The Essential Hostel Packing List

New Zealand Hostel Guide: Frienz Backpackers
Source: my photo

As most backpackers know, packing for a hostel is very different than packing for a night in a hotel. The environment and situations you find yourself in when you stay in a hostel call for very specific tools. That’s why I put together this essential hostel packing list, so you know exactly what you need to bring.

If you’ve never stayed in a hostel before, fear not. They’re a lot of fun!

However, sleeping in dorm rooms and using communal bathrooms definitely requires a special list of items. Things that will help to make your stay simple.

This essential hostel packing list has all of the key things you’ll need to get a good night’s sleep, keep things clean, and stay sane.

Packing for a hostel is very different than packing for a hotel. This essential hostel packing list includes all the items you need if you're staying in a hostel.

The Essential Hostel Packing List

Flip Flops

The Essential Hostel Packing ListFirst, and most importantly, bring flips flops (or thongs, jandals, whatever you call them). You’re sharing bathrooms with lots of other people, so you definitely want to wear flip flops in the shower. They’re also handy for slipping on and off when you’re getting into bed or walking around the hostel. You can pick up a cheap pair from Old Navy or Target.

Browse Flip Flops here


The Essential Hostel Packing ListSecuring your stuff is important when staying in a hostel, so bring a padlock. Some hostels provide lockers, but you often have to supply your own lock. You can also use this lock on your backpack so that people can’t unzip it.

I use this TSA-approved cable lock



The Essential Hostel Packing ListIf you’re a light sleeper, you will absolutely need earplugs. You might want to go to bed while your roommates are still chatting; you might be at a party hostel with loud guests; or you might be unlucky enough to have a bunk-mate who snores. Earplugs will help to drown out the noise so you can get some sleep. Even if noise doesn’t bother you, bring some just in case.

Get this pack of 10 earplugs


The Essential Hostel Packing ListMost people bring headphones when traveling anyways, so this is an obvious one. But you’d be surprised how many people will put on Netflix in bed at midnight with the sound on for all to hear. Don’t be that person. Bring headphones!

Shop Headphones here


Power Adapter

The Essential Hostel Packing ListIf you’re traveling outside of your own country, you’ll most likely need some sort of adapter so that you can plug your electronics into the outlets. I recommend getting a universal adapter so that you can use it in any country, regardless of the socket type. It makes life a lot easier knowing one adapter works for all outlets, especially if you’re traveling through multiple countries in one trip.

I bring this Skross universal adapter with me everywhere

Power Strip

The Essential Hostel Packing ListHostel dorm rooms are notorious for not having enough outlets. How are 12 people supposed to charge their electronics with ONE outlet? If you bring your own power strip, you can extend the number of sockets, ensuring you get a chance to charge your phone. Plus, your roommates will seriously love you for having one.

I like this one because it swivels for added convenience

Packing Cubes

The Essential Hostel Packing ListI prefer to use packing cubes for all packing, but they’re absolutely essential for a backpacker. It’s the only way to keep your stuff organized, and when you’re sharing a room with a bunch of people, organization is key. Being able to quickly find what you’re looking for is especially useful when you can’t turn on the lights and you’re trying not to wake anyone up.

I use this 5-piece set for all of my packing needs

Safety Cable Lock for luggage

The Essential Hostel Packing ListIn many places, you’ll be just fine locking up your valuables and leaving your backpack/suitcase out in your dorm room. But if you don’t feel comfortable doing that, you can use a cable lock. This allows you to lock your backpack/luggage onto something sturdy, so that no one can steal it.

Get one here

Microfiber Towel

The Essential Hostel Packing ListMicrofiber travel towels have changed my life, to be honest. Since most hostels don’t provide towels (and if they do, they probably charge a fee), you’ll need to bring your own. A regular towel is too bulky and it’s a waste of precious packing space. Plus, they take forever to dry. Microfiber towels fold up really small, and they dry super fast.

These are my favorite microfiber towels

Toiletry Kit

The Essential Hostel Packing ListSince you’ll be using a communal bathroom (probably down the hall), you’ll need to bring all of your shower stuff back and forth with you. Having all of your toiletries in a waterproof case will make it easy to grab and go when you’re ready to shower. I recommend getting one that rolls up and hangs, so that you can hang it on any hook. It’s the best way to make up for the lack of counter space in hostel bathrooms.

