Questions like – what to pack for a backpacking trip – thousands of people ask themselves and their friends, and Google every single day. And we too receive these questions about packing. The answer is – it depends. And not that much from the length of the trip as from where are you going and what are you planning to do.
See, if you are going on a couple month long trip to Europe and you are planning to spend most of the time in the cities, then, if you ask me, I wouldn’t even think about camping gear and hiking shoes. I would just buy or rent them later, if there would be such a need. Same way – traveling to Southeast Asia, I wouldn’t bother about warm clothes.
But if I would change my plans later and went, let’s say to Nepal, to hike in Himalayas (like it has happened to me several times), then I would just get the necessary gear, when I would need it.
Planning a trip through different regions with a lot of different activities I would look at the length of the trip. Doing all of that in a short period of time, like in a couple of weeks or in a month, I would take most of the gear with me at once. Going on a similar 6+ month adventure, I would think, what I really need and what I can get afterwards being already on the road. From our own experience I see, that very often the stuff you need for a 2 – 3 week trip is more or less the same that you need for a several month long trip.
Because you can get almost everything everywhere in the world!
Our Complete Backpacking Packing List
Note, that we aren’t saying that you need all of that for every single backpacking trip! Because you don’t!
Yes, you definitely don’t need all of that on every single backpacking trip.
Backpacking Packing List: Backpack, Daypack & Packing Organizers
Unless you know, that you need a big backpack, I would highly recommend to look at the carry on size backpacks first. It’s just so much easier to travel with less stuff. And, if you are traveling with low cost carriers, who don’t allow you to check in a bag for free – then it’s also cheaper.
40 – 50 liters is the optimal size for a backpack. It’s big enough to fit in a lot, and it’s still small enough to be taken on board as a carry on luggage. With a backpack of this size you can also easily go on a 2 week hiking trip, where it’s not necessary to carry your own food and a tent. Like it is with the most of the treks in Nepal (for example, Annapurna Circuit and Everest Base Camp trek).
As many of you know, we are big advocates for traveling light. So it shouldn’t be a surprise, that for most of the time we are traveling with a carry on backpack only. I currently have Osprey Farpoint 40, but Una – Osprey Fairview 40.
2. Rain cover for your backpack
Not only it will protect your backpack and all that’s in it from the rain and snow. Rain cover comes in handy also when you need to put your bag, for example, in the back of the bus or on the bus. It’s a must have for most of the trips.
Get one from Amazon! Most important, pay attention to the size of it – for how big backpack it’s made. Don’t buy a rain cover, which is too small! Slightly bigger will be OK.
A small backpack might come in handy in a lot of different situations. You can go to the beach with it. Or you can put your jacket and camera into it, while wandering around the city. And it can be useful for a short hike.
I’m mostly using my dry bag as a daypack. And I have a fanny pack, which I sometimes use as my everyday camera bag. I also use it, when I’m hiking or running and I want to take a camera with me.
If you want to travel light, then I would highly recommend you to look for something packable.
There are some very cheap and OK daypacks, like this one on Amazon made by Gonex. And there are more expensive and better quality daypacks, like the Cotopaxi packable backpacks. They are packable and when not used can be put in a pocket of your big backpack.
4. Dry bag
A weather resistant bag for your most valuable stuff. If it’s only a phone, a wallet and a passport, that you would put in there, then a 3 liter dry bag, like Osprey UltraLight 3 (see it on Amazon), will be sufficient for you. Otherwise, a 5 liter dry bag will be a much better choice. Check out, for example, this Leader Accessories 5 liter dry bag on Amazon!
Before we both traveled with a 10 liter dry bag each. But that’s because we use them also as a daypack.
Right now I have a 20 liter dry bag from Independent Wolf. Same like the one in the photo below, only black and 20 liter (in the photo that’s a 10 liter dry bag).
Una uses super lightweight 20 liter Osprey Ultralight Drysack (see it on Amazon).
For more ideas check out our guide to the best dry bags!
