Packing List for Backpacking

jana meerman travel flatlay packing

A huge part of traveling - and a crucially important one - is packing. This is the stage where you gather everything you'll be needing while abroad, since you won't have access to your closet every day or your bathroom cabinets! Having the right gear with you is crucial to ensuring you have the best possible experience while on the go.

Feel free to use this list for your backpacking trip, whether it be for a week, a month or a year. Plus, keep reading to the very end where I have included a free printable packing list!

*UPDATE: while traveling around Australia I also purchased the following items: a straw sun hat, a plastic tupperware with plastic cutlery and a reusable grocery bag to carry my food around in between hostels and for grocery shopping.

The Bags

  • The backpack

I carry a Gregory Maven 45L backpack. I purchased it before my trip to Sri Lanka (pictured). It's incredibly comfortable around the neck and hip areas even while full of gear.

Additionally, 45 L is pretty much the maximum size you can take in carry-on. I travel with carry-on only almost exclusively on my trips. This way, I can avoid expensive luggage fees or the chance of losing my stuff. I also like that it allows me to leave the airport right away without waiting for the luggage carousels!

  • Packing cubes

To keep everything organized in my backpack, I picked up a set of packing cubes. Bagail makes a set of 6 packing cubes in various sizes that are great for keeping my clothes sorted from my toiletries and my shoes from my electronics.

Even though my gear will naturally be at its most organized before I leave, the packing cubes will at least keep items separate.

  • The day pack

I also bring a regular-sized backpack with me for my laptop and more personal items. I have an American Apparel backpack on to which I've sewn the flags of all the countries I have visited, as well as all the USA National Parks I've explored.

  • The purse

It's a good idea to have a small bag with you to carry on day trips and for when you're exploring new places. I carry a small black cross-body purse (exact one pictured no longer available; similar one linked) which fits my money, passport, identification, phone and camera for a day out.

  • A money belt

A money belt (not pictured) is a great idea, especially when you're solo travelling, to keep your most valuable possessions safe; I picked one up at the airport before my trip to France, but Peak makes a great theft-proof one.

  • Plastic bags

On top of all these useful bags, I also tuck a stash of plastic bags for storing laundry and other miscellaneous bits while I'm on the go.

I also have a handful of Ziploc bags which are great for storing my toothbrush, razor, pills and other small (easily lost) bits and pieces in my big backpack!

jana meerman train colombo galle sri lanka-9
jana meerman packing flatlay bags

Clothes & Shoes

When packing your clothes, you want to consider the environment you are putting yourself in. Will it be mostly warm or mostly cold, or a mix of both? Are you planning on hiking or doing other outdoor activities? Are you going to be walking a lot? Pick items that you can wear frequently and that you can wear to a variety of events and activities, whether it be exploring a new town or climbing a mountain for sunrise.

  • Socks
  • Underwear
  • Belt
  • Swimsuits
  • Leggings
  • Jeans
  • Sweatpants
  • Shorts
  • Dresses
  • Tank tops
  • T-shirts
  • Long-sleeved shirts
  • Sweater
  • Waterproof jacket
  • Athletic shorts
  • Sports bras
  • Pyjamas
  • Scarf
  • 1 pair running shoes (like Nikes)
  • 1 pair comfortable walking shoes (like Vans)
  • 1 pair flip flops (for beaches + hostel showers!)
  • 2 pairs sandals (a pair for walking like Birkenstocks and a pair for dressing up)
jana meerman packing flatlay clothes
jana meerman packing flatlay shoes

Toiletries

Remember to bring only liquids 100ml or less, or buy a pack of plastic containers for the products that don't come in travel sizes. Make sure you're prepared for whatever comes your way and pack enough of the items you may need!

  • Toothbrush, floss, toothpaste
  • Hairbrush
  • Hair ties, bobby pins
  • Moisturizer
  • Sunscreen
  • Bug spray
  • After Bite
  • Contact lenses
  • Glasses + case
  • Sunglasses + case
  • Deodorant
  • Face toner and/or micellar water (check out my travel skincare routine here)
  • Cotton pads
  • Q-tips
  • Medical supplies (Neosporin, Band-aids, lozenges, Advil, Claritin, Pepto Bismol)
  • Tampons
  • Any pills and medications you take (birth control, etc.)
  • Makeup (check out my travel makeup routine here)
  • Nail file
  • Tweezers
  • Small mirror
  • Shampoo + conditioner
  • Body wash
  • Razor
  • Towel
  • Chapstick
  • Safety pins
jana meerman packing flatlay toiletries
jana meerman travel makeup routine flatlay (4)

Electronics

When you're on the go and exploring new places, you're likely going to want camera gear and a laptop to share your experiences.

  1. Camera charger & not pictured point & shoot camera
  2. USB extender
  3. External hard drive
  4. Flashlight
  5. Battery pack, charger, case
  6. Plug adapter
  7. Plug extender
  8. SD card reader for iPhone & USB
  9. Lighter
  10. Extra SD cardscamera batteries
  11. Headphones
  12. iPhone
  13. Phone charger cable
  14. Tripod
  15. Laptop with a protective case and charger
jana meerman packing flatlay electronics

Everything Else

  • Lonely Planet
  • Moleskin notebook with pens
  • Passport + travel visa (if needed)
  • Credit card
  • Foreign cash
  • Identification
  • Vaccination booklet
  • Jewelry + watch
  • Umbrella
  • Reusable water bottle
  • Laundry detergent sheets
  • Padlock
  • Deck of cards
  • Sleeping sack + pillow case
jana meerman packing flatlay

Free Printable Packing List!

Your flights are booked, your plans are made and you're ready to start putting your gear together. Click here for a free printable packing list that includes everything I've discussed on this list in a convenient and easy check-list so that you don't forget anything while you're on the go!

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