Essential Backpacking Gear: The Stuff They Forgot to Tell You About

I know, I know. You’ve read a million articles on the essential gear to bring with you backpacking. So I’ll spare you the list of things like head lamps, a tent, hiking boots, maybe you even want to throw a compass in there for good measure. But you know all of this. So what about the little things we forget? Those comfort items, or things that just add a little bit of a back home feeling while wandering the world – they’re needed too. If I could count the number of Australians missing their Vegemite or English craving their Marmite, well, it would take quite some time to count. Clearly there are some essentials the travel guides aren’t telling us. So here’s my list of the other essential items for backpacking.

Hot Sauce, Salt, and Pepper


How painful the feeling to stumble upon a new land with foods devoid of taste. Well, I should correct myself here; most places I’ve visited have amazing cuisine I love to try. That being said, us backpackers are often broke as can be, creating makeshift meals with what little we can afford. We can’t exactly carry a lot of food with us, so we have to buy what we can. That leaves no room for big things, and food – and life (because life is food) – becomes pretty bland. Grab your favourite hot sauce, some salt and pepper (and if you’re truly that broke, snag some packets from the local café, they won’t mind), and you’ve got yourself a way more exciting meal.

Picnic Blanket

This is my secret weapon. I was freezing cold sleeping in an airport in the States one day, and just could not sleep. So I went searching and managed to find one open store, and they had blankets. I purchased one for myself, and one for my friend (who remained asleep despite me leaving, and then proceeding to get lost trying to find her sleeping body again). I thought it would be something I’d just get rid of as soon as possible, as who needs something extra that’s bulky? Well, I was so, so wrong. For one, I could strap it to the outside of my pack without a problem. And it has been used for everything. My “quick dry” towel left something to be desired: picnic blanket to the rescue. Too much sun in my face while lazing the day away in a hammock? Picnic blanket pinned up to block the sun. It can also be used, you know, for picnics. Lately I’ve been sedentary, and my cats tore a hole in the box spring of my bed, which they proceeded to enter. Blocked off with – you guessed it – my picnic blanket.  

Extra Charging Cords

Have you ever been in the middle of absolutely nowhere and had your charger cord break? Oh my god, if I could count the times! Bring extras. Bring so, so many extras. You’ll also be the best friend of anyone in your hostel whose charger cord has broken!

Headphones – And Many of Them

On that note, don’t forget extra headphones as well. Oh the horror of a long bus ride with only one functioning ear bud! The sadness of being alone without music to fit the mood. Don’t let it happen to you in the middle of nowhere! And, again, you’ll be best friends with that poor sucker on the bus who has no headphones (or had them robbed along with their iPhone, as happened to me in the Amazon at one point).

Stuffed Animal

Maybe this one is just for me, but I loved having a little stuffed animal to travel with. For one, you can take pictures of it around the world, and that’s pretty neat. But I got lonely a lot – I did travel constantly as a total nomad for five years straight, alone. Sometimes it’s nice to have something to curl up with and cuddle.

 Think I’ve missed an essential you haven’t read about in every other backpacking article? Throw it in the comments!

Guest Post by Dani from Like Riding a Bicycle  

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