Backpacking and hot climates go together like people without a lot of money and … destinations that are inexpensive to visit. Look, I’m not great at writing analogies, but I AM great at researching travel gear and field testing it. After a year-long backpacking trip and plenty of adventures in various hot, humid places, we’ve learned two things: one, our hair NEVER looks good in the jungle; and two, there are several essential pieces of travel gear that help you enjoy your awesome trip instead of spending the whole time trying to figure out how to get sand un-stuck from your sweaty legs (spoiler alert: it’s impossible).
In this post, we’re not going to tell you how many t-shirts or pairs of underwear to pack; we trust you to figure that out for yourself. But we are going to tell you EXACTLY what items have proven themselves to be indispensable, whether you’re hostel-hopping in South or Central America or island hopping in Southeast Asia. Here’s what you’ll find in this post:
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Psst: Looking for more travel tips? Check out some of our other helpful posts!
- What to Pack for a Beach Vacation: the Curvy Girl’s Beach Vacation Packing List
- Travel Safety Tips: How to Protect Yourself and Prevent Theft while Traveling
- The 3 Best Travel Pants for Men: Functional, Field-Tested & Not Hideous
- How to Save Money for Travel (& How We Saved $30,000 for a Year-Long Trip)
Heads up! There’s a great sign-up bonus for our favorite travel credit card right now that’s worth $750 in travel rewards.
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What to Pack Your Stuff In
Sure, you can get away with a suitcase full of bunched-up clothes, but you’ll be much happier with a well-organized backpack – especially if you’re traveling for a longer period of time or visiting multiple destinations! Unpacking and re-packing every few days is such a chore, and staying organized will make it a LOT less miserable. Here’s what to pack your stuff in so you stay organized and can easily move from place to place.
- Travel Backpacks (His & Hers): If you’re going backpacking, you need a good backpack. You don’t want to be lugging your suitcase down a dirt road from the bus station and up 3 flights of stairs to get to your hostel. It’s SO much easier to have a backpack! We were able to fit everything we needed in our backpacks. These are the same backpacks we use for hiking and camping, and they’re super comfortable. It took us months of buying, testing, and returning backpacks before we found The Ones, and we love ours. That said, be aware that each backpack fits everyone differently, so make sure to try your pack on with at least 25lbs in it before you commit. Also, if you fill these up to capacity, they’re too big to check. If you’re traveling carry-on only, this PacSafe backpack is comfortable, roomy, and theft deterrent – it’s our go-to backpack for carry-on travel.
- Packing Cubes: I LOVE packing cubes. Nothing makes unpacking your stuff and putting it into a hostel locker easier than packing cubes. Not to mention it keeps you organized and sane. We pack ours by rolling our clothing rather than folding it, which saves us space and also helps prevent wrinkles. Win-win!
- Laundry Bag, Toiletry Bag, & Shoe Bag: When you’re backpacking, anything inside your backpack is gonna get all over everything else. So we keep them separate using different bags (and those awesome packing cubes for our clothing). Our laundry goes in a laundry bag so it doesn’t get moldy or smell up our clean clothes. The shoes we aren’t wearing fit into a little shoe bag so we don’t get whatever we’re walking through all over our stuff (gross). And the toiletry bag keeps our belongings protected from leaks, spills, or moisture. We used this dry bag as our toiletry bag, and yes, if you’re wondering, we did try using plastic bags – they tore really easily and were a lot harder to replace than you’d think! Re-usable bags are also more earth friendly in general.
- Lightweight Packable Day Bag: We each carry a day bag. This lightweight, packable backpack is perfect for some snacks, a couple of jackets, cameras, phones, and whatever we need for the day. It also doubles as our lockable carry-on valuables bag while on transit, which is key for safety – never let your passport, camera, or laptop out of your sight! We also carry around various groceries from city to city, and it’s nice to not have to stuff food into the top of our giant backpacks. We used this bag daily! Our other day bag is a Camelbak Hydration Pack that fits 100oz of water, snacks, AND has some room for gear, too – perfect for hikes or exploring in hot areas like Cartagena or Parque Tayrona where you’ll need to stay extra hydrated.
