This list of travel essentials for women includes all the items that a girl shouldn’t travel without.
It took me years of traveling and carrying heavy backpacks to master the art of packing – and even more so the art of packing light. No matter how much thought and effort I’d put in my packing, there always used to be something I’d forget to bring; something that I brought but was never used; something that was completely out of place and some things that were just too much.
If you are a girl about to embark on a trip – short or long, it doesn’t matter – you’ll be relieved to know that I have this female packing list thing finally nailed. You can count on me to tell you what to bring and what to leave behind, and to share a bunch of useful travel packing tips.
In this post, I will tell you all the travel essentials for women that you should take with you, and share a few packing tips for female travelers.
A small backpack makes an excellent daypack
9 Useful Packing Tips For Female Travelers
Pack light – no matter how long you are traveling for
Whether you are traveling for a month or just for a long weekend, you need to minimize the amount of stuff you take with you. Remember that there will be times when you’ll have to walk a few blocks to get to your hotel; or your accommodation won’t have an elevator or someone to help you with your luggage. The heavier your bag, the harder it is to carry it around.
Regardless of the duration of your trip, don’t pack more than 12 kgs!
A backpack is always a good idea
After having had to dodge a suitcase in the streets of Havana and Trinidad, avoiding potholes and dragging it on cobbled alleys, I have resolved to always use a backpack. Unless you are being taken from door to door and don’t have to worry about carrying a suitcase at all, a backpack is always a better option for it allows you to move more easily and it is much easier to carry up a flight of stairs.
Use a small backpack as a carry on
During one of my last trips with my sister, I was using a small backpack as a carry on, while she had her usual small rolling suitcase. As we were going through security, she was stopped by the airline personnel who demanded to weight her bag and forced her to re-distribute her stuff (she had to take several things out) so that it didn’t weight as much. They didn’t even bother looking at me and my backpack. Yet, I am convinced it actually weighted more than my sister’s suitcase.
Backpacks attract less attention and they are rarely checked for weight – probably because considered less obtrusive. Invest in a small backpack as a carry on, and ditch the small rolling suitcase!
Pack a change of clothes in your carry on
Luggage gets lost occasionally and you may get stuck in a city you don’t know, after a very long flight, desperately looking for some clean clothes and a change of underwear in shops you don’t know. Always pack a change of clothes in your carry on – something you can count on until your bag is delivered to you. Keep it simple – a pair of leggings and a t-shirt, or a light dress, and some clean underwear and socks.
Don’t put all your money in one place
If you are carrying lots of cash with you, don’t put it all in one place! Put some in your purse and some in your main backpack – if you get robbed, you will at least have something for small expenses until you get your documents sorted.
Will you be hiking? Then boots are a must!
Keep in mind the places you are visiting
Are you visiting cities and archeological sites, or will you be hiking up mountains? Are you going to the least explored regions of the Amazon, to the Andes or to Antartica? Keep your destination in mind when packing.
The clothes you should bring with you vary greatly depending on the regions you are visiting. In some cases you will be crossing several climates (that’s when packing becomes even more of a challenge), and you’ll have to be prepared for all of them.
For detailed, regional packing lists, check the following posts:
Make sure to also consider whether the places you are visiting are off the beaten path – off the beaten path places are fantastic to visit, but you usually can’t get hold of things you may need there.
Consider the style of your trip
Are you traveling independently or will you be joining a guided group tour? Will you be using public transportation much, or are you only counting on private transfers or a car rental? Are you covering long distances by plane, or will you be catching night trains?
First of all, whenever possible opt for trains over planes – it will lower your carbon footprint.
If you are traveling by plane, you will need to keep in mind the baggage restrictions and regulations. Please remember that different airports in different parts of the world will have different security checking procedures. If traveling within Europe, you can consult the website of the European Commission.
If you are using public transportation, packing light is even more important. You won’t have the comfort of a car or shuttle picking you up directly from your hotel and loading the bags for you, and on some occasions you’ll have to run to catch a train or bus that is departing.
If yours going to be an adventurous trip, with a lot of hiking, or do you plan to just sit at the beach or at most explore an archeological style or a city? Whatever you carry with you will change depending on what you plan to do while traveling. If you are going hiking, you will have to take your boots with you. And you can’t wear bright clothes on a safari.
