10 Things You Don’t Need to Carry in Your Backpack

Today’s article comes from Ruth Marcy, a freelance travel writer and blogger who is currently spending six months backpacking around Southeast Asia. Her backpack is a lot lighter these days after she prioritized her packed goods.

From pajamas to paperback books, our packs are often filled to the brim with items we don’t really need. Here are the 10 most common items that backpackers think they need but that are really just taking up space and weighing them down.

Backpacking - Flickr CC gusilu

Full-Sized Toiletries

If you are going on a three-week trip around Europe or catching cheap flights to Florida for a week at the beach, why in the world are you carrying large bottles of shampoo, conditioner and body wash? These are weighty items and there is no way you’ll need that much soap for your trip. To cut down on the bulk, bring travel-sized bottles instead. Or better yet, don’t bring them at all. You can buy basic toiletries such as toothbrushes, shampoo, soap and shaving cream in almost any travel destination in the world.

Sleeping Bag

Unless you are going hiking and camping in the wilderness (which requires a totally different set of gear) you have no need for a sleeping bag. Any decent hotel will have bedding and even budget hostels supply you with blankets.

Instead, bring a sarong. A sarong is incredibly lightweight and can be used as a light blanket if you don’t want to use the hostel blanket. It can also be worn as a stylish scarf, swimsuit cover-up or head-and-shoulder covering for women visiting temples and mosques.

More Than One Pair of Jeans

Jeans are heavy and take up a lot of room in your backpack, so only bring your favorite pair. If you are traveling in a hot climate you won’t need jeans at all; however, if there’s a possibility of chilly mornings or evenings then your jeans will come in handy.


It makes no sense to take up valuable bag space with your fuzzy pajamas when you could be packing more practical items. If you need to wear something to bed, wear your t-shirt and underwear or your shorts, which also can be worn during the day.


Perhaps you want to get around to reading a novel during your travels, but books are heavy and they take up a lot of room. Instead, why not invest in an e-reader such as a Kindle or a Nook? They weigh less than a paperback but can hold thousands of books, so you could take your entire library with you.


“But what about guidebooks?” you might say. “Surely I should take my copy of Lonely Planet Southeast Asia, right?” The truth is that if you have a laptop or mobile phone, your guidebook is unnecessary. The internet has effectively replaced guidebooks, as everything you need to know about your destination is available online in an easier-to-access and more up-to-date format. Bookmark your favorite accommodation-booking websites, the Wikitravel page for your destination and review sites like TripAdvisor and you are good to go.

Expensive Jewelry

There are a number of reasons to leave the bling at home. First of all, your luggage could get lost or stolen. Second, wearing expensive jewels makes you an obvious target for theft, especially when traveling in poorer countries. Third, buying cheap and colorful locally handcrafted ethnic jewelry at the outdoor market is a lot of fun.

Money Belt or Pouch

Fanny packs? Money belts? Please don’t do it. You look like a clueless tourist who is paranoid and mistrustful and it is incredibly awkward to get your money out. Carry your cash in your wallet like a normal person instead. If you are in a high-risk pickpocket area, keep your cash in your front pocket.

High Heels

Ladies, if you think you might want to dress up for a night out at some point on your travel adventures go for a pair of ballerina flats or pretty sandals instead. They will still look dressy and feminine, but you will be able to wear them for more than one occasion, such as at the beach or dressed down with jeans at an art gallery.

Water Filter

Many packing recommendation lists will suggest that you bring a high-tech water filter, but it is not needed. In most first-world countries you can drink the water from the tap and in countries where you can’t, bottled water is available for cheap from shops on every street in every town. Don’t bring along a water filter, unless you plan on going hiking out in the wilderness.

So does your backpack feel lighter now that all that useless stuff has been removed? Good. The lighter you pack the easier it will be to get around on your travel adventures.


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