5. Electronics organizer
For all your electronics, chargers, memory cards, hard disks and cables. That’s, of course, if you have more than a few of those items with you on a trip. Like we mostly do.
I’m using a medium-sized electronics organizer from Case Logic, where I can also put in my camera and a GoPro. It’s similar to this one on Amazon. Only mine doesn’t have a waterproof bottom. Una now uses Zero Grid Electronics Organizer. The one from Zero Grid is too small for me. I can’t even put all of my chargers in it. Note that, if you will be looking to buy one for yourself!
More electronic organizers.
6. Travel wallet
I have said it before, and I still think the same, that in my opinion you don’t necessarily need a special travel wallet. You can travel with a regular wallet, the one you already have. However, it’s good to know what are the options. In case you will want to buy a new wallet.
Most of the best travel wallets (same like regular wallets) nowadays have an RFID protection. There are “regular looking” wallets, neck wallets, passport holders, hidden pocket wallets, clip wallets, money belts. If you are interested into wallets, check out this our article.
As I already mentioned above, I have a fanny pack. Sometimes I’m using it as a money belt as well. And I also have a Zero Grid neck wallet, which has proved to be a really helpful at some times, like when I was hiking in Nepal.
7. Waterproof pouch
For your valuables. Think about it. Especially if you aren’t getting a dry bag.
I have a quality pouch just big enough to put in my passport, a phone and money. It’s very similar to this one on Amazon.
8. Packing cubes
Why you may want to have packing cubes? Because they make traveler’s life easier. It’s so much easier to organize all your travel gear and clothes, when you have packing cubes (in my situation – also electronics organizer). And you can pack in more in the same space, or you can take the same as much of stuff and pack it more easily.
For a few years I was packing my clothes in plastic bags. It’s OK. You can do like that. But, when you can, get yourself packing cubes.
I have reached the point, when mostly I have very little of clothes with me, and so I’m perfectly fine with only one, big-size packing cube. Right now we are using packing cubes from Zero Grid. There are many more good quality packing cubes available. Don’t take the cheapest ones, though. Unless you are planning to use them only a couple of times.
Backpacking Packing List: Clothing, Shoes and Accessories
A pair or two of quality travel pants, is what I would recommend. Mostly I have only one pair. And mostly these are lightweight pants. When I go hiking in sub zero temperatures, then I just wear thermal pants under them. Going on an extended trip to a place, where it’s that cold all the time, then, of course, I would choose some warmer pants.
Right now I’m using 50$ hiking pants from Karrimor, that I bought in Malaysia, and I’m satisfied.
Think also about waterproof pants, if you’re planning to spend a lot of time outdoors. Or get some hiking or travel pants, that have a protection against water. Since my pants aren’t water resistant, I have got also the simplest and lightest waterproof pants I could find for those few situations when I might need them.
The choice of travel pants is big! I recommend you to take a look at these quality pants you can get from Amazon – Columbia Men’s Silver Ridge Convertible Pant, CQR Men’s Tactical Pants, 5.11 Men’s Tactical 74273 TacLite Pro Pant.
2. Thermal pants
For colder mornings and days, if your pants aren’t warm enough. If you go hiking, then thermals will be useful also for the coldest of nights and as secondary pants, in case the others get wet, for an instance, and you need something for a half of the day. You can wear them together with shorts.
3. Long sleeve / Thermal long sleeve
For sports and hiking. I have got 2 pricey thermal long sleeves, one from Under Armour, that I’m using for several years already, another from Karrimor. And I like both of them.
4. Fleece or a hoodie
If you plan to go hiking (or to do something else outdoors) as well, then I would recommend you to get a warm fleece jacket. Otherwise, for everyday use any jacket or hoodie will be just as good. Why I recommend fleece for outdoors? That’s because it’s warm, light and it dries quickly.
If you want to be sure, that you are getting a good one, then I would recommend you to check out what Columbia has to offer.
