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!
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.
Money and Cards
Save money before you travel then make sure that you have different ways to access cash in an emergency.
Check out which bank accounts and credit cards give the best rates and charge the lowest fees for overseas use too. Don’t forget to compare terms for ATM withdrawals and card purchases. Having local currency in small denominations can be a blessing when you’re paying for transportation, small snacks and leaving tips too.
Carrying a crisp, clean 100 dollar bill in a safe place can be an excellent ultimate emergency backup plan.
There are few places in the world where you won’t be able to exchange it for local currency. It should be enough to pay for a couple of night’s accommodation and feed you whilst you work out any problems.
Electronic copies of travel documents
Make sure that you have electronic copies of all your important documents in addition to paper copies and the originals. I personally love to use Evernote so I can access my travel documents on my phone, tablet and laptop. I also email these documents to myself and keep a backup on Google Drive.
Don’t forget to backup images regularly too to prevent losing all your photographic memories. Dropbox or Google Drive is great for this.
It’s not worth the risk of travelling without comprehensive insurance. As well as covering personal injuries and sickness, most insurance policies can be a lifesaver in the event of theft or loss of items, delayed flights, and other unforeseen mishaps.
I love, trust and highly recommend World Nomads for your travel insurance. They helped me immensely when I ended up in hospital in Russia after the Mongol Rally. Get a quote with World Nomads.
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 backpacks generally never go over 45 litres. It is of course however, entirely up to you what size you take.
Depending on whether I’m hiking or going on a trip which is more city, I decide between two backpacks. For an excellent all-round backpack I highly recommend investing in a Peak Design Backpack. This backpack is seriously built to last and has handles and hidden features in all the right places.
If you’re hiking, you simply just have to go with Osprey. I love their hiking backpacks and they have models especially made for women too. I currently use the Osprey Kyte 36 Backpack.
Tracking my period, booking flights and converting currency; I love my travel apps.
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. I love Darn Tough socks for hiking.
Ideal for flights and long journeys, compression socks are a good investment! Gotta keep your feet and legs in good condition ladies. Check out these compression socks.
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. Check out these pants.
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 shopping 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. Make sure you get one.
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. There are some awesome styles on ShopStyle right now!
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 nipping my toes, so my water shoes are one of my favourite things to pack.
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 Vans and like to indulge in a pair. Here’s some of the most recent funky designs!
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 sunglasses 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 Swatch watches.
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.
BEST ACCOMMODATION DEALS
Sleep better on transportation and in dorm rooms with earplugs. 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 with a camera! I use 4 different devices and they all have their perks.
For quick and easy photos, with outstanding camera quality, I always use Huawei mobile phones for my travel photos. I use a Sony a6000 mirrorless camera for more up-close shots. For in-the-moment adventure videos and vlogs I am in love with my GoPro Hero 8 Black. Last but not least, have fun with a Instax camera for instant retro shots!
Keen photographers should pack a tripod for the best shots, especially if you’re travelling solo. I always get my best shots for Instagram by having a tripod.
My first choice is my Manfrotto Tripod.
If I’m really short on packing space, and you want something that can wrap around trees or lampposts, I recommend grabbing a Gorilla tripod.
Especially when traveling solo, a selfie stick can be so useful! I use one with my GoPro all the time and you can easily get one for your smartphone too.
Perfect for solo female backpackers who relish adrenaline activities, I’m totally in love with my GoPro Hero8 Black action camera. Not only does it take amazing photos; it’s the perfect camera for vlogging too.
A smartphone lets you keep in touch, make travel plans, check out maps and timetables, and use so many travel apps.
Plus, it can save your ass in an emergency! I love using Huawei P30 Lite.
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 too.
I recommend packing:
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 was using a Dell XPS but I have now switched to the Microsoft Surface Pro 7.
I love my Kindle Paperwhite.
Yes, I am one of those people who just loves to hold an actual book in my hands, but when it comes to travelling, a Kindle is just so goddamn good. I can 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 a power bank which is pretty much a brick and can charge everything for days whilst I’m out in the mountains, but you may prefer something smaller.
A multi-country travel adapter is highly recommended for long-term backpackers. I use mine all of the time.
A headlamp 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 Solis Hotspots. 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
Quick Dry Towel
Although some people advocate leaving a towel out of their backpacking gear, I still prefer to have a travel towel that dries quickly. It’s thin and easy to fit into my backpack.
Deodorant, Toothbrush and Toothpaste
Don’t be stinky! And if you really want to be eco-friendly, there are some great brands out there that sell everything in glass jars with planet-friendly ingredients.
I buy my products in glass jars, then use small travel pots to transfer them into. Saves space and is perfect for carry on when flying!
