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Hostel Packing List: 10 Things You Can’t Go to a Hostel Without

Just booked your first hostel and don’t know what to pack? No worries, we’ve got you covered. We’ve been traveling for over 3 years and have stayed at our fair share of hostels. Shoot, we’ve even worked at a couple. So we know just what you’ll need to pack to be a savvy hosteller at any hostel you choose to stay in.

So without further ado, here are our must-pack items for staying at hostels…

1. A Quick-Drying Towel

What we don’t recommend is a huge towel like the ones you normally use at home. In fact, it’s one of the items on our anti-packing list. I know the quick drying towels won’t feel fluffy and amazing on your skin, but they will get the job done. What’s the job? Well, to dry quickly, take up little to no space in your travel backpack, and prevent you from shelling out an extra 5 bucks every time you rent a towel in a hostel.

When purchasing a quick dry towel, opt for a large or XL, as they usually run small.

Our recommendation: Youphoria Travel Towel

2. Earplugs

If you’re a light sleeper, or want to avoid hearing your bunkmates snore their brains out, or don’t want to hear your roommate trying to discreetly have sex, we would highly recommend investing in some good earplugs! Headphones work too, but they are not the most comfortable to sleep with. :D

Our recommendation: Hearos Xtreme Protection Earplugs

3. Headlamp

Don’t be the asshole that stumbles in at 3am, turns on the overhead light and wakes everyone up! Be considerate, and use a low beam flashlight to light your way in the dark as you tiptoe (hint) and make as little noise as possible (another hint) while your roommates are sleeping. A cheap keychain flashlight, headlamp, your phone or whatever you chose will do the trick, as long as you don’t chose to be the asshole.

An eye mask might also come in handy when you have a roommate that’s not as considerate as you.

Our recommendation: Energizer 7 LED Headlamp

4. Padlock

Most hostels provide free lockers to lock up your valuables, so having a lock would be a good idea. Plus, you don’t have to pay $5 to rent one every time you stay at a hostel. The lock can also be used to lock up your backpack when a locker is not provided, or when you are on an overnight bus for example.

Look for thin, lightweight metal or brass locks that are secure. You want to avoid those huge combination locks that look like the ones you used in high school, as they are bulky, heavy and add unnecessary weight to your backpack. Also, if you are someone that loses keys a lot or gets drunk often and forgets things, invest in a combination lock over a key lock.

Our recommendation: Cargis TSA Luggage Lock

5. Sandals/Flip-Flops

In hostels bathrooms will be shared, which means flip-flops are an absolutely must. I don’t care how clean the hostel is or how immaculate the bathroom looks, you can still get foot fungus, so wear flip-flops in the shower! Any cheap $1 flip-flop will do. However, if you want a scandal or flip-flop that you don’t need to replace every few days, see our recommendation below.

Our recommendation: Teva Mush II Flip-Flops

Want more recommendations on what kind of shoes to take with you traveling, check out our post on the best travel shoes.

6. USB Multi Charger

Hostels are known for being THE place to meet other travelers, but when it comes to having a good number of outlets they suck miserably! To avoid waiting for an outlet to be free to charge your travel camera, Kindle, or phone, invest in a USB multi charger. That way when you do get a free outlet you can charge all your electronics at the same time, from just one socket!

Don’t just get a cheap 99 cent USB multi charger, as they aren’t very reliable and their life expectancy is super short. If you want a long-lasting and reliable charger, see our recommendation below.

Our recommendation: Syncwire 4-Port USB Wall Charger

7. Universal Plug Adapter

Not all electrical outlets are created equally, which sucks for travelers like us who one day are backpacking Venice and the next teaching English in South Korea. But luckily some genius invented a universal plug adapter, so all we have to do is buy just one and be set for any and every country we travel to! Why buy a power adapter? Well, you never need to worry about having the wrong plug, nor do you have to buy a million and one plugs just to charge your electronics. For a great resource to figure out if you need different plugs for the country you’re traveling to, check out this article.

Be sure not to mistake a plug adapter for a voltage converter! A voltage converter might be something to invest in as well if you don’t want to fry your device because the voltage was different from that of your home country. However, note that not all electronic devices need a converter. Most phones, travel laptops and tablets can handle different voltages without a converter but things like electric razors might not (speaking from experience here).

Our recommendation: Insten Universal Travel Adapter

8. Refillable Water Bottle

Most hostels will have a jug of water in the lobby where guests can refill their water bottles for free or cheap. This is perfect for helping budget travelers, like ourselves, save money while traveling by not constantly buying water from the supermarket. So why not invest in a refillable water bottle that helps keep your wallet happy and saves the planet at the same time.

Our recommendation: Hydro Flask Stainless Steel Water Bottle

9. Condoms

Let’s not sugarcoat it, hostels are where single travelers go to meet other travelers and hook up! Hey, no judgements. Just make sure you go in prepared and not depending on the other person to bring the condom (I am looking at you ladies). It would suck to catch something or get pregnant two weeks into your RTW.

Our recommendation: Trojan Ultra Ribbed ;)

10. An Open Mind

Hostels aren’t hotels, and each hostel is a different experience. The people you’ll find in hostels are like no other crowd. You’ll meet people from different walks of life, with different habits, cultures, ideas, and so much more. So when you plan to stay in a hostel, make sure to have an open mind!

Our recommendation: Sorry, this isn’t something you can buy!

There you go! Those are our top ten hostel packing essentials! Don’t forget to also check out our ultimate packing list for tips on what else to bring along on your travels and our anti-packing list for suggestions on what to leave at home.

Have we forgotten any of your top ten essential packing items? Let us know in the comments below.

Disclosure: Please note that some of the links above are affiliate links, and at no additional cost to you, we earn a small commission if you make a purchase.

The Author

Jazzy is a professional travel writer and the editor-in-chief at Road Affair. She has been traveling around the world with her partner in crime, Ben, since 2012.

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  1. Jazzy,
    Great post! I also would like to add a sleep mask to bring if you like dark environment, and also food container for storing a leftover after cooking.
    I’ll come up with other things, including a coat hanger or clothes pins to dry out your laundry in the balcony without being afraid to be blown out.

    Awesome ideas!

    1. Hey Halef,

      Thanks for weighing in! I agree with the sleeping mask (we did add it to the post) but I am not sure about the coat hanger! Would love to know your reason behind it as hostel usually provide a space for it or you can hang it along the bed frame.

  2. I left the US for the first time last May at 56 years old and walked part of the Camino de Santiago in Spain, then backpacked in Portugal and Valencia. My hostel experiences were absolutely the best, and even in hostels where there were only young people, I was treated well and only had one bad experience (no heat, plastic sheets, 6 AM kick out…glad I brought a UL sleeping bag). Best meals I had were with people who didn’t speak English but our smiles, the food, the wine and the mood spoke volumes!

    1. Hey Susan,

      Thanks for sharing your story with us!! I am so happy to her that hostels are treating you well and that you are meeting amazing individuals on your journey! I must ask, how was your experience doing the Camino de Santiago?? We are thinking about doing it this year!!

  3. Hey Jazzy,

    that’s such an amazing list, love it! Especially good that you recommend a LED light as well as a padlock. Make sure it is generic padlock so it fits all types of lockers. :)

    Keep up the great work, love the detailed info you provide, especially on your article on the Nomads insurance – THANKS!

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