Table of Contents

35 Top Backpacking Packing List Items for 2024 + What NOT to Bring

Backpacker on mountain
Updated on

Whether you’re planning on living out of your backpack throughout Europe during a gap year or doing a summer stint in Asia, packing for a long backpacking trip can be tricky.

You’ll want your pack to be as lightweight as possible while also bringing along everything you’ll need for your travels.

Here’s my list of must-haves and useful accessories for the ultimate backpacking adventure. Plus, I also include some tips on what to wear, what NOT to bring, and answers to top backpacking FAQs.

35 Top Backpacking Packing List Items for 2024 + What NOT to Bring
See our product selection criteria and guidelines here.

Backpacking Packing List – 35 Essentials

  • 1. Backpack

    Your backpack is obviously the absolute most crucial piece of backpacking equipment. It should be lightweight, properly fitted, spacious enough for all of your gear, but compact enough not to be too cumbersome. If your backpack isn’t fitted correctly, it will distribute weight extremely uncomfortably (and unsafely) on your back and shoulders, which can cause long-term problems and short-term misery during your trip (trust me – I’ve only just healed from a backpacking injury sustained because I borrowed a pack that didn’t fit my long torso).

    If it’s not waterproof, you run the risk of your items getting wet. Why is this a big deal? Because you’ll have little to no time to dry those items during the time you’re stopped and camped, and you can’t sleep through the cold night in wet gear and without dry protection from the elements. Even 60-degree nights can feel like you’re in the Arctic if you’re soggy, and that’s dangerous!


    View on ➜

  • 2. Universal Travel Adapter

    This device is something worth investing in for any world traveler, and you’ll absolutely need one if you plan to charge any electronics practically anywhere outside the US. A quality adapter is key because super cheap adapters tend to be glitchy and can result in damage to your electronics. This one comes with surge protection via a safety fuse and it has a built-in spare. It’s also backed by a lifetime replacement guarantee.

    Universal power adapter

    View on ➜

  • 3. Trekking Poles

    If a lot of your journey is on stable flat ground, then you may not need trekking poles. But for any long journeys or hiking – these will be very supportive and help to maintain your balance. They’re great for uphill, downhill, or unsteady terrain. We love that they’re foldable and collapse to a small, plus it has attachments for gravel, mud, snow, and rock. Your joints will thank you later!

    Trekking Poles

    View on ➜

  • 4. Quick-Dry Travel Towel

    This one is a must. Regular towels take forever to dry and weigh too much. You don’t want to be hiking around with fluffy, bulky hotel towels or even worse, not have one at all. This one dries 10x faster than cotton and is super multi-purposeful – drying rag, sweat bandana, packing cushion for delicate items, cover for dirty seats on public transit, etc.

    Quick-Dry Travel Towel

    View on ➜

  • 5. Mosquito-Repellent Wristbands

    Mosquitos are a relentless nuisance, especially for campers and backpackers. Mosquito-borne illnesses still exist in many parts of the world, and it’s better to be safe than sorry. We use these deet-free wristbands that are non-toxic, safe for kids, and use citronella to deter pests. It’s nice to wear a couple of bracelets rather than spray and respray intense fumes all day.

    Mosquito-Repellent Wristbands

    View on ➜

  • 6. Travel Insurance for Backpacking

    Before you start backpacking around the world, one of the smartest things you can do is get travel insurance. It’s more affordable than most things in your artillery, and accidents happen, especially out in the wild! Insurance will also cover you against common travel concerns like baggage loss, theft, delayed flights, hospital bills, and even total trip cancellation.

    We use Faye because they have unique plans for extreme sports and adventure, vacation rental protection, pet care, and more. A simple medivac to a hospital can cost $8-35K+, and that’s before receiving medical treatment! Also, keep in mind that your domestic provider generally doesn’t follow you overseas. Better to be safe than paying out-of-pocket.

    Travel Insurance for Backpacking

    Get a quote in less than 60 seconds with Faye ➜

  • 7. Windproof Travel Umbrella

    During your backpacking adventure, you’re sure to encounter at least a few rainy days. Be prepared with this compact, windproof umbrella that can withstand the weather even during those intense thunderstorms. It also comes with a convenient carrying case that allows you to store your wet umbrella without getting surrounding items in your backpack wet.

    Hero Umbrella

    View on ➜

  • 8. Lipstick-Sized Portable Charger

    A power bank will be useful to keep your devices fully charged, even when you’re on-the-go. Even if you’re trying to unplug and get offline, it can charge your camera or keep your phone alive as a backup for emergencies. You never know when you’ll need to call for help, use the GPS, or simply take a picture of the beauty that surrounds you!

