This a thoroughly field-tested packing list that is proven to be effective. It is a solid baseline for anyone who’s planning a medium to long-term backpacking trip.
In 2016, I quit my job, sold everything I owned, bought a one-way ticket, and went on a backpacking voyage. The following 18 months were an adventure, and some of the most amazing days of my life. I traveled from hostel to hostel, crashed on couches, slept on planes, trains, and automobiles, learned how to surf, met friends and lovers, got into trouble, and saw a great deal of the world along the way.
During this journey, I learned many things, and one of them was how to properly pack a backpack. I spent a year and a half living out of one, so you better believe I obsessively optimized this part of my life, as it was central to everything.
And now, I’m sharing this knowledge with you, dear reader. This guide is a valuable guideline for anyone who’s going on a long-term backpacking adventure.
Suitcase vs backpack
Your first question might be, why get a backpack instead of a suitcase?
That is a valid question, because suitcases are great. They come in all kinds of capacities and their form-factor allows for an efficient way of packing, plus they won’t wrinkle your clothes the way backpacks do. I am a big fan of suitcases for city trips, business trips, and any voyage where a car is the main form of transportation. When you go on a adventure-type trip, however, you will be walking on trails and rocky roads, taking buses and trains, and riding scooters and motorcycles to get from A to B. Those little wheels on suitcases aren’t built to cart behind you when you do all that.
The table below is a good “rules of thumb” overview in terms of practicality, combined with your own common sense. Note: the “backpack” in this table is a big backpack that goes into the checked luggage, not a day-pack.
|Type of trip||Backpack||Suitcase|
|Visiting a single location||➖||✔|
|Going on a cruise||❌||✔|
|Mode of travel||Backpack||Suitcase|
|Travel by car||➖||✔|
|Travel by motorcycle||✔||❌|
|Travel by public transport||✔||✔|
|Staying in hostels||✔||➖|
|Staying in hotels||✔||✔|
Which backpack size should you get?
Compared to the whopper suitcases you see people lug around every airport all the time, even a big backpack isn’t that big. That is not necessarily a bad thing, because everything you pack, you will need to carry with you. Rule number one for backpacking is “travel light” for good reason. Five pounds makes a big difference when you carry it on your back for hours on end.
Like suitcases, backpacks come in all kinds of different shapes and sizes. From my experience, a capacity of 65 liters is more than enough for your typical free-wheeling, hostel-hopping backpacking adventure. I would go as far as saying 55 liters would work for most people, as I had photography gear with me that took up more space than what the average traveler would take.
For illustration, the average carry-on roller luggage is around 40 liters, and the huge expandable checked bags go up to 150 liters. So, 55-65 liters isn’t all that much volume, considering everything for the entire trip must fit in there.
Backpacking forces you into a minimalist lifestyle, which is not a bad thing; it just means that every single item requires serious thought. If done right, traveling superlight is liberating and comfortable. This guide enables you to carry less than most other backpackers, without compromising utility and convenience.
- This list is based on a non-stop, 18-month backpacking trip across ten different countries.
- If you’re planning on backpacking for a month or longer, this is for you.
- Everything on this packing list is 100% function over form and optimized for volume, weight, and efficiency.
- If you take away one thing from his post, it should be: “Pack light.” About 80% of backpackers bring way too much stuff, and end up leaving things behind after lugging them along unused. Remember this: Every pound you bring with you, you have to carry with you, through rain and heat, in crammed buses and trains, on scooters and beat up cars, and of course, on your back.
- Buy once, buy well. It’s best to spend more money to get the better product than to buy cheap and having it to break on you on crucial moments. This is especially true for backpacking, as anything and everything you bring with you will have a rough time. Many clothes on this list are probably more expensive than you’re used to.
- The clothes on this list are aimed at moderate to hot climates.
- There’s a big difference between what you want and what you need.
The large backpack is the bag for your clothes, toiletries, and other voluminous and lesser-valuable items.
The Gregory Baltoro 65 is my big backpack of choice. It is extremely sturdy, comes with a lifetime warranty, it’s packed with smart features, and it has won several awards. Most of all, it is by far the most comfortable backpack I’ve been able to find after trying dozens of them on.
