Ok so after reading my “4+1 Websites for Booking Cheap Flights” post last week you booked your super cheap flight to Berlin on SkyScanner, and you picked up your new ~50 liter travel backpack from REI. Great! Now what do you put in it? Backpacker Rule #1 is Pack Light! I absolutely second this motion, but I also highly suggest the following items to keep things comfortable:
Some people talk about just leaving technology behind and disappearing for a few weeks. What a beautiful thought! The truth is traveling without a WiFi ready device makes the backpacker lifestyle quite a pain in the ass. Nowadays booking hostels/buses/flights is all done online. There is also an abundance of apps that make your journey easier and safer (my next blog post is all ready and highlights these).
When I travel, I carry an older iPhone 4s and a 7″ Samsung Galaxy Tab 4. The Galaxy Tab makes long airport waits a breeze. It is also hugely convenient as a photographer for keeping my photos flowing on to my Dropbox and Amazon Cloud throughout my trip.
Travel adapters are obvious necessities. A personal recommendation is spending a few bucks more for one that has multiple outlets and/or USB ports because many times hostels will not have not have as many outlets as guests (not to mention its benefit at cafes and airports). When you see someone already using the outlet at the airport it is a nice benefit to be able to ask if you can slip your mini extension cord in and share the outlet.
The development of portable batteries has been an absolute game changer for me. Even at home I always have one with me. As far as bringing one backpacking, there are two options: a lipstick charger that is about the size of a tube of lipstick and can recharge your phone once or twice, or a high capacity battery that is larger and heavier but can recharge your device up to 7 times. I personally carry the Anker PowerCore+ Mini 3350 mAh ($9.99 right now) and the Anker Astro 15000 mAh and would highly recommend both. The small one really comes in handy when you’re out walking a new city all day with the GPS burning up your phone battery and the big one is excellent for long train journeys or airport layovers.
Do NOT forget this item. Can you rent towels in most European hostels? Yes. Do yo want to? Hell. No. Despite what you may be assuming this has very little to do with cleanliness. This is all about frugality. I stayed in a hostel in Copenhagen a few summers ago that actually charged 4 euros for a one night towel rental. While this is an exception to the rule, a free towel is very rare and paying even 1 euro a pop will add up.
Beyond all that I must say these microfiber towels are pure magic. They are incredibly absorbent, dry in less than an hour, are antibacterial (no smell) and pack down small enough to fit in your pocket.
Alright, so Pakems. Pakems are foldable shoes with rubber tread that weigh 15 ounces and come with their own little carrying bag you can strap to your backpack. They are a little goofy looking but they are ABSURDLY comfortable. I brought a pair of the low-tops to the Himalayas and after every day of hiking they were an absolute godsend. In fact, just writing this reminded me how badass they are and inspired me to buy another pair before I even started this sentence (here’s PROOF!).
Honestly, while I LOVE these and highly recommend them, you could also just get some flip flops and strap them to your bag. In either case, do not forget to bring some form of comfortable house shoes.
Optional “Put Your Mind at Ease” Item:
I have had one of these for more than 4 years and I think I’ve used it MAYBE 3 times. That being said, those 3 times I was really glad I had it. If you are nervous about the possibility of your things being stolen while you travel, a Pacsafe backpack protector should put those feelings of discomfort to rest. Pacsafe makes TOP of the line security products. The backpack protector consists of an incredibly strong stainless steel wire mesh netting that covers your bag, entirely preventing it from being slashed or rummaged through. It definitely makes swimming at the beach more comfortable not having to swim in shifts or keep an eye on your stuff from 100 meters away.