I’m crazy in love with Lush products. One of my favourites is their solid shampoo bars. 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 (again!) 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. It’s so much more eco-friendly too.
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 and have found the following products to be perfect for my morning and night time skin:
- St Ives Apricot Face Scrub
- Rose Water Toner
- Vitamin C Serum for the morning
- Neutrogena Pink Grapefruit Moisturiser
- Retinol Serum for the evening
- Burt’s Bees Moisturiser after I’ve applied Retinol
- Etude House Sunprise Sunscreen for Face
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 the following items:
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, also known as Deet.
I got sunburn 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 home 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.
Traveling on your period doesn’t have to be a hassle.
Tampons may not always be so easy to buy so take a small supply or do what I do and pack a way more eco-friendly Lily menstrual cup.
It can be reused, is environmentally friendly and takes up almost no space. Don’t knock it till you try it!
Along with my menstrual cup, I also pack period panties.
You simply wear them, bleed into them, then wash them ready to be used again. They’re awesome!
I’m a big believer in tracking your cycle naturally so you don’t have to alter your cycle medically, but I know a lot of you ladies aren’t keen on this.
There’s so many options out there: pick the contraception right for you and make sure you have a copy of your prescription too.
You can usually find quality condoms when travelling, but always have a few in your bag to be safe.
I had a lot of problems with my internal balance for a number of years but I have finally cracked it and not had any problems for over a year now. Here is how I do it…
I take the following vagina power mix:
I also use the following suppository after sex and when I need a boost.
These suppositories were an absolute saviour when I was all out of balance. Cannot recommend them enough:
I have no problem with self-love when you’re on the road solo.
Check out my best personal massagers.
Essential Oils and Coconut Oil
I have recently got into essential oils big time! My two favourites are lavender oil and tea tree oil.
I use them on my skin to manage my acne, heal scars, as natural disinfectants and for peaceful relaxing moments.
Safety and Security
Although all travellers should do their best to take care of their own personal safety when travelling, solo female backpackers can take a few extra steps to stay safe and secure.
Make sure to read: How to Travel Safely as a Woman.
Many hostels provide lockers, but you often need your own lock. I always carry two. One for my backpack and one for a hostel locker.
A backpack safe net adds extra protection to your gear and greater peace of mind. PacSafe have an excellent one.
For any sketchy encounters, it can pay to have a personal alarm on you.
Be alerted and startle intruders if anyone tries to come into your room uninvited with a doorstop alarm. They’re perfect for hostels, hotels and AirBNBs.
Super-cheap accommodations might not provide nets; get a good night’s sleep in the tropics and avoid becoming sick from mosquito bites.
A mosquito net can also be essential when camping.
Basic First Aid Kit
Sometimes mishaps do happen. Include plasters, blister pads, painkillers, antihistamines, anti-inflammatories, diarrhea pills, antiseptic wipes / gel / cream, bandages, gauze, tweezers, safety pins, surgical tape and scissors in your first aid kit.
If you’re heading to a particularly remote area or a destination that isn’t known for its sanitary conditions, or if you will be doing a lot of adventure activities, a sterile needle kit can bring peace of mind.
Water Filter Bottle
There’s many places in the world which don’t have safe drinking water. Having a water filter bottle allows you to fill up anywhere (hotel room taps, gas stations, rivers etc) and produce clean drinking water.
This is also a great way to be environmentally friendly and cut down on the plastic!
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.
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.
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 ALPS mountaineering tents as a great starting point. They come 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 woman’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
Remember to always pack a collapsible cup.
Travelling with your own cutlery is also a must. Minimise plastic and all those straws. Invest in your own travel cutlery set.
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 Canway camping stove does 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 to my backpack and hang up laundry.
Bungee Cords are perfect for motorbiking adventures! I use them to attach my backpack to the bike and keep everything secure.
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. This is my favourite:
I’ve been trying out the Keen Terradora Mid WP Hiking Boots lately and am completely in love with them. From the first wear, they feel like you’re wearing a pair of slippers. No need to ‘wear in’ these beauties and put yourself through painful blisters. They’re snug from the get go!
I’ve tried them out on beach, country and mountain trails and so far, absolutely 100% good.
Grab your comfy pair by checking prices here!
I depend on trekking poles a lot. They’re just ace for distributing your weight and getting you up to the top on 4 legs rather than your usual two. They’re also a godsend for getting down mountains too – which can be just as challenging as getting up to the top.
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!
Lots of divers like to use their own mask, so choose what fits and suits you. If you’re going snorkelling, you can also usually purchase or rent snorkels and masks for relatively small amounts in snorkelling hotspots. Have fun, you Little Mermaid you!
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?