Best Backpacking Gear List for Women Travelers
Hunting for the best backpacking gear list? You want to travel light, have the best travelling essentials for backpackers and ensure you’re safe and prepared right? No sweat. We’ve got this. I’ve tried many products, packed totally unnecessary stuff and therefore honed and refined my ultimate packing list for women over the last 8 years, so you get it right first time.
It’s time to grab your lightweight backpack, passport and venture! Read my advice, print your free checklist, and choose what is best for you. Let’s go!
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Travelling essentials for backpackers
Passport and visas
Unless you’re travelling entirely within your own country, you won’t get very far without your passport and any relevant visas. Don’t forget them.
You’re going to need something to carry all your backpacking gear in. But which one do you choose?! I always recommend travelling as light as possible and taking the bare minimum. It’s less weight for you to haul around and you can often save money flying with just a carry-on.
My must have backpack is less than 40 litres in size. It is of course however, entirely up to you what size you take. If you’re on a budget, Cabin Zero have awesome backpacks. If you need something with more stability, pockets and strength, the Deuter Futura Vario is perfect!
Packing cubes are ideal for organising your stuff, especially if you opt for a top-loading backpack.
Grid It Organiser
A Grid It Organiser is a ton of fun and incredibly useful for keeping all of those gadgets, gizmos and wires in some sort of organisation (because oh my they can get in a muddle can’t they!).
Ziplock bags are also perfect for getting some organization in your life when on the road. You can keep snacks, cables, accessories, and so on inside.
Keep your stuff safe! I always have a luggage lock on my main backpack and day backpack.
Keep your clean and dirty clothes apart to look and feel fresh on your adventures with this World Map laundry bag.
Pro Tip: Bulldog clips
Bulldog Clips keep small bags closed which means you’ll have fresh snacks and goodies. They can be used to hang up laundry. You can also organise papers with ease. Bulldog clips can make terrific separators for wires and necklaces. They’re so small, lightweight, and versatile! Pack a couple and you’ll find out why I believe they’re a must have for any backpacker!
Essential travel outdoor clothing
The clothes you take on your backpacking trip will depend a lot on your destination, the time of year, and your personal style. While you’ll likely want to tailor this list to meet your own preferences, here’s what I recommend having in your backpack.
I recommend opting for breathable fabric which is going to fight that sweat and keep you happy! ExOfficio have awesome underwear and I like to pack 3 pairs in my backpack.
Even if you’re a chick who prefers to go braless, having at least a couple of bras is recommended. Stability when climbing, hiking or exercising certainly helps!
When you’re wearing your sneakers, it’s cold, you’re hiking or you need extra padding for walking around on tiled hotel floors, you need some good socks.
Ideal for flights and long journeys, compression socks are a good investment! Gotta keep your feet and legs in good condition ladies.
Hostel dorms aren’t usually the best places for sleeping in your birthday suit! And, do you really want to be fumbling around, bleary eyed, for something to throw on for a visit to a shared bathroom in the middle of the night? Make sure you have clothes purely for sleepwear.
Best backpacking clothes for a hot climate
While shorts, tops, and dresses will probably be your main wardrobe when visiting a hot destination, don’t forget to include a few extra items too.
Pants / Trousers
At least one pair of light, breathable pants are recommended for exploring locations in hot climates and visiting culturally sensitive locations.
Leggings roll up super small and add extra warmth and cover when needed. I use them for hiking and for wearing under dresses and long shirts when I’m in culturally sensitive locations.
For nights out on the town or that extra special occasion, it really helps to have a pretty dress to wear if that’s your thing! I love looking on Shopstyle for the latest fashions and cutest items.
Long Sleeved Shirt
For sun protection, extra warmth on chilly mornings, bug protection, safety when riding a motorcycle, a cover for visits to religious sites and conservative areas: a long-sleeved shirt comes in useful for so many settings!
Lightweight Sweater, Cardigan or Jacket
There will be a time when you feel a bit cold. Air-conditioned buses and restaurants are usually where I whip my sweater or cardigan out.
Because summer showers can really put a dampener on things if you don’t have your raincoat! Especially if you’re riding motorbikes like I love to do.
Cap or Hat
Or just opt for a scarf to wrap around your head if that’s more your thing.
