The Ultimate Backpacker Packing Guide

The Ultimate Backpacker Packing Guide

So your off on an incredible adventure. You’ve your passport at the ready, boarding passes printed and your backpack packe….oh wait. The dreaded packing. I’ve been there and can completely relate to how stressful packing for a trip can be. It can actually be the most stressful part of going travelling (for us girls anyway!). Ultimate first world problems eh? I really didn’t have the first clue of what to bring with us when travelling for a full year before we left. I read many articles online about what to pack, however I ended up bringing lots of things I didn’t use or need. I (or should I say Darragh) carried around a hair dryer and curler for five months that weren’t plugged in once, before eventually sending them home. haha what was I thinking? The humidity was kind enough to style my hair everyday anyway. I think everyone will make mistakes the first time round but I’m here to help. I’ve put together this guide on some of the travelling staples to include in your backpack when going travelling!


The Ultimate Backpacker Packing Guide, The Wander Woman Travel Blog

We decided to plan our trip around following the sun; travelling to hot countries during their dry season. This allowed us to pack alot lighter than if we were visiting colder climates packing heavier, bulkier clothes. The following packing list is based primarily on travelling to hotter counties such as South East Asia or Oceania during their summer months.

As a general rule I would say to take out half the amount of clothes you initially packed. Easier said than done I know! I was always a complete overpacker, but the last year has really thought me how little you actually need to get by. From my experience I can honestly tell you that you will not need that much. Casual, versatile clothes are the way forward. Here are some of the items I would reccomend packing.

  • 3 pairs of shorts: I would really reccomend investing in a really good pair of denim shorts because you will LIVE in these and they will go with every thing. You can wear them during day or night, sightseeing or partying…an absolute must in my opinion! I’d also bring a black or white denim pair and a light cotton pair for hiking or going to the beach in.
  • 3 T-shirts that cover your shoulders for sightseeing or entering temples. Plus they are super causal and comfy. Essential.
  • 4-5 string tops or crop tops. These are great when its really hot and to even out those tan lines (nobody wants a farmer’s tan!) They also glam up your outfit too for nights out etc…
  • 3 Summer dresses OR playsuits. Perfect for visiting cities when you want to look and feel a little more glam. Plus they are so light to pack and won’t take up alot of space in your rucksack.
  • 1 pair of gym pants. Comfy for long flights, bus or train journeys. And for hiking of course.
  • 2 pairs of long trousers. Ideally the ‘backpacker-hippie-thailand’ loose pants. You can pick these up all over Asia for next to nothing so don’t worry too much if you can’t find them anywhere here before you go. Again, these are great for long journeys and also for the more conservative countries which require girls to cover up such as India.
  • 1 Maxi Skirt. I found my black maxi skirt SO comfortable and perfect for wearing to temples to cover up. It was also nice to wear out at night with a crop top or tee when I wanted to feel somewhat dressed up. Long skirts or loose, baggy trousers are also so good to wear at night if you attract the mosquitos like me! I literally swell up from those little feckers!😂
  • 1 Rain Jacket. Ideally a lightweight one is best as it won’t take up too much room in your rucksack. If travelling to Asia during the monsoon season you will be so thankful to have this rain jacket to hand, especially when hiking.
  • 1 long sleeved top or Jumper. For when the air con gets a little too cold!
  • 10 pairs of underwear. It can be so hard to know how many pairs to pack but you have to draw the line somewhere. However you will survive with just 10 pairs! And when you start to run low, the bathroom sink and some washing powder works wonders. Ah that glam backpacker life ha.
  • 3 bras. More than likely you’ll be living in Bikinis so three is more than enough.
  • 5 Bikinis/Swimwear. Some might say that this is too much buuut they take up such little room why not have some choice when heading to the beach! As I said above, so much time will be spent at the beach so you’ll end up living in your swimwear…I did anyway!
  • 4-5 pairs of socks. I literally wore flipflops almost every day for the entire year so socks simply were not needed. However when hiking socks will be required of course so three pairs should be fine.
  • 1 hat. I’m a big hat person and it will protect your head from those intense rays.
  • 1 Scarf or sarong. Perfect for covering your head and shoulders when visiting temples. Asia has ALOT of temples!