Unless you are traveling to attend a conference, an event or a business meeting, you should leave your fancy clothes at home. Bring pants and shirts that can be layered and matched with different items to create a variety of outfits, and that can be layered easily. Take stuff that packs small, that doesn’t require ironing and that you can easily wash. Bring a t-shirt or a dress that you can easily dress up or down. And remember that nobody will think any less of you if you don’t wear heels.
Leave that hair dryer at home
Much like you don’t need to be dressed up while traveling, you definitely don’t need to have perfectly styled hair as well. That is to say, leave that hair dryer and curling iron at home. In any case, most hotel rooms nowadays have a hair drier and if they don’t, reception will lend you one.
All The Travel Essentials For Women You Can’t Travel Without
The number one in the list of travel essentials for women is a good backpack. You won’t ever find me recommending a rolling suitcase. Unless I am staying at a luxury hotel, I won’t ever use one. In fact, most of the time I opt for a backpack no matter the kind of hotel where I am staying.
When it comes to backpacks, you really want to opt for something that is big enough to carry your stuff, but not so huge to be impossible to lift. Your backpack should be:
Light and at the same time sturdy
Waterproof or at least with a rain cover – this is important if you travel during rain season
With padded shoulders and hip bands
With plenty of side pockets to keep things separate and within easy reach
Opening like a suitcase as well as from top and bottom
Adjusted to your body size – this is probably the most important thing!
Make sure to try the backpack before purchasing it. However, keep in mind that it won’t be the same thing as actually packing it. Which is why love Osprey. They have an app you can download and input your body size and type to pick the best backpack for you. That’s who I ended up with my Ariel 65, which is just perfect for me. I also have a Berghaus Wilderness 60+15 which I find is too big for someone my size.
These are my favorite backpacks in the range of 60 to 70 liters:
A good daypack is just as important in the list of travel essentials for women. It’s what you’ll carry with you on the plane, what you will use during the day while exploring, and what you will take with you while hiking.
One thing to keep in mind is that you’ll often be wearing your daypack in front of you. Some backpacks are very comfortable to wear – just not in the front. So for example my Osprey Daylite Plus is a great small backpack for a hike, but its handle is such that I can’t really wear it in the front without choking myself.
My favorite daypacks are:
Zomake Lightweight– it’s foldable, very light and comes in many colors to match your clothes.
Osprey Skarab 22 – a very good daypack with plenty of pockets to organize your stuff. It’s excellent for short hikes.
You can also pack a very small purse to use during the day. It should be small enough to be comfortable to carry around, but at the same time pack your phone, wallet, and anything else you may need for the day.
Kuhl clothes are lovely – they make you look stylish while feeling comfortable
Packing cube have recently made my list of travel essentials for women. I love how they help me keep my backpack tidy and organized. I recommend using one for your t-shirts, one for your underwear and one for your cables and camera equipment.
If you are not obsessed with photography, buy a good compact mirrorless camera. If you have an excellent smartphone, you can even just use that.
Miscellaneous tech items to add to female packing list
Other items that are travel essentials for women include:
A smartphone – you’ll use it to talk to your family and friends at home; to take photos; and to guide you through apps such as Google Maps. Make sure it is unlocked, in case you need to buy a local SIM card.
A reliable power bank – in case you need to charge your phone on the go.
A kindle – a must if you love reading. Make sure to get one with a built in light so you can read at night too.
Alock – to keep your stuff safe, especially if you opt to stay in a dorm. Pick one that has a combination – so that you don’t have to worry about the key.
Pack smartly, and it’ll save you a lot of hassle!
Comfortable yet pretty clothes are the best thing when traveling. I am a huge fan of Kuhl clothes because they are very comfortable, perfect for hiking but also for sightseeing, easy to wash and dry and at they make me feel pretty.
My list of travel essentials for women includes clothes that you can layer to wear even on colder climates:
3 pairs of pants, best if in colors you can easily match. I love Kuhl Cliffside Convertible andKuhl Hykrpants. Convertible pants are a great solution if you think you will need shorts at some point.
Depending on where you travel, a combination of 6 long and short sleeves t-shirts. I suggest picking 100% cotton shirts for the summer ones, and cotton mixed with wool for colder climates. Throw in a thermal shirt if you are going to a very cold place. I often wear my Kuhl Sora t-shirt, and the Kuhl Wunderershirt. I have both in a few colors. For short sleeves I pack the Kuhl Kyra and Kuhl Sora.
