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I'm Nicole McFadden: runner, wanderer, and filmmaker. Wild[her]ness Co. is a lifestyle journal dedicated to tales of travel, whole health, and other adventurous pursuits.

11 Essentials to Bring Backpacking

11 Essentials to Bring Backpacking

  1. Ear Plugs: There is literally nothing worse than landing a snoring roommate in a hostel (except for maybe a midnight love machine, which happens more than you’d think (awkward), in which case this item is a NECESSITY). Also, it’s very likely that not everyone in your room is going to be on the same sleep schedule - especially if you’ve opted for the budget-friendly 10 bed dorm. In any case when you’ve also got that budget-friendly flight booked conveniently at 6AM, as most cheap flights seem to be, you’ll thank yourself.  Your iPod with some white noise or a sleepy-time playlist can work as well, but unless you’re used to sleeping on your back you’ll need to make sure you can lay with the headphones comfortably in your ears.
  2. Face/Body Wipes (Carry On): This item is a godsend, especially if you’ve yet again opted for the cheapest flight available which also happens to include 3 layovers and an overnight on an airport bench (why do we keep doing this to ourselves again? Oh yeah, cause we be penniless... Trust me, after sitting in one spot for 7 hours and sharing air with 300 other sweaty people, a quick trip to the bathroom for a face wash and a wipe here and/or there is going to make you feel like a NEW WOMAN/MAN!
  3. Travel Sized Toothbrush/Toothpaste (Carry On): Things get a little dry at 39 000 ft, including your mouth (and unfortunately the mouths of everyone around you too). With a dry mouth comes bad breath; combine that with some of that airplane ‘food’ you ate before and you’re in for a real bad-taste in your mouth, and I mean that literally. Probably some fuzzy feeling teeth too. Even some mouth wash will do - just bring it!
  4. Buff: I suggest this because it’s a handy multi-use item. It’s there as a headband for those long/multiple travel days when you’re without a shower and your hair is looking less than stellar. Then, when you’re dozing off on the train or your hostel-mates are on a different sleep schedule than you it functions as an eye-mask to help you get that beauty sleep! Shoot, look at you all fashionable AND functional.
  5. Sewing Kit: This one is really only necessary if you’re on an extended trip, but after a couple months of wearing the same 3-4 outfits/2 pairs of shoes (bravo to you if you’ve managed to fit more in your backpack) things start to wear out. Similarly, as you get further into your trip your bank account has a tendency of thinning out and when the choice is a shopping trip because your only pair of pants blew a button or a train ride to Paris, the choice is simple; we stitch it up!
  6. Water Bottle: This may seem like a no brainer but it is so important! This is especially true throughout Europe, when not all tap water is drinkable, there aren’t a ton of fountains around and many restaurants charge for water, even tap water sometimes (lame). You’ll save yourself some cash and stay hydrated while you’re out exploring! Plus, money you saved on hydration rationalizes money spent on dehydration after hours, right?
  7. Workout Clothes: As a backpacker, you’re outside walking all day almost everyday and most likely doing a fair bit of sweating as well. Not all hostels are equipped with washing machines and if they are, they are probably going to cost anywhere between $10 and $16 (when converted to Canadian) per wash/dry. This is a significant burden when you’re on the road considering that could buy you a full day’s worth of food. Workout garb is usually designed to breathe and also to minimize stink if you do sweat, making your laundry needs fewer and more far in between. This type of clothing is also usually fast drying, which is key when you’re trying to wash and pack up your bag in the same day. HINT: Workout socks and underwear are great as well; if you’re desperate you can wash them up in the sink and they’ll be dried and ready to go in no time. You’ll find this is NOT the case with cotton.
  8. Packable Rain Coat: To have a raincoat that can pack away super tiny into its own bag is great to have. Depending on where you’re going and what time of year it is, some trips you'll use it more than others; but when it starts pouring rain and you’ve only got one day to see a city - you’re going to persevere and you’re going to be darned happy you brought a rain jacket that folds up small enough to fit in your daypack.
  9. Lonely Planet Guide on iPad or eReader: Not all hostels include free wifi, which is why it’s handy to have an offline guide with you. Any guidebook will do but I’ve found Lonely Planet in particular to be super detailed and the suggestions to be very accurate. Many of the guides also come with a city map which is great when you’ve got no cellphone data for Google Maps! I suggest this for an iPad or eReader to save room in your bag especially when you're visiting multiple places, but a paper version will work too!
  10. Multi-vitamin: The harsh truth is that no matter how hard you try your nutrition may suffer while you’re on the road. You’ll find that in a lot of Eastern European countries fruits and vegetables not a super common menu item and if they are, they’re on the expensive side. Of course, the supermarket is always a cheaper solution but when your goal is to sample as much local cuisine as possible sometimes the supermarket just isn’t going to happen. This can be a problem especially considering you’ll be living in shared accommodation where sickness can be passed around easily. There’s nothing worse than being in a city for 2 days and having to spend both of them in bed because you’ve caught a hostel bug. Whether you believe supplements are beneficial or not, sometimes it’s just nice to have peace of mind.
  11. Quick-dry Towel: Again, I can’t stress it enough that trying to pack a backpack when half of your stuff is still damp is a nightmare. It is so nice to be able to have a shower the morning you’re planning on leaving and being able to pack up your towel that same day. The only thing worse than having to pack wet garments into your backpack is the smell of them when they come out. Plus, quick-dry towels usually take up less room in your bag just because of the material used. Double win!
You CAN Afford to Travel (Seriously!)

You CAN Afford to Travel (Seriously!)

A Backpacker's Grocery List

A Backpacker's Grocery List