Ahhhhhh, the eternal travel question – what on earth should I pack for traveling and staying at Hostels?
We had a look around and all those packing lists for hostels we found were pretty outdated.
Nothing to do with the modern backpacker or the new generation who travel with smart phones, cameras and tablets.
This article is part of the huge full guide to hostels.
It is packed with everything you need to know about hostel-type accommodation, such as:
- Hostel room types and the differences
- The 7 types of hostels you can find
- Sex in hostels + 4 do’s and don’ts
Of course, you can also find all 5 Star Hostels, the best hostels in the world, with Hostelgeeks.
Last update: 19.04.2018
So, here it is: The Hostel Packing List
It doesn’t matter whether you’re the type of traveler who flings everything in their suitcase half an hour before leaving the house, or you have a meticulous packing list ready weeks in advance.
At some point, you’re going to have to make some decisions about what goes into that suitcase of yours.
Oh wait, should it be a suitcase or actually a backpack?
Although that is a different topic, our recommendation is a 40L backpack (jump to backpack recommendation here).
Aaaalso, we’ve got another interesting thing for you:
The NO-GO, NEVER-EVER hostel packing list – items you should leave at home!
Update: We recommend buying your travel accessories with Amazon. You can now get a 30 days FREE trial of the Prime Membership with Amazon.
With a prime membership you have faster delivery as well as access to their movie section.
* this article may contain affiliate links
If you’re planning on staying in hostels during your adventures, there are some travel items that you definitely won’t want to leave at home.
We’ve complied this hostel packing list of our geeky must-have items to stay at a hostel to help you figure out what to take with you.
You can get an idea of all facilities and services a Hostel offers in our Full Hostel Guide.
Read: 18 hostel rules and hostel etiquette to build lifelong friendships.
One last thing before we start – did you remember your passport?
Update: Native Spanish speaker? Here is the packing list for “que llevar en la maleta”
Free Download Hostel Packing List
You can download the Hostel Packing List as a PDF.
Simply open the .pdf and save it on your device.
We also added a few more points so you can add your own items to the list.
1. Earplugs – snooooore
You never know who you could end up sharing a room with in a hostel.
Now, most people are genuinely nice – we’re not trying to scare you here.
But you might find out in the wee hours of the morning that your super sweet new friend has some supersonic snoring abilities.
Or maybe the friendly girl you met downstairs spent her evening getting to know the city’s bar scene.
You’ll become painfully aware of this fact when she crashes into the room at 5 a.m.
Earplugs are actually always a good idea, not just only for hostels.
Many guesthouses may have old doors and hotels are often located directly next to a busy street. You might also want some on the plane to rest, and so on.
Pack ’em, you’ll need them!
You can find earplugs cheaply here.
P.S.: Get a little plastic box to carry your earplugs and keep them clean.
It’s also a good idea to have them with you in case someone in the dorm decides to have sex in the dorm.
Here’s our article on 4 dos and donts when it comes to Sex in hostels.
2. Eye mask (for dorms and flights)
More and more hostels add a little privacy to their dorms by adding a curtain to the bunk beds.
This is awesome, BTW! We at Hostelgeeks really like this.
So simple and effective!
Either way, an eye mask is always a good idea to add to your hostel packing list.
You can use it for long flights or taking a nap during the day too. Make sure you get one made with silk. Those are the most comfortable!
You can get a simple design eye mask or funky designs to show off your style while you sleep. It’s up to you!
Smart Tip: You can get a combo pack with ear plugs and and eye mask here.
3. Packing cubes (MUST!!!!)
Actually, this one we underestimated a lot… but packing cubes are pure gold!
Seriously, GET THEM!!!
They’re super easy to stick in your bag and they don’t weight much. They’re eco-friendly and multi-purpose! Use them to separate your clean and dirty clothes while you’re traveling.
You’ll really appreciate this as you get towards the end of your trip! Really.
Also, you can use them for shopping and cut down on the usage of plastic bags.
You can find many cheap packing cubes here.
Update: I would not take the cheapest ones you can find. After 2 months, the cheap ones I got broke and I had to replace them. :( From now on I also only use compressor packing cubes.
You can also get so-called compressor packing cubes.
The compressor packing cubes cost a bit more, but it’s worth it. They have an extra-zipper to make them even smaller – a.k.a. compress them.
Have a look at the photos below we took for you.
What’s inside there?
