Hostel Packing List
This Hostel Essentials Packing List includes all the travel essentials you need to get the most out of your next hostel stay.
The Ultimate Packing List for a Hostel Stay
Packing List Tool
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From Asia to Europe, Australia to America, travelers everywhere choose hostels to enjoy the camaraderie of other people, experience daily life in a different place, and, of course, save a few bucks. After all, while you can cut down on the price of a room when you split an Airbnb or VRBO with friends, that won’t help when you’re on your own. Instead, save by renting a bed in a hostel, as they’re often much less expensive per night.
Of course, sharing a room, a bathroom, and common areas requires you to consider different things when packing for your trip. How will you keep your gear safe, and should you leave behind expensive items? If you can’t keep your toiletries lined up in a row on the bathroom counter, how will you ensure you have what you need in the shower? And what should you wear to be comfortable, look great, and still be ready for new experiences? We’ve considered all this and more while creating this Hostel Packing List.
Maybe you’re a solo traveler who likes to explore a new place on your own, or perhaps you crave the energy rush you get from meeting new people. Are you planning to hop from place to place every few days, or will you settle down for a week in one spot to dive into the local culture? No matter what you choose, we’ve got you covered.
Our team has researched every item on this packing list to find the best options that fit a budget mindset, yet will see you through the trip you’re planning and many to come. We’ve also considered packability, style, and comfort since you want to enjoy yourself wherever you roam. When taking an extended trip, it’s essential to know that everything you want to bring will fit in your bag, be easy to find, and works in every situation. That’s why we knew it was important that we test this gear during a stay at a local hostel.
Thanks to Hostel Detroit for letting us use their place in Corktown, one of the city’s oldest neighborhoods, to test our gear and shoot content for this packing list. We rented a dorm room with bunks for our team and experienced what the Motor City has to offer from a location close to Downtown and other popular spots. They’re a non-profit that makes getting to know the city accessible, whether it’s through free tours, maps, self-guided explorations, and more. It was a great space for us to try out the gear on this list!
We split the sections into unisex items (productivity & tech and miscellaneous) or men’s and women’s (bags & organizers, clothing & accessories, and toiletries & personal care). However, that doesn’t mean you have to force a square peg into a round hole. Take a look at both and pack what’s best for you. And be sure to check out our guides, reviews, and other packing lists for more options so you can find exactly what you need.
Then spin the globe and pick a new destination to explore. By creating a packing list like this, you won’t have to worry about forgetting anything and can focus on creating new memories.
Hostel Packing List Video
Bags & Organizers
This section will cover the bags that carry everything we’re packing. We recommend grabbing a bag large enough for a few days to a week’s worth of clothing and that’s comfortable enough to carry through the streets of a new city or on the subway. We’re focusing on quality and bags that cost less than most plane tickets, so you don’t blow your travel budget before leaving home.
Every piece of gear on this hostel packing list fits inside the travel backpack or the sling so that you can carry everything at once. That leaves your hands free for hailing a cab or handing over your passport and gives you a place to hold your everyday carry gear once you arrive at your destination.
When planning to stay in a hostel, you need to be ready for anything the journey might throw at you. Sometimes you can’t check into your room immediately, you may have downtime between checkout and your flight, or you may be waiting to meet up with a friend or family member. In times like these, it’s crucial to have a backpack you can count on to hold your gear and stay comfortable for the in-between times. There’s ample padding and aeration on the back panel, a sternum strap, and a beefy hip belt to spread the weight. The main compartment opens like a clamshell so you can easily organize your gear, and two compression straps lock it down so it doesn’t move around while you’re on the go. There’s also a large mesh pocket for the smaller gear you don’t want swimming in the larger area, a laptop compartment if you decide to bring a device, and two pockets on the outside for quickly accessing items like a passport or rain jacket. Whether you want to get your gear from point A to point B or you’re looking for a pack you can wear across the city or on a light hike, the Osprey Farpoint 40 can handle it without breaking the bank.
The Osprey Fairview 40 is great for one-bag travel, especially if you’re planning to walk to your hostel from the airport instead of snagging a ride share. That’s thanks to the extremely comfortable harness system with thinner, curvier shoulder straps designed for women. It’s easily adjustable for differently-sized users and includes a breathable mesh back panel so you won’t have a sweaty back when you arrive, plus a sliding sternum strap and beefy hip belt. Inside, use packing cubes and pouches to organize the open space, and you’ll be able to fit everything you’ll need for nearly a week at each location you visit. And, use the internal compression straps to keep everything from slipping around. There’s also a large mesh pocket to hold things you want easy access to and a large laptop sleeve if you choose to bring a device. It doesn’t take up much space if you want to go screen-free, though, and you can repurpose the flat area for travel documents or flip-flops. While you’ll want to prioritize investing in a good travel backpack as you hop from hostel to hostel, we like the Osprey Fairview 40 as it won’t break the bank while still including features we expect from higher-priced bags.
When staying in a hostel, there are some items that you’ll want to keep on your person. From essentials like your phone and wallet to things you may not want to leave in the hostel unattended, like your passport, having enough room to stow gear is important. The tomtoc Urban Sling Bag has an amply sized main compartment with intuitive organization for your everyday carry gear, a front pocket for smaller essentials, and a hidden back zippered pocket for sensitive items like your passport. It can look a little overstuffed when fully packed, especially if the gear you stow inside is oblong-shaped. However, it’s a great budget option and comfortable enough to carry your essentials around all day until you return to your hostel in the evening.
