18 Things You Don’t Need on Your Packing List
Over the limit? Need to shed a few pounds or fork out cash for going over your weight allowance? This inverted packing list – it tells you what you don’t need – will help you figure out how you can lighten the load.
1. Too much underwear. Or any cotton underwear.
Debby Lee Jagerman from Debby’s Departures: Well, really too many clothes overall. My grandmother once told me, “Bring half the clothes, and twice the money.” And she was right! Three pairs of underwear are all you really need – the one you are wearing, the one you just washed and is drying, and an extra pair. And with less clothing in general, your bags will be so much smaller, lighter and easier to carry. Believe me, carrying less, especially in a back pack, is so much more freeing than having to lug around a large suitcase that is way too heavy and bulky.
And besides, if you realize that you do need more clothes, then use the extra money to buy something locally made.
Nikolas Tjhin from Unearthing Asia: On my last big trip, I learned that I didn’t need to pack my normal cotton underwears for the trip. I got myself some paper underwear which were good for one time use, and that was a great help I intend to follow next time I’m on a trip. It helps because I can live with wearing a slighty dirty shirt and or pants, but an underwear thats not clean is just gross.
Shelly Rivoli from Travels with Baby: An entire industry has been created for little boxes to carry your personal soap as you travel. But when’s the last time you needed an entire bar of soap on a trip? Generally speaking, soap is inexpensive and easy to come by. It’s even free at most hotels (they want clean people in their beds!). I’m always curious to see what the soap will be like where I am headed: the aroma, the shape, the lather. It’s all part of the travel experience, no to be missed.
Karen Catchpole from Trans-Americas Journey: Not only are they NOT necessary, they’re heavy, bulky and impossible to wash out in a sink and hang up to dry overnight. Leave the Levi’s at home.
Craig Heimburger from TravelVice: Your $200 pair of designer jeans.
4. Books / Reading material
Tammie Dooley from Solo Road Trip: Those two back issues of Nat Geo about the “She-King of Egypt” and “Ice Baby” you’re dying to delve into? The most recent The Economist featuring “The Pandemic Threat, How Scared Should You Be”, and “Obama’s First 100 Days” that you’ve not so much as licked a single finger for and you’re feeling out of touch and guilty because all you’ve been reading are travel blogs? That novel you’ve begun twice and have yet to make it past the 3rd chapter? Pssssstttt…I have bad news — you will NOT get to all of them on the trip upon which you’re about to embark. Leave ‘em at home! Reading material weighs me down in two ways – first it’s heavy. Beyond the now costly weight it adds, the presence of it serves up a heaping helping of guilt (as if there’s not enough of that to go around). I’ve recently decided unless I’m traveling for work with deadlines, I’m not going to post on a trip, answer emails, or tweet (I can’t give up the phone). And I’m tired of packing too much reading material and then feeling guilty about those unturned pages. Let’s reclaim some freedom and unencumbered joy in our travels — just say NO to excess reading material!
Erik Gauger from Notes from the Road: I like to have a lot of information on my fingertips when I travel. Information on restaurants, hotels, directions, maps, plant field guides, butterfly field guides, bird field guides, mammal field guides and more. In the old days, I packed a lot of this stuff. But books are deceptively heavy, especially hardcovers. I learned to make my own lightweight guide out of a moleskine journal. Whether I photocopy, cut and paste, glue or just recreate with pen and pencil, I make my own guide to where I’m going out of the pieces, and the books stay where they belong, back home.
Lauren O’Farell from Purl Interrupted: Being a shameless book worm I always, always pack more than one book. I then end up ditching them in favour of one of the many books my fellow people of the backpack leave in a dog-eared trail behind them. These paper-bodied treasures will most likely be books that are relevant to where you are, creased enough to not have to worry about keeping ‘nice’, and possibly have a vaguely greasy patch of the local delicacy on page 49.
5. Money belt/pouch
Gary Arndt from Everything Everywhere: They mark you as a tourist the minute you use them. Get a pair of pants with a zipper in the front pocket. Much harder to have stolen and you don’t look like a target for every pickpocket or mugger in the area.
Nancy Sathre-Vogel from Family on Bikes: A towel, you ask? Why on earth would a towel be a useless item?
I realize that a towel is one of those items that nearly every traveler on earth carries. We check into cheap hotels and walk to their grungy showers to clean up. And then we need a towel to dry off, right? Wrong.
