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The Complete Backpacking Packing List

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

Carrying all backpacking packing essentials
Carrying all backpacking essentials on a wilderness trail in Canada.

Backpacking is much more than a way of carrying your clothes around, it’s a lifestyle! We have been backpacking around the world for more than 10 years. From walking thousands of kilometers on 10 different Camino de Santiago pilgrimages to climbing two ‘seven summit mountains’ and backpacking everywhere from Asia to Africa. We have learned to keep our backpacks light!

What is backpacking? The definition of backpacking (travel) is a form of low-cost, independent travel carrying your luggage in a backpack, usually for longer periods than with conventional vacations. Backpacking (hiking) is the outdoor recreation of carrying gear on one’s back while hiking for more than a day.  Prepare for your ultimate adventure!

Packing Tips

  1. 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 try to keep your pack weight below 10kg and a guy about 15kg (but 10kg is better!)
  2. Keep your stuff dry.
    • Pack for any weather, a rain cover, and a dustbin liner inside your backpack.
  3. Have a redundant system, don’t put everything in your backpack!
    • We keep technology in our daypacks, passports in a neck bag, luggage, and copies of documents in backpacks.
    • We lost Alya’s backpack once (it fell off a truck), luckily passport, wallet, and tablet were in her neck bag and day pack that is permanently attached to her!

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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.

Lifestraw

We always pack our Lifestraw, this powerful filter bottle makes any water drinkable. Hiking from streams, lakes or puddles and just tap water. In many countries tap water is not drinkable and over time this costs a lot. It also generates a ton of plastic waste. Save money and be eco friendly

Using our Lifestraw trekking in Nepal

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:

  1. Size
  2. Quality
  3. Comfort
  4. Purpose
  • Size
    • Long trip 55-75L (One Year or longer), Shorter getaway or hiking trip 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 no bigger than a 40L pack for shorter trips and a 60L for long-term travel. Since we carry a lot of gear we are sort of on the limit of what you can move with comfortably.
    • 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 like Osprey, Arc’teryx, and Deuter come with a lifetime guarantee and should last for many years. Even if you overpack these bags the zips, seams, and material should last. Brands that are a bit cheaper like Quechua 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-quality backpacks are more adjustable. This is super important, I have had ‘sagging’ backpacks, that sit very low when loaded heavy. When walking long distances this makes you tired in places where you did not know you had 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.
      • Front Loading is great, using these bags is almost like using a suitcase.
      • It’s really 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.
Backpacks in front of Albergue on the Camino de Santiago
A line of backpacks in front of an Albergue on the Camino de Santiago.

Travel Pack

  • Osprey Far Point 55 Travel Backpack or Osprey Packs Farpoint 70 Travel Backpack
    • The most popular backpack out there for travelers on a ‘gap year’, I have seen 100’s of these in hostels around the world, AWESOME backpack.
    • Front loading
    • Daypack attaches to main harness
    • Laptop compartment
    • Detachable shoulder strap included
    • Lockable zippers, really nice if you want to lock something in your bag
    • Light frame to keep pack properly positioned for comfortable carrying
    • Amazing, well thought out, top quality backpack

I traveled with a backpack with very similar features for almost 3 years and it is was great, but not a dedicated hiking pack. I hiked with mine to Everest Base Camp and many other multi day hikes around South America. I thought it was OK until I bought a proper hiking backpack and realized what I have been missing.

In my opinion this is a great backpack for long term traveling a long hike or 2, but if you are going to be many long hikes, buy a hiking 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.
  • Aluminium frame for good back support
  • 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!

 A top  quality, well designed hiking pack with easy access. Fantastic for both long term travel and serious hiking.

I am very happy with my new Osprey Kestrel 48 (2022). It’s a good combination of good quality and affordable price. The size is just perfect, you can fit all the necessary gear and food for a multi-day trek. We have taken this backpack as hand luggage on several trips in Europe. It was a great pack hiking the Camino de Gran Canaria.

Accessing my gear is easy, upper lid access with a drawcord closure and a large side-zip access point, stretching from the lid to the lower compression straps. The Kestrel also has a lower sleeping bag compartment with a removable divider. An adjustable and lightweight backpack.

Osprey backpack for hiking
Osprey Kestrell 48L backpack

The Osprey Aeather is another top quality hiking backpack with easy panel opening with a J-Zip making it very suitable for traveling.

Osprey Aeather 70L AG Rucksack or Ariel 65 women’s version

Choosing a good Day Pack

Usually you will use your day pack for day hikes or day trips. We love our Osprey Daylight Plus day packs. The Daylite Plus from Osprey is a fantastic combination of a hiking daypack and an everyday or travel laptop bag. This model has a padded laptop sleeve, great pockets and divisions and fits comfortable for mountain biking or hiking. We use it daily, for everything from day hikes to carrying our laptop and lunch to the local workspace.

If you are only going to have your wallet, passport, phone and maybe a tablet as carry on luggage, this 18L water resistant rucksack is perfect. You can fold it away an put in your backpack when carrying your pack over long distances.

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 lose 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 quality and can last for years, mine all worked well even in the rain.
  • Rechargable headlamps are fantastic, if you are going to be without charging facilities for a long time batteries might be more practical. Petzl rechargable headlamps can use both USB charging and batteries. The PETZL, ACTIK CORE Rechargeable Headlamp with 450 Lumens for Running and Hiking is great with red light.
  • Red lighting is great, it preserves night vision and prevents members of a group from blinding each other.

Sleeping Bag

While backpacking always carry a small, light sleeping bag with a comfort level of 15C

A Proper Micro Fiber Towel

A towel is an essential thing to have for an adventure or budget traveler. You don’t get towels in most Backpacker hostels. Micro Fiber 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 Wise Owl Micro fiber 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. 