A comfortable t-shirt and a pair of leggings – they can be used as a pajama.
A tank top or two, to wear on warmer days. I like kuhl Karisma.
A light scarf – you can use it when it is cold, or to cover your shoulders if you are visiting churches or temples.
A swimsuit, if your trip has some beach or pool time.
A pretty dress. I love Kuhl dresses as they are comfortable, easy to wear and with the right accessories they can become nice and fancy. I love the Kyra dress.
I have some news for you! You don’t really need to pack 5 pairs of shoes. Are you shocked?
Ok, just kidding. The bottom line here is that much like for the clothes, when deciding which shoes to bring with you you have to think of the things you are going to do during your trip. If you are going to hike, hiking boots are a must. Also bring a pair of flip flops (perfect for the beach and to shower) and a pair of comfortable walking shoes.
These are some good shoes to add to your female packing list:
If you really want to feel all fancy take a pair of flats. They pack really small.
A list of travel essentials for women is bound to include a good dose of personal care items. Make sure to get yourself a good toiletry bag like this one – something you can hang and that has pockets to store all your toiletries and keep them separate. Other than the obvious, make sure to pack the following:
Tea tree oil: perfect to put on insect bites and on minor cuts.
A menstrual cup – it produces zero waist and thus is much more environmentally friendly, and you won’t have to worry about having to buy tampons, liners and the like. The only recommendation I have is to pick something that fits you in terms of size and feel, or else wearing it is a real hassle.
First Aid Kit
Make sure to add first aid kit with at least some basic medications and your prescription drugs to your female packing list. You should include the following:
Sewing kit – for fixing stuff on the go. Some of them are tiny!
Guide book – if you need to look for quick info about your destination but have no internet
Notebook – if you like keeping a diary while traveling.
Spare cash – keep it separate from your wallet.
Spare passport photos – for that SIM card you may want to get.
By all means, among the female travel essentials that should never be missing there is a good travel insurance. If you are still unsure whether you need it, make sure to read my post “Why You Need A Good Travel Insurance.”Otherwise, you can get a good travel insurance here.
Are there any other items that should be included among these travel essentials for women?
This list of backpacking essentials includes all the items that should never be missing in your backpack.
You’re all ready for your big backpacking trip. You’ve been dreaming of this for years. You got your flights. You have thought about a rough itinerary. You booked a place to stay for the first few nights. You’ve been counting the days until departure day. But have you really thought about what you should be packing and carrying with you?
Packing for a long term trip is easier said than done. I know it all too well – I have done multiple trips that were longer than a month. After having packed too much the first couple of times – to the point that they’ve called me “unsuccessful backpacker;” and after having packed so light that I left behind items I would have actually needed, I have mastered the art of packing and I know know what to include among my backpacking essentials.
However, before I go on to explain you what you should be including in your backpacking list, let’s go over a few questions that you should be considering before packing.
Backpacking For Beginners – 9 Important Things To Consider Before You Start Packing
How long are you traveling for?
Are you planning to go backpacking for a month, two or more? Do you have a return date, or you’ll just see how things go and swing it?
Depending on your estimated duration of your trip, you may want to pack differently and your backpacking equipment may change. I don’t necessarily mean to pack more for longer trip – in fact, your final overall weight should remain more or less the same and never exceed 12 kgs, or else you’ll break your back.
If you are planning to travel for a long period of time, you may want to consider bringing sturdier stuff – clothes that won’t get ruined or that won’t wear out after being washed a couple of times. On the other hand, if you are only traveling for a month, you can do with lightweight stuff that you won’t mind getting rid of when it gets ruined.
Packing light is key
Let me say it one more time: a longer trip doesn’t mean you have to carry more stuff, but just that you have to pack smartly and learn some ultralight backpacking skills. Keep in mind that there will be times when you’ll have to walk for quite some time before finding a place to stay; or when you’ll be stuck in traffic and decide to get off the bus to walk to the train station, which is still quite a way. The heavier the backpack, the more the effort you’ll have to make to walk and the more painful it will be on your back.
Don’t travel with a backpack that holds over 65 liters and even if you do, don’t pack more than 12 kgs into it.
Are you visiting deserts and jungles?
What places are you visiting?
