We have met (in our hostels) so many backpacker beginners asking us about the backpacking essentials, wishing they had a backpacking kit for their initial travels. We think it would have also been useful for us when we started backpacking many years ago.
With a minimalist squared design, Nomatic backpack is a functional 40L backpack which feels more like a 45-50L.
A 40 liter backpack is large enough for extended trips, yet compact enough to be carry-on approved.
That’s another highlight about the Nomatic backpack. It can be used as a carry on.
It is just 21 in x 14 in x 9 in (53.3 x 35.6 x 22.9 cm), which is allowed as a carry on for most airlines, even the low cost airlines such as Ryanair.
That is perfect if you want to avoid the time, money and hassle of luggage check-in. In low cost airlines, you have to pay extra for check-in luggage.
Able to function as both a backpack and duffel, this bag adapts itself to many styles.
Another advantage is how it opens.
The Nomatic backpack opens like a suitcase. Other than many hiking backpacks, you can actually open the zipper all around instead of trying to reach from the top to the bottom. It will be easier to reach any item you need from your bag. There are many backpacks for travelers which open like a suitcase nowadays, but this Nomatic opening system has a plus.
The biggest compartment opens from the inside, meaning, the part you carry on your back.
Enjoy your walks with no worries about your belongings.
Also this bag is rain resistant. That is a plus ’cause you do not need to find any rain cover for it and put it on and off when it is raining or not. On that note it is important to mention, the Nomatic is not 100% water-proof. So you cannot go swimming with it. It is only “rain proof”. When walking in rain, your belongings inside won’t get wet.
In order to not be limited to having all your stuff in the big compartment, it comes with seriously useful organizing pockets.
Ready to know all your organizing system?
Here we go:
The one side of the backpack has two lateral pockets for snacks, booking documents, or even a small pocket notebook. They are easily accessible even when carrying the bag.
The intention of the Nomatic team is that you use this compartment for your water bottle. As it is water resistant it is very practical as any spoil will not affect the rest of your items. You can carry your water with no fear when using this pocket.
This pocket might be a bit small if you love having a 1,5 Liter water bottle with you.
But this pocket can also be used for many other things:
Separating wet socks, or even some clothes you want to have near you, like gloves, a hat, sun glasses…
carrying your toiletries. Not only will it be a safeguard against leaks, but as the pocket is easily accessible, you will be fast at the airport security line.
This pocket is not really big. The Nomatic designers think it’s ideal to put your passport, tickets and other items needed for security.
The special feature? The felt lining. A great and innovative touch for protecting your phone and other electronics from scratches.
Even-though it can be useful when you are sitting on a train, I would not recommend you to use this pocket to store your phone when you are walking around the city, as it is easily accessible. Fear not, Nomatic thought about different solutions for this:
a security pocket (find the explanation below)
a pocket with a zipper on the waist straps.
3. A separate compartment to store shoes or warm clothes
There is also bigger compartment on the top of the bag. Here you can store your travel shoes or (warm) clothes that can become handy during your travels.
More organization pockets:
On the other side, you have a bigger organization pocket, which is meant to store all your gear in a very organized way. Just have a look at the photos.
This pocket comes with many organizational compartments inside.
The most interesting pocket of all of them is the RFID safe pocket – an internal pocket with zipper and RFID-Safe material.
What is RFID?, you might ask?
RFID stands for Radio-frequency identification. It is possible to read some of your RFID Cards such as credit cards from further away. This is why a RFID safe pocket is very interesting!
This pocket is designed for holding your compact security items like passport, credit cards, money, ID… It comes with a free TSA approved lock.
The zippered pockets in this section are really useful. You have also nylon, stretchy pockets, meant to be used for all your chargers, and cables.
A dream for nerd organization techs which we have not seen in any other bag.
Just be careful when opening this side. Make sure you open it with zipper facing up to avoid items falling out.
On the bottom side of the Nomatic bag you have a shoes compartment. It is very useful, and not only cause you will avoid getting all your other clothes dirty from your shoes.
Smart to know: Have you ever seen a backpacker carrying the shoes tied outside the backpack? Well, this is considered very rude in Asia. Try to avoid this in Asia.
You wont loose your shoes either ’cause they will be inside the backpack.
As these pockets are independent from the main pocket or interior bag, they are great to store things which you don’t want to mix with your clean fresh clothes.
