OK, so you’ve finally decided you’re going to travel the world. Now you’re asking yourself, what do I need to pack? Below you’ll find a comprehensive travel packing guide for everything that’s essential for your journey. Before we get going, there are two important things to keep in mind. First, only pack what you need. This will allow you to keep your pack as light as possible and might even allow you to use a smaller pack altogether. Challenge yourself to leave anything unnecessary behind. Second, buy quality gear! Many items on this list, such as a backpack, should last you a lifetime.
Your backpack could be your life partner for years to come, so choose wisely. You’ll want something that is well designed, rugged, and provides back support when you’re on the move. The main factor in choosing a pack is if you want it to fit in the overhead bin of an airplane, or if you’re fine checking it. Getting it to fit in an overhead bin means you will have to pack light and efficient so you can use a smaller pack (40L and less). I’ve found this to be much easier if you’re traveling to one geographic area and in a distinct season such as winter or summer. Otherwise, you might want the extra space a large pack gives you for a few extra pieces of outerwear and accessories. Here’s a few that I like:
- Osprey Farpoint 55L
- Osprey Farpoint 40L (I use this pack)
- Osprey Waypoint 80L
- REI Vagabond 40L
- Tortuga 40L Travel Backpack
Clothes Packing List
This clothes travel packing guide obviously depends on where and when you’re traveling. I think a week’s worth of clean clothes is optimal, no more and no less. It doesn’t really matter if you’re traveling for two weeks or two months. You can do laundry easily and your back will thank you for not bringing too much clothes.
Underwear (7 pairs) – you could easily get by with 4 or 5, but honestly, it’s only a little extra weight for some added cleanliness and peace of mind. Unlike jeans, which I’ll wear 10 – 15 times without washing, I like my underwear clean. Just remember, recycling shit-stained underwear isn’t going to be in style anywhere you travel and the cute Swedish girl you’ve been flirting with isn’t going to like it either. You’ll hand wash your underwear occasionally, so you’ll want them to be both durable and quick drying. Ultralight, antimicrobial, odor reducing, and moisture wicking are some other characteristics you’ll be looking for. Patagonia, Exofficio, Underarmour, and REI all make high-quality options.
Socks (7 pairs) – look for the same qualities in your socks as you do for your underwear. You want them to be durable, odor reducing, quick drying, and moisture-wicking. Don’t skimp on what you spend, you want these to be high quality since you’ll be spending a lot of time on your feet. SmartWool and REI are my go-to brands.
RoverBob Travel Packing Tip – don’t ever buy cotton socks or underwear. That fabric doesn’t dry easily and retains odor. When buying underwear, look for fabrics such as polyester, nylon, and spandex. When buying socks, look for those made with wool and nylon.
T-Shirts (5) – Pretty much universally in style anywhere. Make sure you pack a few of your favorite t-shirts for the ride. In terms of style, try and keep your colors fairly neutral so everything can go with everything. White t-shirts are normally not the best since they stain easy.
Button Down Shirts (3) – You don’t want to look like a complete slob when you go out, so make sure you pack some button-downs.
Pullovers or Sweaters (2) – These are great to throw on when the weather is cool or you want to make yourself look a little bit more presentable on a night out. I try to bring ones that are extremely durable and don’t need to be washed often.
Pants & Shorts (3 – 4) – I like to bring a few different colored jeans, but make sure they are pretty neutral in color so they go with all your shirts and pullovers. I only bring shorts if I’m traveling somewhere tropical. While it can be warm in Europe during the summer, most people there don’t wear shorts, so I’d recommend you bring 1 pair of shorts max.
Jackets (1 – 2) – this really depends on where you’re going. Unless you’re going somewhere that is atypically dry, I always bring a rain jacket. When traveling somewhere a bit cooler, I’ll throw in a nice thick fleece jacket too. I do my best to not pack a thick-ass winter snow jacket, but if you’re in Northern or Eastern Europe in the winter, you might have to make some room.
Shoes (3 Pairs including what’s on your feet and sandals) – This can be the toughest item to pack in my opinion. You want to look good when you’re out for drinks, but also need something that’s comfortable to travel in. Shoes are heavy and bulky, so you really don’t want to lug around more than 1 extra pair in your backpack (not including sandals for the shower). If you’re traveling to somewhere tropical, this is much easier given you only really need 1 pair of shoes and 1 pair of good sandals.