There are larger backpacks out there, but as a rule of thumb: the bigger your backpack, the more you will bring with you. Sixty-five liters has been plenty for me to roam around half the planet for eighteen months. That’s all you really need to know.
The clever design is the main reason I love this backpack. It is evident that a lot of research and development went into this piece of gear.
- The sturdy, metal-framed back panel is vented and adjustable. It has a piece of grippy silicone on the lower-back part, which keeps it from sliding around. Even if you’re hiking a rough trail, it will stay stable and comfortable on your back.
- It has an advanced suspension system that makes the waist belt and shoulder straps automatically pivot into optimal position. Even when fully loaded, this backpack is incredibly comfortable.
- The top-loader design allows for quick access, but it can also be completely zipped open from the front like a suitcase.
- The bottom can also be zipped open. Access from all sides!
- The main compartment has a separator on the bottom that can be easily engaged. I use it to separate my dirty and clean clothes.
- Inside the main compartment is another compartment that can be detached and used as a mini-day pack, which is a great bonus.
- The backpack has two large side-compartments. I use these for souvenirs I pick up along the way, a GorillaPod tripod, and a deck of playing cards.
- The lid has two compartments on top, which are great for storing things you need to access frequently. Underneath the lid is a “hidden” compartment for valuables.
- The lid is attached to the backpack with four adjustable straps. These can be extended in case your backpack is filled to the brim, or if you want to store something between the lid and the backpack, like a sleeping bag or roll-up tent.
- The hip-belt has two pockets for easy access, one of them weather-sealed. These pockets are great for things like a phone, a wallet, a compact camera, or a passport. They’re always in your sight and reach.
- A rain cover is included. Crucial piece of kit, even if only needed once.
- The backpack has a bottle holster that can be stowed away with a Velcro strap.
- For the mountain-climbers among us, there are loops on the back to hold your trekking poles and ice axes.
- There are two adjustable straps on the bottom that can be used to store a hammock/tent/sleeping bag between the lid and the rest of the backpack.
- I hook a simple carabiner on one of these straps to carry my shoes when I’m wearing flip-flops.
I can’t say enough positive things about this backpack. It has lived through some serious use and abuse without showing any signs of wear. The Gregory Baltoro 65 backpack has been a good friend to me.
It’s common to take a large and a small backpack when traveling long-term.
Advantages of carrying a small backpack:
- It allows you to keep your valuables with you. Big backpack=checked bag, small backpack=carry-on luggage.
- It provides the option to carry things (food/drink/camera) during the day while you leave your big backpack at the hostel.
- A small backpack is handy for grocery shopping when you’re staying in a hostel.
- A second bag is another thing to carry.
This “day-pack” is stored inside the big backpack, hung on the back of the big backpack, or worn on the chest.
A capacity between 20 and 30 liters is an ideal medium between size convenience.
The Osprey Quasar is an excellent choice. It is made by a well-known brand that’s renowned for high-quality products.
The small top compartment is lined with heat embossed fabric to keep valuables like sunglasses and phones scratch-free. The bungee wire on the back is convenient for quick storage. I usually use it for a water bottle or my towel when it’s wet.
It comes with a lifetime warranty, even if the damage is your own fault.
Having a rain cover is crucial.
I can’t stress enough how it is one of the most important things to bring with you, even if you’ll only end up using it once. I ended up ruining a camera and damaging a laptop when I was caught off-guard by a thunderstorm in the tropics without one of these things.
Almost all big backpacks come with their own rain cover (including the aforementioned Baltoro). Small backpacks usually don’t, so get one.
It’s an inexpensive, yet very important, investment for your travel gear.
Travel toiletry bag
A hanging toiletry bag is one of those super convenient little items that will prove its use every single day. Hostel bathrooms are often not very spacious nor conveniently set-up, but there is almost always something to hang a bag on. This particular one made by eBags folds up very flat and is big enough to hold all the essentials.
It has four separate compartments, comes with a lifetime warranty and has a durable zipper.
General toiletry bag tips
- Putting your toothbrush in a tube will help keep your toiletry bag and toothbrush clean.
- A deodorant stick takes up a lot less space, lasts a lot longer, works just as well, and is much cheaper than a spray can.
