Are you backpacking a new destination soon and planning on staying in hostels? Not only are hostels a great place to meet fellow travelers, but a great way to save money! But… there are a few things you need to remember to bring along. Here’s my must-have hostel essentials every traveler needs to have on their packing list!
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There’s nothing better than staying in a fun and exciting hostel, meeting fellow friendly travelers and experiencing the weird, yet exhilarating hostel life.
Though, unlike hotel rooms where you’ll find many things you don’t need to bring along in your bag (like shampoo or a towel), hostels require a few extra essentials to make your stay comfy.
As someone who has backpacked Eastern Europe, Southeast Asia, and other various parts of the world — all while staying in hostels to save money and meet new people — here’s my must-have hostel essentials packing list!
Not only will you find the things you should pack for a hostel, but also the things you shouldn’t pack!
Because there are definitely a couple things that are 100% unnecessary but somehow make their way into backpackers bags no matter how illogical it is to bring them with.
So, to help you best prepare for your upcoming dorm life, brush up on my list of hostel backpacking necessities below!
MUST-HAVE HOSTEL ESSENTIALS
As mentioned above, this list is broken down into two parts — what to pack for a hostel stay and what to not pack for a hostel stay! (Because damn, there are a few things that are most definitely not necessary and simply a waste of space, yet so many other hostel packing lists have them featured.)
What to Pack for a Hostel
If I had a penny for everytime my earplugs came to my rescue while staying in a hostel filled with snoring backpackers, I’d be a millionaire.
My point? Don’t forget them!
Earplugs are at the top of this hostel packing list because OMG, they are damn near the most underrated, yet incredibly useful things to have while staying in a shared dorm room.
Find the best earplugs for you on Amazon here.
No matter where you’re going, if it’s outside of your home country/continent, you’re going to need a travel adapter!
Making a feature on many hostel packing lists, a travel adapter allows you to plug-in all your devices, electronics, and tools without worrying if the local wall plug is going to fit or not.
While there are a number of cheap and nasty travel adapters out there, for a hostel I recommend investing in a slightly higher-quality one, as it will be more reliable and will feature more adapters for various countries.
Personally, I use this one from Amazon.
Similar to earplugs, it’s handy to have a pair of noise-canceling headphones, too.
You don’t want to be that guy watching Youtube videos or Netflix with the volume on high and no headphones to mute out the sound.
On the flip side, you don’t want to have any loud conversations ruin your movie night, which is why noise-canceling headphones are a must!
Or, if you want to go for the best of the best, check these out.
P.S. Also get yourself a headphone splitter! This is super handy for when you want to watch a movie with a friend but don’t want to have just one earbud each. Get one here!
P.P.S. Put some tape all around your headphones to make them cheap, nasty, and broken! (You can see the black tape on my headphones above.) This will help deter anyone who might want to steal them.
Let’s get one thing straight — hostel showers and bathrooms can be f*cking nasty!
Do yourself a favor and pick up a pair of flip flops (aka thongs) before you head off on your backpacking adventure. You’ll thank me later.
(Psst, you can get a cool pair here.)
Now an eye mask is key for when rambunctious, intoxicated backpackers come into a hostel room after a wild night out and turn on all the lights so they can stumble into their bed.
(Yes, this may or may not have happened multiple times while I was backpacking Southeast Asia and I was eternally grateful for my handy eye mask!)
Get your own eye mask here! It’s definitely one of my must-haves.
Ever tried to read a book or rummage through your bag to find something while in the dark?
Yeah… it’s impossible.
So make sure to add a flashlight to your hostel packing list! It’ll make coming into a shared dorm room after a night out or trying to find your toothbrush in the dark a helluva lot easier.
Hostel Tip: DON’T get a flashlight with a ridiculous amount of lumens. I recommend this flashlight, which is rechargeable, teeny tiny (like a pen), and won’t blind your bunkmates.
LIGHTWEIGHT TRAVEL TOWEL
Hostels aren’t what one would call “luxury accommodations” and because of that, you won’t find any complimentary fluffy white towels here!
So, unless you want to air dry butt naked after every shower or snatch up a t-shirt to pat yourself dry with, I highly recommend packing a microfiber quick-drying towel in your bag!
They’re super lightweight, dry ridiculously fast, and work great for day trips to a waterfall, lake, beach, etc.
You can get a cheap one off Amazon here.
COMBINATION CABLE LOCK
Who else loves having their stuff stolen? Probably not you.
Keep all your things safe and secure with a multitude of locks. Most hostels will have a handy locker for to use while staying there but you’ll need to bring your own locks.
I recommend opting for cable locks, rather than a padlock, as each hostel locker will vary in size and a lock isn’t much use if it doesn’t fit in the hole, right?
SHAMPOO / CONDITIONER BAR
Unlike many hotels you don’t get complimentary shampoo and conditioner in a hostel, which means it’s essential to bring your own!
To not only save space in my liquids bag, but also to be a bit more sustainable while traveling, I always pack a shampoo / conditioner bar.
You can find my favorite shampoo & conditioner bar brand here!
There’s nothing worse than coming back to a hostel after a long day of exploring only to find there’s not enough wall plugs to re-charge all of your things (which may or may not include a dead phone…).
One of my top must-have hostel essentials, a power strip is immensely valuable when I need to charge multiple electronics with a limited number of wall plugs!
