I wish I could say that I’m one of those people who can travel with the bare minimum (mainly just to give my poor back a break). But that just isn’t me. I’m the kind of backpacker who packs things ‘just in case’, and never leaves an inch of space for any extras that I collect along the way. Granted, there are some things that I could definitely leave off my packing list and I wouldn’t even notice. But there are a handful of items that I could never go backpacking without. If you’re going travelling and you don’t know what you need on your packing list, here are seven essential items that will make your travel experience a whole lot easier.
1. Facial SPF
This is something that you should have year round, whether you’re travelling or not. Even on grey and chilly days, suncream is still essential for your face. Ultraviolet rays aren’t blocked by the clouds, so they can still damage your skin. Without SPF, you risk signs of premature aging, and most importantly, skin cancer.
The chances are that you won’t forget to pack your suncream (especially if you use my ultimate packing list). But regular suncream can feel pretty gross on your face. It’s oily, slimy, and it clogs your pores which may end up leading to breakouts. That’s why it’s important to remember a good quality facial SPF too. They’re better for your skin, and they feel much nicer too. If you’re looking for a product that’s both cruelty-free and affordable, I’d recommend Bondi Sands.
When you’re travelling, the scarf isn’t limited to just being a cute accessory — it’s also one of the best multi-purpose tools around. You can use it as a blanket in chilly, air-conditioned transport. You can use it to protect your shoulders from the blistering sun. You can fashion it into a long skirt to cover up for visits to places of worship or temples. It truly is one of the most handy things that you can take with you on your travels.
If I’ve convinced you to invest in a good quality scarf for travel, firstly, you’ve made the right choice. And secondly, there are a few things to consider. If you’re going to a hot country, you should go for a lightweight and light coloured scarf to protect yourself from the heat. For cold countries, go for a heavier scarf that you’ll find comfy enough to wear all day without irritation. You should also aim to get an easily washable scarf, since you’ll get a lot of use out of it. Cotton blend scarves are usually your best bet — they’re washable, comfy and can be made thick or thin.
3. Portable charger
Some people consider technology to have ruined travel, but this couldn’t be further from the truth. Anti-tech travelers claim that smartphones take the adventure and spontaneity out of travel, but if anything it’s the complete opposite. Without your phone, you’re more likely to struggle finding out about last minute events going on. Plus, using your smartphone for navigation will make going from A to B a whole lot easier, which will leave you with more time to make the most of your trip.
Of course, one of the downsides to technology is that it doesn’t last forever. But you can make it last a little while longer by investing in a top quality power bank. Most mid-range power banks hold enough power for two or three charges for the average smartphone, so they’re definitely worth purchasing. The banks with the most charge in are usually a little heavier and chunkier however, so it’s worth bearing that in mind. If you don’t know where to start, I’d recommend going for the Anker PowerCore 20000. It’s a little heavy, but it has an impressive 11 hours of charge, it’s affordable, and most importantly, it’s reliable.
4. Walking boots
You always do more walking than you think you will when you go travelling. Even if you spend most of the time in a city, you’ll be doing a lot of your exploring on foot. That’s why a comfy pair of shoes is absolutely vital. You don’t want to end up covered in blisters on your first day, otherwise the next few days will involve a lot of hobbling — and blister plasters are expensive! So even if you don’t expect to do any hiking or long walks during your trip, it’s still a good idea to invest in some decent walking boots. Your feet will definitely thank you for it!
If you’re going to a country during its wettest months, make sure that the boots you choose are waterproof. There’s nothing worse than walking around in damp shoes for the day, and they can be pretty difficult to dry out too. If you’re going to a hot country, make sure you choose breathable GORE-TEX fabric to keep your feet free from sweat. And when it comes to footwear, always try before you buy!
5. Sleeping bag liner
I absolutely love staying in hostels — but I’d be the first to admit that sometimes the bedding can be a little grim. If you end up at a less than pleasant hostel (don’t worry, I’ve been there), then you might be worried about the cleanliness of the sheets. Even if the hostel is great, cheap bedding can be a little scratchy and itchy on your skin. And sometimes, you just need a little extra bedding to keep you warm, or some lighter bedding to keep you cool. If you’re looking to have a good night’s sleep in a hostel, having a silk sleeping liner is an absolute must.
Silk liners are lightweight, easy to pack, and super comfortable. But they can come with a hefty price tag. The cheapest silk liner I was able to find was this £40 one from Go Outdoors. Fortunately, there are plenty of good dupes out there that feel just as comfortable as silk liners for a fraction of the cost. Mine is similar to this microfiber liner from Mountain Warehouse, which is currently on sale for just £9.99. Mine is still in good condition after 5 years, so it’s definitely a great investment.
6. Shampoo bar
Only after you’ve been on the road for a few weeks and you’re trying to stuff your 24th souvenir into your backpack will you realise how much space you should’ve left yourself. So try to prepare in advance by swapping big and bulky products with space-saving alternatives. One of the best swaps you can make by far is ditching your shampoo bottles in favour of a bar.
Space saving isn’t the only benefit of these life-changing (or at the very least travel-changing) bars. They’re much more eco-friendly than regular shampoo, they last much longer (for about 80 – 100 washes), and they work out a lot cheaper in the long run too. There really is no downside to them! I always go for Lush shampoo and conditional bars. They cost £8 each, and they even come in a handy portable container.
7. Turkish towel
If you’re going to be staying at hostels for the majority of your trip, you’ll need to bring your own towel. Many backpackers recommend microfiber towels. They work for a lot of people, and they do tend to dry pretty quickly — but I absolutely can’t stand them. They always feel so weird against my skin, and I never feel fully dry after using them. It could be that I’m just being incredibly picky, but I would never recommend the microfiber towel.
For an alternative quick drying towel, I would highly recommend Turkish towels. They dry just as quickly as microfiber towels, they’re lightweight, and they feel great against your skin. Plus, they’re pretty easy to roll up and squish down to a small enough size for your backpack. They can be a bit pricey, but they last for ages, and for me the comfort is definitely worth it. Check out South Hammam Towels on Etsy for a range of gorgeous and reasonably priced towels for your next backpacking adventure.
What are your backpacking must-haves? Let me know in the comments below!