Hello everyone! On my last weekend trip I stayed at a really cozy hostel in Banff, Alberta, Canada. It had been almost 5 months since I’d last stayed in a hostel and although it was a pleasant experience, I had completely forgotten to pack a few of my favourite hostel essentials. So in the midst of my struggles, I vowed to write a post the moment I could outlining my hostel essentials (both so that you can them use during your trip, and so I can refer back to this when I’m packing for one my next one).

Head Lamp

Whether you’re an early riser or a night owl, this makes sneaking around your hostel rooms while others sleep much easier. Plus, say you want to do a sunrise hike – you’ve got a headlamp to illuminate your trail!

Word Combination Lock

Similar to the above, when you’re trying to be extra quiet rummaging around your hostel room it helps to have an easy to open lock. Personally, I’m terrible at the traditional combination locks. I end up getting frustrated and it’s never a good time. I’m also reluctant to use a key padlock because I’m worried I’ll lose the key and then where will I be. So I now use a Word Combination Lock (if you’re not sure what that is you can check out a word combination lock here).

Packing Cubes

Packing cubes aren’t just helpful for fitting way more clothing into your backpack than should be physically possible. If I’ll be staying at a hostel for multiple days, I find packing cubes are super helpful for keeping my stuff organized. I keep a packing cube for:

  • Socks, bras and underwear
  • Casual clothing
  • Hiking clothing
  • Sweaters / going out clothing
  • Miscellaneous stuff
  • Dirty clothing

That way when I’m at the hostel, I only need to get out the clothing that I actually think I’ll need. The rest can stay packed. Here are some additional tips for choosing and organizing packing cubes.

Metal Wire or Chain

I don’t really know what these are officially called, but one came with my PacSafe backpack (until it got lost oops) and it came in handy when I was staying in hostels that didn’t have lockers. I put the wire around the bed frame (or anything large and fixed) and then through my backpack straps. I closed the lock around my zippers and the wire and everything was very secure.

Probably my favourite hostel I’ve ever stayed in
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Eye Mask (or a Buff)

I always try to travel with an eye mask, but I very often for get or misplace it. (In fact, I am currently in this situation. I swear I packed it!) In it’s place, I fold my buff over like it’s a headband and place it over my eyes. I’ll admit that it takes some getting used to, and I’m recommend a sleep mask over it. But if for some reason you find yourself without one, a buff does the trick. This is also one of the things I consider to be an essential for long haul flights.

Noise Canceling Headphones

These are a new addition to my hostel packing list. I originally got them for making flights more peaceful, but now I find them helpful for hostels (especially when my hostel is a little on the rowdy side). They’re a little bulky, but I think totally worth it (there are even in-ear noise canceling headphones now that are way less bulky). They’re also pricey, but this would make an excellent gift for traveling, so maybe add it to the wish list!


If you’re staying in hostels, I’ll assume you’re doing at least some of your own cooking. One thing I’ve found to be helpful is to pack a bunch of spices in little bags so that I don’t have to buy them in containers at the grocery store. This saves both space and money!

Flip Flops (for more than just the shower!)

Yes, flip flops are great for hostel showers. However, I’ve also found them to be nice for just walking around the hostel. After a full day of exploring a city or hiking a trail, I always want to get my boots off as soon as I possibly can. Flip flops mean I don’t have to put the boots back on when I’m going to make food. Also, they’re relatively easy to pack.

Minimalist Wardrobe

I like to have as few things, and the smallest backpack, as possible with me in the hostel. That means I only bring the bare essentials when it comes to clothing (have you noticed it looks like I’m always wearing the same thing in my photos – it’s because I am!). That said, there are a ton of great resources online for how to create your own minimalist travel wardrobe that are way more stylish than what I achieve!

Plastic bags

Ever had to put wet clothing or gear into your suitcase or backpack? I have and unless you have something to put them in, it’s really uncomfortable. I’m currently on the hunt for a sustainable substitution for plastic bags, but at this time, I typically keep a few plastic grocery bags in my backpack.

