If you’re anything like me, over packing is an easy thing to do. As soon as I started backpacking, the over packing HAD to go. There is no enjoyment in lugging around a 50+ lbs backpack hostel to hostel. Let’s discuss essentials and ESSENTIALS only.
Backpack or suitcase?
If I’m going to be traveling for a long period of time or moving around more than twice, I would 100% choose a backpack. It’s just so easy to put everything in a bag, throw it over your shoulder, and onward you go. With a suitcase, you’re going to be bumping and rolling over all sorts of roads and carrying it up multiple flights of stairs. For me it’s an easy answer, backpack.
There is no “perfect” backpack for ALL travelers. It depends on your type of travel, how long you’ll be traveling, body type and size, and purpose, etc. Let’s discuss a few different options. I currently use a 40 Liter women’s Ospreys Fairview travel pack. As much as I like this backpack, it’s a little too bulky and doesn’t have as many compartments as I would prefer. It can be hard at times to squeeze in the overhead compartment on a plane, and that is a must for me. I would rather pack less and have my backpack be a carry on to save money versus having more stuff and being forced to check it.
Choosing a Backpack
Things to consider:
Size: Sizing typically goes from 15 Liters to 60 Liters. 15L-30L is typically for short term hikes or trips and is perfect for a weekend getaway. 30L-40L is often used for longer trips, and can typically still be considered a carry-on bag. I use my 40L bag for my backpacking trips which last anywhere from a couple days to a couple months. For me, it’s a good size for essentials, but you won’t be fitting in any souvenirs. There’s also 50L-60L backpacks that seem to be popular amongst the longer-term backpackers who are gone for months at a time. One thing to keep in mind with the size of a bag is to get one that fits your personal body proportions. Although Liter size is important, another important consideration is your body type. Make sure you try them on before purchasing.
Straps: This can make all the difference between a comfortable haul versus a miserable back breaking endeavor. You want the least amount of weight on your shoulders and a nice padded hip belt. It helps disperse the weight on your hips and throughout your back instead of placing it all on your shoulders. Make sure the shoulders have thick padding, as well.
Weight: You want a lightweight backpack. You don’t want something that’s already heavy before you even put any of your belongings in it. The heavier the backpack, the more tired and unhappy the traveler. Unfortunately, this can also mean a more expensive backpack, but it’s worth the extra dollars to me!
Weather Bearing: We can’t control the weather, so be prepared for rain or shine. A water-resistant backpack may be a life saver for you. It’s never enjoyable getting to a hostel after getting caught in the rain and having to lay your wet clothes around to dry. Nobody wants to be “that guy”. Wet, musty clothes lying around…. just don’t be that guy!
Lockable Zippers: While we all want to see the best in people, unfortunately theft can be a common issue among travelers. To help prevent this, buy a backpack that has lockable zippers. What do I mean by that? Get a bag that has two zippers that can be connected and sealed with a lock. Make sure the locks you buy are TSA friendly in case the airport needs to check your bag for safety measures.
Cost: Most quality backpacks range from $150-400$
I could sit here and tell you what backpacks I think are the best, but honestly:
1. I’ve only ever used my Fairview.
2. There’s no ONE backpack that’s going to be great for everyone.
3. There may be MULTIPLE that are a good fit for YOU.
Check out different options from the links posted below. As far as brands, here are a few I would consider:
For more reference on choosing a backpack check out:
Items to Pack- LESS IS MORE:
- Medication. Imodium is a must. if you’re traveling to a foreign country and trying different foods, bring this with you. Trust me, you’ll thank me later. Make sure you keep any medication in it’s original container in case TSA stops you.
- 4-6 pairs of socks. Consider wool fast drying socks. Check out different options here https://blog.tortugabackpacks.com/best-travel-socks-comparison/
- Undies. a weeks’ worth.
- Shoes. This all depends on what you will be doing during your travels. Hiking and need boots? Wear them while flying to save space in your bag. Don’t over pack in this department because this will take up most your backpack space. I typically wear my hiking boots, tie my sneaks to the outside of my bag and tuck one pair of flip fops in wherever it can fit. The less shoes the better.
- 3-4 shirts. Clothing is weather depending obviously, but I always try to pack solid color shirts, whether that’s short or long sleeve. Solid coloring is simple to match with limited options. Again, try to bring quick dry clothing. Check out some options here https://travelfreak.com/best-travel-shirts/
- 2 pairs of pants. One pair of jeans and black leggings or sweats for the guys.
- 2 casual dresses (women). I’m all about the dresses while traveling, they are easy and last longer than other clothes.
- 1 lightweight jacket. Try these options for the best of 2020:https://www.travelandleisure.com/style/travel-accessories/packable-rain-jackets?slide=23eb8d7a-ce2e-4ce6-9021-9a1cdd6d5d66#23eb8d7a-ce2e-4ce6-9021-9a1cdd6d5d66
- 1 quick dry travel towel. Compare options here:https://www.tripsavvy.com/best-travel-towels-4175426
- Toiletries. Save the space and buy your shampoo and conditioner once you’ve already arrived.
- Other essentials: I like to pack some energy bars, such as cliff bars, for my travels so when hiking I have something to eat that also reminds me of home.
- Bathing suit. Only if needed.
Adapters and converters:
I would purchase a universal travel adapter on Amazon prior to leaving for your trip. Unfortunately, there’s no standard outlet for all countries, but with a universal adapter you can access over 150 countries plugs. When shopping for a universal adapter, make sure you are also taking voltage into consideration. If you are going to need to charge a laptop or use a straightener, or really anything requiring high electrical voltage, MAKE SURE your adapter can convert voltage, or else you may end up frying it.
Check out the best adapters and converters here: https://upgradedpoints.com/best-travel-adapters-and-converters/
Side note…try and keep your luggage under 22lbs (10kg) if you will be using it as a carry on. Some airlines, especially in Southeast Asia, have a 7kg carry on limit. If that’s the case you can always do what I do, layer your clothes and wear them all at once to the airport! 🙂
Trouble deciding where to travel next? Check out my recent post on my trip to Peru! http://www.morgiesmarvels.com/essential-items-for-a-backpacking-trip/