- long dress
- 2 T-Shirts
Before – After
4. Noise Cancelling Headphones
This is a must have! Bring noise cancelling headphones. They are awesome for
- hostel dorms
I consider them essential!
A lot of airlines offer complimentary headphones. But, truth be told, they are NOT good, pure plastic and not comfortable. Better bring your own!
But, before you buy any, this noise cancelling headphones we recommend have an ACTIVE noise cancelling.
It’s a included system with a battery.
You can charge it easily with the included USB cable. However, it even works without the battery AND it comes with the 2-to-1-plug for airlines.
5. The RIGHT backpack (not just any one…)
When it comes to the right backpack, well, that’s a huge topic. We recommend getting a backpack of 55l max.
It’s simple, because…
- You’ll use the space you have
meaning: if the backpack itself is big, you WILL chronically over-pack.
- You can take it as a carry-on for your flight
- You never need as many things as you think you do…
A popular choice for a backpack is the famous Osprey Backpack.
Once you start hitting the road, you’ll realize how many travelers out there already use their products.
There’s a good reason for this.
The backpack is designed by travelers who really understand what we all need on the road. The bag is comfy and resistant at the same time. It also comes with an extra day-bag, which makes it even better.
Personally, we chose a different model. And we love it!
What do we use?
Matt travels with the Lowe Alpine Lightflite 40 Pack.
It’s extremely light and you can open the entire backpack. This makes it super handy for organizing it and packing and unpacking, especially in combo with packing cubes.
Update: Unfortunately the Lowe Alpine backpack is no longer for sale. We highly recommend therefore the Osprey 40l Farpoint.
Here are more advantages of Matt’s backpack:
- Extremely lightweight (less than 900g)
- Carry-on ready (you can bring it on an airplane)
- Extra outside pocket for water bottle
- Hidden tuck-away harness
- Zippered easy-access pocket on top (which easily fits a passport)
- Internal load compression straps
- External compression straps
If you have any questions, please drop us a line.
6. A padlock (not a love lock…)
Again, this isn’t intended to scare you.
Like we said, most hostel guests really are nice, normal people (we promise!). But when you stay in a hostel, you’ll be sharing space with people you don’t know.
Be sensible and don’t leave your stuff lying around.
If you’re traveling with something you don’t want to lose (like that passport we reminded you to take – you’ve still got it, right?), then it’s a good idea to keep it locked up somewhere safe.
You can purchase generic padlocks here.
A padlock is also a great idea for traveling. You can also lock your backpack or suitcase in the airport, or even when walking through the city.
We always travel with 2 padlocks!
A rule for padlocks:
- They shouldn’t be too big so they can fit all lockers
- They should be light
- A padlock with a code is better since you can’t lose the key
Better to be safe than sorry!
If you forget a padlock, most hostels will be able to sell or rent you one. Some of the 5 Star Hostels offer a techy solution to this.
And BTW: Do you know about the trend of putting love locks on bridges around Europe? Well, don’t do this…remember our 14 worst travel tips!
We talked about finding the perfect backpack earlier.
Our choice, the Lowe Alpine Carry-On 40 fits 40 liters, same as the Osprey 40l Farpoint
The zippers come with a secure lock that fits a standard lock. Keep an eye on this when choosing a backpack!
7. A quick-dry travel towel
We DON’T recommend bringing a huge towel (in fact, it’s on our list of things NOT to take!).
But while hostels do have towels, they are generally provided for a fee, although it always depends.
Read more about the hostel facilities on our Guide to European Hostels.
If you decide you’d rather save money or use your own towel, there are tons of stores that sell inexpensive travel towels that fold up super small and quick-dry in practically no time.
So, we recommend bringing a quick-dry travel towel.
They’re light, useful, and resistant.
Update: We found these amazing Bamboo Travel Towels.
100% viscose bamboo. Super soft. Unlike cotton or microfiber, this towel is luxuriously soft to the touch and feels great against your skin.
8. Travel-sized toiletries
Unlike at a hotel, hostels usually don’t provide toiletries.
Okay, many of the 5 Star Hostels do, but in general hostel don’t offer them.
We recommend getting a travel-sized toiletry bag with bottles and reusing them for all your trips.
Thanks to the travel-sized toiletries you can avoid checking a bag on a flight that way, too!
