9 Items Every Backpacker Needs to Pack

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Unconventional essentials that you absolutely cannot forget to pack for your next backpacking trip! If you're looking for what to pack for a backpacking trip, be sure to pin this because it has a few suggestions that travellers often forget!

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When you’re preparing for what to do pack on your backpacking trip, let’s face it: it’s easy to let a few essentials slip your mind.

I remember when I was getting ready for my first backpacking trip ever, I was a real hot mess of nerves. I ended up packing WAY too much stuff that I didn’t need, and I also forgot some really essential goods. Double whammy…

So, please learn from my mistakes! Here are 9 essential items that I feel every backpacker should bring:

1. A Good Travel Towel

By far, my favourite purchase I made for my trip was my PackTowl Personal Packtowl. It folds up to almost no space at all, is ultra absorbent, dries quickly and can double as a beach towel in warmer countries. They come in various sizes, and range from $9.75-$32.00 Canadian. These prices might seem steep for a towel, but trust me, it’ll be the best money you ever spent!

2. Packing Cubes

I honestly have no idea how I lived prior to purchasing packing cubes. These beauties are a magical way to keep all your goods organized, while saving space in your bag as well. Gone are the days that you rummage through your entire pack for a particular t-shirt! Not all packing cubes have to be expensive either. There’s plenty of affordable options on Amazon, like this blue set from Amazon Basics and this set from Travel Wise.

Packing cubes

Packing cubes in action

3. A Lock

While most hostels will offer padlock rentals, having your own is a great money saver and an essential item if you’re hostelling during your trip. It can also help you lock up the zippers on your backpack on travel days, to ward off any pickpockets!

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Don’t leave this til the last minute! You can buy a pack of three online here.

4. Duct Tape

A random, but essential item for your backpacking trip is duct tape. From patching up broken bags to sealing up shoes that randomly split (true story), it’s a light and versatile item that travellers often forget to pack. No doubt, it has saved my butt numerous times.

5. Flip Flops

Why do you need flip flops? Two words: hostel showers. They’re also great shoes to have around if your feet need to breathe, or if you’re headed to the beach. Fun fact I learned while backpacking: Australians call flip flops ‘thongs’. Needless to say, when a hostelmate told me she found someone’s thongs under her bed, I didn’t think she meant shoes.

6. A Water Bottle

Water is one of those unexpected costs that really adds up when you’re abroad. To take advantage of any time there’s drinkable tap water, bring your own bottle to fill up. When you’re walking and sightseeing all day, access to water is a necessity! If you’re concerned about space, consider getting one of those collapsable plastic bottles that can fold up neatly when they’re not filled. Here’s a nice one from Amazon.

Gelato in Milan by Christina Guan

Eating gelato with my stolen spoon.

7. One lightweight cutlery set

Picnicking is a backpacker’s best friend when it comes to eating affordably. While many grocery stores will have plastic cutlery for you to take, having your own set just-in-case will save you a lot of stress when you want to cut up your baguette or eat your store-bought gelato in peace. One time, I bought a tub of gelato from a grocery store in Milan where they had no spoons, and I ended up stealthily stealing a sample spoon from a nearby gelato stand. To this day, I still feel guilty!

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You can grab a lightweight set on Amazon for cheap here.

8. Tissue Pack

You never know when tissues will come in handy, whether for yourself or a fellow traveller. E.g. that time I became a bathroom hero because the bar I was at had no toilet paper left!

PS: You can buy them online in big packs for cheaper than most stores! Here’s a good option.

9. A decent-sized day bag

When you’re out and about, you’re going to want a decent sized day bag that will hold all your necessities. Wearing your large backpack while you’re sightseeing is not only cumbersome, it makes you a target for robbery, so pick a day bag that is comfortable, spacious but also less “hi I am tourist. plz rob me.”


My daybag & best friend – it could hold an unreal amount of stuff!

Let me know in the comments if I’ve missed any of your packing essentials!

Further reading – Outdoor Gear: What to Buy and What You Don’t Need

PS: This post contains affiliate links, which means I would earn a commission from purchases made through my recommendation (but come at no extra cost to you). Feel free to email me if you have any questions!

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