10 Things Every Backpacker Needs To Travel The World

After leaving New Zealand last year and traveling around non-stop for close to 6 months – constantly repacking and reorganizing my belongings – I’ve come up with an essential packing list, of things that you might not necessarily think to take with you on your OE – an Overlooked OE Packing List, if you will.
Now, this means my list does not cover regular items such as underwear, clothes, toothpaste etc – it’s my hope that as well as a fine taste in literature, readers of this article have the initiative to pack these items themselves.

1. Your Flag

I’ll be honest, I love the way that some people in Europe look at me when I say I’m from New Zealand. It’s the same way I imagine I’d look at someone if they told me they found a horcrux – intrigued, fascinated and a little unsure of exactly what they’re talking about. (No, we don’t have kangaroos) I think it’s made me even more proud to be a New Zealander – so much so that I love to wave the flag around (when the time is right, not just generally everyday, that would be weird).

Flags are great to take to festivals, on group tours and odd jobs you find yourself working at. The Spanish kids I’m teaching at now were all very impressed by my flag – although they too confused it with the Australian flag (seriously NZ, time for a spruce up?).

2. A Reusable Tote Bag

I think most people think to take a plastic bag for their shoes or dirty washing etc. This is great. I also recommend taking a reusable tote bag. I used mine all the time, carrying groceries, washing, picnics, spare clothes etc. They take up hardly any space and don’t break as easily as plastic ones.

3. Transportation Comforters – travel pillow, ear plugs, eye mask

Long-haul travel can be a bitch. Best to just try get comfortable and sleep.
Take ALL of these.

They will also be necessary in hostels when the only bed left for you is beside Snorlax the snorosaurus.

4. A Basic Costume

At least once in your travels you’ll probably end up at a costume party – and if you’re going on ANY type of tour then you’ll probably end up at more than one. In preparation for this I advise taking some costume basics away with you. Nothing big and elaborate, (no angel wings or Miley Cyrus foam fingers) just something that you can easily adapt to a costume if need be. It’s nice not to have to rush around looking for a costume and spending money on something just for one night.

With a striped t-shirt, gold chain and bra-padding cleverly transformed into an eye-patch, I found myself dressed up as a pirate 3 times last year!

5. A Portable Mirror

I’m not that vain, but you really should take one. Just a small one, about the size of your hand and can fit your entire face. They’re just handy.

6. A USB Stick

You meet people when you travel, and some people just have cool stuff – movies, music, games, (notes and lesson plans for teaching English – yeah sure, I can try this teacher thing!). Grab it while you can, you never know when it might come in handy!

Also save photos regularly, as things get stolen (yup, still mourning over my iPhone).

7. Duct tape

I know it sounds odd, but a friend recommended me take this when I left home last year, and although I was reluctant at first, now I totally agree. I think just half a roll is fine (as they’re usually pretty big) but it comes in handy with all sorts of things… makeshift washing lines in hostels, repairing holes/handles in luggage, costumes, and just generally taping shit in places that you want it taped. I can’t think of anymore examples, but I know I used lots, especially when I least expected it!

8. Compact Umbrella

Don’t overlook this! It only takes up a little bit of space and saves you looking like a drowned rat carrying your bags from airport to hostel or train station to bus station etc. Getting wet really dampens your spirits too. (that’s for you dad!)

9. Wine Bottle Opener (Corkscrew)

It’s really easy to find a bottle opener for beer (or at least someone who can do it with their teeth – animal), but finding a corkscrew for wine bottles (screw-tops are really hard to find outside New Zealand and Australia) is a challenge that I’ve faced far too many times before, to not learn from it – admittedly it did take me a while. Now I always carry a corkscrew in my check-in luggage. (note, NOT hand luggage – stop and think about these things).

10. Extra things

I would also recommend taking extras of the following items as you are bound to lose at least one of them or get them stolen (possibly by another traveller with a I’m-a-poor-and-thifty-backpacker mentality… no you’re not, you’re a thief):

  • Sunglasses
  • Locks
  • Adaptors
  • Hair brush

Oh and here’s some super extra tips just for girls!

YES take a hairdryer and straightener if you usually use them daily. You will want them when you’re away, and really – they don’t take up that much space, especially if you have a travel-dryer.
Forget fashion, pack clothes that just go well with each other and the tops and bottoms can all be worn in different combinations. Try not to pack too many silk, rayon or nylon things as they’ll just get wrinkly and then you will need to find an iron… argh.

Don’t forget fashion completely – take both a night and day-sized handbags. Please don’t just use your backpack.

Oh and heels… I think if you often wear heels then take some – maybe 1 pair. But I took a pair of wedges around Europe with me last year and only wore them a handful of times. Now that I’m settled (and have an actual wardrobe) of course I wear heels, but while I was actually travelling, they weren’t THAT necessary.

So that’s the list – anything to add?Thought Catalog Logo Mark

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