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Essential backpacking travel checklist

What to pack for your next travel adventure - an essential backpacking travel checklist

So, you’ve decided to take the plunge and have booked that once in a lifetime trip away. Exciting times are ahead and we’re sure you’ve got lots of fun planning to look forward to. However, planning for such as big trip can come with its added pressure and stress, especially when deciding how much to take and what to take. Fear no more! Here at Alpha, our team have put together our essential backpacking checklist of the most important items you should spend your precious pennies on to be prepared for your next adventure.


Quite an obvious one to start with as it’s in the name! But your first backpacking essential is of course your backpack. This is going to be where you pack your entire life so it is important that you find a backpack that you love and fits you well. Backpack sizes can range from 35L to 80L (most travellers will take a backpack in the 40L-70L range when travelling for longer than 5 weeks). A little pro tip is to look for a backpack that opens like a suitcase rather than a traditional backpack that opens from the top as you will find it much easier to pack and unpack as you move around. Popular brands that we have used and that sell good and affordable backpacks are both Osprey and Mountain Warehouse.

Compression Packing cubes

An absolute essential for organised packing and will save you SO much time and stress. Packing cubes are an easy way to divide your clothes and items so that you don’t have to manically rummage through your backpack when you need to find something. You could even take things a step further and to look like a seasoned traveller you could also get compression packing cubes that press down even further with an extra zip for compression and will save you lots of space meaning you will be able fit everything you need for your adventure in a quick and easy fashion.

Bum bag/day bag

Picture this, you’re in the middle of Indonesia and you have just settled in to your first hostel. You want to go out and explore but you have your water bottle, sun cream, room key and other essentials that you are going to need. The last thing you are going to want to do is lug around your big backpack everywhere which is why it is so important that you have a day bag to take with you i.e., a bum bag, crossbody bag or even a tote bag. That way you can go out on your daily adventures without having to take your life’s possessions with you.

Universal charging adapter

A universal charging adapter is an important item to take with you especially if you plan on backpacking across different countries. All in all, this saves you the time and effort of buying a new charging plug every time you visit a country with a different charging plug type. Universal charging adapters will have four different plugs that you can use in over 200 countries as the last thing you want is to be in a country abroad with a phone that you can’t charge. Additionally, a great feature of most universal charging adapters is their USB ports, so you can charge multiple devices at a time. We’ve found our favourite - take a look here.

Filtered water bottle

A water bottle that filters the water is essential for so many reasons. The main being that if you go to a country that doesn’t produce clean water then you can fall very ill from drinking it. This will also hopefully stop you from buying single use plastic bottles so all round you will be set up for a clean and eco-friendly drinking experience wherever you go as well as saving money!

TSA Approved Padlocks

Theft is uncommon in hostels but does still occur which is why padlocks are an absolute essential so that you can lock your belongings in a locker and not have to worry about anything getting stolen. It is important to check that your padlock is TSA approved as it will allow TSA staff to re-lock your baggage without damaging the lock and is in general stronger than standard padlocks. Padlocks can also be used on your backpack to keep your belongings safe if there isn’t lockers provided at a hostel or keep them secure during travel days in between destinations such on public transport.

Air Tag/Samsung SmartTag

When going on a backpacking adventure you are quite literally packing your life into one bag and moving away from your home country. The worst thing that could possibly happen is that you lose your luggage. Whether you leave it somewhere, it gets stolen or it gets sent to a completely different airport. Simply, an Air tag for iPhone or a Samsung SmartTag for Android devices is a small chip that you can put in your backpack or attach on to, which will allow you to track it should your bag get lost. That way you can easily track it down and proceed with your backpacking experience. There can also be attached to other travel items such as daypacks, bum bags, and other valuables.

Hanging multi-compartment wash bag

Every hostel you stay in will have a toilet and a shower (well we hope), however, what they might not have, is a shelf to put your belongings on whilst you get clean. Most hostels however will have something to hook on to which is why a wash bag with a hook is a great way to make your life a little easier. Having a wash bag that is also multi-compartment will help you separate and organise your toiletries so that you can easily find what you are looking for and get on with your day.