International adapter with USB ports

When there’s multiple people sharing a room, electrical outlets are at a premium and you’ll likely only get to use one at any given time. I use an adapter that has a regular three prong socket (for either my camera or my laptop) and two USB ports (for my phone and my power bank). Even when I’m traveling within North America I use it because it’s so handy.


In all the travel tips research I have done, I have never seen someone recommend a carabiner and that seriously astounds me! I ALWAYS have a carabiner on me. Want to attach your water bottle or shoes to your backpack? Carabiner. Worried about losing the keys to your rental car? Carabiner. Need to hang up bathing suit but don’t have a close line? I swear by it, use carabiner! Literally the most versatile piece of metal you will ever owned. You also don’t need one of the massive, fancy, expensive ones for it to be sturdy and effective. I have a few of these Black Diamond ones and I think they work wonderfully.

Have you used any of these tips? What would you add?

Packing for Hostels Pin

16 thoughts on “12 Things I Bring to Hostels to have an Infinitely Better Experience

  1. Viktoria Urbanek says:

    I always bring my own travel towel and never really travel without my flipflops – even though I really wear them in the bathrooms! I’d also add a power bank as an additional point since some hostels don’t provide enough sockets!

  2. Jin says:

    Great list of must haves for hostels! I’m also a fan of hostels when I travel, and if I can, I almost always stay at hostels for the most part. I’d probably add noise cancelling headphones or earplugs for those who are light sleepers – i’ve actually ran into a few cases where somebody in the room would get annoyed or wake up the snoring person in question. I’m a heavy sleeper, so I have no problem, but for those who are sensitive sleepers – bring noise cancelling headphones!

    • voyageurtripper says:

      That’s a great call! I’m a deep sleeper too so it’s never been an issue for me (though sometimes I will listen to music or Headspace if it’s noisy when I’m trying to fall asleep.

  3. Sarah says:

    Great list! During my first stay at a hostel, I didn’t even know I needed a simple lock (whoops!). Wish I had this fantastic list before I had that experience lol.

    • voyageurtripper says:

      Haha yeah the first hostel stay is always eye opening. I’m actually surprised I was so laid back with my first hostel. Thinking back, we didn’t even have locks on the DOORS. Which is crazy that I stayed there but in the moment that didn’t seem to be a concern for me aha

  4. Olivia says:

    This is a great list. I think bringing a headlamp is totally underrated! I would add a microfibre travel towel too, it’s my favourite addition to my pack.

    • voyageurtripper says:

      Oh yeah that’s a good call as well! It’s something I pack regardless of whether or not I’m staying in hostels so I didn’t include it, but that’d be a good thing to mention too!

  5. Brittany Harris says:

    Great tips! I’ll be sure to check this post again when I head to Europe this summer! Can never be too prepared for hostel life 🙂

  6. Katie Dickinson says:

    Love the wire idea – I had never heard of that before! I’ve been surprised a few times by hostels with teeny lockers (or none at all) so having a plan b is super smart. Kinda along the same line as spices, I always have electrolyte packets to mix into drinks. I get super dehydrated on flights and tend to walk so much when travelling that I can’t drink water fast enough… so having those electrolyte packets have really saved the day for me!

    • voyageurtripper says:

      OH electrolytes would be so helpful!!! I often get dehydrated while traveling and my appetite sometimes disappears, so that would be a great thing to include as well!

  7. mohanaandaninda says:

    We haven’t stayed in hostels much but we’d like to esp. now that there are so many new hostels opening their doors to travelers in India. Thanks for the list…much helpful for hostel-newbies like us 🙂

    • voyageurtripper says:

      You’re welcome! I actually didn’t stay at any hostels when I was traveling in India since the rooms were already so cheap, but I guess it’d be useful for meeting other travelers so I’d be interested to hear how you find it!

  8. Richa says:

    That is a good list and good catch on Carabiners.. I definitely can see that coming handy. I also always carry my own toiletries whether I am staying in hotels or hostels but definitely more so in hostels.

  9. Aimee Horgan says:

    Brilliant list, essential items that I always tend to forget but make travelling so much easier. We don’t tend to stay in hostels that much but i think its equally essentially when on a long trip and staying at hotels & B&Bs.

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