    Lipstick-Sized Portable Charger

    View on ➜

  • 9. Convertible Hiking Pants

    Whether you’re hotel hopping or embracing the great outdoors, hiking is sure to be one of your activities. These pants are your ideal dress-code because they are convertible. The longer version has temperature control to keep your body heat regulated. But if the pant legs get muddy or wet, you can simply unzip and remove them to reveal lightweight shorts.

    Convertible Hiking Pants

    View on ➜

  • 10. Water Bottle with a Built-in Filter

    What’s more important than having autonomy over your water supply? While something like the Brita is great for noticeably improving the taste of your water, the Grayl is your best option for being on the road. You can fill it up in towns like Italy or public water spouts (or even rivers if you need!) since it filters out harmful bacteria like E. coli, viruses like Hepatitis A., microplastics, sediment, and more. It’s a small investment that may save your life.

    Water Bottle with a Built-in Filter

    View on ➜

  • 11. Neck Wallet

    Especially when you’re backpacking, staying at hostels and often on the move, it’s important to have all of your important items safely tucked away and well organized. A neck wallet makes your credit cards, passport, and other important documents easily accessible while keeping them inaccessible from pickpockets.

    Available on with an exclusive 15% discount using the coupon code “HERO”.

    Neck Wallet

    Or view on ➜

  • 12. Emergency Paracord & Pocket-knife

    This nifty invention is essential whenever venturing into the wild. It’s your perfect all-in-one tool since it has a pocket knife, 12-foot-long paracord, whistle, compass, and fire starter. It takes up virtually no space and can be worn conveniently as a wristband. I wouldn’t go backpacking without one.

    Emergency Paracord & Pocket-knife

    View on ➜

  • 13. Camping Tent

    Weather permitting, camping is a great way to experience a new place (and save money). In countries throughout the world, campgrounds are available, sometimes without reservation.

    If you’re planning on camping, bring along a lightweight, weatherproof tent and other gear if necessary. When I say “lightweight,” I really mean lightweight. Though it may be a little more expensive, opting for the feather-light sleeping bag rated to keep you warm up to -25 degrees is ALWAYS better than going for a heavier bag. Same goes for tents – backpacking tents are back-savers and well worth the investment. Every single pound counts, especially if you’re going to have to carry any water or cooking supplies with you.

    Camping Tent

    View on ➜

  • 14. Luggage & Tent Locks

    If you’re flying abroad to backpack, luggage locks are necessary for your checked bags. This set is TSA-approved so you won’t have to worry about any security hangups. And, not to freak you out… but we’ve had a stranger try to open our tent in the middle of the night at a national park. Now we always secure the inside zipper of our tent with these reliable locks.

    luggage locks

    View on ➜

  • 15. Hiking Boots

    If you’re planning on doing a lot of walking or hiking on your trip, bring appropriate shoes. It’s a good idea to try on a few options in-store and then spend a few days walking around in them before committing to bringing a pair of shoes on a backpacking trip. These are my go-to hiking shoes and can nearly always be found on my feet or hanging on the outside of my backpack.

    Hiking shoes waterproof camino

    View on ➜

  • 16. First-Aid Kit

    Anything can happen while backpacking, and a first-aid kit filled with bandaids and Neosporin will come in handy at some point, no doubt. I’ve had blisters, splinters, scrapes, cuts and burns happen while on the road, and I have thanked my lucky stars for my first aid kit more times to count! You don’t want to risk infection, so play it safe and pack a kit.

    First-Aid Kit

    View on ➜

  • 17. Jet Lag Relief

    For any jet lag you may be suffering from, use this homeopathic remedy. It uses vitamins, herbs, and green tea to fight exhaustion rather than competitors that use overly-stimulating caffeine. Overall, it will make long journeys and layovers significantly easier. I’ve flown with, and without it, there is a palpable difference!

    Jet Lag Relief

    View on ➜

  • 18. Portable Coffee Maker

    It could be considered a luxury…unless you NEED your cup of joe in the morning! A portable coffee maker like this one takes you back to the good ole’ days of hand-grinding the beans and brewing them fresh. It will become your new ritual, and there’s nothing that beats a morning java.

    Portable Coffee Maker

    View on ➜

  • 19. Packing Cubes

    When you’re living out of your backpack and moving from one place to the next, it’s easy for your backpack to get super disorganized. Packing cubes make it simple to organize all of your stuff however you see fit, allowing you to quickly find whatever it is you’re looking for since every cube is labeled. You can throw the smallest one in your daypack to hold your essentials.

