The Items Every Backpack Needs, Ranked by Usefulness

The Items Every Backpack Needs, Ranked by Usefulness

Back-to-school season means backpacks are on the brain. I believe having a stocked backpack is an adult thing to do, too, though. Rarely do I leave the house with nothing but my phone, wallet, and keys. I’d rather be prepared with more than the bare minimum when I’m out and about.

Even if you aren’t pro-backpack, there are many overlooked items that belong in your purse, briefcase, or at least in your car. Here are the cleverest items to always keep on-hand in your backpack (or carrier of choice), organised by necessity from “must-haves” to “well, you never know.”

Tier 1: The bare necessities

Whether you’re packing for a hike, a concert, or simply commuting to work, you should always have the following staples ready and waiting in your pack:

  • Phone charger
  • Ear buds
  • Painkillers (like ibuprofen)
  • Sanitary basics (tampons, tissues)
  • Hand sanitizer
  • Extra cash
  • Water bottle
  • Deodorant
  • Face mask

Tier 2: You’ll be a lifesaver

Beyond the necessities, this tier of preparedness means at one point in your life, a friend or stranger will tell you “you’re a lifesaver.”

  • Portable charger
  • Nail clippers/file
  • Tweezers
  • Gum/mints
  • Chapstick
  • Band-Aids
  • Pen and pad
  • Umbrella
  • Reusable grocery bag
  • Reusable silverware
  • Sunscreen
  • Hat (for the cold or sun)
  • Stain-removal stick
  • Small roll of tape
  • Additional ID

Tier 3: “You never know”

This tier is for those who like to go above-and-beyond with preparedness, and have the room in their pack to do so. You never know when you might get stranded or need to spend the night in an unexpected location. This list could go on and on, but here are some the most basic supplies that could reasonably fit in a backpack (depending on how many of these items you cram in).

  • Change of clothes (or at least socks and underwear)
  • Toothbrush and toothpaste
  • Swim suit
  • Miniature flashlight (if your phone dies)
  • Book, deck of playing cards, or some other entertainment
  • Rain poncho
  • Gloves
  • Garbage bag
  • External hard drive

The most divisive item to pack-or-not-pack: Your passport. You might need backup ID, but at the same time, you’ll be increasing the risk of losing it. It’s up to you, depending on where you’re taking your backpack and your tendency to misplace things.


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