RoverBob Travel Packing Tip – if you plan on traveling for a few months in different regions of the world with vastly different climates, you can always send stuff back home that you no longer need. Some hostels will also accept packages to be sent to them. It doesn’t make sense to take that winter parka you need in Finland with you on your next stop in Thailand.
Travel AccessoriesQuick Drying Travel Towel – don’t ever pack the towel you use at home. Those are bulky and will take up too much room in your pack. Instead, pack a micro-fiber travel towel. These towels dry quickly, are light-weight, and pack down to a small size.
Combination Padlock – most travel lockers don’t have a lock, so you’ll need to bring your own. You can often rent or buy these from hostels, but bringing your own will save a few bucks.
Retractable Cable Lock – this comes in handy at hostels that don’t have any travel lockers or when you’re on the train. You can simply lock your backpack to your seat or bed. This just keeps someone from grabbing your pack and running if you doze off.
First Aid Kit – I like Adventure Medical’s premade kits. They have most of what you need and come in a handy travel pouch. There’s plenty of room to add whatever extras suit your needs.
Travel Sleep Sheet – most hostels provide clean sheets for you, but not all do. I also carry this in case the sheets that were supposed to be “clean” look like someone died in them the night before.
Toiletries – you know the drill, just don’t go overboard here. Pack the basics like deodorant, toothpaste, toothbrush, toothbrush case, razor, shaving cream, toilet paper, sunscreen, chapstick, travel shampoo, soap, and condoms.
Photocopies of Important Documents – many travelers forget to add copies of important documents to their travel packing list. You should always have a few photocopies of your passport and other important documents. You can keep one in your backpack and one on you at all times (don’t carry your real passport with you when you’re doing day trips, it’s safer to keep it in the locker back at the hostel). I also keep a copy or two at home with friends or family. This way they can easily send it to you if your shit gets stolen. You should also have a copy of your travel insurance.
Tech Gear Travel Packing ListMobile Phone – I always bring my smart phone and turn off cellular data before exiting the U.S. I can still check and respond to email when Wi-Fi is available. You can also save pictures and files of your important documents (passport, travel insurance, plane tickets, etc.).
Universal Plug Adapter – The U.K. and Europe use different electrical outlets, so you’ll need one of these to charge your phone, laptop, or any other U.S. bought electronic.
RoverBob Travel Packing Tip – Europe uses different voltage for its electronics. What’s coming out of a European outlet is 220 volts, which is twice the voltage of American power systems. Most electronics today are rated from 110 – 240 volts, which basically means it can work anywhere in the world. Its just important to check everything before you leave home. For example, if you’re phone charger is rated at 110 volts, it won’t work in Europe. You can buy a voltage converter, but this isn’t recommended. These can be expensive and heavy. Remember, an adapter plug doesn’t convert the voltage, it just converts the hardware plug.
Laptop (optional) –Today’s technological advances mean you can buy a laptop or chrombook that is very light and powerful. Just be careful if you’re traveling with a $1,000 – $2,000 Apple Macbook, every petty thief will take notice.
Digital Camera or GoPro (optional) – Capturing your memories on the road is essential. I always bring a DSLR with me, but this is probably overkill for most backpackers.
RoverBob Travel Packing Tip – I blog and do some freelance work while I’m traveling, so I bring a few items that aren’t always necessary. You can drop either the Laptop or digital camera (or both) from your travel packing list and just use your smartphone. Even if you don’t have an international phone plan on your smartphone, you can still get connected to the internet when Wi-Fi is available. This allows you to check emails, the news, and keep in touch with friends back home. Camera sensors on smartphones are much better than they were a few years ago and will take a damn good photo too. If you simply plan on just posting pictures to Instagram and Facebook, this is a good way to go.
Below, you will find some items to think about adding to your travel packing list. Some people think they are an indispensable necessity, while others leave them home. I’ll let you be the judge.
- Ziploc & garbage bags
- Sink Stopper for doing laundry in a sink
- Travel Clothes Line
- Laundry Detergent
- Plastic Utensils
- Packing Cubes
- Ear Plugs
- Gloves & hat for winter
- Bug spray
- Travel Pillow
- Travel Umbrella
- Travel Power Strip
Never Pack These Things:
- Normal Bath Towel
- Electric beard trimmer
- Heavy Guidebooks
- Valuables & Jewelry