Smart packing tip: If you don’t want to bring extra shoes, you can still use the space! Pack an article of clothing that needs a bit of compression such as a jacket, a sweater…Now, that’s already the 2nd level of maximum-packing-efficiency.
Detachable Waist Straps
We get it. Even though waist straps can be very useful for extended travel, not everyone likes them.
The Nomatic travel bag comes with removable hip straps. Such a convenience!
You can use them when going on longer journeys and detach them later.
The waist straps are padded so you can feel comfortable. They come also with zippers to put pocket money, cellphone, headphones…you name it.
Personal note: for extended travel, we do really recommend to use the waist straps. It helps you to keep balance.
Main compartment – travel bag
Last but not least, the actual biggest compartment for packing.
As mentioned, the bag opens from the back. It opens like a suitcase, making it easy to reach any item you might need.
The lid of this main compartment is set up to accommodate your laptop and/or tablet. Even though the laptop pocket is spacious, we are not sure you can fit in laptops bigger than 15-inch.
On that note, we always travel with a laptop of 13 inches. It is light and fits every bag. Many travelers we’ve met even travel with smaller laptops.
In this compartment, we come to appreciate the sharp corners of the backpack. You will be able to pack right up into the corners, meaning, you can pack it like a suitcase. Anna loves packing her clothes in a really organized way, so she is very happy with it.
Packing Tip: the shoe pockets on the top and bottom mentioned above will use space of this main compartment. Don’t load them too heavily.
The packing cubes help you keep your luggage organized. At first we did not believe in the power of the packing cubes, after trying them ourselves we can admit we cannot live without them.
Why use packing cubes?
Stay organized: They allow you to keep things separate: using packing cubes helps you stay organized.
Keep clothes neat: packing cubes allow you to stuff things in it keeping clothes wrinkle free
Reduce time spent sifting through luggage: as you will keep your things separated, you will reduce the time spent to find what you need.
Easy to keep clean: as the packing cubes are made of nylon, you could wash them in the washing machine if needed
Allow you to pack more: really good and bad, you will be able to fit more in a bag, a s you will fold things into smaller spaces and even save space
They are reusable: we heard many travelers use the cheapest option of ziplock bags as alternative to packing cubes, however ziplock are not made for repeated used. Packing cubes are durable and strong.
Creative: You could use the packing cube as a comfortable travel pillow.
Even though the Nomatic backpack is comfortable and you could take it everywhere, it is very useful to have a Day Bag by Matador (or Anti-Theft daily bag) with you. That way, you leave your backpack at the accommodation with the heavy items and just bring your essential things for the day.
Packing as light as possible will maximize your energy.
Why carrying around items that you do not need anyway? Better leave them securely at your accommodation.
We were pretty impressed with how ridiculously lightweight this thing is, considering its capacity when unpacked. You could carry this bag in your jacket pocket all the time if you want, which makes it perfect even for non-planned grocery shopping.
Regarding the material, the big player here is ripstop nylon named Cordura – a lightweight, strong fabric. It is the same used on parachutes. The material is resistant and water repellent to protect your belongings anytime.
Just bear in mind that as the body of the backpack is made of lightweight flexible material, if you do store uncomfortable, sharp items you will feel them in your back. But normally, in a daily bag you won’t be carrying those items.
It is more for an extra pullover, camera… Impressively for us, even our 13“ laptop fits!
The bag has two extra lateral mesh side pockets, great for a water bottle, snacks and other smaller items.
And the straps in the shoulder? They are basic but the mesh material provides ability to breathe. The straps also come with plastic adjuster loops at the bottom so you can adjust them based on your body size or how much weight you’re carrying.
The Matador daily bag also comes with an Exterior Pocket, great to throw your keys or some quick-grab items you might like to separate.
Features of the Matador daily backpack:
Additional front zipper pocket
puncture resistant material (cordura)
waterproof materials & water resistant zippers
ultra light design
compact attached storage bag
Conclusion: The matador is light, it is waterproof and portable; exactly what you need in a day bag!
As their motto says: Good things come in small packages
A phone case is a life saver for your phone in more situations than you might think of. And while design and material are very personal, the Iconspeak case is designed to easily communicate all over the world.
How? Well, this protective case has icons with basic and easy messages.
Simply point to one of the icons on the phone case to communicate.
