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50 Things to Pack in Your Travel Backpack

Here’s how to pack a backpack for a long trip away, using this packing checklist as your go-to guide to getting it right…

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  • 27 February 2020
  • • 16 min read

Packing can be the bane of your life: but we’ve made the chore a little less tiresome for you and devised a COMPLETE packing list. Got a big trip coming up? Use this ultimate guide to remind you of useful essentials you need to buy for your travels whether it’s shower gel, socks, clothes or sunnies. Knowing how to pack a backpack for a long trip ain’t easy. But simply treat this as a packing checklist and tick off each item as you go. Of course, it really depends on what kind of trip you’re about to embark on whether it’s trekking a mountain, or inter-railing Europe, so we’ve tried to include items that cater to every kind of trip!

When it comes to packing, the best way to pack a backpack is to save space. Our top tip is to fold your clothes efficiently. Remember: Heavy stuff at the bottom, stuff that leaks goes in plastic bags and things you’ll need as soon as you arrive at your destination (like toiletries) at the top. Roll your clothes up rather than fold them if it takes up less room.

This guide will also work for suitcases for air travel too, not just backpacks. Don’t forget anything - and happy travelling!

Don’t have time to read the full article? Here’s a quick rundown of the main essentials to pack before you leave the house:

  • Passport

  • Phone charger / portable phone charger

  • Euros

  • EU adapters

  • Flip flops (for the hostel bathrooms)

  • Water bottle

  • Socks

  • Underwear

  • Sun cream

  • Medicines / painkillers

  • Any paperwork you may need

Haven’t got a backpack yet? 

1. PASSPORT

The most important thing to pack for your travels is your passport. You won't get very far without it. If you're travelling within Europe as an EU citizen, sometimes all you need is your ID/Drivers license to travel - but this often depends on your airline so we recommend keeping your passport on you at all times, just incase. Before you travel, make sure your passport is valid too. It's always good to have at least six months on your passport before it expires so always check your expiry date in good time so you can order a new one before the trip comes.


2. EU ADAPTERS

Don't forget to pack your EU adapters! Saves buying one in the airport and they can be pretty expensive. On Amazon, you can buy a  two pack of EU Adapters for just £4.39. Two adapters should be enough for your travels so you can charge your laptop, phone, camera, hair appliances and more.


3. UNDERWEAR

Pack enough underwear for your trip (and maybe two or three extras). You can always wash your underwear during your travels if you do run out. Tip: remember to pack an small thin bag for your dirty laundry, it will separate your clean and dirty things so you don't get them mixed up.


4. SOCKS

Socks are important because they will protect your feet from rubbing against your shoes when you do a lot of walking. We recommend packing thick socks if you're going somewhere cold and ankle socks if you'll be wearing trainers around the city.


5. PHONE CHARGER/PORTABLE PHONE CHARGER

We all know the feeling when our phone runs out of battery on the road. So bring a portable phone charger so that you can give your phone some charge on the go. You don't want to have your phone die when you're lost in the city or miss out on amazing photo opportunities. One of our favourite affordable portable phone chargers is the Anker PowerCore 10000 Redux , a small power bank that never lets us down.


6. CLOTHES (INCLUDING PJ'S)

The hard part: clothes. Remember to take a mix of light layers and warm layers for your trip (depending where you're going). It's always handy to look up the weather before you go and pack accordingly. Packing light is a form of art and with limited space in your backpack, it's good to be strict with yourself and only bring what you need.

Take into consideration what kind of activities you might be doing during your travels so that you're prepared with the right gear - whether you'll be hiking, snorkelling, partying, skiing or sightseeing around the city, you'll need appropriate attire. If you're going on a long trip, be sure to check the hostel has a laundry room so you can wash your things and wear clothes over again.


