Packing List Tips for your Backpacking Travels

packing list tips

One of the responses from our recent travel survey was that they wanted to know what our packing list was like after 14 years of travel. Here are our packing list tips for your backpacking travels.

Style of Travel

Now that we travel with our daughter, our packing list has gotten a little larger. I’ll take her side of the packing out and just concentrate on how we would pack as independent backpackers.

We also pack differently depending on the location, how we are travelling, how long for and the weather. If we are road tripping across the US with our own vehicle than things like snorkels, and beach equipment, camping and cooking gear will be make the packing list.

For long-term backpacking we tend to go to warm climate regions, which means we can reduce the amount of heavy and bulky clothes. Cold weather places we would usually experience on short getaways or as an expat living in the region.

One thing we have learned is that less is more, and you never use everything you pack.


My backpack has to be a front-loading backpack. I absolutely detest top-loading backpacks. You do your best to dip down into the cavernous depths of your pack, only to have to empty the whole thing out because your long-sleeved shirt  that you need to wear into the temple is shoved right down the bottom. I still do not know one good reason why they are designed like that.

Front-loading backpacks have a zipper that goes all around the front. You can unzip, peel off the front piece and your backpack’s belongings are laid out in front of you like the insides of a suitcase, making it so easy to find things. They also seem to have greater support for your back and sit more comfortably. You can zip a daypack to the front as well, which you are really going to need for those short, yes you guessed it day trips.

Our packing List our Backpacking Travels

You don’t need to pack too many clothes. There are no backpacking fashion shows on the road; nobody cares how you look as we all look the same–comfortable and earthy. Choose practical, comfortable, hard-wearing,compact,  light cotton clothes. Here is a list of essentials

  • Light raincoat
  • Sweater, light jacket (depends on your destination)maybe your rain jacket can cover both. Or if this is too bulky leave it, you can always buy, if needed, at your destination
  • Long-sleeved shirt and long pants (will be needed to cover up when you visit some cultural and religious sites and to protect against mozzies)
  • Summer clothes: shorts, dresses, skirts, tank tops, shirts -mix and match, you only need about three of each that way. Depends on weather but I usually have more tank tops than t-shirts. I usually have at least one decent outfit in case we go out somewhere nice.
  • Swimming costumes- 2
  • Instead of a beach towel I use a sarong. Light and compact to carry, soft and cool to lie on, and can be used as a skirt.
  • Bath towel-I once used a chamois and hated it. Found it so useless that I decided carrying around a towel would be worth the extra bulk and weight
  • Sunscreen, hat, sunnies
  • hiking socks
  • undies and bras-enough to cover you for a week with no laundry
  • Good hiking shoes (boots and/or sandals). Check out Kigo footwear for some light, durable shoes
  • two pairs of thongs/flip flops
  • Basic toiletries. You will be able to buy these on the road so only pack what you need for the beginning of your journey.
  • Basic first aid kit: spare needles, antibiotics and tablets for vomiting and diarrhoea.

Forget the hair dryer and hair products and don’t overdo it on the makeup ladies. It’s just not necessary. The sun is going to give you the healthiest glow you’ll ever need and you’ll find you just too into living life to worry about spending wasted time on prettying up an already beautiful you.

Other things to consider

  • Water filter – depending on where you are travelling
  • Reading book- just one or two, you can trade along the way for new ones
  • Journal- please record your experiences. I was pretty good at this but at times got lazy. I’m kicking myself now!


This has definitely changed since we started travelling. We started off carrying a CD walkman and tons of CD’s. Thank God for the

  • ipod
  • Camera- SLR, lenses, point and shoot and video camera
  • Lap top- we carry two,
  • external hard-drive
  • smart phones

I recommend leaving the lap tops and related equipment at home unless you need it for work purposes. Disconnect from cyber space for awhile and just enjoy travelling- what you have been saving for and dreaming to do for years. If you need the internet just go to a cafe and pay.

The less you carry the lighter your load, the less hassle, and the less insurance.

