Backpacking Packing Guide – Hand Luggage Only

No matter which country I am travelling to, my packing system is pretty much always the same. The only minor difference is the clothes depending on weather conditions.

Here is my backpacking packing guide.
That works perfectly whether I am away for a week or 6 months.
And most importantly – It’s hand luggage only

Meaning, no extra luggage fees (which sometimes cost more than the plane ticket itself) and no looking like a turtle, dragging 70 kilograms on your back.

↠ Backpacking Packing Guide

Hand Luggage Only 


Note : Most airlines only allow you to have 7kg hand luggage plus 3kg laptop bag. I put my laptop and most electronics in my small bag (it’s never usually weighed), the rest fits perfectly in my main backpack with remaining space and it rarely exceeds 7kg. The trick is to take light clothes and wear the heaviest at the airport.

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Note : The newer version of my backpack doesn’t come in green.

( All products are linked to Amazon, I tried to find the best deal
and the exact ones
that I personally use unless stated otherwise. <3 )



Kyte 36 (Woman) & Kestrel 38 (Man)

Personally, I chose to travel with a 36 litre Osprey Kyte backpack, which I couldn’t be happier with. It fits perfectly as hand luggage and was originally designed for hiking, meaning their main purpose is comfort, durability & smart functionality.

They are one of the few backpacks that have a man (Kestrel) AND a woman (Kyte) version, which is great, especially for long journeys or treks. When a female uses a male backpack, it usually ends up being badly fitted due to the wrong placement of waist straps or wrong length of the torso harness, which is adjustable in the Kestrel & Kyte series. They also come in two sizes – S/M and M/L.

Here is another brilliant backpack by Osprey : Farpoint that fits the hand luggage allowance & it includes a laptop compartment.

And YES, it really is worth investing in a good backpack, especially when you will use it a lot 🙂


( Pretty much every airline allows you to have
an extra ‘laptop’ or ‘handbag’ as well as the main hand luggage.
That’s where all important documents, electronics
or anything else that you want easy access to can be stored. )

Fjallraven Kanken

Took me a while to join the Kanken bandwagon but oh how glad I am that it finally happened. It looks so small but literally fits everything I may possibly need for a day out and even an overnight stay.

The Kanken backpacks are water-resistant, extremely lightweight, durable and still look preeetty adorable. Many also have a laptop compartment which is perfect. Here is version 2 with leather straps.

If you prefer something more sturdy, here is a great North Face backpack.

Combination Link-Lock

This padlock allows you to secure the luggage or anything you like to a permanent fixture thanks to the steel wire.

I’ve used this at airports on overnight layovers, buses, trains etc. by attaching both of my backpacks to the seats. I think this is a much more secure way of keeping your belongings safe. It can also be used as a standard lock as the wire can be detached.

Here is my second lock that I use : ABUS Outdoor Key Padlock

Packing Cubes

One of those things that once you try it out – you’ll wonder how on earth have you ever travelled without it.

Packing cubes make packing SO much easier, especially if you have a top loading backpack. Everything can be separated into different cubes – saving time searching for things plus compressing everything down into much less space.

Tip :

It’s really worth investing in better quality ones and avoid them breaking midway through your backpacking trip.

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Sleeping bag liner

There are two types to choose from – cotton and silk (the silk liner is about 1/3 smaller and slightly lighter).

Great for suspicious hostel beds or overnight trekking (lighter and smaller than a sleeping bag) – I even used it in a monastery where I stayed overnight. The liner is treated with Ex3, which means the build up of bacteria is decreased and there is a barrier protecting you from mosquitos and even bed bugs.

Sensitive skin struggles :

If you have allergies or sensitive skin, this can be your ‘safety blanket’. Most hotels/hostels use 50% polyester & 50% cotton bedding – if you react to unnatural fabrics (or washing powders) this sleeping bag liner is your saviour.



100% Turkish Cotton Towel

Made of 100% Turkish cotton, it’s lightweight, compact, absorbs extremely well & dries quickly.

Hammamas can be used as a normal towel or on the beach as well as an accessory. I take mine with me everytime I travel and absolutely love it. Another plus is that they don’t get the unpleasant smell that the microfiber towels get.