    Packing Cubes

    View on ➜

  • 20. Bear-Proof Food Canisters

    Bear-proof containers are a priority item for those camping (and it’s actually required in many national parks as well). The BearVault will obviously keep out bears but simultaneously protects against bugs, rodents, moisture, and anything else that could ruin your food or attract danger. It’s super lightweight so you may only want to carry one canister for all your snacks like the picture shown here. This canister was locked in a cage with two hungry bears and survived, so it’s been seriously field tested!

    Bear-Proof Food Canisters

    View on ➜

  • 21. Cooling Towel

    For any warm destination, these cooling towels are seriously magical! They drop to 20-30 degrees colder than the outside temperature and stay frosty for up to an hour. Simply add water and wring it out, when you need more relief, add more water! It’s easy-peasy, chemical-free, and a game-changer on a hot day.

    Cooling Towel

    View on ➜

  • 22. Universal Waterproof Phone Case

    Since 3/4th of the world is water, it’s likely that you’ll need a waterproof phone case at some point in your journey. This one seals out any moisture, dirt, or sand to protect your phone from any damage. We use it to film beautiful underwater movies with our phones. Don’t forget to attach a flotation strap so it doesn’t sink or become out of reach while you’re canoeing on foggy lakes, boating, pooling, or snorkeling above sharp coral reefs.

    Universal Waterproof Phone Case

    View on ➜

  • 23. Biodegradable Soap

    Limiting toiletries is usually my number one issue when packing for a trip. It helps to downsize on bottles by pouring face wash and body wash into smaller containers. My best advice is to bring toiletries that serve many purposes, like this Wilderness Wash. It can be used as shampoo, soap, laundry detergent and dish wash. It’s super concentrated, so one little bottle can last for a few months!

    Biodegradable Soap

    View on ➜

  • 24. Wool Socks

    These socks are completely necessary if you’re planning on walking a lot or surviving any sort of cold weather. Wool socks let your feet breathe and keep them at a good temperature. They’re also quick-drying. I like to bring two pairs with me so that on long hiking trips, I can alternate between the two and wash them frequently since they dry overnight.

    Wool Socks

    View on ➜

  • 25. Sleeping Bag

    If you’re backpacking through colder areas, definitely invest in a sleeping bag with an appropriate temperature rating. Even warmer climates tend to see severe temperature drops at night, especially if there’s wind, desert, or rain involved. My lightweight sleeping bag liner has become my best friend since it even keeps me comfortable and protected against bedbugs in questionable hostel beds! Just to reiterate: any time you’re backpacking, it’s absolutely crucial to choose the lightest bag possible that still has the right temperature rating. For hotel hoppers, you may also want a backup pair of travel sheets for motels, hostels, planes, trains, and more!

    Sleeping Bag

    View on ➜

  • 26. Eye Mask & Earplugs

    The iconic travel duo, earplugs, and an eye mask. I can’t sleep anywhere without these since the mask is black-out to remove any light, and the earplugs are noise-canceling. On the road, you never know what kind of roommates you’ll get. I’ve had big-time snorers, late-night talkers, and super loud coughers.

    sleep mask

    View on ➜

  • 27. Camelbak

    If there’s any secondary backpack you want to bring, it’s the Camelbak. When you’re out exploring, this hydration backpack is all you’ll need. It’s minimalist and not huge, but a great size for a 4-5-hour hike or 2-hour bike ride. Some people complain about leaking, but it just needs to be secured from the top until you hear a click. It’s the best hydro pack we’ve ever had!


    View on ➜

  • 28. Body Wipes

    There will be days in which you won’t have the energy or the option to shower. For days like this, athletic wipes will come in very handy. A wet wipe shower will keep you semi-clean and smelling good (enough)!

    Body Wipes

    View on ➜

  • 29. Activated Charcoal

    If you suffer from food poisoning or water-borne illness at any point, activated charcoal will make a huge difference in your recovery. It absorbs harmful toxins and pathogens to speed up your recovery time and minimize discomfort. Anything from gourmet food to tap water could make you sick, especially in a new place where you’re body is adjusting to the local cuisine, so come prepared with this single-ingredient remedy.

    Activated Charcoal

    View on ➜

  • 30. Lightweight Cooking Supplies

    Not all backpackers will cook their own meals, but the hardcore ones will! If you opt to bring cooking supplies, this lightweight set piles into a single pot, which can be hung by a cord on the outside of your backpack. When it’s all packed together, it’s a little larger than the palm of your hand – perfect for not weighing you down but keeping you equipped with pots, pans, utensils, sponges, and bowls. You may also want to add fuel and stormproof matches.

    Lightweight Cooking Supplies

    View on ➜

  • 31. Virtual Private Network (VPN)

    You may be unplugging from society (which we totally support), but if you do plan to stream any movies or do work during your odyssey, use a virtual private network. NordVPN adds a layer of protection to your passwords, credit cards, and sensitive data, ensuring hackers do not find vulnerabilities in your network. It also gives you the freedom to surf the web without website censorship which may be present in foreign countries. Super affordable and a major life upgrade (we even use ours at home!)


