My 12 Backpacking Must-Haves (Or Basically the Most Used Items in My Travel Kit)
Before I began my round the world backpacking trip, I researched the hell out of literally everything - from which travel insurance to buy to the types of flights to book to exactly which items I should pack for a smooth(ish) round-the-world adventure. I devoured six books on round-the-world travel. I whiled away hours watching YouTube videos on travel backpacks and travel packing hacks. I read so many Amazon product reviews for every piece of travel kit I started seeing sideways.
In hindsight, this was clearly my way of making the leap into the Great Unknown feel a lot less scary. And when I finally hit the road, I realised how much my travel planning paid off (things did run rather smoothly if I do say so myself), but also how excessive it all was. At the end of the day you really don’t need much to survive as a backpacker. And most things you can find on the road anyway. Plus, you’ll end up reusing the same travel kit - over and over and over again. At least until something gets smelly enough you’re forced to give it a rest. Or at the very least - a good not-out-of-a-hostel-sink wash.
If you’ve been following me for a while (if not, do! Sign up to my newsletter!), you’ll probably already have a sense of which travel kit bits I’m talking about. These popular fashun items have featured in almost every blog post and have certainly been splashed all over my Instagram. Hot-pink shirt, anyone?
So without further ado, I bring you the most used items in my backpacking kit - what I consider to be backpacking must-haves for a trip around the world. Don’t leave home without them. (Of course, if you want the more comprehensive version, you can always read that later too.)
1. Baseball cap: This comes in handy for every single outdoor adventure. Protect yourself from the sun in more tropical climes, from the wind in colder destinations and from the tree trunks (which I managed to slam my head on on numerous times) on all your rainforest treks. This baby also keeps my crazy curls at bay which is frankly essential to my survival on any trip.
2. Long-sleeved thermal: This is the perfect layer. Tuck it in under your trousers and use it as a thermal in the mountains. Carry it as a jacket to keep you warm in overly air-conditioned airports and flights. It’s small and compact so you can easily throw it into your backpack as a “just in case” and wrap it around your waist when you’re getting too hot again.
3. Havaiana flip-flops: These are simply the best. I picked up a pair in Brazil, which just so happened to be the very first stop on my round-the-world trip, but you can find these anywhere. And they are worth the higher price tag for a pair of flip-flops for their sheer durability. I use these not just to frolic in the sand but to walk across rocky beach cliffs and pebbly coastlines. They even work well for short walks in the city. Honestly, your feet won’t ache. They’re better than flats.
4. Gonex compressible backpack: This is my go-to daypack. It’s easy to pack away and works for any travel occasion. I use it for treks, walking about new cities and as my regular beach bag. It keeps you hands-free (which is essential when you travel, especially if you’re capturing content all the time like me) and its separate compartments help keep your stuff organised. I always keep mine loaded with the essentials (sunscreen, sunglasses, etc.) so it’s already good to go when I’m rushing out the door.
5. Hiking shoes: These aren’t just for treks. These also come in handy when you’re pounding the pavements in a new city. Annoyingly, they take up a lot of space in your kit, so I always wear them when I’m on the move to a new destination. But they’re so sturdy that they function as a perfect foot rest for long-haul flights or even longer bus rides.
6. Levis jean shorts: I didn’t realise how useful these would actually become. Because let’s face it: denim isn’t exactly the softest of fabrics. But when you wear these all the time and really break them in, you’ll feel like Goldilocks because they will fit “just right.” They literally take the shape of your bum. So I started wearing mine not just for days in the city but for lazy beach days too. You can also use them to “dress up” your look - or at least make you look slightly more civilised - on a night out or for hanging about a co-working space.
7. Sweaty Betty leggings: My poor pair are falling apart. But, my oh my, have these babies come in handy. They not only keep you warm in the cold, they’re just so bloody cozy. So basically ideal for long-haul flights. And on days when you can’t be bothered to change because you’re just so shattered, they also make great pyjamas. And they’re just so damn flattering.
8. One-piece swimsuit: As much as I love a bikini, one-piece swimsuits are really the most ideal for travel. This is probably the most-worn item in my entire backpacking kit. Partly because I chose so many tropical destinations. But also because it functions as a very cool (and sexy) top too. Throw a pair of jean shorts or sarong overtop and your outfit is sorted.
9. Sarong: Another multi-functional piece that I use all the bloody time. Turn it into a skirt or dress for an evening look. Wrap it around as a scarf to keep you warm on a chilly evening. And bring it to the beach so you’ve got a cozy (and colourful) place to lie and soak in the sun.
10. Sunglasses: Don’t leave home without them. You’ll need them all the time. Whatever the weather. Well, except if it rains. But seriously, I do find that I used my shades just as often in chilly places as I do on tropical isles. I brought three pairs (yes, I’m crazy) but if you only bring one, make sure they’re sturdy and ready to get rough-and-tumbled. I have a cheap pair I always bring into the sea to protect my eyes from the insane glare of those glorious translucent waters. And I save my nicer RayBans for days out in the city.
11. Duct tape: I know, it’s random. But I use this for everything from creating a sink plug to wash my clothes in hostel bathrooms to repairing a torn bag or book. It’s actually fun to get creative and see how many different uses you can find for duct tape on the road.
12. Travel scissors: These were a saving grace time and time again. For that one time I got gum stuck in my curls. For opening that impossible-to-open bag of nuts that save you during an overnight bus ride. Trust me, you won’t regret bringing these bad boys along for your adventure of a lifetime.
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