Throughout our travels we have met many backpackers that carry around a lot of crazy and unnecessary stuff! Shit, as newbie travelers we did too. When you are just starting out you’re more prone to buy everything on every packing list you read online. We get it… you’d rather be over-prepared than under-prepared.
But we are here to help you avoid carrying unnecessary stuff. With our anti-packing list you’ll save money, backaches, and muscle mass!
Here are a few things you should definitely leave at home:
Thanks to the increase in travel blogs and travel apps in the recent years, guidebooks have become more and more obsolete. All information found in your typical Lonely Planet can be found on the web (and here of course) for free and is usually more up-to-date.
So why carry a heavy guidebook around with you when you can get tips and more accurate information from people online?
Some good places to ask questions or look for information are Lonely Planet’s Thorn Tree forum, TripAdvisor forum, Facebook groups or your favorite travel blogs.
However, the absolute best way to get information is to ask locals, or even other backpackers at your destination. So leave the guidebook at home and go with the flow.
2.) Money Belt
Money belts are not only super uncomfortable, they also won’t protect you from getting robbed. Most robbers aren’t stupid and they know about money belts just as much as you do.
Instead of carrying a money belt, divide your money between different pockets and your wallet. That way, if you do get robbed, your robber might be satisfied with the money from your wallet and leave. That’s the idea at least :D
Either way, just take the normal precautions. Be alert of your surroundings, but don’t be paranoid.
Update: If you are really concerned about your money, a good alternative to the conventional money belt might be this regular belt with a hidden pocket on the inside.
Let’s be honest here, me and you both know how flimsy umbrellas are and how a small gust of wind can either send your umbrella flying or break it all together. Not to mention they take up precious space in your travel backpack and create unnecessary expenses to replace them.
So do yourself a favor, skip on the umbrella and buy a high quality rain jacket instead. That way you don’t have to worry about anything breaking or flying away, and you only invest in a rain jacket once. You can use the money you saved on beer or something!
4.) Zip-Off Pants
Do you wear zip-off pants at home? Yes? Then by all means bring them along with you. If your answer is no, then please leave them at home. They look super ugly and everybody can spot you as a tourist from a mile away.
We never had zip-off pants, and look at us… we have survived over 3 years of traveling the world and counting :)
5.) Medical Kit
When you are going to the supermarket or a party in your hometown, do you travel with a huge medical kit? Probably not! So it shouldn’t be any different when you are traveling.
Let’s be real, you’ve never even used most of the things in a medical kit. On the plus side, there are pharmacies all over the world, even in developing countries. There they sell everything from band-aids to strong antibiotics, usually for half of what you would pay in your home country.
So why pack a big medical kit when you can just walk to a nearby pharmacy and pick up whatever you need, whenever you need it? And if it’s serious you can always go to the hospital… developing countries have those too!
6.) Big, Heavy Towels
You know those big towels you have been drying yourself with for most of your life, or those awesome beach towels that keep sand out of your bum? Yes? We know you love them, but it’s time to cut the cord and leave them at home. They are wayyy too heavy and take up a lot of unnecessary space in your backpack.
Most hostels and hotels provide towels for free or for a small fee. And for the times when towels aren’t provided, we have our super light and quick drying travel towel as a backup.
Travel towels are super compact and weigh next to nothing. It’s definitely a worthy addition to every packing list.
7.) Hiking Boots
If hiking is not your main objective when you travel, and you’re only planning on going on occasional hikes, leave your hiking boots at home. You can always rent or buy a pair at your destination if you absolutely need them.
With that being said, most hikes can be done with regular sneakers and we are living proof of this. We’ve hiked mountains all over the world, including an active Volcano in Guatemala, in our ASICS Venture 5, and never once wished we had hiking boots.
A good alternative to hiking boots might be lightweight hiking/trekking shoes. For some recommendations, check out our list of the best travel shoes.
In this day and age, there is really no reason to travel with physical books anymore, even if you are trying to read all the best travel books out there. With a Kindle, not only can you carry around a whole library of ebooks without the extra weight, but you can also buy a new book whenever and wherever you are.
Gone are the days of looking for a bookstore abroad that carries English speaking books, or finding a good book among all the crappy ones at a hostel book exchange.
