The Essential Travel Packing List for 2017

29th December 2016

Hello our adventurous friends! If you’re reading this Essential Travel Packing List then the chances are you’re soon to be heading off for a trip of a lifetime. Excited? We’re sure you are! We know the feeling too well. After 11 years of travelling, we’ve packed many backpacks full of essential, and not so essential, items. We’re pretty experienced at knowing what to take so we’re prepared for all kinds of ventures. Read on so you are too!

It doesn’t matter if you’re heading off for a short vacation or an epic year around the world backpacking trip, this post will help you decide what to take, make you aware of items you never thought you needed and remind you of items you missed off your own travel packing list.

You can buy everything you need online from sites like Amazon so we’ve included some handy links should you see anything you need from our travel packing list.

Let’s get packing!

Essential Travel Packing List – Backpacks

The Essential Travel Packing List 2017 Backpacking Backpacks

Main Backpack: If you’re still deciding what backpack to take then we can recommend a few. Osprey backpacks are very popular and for good reason. They’re well designed, extremely comfortable and can almost last forever. Osprey is so confident in their backpacks that they offer a lifetime guarantee! Shelley uses a Berghaus backpack and we know plenty of other travellers using the same. She’s had hers for 5 years now and is still in great condition.

Backpacks come in various sizes measured in litres. Smaller sizes fall between 50-65 litres but other sizes can go up to 90 litres. Deciding what size to buy will depend on how much you want to take with you. For us, a 60 litre is too small for the length of trips we take, so we aim for something around the 70-litre mark. Not too big and not too small. πŸ™‚

Day Pack (15 – 30 litres): If your main backpack doesn’t include a detachable day pack, then we recommend buying one. We use ours every day to carry camera gear and laptops etc. Great daypack brands we recommend are again Osprey and Berghaus.

For loads more great backpack recommendations check out What Travel Backpack Should You Get?

Essential Travel Packing List – Essentials Checklist

Dry Bag: We always carry a dry bag and mostly use it during a country’s rainy season or when we take boat trips. They’re great at keeping items such as cameras, money and important documents, totally dry.

Mesh Laundry Bag: You’ll want to keep your dirty laundry separate from the rest of your stuff. Mesh laundry bags a perfect as they allow air flow to prevent a stink fest and are also washable.

Packing Cubes: If you like to be organised then these are awesome for backpackers and other travellers.

Hanging Toiletry Bag: Like a toiletry bag but hangable! Great for when you’re lacking space in small dorm rooms and for keeping your toiletries dry in the bathroom.

Sleeping Bag: They’re not just for camping. We also use ours when staying in accommodation where the bed sheets don’t look too appealing. We carry lightweight Snugpaks.

Mosquito Net: You may be surprised to hear that not all accommodations in mosquito infested countries offer a mosquito net in their rooms. Take one with you if you want to avoid getting bitten.

Essential Travel Packing List Checklist Backpacking Essentials

Torch: Make sure you take a small torch, even if you’re not planning on visiting remote locations. We’ve used ours many times in large towns and cities where street lighting is sparse.

Swiss Army Knife: Ours has been a lifesaver on many occasions from needing scissors to cut bandages to other emergencies like needing a beer bottle opener πŸ™‚

World Plug Adaptor: Make sure you can always charge your electronics by getting one of these. It’s better than having to carry around multiple adapters for each country you visit.

First Aid Kit: To prepare yourself for unexpected injuries, take a mini first aid kit with you.

Quick Dry Towel: Don’t pack a normal thick towel. It’ll take up too much space in your backpack. Instead, buy a micro-fibre towel that’s thin and dries really quickly.

Ear Plugs: Even if you’re a heavy sleeper, we guarantee there’ll be times when you wish you had a pair of ear plugs. Hostel parties, the neighbour’s barking dogs, 5am cockerels and nearby airports are just some of the noises we’ve been able to block out with ours.

Padlocks: We always have mini padlocks attached to our backpacks and day packs. They’re essential when leaving our backpacks unattended and also useful if travelling on crowded transport. Padlocks will prevent thieving fingers sneaking into your stuff.

Essential Travel Packing List – Photography Checklist

Camera: You’ll want to capture all the wonderful memories you’re going to make so get yourself a decent camera. We recommend getting a mirrorless system camera like our Sony A6000. The mirrorless cameras have all the features of a DSLR but without the bulk, weight and high costs. Many professional photographers are switching to mirrorless cameras as the results are just as good as with a DSLR.

