12 Things To Include In Your Travel Backpack

Tom Malone/Adventure Tribune
Don't leave home without these key necessities for every travel adventure. Every traveler needs some gear, so here's a list to get you started.

An experienced, efficient traveler usually flies with nothing but a backpack in order to save precious travel time that would otherwise be spent waiting in line with thousands of other passengers in baggage claim. Road trip experts usually only have room in the car for a backpack. And, if you travel on foot through the adventurous wilderness, you know that a backpack is either your best friend or your worst enemy.

So, If you’re on a backpacking mission using one or all of these travel methods, what items are necessary, lightweight, and essential to carry? Whether you’re carrying an intense 60-liter pack or the same school bag you’ve used since middle school, here are 12 essential items that you’ll need with you.

1. Water Bottle
Dehydration can end an adventure quickly. Be sure to have a large-capacity water bottle on hand at all times. Fill up when you can and drink when you can. Water will affect your ability to push through strenuous adventures and it will help acclimate you to altitude.

2. Book
Any travel has experienced wait time: airplane flights, waiting at bus stations, before bed, etc. Use this wait time to unwind and become more intelligent by reading a book. Plus, you never know the type of conversations it will start. Check out the 15 books we recommend.

3. Compass
This necessary wilderness survival tool applies anywhere. Whether you’re strolling through a foreign country or road tripping across the United States, this lightweight tool will come in handy when you need it the most.

4. Map
Like a compass, a map of your general travel destination serves its purpose only in the most dire situations. Don’t count on smartphone maps to guide you through your adventure. The most adventurous destinations and journeys rarely have wi-fi.

5. Snacks
You never know when you’ll stumble upon your next meal on an adventure. Always carry snacks with you in order to provide fuel to get you from one place to another.

6. Pen
Pens serve multiple purposes when traveling. You never know when you’ll need to write down information, occupy time with a doodle, or draw directions from another adventurer. Plus, they’re lightweight and take up essentially no room in your pack.

7. Pocket Knife
A small knife is useful in any situation. It provides protection, functionality, and, in dire circumstances, survival capabilities (building shelter, starting fires, etc.). Unless you're traveling by plane and want to avoid the stink eye from T.S.A., a small pocket knife is an essential item.

8. Language Phrasebook
Unless you’re sticking around your own area, you will likely run into other languages on your adventure. Whether it’s one person or an entire culture, research the languages spoken in the area surrounding your destination and carry that language’s phrasebook in order to make your adventure more successful.

9. Change of Clothes
Always be prepared with a change of clothes in your travel pack. Airplane rides, car trips, and hiking create body odor that you won’t want when you decide to venture out and explore a new city. Even if you check baggage at the airport, still have a spare outfit ready just in case.

10. Blanket
Temperatures change no matter where you are. Camping: definitely. Airplanes and cars: constantly. If you plan to stay in a hostel while backpacking, you may even upgrade to a lightweight sleeping bag.

11. Toothbrush
You never know when you’ll have to brush your teeth. Maybe your flight is cancelled and you have to sleep at the airport. Maybe you decide to stop on a road trip and go out for a night on the town and you need to rid your mouth of 10 hours of sunflower seed breathe. Either way, be prepared.

12. Journal
Traveling provides adventure no matter what. Bring a journal and write about your experiences so that you can go back and recollect them someday. Maybe you’ll even prepare enough notes to write a book one day. Keeping a journal while you travel provides an outlet for you to describe, process, and reflect on your journey.

Bonus: Camera
Though electronic devices can hinder a travel experience, bringing a camera will allow you to capture special moments on any adventure. The downside: extra cords, batteries, and paranoia of theft.

This completes our shortlist of necessary items to include in your general travel backpack. Obviously some items will apply more or less for certain travel scenarios, but here’s a start.

If we missed anything that you deem essential, send us an email at and let us know!


Tom Malone is the Editor-In-Chief of The Adventure Tribune and author of adventure novels, like Across Americana. He is based in Denver, Colorado, where he adventures through the Rocky Mountains while not traveling abroad.
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