What exactly do you need to take with you on a long backpacking trip around the world?
It's a very difficult question to answer. We have a detailed packing guide and checklist, but everyone is different and will take different things.
I have tried to outline a list of the absolute essential backpacking kit you need to take with you when travelling around the world (apart from obvious things like your toothbrush, underwear and passport).
Things you might not have thought of; that no backpacker should leave home without.
1. Worldwide Travel Power Adaptor
If you are heading to multiple destinations, get an adaptor that works everywhere, instead of buying loads of individual country ones. Some adaptors also come with USB ports, so you only need to pack the USB cable part of your chargers.
2. Microfiber Travel Towel
Microfiber towels are perfect for backpackers. They fold up into virtually nothing, weigh very little and dry super quick. Admittedly it is a bit like drying yourself with a chamois leather, but it beats carrying a big, heavy, wet, smelly bath towel in your bag - most hostels do not provide towels.
Essential item for protecting your belongings. Not only can you use them to lock your bag, but they can also be used on most lockers provided in hostels - it is a good idea to take more than one lock.
Avoid locks with a key, which can be lost easily - one guy I met locked his key in his locker. Instead go for the ones with a number combination.
Also try to get locks with the TSA symbol, which means that if airport security need to physically inspect your luggage, they can open it using universal "master" keys, rather than cutting the lock open.
4. First Aid Kit
Hopefully you never have to use it, but a first aid kit is an absolute must take. Make sure it contains as much equipment as possible - at least plasters, bandages, anti-septic cream, burn treatment gel and wound closure strips. You may need to add items to some kits, usually things like paracetamol and diarrhoea tablets. I've used all the items just listed on my travels.
5. SD Cards
You will take thousands of photos on your trip - so the more gigabytes of storage space the better. I started off with a 2GB SD card on my first 6 month backpacking trip and ended up coming home with 30GB's worth of SD cards. It is better to take a card with a large amount of storage before you go, rather than running out of space in the middle of nowhere using a smaller card, and missing out on that perfect sunset photo.
6. Wash Bag(s) (ideally with a hook)
You will be using your wash bag at least twice a day, so ensure to place it at the top of your backpack. I now take two separate toiletry bags - one for everyday stuff, like toothpaste/ brush, body wash and shampoo, that I place right at the very top of my bag for easy access. It has a hook which is great for attaching to things, as often there isn't anywhere to put it when in the shower, or when brushing your teeth. The other wash bag I take is for less frequent items such as my razor, after sun, etc. which is placed further down my bag.
7. Mini Torch
Torches are great for using in dorms after dark, without annoying the people who are sleeping. They are also useful if you are planning on doing any camping during your trip. Make sure you get a small, pocket sized one though.
I can't sleep in hostels without earplugs. Even if everyone is in bed by 10pm, there is always a snorer!
They get grubby with earwax pretty quickly and you usually forget to take them with you when checking out in the morning, so it is best to take a few pairs. You can buy 20 pairs of earplugs online for the same price that hostels sell 1 pair for - plan ahead.
9. Pack Away Rainjacket
In the tropics in rains suddenly, torrentially and frequently - a lightweight pack away rainjacket is essential. It can rain anywhere, so it's never a bad thing to have in your bag wherever you are going.
A foldaway rainjacket weighs next to nothing, takes up very little space and usually comes with a bag to put it in, preventing it from getting your clothes wet when re-packing it into your backpack.
10. Travel Grooming Set
Grooming sets are worth taking for the pair of scissors alone, and tweezers always come in handy. Plus, you're not going to be able to go for months of travelling without clipping your nails!
11. Notebook and Pen
You are certainly going to need to jot something down on your travels, whether it be a hostel address, a bus time, or a new friends email. Remember your phone may not always have battery! You could also use it as a travel diary.
12. High DEET Insect Repellent (for tropical destinations)
If you are heading anywhere tropical you need to take insect repellent, and if you are going to be in a malaria zone it should contain at least 50% DEET. The aerosols and wipes tend to work better than the pump-sprays and roll-ons.
A few things that aren't absolutely essential, but are very useful:
You constantly need to know the time when travelling, especially when it comes to transportation. A cheap, rugged watch saves you taking your valuable, breakable phone out of your pocket all the time.
14. USB Extension Cable
These are great. Plug sockets are hard to come by when travelling and are often in inconvenient places. Having a USB extension cable means your phone can usually stretch to your bed or a sofa in the common room, rather than you having to sit by the plug socket.
15. Sleeping Bag Liner
To be honest I only used my sleeping bag liner on a handful of occasions, but every time I did I was glad I had it. If you are staying in a nasty hostel or camping using the free tour provided sleeping bags, a sleeping bag liner is a godsend. They also provide a little extra layer of warmth when in colder climates. Plus they weigh very little and fold up into a small package, so won't take up much room. It might be worth investing a bit more for one that includes a hood or pillow insert.
16. Packing Cubes
I love these, but they are certainly not essential, and are only useful if you know you will use them efficiently - otherwise they can take up valuable space. Packing cubes help keep your bag tidy and organised as you can put similar stuff together in an assigned cube, i.e. electrical equipment (chargers, adapters) in one cube, underwear and socks in another. If you label them well, you will know exactly where everything in your bag is.
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