Sensitive Skin Strugglers :

Hammamas towels are made from natural cotton, perfect for sensitive skin.

Read : Travel Essentials For Sensitive Skin

Microfibre Towel

If however, you prefer an even smaller and lighter version – this is the famous microfibre towel that nearly every backpacker has. It dries extremely fast and folds down very small. Plus there are endless colours to choose from.

Hanging Toiletry Wash Bag

Brilliant for storing all of your toiletries due to many compartments. The hook on this is another huge plus as it can be hung in the shower allowing easy access. Note, that many hostels have very simple bathrooms, therefore no shelves to place your stuff on.

Bum Bag / Money Waist Belt Bag

Bum bags are great for extra safety when it comes to your valuables such as money or passport, I often use one during an overnight bus/train journey and wear it under a t-shirt or a hoodie.

They can also be used as a day bag when you don’t want to carry too much, plus they’re super comfy and can still look fashionable. Click for the colourful version and black version.

Waterproof Bag / Pouch

Cannot recommend this enough! It’s waterproof, so perfect for keeping your valuables safe on the beach, in a boat, snow, etc. The pouch comes with a long strap, so you can wear it as a ‘bag’.

When island hopping, often you will have to jump into the water and ‘walk’ to the beach – this has literally become a saviour each time, especially when it’s hard to tell how deep the water is.

Rain Jacket – Cheap / Expensive

Sometimes the rain can really catch you off guard, especially in warm climate countries. Make sure you always have a raincoat with you just in case. I personally have this cheap version but am planning on upgrading to this North Face version soon. Here is a more girly / polka dot version.

PS. I usually go for the man’s one as they’re bigger & more comfortable.

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Backpacking Packing GuideMy compressed backpack before an AirAsia flight (7kg allowance) & a long boat journey to somewhere in Thailand.




13″ Macbook Pro

Personally, I use it for work meaning my laptop needs to handle programs such as Adobe Suite and Final Cut etc. If that’s not the case with you, I recommend the Macbook Air, which is much thinner and lighter.

Saying that, if you are going for purely travelling and not worrying about work etc. I wouldn’t bother taking a laptop. If anything, an iPad or any other tablet would probably be a smaller, lighter and a cheaper choice.

Waterproof Laptop Case

It took me SO long to find a fully waterproof case that would fit my laptop. The Aqua Quest Storm case features a secure closure system – ziplock-style seals on the inside that need to be pressed down as well as a velcro’s strip.

The case also includes a padded sleeve for an extra protection, which can be removed if not needed. The case is slightly bigger than my mac, therefore it would fit most laptops I imagine.


Currently, I have an iPhone 5s and need an upgrade badly, especially due to its limited memory. The above is what I have my eyes on.

Of course, you don’t need an iPhone for travelling, it can be any phone or some people even prefer travelling without one. Whatever floats your boat!

GoPro Hero 4 Silver

For adventures and not only. Most of my favourite pictures were taken on my GoPro due to it’s wide angle and great quality. All of my travel videos & vlogs so far have been recorded on the GoPro as well – it’s extremely small, lightweight, waterproof when in the housing and just great in general.

PS. There is a GoPro App for both phones and laptop allowing you to look through, edit and even screenshot the videos. So good.

PS 2. Make sure you purchase an extra battery as they don’t last that long.

Accessories : HD memory card, extra battery, battery charger, selfie stick, GoPro original selfie stick/tripodwrist strap, monopod floaty, or GoPro accessories bundle kit.

Portable External Hard Drive

Great for backing up pictures, videos, documents or time machine if you have a Mac.

Please don’t forget to do back ups, or at least use different memory cards – I’ve heard crazy and sad stories about people loosing their pictures.

Portable Charger

For charging your phone, GoPro or any other electronics via USB. Brilliant for long days out!
Here is a more powerful one.

Worldwide All in One Travel Adapter

No more worrying and wondering what travel adapter you need for each country – this one literally serves them all. Such a great idea if you ask me. The UK amazon doesn’t have reviews but you can read them here.

Note: The above adapter has an input for plugs as well USB’s meaning you can plug your laptop charger, hairdryer etc. Some adapters only have a USB input.