Lightweight Travel Clothing for Hot Climates
Clothing is one of the hardest things to pack for travel. On the one hand, you don’t want to look like a hot mess (or an obvious tourist). On the other hand, you don’t want to be totally unprepared and end up hiking in jeans. Here’s the best clothing to pack for your trip (for men and women, and everyone in between)!
Note: we didn’t list out everything here so make sure you have plenty of basics.
- Wool Clothing: Yes, seriously. Merino wool is a miracle fabric. It keeps you cool when it’s hot AND keeps you warm when it’s cold. When it gets wet, you’ll stay comfortable while your clothing dries. It naturally resists the growth of fungus and bacteria, so it never stinks – a must-have for backpacking! It’s even flame retardant. What more could you ask for? Performance wool isn’t like the itchy wool of the past – it’s thin, stretchy, and super soft to the touch, like cotton. Honestly, most of the clothing we bring on trips is wool, and we highly recommend wool clothing for backpacking. Here’s what we brought:
- Hemp Clothing: Much like merino wool, hemp is a fantastic travel textile. It’s also temperature regulating, meaning it’s cool to the touch and keeps you cool when it’s hot but insulates you when it’s cold out. It’s also naturally anti-bacterial, so you won’t get that stinky “I’ve been sweating in this for a week straight” smell. And as a huge bonus, hemp is more sustainable than most other textiles, requiring little water and almost no pesticides to thrive and grow. Hemp is even able to clean up polluted soil, making it a tool for actually fighting against climate change. Hell yeah. We’re still working on finding more amazing hemp clothing, but the pieces we’ve field tested and loved are this comfy loose t-shirt for Lia and these lightweight pants for Jeremy.
- Quick Drying Shorts (His & Hers): Jeremy picked up a pair of these shorts to double as both his warm weather daily clothing item, and his swimsuit. They’re a 2-for-1, which is super convenient for travel, and they work great! They dry quickly, making them perfect for hopping in and out of waterfalls, rivers, and the ocean and then resuming your normal travel activities. They never got dirty or wrinkly and always look fashionable, whether Jeremy wore them canyoning or waterfall rappelling. There’s also the women’s version, made out of the same stretchy quick-drying material as my hiking pants.
- Hiking & Adventure Travel Pants (His & Hers): You’re going to need a pair of pants that serve multiple purposes and are up for adventure anywhere: beach, jungle, river, mountains, and city. Luckily, these awesome prAna hiking pants were designed with travel and hiking in mind and were up to every challenge we threw at them. They’re also quick-dry, so I even wore them while white-water rafting and waterfall rappelling in San Gil.
- Travel Jeans: Don’t forget to pack a pair of jeans – yes, even for a hot weather trip! Why? Because you don’t want to look like a backpacking gringo every single day, and for those days when you just want to go out to a bar or look semi-nice, jeans are perfect. My favorite travel jeans have 6 POCKETS. 6!! And 2 of them are zipped and hidden inside other pockets, for extra pickpocket protection – crucial in any country. Jeremy and I each have several pairs of our favorite Aviator USA jeans. They’re super stretchy and buttery soft, dry quickly in the rain or when wet, and aren’t as thick as regular denim. They’re cozy enough to wear on a plane, stretchy enough to accommodate that 5 extra pounds of travel weight I always seem to bring back home with me, and they’re super cute! We’re both obsessed. You can get a pair of men’s or women’s black jeans (my personal favorites) or a pair of indigo jeans (which are slightly less buttery & stretchy, in my experience) on the Aviator USA website.
