When backpacking you trade the luxury, comfortable hotels, transport and restaurants for shared bed hostels, long overnight bus/train journeys and cheap local food stalls. Because of this budget backpacking essentials differ from regular holiday essentials and the following are items which may be very valuable to you which you need to keep in mind! However, items such as cameras, GoPro etc are not mentioned as these items are required for all types of travelling.
1. Ear Plugs
Owning a pair of ear plugs could mean the difference between a good nights sleep and a sleepless night. Some bus/train journeys can be very noisy or some fellow dorm sharers may be very noisy and trust me you do not want a bad night when you need to wake up at the crack of dawn and continue travelling. Sleep is essential!
If you are a light sleeper like myself an eye mask can do wonders when you need to catch up on sleep during the day whsilt making a journey. They arealso extremely handy when staying in hostels as other dorm sharers will switch lights on at any given time regardless if you are trying to get some sleep.
A small travel towel always comes in handy, especially as many budget places will charge extra for towels and lets face it when we are trying to budget the last thing we want is to have to pay extra for towels. The best thing about them is they are super absorbant, dry very quickly and can pack small.
Long overnight bus/train/plane journeys are expected when backpacking. We occasionally travelled long distances during the night in order to save on money spent on accomodation and it meant we didn't waste our time travelling during the day. It may also be useful when you need to sit on the floor for longer than desired. Being inflatable means it doesn't take up space nor weigh when you are not using it!
Nowadays we rely a lot on electronic devices, such as smart phones, cameras, GoPros, ipads etc. Some journeys can be ridiculously long so an external charger can save the day. The last thing you want when you are trying to kill time on a 10 hour bus journey or out on a day trip is for your device to run out of charge. External hardrives with hours of charging time can be found on ebay at low prices. Keep in mind if flying into/out of China these are prohibited and will be confiscated if found.
We all know the world we live in now, capturing every moment on our camera is vital nowadays and we may get snap happy! There will be times that you find it hard to locate a computer store to transfer photos from your SD card to your back up device (unless you carry a laptop with you) and even though your hostel may have a desktop you need to hope it will be available. Having spare SD cards is a smart move.
A dry bag may be useful for two things, keeping wet things contained in order to avoid wetting the other items in your bag and secondly for keeping your valuables dry. Some aquatic tours require dry bags so if you have one yourself it's better as they may charge and it's very handy for days at the beach or during rainy weather.
These are useful to lock your backpacks when you leave them unattended in shared accomodation or to use on lockers as you may need to pay extra to rent a padlock. You would be surprised at what goes missing in some hostels. A combination lock is better than a normal pad lock as there is no risk of losing the key!
Flipflops are not just for wearing at the beach. It is highly recommended that flip flops are worn in hostel bathrooms to avoid catching anything nasty!
Travel adapters are essential and even though more expenisve than a single individual adapter I would recommend an international adapter so you know you will be sorted in which ever country you travel to.
Travel Tip: If multiple devices need to be charged at the same time take a small extension cord which can be attached to the international adapter allowing you access to several of your home countries sockets!
A light sleeping liner can come in handy when you are not convinced about the dirty looking sheets in some hostels and some hostels may even make you pay extra for bedding. Generally, the overnight buses and trains we took were clean but on the train from Yangon to Bagan (Myanmar) I was a bit itchy and wished I would have had one with me.Besides they're light and can be rolled to a small size.
Depending on your preference, an ipad or small laptop is very useful to have. One thing we realised once we had started travelling was that as we chose to take our ipad we were unable to use it to transfer media from the SD card to our External Hardrive so we were forced to always go in search for a desktop. An External Hardrive can be considered an essential device for some travellers in order to back up your media files. However, if you decide to take a laptop it can be stored in the laptop.
For the ladies, a sarong is always a good idea. Not only can it be used to wrap yourself at the beach but it can also be used as a beach towel, to cover yourself up when visiting sacred temples (you may be be asked to pay if you are not appropriately covered up) or to simply use as a blanket when making journeys.
There's nothing worse than having a full memory card and having to delete photos to make room for more. There are facilities like Dropbox and iCloud however we found it very useful having a hardrive which worked as a backup also.
Extra Tips: It is always handy to have a torch on you and an alarm. I have not mentioned it above as these are accessible on smart phones, avoiding extra items. Additionally, a Swiss Army Knife is useful but these will not be let on the plane as carry-on. Regarding ear plugs and eye mask, most long haul flights hand them out so if you forget to purchase them just hope you will be given one!