Five must-bring items you probably haven’t thought of

By Carmen Recavarren
Posted on 19 September 2016

“I’m really glad my bag is so full” – Nobody, ever.

If you’re going hostelling for the first time, here’s the most important thing to understand: you won’t realise how much you don’t need until you’re on the road.

Look at it this way. For people who are off to spend a week in a posh hotel, packing a week’s worth of clothes makes total sense. It’s a more or less manageable amount to lug there and back, and they’re not going to have access to laundry services – or not cheap ones at any rate.

But if you’re heading off to spend one month, two months or more in cheap hostels, what are your options? You can’t carry all of that. Even a week’s worth of packing becomes unmanageable when you have it strapped to your back everywhere you go. Dragging that lot from hostel to hostel? Cramming it into busy buses? Having to check it in on every flight? That’s a world of pain.

The fact is you’re going to get a bit grubby, and you’re going to be doing laundry. And since that’s the case, why stuff your bag to bursting? Packing light, and above all pack practical. If these five things aren’t on your list, add ‘em now…


1. Duct tape

Hostels - Thanks Uncle Duct!
© Copyrights: anomalous4

Thanks Uncle Duct!

Go through any serious hiker or survivalist’s kit bag and you’ll find a roll of humble duct tape. It works for an insane variety of things. Strap coming loose on your backpack? Soles starting to flap on your trusty trainers? Got blisters? Go see your Uncle Duct. He might not be a permanent fix (erm, see pic) but he’ll keep you going until the next proper pit stop. Look for the slim rolls – you can find them at most camping and outdoor shops.


2. Posh socks

Hostels - Yes, they look awful. But they feel great
© Copyrights: feli

Yes, they look awful. But they feel great

You’re going to be doing some walking. This is an understatement. Whether it’s a planned hike up Kota Kinabalu or a trudge around downtown Amsterdam looking for your hostel, those feet will be putting the hours in. By all means go cheap for your tees and shirts, but when it comes to socks, invest in some good running ones or low-cut walking socks. You’ll thank us. (And while we’re on the subject, leave those big hiking boots behind. A good pair of walking trainers will cover most situations.)


3. A dumbphone

Hostels - Flintstones theme
© Copyrights: ejdj968

flintstones theme

Unless you’re actively trying to go off grid, your smartphone will be coming along for the ride. The amount they pack into a small container (compass, map, camera, calls, messaging…) makes them a no-brainer. But they’re also super- fragile, run out of juice quickly and are prone to theft. If you’ve ever handled a Nokia 5210, you know the solution already – a couple of generations back phones packed amazing battery life and were virtually indestructible. An old dumbphone makes a great backup.


4. A micro-fleece

Hostels - Maybe not this exact one
© Copyrights: kelly

Maybe not this exact one

It doesn’t matter where you’re heading: every trip involves you getting cold. It might be when you’re setting out on a hike at dawn, it might be during a night flight, it might be when you arrive home, but it’s going to happen. Good micro-fleeces are light and pack down small, and can double up as a pillow if you’re trying to get some road-kip between hostels. So invest in one. If you’re heading somewhere cooler, upgrade to a thicker fleece – but you only ever need one.


5. Drybags (plural)

Hostels - Doing it like a pro. These will change your life
© Copyrights: Mae Catherine Melchor

Pic caption: Doing it like a pro.

These will change your life Another lift from the expert hiker’s kit bag. Good drybags don’t just keep your stuff dry – they’re also airtight, which means you can use them to really pack down your clothes and save precious space. It’s common to buy one as a backpack liner, but having a couple of different sizes can prove really practical; you can use one to keep your humming dirty laundry contained, one to keep your electronics dry, and so on. They’re absurdly light and don’t cost much.