7 Unexpectedly Useful Backpacking Essentials

What do you really need in your backpack? Among all the gadgets and ‘must-haves’ that have our luggage full to bursting, read more to cut through the hype and find out some unexpectedly useful backpacking essentials.

surprisingly useful backpacking essentials

After being on the road for a few months, there have been a couple of items that have really surprised me in how useful they can be. And as a bonus, they’re all pretty small!

1. Plastic bags

Okayyyy, I hear you say. Not what you were expecting? But staying organised can be a pretty tough feat while backpacking and for those bits that seem to permanently go missing in your backpack, this is a simple and free solution. They’re great for wrapping toiletries in to keep them leak-free and storing your laundry separately. No more sniffing socks to see which ones are still clean! If you still have wet swimwear / towels while packing, pop them in a bag to prevent everything else getting soaked. Try it, you’ll be a convert in no time.

2. Bug spray

Insect bites are one of the most common annoyances you’ll have on the road. To avoid being gnawed head to food each evening, invest in a good repellent. Simple. Just don’t forget to reapply at night – I’m still getting caught out with this one!

3. VPN

Certain countries block different websites, (e.g. Facebook in China), so if you’re travelling somewhere that restricts these things, you’ll want a good VPN. You can sign up for free trials online, download free apps or pay for premium services depending on your needs. Plus, you can catch up on all your favourite shows from home without trawling through dozens of streaming sites. For those days where you need a bit of home comfort, this is a brilliant investment.

watching film laptop

4. Portable charger

We’ve all been there – a completely lifeless phone and no clue where you are. Or, halfway through an amazing day trip that just needs documenting, your camera finally runs out of juice. You can get some really dinky portable chargers that don’t weigh a ton so shop around. These also come in handy if you’re staying in a hostel dorm where you have to be lightning fast to secure a socket.

5. SMALL adaptor plug

Keeping on the tech theme for a moment, this is a personal bugbear of mine in dorm rooms. Those chunky adaptors so bulky that you can’t fit anything into the surrounding plugs. Do not be that person. Shop around and you can buy streamlined styles for super cheap. Here are a couple of examples from Amazon: 5 Piece Universal Adaptor / WanEway Adaptor

6. First aid kit

Okay, so maybe this one isn’t so unexpected. But it doesn’t have to be as huge or comprehensive as you think. Carrying the basics such as plasters, painkillers, diarrhoea tablets, rehydration sachets and a nail kit will go a long way. A nail kit?! Look, you’ll be shocked at how much you will miss those clippers if you miss them out. Plus, those mini scissors will never have been so useful. Bonus tip: removing the packaging saves a ton of space!

7. Pen

Ah, the good old fashioned pen. Save the awkward scrabble to find a pen on a flight and carry one in your hand luggage for those immigration forms.

With all these essentials in your backpack, you’ll be ready to go in no time!

Blue Mountains happy

If you want to read more, check out my other packing posts – Hand Luggage for Long Haul Flights / Five Ways to Pack More Efficiently.

Let me know what your backpacking essentials are!


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1 Comment

  • Reply
    June 20, 2017 at 7:57 pm

    Great post! I won’t have thought about bug spray but extremely essential…

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