Having a comfortable travel backpack is essential when staying at a hostel, but let's be honest, you aren't going to want to take it on a day-long hike, a multi-mile trek across a city, or on a more active adventure. Enter the Forclaz 100! When packed down, the pack is extremely flat and fits into the palm of your hand for easy transportation. After unpacking it, you can stow a day's worth of gear inside the 10 liter capacity. It's crafted from polyester and has a polyurethane coating, so it’s lightweight, durable, and water-resistant. While the strap adjusters are a little lackluster and it isn't as comfortable as a daypack with tons of padding and aeration, it's a great budget packable option.
There are times when even a sling is too much bag to bring. We’re packing the Moment Crossbody Wallet for the little things that won’t fit in your dress or pants pockets. Although it’s large for a wallet, the leather bag looks sleek enough to pass as a purse, and you can carry it as a clutch, wristlet, or crossbody, depending on which strap you use. It has enough room for your phone, cash, and cards, plus some lip balm, so you can bring the essentials when heading out to eat or explore.
When it comes to packing for a stay at a hostel, bringing gear that can be used for more than one thing can help save space and weight. The Chums Surfshorts Wallet is a great daily carry minimalist wallet that can stow your travel documents and works as a key organizer too. It’s extraordinarily lightweight and crafted from durable ripstop nylon with a TPU window for your ID card. While there isn’t a dedicated place to stow your cash, it can easily slot in one of the two compartments.
Clothing & Accessories
Depending on where you’re traveling, you may be exploring ancient ruins, busy open markets, or sunny beaches, so flexibility and comfort are key when choosing what to wear on your trip. Since you can find hostels worldwide, research the climate you’re likely to encounter before setting off on your journey. While this list is focused more on warmer weather than cooler climates, you can always swap out a swimsuit for a packable puffer jacket. Plus, all the clothing on this list coordinates well together and can be layered or worn solo, so it’s easy to customize your fit as the case may be.
We’ve focused on budget and durability with this list, opting for items that are easy to machine wash and dry over pieces you need to handle with care. Cotton blends, moisture-wicking materials, and polyester play a big role in our wardrobe since they’re adaptable to different adventures and don’t wrinkle easily.
We’ve opted for a neutral, Earth-toned color palette that will look good in most places while allowing you to explore without worrying too much about stains. Of course, there are also some lighter options for warmer weather, plus sleek and polished choices for metro areas.
For a vacation where anything could happen, it's vital to have underwear that can handle anything from an all-day hike to a pick-up soccer game with your hostel mates. The New Balance No Fly Boxer Brief is crafted from 90% polyester and 10% spandex, offering an athletic feel and fit. They stay comfortable no matter where you're headed and keep you dry in the places that matter so you can get from point A to point B as comfortably as possible.
Athletic socks are well suited for nearly any travel adventure. The Performance Comfort Fit No-Show Socks from Saucony are crafted from a polyester-heavy spandex blend that’s durable, comfortable and works with most low-cut shoes. They don’t pack super small, but you can wear two pairs in a pinch if you run out of room or get cold feet.
The Hanes Sport Men's Heathered Training Tee is the kind of t-shirt that is easily replaceable, so you don't have to worry about ruining it on an adventure. Just because it's a budget-friendly item doesn't mean it can't hold its own, either. It's crafted from 100% polyester, so it can handle active adventures and does well when layered over a long sleeve (if that’s your style). However, we've noticed a few loose threads and find that it's better to hand dry than to throw it in the dryer.
This is a shirt that looks professional enough to wear every day and is crafted from 100% polyester, making it great as an athletic or sleep shirt. Plus, it saves a lot of space and headache when packing. The BALEAF Men's Short Sleeve Shirt easily transitions from a daily shirt to just about anything you want it to be. Plus, it's budget-friendly.
A good base layer is an essential part of any packing list, especially when trying to save space and weight. The Men's Long Sleeve Shirt from BALEAF is great for running on a cool morning, warming up at the hostel, and staying comfortable during temperature changes on the airplane. The logo might be too loud for some, but we think it’s pretty on par for similar athletic shirts from other brands.
This quarter-zip works well when layering, offers ample warmth for most trips, and is still thin enough to be covered with a rain jacket if the weather takes a turn. On its own, it doesn’t work well in frigid temperatures, though it holds its own on a cool, breezy night or when paired with base layers. Plus, it doesn’t weigh much and can be dressed up for a fancier occasion.
When it comes to bottoms for traveling, durability is the name of the game. You want pants and shorts that can do everything from rugged adventures to leisurely days on the water. The Outdoor Research Men's Ferrosi Shorts work on both ends of the spectrum, offering enough stretch for outdoor activities and a style that can work for a night out with friends or on a trip into a historic church your partner's parents. The metal button may not be your style, but it hasn't bothered us.
We all deserve a pair of fun shorts, right? The PFG Backcast III Water Shorts from Columbia come in neat colorways and can be used for many activities. Wear them for a dip in the pool, as sleepwear if the temperature is warm in your bunk, or on a morning run. They have a built-in brief crafted from mesh, which may not be ideal if you’re prone to chafing. However, it’s easy to cut out and doesn’t drastically impact the fit.
While we don’t recommend bringing your favorite cozy pair of sweatpants from home as they’ll take up too much room in your pack, a pair of joggers are an excellent alternative. The Men’s Joggers Pants from BALEAF are crafted from 73% nylon and 27% spandex for a comfortable fit that can go from lounging on the couch to running a marathon in a jiffy. They aren’t terribly warm, though they can be layered under baggier pants when the temperature dips.
Every traveler needs a set of do-it-all pants. While hostel hopping, you never know when you'll go from a hike to a diner, so having a pant that can handle both is key. The Outdoor Research Men's Ferrosi Pant is crafted from bend-don't-break materials and has a classic look that goes with almost anything. They aren't dress pants, but the look works for most cases while traveling.
