The Only Hostel Packing List You’ll Ever Need

The Only Hostel Packing List You’ll Ever Need

Hostels are great for so many reasons. One of which is price – they’re a LOT cheaper than hotels! They don’t offer all of the perks a hotel offers though, so when packing for hostels you’ll need to bring along a few more items and be mindful of how you pack them. Read on for the ULTIMATE hostel packing list.

What To Pack

Hostel Packing List - A book or kindle is one of the backpacker essentials for your next trip

?The Travelling Light

Since it’s likely you’ll be sleeping in a dorm room and using a communal bathroom, you’ll need a few extra items compared to staying in a hotel:

1. Toiletries

Unlike a hotel, you will not get any complimentary bars of soap or bottles of shampoo, so remember to bring your own. You can find travel-sized toiletries at your local supermarket. Also remember bug spray, hairbrush, deodorant, contact lenses, and suncream!

2. Flip Flops/Thongs

Sharing showers doesn’t have to mean sharing foot fungi too. If you aren’t wearing flip flops (or ‘thongs’ if you’re an Aussie) as your primary travel shoes, remember to include a pair to use as sanitary shower shoes.

3. Towel

Not all, but some hostels will charge you to rent a towel. Even if they don’t, you’ll need one for the beach if it’s that type of destination. Avoid the risk and potential expense by bringing your own lightweight, quick-drying travel towel – these also fold up super small!

4. Entertainment

No matter how hectic your travel schedule, you’ll still have some inevitable downtime at the hostel. A deck of cards in a hostel will always prove a hit. An iPad or Kindle is another backpacking essential, or if you’re old school, a book, which can often be swapped at the hostel’s ‘library’.

5. Padlock

While on the road, you’ll frequently need to store your bag at hostels, train stations, and airports. In these cases, having your own padlock can save you the expense of renting one and give you the confidence that you’ll find your bag where you left it.

6. Sleep aids

In a shared dorm room, everyone will inevitably be on different schedules, including a few late night partiers. If you need a good night’s sleep, pack a sleep mask and earplugs, especially if you’re a light sleeper!

7. Adapter

Don’t be the one who can’t contact anyone for days because you forgot an adapter. It’s a good idea to invest slightly more in a universal power adapter which can be used in every country so you don’t get caught out.

What NOT To Pack

Hostel Packing List - A laptop isn't always needed when staying in a hostel

Town House 373 Saigon in Ho Chi Minh

1. Sleeping bag

You don’t need a sleeping bag! It’s a common question, but almost all hostels provide sheets and linen for sleeping, so unless you’re camping as part of your trip, you can leave this one out.

2. Hair dryer/straighteners

Come on – you’re travelling! Not only are these bulky, heavy, and take up a lot of space, but in many of the fancier hostels hair dryers are provided. And sometimes, there are even special areas with straighteners and other hair products for you to preen yourself before a big night out.

3. Expensive gadgets

Unless you’re a travel blogger and you just NEED your laptop, best leave this one at home – you’ll be worrying about it 24/7 otherwise. Cameras are a must for many travellers, but always be super savvy about how you wear it and where you pack it to avoid any mishaps. And expensive jewellery and watches should DEFINITELY be left off your hostel packing list.

How To Pack 

Hostel Packing List - Remember to pack the essentials, and your hostel can provide the rest


1. Choosing a backpack

To avoid having to dump out your bag every time you need something, choose a front-loading backpack to make unpacking easy. Unlike hiking bags, which typically only open at the top, front-loading bags give you access to all of your stuff without having to unload the pack first.

Then, when packing your bag, be sure to compartmentalize. By choosing a bag with multiple compartments or using compression bags or packing cubes, you can easily segment all of your clothes and gear, so you always know where everything is stored.

2. Security

When packing your bag before staying at a hostel, remember: safety first. The vast majority of travellers are good, honest people, but a bit of precaution never hurts. All of your valuables, and ideally all of your belongings, should be in zippered, padlocked compartments of your bag. One look at your bag should make somebody with sticky fingers think, “not worth it.”

A few extra items and some common sense can make your hostel stay just as comfortable as a hotel stay – and probably a lot more fun too!

