Years of traveling the world taught me that to be good at backpacking, you have to focus on the most functional products to take with you, and you’ve gotta pack light.

From China and Cambodia to Ecuador and Panama, I’ve traveled with only a 50-liter backpack and a 25-liter daypack, containing everything I’ve needed. I’ve trekked mountain passes, camped at volcanoes, stayed in more hostels than I can count and had infinite “quintessential backpacker experiences,” with some products that helped me out.

What are the best backpacker things to consider for your backpacking trips this year? Check out this thoughtful list of my favorites, so that you can pack up and get ready to go!

Backpacks & accessories for backpackers

Backpacker backpacks have to survive being thrown on and off long-distance buses, being washed after a long trip and having zippers that won’t break!

These days for backpacking travels, I use a large supportive travel backpack, a smaller daypack to wear on my front and a belt bag or fanny pack, for having my essentials and valuables on hand. For more suggestions in addition to the below, check out my list of best backpacks as well as the best fanny packs for travel.

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Backpacking travel backpack: Deuter Aircontact Core 45 + 10 SL Pack

I like the Deuter Aircontact Core 45 + 10 SL Pack because it’s comfortable even when you load it with a lot of weight. It’s ergonomic back panel and straps are best in class, and it’s a superior quality backpack that’ll last for years.

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Backpacker daypack: Tortuga Laptop Backpack

I took the Tortuga laptop backpack as my personal item on a flight and was impressed with how much it holds, for its size. Being a Tortuga backpack, I know the quality is amazing and the functional pockets are uniquely useful.

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Waist pack (belt bag): Moment fanny sling

This durable belt bag holds my essentials both while walking around a city as well as while I’m running through an airport. I like the weatherproof construction and the wearability as a waist pack or sling.

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Backpacker shoes

I’ve written at length about the best travel shoes, and of course, it comes down to where you’re heading. For a trip that’ll involve hiking, trekking or other ways to work out during a trip, I have to have sturdy boots in my backpack. For a backpacking bender in the tropics, cue the sandals.

For a few ideas on shoes I can’t live without for a backpacking trip, see this short list.

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Rainproof boot-sneaker: Vessi

When I’m going to a rainy destination, having weatherproof Vessi shoes is a must! The Vessi boots are awesome if you plan to be hiking and don’t want to let rain spoil your plans.

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All-terrain sandals: Teva Original

My Teva sandals have seen lots of countries in Latin America and I like that they feel rugged, and comfortable. They dry fast if it’s humid or wet, and they let your feet breathe in hot weather.

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Walking/running shoe: Hoka Clifton

Hoka sneakers are known as great shoes for supportive wear during backpacking. They double as workout shoes if you’re into running or workouts, for healthy habits while traveling.

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Supportive sandals: Birkenstock Gizeh

I take my Birkenstock sandals on a trip as default sandals when I’m in a warm climate. They’re comfortable for walking, and they look nice if I want to look decent for a day!

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Backpacker packing products

Over the years, I’ve perfected my packing as a backpacker. You’ve got to have packing products that help compress your things, keep your dry stuff separate from your wet stuff and maybe even something for washing clothes when a laundry service isn’t available!

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Packing cubes: Nomatic Compression Packing Cubes

I’ve been using packing cubes ever since Dan introduced me to them, and I can’t travel without them. My Nomatic cubes let me organize my clothes, socks and layers, and they’re compressible with mesh exteriors.

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Toiletries Bag: Peak Design Wash Pouch

I used to use Ziploc bags for my backpacking toiletries, and that wasn’t the greatest idea. Peak Design is one of our favorite travel brands and makes a functional and minimalist toiletries bag that’ll last for decades. The material wipes clean and the pockets have pull-out linings.

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Portable laundry bag: Scrubba

Scrubba is a travel product for doing your own laundry. It revolutionized machine-free washing for travelers and does away with the need to do your laundry in a sink! It has an internal “washboard” and weighs only 5 ounces.

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Waterproof Document Pouch: Cocoon Pouch

This handy product from Cocoon is a way to keep your passport, immunization records and any other important papers free from getting damaged by water and the elements.

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Shoe packing cube: Knack Compression Bag

I used to use plastic bags to wrap up my shoes and separate them from my clothes, but the Knack shoe bag solves that (and it won’t break on you)!