Don’t get me wrong. We travel with a towel. Two of them, actually. But they remain hidden down in the deepest recesses of our panniers and rarely see the light of day. We simply use our tshirts to dry off with.
So why are we lugging two towels around the world, you ask? For sentimental reasons, I could answer. But the truth is that we carry them only for when it is simply too cold to use our shirts. When we climb up into the Andes and the air temperature plummets and there is ice all around us – then we won’t want to be wandering around with a wet shirt.
But mostly, we are perfectly fine with using our shirts as our towels. And that way we don’t have to figure out how to get said towels dry. And how to get them dry enough to prevent the funk from building up.
Think about it. You might come to the very same conclusion we have!
7. Water filter
Craig Martin from Indie Travel Podcast: I’ve seen water filters, especially the cool, Star Trek-esque straws, popping up on packing lists all over the internet. My question to you is … Where on earth are you going?! Water is drinkable straight out of the tap in many, many locations around the world. And if it isn’t, bottled water is available from the shop on the corner of every street in cities and towns. I’d say 90% of travellers do not need to pack any kind of water filtration device.
There are travellers who need it: people who are going to developing countries … and getting off the beaten path. People who are hiking or mountaineering. People who might need a jungle survival kit. But, let’s face it, you are probably not that traveller: keep your money in your wallet for now and spend it somewhere useful.
Nomadic Matt: I never take a jacket where I go. I have a long sleeve shirt in case it gets chilly but jackets are bulky and heavy and add a lot of weight to your backpack. If I am going somewhere cold, I will buy a jacket for that time period. When I leave, I’ll donate to a homeless shelter. It may cost a bit of extra money but if you are moving around between climates a lot, it will save you a lot of room. People always over pack on their trip and take everything for every occasion. But, you only end up wearing half of what you take anyways. A jacket is one of those items I find I rarely ever wear. Why carry that jacket from ski season in New Zealand all the way through southeast Asia? You’re not going to wear it. Better to just buy as you need. Plus, donating to charity is good for the soul.
9. Chargers and cables
Dave from The Longest Way Home: Chargers and cables! One for the phone, mp3 player, laptop, camera, aa/aaa batteries and shaver. I used to carry them all wrapped up in a wash bag and boy did it weigh. This was 5 years ago, before some nice people made multi adapters and fast chargers. aaa/aa batteries are now charged with a 15 minute charger that takes care of my torch, camera, shaver, mp3 player. I dumped an old phone charger and got a slim new fast charge one. Now my bag is lighter by 50 %.
I also carry a small multi socket adapter for hostels. These days one walks into one and the few precious sockets usually have queues of people around them with tons of cables and devices wrapped around them. For me I just need one socket and most things are charged in 15 minutes. Laptop and Phone taking 2 hours. But best of all, no more carrying around heaps of cable like a portable electrician.
Greg from Greg Wesson’s Esoteric Globe: I see so many people travelling nowadays with their eyes closed and those white buds in their ears. That is fine and good for a commuter train rides. When riding a bus through the wilds of Costa Rica though, you lose something when you throw in your ear buds and select your “groove out” playlist instead of taking the opportunity to watch the scenery, listen to the sounds of travel and most importantly interact with your fellow travellers and locals. Of course, I could be wrong and this all could be jealousy on my part seeing as I have no mp3 player to speak of… But I am pretty sure I’m right.
11. Vintage Hermes scarf
Laura Motta from Le Blog Laura: I have a vintage Hermes scarf that I bought some years ago. It’s beautiful and I love it, and when I decided to move to Paris, I had plans for it. I imagined being so utterly chic in this utterly chic city in my utterly chic scarf, sitting in cafes and going to parties. But here’s the thing. I didn’t go to Paris to work or to be a fashionable lady of leisure. I was a student. During those dreary winter months, my wardrobe consisted mostly of Old Navy jeans and pilled sweaters. My scarf stayed packed away for the entire semester. It was amazing how my weird cultural perceptions—I’m not sure who wears Hermes scarves in Paris, but penniless students do not—affected my packing list.
12. Zip-off convertible trousers
Geoff from Itinerant Londoner: The most common packing mistake I regularly see other travellers make is to bring those zip-off convertible trousers. Why such a mistake? Well, it’s quite simple. They make you look like an idiot.