For example: there is the icon with a bus. Point it to get the directions to the bus stop, or ask the bus number you have to take to arrive to X.
The material of the case is high quality.
It is only available for
Galaxy S7 and
You will be able to choose between two different colors: black or cyan.
If you have another phone, or you love your case soooo much, then you can just personalize your no borders bundle without the phone case.
Good to know: Currently the phone case is not available for iPhone PLUS, so unfortunately Matt cannot use, so Anna does instead.
Thought to be used with the Nomatic backpack, this padlock is useful not only for the backpack, but also for many other situations.
Put it on your daily backpack if you are heading to tourist places with pick-pocketing fame.
Use it on your hostel to store your luggage on the locker…
What else do you need to have a kick-ass Backpacking Kit?
There are some items that will facilitate your backpacking life and will make your travels easier all around the world.
We always recommend to travel as light as possible. You do not really need many things you have been considering, but there are some items which are really useful and you might not find them in all the places you are traveling to.
Even if you are not planning to stay in dorms or a shared room during your travels, it might occur that you book a place which is noisier than you expected.
Ear plugs are also handy on small airplanes and trains.
5. Photo camera (or cell phone…)
We are sure your backpacking trip will be memorable, and you will enjoy your time. And even though our minds remember the good moments, over time we tend to erase old memories.
In order to be able to transfer you to those good moments again, there is no easier way than looking at a photo.
Take photos of your new friends, those buildings you don’t wanna forget or those special moments that made you feel powerful, happy, euphoric.
Many people are worried about bringing their big camera, or buying a new one.
The truth is, the best camera is the one you use.
Nowadays, smartphones have also very good cameras.
The smartphone cameras are good ’cause you carry them always in your pocket and it is easy to upload photos to your PC or send photos to your friends and family.
Nevertheless, with bright sunlight, it might be difficult to take stunning photos.
Also, using that camera will make your battery empty faster.
That is why, many travelers also bring an extra camera with them.
But what kind of camera should you choose? There are many on the market!
Here you have a great and compact explanation of the camera types:
they are small, light, you can use them also underwater and they can survive all kinds of abuse, including being buried in sand or mud, or even dropped on the pavement. We have the GoPro Hero and love it! Being able to take some photos during our adrenaline activities is always a plus.
Compact digital camera:
also known as point-and-shoot cameras. They are fairly cheap, small and light. They will allow you to capture beautiful images by simply pointing the camera at the subject and clicking the shutter. They don’t require extra lenses and they doe all the hard work automatically. The big contra is that you won’t be able to customize your shutter speed or aperture.
Digital SLR camera:
this more “serious” type of camera will take photos to the next level of image quality. They deliver remarkable sharp and spectacular images, and even high resolution videos. You will be able to customize all settings and also change your optical lenses if you want to. They are more expensive, and also a bit bulky, but bear in mind the quality is really good if you choose good brands such as Nikon and Canon.
Many videographers and photographers around the world mostly use DSLR.
A good combination of the two popular types of Digital cameras mentioned above. They are a mix between the point-and-shoot for its compact size and a DSLR for its interchangeable lenses and impressive output.
We changed our bulky digital SLR camera for a Fujifilm XT-20 and love it!
Talking about photos, make sure you back up your photos each certain time if you are traveling around long-term. Unexpected situations can make you loose all your photos.
Simply use an extra SD card (stored on a different place than your camera gear), external USB, or iCloud storage…
You will be spending hours on your feet while exploring!
And there is no quicker way to shatter the magic of exploring than an uncomfortable pair of shoes…
Yes, your head will make excuses as you want to eat something else or just stop to contemplate 5 more minutes… just because your shoes are hurting. At the end of the day, your shoes will hurt so much that you might not be able to still explore the city the day after or you will have to skip an awesome activity cause you have painful blisters.
Make sure your shoes are breathable and comfortable and you will be ready to explore with no problems.
Not to be mentioned last because it is the less important thing.
You must carry your documents and bring money with you if you wanna see the world.
Here you have it! A simple backpacking kit to start discovering the world.
As mentioned, It does not matter if you are exploring just 3 days or long-term traveling, the items mentioned are essential for your travels. And we explained all whys, so if you do not consider any item essential just let us know why on the comments below.
The no borders bundle gives you the essential gear for your travels, and with the extra items we mentioned, you should be able to pack light and travel further.