- Hostels often don’t provide you with soap and shampoo as hotels do; you’ll have to bring this yourself. Taking regular bottles of body wash/shampoo with you is inconvenient because of their size, and more importantly, they’re not leak-proof. I’ve seen more than one backpacker have a day ruined because of a shampoo bottle leaking all over everything. The solution: buy a good old-fashioned bar of soap, stick it in a waterproof container, and off you go.
- Travel tip but also a general tip: use a safety-razor instead of multi-blade cartridge systems. Double-edge blades cost next to nothing and take up very little space. Be sure to try different blades to find out which ones are best for your beard and skin. I personally use Feather, which are among the very sharpest, as anything less sharp pulls on my very coarse beard. It’s always a good idea to start out with a sampler pack to find out which is right for you. There’s a little bit of a learning curve, but you’ll save yourself a ton of money, and it achieves the cleanest shave possible.
- Shaving cream from a tube is cheap, lasts a very long time, and takes up way less space than canned goo.
- For the single travelers out there: bring rubbers with you. No matter how drunk, high or stupid you get, don’t be reckless when it comes to potentially life-changing and/or life-ruining decisions. Keep them in your backpack and in your wallet; you never know when or where you’ll get lucky. Hostels are wild places.
- Use laundry bags to group and organize your clothes within your backpack. This is a huge time-saver. Laundry bags are also good at what they were designed for in the fist place: keeping your clothes in good shape. Most hostels have heavy-duty washing machines that are brutal on clothing. Using laundry bags might sound like overkill, but remember, you’re wearing and washing these clothes a lot more than when you’re at home where you constantly switch things up.
- A couple of waterproof bags are handy to take with you. You never know when you’re going for a spontaneous adventure involving water. They’re not very expensive, they don’t take a lot of space, and they can prevent your phone or camera from getting ruined. Also effective against dust and sand.
The case for Merino Wool
Yes, you will need to wear clothes.
I am a huge fan of Merino Wool. It is an incredible fabric for many different reasons, and its benefits especially shine during long-term travel.
Merino wool is the kind of stuff you see in science-fiction movies; it is an active fiber that dynamically reacts to temperature changes. It keeps you warm when it’s cold, and it keeps you fresh when it’s hot, all while being more lightweight than cotton and regular wool. It is not an itchy fabric (I’m allergic to regular wool, but merino wool gives me zero problems), and the color and shape retention is second to none. Everything still looked like new when I got home.
Its natural anti-bacterial properties allow you to wear it for several days before it starts to reek (assuming you take a shower once in a while like a semi-civilized human being). I can walk around in a cotton shirt for a day, maybe two, before it’s time to throw it in the laundry. Merino shirts and underwear can last four to five days before needing a wash, which means that a handful of clothes can last you close to a month. This is practical, as not every hostel has a laundromat. Speaking of laundry, this stuff dries really fast, and it wicks away sweat like nothing else. It really is unlike anything else.
You might think I’m some dirty savage after reading that last paragraph, but wearing the same clothes for several days is an inescapable part of the backpacker lifestyle. Thanks to Merino wool, you don’t have stink while doing it.
This stuff is not cheap, but it will last you many years, and it feels more comfortable than anything.
This underwear is a blend of 84% merino wool, nylon and spandex, combining the advantages of each material.
The fabric is super soft, odor resistant, quick-drying, and it retains its fit and stretch. It is also temperature regulating. When it’s hot, this underwear is nice and cool, when it’s cold, it’s nice and warm. It’s like having automatic climate-control in your pants.
One of the inherint advantages of merino fabric is that it is moisture-wicking and quick-drying. When you’re sweaty from long bus or plane-rides, hikes, or carrying your backpack around, you won’t get swamp-ass.
Easily the best underwear I own.
Perfect fit and very comfortable. five of these.
My main thing to wear pretty much all the time. Warm when it’s cold, and it protects me from the sun when it’s hot. Three short-sleeves, one long-sleeve. Available in many different colors. I stick with dark blue and black.
One of these. A very comfortable sweater that provides plenty of warmth, without adding a lot of weight and bulk to my backpack. I’ve worn this on every plane and bus ride, and around many barbecues and campfires.
