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What to take when you go backpacking – the essentials

Written by Fiona

December 01 2017

Taking a gap year between school and university, or between university and employment (or at any other time, come to that) is just as popular as it has always been. If you or someone you know is planning to travel the world, this list of essential items should help you on your way.

Berghaus 60l rucksack


The whole point of backpacking is to live as simply and frugally as possible, with everything you need either in or on a backpack. Therefore, having the right kind of backpack is essential.

The first thing to consider is the size, and that will depend on how long you’re intending to travel for. For up to three months, 40 to 60 litres is recommended. Between three and six months and you should go for 60 litres. From six to 12 months, it’s best to have a 60-80 litre backpack.

It’s important to try the backpacks on to make sure they are comfortable and that you can adjust them. This is one of the few times when online shopping won’t really help you.


Travelling definitely requires paperwork, so you need to remember to take it with you and keep it safe at all times. Having a plastic, sealable wallet for your passport, tickets, travel insurance and anything else that might come in handy is a great idea. Keeping these documents in their own pocket in your backpack – a pocket that you can easily get to – is another.

Travel insurance must be taken out, even if it seems confusing; you never know what’s going to happen when you’re away from home. Thankfully, Cornmarket’s travel insurance options are easy to understand and help you identify the right insurance for you.

Mosquito net is essential for many countries.

Mosquito repellent and mosquito net

If you’re going somewhere where the mosquitoes could bite, have a good mosquito repellent with you could save you a lot of itching and a lot of discomfort. If you go get bitten, you might always want to pack some soothing bite relief.

It’s best to try to stay away from the bugs where you can though, as they do carry some truly nasty disease such as malaria. If you choose to sleep outdoors at any point (or if you’re in a budget hotel and you think it might be useful) a mosquito net can save you a lot of problems.

Useful money belt for keeping cash safe.

Money belt

This is not something you need – or want – to wear all day every day, but having an extra place to store your important belongings and your cash could come in useful. Firstly, it means that when you’re sight-seeing you can leave your backpack in your hotel room instead of lugging it around.

Secondly, if you’re on a train or a bus and you aren’t able to keep a full eye on your backpack, at least you can keep the smaller essentials with you.

Plug adapter

If you’re travelling to a variety of different countries, a universal plug adapter will be invaluable. It means that no matter where you are you’ll be able to plug your phone in to charge, for example. On the subject of phones, a power bank is another useful item to have with you, day to day.

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