18 Things You Don’t Need on Your Packing List

Vintage suitcases
Vintage suitcases. Photo by Thelma Carrillo.

Over the limit? Need to shed a few pounds or fork out cash for going over your weight allowance? This inverted packing list – it tells you what you don’t need – will help you figure out how you can lighten the load.

1. Too much underwear. Or any cotton underwear.

Debby Lee Jagerman from Debby’s Departures: Well, really too many clothes overall. My grandmother once told me, “Bring half the clothes, and twice the money.” And she was right! Three pairs of underwear are all you really need – the one you are wearing, the one you just washed and is drying, and an extra pair. And with less clothing in general, your bags will be so much smaller, lighter and easier to carry. Believe me, carrying less, especially in a back pack, is so much more freeing than having to lug around a large suitcase that is way too heavy and bulky.

And besides, if you realize that you do need more clothes, then use the extra money to buy something locally made.

Nikolas Tjhin from Unearthing Asia: On my last big trip, I learned that I didn’t need to pack my normal cotton underwears for the trip. I got myself some paper underwear which were good for one time use, and that was a great help I intend to follow next time I’m on a trip. It helps because I can live with wearing a slighty dirty shirt and or pants, but an underwear thats not clean is just gross.

2. Soap

Shelly Rivoli from Travels with Baby: An entire industry has been created for little boxes to carry your personal soap as you travel. But when’s the last time you needed an entire bar of soap on a trip? Generally speaking, soap is inexpensive and easy to come by. It’s even free at most hotels (they want clean people in their beds!). I’m always curious to see what the soap will be like where I am headed: the aroma, the shape, the lather. It’s all part of the travel experience, no to be missed. 

3. Jeans

Karen Catchpole from Trans-Americas Journey: Not only are they NOT necessary, they’re heavy, bulky and impossible to wash out in a sink and hang up to dry overnight. Leave the Levi’s at home.

Craig Heimburger from TravelVice: Your $200 pair of designer jeans.

4. Books / Reading material

Tammie Dooley from Solo Road Trip: Those two back issues of Nat Geo about the “She-King of Egypt” and “Ice Baby” you’re dying to delve into? The most recent The Economist featuring “The Pandemic Threat, How Scared Should You Be”, and “Obama’s First 100 Days” that you’ve not so much as licked a single finger for and you’re feeling out of touch and guilty because all you’ve been reading are travel blogs? That novel you’ve begun twice and have yet to make it past the 3rd chapter? Pssssstttt…I have bad news — you will NOT get to all of them on the trip upon which you’re about to embark. Leave ‘em at home! Reading material weighs me down in two ways – first it’s heavy. Beyond the now costly weight it adds, the presence of it serves up a heaping helping of guilt (as if there’s not enough of that to go around). I’ve recently decided unless I’m traveling for work with deadlines, I’m not going to post on a trip, answer emails, or tweet (I can’t give up the phone). And I’m tired of packing too much reading material and then feeling guilty about those unturned pages. Let’s reclaim some freedom and unencumbered joy in our travels — just say NO to excess reading material!

Erik Gauger from Notes from the Road: I like to have a lot of information on my fingertips when I travel.  Information on restaurants, hotels, directions, maps, plant field guides, butterfly field guides, bird field guides, mammal field guides and more.  In the old days, I packed a lot of this stuff.  But books are deceptively heavy, especially hardcovers.  I learned to make my own lightweight guide out of a moleskine journal.  Whether I photocopy, cut and paste, glue or just recreate with pen and pencil, I make my own guide to where I’m going out of the pieces, and the books stay where they belong, back home. 

Lauren O’Farell from Purl Interrupted: Being a shameless book worm I always, always pack more than one book. I then end up ditching them in favour of one of the many books my fellow people of the backpack leave in a dog-eared trail behind them. These paper-bodied treasures will most likely be books that are relevant to where you are, creased enough to not have to worry about keeping ‘nice’, and possibly have a vaguely greasy patch of the local delicacy on page 49.

5. Money belt/pouch

Gary Arndt from Everything Everywhere: They mark you as a tourist the minute you use them. Get a pair of pants with a zipper in the front pocket. Much harder to have stolen and you don’t look like a target for every pickpocket or mugger in the area.

6. Towel

Nancy Sathre-Vogel from Family on Bikes: A towel, you ask?  Why on earth would a towel be a useless item? 
I realize that a towel is one of those items that nearly every traveler on earth carries.  We check into cheap hotels and walk to their grungy showers to clean up. And then we need a towel to dry off, right?  Wrong.
Don’t get me wrong.  We travel with a towel.  Two of them, actually.  But they remain hidden down in the deepest recesses of our panniers and rarely see the light of day.  We simply use our tshirts to dry off with.
So why are we lugging two towels around the world, you ask?  For sentimental reasons, I could answer.  But the truth is that we carry them only for when it is simply too cold to use our shirts.  When we climb up into the Andes and the air temperature plummets and there is ice all around us – then we won’t want to be wandering around with a wet shirt.
But mostly, we are perfectly fine with using our shirts as our towels.  And that way we don’t have to figure out how to get said towels dry.  And how to get them dry enough to prevent the funk from building up.
Think about it.  You might come to the very same conclusion we have!

7. Water filter

Craig Martin from Indie Travel Podcast: I’ve seen water filters, especially the cool, Star Trek-esque straws, popping up on packing lists all over the internet. My question to you is … Where on earth are you going?! Water is drinkable straight out of the tap in many, many locations around the world. And if it isn’t, bottled water is available from the shop on the corner of every street in cities and towns. I’d say 90% of travellers do not need to pack any kind of water filtration device. 

There are travellers who need it: people who are going to developing countries … and getting off the beaten path. People who are hiking or mountaineering. People who might need a jungle survival kit. But, let’s face it, you are probably not that traveller: keep your money in your wallet for now and spend it somewhere useful.

Statue in Barcelona
Statue in Barcelona, Spain. Photo by Dave Rubin.

8. Jackets

Nomadic Matt: I never take a jacket where I go. I have a long sleeve shirt in case it gets chilly but jackets are bulky and heavy and add a lot of weight to your backpack.  If I am going somewhere cold, I will buy a jacket for that time period. When I leave, I’ll donate to a homeless shelter. It may cost a bit of extra money but if you are moving around between climates a lot, it will save you a lot of room. People always over pack on their trip and take everything for every occasion. But, you only end up wearing half of what you take anyways. A jacket is one of those items I find I rarely ever wear. Why carry that jacket from ski season in New Zealand all the way through southeast Asia? You’re not going to wear it. Better to just buy as you need. Plus, donating to charity is good for the soul.