UPDATE: We asked our community via Instagram what they carry always when traveling. Here is what they said.
13. SIM card
A local SIM Card is handy to download all travel apps like currency converters and offline maps!
We are not really recommending a traditional scarf, but a sarong or a light foulard (preferably in cotton) that will be useful for so many situations.
15. Baby wipes….
You never know, and this thing is very versatile 😉
16. Hand sanitizer
A travel size hand sanitizer is helpful in many situations.
For example, before eating during your snorkeling trip in Thailand, where you won’t have any toilet on board.
17. A personal note book – as souvenir
The personal note book is a great idea to let your new friends write down notes. This can be small notes to you that you will read when you get home, for instance. We actually met quite a few travelers doing this. A very creative way to bring home unique souvenir and memories.
3. My Backpacker Packing Mistakes
Alright, alright. I promised you my own backpacker mistakes.
Or better to say, the backpacker mistakes when it comes to packing. I am not too embarrassed though since making mistakes is part of the process, I guess. Have a look on the 13 common backpacker mistakes and how to handle them.
#1 the wrong backpack
On my very first “backpacking trip”, I traveled through Spain and Portugal on my own.
Since I did not own a backpack, I borrowed one from a friend. I did not want to take my bulky, heavy suitcase with me. At least that I did right. So, my friend gave me his backpack. It was a huge 70 liter hiking backpack with thousands of pockets.
It was so heavy, so huge and bulky.
In that moment I thought it would be perfect.
Truth be told, it almost killed me, Okay, that’s exaggerating a bit. Once I packed it up that beast was heavy, you wouldn’t believe it. And again, I was going to backpack through Spain and Portugal…in August…with a 70 liter backpack on my back.
I was such a genius!
#2 huge day bag
And my ingenuity continues. I thought “I cannot bring that big backpack for wandering around the city, I need a day bag“. So I got myself a nice day bag, bulky again and heavy.
It is really not a good idea to get a day bag that is heavier than the actual items you’re carrying around…does not make sense. Bring a small one.
Another advantage of a small bag? You pack and carry less.
#3 packing everything for every occasion
My #3 on this list is packing everything for every occasion. I packed sneakers, good shoes, hiking boots, flip flops (2 of course, 1 for the showers, 1 for the beach) and x different pants.
It didn’t make much sense. I ended up wearing the same 3-5 tshirts, 2-3 pants and one air of shoes. The only thing you really need a lot of is underwear and socks. That is it.
That being said, this obviously depends where you are traveling. Traveling super light in the deepest winter is quite challenging, if not, impossible.
#4 wearing brand new shoes
That was a terrible idea! I was on my way to Canada in winter and I did not own a single pair of winter boots. So, the day before leaving I bought a new and nice pair of footwear.
My flight went from Barcelona to Amsterdam to Vancouver. I already put them on for my flight from Barcelona to Amsterdam. I did not even leave the airplane in Amsterdam, the new shoes were killing my feet.
Wearing brand new shoes instantly for traveling is not the best idea, I learned.
#5 several white or bright t-shirts
Another classic mistake. And I am happy to say, I am by far not the only one doing this. Many many do this. Bringing white and bright t-shirts is not the best idea. They get dirty very fast and are harder to clean.
Personally, I still travel with a white t-shirt, I simply love them.
But I also now bring a grey one, dark blue, black, etc. The dark colors do not get that dirty easily….well, that’s not exactly right. When a dark-colored t-shirt gets dirty, you won’t see it directly.
#6 Underestimating Packing Cubes
I took my sweet time to understand and appreciate packing cubes. I have always seen them and I always thought Packing Cubes only take more space and add more weight to my backpack. Seriously.
I started to use them at one point and have not stopped since. It is so useful to have all your shirts in one cube, all your underwear and socks with another. Try it!
You see, I did my fair share of big and small mistakes when starting my travel career. You might think. Truth be told, I am still making smaller mistakes and find ways to improve packing etc.
The first time I traveled to Thailand I packed 13 t-shirts. Seriously, I am not kidding: 13 t-shirts! You can laugh now!
Just try to avoid the huge mistakes and you are good to go. You will do many mistakes during your travels. Hence, this is part of the experience.
4. PDF Packing Checklist for free download
That was a lot of information now.
In order to make it more simple for you, we created a packing checklist PDF. You can download this PDF for free, and even add your own notes to it.