It’s comfortable over a t-shirt and a dress shirt, and the way it drapes has a dressy look to it, which is never a bad thing.
One of these for very hot days. Made of high-tech synthetic fiber. Many smart features, like a fold-up collar that protects your neck against the sun, drying loops, and a wipe for you (sun)glasses. 100% mosquito-proof, and complete UV blocking. Great for tropical environments and jungle adventures. I was very glad to have it in Northern Queensland, Australia. This company also makes other clothes made of this fabric.
Kathmandu Danu hiking shorts v2
Two of these, one in gray, and one in olive green. Absolutely perfect for travel. Extremely lightweight, folds up very small, many handy pockets, built-in belt, quick-drying, and airy. Made from high-tech fabric. Excellent protection from the sun, moisture wicking, and durable. Get the zip-off version of these if you can find them. Two in one.
Jeans are the very worst thing to take with you in a backpack. They’re bulky, very heavy, and they take a long time to dry when they get wet. But, they’re comfortable and indestructible. The only reason I could justify taking a pair was because I traveled for 18 months, which is a very long time. The Levis 514 are my personal favorite. They’re more tailored than the classic 501s, but you can’t go wrong with either. If you really, really must take a pair of jeans, only take one.
I love running shoe socks. They allow you to wear sneakers with shorts without looking like a dork because they don’t rise above shoes. I take five pair of these because they take little space, and it’s nice to have clean socks on your feet.
I use Asics, but Adidas and other sports brands make them, too. They’re all good, pick your personal favorite.
Merino wool socks by Smartwool.
Good for colder days and flying. One pair of these. Nice and snuggly. They’re good to wear inside hiking shoes, as well.
I love flip-flops. When I put them on, I’m instantly in holiday-mode. The feeling of not having your feet inside shoes is liberating.
You can buy them for as cheap as $10, but they will leave you with blisters after ten minutes of walking on them. Reef is an established brand that makes flip-flops designed for comfort. I like these particular ones for their leather footbed and straps. This prevents sweaty feet.
The sole is made out of rubber and provides plenty of support. You can walk on these all day without destroying your feet.
Flip-flops are great and I wear them most of the time, but sometimes you just need shoes. Sneakers are the best shoes to take on a long trip because they’re lightweight, comfortable, and durable.
If you’re planning on picking up a job during your travels, there’s a good chance you’ll be required to wear closed shoes, as well.
As for which brand is best, that’s hard to say. Like most products in this modern day and age, it’s hard to find something bad. Pick your favorite brand and color. I got a pair of New Balance sneakers right now which have served me very well, but I also quite like Asics.
If you plan on visiting a sunny country, investing in a decent pair of sunglasses is definitely worth the money since you’ll be wearing practically all day every day.
The lenses in the cheap knock-offs often do more damage than they do good, as they reduce the overall brightness which causes your pupils to dilate, but don’t properly block damaging UV rays.
Ray-Ban shades have always been my go-to choice. Great quality and comfort, and iconic looks. It’s the company that designed the B15 lenses and Aviator shades for the United States Air Force during World War II. No way to go wrong with that, I’d say.
My personal choice is a pair of RB3183s. They have served me well for years now.
If you’re looking for something less pricey, Polaroid is a great option. They make high quality sunglasses with excellent polarized lenses. Can’t go wrong with these, and you won’t be paying a price premium for the brand name. You can also always get a pair of BlueBlockers, for that 70s porn star look.
Travel watch: Casio G-shock
I will let you in on a secret: a watch is the only accessory/jewelry that a man can truly wear. Any guy who uses his phone to check the time looks like a child who hasn’t figured out the very basics of life yet. Don’t be that guy. Wear a watch like a man.
The Casio G-shock series is the best watch you can take with you on your backpacking adventure. These watches are affordable, virtually indestructible, and worn by astronauts, Navy-SEALS, and other ass-kickers and bad-asses. Prices range from around 40 to over a 1000 bucks.
They’re bulky and harsh-looking, and purely functional. G-shocks are solid, accurate timepieces that have an undeniable cool-factor. They are the Dodge Challenger of watches. Not very refined nor classy, but it’s the one that the bad guys in the movies use. It’s cool.
