Backpacking and travel essentials checklist

Backpacking and travel essentials checklist

I travel light but these backpacking and travel essentials come with me wherever I go.

It doesn’t matter if I’m backpacking for six months or going away for a weekend; these are my must haves.

I have compiled this backpacking packing list to help you and save you the hassle of shopping around.  I have included useful links to relevant sites so that the hard work has been done for you.

(Scarlet Jones Travels contains affiliate links. If you make a purchase through these links, I will earn a commission at no extra cost to you. These commissions are akin to you buying me a cup of coffee and keeping me on the road so that I can continue to bring you articles and information. Thanks for reading!)

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Backpacking and travel essentials

Backpacking and travel essentials – best packing list here


Gap year Essentials – the backpack


Top of the list has to be your backpack, or rucksack.  When I first started travelling I set off with a cheap, basic rucksack – not thinking that it would be a very important component of my backpacking kit.

You might be on a budget but don’t make the same mistake as I did.

After just a few weeks on the road I HATED my first backpack with a passion.  Yes, it was tough but it was a total pain to find anything in a hurry and it was so uncomfortable to carry for any distance at all.

Twelve months in to my travels I was desperate for a new backpack and luckily a meeting with the director of Nomad Travel at the Travel Adventure Show in London meant that I had the opportunity to trial a new backpack for free.

Paul listened to my requirements and recommended the Osprey Farpoint 55 to me which I have been happily travelling with ever since.

There is nothing about this backpack that I don’t like.  I LOVE it and if it ever falls apart or breaks I will certainly be buying another one.

It has a zip which opens nearly all the way around, it is extremely comfortable to carry and it has a zip on/clip on day pack which has been all around the world with me.

And if backpacking is not your scene, the straps zip away and the Osprey Farpoint 55 converts into a neat piece of luggage.

Click here for the latest prices for the Osprey Farpoint 55 backpack.



Security while travelling.

Most hostels provide lockers for travellers but they are not always especially secure or large enough.  I don’t mind not locking my backpack away but I do need to know that my passport, money, credit cards and laptop are safe.

I don’t use it often but I would never travel without my PacSafe.  It’s not cheap bit of kit but for the peace of mind that it offers, it’s been priceless.

I can leave my valuables safely inside it whilst it’s securely attached to my bunk or to any other immobile object whilst I go out and enjoy myself.  I also use it for peace of mind in hotel rooms, after all, I have never understood those little metal safes that you get – that can simply be picked up and taken from the room!

You can replace stolen clothing and even your backpack relatively easily and whilst you can claim for your valuables on your travel insurance, the stress of a stolen passport or a lost credit card can totally ruin your trip.

My PacSafe is like a flat duffle bag, made of super strong material and secured with a tough cable and padlock.  It fits perfectly in the bottom of my Osprey Farpoint Backpack whilst I am moving around and hardly adds any weight to my luggage allowance.

Find out more and order your PacSafe at this link.


Taking photographs on your journey.

Lately I have been using my phone to take photographs but I do travel with a Panasonic Lumix camera.  It has a wickedly powerful zoom lens but it’s small and compact enough to be slipped quickly into a pocket.  In many of the places that I travel I don’t want to be waving around expensive photographic equipment, and whilst I don’t want to lose my camera I would be more devastated if I lost my phone.

So in slightly sketchier regions or when I want to take a close up, I leave my phone behind in my hostel (safely tucked away in my locker or my PacSafe) and I use this neat little camera.

For a compact camera that ticks all the boxes, go to the Panasonic Lumix site at Amazon.


Essential footwear

I always struggle with the decision about whether to take my hiking boots away with me.  On some trips I have hardly used them, on others I have certainly got my money’s worth.  It’s no great hardship to wear them on travel days or hang them from my backpack, and I would rather have them with me than leave them home.  My old boots from Karrimor fit me like a glove and are so comfortable even on long, hot hikes.  After seven years of hard work which have included trekking through the Cuban jungles, hiking up volcanos in South America and exploring the mountains in Laos they are starting to disintegrate, but I will almost certainly get another similar pair.

You can see a selection of the latest Karrimor range of hiking boots here.


Essentials for travel – a decent travel towel

Another travel product that I wouldn’t be without is my travel towel.

These microfibre travel towels are made of a special fabric which enables them to dry quickly and without a musty smell.  This means that you can shower and pack it away on a travel day without worrying that everything else in your backpack will get wet.  I have experimented with different sizes – for me, a large bath towel is the perfect size for travelling.  Not too big and not too small. I get tangled up in a bath sheet and the smaller ones just don’t give you any drying satisfaction

Order your own travel towel at this link.

Backpacking and travel essentials – do you need a laptop or a tablet?

Not everybody will want to work online while travelling but most people now want to take a tablet or a laptop.  Last year I recently upgraded from my clunky net-book to a Surface Pro 4 and I LOVE it.

Like my backpack, I don’t know why I waited so long to upgrade, because, like the backpack, this piece of kit has changed my life.  It took just a week or so to get to grips with the Windows operating system but the versatility of this laptop is fantastic.  I often have to write for several hours when I am working on an article but the keyboard is large enough and comfortable enough not to trigger my previous hand problems.  The keyboard also easily pulls apart so that the laptop converts quickly to a touch-screen tablet.