You never know when you might meet that special someone while traveling—from a new love interest to a delicious meal for one, it's best to be prepared to dress up. The Columbia Men's Rapid Rivers Pants are durable enough for daily use and look nice for almost any occasion. You won't want to go hiking in them, but they'll have you covered on a long day of trekking around a new city.
Nobody likes taking their belt off at security only to have to put it back on a few moments later. With the Arcade Ranger Belt, you won’t have to. It isn’t made of metal, so you can go through the metal detector with it on. Some agents may still ask you to take it off, but we’ve found that most will let you go through without issue.
When you’re doing laundry in shared machines, it’s nice to stand out from the crowd. Pack Parade’s Days of the Week Pack of underwear, and you’ll solve two problems: You'll make it all week without needing to do laundry and know right away if you misplaced a pair when you can’t find “Tuesday” to cover your tushie. The recycled cotton blend fabric is super soft and breathable, and the pack includes colors and styles to complement any outfit, each with the day of the week and a little icon stitched in front. If you need a thong to minimize panty lines on Wednesday instead of Friday, go ahead and switch it up—we won’t tell. Each pack comes with 7 pairs of underwear, so you'll only need one.
Comfort is important when exploring a new place, and the Parade Dream Fit Triangle Bralette is a supportive yet comfy bra that rolls up small and works under nearly any top you want to pack. Your mileage may vary, but we think these provide enough support without uncomfortable underwires digging in after you’ve spent hours on a bus to Rome. The straps stay put whether you’re reaching for a subway strap or carrying your travel backpack across town, and they come in neutral colorways to match every outfit.
If you’re planning to work out, do some yoga in the park, or hike in the foothills of a nearby mountain range, you’ll want to add a sports bra to your travel backpack. The 3-Pocket Run Bra from Brooks includes three stretchy pockets: one on the racerback for your phone and one on either side for a hostel key or a credit card. It’s super convenient when your leggings and shorts don’t have pockets or they’re too small, though it takes a few minutes to get used to the feeling of your phone between your shoulder blades. Then, whether you stumble upon a beautiful vista or get lost and need to check the maps app, you’ll be prepared.
While showing off your cute pedicure day after day is fun, some activities call for socks. Pack a few of these to be ready for hiking around historic ruins, going for an early morning jog to get the lay of the land, or even just walking from the dorm to the bathroom of your hostel. They’re super cushiony and won’t slip off your heel, although they’re only ankle height, so you may want to opt for something taller if you’re adding hiking boots to your packing list.
A basic tank is a good staple for your capsule wardrobe since you can wear it solo or as a layer under nearly any top or sweater when the temperatures dip. It looks great with shorts or pants, and the pocket gives it a fun accent, so you can wear it for casual occasions like hanging out around the hostel or outdoor adventures. It even works for workouts when the temperature spikes. Although it’s on the pricier side, the Modal blend is softer than cotton and created to last through more washes, so it’s an investment for future travel.
This soft and breathable cotton tee is great for nearly any adventure and looks cuter than the school logo T-shirt you bought freshman year. The loose crop style looks great with high-waisted pants and shorts, or show off a bit of cheeky midriff—you do you. The material is durable and machine washable, so you won’t have to worry about special washing instructions while you travel, and it rolls up small to fit in your packing cube.
This GapFit top's not just for workouts. It's an easy-on-your-wallet tee that's easy on the eyes, thanks to the little twist in front. If you’re planning a more active excursion followed by lunch at a cute cafe, reach for this shirt. Dress it up with flowy pants, or keep it casual with leggings or shorts. Either way, the polyester, Lyocell, and Spandex blend will keep you cool while you’re active and looking stylish when you want to slow things down.
Whether you want to hike to a mountaintop temple or do sunrise yoga with the local goats, a moisture-wicking performance tee is worth including in your packing list. This recycled polyester and spandex shirt is also antimicrobial, so it lasts longer between washes. Pack two if you’re a more active traveler or have a workout routine you plan to maintain as you see the world. They’ll roll up small and look cute enough to wear for sightseeing, so you won’t regret them taking up space.
Add another layer to your wardrobe with the BALEAF Long Sleeve Shirt. It slips easily under a sweater or looks good on its own for casual adventures, depending on the temperatures where you travel. Plus, the technical fabric will wick away moisture if you want to go for a run in the morning chill. While it’s long-sleeve, it’s thin enough that you won’t quickly overheat, and it includes SPF 50 protection from the sun, so you’ll want to grab it for a day exploring the pyramids or other sunny spots.
When you need a lightweight extra layer or to cover your shoulders to adapt to more modest cultures, reach for the Sanibel Everyday Beach Shawl. It’s a perfect wrap for your dress or to blocks the sun’s rays when you’re eating al fresco at a seaside restaurant. Back at the hostel, you’ll find even more uses. Tuck it under the mattress of the bunk above you to create a privacy curtain in bed, or snuggle up with it when it’s too cold in the dorm and the blanket provided with your bedding isn’t cutting it.
Even if you know the weather forecast for your destination, there’s no telling how cold a plane, restaurant, or hostel will be. We’re digging the Airplane Cardigan as an extra layer over any outfit. The large pockets give you a place to carry your phone and small accessories. The cotton fabric is easy to care for and breathable so you won’t overheat. Although large, it doesn’t wrinkle when rolled, so you can squeeze it into your packing cube without worrying about what it will look like when you arrive.
A sturdy pair of shorts is great for exploring the outdoors around your hostel. Whether going for a hike, strolling the city, or hanging out with your hostel mates, slip on these Levi’s for a cute and casual vibe. The blend of cotton and elastane gives them the right amount of stretch, and you can tuck your keys and wallet in the pockets, although they’re a bit short for a phone. While Levi’s calls these mid-length, the stitched cuffed hem gives them an inseam of just 3 inches, so your mileage may vary whether these are long enough for you.