Basic toiletries for the hostel packing list
- Toothbrush and toothpaste
- Soap and shampoo
- Comb or brush
- Feminine products
- Razor (maybe skip shaving cream to save space)
- Contact lens solution (if you need it)
- Spare contact lenses
Important: When you buy small-sized toiletries, make sure their size is maximum 100ml!
This is the max size of liquids you can bring on a plane in your hand luggage.
We’ve seen “travel-sized toiletries” that are bigger than 100ml- do NOT fall for this.
Always check and make sure the container’s max is 100ml or less.
The products below are approved for carry-on.
This a photo from Palmers Lodge Swiss Cottage, a 5 Star Hostel in London. They offer travel-size toiletries in the rooms.
9. A power adapter
Depending on where you’re traveling, you may need to change plugs. Don’t get stuck with all the stuff to charge your electronics but no way to plug them in!
Important: Get a universal power adapter you can use in every single country in the world.
Update: This adapter even has two USB ports.
Perfect to charge your phone as well!
On that note – have you packed all your chargers?
10. A (good!) camera
We love to travel light and a heavy camera can be super annoying!
It’s a DSLR and quite heavy.
We work as well with the mirrorless camera Fujifilm XT 20.
This mirrorless digital camera weights just 400 grams and is smaller. It’s wonderful and light to travel with.
It was recommended by a friend, a professional photographer.
BTW: We meet many travelers who only bring their old, low-quality camera. Personally, we love awesome travel shots. It’s always amazing to see the photos afterwards and travel back in time. Make sure you take care of your belongings and don’t weigh yourself down. Yet, I’d bring a good camera!
Full review coming soon.
11. USB multi charger
Besides a universal adapter, a USB multi charger is great to charge your camera and smart phone at the same time.
You never know how many outlets there will be available.
Make your fellow guests love you by sticking a small power strip in your bag and sharing the electronic love!
Have a look if you can find a power strip with included USB ports – those are even more useful to charge your smartphone.
Sure, this is something extra to pack.
Don’t pack the long, bulky USB multi charger you’ve got at home. It’s way to heavy! We had a look around and finally found a travel-sized USB charger.
It’s pretty handy and it saves you so much weight. And it’s also useful to use at home later on, obviously.
12. Dry bag for dirty clothes
We already talked about packing cubes, an incredible awesome must-have.
(Seriously, I am still surprised how useful they are! I know, I am annoying with this, but it’s true!!)
While you can use the packing cubes as well for dirty clothes, we started to use a dry bag for our dirty clothes.
We always carried the dry-bag around for boat tours, etc.
At the end of our trip we realized we could use it in a different way.
It’s actually perfect.
You can close it completely (great to avoid smells!). You can also press out the air of the dry bag and make it much smaller, similar to the compressor packing cubes.
The compress packing cubes are a bit more expensive, but worth it.
They have an extra zipper to make them even smaller.
Update: You should also consider a waterproof phone case that floats. This is always handy! Whether you are on the beach or in the actual water like oceans, rivers, lakes.
This case even protects your phone from dust.
I am speaking from experience here. When we were motorbiking through Vietnam, I did not use such a waterproof case unless it was raining. The result? A broken phone. The dust was simply too much.
13. Clothes you can layer
Okay, it is quite obvious you’re going to need to pack clothes.
There’s no generic rule about how much clothing you should pack.
Every trip is different, and it depends on the weather, time of year, destination, …
Here is one my many funny packing quotes:
The golden rule for packing light is simple: Pack your backpack…and then remove 50%. That will be all you need!
But this one is a good idea: pack clothes you can layer!
You never know what sort of weather you might run into when traveling – is something you might have heard before the invention of smartphones!
But even the almighty Apple can be sorely mistaken about the weather.
Take clothes that are easy to layer just in case.
If your are traveling in a specific area for a while, check out Mr. Google and type in “packing list” + your destination.
Very likely someone has already put together a specified packing list.
This list however can be applied to your packing list for Europe, Asia and South America. Take it as a basic!
14. Sandals or flip flops
You’ll definitely want these for the shower, no matter how clean the hostel is, trust us.
They also come in handy when you plan to hang out in the hostel garden or to hit the beach in destinations like Lisbon, Venice beach, South East Asia, you name it.
Again: Pack sandals or cool Havaianas Flip Flops!
15. Comfortable (and lightweight) shoes
Don’t let your footwear get in the way of having fun.
Anyway, nobody cares how nerdy you look.
You might never see any of these people again!
(This item was brought to you by your parents. Listen to their advice more often – it’s good!)