About the author

Fred Perrotta is the co-founder of Tortuga Backpacks, the makers of the ultimate travel backpack. He is also the editor-in-chief of the company’s backpacking travel blog.

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What other items are on your hostel packing list? Have we missed any out? Let us know in the comments below! ?

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19 Responses to “The Only Hostel Packing List You’ll Ever Need”

  1. always useful to pack spare waterproof “supermarket bags” for dirty or wet clothes and for storing souveniers or food.

  2. a map and /or guide book for the local area can be instant friend makers…don’t forget a small notebook+pen and a highlighter…want to exchange info? have pre printed cards or labels with contact info

  3. Lori Mulligan Davis Reply

    Great reminders.
    I don’t see mini flashlight on your list. It really helps when you get back into the room after everyone else is asleep and you need to manage in the dark. Not all hostels have tiny bedside lights. (I traveled alone in England this summer and a friend I made at YHA London Earl’s Court was my best souvenir of the trip.)

  4. Turkish towels are waaaaay better than travel towels. Dry just as fast, take up only slightly more room (and aren’t any heavier), but they’re way bigger for the same price, look nicer/more distinctive, and in a pinch can be tossed on as a scarf if you’re totally out of space!

  5. Some older establishments still have a bath but sometimes there is no plug so I keep one in my bag.. has been a great success at times.
    A small wedge for doors that don’t close properly.. can be handy.
    A hand towel or tea towel can be useful for many things.. including use as foot mat when getting out of shower.

  6. Marlies Buttner Reply

    A very large scarf or pareo to hang from the upper bunk bed gives you more privacy and dims the light. I have also used it as a wrap when my cloth got soaked at Iguazu Waterfalls.
    An umbrella protects against rain or sun in hot weather. Light plastic poncho protects in a downpour. A very large green garbage bag can protect from rain and wind. Just cut the bottom seam to get your head through. Should it be cold and rainy don’t even cut armholes.
    A very large bag might even fit over your backpack.

  7. Hey Fred, hey HW Team,

    That is an awesome list, no doubt. Love the writing!

    As for a sleeping bag, I recommend packing a super light silk-backpack – just in case! There are a few places out there you will appreciate it, this can be the beach itself, or a tent camping spot. This is recommended for South-East Asia for instance, Africa and South America.

    In terms of Padlocks, I’d make sure to bring one that potentially fits all lockers. It should not be too big. Plus, I’d get combination lock instead of a key one. It lowers the risk of loosing the key.

    Last but not least, I LOVE the Tortuga Backpackers. So many fellow travelers have them, I already found them hundreds of times in many hostels I visited. Time to get my own one!

    Safe travels, Matt

  8. An external phone battery is always a life saver while traveling! ( not specific to hostels, but just good to have)

  9. Charmaine Barnes Reply

    I’m taking my adult children to europe next may. There will be five of us altogether. We will be staying in hostels for the whole trip. I have noticed a few hostels dont take visitors over 35yo. I’m 49yo, is this going to be a problem. My youngest child is 16yo.

    • Simone Jacobs (Hostelworld) Reply

      Hi Charmaine,

      Thanks for your comment, a family European trip sounds amazing! On our individual hostel pages, you’ll find a ‘policies’ section. If there is no mention of an age restriction then they are family friendly, however most hostels require under 18’s to be booked in to a private room with a parent/guardian.

      I hope this helps! If you have an more questions please feel free to email our customer service team – Or, you can go to our help page here > and click ‘Chat with us’ for real-time assistance.

      All the best with your travels ✈️

  10. I have a few convertible pants for warmer climates/months. I also use prescription medicine bottles (the brown ones) for smaller items like my sewing kit. They are handy for buttons, needles, etc.

  11. I keep an eye on my watch. I bought a $15 watch for traveling. That one I bought at a Macy’s backstage section. I keep my $200 watch at home. Other than that I’m not a big fan of wearing other kinds of jewelry or leather coats. To me it is an advertisement to be robbed.

  12. I keep an eye on my camera. I keep my $300 camera at home and take a $75 dollar camera with me and take a battery charger with me even though it takes AA batteries. The investment in the charger saves me the headache of running to a store for batteries.

  13. Raymond Gwee Reply

    hope to do a year round trip one day, how to pack light and at the same time can have winter clothings to summer clothings?

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