Although they look dressy enough for a splurge dinner out, these pants are so comfortable you’ll want to wear them daily. The wide legs look cute with a tee, a sweater, a tank, or even a bikini, and the high waist complements a crop top. The flowy legs also look good with longer tops, and they have pockets, so you can carry your keys and lip balm without needing a bag. They’ll take up a bit of room when rolled in your packing cube, although they’re our choice pick for wearing on the plane or while traveling between cities, so you may not need to worry about it.
Since they’re nice and thick, you’ll reach for these organic cotton leggings for lounging around with your new friends, shopping at the local market, or trying a new workout routine. While they may not wick away moisture as well as more technical blends, they also don’t look like you’re still wearing the clothes from your morning run. The contouring waistband stays where it’s put, and the thicker fabric masks panty lines and other flaws. Although inexpensive, Pact manufactures them in a fair-trade factory, so you can feel good about wearing them.
A good bathing suit is a boon at the pool or beach, though you’ll also want one for exploring waterfalls, woodland streams, and other adventures that take you off the beaten path. We’re packing a one-piece for an extra tank-style top to pair with our pants or shorts—bodysuits are back, after all. Look for one with a built-in bra, and you can wear it just about anywhere. Although a good swimsuit is an investment, Aerie has frequent sales, so you can score a good deal. While their styles change with the season, go for a classic tank for the most versatility.
We like to pack a dress for touring cathedrals, stylish metro areas, and going out to a restaurant, although it’s essential to choose one that can take the stresses of travel. This dress has a flirty, flowy style that will fit in pretty much anywhere, yet it’s so comfortable that you won’t feel like you’re dressing up. It even has pockets for stashing your phone and lip balm, so you may be able to leave an extra bag behind. It’s a bit large for your packing cube, though the Tencel jersey material doesn’t wrinkle easily, so it will look good wherever you pull it out, whether in Phoenix or France.
While you could catch some zzz's in the tee and leggings you wore all day, you’ll have to do laundry much more often if you’re also sleeping in your clothes. Make space to pack a set of pajamas, and you’ll be able to put on fresh duds in the morning. Whether it’s a worn-in theme park T-shirt or your favorite PJ set from home, you don’t have to spend much to find something to crash in overnight.
An important part of any packing list is a rain jacket, and having one you can rely on when the going gets wet is essential. Not only will the Columbia Pouration Jacket keep you dry, but it can be layered to keep you warm and packs into itself. Its compressed size isn’t as small as others we’ve tested, and it can look a bit baggy, but it’s an excellent size to slot into your travel backpack and at a great budget price.
At some point in your life, someone probably told you that you lose a ton of heat from your head in the winter without a hat. While that saying is only somewhat true, bringing a hat on a trip where you think the temperature might turn is a no-brainer. Smartwool Thermal Merino Stowe Pocket Beanie is small enough to fit in your pocket for days when you’re unsure of the weather and is crafted from Merino wool to ensure it stays stink and moisture free. However, if you’re traveling somewhere where you might get stuck in a blizzard, you might want something warmer.
Hats are great for bad hair days, keeping the sun out of your eyes, and accessorizing. Your favorite hat at home might not fold up nicely, so it’s best to have one that can compress down small. Gravel’s Travelers Hat folding bill allows it to do just that. Plus, it fits in at nearly any occasion, whether you’re headed to the trail or the coffee shop.
Whether you want to shade your face from the sun or have a bad hair day, a good hat is essential wherever you travel. Pick up a black ball cap like the lululemon Baller Hat Soft to have headgear that will coordinate with everything on this list, and the dark hue will hide any stains you pick up along the way. Although the brim is stiffer than most packable options, wrap it up with a ponytail holder to make it easier to fit in your travel backpack, and it will hold its curve around the world.
Even tropical places can get chilly from time to time. Smartwool Liner Gloves can be used on an early morning run, while taking night cityscape photos in a new city, or on an evening out with friends that lasts longer than anticipated. They’re crafted from 44% Merino wool, which keeps you dry and ensures they don’t lock in sweat or odors. If you’re outside for an extended period in cool weather, you might want something a little warmer, but for most trips, they get the job done.
If there’s anything we love more than travel backpacks (and traveling smart), it’s gaiters. They’re just so much better than crocodiles…wait, wrong subject. The BUFF USA Coolnet UV+ can be used as a face covering in inclimate temps or an eye mask if your hostel mates are making a lot of noise in the morning when trying to catch their flight. Plus, it offers protection from the sun and can stop bugs from landing directly on your skin. The Coolnet version is thinner and ideal for warm weather use but has enough warmth to work well in moderate climates. If it gets dirty, throw it in the washer!
If you’re staying at a hostel, odds are, you aren’t afraid to go down a more rugged path. Sunglasses, for the most part, aren’t very durable, so it’s essential to find a pair that balances functionality and price in case something happens to them. goodr sunglasses hit the nail on the head because they’re budget-friendly, durable, and work for most occasions. Their sporty look might not be for everyone, but they’re comfortable enough to make up for it and come in a ton of styles.
When packing for a stay at a hostel, only bringing one pair of shoes saves a ton of space in your pack and pain in your back. That’s why it's essential to bring a pair that feels comfortable everywhere. Though the Merrell Men's Nova 2 shoes are a little heavy, they look stylish and can handle the pavement or the trail. Plus, the durable sole adds stability no matter what you get into.
Even if you aren’t going somewhere tropical, a pair of thongs are an excellent multi-use choice when staying at a hostel. You can wear them in your room in the morning and evening, in the communal shower to keep your feet clean, or the beach, pool, or bathhouse. Havaianas are budget-friendly, take up minimal space in your pack, and are durable enough to handle the ride compared to other budget flip flops. They look a bit cheap, but their price ensures you won’t be bothered if they get lost in transit.
