The Backpackers Survival Kit

backpackers survival kit

When staying at a backpackers accommodation, you need to come prepared with a backpackers survival kit. Ain’t nobody got time for unpleasant experiences that can be avoided with a few precautionary items. Read what Annique always includes in her kit when staying at backpacker accommodations.

It’s 7am, the ideal time. As I walk through the sound of grunts and heavy breathing, I make my way past the rows of bunk beds in my dorm, and head into the adjacent communal bathroom. The backpackers is quiet, as everyone slumbers away after a night of partying. And there it is – the wonderful sight of an unoccupied shower cubicle that awaits me with the promise of hot water. With a towel wrapped around me, and a safeguarding plastic bag nicely secured around each of my feet, I step inside the cubicle and turn the tap. Oh yes, sacrificing my beauty sleep to be the first to stand underneath the stream of hot water is most certainly worth it.

You are most welcome to disagree and choose to take your shower in the late morning (or as some alternative guests prefer – not at all), but you probably won’t be showering alone. Indeed, you risk performing your ablution with the presence of unwelcome shower inhabitants, of which the most common are tangles and strands of foreign hairs – of all bodily areas. I, for one, gladly avoid this latter scenario.

Hope for the Best, Prepare for the Worst

The moment you arrive at the doorstep of a backpackers, there really is only one thing to expect. Anything.

Website photographs might have charmed you out of your socks, the location might be unbeatable, and the backpackers might have gotten brilliant ratings – but you still don’t know what you are walking into. For example, you could book a dorm bed at the best backpackers in the world, but that won’t prevent you from possibly ending up with a bunk neighbour whose snores have the ability to burst a person’s eardrums.

The Backpackers Survival Kit

In order to be prepared for any backpackers scenario, you need to be equipped with a survival kit. Apart from the rest of your travel essentials (toiletries, travel adaptor, fanny pack, etc.), make sure that you kit yourself out with the following backpackers survival gear!

-Booking Confirmation

If you booked your bed in advance with the backpackers, or through a directory, make sure you have your booking confirmation printed out and on standby. For any mishaps that might occur regarding your booking, for example if the receptionist can’t find your name on the check-in list, it’s good to have your document ready.

-Ear plugs

These little spongy bullets are to your ears what sunscreen is to fair skin – sweet mercy. They have the super power of turning a thunderous, violent snore into a tamed hum. Oh, and it can almost silence mosquitos…yeah, there’s that too.

-Eye mask

Shield your eyes from the penetrating sting of your airplane neighbour’s reading light, or from the light festival brought on by your rude, stumbling dorm mate who is arriving in the early twilight hours of the day.

-Flip Flops

If you have a spare set of flip flops, apologise to them profoundly, and make them your shower buddies. They will help protect you from nasty fungi and strands of hair crawling their way up between your toes. 

If you don’t have a spare set, then this is your chance to put plastic bags to good use. Climb into the plastic bags and tie them around your ankles. Works like a charm, and looks innovatively fashionable too. Just be careful not to slip on the wet floors. (Haha, love this point.)


Most backpackers don’t provide towels, so make sure you have one with you. Apart from the obvious use, you can also use it as an emergency blanket. In the event that the room temperature drops during the night (like when someone decides to turn on the AC to ice age mode), it can help to grab your towel and use it as an extra layer to keep warm.

-Anti-Itch Cream & Repellent

With every new backpackers comes the risk of… bed bugs. If you get bitten, you will want to have an anti-itch cream or topical near you.  For summer seasons, especially in countries that have tropical conditions, include a mosquito repellent too.

-Emergency Deodorant

Traveling means a lot of walking. If you are heading into the summer, and if that summer happens to be tropical… the last thing you want is to end up in a cool, spontaneous social situation after having walked all day and rocking a pair of ‘pizzas’ (this is, according to my friend, the politically correct term for underarm sweat rings). Get yourself a mini deodorant that can easily fit into your bag, or even jeans pocket.

There is nothing worse than bad BO, and travel will put you in those situations. Don’t feel embarrassed. It happens to all of us – but that’s why you gotta head out there armoured!


Don’t ask me why, but you will most likely need one at one point. If you have itchy bites, you might accidentally scratch yourself in the night and need a plaster. Sometimes you’ll have walked all day and need to cover a blister. They weigh nothing, so why not pack a few just for in case?


Most backpackers provide some sort of locker system. However, they don’t necessarily provide padlocks. So, in a nutshell – no lock, no security for your valuables. And when you stay in a room with numerous people you don’t know… it is better to not rely on your faith in humanity.

-Pocket Torch

If you get in after the majority of people in your dorm are asleep, don’t be that person who just turns on the light and makes a racket. Get yourself a little pocket or keychain torch that will lead your way or help you find things.

It also comes in handy in the case of an unexpected power outage. Then again, if you are South African traveller and experience a power outage, all you will feel is…. right at home. 

-Swiss Army Knife

Whether you need to remove a splinter, cut open a packet of pasta, or remove that embarrassing piece of lettuce stuck between your teeth – these little compact guys were designed to help you out in tricky situations.

Don’t forget that you can’t take them in your hand-luggage.


Most backpackers provide a fridge for guests where you can keep some of your food. In general, you keep your food in a plastic bag (rather than having a bunch of loose items… as they will get eaten by Mr or Mrs Anonymous) with a label that reveals your name and the day you will be checking out.

However, I highly recommend that you make use of a Tupperware for foods like left-over sandwiches, or eggs. Some fridges are really disgusting, and you have all kinds of liquids and stenches dripping onto your plastic bags. People also tend to pile everything on top of each other, so your food can get squashed (this is thankfully not always the case – some backpackers have a very hygienic and neat fridge organisation!).

A tupperware also comes in handy for when you leave the backpackers and start your daily outings. You can prepare a sandwich or something to eat in the morning, and take it with you in your bag for lunch.

Roaring Lullabies…

There has not been one occasion where my stay in a backpackers has not required the implementation of at least two survival kit essentials. I reflect on this as I stuff my ears with my little orange plugs in an attempt to block out the loudest snore I have ever heard, rattling across the room.  Through the plugs I hear a fellow dorm mate shout to the snorer to be quiet, but the chap is so fast asleep underneath the thunderous roars that they continue without so much as an instant startle. Though I anticipate the night to be short, I can’t say I didn’t come prepared.

EduConnect 2cents

Your survival kit can help you out in many tricky situations. However, some situations call for more serious measures. No survival kit will save you from second-hand smoke in your room, food poisoning, or unusable toilets. So, if you end up in a backpackers with horrid hygienic conditions, like bed bugs, visible fungus, or a dorm mate who clearly violates the backpackers’ rules, then by all means take it up with the staff.

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