My adventure gloves are technically for weightlifting but I travel with them for extra grip when climbing, hiking, motorbiking, and being a bad ass on adventure activities.
Take clothes that can easily be mixed and matched to create several outfits from a few key pieces. Choosing a colour scheme for a trip can be a great way to maximize your outfits.
Swimming Costume / Bikini
If you’ll be spending a lot of time on the beach or at the pool, take at least two swimming outfits so that you can wear one while the other is drying. I’m personally in love with the retro Cocoship brand.
Ideal as a beach cover up and to lie on the sand instead of using a towel or sun lounger. A sarong scarf can also be used to cover your shoulders in the glaring sun and wrapped around your head as a turban or bandana for added protection against the sun.
Avoid sharp rocks, glass, and other nasties while protecting your feet in the ocean. I have a weird fear of crabs grabbing my toes, so my water shoes are a must.
Best backpacking clothes for a cold climate
Keep the cold at bay with a good quality coat or thick jacket, hat, scarf, and gloves. In addition to your pants, leggings, sweaters, tops and waterproof jacket for a comfortable trip to a colder destination, there’s one thing you need that you may forget to pack; shorts! They’re perfect for chilling out in super-heated hostels and visitng indoor pools.
Plan to dress in layers!
Sneakers / Trainers
If space is limited, sneakers will make do for the days you’re hiking. I’m personally in love with my pair of Vans.
I’ve recently started trying the KEEN Terradora Mid Waterproof Hiking Boots and I absolutely love them! One of the things I hate about new hiking boots is that I have to wear them in, but these beauties feel like you’re wearing slippers from the start! Check prices here.
The perfect pair of flip flops can be used to shower in communal bathrooms (nobody wants to pick up a foot fungus!), stroll along the beach, wander around town, and hit the local bars.
Depending on the climate and destination, pack sandals, ankle boots, and pumps as required.
Although I often leave the heels as home, kitten heels can be great for ladies who can’t bear to be without their fancy footwear. The heel is small enough to wear the shoes for roaming around cities and exploring local sites, yet still cute enough to feel dressy in a club or fancy restaurant.
Essential Travel Accessories
A thin but massive scarf or a sarong serves a multitude of uses. Wear it on a beach, use it as a blanket, sit on it, dry yourself off, cover dodgy bed mattresses, protect your shoulders in the sun, cover up in religious sites or when visiting more modest local communities. It’s the perfect item. Do not leave home without it!
This is a multifunctional item that I love when travelling. With a Buff you can cover messy hair, protect your face, wear it as a bracelet to hide things in it or cover your neck to protect yourself from the sun.
Opt for sunnies that are tough and durable and also offer protection against the sun’s glare.
A day bag is essential because you don’t want to have to empty your main bag for days out and about. Depending on what country I’m in, I’ll opt for a certain type of bag. If the safety level is high, I’ll just take a canvas bag but sometimes I prefer to opt for a bag which goes over my head and crosses my body. Sometimes an anti-theft backpack is needed.
A dry bag is not only essential for beach days and water activities, but can also protect your essentials if your bag gets wet in the rain.
Don’t be a target for thieves. Wear a money belt under your clothes.
Phone batteries can die and you don’t want to miss flights, pick-up times, and exciting Tinder dates! I’ve lately found some sites don’t even allow electronics in! I personally love my Swatch watch.
I’m a big fan of looking colourful and creative. Some key accessories can really add another level to your photographs and jazz up outfits. I’m all about the bracelets and earrings personally. I pick them up from local artisans on my travels.
Inflatable Neck Pillow
Simply blow the neck pillow up for a better rest on planes, trains, and buses.
An eye mask can make dropping off heaps easier on transportation and in rooms without thick curtains.
Sleep better on transportation and in dorm rooms with ear plugs. Just make sure you don’t sleep through your alarm!
Sleeping Bag Liner
If you’re sleeping in hostels a lot, you may like to get a sleeping bag liner, especially for countries like India. Not all hostels have the same standards: feel more comfortable sleeping in your own superlight cover!
You can ditch the ear plugs if you travel with noise cancelling headphones.
Electronics and Accessories
Capture all those priceless moments forever. You may find that the camera on your smartphone is sufficient. I love taking photos with my Samsung Galaxy S7.