Are you into tourist attractions and famous places, or will you go off the beaten path as much as possible?
Keep this in mind when putting together your list of backpacking essentials. While off the beaten path places are fascinating, you won’t get easily get hold of things you may need there. For example, if you find you need a new pair of pants or shoes, you’ll have plenty of shopping opportunities in big cities such as Bogota or Cartagena, the same can’t be said for off the radar kind of places such as the Rupununi region of Guyana.
You must avoid tourist prices
Shopping opportunities may abound in the places you plan to visit. In some cases you will manage to get a good deal for slightly faulty stuff, as it happens in places where big multinationals have their factories (ie in Sri Lanka or Vietnam).
More often than not, however, you’ll be charged an arm and a leg for a thing you can get at a much more reasonable price at home. That’s the case of tiny El Chalten, in Argentina, where you’ll find any possible thing you may need for hiking, but at an unreasonable price.
In general, your objective is to pack all the necessary backpacking gear so that you won’t end up paying tourist prices for it during your trip.
Will you be only traveling to countries that have a tropical climate and are warm year round, or will you also be going to colder places? Will you be visiting any place during its rain season?
If you are on a long term trip in Central and South America, you will be crossing several climates. In fact, you’ll be crossing several climates even within one country at times. For example, Guyana is steadily hot and humid year round, you won’t really need to pack warm clothes (other than a sweater and a jacket you can wear during the flight), but you may need rain proof gear.
In Colombia, you’ll be going from the steaming Cartagena to the constantly chilled Bogota. And places like Patagonia know sudden weather changes even in the summer and you’ll need to be prepared for any weather conditions.
Having said that, remember that you need to consider the baggage restrictions and regulations if traveling by plane. Keep in mind that different airports in different parts of the world implement different rules and have different security checking procedures. For information about traveling in Europe, consult the website of the European Commission.
Once you arrive at your destination, you will mostly be taking public transportation – buses and trains, at times small tuk tuks, and the occasional cab here and there. The last thing you want when running to hop on a train that is about to depart in a crowded train station like that of Roma Termini, or when boarding a packed chicken bus in Nicaragua, is to juggle a very heavy backpack. That’s why you need to pack light.
Where will you be sleeping?
Are you going to sleep in hostel dorms, or will you be looking for camping sites? If there are high chances you’ll be camping at times, you should be carrying the necessary equipment – which means that you’ll have to save space here and there so that you can fit a tent, a sleeping bag and a thin mattress, and other camping gear.
If you book hostels along the way, you’ll be spared the hassle of having to wander around town with a heavy backpack. Other times, booking is not actually possible – some hostels do not take reservations – and you may end up having to walk around in search of a bed.
Once again, regardless of what accommodation options you are considering, you need to pack light. I have learned from experience that having to look for a dorm while carrying my 18 kg backpack (that’s how heavy it was during my first long term trip) in the blistering sun is hardly my idea of fun.
Will you be hiking? Keep this in mind when packing for a long term trip
What things are you hoping to do?
What are you planning to do during your backpacking trip? Are you likely to just be a beach bum, or will you be exploring cities and archeological sites? Will you often go hiking or are you more into wildlife spotting? Your backpacking packing list will change depending on what you plan to do. If you plan to just go beach hopping, you won’t need hiking gear. If you are mostly hiking, there are some items that shouldn’t be missing. And if you are joining a safari (yes, there are plenty of budget yet responsible safari companies around) you will need adequate clothing.
A backpacking trip is about having fun, exploring new places, getting to know new cultures, meeting new friends. You won’t be asked to walk on a catwalk; but you’ll likely have to walk on a narrow hiking trail. This is to say that you don’t have to be glamorous, but sure enough you have to feel comfortable. Keep this in mind when deciding what goes in your backpack – it will save you a lot of space.
Backpacking Essentials – All The Items You Shouldn’t Travel Without
Remember that your objective is to travel as light as possible. I recommend to opt for a backpack that packs 65 liters or under, whether you are a man or a woman. Make sure to get a backpack that is:
Light yet sturdy
Waterproof or at least with a rain cover – this is essential if you travel in places where there are high chances of rain
Padded at the shoulders and hip bands
With plenty of pockets to keep things separate and easy to reach
Opens from the top and the bottom, once again to allow you to easy reach what you need
Possibly has a zipper on the larger compartment – so you don’t have to empty it completely to reach right in the middle
Adjusted to your body size
Comfortable, sitting nice and easy on your hips and not pulling down your shoulders.
