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We had a look around and all those packing lists for hostels we found were pretty outdated.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.
Make sure you read our article on Backpacking Kit for Starters.
Here we review the perfect bundle for starting your travel career (and we share our worst travel beginner mistakes!)
Last update: 02.10.2018
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: When buying your travel accessories with Amazon, here you can 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.
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 the necessary things for hostel to take with you.
One last thing before we start – did you remember your passport?
Native Spanish speaker? Here is the packing list for girls “qué 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 hostel list.
Use it as your checklist pdf and you won’t forget any important thing to take with you.
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.
UPDATE: I recommend getting Noise-Cancelling ear plugs.
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.
Read: 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 when traveling! 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?
We have two different backpacks: Nomatic Backpack and the Lowe Alpine Lightflite 40 Pack.
Nomatic Backpack: With a minimalist squared design, Nomatic backpack is a functional 40L backpack which feels more like a 45-50L. It is perfect for traveling with a laptop and thanks to the different pockets, it is perfect to manage your luggage.
We wrote up a huge review about Nomatic Backpack and the Backpacking Kit for Starters. The backpack is part of the Starter Backpacking Kit, including packing cubes, padlock, day bag, power bank, multilevel adapter.
Check out the full bundle at Traveling Tranquilo here.
Lowe Alpine Lightflite: 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 therefore only recommend the Nomatic Backpack.
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 or leave a comment below.
6. A padlock (a MUST-Have)
A padlock is an absolute must-have for your backpacking packing list. Small, light, super useful, cheap!
It does not matter if you are staying in hostels or not. When you travel, you will need a padlock. For instance, to close your day bag when wandering through the city. Or for the transport like a in bus or train.
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. It is not a hostel requirement, but common sense.
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 get generic padlocks here.
We always travel with 2 padlocks!
Read: Are Hostels safe? 13 safety tips
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.
The Nomatic Backpack comes with a fitting and small padlock.
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.
And not just that. These micro-fibre towels will not start to smell after 2-3 days in use. A big advantage in case you don’t come across a laundry machine.
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?
Good to know: Great hostels like Clock Inn Kandy in Sri Lanka offer actually these adapters in their hostel
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 now work 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.
For example, if you are a girl traveling to India, include a big scarf or Sarong on your list. It will serve you to cover your shoulders or head. Really useful if you are planning to visit temples.
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.
Flip flops are a basic thing required for hostel life.
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. An Extra Powerbank
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.
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.
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!
24. Sleeping Bag
Depending on where you travel or stay, a sleeping bag makes sense to bring! In South East Asia that really makes sense or any other outside activities you might want to join.
The Bus Hostel in Reykjavik, Iceland for instance is a hostel you will need a sleeping bag. Read our guide to the 3 best hostels in Reykjavik here.
Good to know: When you plan to stay only in 5 Star Hostels, you won’t need any sleeping bag.
This Sleeping Bag Liner and Camping Sheet is a Lightweight Sleep Sack when you travel.
Feature you should look out for are:
- warm and comfortable
25. Pocket WiFi (worldwide)
Have you ever heard of Pocket WiFi?
We tested the Hippocket WiFi, a small travel gear that fits in your pocket, giving you internet access. It’s easy to use, light, and very affordable.
So, when traveling around Europe, a pocket WiFi device is a really good idea to stay connected. It’s cheap, handy and fast!
Find prices for your trip directly here: www.hippocketwifi.com
Here’s our quick video on how it works. It’s really that simple.
26. An open mind
You never know what you might get – and that’s part of the awesome part about staying in hostels!
You’ll always get to meet new people and have new experiences.
No two trips to the same hostel are the same.
It is kind of the same experience when walking the famous Camino de Santiago.
Maybe you wouldn’t normally consider going to that bizarre hair museum* your temporary roommate wants to see, but hey, why not give it a shot?
*Yes, this is a real museum!
It’s called the Avanos Hair Museum and is in located in a small, dark cave in rural Turkey. Actually, on second thought, you might want to give that one a miss.
Get together – all ages, all nationalities at Hostels! Find all 5 Star Hostels here. Here you find all our guides to the best hostels in the world.
Also, get inspired! We love to use Instagram as a travel resource.
Filter by destination or hashtag and start your photo journey.
However, bear in mind, the location the user adds isn’t always correct.
Also, many people love to use Photoshop to pimp their photos to unrealistic levels.
27. A small light (not your smart phone)
Lots of travel websites recommend bringing a key chain flashlight.
That’s so you can find your way around the room in the dark without having to disturb your roommates by turning the lights on.
Yes, we mean you, friendly girl who stumbled into the room at 5 a.m.!
OK, nowadays you can use your phone for this, but it’s a good thing to keep in mind. And yes, even the iPhone doesn’t require an extra app for a flashlight anymore.
BUT: the battery is still an issue. After 7 years of traveling, I would recommend getting a small flashlight for your key ring just in case.
Get a small head lamp with LED or a flashlight to add to your key ring.
28. Hostel Games
Perfect for rainy days in and to make friends: board or card games! Obviously you should not fill your own backpack with games, but I would bring at least one. A small, and light one. After all, great hostels usually have their own hostel games.
The #1 hostel game I recommend you is the EXPLODING KITTENS. It is easy to play and super fun!
Read: the best 13 hostel games here.
29. Hacks & deals
Last but not least, here are our 15 best hostel booking hacks.
Here are more websites we love to use for traveling:
- Get Your Guide – perfect for finding activities
- Kiwi.com – one of the best flight search engines out there
Remember you can download this hostel packing for free right here!
Summary: Hostel Packing List
Be smart about this essentials hostel packing list.
Try to not over pack, and remember to bring the basic things like chargers. Buying a few things like toiletries is not expensive, but two different chargers?
That would be an unnecessary expense to cover.
Plus, as you’ve seen, you can be smart about it and just get a USB multi charger.
There is more you have to consider, so here it comes:
- The NON-Packing List for Hostels – things you should NOT put in your backpack
- Are Hostels Safe? Important to know so you know what you’ve to bring.
- 14 smartest and most simple booking hacks for hostels (including discounts)
Good read: 18 hostel rules and hostel etiquette to build lifelong friendships.
Do you have another smart idea to add to this Hostel packing list?
Drop us a comment below.
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