This overland travel packing list is 100% useful and includes everything I usually take with me when travelling.
Quick Overview of my Overland Travel Packig List
Backpack – the most obvious, but a light and well-fitting backpack is essential.
Document Wallet – somewhere safe to keep your important paperwork such as passport, visas etc.
Local Currency – it always pays to have some local currency in case you can’t get to an ATM.
Money Belt – perfect for keeping your money safe on overnight train and bus journeys.
Filter Bottle/Water Filter – it’s not always easy to find a fresh source of water on the road, a filter will ensure you have a clean supply of drinking water.
A Pen (and writing paper) – useful for filling out registration cards at land borders and making notes.
Headlamp/Torch (flashlight) – great for reading in hostels or on trains at night.
Power Bank – stay connected while on the road.
Multi-Country Travel Adapter – an often overlooked piece of kit that is essential if you are taking any electronics with you.
Noise Cancelling Headphones – great for noisy hostels and sleeping on public transport.
Travel Towel – a travel towel compacts to a small size for easy packing.
First Aid Kit – from small cuts and bruises to blisters, a first aid kit will ensure comfort for when you take small knocks and bumps.
Swiss Army Knife – with its many uses, the perfect tool for travelling!
Travel Wash Kit – it’s important to keep clean on the road!
Hand Sanitizer – in these times of covid, keeping your hands clean is essential!
Mosquito Repellent – depending on where you travel, mosquitos can ruin a good night’s sleep so ensure you have protection.
Camera/Go Pro/Drone – for recording your trip of a lifetime!
Additional Items – sundries
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Overland Travel Packing List Items
Useful for: keeping everything together
A good backpack is key to any overland adventure. The size will depend on how long you will be travelling and how minimalistic you are, but I’d recommend at least 50 litres (larger litres if you will be travelling during winter/in colder regions).
Check out my guide to the best budget backpacks for a breakdown of what’s hot in 2021!
Useful for: keeping important documents safe (passport, visas etc)
When travelling overland you will find yourself having to take your passport out frequently, and as such it’s easy for it to get damaged. A good wallet is a useful addition to any packing list and can also double as handy storage for other currencies and documentation (don’t keep all valuables in the same place, spread them about).
Useful for: keeping cash hidden
A money belt is a great way to keep peace of mind while travelling overland, especially if using overnight trains! A must-have item on your overland travel packing list!
Useful for: paying for things before you can find an ATM
If you can get hold of the currencies needed for all countries on your trip before departing, then that is going to be a great help. In the UK the Post Office and High Street banks can order in most of the world’s currencies.
However, it’s not always possible to obtain the desired currency and the near-universal US Dollar ($) is a useful backup (the British Pound (£) and Euro (€) are also good options to carry). It’s best to have a mixture of notes (bills) including low denominations.
Note: Be wary of changing money at border posts as you will not always get a fair rate! If you have no choice, change the smallest amount possible until you can reach your next destination.
Filter Water Bottle
Useful for: being able to drink water that would otherwise make you sick
A good filter water bottle is invaluable on any long-distance trip and environmentally friendly as you can fill up almost anywhere and now have to rely on plastic bottles. LifeStraw make the best on the market and you can practically fill it up from a muddy puddle (though if there are other options, I’d recommend those first…).
A pen and writing paper
Useful for: making notes about train times, hostels etc
If you will be crossing borders overland, you will likely need to fill in entry or exit cards and it’s always handy to have a pen close to hand, otherwise you will more than likely be queuing for the only pen chained to the desk!
It’s also useful to have some writing paper in case you want to make any notes, reminders or want to write something down for someone. The mobile phone has reduced the need for such “outdated” means, but I can guarantee there will be points on your trip where you wish you had a pen and paper!
Useful for: finding things at night
An invaluable piece of kit to stop you from fumbling around in the dark looking for something in your backpack (especially useful for hostels and night trains).
Useful for: charging devices on the move
The modern traveller is likely to have at least one electronic device (mobile phone) and other popular devices include tablets, e-readers and MP3 players. If you are travelling overland then there will certainly be times where you won’t be able to charge devices, so a power bank can keep you connected when it most matters!