Everything in my backpacking wardrobe I picked up from h&m, Primark and Asos.


  • 1 pair of flipflops. My most worn item all year. Ok I may have gone through five pairs throughout the year…so if anything invest in a good pair that will last longer than mine did!
  • 1 pair of runners.
  • 1 pair of Sandles. I had Birkenstocks. Super Comfy.

Everything mentioned above I replaced throughout the year. Try not to stress too much as you can pick up almost everything for really cheap along the way.


The Ultimate Backpacker Packing Guide, The Wander Woman Travel Blog

All the essentials such as shampoo, conditioner, deodorant and body wash can be picked up along the way. Perhaps start off with travel size bottles to keep you going for awhile. You can pick up most things in Asia, however please be aware that some things may be harder to come across in the more remote areas. For example, buying your favourite brands can be tricky. With that in mind, here is a list of cosmetics that I could not have lived without during the year:

  • Mineral make up. I didn’t wear make up most days as it was so hot and I ended up sweating it off anyway! However when I wanted to actually make somewhat of an effort then mineral makeup was just amazing. It’s super lightweight and doesnt clog up your pores in the hot weather. My favs are Bare Minerals and Bellepiere but there are lots of other Brands out there. Just be sure to pack enough to last you a while as finding your favourite brands is HARD in Asia, unless you are in the big major cities such as Hong Kong or Singapore.
  • Tinted Moisturiser for your Face. I wore factor 50 on my face every single day and as a result my face ended up being a good bit paler than the rest of my body, which tans quite easily. Having a good tinted moisturiser came in so handy and meant that I could keep my face covered when in the sun. Nobody wants wrinkles! I loved the Vita Liberata Night Moisture Mask. You will NOT find any self tanning or tinted moisturisers in Asia. They are almost impossible to find so stock up before you go if needed. In Asia they believe fairer, paler skin is “beautiful” so many products on sale will contain “Whitening” agents. Everything from shower gel to deodorants can contain whitening so just be careful of this.
  • Lip SPF. It is SO important not to forget about protecting your lips in the sun, so grab yourself a lip balm with a high spf in it. I did and ended up with a sun blister on my lip. So painful and definately not a good look, trust me.
  • A good moisturiser. The sun can really dry out your skin so make sure you pack a good moisturiser to keep the dryness at bay. I absolutely loved and swore by the Kiehl’s Ultra Facial Cream Moisturiser. It lasted me SO long too. If can find one with an Spf in it then that’s even better! The Image Prevention Plus Daily Matte spf 32 Moisturiser is amazing.
  • Insect Repellent containing deet. If, like me you get eaten alive by mozzies then having an insect repellent with a high deet percentage is an absolute must. It can be SO difficult to find repellent containing deet in Asia so make sure you stock up before you leave. You can get this in Boots or in most pharmacies.
  • Tangle Teezer. The sun, sand and sea can leave your hair feeling very dry and tangled. Tangle Teezers are just amazing for sorting out your sea fro.
  • Invisibobble. I first came across these in Borneo and thought they were only available in Asia as I had never seen them before. But of course you can get these everywhere now. I can honestly say that I will never return to using the normal elastic bobbins after using these. They leave no bumps or kinks in your hair and never get caught up in knots. Ideal for travelling.
  • Hair Mask/Oil. I would also reccomend investing in a good hair mask or oil. As I mentioned above, the sun and sea can really damage your hair so having a good hair oil to hand can work wonders. I used the Kerastase Elixir Ultime hair oil and found it really good for my dry hair.
  • Suncream. Suncream can of course be picked up all over Asia, however it is much more expensive than at home. So perhaps pack one big bottle that will last you a while.