Pretty much all G-shocks show the date, have an alarm, illumination, and a world clock. If you want something for a specific purpose, there are models that show the tides, moon phases, altitude, and barometric pressure. Surfers, pilots, boat captains, outdoorsmen, and climbers love them for these features.
I personally own a Mud-man. The watch has served me well and never missed a beat, even through I’ve put it through hell. From extreme cold (-20c/-4f) to extreme heat (45c/113f), in salt water, and dusty environments… it just keeps on going. It has a little solar panel built in the watch-face and never requires replacing the battery, and it syncs with the atomic clock through satellites every day. Cool stuff. High geek-factor. I love it.
One of the most versatile objects in my pack.
Buff is legendary among seasoned travelers. You can either get the original, or the UV model. Like the name implies, the UV model offers better protection against the sun, and it deals with sweat better.
I usually wear it as a do-rag when I’m in sunny places. That way, it protects the top of my head, as well as my neck. The Rambo-headband-option is another favorite.
In extremely hot conditions, I wear it as a balaclava. Combined with sunglasses, literally my entire face is shielded from the sun.
The possibilities are almost endless.
Smart travel gear
A luggage lock is essential. You don’t want to leave your bag with your passport and valuables out in the open. The sad reality of hostels is that things sometimes get stolen. Most hostels have lockers in the rooms, but you’ll need to put your own lock on them. I bring two with me, which has proven to be practical. I keep one with each backpack.
Be sure to get TSA-approved locks. Look for the little red diamond logo.
I’ve had a suitcase completely destroyed on a trip to Florida because it had a non-TSA lock on it.
They crow-barred it open, went through my stuff, and duct-taped it shut after finding nothing. All I got to show for it was a note that said they had to force my suitcase open in the name of national security. No reimbursements or payments for damages, too bad, good luck. Harsh lesson learned.
These locks by Forge have been my choice since then for the following reasons:
- Heavier duty than most others
- They lock in the TSA agent’s key when they’re open until they’re closed again, which forces the TSA agent to re-lock your luggage after they’re done, because they won’t get their key back otherwise (they usually don’t bother re-locking your luggage, because they don’t care)
- Indicator that shows the lock has been opened with the TSA master key. That way you will know when your luggage has been inspected
- Lifetime warranty
Highly recommended, and the price is right.
Headlamps have several advantages over flashlights. Having both hands free while using it is a big one, especially when you’re carrying all kinds of stuff around, setting up a tent, or trying to navigate through a hostel dorm in the middle of the night. Another great advantage is the light shines exactly where you’re looking.
I use the Fenix HL50. It’s small, light, waterproof, and durable.
Thanks to LED technology, it’s incredibly bright yet the battery lasts a very long time. The light has three brightness settings, as well as a burst-mode, which is convenient when you only need a light for a couple of seconds.
The Fenix HL50 takes standard AA batteries, but you can also use a lithium CR123 cell, which I recommend. A single one of these high-capacity batteries lasted me over six months of extensive use. Take two or three spares with you and you’re good for a long time.
Get Duracell or Panasonic, and steer clear from the cheap Chinese garbage, unless you consider risking having a chemical lithium fire on your head worth saving a few bucks.
Leatherman makes heavy-duty multi-tools that don’t take up much space.
This is a very useful and versatile piece of gear that gets plenty of use. I use the can-opener, bottle-opener and the knife the most, but the screwdriver and pliers have have also come in handy more than once, especially if you’re planning on hitting the road in an old car or motorcycle.
The Leatherman Super Tool 300 is made out of hardened stainless steel, which means you won’t have to worry about it rusting all over your backpack. It’s a very solid piece of gear that its manufacturer stands behind, as it comes with a 25-year warranty.
Even though the Leatherman has a decent knife, a folding hunting knife is also good to have with you if you’re an outdoorsy person.
It might sound silly, but this will be one of the best things in your backpacks.
Many hostels have washing machines, but no dryers, and if they do, they’re usually of the heavy-duty industrial type that tear your clothes to shreds. Besides, when you have merino wool clothes, you don’t need a dryer. Hang those clothes out and they’re air-dried in no-time.
