Traveling light: 10 indispensable items to optimize your backpack

A person from behind in front of a forest

It’s time to try out the art of the minimalist travelling. You’ll feel way lighter on your feet and your back will thank you! Without the burden of a big, cumbersome backpack, you’ll more easily explore a multitude of destinations and slip in and out of every kind of transport with ease!

Hiking equipment

Experienced backpackers agree that less is more. And the real test of downsizing is to reduce you pack to flight-size carry-on dimensions! Yes, you can tour the world with a backpack that’s between 35 to 45 litres and weighs less than 10 kilos. The secret is all about being super organized!

To pack your backpack effectively and efficiently, here are ten indispensable items that are especially useful for budget backpackers who travel light and stay at youth hostels.

Hiking bag on a trail
People from behind, in the forest


1. A shawl: the most flexible accessory

Whether it’s to keep warm on a cool night, cover your shoulders to stay culturally appropriate, or style up for an outing with a snazzy scarf, a shawl is your most versatile travel companion.

You can also wrap it like a light sheet on the plane or sarong it if you’re travelling a tropical destination. And much more.

A person wearing a a scarf
A person packing, sitting on the floor

2. Compression travel bags

Compression travel bags are your most important tools for saving backpack room. By compressing your clothes to reduce the room they take, you can bring more items.

One organizational tip is to get different coloured bags. This way you can put your underwear in the yellow pack, your tops in the blue, your socks in the green and so on.

You won’t have to pull apart your entire backpack looking for the items you need.

3. Earplugs and eye masks to sleep in peace

To treat yourself to deep, restorative shut-eye, particularly if you’re sharing a dormitory, don’t forget to pack earplugs and an eye mask. You’ll want to block out the sounds from the street or a dorm-mate snoring away. Some youth hostels offer them, but bring your own along just in case.

And bring an eye mask to keep out any other lights in the dormitory or the morning sun peeking through the curtains.

Window overlooking the sea
Room at the Montreal hostel

4. Combination lock

Yellow padlocks

You don’t need a big, heavy lock like the one you used on your high-school locker. Choose a light model with the numbers on its side. You’ll want to lock your stuff up at night, whatever your accommodation, and there’ll be other occasions when you’ll want to keep your stuff secure as well. Whatever you do, do not bring a key lock, for you can always lose the key!

5. Mini power bank: for energy on the go

The modern world requires portable power. With a mini power bank, you can recharge your cellphone while spending the day exploring a city, and never stress about your battery dying just when you need it most.

Look for a super-light (ideally around 130 grams), quick-charge model. It should fit a charge of at least 5,000 mAh in your hand or pocket.

A person with a discharged cell phone

6. Toiletry travel bottles

To save space and reduce waste, get yourself some 3-ounce refillable bottles to carry products like shampoo, conditioner and shower gel.

Travel storage bag
Open suitcase with clothes inside

7. Hiking shoes

Legs in the air, boots

Instead of bringing big trekking boots, opt for either hiking shoes or running shoes with good soles.

Too many backpackers regret dragging their big boots along through adventures, where most of the time they’re just extra dead weight.

Shop for less cumbersome, more flexible hiking shoes that can get you both around the city and up the mountain.

8. A compact weatherproof jacket

A compact, light, weatherproof jacket is essential, especially if you visit the destinations with moody climates.

Find a model that easily rolls up and takes little room.

Not only will it protect you in the rain but you can use it as windbreaker during cooler temperatures.

Wear it over a big sweatshirt for extra insulation.

A person from behind in a raincoat, in front of a landscape

9. Merino wool socks and pullover

Striped wool socks

If you’re not yet in the know, merino wool is an incredible material for travel clothing.

It not only keeps you warm when it’s cold outside, it also breathes and wicks out humidity, to keep you cool in hotter temperatures.

Merino wool also doesn’t retain sweat smells, which is a precious advantage when you don’t have the option to wash your clothes often.

10. Quick-dry microfibre towel

When you’re backpacking your way through youth hostels, you’ll soon notice how popular microfibre towels are. Unlike traditional cotton towels, microfibre towels are incredibly light and compact, making your minimalist traveling adventure even better.

When drying off after a dip or a shower, a microfibre towel more effectively wicks moisture from the skin and hair. It will also dry more quickly, so you can pack it sooner than a regular towel. Since they’re so compact anyway, choose a medium to large towel so that you can use it for other things too.

Extended colorful beach towels
Gathering of a group of people

Bonus: easy-to-pack VIP-wear

Finally, the real pleasure of strategic packing is choosing the one special clothing item that you’ll slip into on a special night. For women, this gem is usually a light but elegant dress, while for men, it’s a nice shirt that doesn’t wrinkle easily. You want to be ready when you’re invited to the VIP party or any other spontaneous celebration on your travels.

By carefully choosing the articles you bring, you can not only stay light on your feet, but also keep stylish. Choose a palette of complementary colours so that you can mix and match to create different looks.


The art of backpack minimalism!

Now that you know your minimalism, get yourself these key travel items, book your next youth hostel and set off burden-free in discovery of the world.