10 Things You Shouldn’t Pack In Your Luggage

I often see many packing lists shared amongst other travellers, and travel bloggers. It can be the hardest thing to judge when you’re first starting out on a backpacking adventure, and even the most experienced of travellers still find themselves regularly trying to cut down on what they pack, or to only travel with hand luggage. So to help this, rather than offering a list of what you should pack, I thought it would be more useful to share 10 things you shouldn’t pack, or don’t need to pack, but that that people often bring along with them on their backpacking adventure.

Sleeping Bag

Unless you plan on going camping, hostels and certainly hotels will always provide linen on your beds. Occasionally some hostels will ask you to pay a small extra supplement for your linen, usually equivalent to a couple dollars per night, but in most cases it comes free. In fact, some hostels even ban using sleeping bags on their beds as they can be a haven for bed bugs, so why take up all that extra space in your luggage when you don’t need to?

Beach Towel

Everybody needs a towel while travelling for drying after they shower, coming out of the swimming pool, or for at the beach, but I find that a regular medium sized towel that you would use after showering is usually adequate for at the beach too. What I see a lot of people do however is packing a big beach towel for drying instead. Provided your towel is dry, and gives you a small space to sit on that’s not sand, you really don’t need anything as big and heavy as a beach towel which takes up a lot of room in your case or backpack. Also, in many hostels, particularly those in beach towns, you can usually rent a beach towel anyway! A towel is something that takes up a lot of space in your backpack, so try to find one reasonably small and lightweight, but that is still big enough to cover your ass!

Guide Books

Books of any kind take up a lot of space when travelling. They’re heavy, and quite frankly take up a lot of unnecessary room in your backpack. Guide books are no different. You can download the exact same content that is in a paper back guide book onto your computer, kindle, iPad, or smart phone. This frees up much needed space in your luggage to either pack other things you need, or just simply lighten your load. In fact, you could potentially have hundred of Guide Books saved onto your device, and not take up any more weight in your luggage! With the nature of smart phones, ebook readers, and tablet computers too, it’s very easy to whip it out while you are out about too, just like you would a book.

Anything more than basic toiletries

Just to make it clear, traditional toiletries to me are shampoo, shower gel (soap isn’t good for travelling), toothpaste, and a basic toothbrush (i.e. not an electrical one which takes up too much room with chargers etc.) Girls may also want to throw in a pack of tampons or sanitary pads for emergencies in case your period starts immediately upon arrival, but any other toiletries you need you can always buy once you get there. Things like disposable razors, shaving cream, moisturiser, make-up, hair conditioner etc etc can all be bought once you get to your destination if and when you need them, but if you need to reduce your liquids or the weight of your luggage for flying prior to departure then all you need is enough stuff to last you a day so you can have a shower when you arrive and brush your teeth. To give you an example, if you’re flying to mainland Europe prior to departing on a Eu-railing journey then once you get to the rail travel part you can pack much more, and not worry about excess liquids, but you may have to travel over with less on the initial flight due to the typical restrictions with airline travel.

Hair Dryer

I’ll be honest. I usually pack a hair dryer when I travel. My hair is really long, and I’m often getting showers really quick on the hop before I go out for the night, or are meant to be meeting someone somewhere, so having a hair dryer is just easier. Although not a travel one, mine is reasonable small in size, so it doesn’t tend to take up that much room, however, I having recently just travelled through Europe during the summer, I found that my hair was actually drying fairly quickly in the sun. I still take my hair dryer on trips with me, as I often travel through countries during the off peak winter months to save money, but if you’re travelling in hot countries, or don’t have particularly long hair, I’d advise leaving it at home. Also, many hostels allow you to rent hairdryers from reception these days anyway.

Clothes to last more than 5 days

The thing that will take up most room in your luggage is quite simply clothes! I used to be so fashionable before I travelled, but you soon realise when you’re humphing your backpack around that you’d much rather have a lighter load to carry, than have an array of fashion items to choose from in your luggage! Also, when you’re backpacking you very rarely dress up anyway. The other thing is, you’re going to be washing your clothes as you go anyway. Most backpacking adventures last a number of months, so unlike on a two vacation where you tend to pack 2 weeks worth of clothes, when you’re backpacking you don’t need to do that as hostels tend to provide basic laundry facilities, or you can find a local laundrette somewhere. I tend to pack 5 days worth of clothes. That means 1 top, bottoms, set of underwear, and pair of socks times 5.  You’ll also need to throw in a bikini or swim wear, plus maybe one outfit to wear out at night on the occasion you go somewhere that typical backpacker atire is not accepted, i.e. guys may want a dress shirt, and girls a dress or nice top, skirt etc, but generally speaking I find having 5 days worth of clothes is more than enough to keep you going without having to wash your clothes all the time, but still keep the amount of clothes you pack down to a minimum. If you really need more clothes you can always buy more when you’re travelling anyway, but more often than not you’ll find people having to throw clothes away rather than buying extra, as their backpacks are just too heavy to carry. If you are going to pack anything extra when it comes to clothes I’d go for underwear. Especially for girls, it’s the one thing you always want options for. For instance, nobody wants to be wearing a thong on a 14 hour bus journey, but you also don’t want to be wearing unattractive underwear when you meet a guy.