Ever wondered why the kids in that remote Andean village come running out to stare and point? No, it’s not because you’re a foreigner. They see that all the time. It’s because you look ridiculous. Really. Just leave them at home next time, and survive on separate shorts and trousers like a normal person. I may sound like a fashion nazi, but honestly, I’m just telling you for your own good.
Nora Dunn from The Professional Hobo: My boyfriend and travel partner Kelly would insist that you don’t need shoes. A good pair of hiking boots with some flip flops tucked in the pack should do. Personally, I choose to bring an in-between pair, but maybe that’s just because I’m a girl. Depending on the destination, an inexpensive pair of shoes can be bought – and used – abroad, leaving more room in your pack.
14. Huge stash of toiletries
Nora Dunn from The Professional Hobo: A huge stash of toiletries is too much to pack. After initially bringing the slightly scaled-down inventory of a drug store with me for fear that what I needed wouldn’t be available, I am now down to the bare essentials. You can buy as you go.
15. Converter for your electronics
Sherry Ott from Ottsworld: Well, this may sounds strange but in many circumstances you don’t need to bring a converter for your electronics. Sure, I always travel with plug adapters, but never once have a brought a converter. I traveled around the world to 23 countries with 2 cameras with battery chargers, an ipod with charger, a cell phone with charger and a laptop with battery; a lot of equipment that needs electrical power! However, I urge you to read the fine print on your electronics. Most electronics today actually have chargers that convert the various voltages for you. For example, read your ipod charger carefully, in fine print you will see that it says “Input AC 100 – 240 V” – this covers the range of what you need – no converter needed! My best advice is to lay out all of your electronics before you go, and read the chargers/manuals regarding the voltage. You may be surprised that all of your electronics already convert the power. And you’ll be happy to not have to pack a heavy converter!
16. Makeup and jewelry
Cate Dowman from Caffeinated Traveller: What I notice comes from a female perspective. I see a number of women carry makeup bags and jewellery cases when they travel. I guess it depends on where you go and who you travel with, but these are the two items I would never pack unless I was going to a friends wedding. Because I travel alone and often through developing countries, I tend to keep my profile low key for safety reasons. I exchange my watch for a cheap plastic one and seldom carry makeup except for basic items like mascara and lip gloss. I leave the makeup and jewellery for my job, not for my travels.
17. Electric toothbrush or electric coffee grinder
Rachael Hanley from Roaming Rachael: Let’s just face it. No matter where you’re headed, you’re not going to need an electric toothbrush or an electric coffee bean grinder. Sure, keeping your purly whites sparkly and being able to brew a fresh cup of joe straight from local beans seem like good ideas…until Murphy’s law enters the equasion. Then you find that A) you’ve forgot the power cord and converter, B) there is no electricity, C) none of the batteries sold in the entire country are compatible with your device, and D) coffee beans are only grown for export and not actually sold in the country. Any one of the four will turn your favorite portable friend into either a really heavy normal toothbrush or a coffee-scented weight for the bottom of your bag. The basic rule of thumb is this: if looks like it’s from a Hammacher Schlemmer catalogue, leave it at home.
18. High expectations
Bonnie Brewster from The London Spy: It’s better to be pleasantly surprised once you arrive rather than expect too much from a city you’ve never explored.
Curtis Foreman from Flashpacking Life: Want to cut down on the number of things you bring on your trip? Here’s a simple suggestion that will both lighten your load and make your trip more memorable:
Don’t pack anything that might be fun to buy once you arrive.
Take this strategy to heart and I guarantee every trip you take will become more enjoyable. (Or at very least, memorable.)
Antibiotics? Bring them. Prescription sunglasses? Ditto. Book by favorite author? Ditch it and go book hunting. I found a wonderful used bookstore on Poppies Lane in the back streets of Kuta, Bali and picked up a copy of Scar Tissue by Anthony Keidis after watching the owner win a game of chess.
Beach towel? Shaving soap? Reusable water bottle? Sunglasses? Jewelry? New outfit? Buy local and meet the locals. Practice your language skills. And don’t be in a hurry to get the transaction done — spending a little time chatting with a shopkeeper is a great way to learn about the best and worst points of the local culture, food, and attractions.
Plus, by buying things after you arrive, you’ll be less likely to waste money on junk that seemed like a good idea before your trip — like that ergonomic, breathable money belt you never actually wore.
What things do you see other travellers lugging around needlessly? What have you learned to drop from your packing list?