Traveling is a learning experience, and so is packing for it. We always want to be covered with all the items we think we need, but as we get more experienced with travel and packing, we start noticing we are actually hauling more than what we really need. Here is a list of thing you should consider not packing on your future trips.
1. Jewelry and valuables
These are unnecessary items to be carrying and which you’ll probably use once or twice on your trip. Not only is it unnecessary but you also carry the risk of losing them. If you can’t imagine yourself without your expensive diamond ring/earrings/necklace or your Rolex watch, it’s better you leave them home since tourists are targets for thieves. Also, if you’re looking to save money by bargaining, it’s best to play the part correctly by not wearing those expensive valuables and looking more like a local.
2. Camera zoom lens
I’m a sucker for good photography, but those zoom lenses are big and heavy. Unless you are a professional photographer, most of the time you will use your point and shoot or you’re your good regular lens camera; simply for convenience and speed. It is rare (at least in my experience) that the zoom will be an indispensable item. I guess I can live without that single zoomed pic.
3. Extra toiletries
Pack just the bare essentials and buy as you go. Providing you won’t be away from civilization for an extended period of time, you don’t necessarily need to pack any other over-the-counter medicines or toiletries as all are available wherever you are going. But it’s wise just to carry a “sampler” or travel size of the primary toiletries and medicines, for the beginning of your trip. When traveling, it’s also good to simplify your beauty routine.
4. Too many cotton clothes
When you picture cotton what you see? Fluffy stuff, right? Well, fluffy stuff takes more space, plus they take longer to dry when wet. Hey, I’m not saying don’t pack anything with cotton, but try to have a variation with a higher percentage of Polyester or other synthetic; they take slightly less space plus they dry quicker than cotton. Obviously, don’t pack more clothes than you need either.
5. More than one pair of jeans
Following the previous point… Jeans take a lot of space, are heavy, and they take forever to dry. But, I have to admit that one pair of jeans is almost necessary. They can last days without washing, are warm enough, durable, fashionable, and don’t make you look like a tourist.
6. Those nice shoes
Maybe you decide to carry a pair of nice shoes for when you go out to a party or want to look nice. It’s not wise to carry a pair of nice shoes just for that occasion. Instead, select wisely your day-to-day sneakers, the can be decent enough to fit with your night out outfit, but comfortable enough to allow you to walk for miles. I personally like Pumas for their versatility and looks.
7. Hiking boots
Unless you are hiking in a remote region for days or doing the Inca Trail or something similar, those heavy hiking boots play no part on your packing list. First, you will only use them for a single day at most. Second, they probably won’t fit in your backpack or take so much space that you’ll end up hanging them on the outside of your backpack. Third, a pair of running shoes delivers the same comfort without taking so much space. Plus, you don’t use hiking boots just to walk around in the city… you just look ridiculous.
8. More than one jacket
Even hot deserts get chilly at night, so it’s always good to have a single light jacket. Don’t pack that heavy jacket (unless you’re truly going to some cold weather); instead, play with layers. Layering is key to keep a light pack while providing the necessary thermal condition for different temperature ranges. If it’s too cold, combine the layers with a windbreaker/waterproof jacket.
9. Bulky towels
Fluffy towels are very convenient, but just at home. Carrying a full towel just doesn’t make much sense since it really takes a lot of space in your backpack. Instead, use a small swimmers towel (they are super absorbent) or a microfiber towel. These don’t take much space and work as well as the regular ones.
Books are heavy. Period. Why carry a full guidebook when you only need a single chapter or just a few pages. Instead, copy those pages and carry only the information you know you’ll need. These days, the internet is more accessible than ever, so if you feel like you’ll need more information on the way, a simple Google search will suffice. Also, guides like Lonely Planet sell their guides as .pdf files and as single chapters too. You can easily store them on your iPhone or smart device and access them on the road.
11. More than one book
Reading is priceless to kill those long train hours or just to have some “me” time. Sure, pack a book, but just one. When you’re done with it, exchange it with other travelers who will be more than happy to trade. Many hostels count with small libraries that allow you to exchange books. If you’re a flashpacker, a Kindle is a good option.
I have personally carried my small travel pillow to many places and end up not using it (or just once). Even though they are not heavy, they tend to take a lot of space. You’ll find that many airlines and trains offer pillows for free. If that’s not the case, your jacket and/or some other clothes can make a good pillow.
13. Extra gadgets
USB, 3 cameras, iPhone, iPod, converters, battery charger, laptop, etc. Sure, these are handy, but they require different sources of energy/chargers. Try to consolidate them to use a single or a couple universal chargers (probably USB) to reduce the clutter. Items like an electric toothbrush, book lights, portable DVD players, coffee makers, etc… leave them at home.
14. If the item sentence uses “what if…” or “for this one occasion”
If you’re packing something using the words “what if…” it’s probably that it is absolutely not necessary, you will never use it, and will end up carrying it all the way. If you say “…just for this one occasion” it will probably not be worth it to carry it just for one use. At best, try to buy those things at your destination (and possibly cheaper). 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.
15. Things you can buy there
Unless you are going to an extremely remote place, it’s pretty sure you’re going to find shaving soap, reusable water bottle, extra toiletries, and pretty much everything or a reasonable facsimile. Even antibiotics (like ciprofloxacin) can be bought without prescription and way cheaper than back at home. Plus, buying things at your destination is a fun way to practice the language and get to know the area.
A final thought… Pack destination specific, but don’t pack anything you’re not sure you’ll use. Also, this list is not absolute as we all have our packing priorities. For example, here’s another what to pack and not pack list that gives a similar idea with different items.
Go as light as possible and remember that almost everything you need can be purchased in the destination country and often at a fraction of the price at home. Take this strategy to heart and I guarantee every trip you take will become more enjoyable. Believe me, carrying less, especially in a backpack, is so much more freeing than having to lug around a large, heavy, and bulky pack. For further tips on packing light, see 12 tips that will help you pack light for long hikes.
What else you think should not be packed?