9. Chargers and cables

Dave from The Longest Way Home: Chargers and cables! One for the phone, mp3 player, laptop, camera, aa/aaa batteries and shaver. I used to carry them all wrapped up in a wash bag and boy did it weigh. This was 5 years ago, before some nice people made multi adapters and fast chargers.  aaa/aa batteries are now charged with a 15 minute charger that takes care of my torch, camera, shaver, mp3 player. I dumped an old phone charger and got a slim new fast charge one. Now my bag is lighter by 50 %.

I also carry a small multi socket adapter for hostels. These days one walks into one and the few precious sockets usually have queues of people around them with tons of cables and devices wrapped around them. For me I just need one socket and most things are charged in 15 minutes. Laptop and Phone taking 2 hours. But best of all, no more carrying around heaps of cable like a portable electrician.

10. iPod

Greg from Greg Wesson’s Esoteric Globe: I see so many people travelling nowadays with their eyes closed and those white buds in their ears.  That is fine and good for a commuter train rides.  When riding a bus through the wilds of Costa Rica though, you lose something when you throw in your ear buds and select your “groove out” playlist instead of taking the opportunity to watch the scenery, listen to the sounds of travel and most importantly interact with your fellow travellers and locals.  Of course, I could be wrong and this all could be jealousy on my part seeing as I have no mp3 player to speak of…  But I am pretty sure I’m right.

11. Vintage Hermes scarf

Laura Motta from Le Blog Laura: I have a vintage Hermes scarf that I bought some years ago. It’s beautiful and I love it, and when I decided to move to Paris, I had plans for it. I imagined being so utterly chic in this utterly chic city in my utterly chic scarf, sitting in cafes and going to parties. But here’s the thing. I didn’t go to Paris to work or to be a fashionable lady of leisure. I was a student. During those dreary winter months, my wardrobe consisted mostly of Old Navy jeans and pilled sweaters. My scarf stayed packed away for the entire semester. It was amazing how my weird cultural perceptions—I’m not sure who wears Hermes scarves in Paris, but penniless students do not—affected my packing list.

12. Zip-off convertible trousers

Geoff from Itinerant Londoner: The most common packing mistake I regularly see other travellers make is to bring those zip-off convertible trousers. Why such a mistake? Well, it’s quite simple. They make you look like an idiot.

Ever wondered why the kids in that remote Andean village come running out to stare and point? No, it’s not because you’re a foreigner. They see that all the time. It’s because you look ridiculous. Really. Just leave them at home next time, and survive on separate shorts and trousers like a normal person. I may sound like a fashion nazi, but honestly, I’m just telling you for your own good.

13. Shoes

Nora Dunn from The Professional Hobo: My boyfriend and travel partner Kelly would insist that you don’t need shoes. A good pair of hiking boots with some flip flops tucked in the pack should do. Personally, I choose to bring an in-between pair, but maybe that’s just because I’m a girl. Depending on the destination, an inexpensive pair of shoes can be bought – and used – abroad, leaving more room in your pack.

14. Huge stash of toiletries

Nora Dunn from The Professional Hobo: A huge stash of toiletries is too much to pack. After initially bringing the slightly scaled-down inventory of a drug store with me for fear that what I needed wouldn’t be available, I am now down to the bare essentials. You can buy as you go.

15. Converter for your electronics

Sherry Ott from Ottsworld: Well, this may sounds strange but in many circumstances you don’t need to bring a converter for your electronics.  Sure, I always travel with plug adapters, but never once have a brought a converter.  I traveled around the world to 23 countries with 2 cameras with battery chargers, an ipod with charger, a cell phone with charger and a laptop with battery; a lot of equipment that needs electrical power!  However, I urge you to read the fine print on your electronics.  Most electronics today actually have chargers that convert the various voltages for you.  For example, read your ipod charger carefully, in fine print you will see that it says “Input AC 100 – 240 V” – this covers the range of what you need  – no converter needed!  My best advice is to lay out all of your electronics before you go, and read the chargers/manuals regarding the voltage.  You may be surprised that all of your electronics already convert the power.  And you’ll be happy to not have to pack a heavy converter! 

16. Makeup and jewelry

Cate Dowman from Caffeinated Traveller: What I notice comes from a female perspective. I see a number of women carry makeup bags and jewellery cases when they travel. I guess it depends on where you go and who you travel with, but these are the two items I would never pack unless I was going to a friends wedding. Because I travel alone and often through developing countries, I tend to keep my profile low key for safety reasons. I exchange my watch for a cheap plastic one and seldom carry makeup except for basic items like mascara and lip gloss. I leave the makeup and jewellery for my job, not for my travels.

17. Electric toothbrush or electric coffee grinder

Rachael Hanley from Roaming Rachael: Let’s just face it. No matter where you’re headed, you’re not going to need an electric toothbrush or an electric coffee bean grinder. Sure, keeping your purly whites sparkly and being able to brew a fresh cup of joe straight from local beans seem like good ideas…until Murphy’s law enters the equasion. Then you find that A) you’ve forgot the power cord and converter, B) there is no electricity, C) none of the batteries sold in the entire country are compatible with your device, and D) coffee beans are only grown for export and not actually sold in the country. Any one of the four will turn your favorite portable friend into either a really heavy normal toothbrush or a coffee-scented weight for the bottom of your bag. The basic rule of thumb is this: if looks like it’s from a Hammacher Schlemmer catalogue, leave it at home.

18. High expectations

Bonnie Brewster from The London Spy: It’s better to be pleasantly surprised once you arrive rather than expect too much from a city you’ve never explored.

A Principle

Curtis Foreman from Flashpacking Life: Want to cut down on the number of things you bring on your trip? Here’s a simple suggestion that will both lighten your load and make your trip more memorable:

Don’t pack anything that might be fun to buy once you arrive.

Take this strategy to heart and I guarantee every trip you take will become more enjoyable. (Or at very least, memorable.)

Antibiotics? Bring them. Prescription sunglasses? Ditto. Book by favorite author? Ditch it and go book hunting. I found a wonderful used bookstore on Poppies Lane in the back streets of Kuta, Bali and picked up a copy of Scar Tissue by Anthony Keidis after watching the owner win a game of chess.