Multi-Country Travel Adapter
Useful for: charging devices in each country
If your overland trip will take you across multiple countries (or even continents) then a multi-country travel adapter is a must and will ensure you can keep everything charged no matter where you are!
Useful for: sleeping on trains/in hostels
A good pair of noise-cancelling headphones can be the difference between a good night’s sleep and a terrible one.
Useful for: hostels, swimming
A compact travel towel is an excellent piece of kit as they are fast-drying and pack very small. Great for hostelling and hiking where you might want to cool off in a river or lake!
First Aid Kit
Useful for: blisters, cuts, sprains etc
A good travel first aid kit is always a useful item to have, especially if you plan to travel off the beaten path.
Make sure your kit contains the following at the very least:
- Plasters of all sizes
- Hand sanitizer
- Disinfectant wipes
- Sticky tape
- Safety pins
I also add paracetamol, ibuprofen and antihistamines to my own kit. You can also add any medication you need to take, but be sure to check that they are legal in the countries you will be visiting (Uzbekistan is one country where common over-the-counter medicines may be illegal)!
Useful for: not bankrupting yourself if you fall ill
A good travel insurance policy is a must on any overland trip! I’ve injured myself or got sick a few times while overlanding and those hospital bills can soon add up! World Nomads specialise in overlanding and backpacking trips and their prices for cover are some of the cheapest out there.
Swiss Army Knife
Useful for: cutting food, repairing things on the road
An excellent tool when overlanding, the Swiss Army Knife can be used to prepare food (be sure to wipe/disinfect after use), open bottles, remove splinters and do lots of other things besides. The Swiss Army knife’s versatility makes it a favourite on my overland travel packing list!
Out of over 50 countries I’ve travelled to with a pen-knife, China is the only place where I’ve had them confiscated (twice!). Check the rules before you set off!
Travel Wash Kit
Useful for: keeping clean on the road
At the minimum, your travel wash kit should include:
- A toothbrush
- Mini shampoo
- Mini shower gel
Useful for: cleaning your hands before eating
In these times of Covid, it’s doubly important to keep yourself clean and disinfected. Many places now provide hand sanitiser, but there will be times on the road when you want to eat and will need to clean your hands.
Useful for: keeping the bugs away
Depending on the destination and time of year, it’s highly likely that on any road trip you will encounter mosquitos. If you will be travelling to places where malaria and other such diseases are present, then you will want a repellent containing DEET.
Useful for: not getting sunburned
Depending on where you plan to travel, sunscreen is another good item to have on your packing list (though in Norway in winter it’s probably safe to leave it behind)!
Many people simply use their phones to record their trips, however, if you want to take amazing pictures/videos then consider taking a good camera or drone with you.
As far as cameras are concerned, DSLR’s are bulky and do take up space and weight (though I still travel with my Nikon D3400). There are many fantastic compact cameras on the market such as Nikon’s Coolpix range.
If you want to take some fantastic aerial footage of your trip then the Mavic Mini 2 is a fantastic small drone that weighs just 249 grams and can fold down to fit in the palm of your hand. And for under $300, it’s an absolute steal (if you want to see what it can do, check out my Youtube channel)!
The Go Pro is another great travel camera and has the added bonus of being able to film underwater!
Other useful items for your overland travel packing list
Small Tissue Packets
Hard Sweets (candies)
Dried Fruit and Nuts
Small Carabiners (useful for attaching things to your backpack)
I hope you have found this overland travel packing list useful! If you are looking for some inspiration on overland trips, you should check out my article on how to travel from London to China without flying!
About the author: Steve Rohan, originally from England, has lived in China for over six years. He has lived in the frozen city of Harbin, the ancient capital of Luoyang and now resides in the tropical paradise of Sanya on Hainan Island.
He has travelled extensively across Europe and Asia, mostly by train, and has written about his travels for this blog as well as self-publishing his first book, Siberian Odyssey.