Depending on what kind of traveling you intend to do, the more prepared you are before you go, the less time you will spend trying to find that must have item you have either forgotten or were unaware that you might need to begin with. After doing several weeks of research online before setting off on my backpack trip through Central America, I have complied a list of absolutely must have items for survival on the road (and in the jungle). After this part of the trip ended, my backpack contents were modified for the around the world trip and you can see that list in the article titled around the world backpack checklist. Now I am aware that everyone travels differently and has their own agenda, so these lists are just meant to be a jumping off point for future travelers and can be modified to meet your specific needs.
For hard core outdoor and jungle backpackers and hostel dwellers:
Before I did my mostly outdoor trek through Central America, I spent numerous hours and a few days in an REI store with a very knowledgable and helpful staff member as well as countless weeks surfing the internet for articles related to backpacking. At the REI store, the gentleman I spoke with was kind enough to patiently take me through the entire store and answer all of my questions about what was this, did I need that, etc etc. The conclusion to this experience was this: necessary survival gear and backpack choice and weight were the most important things to consider. See the article on choosing the right backpack for- well, I think you know! And now here is the checklist of items I brought with me for the 3 month backpack trip through Central America. I went ahead and did the work for you and added clickable links to the products that I chose for easy searching and purchasing of needed items.
Black Diamond Cosmo Headlamp
LED lights on wire (battery powered)
Universal MSR WhisperLite Camp Stove
Fuel Bottle for Stove (leave empty before flying!)
Mess Kit (lightweight)
Dehydrated Food (50 pack) REI
Sewing kit (needles and thread)
Activated Charcoal Tablets (in case of food poisoning)
Z pack of antibiotics
Lighter and Matches
Plenty of Ziplock bags
Teva Hiking Sandles
Water Canteen with C clamp (to attach to backpack or belt)
Compression Bags (I bought 2 medium and 1 large)
80 piece first aid kit (add medical grade strong tape)
Lawson Tent Hammock
Extra Rope (for hammock)
Lightweight Down Sleeping Bag
Small bag of toiletries
One Book for Personal Growth
Camera (keep in plastic bag!)
Journal and 2 pens
5 pounds of clothes
Duffel Bag for Backpack
Rain Cover for Backpack
Passport belt (small waist belt that you can wear under your shirt to hold passport)
Credit Card for emergencies (carry with passport)
Backpackers Towel (small and dries quickly)
As mentioned previously, this article is just a starting off point and is not meant to meet everyone’s needs. For me, this combination of items with the 60+10L Deuter backpack I purchased was perfect for the trek that I made through the jungles in Central America and also for when I visited hostels on occasion. I also kept many of these items in my pack for the around the world trip.
Please feel free to modify the list to meet your specific needs and do contact me with any questions you may have and I will do my best to assist you.