In theory, you should try your backpack before you buy it. However, I doubt that whatever shop you’ll go will allow you to pack it with all the backpacking essentials you will be taking with you, so you’ll never really know how it fits.
That’s why I swear by Osprey. They have a fantastic app which you can download on your smartphone and which helps you to pick the perfect backpack for your size and body type. That’s how I picked an Ariel 65, which is much better for my body type than the Berghaus Wilderness 60+15 (which however may be perfect for someone who’s taller than I am).
These are the best backpacks in the range of 60 to 70 liters:
Berghaus Trailhead 65 – a smaller version than the one above, you can pack loads on it. They also have a 60 liters version.
Your daypack is just as important as your backpack. This is where you will keep your computer (if you travel with one), your purse and other items you want within very easy reach when moving from one place to the other. You’ll use it during the day, every day, when you’re out exploring or on day hikes. It has to be sturdy yet as lightweight as possible; it should ideally have side pockets to hold a bottle of water; it shouldn’t be too big.
Remember that oftentimes you’ll be wearing your daypack in front of you. Some aren’t really suitable for this. I love my Osprey Daylite Plus. It is perfect for a short hike and to walk around. However, it is oh so uncomfortable to wear in the front, as its handle won’t fold so it literally chokes me.
These are some good daypacks you can add to your backpacking essentials:
Zomake Lightweight– it’s foldable, it’s light and comes in many colors. And it’s very conveniently priced.
Osprey Skarab 22 – a very good daypack with plenty of pockets to organize your stuff. It’s excellent for short hikes.
Keeping things tight and well organized in a backpack is easier said than done. Packing cubes should never be missing from your backpacking gear. They can take some extra space and weight which you could use otherwise, but they help you keep things organized so you know where they are and can easily reach them if you need them. You can use one for your t-shirts, one for your underwear and one for your cables and camera equipment.
I learned the trick of using vacuum seal storage bags when I was living on campus while attending the University of Essex. My closet was so small that in an extreme effort of saving some space I discovered these bags that I could hand roll shut to expel all the air and reduce the volume and weight dramatically. I occasionally do the same when backpacking – it saves a lot of space. You can keep your dirty clothes in it (it won’t matter if it gets all creased) or items you don’t need for a while – ie sweaters when you are traveling in hot climate.
Consider using some dry bags to keep your electronics and cables – stuff such as your camera and other important gear that you want to protect from water. It’s worth the investment to save yourself a headache!
The tech stuff
Most backpackers will only carry a compact camera or a smartphone with them. I love taking photos, so I never leave without my camera.
Alternatively, you can take a good compact mirrorless camera. Depending on what you aim to photograph, this is more than enough.
Unless you work remotely and plan to grab some work here and there while traveling, I don’t recommend bringing a laptop with you. It honestly is a hassle, as you always have to make sure it is locked safely while you are out and about. A malicious person will manage to get into a good locker; and it is honestly extra weight you can do without.
Having said so, if you really want to carry it with you, opt for something that is super light and high quality. Here’s what I recommend:
MacBook Air – I challenge you to find a laptop that is as light as this, and as efficient.
iPad Pro– a great alternative if you want something even more lightweight.
Miscellaneous tech items to add to your backpacking essentials
Other items that are essential among your backpacking equipment include:
A smartphone – this is the easiest way you have to communicate with your family and friends. Make sure it is unlocked, so you can buy local SIM cards if necessary.
A reliable power bank – you’ll use it to charge your phone and other tech items on the go
A universal plug adapter – make sure to get one before leaving, or you’ll have to get one at the airport for 10x the price, or discover the word for adapter in whichever language before you can head out to get one.
A kindle – if you are a fan of reading, this is a must. Get one with a built in light so you can read when everyone else around you is already asleep. Or else you’ll have to rely on book crossing which at times have a shortage of good books in your language.
Alock – no matter what you plan to carry in your backpack, and even more so if you take a valuable camera, a computer, a tablet and so on, a lock is one of the most valuable backpacking essentials. Needless to say, you always have to pick a dorm where lockers are available to guests. Pick a lock that has a combination – it’ll help you having to put keep the key to it handy and safe.