Go Pros are awesome little cameras for adventurous travellers. They’re so small and light you can take them almost anywhere. We’d love to get one soon.

Lenses: Our Sony A6000 camera offers a range of lenses for all types of photography. We carry the Tamron 18-200mm E-Mount Zoom Lens for our everyday photography and the Sony 50mm Prime Lens for fantastic portrait shots.

Photo Editing Software: To make your photos even more awesome, get yourself some photo editing software. We recommend Adobe Lightroom, which is affordable, easy to use and also available as a mobile app. With Adobe Lightroom you’ll soon be impressing all your friends on social media with jaw-dropping photos.

Essential Travel Packing List Checklist Backpacking Photography

Spare Camera Battery: DO NOT pack just one camera battery. Whatever camera you buy, make sure to take a spare battery with you so you always have enough juice to capture every moment.

Spare Memory Card: Unless you can afford a large memory card, make sure to take a spare for the same reasons as needing a spare battery.

USB Card Reader: Great for quick transfer of photos straight from your memory card to your computer.

External Hardrive: When your photo collection starts to build, you’re going to need to store them somewhere. We use external hard drives as well as online storage so we’re backed up to the max. We’ve always used Western Digital Passport Drives and they’ve never failed us.

Camera Bag: To protect all your camera gear, you’re going to need a decent camera bag. The size you need will depend on the size of your camera and amount of lenses., but we recommend the Tecno brand who offer a great size range.

Essential Travel Packing List – Computer Checklist

Laptop: With Wifi available almost everywhere today, most travellers carry some kind of laptop. They’re great for trip research, staying in touch with home and of course being a Digital Nomad! πŸ™‚ If you can afford it, we recommend an Apple MacBook Air. We swear by Apple laptops as they are the most reliable brand on the laptop market. We pack an Apple Macbook Air 13.3 Inch because it’s extremely slim and light when compared to most other laptops. Perfect for travel.

Tablet: Carrying a tablet is great for the same reasons as carrying a laptop, but you sometimes need something smaller and inconspicuous. We carry a Samsung Galaxy tablet as they are the next best thing from the more expensive Apple iPads.

Laptop and Tablet Case: Laptops and tablets do not usually come with protective cases so make sure to get one to prevent bumps and scratches.

Essential Travel Packing List Checklist Backpacking Computer

Kindle: All the books you can read in one tidy little tablet! If you buy the Kindle Fire, you’ll also have another way of accessing the internet.

VPN (Virtual Private Network): If you’re worried about security when online or simply want to watch TV programs from home using your Netflix account or network catch up services, then you’re going to need a VPN. We use Tunnel Bear, which is cheap, easy to install/use and works well providing we have a good wifi connection.

Headphones: You’re going to need a pair of travel-friendly headphones to watch all those films and listen to music on long journeys. Get a foldable pair of headphones like Sony MDR-XB950AP. If budget is an issue then Sony also offer cheaper options like the Sony MDRZX310. We use the latter which are good enough for us and I like bass!

Essential Travel Packing List – Travel Clothing Checklist

Essential Travel Packing List Checklist Backpacking Shoes

Trekking Trainers: If you want to travel the world, you’re going to need a good pair of walking shoes. We prefer to wear walking trainers since they’re small, light and look cooler. The North Face offer a great range of walking trainers like The North Face Hedgehogs, but if you want to keep costs to a minimum then we recommend Karrimor. Karrimor is extremely good value for the low cost. We both currently own a pair of Karrimor walking trainers.

Trekking Boots: If boots are more your thing or you are going to colder climates then check out brands such as Timberland and Merrell.

Technical Sandals: We’ve never owned a pair of technical sandals but if you’re planning on trekking the jungle or spending a lot of time of boats then you should look into them. Merrell offers good options but we also hear Teva are great.

Flip Flops: If you’re going somewhere warm or love the beach, then pack a pair of flip-flops. Havaianas are our go-to brand for long-lasting and fashionable flip flops.

Invisible Socks: We don’t need to remind you to pack some socks, but if you’re going somewhere warm then pack some invisible socks. Standard socks are too thick and long for hot climates but if you skip wearing socks altogether, your shoes will soon stink to high heaven. Invisible socks cover just the bottom of your foot to keep you cool and prevent toxic trainers.