Beach towel? Shaving soap? Reusable water bottle? Sunglasses? Jewelry? New outfit? Buy local and meet the locals. Practice your language skills. And don’t be in a hurry to get the transaction done — spending a little time chatting with a shopkeeper is a great way to learn about the best and worst points of the local culture, food, and attractions.

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 — like that ergonomic, breathable money belt you never actually wore.

What things do you see other travellers lugging around needlessly? What have you learned to drop from your packing list?

Share and Enjoy:
  • Twitter
  • StumbleUpon
  • Reddit
  • del.icio.us
  • Mixx
  • Digg

Discussion »

  • #1The Longest Way Home

    Great List Eric! Had me laughing out loud in parts!

    @Debby Lee totally agree about too many clothes. My vice.

    @Karen I have thin jeans from Spain, They dry overnight. But I agree about the heavy types.

    @Greg, totally agree about listening to music while traveling. But I do at night to drown out loud noises!

    @Nora Dunn Yep, people with more than one pair should be banned.

    @Geoff Zip off’s. I have a pair, never use them as shorts though. Light as heck and dry in 30 mins. One of the best for me.

  • #2Tammie Dooley

    Paper underwear?! — I need some of those! I’ll never look at my zip-off convertible pants the same way again. I still really want a vintage Hermes scarf. And I’m a big fan of not packing soap since I revel in the rebellious state of travel skank for a few days at a time (and yep, it’s so easy to come by anyway). Now that I think about it, vintage Hermes scarves and travel skank do NOT go together. Guess the scarf will have to go. LOL Great article, friends!!

  • #3Eva

    I always find it funny that packing light is associated with backpackers and budget travel (not here, specifically, but in general) – because the second part of the advice in almost all of these listings is: “Buy it when you get there.”

    All of this is great if you’re looking to slim down your bags, but it sure ain’t cheap.

  • #4Alex

    Cool list but I think not taking a jacket could easily be a mistake, buying one will be expensive in most cities, a long sleeve shirt will not help enough in some climates and anyway you can wear the jacket on the airport/plane instead of packing and it provides handy pockets for tickets, camera, passport, cash, etc.

    Also, the iPod is a lifesaver on long sleepless flights and if you’re going to a big city you won’t appreciate the sound of traffic anymore than at home… plus once you return there’s likely to be a song you heard often on your trip that can bring back the good memories.

    Other than that they all seem like good ideas.

  • #5Michaela Potter

    I love this list! I could definitely been found guilty of a few of them.

    #2 Soap – a great alternative is the Lush product of soaps, that can also be used as shampoo, so cuts down on that added toiletry. Plus they are all natural and their tins are smaller than most soaps. However, they do get a bit messy if they don’t have time to dry out, so it’s good to keep it in a ziploc bag.

    #5 Money belt/pouch – Rather than these items or a purse, I carry a very small over-the-shoulder bag that holds just the essentials I hate to be without: passport, money, other id, and hotel/room key. I make sure, though, that the strap is always under a piece of clothing, whether it is a jacket or t-shirt. This prevents snatchers from grabbing it off my shoulder, or in worse cases, “snipping” the strap.

    #6 Towel – I love the small “swimmers towels” that are super absorbent. If I’m using a communal bathroom, sarongs then help for covering up. Plus they are lightweight and have a number of other uses.

  • #6Nora

    Speaking of packing light, I’m actually considering taking a 4 month trip with nothing but carry-on bags! If I didn’t have a laptop to lug around (by choice, of course), it would be a no-brainer. But with laptop as well, sticking to carry-on will be an interesting challenge.

  • #7Andy

    Frankly, the paper underwear disturbed me and made me wet myself laughing at the same time. Lucky I wasn’t wearing it because we’ve all seen a soggy beer mat so it wouldn’t be pretty.

  • #8Peter

    Nice list, though some of these I think I’ll still take :)

    Regarding towels, a microfibre towel does the trick for us usually. They’re surprisingly good at drying down and they barely take up any room at all. Love em!

    Nora, we managed a two month trip with nothing but a couple of carry-ons. When it comes to packing, I have the philosophy that packing for two weeks is about the same as packing for 2 months. In fact, sometimes it’s easier because on shorter trips you can be tempted to pack so you don’t need to wash.

  • #9binicon

    I can’t beleive this. Wasn’t the point to make traveling cheaper by reducing the weight of your bag?

    Seriously? Buy a jacket and give it away? I guess I need to get a job writing stupid advice to people so I can afford to travel like this.

  • #10Buenos Sarahs

    Further packing advice is found on my blog. Rather than ship your large items by mail, you should try squishing them. Ever tried to move a manatee?

  • #11JoAnna

    This is a fantastic post, and I’m glad you asked a variety of world travelers to contribute to it. In regard to the towel issue, I travel with a tiny micro-fiber towel recommended by Rick Steves, and it’s awesome! It folds down smaller than a washcloth, dries almost immediately and has come in handy as a small blanket and something to bundle other smaller items in. I used it as a Peace Corps volunteer and it held up wonderfully – I still have it today. I would never travel with a bulky, full-sized towel, but I always take my tiny towel with me.

  • #12John

    This is so bad that I have to address each point separately and cross post from Reddit so that you, the author, see this:

    1. Too much underwear. Or any cotton underwear: “On my last big trip, I learned that I didn’t need to pack my normal cotton underwears for the trip. I got myself some paper underwear which were good for one time use, and that was a great help I intend to follow next time I’m on a trip.” What the christ? Hot tip: the underwear you prefer at home is what you want to be wearing. If it’s cotton, so be it. Never compromise on comfort.

    2. Soap: 2 in 1 body wash and shampoo. QED. Some of us don’t stay in fancy hotels every night, bitch.

    3. Jeans: The best way to look like a complete dork: Wear hiking pants with zippers and vents and reinforced areas when you’re doing touristy things. Jeans = comfortable, durable, warm, do not require frequent washing.

    4. Books / Reading material: Carry a book, not many. I would say that guidebooks are largely irrelevant now due to the internet, so ditch them unless you’re going somewhere remote.

    5. Money belt/pouch: I use one of these to store my passport, spare credit cards and emergency contact information, but I have never worn it. Agreed, but it’s convenient for me to use in the manner that I am.

