Photo:Dan Holz/Tandemstock

Adventure Travel Packing List

Get Equipped for Every Kind of Journey

Traveling is both exciting and a little bit daunting. Who doesn’t like to explore near and far? But planning and packing can be overwhelming. Packing too little and packing too much both have drawbacks. 

Use this comprehensive list to get started. And remember, you'll also need to customize your gear for specific activities. If you booked a guided trip, make sure you know what equipment is provided and what you'll need to bring. 

Our philosophy: Keep it simple. Go as light as possible without forgoing the essentials, and you’ll be happy to be a nimble traveler.  

This Packing List Covers:

  • Travel Documents 
  • Personal Items
  • Travel Gear 
  • Gadgets
  • Travel Apparel
  • Flight Essentials 
  • Hostel Comfort

Travel Documents and Planning

Organize your travel documents and make digital and print copies of everything before you go. Take printed copies of all essential documents, and have access to digital copies online. Clean out your wallet and only take what you need. 

Identification

You'll need an identification card for any travel, but also a passport if you are traveling internationally. Make sure your ID is current and will not expire within six months of your last day of travel.

Visas

If your destination requires obtaining a visa before arrival, allow plenty of time for the process and bring copies.  

Travel Insurance

Trip protection is relatively inexpensive and can be a lifesaver if you have lost luggage, trip cancellations, injuries, or illness. If you forgo travel insurance, be sure to call your health insurance provider and understand your coverage before you go. 

Local Currency

If you are traveling internationally, go to your bank and exchange money before you depart (you’ll get a better rate at the bank than the airport). It's good to have cash on hand when you arrive. Research the destination to learn about bank and ATM access and if the region where you'll be traveling accepts credit cards or primarily deals with cash. Always have small bills handy. 

Itinerary and Reservations

Print itinerary and reservation confirmations and have digital copies accessible.  

Emergency Contacts

 Leave a copy of your itinerary and travel documents with emergency contacts at home. Print a list of emergency contacts, and keep it with your wallet or travel documents. 

Financial Institutions

Set a travel alert with dates and destinations with your credit card companies and banks. 

Travel Advisories

Check the U.S. State Department website for travel advisories for your destination before you plan your trip and again just before you go. 

Personal Items

Toiletries

Buy travel-size toiletries or refillable bottles, including toothbrush, toothpaste, face wash, shampoo, and conditioner. 

Medications

Bring all prescription medications that you will need for the duration of your trip, plus at least a week’s extra in case your return is delayed. 

First Aid Kit

Pack a basic first aid kit with antiseptic wipes, antibiotic ointment, gauze pads and bandages, medical tape, tweezers, scissors, and safety pins. Also, consider bringing medications including an antihistamine, anti-inflammatory, sleep aid, eye drops, anti-diarrheal, and motion sickness. For extended trips to remote areas, consider asking your doctor for a prescription to a broad-spectrum antibiotic.   

Sunscreen

Protect yourself with an SPF lotion. 

Hand Sanitizer

Enough said. 

Mask

While pandemic mask mandates have lifted in some regions, they are still required in other areas and most transportation. Masks are also recommended to combat pollution.

Instant Coffee

If you need caffeine to get going, instant coffee will be like gold when there’s no cafe in sight. 

Snacks

Bring bars and trail mix, anything to hold you over on long travel days. 

Gear

These are just the basics; you might need additional equipment for activity-specific trips. For guided trips, be sure to check on what gear is provided.

Pack or Duffel Bag

A travel pack, duffel bag with straps, or conventional backpack all work, depending on your trip details. 

Day Pack

You'll want a smaller backpack for day trips and plane travel.

Footwear

At the very least, you’ll want comfortable hiking shoes that can double as town footwear. Depending on conditions and plans, you might also want a lightweight pair of sandals or trail runners.     

Headlamp

A hands-free headlamp is a must for the backcountry, and is also handy for lodging with unreliable lighting, navigating dark city streets, and more.

Reusable Water Bottle

Bring two if you’ll be traveling in hot weather or in an area with sparse water sources.  