Fashion-forward slides are great for travel since they work as well at the beach as on city streets. You’ll be happy wearing the Chillos Slides everywhere, even around the hostel, since they’re as comfortable as slippers. The arch support may take a bit to get used to if you have flatter feet, though we like the adjustable straps for finding the right fit. Since they pair as well with a dress as shorts and pants, you can wear them as long as the weather warrants it. They can also double as shower shoes if you need to cut flip-flops from your pack, although the strap may take some time to dry.
These waterproof sneakers will keep your feet dry no matter what weather you encounter throughout your trip, and you can pair them with shorts, pants, or even a dress since the low-profile design goes with various styles. The black knit fabric looks nice enough for casual occasions, and you can wear them for some light exercise. They compress down for easy packing, so they’ll take up less space than running shoes in your pack.
Here at Pack Hacker, we dig packing cubes. We have a complete guide on it! For this list, we wanted to go with something durable enough to handle the bumps and knocks of travel but also lightweight enough to not get in your way. Enter the Osprey Ultralight Packing Cube Set! Although this set doesn’t have compression zippers, there are three different sizes for organizing your gear and a capable YKK zipper to keep it contained. The best packing cubes are the ones you don’t notice, and these fit the bill!
Productivity & Tech
Since you’re staying in communal areas with minimal locker space, we’ve left most of our expensive tech at home. The point of a hostel experience is to see the world, not a screen, right? However, it’s still nice to relax and chill at the end of a long day, and staying connected is essential, so some tech still makes the list.
With only a device or two in need of power, we can cut down on the tech we need to pack, downsizing just to an accessory bag. Resist the urge to pack every.last.thing, and you’ll come home having experienced more than you would on the couch.
No matter how jam-packed your itinerary is, there will always be downtime—waiting for a flight, sitting on the airplane, days where the weather stops your plans in the mud, and being unable to sleep due to jetlag. A Kindle Paperwhite is a great way to kill time, learn something new, and recharge your social battery. You can’t can’t play games or videos on it, but it’s lightweight, durable, and water-resistant. Load it up with literature about the locations you visit to learn about the culture before arriving or enjoy your favorite beach read abroad.
Bouncing from one country to another is a great way to experience multiple cultures, though you need to be prepared for each stop on the journey. The OneAdaptr OneWorld PD may be a little large; however, it works in over 150 countries, can charge up to five devices at once, and can fast charge compatible devices.
At a hostel, you never know how far your bed will be from an outlet to charge your phone. We’re packing the six foot version of the Belkin USB C to Lightning Cable so that there’s enough length to reach any outlet. Plus, the braided cable is durable enough to last multiple trips. It’ll only work for your iPhone or other Apple devices, but having a dedicated cable ensures you’re always ready to charge up. And it fast-charges, too, so you won’t be waiting long to hit the road if you forget to charge up overnight.
A dedicated iPhone or Android cable is excellent, but there are other devices in the world, all of which require anything from USB-A to USB-C, Lightning, or Micro-USB. With the Anker Powerline II 3-in-1 Cable, you can utilize three different charging ports with the same cable. The other end of the cable is a USB-A, which may feel outdated to some, but is still the standard in most parts of the world. And, since you have about every charging combination available, you can make a friend at your hostel by loaning your cable if they forget theirs. We’re packing the 3 foot version because it’s smaller for the times when you don’t need the extra length.
Any packing list deserves a quality battery bank. Some lists don’t require as much battery, and some may need to save weight. However, having as much power as possible for a hostel packing list is ideal because you never know when you’ll be stuck between places and need a charge. Anker's PowerCore 10K battery bank has 10,000 mAh, which is enough to charge most smartphones nearly three times. It isn’t the smallest battery bank we’ve tested, but it doesn’t break the bank and has enough juice to ensure you stay charged up.
When it comes to travel, you can’t go wrong with almost any smartphone. For the most part, they have good cameras, high-quality screens, and will work in most places in the world. For this list, we’re going with the Apple iPhone. It fits seamlessly into the Apple ecosystem and makes sharing photos and travel plans easy. The new models have cameras that rival professional quality, so you can look like a pro when sharing images on social media during your trip.
We aren’t going to tell you what case to go with because odds are, you already own the phone and case that you’ll be traveling with. If it works for your everyday carry at home, it will work while exploring the world one hostel at a time.
If you have ever stayed in a college dorm room, you know what it’s like to share space. Sometimes when you least expect it, things can get loud. Having a set of headphones to ensure you can tune out the noise is imperative, especially on nights when you are resting for a flight, long hike, or day full of transit. The soundcore by Anker Space A40 Wireless Earbuds are a budget-friendly option with active noise cancellation and stellar sound quality. You can use them to unwind or stay active on your trip so you don’t break your routine before heading home.
The JOBY GripTight ONE Micro Stand was one of the first Pack Hacker Picks and can be used in many ways. Set up your phone on the tray table to watch a movie on the flight, use it to keep your phone steady for a long exposure at night, or set it up for a group shot of you and your hostel mates. It can be hard to use with larger phone cases, but this thing fits into your pocket, so it’s easy to bring anywhere, which makes it a worthy inclusion, we think.
In a digital age, it’s nice to unwind now and then in a more active way. It’s hard to take written notes without a writing utensil, so we recommend the Pokka Pens Classic Pen. It has fun colorways, is budget-friendly, and works better than cheap or free pens you might find elsewhere. It’s great for jotting directions, phone numbers, or poetry between adventures.
