Experienced shoestring travelers know what to pack for a hosteling jaunt, but for those setting off for the first time, don’t forget to pack these five hostel essentials.

1) Earplugs

There’s nothing worse than the huge fella in the bed below keeping you awake with his nasal orchestra. We can’t suggest anything to stop the bunk vibrating, but a pair of good earplugs will give you the chance to nod off.

I swear by the cheap foam versions available from most pharmacies and airport stationery shops. They’re affordable, re-usable and easily replaceable.

Keep them somewhere handy – you might not need them every night, but when you do, you’ll want to have them near at hand.

Soft plastic earplugs can be more effective, but they do not fit everyone comfortably.

2) Padlock

Padlocking your luggage gives you extra peace of mind whilst you’re out exploring the wider world. Considering a committed criminal can slash open your nylon pack, it’s more of a deterrent to sticky fingers.

I shun traditional key and lock versions as there’s a good chance you’ll lose your key somewhere along the way. A solid combination lock with three or four digits will serve you well.

If you’re flying within the United States, you’ll need a TSA approved lock. These allow TSA agents to open your baggage for inspection.

You can recognize these locks by checking for the following icons:

Plus they have a hole for a key somewhere around the bottom of the lock.

3) Sleeping bag or liner

In many European hostels sheets are provided, but things aren’t so luxurious in other parts of the globe.

If you know the weather’s going to be in your favor, then a sleeping bag liner can do the job.

There are advantages to both cotton and silk liners. Silk is more expensive yet lighter, warmer and softer than cotton. Both can become cold as they absorb sweat, but cotton is the worst offender here; silk wicks better.

I like the silk liners from Kiwi company Jagbags (international shipping is included in the price). Budget travelers can make use of an old sheet and some sewing skills.

If you need something more snug, choose the lightest sleeping bag you can afford. I’m a big fan of Mountain Hardwear gear. Their synthetic range is great for long-term travelers as you don’t need to be too concerned about moisture which can be a problem in tropical climates.

Goose down is lighter, warmer and more compressible but doesn’t like getting wet one bit!

4) Flip-flops

Whether you call them flip-flops, sandals or thongs, make sure you put these little babies in your pack for both summer and winter travel.

They’re great for the beach, but they’re even better for the communal bathrooms you’ll likely face.

It’s nice to have something to slip on in the middle of the night to pad to the bathroom and to protect your feet from less-than-salubrious shower floors.

5) Sports Towel

A sports micro-towel is super-light, easy to clean and packs down to a fraction of the size of a regular cotton towel. Outdoor stores normally sell a range of towels to meet your needs.

My super-absorbent towel from Kathmandu in Auckland, New Zealand is only the size of a tea towel but manages to dry me — and my shoulder-length hair — without problems. You just don’t want to see me scampering down the corridor in it though!

After two and half years of hosteling, these are five items I cannot travel without.

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