Carrying your life on your back[ Back to other travel advice ]

For our extended round the world trip, we deliberated long and hard about what to take. Here you will find a list of what we ended up taking. Not all these objects are suitable for all travelers. Hopefully the list will give you ideas.

As everyone advises, pack as light as you can. So if you don't think you will need an item very often, and if you can buy it while traveling, it is probably a good idea to leave it behind and get it when you need it. Even a few grams can add up to a significant weight when you have to lug it around the world for months on end.

Also essential for the packing list is a medical kit. See also the universal packing list, and packing methods.


There are often limits to the amount of money you can take in or out of countries, so if you are carrying large amounts of cash you will need to check the local regulations. In some places, it is also necessary to show enough funds to pay for your planned stay, or have enough to buy a return ticket.

  • Traveler's cheques

Ttravelers checks are the universally accepted method of taking cash overseas. Most sources recommend that you take them in a major currency such as US dollars, which wil be easier to change.

  • local currency

It is very handy to have some local currency for when you arrive at a new country, for such things as snacks, taxi rides, and your first hotel night.

  • Credit card and ATM bank card

In countries in Europe and other well developed regions you can often pay using your credit card. If you have an account that enables you pay off your debt each month and avoid paying interest, this can be a very economical way of paying for things while traveling. In Asia and Africa and other third countries you will find it difficult to find places that will take your credit card. You may also want to take your regular savings account card, or have it linked to your credit card, so you can access money via automatic teller machines (ATMs). This also often has the bonus of competitive exchange rates, and supplies you with local currency.



If you are not too good at number crunching in your head, a calculator may be useful for converting currencies.

money belt

Money pouch

To avoid pick-pockets and keep your money and other valuables safe, a money pouch, which you can wear under your clothes, is a good idea. If it seems safe, you could leave some valuables back at your hotel in a safe box. In hot climates the money belt can be hard to hide under your flimsy but necessary cool clothing, and if you sweat a lot it can get damp and chafe.



large backpack

The size of your backpack determines how much you take. Have a look at the backpack page for information on choosing a backpack.

  • small backpack / daypack

Many large travel packs come with a detachable daypack. If not, you can take a small backpack. One which can be folded up and put inside the larger one can be handy so you do not always have to carry both packs.

combo padlock

combination padlocks

Key lock padlocks are just asking for trouble if you lose the key. With combination locks, the only problem is if you forget your combination. You will find small ones of these handy for keeping your backpack secure, and larger ones for locking your room or security locker when you are out for the day.

wire lock

wire lock

A combination lock combined with a strong wire will enable you to secure your pack to other objects. It comes in handy on overnight trains and buses as you can sleep soundly with your belongings safely secured.


  • note book and pen

for recording thoughts, images, addresses, plans, goals, contacts, memories, lists ...

  • diary

A well kept diary, even if it is only a list of places that you visited, is a great souvenir of you travels.

  • contacts list / address book

Needed if you want to keep in touch with the folks back home. A contact list should also include all your emergency numbers such as where to report a stolen credit card. In some internet mail programs you can store contact details other than just email addresses, or if you are really internet savvy you can store valuable documents on a secure FTP site.

  • Business / Personal cards

If you will be looking for work as you travel, a few business cards can come in handy. The contact details need to be a home address that someone can check for you, or other details that will remain constant as you travel. Other personal cards may be useful with your personal home address and email and other details that you may want to give to the friends you make along your journey, who you want to keep in touch.

  • HI card

The Youth Hostel card (Hosteling International) can be handy in Europe for discounts mainly with accommodation. There are similar cards too which also provide limited discounts. Depending on how long you are going for and when you plan to sleep they may be worthwhile. The cards for the local associations (such as the Youth Hostels Australia (YHA) card are part of the HI network and are also universally accepted.

  • Student card

If you are lucky enough to be still a student, in some parts of the world you can get considerable discounts on travel, entry and accommodation.

Getting Around

  • Compass
  • maps
  • travel guides
  • phrase books
  • International driver's licence
  • driver's licence from home


  • Pack of cards - or some other game.
  • book to read
  • Spare batteries
  • Battery charger


Whether it is a digital, SLR or old fashioned snappy camera, one of these is essential to record your experiences and show friends and family back home.

see travel photography guide for more information.

camera tripod

Camera Tripod

A small tripod is great for night photography, self portraits and group shots.

universal electricity adaptor

Universal adapter

Needed for your camera charger, mobile phone charger, rechargeable batter charger, electric shaver, hair dryer ... Getting a single adapter that can perform all your needs is a lot less bulky and simple to use that carry one for each destination.


Music Player

Whether it is a mp3 player, cd walkman or a simple radio, it is nice to be able to listen to some of your favourite music while away. A radio may be handy to listen to local broadcasts to further immerse you into the local culture.


  • food for train or buses
  • water bottle
  • plastic bowls and cutlery

Food from home

For Australian's it would probably be Vegemite. You will have your own favourite foods that you will not be able to get while travelling. It can make the trip more bearable if you have something of home you can eat when you are sick of the local selection or are just missing home.


  • Dental floss
  • Laundry soap bar
  • Toilet paper
  • Toothpaste
  • bath soap
  • towel
  • toothbrush
  • Razor blades and soap
  • Deodorant
  • Moisturiser
  • Lip balm
  • Deodorant
  • Tampons
  • Period pain tablets
  • Brush/ Comb
  • Hair Shampoo
  • Nail file - wooden
  • Towel
  • Hair ties
Universal Sink Plug

sink plug

You will rarely find a sink with a plug, and one of these universal plugs are made to fit any water basin. It is better than using a sock to block the hole when you want to hand wash some clothes.

Peg Less Clothes Line

clothes line

A peg-less clothes line is very useful for hanging out your clothes to dry overnight in your hotel room. They usually come with hooks and suction cups on the ends to make it easier to find a place to hang. If you don't have one of these, some string or rope can be used, which can also come in handy at other times too.

Soap Holder

Soap Holder

You need a waterproof bag or container for your soap so that it does not get on your other toiletries or clothes.


  • Tickets
  • Passport
  • photocopies of passport, insurance, cards etc.
  • spare passport photos
  • vaccination certificate


  • Sewing kit

Think about whether you really need this. How often have you used a needle and thread when at home?

  • Swiss army knife
  • cable ties
  • Safety pins
  • Plastic bags - zip lock
  • Rubber bands
  • Torch
  • Candle and waterproof matches


  • Hat
  • Sunglasses
  • Sandals
  • Hiking boots
  • T-Shirts
  • T-Shirts
  • singlet / tank top
  • Long sleeve shirt
  • Convertible Long
  • pants/shorts
  • Swimming costume
  • Shorts
  • Socks
  • underwear
  • Rain jacket
  • hankies
  • Bras
  • skirt
  • dress


Inflatable Pillow

inflatable pillow

Essential for overnight trains and buses if you wanted to get some sleep.

  • Mini umbrella
  • duct tape around a pencil
  • small gifts for locals
  • Travel Alarm clock
  • presents for hosts
  • watch
  • Silk Bedliner
  • Wet wipes

see also: choosing a backpack


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