If you like to take notes with a pen and paper, you understand the difficulty of jotting notes in inclement weather. That worry washes away with the Rite in the Rain Top Spiral Notebook. The paper is specially formulated for writing in the rain, so your notes won’t run, and the paper won’t stick together. Only specific writing tools will work in the rain, which may be an issue if you’re heading somewhere wet.
Toiletries & Personal Care
Unlike traveling to a 5-star hotel, you’ll want to ensure you bring all the essentials when staying at a hostel. Plus, you’ll need to keep them neat and organized since you can’t leave them at the sink, or even the bathroom, throughout your trip.
We focus this section of our packing list on gear that’s durable enough to take you through several countries and will last you that long, too. While finding a pharmacy in Thailand may be fun, finding your favorite soap or sunscreen there may not be as easy.
Many items on this list can be used for multiple purposes, and this toiletry kit is no different. The Osprey Ultralight Roll Organizer has enough space for all your bathroom needs and then some. If you need to stow an extra cable or wall charger, there’s room for that too. You can use the hook to hang the organizer up in the hostel bathroom like a caddy, and the mesh ensures that anything wet inside gets the air it needs to dry. You’ll need a reusable bag to use for airport security, but other than that, the Ultralight Roll Organizer is all-encompassing.
We’ve all reached our destination and realized we left our hair comb behind. The Kent 87T Handmade Folding Pocket Comb is so small it can stay inside your toiletry kit and be used on hair, beards, and mustaches. The teeth aren’t super tall, so it isn’t well suited for longer hair, but it’s extraordinarily durable and pocketable so that you can look fresh at a moment’s notice.
When sharing a bathroom with others, it’s easy to forget or lose smaller toiletry items. With Gillette Sensor3 Disposable Razors, you get a product that gives you a close shave and isn’t valuable enough to pitch a fit over losing. Plus, they’re available worldwide at local convenience stores, so it’s simple to get a replacement head or new razor entirely!
Since you may be sharing a shower, it’s nice to have a toiletry bag that lets you tote the essentials. Hang this small organizer at your bunk or in the bathroom so you can see everything you need. It includes a shower caddy so you can carry your soap, razor, and other gear in the shower with you. Plus, there’s a ton of organization in this kit, so you’ll know you’ve forgotten something if you spy an empty pocket or loop.
If your hair’s longer than a few inches, a comb won’t cut it. Instead, reach for a travel-sized hairbrush that won’t snap in two when you hit a snag. The ergonomically-shaped handle on the Spornette Carry On is short yet comfortable to use, and the brush head is closer to the size you’re used to at home than a foldable style. Just be sure to slide it into the pocket of your toiletry kit with the bristles facing away from the mesh so it doesn’t get caught.
We like the Venus Mini because it gives you a nearly full-size blade on a petite handle, so you can still get a good grip. While it comes with its own case (yay!), it’s so large you can likely leave it behind and slip this in a slot of your shower caddy. Replacement blades are available nearly anywhere, and if you buy too many, they also work on the longer Venus handle you have at home.
Cutting as many liquids from your pack as possible makes hopping on a plane to your next destination easier, so we’re packing a crystal stone deodorant instead of a roll-on or gel. This inexpensive stone doesn’t take up much space in your pack, and since it’s sans plastic packaging, there will be less and less to lug around the world as you use it. We take it in the shower with us to rub on since it activates once it gets damp, killing odor-causing bacteria without leaving white stains on your shirts.
A folding travel toothbrush gives you the grip of a long handle with the packability of a smaller model. We like the GUM Travel Toothbrush because it’s comfortable to hold and includes holes in the handle that allow the bristles to dry even when you pack it away. This budget-friendly brush will last you as you hop from place to place, and it comes in a set of two, so you and a travel companion will both be prepared.
Mint, fruit, or bubble gum? The flavor preferences of travelers are as varied as the available options, so grab a tube that works for you. Whatever brand you prefer, you’ll likely be able to find a travel-size container to bring along. If you’re traveling for longer, pack two or bring one regular-size since it may be harder to pick up your preference if you need a refill in another country.
We love products that serve double-duty, so we’re digging this 2-in-1 foundation and concealer from Milani. Sold in a TSA-friendly size, you can use it to cover a light blemish or two or as foundation for your whole face. A little goes a long way, so you’ll be set no matter how long you travel. Plus, it’s water resistant to stay put through a misty rain or while you’re sweating in a warmer location. Pair it with a palette for extra color or fancier locations.
Why worry about grabbing different containers of blush, bronzer, and eye shadow when you can get it all in one convenient, coordinated palette? Whether you want a natural, sun-kissed look or something with a little more flair, you can mix and match the shadows, blushes, bronzer, and highlighter in Milani’s All-Inclusive palette to create your perfect look. It comes in a slim package to slide easily into your toiletry kit. You’ll be the hit with new friends when you pull it out at the hostel. Don’t worry—there’s plenty to share before you go out for a night of fun.
While you may not reach for it often, Maybelline’s Great Lash Waterproof Mascara is great to have on hand whether you need to look more awake than you feel, you’re getting ready for a night out, or you don’t feel fully dressed without it. It’s waterproof to keep raccoon eyes at bay throughout the day’s (and night’s) adventures, and you can get the look you prefer based on how many coats you apply.
This makeup brush kit comes with the tools you need to apply blush, bronzer, foundation, eye makeup, and more, though what we love is that you don’t need to bring it all with you every time. Two handles come with interchangeable heads, so you can pack what you need and leave the rest at home. And the ability to take the brushes off the handles cuts down on the space you’ll need to pack them, so you won’t have to worry about squashed bristles when unpacking after traveling for days.
