Backpack packing tips

I love travelling with a backpack for several reasons. For starters, it’s easier to travel with because it’s hands-free. Also, with a backpack you are limited in space, so you are obliged to pack as light and smart as possible.

Are you planning on travelling with a backpack in the (hopefully very near) future? I have some essential backpack packing tips for you to make packing (and travelling) easier and more efficient.

1) Get yourself a decent backpack

Before I’m jumping into my list of backpack packing tips, I’ll start with this one: get yourself a decent, high quality backpack. This doesn’t necessarily mean expensive though. It just needs to fit you and your itinerary.

If you are a flashpacker and care for some luxury items like hairdryers and such, you probably need to go a bit bigger in terms of size.

Are you the ultimate minimalist when it comes to packing, then you can go smaller. Are you doing a lot of hiking with your backpack, a pivoting hip belt might be extra convenient. This 75L Thule Guidepost (< click for review) has one, by the way. Are you just using it to get from point A to point B, this hip belt isn’t really necessary.

backpack packing tips
My 75L Thule backpack – Dead Sea, Jordan

As far as sizes go, I can tell you what my go-to backpacks are:

For warmer countries, a 55L(+10L) backpack will do. I travelled with it for 5 months, and for the most part I didn’t even use the extra 10L. Are you visiting colder countries, take a bigger one, for example a 75L one. It’s bigger and therefore more suitable for thicker clothes like sweaters and jackets.

(blurry) selfie time: with my daypack on the front and a 55+10L backpack on the back – Granada, Nicaragua

Got your backpack? Then here’s the rest of my backpack packing tips!

1) Use a mix of packing cubes and sachets

When you throw all of your clothes in a backpack, it’ll be a bit of a mess. And of course you always need that one item which is all the way at the bottom of your backpack. Argh. That’s why you should use packing cubes. You can just fill one packing cube with for example shirts, one with shorts, one with dresses etc. etc. Super easy and effective.

They are truly amazing, but packing cubes are quite form retaining. In a backpack you want to be able to squeeze some stuff in small spare areas, so the available space is used fully and effectively. That’s why I like using sachets in addition to (or instead of) packing cubes.

Fill one sachet with underwear, one with socks and for example one with short sleeved t-shirts. Make sure to write on the sachets what is in there (or use different colors), so it’s easy to grab what you need.

2) Roll your clothing instead of folding it

Probably a tip you’ve heard before, but it’s a very good one! Don’t fold your clothes, but roll your clothes. When you roll, you use less space. That also brings us to the next tip:

3) Use hair ties for your “clothing rolls”.

I found this out myself, and I’ve shared this tip with many friends who went backpacking as well. Buy a huge amount of hair ties (they are very cheap, for example at Primark). Around every ‘roll of clothing’, place one or two hair ties. It keeps the roll together, so when you are going through your stuff to find that one particular item, you won’t mess everything up. In addition to that: if you have long hair, at least you will never run out of hair ties while backpacking 😉

4) Travelling together? Divide your stuff

Are you travelling with a friend or partner? Put half your stuff in the other’s backpack, and vice versa. If one backpack gets lost, you at least both have some clean clothes to get through the first couple of days. Usually, if an airline loses luggage, it’ll be returned to you within a few days anyway.

This is not only a backpack packing tip. My boyfriend an I do this with our suitcases on regular vacation trips as well.

backpack packing tip: divide stuff if you travel together
Backpacking with the girls – Laguna de Apoyo, Nicaragua

5) Get yourself a flight bag

Yes, you will use it almost only on flights and yes, the rest of the time it’ll just take up space in your backpack. But for me it was worth it.

  • First: my 7 year old backpack still looks fab, even after many months of travelling.
  • Second: the straps won’t get caught in f.e. the luggage conveyor belt.
  • Third: my flight bag is neon yellow, so it’s really easy to recognize on that very same conveyor belt.
  • Four: when travelling in (night) busses, it’s an extra anti theft measure because they’ll have to get through two layers before they can reach anything.

In short: get yourself a flight bag. Preferably a bright colored one.

A very sturdy rain cover will work too. It’s not as effective as a flight bag, but it does help you with the first and third point mentioned above.

6) Create complete outfits when packing clothes

A ground rule when packing: take complete outfits. Just pair everything up and lay it on your bed or the floor. Remember: you’ll need more shirts than bottoms.

And for the backpacking ladies: one-pieces and dresses are aways a good idea because these are already complete outfits and they hardly take up any space.

Make sure to check the weather of the places you are visiting, and don’t forget to take local dresscode into account. Some countries are more conservative than others, like for example Jordan.

Any additional Backpack Packing Tips?

Feel free to drop them in the comments!

For warmer countries, a 55L(+10L) backpack will do. I travelled with it for 5 months, and for the most part I didn’t even use the extra 10L. Are you visiting colder countries, take a bigger one, for example a 75L one. It’s bigger and therefore more suitable for thicker clothes like sweaters and jackets.

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