Travel Packing Tips For Backpackers

Last updated on: 32 Comments
Travel Packing Tips For Backpackers
How to pack all this into two backpacks?

So you’ve made the life-changing decision to go backpacking around the world. Excellent! You’ll never turn back! But now you’ll need some travel packing tips to know what to take with you and to get the most out of your limited storage on the road.

My first time leaving home with a backpack I over-packed dramatically. I did so because I didn’t know what to pack or how to pack. It got so bad that one time I bought some wheels for my backpack so I didn’t have to wear it. Now how pathetic is that! It totally defeats the purpose of ‘backpacking’! Very lazy and a total rookie mistake. After many years now I am wiser and a lot better at knowing what to pack. Here are some tips I learned the hard way that will make your first backpacking experience much easier on your back!

Now, Show Me The Travel Packing Tips!

  • Packing Cells

These are our friend – our best friend. We have had top loader backpacks for a while now and having these are a lifesaver. When you put something down the bottom of your bag, all you have to do is pull out the cells and there it is! I have 4 cells (they come in different sizes). One for shirts, one for pants/shorts, one for underwear, and the other for random things. I can fit so much into them. No matter what type of luggage you choose, these are the greatest thing ever! Best way is to lay it flat, not roll. Get yours on Amazon!

  • Compression Bags

Great to compact your larger clothing items, like a jumper/sweater or sleeping bags. We have compacted our sleeping bags into small compression sacks to make them smaller. They have been especially useful when we had to pack heavier clothes for cold-weather climates, which you may not be grabbing every day. Buy it on Amazon.

  • Travel Micro Fibre Towel

Unless the sun is shining and it’s really hot where you are travelling to, everyone needs a towel to dry themselves after a shower. We have tried a couple of micro fibre towels and our favourite is the chamois-like material. It dries you better and also dries itself quickly. Grab a towel here.

  • Convertible Pants/Shorts

During the day I will use them as shorts, but in the evening I will turn them into pants. All I have to do is zip off the legs. These pants/shorts combos are awesome. They usually have many pockets that, while not the most fashionable, are extremely useful when you need to carry many different items on you (passport, wallet, map, etc). They come in all styles, so you will be able to find a mutual colour to go with everything. They are also light and usually dry quick. Buy your convertible pants on Amazon.

  • Quick Drying Clothing

You can wear a shirt one day, wash it at night and wear it the next day again without worrying about being “that” smelly traveller!. We have lots of quick dry clothing, and love the practicality of them. We only pack three shirts, one pair of pants (that converts into shorts), one pair of swimming trunks, and four pairs of underwear each. They are all quick dry, and serve out purposes perfectly. Being able to do your own laundry at night also helps you save money. See below.

  • Silk Liner

One thing you can never escape is mosquitos! Sometimes your accommodation will not have mosquito nets to protect you from them, so sleeping in this liner can help.. They are lightweight and fold down to nothing. Some accommodation strangely provides you with a rug/blanket, but no sheets. The cheaper ones will provide nothing at all besides the bed! If you are worried about cleanliness, the silk liner can help ease your mind. They are also perfect for covering yourself up during hot nights. We also keep them in our sleeping bags, to help keep those clean. Buy a silk liner.

  • Universal plug, clothesline and washing powder

This has saved us a good amount of money, and time waiting for our clothes to be laundered. We wash our clothes in our accommodation’s sink and hang them where ever we can with our clothesline. Some hotels have a note saying no laundry, but at the end of the day a shirt and underwear is not a lot. If you make washing your own clothes a regular part of your routine, you will always have a clean wardrobe to wear – along with some extra spending money! Grab a travel laundry kit here.

  • Sarong

I know this is a strange one but I use my sarong all the time. It can be used as a beach towel, to cover your shoulders or legs if you are visiting temples, a rug for the floor to sit on, a blanket to keep warm on the bus, padding for fragile items, and much more. Or you can get creative and turn it into a fashionable dress.