- Travel Shoes: We have strong opinions on travel shoes – we have full posts about our favorite women’s travel shoes & men’s travel shoes. We each typically pack 3 pairs of shoes in our bags (yes, they fit!) that we use for everything from hiking to long city days to salsa dancing:
- Lightweight trail runners (His & Hers). They’re lightweight, breathe nicely, and have insane grip. They were made for running on mud, dirt, and gravel, so their quality is incredible. Also because of that, they’re perfect hiking shoes. No, you don’t need to lug around your heavy boots!
- Leather Teva Sandals (his & hers). They’re super durable, lightweight, cute, and double as water shoes. In addition to wearing them everywhere that it was warm, we also wore them for adventure sports like canyoning and whitewater rafting.
- Walkable, cute sneakers (his & hers). These Allbirds sneakers are lightweight, comfortable and breathable, perfect for hot days with lots of walking.
- Waterproof Socks: Whether you’re hiking in the mud or exploring, rain doesn’t have to ruin your day! We just threw our packable raincoats and these super handy waterproof socks in our hiking day bag and didn’t have to worry about wet feet all day long. We don’t carry bulky hiking boots with us, so these are great addition to our trail runners.
- Ultra-Light Rain Jackets (His & Hers): Our favorite rain jackets are some of the best jackets for travel. They’re ultralight and pack down into nothing so they’re easy to carry around just in case, and they’re incredibly water repellant. They’re also a perfect just-in-case item to bring on every hike (especially in rainy, wet cloud forests like the Valle de Cocora).
Travel Essentials: Sun Protection
Whether you’ll be visiting a location close to the equator, where the sun is much stronger, or just somewhere really hot and sunny, you’re going to need to carefully prepare for sun exposure! Protecting your skin is critical: not only is it important for your health, but let’s face it: a bad sunburn can ruin a trip.
Here are the essentials to bring with you on your trip to protect you from the sun:
- Reef-Safe Sunscreen: Going into the ocean? You need to wear reef-safe sunscreen. Unless you hate coral, fish, and also all of human life. Reef-safe sunscreen is designed to biodegrade and not harm ocean life. Regular sunscreen bleaches coral and ensures humanity’s swift death from climate change. So please, for the love of society’s inevitable collapse, wear reef-safe sunscreen if you’re going into the ocean! As a fun bonus incentive, it’s actually required by law in some destinations. Although reef-safe sunscreen is always mineral, not all mineral sunscreens are reef-safe! Sunscreen must use “non-nano zinc oxide” particles to be reef safe (more details here). This is my favorite reef-safe sunscreen, and I use this lightweight sunscreen from Sephora on my face.
- Mineral Sunscreen: This is the least harmful type of sunscreen, according to science. Mineral sunscreens use two natural minerals—zinc oxide and titanium dioxide—as active ingredients. They basically simply sit on top of your skin and protect it by physically reflecting away UV rays, like tiny little mirrors. Meanwhile, regular chemical sunscreen soaks into your skin and ends up in your bloodstream (and breast milk, according to this study) which squicks me out. Mineral sunscreens do not soak into your skin (according to this study). So even though mineral sunscreens can feel a bit heavier than chemical sunscreens, I prefer to use them anyway! I use this one for my body, and for my face (which is more sensitive) I use this lightweight mineral sunscreen.
- Mineral Sunscreen Lip Balm: Don’t forget to protect the delicate skin on your lips from sunburn, too!
- Sun Hat: Who says sun protection isn’t cute? This comfortable hat protects your face, neck, and chest from the sun and goes with every outfit. The adjustable band around the rim guarantees that this hat will fit your head perfectly, and the neck cord means you can wear it even when it’s windy! This is my go-to everyday hat.
In addition to everyday sun protection, you’ll want to take extra care on days you’ll be spending more time than usual out on the water, like on a snorkeling or kayaking tour or even just when you’ll be swimming in the heat of the afternoon sun.