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Backpacker accessories for hostels

I’ve become an expert hostel-style backpacker through the years, and there are a few things in my backpacker packing list that are essential when staying in hostels. Aside from the products to peruse below, remember to keep in mind my best tips for staying in hostels like a pro.

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Quick-Dry Travel Towel: Cocoon Microfiber Towel

Some hostels, or even basic hotels, may charge for towel use, depending on the country. I always have a quick-dry microfiber towel in my backpack to use as a primary towel, or a second (like going to a beach).

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Flip Flops: Havianas Slim Flip Flops

Having basic flip flops is an essential for backpacking hostel life. You might want to wear them around the hostel if your primary pair of shoes got dirty or wet, and I always use flip flops in hostel showers.

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Travel Locks: Master Lock Combination Locks

I can’t count the number of times I’ve had to lock my valuables in a locker in a hostel, to keep them secure overnight. Having your own locks means not needing to rent them from the front desk.

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Portable Soap Sheets: FOMIN Soap Thins

My friend Daniela introduced me to soap sheets for backpacking! Hostels and campsites may not provide shampoo, soap and conditioner, so be prepared with these to stay fresh.

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Ear Plugs: Flare Audio Sleep Pro

I started packing ear plugs after a no-sleep night in a loud hostel in Hong Kong. I found Flare Audio ear plugs and I have a few pairs I use to block out sounds both in hostels, and on transportation if I want to nap.

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Helpful Tip

For more details on how the ear plugs I recommend above changed my sleep for the better, head to my full Flare Audio ear plugs review.

Backpacker electronics accessories

In my early days, like 2010-2013, I traveled with a basic cell phone, a local SIM chip and an iPod. Seriously! Now though, tech is invaluable when backpacking. Here are the latest and greatest backpacker finds for tech must-haves.

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Travel VPN: ExpressVPN

Having a VPN in places like China helped me communicate with friends and family back home — it was totally indispensable. See why you need a VPN for travel before getting a VPN like ExpressVPN for watching your favorite shows on your phone while you’re away, if they’re blocked in some parts of the world.

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Earbuds: Airpods Pro

I like having Airpods as travel-sized headphones, and they’re also doubly good for packing to work remotely while traveling. I also have the Sandmarc Airpods case with a wrist strap to protect them during travel.

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Travel-Sized E-Reader: Amazon Kindle 16GB

If you’re a big reader, taking a Kindle instead of all your books saves a ton of space. A Kindle helps pass the time on long-haul bus and train rides. This one’s only 5.5 oz.

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Unlocked Smartphone: Google Pixel

We got Google Pixel phones to use with international data and it worked out great. Also, Google Pixel phones have the BEST cameras. See if Google Fi is worth it for backpacking trips.

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Backpacker tech accessories

A few of the tech gadgets below make backpacking a little bit more of a breeze, from backup batteries to outlet adapters.

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Backup Battery Pack: Anker Power Bank

I’ve avoided having a dead or drained phone battery because of my Anker backup battery. It’s slim, fits in a tech pouch and keeps my phone alive.

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Apple Airtags

Airtags are a hot travel item for tracking your valuables. I like putting them on my luggage and valuables, like a laptop or Kindle.

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Bluetooth Headphone Adapter: Twelve South AirFly

Airfly is a new travel gadget I recommend in my travel gift guide that lets you pair Bluetooth headphones with an old-school headphone jack, or pair a Bluetooth speaker in an old rental car!

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International outlet adapter

Don’t forget your international outlet adapter for a backpacking trip! This’ll let you plug in your electronics for charging, no matter where you’re heading.

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Hiking and camping accessories for backpackers

While I’m not necessarily a camping expert nor a hiking expert, I like my backpacking journeys to include getting close to nature. Here are some handy, and fun, gadgets to pick for your backpacking gear.

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NOC Binoculars

Specifically for places where the wildlife is a big part of the hike itself, bring along some compact binoculars to get close (but not too close) to nature. This pair from NOC is waterproof and can adapt to a phone so that you can get incredible close-up photos.

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Flashlight: NATHAN Hand torch

Having a travel flashlight is smart, and useful: when you want a handy light that’s not your phone, a hand torch can be good for dark hikes, power outages, dark hostel rooms or walking at night on dodgy sidewalks.