    6. Towel: I have used a shirt as a towel, and it’s not pretty. Are you going to use a clean shirt? You’ve just made it dirty by using it as a towel. Are you going to use a dirty shirt? Then you’re going to be smearing your own wet filth all over yourself. Let’s do that every day for six months, you nasty fucker. Travel towels don’t dry you properly and aren’t big enough to wrap around your waist to travel between hostel bathrooms and your dorm. DO NOT COMPROMISE ON COMFORT. Take a real towel.

    7. Water filter: Agreed, unnecessary. Buy purification tablets or bottled water like everyone does anyway.

    8. Jackets: “If I am going somewhere cold, I will buy a jacket for that time period. When I leave, I’ll donate to a homeless shelter. It may cost a bit of extra money” A bit of extra money? What a retard. Carry an outer “shell” jacket that’s windproof and rolls up to be small, and use layers underneath that. Or, you know, throw away several hundreds of dollars worth of jackets. The choice is yours.

    9. Chargers and cables: The guy contradicts himself and says that he still carries all this shit. You need to charge your fucking batteries, there’s no avoiding it. It’s all plastic crap and doesn’t weigh shit, stop being such a baby.

    10. iPod: “When riding a bus through the wilds of Costa Rica though, you lose something when you throw in your ear buds and select your “groove out” playlist instead of taking the opportunity to watch the scenery, listen to the sounds of travel” The sounds of travel? What the fuck are those? The screaming child in the seat behind you? The diesel engine in serious need of mechanical work? I don’t know about you, but when I’m on a 22 hour bus ride in a third world country, I sometimes like to listen to music while I admire the scenery. Or, you know, at night. When you can’t see the scenery. Retard.

    11. Vintage Hermes scarf: What the fuck is this? If you’re going somewhere cold, you may need a scarf. Otherwise, leave your designer shit at home, bitch. I don’t care how chic you want to look. All items must be functional.

    12. Zip-off convertible trousers: True, but several of the other items in this list suggest wearing hiking or outdoorsy pants, which I put in the exact same category (dorky tourist). Again, if you wear it at home, you’ll wear it while travelling. Some people like zip-off pants. Good for them. Leave them be.

    13. Shoes: “A good pair of hiking boots with some flip flops tucked in the pack should do. Personally, I choose to bring an in-between pair, but maybe that’s just because I’m a girl.” God, no. Firstly: hiking boots are not required AT ALL unless you’re going to be carrying 40+ pounds of shit, which is exactly what this blog post is trying to make you avoid doing. Take two pairs of shoes: Runners/cross trainers for hiking and other fitness activities, and casual shoes, for walking around cities not looking like a douchebag, going to nightclubs and generally being comfortable. But hey, clomp around in your big fucking hiking boots in the nightclub, I’m sure it’ll be fun. Loser. You need flip flops for hostel showers. That is not negotiable.

    14. Huge stash of toiletries: Define ‘huge’. Some girls (I’m a guy, BTW) need a lot of toiletries. If you’re going to a jungle, you need hand sanitizer, insect repellent, foot powder and sunscreen, minimum. Some of these things are best bought before you leave. I learnt this the hard way buying ineffective insect repellent in a third world country.

    15. Converter for your electronics Australia runs on 240V, not like you crazy Americans. I don’t know what your deal is.

    16. Makeup and jewelry: As a man, I don’t generally have a need for either of these things. However, if women feel the need to hide their insecurities behind powder-based skin-coloured gunk and translucent rocks, so be it.

    17. Electric toothbrush or electric coffee grinder: …Or electric razor (which one guy mentions he travels with), Xbox, HDTV, Rice cooker, nose hair trimmer, disco ball. Who the fuck would travel with their own coffee grinder? Oh, she was being ironic, and the douche that stole part of her article for this list un-ironically put it in the title.

    18. High expectations: Or you could be like me, and go with no expectations.

    In summary, this article fucking sucks. I have been breaking 13 of these 18 rules (plus the jewelery and voltage converter don’t apply, let’s make it 15) during my 8 months of travels. My bag is less than 10 kilos (22 pounds) and I have things that are really nice, like my own soap. And a towel. And a jacket.

  • #13Brad

    >Seriously? Buy a jacket and give it away? I guess I need to get a job writing stupid advice to people so I can afford to travel like this.

    The trouble with the list is that all travel is different and it depends on the type of travel. The above will be good advice for me when I travel to India for a year. I’ll need a jacket for two months in the mountains and can easily re-coup the money spent on it over the next 10 months of not having to carry it. If you’re going for two weeks, it’s terrible advice.

    No shoes? Great if you HAVE to carry hiking boots and can stand wearing them. Awful if you’re not hiking.

    No towel? I wouldn’t suggest it on a beach trip where you stay at hostels that don’t provide towels and your shirt will be soaked by the first dip, but it might work for hiking when every pound REALLY matters (like the Andes.)

    Ipod + loaned travel pillow saved my neck on the 20 hour bus ride from Windhoek, Namibia to Cape Town, South Africa. I’ll never travel without them both now. If you’re taking planes and short hop buses everywhere, they’re both a waste of space.

    Money belt/pouch – I wouldn’t go to a bus station in Nairobi without having my money strapped to my crotch somehow, but I also wouldn’t carry any money I intended to use that day in it. It’s a security thing. You wear it because it’s impossible to snatch or pickpocket something strapped to your torso and tucked into your pants. When I’m traveling in a scary place, my passport and travelers checks never leave my body. I’d tuck them under my testicles if I could, so they took those first. Honestly, no one should travel without a money belt because there are thieves in every country and the last thing you want regardless of your travel type/destination is to be penniless with no passport in a foreign country.

    Chargers and cables – Try to get all your devices to support charging by USB. It’s the closest to a universal power standard that exists and then you only need one cable and you can charge from the wall or a computer. Please don’t ever pack a power transformer/converter.

    Books – English language books can be tough to find in a country that doesn’t speak English, especially if the backpacker scene isn’t strong. I personally think the Amazon Kindle is the way to go if you can afford it and enjoy reading as much as I do. Also, Lonely Planet sells their guidebooks online in PDF form if you do go for the Kindle. Again, reading material is more important the slower/longer you travel.

    The best advice I’ve seen on packing light can be found here:

  • #14Dan Roberts (Xebidy)

    I particularly agree with Gary that a money belt is asking for trouble and also with Craig that you don’t need to lug a water purifier around>

    Don’t agree with a towel – I hate those travel towels that fall apart all over your unshaven face; and if I had a vintage Hermes scarf I would just have Charles carry it for me.

