If you’re backpacking through Europe (or simply traveling on a budget), then there is a good chance you’ll spend at least a few nights in a hostel. And while many hostels have plenty of amenities, there are still a few things you might want to bring. That’s why I created this Hostel Packing List to help make your hosteling more enjoyable.
Why Trust Me? I stayed in my first hostel way back in 2006 and since then I’ve stayed in dozens of hostels — so I have a pretty good idea of what to pack.
Still Curious About Staying In Hostels: Check out my Hostels 101 Guide and my Hostel Etiquette 101 Guide to get a deeper understading of hostel travel.
A Lock For Your Hostel Locker
Most hostels will have lockers in the dorm room or in a locker room for securing all your stuff while you’re away. However, most hostels don’t provide a lock or they charge you a few euros to rent one.
That’s why I always recommend packing your own padlock. You don’t have to go crazy with a fancy lock — just get something simple for around $7-$12. Personally, I prefer combination padlocks since you don’t have to deal with a key.
Here are three affordable options from Amazon:
- Master Lock 1505D Locker Lock Combination Padlock
- Master Lock 1535DWD Locker Lock Set Your Own Word Combination Padlock
- Master Lock 1500iD Locker Lock Set Your Own Directional Combination Padlock
I always pack a simple cable lock since sometimes hostel lockers are weirdly sized and standard locks don’t fit. I also like cable locks because they let you secure your backpack or suitcase to immovable objects (your bed frame, luggage racks on the train, benches, to other luggage so it’s hard to snag, etc.). Additionally, small cable locks can also be used to lock the zippers on your backpack/suitcase.
Here are two affordable options from Amazon:
You’ll leave your large backpack/suitcase locked up in the hostel during the day but you’ll want a smaller backpack to carry around as you explore during the day. I’ve written about my favorite daypacks if you want more recommendations but here are a few of my top picks:
- Fjallraven: You’ll see this hip Swedish brand’s backpacks everywhere in Europe. Prices start around $70. See styles and prices on Amazon.
- Herschel Supply Co: Another popular brand that offers multiple styles and colors to choose from. Prices start around $50. See styles on Amazon.
- Aer Go Pack: An excellent minimalist daypack that I’ve used on multiple trips. The Go Pack costs $85 from Aersf.com.
- Patagonia Sling: If you’re into minimalist travel then you might like the sling bags from Patagonia. They’re priced at $60 at REI.
Organization is key when you’re living out of a backpack or suitcase — especially in the cramped quarters of a hostel. I find that packing cubes help keep my life organized and make packing so much easier.
Here are a few my of favorite packing cube options:
- Eagle Creek Pack-It Cubes
- Eagle Creek Spectre Tech Packing Cubes
- eBags Packing Cubes
- AmazonBasics Packing Cubes
Travel Power Strip
Hostels (especially older hostels) are notorious for not having enough outlets, so it’s not uncommon for a room with 12+ beds to only have one or two electrical outlets.
That’s why I always pack a power strip so more people can charge all their gadgets. I recommend packing a power strip that has multiple USB ports since that’s how most people charge modern gadgets.
Here are a few well-rated options from Amazon that cost less than $20:
- K-Century Travel Power Strip Surge Protector with 2 Outlets 4 USB (this is nice because it has two universal outlets and four USB)
- POWERGENCE Portable Travel Adapter Power Strip
- See More Options At Amazon
Electrical Plug Adaptors
Don’t expect your hostel to have plug adaptors for you to use so throw a few into your bag. Just buy whatever is cheap and lightweight — like this 4-pack US to EU Plug Adapter Power Converter from Amazon for less than $10.
Alternatively, the EPICKA Universal Travel Adapter will work in any country, but it’s doable the price and bulkier.
Dual Voltage Travel Hair Dryer
Hostels rarely have hairdryers so you’ll want to pack your own. It’s important that you bring a dual voltage hairdryer since a North American hairdryer won’t work in Europe.
Here are a few affordable travel hairdryers that get good reviews on Amazon:
- Conair 1600 Watt Compact Hair Dryer with Folding Handle
- BaBylissPRO BABNT053T Nano Titanium Travel Dryer
- Conair 1875 Watt Compact Hair Dryer with Folding Handle
- BaBylissPRO BABTT053T TT Tourmaline Titanium Travel Dryer
Hanging Toiletry Bag
I’ve stayed in multiple hostels that have zero counter space in their bathrooms so a toiletry bag with a hook is essential. There are multiple toiletry bags listed on Amazon so just ensure you find one with a hook.
Here are a few affordable (under $20) hanging toiletry bags from Amazon):
- AmazonBasics Hanging Travel Toiletry Kit Bag
- emissary Large Hanging Toiletry Bag
- Relavel Cosmetic Pouch Toiletry Bag
- See More Toiletry Bags at Amazon
Note: Consider buying some suction cup hooks so you can stick your toiletry bag to the mirror/wall.
Quick-Dry Travel Towel
Some hostels will rent you a towel for a €3-€5 but a majority don’t. That’s why I pack a quick-dry travel towel.
A travel towel is nice because it’s lighter than a traditional bulky cotton towel and it dries in only a few hours — shoving a wet towel in your bag will make everything smell musty.
