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 for getting it right first time…

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  • 17 April 2023
  • • 16 min read

Packing can be the bane of your life before a big trip, so we’ve made the chore a little less tiresome for you and devised a complete packing list.

Got a history of forgetting something? Use this ultimate guide to remind you of useful essentials you need to bring along for your holidays. Knowing how to pack a backpack for a long trip isn't easy, so simply treat this as a checklist and tick off each item as you go. Of course, effective packing really depends on what kind of trip you’re about to embark on, so we’ve included items that cater to every kind of trip!

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 on 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

  • Local currency

  • Adapter plugs

  • Flip-flops (especially useful for shared bathrooms)

  • Re-usable water bottle

  • Spare socks

  • Spare underwear

  • Sun cream

  • Medicines / painkillers

  • Paperwork you need in a folder

  • A list of important phone numbers

Planning a European adventure? Check out  St Christopher's Inns hostels across the continent.

1. Passport

It seems obvious, but the single most important thing to pack for your travels is your passport. You won't get very far without it. Once you've ticked everything off your pre-travel checklist, and before you put your foot out the door, one last check for that important little book really won't hurt. 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 in case. Before you travel, make sure your passport is valid too. It's sometimes necessary 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. Trust us, you don't want to have to deal with the stress of getting a new one fast-tracked because you put it through the washing machine (yes we've all been there).

2. Adapter Plugs

Don't forget to pack your adapters, especially if you're going to be a bit of a digital nomad! Buying one in the airport or on arrival can be pretty expensive, and they are often weirdly hard to find. 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 and use your laptop, phone, camera, hairdryer 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. If your going somewhere hot or wet, you can't really have too many pairs of pants!

Tip: remember to pack a 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

There's nothing worse than smelly feet, so having enough clean socks for your trip is a must. Pack thick, long socks if you're going somewhere cold and thin ankle socks if you'll be wearing trainers around the city.

5. Portable Phone Charger

We all know that sinking feeling when our phone runs out of battery on the road. Bring a portable phone charger so that you can give your phone some juice on the go. You don't want to have your phone die when you're lost in the city or up a mountain (and you'll be gutted to miss the photo opportunities.

One of our favourite affordable portable phone chargers is the Anker PowerCore 10000 Redux ..

6. Clothes (and PJs)

The hard part: clothes. Remember to take a mix of light layers and warm layers for your trip (it can get cold at night even in the warmest of places). Packing light is an art form and with limited space in your backpack, it's good to be strict with yourself and only bring what you need - easier said than done!

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. If it helps, write a separate list for clothes to take. If you're going on a long trip, be sure to check the place you're staying has a laundry room so you can wash your things and wear clothes over again.

7. Waterproofs

A waterproof mac with a hood will be a saving grace throughout 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.

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. If you don't have any good boots, you can pick up some good quality ones on the cheap from second-hand sellers like eBay or Gumtree.

9. Sleeping Bag Liner

A sleeping bag liner is always handy to have - you never know when you might be roughing it! They're light, they're easy to pack and they make for the perfect bed lining if you're sleeping in a tent or on someone's sofa.

10. Reusable 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.

Tip: check out BottleUp for lighter, cheaper re-useable water bottles made out of sugar cane.

11. Local Currency

Don't forget your Euros! We'd recommend finding a local currency exchange at home which will get you a better rate than changing your cash at the airport. Don't know how much to bring? Budget how much cash you'd need for each day and work from there.

12. Hair Products

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 and it can be tricky to explain your symptoms to a pharmacist abroad. Painkillers or allergy tablets will come in handy for headaches, muscle aches, period pains, stomach aches - so keep some on you just in case. 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 your smartphone camera is probably good quality enough to capture great shots so try taking an old fashioned disposable camera instead.

15. Journal or Diary

A travel journal or diary is another amazing way to keep hold of memories you make whilst travelling. If you're on a longer trip especially, it's easy to lose track of everything that you've done and everyone you've met along the way. A journal can be used as a route planner or local phonebook, too.

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 space, and aren't allowed in plane hand luggage anyway.

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 most pharmacies and supermarkets. 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 use less plastic.

19. Towel

Thick towels can take up a lot of room, so pack a thin microfibre towel that's easy to pack or a couple of smaller ones. Most hostels don't provide towels (without a charge) 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. Your skin is also going through a culture shock too, and it's important to look after it!

Tip: it's a good idea to buy a moisturiser with SPF for extra protection from the sun.

21. Going Out Outfits

If you plan to hit the town on your trip, 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 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. 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. However, it's always a good idea to pack a back-up map for when you've got no signal.

24. First Aid Kit

Every backpacker should carry a first aid kit, especially if you'll be doing a bit of exploring in the wild. You can buy a first aid kit from Amazon for £7.99.

25. 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. If you're trying to use less plastic in your life, invest in eco-friendly bamboo toothbrushes that won't harm the planet.

26. Hand Sanitiser

We won't lie to you - public toilets aren't always that nice. A bottle of hand sanitiser is a really good idea to take pretty much everywhere with you on your travels - it might save you from picking up a nasty bug on your travels.

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. A tube goes a long way!

28. Travel Pillow

If you can fit it in your bag, this is an amazing addition that will make your trips on trains, planes, boats and cars much more enjoyable. Some of them even come with hoods for you fashion conscious travellers.

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.

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. Swim Gear

You don't need to go overboard (geddit?) 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!

32. Beard Trimmer & Nail Clippers

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 and cut your plastic waste massively.

33. Earplugs

Some hotels and hostels give these 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.

34. Glasses & Contact Lenses

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, and try and remember a spare pair.

35. Spare Cheap Phone For Emergencies

If you're heading on a longer trip and you don't feel comfortable bringing your usual smartphone, buy a cheap one ahead of your trip and then get yourself a SIM card or eSIM that works abroad. Make sure you get a SIM with 4G/5G included 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 your eyes 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. It doesn't have to be big or fancy, just a small, cheap flashlight or headtorch 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. Wet Wipes & Tissues

Another crucial item you might not think to pack, wet wipes and tissues can be a godsend if you're travelling for a long time. Wet wipes can act as a quick wash, too (just please don't use this method for too long!).

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...

Tip: flip-flops are one of the most obvious signs of plastic pollution on many beaches nowadays. If you can, find a shoe bank to donate your old ones to, where they will be recycled into new products.

43. Trainers

You're going to be walking around a lot. Flip-flops are great for a more chilled-out day, but trainers will be your saviour when you're putting the work in. 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, waiting in a station, it's important to make sure it's locked at all times.

45. Backpack Rain Cover

Some backpacks already have one. If not, this is a must-buy. It can feel like the end of the world if your stuff gets 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 after your passport. 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

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 a Kindle 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.

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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