  • #15Aussienay

    Great list idea here, there are so many over the top packing lists, it’s better to see what you don’t actually need. of course i’m one to overpack, and wear all my heavy stuff on the plane so i can fit more in my bag hrmmm. As for Nora, if you’re traveling by plane many airlines allow you to carry both a carry on bag AND a laptop bag/handbag….but of course it’s something more to carry. And check out the little netbooks instead of a full size laptop…my friend got one really cheap with a discount and it’s so cute!
    Great ideas folks.

  • #16Nomadic Matt

    ever bought a jacket in india or asia or south america or even europe? They aren’t that expensive (even a cheap one in europe is reasonable). You’ll find jackets cheaper than you would at home.

    and why give it away? b/c there are people who need it more than you. charity. it’s a good thing.

  • #17brazilgal

    I agree with John. This travel list is mindlessly thought. Paper underwear? Very wasteful. And for the ladies, you should bring cotton underwear as cotton/natural fabric is the best to prevent yeast infection. Maybe in the form of thongs if you want to save drying time and weight. And ladies: tampons can be hard to find, especially those with applicators, in less developed countries. My ipod has saved me on overnight buses, entertained others, and draining out local sounds such as drilling in HK, babies crying, screaming ladies etc.

  • #18feleciacruz

    FABULOUS ARTICLE i agree with everyone except paper underwear!! i like my cotton & def need at least 5 pairs!

  • #19Nik

    Hah~ well allow me to clarify a few points about that paper underwear tip –

    First off, it was surprisingly comfortable. And NO, it’s not just because I’m a guy and I don’t care much for those kind of comforts. Believe it or not, it was actually recommended to me by my very own girlfriend. And mind you, she is one that are not able to travel without her pouch of moisturizer, shampoo, soap, and other toiletries.

    My point is that, have you ever traveled long distance and had to lug those dirty clothes with you along? It sucks and it stinks. The underwears especially! And in case of emergencies, I’m not gonna wear dirty underwear. That’s just… eww… But a dirty t-shirt? I can just wash it away in the rain (or what not) dry it out and slap them on again..

    And finally, you should at least try it out for yourself. It cost me US$5 to buy a dozen of them last time round. By no means a big burden on the wallet. You’ll be surprised they even call it paper, cause it really does feel like normal fabric..

    Last.. I have to support Matt’s comment about buying a jacket in Asia.. It’s mind-bogglingly cheap! Think.. US$10-US$20 for a decent usable one..

  • #20Jodi

    I am going to have to get on the ‘in defence of cotton underwear’ train. i brought mostly cotton with me, except for a pair of patagonia boyshorts to sleep in. The synthetics tend to fare badly when you’re hiking or sweating, and cotton is way more comfortable (at least for me). Though I must admit I never looked into paper underwear before!

    I also love my ipod, mainly because the ‘sounds of travel’ sometimes include a horror movie at full volume on a night bus through ecuador – and mere earplugs just won’t drown out the screaming.

    I agree on the toiletries/makeup and soap front (big fan of Safeguard’s Eucalyptus soap here in the Philippines!) and also on the money belt – after a year of travel, I’ve never actually worn it once.

    I would also add traveller’s cheques – mine have been gallivanting around the world with me, but have yet to see the light of day.

  • #21Powered by Tofu

    OK, I’m with John and Brad on this one. This is not a good “across the board” recommendation list. It really depends who you are, where you’re going and what you’re comfortable with. I just wrote a post about how to pack for a one year round the world trip: http://www.poweredbytofu.com/2009/05/05/how-to-pack-for-a-1-year-round-the-world-trip/

    I travel with a 32L (2,000 cuin) pack and according to this list I’m bringing all the wrong things ;)

    1. Underwear: I bring 10 pairs, because clothes you can re-wear before washing, but who wants to wash underwear every night? Not me. And seriously, unless you wear thermal underwear, they don’t take up much space. How big are you’re underpants?

    2. Soap: I stay at hostels which don’t provide soap, so I pack a shower gel, since it’s not as messy as soap in a container.

    3. Jeans are my ultimate comfort item. If you’re a jeans person, take your jeans! I’ve worn my “totally unnecessary” jeans from Vietnam to Costa Rica. Obviously I don’t hike in them, but I wear them out in the evenings.

    4. Books: I don’t travel without 1 reading book, which I then trade for another etc etc. If you don’t bring a book, then no one is going to trade you!

    6. Towel: I take an REI quick dry mini towel, for hostels. I’m not a fan of airdrying or paying $1 to rent a towel every day.

    8. Jacket: Unless you’re going to Arizona in the summer, take a windbreaker/rain jacket. I use a “packable” Columbia, and have used it in Costa Rica and Thailand during tropical rain storm, in Japan, with shirts layered under while it was snowing, and in Morocco while camping in the Sahara desert.

    10. ipod: An ipod is TINY, and as long as you’re not listening 24/7 and ignoring your adventure, it can be the best “pick me up” on a long bus ride or to fall asleep when you’re in a loud hostel room.

    13. Shoes: I would change this to say that hiking boots are the last thing you’ll need unless you’re doing a week long trek. I’ve never packed hiking shoes, instead I take trail runners and flip flops. I’ve met so many backpackers over the last year, with the obligatory pair of huge hiking boots tied to the side of their pack. My anecdotal research tells me that most of them have only used them once if that, and it could have been done in running shoes.

    Cheers and happy packing!

  • #22Luke Stevenson

    I would have to disagree with the iPod one – whilst I try and enjoy and engage with people and surrounds on a bus or train trip, when you are traveling overnight and the bus driver is leaning on his horn hor 17.75 hours or an 18 hour trip (as in Vietnam), then having some music to take the edge of that, and the screaming kid two seats behind, is absolutely invaluable.

    With regards to the chargers, one of the best investments I made was a US 2-prong to USB iPod Charger in Bangkok (only cost about 25 baht and is the size of the tip of my thumb). It charges the iPod via it’s USB cable, and I also found a USB phone charger for about 50 baht (with a set of attachments for various phone types) meaning I replaced two mobile chargers with a multi-purpose charger which together are no larger than a couple of matchboxes.

  • #23brian

    I would agree with NOT taking the iPod. I did end up using it on a few flights but I had to keep charging it and I eventually lost it. Somebody in SE Asia has a nice 160GB iPod gift from America.

