Backpacking comes with many highs and lows, as well as a steep learning curve for many of us, particularly if you're travelling solo. Whether this is your first ever backpacking trip, or you're a seasoned pro, make sure you never forget the essentials with this handy round-up.
Okay, this one is a bit obvious, but it cannot be overstated how important your choice of backpack is. You will literally be living out of this one bag, carting around all of your belongings on flights, trains, buses and in + out of hostels.
So it's important you find one thats sturdy, large enough to bring all of your stuff with you, and still have some room for souvenirs, as well as with some back support so you don't injure yourself while out and about.
As nice as it is to party the night away in a crazy beachfront hostel, sometimes all you want is a bit of shut-eye, for which you'll probably need some earplugs at the very least.
It's also a good idea to bring headphones to entertain yourself and an eye mask since hostel dorms can be brightly lit into the wee hours of the night.
The last thing you want whilst adventuring in a new country is to find yourself laid up in hospital because of an infected cut.
Prevent disaster by keeping a mini first aid kit with you at all times, you never know when you'll need a band-aid, some rehydration medication, a bandage or some antiseptic.
This might sound like a weird one, but search out some common medications in your local drugstore, and stock up on some of your favourite brands.
Medication shopping can get very confusing whilst abroad, which is the last thing you need when puking your guts up with Bali Belly.
Hostels, and travelling in general, can get pretty grimy, you might not be taking showers as often as you usually do, and the ones you do take might not be the most hygienic.
Rather than letting yourself fester, keep some hand-sanitiser and baby wipes handy for a rudimentary, but lifesaving wash when needed.
Whoever invented packing cubes deserves an award for innovation, since they are hands-down the most useful backpacking tool. They allow you to keep your belongings sorted, as well as saving space and making it easier for you to pack in general.
When you're travelling, you never know when you're going to be near a plug socket, and how reliable the electricity will be, so rather than going solo, make sure that all of your electronics can stay alive throughout all of your busy days and nights with a portable power bank. Ideally get one that can last you a few days on one charge!
It might be dull as ditchwater, but getting decent travel insurance is very important. This is what will truly save your trip, whether you lose your bag, break a leg, or wake up to find someone's stolen your expensive camera.
There are plenty of options for travel insurance out there from World Nomads to STA travel to the good ole Post Office. Shop around for the best policy for you at a price within your budget.
It's also worth considering in advance whether you plan to be taking part in any extreme sports / potentially dangerous activities such as white water rafting, mountain biking, surfing etc - as this may not always be covered in your travel insurance.
A camera is the classic travel essential, and although new technology has vastly improved the capabilities of mobile phone cameras, it's still hard to beat the quality of a DSLR if you're looking for some more professional shots.
Alternatively, film is making a comeback from the 90's, so you may want to stick with the tried-and-true disposable camera option.
What's great about these in particular is that you won't be able to see how your pictures come out until you get them developed, meaning you'll be able to focus on the present moment more, and have a fun surprise waiting for you back at home.
Generally, it's advisable to limit the number of books you take with you on your backpacking trip. They're bulky, are generally only read once, and difficult to pack.
However, there are a few books that you should take, with the first and most important being some sort of guidebook. Although the internet is a wonderful tool in the hands of a savvy traveller, you can't go wrong with a decent guidebook.
If possible, get one with a proper map included for those moments when you're hopelessly lost in a new city and google maps isn't working.
Hippie Pants, also known as Aladdin Pants or Harem Pants, should be a staple item in every backpacker wardrobe. They are perfect for travelling, especially in hot countries.
Lightweight and easy to pack, but also super comfortable and suitable both for sleeping in or going out and about in. Grab yourself a pair ASAP, ideally from a market stall in Bali, but you can also get some in your local thrift store.
It's not glamorous, but having a roll of toilet paper stashed away in your bag will come in seriously handy.
Whether it's wiping away mysterious stains, using as a plug to stop the flight-induced nosebleeds, or as a safety net for those moments when you realise that this hostel bathroom doesn't stock it's own toilet paper.
Microfibre towels are an underrated hero. They pack up super small, dry themselves and you super quickly, and can be used as a makeshift pillow on long journeys.
Grab one of Amazon for a couple of bucks and save on those annoying towel charges at hostels.
Even if you don't plan to do any camping, pack a headlamp with you anyway. They are super helpful, whether it's for reading books in hostels at night, finding your way across a grassy courtyard to the communal bathrooms, or rummaging through your backpack at four AM.
Why carry a sleeping bag liner without a sleeping bag? Because they're actually an incredibly useful and versatile little tool. One of the unfortunate realities of staying in hostels or unfamiliar accommodation is the risk of bedbugs, which can be transmitted from hostel to hostel via the many travellers passing through.
An anti-bed-bug sleeping bag liner can help to combat this, whilst also giving you a more luxurious sleep. If you want to treat yourself, go for a silk bag liner.
Staying connected whilst on the road is vitally important while you're travelling. You need to be able to contact people in case of an emergency, and find your way around when you inevitably get lost.
You can usually pick one up in the airport upon arrival, or in any town center / big city.
Another unfortunate reality of travelling is foreign creepy crawlies, especially in hot countries.
This makes bug repellent absolutely vital! Many insect repellents are harmful to the environment however, so I'd recommend shopping around for an eco-friendly option that keeps you healthy and bite-free, without the added pollution.
Padlocks are a necessity for any traveller, no matter how much you'd like to rely on the kindness of strangers. Don't give thieves the opportunity to take advantage of you, and keep your personal belongings locked up with a number-coded padlock.
A large scarf / sarong is a traditional backpacker essential, being both multi-functional and pretty. You can wear them, use them as beach towels, sleep on them, keep off the wind with them, cover up with them or even wrap some of your dirty clothes to take to the launderette in them.
Flip Flops, or "Thongs" if you're Australian, are a necessity for any hot country. They make shoe decisions in the morning approximately 100% easier. Plus they can be easily stowed away in the bottom of your bag for the moment you realise that wearing heels on a mountain hike wasn't the best idea.
Woe betide the traveller who leaves without a universal travel adapter. Investing in one of these useful gadgets early on will mean you never have to buy or lose another travel adapter again.
Plug adaptors are some of the most commonly forgotten items by backpackers, so if you're looking to make some hostel friends a great way is to bring along a spare.
Last but not least, the trusty e-reader, friend to minimalists and backpackers alike. You can store hundreds of books on one tiny little kindle, and never have a dull moment again.
Plus, they generally don't need charging very often and can work offline, so they're perfect for long journeys or hours spent chilling at the beach.