Ultimate Backpacking Essentials

SAM_1330After three months backpacking Japan and Europe, I’ve been able to really refine down the items I use most often while on the move to an essential few. Yet every time I’m about to set off again it’s a last minute rush to get things together and I always promise myself I’ll be more organised next time. So this time, I’m actually writing it all down (for my benefit as much as yours). So what are my ‘go wherever, whenever’ travel essentials? Please, let me explain…

The Ultimate Backpacking Essentials:

  • Passport & Visas – does it even need to be said? Of course make sure you have these essentials or you won’t be going very far at all.
  • Copy of Passport, Visa & Travel Insurance Policy – keeping a copy of your essential documents means if the worst happens it is at least easier to get replacement travel documents. Photocopies are always good, but you could even store a copy somewhere accessible to you online.
  • Boarding Passes/Tickets – you snapped up the cheap airfares now keep it that way! Make sure you have your boarding passes printed before arriving at the airport, or download your airlines travel app, as many budget airlines will charge to print your boarding passes at the airport.
  • Noise Cancelling Ear Plugs – these will be your favourite friend when all you want is a good nights sleep and your roommates have different priorities.
  • Blackout Sleeping Mask – for those that like to party til dawn, sleep til dusk.
  • Padlock – to keep your valuables secure in transit and in the hostel. You may want a couple of these.
  • Phone, Camera, Laptop + Chargers – travelling today is high tech, so unless you’re after a wilderness retreat, you won’t want to be without your Instagram, travel app, messaging machines (and their chargers).
  • Ear Phones – watching your favourite travel vlogger at 3am when you’re jet lagged is no problem if you’ve remembered your earphones 😉
  • Micro-Fibre Towel – they feel a bit funky, but micro-fibre is the way to go when backpacking. Not only do they dry super fast, but they take up less room in your pack too. Win!
  • Universal Plug Adaptor – avoid arriving at your next hostel without the right plug adaptor. Go on and invest in a universal plug adaptor to keep those super travel enabling mobile devices happy.
  • Pre-downloaded Maps/Offline Directions – I like to use the Here App (download for AndroidApple) when I travel as you can download the map for an entire city, country or continent beforehand and use GPS to navigate around upon arrival. This comes in super handy for getting to your accommodation on arrival at your destination. Otherwise, a print out with directions to your hostel is always good too.
  • Prescription Medication – if you need to take any prescription medication overseas it’s also wise to have the prescription with you. Countries have different laws about medications, so check before you depart and make sure you have enough to last for the trip.
  • First Aid Kit – just your essentials, plasters for those blisters you’ll get pounding the pavement, travel sickness pills, antiseptic cream and maybe some mosquito repellent depending on your destination.
  • Drink bottle – make a small effort to tread lightly on your travels by carrying a reusable drink bottle. You’ll be needing water all the time, so you’ll end up saving a bit of money too by not having to buy bottled water. Just remember to check the tap water is safe to drink!
  • Small notebook + Pen – occasionally our mobile devices or the wifi signal do fail us and that’s why I always carry a small notebook and pen with me to write down important addresses or numbers and most of all to use at immigration to fill out those entry and bio-security cards.


Now you’ve got the essentials, good luck trying to fit in all the fun stuff… just remember, 23 kgs feels a lot heavier when you’re exhausted, hungover and lost in Budapest!


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Nikki launched WorldFanFair to record and share her travel experiences. After living in London for two years, she is now back in Auckland conjuring up future adventures.

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