Packing For Backpacking

Loyal readers, I apologise in advance. This is a very tired topic, one which many bloggers far more reputable than I have written about time and time again.

But, like every self-important relatively-newbie blogger, I need to add my two cents. Call it ego. Call it diligence.

Call it that I just really wanted an excuse to show off this cool photo of all my stuff artistically and anally laid out on the floor.

I’m going to tell you how to pack for backpacking. Sorry in advance, guys.

How to pack for backpacking

Observe the awesomeness. My partner Jenelle can take 78.6% of the credit for this photo’s visual prestige.

The absolute essentials

  • a mobile phone with a sim for the region you’re travelling in: because you don’t want to be stuck in a crappy situation and not be able to get help.
  • headphones/earbuds of some description: because music makes long bus and train rides better.
  • a small first aid kid: because you might climb a tree and scrape your knee, your dress may get a tear. Just don’t waltz on the way to mass, or I won’t speak to you ever again.
  • things you may struggle to source in the region you’re travelling to: i.e. tampons in South East Asia.
  • medication: because it’s nice to stay alive.
  • locks: for hostels and for securing your pack. It’s a good idea to have two – the standard high school combination lock, and also one with a thinner band/strap, which can be used either for your pack or for hostel lockers if your combo lock doesn’t fit.
  • something that makes you feel good: for me it’s my stupid orange shorts, which basically constitute my entire identity, according to my partner. My notebook also helps, so I can jot down blogging ideas on the road. Whatever yours is, just throw it in.
How to pack for backpacking.

One lock for your bag, and one for the hostel lockers. Also handy if you need to ward off attackers with a slock, Crazy Eyes style.

The “it’s a good idea” items

Depending on space, it may be a good idea to include some of the following items:

  • a spare mobile phone: make sure it’s one that fits the same type of SIM your current phone uses. I have a shitty Telstra phone from when my iPhone broke, and I’m travelling with it because you never know, and I don’t feel particularly comfortable taking busses around Asia without a working phone.
  • not crappy shoes: often there’s no room for these in a pack, but if you’re going out to dinner with your new travel friends, surely you’d like to not wear runners or thongs.
  • grooming products: because we all like to feel vaguely human once in a while.
  • organising/packing bags: these are basically fabric bags with zips that you can use to organise your clothes into categories. Not essential, but so useful. Oh, and don’t spend $20 on a set from a travel store – I got mine for $2.80 at Daiso.

The don’t bothers with

  • paper books: seriously, invest in a Kindle or just pick books up along the way. Many hostel have book swaps, or you can borrow a book of a fellow traveller, or (shock horror) you can actually buy a book on the road.
  • jewellery: You just really don’t need it for a skuz backpacking trip. Besides, looking wealthy can make you a target for mugging.
  • superfluous toiletries: I’m a culprit of packing these. I love packing toiletries in mini (which is probably evident from my packing photograph). However, if you’re smarter than me, you’ll probably realise that you can pick up most toiletries along the way.
  • makeup: If you’re going to a warm climate, it’ll just sweat off. If you’re going to a colder climate, taking makeup is more justifiable, but I still vote you don’t really need it. You’re backpacking. Nobody cares.
  • multiple pairs of jeans: They take up a lot of space and you can wash the one pair you have.
  • normal towels: No. Space waster. Get a microfibre towel.
How to pack for backpacking

Microfibre towels are the backpacker’s best friend. Mine is cunningly held together by my RoadID.

And there you have it! Go forth and conquer, brave backpacker. And stay tuned on From Desk to Dawn for regular posts about the wonders of South East Asia, which is my next destination 🙂


Got an abnormally strong opinion about packing lists? Or just feel like chiming in? Comment below, and share!