By all means take your tablet when you travel, but if you are in the market for a new computer, travelling or not, certainly consider the Windows Surface Pro 4.

Chose the best Windows Surface Pro model here for your budget and needs.


Are you the only person in the world without a Kindle?

Many hostels and hotels have book exchange schemes but because I never want to be without any suitable reading, travelling with a Kindle is simply a no-brainer.

Like many people I do prefer the experience of reading a real book, but there is nothing worse than finishing your current one and then finding that there is nothing suitable or in your language on the shelf in the hostel.

There was a time when my four year old Kindle died that I thought that I could manage reading my e-books using just my phone and tablet.  However, I was wrong because the reading experience is nowhere as near as comfortable on either the eyes or the hands and is almost impossible in strong sunlight, so I treated myself to a new one.

Because I do travel with a laptop and a smart phone the basic model Kindle is more than sufficient for me. Books are my weakness and with Amazon One-click set up, it is really easy to add to my library.

Click to get your Kindle here if you aren’t already a convert


Must have travel item – a good quality guide book.

I have tried to download and use travel guides on my Kindle or phone but I just can’t get to grips with them.  I usually buy and take one good quality print version of a guide book for my first destination country.  My personal preference are the Lonely Planet Guidebooks which I swap at hostels when I change countries or I donate to other travellers.

When I first travelled in South America I even went so far as to rip out sections that I didn’t need just to reduce the weight!  At least now my Osprey Farpoint 55 backpack is so comfortable a few extra sheets of paper make no difference, and because I take my Kindle, I don’t feel that it is an extravagance to pack a book.

Where are you going next?  Get your Lonely Planet travel guide here.


Protect your valuables while you travel.

I used to travel with a money belt but I got fed up of scrabbling around in my trousers whenever I had to get my passport or credit card out.  I thought that it just brought more attention to the fact that I had valuables on me – although what traveller doesn’t have their passport or phone on them.

Nowadays I prefer to wear a small unobtrusive waist bag (I refuse to use the US term fanny pack) and rather than hide the bag away under my clothes, I turn it into a fashion accessory.

I bought mine from a local market but you can find a similar waist bag here.


Not solely for travel – everybody should carry a personal attack alarm

A personal attack alarm which sits in the palm of your hand could get you out of a sticky situation fast.  Hook the ring over your middle finger and lightly hold the alarm while you walk to your hostel in a strange town or when catch the bus back home after work.  The piercing shriek is activated by pulling the pin, giving you time to run and/or attract attention.

The batteries seem to last for ages on these models and they don’t cost very much to buy.  Don’t put off buying one of these – and while you’re at it, it’s a good idea to get a few and give them away as presents.  Somebody might thank you for it.

Go to Amazon and order your personal attack alarms here.


And for those smaller, yet just as important backpacking and travel essentials, I also carry the following;

Security cable
Memory sticks/cards
Money belt
And finally, do NOT forget your travel insurance
And finally, whilst not exactly glamorous or fun to shop for, Travel Insurance is a MUST and possibly the most important backpacking and travel essential.

If you can’t afford travel insurance then you possibly shouldn’t be travelling.

I use Alpha Travel Insurance which you can purchase for short trips or round the world adventures.  I haven’t yet had to claim (touch wood), so I can’t actually comment on this aspect of it, however the website is very user friendly as are the staff on the telephones.  They are competitively priced as well and cover can be extended should your trip be extended.

Buy your travel insurance from Alpha Travel Insurance here now




Disclaimer: This article contains affiliate links to Amazon, Alpha Travel Insurance and Lonely Planet.  I use and recommend all of these highly.

Scarlet Jones Travels is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to

I love Nomad Travel & my Osprey Farpoint 55

I love Nomad Travel & my Osprey Farpoint 55

I LOVE my Osprey Farpoint 55 rucksack

After more than a year of travelling with my Osprey Farpoint 55 rucksack I can confirm that I am still head over heels in love with my bag.

Travel companions have come into my life and moved on, cameras and phones have broken but like a fine wine my rucksack just keeps getting better and better with age.

Osprey Farpoint 55

I was introduced to my rucksack by Paul Goodyer who is the CEO of Nomad Travel following a meeting at the Adventure Travel Show in London.  At first I was hesitant, but I knew that I could trust the judgement and advice from Paul who had set up Nomad Travel in 1990.

‘Nomad has been pioneering the art of travel preparation since 1990, combining a kitting out and clinic service that is unique in the UK’.

  • Nomad Travel stores are a fabulous Aladdin’s cave full of everything that you might ever need when you travel. The staff are experienced travellers too so you can be confident that they know what they are talking about and they won’t sell you anything that you won’t need.
  • Nomad Travel clinics offer travel health information and inoculations from expert nurses.
  • Nomad Travel pharmacy can provide a bespoke medical kit for you as well as anti-malarial tablets and other potions and pills for your trip.

Whatever bag I chose had a tough role to play as I was planning some serious travel over the next couple of years, but it was virtually love at first sight with my beautiful petrol blue Osprey Farpoint 55.

