What not to pack for travelling
I moved house recently and I came across the battered and bruised backpack I used for my two year trip around Asia and Australia.
Prior to the trip I spent more than a year planning and plotting and excitedly scouring the internet for tips and advice. A lot of this planning time involved reading and preparing lengthy packing and shopping lists.
I was one of those backpackers who bought EVERYTHING. I read every packing list out there and dutifully bought everything. My bag was enormous, it was heavy and it was a nightmare to lug around.
If I went back in time and told my 21 year old self to remove more than half of the shite in that backpack I wouldn’t have listened to her but here are 10 things I really should have removed. These are the items that slipped to the bottom of my backpack and never emerged again.
I’m not saying that these items aren’t useful for some people, but I doubt they’re useful for most!
1. A full medical kit
You definitely need a small medical kit with things like paracetamol, rehydration sachets, antiseptic cream and sting relief but I never used anything more than this. I even packed a syringe and needle because I read they try to use second-hand needles in some countries!? I had all sorts of bandages and plasters and antihistamines but I’m not the sort of person to wrap myself in bandages at home so why would I do it on the road?
The solution: Unless you know how to use it, I’d only take the basic medical supplies. No matter where you are in the world, medical professionals are never far away.
2. Hiking boots
I’ll be honest, I ditched my hiking boots fairly quickly. I took a sturdy pair of walking boots thinking I’d need them for lots of hiking expeditions, but in the end I found that my trainers were sufficient. I thought I’d wear my hiking boots on the plane to save carrying them but they were so hot and heavy that I could never be bothered.
The solution: Opt for comfortable but stylish and lightweight trainers than can be worn hiking as well as running about a city.
3. A sink plug
How many times in your life have you said, ‘I really wish I had a sink plug right now’?
No, I’ve never said that either.
When you stay in budget accommodation you often don’t have a sink plug in your bathroom. I guess it can be awkward if you want to have a sink wash but you just have to leave the tap running. It could also be difficult if you plan to wash your clothes in the sink but leaving your clothes to soak in tepid water doesn’t really clean them anyway. If I ever washed my own clothes I always did it in the shower anyway.
The solution: Use the shower
4. A sewing kit
This is probably me being lazy but if my clothing ripped I would never sew it up. Of course, I’d have good intentions to sew the hole ‘one day’ but I know I never would. I’d wear it with a hole in it until the hole because so big I had to throw the item away. And then I’d be really pleased it broke and I’d go out and buy a new one.
The solution: If you’re the kind of person who sews up holes then take a sewing kit but if you barely know how to thread a needle then leave it at home!
5. A Swiss army knife
I’ll admit that a corkscrew on a Swiss army knife is kinda handy but when you’re travelling in Asia you’re not going to have many opportunities to use a corkscrew. Other than that, I don’t know what I’d use all the other gizmos on a Swiss army knife for.
The solution: If you really need a corkscrew, consider buying a small corkscrew instead.
6. More than one warm jumper or pair of jeans
A lot of people will say you shouldn’t pack any jeans at all when you’re travelling because they’re bulky and take so long to dry. Personally, I live in my jeans and wear them all the time, even when it’s hot, so I’d never travel without them. One thing I would say is that there’s no need for more than one pair of jeans and you only need one warm jumper/sweater/hoodie/cardigan.
The solution: Pack one pair of jeans and one warm top in a dark colour – you’re going to wear this a lot!
7. Solar charger
It depends where you’re travelling here but it’s very unlikely you’re ever going to use a solar charger.
The solution: Take a small rechargeable USB charger for your phone and gadgets.
8. Alarm clock
Does anyone travel without their phone these days? And do any phones not have alarm clocks on them?
So why do backpacker’s packing lists still contain alarm clocks?
The solution: Just use your phone.
9. Travel towel
This might be a controversial one because a lot of people love travel towels but I hate them. They’re too small and they don’t really dry you. Yes, they dry quickly but that’s pretty much their only pro. If I’m in a hot country I’d rather use a sarong and if I’m in a cold country then I want a proper towel. In Asia, guest houses will always provide towels so it’s only some cheap hostels in Europe where you need your own.
The solution: Double check if any of your accommodation doesn’t provide towels. It’s very unlikely that they won’t.
10. An enormous backpack
The best way to pack light is to have a small backpack. Why anyone thinks they need a 65L backpack is beyond me. Why do all the packing lists suggest large backpacks? The bigger the backpack, the more crap you’ll squeeze into it. Keep it small and you physically can’t overpack. It took me a very, very long time to learn this one!
The solution: It’s a simple one – just take a smaller bag! If you can, go for hand luggage only!
Read more: 12 travel hacks for travelling light
What to pack in your carry on for a long flight
Backpacking with a suitcase: Why you don’t need a backpack!
Do you have any more unnecessary travel items to add to the list?
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Friday 30th of September 2016
Most hotels in India provide buckets in the bathrooms. These may be used for washing.
Sunday 29th of May 2016
We've added female urination devices (whiz freedom, gogirl, etc.) to the list if you are going to be doing a fair amount of train/bus travel in Asia. Trying not to slip in a squattie train toilet on narrow gauge tracks is challenging. I was truly concerned about my then 11-year-old's kidneys by the end of an 18 hour ride (she was no stranger to the squattie, we've traveled extensively in Asia since she was 7). It may stay in the bottom of your bag for a lot of the trip but it's worth it!
Sunday 29th of May 2016
I've always wondered if these are worth it! I know girls who have tried ot use them at festivals and say they've ended up making more of a mess with them!
Friday 29th of April 2016
Travel towels are horrible arent they!? Most hostels provide towels anyway - their free or a small charge to rent. I would definately add hair dryer and straighteners to the list of 'what not to pack' though.