Lightning Cables for iPhone

Always have an extra charger for your phone, I’ve learned this the hard way. You don’t want to be stuck in the middle of nowhere and not be able to charge your phone incase the charger breaks.

Portable Speaker

It’s super small, so can be taken everwhere whether it’s a beach day out, trekking, camping etc. It also goes pretty loud too. Get those vibes going!

Earphones / Headphones

So you can listen to music wherever and whenever <3
At the moment, I am using the standard iPhone earphones, because I left my proper headphones back at home. These Bose headphones are insane though!

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Key Ring Flashlight

Great little torch, super powerful and useful in general. If you are planning to do more trekking or camping, I strongly recommend a head torch like this one. Both are useful when staying in hostels when you need to find something at night etc.

Kindle E-reader

Real, paper books are of course the best and it took me a while to give Kindle a try, but now it’s my travel buddy for life. It’s so much lighter than an actual book and gives you endless opportunities for discovering new authors and titles at a fraction of a price. Amazon also puts many different titles up for free.

Read : Why I Swapped Books For Kindle

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Cebu to Panglao, Bohol



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Water Bottle

I use this Filter Bobble one – it’s great if you’re a bit funny when it comes to drinking tap water, it saves a lot of plastic bottles & tons of money!

Travel Clothes Washing Line

Yes, I can hear you wondering why on earth would you need a washing line. Some countries such as Myanmar still do washing the old school way – aka handwashing. Meaning that doing laundry will cost you a lot more money.

Thats when this little clever thing comes in – you can do your laundry by yourself (especially underwear) and hang it wherever you like in the room or even attach it to trees etc.

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Zip Bags & Re-usable Bags

They are water-resistant so perfect for documents, cards, toiletries, dirty laundry, make-up etc.

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Electrical Tape

It’s small but strong, perfect incase something rips or breaks. Also good for sticking things in your notebook etc.

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Backpacking Packing Guide



( Remember about the strict airline liquid allowance –
Liquids must be under 100ml (3.4 ounces) and fit in 1 quart-sized plastic bag.
You are allowed 1 bag per passenger. )

Silicone Travel Bottle & Container Set

These little geniuses are seriously amazing. They don’t leak (so no more mess), the bottles are made of squeezable (BPA free) silicone, they’re easy to re-fill and have a built-in suction cups. The containers come in nice colours and are perfect for any necessary creams, liquids or coconut oil (more on this below).

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Travel First Aid Kit

You don’t need anything big, this has all the necessities and you can add more to it:


A few – Pain killers, Antihistamines, Anti-diarrhea, Constipation and Motion sickness tablets, Vitamins. Even though most places have pharmacies, you don’t want to risk it. Also, make sure you speak to your local nurse about the medicine / vaccinations you need for each country you plan on visiting.


Always protect yourself from the sun in hot weather (and not only). The P20 spray is brilliant, especially when travelling as it’s clear (so no white marks) absorbs super fast and its water resistant. The one above is 100ml, so fits perfectly in the restricted liquids bag.

Sun Allergy Strugglers :

I’ve used this myself and it worked surprisingly well!

Read : How to Travel with Prickly Heat & Sun Allergy / PMLE

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Incognito Natural Anti-Mozzie Insect Spray

Many of us seem to believe that unless a mosquito repellant has 50% DEET or higher – it will not work.
Now let me tell you, this is an absolute baloney right there.

Incognito is 100% natural resulting in being much more gentle to your skin unlike ones with DEET – a very harmful chemical that can even damage plastic. It is also clinically proven to protect against malaria and other bugs as well.

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Zap It!

If you get bitten by a mosquito or other insects, even a jellyfish (!) quickly use this little miracle and it will calm the itching and swelling very quickly & very well! It’s chemical free, non-allergenic and completely safe to the human body and the environment.

Coconut oil

I use coconut oil as a skin moisturiser, make-up remover, conditioner, shaving ‘cream’, body scrub, lip balm (it naturally has an SPF of 5), mosquito repellent and food supplement (works magic for slow metabolism).

Not only it’s all natural, it will save you absolutely TONS of space, weight and pennies by swapping your usual necessities. Put it in one of the small containers so it fits within the restrictions and doesn’t leak.

