Here are my top 10 things that you NEED for backpacking.
So you’re packing for your 6-month trip to Asia or you’re heading to South America for 3 months and have no idea what to bring? Apart from the obvious clothes and medicine here are my top 10 things you must bring with you!
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Let’s be honest, packing is super stressful and we all procrastinate until the day before you’re due to jet off. I get it, I’ve been there so many times. I especially found it tough to pack the first couple of times I went travelling and to be honest, have only semi-mastered it recently. Whether you’re a frequent flyer or a first-time traveler, these are items that will make your trip so much more comfortable and help you feel more prepared.
1. Packing cubes
Let’s start with how you’re physically and logistically going to pack, to begin with. The first on the list of 10 things you need for backpacking is packing cubes. Packing cubes have honestly changed the way that I pack. They make me feel one hundred times more organized. I’m a very organized person, everything that I own tends to have a place so these cubes are lifesavers for me.
I bought mine off Amazon and they are so reasonably priced, here are the packing cubes I use and love so much! The main reason why I love them so much is because they’re so compact and easy to grab out of your bag. Instead of rummaging and rooting all the way to the bottom of your backpack or suitcase, they’re handy to get when you’re in a rush. Generally, you buy a set that comes with a variety of different-sized cubes. As shown in the picture below, you can differentiate your items into different sections such as dresses and shorts in one and t-shirts in another. I also love the fact that they have a cube for shoes too. Top tip; Get a dark-colored set of packing cubes so that you can keep them nice and clean while backpacking! You’d be surprised at how hard it can be to keep your stuff clean!
2. Money Belt
This second essential is one that I’ve been using since the first time I ever went backpacking. This item is mainly for safety and it’s a money belt/bun bag or whatever you call it. My top tip is to get one that actually has a decent amount of space in it. Here is a perfect size one and one that is so reasonably priced. This one has 4 pockets which make it easier to separate all of your items. I usually keep my valuables in here so I can keep them safe at all times, I keep my passport, phone, AirPods & money. The pockets on this bag are so handy because I also have other bun bags with just one pocket and I’ve often dropped things out while trying to grab one thing. The main reason I find these bags so handy is that you always have the most important things that you need right beside you, you can even fall asleep on public transport, etc, and know that your stuff is safe.
You can also buy money belts/bun bags from so many stores. The one I’m wearing in the picture below was a gift to me. Decathlon also stores nice & cheap ones, here is my favorite one from Decathlon.
3. Microfibre towel
This essential item, I won’t lie about. I have a love/hate relationship with microfibre towels. If you feel the same, please let me know. Here is the one that I use and I’ve used it on so many trips.
The positives about microfibre towels:
- They are so thin so they fit in your backpack very easily.
- They’re very light so don’t add too much weight to your bag.
- They come in a little pouch so that they’re easy to store away and keep safe.
- They dry SO quickly, which is the main selling point of them I guess. The material that they’re made from dries within minutes of getting wet. If you’re backpacking you know this is vital.
The negatives about microfibre towels:
- I’ll be honest. They usually don’t tend to dry as efficiently as a normal towel. Does it stop me from saving space and weight in my bag? Definitely not. Beggars can’t be choosers when you’re a budget backpacker. Speaking of being on a budget, if you’re looking for ways to save money while traveling, check out this post for my top tips. Here I talk about lots of ways of saving money while traveling like using items like the microfibre towel.
4. Eye Mask
This is one that a lot of people I know can not go without, my sister being one of them. If you’ve stayed in hostels before you’ll know they can be loud, noisy and it wouldn’t be uncommon for someone to drunkenly barge into the room at 4 am and turn on the light. Again, it’s the cheap price we pay to save a little money by sharing dorms but most of the time it’s just annoying. If you have an eye mask, it can make sleeping in dorms like this a little bit easier. Here is a blackout eye mask that I bought for my sister for traveling to Costa Rica. My top tip for buying an eye mask is to make sure it fits nicely and isn’t too tight around your head.
