As backpackers, our daypacks can seem like the bottomless bag of Mary Poppins. You’ll probably find crushed granola bars, beat up headphones, pens that used its ink to mark up the interior or coins of random currencies jumbled inside your sandy backpack. It’s an organized mess.
I like to think that my main backpack holds the contents of my life, while my daypack is my explorer kit. It has all the necessary things I need to have an adventure in a foreign city. There’s a technique—albeit, a lazy one—to packing your daypack to the perfect capacity. You gotta hit that sweet spot where it’s not too heavy that you regret lugging it around all day, and not too light where it’s just pointless.
So while the process of emptying and filling our daypacks can be tedious, make sure you have these five items that will guarantee a productive day of exploring.
1. Portable Charger
This is a given. And if you’re a backpacker and don’t religiously carry one around with you, march into the closest 7-Eleven and make the investment. Whether you use your phone to take photos, to map out directions or to book a hostel, it’s pretty heartbreaking when it dies just as you’re taking a picture of the 12 Apostles. Save yourself the frustration of a dead phone and always keep a charger in your daypack. Oh, and make sure you charge the charger. Ugh, technology.
2. Toilet Paper
This is particularly necessary for certain parts of Southeast Asia—but seriously—you never freaking know if a bathroom will have toilet paper or not. And what if no one is in the other stalls to help a backpacker out. It could get messy. I learned my lesson after an exceptionally embarrassing restroom break in Thailand. We won’t go into detail but ever since then, I’ve always kept a roll of toilet paper in my daypack. And it’s proven to be the most used item in my daypack besides my wallet and my phone.
Am I seriously suggesting a book? Um, is the sky blue? Yes, I think every traveler should carry a book with them. Whether it’s a notebook to jot down thoughts, a handy guidebook or the latest Nicholas Sparks romantic (gag-worthy) novel, a book is crucial to the daypack. After walking around and exploring for most of the day, sometimes it’s nice to find a quiet cafe or beach and just... read. Get away from social media and recharge your engines. It may not seem like it on the outside, but taking the time to read a book while traveling can actually help you feel like you’re settling in with a foreign culture. Do as the locals do and relax.
Ugh. I’m one of those travelers who hates putting on sunscreen—but will come back to the hostel looking like a steamed lobster at the end of the day if I don’t. Sure, you can buy sunscreen if you need it while you’re exploring, but just have it with you so that you don’t add to the growing collection in your main backpack. Pro tip: keep your sunscreen in a ziplock bag just in case it explodes
A towel can be the MVP of the daypack. It can triple as something to keep you dry, a poncho for when it rains out of nowhere, or something to sit on because you ain’t got time for sand up your butt. Yes, it can potentially take up space, but it’s light and practical. The best part about exploring is that you never know when you’ll spontaneously find yourself at a waterfall or an incredible surf spot. Have a towel handy with the anticipation that you’re going to have an epic day.