What’s the Best Backpacking Travel Gear?
Stuff these in your pack and head out of the country with peace of mind
Whether you plan to live out of your backpack for a week or a month, you’re best served by traveling light. Here are eight pieces of gear that will help you confront whatever adventure—or misadventure—international travel may throw your way. Bonus: They all fit in a 46-liter pack.
Osprey Porter 46 Backpack ($130)
The Osprey Porter 46 is as big a carry-on as you can get away with. It’s packed with smart design features like a front-panel organization compartment that gives you easy access to essentials like toiletries and undies—no frantic digging required.
DreamSacks Original Opening DreamSack ($98)
I’ve owned a version of the silk Original Opening DreamSack for nearly a decade. It’s served as a warm sleeping bag liner in the Cordillera Blanca, a stand-alone mosquito cover on a boat in the Mentawais, and an extra line of defense over dirty hotel mattresses. The lightweight material packs down small, and the silk feels cozy next to skin.
Mountain Hardwear Ghost Lite Jacket ($100)
Cheap ponchos work in a pinch, but as soon as you start to sweat, that nonpermeable layer gets uncomfortably clammy. At just three ounces, the Mountain Hardwear Ghost Lite Jacket is ridiculously light and packs down to the size of an apricot. While not fully waterproof, it proved quite breathable on many trail runs and kept enough water off to keep me warm while I worked outside for three hours in a torrential downpour.
Sea to Summit Ultra-Sil Day Pack ($33)
The super-lightweight Sea to Summit Ultra-Sil Day Pack easily accommodates an extra shell, snacks, and a water bottle for those days when you don’t want to lug all your worldly possessions with you. It weighs only 2.4 ounces and packs down smaller than a tennis ball.
Bogs Hudson Rubber Sandals ($35)
Sturdy rubber sandals will save you from a debilitating case of athlete’s foot in a hostel shower and protect you from roadside debris. These Bogs Hudson Rubber Sandals have a recessed footbed, making them cushy and comfortable for long days of walking. The burly rubber strap is strong enough to clip to your backpack with a carabiner, so you don’t have to stuff the kicks in your bag.
Icebreaker Anatomica Boxers ($38)
Merino wool skivvies like Icebreaker’s Anatomica Boxers are a must if you have to wear a pair of undies a few times between washings. The fibers naturally fight odors, reduce chafing by wicking away moisture, and dry so quickly you can wash them in a sink at night and wear them the next day.
Adventure Medical First Aid Kit 1.0 ($14)
You can’t always depend on local health care providers while traveling. Be prepared to treat common minor injuries with a first aid kit. We’ve found that premade kits like this one from Adventure Medical save money because you can buy only what you need. This particular kit is compact, fully waterproof, and loaded with all the essentials you need for everything from fixing a hangnail to bandaging a small wound.
Nuun Hydration Tablets ($24 for 48 Tablets)
Bali belly, Montezuma’s revenge, Baja butt—no matter what you call it, traveler’s diarrhea will dehydrate the hell out of you. With 300 mg of sodium, 100 mg of potassium, and 25 mg of magnesium, Nuun Hydration Tablets have enough electrolytes to replenish your stores. Packaged in a hard cylindrical tube that’s smaller than a roll of quarters, these little lifesavers easily fit in a back pocket.