template=’ProductAd’ store=’talesofaback-20′ marketplace=’US’ link_id=’de6e3890-c209-4953-aea2-bd35ee4715b2′] See more on amazon : [amazon_textlink asin=’B01KLMW9GY’ text=’Worldwide Travel Adapter’ template=’ProductLink’ store=’talesofaback-20′ marketplace=’US’ link_id=’1dace195-cefd-4516-a87e-92009fad280a’]

Portable Phone Charger

Essential Items for your Backpack: Portable Phone ChargerA 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

Essential Items for your Backpack: Memory SticksMemory 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 amazonSanDisk Ultra Fit 32 GB USB Flash Drive USB 3.0 up to 150 Mbps

Essential Items for your Backpack: Personal Items

Trek Towel

Essential Items for your Backpack: Trek TowelMore 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 amazonMicrofibre Travel Towel – 180x90cm Blue



Essential Items for your Backpack: EarplugsEssential 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

Essential Items for your Backpack: Inflatable Neck PillowLong 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 amazonBXT Ultimate Travelling Pillow Comfort-U Inflatable Velour Neck Aeroplane Pillow Car Head Rest Cushion+ Storage Pouch -Grey

Notepad & Pen

Essential Items for your Backpack: Notepad and PenOften 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 amazonTravel 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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Just to let you know:

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: October 28, 2019

22 thoughts on “10 Essential Items for your Backpack

  1. Amanda says:

    I think it’s a good idea to pack a personal alarm, when I was travelling to kos in Greece I had a bad experience, that was along time ago.

  2. R says:

    I disagree on the towel thing. I think that sarongs or oversize see through cotton/ polyester gauze like scarves are just as effective but weigh less and pack tighter but more importantly they dry way faster especially in a damp atmosphere it is important to be able to actually dry the towel before putting it back into the pack. They don’t absorb everything but do a better job wiping it off. I would be willing to trade the comfort of an actual towel for a few minutes during bath time than having to lug something damp and a few ounces more around with me all day. Plus a scarf can be a backup sling in a medical emergency, and added layer of warmth.

    • Claire says:

      Interesting, I’ve not used a sarong for that purpose but I like the idea! The trek towels do dry quicker than normal towels, but a lighter sarong would dry even faster although may not be as effective. I guess it’s a toss-up between weight & convenience/comfort – I have used my towel as a blanket before so both could do that, but not a sling 🙂

  3. Marc Gomes says:

    Hahaha I point the Earplugs !! Good selection, although I think a small kit is missing (nothing exaggerated, strips disinfectant and little else)

  4. Vyjay says:

    Good list, also all essential and practical items. Many a times it is a toss up on what to include and what to leave out.

  5. Natasha says:

    Love this. I love a good packing list. I think so many people forget about the portable phone charger — but it’s so essential.

  6. Kat says:

    Brilliant Claire. I was so envious of your life straw bottle. I will definitely be getting one for my next international trip! Or even for backpacking here in the states. There’s no stream I would drink from here without filter, too many cows.

  7. Adonis Villanueva says:

    Very useful and important items to have in your backpack. I gave up on inflatable pillows because I alway end up losing them or leaving them in the in the plane 🙂 I’ve never heard about the Lifestraw Water Bottle, I’ll have to check that out.

  8. Samantha | There She Goes Again says:

    This is awesome! Weirdly enough I’ve never thought about using those quick dry towels for travel (though they were quite the trendy item when I was 10 and swimming competitively– we called them shammies I think). I’ve never really backpacked before, but I always thought it’d be a fun challenge on one of my trips in the future!

    • clairesturz says:

      Glad I introduced you to a new use for the towels – they pack up really small & dry quickly so perfect for travel! Give backpacking a try, it’ll open your eyes to new & inventive ways of stuffing things into tiny spaces 😀

  9. Jen Morrow says:

    The inflatable neck pillow is really worth bringing for naps and overnight travel on planes and trains. I also stash notepads and pens/pencils in my scuba pack and backpack for exchanging information. I have even drawn pictures when we did not speak the the same language.

    • clairesturz says:

      Totally agree for the neck pillow, it really does make a difference & saves a stiff neck! Great idea for drawing pictures to help communicate – better than pictionary!

  10. Karin says:

    I am seriously considering getting a lifestraw bottle, i do have a water filter which is good, but still, it is so practical to have it all in one! how often do you need to change the filter?

    • clairesturz says:

      Hi Karin! I found it very useful – the only downside is that you need to keep it upright as it can leak a bit from the top – but in the pocket of a rucksack its absolutely fine. I used it pretty much every day for 10 months with no problem. On the website they say the filter will work for 1000 litres, which is quite a lot, even if you drink say 3 litres of water a day that’s still a year’s worth of drinking – apparently when the filter has reached the end of its life you can’t suck water through it so there’s no danger of drinking unfiltered water.

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