More than 2 pairs of shoes

At most I would only ever pack 3 pairs of shoes, and that includes the pair you have on to travel. Even still, if you’re travelling to a hot country where people go out in flip flops all the time, you could quite easily get away with one pair of comfortable walking shoes, and one pair of flip flops for the beach and going out at night. I tend to pack one slightly dressier options for shoes on top of that, making it three pairs including the pair I wear to travel. However, I have seem many people travel with just two pairs of shoes, or even just one pair of flip flops, although I would really advise people to have a good pair shoes for when you’re out and about walking.

Computer (unless you’re a blogger/need it for work)

I need my computer for work, but around 95% of the people I meet while travelling or not in the same situation as m in that respect. Most people are just on Gap Year, study, or career break. Certainly before I was a travel blogger I did not travel with a computer. If you are just a normal backpacker then you don’t need to bring a computer with you while you travel, just bring a smart phone. You should really bring a phone with you while travelling anyway for emergencies, so double it up as your form of internet, and for the other times when you really need something with a proper keyboard, or to upload photos etc, just use the hostel computers or find an internet cafe.

More than 3 wires

I found on my last trip that with all the electricals I travel with as part of my work, I had far too many wires and chargers taking up space by the end of it. I’ve since cut things down to having just 2 wires. I have my phone charger which double as a USB (it is a USB with a plug that attaches to the end), and my laptop charger. If you are travelling without a computer and get a charger like mine which is also a USB, then potentially you could travel with just 1 wire. Most people however will also have an iPod wire too (I use Spotify for music so no longer use an iPod), but the little iPod wires don’t take up too much room anyway.

A traditional backpack

Backpacks are an iconic image when you think of the type of travel you and I would undertake, but 1 thing I have always wondered, when we are travelling with smart phones, and keeping in touch with people back home via email and calls home via Skype, why are we still not taking advantage of the fact we now have cases with wheels?? The majority of travellers I meet while out on the road are humphing their luggage on their backs in the form of a backpack. These days backpacks are made a lot better, with many options for size of body and comfort which do greatly decrease the level of discomfort while travelling, but unless you are travelling over tough terrain where wheels really aren’t an option, why wouldn’t you just take a case? I travel with a hard spinner wheel type case. It has four wheels, which allows the case to stand up straight while I wheel it by the handle. All I have to do is wheel it along beside me, and as it stays up straight I feel very little of the weight. Also, the wheels can turn 360 degrees, so any slight change in direction and case moves very easily beside me. The hard outer layer also acts well against protecting what’s inside from bashes, and as an extra benefit is that it also helps prevent against bed bugs should you be unlucky enough to stay somewhere with an outbreak as the bugs find it much harder to latch on to hard plastic surfaces. To this day I still find it funny that someone will sit checking facebook on their iPhone, but will continue to cart the weight of their luggage on their backs without taking full advantage of the wheel!

7 Responses to “10 Things You Shouldn’t Pack In Your Luggage”

  1. Mike says:

    I’ve opted out of the Backpack scene as well, and my back loves me for this. The only problem I find is that you get alienated from the backpackers… 🙁

    • jane says:

      I don’t know if I’ve opted out of the backpack scene so to speak. I still do everything a typical backpacker does, hang out with backpackers etc, I just don’t literally carry a backpack. I use a case.

  2. I just packed a beach towel on a trip to Miami and it took so much space! I was able to make it work but it would definitely be better to not have to take with me.

  3. I think I take at least half of this list with me! ha ha… Obvious reasons tho. Laptop, gadgetry and bits of my guidebook so I can have a tangible go-to for directions and recommendations… all part of the base! 😉

    Sleeping bag: 75% of the time, I’d say you’re right; just take a silk liner. However, I was grateful to have it in India when I was staying in Dharamsala for a month. All of India was brutally hot; Dharamsala, wickedly cold and the blanketing I got, I really didn’t want to have to use! It was worth tugging around for 7 months. I also used it to cushion myself when sleeping on hard wooden floors in Asia. 😉

  4. Eve says:

    On my first backpacking trip to Europe, I read the advice “never take a suitcase with you to Europe, because it will suck getting it up and down the subway stairs.” So, that’s why I always use a backpack. And I’ve found the subway stair situation to be universal. My back won’t hate me if I pack very, very light.

    • jane says:

      Fair enough, but in a lot of subways they now have escalators and lifts available! Also, I generally find 2 minutes of lifting you case a lot less than humphing your backpack for the entirety of you trip, but I’ve always said people should do what suits their own style of travel best! 🙂


  1. […] is both comfortable, and fits all your stuff without being too heavy. Probably the first rule is to only take with you what you actually need. When I think back to all the stuff I took with me on my first backpacking adventure it almost […]

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