The Essentials

The Ultimate Backpacker Packing Guide, The Wander Woman Travel Blog

  • Backpack. The most important part of preparing for your trip is picking the right backpack. I probably should of started with with this point! I had the NorthFace Terra 65 Litre rucksack and loved it. So comfortable, durable and the perfect size. I could fit everything I needed into the bag perfectly. It also had really good back support which is so important when you are on the move. For my Irish followers, we got our backpacks from the North Face store in Kildare Village. They had a really good selection there and more importantly, it was cheaper here too! After a year of abuse our backpacks are still going strong, so it’s a thumbs up from us.
  • Packing Cubes. An actual god send from the backpacking heavens! If you are going to purchase anything for your trip then make it these. Basically these are really light, zipped bags that allow you to organise your backpack into different sections. So for example, I had one for my tops, one for shorts and dresses, one for underwear, one for bikinis etc…SO handy!! It just means that your clothes are always organised and if you are looking for a pair of socks then you know where to find them easily, without emptying out your entire bag to find them. I’ll never travel without them again! We got ours from Amazon here which included two large bags, two medium, two small, one other zipper bag and vacpacks.
  • Travel Towel. Another backpacking must have. They are very lightweight, compact and dry really quickly. Unfortunately you won’t always have the luxury of fresh towels available to you, so having a travel towel is really handy when on the move. We picked ours up in pennys (Primark) but you can get them on Amazon too.
  • Eye Mask and ear plugs. Ok these are must-haves. Sleep can often take a back seat when backpacking, grabbing hours here and there on trains or buses etc. Having a good eye mask and sound proof earplugs will help you to sleep anywhere, anytime of the day.
  • Kindle. I didn’t have a kindle but if I was going travelling again then I’d definately invest in one, if you are a reader of course. I love reading but carrying around books can take up alot of space and add extra weight in your backpack.
  • Camera. For a trip of a lifetime like this, you are going to need a good camera to document all of your amazing experiences. I have the Olympus Pen E-PL 7and LOVE IT! So compact, easy to use and reasonably priced. It also has the Wi-Fi drop feature which is just so handy for sharing photos from your camera to social media.
  • Go pro. Darragh has the Go pro Hero 3 and has had it for almost six years now and it’s still going strong! They may be pricey, but they are an investment. Go Pros are just incredible for capturing the moment and are so easy to use. Whether you are hiking, snorkelling, cliff jumping or diving the Go Pro will capture it all. The quality of the videos are incredible. We are still working on our travel videos (so much footage to sort through!) but are getting there slowly but surely. I want them to be done right and I’m so excited to share them with you all once they are finished.
  • Multi USB Charger. So useful for charging lots of devices at once. Especially if there is only one plug socket in your room.
  • Plug Adapters. The best adapter out there is the Travel Smart All In One Adapter. It’s compatible for all countries and you can charge up to four devices at once.
  • Portable Battery Charger. For those 15 hour sleeper buses or long hikes. Let’s face It, keeping the phone alive will always be a priority!
  • IPad. Not a necessity but I found having the IPad so useful for filling out visas and other travelling admin that comes along. We also used the iPad to back up all our photos and Go Pro videos (so important!) and to watch Netflix when the Wi-Fi allowed.
  • Umbrella. Ok you don’t necessarily need an umbrella, however the rainfall during the monsoon season in Asia can be sporadic. Due to the intense heat you wont always want to wear a raincoat, so having a small umbrella will save you from those downpours without feeling like a sweaty betty.
  • Passport sized Photos. These are so useful to have for Visa applications or Padi diving licenses etc. Having these will just save you the hassle of wandering around an unfamiliar city looking for somewhere to get them done properly.
  • First Aid Kit. Hopefully you won’t need this too often, but having a First Aid Kit is always good to have. You never know when you might need it! We got ours from Amazon here.
  • Padlocks. We always put padlocks on our rucksacks when travelling for safety. Alot of hotel/hostels don’t have safes available in the rooms so having the option of locking your bag when leaving the room will give you piece of mind.
  • Ear phones. Always nice to have for long journeys to listen to some music or watch a movie on the iPad.

So that concludes my packing guide. I really hope you found it helpful. I know how difficult it can be to know what to pack for a trip like this, but the essentials listed above made my life backpacking SO much easier! If you have any other recommendations on what to pack please share them in the comments below.

Thank you as always for reading and happy travels!



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