Essential Travel Packing List Checklist Backpacking Clothing

Waterproof Jacket: This could have been in the essential section because a waterproof jacket is very important if heading anywhere that could rain. If you get a good one then they’re thin and light enough to carry with you at all times. You can’t beat The North Face.

Zip Off Trekking Trousers: For us, the best kind of trekking trousers are ones that can be unzipped halfway down the leg to turn into shorts. Quite often a cold early morning hike can turn into a sweaty trek once the sun comes up.

Base Layer Top: For colder climates, we recommend getting a base layer top.

Technical Fleece: Even if we’re heading somewhere hot, we always pack a warm item of clothing like a technical fleece. Planes and buses can be cold places with the air conditioning on full whack!

Sunglasses: Protect your eyes with a decent pair of sunglasses like Ray Ban.

Sun Hat: You should always pack some kind of sun hat. A baseball cap will protect the face but if you want full 360-degree coverage then pick up something like a travel-friendly foldable Barmah hat.

Essential Travel Packing List – Miscellaneous Items

Essential Travel Packing List Checklist Backpacking Non Essential

These items are not essential but could be very handy for many situations. Consider adding them to your travel packing list.

Tent: If you’re camping.

Camping Mat: Again for camping.

Portable Stove: Yep, camping.

Sleeping Bag Liner: We use these for the same previously mentioned sleeping bag reason, but being much thinner, are better for warmer countries. We found them very useful on Indian sleeper trains!

Water Bottle: To keep yourself hydrated on treks.

Plastic Sporks: A knife, fork and spoon in one. Genius!

Portable Battery: We carry a portable rechargeable USB battery to charge our mobile phones and other items on the go.

Carabiners: These are handy for clipping items like shoes to your backpack.

Watch – Your mobile phone could run out of battery at any time so make sure to pack a watch. We’d recommend one of these awesome Superwatches.

Essential Travel Packing List – Toiletries Checklist

It’s important to maintain good personal hygiene when on the road and some countries make it hard to find the following essential items.

  • Toothpaste
  • Toothbrush
  • Shampoo & Conditioner
  • Shower Gel/Soap
  • Hair comb/brush
  • Hair styling products
  • Deodorant
  • Moisturizer
  • Sun Cream
  • Nail Clippers
  • Razors
  • Shaving Gel
  • Cotton Buds
  • Sanitary Products

Essential Travel Packing List – Medical Checklist

Here are some essential medical items to pack in addition to your mini first aid kit.

  • Plasters/Bandages
  • Savalon Cream
  • Pain Killers (Paracetamol, ibuprofen or aspirin)
  • Dehydration Medicine (for diarrhoea)
  • Disinfectant Handwash
  • Disinfectant Wipes
  • Water Purification Tablets
  • Mosquito repellant (at least 40% deet)
  • Malaria Pills (consult with your doctor)
  • Vaccinations (consult with your doctor)

 Essential Travel Packing List – Document Checklist

We think it’s important to create a travel packing list for all your essential documents. Something a lot of travellers wouldn’t think of doing.

  • Passport
  • Copies of passport
  • Tickets for flights, accommodation etc
  • Visa (if applicable)
  • Travel Insurance Policy
  • Vaccination Notes
  • Debit Card
  • Credit Card. Preferably with low international fees (We recommend the Halifax Clarity Card for UK readers)
  • Travel Money Card
  • Cash in US Dollars (accepted worldwide in an emergency)
  • Drivers License
  • A few passport size photos (for future visas)
  • Guidebook

Travel Insurance

Please make sure you’re covered by a good travel insurance policy before getting on that place. We’ve needed ours on multiple occasions and has saved us a tonne of money. Don’t scrimp on the medical cover either, you never know what might happen.

We’d recommend going with World Nomads, probably the most popular amongst us backpackers.


We think we’ve covered everything here. We hope it’s been helpful for your own essential travel packing list. If there’s anything you feel we should have included then please stick in the comments section below. Happy packing!

If you need help saving money to buy everything you need then check our Tips on How to Save Money for Travel post.

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You won't forget anything with our Essential Travel Packing List for 2017. We've got everything covered for a short vacation or epic around the world trip.

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