Or, why not go retro and have instant memories with a Polaroid Instax camera? Don’t forget the case and film to go with it!
Especially when traveling solo, a selfie stick can be so useful! I use it with my action camera and smartphone.
Perfect for solo female backpackers who relish adrenaline activities, I’ve been experimenting with both the AEE S70 and GoPro. They’re both awesome: the AEE will be good enough for you if you’re on a budget!
There will come a point when you need more space on your memory card. Unfortunately, you could also lose all your photos and information if your devices are lost, damaged, or stolen. Pack an external hard drive, USB flash drive, and spare SD cards. A USB card reader is cool for photography buffs.
Unless you need to work when on the road or fulfil your travel blogger duties like me, you can probably get by without a laptop. I, however, always take mine. I use my Dell XPS 13 as it’s so lightweight and thin. Don’t forget your laptop case to protect it against all the travel bumps it will go through!
I love my Kindle Fire! It’s perfect having all of my Lonely Planet guidebooks in one place and my other favourite storybooks. I also watch movies on it when I’m travelling on the bus and play games when I need some relaxation time. Don’t forget to get a case for it!
Chargers and Batteries
Hauling your electronics around is pointless if you can’t use them! A power bank is a great investment. I go all out with my RavPower charger which is pretty much a brick, but you may prefer something smaller.
A multi-country adapter is recommended for long-term backpackers.
A wind up torch can be a lifesaver when camping, walking home in the dark along a potholed road, exploring caves, and making late-night toilet trips. Early morning departure from a dorm room? Be kind to your fellow hostel mates and use your torch instead of the main light.
Pocket 24/7 Wi-Fi
Working on the road or want extra safety whilst travelling? Get internet access almost everywhere around the clock with Skyroam! I pack it every time I travel. It has really helped me out – especially when in remote areas or when the hostel WiFi isn’t working. Use code TEACAKETRAVELS for 10% off.
A small multi-plug extension strip is ideal for rooms with limited plug sockets. Some properties do ban their use, however, for safety reasons, so do check that the electricity supply can handle it before plugging it in.
Health and Beauty
Although some people advocate leaving a towel out of their backpacking gear, I still prefer to have a small towel that dries quickly. It’s thin and easy to fit into my backpack.
Deodorant, Toothbrush and Toothpaste
Don’t be stinky! :)
I’m crazy in love with Lush products. One of my favourites is their solid shampoo. It saves a ton of space and weight in your backpack, makes your hair smell lovely and lasts a long time!
Soap / Shower Gel
Be squeaky clean with a good bar of soap. There’s a good chance you’ll pick some up if you’re staying in a hotel but in hostels you’ll need your own. I recommend Lush products as they’re just so awesome.
If you prefer to stay au naturel when it comes to shaving, skip this item. If, on the other hand, shaving is very much part of your life, a lady shaver beats using a blunt disposable razor any day.
Don’t neglect your skin. Sun, sea, sand, wind, cold, air pollution, and air-conditioning are just a few things that can play havoc with your skin when travelling. I suffer from acne from time to time so I’m a big fan of Lush’s charcoal face soap, their tea tree toner and light moisturiser.
Hanging Toiletry Bag
Having a hanging toiletry bag makes trips to communal showers so much easier.
I don’t usually wear a ton of makeup while backpacking, but I like a little something. I’m in love with Barry M’s Magic Lipstick and enjoy wearing some blusher, waterproof mascara and using Benefit’s eyebrow liquid.
Please be careful when traveling when it comes to mosquitos. Dengue Fever and Malaria suck and I personally choose not to take malaria pills. Make sure you cover yourself in mosquito repellent. I go for the hard stuff, i.e. Deet.
I got sunburnt so bad in Aruba and you can really see it in the photographs. Please be careful in the sun and wear a minimum of factor 30.
Antibacterial Hand Gel
To avoid getting food poisoning and sick, I always carry antibacterial hand gel. It has been essential for me in India and Bangladesh particularly.
Don’t leave without tiger balm. It’s my magical remedy: perfect for mosquito bites, muscle pain, clearing your sinuses, masking bad smells, rubbing on your temples for headache relief and sunburn.
