If you’re on your first experience on a backpacking trip, you’re probably wondering what to put in your backpack. It’s totally normal, we’ve all been through this, and everyone has learnt what it really takes to go on a backpacking trip.

The keywords are:

  • lightweight, not to tire your back out,
  • versatile, because it’s better to bring objects with you that can be helpful in different situations
  • essential, because you’re traveling with few things but they’re the only ones you really need.

To make it easier, I wrote this guide about the must have objects. If you’re interested in which clothes to take, read my article (you’ll find the link at the end of this page).

Must have objects for a backpacking trip

  • (Plastic) bags. To keep dirty things together, but also to separate clothes. By doing so, it’ll be very easy to pull something out when you need it.
  • A pair of scissors. Not in your hand luggage.
  • Elastic bands. Trust me, they’ll be useful. They hold together whatever you want and keep everything you need closed, e.g. crackers and biscuits packs. If a pack opens in the middle of your backpack, the crumbs will be with you for your whole trip and possibly future ones!
  • Headlamp, even if you aren’t a speleologist. They’re helpful for everything, once the lights are off, if you’re outside or in a hostel: reading a book, jotting down a note, looking for something in your backpack or packing quickly early in the morning, or just going to the toilet.
  • A water-resistant folder to keep all your tickets, reservations, maps, copies of your IC and passport… Put it in your hand luggage. E-tickets and other documents you saved on your smartphone might not be accessible if the connection doesn’t work or the battery is low.
  • A notepad, with 2 or 3 pens. Even if you think you aren’t going to write anything down, a piece of paper to jot down a name, a number, an address or a word in a foreign language could always be useful. If you’re staying in a hostel, you also need paper to write your name on your stuff in the shared fridge.

The essentials to keep in your backpack

  • Underpants. No need to explain, is there?
  • Slippers. Socks can easily replace the comfortable ones for your moments of relax, but I strictly recommend bringing a pair of flip flops with you, to protect your feet in those not so clean showers. They could also be useful to go to the sea.
  • Some hostels don’t provide towels. In my experience, it’s better to take an extra-light microfibre bathrobe.
  • Toiletry bag. Toothbrush, toothpaste, hairbrush, deodorant, face cream, lip balm, and anything else you need. It’s better if in a small size, to save space and weight. If you can stick to toiletries that aren’t over 100 ml, you can pack them into your hand luggage for the flight, to be sure you won’t lose them. Tip: Sunglasses and sunscreen could be useful, even if you’re going to a cold place.
  • Cleaning wipes or a hand antibacterial gel to be used without water.

The food to keep with you

  • Food. Even if you’re sure you’ll find something to eat along the way, some emergency snacks might be useful. Click here for more info.
  • Water bottle. The volume depends on how much you drink and how many recovery points you find on your way.
  • A set of mini-cutlery, or only a little spoon, for emergency meals. I normally keep a lunch box with me, to contain all that not-so-solid food that could end into a pulp if smashed inside the backpack. It could be worse than breadcrumbs!

Medicines for an emergency kit 

Think about what you need and don’t forget to bring the medicines you usually take, along with anything extra that could be useful, such as foot care products. Throw the boxes away and keep only one blister, to make savings on space.

I’m a pharmacist, so I’ve been waiting for this moment: I’ve written some posts about which medicines not to forget, and you can consult them here.

Electronical stuff and everything goes together

I’m not the best person to ask about technology, but I’ve written something down based on my travel experience.

  • A charger for your electric devices and a portable one, too, to be charged before your departure.
  • An electrical outlet adapter. Just a click and you can easily be anywhere in the world!
  • Hotels and hostels has often shortage of electrical outlets, so bring a mini power strip or an adapter with multiple USB ports. In doing so, you can charge all your devices at the same time and help someone else who isn’t as organised as you are.
  • Smartphone, tablet, camera and everything else you want to take, but don’t forget as light as possible! Some hotel and hostels provide a safety box, so bring a combination lock with you (better than a key one, there’s no risk of losing it!).

Clothes for a backpacker

A special reference needs to be made regarding clothes. But I’ve already mentioned it in another post.

So, you scattered everything on your bed or your floor. Now, it’s time to put it inside your backpack, in order to save space and have everything in the right place at the right time. I tell you how to do it here.

Oh, the backpack! It’ll keep everything we have previously talked about together and it’ll become a part of your body, a pillow, a chair, a friend and… much more than a wardrobe… your house! For the perfect travel backpack, read here.

The more you travel, the more you learn how to pack a travel backpack that is perfect for you. So, share your personal tips in Comments section!

Also available in: itItaliano