Which Travel Gadgets Do You Really Need When Backpacking?

Backpacker with phone Australia

The first time I planned a round-the-world trip, I had no idea what travel accessories to pack. Despite asking friends that had done the same thing, endlessly searching Google, and reading numerous travel blogs, the pure volume of ‘helpful’ gadgets out there, promising to make my journey easier and more enjoyable, overwhelmed me.

In the end, I took the first flight of the trip laden down with a backpack that just about closed, containing way more travel gadgets than I would actually need. It didn’t take me long to realise this, and at my very first destination, New York, I binned a lot of them.

Five years on, and I still get a little buzz of excitement when I enter a store with a travel accessories section, or see the latest travel gadget pop up on my Facebook feed. Now though, I have a shrewder mind, and the excitement will soon be reigned in by consideration of whether this new gadget is something that will change my travels for the better, or lay dormant in the bottom of my bag as just one extra thing to carry.

For the record, here are some of the accessories I’ve invested in in the past, which ended their lives in a bin or as a donation to hostel cleaners…

Travel gadgets to leave at home
  • Universal sink plug – turns out I don’t have a beard to shave so have no need to actually fill a sink with water
  • Disposable batteries – no need to haul these around for the one item I carry that requires them, and batteries can be bought pretty much anywhere
  • Mini hair straighteners – because owning the rough backpacker look is a given in the community anyway
  • A compass – it’s hugely ironic given the name of this blog but I can’t actually use a compass, and these days we have phones
  • An actual physical Lonely Planet book – go digital, it’ll save your back some pain!
  • Portable door lock – which gets zero use when you spend most of your nights in a shared dormitory
  • Carabiners – one or two of these come in handy, but no ‘spares’ are required unless some serious hiking or camping may happen
  • Plug mains – most electronics these days charge by USB, so invest in one single plug adapter with multiple USB ports instead
  • Travel perfume – particularly problematic if you’re headed to countries with mosquitos, you’ll never want to apply this!

On the other hand, some of the travel gadgets I’ve bought over the years have been massively helpful for both adding convenience to a notoriously unruly lifestyle, or providing that little bit of extra security whilst roaming foreign lands. The ones I’d always recommend a fellow backpacker are below.

Essential travel gadgets
  • Bra stash – like a money belt, but it attaches to your bra instead. It’s less evident and more comfortable than a money belt
  • Vacuum bags – are an absolute must for keeping clothes easily accessible and compact at all times – don’t forget one extra for your dirty laundry!
  • Dry bag – brilliant for keeping valuables with you whilst you frolic in the sea, and avoids accidental liquid damage whilst on the move
  • Universal plug adapter – with multiple USB ports that charge everything at once
  • Travel pillow – because long bus journeys are very much real
  • Lightweight, spill-proof flask – this can be a lifesaver at airports where bottled water is three times its usual price, just fill at a water fountain instead
  • Rape alarm – when I’m not travelling with my boyfriend, having this to hand puts my mind at ease
  • Portable battery charger – for the times you’re on a long trip between destinations, or the hostel is lacking in plug sockets
  • USB – for saving all of your beautiful travel photography at any opportunity, and avoiding the risk of losing it if your camera/phone disappears. I also upload mine to Dropbox for added peace of mind
  • Torch – the minute you decide to take that spontaneous camping excursion or stay in a hostel with outdoor toilets, this will be essential
  • Sleeping bag liner – this one will help you get a better night’s sleep in a new bed, and help prevent bed bug bites (a rare occurrence!)
  • Padlock – and preferably one that requires a number sequence. Not all hostels will provide locks for their lockers. It’s also worth taking a cable lock padlock for securing your backpack to your bed, or seat on a bus
  • See-through makeup bag – for a fast and easy breeze through airport boarding with toiletries
  • She-wee – to make life easier when using less than clean bathrooms, or the dreaded drop-hole toilet

Reading the list above may already be overwhelming you, there’s a serious list of travel accessories there, I know. Honestly though, all of these are things I wouldn’t take a trip without now. Packing them may mean you take a few less clothes, but you’ll be grateful for that in the long run!

Aims 💋

What meaningless travel gadgets have you taken on your trips? Are there other accessories you think are essential to pack? Let me know in the comments below, and share this post with your travel buddies!

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