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What’s the biggest backpacking challenge?
Finding your way through an overland border crossing? Getting directions when you don’t speak the language? Searching for a hostel that’s cheap but not horrendously cheap?
Nope, none of these.
It’s figuring out what the heck to pack.
Packing for long term travel is ridiculous. The concept of trying to fit your foreseeable future into one manageable backpack is mind-boggling. How on earth are you meant to know what you’ll need in 3 months time? Well, after 8 months backpacking around the world, and now travelling long term in Australia, I still struggle with that. Like, I came out to Australia with 24kg in a suitcase. 24Kg… what is wrong with me?!
Aside from this lack of decision-making skills and self-control, I do have a selection of items that I couldn’t cope without. So to help you with at least a bit of your packing, I’ve put together a list of my favourite long term travel essentials. What’s even better is that they’re as cheap as chips!
You might also like:
- 20 essential toiletries for backpacking anywhere in the world
- What to pack for car camping
- 7 things you might not think to pack but definitely should
Compression packing cubes
I’d been a long term fan of packing cubes, but compression packing cubes really are a game changer. The amount of space they save is insane and the fact that my clothes are compacted in means they’re not rolling around getting even more crumpled. Compression cubes differ from normal ones as they have 2 zips on them – one to close the cubes as normal and another to squash down the cube and hold it. All of these below are water resistant, are made from rip-stop nylon making it durable and come in a range of sizes.
These bags are great for so many reasons. They’re the perfect thing to take to the beach, to keep your technology in to prevent water damage or to even use as laundry bags as they’re air tight. I personally prefer the soft fabric ones (like these) but there are ones made from more solid plastic material that are great if you want something more durable and everyday. The ones below also have attachable straps making them really easy to carry. What ever one you choose, you will be so grateful you have it!
Waterproof cover for backpack
When I first went backpacking, it never occurred to me that my backpack wouldn’t be waterproof but a lot of them aren’t. No matter where you’re travelling to or for how long, it will only take one bought of getting caught in the rain and all your clothes getting soggy to realise that you can’t travel without a waterproof cover. I actually have 2 covers- a big one for my backpack and a small one for my day rucksack that has my valuables in. The ones below come in a range of sizes and colours and fold up super small when you don’t need to use them.
Long gone are the days of having a separate adapter for each type of socket. Nowadays, you can get a super handy compact all-in-one travel adapter so it’s the only one you’ll need to bring with you. Many of them also have USB ports making it really easy to charge everything.
Long term travel usually comes hand in hand with lots of hours being spent on transport. And of course, lots of hours spent out and about exploring! There are loads of power banks to choose from and they are super affordable online. I use mine all the time to mostly charge my phone but I’ve also used it to top up my Sony a6000 and even the drone. Mine has suckers on the back so it’s really compact and the power bank’s not just hanging off of whatever I’m charging.
Mini Bluetooth speaker
Who doesn’t love music? Having a little speaker with you will probably save your sanity at some point and it’s also a great way to get talking to people. Being that person who can get the party going with some music, or to relax to around a pool is gonna win you social brownie points. It’s also a great thing to have if you want to chill by yourself. For $20 you’re not going to get the best sounding speaker but don’t underestimate how much of a punch these little ones can still pack for the size and price.
Whilst my universal adapter is great, it’s just not enough when I need to charge more than one thing at the same time. I travel with quite a lot of tech so packing a multi socket is an absolute must for me. Many of my gadgets have UK plugs so by having a UK multi socket that plugs into my universal adapter, I can quickly charge everything I need to.
With many gadgets come many cables and a whole load of tangles. In fact, even if you only have a couple of cables I would highly recommend getting one of these as even that can easily end up in a mess. Having one of these takes away the trouble of knots, keeps cables compact and also helps keep the cables protected so they’re less likely to break.
Toiletries for backpacking long term
Psst… take a look at my essential toiletry packing list here for everything you need to pack for long term travel.
Also known as a microfibre towel, this bad boy is something that no traveller should be without. Once you see one of these you’ll realise that having a normal towel is out of the question. Microfiber towels fold up really small, are incredibly light weight and really fast drying so you won’t be getting your clothes all damp. They come in a range of sizes but I would highly recommend going for a big one. They fold up slightly bigger but you’ll be so grateful to have the extra cover when you’re trying to get dressed under it in a dorm room!