  • #24Patricia

    Travelling without ipod??? The most stupid thing, I´ve ever heard, seriously! Have you ever travelled in an Indian train? Especially during the night? I would have got crazy, if I didn´t have my ipod! And there are definitely more situations, where u could need it…and it´s not heavy at all….stupid “not-to-bring”…as some of them…

  • #25Blog King

    I think that this is a ver good list, but I also think that their are a few things missing. Personally I like too travel alot and taking the right equipment will make or brake your trip. So, things like water proof rolling duffle bags may make a difference as well, as taking some means of communication to the outside world like a computer or cellphone could save yourlife.

  • #26Luke Stevenson

    @”brian from nodebtworldtravel.com” – Fair call, I guess, but then again, we’ll see if you still feel that way after being on a 20+ hour train ride with a screaming kid shaking the windows in the middle of the night and a guy on the opposite bunk who sounded like he was either drowning or milling steel with a woodsaw with his snoring.

    Maybe not an Apple iPod TM as such, but a portable MP3 player which you can load up at a local music store/hostel/internet cafe/friendly flashpacker is a life-saver.

    If you can’t afford to lose something/don’t have insurance, you should really leave it at home, but that is the rule for any travel.

  • #27airfare deals checker

    Passport! you wouldn´t believe how many people I know forgot their passport and they couldn´t take their plane!

  • #28Bilety lotnicze

    Hehe my wife always packs to many shoes – even if its just a weekend trip to one of the european capitals. I just dont get women..

  • #29Zippy

    The zip off pants may make you look silly, but they are the only thing worth bringing. It’s cold in the morning and boiling in the afternoon and the pants fit the bill. You’ll look silly trying to change into your shorts on the trail, road, or train.

  • #30Claudia

    Well, I can read many opinions here. I appreciate you sharing your thoughts. Some of them are good…others I cant say I could live with them but Thanks for the ideas!! People dont have to be rude while giving their opinions….like the makority above.

  • #31Michael

    Good list. I disagree with the travel wallet though. Put things that you might need to take out during the day in your pockets (zipped pocket, etc.) but have a hidden travel wallet for other valuables you might need to take along, like your passport, etc.

  • #32quail

    Sorry, but my mp3 player goes with me. It only comes out though when I’m on a long flight or when I’m spending time in the hotel. It’s radio feature is priceless, and my ability to keep up with podcasts invaluable. It can also be an ice breaker when need be. See another person sporting earbuds? Ask about their player and what they like to listen to.

  • #33cristiano

    its ALL destination specific and dependent upon the manner in which you travel. going from the airport to the hotel without backpacking from place to place, you can obviously bring more stuff. Backpacking around the world for 2-3 years at a time would be an entirely different beast.

    Basically- go as light as possible and remember that most everything you need can be purchased in the destination country at often fractions of the price at home in your developed country.

    A money belt, the kind that wraps around your waist under your trousers is INVALUABLE if you are travelling in developing countries. raise your hands if youve been mugged in bolivia! hahaha. throw your passport and any relevant documents in a ziploc bag and toss them in. that way if your bag gets stolen you always have your important things on you. post pics of your passport pages online so you can retrieve them at an embassy in a bad situation. obviously you keep the days allowance of cash separate, so you dont reveal your secret stash.


    for me, and in my opinion for my style of travel, Iphone is invaluable- get a solar charger for that and your other electronics, as in developing countries electricity is unreliable and prone to surges that can fry your things. i say iphone because since it has a removable sim card (important if you are from north america), it can be used as a phone around the world to make all sorts of arrangements at your convenience. in addition with the 32 gig one that came out, you can store your music, a few movies, use internet hotspots anywhere and take a few videos of your experiences. it is just a great multi-use tool for international travel. anyone who says it takes you away from the true experience of travel is clearly a masochist, a moron, or an inexperienced backpacker who has never been on a 18 hour ride packed like a sardine onto a loud bus with livestock, exhaust, bad roads, incessantly honking horns, no travel partners, and a language barrier.

    universal converter-

    since when i travel im gone for years at a time and through various places, an electric converter is essential. mine is plastic, weighs nothing, and is roughly 6 cm x 3.5 cm.


    considering about half the world is in its winter season at any given time, the long haul traveller will undoubtedly need one.
    the solution is simple. i went to my local outdoor/ wilderness store and bought a down puffy jacket. it packs in its stuff sack to the size of a softball and weighs 1 pound. not to mention it is warm as on those cold days either in the himalayas or in europe in winter. an outer shell jacket that is light and waterproof also packs to the same dimensions. if you are going somewhere cold for more than a few days, bring it like this– the jacket is also a great pillow.


    DONT BRING BOOTS!!!!! unless you are going specifically to trek and you have the ease to bring them with you. 99%of the time they are absolutely unnecessary. if you are going to a trekking destination like nepal, unless you have particularly large feet, you can easily find boots in KTM. lots of them are used and broken in and reputable brands left behind by other tourists. local boots usually will last a trek or two depending on duration and intensity.
    flip flops with straps made of plastic(and therefore quickdrying) are great for hot days and hostel showers. if you are going to be walking in flops-dont go for plastic straps, instead use a soft cloth strap as walking for a few hours in havaianas can rub the top of your foot raw. trainers are a solid choice.


    sure a full size towel is stupid to bring in your pack, but again, you can go to your local outdoor supply store and buy a shammy that dries in NO TIME, weighs nothing, packs flat and takes up zero space in your pack. considering how useful it is its foolish not to have one.


    when i first started taking long trips around the world, i would have a medi-kit with cures for all sorts of ailments and maladies. now i see that as relatively pointless. even powerful antibiotics like ciproflaxin can be purchased abroad for sososososoooo much cheaper than at home, and without a prescription. for those of you that dont trust their medicines and storage capabilities, fair enough. you can always bring a supply of reliable antibiotics from home. now that said, and providing you wont be away from civilisation for any extended period of time, you neednt pack any other over-the-counter medicines or toiletries as ALL are available where you are going. i bring a toothhbrush, a razor and blades, 30% deet mozzie repellent, glasses,and my contact lens kit. i bring a lasting supply of conact lenses, and a course of antibiotics for upper respiratory infections, and for stomach issues. i DO NOT use them unless it is absolutely necessary.

