5 Essential Packing Tips for Backpackers

Backpacker James O’Donoghue is currently on an amazing tour around the world. Here’s what he’s learned about packing for an adventure like this…

Ah the good aul backpack, you’re best and worst mate for however long you choose to stay attached. Backpacking is the most fun way to travel to see the world.  And the most efficient way to travel, if done correctly. I am currently on an around the world backpacking trip for 6 months.  Hitting most continents and all types of varying weather and landscapes along the way.  So, I thought I would write some tips for anybody thinking to backpack.  Whether it be interrailing, heading to Oz or to New Zealand to work and travel.  J1ers and Campers and anybody else looking to live the greatest life on earth…the nomadic backpacker!

Tip 1: Choose the Backpack that Fits Your Needs

From my travels, I cannot count how many times I saw people with the wrong size backpack.  Struggling to get it on and stand up let alone move. Research is your friend here.  Really look into reviews of what people have said of particular products before diving in.  Backpacks can cost anywhere from €120 up to €300 for decent backpacks so it is a pretty big investment.  But, if done correctly, it will last you a lifetime and you will get your money back.

Obviously, everyone’s needs and wants will be different when searching for their perfect backpack but we decided on the Osprey FairPoint 70 Backpack.  We were happy with the size, detachable day bag on front and overall we were happy with the brand from reviews. We could not have been happier with it.  It’s a great backpack, which makes life that little bit easier and the load a little bit lighter.  It has smart strapping options that you can tailor to any shape or size.  And they come in a few colours to choose from which is cool.

Top Trick – Go into a camping shop that offers a wide variety of backpacks and try a few on, if you like one, keep the name and size in mind.  Head online and see if you can save a few bob getting it online instead.

Backpacking New Zealand

Tip 2: Packing Cubes of Joy

Packing cubes are the greatest packing device I never knew of before backpacking. We had asked a few people who we knew backpacked for a few tips.  We also checked out a few YouTube videos on packing your backpack. Everyone recommended them and rightly so, they make organising your backpack so easy.  You have a cube for t-shirts, a cube for shorts, a cube for electrical bits, a cube for jocks and socks and whatever else you might need. If you just need one piece of clothing you do not need to rummage and disturb your whole bag.  Instead, you just take out the cube, open it up, get what you need and put it back in. This will make your life a whole lot easier, trust me!

We got ours on amazon and there are loads to choose from.  So, find a colour scheme or rated pack that suits you. Prices usually go from €12 – €40 for various kinds.

Top trick – Get a pack with some sort of a see-through section so you know what’s in that particular cube.  So you don’t have to rummage to find the cube you want.

World backpacker

Tip 3: Pack Smart and light

This will, of course, depend on where you are travelling in the world as the weather will play a huge roll in your clothing choices but, backpackers will usually chase the sun where possible, that’s what I did anyway. Always prepare as much as possible for a bad weather spell by bringing light cold-weather gear like a woolly hat, light fleece, light rain jacket (I used mac in a sac which was brilliant and is warm light material that is waterproof enough as well) or just a nice comfy pair of socks, you’ll be grateful. Mostly speaking you do not need anything more than clobber for a 10 day or two-week holiday as you just recycle the same clobber repeatedly and we did a big wash every 4/5 days. In New Zealand & Oz we used the wash facilities in the hostels and in Southeast Asia, you just use one of the many launderettes usually placed in the tourist/ hostel areas and if get it in early enough, your jocks will be washed and ironed and smelling like roses by that evening.

Top Trick – always remember if you find yourself in a colder place then expected and realised you do not have much warm gear, go into a cheap penny’s type shop and buy a cheap cold gear like a fleece or cheap woolly hat and you can always leave behind in the hostel if you won’t need it again, someone else will be grateful and will go to use.

Backpacking around the world

Tip 4: Essentials and Tech Gear – Kindle, Kindle, Kindle

As I mentioned before, with most good backpacks, you will have a detachable bag that operates as your daily/ hiking/ beach bag for food, water, towels, camera gear and whatever else you need.

A good tip (that I realised 2 months into the trip if I am honest) is to leave that bag as part of your backpack set and buy a separate cheap, functional day bag. I got one that fits my drone/ go pro, Canon EOS M100 with lenses, laptop, kindle and room for some other stuff too.  I could then use that bag for my daily carry around bag when needed and my carry-on luggage for the plane, the front bag on the backpack I then used to hold my dirty washing to keep separate from the main bag and clean clothes.

The second part of this tip is Tech Gear.  I mentioned above the tech stuff I brought and used it all along the way. I  got some really good footage along my trip which I’m planning to edit and start up a YouTube channel. You can see an example of my videos here.
I would advise bringing some good camera gear, at least a Gopro or a good camera as this will probably be a trip of a lifetime.  So, you should get as many memories as you can on video or photo.

Top Trick – Amazon Kindle was the best thing I had with me, download books on the go. I read 8 books in total I think and have another 20 downloaded for the next leg.

How to pack your backpack

Tip 5 – Test Pack

If I am honest here also, I was just too excited about this trip and decided to try a test pack a week prior to departure and I was extremely happy I did.   A quarter of the stuff I was planning to bring was still on the bed and my backpack was bulging at the seams. Hard to believe looking back but on the bed was TRX straps, pair of exercise runners (making that a total of 3 pairs of trainers) and a rock-climbing harness, among other things. Absolute madness!  But I learned quickly what needed to be shed on my third test pack with some Tetris maneuvers inside the bag, I was ready to rock. Test packing is a must and will help you massively in cropping off some cray luxuries you are thinking of bringing.

Top trick – Think outside the box when packing, for example, I kept some thick pairs of socks inside my hiking boots, my electric razor, swimming goggles and hat where kept inside another pair of shoes. Be a master of space and if this doesn’t come automatically, it will come over time.

So, they are my top 5 tips for the most important thing while backpacking, the backpack itself. Hoping this helps anybody and if anybody wants any more information on travelling the world and anything that comes with it.  You can find me @jamesodonoghue09 on Instagram and feel free to drop me a message.  Next stop Costa Rica #WatchThisSpace

Backpack around the world

If you’d like to book your around the world backpacking adventure contact USIT Ireland today and we’ll make your dreams come true.