Hanging toiletry bag
Why does it need to be hanging I hear you ask? Well, after staying in lots of hostels and guesthouses with less that favourable cleanliness, I was so happy to be able to hang my toiletries up rather than put it on the surface or the floor. Keeping all your stuff dry is really important when travelling so hanging it up out of the wet is really handy. I personally use the bright blue one below and love it! It’s water resistant, has plenty of space, is durable and water proof.
Carrying full sized toiletries is just too much when you’re travelling, especially if you have a backpack so these little bottles are a great way to solve that issue. I love the soft silicone bottles as they’re easy to get all the products out and they flatten down as they empty out. I like to not only use them for my toiletries but also to fill with sunscreen and put in my day bag. A little tip for filling them up on the road is to buy a big bottle and share that out with other who need theirs topped up too.
Solid shampoo and conditioner
It took me a while to convert to these products but now I absolutely love them! Not only are they long lasting and a way to reduce plastic use, but they’re actually so nice on my hair. Just be sure to keep them in a sealed container so they don’t get all gooey. I really love the ones from Lush and would recommend taking a look at their shampoos and conditioners on their website.
SPF lip balm
Going in and out of the heat and air conditioning or the freezing cold and super toasty rooms can be super drying on your lips which is why I also carry a lip balm on me. In fact, I usually have about 3 floating around in various places. I always use one with and SPF just to protect my lips even more. I have a selection of normal ones as well as tinted ones as they then double up as a makeup item.
I actually use a few different moisturisers but if I had to choose only one, it would have to be Sorbolene. As basic as it is, it’s so versatile and can be used all over the body. It’s fragrance free, has a balanced pH and suitable for all skin types. It’s also great at relieving itchy bites!
Padlock for everything
Keeping your stuff safe is essential whilst travelling and in lots of hostels you’ll find lockers but you often have to provide your own lock. This isn’t usually and issue but as there are so many different sized lockers, it can be annoying to find that your one lock doesn’t fit it. However, to combat this, be sure to take a wire padlock with you like the one below. These locks will fit pretty much any and every type of locker. I also much prefer combination locks so there’s no worry about loosing the key!
First aid kit
A bit on the boring side but I do like to play things safe when I’m travelling. You can buy massive kits on Amazon but the little one below is more than enough. It has all the basics like plasters, scissors and alcohol wipes and I then usually add to it. I like to put in some paracetamol, antihistamines, electrolytes and Imodium so most eventualities are covered.
Wanna know something really glamorous about long term travel? You’re probably going to be washing your smalls in the sink. A lot. Depending on where you travel you could easily spend a lot on laundry machines so doing it yourself is a whole lot cheaper. of course though, you then need somewhere to hang it all. This little pocket clothesline is so handy! It’s really strong and super small so takes up no space in my bag.
Havaiana flip flops
I know what you’re thinking, do I really need to spend that much on flip flops? Well, after years of falling over in really cheap flip flops, I’d say yes! I used to pay a couple of bucks for flip flops but since my last pair of Havaianas lasted me for 5 years (yes, really) I’m not going back. What’s more is that they are actually grippy, super comfy and come in loads of designs. They’re perfect for the beach, showers and just general day to day life.
The last thing I want is my sweaty clothes mixing in with all my clean stuff so I always use a laundry bag. I like to use a soft drawstring bag so that I can stuff it in my backpack when I need to go and to keep it all compact and in one place.
Sustainable travel items
Foldable shopping bag
I love my foldable bag and it goes everywhere with me. Not only are they a great way to reduce your use of single-use plastics, but they’re really versatile. I use mine for groceries, general shopping and also as a beach bag. They’re strong and washable so can be used over and over. They come in some great patterns as well!
Another thing that I always have in my day bag is a reusable cutlery set. I got fed up of seeing straws and plastic forks all over the place so wanted to do my bit to cut that out. Now, I simply put my little cutlery kit in my bag and use my own instead. I just wipe it with a tissue after I use them and clean them properly when I get home.
Foldable water bottle
My sister bought be one of these as a leaving gift before I came to Australia and I love it! You can buy more solid flasks which concertina down but I find these pouch type ones to be so lightweight and space saving that I can’t go to another one. The carribeena clips are also really handy to clip to the outside of my day bag