This travel washing line doesn’t require pegs, as you put a little corner of your clothes trough the loops of the line. It is also elastic, which makes it suitable for many different situations. I’ve set it up in several different hostel dorms between bunk beds and locker cabinets.
I’ve made other people happy by letting them use it to dry their towels as well. That’s always a nice bonus.
You need a towel, as most hostels don’t provide them. In the rare case they do, you’ll need to pay for it, which adds up.
A large cotton bath towel is nice and comfortable, but also very bulky and heavy when wet. A microfiber towel is a much better alternative.
Besides being small and lightweight, it is ultra-absorbent, dries up to literally ten times quicker than cotton, and it has anti-bacterial qualities.
The material is very strong. If you wring it out hard after use, it’s almost completely dry right away.
A must-have for every backpacker. Get the medium or large size.
If you’re visiting Asian countries, it’s generally not safe to drink the tap water.
A filtered water bottle is a great solution to this. It’s also a big money saver, as you won’t have to buy bottled water any more. Bottled water doesn’t cost much per bottle, but it adds up pretty quickly. Also, if you’re in the outdoors and need a drink, these bottles will allow you to safely drink from rivers and creeks. It’s pretty damn cool.
Even through the tap water in Western countries is mostly safe, it sometimes tastes bad. This bottle also takes care of that.
The bacteria/parasite filter is good for 4000 liter/1057 gallon, which should be enough to last you around three years of daily use. The bottle also has the luxury of an activated carbon filter that reduces chlorine and other bad tastes, rated for 100 liter/26 gallon.
Filters can be replaced after they are saturated.
A sleep mask is something you’ll enjoy every night. Be sure to bring one.
Hostel dorms are rarely peaceful, quiet places at night. When you share a room with six or more people, there’s always someone snoring, going to the bathroom, and arriving drunk in the middle of the night. Sometimes there’s partying, drinking and even banging going on.
All these things are part of the hostel experience and that’s great, but sometimes you just want to sleep. A sleep mask is a good solution to aid you in this. What makes the Sleepmaster unique is that it completely wraps around your head. This means it blocks out all of the light at all times, including when you’re laying on your side. Another advantage of this is that it also covers your ears, blocking out sound.
Also great to have for overnight flights and bus rides.
When you’re traveling, especially backpacking, there will be a lot of downtime. Plane rides, bus rides, train rides… you name it. An e-reader is a fantastic travel companion. It is one of my favorite inventions in my lifetime.
Yes, it’s not the same as reading a real book. You won’t have the satisfaction of flipping the pages, smelling the ink, and trading/sharing books with others. But, for backpacking, there’s no better device out there. It’s the size of a small tablet, and it can hold more books than you’ll be able to read in a lifetime.
In terms of practical entertainment, nothing comes even close to touching it. There’s no device out there that is this small and light, and yet can keep you entertained for several weeks on a single battery charge.
And no, reading on your tablet or phone isn’t even nearly the same kind of experience. The screen of an e-reader is like paper. It does not not reflect like glass, which makes it perfectly readable in bright sunlight. The screen itself also doesn’t radiate light like a phone/tablet/computer screen, which means you can read for hours without tiring out your eyes.
I own the Kindle Paperwhite, which has a backlight. This is very practical, as it’s basically a built-in reading light. It’s the first generation backlit Kindle from 2012, and it still works great. The one you buy today is several generations newer and better.
Amazon has three different readers for sale today.
- Kindle: standard model with a backlight
- Paperwhite: deluxe model with higher resolution screen, smoother design, better backlight & waterproofing
- Oasis: super-deluxe model with an adaptable, variable color temperature backlight, ergonomic design, automatic orientation, physical page turn buttons, premium materials
You can’t go wrong with any of them.
In case you’re not reading books, you should really start. There are few better things to do with your free time. This is a list of books I personally recommend.
While I recommend anyone to use his phone as little as possible while on vacation, it’s pretty damn convenient to be able to pull up Maps, stay in touch with the family, or make an impromptu booking every now and then.
When a phone is “unlocked”, it means you can pop in any SIM card you want. If you got your phone through a contract, chances are it will not work with foreign SIM cards, so check on that with your local provider.