From splinters to ticks to stray hairs, we can find many reasons to include tweezers in a hostel packing list. While these tweezers from Revlon are perfect for shaping your eyebrows, you never know where you may need to pluck when you’re traveling for weeks at a time. Their slender profile won’t take up much room in your organizer, although, like many pointy objects, they can get caught in mesh pockets, so take care while taking them out.
You never know when you may snag a nail, so pack a pair of clippers just in case. This set from Tweezerman comes with two, so we’re packing the small one and leaving the large one at home, so you’ll have a backup in case you lose yours on the other side of the world. Or bring both and share the extra with a new friend. Either way, they’re inexpensive and work well for nails or stray threads.
No one wants to travel the world with chapped lips, so pop a few of these tiny lip balms in your bags. They’re budget-friendly when you buy them in bulk and small enough to slip into your sling and toiletry bag. If you’re afraid of losing one, bring a few extras and you’ll be able to share with hostel mates and friends. Whether you’re skiing the Alps or scaling the pyramids of Giza, the sunscreen, beeswax, and sunflower and coconut oils will smooth your smile.
Bringing toiletries you trust from home is essential when traveling to different places. Matador’s FlatPak Toiletry Bottles are great for lotion and sunscreen to keep your skin hydrated and protected from UV rays. You can also use them for conditioner or other liquids you find essential. As you use what’s inside, the FlatPak bottles will start to flatten out and take up less room in your pack. While we’ve found they can develop leaks after long-term use, they are inexpensive to replace.
Cut another bottle of liquid out of your kit when you pack Dr. Bronner’s Pure Castile Bar soap in your Matador FlatPak Soap Bar Case. The soap cleans you from head to toe, including your hair, so you don’t need separate shampoo, and the FlatPak case allows it to dry between uses while keeping moisture from dampening your other gear. Roll the top, buckle it closed, and then pop it back into your toiletry bag to be ready for the next day.
While some hostels provide towels, they don’t always offer washcloths, so bring the small Matador Ultralight Travel Towel to use in the shower. It's also handy while traveling to wake yourself up after a redeye flight, as a sweat rag when you go for a hike, or for removing makeup (if you wear it). It’s not very thick, but it compresses down super small, so it’s easy to pack and easy on your travel budget.
While it’s becoming more common for hostels to offer towels to travelers, it’s still a good idea to bring your own for a day at the beach. Nomadix’s Ultralight Towel comes in several fun colorways, so you’ll remember it’s yours if you leave it in the bathroom, and it rolls up to the size of a burrito. While there are smaller options out there, we think you’ll be happy to make space for this in your pack since you can use it at the hostel shower, lay on it at the beach, or get some privacy in your bunk.
You can get a GoTubb in three different sizes, though we’re opting to grab a small one to transport our makeup remover. While soap can do the trick in many cases, some makeup is a little harder to take off (we’re looking at you, waterproof mascara!). If you don’t plan to wear much, you can pack just a little micellar water or another remover. If you like to wear makeup daily, upgrade to the medium size since it will still make it past airport security.
You may hope for spontaneity as you hop from place to place and hostel to hostel, but some things happen like clockwork. Plan for your period without making space for a big box of supplies with the Last Object Last Pad. Bringing along a couple means you’ll be ready even if Aunt Flo comes to visit when you weren’t expecting her, while also being kind to Mother Earth. These are washable, though you may want privacy if you rinse them in a shared sink.
If you have a packed agenda or your plans include a trip to the beach, you won’t want to use a pad. Instead, reach for the Athena Club Menstrual Cup, which contains your flow more like a tampon but is reusable. There’s a learning curve with a cup, so you’ll want to practice inserting and removing it before you go, but this flexible device fits easily in your pack, so you can always be prepared.
Carry a couple of Ziploc bags so you're ready to pull your liquids out as you go through the security line or to contain your bottles if one springs a leak on your trip. They roll up to take up about the same space as a pen, so they’re a good pick to pack just in case. We’re bringing two, so we have a backup if one gets punctured or to share with a hostel mate.
While these items are things you may be able to take or leave on other packing lists, some of this gear is essential when heading to a hostel. Whether you need to repair a rip in your shorts, find a better way to store the leftovers you cooked up in the shared kitchen, or want to play a game with your new housemates, these are some key hostel travel essentials.
Most travel packs have some internal organization, but if you’re living out of your bag for a few weeks, it’s nice to have some supplemental segmentation. The Topo Designs Accessory Bag comes in various sizes and colors. Depending on what you plan to stow, you can choose a size and color that works best for that gear. They aren’t the most compact organizers we’ve tested, but they’re durable and have external loops for fastening, which comes in handy while staying in a hostel. We’re using two of these to keep our miscellaneous items in check.
Staying at a hostel means cooking for yourself, getting takeout, and heating leftovers. While most hostels provide cutltery, there’s always a chance there aren’t any clean forks or spoons available when you need them. Wow, it sounds like college too, but that’s beside the point. The humangear gobites Duo has a fork and spoon that fit into one another, so they don’t take up much space in your pack and you can easily eat most meals. There isn’t a knife due to the need to make it through airport security, but the fork can do a job when necessary.
Being thrifty while traveling enables you to see and do more, and an easy way to save money is to not waste food. The Annaklin Collapsible Silicone Food Storage Containers lay flat when not in use and are large enough to stow a leftover meal in the hostel fridge to eat later. You won’t be able to fit a pizza inside (well, without blending it), so choosing meals that will fit in your container is a good idea. Plus, it’s a great budget option so you’re not too bummed if you leave it behind on accident or run out of space in your pack.
