The Complete Backpacking Packing List

stingy-nomads-backpack-contents
What is in our backpacks ?

This is a comprehensive packing checklist and packing advice for budget backpacking and light travel for adventurers — including backpacking essentials, electronics & accessories, adventure gear, toiletries, clothing, useful things and admin.

Backpacking is much more than a way of carrying your clothes around, it’s a lifestyle! The definition of backpacking is a form of low-cost, independent travel carrying your luggage in a backpack, usually for longer periods of time than with conventional vacations. Prepare for your ultimate adventure!
We have traveled to over 60 countries, as a freediver, surfer and scuba instructor that have climbed to some of the planet’s highest peaks backpacking around the world I have learnt how to keep my backpack light!

Packing Tips

  • Keep your pack light!
    • This is our main tip with many tips and tricks that I mention revolving around keeping weight down!
    • If you are a lady keep your pack weight below 10kg and a guy about 15kg (but 10kg is better!)
  • Keep your stuff dry.
    • Pack for any weather, a rain cover and dustbin liner inside your backpack.
  • Have a redundant system, don’t put everything in your backpack!
    • We keep technology in our daypacks, passports in a neckbag, luggage and copies of documents in backpacks.
    • We lost Alya’s backpack once (it fell off a truck), luckily passport, wallet and tablet was in her neck bag and day pack that is permanently attached to her!
amazon-store stingy nomads
Both of us traveling fully loaded.

Backpacking Essentials

The three most important possessions you have traveling is you passport, wallet and phone. Here are the other items essential for any backpacking trip.

Buying a Good Backpack

First things first, to be a backpacker you need a backpack. These things are not cheap and a good backpack will last a long time, so buy right the first time.

Things to consider:

  • Size
    • Long trip 55-75L (One Year or longer) , Shorter getaway 40-50L (A week to a month or three)
    • The more space you have, the more stuff you will pack, that is a fact! We are usually on the road for a long time and carry electronic equipment required for blogging and some essential gear so a lot of stuff.
    • Try to go not bigger than a 40L pack for shorter trips and a 60L for longterm travel. Since we carry a lot of gear we are sort of on the limit of what you can move with comfortably, 75L  for a guy, this is what I usually carry and when fully packed weighs 14 to 22kg. Alya is a lot smaller than me, also 5 of her panties takes less space than one pair of boxer shorts! She uses a 50L backpack.
    • Carry on – with up to a 45L backpack you can usually still get away as carry on luggage if it is not packed to heavy. This is very important when making use of budget airlines around Europe and Asia where you pay extra for luggage.
  • Quality
    • Most of the top quality backpacks Osprey, Deuter, Doite comes with a lifetime guarantee and should last for many years. Even if you over pack these bags the zips, seams and material should last. Brands that are a bit cheaper like Quechua, K-way and National Geographic are good quality considering the cost, but after a couple of years on the road these packs wear more than the top of the line backpacks.
  • Comfort
    • Buy a backpack that is the right size, all modern packs are adjustable. I don’t like too many clips and buckles, but the top of quality backpacks are more adjustable. This is super important, I have had ‘sagging’ backpacks, that sit very low when loaded heavy. When walking long distance this makes you tired in places where you did not know you have places.
  • Purpose
    • There is a difference between a hiking backpack and a traveling backpack.
      • Travel packs
      • Have more zips and features like wheels, handles and compartments hiding all straps when flying.
      • Awesome thing is Front Loading, almost like a suit case.
      • Real easy to get access to everything in your backpack.
      • For traveling not really for hiking, can be used for hikes but they get uncomfortable on long multi-day hikes.

  • Osprey Far Point Travel Backpack 
    • I saw many of these in hostels everywhere in the world. Awesome Backpack for travel if you are able to pack light!
    • Not a real hiking pack but good, sturdy carrying straps, I have met guys that used it very successful on hiking trips for a couple of days.
    • Front loading
    • Pack Volume: 55L = 42L Main Pack + 13L Daypack;  Daypack attaches to main harness
    • Laptop compartment
    • Detachable shoulder strap included
    • Lockable zippers, really nice if you want to lock something in your bag