Audiobooks are a lighter alternative. Just sign up for Audible and listen to your favorite audiobooks on your smartphone.
9.) Sleeping Bag
Sleeping bags are for people who camp out in the woods, and not for backpackers staying at hostels. As a matter of fact, more and more hostels are banning sleeping bags because of bed bugs and other hygienic reasons.
If you are really that concerned about dirty bedsheets, it’s probably time to up your budget and spend a few more bucks on a nicer hostel/hotel.
10.) Mosquito Net
Places that need mosquito nets usually have them, and if they don’t, they have an electric fan. If they don’t have either, you should probably find a better place to stay.
Or, you can always spray yourself with a good mosquito spray before going to bed. The choice is yours :D
Wearing fancy jewelry in developing countries will most certainly make you a target. We strongly suggest you leave your shiny stuff at home. You don’t need jewelry to look nice, you are beautiful without it.
12.) Expectations and Plans
If there is one thing we have learned from years of traveling the world, it’s that you should leave your expectations and plans at home. Things change and they never work out the way you want them to, so just go with the flow. We promise you’ll have a much better time on your trip.
13.) Pillow, Coffee Press, Hula Hoop, Surfboard…
Kind of goes without saying, but you’d be surprised by what people carry with them on their travels.
We understand there are some things you may have an emotional attachment to and want to bring for comfort reasons. However, we love you enough to tell you to let it go and leave it at home…you’ll thank us later :)
Now that you know what not to pack, make sure to check out our bullshit-free packing list on things you should pack.
What have you taken with you, that you didn’t end up using? What’s on your anti-packing list?
Agree with most things except for the first aid kit. I understand not wanting a full pack but the basics I always take with me are:
Painkillers, anti-diarrhea and anti-nausea.
Plasters, bandage, antiseptic, tiger balm and eye drops (because I wear contacts a lot and it sucks to try to get them out if something gets in that shouldn’t be there).
Anything else, I agree you can get locally, and you can up the basics you bring with you should you use them. But I never go anywhere longer than a day without these things in my daypack.
Great list guys. You are absolutely right. We would say bring a first aid kit if you are hiking, camping, independent adventurous activities or off the beaten track travel. Yes we carried our for a while and didn’t use it, then we had a head on bus collision with another bus and used the whole kit. We were so lucky to have the kit there for others and ourselves as no one else had a first aid kit (and the ambulance drove passed us and didn’t stop). We both also have been sick at the same time. We had all the medicine we needed in our kit and didn’t have to leave the room. That was nice. I understand what you mean about if you are in a city a pharmacy is there but some situations there is no pharmacy.
I love my Nook (in fact I’m currently purchasing a lot of new titles getting ready for my summer vacation), but I always take one paperback to islands with me. Usually the hotels I stay in have a book shelf with a large variety of books for swapping, so I always have a ‘new’ one throughout my vacation!
Thanks for sharing. We too have a Nook where we are constantly uploading books to read especially some of our favorite travel books. And I guess one hard copy book is not too bad, especially if you can exchange it for another one at your hostel/hotel.
Clazz - An Orcadian Abroad says
I totally agree with a lot of these! We took a couple of mini guide books to Asia, but that Lonely Planet on a shoestring book? There was at least one copy in most hostels we stayed in! So I’m glad we didn’t buy that and lug it around!
Also when it comes to a medical kit, some people go overboard but I took some plasters (band aids) and painkillers and used them quite a bit! And most of them were used by travellers who hadn’t bothered to pack any. So I’d say at least pack those!
Lonely planet books are something you almost always find in hostels, I am starting to think it’s required in order to call yourself a hostel lol. And as for the medical kit we totally agree with you that travelers should pack some basic stuff and not go overboard!
Thanks for love,
Dan On The Road says
I’m guilty of #1 but lately I’ve been fully embracing using my phone to save links & pin places on maps. The most I would do is to print out guides or blog posts.
Most travelers are guilty of #1 Dan, but at least you are trying to do better lol. IDK about printing guides though (you like hard copies of things ?)!
I agree with a lot of this and disagree with a lot too.