I’m a huge fan of wearing swim clothes to protect your skin and cut down on the amount of sunscreen you’ll need to use! I highly recommend bringing along a long-sleeved rash guard and a pair of swim leggings for sun protection during water sports.
Remember: the more your body is covered, the better you’ll be protected from the sun, and the more environmentally friendly your beach vacation will be! Psst: For more eco-friendly and responsible travel tips, head over to our Ethical Travel Guide.
- Travel Tip: In case you DO get sunburnt, a bottle of aloe vera will help. But an even better sunburn treatment? Apple cider vinegar! It smells terrible but it works miracles to take the sting out of a bad burn and speed up the healing process. Plus, it doesn’t feel sticky and gross on your skin. I bring a little spray bottle full of ACV on every beach trip.
Swimming & Snorkeling Essentials
Hot destinations typically mean you’ll be spending lots of time in the water, like snorkeling in the Galapagos or Bali or just swimming in the warm Caribbean sea on some island off the coast of Colombia or Mexico or Panama. Ahhh, bliss.
There are a few essential pieces of gear you’ll want to bring to keep yourself – and your underwater friends – safe and happy.
Here’s what to pack for swimming and snorkeling:
- Reef-Safe Sunscreen: Going into the ocean? You need to wear reef-safe sunscreen. Unless you hate coral, fish, and also all of human life. Reef-safe sunscreen is designed to biodegrade and not harm ocean life. Regular sunscreen bleaches coral and ensures humanity’s swift death from climate change. So please, for the love of society’s inevitable collapse, wear reef-safe sunscreen if you’re going into the ocean! Note that although reef-safe sunscreen is always mineral, not all mineral sunscreens are reef-safe. Sunscreen must use “non-nano zinc oxide” particles to be reef safe(more details here). This is my favorite reef-safe sunscreen, and I use this lightweight sunscreen on my face.
- Rash Guard/Swim Shirt: I’m gonna be honest with you: reef safe sunscreen is not the easiest to apply. It’s thick and doesn’t soak in easily. But like, I love animals and the environment. So my solution is actually to cover up my skin as much as possible so I don’t HAVE to wear sunscreen. Win/win! Sure, you may want to show off your super cute swimsuit, but after enough awful sunburns after hours of happy swimming or snorkeling, I’ve learned my lesson. I highly recommend bringing along a long-sleeved rash guard, which is specially designed for swimming in salt water. It feels the same as swimsuit material, dries quickly, and gives you plenty of sun protection (also protection from stinging bits of jellyfish floating by in the water. Yup, I speak from experience).
- Swim Leggings: My butt is always the first thing to burn when I’m snorkeling. But swim leggings provide full-coverage sun protection while letting you move underwater without restriction. Quick-drying swim leggings are designed to hold up in saltwater and chlorine and dry quickly once you’re out of the water (they are also incredibly comfortable to walk in, and prevent the dreaded post-swim chub rub). I love Waterlust’s swim leggings line because the brand is super sustainable and supports conservation and anti-racism initiatives, plus their leggings are 100% chlorine, sun, saltwater and sunscreen resistant and made from recycled materials. Oh, and their leggings have POCKETS! Sizes go up to 3XL. For more details, head over to the full review of my swim leggings!
- Snorkel Mask & Fins: For years whenever we traveled to a snorkel-tastic destination, we always wished we’d brought our own snorkel gear. We were so envious of those people who rolled up to the boat like “oh, we don’t need rental gear, we have our own.” Every time I met someone with their own gear on a tour I was like oh, you must be an expert – here, you go first. They probably got better pictures just because we were intimidated. Snorkels equal power. Anyway, then we bought our own gear, and I was like … why did we wait so long to do this?! Sure, my snorkel mask may look ridiculous, but I guarentee you it’s better than anything you’re going to get from a tour company!
- Anti-Fog Spray: Even if you don’t bring your own snorkel gear, at least bring your own anti-fog solution. Every time we rent snorkel gear, we end up surfacing to furiously spit in our masks ever 10 minutes. So annoying! A little bottle of this will save you a LOT of irritation.
