If you’ve ever travelled for an extended period of time, you’ve probably gotten great use out of some of the items you’ve brought along, chucked a few that you realised were useless and picked up some handy items that you initially forgot to pack.
Experienced travellers usually have their packing down to an art. I’ve been perfecting my own packing over the last few years while travelling mostly throughout Sub-Saharan Africa. Whether I’m staying in a comfortable hostel or roughing it elsewhere, there are some key items I like to bring along.
These 30 items make perfect gifts for backpackers that they will definitely appreciate having when on the road.
1. Travel Insurance
This one is a must-have. Whether you’re taking a short weekend trip or literally going around the world, buying trip and medical insurance can really come in handy. Depending on what insurance you get, you can be compensated for everything from flight delays to evacuations in case of emergencies. Recently, a friend of mine broke her foot in South Africa and her travel insurer covered the cost of flying out one of her friends to be by her side as she recovered. This is definitely something you don’t want to skimp on. Pro tip: You may already have trip insurance included on your credit card so be sure to check before making the purchase.
A headlamp is practical for camping trips and great for backpacking too. Unlike using a flashlight or a phone app, it’s hand-free, which is super convenient. Use it if the electricity goes out or when you’re navigating to find the hostel washroom in the middle of the night.
3. Wool Socks
There are few feelings more gross than walking around with wet socks. On your next trip, pack a few pairs of wool socks. Not only do these socks absorb moisture better than cotton to help keep your feet dry, but their wicking moisture properties will keep your feet from stinking. Be sure to check the percentage of wool it contains – the higher, the better.
4. E-Book Reader
An e-book reader is a practical option because it’s lightweight and you’ll be able to download additional books while travelling. If you have access to a public library where you live, look into their lending programs. My library card allows me to download free e-books and audio books even when I’m travelling. Pro tip: If you download an app to your phone like OverDrive, you won’t even need to bring an e-reader along (but keep in mind, it’ll drain your phone battery much quicker).
5. Solar-Powered External Charger
You’re likely travelling with a few electronics that need to be charged, so bringing an external battery pack will be handy. If you bring along a solar-powered one, you won’t have to worry about charging it. You can simply leave it in your tent, on your hostel balcony or clip it onto your day pack when you’re walking around so it can charge up.
6. Outlet Converter
Make sure to pack an international converter so you don’t have to spend extra money buying it from an airport or looking for it when you land. Pro tip: Bring an outlet extension cord so you can charge up multiple devices while only needing one outlet converter.
7. First Aid Kit and Medicine
First aid kits usually contain bandages, gauze and alcohol swabs which are always good to have on hand while travelling. To be extra prepared, bring along travel-sized over the counter medications like painkillers, an anti-diarrhoea, allergy or motion sickness meds. It’ll spare you from having to navigate unfamiliar drug names in pharmacies while travelling.
8. Sarong or Scarf
This is the ultimate multipurpose item for backpackers. A sarong or scarf is one of those rare items that can transform from a scarf that keeps you warm on flights to a picnic blanket. You can also use it as a beach dress, towel or blanket.
9. Coconut oil
Coconut oil is great for washing your face, removing makeup, shaving, using as a lotion and much more. Depending on what airports you’re travelling through, some may consider it to be a solid rather than a liquid but pack it in a travel-size container to be on the safe side.
10. Neck Pillow
If you’re planning on taking flights, trains or buses while travelling, a neck pillow is especially useful. You’ll easily find the top-rated travel pillows on Amazon. If space is an issue, you can purchase an inflatable neck pillow that can easily deflate and slip into your bag.
11. Duct tape
Duct tape is one of those things that you’re really only thankful you packed when your suitcase rips open and you’re looking for something to hold your luggage in place, or when your shampoo bottle starts leaking onto your clothing. It’s unconventional, but definitely practical. Its uses are endless and it’s so small that it’s absolutely worth packing.
12. Collapsible Water Bottle
It’s especially important to stay hydrated while you’re flying, and travelling with a refillable water bottle is both cost-effective and environmentally friendly. To maximize space while packing, bring a collapsible water bottle along.