The proof of the pudding

The first test was in Vilnius in Lithuania.  I exited the bus station and I turned right.  After walking for 20 minutes I realised that I was lost and I was heading in the wrong direction.  There were the remnants of the previous night’s snow underfoot but there was no way I was going to admit defeat and pay for a cab to the hostel where I had reserved a bed.

Osprey Farpoint 55 Vilnius


I tightened the hip strap pulling the bag snugly against my body and I purposefully marched back the way that I had just come.  As I passed through the Gate of Dawn and entered the narrow streets of the old town I realised how easy it was to walk any distance with this bag.  It was actually a pleasure.

Fast forward a few months from the winter cold of the Baltic States to the steamy heat of South East Asia.  Now it was back to riding buses and trucks where my bag was stowed on the roof, where I fiercely guarded my zip-off day pack that contained my laptop and where the humidity made everything permanently one sweaty mess.

My Osprey Farpoint and my motorbike tour in Vietnam

Osprey Farpoint 55 Hoi An


We had been evicted unceremoniously from a bus on our way to Danang and forced to walk a long way in the drizzle.  I have put the bag in a deep freeze to kill any bedbugs that may have attempted to hitch a ride in Cambodia, I have sat on my bag in the aisle of buses, in airports and on street corners and I have toured the Central Highlands of Vietnam with my rucksack tied securely on the back of our motorbike.

It may have been love at first sight but it is a love that has endured; surviving all obstacles which have been thrown at it.  It is a love which has not yet got jaded from boredom or complacency. It is a relationship where I still feel a thrill when I close the strong metal zip, pull the compression straps tight and lift the bag up onto my back.

Adjusting the hip and breast straps, clipping the day sack onto my front and striding out onto my next destination I always send a silent ‘thank you’ to Paul and Nomad Travel for a partnership made in heaven.

Nomad Travel & Osprey Farpoint 55

Nomad Travel & Osprey Farpoint 55


Now I just need to find a man with the same capacity to keep a relationship as fresh and exciting as my Osprey rucksack from Nomad Travel!!

Click here if you would like to buy the Osprey rucksack for yourself

(Any purchases made via this Amazon link may earn me a small commission but at no extra cost to you

My new backpack…and getting lost.  Again!

My new backpack…and getting lost. Again!

Confidently striding through a new city with all of my possessions.  In the wrong direction!

If you are following my recent adventures as I have travelled from Helsinki through Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania you will know that there has been one recurring theme.

I keep getting lost!  This is quite unusual for me as I am normally very careful to be aware of my surroundings. Trying to find my hostel in Vilnius was another story.  I got off the bus at the station with my full back pack and I confidently turned right and set off up the first proper hill that I had found in any of the Baltic countries.

And it was the wrong way.  I readjusted my useless internal navigation system and got back on track.  The sun was out, I was wearing my thickest hoodie and a coat and there were some very dodgy characters hanging around in the back streets.  I was hot, tired and thirsty.  But I was determined not to pay out for a cab because I knew that the hostel was close and it was a matter of pride that I should cope.

And as I tramped along the cobbles I was thanking my lucky stars for the day that I met Paul at Nomad Travel and he gave me my backpack, the Osprey Farpoint 55 (click here for more information)

Osprey Farpoint 55 zipped together

The smaller size compared to my previous bag obviously meant that I was carrying less weight which was a big bonus but the bag is so well balanced it is a dream to walk with.  I was fully laden wearing my iTravel shoulder bag containing my valuables slung across my body and the smaller, detachable daypack from Osprey on my front, but because of the ingenious clip system which attached it to the main pack, my arms and hands were free.

The strap system fitted my frame size and the weight was carried on my hips and it is a tiny detail but the whistle on my sternum strap and close to my mouth gave me a ridiculous feeling of safety when the beggars began eying me up in an unsavory way.

It takes a while to get used to a rucksack when you are on the road and living from hostel to hostel.  You certainly don’t want to unpack every time but certain things need to be easily accessible or put away in the lockers.  After a couple of weeks on the road I was finally comfortable with my packing system and I could quickly find most items – helped enormously by the huge zip which opens the bag like a suitcase.

obviously the boots don’t go in

My initial fears about the straining zips have (touch wood) proved unfounded and there has actually been a little bit of give in the fabric which has eased both the bag and my mind slightly.  I have worked out how to clip the bags together (the little one on my front) when I am wearing them (that took a bit of practice but I got there) and when the two bags are strapped together I am practiced in accessing one or the other without separating them.

The iTravel shoulder bag is also a bit of genius kit.  Out and about in cities it doesn’t attract the attention that a camera bag might but the clip system means that I feel very safe from pickpockets.  It has internal pockets which can be adjusted so there is less scrabbling around looking for something and it is coping with my two netbooks that I am currently lugging around.

I eventually reached my hostel in an extremely confused state – not helped because the town square of Vilnius is anything but, and is an elongated triangle, but I was extremely proud of my achievement and for once, there was no need to swear and curse how much I hated my rucksack as I lowered it off my back.  I LOVE it!

The perfect combo

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