    ladies and tampons-

    my ex girlfriend faced this dilemma. having your period on the road sucks, tampons may not be available (but remain expensive). if you arent too put off by your own blood and dont mind a SMALL mess on your fingers, there is a product called the DIVA CUP. it is a little cup that fits snugly over your cervix and catches your blood. you remove it periodically, like a tampon, clean it and reinsert it. my ex gf LOVED this. it never leaked on her, she could sleep comfortably with no spills either. all u need is a water source to clean your hands after the change. it isnt too messy if you are worried. i dont know where to buy it, but a google search will likely provide answers.
    it is reliable, reusable, small and can be taken anywhere u go, and you dont have to keep buying tampons, or load your pack with them.

    my pack is 45L and it is only ever full when i am trekking for months at a time. usually it is half full, lightweight, and i am always aware of its proximity to me. after 3 RTW trips lasting over 6 years, ive never had a pack stolen. be prepared to lose everything you have, but with good street-smarts you can GREATLY reduce the chances of being a victim.

    since i have extra space in my pack, i love to bring a pair of my favourite jeans. true they take forever to dry, take up space, and are heavy, BUT, they can go ages without washing if need be, they are durable and fashionable (in most places these days), they are warm, and if you have been smart about your packing you can afford to bring a luxury item should u choose. I am no ascetic and i enjoy some little creature comforts on my long long journeys.

    This article is ridiculous. I hope i helped.


  • #34cristiano

    oh– and i forgot,

    ALWAYS have some toilet paper on you if in a developing country. You never know where you’ll be when your stomach starts to cramp up, you start sweating, and fuids start exploding from your backside:)

  • #35Jason

    I will always bring a pair of jeans if I plan to be in urban areas. Universally they are worn almost all over the world. If you have plans to go out, have dinner or a drink, it’s the best way to not look like a tourist.

  • #36Turner

    I may try to manage with nothing but a day pack at some point, but I’m not exactly in love with bagless travel.

  • #37BeyondHorizons

    What your saying is don’t bring zip-off trousers because it’s not a good fashion statement rather than saying giving any practical reasoning. I guess your advice is only for the the insecure travelers.

  • #38Akila

    As so many other people have commented, I think that many of these items are essential for me.

    #6: I love, love my travel towel — I use it as a towel, a blanket, a sarong, and a shawl.

    # 8: I get cold very easily so I must travel with a warm fleece jacket (I even take it with me to the movie theater). I can’t imagine going on any A/C train in India without a jacket.

    #12: I like my zip-off trousers. Sure, they aren’t the sexiest, coolest clothing, but they are really comfortable and hold up well.

    # 16: As far as jewelry, I take two necklaces and a pair of earrings because sometimes, I like to look nice and these are the lightest way to do so. They weigh less than an ounce and take up practically no room. Maybe it’s girly, I don’t want to look like a schlep all the time!

    I just posted my travel list and many of these items are on here: http://www.theroadforks.com/gear/womans-round-the-world-packing-list

  • #39The Travelers Zone

    this is a pretty good list but there are some things in the list i think i will still take,like ipod,jackets and shoes.

  • #40Sarah

    While I admit I am usually guilty of bringing too much, it sometimes cannot be avoided. As a full figured woman who is nearly 6 feet tall, the idea of buying whatever extra clothes I need at my destination isn’t always practical. When I spent the summer in Ecuador last year, I was probably the largest woman in the country at the time! I would rather carry a heavier bag and be comfortable in my own clothes than scour a market for a size they probably don’t have.

  • #41Austinite

    MP3 player is a must for long bus rides etc. Get a cheap one that uses AAA batteries so that when you’re battery dies on that 34 hour bus ride from Patagonia to Buenos Aires… Also a Beethoven symphony can add to the thrill of watching the panoramas passing by outside the window. ALWAYS get a window seat!

    A couple of small paper-back books is not a bad idea. They can be traded. I agree not to underestimate the “finds” in netherworld bookshops. Leave the guidebooks at home and tap into the backpacker chatter instead.

    Jeans. Cuz I don’t want to look like a tourist.

    Money belt for the passport and emergency cash. $$$ for the day go in my pocket.

    I also try to avoid clothing you’d buy in a outfitter store. I want to look poor and I do want to blend in as much as possible.

  • #42helen

    We set up http://www.whattowearonholiday.com to help travellers pack the “right” things for the country they are going to, pack less, know what to avoid and what to wear so as not to shout “Look at me I’m a tourist”. It would be great to get feedback from you guys as regular travellers and any updates would be much appreciated.

  • #43Lilly

    This is dumb. What if you’re going somewhere that requires jeans and jackets, like someplace cold. And only 3 pairs of underwear?

  • #44Allan

    don’t forget the ear plugs 5 pr weigh less than an ounce. Invaluable on noisy trips or when trying to sleep in a noisy area

  • #45William Wallace

    Are you crazy 3 pairs of underwear, I personally couldn’t be bothered washing as often as you, also drying off with a t-shirt you have no class or style. An iPod comes in useful when you are bored out your mind suffering another delayed plane or on a boring train journey. There are however a few good tips that are wee gems.

  • #46Shannon OD

    I love the paper underwear!! I have never heard of them, that’s pretty funny.

    As for the jeans – I actually have not for a second regretted bringing a regular old pair of jeans on my RTW trip. I am prone to getting cold and traveling through the UK, even during the summer, made me appreciate having them (with a pair of leggings under them!). I say that it’s a highly personal choice on the jeans and that taking them to Europe is OK – maybe not necessary in India/SEA :-)

    Love the others though, and those paper underwear have me scratching my head a bit – must go google them!

  • #47anonymous

    Haha – A serious article, but very funny also. I recently came back from Spain, we had to pay an extra 45 pounds as my wife overpacked. Not really her fault I guess as we were taking our baby but I’m sure some of those extra pairs of shoes could have stayed at home!

  • #48MattA

    Don’t take a towel? “Everyone should know where his towel is!”

  • #49Simon

    My wife is the same, she is always packing to much stuff and we always have to upgrade our baggage as we’ve found alot of airlines only give 15 kgs.

  • #50munich fan

    Earplugs are a good to have sometimes. For sure it depends to the location you spend the night.

  • #51Sam

    Oops pardon me, they’re ICEBREAKER underwear, not Smartwool.

  • #52Shawn

    Hey… i feel pair of jeans and some t-shirts are enough but most important of all these is “MONEY”, you must have in your wallet:)

  • #53Paula

    I love travelling light and hate being weighed down with luggage. I definitely agree with ditching the ipod on holiday. Okay, it’s only light and doesn’t take up much room, but it’s too convenient and too easy to fall into the habit of listening 24/7 and missing out on experiences and chanced conversations. In order to fully experience your trip you need to be focused and not ‘lost in your music’.

