Travel, Travel Prep

16 Travel Backpacking Essentials You Wouldn’t Think Of

It’s almost time– I leave for Europe tomorrow so I only have one last prep-based blog to share: the non-clothing backpacking essentials. My last couple blogs went over the tools I used to plan the trip, and the clothes that I’m planning on bringing for my 10-week trip in a carry-on backpack…now I’m going to talk about all the odds and ends that I’ve found essential when staying in a hostel or long-term travel. A lot of these things aren’t what you’d normally pack for vacation and tend to be forgotten, so take note backpackers!

  1. Gesture Based Padlock: Okay so this one is probably more obvious than others, but if you’ve never stayed in a hostel before you’re likely going to be in a room with 1-23 other people (I know, I know, but this choice is up to you and your budget). Hostels generally provide lockers to keep your belongings in while you’re out during the day, but will generally charge you to rent a lock if you don’t come prepared. This particular lock I love because you can unlock it with one hand using a series of gestures! Easy to remember, and easy to unlock.
  2. Inflatable Pillow: To bring a neck pillow, or not to bring a neck pillow…I struggled with this one for quite some time. On one hand, that’s generally a lot of wasted backpack space. On the other, I’m going to be spending more time on planes, trains, and buses than any trip before. I settled on this inflatable pillow that packs down fairly small, but still provides adjustable comfort on-the-go.
  3. Adapter/Converter: Don’t forget, if your travels are international, you’ll likely need some sort of adapter or voltage converter to charge your electronics. I found this one on Kickstarter, but the Passport has a failsafe in case you blow a switch, it will still work, and it adapts to nearly every country’s outlet.
  4. Laundry Bags: I actually only ended up packing one medium and one small bag from this set, but having a designated laundry bag is helpful for organizing and keeping your clean clothes clean. I opted for these mesh bags because they’ll air out the clothes (especially if they’re wet at all), and you can actually throw the whole bag in a laundry machine if you want.
  5. Clothesline: This is one I think a lot of people will miss, and maybe it’s not entirely necessary, but it might save you some frustration down the line. A lot of hostels won’t have dryers (even if they have washers) so you’ll be hanging your clothes wherever you can. In case you don’t have a lot of surfaces to hang your drying clothes, this bungee clothesline is an easy solution.
  6. Travel Towel: Another one of those things hostels will try to catch you off guard and charge you for– renting towels. The easiest thing to do is buy a small microfiber towel that rolls up into a small packable shape, and wash it with the rest of your laundry.
  7. Wool Socks (*optional*): This one is going to depend on where/when you’re travelling, but for me it’s a must. If you’re doing any sort of hiking or cold weather activity, consider investing in at least one really nice pair of wool socks. The difference in warmth, dryness, and support is amazing.
  8. Laundry Detergent Strips: Once again, trying to save a couple bucks at hostels. Most hostels will have detergent on hand, but will charge you some ridiculous amount per load of laundry. You can save yourself the trouble by packing detergent strips before you go– they aren’t liquid, so you’ll have no problem travelling with them.
  9. Travel Sized Toiletry Containers (*optional*): A lot of people will buy travel sized toiletries, but it actually saves quite a bit of money to buy a set of containers and fill them with your favorites. This way, you won’t have to sacrifice your favorite shampoo or face wash, and you can always refill when needed.
  10. Luggage Locks (*optional*): So depending on the type of backpack/suitcase you travel with, I really recommend luggage locks when possible. Of course you should lock up your things in the locker every time you leave, but it doesn’t hurt to have these babies on as an extra precaution. The one issue I ran into (and a lot of backpackers will) are many backpacks use drawstrings rather than zippers as a closure method. So double check your luggage type before purchasing, this one may not work for you.
  11. Portable Battery (with cord): By now, portable batteries are ubiquitous. One thing I do want to suggest, is a portable battery that comes with a cord attached. This saves the hassle of carrying around a cord, or desperately asking for one when needed.
  12. Rotating Power Strip: This may be my favorite must-have for hostels, and I learned it the hard way. A lot of hostels only have a couple outlets per room (even if the room has like 20 people in it), so you will be the savior of the room if you bring a charging hub with extra ports. This especially comes in handy if you have multiple items to charge at once.
  13. Hanging Toiletry Organizer (*optional*): Another totally optional luxury, but I love having a toiletry holder that can, A, fit everything (including my towel), and B, hangs up so I don’t have to put it on the ground or counter of a dirty sink.
  14. Sleeping Bag Liner (*optional*): Depending on how picky you are with dirty sheets, and what kind of hostels you’re staying at, you may want to look into investing in a small sleeping bag liner. Some hostels don’t have sheets and this will save you the rental, others are just plain gross.
  15. Packing Cubes: PACKING CUBES ARE THE HOLY GRAIL OF TRAVEL (say it again for the people in the back). This isn’t specific to backpacking for me, but it sure does help keep things condensed. Rolling clothes and putting them in small packing cubes keeps things organized and condensed. I can’t even imagine a life without packing cubes…
  16. Inflatable Solar Powered Lantern (*optional*): Once again, optional depending on where/when you’re going. Some people recommend headlamps for reading in a hostel or walking in while others are sleeping (but at that point I just use my cellphone light), but if you’re doing any sort of camping or outdoor activities, I love my solar powered inflatable lantern. It packs down nearly completely flat, and you don’t have to worry about batteries.

Based on all of my previous trips, this is the list of things I’d recommend to any backpacker (especially those staying in hostels). When I’m back, I’ll write an updated post of things I wish I had after ten weeks of travel!

Bon Voyage!

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