Make sure to pack comfortable clothes
As I have said before, your aim when backpacking is to be comfortable. Being pretty while you are also comfortable comes as an added bonus. I love Kuhl clothes because they are extremely comfortable, perfect for hiking, easy to wash and dry and at the same time very stylish.
If you are planning a long term trip crossing several climates, your list of backpacking essentials should include:
3 pairs of pants, best if in neutral colors. I love Kuhl Cliffside Convertible andKuhl Hykrpants. Convertible pants are a great solution if you think you will need shorts at some point.
A combination of 6 long and short sleeves t-shirts. Go for 100% cotton for the summer ones, and cotton mixed with wool for the long sleeve. You may also want to pack a thermal or technical shirt. I swear by my the Kuhl Sora t-shirt, which I have in several colors, and the Kuhl Wunderershirt. For short sleeves I use the Kuhl Kyra and Kuhl Sora.
A comfortable t-shirt that you can wear to go to bed. Takes less room than a whole pajama. You will also need a pair of leggings – you can use them to go out and to sleep
A couple of tank-tops to wear on warmer days. I usually pack my kuhl Karisma.
A swimsuit, for those days at the beach or for jumping in the pool.
A pretty dress. Kuhl has tons of pretty looking dresses that are also very comfortable. My favorite is the Sora dress as it is very easy to wear and it packs really small.
Much like for the clothes, when deciding what shoes to include among your backpacking essentials you need to consider what activities you plan to do. If there are good chances of hiking, a pair of good boots have to be included. They are heavy and bulky, but you can save space in the backpack by wearing them when you move from one place to the other. Other than that, make sure to bring a pair of flip flops (you can use them to go to the beach and to shower) and a pair of comfortable walking shoes.
These are some good shoes for your backpacking trip:
Your backpacking essentials have to include all personal care items you may need during the trip. Chances are you’ll have to buy them during the trip again, but things such as tampons (for women) and good razors (for men) aren’t easy to get hold of in certain countries. You will need a good toiletry bag like this one, which you can hang and that has multiple pockets to store all your toiletries. Other than the obvious, make sure to pack the following:
Sewing kit – in case you need to fix a hole in your t-shirt
Guide book – because you don’t always have internet to find information
Notebook – for when you want to write down your thoughts or need to take some notes
Spare cash – for those emergencies when your card isn’t working
Spare passport photos – in case you need them to get a local SIM card or other document.
By all means, make sure to get a good backpacker travel insurance to cover you throughout your trip. If you are still wondering whether you need it, head over to my post “Why You Need A Good Backpacker Travel Insurance.”Otherwise, you can get a good travel insurance here.
Are there any other items that should be included among these backpacking essentials?
If you are traveling – whether long or short term – there are some things you can’t do without. Discover what are the main backpacking essentials you should take with you in this post.
Packing efficiently for a trip – whether a long or short one – is easier said than done. Until not long ago, my packing list was the perfect reflection of my status of unsuccessful backpacker. I carried around 18 kg of stuff on my back (although to be fair that included two bottles of Malbec wine I had bought in Argentina and one bottle of Mezcal I had bought in Mexico), and something like 10 kg on my front. It was way too much, and I could hardly walk from the bus station to the hostel.
In fact, it is thanks to that huge backpack and day-pack, each filled to the brim with all the useful items on my backpacking essentials check list, that my ex started calling me “Turtle Tavani,” stressing that I did resemble a turtle and that if I ever fell down I wouldn’t be able to stand up again. I realized he was right when I went through border control in Colonia del Sacramento, in Uruguay, and I dropped something on the floor. I had to beg someone to get it for me as I could not bend.
My huge backpacking essentials list got me the nickname of Turtle Tavani
Years on, my backpacking essentials list has significantly shrunk: I understood that traveling is much more about being comfortable than it is about looking pretty in pictures. Now I pack smartly, trying to make sure I bring clothes that I can easily wash and mix and match. This way I carry less stuff, because I refuse to travel with a backpack that weights more than 12 kg. What hasn’t changed is that my ex still calls me “Turtle Tavani.”
I have also learned to pack more efficiently. Regardless of how much stuff I put in my travel list, I make sure that the heavy stuff goes on the bottom of my backpack, so that the weight is on my hips rather than on my shoulders.