This one comes with travel size bottles & a clear bag for liquids

Sleeping Bag Liner

The Essential Hostel Packing ListSome hostels provide sheets for you to use, and some don’t. It’s always good to have a sleeping bag liner with you just in case. Or if the sheets provided just aren’t up to par, you can rest peacefully knowing you have something clean to sleep on.

This liner feels silky and soft


Warm Socks

The Essential Hostel Packing ListHaving a pair of warm wool socks is the most comforting thing for me when sleeping in a cold hostel. You never know when you’ll get stuck in the coldest part of the room, or the blanket situation may not be ideal. But with warm socks, you can still stay cozy.

I love these colorful wool socks


Sleeping Mask

The Essential Hostel Packing ListA sleep mask will definitely come in handy when staying in a hostel. Not everyone is going to go to bed at the same time, so sometimes you’ll be trying to sleep while the lights are still on for everyone else in the room. Or maybe you’re the one going to bed late and sleeping in, so you don’t want the lights waking you up in the morning. Put on a sleep mask and lights won’t be a problem.

Get a sleeping mask here


The Essential Hostel Packing ListA headlamp is one of the most essential hostel packing list items. Everyone in your dorm is going to have different schedules, so you’ll often find yourself searching for things in the dark. A headlamp is especially useful if you’re trying to pack your stuff while everyone else is asleep. Turning the lights on would be pretty rude, so bring your own light.

This headlamp has multiple light settings for all situations

Laundry Bag

The Essential Hostel Packing ListMake sure you pack a laundry bag to separate your dirty clothes from your clean ones. Having a bag for your stuff is especially helpful when it comes time to drag everything to the hostel laundry room. Mesh bags are great for dirty laundry, but there are plenty of cute ones to choose from too.

Here’s a simple mesh laundry bag

Portable Laundry System

The Essential Hostel Packing ListSpeaking of laundry, this portable laundry washing system is genius. Instead of spending your money on machines or washing your clothes in the sink, use this to wash your clothes. It folds up small so you can easily fit it into your luggage. When you’re ready to wash, just add water and soap. Then you can really scrub your clothes clean!

Get this Scrubba Bag here

Reusable Bowl/Food Storage

The Essential Hostel Packing ListIf you’re staying in hostel, you’re probably going to be cooking a lot of your own meals. Having a kitchen to use is one of the perks of hostel life, after all. Some hostels will have every possible type of dish or utensil you can think of–others won’t have anything at all. If you bring your own reusable bowl, you won’t have to worry about that. Plus, if you have a lid, you can save leftovers for another meal.

I use bowls like this for traveling

All in One Soap

The Essential Hostel Packing ListWhen you’re in a hostel, showers need to be quick and easy. Instead of bringing a bottle of shampoo, a bottle of conditioner, and a bottle of shower gel, just bring something you can use for everything. I know it’s not usually the most ideal to be using the same soap for your hair and skin, but there are great products out there that do this well. Minimizing your toiletries is definitely worth it.

Try this 3-in-1 shampoo/conditioner/body wash

Toothbrush Case

The Essential Hostel Packing ListYou’re gonna be throwing your toothbrush into your toiletry kit. You’re going to possibly be setting it down on a sink somewhere. There’s just so much opportunity for your toothbrush to touch things it shouldn’t touch. Get a toothbrush case or a travel toothbrush that folds up. This is all about hygiene. Keep your toothbrush clean.



The Essential Hostel Packing ListReading is my favorite thing to do when I’m staying in hostels. If I’m not socializing, I like to sit in the common room and read, or catch up with a book before bed. While you don’t need a Kindle to read (regular old books are awesome), it is a really cool thing to have. You can carry around as many books as you want, all in one place.

This Kindle Paperwhite e-reader has a built-in reading light

Essential Hostel Packing List Checklist

Want to print off this list so you don’t forget anything while packing? Click here to download a PDF checklist!

What other items should be on this essential hostel packing list?

Leave your suggestions in the comments!

Read Next:

Ultimate New Zealand Hostel Guide

Introvert’s Guide to Hostel Life

Liquid-Free Toiletries Kit

How to Make Friends in Hostels

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Essential Hostel Packing List >> All the items you need to pack if you're staying in a hostel. #traveldaze #hostel #budgettravel #traveltips #packing

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By Courtney Minor

Wandering around and writing about it.

1 comment

  1. I totally agree that a headlamp is an absolute must – it makes it way easier to pack when you have an early morning start. On the other hand though, it is important to be considerate with your light, there is nothing worse than being woken up and seeing a beam of light darting around the room so you can’t get back to sleep! Thanks for the great tips 🙂


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