Need more space? Just a bit bigger  Osprey Packs Farpoint 70 Travel Backpack  

  • Hiking backpacks
  • Usually top loading, these are not always so easy to pack.
  • Fit super comfortable on your back and you can carry them double the distance before your shoulders start complaining.
  • I have traveled with both kinds, the front loading style it is a lot easier when traveling not to have to unpack your whole pack when looking for something. Since we hike a lot I prefer to suffer a little looking for a shirt than suffering for hours on the trail.
  • For the Best of both worlds!
  •  Easy access and packing like a travel pack and perfect fit like a top hiking pack!!
    • Osprey AETHER 70L AG RUCKSACK

    • Travel Pack Features: With both top loading and J-Zip Front Panel opening – easy access like a travel backpack
    • Top Hiking Pack Features: Adjustable Torso Length, Integrated & Detachable Rain Cover, 3D Suspended Backpanel and Lumbar for perfect fit and comfort, a top hiking pack!
    • Ariel 65 women’s version

Choosing a good Day Pack

  • Usually you will have your day pack with you while your backpack is in the hostel or in cargo.
  • You will probably carry the backpack on your back and your daypack in front.
  • If you are only going to have your wallet, passport, phone and maybe a tablet and small digital camera a small, fold-able, this 18L water resistant rucksack is perfect.
  • You can fold it away an put in your backpack when carrying your pack over long distances.
  • I usually carry my DSLR camera, laptop and some more electronics in my daypack and use a 25L daypack, when we go on short hikes for two or 3 days I use my daypack.
  • I prefer a good quality, sturdy daypack that I can safely pack my laptop and bigger camera in. It also doubles as hiking pack for shorter hikes when I leave my big pack in the hostel. Quality Osprey Daypack

Hide your money

Here you have a couple of options a money belt, a neck bag or check out this travel security money belt!

Good quality neck bag

This old school neck bag is still the best way to make sure you don’t loose your passport or cash. Before I met Alya my passport was always packed somewhere. Now we know our passports, cash and essentials documents is around one of our necks, hidden when not locked away. It is great to always know essentials are safe and you get used to pouch, even in super hot climates. Travel Neck Pouch-wallet 

Travel Security Money Belt

Nobody will know you have money on you! Travel Security Money Belt

Choosing a Headlamp

  • This is one of the first things that I pack and it is always in my day pack. Having a light within reach is super handy in a million places, planes, buses, dormitory rooms and just wherever it is dark and you cannot switch the light on
  • Buy a good one, anything made by Petzl is good and will last for years, they are waterproof
  • How bright they are is measured in lumens, even with my Petzl Tika 80 lumen I have hiked in the snow at night and it was good more than sufficient for reading and scratching in your pack at night, but 200 to 300 lumens is excellent lighting when in the outdoors.
  • This Petzl Actic 300 Lumen waterproof headlamp is the way to go if you are going to be using it for outdoor night activities.

Sleeping Bag

We always carry sleeping bags with us. Sometimes it is too hot too use (South East Asia) and many places give bedding. With our style of travel, mostly staying in Hostels I find it worth to carry a small, light sleeping bag with a comfort level of 15C.

A Proper Microfibre Towel

A towel is an essential thing to have for an adventure or budget traveler. You don’t get towels in most Backpacker hostels and you can not take your hotel’s bath towels with you. Microfibre towels take almost no space, are light and dry easy so that they won’t get moldy and start smelling.

We recommend you pack the   Active Roots Microfiber Travel Towel

Good quality combination locks

  • We always carry two small combination padlocks to lock backpacks or hostel lockers. You often need your own padlock and a combination lock just means no losing of keys.
  • These TSA approved luggage locks can be opened by airport security so they won’t cut of the locks if they want to inspect your bag.  TSA Luggage Locks (2 Pack) 

Swiss Army Knife

  • We never travel without our Swiss knife, from opening cans to peeling pineapples and cutting cheese, over the last 6 years this has been one of my most valuable travel tools!
  • I am not MacGyver, the spartan is small, light and can open cans, bottles and cut stuff, it has  enough functions for us.
  • Remember to put it in your check in luggage before flights, I have lost a knife that I forgot in my hand luggage before boarding!   Victorinox Swiss Army Spartan Pocket Knife

Organised toiletry bag

I got one of these as a present when I started my one year travel that has been going on for 6 years now. It is awesome and last forever. Quality, organised and packs small! I love opening and hanging it in the hostel bathroom and having my whole toiletry cabinet right there! Osprey Ultra Roll Organizer

International Travel Power Adapter

A must to have in your backpack and an awesome present for any backpacker. Cool that it has some USB ports for charging phones, Go Pros etc. You are always very popular if you own one of these babies in countries with strange outlets.