But what items are never missing among my backpacking essentials? Here they are, in no particular order – I understand that this is a very girly packing list, but I am sure guys can easily adapt it to their own needs!
Backpacking Essentials: Everything You Need To Take On Your Trip
Backpacking essentials #1
A good backpack
This is the most important item on any good backpacking essentials list. I have tried several backpacks in the course of my travels, but the ones I like the most are the Osprey Ariel 65, which fits very comfortably on my shoulders and hips (they have a woman and a man’s version); and the Berghaus Wilderness 65+15 (this is a lot larger, though!). Beware that choosing a travel backpack is no easy task – it has to fit perfectly or else it will be a pain to carry.
A good backpack is the number one item on any proper backpacking essentials list
Or a nice carry-on
If I am going for only a short time, I’d rather travel carry-on only. My favorite carry-on bag is by Cabin Zero: it fits up to 44 liters of stuff, which means I can carry most of the items on my packing list. The good thing about it is that I don’t have to check it in, which is especially convenient if I have short connections between flights.
A nice carry on bag is the perfect item on a packing list
A good daypack
The second most important item in my backpacking essentials list is a good daypack. This is where I keep my important stuff (whichever can’t be missing in my travel list!) when commuting – my sunglasses; my iPhone and headphones; my MacBook which I always carry if I am traveling for more than a week; my camera and lens; all my cables; my power bank; my book or my kindle; a guidebook if I carry one; a headlamp (I hate being unable to read if the hostel doesn’t have a personal light); my passport, wallet and travel documents; and a few toiletries such as a travel toothbrush. It often ends up being as heavy as my backpack.
One of the best backpacking essentials is packing cubes. I didn’t even know what they were until a friend of mine showed me the marvel. They allow me to organize my clothes and to keep them in some decent order (I am otherwise unable to keep my backpack organized). I also carry dry packs, in order to keep my stuff safe from getting wet.
A hangable toiletry bag for all my toiletries
In my backpacking essentials I always include a good toiletry bag which is both waterproof and that I can hang on a towel rail or in the room. I prefer carrying the toiletries that go in my packing list from home rather than buying them on the way, as I can’t usually find small sizes or the products I prefer using (I prefer stuff that isn’t tested on animals).
The toiletries that are never missing from my travel check list are: a shampoo and a conditioner bar by Lush – they last forever, they leave my hair soft, my scalp never itches, and they are 100% vegan; a good shower gel or, in alternative, a good bar of soap; an electric toothbrush – I am mildly obsessed with brushing my teeth properly – toothpaste and dental floss.
Carrying comfortable clothes only is the key to organizing a good backpacking essentials list
Among my backpacking essentials there are a good sunblock with SPF 50+; deodorant; a night cream; a bar of massage oil – it is super handy to moisturize my skin and takes up very little room; some make up stuff – though I hardly wear make up when I travel; nail clippers, a file and tweezers; a small brush and a comb; some elastic bands for my wild hair; daily use contact lenses.
Other items that are generally in my travel list are a bar of laundry soap (I normally buy one that is ecologic, and that can also be used on the body and hair just in case I run out of everything else) and a disinfectant hand gel.
Clothing and shoes
The clothes in my backpacking essentials list vary depending on the place I am visiting and on the season. I can safely walk around in shorts during the summer months in Sardinia, in Spain or in Central America. But no matter how hot it is, I can’t do that in India, where I need to cover my shoulders and wear large pants or long skirts. And if I go to cold places such as Ukraine in the winter, or Tierra del Fuego or Patagonia (whether in the summer or in winter), I need to wear warmer clothes.
Having said, there’s a number of items that I carry with me pretty much regardless of the season, and that hence are always in my travel check list.
I never travel without my wind and waterproof jacket by The North Face. It’s always among my backpacking essentials because it has proved to be extremely reliable under any weather conditions: I can wear layers under it and feel warm and dry; or just wear it by itself if it’s not cold outside. I admit it was pricey, but a great investment.
One of my backpacking essentials is a good wind and rain proof jacket
My backpacking essentials also includes a scarf, which I wear on long flights or bus rides. In some countries, it seems that the hotter it is outside, the colder the air conditioning is and this doesn’t agree with my delicate throat – so I’d better wear a scarf. Besides, I can ball up a scarf to use it as a pillow and I can use it to cover my shoulders on religious sites. That’s why I always have it in my travel list. Keep in mind that in some religious sites, such as Angkor Wat, visitors are required to actually wear a t-shirt that covers the shoulders and long pants.