  • Lightweight Rain/Wind Resistant Jacket

One thing you cannot control is the weather. In many tropical locations, it can be a beautiful sunny day at one moment, and be pouring rain the next. The weather has a mind of its own. We have light weight rain jackets that can be compressed to take up hardly any room. They are handy to have in the top pocket of your bag just in case a storm rolls through. Don’t leave without a North Face rain jacket.

  • Fold-Up Backpack/Shoulder Bag

When we first started traveling we had big 80L backpacks, and a smaller 20L one for the front. Each. When you have lots of spare space you have a tendency to fill it with stuff you do not need. Now we carry 40L and 50L backpacks, and it is still more than enough. You will want a little backpack to carry your belongings during long journeys on transport, and for day trips. We have found that having a pocket-fold up backpack fills this role perfectly. The only thing with these type of bags is that you need to watch the amount of weight you put in it. Great for simple things, like a sweater, passport, iPad, iPhone, etc. Those valuables you want to carry on you instead of throwing down in the cargo hold. Buy a packable backpack here.

  • Backpack Rain Cover

These essential covers fold down to nothing. You have the lightweight jacket to protect yourself from the rain, now you need to protect your belongings! If you really want to go on the cheap, a large, strong garbage bag also works. Short trip? Just buy a cheap rain cover. Long trip? Get something a bit more durable.

  • Flip Flops/Sandals And A Pair Of Hiking/Walking Shoes

You do not need high heels, flats, dress shoes or nice boots on a backpacking trip. All you need is a pair of flip flops or sandals and a pair of walking shoes to get you around town. If you do a lot of hiking, get a pair of boots that are designed for this activity. Those are the only shoes we travel with and that is all we ever need. In the summer you do tend to live in your flip flops, so you might have to replace them a few times. Teva sandals are awesome, and we’ve always used and recommended Salomon hiking boots.

 

Do you have any of your own travel packing tips? Leave a comment below and let us know what you would recommend for a first-time backpacker!

About the author

Alesha Bradford

As one half (some would say the better) of NOMADasaurus, Alesha has been travelling extensively since 2004. Her backpacking missions have seen her take on most of North America, Central America and parts of the UK. Now she is in South East Asia, backpacking overland to South Africa without taking any air transport. With an insatiable appetite for adventure and happiness, she aims to inspire others to realise their dreams by sharing her experiences through photography and travel advice. You can follow her journey on Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and Instagram

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32 COMMENTS

  1. We are two ,now retired ,backpackers and call ourselves ” Greynomads” ,I felt really proud to note that we have evolved a pack with all your kit list ! We are hoping to go to Myanamar,Vietnam and Laos next so your blog is extremely useful , thank you.

      Hi Kate, thank you so much. That’s amazing. You both will love Myanmar, Vietnam and Laos. They are all amazing countries. So glad our list came in handy for you and are now in your kit. We wish you all the best with your travels. If you have any questions don’t hesitate to message us on our Facebook.

        Awesome list! Discovering compression bags were the greatest thing that happened to me last year, I can’t recommend them enough.

    One thing that I always have in my daypack and that you can pick up anywhere are baby wipes or wet wipes. Great if you find there’s no toilet roll/forgot your own, good just to refresh your face or have a wipe down when you are hiking and plus baby wipes clean absolutely anything..!

      We used to travel with wet wipes, but for some reason have forgotten to purchase any during this trip. We’ll have to jump back on the bandwagon for China! Thanks for the tip Mike 🙂

    I read so much about what to pack / what not to take before we left, and I STILL over packed! I ended up donating quite a lot of my clothes to local charities as I just didn’t need them!

    Totally agree with packing cells. They made my packing so quick and easy and I knew where everything was.

    The other thing I found incredibly useful was my front loading backpack. Saved pulling out everything if I needed something at the bottom!