Electronics in my Backpack

Working on the road these things are essential for us. When heading for the wild we leave non-essential kit at our hostel. Since we carry our expensive equipment a good quality day pack and waterproof bag is a must have. If you can travel with less electronics do it, minimize.

Acer Swift 3 Laptop

A good quality, light, fast and reliable laptop is an essential piece of equipment for us. We are not big Mac fans and love our swift! Best traveling birthday present I could ever buy for Alya! Hers is pink 🙂 with enough RAM and a solid state drive this beautiful little sturdy machine is lightening fast. Acer Swift 3 Laptop

If you don’t work on the road a tablet should be perfect for your needs, before we wrote this blog we used to travel with an iPad, perfect for watching movies, staying in contact and to use for reading (if you carry an iPad a kindle is unnecessary). Apple iPad Mini

Canon 80D DSLR camera

Working as travel bloggers and big photography fans we don’t mind carrying a big DSLR camera around. The Canon 80D is one of the best amateur cameras out there. With the latest technology the video quality is fantastic. The weatherproofing on the body is great so we don’t mind using it in a light drizzle.  Canon EOS 80D DSLR camera with 18-135mm lens.

Canon G7X compact camera

Yes we travel with two cameras! I carry a S-series camera, this is the latest upgrade. These small, light, compact cameras take fantastic photos with full manual functions if you want to use it. I can fit an underwater housing for this camera in my backpack. We dive a lot and can take quality underwater photos with this camera. I have a Go Pro it is nice, but can not be used for serious dive photography.

Awesome option for a lighter camera that takes fantastic photos to travel with. Also amazing video to use as a vlogging rig. Canon G7x Camera 

Power Bank

My favorite places in the world don’t have electricity, awesome to be able to charge your GoPro, phone or other electronics with this little portable charger. Luxtude 13400mAh Waterproof Portable Charger This waterproof, dustproof power bank is a life saver!

Earphones

Carrying earphones with you is a must. Not only for your own electronics, but sometimes budget flights and buses play movies, but you need your own head phones. Earphones In Ear Headphones Earbuds

Adventure Gear

We camp, hike and dive a lot so we carry this gear with us.

Diving Mask

We always have a mask in our backpacks and love the Mares Star liquid skin. Doesn’t take much space and important to have one that fits without leaking when going for a dive or snorkel. The liquid skin material is super soft and fits very comfortable for both of us. Our favorite mask for Scuba and snorkeling

Silicone Snorkel

This awesome, soft silicone snorkel folds away in your backpack, if we have a mask and snorkel the dive center we dive with often borrows us fins, so snorkeling costs us zero.   Aegend soft fold away snorkel

Thermo Guard dive/swim vest

0.5mm neoprene keeps you warm swimming and diving, protects you against the sun. Light to pack in your backpack.  Mares Men’s Thermo Guard 0.5mm

Go Pro Hero 5 Black

The footage that you can shoot with this little camera is phenomenal. We use our GoPro for surfing, diving, spear fishing and all sorts of cool stuff. Almost indestructible and deserves a place in any adventure backpack. 10m waterproof without the housing, shoots 4K video and has a screen. Go Pro Hero 5 Black

A Good, light, waterproof tent

When you go and do a multi day hike anywhere on the continent you will see these MSR tents everywhere. Great quality, light MSR Hubba Hubba NX 2-Person Tent

A light weight, durable sleeping mat

Small camp stove

If you want to buy a quality brand name you can not buy better than a MSR pocket rocket 2 stove  the gas canisters are available everywhere.

Packing Clothing

This is what we carry with us for long term travel, clothes for hot and cold and keeping it light

For Him

  • A good waterproof, windproof jacket – super important!   The North Face Men’s Venture 2 Jacket
  • x3 Cotton t-shirt
  • x1 tank top
  • x2 long sleeve light shirt – Columbia explorer shirt
    • awesome! easy to wash, quick dry, indestructible, light
  • long sleeve thermal shirt
  • fleece top (takes less space than a hoodie) The North Face fleece
  • x2 Boardshorts
  • Jeans (heavy so now I only pack trekking pants
  • trekking pants – light weight, quick dry
    • light, long pants can wear any conditions and for hiking
  • Socks x2 long x3 shorts
  • beanie, cap, hat
  • x4 boxer shorts
  • flip flops- nothing like Havaianas
  • trail running shoes – adidas outdoor Terrex Tracerocker’s works for me
    • light can wear for running, hiking or just wearing. shoes take up a lot of space
  • BUFF Multifunctional Headwear – protects against sun, cold and weather

For Her

Useful Things

Sea to Summit Lite Line Clothesline

Backpackers accommodation and camping often don’t have a place to hang your clothes, easy to pack line fits anywhere! Sea to Summit Lite line

Espresso maker

It is easy to make friends if you can make awesome coffee! The Aeropress is probably the best, rugged, light and portable device to have in your backpack for making top notch espresso style coffee! First thing I pack!

