What to bring on a six-month backpacking trip?

What to bring on a six-month backpacking trip?

The idea of packing six months of your life into a backpack can cause some people to go into a panic. Our rule of thumb when traveling long-term is to travel as light as possible. Trust us when we say that you won’t need even half the things in your closet while you’re traveling. When you’re hiking up the hostel stairs with your backpack strapped to your back after a long day of traveling, you’re not going to wish you had more stuff with you.


You might be thinking, “what in the world do I bring on a six month trip?” Well, we’re here to help. You likely already know how many clothes to bring and what kind of electronics, but we’re here to tell you about the 10 things you probably won’t think of packing until it’s too late.


1. A backup or emergency credit card

 Almost every single backpacker we have come into contact with has had money problems while on their journey. It’s pretty much a rite of passage to have money issues at some point when you’re traveling. The most common stories are ATM’s eating debit cards, stolen purses or wallets, or forgetting to take your credit/debit card after withdrawing money at an ATM.

It takes between 2-3 weeks, and sometimes longer depending on your location, to have your bank mail you a new card. That can affect your whole trip because it’s likely you won’t be staying in one place for weeks on end, so what address do you have the company mail your new card to? You’ll also likely run out of cash well before your new card arrives.

Having a backup credit card eliminates this worry, as long as you make sure to keep it separate from your primary debit/credit card. Make sure that if you’re going out, leave one card in your locked hostel locker in case you lose your bag while you’re out exploring. If you do happen to lose one card, simply cancel it and use your emergency card until your new one can be mailed to you safely. The possibility of losing a credit card is a situation that most people don’t think about prior to traveling, but it’s so common that having a backup is an absolute necessity.


2. Combination locks

Bring a few of these. It’s likely that you’ll be staying in a hostel that doesn’t provide locks, so to keep your valuables safe, you’ll want to have a combination lock. Try to avoid bringing a lock with a key, because some of these locks can be cheap and can be opened even without the key. It’s a lot safer having a combination lock. You’ll also want to use one of these on your suitcase or backpack. You probably won’t be able to fit your whole travel bag inside on a hostel locker, so you’ll want to lock it up just to be safe. Hostels are generally safe and theft-free, but sometimes it’s better not to take any chances.


3. Portable battery pack charger

Everyone has been in a situation where their phone is on 1% battery and they are desperate for a charger. You don’t want to have a once-in-a-lifetime photo op in front of you when your phone dies without a single photo being taken. Battery packs are small, portable, lightweight, and relatively inexpensive, so it’s a useful thing to purchase for your travels. Most battery packs have enough power to fully charge your phone 2-3 times without having to re-charge the battery pack, which is convenient for long flights or bus trips.

You can either buy a USB compatible battery pack that will charge your phone, or a power bank that will charge larger electronics like laptops. The chargers for just a phone or USB device cost between $10-30, while the laptop battery packs can cost up to $100. Amazon.com has a wide variety of battery pack options, but you can also find these in most electronic stores.


4. A fast-drying microfiber towel

It may seem crazy but some hostels don’t offer towels for the shower, so it’s important to pack your own in case this happens. Towels can take up a huge amount of room in your backpack, and if you’re moving from hostel to hostel relatively quick, you don’t want to shove a wet towel in your bag with your dry clothes.

Microfiber towels can be purchased for around $15 either online or in most airport stores, and are extremely convenient for traveling. These towels are made from absorbent material, so they are small, lightweight, and quick-drying. Rather than taking hours for a regular towel to dry, a microfiber towel can dry completely in as little as 20 minutes, so it’s a great travel item to have with you on your journey.


5. Earplugs 

This is another necessity that you may not even think about until it’s too late. You never know what kind of people will be in your hostel dorm room. You might get quiet sleepers, but you also might have someone on the bunk bed below you who snores like a bear in hibernation. You just have to be prepared, because it’s almost a certainty that you will be woken up by an inconsiderate noisy roommate and wish you had earplugs to block out the sound.

6. A photocopy of your travel documents

In the unlikely event that your passport or other important travel documents are lost or stolen, it’s important you have a photocopy of them with you. Before you leave for your trip, you should bring a printed photocopy with you in your travel bag, and also take a photo of each document and email the pictures to yourself for any future needs.

In order to get your passport replaced, it takes significantly less time if you already have a copy of it. Without this copy, you would have to go through a longer process to prove that you are who you say you are. If you do happen to lose your passport, you can simply take your photocopy to the closest embassy and they can reissue your passport. You also should keep photocopies of other important items like credit cards, medical or travel insurance cards, driver’s license, and visas.