7. WATERPROOF MAC

A waterproof mac with a hood will be your saviour during your trip. The weather around Europe can be unpredictable, so be prepared with waterproof layers if you're travelling to cities that are prone to rain. Try and find a lightweight mac that's easy to pack (a pack-a-mac is always a good shout and you can buy them cheap on Amazon or Primark).


8. WALKING SHOES

If you'll be doing a lot of walking or hiking then make sure to pack some good quality walking shoes. It’s usually best to wear your bulkiest shoes at the airport so that you can save space in your luggage. Mountain Warehouse is a good website to buy some affordable walking shoes that will last for a few years to come.


9. SLEEPING BAG LINER

A sleeping bag is always handy to have - especially if you're a bit of a germaphobe. They're light, they're easy to pack and they make for the perfect bed lining if you're sleeping in a tent or hostel. You won't need one at St Christopher's Inns hostels though as fresh bed linen is provided for every guest.


10. WATER BOTTLE

Always carry a water bottle to stay hydrated on the road. Most travel backpacks have a water bottle compartment so it's easy to reach when you're walking around. Not only are reusable water bottles better for the environment but they're also a great way to save money so that you don't have to keep buying more.


11. EUROS

Don't forget your euros! We'd recommend finding a local currency exchange with the best rates rather than changing your cash at the airport where it's more expensive. Don't know how many euros to bring? Budget how much cash you'd need for each day and work from there.


12. HAIRBRUSH/COMB/HAIR GEL/SPRAY

Bring essential hair products for healthy, happy locks during your travels. To minimise the toiletries you pack, we'd recommend bringing a hairbrush and some dry shampoo (or hair gel) in order to save up space for other items like deodorant and toothpaste. If you have enough space, a pair of curling thongs or straighteners are a nice thing to have but only if you NEED them.


13. PAINKILLERS AND MEDICINE

It's always good to have some medication on the road. Painkillers or allergy tablets will come in handy for headaches, muscle aches, period pains, stomach aches - so keep some on you just incase. Always carry Imodium or Dioralyte too.


14. CAMERA

If you forget this bad boy, you'll regret it forever. If you're looking to buy a new travel camera,  Nowadays though, your smartphone camera is good quality enough to capture great shots so if you're trying to carry less, then ditch the camera.

And with every camera you'll need a...


15. CAMERA CHARGER

Remember your camera charger! And make sure you have a spare memory card on you if you'll need one!


16. DEODORANT

When it comes to deodorant, we always recommend taking a roll-on for travelling because it's smaller and hassle-free. A spray deodorant can sometimes be harmful to asthmatics who may be sharing your hostel dorm.


17. SHAMPOO, CONDITIONER

Shampoo and conditioner bottles can be bulky to carry and they take up a lot of room in a backpack. Instead, you can fill up smaller-sized bottles with your hair liquids to save space. You can buy these small reusable bottles from Boots or Superdrug. Better yet, invest in some sustainable shampoo or conditioner bars for your hair and support the zero waste movement. These eco-friendly soap bars are plastic free and create zero waste because you end up using the whole product (and the bar lasts ages)!


18. BODY WASH

Same goes for your body wash. Try and pack mini versions or fill up small reusable bottles to save space. Or opt for a bar of soap in a tin that'll (hopefully) last your whole trip and save on plastic.


19. TOWEL

Thick towels can take up a lot of room. So, ideally buy a thin microfibre towel that's easy to pack (like these awesome ones from  Amazon ). They're definitely worth it if you want to save space. Most hostels don't provide towels so remember to bring yours.


20. MOISTURISER

The heat and cold can really dry out your skin so use your go-to moisturiser every day during your travels. It's good to buy a moisturiser with SPF for extra protection from the sun.


21. GOING OUT OUTFITS

If you plan to party and hit the clubs, then make sure to pack some going-out outfits. It's hard to choose what to wear on nights out but be brutal and only pack what you need. Two party outfits should be enough with a couple of extra tops so you can mix and match.