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Leakproof water bottle: Lululemon Back to Life Sport Bottle (24oz)

You know I swear by a trusty leakproof water bottle as a classic travel accessory for hiking, road trips, travel days, long flights and more! I don’t travel without my Lululemon travel water bottle nowadays.

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First aid kit (travel-sized): Adventure Medical Kits

I’ve saved myself by always traveling with some first aid stuff: Band-aids, gauze pads and a few types of medicines. If you want to check all the boxes, a travel-sized first aid kit that comes in a zippered “adventure bag” is a solid find.

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Accessories for transit (travel days)

I’ve spent hours on overnight buses and long-distance trains as a backpacker. A few comfy things can make the travel more of a pleasure! Check out these finds, as well as our lists of the best travel accessories for long flights and accessories for road trips.

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Neck pillow: Cabeau Evolution

I can’t sleep on a long flight (or bus, or train, or long car ride) without a firm neck pillow. I reviewed the best neck pillows for travel and tested a few, but I swear by the Cabeau neck pillow for all my travels.

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Eye mask: Freshme Mask Blackout

My eye mask helps me sleep on flights (when the lights are on), and is necessary (in my opinion) when sleeping in shared rooms or hostels. Mine also came in handy in Estonia, when the sun rose at 3:30 am in the summer!

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Noise-cancelling headphones: Sony

A pair of noise-cancelling headphones makes travel days and long days of transit such a breeze. Block out the unwanted noise, and plug into your best music, shows or podcasts.

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Travel insurance: World Nomads

Travel insurance helps with backpacking trips overall, and certainly helps with transit mishaps like trip protection, trip cancellation, trip interruption, rental car damage and luggage loss or theft. I suggest exploring your options for insurance while backpacking!

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Backpacker travel clothes

With clothes to bring backpacking, I’ve always prioritized clothes that do well with sweating, whether for hot climates or just feeling clammy (ew) after long flights or layovers. Aside from that, I’ve learned about pants that help prevent theft as well as jackets that compress for packing light!

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Theftproof pants: Aviator travel jeans

Aviator travel jeans are perfect for having as the only jeans you need as a backpacker. The hidden zipper pockets in the back can conceal money, cards, keys or other valuables.

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Stretchy leggings with pockets

I can’t live without stretch leggings that have a pocket for my phone or cards, when I’m in long transit journeys. The Free Fly Pocket leggings are a new favorite of mine, for their quality and style.

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Merino wool T-shirts

I have several favorite merino wool tops, which I list in the best travel shirts for women. My favorite brand right now is Seadon, for wicking sweat and multiple wears before needing to wash.

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Merino wool underwear: Icebreaker

Icebreaker makes merino wool underwear in both men’s and women’s that’s ideal for all weather conditions while you are backpacking.

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How did I decide which backpacker accessories to include?

I’ll be frank: I’m a backpacker, not a hiking and camping expert. By “backpacking,” I mean I “backpacked” Southeast Asia, East Asia, South America, Central America, Europe and some of Africa with my backpack(s) and on a shoestring budget.

On my backpacking trips, I’ve stayed in hostels, taken part in a big hike or trek or two, taken long-haul trains, overnight buses and did some camping here and there. Most of the time, I travel in a backpacker style for authentic experiences, and being able to get up close and personal with cultures in incredible destinations.

I’m usually trying to travel for super cheap, so I want things that are versatile and perform multiple functions.

Therefore, my backpacker gear recommendations, like my list of products for female travelers, are the things that make your trip possible. Getting ear plugs for sleeping in hostels let me get better sleep during travel.

Having a good water bottle meant saving money (and plastic) and being able to fill up my thermos from the water cooler at my accommodation.

My trusty backpacks have survived lots of travel on different continents, weather conditions, transit delays and under-bus compartments. My daypacks have taken me out in amazing cities and have stored my camera, my Lonely Planet guidebooks and an extra sweater.

I also have tried and tested a wide array of travel brands, which back my articles like the best travel shirts for women.

Is this list complete? Far from it! There are so many things in my packing list that I can’t even fit into this list, so for that, I would urge you to check out the rest of our gear section and list of the best travel accessories.

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