With this handy power strip, which is the one I travel with, you can easily charge 5 things at once. Cool, right?
FILTERING WATER BOTTLE
This is especially important if you’re backpacking somewhere like Southeast Asia or South America where the water isn’t safe.
Instead of polluting our oceans even more with unnecessary plastic water bottles, grab a filtering water bottle before you go! Not to mention, you’ll save money, as you’ll have access to free tap water wherever you are.
Personally, I use the GRAYL, which is absolutely fantastic!
I’ve used it to filter water in Thailand, Indonesia, Vietnam, Sri Lanka, and while hiking in places like Arizona, Wales, and Banff. No matter where I’m going or where I’m staying the GRAYL is a must for me.
Want to have 24/7 access to clean, purified water no matter where you are in the world? Get your own GRAYL here.
SMALL TOILETRY BAG
…with a hook to hang it on the shower door or wall!
Though I remember to pack every other hostel essential on this list for my recent backpacking trips, this is one thing I wish I would have brought with.
Every time I took a shower in a hostel, I had nothing to put my stuff in (just awkwardly carried it into the bathroom with me and set it on the ground… yuck!).
So, don’t be like me and get yourself a nice, small toiletry bag!
Don’t be that person who devours a space, making it seem as though a tornado came through and tossed their things all over the hostel floor!
Keep your stuff organized by utilizing the power of packing cubes! I LOVE my Shacke Pak cubes, as each can be used for things like undergarments, tops, bottoms, and miscellaneous items.
Want some for yourself? Click here.
FIRST AID KIT
One of THE best things to have as not only a hostel-goer but a traveler, a mini first aid kit helps to keep you safe and healthy while on the road.
Whether you quickly need a band-aid to cover a motorbike wound (like me) or some anti-bacterial goop to ward off any nasty infections, this is an incredibly essential packing item to bring on any trip.
Get one before you go here.
Want to know what else keeps you healthy while on the road? Probiotics! Click HERE to find out why these are a travelers secret weapon to staying happy, healthy, and blissfully regular while wandering!
The amount of times I use Dan’s power banks when we’re staying in hostels is ridiculous… even though you might have access to a wall charger, having the ability to move around while still powering up your stuff is so incredibly handy.
Which is why I recommend bringing at least one high-quality power bank with you while staying in hostels.
Not only will this come in useful when you’re actually in the hostel, but while you’re away from it too, whether it be a day trip or a bus ride.
What to Not Pack for a Hostel
SLEEPING BAG LINER / SLEEPING BAG
If you read various posts about what to pack for a hostel and backpacking essentials, you’ll find a sleeping bag liner or sleeping bag on many lists… which I think is a big waste of space.
Truth be told, I bought a silk sleeping bag for my first backpacking trip to Southeast Asia and I didn’t use it once. (And I was there for nearly 4 months.)
Yeah, yeah, bed bugs are a serious problem but do you really think a sleeping bag liner is going to stop those little buggers from getting in your stuff?
So, my personal advice is to leave it off your hostel packing list and use other means to stay away from bed bugs!
Here are my tips for avoiding bed bugs in hostels:
- Read hostel reviews! This is my top tip, as other backpackers will definitely scream to the heavens if a hostel they stayed in had bed bugs.
- Check thoroughly. Bed bugs aren’t just in the bed; they can hide under bedside tables, couches, chairs, or anywhere they can find a warm body to feed on. (Yuck.)
- Ask employees. If you’re not sure, ask employees. Hopefully they tell you the truth if there are bed bugs (if not, this is a sign that you should definitely find a new place to stay).
Additionally, I also brought a sleeping bag on my trip and only used it once. So again, what a big waste of space.
Again, this is a huge waste of space.
I get you want clean clothes but in many places, you can easily find small packets of detergent that won’t take up half your bag!
Not to mention, if you’re backpacking places like Southeast Asia, there are numerous places where you can get your clothes washed for cheap.
Hostels in Southeast Asia typically offer laundry services for as little as $2-3! And if you’re backpacking Europe, you can definitely find powdered laundry in a small box that’ll do the trick.
Alternatively, if you want liquid detergent, just bring a small bottle of highly-concentrated stuff.
On my first backpacking trip, I did this and it worked fine when washing small items in hostel sinks. (Using a reusable travel bottle, of course.)
There’s literally no reason why you should bring things like expensive jewelry, irreplaceable sentimental items, or small treasures you couldn’t do without.
Truth be told, there are always those shitty people out there who will attempt to steal your things — so just don’t give them a chance to take anything that’s worth something to you!
MULTIPLE CHARGING CABLES
Though you should bring at least 2, there’s really no reason for you to pack anything more than that.
Speaking from personal experience, I packed like 5 USB cables and 3 iPhone cables — which was pretty much pointless, as I never used more than 2 at once.
Save your valuable space! And remember, if you do need another, you can always buy one.
On another note, make sure to get high-quality charging cords — ones that are dependable and reliable. Dan, my genius tech-obsessed boyfriend, always recommends the Anker brand. Check it out here!
With these must-have hostel essentials, you can be on your way to having the best hostel experience ever!
Whether it’s blocking out afternoon sunlight with an eye mask after a wild Half-Moon Party in Thailand or keeping all of your electronics charged up with a power strip, don’t forget to pack the things on this list for your next trip.
Are you staying in a hostel soon and aren’t sure to pack? Have any questions about hostel life? Head down to the comments below and ask away!
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