What does your packing list look like? Have I left out any essentials or put too much in?

More Packing Tips:

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Caz Makepeace is the co-founder of y Travel Blog and has been traveling the world since 1997, first solo, then with her husband, and now with her two daughters. Get her free email series on the 4 best ways to reduce travel costs. Follow her on Google+

34 Comments on “Packing List Tips for your Backpacking Travels”

  1. Great tips! I should really buy a front-loading backpack!!

  2. “I recommend leaving the lap tops and related equipment at home unless you need it for work purposes. Disconnect from cyber space for awhile and just enjoy travelling- what you have been saving for and dreaming to do for years. If you need the internet just go to a cafe and pay.”

    I agree 100% !!

    Budget travel has changed so much in the last 5 years…this past year I saw many circumstances where people were sitting around the common room of the hostel quietly tweeting instead of sharing a beer and talking with fellow travelers. Sad…

    Great blog!

    • That is really sad. I love modern technology, but I love sharing a beer and talking to fellow travellers more. That is what is real

  3. I recently wrote a post about this (link in the Comment Luv). Here is my list of clothes from a 3 month backpacking trip, which was suitable for 40+ C in Southeast Asia to upwards of 4,875 meters (16,000 feet) and tons of snow in the Himalayas.

    3 t-shirts (breathable & moisture wicking)
    2 pairs of underwear
    2 pairs of socks
    2 pairs of pants (not jeans-lightweight and quick drying)
    1 swimsuit (doubled as something to sleep in)
    1 pair of long underwear (Merino wool—warm, odor resistant & fast drying)
    1 long sleeve shirt (Moisture-wicking)
    1 Under Armour long sleeve shirt (great, warm base-layer)
    1 fleece top (lightweight)
    1 Mountain Hardware soft shell w/ separate vest for warmth
    1 hat (appropriate for use in the rain)
    1 pair of rain pants (which fit into its own pocket)

    As detailed in my post, a list like this requires frequent laundry, but that’s really not as hard as you think! I’d say you were bringing too many undergarments, but I imagine it means you only have to do laundry once a week or so.

    Have you found water filters to be useful? I’ve always felt suspicious of them…

    • Great list! Thanks for sharing Aaron. We did find the water filters to be useful in Africa. It is the only place we have used it. Water can get expensive if you are buying lots of it each day. This saved us a fair amount.

  4. The experience shines through in that list!

  5. Forgive my newbie ignorance, but I’m new to this water filter. If you buy one, does it mean you can then drink tap water anywhere??

    • Yes. You are right. We only travelled with one in Africa. We knew it would be a bit harder, and possibly more remote travelling. We were also unsure of water supplies etc over there, so thought it was best to carry one. It was very compact and lightweight and cleaned our water perfectly. A good way to save money,although can be annoying as it takes time to filter it. I’m sure they have better performing ones now.

  6. Great list guys. I just wish that when I was on the road, I didn’t have such a heavy bag full of camera and computer equipment. That, and the model x-R700 hypermodullation transmogrifying discombobulator takes up a bit of room too. I’m kinda surprised that you didn’t have that on your list too ;)

    And yes, thank goodness for the iPod and no more cds!

    • Oh the discombobulator will do that. Have you any idea how hard that was to spell then! I can only imagine carrying the mystery IT. And you no longer have to worry about your CD’s getting scratched.

  7. Great tips! My front loading backpack was some of the best money ever spent.

  8. good thoughts here — I am totally a Kindle convert now. That damn thing is soooo handy on the road. Unlimited books, free internet, and no weight in your pack.

    • The Kindle sounds perfect for us. We were thinking of ipads. Any thoughts on what is better?

      • No contest. Reading on an iPad is as fun as reading on your computer screen. Try them both out first, and you’ll see the difference.

        • Definitely want to get me one of these!

          • The iPad is a must! It comes with iCloud, so you can back-up your photos. It can double as your laptop as well. If you have an iPad, you can leave your laptop, kindle/books @ home which means less stuff.