7. Reliable shoes

It’s worth spending a little extra money to buy a pair of good quality shoes that will be comfortable for your whole trip. We would suggest bringing one pair of sneakers, one pair of flip flops, and one pair of comfortable walking shoes. Any more shoes than that, and you will be over-packing. While traveling, you will, without a doubt, be doing a lot of walking. On an average day of sightseeing, you may walk up to 10 miles, so it’s important to have a pair of comfortable shoes. The last thing you need is blistered feet on your first day of sightseeing. If you buy new shoes, break them in prior to your trip. Wear them for about two months before you leave in order to make sure they’re comfortable and they won’t kill your feet with a long day of walking.


8. Travel adaptors

Each country has a different outlet and voltage, so it’s important to know what kind of adapter or converter you will need for your time abroad. The United States has either a two-prong or three-prong outlet and a 120 AC voltage. If you try to plug your electronics into another country’s outlet, however, you may destroy your device if they have a higher voltage. This is why you need an adapter and voltage converter. An adapter is the device that changes the plug that goes into the wall. It does not convert the electricity, so if your destination has a different voltage than your device, then you’ll need a converter also.

Apple products are designed with voltage to work worldwide, so if you have an iPhone, Macbook, or any other Apple product, all you will need is an adapter to plug it into the wall. A great adapter to bring on your journey is a universal travel adapter, which contains outlet types for all countries around the world. This means that instead of purchasing multiple different adapters for your trips, you can get one that will work wherever you are around the world. These can cost as little as $5 if you purchase off of Amazon, and it’s one of the biggest essentials for traveling.

9. External hard drive

If you’re traveling for six months, you will likely be taking A LOT of photos and videos. Even if you bring your laptop and upload your photos to your PC, you will want to make sure you have a backup in case something were to happen to your laptop or camera. External hard drives can store any amount of data, ranging from 8 Gigabytes to over 4 Terabytes of data, depending on how much money you want to spend and how many items you need to store on it.

For long-term traveling, having one of these is essential because you can store all your photos, videos, movies, and travel documents on it without worrying about running out of space on your computer. A 1TB hard drive would be more than enough storage for six months of travel photos and videos, and costs between $50-$80 depending on the brand.


10. First aid kit

Every backpacker should be prepared with their own first aid kit, especially if you’ll be gone for six months. Things can go wrong at any point in your trip, so it’s important that you’re prepared for any minor sickness or injury that may occur. Odds are you will never have to open it, but it will give you peace of mind knowing that you have it if needed. A well-stocked first aid kit includes:

  • Bandaids, and plenty of them

  • Gauze

  • Betadine

  • Alcohol

  • Bandage wrap

  • Painkillers

  • Various medications for: allergies, cold/flu, travelers diarrhea, motion sickness

  • Hydrocortisone cream for insect bites

  • Tweezers and scissors


It’s also important to check with the CDC website (cdc.gov) to see if Malaria is present in the area you’re traveling to. If it is a threat, you will need to get anti-Malaria pills from your doctor and add those to your first aid kit. This list is for general sickness and small injuries, but if you do get seriously injured while traveling, don’t hesitate to go to the nearest hospital.


Now that we’ve listed the 10 things you should bring on your trip, we also want to mention a few things not to bring with you. You can save a ton of space in your backpack by leaving out simple things.

Don’t bother bringing travel guidebook

You’ll get better advice from fellow backpackers or even online blogs, so leave the heavy travel books behind.

Leave jewelry and valuables behind

You will make yourself a bigger target for theft by wearing expensive-looking jewelry. You also will rarely need to wear anything fancy, so don’t bother packing flashy items.

Ditch the sleeping bag

Most hostels won’t allow you to use a sleeping bag in their dorms due to the possibility of bed bugs being spread from other hostels. It would also be the heaviest thing you pack, so by leaving the sleeping bag behind, you’re saving yourself a lot of extra weight.

Forget the extra toiletries

Big bottles of shampoo and conditioner will weigh your bag down. Stick to the travel-size bottles unless you’re staying in one place for a while.

Don’t pack more than one pair of jeans

Bring a single pair of jeans that you can wear with any outfit. Most jeans look the same anyways, so nobody will ever realize you’re re-wearing the same pair.


Our last piece of advice is not to pack anything you’re unsure of. Traveling light means that you can’t afford to bring unessential items, so if you’re questioning whether you’ll wear or use something enough, don’t pack it. While traveling you won’t think twice about those things you chose to leave behind, so only pack what you know you will use.