Microfibre towel

Whilst living away from the luxuries of home and out of your backpack, a microfibre towel is an important item to bring along. Microfibre towels a more durable and lightweight then regular towels, dry quicker to stop them smelling damp in your bag and also fold down much smaller, to save that extra needed space whilst away for clothes and other backpacking essentials. We’d recommend getting two for your travels, one for use after showers and for daily use and the other for if you’re heading to the beach and other activities.

First aid kit

A first aid kit is an essential item to have for occasion but even more so when you are travelling across multiple countries and you may be unsure of where you can get quick medical assistance. Most basic first aid kits will include things like:

• Adhesive plaster strips
• Bandages
• Emergency blankets
• Wound dressings
• Cleaning wipes
• Gauze sponges
• Gloves
• Tweezers
• Medical Scissors
• Cotton buds

We’ve done the hard work for you and found some great options offered by Amazon and Seton.

Waterproof phone case

Waterproof phone cases are great for those who expect to be at the beach a lot and are interested in water-based activities. A waterproof phone case will allow you to take pictures and capture memories without you having to worry about your phone being vulnerable to water damage.

Shower head filter

Remember when we spoke about visiting countries that don’t produce clean water? Well, this can even affect things such as showers. There was a common issue amongst travellers in relation to showers in Indonesia. Lots of travellers claimed that the unfiltered shower water was causing their hair to fall out and cause irritation to their skin. Since then, shower head filters have been a popular item for travellers to take to South East Asia to avoid these issues, but could be handy for most destinations.

Sun Cream (SPF 50)

From sunny beaches, to the top of snowy mountain tops, the one thing you will always need is sun cream. Wherever you go it is extremely important that you protect your skin correctly. Another little tip is that you will find sun cream can be quite expensive in other countries so you might be better off stocking up at home beforehand!

Travel Insurance (GHIC/EHIC)

So, the final essential to finish this backpacking checklist is the most important but probably the most ignored, and that’s a scary thing called travel insurance! Yes, travel insurance may not be a glamorous backpacking item or the first one that comes to mind when planning your exciting adventure but it needs to be included in your backpacking checklist.

You may be thinking what is travel insurance and how does it work? Travel insurance will help to ensure that your trip is covered against many unforeseen backpacking and holiday mishaps. Travel insurance will help provide cover for unexpected cancellations, possessions and medical expenses, which trust us, can become very expensive. Take a look at our Alpha long stay policies and If you’re still feeling unsure of what is the right travel insurance policy for you, take a look at a helpful article we have found that can help explain what you need from your policy.

Additionally, A Global Health Insurance Card (GHIC), previously called European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) is also an essential item to bring whilst travelling, but is not a replacement for travel insurance but should be used as well as. Your GHIC or EHIC card will help to provide discounted or even free state-provided healthcare in certain European destinations in a medical emergency. However, if you need to be transported back to the UK due to a medical emergency, your GHIC/EHIC won’t cover these costs. This is where your important travel insurance policy steps in. Ensure you’re adequately covered by purchasing travel insurance before your trip and also making sure your GHIC/EHIC is in date. You can apply for your GHIC card here.

Travel insurance and GHIC/EHIC cards will help to provide cover for your holidays and backpacking trips within Europe, but if you’re planning longer stays such as over a year, or multiple years out of the UK then you may need to apply for specialist cover or sign up for the health care services that the country you plan to live in offers. As an example Australia has a publicly funded health care service called Medicare. We would always suggest looking into the health care in the country you are travelling to prior to getting on the plane so you are prepared!

If reading this has got you excited for your upcoming backpacking adventure, make sure it’s covered with adequate travel insurance. Click here to get a travel insurance quote for your next backpacking trip today!

We've also put together a travel checklist that will hopefully help to cover the most important items to pack before you head off travelling, click here to download and share it with your friends and travel companions.

Backpacking Checklist

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