- Water Shoes: For every minute that you’re not wearing flippers, you’ll want to be wearing water shoes. I swear by my trusty leather Tevas, and Jeremy also likes classic close-toed water shoes.
- Dry Bag: Don’t set foot on a boat without putting your stuff in a dry bag, just in case. You never know when a wave/rogue sea lion is going to splash your sh*t. This one is excellent, with a mesh section in the front that we use for wet bathing suits or towels. Plus, it comes with a phone protector too, so you can wear & use your phone safely while white-water rafting, kayaking, or snorkeling!
- Travel Towel: Towels are not typically provided on snorkelling tours, so we always bring our own full-sized, quick-drying travel towel.
- Swimsuits: There’s a good chance you’ll be jumping into the water quite a bit so you’ll want to bring along multiple pairs of swimsuits so you always have something dry to put on! I’m a size 16/18, and my favorite swimsuit is this one, which I literally have in 3 different colors. It’s amazing. It’s perfect. It’s a freakin’ steal! For more swimsuit picks, check out my guide to swimsuits for curvy girls.
- Water Shoes: For every minute that you’re not wearing flippers, you’ll want to be wearing water shoes. Whether you’re trying to walk over one of the insanely spiky black volcanic rocks – they’re pretty, but they hurt so bad – or just wading into some water (surprise! more volcanic rocks) your un-cut feet will thank me later. I swear by my trusty leather Tevas, and Jeremy likes classic close-toed water shoes. We also like these nifty water shoes that look like cute tennis shoes and can be worn in and out of the water. (Here’s the dude version.)
- Leave In Conditioner: Generally speaking, I prefer to bring my own shampoo and conditioner when I travel. But above and beyond that, I recommend bringing leave-in conditioner to help nurture your hair after spending a day swimming and snorkeling! Without it, my hair turns into a tangly, frizzy mess. There IS such a thing is TOO much sea salt, it turns out. This stuff is a surfer cult favorite – just put it in your damp hair after you shower and comb it through. If you prefer something a little more granola, a small amount of Coconut Oil on your ends will also help. But please, remember: anything you put on your skin, body, or hair BEFORE you get in the ocean will be ingested by the marine critters, so PLEASE be careful not to bring chemical-laden products in the ocean with you! Use this stuff after you shower off after a day in the ocean.
Laundry, Toiletries, etc
Just because you’re backpacking doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be clean and presentable! Here are our tips for doing your laundry on the go, staying fresh down there, and everything else you’ll need to not look like a hot mess.
- Travel Clothesline: This is a super handy tiny little clothesline that is easy to hang up almost anywhere. We bought it initially for laundry purposes, but it’s also really handy whenever we have wet bathing suits or towels that need to be dried. It weighs nearly nothing but is strong enough to hold a ton of wet clothing!
- Laundry Soap: Honestly, most hostels we’ve stayed in offer laundry service. But we still like having the option to do our own laundry when we needed to, whenever we run out of underwear (ahem). You don’t really need special soap; regular strong castile soap works great. We like Dr. Bronner’s or biodegradable laundry wash. Just soap your stuff up in the sink or in the shower and hang it in the sun to dry.
- Travel Toilet Paper Roll & Hand Sanitizer: I know, this is a weird one- but the thing is, toilet paper and soap aren’t always available – and they aren’t always free. So I always have an emergency roll on me. You can bring a regular sized roll and stuff it into your bag, or you can just get a little travel sized dispenser that’s much smaller and easier to use on the go. Also, always bring some hand sanitizer with you – you can bring soap too, but hand sanitizer is much easier to carry around than a wet bar of soap.