Note: Pay attention to the size of the towel as many are tiny — I prefer one that is the size of a normal towel. Additionally. if you have long hair you might want to pack an additional medium-size towel.
Expect to pay around $25 for a large travel towel. Here are some options from Amazon:
- Sea to Summit Drylite Towel
- Rainleaf Microfiber Towel
- PackTowl Personal Microfiber Towel
- Biospired Footprint Lightweight Microsuede Towel
- See More Travel Towels on Amazon
Sleep Mask & Ear Plugs
I’ve never been a fan of wearing a sleep mask or using earplugs, but even I’ll admit that they’re both very useful when staying in hostels — because there will be loud snorers and people will turn the lights on at 3 am.
Shower Flip Flops
Most hostels have shared showers (and some hostels have questionable cleaning practices), so do yourself a favor and wear sandals when you shower. Anything that’s waterproof will work. Amazon has plenty of options for under $20.
There are a handful of hostels that have washing machines but if you’re packing light then you might want an easy way to handwash your socks and underwear. Here are a few things that will help you do a small sink wash:
- Sink Stopper: A Travel Sink Stopper will help you plug the hostel sink so you can wash your clothes.
- Travel Laundry Soap: Woolite Travel Laundry Soap and Travelon Laundry Soap Sheets are two easy ways to pack laundry detergent.
- Flexible Travel Clothesline: A rubber braided clothesline will let you easily hang up your clothes to dry.
- Stain Remover: Tide To Go Stain Remover Pens and individually wrapped Shout Wipes work really well on stains and take up no space.
Cleaning / Disinfectant / Personal Care Items
- Shampoo/Conditioner/Body Wash: The GoToob travel-sized bottles are the best travel bottles as they don’t leak.
- Hand Sanitizer: Hit your hands with a bit of hand sanitizer from time to time.
- Toothpaste & Toothbrush: Put a Steripod toothbrush cover on your toothbrush to keep it away from germs.
- Deodorant: Deodorant that I buy in Europe never seems to work as well so bring your own.
- Chapstick w/Sunscreen: Keep those lips kissable with lip balm.
- Contact Lenses/Solution/Glasses: Contact solution is actually a pain to buy because it’s normally only sold in pharmacies. Plus it isn’t cheap. I’d recommend bringing your own if you can.
- Condoms: You might just meet the love of your night in a hostel so stock up on condoms from Amazon.
- Travel Fabric Freshener: Your clothes will probably smell a bit funky after a while so travel-sized Febreze To Go is a good way to stay a little fresher.
- Travel Toilet Paper: Travel toilet paper will come in handy.
- Wet Wipes/Baby Wipes: These are a lifesaver when you actually need them. Cottonelle Fresh Flushable Wipes are individually wrapped.
- Body Powder: Stop chafing caused by all that walking — especially if it is really hot. Anti Monkey Butt is our favorite.
- Foot Cream: Pamper your feet with O’Keeffe’s Healthy Feet Cream.
- Pepto Tablets: Be sure to pack some Pepto-Bismol tablets for all that questionable street food.
- Band-Aids: Heal/prevent those blisters with Band-Aids for feet.
Other Things You Might Want
- Pillowcase: I always sleep much better with my own pillowcase since most hostels have cheap sheets. Some people also like to pack sleep spray.
- Sleep Sheet: If you’re sensitive to cheap sheets then you might like to pack a sleep sheet — sleep sheets come in cotton and silk.
- Sleep Supplements: Sleep supplements might help knock you out and keep you asleep. Amazon has plenty of options.
- Playing Cards: A set of playing cards can help you make new friends in the hostel. These cards are plastic so they won’t get ruined by liquid.
- Travel Utinsels: Some hostels don’t have a kitchen so a cheap set of travel utensils can come in handy for those makeshift hostel meals.
- Stuff Sack/Dirty Clothes Bag: If you plan on doing laundry you’ll want a small laundry bag. Amazon has plenty of cheap options.
More Packing Lists and Tips
I’m always on the lookout for the best travel gear so here are a few of my favorite gear-related articles:
- The Best Shoes For Travel: Everything you need to know about picking the right footwear for your travels.
- The Best Travel Backpacks: I personally review the most popular travel backpacks on the market to see which is best for your travel style.
- Europe Packing List: The ultimate packing list for traveling through Europe.
The Best Hostels In Europe
I’ve written about some of the best hostels in Europe:
- Best Hostels in Amsterdam
- Best Hostels in Barcelona
- Best Hostels in Berlin
- Best Hostels in Brussels
- Best Hostels in Budapest
- Best Hostels in Copenhagen
- Best Hostels in Dublin
- Best Hostels in Edinburgh
- Best Hostels in Florence
- Best Hostels in London
- Best Hostels in Madrid
- Best Hostels in Milan
- Best Hostels in Munich
- Best Hostels in Nice
- Best Hostels in Paris
- Best Hostels in Prague
- Best Hostels in Reykjavik
- Best Hostels in Rome
- Best Hostels in Venice
- Best Hostels in Vienna
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Thanks For Reading! — James