Multi plug

Hostels dormitories and even some hotel rooms have limited outlets for charging. Be a hero in your hostel with this compact Compact Power Strip Travel Cube 3-Outlet and 4 USB Charging Station

Water is not alway drinkable and bottled water can be expensive,  save a lot of money with a Steri Pen UV water sterilizing device.

Travel Toiletries

  • Soap and travel soap box much lighter than shower gel and can not mess in your bag.

  • Shampoo and conditioner (for Alya, soap works good for me!)
  • Toothbrush and paste
  • Electric clippers rechargable (my face and head)
  • Hand Sanitizer (important!) Travel pack
  • nailclippers
  • Razor for Alya
  • Sunscreen
  • Deodorant – roll-on’s
  • Sunscreen
  • Mosquito repellent

Travel First Aid Kit

I started my long term travels in Africa and Asia and find it easier to have antibiotics, malaria medication etc with me than trying to find a clinic in the bush. Those prepaid first aid kits you buy at the pharmacy are pretty useless, I just use the container and the plasters. Pack a first aid kit designed for where you are going. This is in my first aid kit.

  • Bandages and plasters (different sizes) – Blisters and little cuts will probably be your main injuries
  • Roll plaster (medical tape) – keeps plasters in place, handy to fix tent poles and other DYI needs
  • Steri strips – for deeper cuts that require a stitch or 2.
  • Gauze pads – cleaning and covering wounds
  • Latex gloves – don’t use your dirty fingers when treating your own wounds, don’t get someones else blood on you when playing doctor
  • Scissors – cut plasters and all sorts of other things
  • Diaper pins – pry thorns and splinters out of your skin, puncture blisters, open phones
  • Thermometer – make sure if you have a fever
  • Tweezers – take splinters out
  • Anti-bacterial cream – iodine based, don’t get on your clothes or bedding!
  • antibacterial  ‘pen’ awesome if you can get one
  • Aloe ferox ointment, burns, inflammation, works for everything

Medicine

This is what we pack, check with your doctor/pharmacist. Over the counter in most countries:

  • Pains
    • Paracetemol- headaches, pains and mild fever
    • Anti-inflammatory (ibuprofen) – Relieves pain, inflammation, muscular pain and stiffness
  • Stomach Problems
    • Anti-diarrhea tablets (loperamide/Imodium)
    • Nausea and vomitting – Bismuth subsalicylate (2 brand names: Kaopectate, Pepto-Bismol)
  • Motion sickness
    • Meclizine hydrochloride (brand name: Dramamine Less Drowsy).
  • Rashes and allergies : Antihistamine tablets (Benadryl)
  • Flu
    • painkiller ibuprofen and a decongestant phenylephrine hydrochloride (brand name:Nurofen)

Prescription Medication – prophylactics, antibiotics etc. go see a doctor

Travel Documents

Check that you have the following ready, I usually scan a copy of each and email it to myself, this way I can access it even if I lose all my luggage.

  • Passport (the identification page)
  • Visa
  • Travel insurance
  • Driver’s license
  • Health information
  • Credit cards
  • Airline tickets
    • We normally fly with one-way tickets since we don’t plan our return, for many countries you do need a plain ticket as proof of exit.
  • Hotel or lodging reservation confirmations
  • Vaccination certificates (e.g. yellow fever)
  • Any other pre-paid confirmations

Some destination tips for long backpack journeys:

Disclosure: Stingy Nomads take part in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program. We earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com. If you click on the link and purchase the item, we will receive an affiliate commission at no extra cost for you. Thank You!

Written By
More from Stingy Nomads

Portuguese Way from Lisbon through Fatima

Portuguese Camino is a pilgrimage route from Lisbon to Santiago de Compostela...
Read More

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.