5 Essential Packing Tips for Backpackers

Globetrotter 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 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 best mate here and 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,  as we were happy with the size, detachable day bag on front and overall we were happy with the brand from reviews and could not have been happier with it. Great backpack which makes life that little bit easier and the load a little bit lighter with 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 and head online and see if you can save a few bob getting it online instead.

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 we new backpacked for a few tips and checked out a few YouTube videos on packing your backpack and everyone recommended them and rightly so, they make organising your backpack so easy as 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 and prices usually go from €12 – €40 for various kinds.

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

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.

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

Goes without saying really to pack the essentials and not end up like Kell from Kenan and Kell in the episode where they climb the sears tower. 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 it for but a good tip (that I released 2 months into the trip if I am honest) was to leave that bag as part of your backpack set up and buy a 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 as well. I used 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 bag to keep separate to 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 and got some really good footage along the way of my trip which I’m planning to edit and start up a YouTube channel, mainly for somewhere to store the edited videos. I would advise to bring some good camera gear, at least a go pro or a good camera as this will probably be a trip of a lifetime and you should get as many memories as you can and take as many pictures/ videos as you can.

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

Tip 5 – Test Pack

If I am honest here also, I was just too excited for this trip and decided to try a test pack a week prior to departure and I was extremely happy I did as a quarter of the stuff I was planning to bring was still in 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 runners) and a rock-climbing harness, among other things. Absolute madness but I learned quickly what needed to be shed and on my third test pack and some Tetris manoeuvres 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