9 bits of travel gear every eco-conscious traveller should pack

chilly's water bottle hand luggage essentials

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You know what I love? That even if we don’t quite have it all down yet, little by little, a fair chunk of the backpacker community is making a conscious effort to move towards decisions that have a lesser impact on the planet, and they’re trying their hardest to fill their backpacks with eco-friendly travel essentials. What’s good about being a backpacker is that you will find yourself becoming minimalist – like it or not – and the lack of consumerism will only add to your efforts to level out your footprint.

However, it’s no secret that the very core of travel is not exactly eco-friendly; we board planes, we road-trip and we generally spend far less of our time contributing to the world than we do just having a damn good time.

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I still think travel is important to gain an understanding of how immense this world is though, and exactly why we need to work to save it. I also believe that big corporations and governments are far more responsible for eco-issues than the individual, but that doesn’t mean we can’t each try to do our bit to reduce our footprints as we backpack. As the wise Tesco Marketing team once said, every little helps.

Therefore I’ve put together a little list of eco-friendly travel essentials for backpackers who want to journey with a little less impact. I’ve aimed to compile ideas that are light and compact to fit in with the mobile lifestyle, and that look kinda good, too, cuz you’re going to be carrying this around for months so you may as well actually enjoy looking at it.

So let’s get into it, we’ve got baby turtles to save.

eco-friendly travel essentials for backpackers to save baby turtles

Eco-friendly travel essentials for backpackers with a conscience

1. Bamboo cutlery

Across a lot of Latin America, it’s normal to be given plastic cutlery in a local sit-down restaurant – presumably to reduce the amount of washing up that staff have to do. You’ll also find yourself being offered plastic cutlery from street stalls, and there may just be times when you simply don’t have access to cutlery at all when you’re on the road.

To make sure you’re always prepared and doing your bit to reduce your impact on the planet, take a metal or bamboo cutlery set with you on your travels (this one even has chopsticks!). They’re light to carry, easy to wash and they look pretty stunning.

2. Metal straws

Just like a cutlery travel set, metal straws (or they come in bamboo, too!) can help you do your part to reduce single use plastic waste. Disposable straw usage is really high out in Latin America, and very few places are able to provide paper straws just yet – though you may find them in some of the more international chains.

3. Chilly’s bottle

It’s common for hostels and hotels in Latin America to offer free water refills, so make sure you have something eco-friendly to fill up! A refillable Chilly’s bottle not only helps you save on the need for plastic bottles, but it also helps you save on topping up ice, since it can keep drinks at the same cold temperature for up to 24 hours (and hot for 12 hours).

Aside from this, I really love how durable my Chilly’s bottle is and how cool the designs are. The bottle itself is really lightweight and fits in my rucksack easily, which are perfect traits in eco-friendly travel essentials for backpackers.

4. LifeStraw

And when you can’t get a clean water refill anywhere…? Some clever clogs has come up with the amazing technology that allows you to clean water using a membrane system to filter out 99.9% of bacteria, parasites and microplastics, which then makes it safe to drink. This is a game-changer in eco-friendly travel essentials for backpackers -no need to stock up on multiple pre-bought bottles on hikes and day-trips!

5. Solid shampoo

Not only does solid shampoo eliminate the need for plastic bottles and allow you to carry your hair products around in a super easy format that can’t leak, but it lasts for much longer than the average liquid shampoo bottle, too. In my experience, solid shampoo feels like a soap but it lathers quickly. I found it pretty light in my hair.

6. Detergent strips

At some point, you’re going to need to wash your clothes, and if you’re slow travelling, staying in an Airbnb and wanting to avoid jumper-shrinking laundrettes, you’ll need some detergent for your washing machine. What I found is that we tended to stay in places long enough to need to buy a few washes’ worth of detergent, but never long enough to use all the detergent up, and we couldn’t take it with us so a lot probably got wasted.

However, if we’d have planned ahead and thought about our eco-friendly travel essentials for backpackers, we would have brought these hypoallergenic, biodegradable detergent strips to Latin America. With these, we could have washed our clothes in a more eco-friendly format, and then easily carried the rest of the strips in our backpacks to the next destination of our travels. Hindsight is a bummer.

7. Reef-safe sunscreen

Love the sea? Then let’s do our best to protect it! The beautiful underwater world is being constantly damaged by residues of regular sunscreen. Mostly due to the ingredients oxybenzone and octinoxate (though others are believed to contribute too), regular sunscreen can bleach the corals and harm the creatures that call the reef their home. In fact, several states in the USA have now banned the use of sunscreen containing those two ingredients.

Thankfully, you can reduce your impact by using reef-safe sunscreen to keep both you and the sea-life protected; win-win!

8. Solar-powered battery charger

This is one of the eco-friendly travel essentials for backpackers that’s also just great for life in general. With your solar-powered battery charger, you’ll no longer have to worry about taking the hostel dorm’s last outlet before anyone else nabs it, you’ll be able to charge your devices on the go, and you’ll be using a sustainable source of energy to do so.

9. Mooncup

Fun fact: in the UK alone (which is home to approximately 18 million people who menstruate), tampons generate 200k tonnes of waste every year. So do your bit whether you’re already on the road or still in the planning stages, and get a mooncup for your backpack of eco-friendly travel essentials.

The main barrier for me to using a mooncup was being able to keep it sufficiently clean when living in hostels, but somehow I always managed to do it discreetly enough. Getting a private room/Airbnb on those times is not a bad option if you’re worried about someone catching you washing it out in a shared bathroom!
I was lucky that with the contraceptive implant I only got periods a few times a year anyway. I highly recommend this contraception option so you don’t have to worry about getting represcriptions of your pill brand while travelling – but get it fitted a few months before you leave home so that you can make sure it’s right for your body.


And there’s the end of my list of eco-friendly travel essentials for backpackers! If there’s anything else you can recommend to help them reduce their impact as they travel, please let us know in the comments 🙂

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Last Updated on 18 April 2023 by Cuppa to Copa Travels

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