After so long backpacking I got really sick of wearing a money belt as it was uncomfortable and a pain and though “I haven’t been robbed yet so what’s the point?” That day I did as you suggested and spread items between pockets. Within an hour I had my wallet snatched on the metro and had to spend an afternoon cancelling cards!
With regards to zip off pants – it depends. Ignore you’re hiking a lot then you should definitely carry some. I couldn’t live without mine in South America.
Same goes for a medical kit. There are so many times that you are in rural destinations without even a basic store nearby meaning that a few medical supplies are essential.
Sorry to hear that! Try just carrying cash with you and avoid wallets altogether. Either way, we still think that money belts are useless! Especially since you expose your money belt every time you pay for something! But we can just agree to disagree (same with the zip off pants).
However, we do agree that a few basic medical supplies are cool. We just don’t think you need a whole medical kit like some other bloggers suggest!
#12 – Yes! Any more or less experienced traveler would agree with this one ;). Medical kit is questionable depending on location: in some countries you simply can’t buy basic painkiller without prescription from local doctor(and finding a doctor or even better a doctor how understands English could be a problem).
Depending on location (think Europe or USA) you might not got them as easily but in developing countries you can buy all kind of drugs over the counter. And if you are someone who uses painkillers a lot then you would probably be traveling with them anyway.
Thanks for stopping by Elena!
P.S. We are not saying you can’t travel with a few basic medical supplies, you just don’t need to bring your entire medicine cabinet.
Medical kit is a must, specially if you travel with kids. Imagine fever at night in some rural area … You always have some basic medicines at home don’t you?
And convertible pants? Well, sorry to tell you, but absolutely every local person (in developing countries) know you ARE a tourist, no mater if you wear them or not ;)
Thanks for your comment Anna. We didn’t have basic medicine (not sure what that even means) when we did have a home. If you get sick and need medicine you go to a drug store just like the locals do too. Besides I am not sure why you need drugs for fever? Some nice hot tea and rest is all you need.
You are very right, but that still doesn’t justify the need for convertible pants ;D
Stephanie Craig says
Like a lot of this, but come on Ben, you don’t think women hae the maturity to decide if they want to wear jewelry on the road? Jewelry takes up no space packing, so the only reasons she shouldn’t are if she’s afraid of theft or if it’s not here style. There’s no reason a gal can’t pack a couple pair of cheap hoops if that’s her thing. It’s nice you say women look better without it, but women don’t wear jewelry solely to attract male attention…
They sure do Steph. Just like John above, who likes to bring a Frisbee with him. However, those items are not essential in your packing list. Plus, the only reason why I listed jewelry (meaning gold/silver things) here is because of safety concerns. If you are only traveling around Europe by all means take your jewelry with you but in developing countries I would strong suggest you don’t.
John L says
Disagree with a lot. I’m in the last day today of a 5 year backpacking trip around the world. Heading to Atlanta today from Kuala Lumpur. I carry a Frisbee: it’s the exact shape of the bottom of my pack so it protects stuff in the bottom. I use it in hostels to carry my toiletries back and forth to the shower, works as a great plate when I’ve bought misc munchies at the market – and it’s a FRISBEE!
Only 1 pair of shoes. Don’t pack any. I like Tevas, size 14.
Always, always, always use one of those money belts thst hooks on our belt and hangs inside your pants.
Convertible pants? Only them. Waterproof them and wash in the bug repellent before you go. Leave the swimsuit. They dry in 8 hours, and 2 packed and 1 worn pair are 6 pair of pants.
Always carry one of those little (5″?) foldable umbrellas. It’s to get you back – semi dry to your pack where you left your rain jacket.
Medical kit? Yes, basics plus some duct tape wrapped around an (empty until after airport security) water bottle.
It looks like we are disagreeing on a lot of things John. But to each their own :D
Heh! I wrote about this earlier this year. I see we write about similar things :) albeit my list is a bit smaller. I never pack an umbrella (I don’t use at home either) and towels. I used to pack books (until 2011) but now I read off my smartphone (thinking to get a proper ebook reader one of these days)
I hate umbrellas, they are like the worst invention ever. :D You can definitely read off your smartphone/tablet but I find the Kindle Paperwhite easier on my eyes.