In spring, summer and autumn in most parts of the world you will be good with a quality rain jacket. For the last year I have been using Columbia Rain Jacket, very similar to this one on Amazon. I used it also, when I was hiking in sub zero temperatures (when it was about -10 C / 14 F), and I felt great. Under the jacket then I wore a thermal long sleeve and a fleece.
In some cases a decent rain poncho will be sufficient.
Going on a long trip and taking only 1 pair of shoes, as I’m mostly doing, I would choose comfortable, low profile (I don’t like boots) hiking shoes. Because even if I’m not hiking I’m walking A LOT, almost always and everywhere. If you are like me and you like to wander around, then look for hiking shoes, walking shoes or comfortable sandals, depending on the season and possible weather conditions.
However, if you aren’t into walking or hiking and you plan to spend most of the time in cities, choose any shoes you like and feel good with.
7. Flip flops
Flip flops or light and easy to pack travel sandals is something that can come in handy very often.
Many people choose to buy the cheapest flip flops once they arrive, and to throw them out at the end of the trip. I like to have something, that I use for a longer period of time. It doesn’t have to be anything expensive, but just better quality.
Right now I’m using an adventure proof sunglasses from SunGod – SunGod Renegades. Like the ones you can see in a photo higher. Here you can buy exactly the same design sunglasses like I have. But you can also create your own custom design, if you want.
9. A few t-shirts
Any t-shirts you like. 3-4 is enough for me.
Again. Any will be good. Depends on your preference and what for do you need them.
3-4 pairs is enough for me. I’m just washing them often. If you plan to do the same, then look for something slightly better quality.
13. Buff / Bandana
Traveling to somewhere cold, you may want to have a fleece one. I have one from fleece and another – from lightweight fabric.
14. Swimming trunks
Of course, if you plan to go swimming. I’m always ready for swimming, ha.
15. Water bottle
Traveling in Asia has taught me to take a bottle of water always with me. And now I’m doing the same everywhere. I have 2 water bottles – 0.5 and 1 liter. 1 liter is the one I use mostly.
16. Head torch
Useful in more situations than you may imagine. Especially outdoors and on hiking trips. Right now I have a cheap one, that I bought on my trip in Russia. Add 10-20 bucks to that, what I paid, and you will get a quality head-torch from Petzl (like this one on Amazon).
Backpacking Packing List: Electronics
Do you need a laptop for travel? I need a laptop with me, because I’m traveling long term and I work from my laptop. If not for the work, I would mostly travel without a laptop. Then I would just take my iPad with me.
If you are currently thinking about buying a new laptop for traveling, look for something light and with good battery life. Some time ago I bought 11″ Asus EeeBook X205TA laptop (see it on Amazon). It weights only 1 kilo (2.2 lbs), has a 10-12 hour battery life and costs peanuts. Of course, there are downsides as well – it has a very small storage and it’s not as powerful as I would want it to be. But it has been good for all that I needed – mostly blogging and surfing the Web.
Right now we are using Macbook Pro 13” (2017) and 12” Apple MacBook (see it on Amazon).
2. Protective laptop sleeve
Even though my backpack has a special laptop pocket, I’m still using a protective laptop sleeve. Well, because you never know, what might happen with your backpack while traveling.
Don’t forget it home! Because your phone can be a great help, when traveling.
Lately I have started to use my smartphone less. Because at some point I realized, that I’m starting to rely too much on it. It’s just so easy to Google, where to find this or that, or how to get to that museum. But you can also ask people around you the same questions, and that may lead to some new connections, new knowledge and even lifelong friendships, for instance.
But, of course, I still use my phone – currently Meizu MX5. And I really like, how technologies have made travel easier. My favorite apps are Google Maps, Messenger, WhatsApp, Instagram and Agoda.
If I could take only one of my gadgets on the trip, then it would be the camera. Right now I’m a very satisfied owner of Fujifilm X30 compact camera (see it on Amazon). It’s small. It takes great photos. Its viewfinder is really good. And I like the functions this camera has. I like how smooth works wireless transfer of photos from the camera to a phone or tablet, and you don’t need WiFi for that.