  9. Great list – and I totally agree with the front loader backpack! Jess has a toploader and it’s driving me insane how impractical it is – why do they even still make them like that?! MP3 players are the most amazing invention – we both love music and it would suck to only have a few CDs with us, especially when traveling long-term.

    • I wish I knew. Evolution backpack makers!!! The ipod has made our load a hell of a lot lighter.

  10. I agree about the front loading backpack. I like to stay organized, it would drive me insane to have to get something form the bottom of my pack and destroy all forms of organization in the process.

  11. Oh, the good ol’ days of the Walkman. :P

    We’re heading abroad for 1-2 years, but less backpacking and more staying-in-one-apt-for-a-month kind of thing. I’m not really sure how we’re going to pack for that, as I definitely see us experiencing a lot of different climates. Plus, there’s less need to fit everything into the smallest backpack possible, because we won’t be carrying our packs around every day.

    But I really don’t want to go overboard…. and I tend to always over-pack anyways, so I need to find a way to tone it down. Oiy.

    • If you are travelling for different climates, I would just take the basics and then buy what you need once you are there. It will be too much for carrying otherwise. It does help to not have to carry the backpacks around a lot though. Another benefit to slow travel

  12. Jessalyn Pinneo

    Such a helpful post! I was really nervous when I ended up with a top-loading pack before leaving the U.S., since I know myself well enough to know that if I got the slightest bit lazy (which was very likely), it would become a bottomless pit in which I wouldn’t be able to find anything. But I couldn’t find a front-loading pack that fit well, so I decided to give it a go. I’ve only lived exclusively out of my pack for about a week at a time at this point, but packing cubes have completely saved me and made a top-loading pack pretty easy to deal with. I organize them according to type of clothing and put them into my pack in the same configuration/order every day, so that getting to what I need is just a question of pulling out a couple of cubes that slide neatly back in place. Souvenirs for my family aside, my pack actually got smaller during my week in Tasmania, as things compressed down. I agree that front-loading packs are definitely preferable but if you end up with a top-loader, packing cubes can make it nearly painless.

    And I agree with Michael on the Kindle – used to hate the idea, but for a traveling book lover, there is quite possibly no better accessory.

    • That is good to know about the packing cubes. They sound like the perfect solution to the top loaders. I could not find a front loader in the US and found one in a small upstairs shop in Hong Kong. It was the last place I decided to check before giving in to another top loader.

  13. Nice one Caz. I’ll get that added to the list and look in to getting one next week, cheers.

  14. [...] offers up some great tips on what to pack when you travel the globe…I may have to leave my stilettos at [...]

  15. The only thing that makes top loading backpacks bearable is packing cubes and I swear by mine. I’ll never travel again without them.

  16. Earplugs & Eyemask!

    They are cheap & lightweight.

    I’ve never slept so well in a room full of people. This is always my top recommendation. :)

    • Craig can do the ear plugs. I hate having them in my ears, but I am a heavy sleeper. I once slept through a bin bomb go off outside my tent and a raging party going on all around me. Bliss. Yet, my baby can give the faintest cry and I will wake :)

  17. Thanks for including kigo footwear in your great, comprehensive list! Happy travels!

  18. I agree: front load backpacks are a must!

  19. Great list guys very useful!

    Just a note on technology, we carry the external hard drives as well but we also use photobucket to backup our very best photos every week or so (perhaps around 50) so that we’re able to keep those safe in case anything happens to us or our bags!
    Barry recently posted..Sweating within an inch of our lives in Nicaragua
    Barry recently posted..Sweating within an inch of our lives in Nicaragua

  20. Guys !! What if we take a backpacking tent with us . We may have some opportunity for camping in the nature. So Including all the staffs above I prefer to have a lightweight one.
    Holly Pywell recently posted..Alps Mountaineering Zephyr 2 Review
    Holly Pywell recently posted..Alps Mountaineering Zephyr 2 Review

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