9 Things to Pack for a Hostel Stay

A disclaimer: I make no claims to be an expert in the hostel life. Hostels aren’t my preferred kind of accommodations, though I have stayed in a fair share in my days—in Peru, in Vietnam and even stateside when I was a poor college student.

But a few weeks ago a friend of mine, who was heading to Spain for a solo trip for the very first time, asked my advice about what to pack to stay in a hostel. My initial response was that I certainly wasn’t qualified to answer that question, but then I realized I actually had a bunch of advice on what to pack to stay in a hostel. If you, too, will be staying in a hostel for the very first time, here are a few things you should pack before you check in:

Sleep sack – Some hostels supply sheets, and some do not. In any case, it’s hard to say how clean the sheets might be, so I always pack a compact silk sleep sack, which I sleep in, and then I drape any available sheet over top. You can make your own sleep sack by sewing two twin size sheets together, but these are a bit bulky, so I suggest you invest in one of the compact ones. They’re light and warm, and they don’t take up much space.

Sarong or pashmina – I’ve written about why you should pack a sarong (even if you’re a guy), and staying in a hostel is no exception.In my experience, hostels tend to be a bit on the chilly side. Use your sarong as a blanket over your sleep sack.

Travel towel – You may not get a towel at your hostel either. I pack a small, quick-dry towel that I use after showering and if I need to dry dishes that I use. A dry towel can also be used as a second blanket.

Travel pillow – A small travel pillow isn’t an absolute necessity, but it can make a hostel stay a bit more comfortable. I have used a towel and a sweatshirt as pillows in the past, but I’ve since acquired a compact travel pillow that is worth carrying.

Eye mask – If you share a dorm-style room, people will come and go all night long. Enjoy a restful, dark night when you wear an eye mask.

Earplugs – All those people coming and going? They can be quite loud. Block out their noise with a pair of earplugs.

Lock – Good hostels offer lockers for travelers. How big the lockers are depends on the property, but chances are you’ll need to provide your own mechanism for securing your belongings. I suggest packing both a standard combination lock and a bicycle lock so you can secure the locker and then attach your bag to your bed as needed.

Shower shoes or flip flops – Hostel showers can be sketchy. Keep the fungus at bay by wearing pair of flip flops in the shower.

PacSafe – I’m not sold on the idea that you absolutely need to carry a PacSafe, but it’s worth mentioning that I have one of these and they can be advantageous in some situations. These are essentially metal nets that are secured around a backpack before attaching the pack to something solid like a heating pipe. If you don’t have a locker and you have to leave your backpack behind in a high-trafficked area, I recommend using one of these. They are fairly compact but they are heavy, so it’s a toss-up on whether it’s worth carrying one during your travels.

4 Responses to “9 Things to Pack for a Hostel Stay”

  1. John

    Sleep sacks are wonderful for when you get into a hostel late and the bed isn’t made. It is a much better alternative than waking all the roommates by turning on the lights and making the bed.

    • JoAnna

      Which is why another great thing to add would be a headlamp!

  2. Shelley

    I totally agree with your suggestion to buy a sleep sack. I traveled with a homemade one (like you described) for a few trips and it is SO bulky! I had one from the store for my last trip – very compact.

    • JoAnna

      I had a homemade one on my first independent trip overseas, but I’m so grateful to have something much more compact and user friendly now.


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