- Shampoo, Conditioner, Etc: Most of the hostels we stay in don’t have those little bottles of shampoo and conditioner that you’d get at a nice hotel. And don’t count on finding anything decent at the store, either – plus, whatever brand you usually use is probably INSANELY expensive to buy abroad. Definitely bring your own to save money and protect your hair. We love using solid shampoo and conditioner bars – they’re super travel friendly, good for the environment (no plastic waste!) and won’t ever spill all over your stuff. You can pick some up at a Lush store or buy handmade on Etsy, like these shampoo bars and conditioner bars.
- Menstrual Cup: Yup, vag things. Skip this paragraph if natural processes of women’s bodies make you uncomfortable. Pads and tampons are hard to come by when you’re traveling, and they’re often expensive. Plus they take up a bunch of space… not to mention they’re not environmentally friendly. So I’ve given up entirely on pads and tampons and fully embraced cup life. And it’s fantastic! No more leakage, which means less laundry in the hostel sink. I can leave the cup in for a full day or more without having to worry about toxic shock syndrome or whatever. And keeping your cup clean is easy: just wash the cup with gentle soap (like your laundry soap) and water. I spritz it with a little apple cider vinegar as well, and some ladies boil theirs every few months. I keep mine in a little drawstring bag – no fuss, no mess, no environmentally harmful waste. Oh, and don’t worry, they’re actually really easy to put in. If you’re considering making the switch, do it!
What to Pack to Stay Healthy
We want you to have an amazing time in this once-in-a-lifetime destination, so here are the essentials to pack to keep you feeling clean, healthy, and happy!
- Steri-Pen Water Purifier: Many of our favorite budget-friendly travel destinations don’t have drinkable tap water, including South America and Southeast Asia. Having a Steri-Pen with you means you won’t need to worry about water during your trip! This handy little water purifier saved us a LOT of money (not to mention waterborne illness!) during our year-long honeymoon. The Steri-Penpurifies water in 90 seconds using a UV light to kill whatever is lurking in untrustworthy tap water. Rather than have to buy multiple bottles of purified water per day – wasting money and damaging the environment – we were able to easily purify our own water for cooking or drinking in a re-usable water bottle every single day. (Note: you can also use a Lifestraw water bottle or water purification tablets to purify undrinkable tap water, both of which we brought just in case, but we found that we preferred the Steri-Pen for ease of use and taste.)
- High SPF Sunscreen: Skin damage is no joke, y’all! And remember- the closer you go to the equator, the stronger the sun. I really like this Neutrogena sunscreen because it soaks into your skin quickly and doesn’t leave that icky filmy feeling.
- Permethrin Spray: When we found out that there was a bug repellent which adheres only to fabrics, leaves no smell or residue on clothes, and doesn’t harm human skin, we bought a few bottles and sprayed all of our clothing, paying special attention to hems, cuffs, and socks. As a result, we barely got bitten by any bugs during our entire 5 months of backpacking in South America! Permethrin spray lasts for up to 6 machine washes, but since we weren’t washing our clothes very often (ssh, don’t judge) and rarely using washing machines, it seems to have lasted longer for us. It worked like a charm: even in mosquito ridden areas we had way fewer bites than our fellow travelers.
- Important Note: Permethrin is something to buy and use BEFORE you leave for your trip. Set a day or 2 aside for spraying all of your clothes, PLUS your backpacks and anything else made of fabric, like a sleeping bag or liner.
- Insect Repellant Lotion: Most insect repellents are not worth the unpleasant oily feeling you get after applying them, the icky hacking cough you develop after spraying them, or that skin-burning feeling you get after applying 100000% chemicals to your skin. There is, however, one insect repellant that avoids these pitfalls, and it’s this amazing lightweight Picaridin lotion. You rub it into your skin and it absorbs crazy fast with no oily residue. It lasts all day. The coverage is amazing. It doesn’t smell disgusting and it’s never made my skin burn. I love it, and we take it with us on every backpacking trip. This is one of our tried and tested travel essentials and we’ve noticed that we tend to get a LOT fewer bites than our travel companions!