Also make sure you pack tissues in your bag for toilet stops! Many places in Asia don’t supply toilet paper and I’d hate for you to be caught out :)
Other nifty tools
A Leatherman multi-tool is useful in so many settings, though generally cannot be carried in carry-on luggage if you’re flying unfortunately.
There’s nothing quite like keeping a travel journal on your adventures. It will help you to reflect on your experiences, remember what you’ve done and give you something to treasure once you return. Here’s some travel journals to tickle your fancy.
Small tears and rips, broken mosquito nets, and loose buttons can be repaired in a jiffy if you have a needle and thread in your sewing kit. If you’re in a hotel, you might be lucky to pick a kit up there.
Backpack Camping Gear
You’ll need a larger backpack if you’re taking a camping adventure; that extra camping gear needs to fit somewhere! Here’s my backpack camping essentials.
Sleeping under the stars can get old really quickly. Do your research when it comes to the best tent for you; depending on the conditions, many basic backpacking tents, may not cut it compared to heavy-duty winter camping tents. I recommend the ALPS mountaineering tent as a great starting point. It comes in different sizes depending on how many people you want to accommodate.
Finding a sleeping bag that is going to be lightweight, inexpensive, a good fit for your backpack and super comfortable can be tough. Women sleep cooler than men do too, so to fit a chica’s needs, you’ll need more insulation in your upper half and feet. For an excellent all-rounder, the Hyke & Byke Quandary is an excellent 3 season backpacking choice.
Weighing only 18 ounces, with just a couple of breaths to get it fully inflated, I’m a big fan of the Klymit Sleeping Pad.
Collapsible Cup and Travel Cutlery
Chopsticks can be a great alternative to travel cutlery. Even if not camping, you can grab pretty much anything from markets and food stalls without wondering how it’s going to make it into your mouth. Try various specialties and enjoy a great diversity of cheap and filling backpacking food!
Camping Stove and Camping Cookware
Essential if you’re heading to the middle of nowhere and will need to feed yourself for more than a couple of days. The Ohuhu camping stove will do the job! Don’t forget your matches / lighter to get it going.
Carabiners are really useful and can be clipped to the outside of your backpack. I use them to attach my sleeping bag and water bottle and hang up laundry.
Cable ties are perfect for motorbiking adventures!
While hardcore camping connoisseurs may consider including outdoor camping showers, camping coolers, a camping oven, a camping bed, a camping toilet, and other specialist camping equipment, regular backpackers will almost certainly not need such items on their backpacking checklist.
Hiking Backpacking Gear
If hiking is the main activity on your trip, you might want to purchase a specialist hiking backpack. The Deuter backpacks I have recommended above will do an excellent job. I hike with mine a lot.
As with hiking shoes and other hiking equipment, trekking poles aren’t always needed. You can hike without them, especially if you’re planning on shorter trips on fairly easy terrain. Keen hikers may feel lost however, without their trusted poles. I depend on them a lot when walking down mountains. Look for light-weight collapsible poles.
Keep blood suckers away during rainy periods in jungles with these leech ties.
Motorcycling on your adventure
I love to hire mopeds and discover countries on them. I travelled Vietnam for 3 months, bottom to top, on one of them! Long pants and long-sleeved shirts minimise the risk of cuts and scrapes if you take a tumble. Closed shoes are also highly recommended, as are gloves. Always, always, ALWAYS make sure you wear a safety helmet.
Skiing Travel Gear
Warm, insulated clothes are essential for days on the slopes. Of, course, you’ll also need hats, gloves, and scarves, too. The sun’s glare can surprise first-time skiers; pack your sunglasses and sun screen. Don’t forget about all the fun après ski activities too, and include a couple of cute outfits!
Unless you’re planning on extended skiing adventures, it’s probably a lot easier to rent your skiing gear when in your destination. Skiing enthusiasts may, however, wish to take their own gear. Just be prepared for the hassle of transporting it!
Now you have the ultimate backpacking gear list!
And that concludes my ultimate backpacking gear list! Pick and choose what you need and you’re totally set! Pack well and have a terrific adventure.
Are there any other essentials that you absolutely cannot live without when backpacking around the globe?
Any top tips or secret weapons that you’d like to share? Comment below!
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