22. GOING OUT SHOES

You can wear trainers or boots to most of Europe's best clubs which is great because it saves space in your backpack. A pair of converse, flat biker boots or vans can be worn in the day and night; we love how versatile they are. You probably won't need heels unless you know that you're going somewhere a little fancier.


23. GPS OR MAP

Having access to a GPS App on your mobile phone will be a life saver when you're trying to navigate around a city. Download Maps.me or City Mapper and you'll be sorted. You never know if you'll have good signal using GPS, or your phone battery might die so it would be helpful to pack a back-up map.


24. FIRST AID KIT

Every backpacker should carry a first aid kit, you never know when you'll need it. Especially if you'll be doing a trekking-based trip. You can buy a first aid kit from Amazon for £7.99.


25. GLOVES/HAT/SCARF

Travelling Europe in the winter can get quite chilly so wrap up and pack a scarf, hat and a pair of gloves. It depends where you're going in Europe though.


26. TOOTHBRUSH

Don't forget your trusty toothbrush. Electric toothbrushes are quite heavy so if you find you're running out of space, opt for a normal toothbrush instead. These don't require a charger either so saves even more space. Or if you're trying to use less plastic in your life, invest in the eco-friendly bamboo toothbrushes (pictured) that won't harm the planet.


27. TOOTHPASTE

Toothpaste is an essential travel item but if you're travelling with friends, you can save space in your toiletries bag by sharing a toothpaste tube between you. One tube of toothpaste can go very far!


28. TREKKING POLES

Trekking poles are only really necessary for a trekking trip or long hiking adventure. If you are embarking on an adventurous trip like this, invest in a backpack that has pole attachments. This will make it much easier to carry them around so you don't have to hold them.


29. SUN CREAM

SPF sun cream is one of the most important things you can pack in a travel backpack. Apply it generously and take sun cream with you everywhere you go. Especially if you have a tendency to burn. Even though it may not look sunny, the rays are still there so it's important to wear sun cream everyday during your travels. You can't go wrong with Factor 50!


30. EYE MASK

If you're a light sleeper then we recommend packing an eye mask. When sleeping in hostels, you never know if you'll have someone in your dorm room turn the light on in the middle of the night. With an eye mask, you won't even notice. Plus, they're incredibly handy to have in your hand luggage for long bus or train journeys when you want to get a bit of shut-eye.


31. EARPLUGS

Some hostels give them out for free at reception, but just in case they don't, buy a pair (or two) of foam earplugs for the nights you'd like a decent sleep without interruption. If a group staying in your dorm room is making noise after a night out, you won't even hear it.


32. SHAVER/NAIL CLIPPERS

Calling all beard gang members: remember your beard trimmer and charger (if you don't wanna rough it out). If you're thinking about packing disposable shavers, we recommend spending a little more on a reusable one instead. You'll save money in the long run while also helping put less plastic into landfill.


33. SWIM GEAR

You don't need to go overboard with swimming costumes, board shorts and so on. Remember that when you're travelling, there will be plenty of opportunity to wash your clothes! If you're travelling somewhere where you'll be swimming a lot, pack two or three options that you can rotate, rewear and, of course, easily wash!


34. GLASSES/ CONTACT LENSES/ CONTACT LENSES CLEANER

For those who need to wear glasses, the above are all SO important. You want to actually be able to SEE when you're travelling. Or what's the point? Put this on your priority packing list if you're someone who wears glasses, just to really make sure you don't forget.


35. MOBILE PHONE/SPARE CHEAP PHONE FOR EMERGENCIES

If you don't feel comfortable bringing your usual smartphone, buy a cheap one ahead of your trip and then get yourself a SIM card that works abroad - try supermarkets, corner shops or a phone shop if there's one nearby. Make sure you get a SIM with internet so you have maps, hostel bookings and travel guides at your fingertips!