Water Treatment

In many developing countries, you’ll want to purify water in town as well as in the backcountry. There are many types of treatment devices; chemical purifiers are a great lightweight backup. 

Photo: Nikkimeel

Gadgets

No debate, technology has made travel easier. Here are a few gadgets to consider.  

Navigation

Consider paper and digital topo maps for all outdoor adventures; a smartphone navigation app should suffice for urban mapping. Be sure to download digital maps for offline use.  

E-Reader

This saves space and weight, especially on long trips. Load up your digital device with novels, guidebooks, natural history guides, magazines, and other information. 

Smartphone

Check with your service provider about travel plans and data rates if traveling internationally. In some places, it might be economical to buy a prepaid SIM card locally.

Photography Equipment

The top smartphones have fantastic cameras and are small enough for your pocket. For more ambitious photography, consider a digital camera with better lenses and light sensors. Either way, a small table-top tripod with bendable legs is a great accessory.

Battery Charging

Pack all the necessary cables and a power converter if traveling internationally, as well as a small battery pack. Solar chargers are great for extended backcountry trips. 

Satellite Communicator

If you want to stay connected no matter what, get a device that enable you to send emails or texts via satellite.

Apparel

Prioritize versatile clothing that you’re comfortable with on the trail and while traveling.

Hat and Sunglasses

These are key for sun protection. 

Socks

Bring a few pairs of lightweight, breathable, and moisture-wicking socks that can be alternated. 

Underwear

Pack a few pairs of moisture-wicking underwear; plan on washing by hand.

Lightweight Pants

The most versatile travel pants can be layered for extra warmth and rolled up to the knee or zipped off for warmer days. 

Moisture-Wicking T-shirts

Your shirt will need to a few days without washing. 

Swimsuit

Be prepared for an alpine lake, river, or jacuzzi. 

Rain Jacket and Pants

These should be appropriate for the conditions.

Insulation

Pack a fleece or wool layer for cool evenings and air conditioned planes and buses. 

Sleepwear

Bring a cozy, lightweight top and a bottom layer that stays clean and dry for sleeping. 

Bandana

A lightweight Buff or bandana is a versatile layer for warmth and sun protection. 

Pack extra layers for colder destinations:

Puffer Jacket

Check the weather and bring an appropriate down or synthetic insulated jacket for the coldest temps you’ll encounter.

Base Layers

For colder conditions, pack light or midweight thermal or Merino wool layers. 

Gloves

 Lightweight gloves or even warmer ones take up little space and add vital insulation. 

Beanie

You lose a lot of heat through the top of your head; put a warm lid on it. 

Flight Essentials

don’t let a long flight leave you drained and sore once you arrive at your destination. Pack a few extras to boost comfort and improve sleep.

Headphones

Noise-canceling headphones are worth every dollar on long flights. However, consider that you'll be lugging them around for the rest of your trip. Earbuds are another option.

Neck Pillow

A compressible or inflatable pillow can be the difference between getting rest and arriving overtired. 

Eye Mask

Get a break from cabin lights.

Compression Socks

These tightly woven socks help reduce leg swelling on flights. 

Hostel Comfort 

Hostels are a great option, both for meeting other people and saving money, but they can be a little noisier and not entirely secure. Consider packing a few extras for comfort and security. 

Lock

Most hostels have lockers, but you might need to bring a lock. Keep your wallet and identification with you, and lock valuables at night and while you are out for the day. 

Sleeping Essentials

Hostels can be noisy, whether you are in a private or shared room. Bring earplugs and an eye mask.

Bedding

Not all hostels provide bedding. Pack a lightweight sleeping bag or liner. 

Shower Essentials

Some hostels rent towels and shower shoes, but others don't. Consider packing a small travel towel and pair of rubber flip flops. 

All articles are for general informational purposes.  Each individual’s needs, preferences, goals and abilities may vary.  Be sure to obtain all appropriate training, expert supervision and/or medical advice before engaging in strenuous or potentially hazardous activity.