This item is very similar to the eye mask. Hostels can be noisy, trust me when I say there will come a time when you need earplugs. If you like your sleep and like sleeping in a nice quiet room, trust me on this one. To be honest, I usually use my Apple Air Pods and use the noise cancellation feature on them and it works quite well most of the time. I usually fall asleep to meditation and keep the noise cancellation feature on. The only thing I find is that they’re made from plastic so they’re not the most comfortable thing to fall asleep in and it wastes the battery which can be really annoying if you have a long journey the next day and want your music. I found these earplugs and find them super handy. They’re soft and fit into your ear properly and rarely fall out. Ear plugs are not just handy for sleeping they’re
6. Power bank
This item I really should have put higher up the list because it’s essential when you’re backpacking. For me, it’s so important because one of my favorite things to do when on long bus or train journeys is to listen to music. So many brands and companies sell power banks, if you’re in Ireland, here’s one I recently got on Amazon that delivers to Ireland. I rarely buy a sim card and use data on my phone but my phone runs out of battery so quickly because I use my camera and Spotify a lot. Some power banks can be heavy but they really are so worth it. They’ve saved me so many times when I’ve been away.
7. Filtered water bottle
Filtered water bottles are so especially important if you’re traveling to a country that has contaminated water. Here’s the one that I used in the last year which I liked. It’s Irish owned which I was drawn to.
Are you going to be staying in hostels? If you are, you really will need to invest in padlocks. Again, you can get them for less than 10 euros. Here’s a specific travel one that is flexible to lock onto bags etc. The best thing about these is the long string on them so they can fit onto all different-sized lockers. My biggest tip and one that I’ve learned my lesson on is to bring a lock that you don’t need keys for. The reason for this is that if you need a key, you’re only trying to remember and keep another item safe.
Even if you’re in a safe area and your hostel is nice I always recommend bringing a padlock and locking away all of your valuables.
9. Universal Charging Cube
A universal charging cube is a massive must!! If you travel a lot, you will 100% need one of these. Once you invest in it once, you can bring it to literally any country. Here’s the one that I use and I love. You want to invest in one that has multiple charging slots so that you only need to bring USB cables and so that you can charge multiple appliances at once. My charging cube has been used in Europe, Africa, and Central and South America. If you invest in anything on this list, a good-quality charging cube is possibly the most important.
10. Hand Sanitizer or water wipes
This one doesn’t need much explaining. Yes, the dreaded Covid pandemic is more or less forgotten about but some countries have still not released all of their restrictions. Even if they have, I always bring either water wipes or hand sanitizer on a trip with me. There are still multiple viruses and bugs that you can catch while you’re traveling, I’d much rather not.
10 things you need for backpacking: An extra little tip: Bring Sunglasses
Here are the sunglasses I bring pretty much everywhere with me and why I love them. Sunglasses are such a must in your carry-on bag for so many reasons;
- Imagine your check-in bag gets lost in transit and you’re traveling to a hot country, you’ll need your sunnies!
- You’ll need them for when the airplane doors open and the sun is shining bright!
I always buy my sunglasses from ‘Crann’ which is a local Irish company that makes all of its products from recyclable material. I have a 15% discount code for you all to use. Here is where you’ll find all of their amazing products, use ‘ALIMCMEEL’ at the checkout to save on your purchase!
Here are some reasons why I love ‘Crann’ products;
- Their business motto is to “leave the world a better place than we found it, and help people look as stylish as possible.” I love this mission statement as it’s everything that I stand for.
- All of Crann’s products are 100% made with recycled and sustainable materials!
- All of their sunglasses are completely different so there really is a design to suit each individual.
- They support ‘Jigsaw’, an organization in Ireland that aims to make sure that ‘every young person’s mental health is valued and supported.’
It is so so important to weigh your backpack before leaving your house. They say that a loaded backpacking pack should not weigh more than about 20 percent of your body weight. (If you weigh 59kg, your pack should not exceed 11/12kg for backpacking. Learn from me. I’ve overpacked multiple times and have been left feeling so annoyed at myself but at the same time, I didn’t want to throw any of my stuff away. The lighter, the better!