Backpacking: What to pack and what NOT to pack?

The most important rule is to PACK LIGHT! I’m sure you have heard and read this for a million times before and I cannot emphasize this enough.

Heavy packs can be a torture to your backpacking experience. Why haul things thousands of miles from home and risk getting them lost or confiscated at the airport when you can buy local and help an economy that needs it well?

I have here below some backpacking list which you MAY use. Please be known that these are simply suggestions. These are general stuff but of course you may need to make changes depending on your destination and preferences.

Backpacking First Aid Kit – for details list on what to bring check out Backpacking First Aid Kit List.

Clothing List Pointers:

  •      If you want to travel light, you may plan to wash your laundry in the sink often.
  •      Make a research on your destination’s weather and bring seasonal clothes. You don’t want to bring fleece in a tropical country right?
  •      Bring underwear and clothes that are easy to dry. Ex: polyester, nylon
  •      Stuffed sacks are useful in organizing your clothes. Ex: clean clothes on the blue bag and dirty clothes on the red bag
  •      Blue jeans weight a ton and dry slower, leave them!
  •      Just to be safe, avoid shirts with messages. Let’s respect other culture. A phrase you find humorous printed on your shirt might be offending for them.
  •      Bring a good shirt that can be used to party out but make sure it can survive without ironing.
  •      Bring a rain jacket which you can also use in a long, cold, bus ride.
  •      Roll your clothes like a sausage rather than folding flat to save space. Put it in a big Ziplock bags and release air before zipping.

Jewelry – YOU DON’T NEED THIS! A good waterproof watch with alarm is good enough.

Shoes – One pair of proper and comfy flip-flops is all you need. The shoes should be good for trekking and be dark enough in case you want to go clubbing.

Toiletries Pointers:

  •      Liquids are heavy. DON’T BRING THE WHOLE BOTTLE WITH YOU. There are small travel bottles where you can transfer your cologne, hair gel, or lotion. You can also buy local.
  •      Don’t go overboard by packing shower gels and shampoo. You can always buy more if you ran out.
  •      Put all liquid bottles into a ziplock bags. Airplane pressure changes and sometimes make them ooze.
  •      Wet wipes are very useful in times where you don’t have access to water.
  •      Don’t forget your comb and mirror. Unlike hotels, hostel and other budget accommodations don’t provide combs and sometime don’t have mirror.

Gadgets/Electronic Devices – a research about the place your going is helpful in all your trips. You wouldn’t need your iPad and laptops if you wouldn’t find any wi-fi signal or electricity on the area right? Also, if you want to experience a primitive life with some tribes, you wouldn’t your iPod. A cellphone is useful and gives you access to families and friends left miles away. A camera will document your trip. This is very important for writers, photographers, bloggers and the like.

Cash – it’s better if you could exchange your money to the currency that you will be using. Be known that money changers inside the airports are lower. Also consider that there might not be money changers and ATM machines in the place you’re going to. Credit cards may not be widely used in some countries so better bring enough cash with you.


  •      Journal – for recording your adventures of course. This is very useful in case you don’t remember what they call the exotic food you just tried, the names of places and contact details of new found local friends.
  •      Alarm clock – this will avoid you running to catch early buses and trains or your flight even.
  •      Toilet paper – the ones without a cardboard roll is better and takes up less space.
  •      Alcogel or anti-bacterial hand gel
  •      Sewing Kit – for repairs
  •      Rope and clothes clips – rope to be used as clothes useful when you need to wash your clothes.
  •      Headlamp
  •      Camera
  •      Bandana – It doesn’t have to be stylish or expensive just something to keep the sun off or dusts off.
  •      Duct tape
  •      Swiss Army Knife
  •      Waterproof bag – to put your electronic stuff in case you’re caught in the rain or rough boat ride.
  •      Map/Guidebook
  •      Sunblock
  •      Lip Balm – don’t get the round kind where you need to stick your dirty finger to apply it.
  •      Insect Repellent – you can buy small bottles to save weight.
  •      Sunglasses
  •      Extra batteries
  •      Whistle
  •      Neck wallet or belt bag where you can put your cash, passport, ids and all important documents. You need to have all these handy when backpacking.

Say you have prepared everything. Before you stuff everything in your backpack, follow these steps:

STEP 1 – lay down all the things you need a mat or on your bed then group everything.

STEP 2 – understand what to put inside first and what needs to be on top. Check this guide on how to load your backpack.

STEP 3 – Get your checklist and tick everything that you put inside you backpack.

This list is just a suggestion based on my experiences. We have varied needs. The best thing to do is to let yourself answer these questions first before putting everything in your bag: can I live without it? What will be your reaction if you lost it or had it stolen from you? Can it be replaced by local products?


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