Looking to experience the culture of the Sydney Opera House, or see the iconic Uluru for yourself? Australia can both surprise and take your breath away at every turn. So grab your backpacking gear – Australia awaits! Our ultimate list for backpacking in Australia has everything that will help you navigate the natural wonders on the other side of the earth.
Australia offers a chance to explore the other side of the world and see a diverse continent with rich natural wonders. With so much to see and do on one continent, it’s no wonder travellers are choosing Australia for their next big backpacking adventure. Here are the tips you need to know!
1. Don’t Leave Without It!
You won’t get very far without these items if you plan on backpacking. When planning an international trip, research all the required documents for the entire duration of your travel (as well as any additional paperwork you may need for a gap year or work-abroad experience). Be prepared by checking these essential items off your packing list first.
- Your passport: Valid for 6 months or more.
- A visa: If you plan on exploring for a longer period, or for working in Australia.
- Travel insurance: Just in case.
- Your itinerary: Plan accommodations before arrival.
This may seem like basic no-brainers, but many backpackers are frequently stopped at their respective point-of-entry in Australia, because of a fluke (i.e., rushing out the door, because they were late; a recently expired passport, etc.). It’s no fun flying across the world, only to find out that something so essential is missing. Your plans and paperwork should be in order too.
2. UV Protection
Backpacking means fitting in with the locals. Australians are used to covering up at the beach and are pretty serious about sun protection (they appreciate the risk of melanoma skin cancer). Plus, showing up on the sand with a bikini or speedo may quickly turn you into a lobster, so hear us out. Pack the following beach gear and you will protect your skin (and fit in with the Aussies):
- Rashguard: If you are unfamiliar with the benefits of a long-sleeve rashguard, look it up. You can use it to cover up from the sun, or to keep warm while playing in cool water. This is a key item if you aspire to surf during your tour as well.
- Shades: You don’t want to be squinting as you take in the Great Barrier Reef. Shades are an essential for Australia. Look for shades with UV protection including polarized lenses.
- Sarong: If you can’t resist the temptation of baring it all, bring a lightweight sarong to wrap yourself up in the heat of the day and to prevent sunburn.
- Sunhat: You may choose to skip this one and pick up an official Aussie hat upon arrival, but make sure you have something on hand early in your trip for extra protection.
While backpacking in Australia, extra sun protection is plentiful and easy to find, so we recommend waiting to pack extra aloe, moisturizer or sunscreen, as these can easily be found at your local shop upon arrival.
3. Think Comfort
Flying across the world requires more than just backpacking gear. Australia is not the closest destination for most of us, and we couldn’t imagine setting foot on a long international flight without a few basic comfort items to keep us sane on the journey down under. But, you want to avoid using your comfort items only once on the flight and then toss them when you get there. Here are some items we recommend that will serve multiple uses on your journey.
- Travel pillow: Hitch a high-quality, lightweight travel pillow to the outside of your backpack; and use it on the flight, in your hostel and on the hike. If you find yourself traveling in the summer months, Cabeau’s Evolution Cool is perfect for hot nights without an air conditioner. The side and back vents on this pillow will keep you feeling breezy.
- A great water bottle: Refill if you have a layover on your way, and make sure you stay hydrated. A great water bottle that can attach to your backpack or tucks easily into a side pocket is worth its weight in gold when you are on the move. Buying bottled water as you hit tourist hotspots gets pricey. Plus, a reusable water bottle is a great way to show locals you are serious about protecting the local environment.
- Travel blanket: Another practical item you should pack is a travel blanket. Not only will it wrap you from head to toe on the long flight, but you will also appreciate it while cozying up to the campfire or using it as an extra cover or pillow once you arrive at your hostel. It’s much more compact and versatile than a sleeping bag.
When considering all the different places, Australia is one where your equipment should be lightweight and able to fit on the outside of your backpack, or at least in a small pocket. Small accessories can make all the difference on a trip across the world, so don’t skip out on these items.
4. What to Wear
Most images you’ve seen of Australia probably include the beach, coral reefs, surfing, and deserts. As such, it’s typical for tourists to expect a toasty warm climate year-round.
But be forewarned: the continent is huge and the climate varies widely from one area to the next. Seasons are also reversed from the other side of the world, so do your research. Many a traveller has arrived in Australia with nothing but warm-weather clothing, forcing them to hit the shops and restock their wardrobe with warmer wear, costing them time and space while travelling. Look for versatile clothing that will transition well in fluctuating temperatures and different locales.