- Dramamine: Dramamine was our lifeline on the many, many long bus rides (always windy, always through mountains, always speeding) that we took throughout our time backpacking in South America. Oh, and it came in handy on ferry boat rides to day trips in the Galapagos, too! Even if you’re not prone to motion sickness, it’s best to bring a few along just in case. You’ll thank me when you’re stuck for 18 hours on a bus through Peru with windows that have been blacked out (WHY!?!).
- Apple Cider Vinegar: I know, this isn’t a typical travel item. But hear me out. ACV is an incredible multi-tasking travel problem solver that we used several times during our trip to the Galapagos. We filled up a little travel spray bottle (we prefer glass for environmental reasons) with ACV from our pantry to bring with us, and here’s why. First of all: ACV helps soothe and heal sunburns. If you get a sunburn from the intense equatorial sun, mist a little ACV on a towel or directly on your skin to draw out the heat and jump-start healing. You’ll go from “I can’t put on clothes, it hurts too bad” to “itchy but doing OK” overnight – it’s insane. Secondly: ACV heals rashes. You know those awful bumps you get when you sit in your wet swimsuit for 2 hours on a boat ride back from a long day of snorkeling? Look, you know the kind of rash I’m talking about here. Well, ACV cures it! Sure, it hurts like hell when you spray it on, but the next day your rash is all gone and you’re ready to … sit for another hour in a wet swimsuit on a boat. Whee!
- Anti-Diarrhea Pill & Vaccinations: Here’s the good news: you won’t need anti-Malaria pills or altitude pills in the Galapagos. Here’s the less-good news: even if you’re super careful about sterilizing your water, traveler’s diarrhea is still very common. Imodium is fantastic to have on hand, but if you can, get a prescription antibiotic from your doctor to take with you just in case. You’ll also need some vaccinations before you leave, like Yellow Fever and Tetanus. Here’s the full list of recommended vaccinations for Ecuador from the CDC. We got all of them and stayed in good health – other than wobbly stomachs – during our trip.
- Stomach Enzymes: I have an easily upset stomach. My body doesn’t like dairy …or gluten …or corn… or anything processed … or anything delicious…. FML. But it’s really difficult to control what’s in your food while traveling, and sometimes the only thing that’s available is something that my stomach won’t like. So I brought my trusty stomach enzymes. They contain the things my stomach seems to lack to help it break down the elements in various foods and digest them. Since taking stomach enzymes I’ve greatly reduced instances of heartburn or indigestion, and seen a huge increase in my health from the more readily available nutrients that my stomach is now able to unpack and utilize! These are a lifesaver for me while traveling.
What to Pack to Stay Safe
No matter where you travel, you’ll want to take some basic precautions to keep yourself safe, ESPECIALLY in big cities. We’re incredibly accident prone, so we’re extra careful to keep ourselves safe and prevent theft – we’ve got a whole post about the safety precautions we always take when traveling: read it here.
One of the most important things we’ve learned is that traveler’s insurance is a must-have for travel safety! It protects you in case of a medical emergency, theft, and even covers the cost of your trip if you have to cancel it or end it early for a covered reason, like a death in your immediate family or sudden illness.
We use World Nomads travel insurance for every international trip and even includes extreme sports. We’ve had to file multiple claims with World Nomads and recommend them based on our experience. Be sure to read all details to make sure you understand exactly what you’re paying for and how to use it in the case of an emergency (usually there’s a number to call or an email address to contact if you need help).
Now that you’re generally protected, here’s some of our favorite safety travel gear.