Read : 5 Ways I Use Coconut Oil While Travelling


Other :

I wouldn’t recommend taking a shampoo, shower gel or toothpaste as they can be bought anywhere.
Toothbrush, small dental floss and hand sanitiser. Razor, nail clippers, small wet wipes & tissues.

Girls :

Hair Brush (Tangle Teezer), dry shampoo, roll on deodorant (my favourite), small body fragrance – love these little Victoria’s Secret ones!

Make-up – Don’t take much.. I occasionally use a mineral face powder and a waterproof mascara. It will most likely be hot so you want to keep it light and cheerful.

Tampons / Pads – definitely try to take a few extra, in some countries (for example in Asia) tampons are not a norm. Mooncups are also quite popular, especially when travelling. I haven’t personally given it a try just yet but heard only good things.

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Backpacking Packing GuideWandering around the street markets in Myanmar.



This is the only thing that varies in my packing routine, depending on which country I am going to and what the climate will be like. Below is the standard warm weather climate such as South East Asian countries :

8 light tops / vests / t-shirts
1 light long sleeve
3/4 pairs of shorts (not denim as they’re too heavy)
1 playsuit
1 dress
1 pair of leggings / light trousers (elephant pants for example)
1 hoodie
1 raincoat
6/7 pieces of underwear
2 bikinis
2 pairs of trainer socks
1 hat – I have this one by Vans

Tip :

With the dress and the playsuit, I like to take ones that can be dressed up or down, like the one below.

Tip 2 :

Don’t take clothes that you are attached to, it’s very likely that more than half will be lost, especially when travelling long term. You will also probably want to buy a thing or two, for example a longyi in Myanmar or the elephant pants in Thailand, so don’t take too much stuff.

Tip 3 :

Wear the heaviest stuff – leggings, hoodie and trainers. I always have the raincoat on as well as the planes are pretty cold.


-↠ SHOES ↞-


Running shoes (or hiking shoes) – Personally, I go for trainers. I don’t do a crazy amount of hiking and they can be used for exercising or just as comfortable footwear without looking too touristy.

Flip flops – An absolute must have in my opinion. Even if you’re not going to a hot country, they are super useful for the showers when staying in hostels or just walking around at the place you’re staying.

Sandals – I like to have a pair for the evening when I want to look a bit more ‘dressed up’ ha.


Backpacking Packing Guide



(Plus extra copies placed in both backpacks)
Travel Insurance
(Plus copies of it. Read here and here if you’re not convinced)
(Hide spare £20/£30 somewhere safe)
Bank Cards
(Have at least two, one hidden somewhere)

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And that’s about it!

I think I’ve included pretty much everything! Let me know what are you necessities when travelling!

Hope you’ve enjoyed this Backpacking Packing Guide and if you found it helpful – please share the love <3


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Hi I plan on travelling with less this summer. Last summer I did 7 weeks in Asia with a 50L topload. This summer I want to take multiple smaller trips in Europa. The first one being 3-4 weeks in Portugal. I’m trying to buy a new backpack, preferably carry-on. I’ve got my eye on a 35L that can open like a suitcase. It is a snowboarders backpack so it is waterproof but not made for backpacking, but it has one big compartment that I can fill with my packing cubes. Still in doubt and I don’t want to fail and… Read more »

Steffani S
Steffani S

I love this. I take lots of mini-trips and will show up to my friends, with two bags (my carryon suitcase or travel bag) and a larger Longchamp Pliage purse. While they have so many bags…. I also used to be that way, but have noticed that NOT packing all of the ‘what ifs’ makes the weekend more enjoyable, because then I do not have to worry ‘finding things’ over the weekend.


[…] Backpacking Packing Guide – Hand Luggage Only […]


That’s a pretty good list! I would add earplugs for sure. They’re the only way I’ve gotten to sleep some nights! And I use my inflatable neck pillow on every flight or long bus ride. Oh and a small notebook and pen. And a spork. And a light scarf is super useful.


I love this!!!!!! Thank you so much, I never thought about the washing line and the speaker and its a great idea.


Great list! You really covered everything!