If I am traveling to cold places, I also include a hat and a good pair of gloves in my packing list.
Unmissable backpacking essentials: leggings and a good fleece
A couple of fleece sweaters and jackets – Columbia makes some top quality ones – are a must among backpacking essentials. I have one that is thicker and has pockets and a zip at the front, which is super warm; and another one which is thinner but extremely comfortable and warm and packs really lightly, and is always in my packing list. I even carried it to Ukraine recently, and it proved to be a saver in the extreme chill!
Also in my packing list are a number of cotton tank tops and t-shirts. Nothing fancy: it’s stuff I can easily wash in a sink if I have to and which I won’t regret throwing away if they break.
A good pair of hiking pants is usually included in my backpacking essentials. I go hiking on pretty much all of my travels, and hiking pants are perfect as they are generally waterproof, windproof, and they dry super easily. My travel check list also includes a pair of shorts, a number of leggings, and cotton pants or sweat pants – whatever is comfortable to walk around in, and whatever can be easily washed without fear of it getting ruined. I used to never include jeans in my travel check list because they don’t keep me warm if it is cold outside, and they don’t keep me cool when it it hot. However, I find that if I am traveling to milder climates they are actually ok to wear. And I throw in a pretty dress, just in case.
A proper packing list to warmer climates should include a pair of shorts
As I love hiking, I never forget to include a few pairs of hiking socks among my backpacking essentials. These are socks that are meant to keep my feet warm and dry, especially if they are paired with good hiking boots. Normal socks may be fine, but there are chances that feet may move around in the shoe and the rubbing may cause blisters. I’d rather play it safe and wear good socks. And I try to remember to also pack a hat, so that my head doesn’t burn under the sun.
Lots of people I know say that they don’t include hiking boots among their backpacking essentials because they are heavy. I actually don’t carry them around in my backpack, but I wear them during flights or long commutes. I have two pairs of hiking shoes and I generally include one of the two in any packing list. One is a pair of sturdy Dolomite boots, so comfortable that when the sole was completely consumed, rather than throwing them way I opted to have them re-soled. They keep my feet dry, they give me proper ankle support and they are very reliable on slippery and uneven terrain. I don’t think they are even produced anymore, but there are plenty of other good hiking boots around.
Unless I am carrying my Dolomites, the other shoes that go in my travel check list are a pair of Solomon hiking shoes. These are a bit more lightweight and good for easier hikes – I would not recommend them for several days hikes, for example, but they are fine for a short, easy walk.
Other than that, the shoes that are never missing from my backpacking essentials list are my Converse All Stars shoes, and a pair of Havaianas flip flops which I use to get in showers when I stay in hostels, and to walk around in cities when it is too hot. This doesn’t apply to India though – it is simply too dirty there not to wear proper shoes!
Finally, my backpacking essentials usually include one or two bikinis. Whether I am traveling to Koh Chang, in Thailand, or to Flores, in Indonesia, where snorkeling is a must; or whether I am going to colder places where there is a gorgeous spa like Bergamo, a bikini packs so small that I hardly have doubt about including it in my travel list.
Whenever I go on a backpacking trip, I make sure to include a quick dry towel in my packing list. This folds really small, and it dries super fast. I use it in hostels when they don’t rent towels (yes, there still are some that don’t!) and whenever I go to the beach.
A good backpacking essentials list is never complete with a proper selection of medicines. The very few times I didn’t carry any where also the times I needed them the most. My friends even made fun of me when we backpacked across Peru, as my pharmacy included a thermometer. But they were happy I had one when one of them was terribly sick. Besides, I have asthma and I always have to have a selection of prescriptions in case I get sick.
As part of my travel check list, my pharmacy includes some non-prescription stuff such as Imodium and paracetamol. I also always have a good mosquito repellent with some Deet, as at times I visit places where cases of dengue, malaria and chikunguya have been recorded.
What items do you always include in your backpacking essentials list?
Hi, my name is Claudia. One day I packed my life and started traveling… except I packed too much. Follow me as I fill my life with dreams, drop the weight and inspire you to live your dreams. View and download my media kit here (updated July 2019). Learn more about me here…