The Essential Hostel Packing List

About to dive into the world of hostels and don't know what to pack? Don't worry, we've got you covered!

We've been using hostels for years (since waaay before the inception of Along Dusty Roads), so if there's a hostel accessory we don't know about, it's probably not very useful.

Of course, you can fill an 80 litre backpack to its limit, but to make the most of hostel life on the road, we know what works and what you can leave at home. In this article, we've shared the13 affordable items which we always pack for our hostels stays and, if you're going to be staying in hostels for most of your next adventure, we don't think you should leave home without them either. 


Even if you made sure to pick a nice quiet hostel, there really is no accounting for heavy snorers, early risers and late arrivals. And, if you're new to this whole hostel-malarkey and used to sleeping in your own room, the slightest bit of noise can make getting to sleep all that more difficult.

That's why, after years of just trying to put up with it, we'll now never pick a dorm unless we've got our ear plugs with us.

We recommend: Bio Ears Soft Silicon Ear Plugs



We love hostels. Even now, many years after our first foray into communal living, they're still a natural choice for us when travelling. One thing we don't love however is the fact that many smaller, older hostels fail to understand the importance of having enough power outlets.

This is not the early 2000s. We do not all travel with a single beaten up Nokia and a camera powered by AAs. We have iPhones, iPods, GoPro's, dSLRs, drones, tablets, and laptops. We are technology whores, and that requires power, goddamit.

To overcome this problem, we've invested in a USB multi-charger. One plug socket, and you can charge all your gadgets (and those of all the people who now suddenly want to be your friend). Simples.

Another trick that we picked up on our second backpacking trip in South America was to carry a simple 3-plug extension cable. This is great if you carry a lot of camera equipment and need to plug in several devices (rather than charge via USB) but only have one socket available.

p.s. if you want to know what's in our camera bag at Along Dusty Roads, read this post


As we mention in our 'Beginner's Guide to Hostels', picking a hostel with excellent security is one of our most important deciding factors - no lockers, no booking.

However, it's all well and good if the hostel has a locker, less good if you can't actually secure the damn thing!

Enter, perhaps one of the most important items in our backpack: the padlock.

There are all manner of options out there, but our preference is something solid and metal, with a combination lock instead of a key - essential when there are two of you accessing the same locker. Or one of you (cough, cough, Emily) gets drunk and loses things.

We recommend: A solid metal 10-digit padlock


A Pack of Playing Cards

We have lost count (nothing to do with the alcohol, promise mum) of the number of times our trusty pack of cards have incited a rowdy game of 'Ring of Fire' or 'Shithead' on what we had intended to be a quiet night in the hostel.

They're an excellent ice-breaker, time-waster (perfect for delayed flights or long waits to get access to your hostel after a early morning arrival) and all-round piece of essential travel kit. They are also used and understood across languages and cultures. 


quick drying towel

Whilst some of the nicer hostels provide towels free of charge, it's absolutely not something that can be relied upon.  So, instead of being stung by inflated rental costs each time you move on, invest in your own travel towel. They definitely won't be the fluffiest you've ever had, but they take up barely any space and are super quick drying.

They're also fantastic for creating a bit of extra privacy for you bottom-bunkers - simply drape over the frame and you've got your very own curtain! 

We recommend: The Lifeventure Travel Towel or the slightly cheaper one by Mountain Warehouse (make sure you go for XL - the others tend come up on the small size).


Hostel Packing List


A Reusable Canvas Bag

Living in a country where a charge is levied on all plastic bags means that we never set foot in a supermarket without at least a couple of canvas bags. However, we also try to avoid using plastic bags in general to reduce our overall plastic consumption. Carrying one with us in our daypack when we travel is essential- especially if we plan on doing a visiting markets and doing a lot of hostel cooking.

We recommend: We love this one - perfect for the wanderlusters amongst you!


A tupperware box

Although not an essential for short-term travellers, if you're on the road for a while then having a way to store food leftovers (other than in one of the few bowls that your less than adequate hostel supplies) is incredibly useful.

It's also great for packed lunches, cuz, you know, not everyone can afford to eat at a restaurant everyday!

At times, we've even turned ours into a travel spice box, which saved us from 101 monotonous meals. 

We recommend: If you raid the cupboards at home, there’s bound to be one you can bring - just make sure it’s the type with clips. Given the propensity for tupperware lids to come off at the worst moments (hello tuna salad inside our day bag) we won't use anything else.



Although the initial purchase was for camping and early morning hikes, our beloved headtorches have actually come in more useful for powercuts, reading in dorms once the light has gone out or packing the last bits and bobs in the morning so as not to wake up our dorm mates.

We're considerate like that.

We recommend: Petzl Tikka Headlamp. We each have one, and they've both lasted (and will undoubtedly continue to last) years.



Even if you're going skiing! Why you ask? Well, have you ever seen a hostel bathroom? Even those that are cleaned regularly aren't really somewhere we want to venture in to barefoot. You'd think that people wouldn't pee in them, but you never know...

We recommend: You just can't go wrong with a pair of Havaianas

plug adapter

Life would be so much simpler if chocolate was actually good for you, everybody had three months holiday a year and Donald Trump wasn't president. Oh, and if the world required only one type of plug. 

Until then, thank goodness for the multi-country plug adapter and wishful thinking.

If we're just heading on a European weekend getaway, we'll usually just chuck in a few simple adaptors. For the long-haul sort of adventures however, carrying a slightly bulkier adaptor that can handle plug sockets from all over the world is the best way forward - after all, even South America has at least three different types of plugs!

For a great resource to figure out if you need different plugs for the country you’re travelling to, check out this article.

We recommend: Worldwide Travel Adaptor


refillable water bottle

Travelling takes it out of you. Late nights, early mornings, too much booze, not enough sleep, a little too much sun. There are countless reasons it's imperative that you stay hydrated.

But, in the current climate, it's important that this isn't done at the expense of the environment. 

If you're heading somewhere with a reliable water supply, you will only needs a glass, metal or BPA-free plastic refillable water bottle and fill up from the tap (we now use this metal insulated one which keeps water cold for 24 hour and hot things hot for 12 hours).

However, if you're going even marginally off-the-beaten track, we'd wholeheartedly recommend a bottle with an in-built filter, meaning you can fill up from any water source and be confident that you won't get sick. In 2018, we started using this for trips in Africa and South America, and it’s been a revelation - with no sore tummies or bad experiences with water filled up and filtered from rivers, waterfalls, and city taps.

We have the Water-to-Go Filtration Bottle (psssst, if you put the discount code 'ADR15' at check-out, you'll get 15% off), but the LifeStraw and the Grayl Ultralight are also excellent travel filter water bottles.



An essential for couples or BFFs travelling together. For those lazy days where you just want to eat carbs and watch Netflix together in the common areas, then you need to have a little headphone splitter with you. That way, you can both watch your favourite shows together (now, if only we could tell you how to avoid arguments about what to watch...).

Plus, everybody in the hostel hates the person who plays their favourite show out loud.


Pocket Knife

We've said it before and we'll say it again - do not travel without a Swiss Army knife (unless you're going through airport security with hand luggage only of course!)

Especially if you're staying in a less than fancy hostel where more than three pieces of cutlery is considered a luxury for guests (seriously, this happens way more often than you'd life to think).

Also, could you imagine buying a lovely bottle of red and discovering your accommodation for the night has no bottle opener? Enough said.

We recommend: This kick-ass one from Victorinox.


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A few of the essentials that will make a hostel stay that little bit better! | Backpacking | Hostel Packing List | Hostels | What to Pack

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