Swiss Army Knife

  • We never travel without our Swiss knife, from opening cans to peeling pineapples and cutting cheese, over the last 10 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
backpacking swiss knife
Our swiss knife is one of our must have backpacking tools. Do not forget to pack it in your check in luggage. I have lost a swiss knife confiscated from my hand luggage!

Organised toiletry bag

I got one of these as a present years ago and it is a fantastic item in my backpack. It is awesome and last forever. Quality, organized and packs small! Osprey Toiletry 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.

Laptops

Over the years we have used several laptops. We are currently using a Lenovo ThinkPad E14 while traveling. A great machine and Lenovo is known for durability.

Working while trekking in Nepal

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.

Canon EOS M50 Mark II camera

We are currently using a Canon M50 mirrorless camera. The photo quality and features on the camera is great. It is light and small to carry with us, even on long hiking backpacking trips. Exchangeable lenses gives us the same options we had with our DSLR. Canon EOS M50 Mark II

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

Power Bank

My favorite places in the world does not. As a content creator we have to be able to charge our devices while on the road. This splashproof, dust-proof, and drop-proof, power bank is very durable, a life saver!

Adventure Gear

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

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.  Foldable Snorkel

Thermo Guard dive/swim vest

100% neoprene, windproof keeps you warm swimming and diving, protects you against the sun. Light to pack in your backpack. Sharkskin Men’s Chillproof Long Sleeve Shirt Wetsuit

Go Pro Hero 11 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 5.3K video and has a back and front screen. The GoPro Hero 11 is an unbelievable little machine.

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

MSR Hubba Hubba tent pitched at the campsite in the forest
Out favorite MSR Hubba Hubba tent pitched in the forest

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

Shoes

Trail running shoes is relatively light and does not take too much space in your backpack, they are good to use for most hiking conditions and if you want to go for a run.

– adidas outdoor Terrex men’s is a good well priced trail runner I have used – Ladies  adidas outdoor Women’s Terrex  

If you are going to be doing a lot of hiking while traveling, it is worth packing proper hiking shoes. The big negative here is weight and space, you might have to wear them while flying.

Hiking shoes – Alya hiked more than 3000 km (1860miles) in her Merrel Moab 2 hiking shoes before they were finished, great shoes.

Merrel Moab 2 Salomon X Ultra 3 Adidas Terrex

If you are going to hike in snow or very rainy areas, we are both now using Salomon Men’s X Ultra 3 MID GTX Hiking Boots these awesome Gortex boots is not too heavy and is waterproof. We have hiked many hours in deep snow in Nepal in these shoes and they stayed dry! – Ladies Salomon Ultra X hiking boots

Ladies Shoes – Salomon X Ultra GTX Merrel Moab 2

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

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

We pack over the counter medication for pains, stomach problem, flu, rashes and allergies.

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
  • Hotel or lodging reservation confirmations
  • Vaccination certificates (e.g. yellow fever)
  • Any other pre-paid confirmations

Travel Insurance

Do you have insurance?

  • Long Backpacking trip? Covered for a long term trip? Long term travelers, backpackers, digital nomads this is for you, get a quote in 2 minutes online. Check out Safety Wings travel insurance! This is the insurance we use.

Great things about World Nomads for Travelers

  • Covers long trips
  • Can extend while traveling

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!

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Shana Hildreth

Wednesday 12th of April 2023

I’m preparing a solo trip and your Portuguese Coastal Route info has been amazing. I’m feeling confident. Thank you for all that you do.

Stingy Nomads

Wednesday 12th of April 2023

Hello Shana, thanks for the message. It is good to hear our content was helpful. Buen Camino!

Teresa Czerwinski

Sunday 30th of October 2022

Hi there, I find your information simple, accurate and useful. I am a mature traveler and/but I love to check your insights. I am preparing for a trip to India and have been reading your blog. Thank you for your work. Cheers, Teresa

Stingy Nomads

Monday 31st of October 2022

Hello Terese. Thank you very much for the feedback! We're sure you'll enjoy India, it's a wonderful place! Cheers

Theron Bogan

Monday 7th of September 2020

Do you have an actual checklist I can print out instead of blog items, which I love. I am doing Camino next year and starting to buy items... want a checklist to cross off.

Stingy Nomads

Wednesday 9th of September 2020

Hi, Theron! We have a separate post Packing for the Camino de Santiago where you can find a downloadable PFD check-list. Cheers!

Mike Fortuna

Thursday 13th of February 2020

hi we love your blog but are new to following blogs. we are looking to hike in Portugal the coastal route in early april. since we have a limited amount of time our thoughts where to land in lisbon and stay there for 1.5 days and then head to the coastal route. We want to finish in the Algarve and stay there at the end of our hike for a few days of just resting near a beach in a hotel and then flying out of Faro back to Toronto we want to hike for about 5 days on the trail so w are not to sure where to start on the trail or if we should start at the beginning and skip a few sections to finish in the Algarve area.

Appreciate any thoughts

Stingy Nomads

Friday 14th of February 2020

Hello Mike, thanks for reading. You can walk the Fishermen's trail from Porto Covo to Odeceixe, you walk next the ocean and on the beach most of the way, it should take you 4 days https://stingynomads.com/fishermens-trail-rota-vicentina-itinerary/ you can walk another day to Aljezur. take a bus from either town to your destination in the Algarve. Safe travels!

MAX

Saturday 3rd of August 2019

I'd love to hear your advice on travelling with one way tickets, or open ended tickets, or whatever the product may be. I usually don't know when I'm returning home till I've done and seen what I think is enough.

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