    View Plans ➜

  • 32. Hanging Toiletry Bag

    This bag is the life hack you didn’t know you needed. It hangs on any pole, door, or branch – unfolding to expose 4 giant pockets for all of your toiletries. This shelf-like system will give you a countertop when maybe you have none (and a reason to stay sane since you can maintain your self-care routine!)

    Hanging Toiletry Bag

    View on ➜

  • 33. Biodegradable Toilet Paper

    If you’re exploring the backcountry or parts of the world that don’t provide toilet paper in public restrooms (I’m looking at you, Asia), make absolutely sure to bring your own toilet paper. Compostable and biodegradable is recommended. Be sure to check local pack-in-pack-out requirements too, to see if you need to carry out your own… ahem… waste.

    Biodegradable Toilet Paper

    View on ➜

  • 34. Female Urination Device

    For the ladies, don’t be shy about carrying your own urination device. It may sound a little odd, but you’ll be thankful to have it because you never know how far the nearest bathroom is, or how clean it will be. Many won’t have toilet paper and in some places, it may just be a hole in the ground. This little device allows women the freedom that men enjoy every day, the ability to pee standing up! Just get it, you won’t regret having it.

    Female Urination Device

    View on ➜

  • 35. Clothesline

    We tend to handwash items when traveling and in places like Europe, Asia, and South America – there isn’t usually an electric dryer available. Get your clothes in the fresh air with this stretchable travel clothesline. It’s very lightweight and you can hang it between two trees, use it indoors like a cruise ship bathroom, string it across hotel balconies, or whatever suits your needs. No more soggy musty towels or clothing, woohoo!


    View on ➜

What to wear while backpacking – (Click to expand)
When you’re packing for a backpacking trip, less is always more. Bring and wear clothes that fold down small, dry quickly, and can be mixed and matched. I usually bring a pair of black leggings, a pair of shorts, a sundress, and a few tops in neutral colors. A lightweight jacket is a good thing to bring no matter where you’re headed. Comfort and dual-purpose items are key, and always research weather ahead of time!

What NOT to bring while backpacking

  • 1.Jewelry or valuables

    Leave the diamond necklace and designer wallet behind. Don’t make yourself a target for pickpockets, and ease your mind knowing your important things are safe at home.

  • 2.Extra toiletries

    No matter where you’re going, you can usually find what you need locally, toiletry-wise. Bring enough shampoo & body wash to last you a week, then buy as you go to cut down on weight.

  • 3.Jeans

    Jeans are never comfortable, and are super heavy! Don’t weigh yourself down with denim. Instead, opt for hiking pants or leggings, which are more comfy and take up much less space in your backpack.

  • 4.Bulky towel

    Regular bath towels are just too big, and don’t dry fast enough. Bring one of these, and you’ll end up with an overstuffed, smelly backpack.

  • 5.Things you can buy at your destination

    Research ahead and find out if you really need to bring that extra deodorant.

  • 6.Too many outfit options/shoes

    The weight that you put in your backpack really adds up. A lighter pack will make for a happier trip and happier you.

  • 7.Laptop

    Unless you’re a digital nomad and you need your computer for work, leave it at home. Download any important documents to Google Drive and work from your phone, if possible.

  • 8.Books

    Cut that weight and get yourself a kindle. Books will seem incredibly heavy in your backpack after a while!

FAQs about Backpacking

  • 1. Why shouldn’t I bring cotton clothing?

    Cotton clothing takes up more space than clothes made of synthetic fabric. It also takes longer to dry, and traps sweat while you’re wearing it. Opt for dry fit clothing when possible.

  • 2. How do I choose the right backpacking gear?

    Do a lot of research, check out travel blogs, read reviews, and ask advice from salespeople at stores! The folks at REI are very educated on their merchandise and will totally hook it up with the gear advice.

  • 3. Is backpacking for me?

    Why not? Everyone can benefit living out of a backpack for a bit. There are many ways to backpack, and it doesn’t always have to mean budget-travel. Using a backpack to travel is just a convenient, low-maintenance way of getting around.

  • 4. What’s the difference between backpacking and regular traveling?

    Simply put, it’s the difference of using a backpack versus a suitcase! The art of backpacking connotes freedom and thriftiness, but doesn’t necessarily mean you have to sacrifice comfort.

  • 5. Do I need reservations at hostels?

    Sometimes. If it’s peak-season where you’re traveling, book at least your first few nights ahead of time. Websites and apps like Hostel World and are amazing resources.