My next choice would be Sony, for example Sony a6000 or the newer one – Sony a6300.
5. International travel power adapter
Choose the one, that can be used everywhere around the world. Pay attention to how many devices can be charged with it at once. One good option you can find on Amazon – Syncwire. Need some more ideas? Check out this list of great travel adapters.
6. External hard drive, memory cards
If you need them. I have several memory cards (to backup my photos and videos), 2 x USB sticks (for example, if you want to watch a movie you have on the TV in the hotel, but you can’t attach your hard drive to it, because TV is on the wall and there is no space) and one external hard drive.
7. Power bank – Portable charger
Did you know that now you can get a power bank, which can charge your phone more than 5 times (your iPad – 2-3 times), and it doesn’t cost a fortune? Yes, you can. Check out this one on Amazon from RAVPower!
And that’s not the best you can get – MAXOAK power bank (see it on Amazon) can charge your Macbook as well. For more details check it out on Amazon!
8. Headphones / earphones
9. Chargers for all your electronics
Backpacking Packing List: Hiking Gear and Accessories
How big tent do you need? In what conditions are you going to use it? How much do you plan to use it? These are few of the most important questions you need to answer first, when looking for a backpacking tent. The latter will also help you to decide, how much do you want to spend on a tent. Because, you know, there are tents for 20 USD and there are tents that cost 2000 USD.
Another important consideration is the weight of the tent. Lightest, 3 season 1-2 person tents nowadays weight under 1.5 kilo (3.3 lb) – for example, Nemo Dagger (see it on Amazon). Nowadays there are quite a lot of lightweight quality backpacking tents available!
2. Sleeping bag
Useful not only when camping, but also when staying at budget hostels and hotels. You never know – you may end up at some place, where you just don’t want to sleep on that linen or under that blanket. And then it’s great to have your sleeping bag. Planning to use it mostly for these kind of situations, I would look for the lightest sleeping bag within my budget.
Gearing up for a camping trip, check out goose down sleeping bags! They are way better and warmer than cheap synthetic ones. One very good option – TETON Sports Celsius XXL (see it on Amazon).
If you need a hammock only to chill on the beach or in the park, then almost any hammock will do the job. However, if you plan to camp with a hammock, then look for something better quality, like this one from Wise Owl Outfitters on Amazon! And don’t forget also to get a waterproof tarp for your hammock!
4. Trekking poles
5. Camping mat
6. 2 bungee cords
They are great to hang out your laundry or anything else, that’s not too heavy. And you can use them to attach something to the outside of your backpack.
7. Pocket knife
But only if you will be traveling with checked-in luggage. Since you can’t bring a knife on board with you. Or – if you aren’t going to travel by plane.
8. A couple of carabiners
9. Camping stove + camping cooking gear
Backpacking Packing List: Toiletries & Medicine
1. Microfiber towel. Because it’s light, small, when folded and quick drying. See more good travel towels!
2. Hand sanitizer liquid
3. Toothbrush and toothpaste
4. Nail clippers or scissors
5. Pack of wet wipes
6. Pack of tissues
7. Shower gel and/or shampoo. We usually buy them at our destination country.
10. Pain killers
11. Band aids
12. Hydrogen peroxide (to clean wounds)
13. Tiger balm
14. Loperamide capsules or tablets (to stop diarrhea)
15. Water purification tablets
How to Pack in 7 Kilos (15.4 lbs) or Less?
Check out our minimalist packing list here.
How to Pack Light for a 2-4 Week Hiking Trip?
That’s our backpacking packing list. But remember – pack only the gear that you are sure you’ll be using! Otherwise, what’s the point of carrying it around on your back?
Author: Kaspars Misins
Kaspars is a long term traveler and a travel blogger from Latvia. He loves going on long walks, reading non fiction books and spending time outdoors. Together with his girlfriend Una they have been traveling – volunteering – working abroad since 2013. On We Are From Latvia they share their experience and things learned along the way.