13. Resealable Zipper Bags
These handy little bags are useful when packing and travelling. Use them to separate your dirty and clean clothes, organise your luggage into sections or to prevent your liquids from leaking onto the contents in your bag.
14. Solid Cosmetics
With the liquid limit when flying being a bit restrictive, it’s smart to pack solid cosmetics and hygiene products. You can purchase shampoo, conditioner and even toothpaste in solid forms. They usually last much longer than their liquid counterparts (although they’re pricier too) and will give you peace of mind when you’re flying.
15. Noise-Cancelling Headphones
Bring a reliable pair of noise-cancelling headphones that will help you drown out the sound of crying babies or snoring.
16. Nail Clippers and Nail Brush
This is especially useful for people who spend a lot of time playing sports, outdoors or are traveling through dusty terrains. Nail clippers and a nail brush will help keep your nails clean and tidy.
In addition to keeping your brows looking good while you travel, tweezers can be used to remove splinters or ticks.
18. Passport Cover
It’s important to keep your passport in mint condition as you’re unlikely to be allowed to travel with a passport that has a ripped page or water damage. If you’re travelling internationally, buy a passport cover so you can protect the most important item you have.
19. Money Belt
Bring a money belt to secure your valuables like your passport, ID and money.
20. Vacuum Seal Bag
No matter what travel hacks you use to squeeze more stuff into your luggage, nothing will save you as much space as using a vacuum seal bag. You can purchase either space saver bags which you’ll have to manually roll to squeeze the excess air out, or you can purchase a vacuum seal bag. If you won’t have access to a vacuum while travelling, make sure to purchase one with a travel-size hand pump. This is a game changer for those who have a tendency to over-pack or shop so much during their travels that they check an extra bag in when flying.
21. Day Pack or Purse
Don’t forget to bring along a day pack or purse for everyday use. If you’re only packing one, make sure it’s versatile enough for whatever activities you’ll be doing on vacation – whether it be at the beach, hiking in the woods or hitting the town on a night out. You can also purchase “theft-proof” bags which give you piece of mind and make life a little more difficult for would-be thieves.
22. Rain Poncho
While you can always pick up an umbrella while travelling, a poncho is so affordable and lightweight, that it’s worth bringing along just in case.
23. Travel Sheets or Sleeping Bag Liner
This is a must-have for germophobes. Using travel sheets or a sleeping bag liner will give you the peace of mind to make sure you get a good night’s sleep while you’re travelling. It’ll also come in handy on buses, flights or trains. They pack down to nothing too!
24. External hard drive
Don’t risk losing your travel photos or video footage. If you don’t have a cloud backup or are traveling in places where internet connection is unreliable, be sure to bring along an external hard drive.
25. Combination Padlock
A combination padlock comes in handy when you need to leave your luggage in a hostel or airport locker while you’re out adventuring.
26. Deck of Cards or Travel Games
Bringing along a deck of cards on your trip can help you make friends and pass the time while you’re in transit. You can also pack other portable games like Bananagrams or buy travel-size versions of your favourite board games like Monopoly Grab & Go.
27. Water Filter
If you’re travelling to places where accessing clean water isn’t always guaranteed, bring along a portable water filter. You can either purchase a purifying water bottle, a filtration straw, water purification tablets that will dissolve in water, or a full-on filtration pump.
28. Tripod or Selfie-Stick
Particularly useful for solo travellers, this is one of those “don’t knock it until you try it” products. A tripod or selfie-stick will help you capture photos from different angles and make sure you go home with a few photos of yourself.
Depending on where you’re traveling, a phrasebook can be especially useful. Review it before your trip to familiarize yourself with the basics so you can greet locals in their language. Pro tip: The Hostelworld App has a great translation tool to help you communicate with people all around the world.
30. Thank You Cards and Small Keepsakes
I always seem to meet incredible people when traveling, so I bring along thank you cards with me so I can write impromptu notes to particularly kind strangers and hosts. Another nice gesture is to bring along small keepsakes from your home country to leave with people. As a Canadian, I usually bring tiny maple leaf pins that I can gift.
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