Hostel Packing Tips: 7 Items Guaranteed to Save Space and Time


By Fred Perrotta of Tortuga Backpacks.

When you’re staying in a hostel, packing light is important. Space is limited, so giant suitcases are impractical. Traveling light is also cheaper and more convenient.
But fitting everything you need into a carry-on bag can be tough. You always need “just one more thing…”

Here is a list of things that are guaranteed to save you space, each of the items below does (at least) double duty…

1. Dr. Bronner’s Magic Soap

Many light packing advocates would tell you never to pack soap or detergent because you can buy both cheaply in your destination, but they don’t know about magic soap.
Dr. Bronner’s soaps can be used to clean anything. Their FAQ lists directions for using the soap as body wash, shampoo, toothpaste, laundry detergent, or a general cleaner. Dr. Bronner’s popular liquid soaps are organic, fair trade, and never tested on animals.

Dr. Bronner Soap

As the bottle’s get bigger, the cheaper the soaps are by volume. To get the best value for money, buy the biggest bottle you can and pack the soap in a carry-on-sized travel bottle like this one…


2. GoToob

GoToobs are refillable, travel bottles. If your favourite toiletries don’t come in travel-friendly sizes, you can pour the amount you need into a GoToob.


GoToobs come in three sizes. The largest bottle is 3 fluid ounces (88 ml), which is still small enough to be carried onto a flight.


3. Travel towel

A travel towel like the REI MultiTowel Lite is a great alternative to carrying a full-sized bath towel or paying a daily rental fee to a hostel.

Multitowel Lite

A quick-drying travel towel can be used as a bath towel, a beach towel, a picnic blanket, or even a pillow. Most travel towels will fold up into a small pouch – perfect for grabbing some sleep while you’re waiting around at the train station.


4. Sarong or scarf


A sarong can be used for anything from a simple, comfortable dress to a scarf to keep you warm or an improvised pillow when you’re sleeping somewhere other than a bed.
Best of all, a sarong is extremely light and compact.

5. Base layer t-shirt

They key to packing light is to dress in layers. Don’t pack a space-hogging sweater. Instead, wear a t-shirt, long-sleeved shirt, and a light jacket.

A good base layer t-shirt should be warm yet breathable. You will need it to work well as a top layer in warm weather and as a base layer in cold weather. Choose one made of microfiber or wool, not cotton. Cotton gets smelly and takes too long to dry.

Wool and microfiber keep you warm in the winter and wick away sweat in the summer. When your shirts are dirty, you can hand wash them and leave them to quickly air dry. Under Armour, North Face, or even generic, store-brand shirts work well. Choose yours based on your budget and style.


6. Unlocked smartphone

In the last decade, smartphones have replaced laptops, cell phones, point-and-shoot cameras, mp3 players, maps, flashlights, watches, books, and notebooks in travellers’ luggage. That’s half of a backpack worth of stuff that now fits in your pocket.

Just remember to carry an unlocked smartphone so that you can swap SIM cards as you travel between countries.

7. Universal adapter and power strip

If you’re carrying multiple electronic devices, like a laptop, smartphone, and e-book reader, you may be tempted to carry more than one power adapter to charge them all. Don’t do it.

Power Adaptor

A better solution is to carry one universal adapter and a small power strip. With this set up, you won’t need adapters for each gadget, just one for the power strip. Then you can plug each gadget into an outlet on the power strip and charge all of your gear from one wall plug. Your hostel mates will love you for not hogging all of the power.


Tell us what you think…

This packing list should save you enough space to bring your “one more thing.”

Share the space-saving, multipurpose items from your packing list in the comments. We’re always looking for ideas on how to pack light.

About the Author: *Fred Perrotta is the co-founder of Tortuga Backpacks, makers of the ultimate travel backpack. If you’re staying in hostels, check out the Tortuga Travel Backpack.

Thanks to savannasmiles, old and solo and liewcf for the images off Flickr! Please note all Flickr images were used under the Creative Commons License at the time of posting.

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