- Jacket: Keep one great jacket on hand. Make sure it has the following qualities: lightweight, packable, waterproof, and windproof.
- Shoes: Backpacking means you need to keep things lightweight, but plan to have both a pair of flip-flops and some sturdy hiking or tennis shoes in your pack.
- Socks: While we’re on the topic of feet, it doesn’t hurt to pick up a set of breathable bamboo compression socks to go with said hiking books. This will keep you on your feet longer, and might serve you well on the flight – another ‘double-up’ accessory.
- Quick-Dry Clothing: Pack clothing that dries quickly for beach use and hiking. Consider breathable fabrics as you select your clothing. As a popular location for folks to try out new activewear and backpacking gear, Australia also has some great outdoor stores if you forget any article of clothing
- Local Style: We recommend blending in with the active and laid-back Aussie style by packing a few key items: jeans, lightweight shirts, khakis, sundresses, capris and chinos (all of which can transition from day to night activities).
Pairing these items with a functional hat and some shades, or a comfy sarong, will help you blend right in with everyone else.
5. Versatile Backpack
While backpacking in Australia, you will likely zigzag through both rural areas and busy cityscapes. With so much to see, it’s easy to feel like you need to bring an enormous backpack crammed to the brim with everything you could possibly need. The trick that most backpackers learn after a week or two is that traversing so many geographical areas is much easier while you’re travelling light. Here are some key features to look for in your next backpack purchase to keep it simple.
- Front-Loading: There are two main designs to choose from for your adventure: front-loading and top-loading packs. Top-loading backpacks are compact but cost you time, as you need to dig deep to get anything near the bottom. So, we recommend a solid front-load pack that zips all the way around for easy access.
- Waist Strap: When trying on packs, make sure you put some weight in the backpack and buckle the waist strap for good measure to see how it helps distribute the weight in the pack.
- Carry-On Ready: In the best-case scenario, your backpack will have the correct dimensions to also act as a carry-on. Who wants to wait at the luggage carousel for their check-in luggage after a 20 hour flight? Not you!
Plan to have the right backpacking gear, as Australia is much easier to enjoy with a lighter load. How large your pack is depends on your personal preference and your strength. Ranging from 15-125 litres, the size of your pack can vary widely, but we recommend a pack between 45-65 litres for backpacking – erring on the side of something more lightweight if you want to travel with ease.
Want to capture every moment of your first surf experience at Bondi? With so many technology options, it’s tempting to pack your phone, tablet, laptop and camera all in your backpack. But experienced travellers know that you can’t have it all and easily remain on the go.
- Choose one: Make a choice. Phone, tablet or laptop, but don’t bring them all. Our tip? Pack other items in your backpack and, once you have all the essentials, check how much spare room (if any) you have for the more optional tech.
- Camera: For those of you who want a standalone camera, keep it compact. Make sure you have an easy way to backup your photos on the go.
- Music: Great tunes are essential on your journey. Think about creating a playlist and uploading your favorites onto your technology device of choice.
Pick up a disposable waterproof camera at a surf shop if you plan on taking water pics. Also, make sure all of your technology is locked securely in your backpack or carried with you at all times.
7. Etiquette Notes
This item on our packing list is a little less tangible than others, but perhaps the most vital. Backpacking in Australia requires that you bring with you some knowledge of local etiquette. Make note of these and keep them in a special spot in your pack, or at least in the back of your mind.
- Greeting: Skip the “G’day mate” for now. A more casual Aussie-greeting is “how you going?” But, sometimes simple is best and you can just stick with the usual “hello” or “hi!”
- Dining: Be adventurous, but mind local rules about dining. When at a restaurant, lay your fork and knife parallel on your plate with handles facing to the right to show you are finished your meal.
- Driving: Be mindful of driving on the left in Australia.
- Tipping: Not as much of a necessity in Australia.
- Indigenous Cultures: Local indigenous cultures vary widely, so when travelling through indigenous territory, make sure to respect the local customs of each group.
Travelling requires more than the right backpacking gear. Australia is best explored with an open mind and considerate attitude. By following these quick tips on etiquette, you are sure to be a more welcomed guest. Make sure to go outside of your comfort zone a little as you plan your itinerary for backpacking in Australia, but add a few easy quality comfort items to your packing list from Cabeau for a truly amazing trip down under.