But seriously: Pack some comfy shoes!
When you need to buy new shoes for your trip, shop well in advance. Start to wear your new shoes around the house so your feet get used to them! If not, well, let’s say you’ll have an urgent need for painkillers.
Pro Level: for the serious traveler, pack light travel shoes (this pair is for women)!
Make sure the lightweight footwear you choose is still resistant and comfortable. Here’s a light shoe for men.
16. The hostel address – written down
And no, having it on your phone doesn’t count.
Physically write down the address of where you’re staying. Like, on a piece of paper.
There are two reasons for that.
- If your phone runs out of battery and you can’t find a place to charge it (god forbid!), you’ll still know where you’re going. Or at least be able to show the address to someone when you inevitably get lost and have to ask for directions.
- Talking about showing someone the address: In some destinations you don’t want to show your brand new smart phone to a stranger. It could be gone very quickly.
17. External Battery
To recharge your empty phone, this light and small external battery will do the trick!
I would bring a light, yet powerful power bank with you.
18. Pack your hobby + audio books
Ukulele, books, camera, journal, …it’s all good!
Audio books are another a fantastic way to spend your travel time. Lean back and listen to exciting audio books.
There are also great podcasts out there you can listen to.
This is a recommendation for the beach, or for passing the travel time on a plane or train.
We love audio books anywhere! There are plenty out there to choose from.
Have a look at all audio books and filter by topic to find one you’ll love.
Update: Remember, you can now get a 30 days FREE trial of the Prime Membership with Amazon.
Update: the 33 best wanderlust and travel movies before and while being on the road
19. Photocopies AND digital copies of your documents
Making a copy of your documents is a very, very good idea! If you haven’t done this yet, DO IT NOW!
Lots of travel sites recommend photocopying your important documents, and keeping the photocopies and the originals separate. That’s because in case your passport gets stolen or something, having a photocopy of it on hand makes it way easier to replace.
Also, snap a photo of the document on your phone and e-mail it to yourself.
This way you can access it whenever you want.
A laptop or USB stick can break.
But you can access your emails from anywhere, right?
Also, really recommended – get a cover for your passport. It helps protect it from daily usage and even water, with the right cover.
There are so many stylish covers for passports.
20. Laptop or tablet
Whether you need to check emails, update your travel blog, Skype with your family, or simply plan your next adventure….a laptop or tablet is always more comfortable for more complex things to do with the latest travel technology.
Quite surprising: There is a tablet-laptop for less than $100.
I mean, don’t get us wrong, we’re huge fans of travel apps.
You can find all our favorite travel apps for the iPhone here.
But for maps, calls, writing, and so on, a small laptop or tablet is the better option.
UPDATE: Now Facebook, WhatsApp and more apps out there offer free calls. A smart phone can do it as well. However, a small and light laptop is still an awesome way to go.
21. Aspirin (or any medication you might need)
Stick a small bottle of aspirin in your bag before you leave. It hardly weighs anything, and if it turns out you do need it, you’ll be very glad you brought it. Staying out all night is fun! Waking up with a blinding hangover is decidedly not.
You can get a travel-ready medicine kit here.
And of course, if you have any medication you need, then make sure you have enough of it with you.
Take it in a box or bottle that has the prescription on it, as you might need this information (it’s unlikely but possible).
Optional for the Hostel Packing List
Let us talk about the other side of things.
Here’s our NO-Packing List with nonsense things you should NOT bring.
22. Condoms (optional)
For the optimistic traveler. :) But seriously, it’s always a good idea to be prepared (and to have safe sex).
And hey, some hostels even offer free condoms as part of a campaign. However, this is not very common, so pack your own just in case.
Here you can find plenty of condoms to pack – the hero pack if you will!
Read: full guide to sex in hostels with 5 tips, real-life stories, and how not to become a pornstar.
23. Tupperware (optional)
For your leftovers from the lunch or dinner you cooked in the hostel kitchen!
You just have to close your tupperware properly, put it in the fridge and label it – super simple!
Another big advantage: Depending where you are, you can prepare your lunch for the next day, take it with you and eat wherever you want.
Quick story: We had lunch in national parks in Croatia, on the cliffs in Ireland and the most hidden beaches in Spain.
Also, it saves you some money on restaurants and gives you the freedom not to worry about your food when wandering around!
On page 2 you ‘ll find even more clever travel accessories to pack
More at page 2