      We love our packing cells! We used to have front loading backpacks as well. Definitely make life easier, but we’ve gotten used to our top-loaders now and are quite happy with using them. Again where our packing cells come in handy! Thanks for reading Karianne!

    My first backpack trip was to Malaysia and Thailand. One thing I forgot to bring are slippers. I just bought a pair upon arriving. I didn’t know I’ll do a lot of walking!

    i found that taking a powerboard with us when travelling helped SO much (took one with 4 sockets) only needed one universal adaptor and then you can charge all your items at once 🙂 probably the best brainwave i’ve had in a long time! haha

      A powerboard definitely comes in handy Teish! So many accommodations only hve the one power point. Thanks for the great suggestion.

    Such an excellent list! I couldn’t agree more that it’s so important to have the proper shoes in place. Doing so really helps to make the experience more enjoyable and efficient! Thanks for sharing!

      Thanks very much Caryl. You are right about the shoes! Chances are you will be spending a huge chunk of your trip wandering around in them, so it’s best to make sure they are comfortable and durable!

    This is a great list. We have pretty much everything except the packing cells and compression bags. Do you recommend any specific ones? Don’t the packing cells take up a lot of space or at least more than just putting all your stuff directly into the bag?

      Thanks for reading, Ben. The packing cells themselves don’t take up any room but using them to store your clothes is definitely not as efficient as tight rolling or stuffing. That being said, we try not to carry too much stuff with us anyway and while our backpacks are pretty full, they are far from being on the brink of exploding. To us the miniscule amount of room lost by packing our clothes and various equipment into the cells is worth it to have such convenience in unpacking and packing on a regular basis.

    Wow! That is a lot of stuff to pack, it must have been quite challenging to get to fit it all. Your tips are pretty good though, the compression packs sound very useful, maybe it’s time to get some 🙂

      Thanks for reading Franca! It looks like a lot, but between two bags (a 50L and a 40L) it fits quite nicely. Doesn’t leave much room for souvenirs, but when you’re travelling long term you can’t really purchase bulky souvenirs anyway. A good way to limit yourself.

      Compression sacks are great, although to be honest the packing cells are our favourite. Great thing with the compression sacks however is you can buy waterproof types.

    Great list guys! I’m so hopeless at packing so that’s a list I am gonna keep and follow when backpacking my next destination – Abu Dhabi next week =)

      Thanks very much Agness. I find it hard to believe you’re hopeless at packing with all your experience though 😉 Can’t wait to hear all about your adventures in Abu Dhabi!

    These are some great tips! I’ve especially found the compression packs useful. It is amazing how much room they create in your backpack!

      Thanks Samuel! You’re right about the compression packs. Makes a huge difference inside your backpack! I keep my sleeping bag in a waterproof compression pack and it adds that extra layer of protection as well. Cheers for reading =)

    Great blog post, few usefull things in the post.

    Such a small thing, but I find having a carabeener (spelling?) is really helpful. It’s just a big clip used for rock climbing for anyone who doesn’t know.

    But it’s so convenient to clip on the outside of my purse/tote/day bag. I use it to hook my sandy flip flops on the outside of bag so they don’t make a mess, clip together lots of plastic bags from shopping, or use as a connector to tie a laundry line to a post.

      headlamp – great for overnight bus/boat trips or being stranded in the middle of no where…

        Spot on Alley! Thanks for that. We use our headlamps all the time. Good for impromptu cave exploration missions too!

        Brilliant!! (No pun intended LOL)
        I don’t own a headlamp but I always take my eco flash-light (those that can be charged manually) for emergencies =P

          Good tip, Sarah! The self-charging lights are really great as well! We haven’t got any of these ourselves but when our batteries go flat on the normal headlamps we definitely wish we had packed one.

        I’ve read that headlamps come in handy. Something we’ll have to remember.

      Good call, Rachel. Carabiners are a great tool to have in your backpack. Thanks!

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