- Lightweight Combination Locks: As any backpacker who’s ever stayed in a hostel already knows, you always need to bring a lock! But in addition to locking up your valuables in the hostel, you also want to have locks on your day-packs and on your backpack when you’re in transit. These little locks are more of a deterrent than anything heavy-duty. But most casual thieves are looking for an easy mark: a pocket to slip their hands into quickly, a bag left unlocked on a bus, etc. We lock every zipper on all of our bags with these little locks and aside from someone running off with our entire day bag once (don’t worry! We got it back!) we never had anything stolen. Important side note: TSA-friendly travel locks are great for checked baggage, but for our day bags and non-checked luggage we actually prefer locks that AREN’T TSA friendly, because it’s super easy to manufacture the key that opens EVERY TSA lock. Ahhh!
- Travel Safe Wallet: It doesn’t take a genius to realize that if you’re a traveler, there’s a bit of a target on your back. One of the biggest mistakes you can make while traveling is carrying a wallet, especially in your back pocket. For any savvy pickpocket, that’s the first place they’re going to look. Some people say put your wallet in your front pocket, but why risk it? Instead, we opt to wear two different kinds of travel safe wallets: a money belt for Jeremy and a bra pocket (AKA Brocket) for Lia. We also have a zippered passport pocket that can hold a phone too, which we only really needed on travel days. And we’ve each got an emergency stash of cash and cards that stays buried in our backpacks safe and sound in our hotel or hostel, in case we’re robbed while out and about.
Essential Travel Gear for Backpacking
Sometimes random travel items end up being indispensable for travel. Here are the surprise favorite travel items that have proved their use again and again on our backpacking trips!
- Travel Credit Card: We book all of our trips on our favorite travel credit card, the Chase Sapphire Preferred. Not only do we earn cash back that we can spend on more travel, but the card also offers fantastic travel perks, like no foreign transaction fees, trip delay and cancellation coverage, lost baggage reimbursement, and rental car coverage, all of which helps protect us on our travels. We’ve filed several claims and the card has saved our butt many times! We’ve got a full review of the card. (Psst: shopping for your upcoming trip? You can put your purchases on the card to help you meet the sign-up bonus minimum spend!)
- Travel-Friendly Laptop: Our beloved little Chromebook is our primary travel laptop. It’s capable of anything you need while on the road – yes, even managing your blog (so long as you don’t need complex stuff like Photoshop)! I actually started and ran the blog on this thing for a full year and a half. It’s super lightweight and incredibly fast. Sure, you need Wi-Fi for most of its capability, but we never had any issues finding Wi-Fi in South America (GOOD Wi-Fi was more of a challenge). Plus, it’s relatively inexpensive, so you don’t have to be as afraid of it getting broken or stolen – and if it does, all of your stuff is already safely backed up on the Cloud. I once had my Chromebook stolen (in the USA). The thief was so disappointed with it (like … the minute they realized there is no black market for $150 Chromebooks), they actually brought it back to where they’d taken it. I was thrilled – I’d already added a new one to my Amazon cart!
- Travel Friendly Camera: Although our camera of choice is a hefty, professional level Sony A7R II, you don’t need all that to get great photos of your vacation. All you need is a the travel friendly pocket-sized Canon Powershot, which appears deceptively cheap and old-fashioned to potential thieves but actually takes AMAZING photos. This is what we used before we eventually upgraded to our pricey DSLR. If you’ll be going snowboarding or taking sweeping landscape shots, a GoPro is a great choice.
- Solar Powered Flashlight: This flashlight is awesome, and super handy for finding the bathroom or packing in a dark hostel. We haven’t had to think about batteries once, but we always have a little light when we need it. We keep ours clipped onto the outside of our backpacks so it’s charging whenever we’re outside. Environmentally friendly AND convenient!
Whew, that’s everything! Do you have any questions about what to pack for hot destinations? Drop us a comment below!
Psst: Looking for more travel tips? Check out some of our other helpful posts!
- 12 Long Haul Flight Essentials & Travel Tips for Economy Fliers
- The Ultimate Guide to Makeup & Beauty for Backpacking
- The Best Women’s Travel Shoes: Lightweight, Field-Tested, & Cute
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