If you’re planning to stay in a hostel, odds are, you like company. Even the most hospitable hostel mates need a break from the noise every so often, so a set of reusable earplugs is a no-brainer. Anbow Reusable Silicone Ear Plugs keep a moderate amount of noise from hitting your ear drum so you can read, sleep, or meditate in peace. Plus, you can use them swimming if you’re prone to ear infections. There are only two in a set, so be careful not to lose one of them! Otherwise, you’ll be stuck listening to your new friend Klaus practice his rendition of Wonderwall by Oasis over and over. He’s getting better, but wow, does that song get old quick.
Traveling is about seeing as much of the world as possible, though sometimes there will be mornings, afternoons, and evenings you’ll need to recharge your batteries before going back out to adventure. Hoyle Waterproof Playing Cards are great for keeping yourself occupied in those times and enable you to play games with your new friends, too. The cards are completely waterproof and durable. However, they do feel a little slippery, so be careful when dealing out.
If you've had roommates before, you already know the unspoken rules of staying at a hostel. Label your food, keep the noise at a moderate level, and don't turn someone's lights on in the middle of the night. If you take frequent trips to the bathroom in the middle of the night or want to stay up late reading, bringing a flashlight is a great way to accomplish this without angering your new friends. The Streamlight Miniature Keychain Flashlight is a tiny light with a big bark, so you can use it for almost anything. The beam isn't super wide, so it isn't great for adventuring outdoors, but the included carabiner is great for keeping it on you at all times and it works well in a pinch.
When staying at a hostel, it's important to ensure you bring a good lock. In addition to durability and security, versatility is crucial because you never know what you'll be locking your gear in. The Master Lock 647D Combination Padlock is small enough to work on most lockers and strong enough to ensure no one gets to your gear but you. However, it probably won't fit through your backpack zippers, so you’ll need another lock if that’s your jam.
Sometimes, staying at a hostel requires you to be resourceful. Most places you’ll visit are well equipped for any needs you may have, but sometimes a tool goes missing, or one of your hostel mates is using what you need. The Leatherman Style PS is a multitool with enough features to warrant its inclusion. We find the pliers, scissors, and tweezers to be the most useful, but you never know when you’ll need to pop open a glass bottle of beer at a moment's notice or screw a tv stand back together after a football match gets a little too heated. The tool is TSA-compliant, but ultimately, it’s up to the agent you get.
A hostel-goer needs to be ready for everything. A great way to ensure that you’re prepared to protect your gear at a moment’s notice is by using a stuff sack. Matador’s Droplet Water-Resistant Stuff Sack is tiny when not in use, so you don’t have to worry about it taking up too much space. Not only will it protect sensitive gear from getting soaked, but you can use it to organize your pack as the trips rolls on. Unpack it when you arrive to throw dirty laundry inside or stow breakable items inside with other clothes. Or just use a gallon size Ziploc bag—up to you.
Hostels are typically ready to help you feel more at home, either by design or the innovation of past travelers, but sometimes the right equipment can go a long way. The Heroclip Hybrid Carabiner Clip makes hanging your sling, pouch, or travel backpack from nearly any surface quick and easy. Plus, it folds within itself, so it doesn’t take up much room and can hang out on the exterior of your pack. Occasionally it won’t fit through whatever it is you want to hang it on, though there’s almost always something available to make it work properly.
Carabiners are an essential piece of any travel pack out, especially when it comes to staying at a hostel. The accommodations are shared, so you might not be able to use the room’s amenities when you want to. A carabiner ensures you always have something to hang your gear on, whether you’re going to the bathroom hanging up a privacy curtain in Iceland when the sun is up all day long. They can be a little noisy when rattling against something metal, but you can always place a piece of fabric on one side to reduce the noise.
Most things you travel with will unravel if you let them. Towels, clothes, charging cables—they’ll all turn into a mess if you give them the opportunity. By using Velcro Cable Ties, you can stop that process before it starts. Not only will they prevent tangles from happening, but you can also use them to compress larger gear to take up less space in your pack. Specific clothing will stick to them and can get snagged, so it’s best to ensure anything sensitive is in a packing cube. If you’re constantly using Velcro Cable Ties, you can wear one around your wrist, so you have it at a moment’s notice.
Let’s be honest; you knew this was coming. A Nalgene Water Bottle is about as classic as travel in general—it’s ol’ reliable. There are quite a few size options, but we dig the 1-liter version because it enables you to stay extra hydrated without stopping a bunch for refills. Best of all, these things are basically indestructible. The bottle doesn’t condense or fold, but the durability offered by a Nalgene is worth the extra size and weight.
Even with the most durable clothing, accidents will happen. Maybe you get a little too adventurous on a hike turned scramble, or you find out the hard way how hard cobblestone streets are on the Muur van Geraardsbergen. When disaster strikes a piece of your gear (or a hostel mate’s), the Fiskars Sewing Travel Kit saves the day. You can easily fix a tear or hole with the included materials. The gear is small and might not do glamorous work, but you’ll be able to prevent further damage and the accidental loss of equipment!
Let’s be honest—we all spill sometimes. Even the cleanest folks in the world are bound to have an accident eventually, and a spill is a lot more annoying while traveling when you’ve only got a few shirts to work with. A Tide To Go Pen remedies that issue because you can clean your shirt no matter where you are or (mostly) what you spill on it. It’s a small, capable tool to keep in your travel kit; just be sure to replace it every so often because it’s hard to tell when they’re empty.
See How We Pack It
These videos will show you exactly how we pack this entire list. Not only do we cover the process for loading each pouch and packing cube, but we’ll also show you exactly how we get it all into the backpack. Sign up for Pack Hacker Pro to get access. Even without our suggested travel bag, this video will help you prepare for your next trip by giving you helpful tips to improve your (already awesome) packing skills.
Time to Go!
So, there it is—a complete packing list designed to help you see the world and have fun meeting new friends along the way.