36. REUSABLE COFFEE CUP

Continue to do your bit for the environment while you're travelling and get yourself a reusable coffee cup. Whether you fancy a hot drink to-go from a nearby cafe, the free hostel breakfast or the kettle from your private room, you know it will come in handy on multiple occasions throughout your trip. You can even buy collapsable coffee cups these days meaning they'll take up hardly any space so there's no excuse!


37. SUNGLASSES

An essential for any trip. Whether it's summer or winter, hopefully you'll get at least a glimpse of sun during your trip! We recommend packing a pair of good quality sunglasses that will protect you day-to-day, as well as a cheaper pair that you don't mind getting a little weathered on the beach or in the sea.


38. EMERGENCY WHISTLE

If you’re backpack doesn’t come equipped with one already... You never know when a whistle will come in handy as, when travelling, stressful situations can arise out of nowhere (although hopefully they won't at all). It can be used if you're stranded in a broken down car, if you're trying to warn off a fearless animal or even if you're stuck in a toilet cubicle and the door won't open! You just never know...


39. TORCH

This could be for a camping trip, an early sunrise hike or just to avoid turning all the lights on in your dorm room and waking everyone up (just so you could find that lost sock before your flight). It doesn't have to be big or fancy, just a small, cheap flashlight should do the trick.


40. GOGGLES

For those that know they'll be spending a lot of time in the water, pack goggles or a snorkel mask so you can really make the most of the sea while you're away. This will save you from hiring some out or struggling with salty eyes.


41. UNDERWATER CAMERA

Again, if you know you'll spend a lot of time in the sea then buy an underwater camera so you can take photos in the deep blue. Especially if you're going somewhere where you know the sea life will be amazing.


42. FLIP FLOPS OR SANDALS

Comfortable footwear goes a long way when backpacking and when it's the height of summer then flip flops or sandals are essential. Make sure you get a good quality pair that will last you your trip - you don't want any blowouts...


43. TRAINERS

You're going to be walking around a city A LOT. Flip flops are great for more chilled out day, but trainers will be your saviour. Make sure that you break them in first if you buy a new pair of trainers for your trip. There's nothing worse than a blister when walking around a city.


44. PADLOCK

Once everything is packed, lock it with a padlock to ensure your things are safe. When you're on night trains, walking through crowded areas, or storing your bag somewhere that's not in a locker, it's important to make sure it's locked at all times. It will also come in very handy in hostels too, to keep your valuables safe.


45. BACKPACK RAIN COVER

Some backpacks already have one. If not definitely purchase one; the last thing you want is all your stuff to get drenched while you're getting from A to B.


46. CAP

To keep your head and face protected from the sun. Caps aren't too expensive, and they're definitely worth having. Plus, most of them can be attached to the outside of your backpack if you're struggling for room inside.


47. MEDICINES

Any medication that you'll need during your travels is perhaps the most important item to pack here. For any prescribed medicines or tablets you take daily, set an alarm on your phone so that you remember to take it. It's so easy to forget when you're backpacking.


48. LIP BALM

SPF lip balm is a good one to remember to pack - your lips can be damaged by the sun just as your skin can. Keep them moisturised with a sun protection lip balm which you can buy from most pharmacies or cosmetics shops. The sun can also dry your lips out, so pack your favourite moisturising lip balm, too.


49. READING MATERIAL/TRAVEL GUIDE/PHRASEBOOK

You may be spending a lot of time of planes and trains during your travels so buy yourself some good books to keep yourself occupied (or an eReader to save space). City guides and phrasebooks are also good to have while you're travelling, but these can get heavy so try and limit yourself to one. If you have a SIM card with data then you're sorted anyway!


50. SNACKS!

Pack a few small snacks that will fit in your backpack and give you a little taste of home. Take a couple of packets of your favourite biscuits or chocolate bar - we're sure you'll really thank yourself when you're craving a bit of what you're used to. Just make sure you pack snacks that won't go out of date too quickly so you can savour them as long as you can resist!

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