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Written by Jessica Moore
When what you have on your back is all you can lean on, it’s best to consider only the best backpacking essentials when planning your next big adventure. Whether you’re about to embark on a hardcore backpacking/camping excursion or you’re on an extended trip floating between hostel and couch surfing stays in a foreign country, these essentials will help make traveling seamless! In addition to your personal items, clothes, and that first aid kit that your mother’s been insisting you bring (and you should!), here are our top 10 essentials to add to your checklist.
Obvs. Shopping for this backpack should be serious business. No matter how positive or experienced of a wanderer you are, an uncomfortable backpack can wear any traveler down. If you’ve scheduled a backpacking trip for longer than 6 weeks, we recommend 60L backpack. For shorter trips, a 40-50 L backpack will do the trick. Comfortable padded straps and strong zippers are key! Osprey is renowned for their quality and durability, and some of their larger backpacks even come with a convenient day pack!
If you’re a hostel hopper, a cold sleeper, or you’re just generally wary of sheets that aren’t yours, travel bed sheets are a good idea! Purchase travel sheets that feature a pocket to snugly fit your pillow and that seals off your feet, sorta like a thin sleeping bag! These sheets are perfect for hostels to avoid bedbugs (yuck!) and to add an extra layer in your sleeping bag when you’re outdoors. Most outdoor retail stores have a variety to choose from based on temperature. They’re thin and usually come in a handy bag that you can clip onto your pack with ease! You’ll also be saving a little cash—countless hostels around the world charge extra for sheets!
Rolling your clothes is a great travel hack, but packing cubes step it up to the next level. An organizational MUST, packing cubes are ultra-light and condense all your clothes tightly together. What’s worse than a disorganized backpack? Maybe rummaging that backpack for your eye mask and pulling out all your belongings in the middle of a busy terminal.
Don’t be that person! We suggest 3 packing cubes, one for pants, shirts/blouses, and dresses/skirts. Those with mesh windows conveniently allow you to peek in your cubes without scouring through everything. You’ll be impressed by your new to-go closet!
When you’re out backpacking in the wilderness or can’t quite figure out how to say “where is the laundromat?” in Hungarian, a Scrubba is a convenient way to wash your clothes, and you can do it just about anywhere! It’s essentially a light bag lined with a washboard interior. It’s incredibly compact when it’s stowed in your backpack and can easily double as a dry bag. You simply put your clothes in the bag, fill it with water and detergent (or soap if you’re roughing it out there—no judgement!), and shake the bag and rub it alongside its tiny nodules. Hang dry your clothes and there you have it—clean laundry! Bring it with you the next time you go trekking to clean those musty post-hike clothes.
Shampoo, conditioner, lotions—we all need them on the road, but they are awful travel partners. They can explode all over your clothes and electronics in a moment’s notice. Solution? Solid shampoo bars. They’re lightweight and dry and you save a bunch of space in your backpack. Lush shampoo bars promise that one bar will last up to 80 washes!
Get some you could care less about. You’ll be thanking us the next time you’re in a grimy shared bathroom at a hostel.
These foil blankets can get you through a tough time and take up almost no space in your pack (they’re wallet-sized and super thin!). Use in case of emergencies, or you can duct tape some blankets to your tent to keep in more heat if it’s cold out.
Small padlocks are important to keep all your things safe, especially your valuables. Like bed sheets, hostels can charge extra if you want to use one of their locks to safeguard your things. Avoid the extra charge and get a small lock, specifically a combination padlock so you don’t accidentally lose the key.
Having one on hand (or head) can get you through all sorts of situations. Sure, your phone has a flashlight, but having a headlamp, especially in the outdoors, allows you to have better vision at night when you’re rummaging through your tent or in your hostel room without waking everyone up. Take it with you every time you go hiking in case of emergency.
Want to be Instagram ready at all times, but can’t fit your bulky equipment with you? Photo cases and lenses are slim and make your phone camera exponentially better. There are so many lenses to choose: from macro lenses for up close and personal photos, to wide lenses to document your friends hiking that scenic backcountry, you’ll be getting like after like after like. Add these to your gear list and capture every moment.
Don’t forget to add these items to your backpacking checklist. Happy wandering, babes!