Going into a camping shop is almost like going into Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory. There are so many gadgets it’s hard to know if you really need the James Bond belt that has a grappling hook hidden inside the buckle. Here are what I believe to be the 15 top travel accessories for backpackers, in no particular order.
Swiss army knife/leatherman
I’ve had a camping Swiss army knife for years (my parents bought it for me when I went on my first overnight bushwalk). If you’re not so much of a camper the Swiss Card is a beautiful design in the shape of a credit card and great for travelling. Make sure you pack it in your checked baggage!
It’s a knife, a fork and a spoon in one light package. Everybody wins. I particularly like the ones from Light My Fire.
Like the spork, this multi-purpose bowl can serve you as a small plate or a bowl. There’s also a kit with a cup, plate and bowl. Imagine how much money you’ll save by eating breakfast at your hostel in the morning.
Don’t knock it until you’ve tried it. I used to pay out people with their inflatable neck pillows on the plane while I tried to get some nap time with a jacket wedged behind my head. I finally gave in to find a very comfortable sleep across a variety of transport modes. I stick with the tried and true velvety inflatable ones… but check out this monster.
We all know what Douglas Adams wrote about backpacking and towels (if not read it here). An essential part of any backpacker’s gear if you are planning on showering (please shower at least once on your trip). A microfibre towel takes up less space and is quick drying.
Not only can you get travel guides on an e-reader, but they’re hyperlinked so you don’t need to look up the index and stick your fingers in five different spots to keep reading. A very useful item for travelling particularly if you’re an avid fantasy/sci-fi reader like me, but don’t want the expense and obviousness of an iPad.
Emergency Phone charger
This little doozy can charge your iPod in transit, giving heaps of extra battery life if you’re caught on a ten-hour bus trip wedged under someone’s armpit. Shop around for the best prices on these things.
A small collapsible umbrella can stop the need for buying expensive waterproof gear. And while in Asia, join the trend and use it as a sun shade. My little umbrella proved very helpful in the tormenting sun of a Japanese summer.
Universal Sink plug
As with the towel, a universal sink plug is a hygienic necessity. You can wash your clothes in the sink of your hotel and hang them up to dry, saving on cleaning costs. I’ve done this through south-east Asia and it works well if you’ve got quick drying clothes. Don’t even bother with your jeans. Which combines well with…
Bungee cord/Indoors clothesline
After using your universal sink plug, you can hang your clothes up to dry. You can hang them anywhere (I got the one with the hooks not suction cups). Especially great for beach holidays and hanging up your swimmers to dry.
All in one power adapter
Unless you travel without any technology (and the chances of that are slim these days), you’ll need a power converter. Why countries all didn’t agree on one sort of power point we’ll never know, so until they day they agree you’ll need one for each region you visit. Korjo have a great power adapter chart here.
Steripen + Water bottle
These count as two accessories, but they work together as one. Reducing bottled water in the world is a huge issue. The steripen can purify tap water in any country so you don’t have to worry about the nasties in the water. Please take a bottle yourself and refill on the road.
While you may look a little dorky with a head torch on you, it’s much easier to do things with two hands than one. I have a cute Petzl Tikkina, Justin has a Black Diamond one. Just don’t buy an el cheapo one that takes 2 x AA batteries and dies halfway through your hike (*cough cough* Ray’s outdoors…).
Macgyver could fix anything with a swiss army knife and a roll of duct tape. So can you. You might not be able to make a parachute out of it, but duct tape can repair broken shoes in an emergency, patch up holey raincoats and keep your pack together.
I’ve deliberately left off the obvious laptop/tablet/phone combo. It’s been listed a thousand times before. If you need one, you know you need one. If you’re on a budget, you can get by without one. These are more essential items anyway.