If you’re traveling long-term, it’s a good idea to get a local SIM card for the country you’re in. It will make it significantly cheaper to make calls and browse the web wherever you are. Especially data can be incredibly expensive when you’re not on your own network. In many countries, pre-paid SIM cards are sold at airports.
It doesn’t really matter which brand phone you pick. iPhones are great, Androids are great, and all smartphones work everywhere these days. A refurbished iPhone from a few generations back is a great cost-effective, can’t-go-wrong option if you’re not sure what to get.
Whether you bring your brand new, high-end, expensive phone or a cheap knock-around one is up to you. Either way, I do recommend putting a good case on it when you take it on the road. Otterbox and Nomad make very nice rugged cases.
A powerbank is not absolutely necessary, but it is handy to have.
Hostels don’t always have power outlets in easily accessible places, so it’s nice to still be able to charge your gear. They’re also convenient when you’re stuck on a long flight or bus ride.
Anker makes safe, reliable powerbanks. They charge everything; iPhones, Androids, Windows Phones, cameras, and basically anything else that charges with a USB cable, which is almost everything these days.
This specific model has enough juice to charge the average phone up to four times. There are bigger ones out there, but they are also larger and heavier. This is the perfect compromise between capacity and volume. Get a multi-charger cable with it while you’re at it. Always handy and helpful for others around you.
Should you bring a laptop?
Taking a laptop on a backpacking trip isn’t a good idea for most people.
Laptops are bulky, heavy, vulnerable, and expensive. Smartphones do most of the things you need, and if you need to do a lot of typing, you can always find an internet cafe or library with desktop PCs.
If you do plan on writing a lot but don’t want to take a laptop, a Bluetooth keyboard is an option.
This one is compact and folds up onto a neat package, it works with any phone and tablet out there, and the batteries last forever.
I personally did take a laptop because of my photography/web-design business, as it helped sustain me financially during my trip. The model I have is a no-nonsense workhorse: the Lenovo X250 (current model is X390). It was nice to have with me, but it was also a burden, as it’s an expensive piece of gear that isn’t designed to get thrown around.
Even though it’s an ultrabook, it still is the biggest thing I have with me, especially taking the charger into consideration.
Bottom line: unless you you actually need a laptop (you probably don’t), it’s better to leave it at home.
Things to buy locally:
- Sunscreen – No need to go through the hassle of taking it with you on an airplane. Also, it’s a disaster when it leaks into your backpack. If you go to a sunny country, use this stuff. Don’t be an idiot.
- Food – Save for some snacks for during the flight, buy this local. If you’re flying, there’s a good chance they will take away all your food when you land, anyway. Especially meat and fruit. Also, eating local exotic dishes is a great part of the adventure! Stay away from the bat soup, though.
So there you have it. These were pretty much all my possessions for 18 months, and it never felt like I was missing something. I didn’t include my camera gear, as that doesn’t apply to non-photographers, and I will write a dedicated article about that in the future. Stay tuned for that.
Don’t worry about not being able to take your entire wardrobe with you. As strange as it might sound, it is really nice to not have a lot of stuff. Sure, sometimes you’ll miss your Xbox, kitchen, comfortable couch, guitar, and your desk. All those things are great to have, but ultimately, you’ll be just fine without them. Anything you don’t have, you don’t have to worry about.
If anything, I hope this list will give you some inspiration to embark on your own adventure. Not knowing what to take with you is off the list of excuses now.
Now go out there and hit the road.
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About Diederik Hoebée
Diederik Hoebée is a Dutch photographer that specializes in landscape, street, and portrait photography.
Living out of a backpack with a camera with one 35mm lens for 18 months fortified his passion for beauty and adventure. His photographic portfolio spans across Europe, the United States of America, Asia, and Oceania. Diederik is always working on photography projects and regularly takes on assignments.
Besides photography, Diederik has cocreated an app for travelers with food allergies, that generates a flash-card for the 14 most common food allergies in 44 different languages without requiring a data connection. He also launched a podcast that reaches thousands of listeners across the globe every month. Guests of the show are entrepreneurs, rock stars, rappers, painters, scientists, writers, world travelers, photographers, and other esoteric life-explorers.
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