Backpacking can be a strenuous way to travel, especially if you over-pack, but it certainly doesn’t have to be. What goes into your small bag of treasures and comforts will make all the difference when you’re knee deep in your long journey, but what to pack will depend largely on where – and when – you’re going. You’ll want to cover your basics (food, water and shelter), though you likely won’t need a fire starter or a reflective blanket if you’re not hiking through the wilderness. So, what are the universal things any savvy backpacker should carry? Begin with these eight core items, and build out from there according to your specific itinerary.

Water bottle

If you’re trekking into the desert, you’ll probably need a sizable waterskin, but a durable water bottle is a better idea for city travel. It’s bad for the environment and your budget to rely solely on bottled water, and even in countries where you may shy away from the local reservoir, there’s often potable water offered in communal spaces. Bring along a medium size metal water bottle that can fit in your backpack pocket or clip on to it easily; anything over 750ml will probably prove too heavy to cart around when full. Alternatively, you can invest in a flexible plastic water bottle that can flatten right out when empty, which will hardly take up any space at all.

Water Bottle