  • #54Anny

    Great list, but I’m not sure I agree with #8 (sorry Matt!).

    Layering is key to travelling light and a jacket is a must for layering. Save room by bringing one jacket, one or two light shirts, and a bunch of small light and easily washable tank tops in different colours. You’ll look a little bit different in each picture with the different coloured tanks, you’ll still feel clean with a new shirt each day without the added weight, *and* you’ll be ready for any change in the weather.

  • #55WireIndia

    If you really wanted to travel light you can go with just your passport, tickets and wallet in your pocket and buy everything but its an expensive way to avoid extra baggage fees!

    With regard to zip off trousers, sure they’re practical but as well as not being the greatest fashion statement, they do tend to scream “TOURIST” which is fine in some places, but not if you’re trying to blend in! I guess that’s why you read not to pack them in a lot of travel advice sections!

  • #56Darcy Perkins

    There are quite a few things I don’t agree with here…

    3. Jeans – My jeans a small, light weight and great to wear casually or formally. Jeans beat the shit out of those moronic zip-off pants any day.

    4. Books – Not only do I love books (and love to read), but reading a book about the place you are in, or even just one that’s set in the same country/region/city can help you get a much better understanding of the place.

    6. Towel – Drying yourself with a shirt is just stupid. Just get a really small towel. Dry it in your dorm or on the back of your pack.

    8. Jackets – Jackets or jumpers are great, much warmer than long sleave shirts and can be taken off, done up, or worn un-done depending on the temperature.

    10. iPod – I use my iPhone for checking news, checking emails, listening to music, taking photos (when I for some reason forget or cant use my camera), and lots more. Invaluable.

    13. Shoes – Not only are boots impractical and stupid for everything except hiking, but they’re also damn ugly.

  • #57Sophia

    Hehehe this reminds me of the time I went to China for a school tip and one of my friends bought the biggest brush and hairdryer along. How practical!

  • #58MattW

    One rule I follow is: Will I use it more than once a week?
    If not, its out… then IF I do need it, buy/beg/borrow it there.

  • #59Michael

    I say stop being a puss. If you can’t carry a well packed bag with all the things that make you comfortable you should stay at home. This is nothing more than a ploy to consume.

  • #60Ellen

    As a mom traveling with a husband and two children, i did not relish the idea of washing their clothes at the end of busy days of sightseeing. We packed enough clothes for 5-6 days and included stops in local laundromats as part of our cultural experiences. We met interesting people and observed normal daily life off the normal tourist track.

  • #61Jeremy Powers

    This was some of the stupidest advice I’ve ever read. No shoes? Really? You’re going to walk around Paris in hiking boots or flip flops. What! An! Idiot! Heavy jacket? Mine isn’t. Paper underwear – that idea is more gross than dirty underwear. Zip off pants make you look like an idiot – not as stupid as wearing wool dress pants when it’s 94 degrees in Rome.

    Fire them all!

    My advice is always bring the expensive stuff: shoes, jackets, pants and minimal electronics . Socks, underwear and t-shirts are cheap, can be had anywhere and disposed of easily. Soap, razors, etc., are nearly free if not free.

  • #62Bruce

    The one thing I never take is cotton clothing. Cotton soaks up perspiration and takes forever to dry. Washing clothing out in your room is a very different proposition with microfiber clothing as it can be wrung 99% dry and is always dry in the morning. Polyester shirts, soaks, underwear, pants, make for cooler clothing and easier maintenance on the road.

    Teflon coatings make slacks stain free and they can last a couple weeks without need for cleaning. Dark colors like black or patterned fabrics do not show the dirt and the wrinkles nearly as much as light solid colors, and dark colors make you stand out a lot less like a tourist in most parts of the world.

    I take basic medicine, first aid, soaps, etc. and other items because it saves time when traveling. I don’t want to be shopping for soap or toothpaste or a shirt or shoes while I am spending hundreds of dollars for each day to be traveling. I buy samples and I use my soaps until they are 1/4 size and I can put 3 different bars in one holder.

    After badly cutting my hand on a defective coffee pot while in Denver on business and finding that it took the hotel staff 20 minutes to locate the first aid kit and that it only had bandaids I have started to carry a basic kit that includes butterfly bandages, liquid bandage, compression bandaging material, and broad spectrum antiseptic creme. Harder than you might think to get even bandaids in many parts of the world once you get outside the cities.

    Outside the cities in many countries, including the USA, the drinking water is not safe to drink and I don’t like spending precious travel time sitting on a toilet or in the bushes swatting away mosquitoes, so a simple filter kit goes with me. In many parts of the world the plastic water bottles are refilled with tap water and the cap glued in place so it is “like new”. Buying water in a plastic bottle from a store in a small village in Asia and Latin America is not guarantee of getting water that is safe to drink. I refuse to support Coca Cola’s theft of local water supplies so I drink only beer or tap water which if suspect has been filtered.

    My 4-band Blackberry works everywhere in the world and is my phone, PDA for Outlook contact info, and my GPS. It also serves as my MP3 player and photo book so I can show people pictures of my home area.

    When traveling in 3rd world areas what I do make space for in my bag are a couple of new T-shirts from the USA with logos and a bag of balloons. The T-shirts are gifts for the adults and the balloons are gifts for the children. In many areas ballpoint pens are greatly appreciated and a BIC for a school child can be a big deal.

    Disagree about comment made about boots. If I can take only one pair of shoes and plan to be all over the city and also spending time on trails, and I try to include both in my trips whenever possible, a lightweight waterproof pair of boots are perfect. Too many people take only street shoes and then are unable to get off the beaten path and away from the crowds and other tourists/travelers or worry about puddles or the rain and expect to go everywhere in a car or bus when so much more can be seen and experienced by walking. Day hiking types of boots that go to just about the ankel are perfect for travel when used with wool or polyester fiber socks – just avoid cotton socks. I buy Chukka style boots which are like “desert boots” and don’t give a military appearance – enough of that with the United States’ 725 military bases around the world.

  • #63Paula Gjerstad

    Dear John in May 2010:

    Such disturbingly nasty language. You disagree with some of the points others made, and find it necessary to curse them out and call them vile names. Why? It doesn’t hurt them, it irritates others (QED) and it makes you look like a true undesirable with opinions that probably don’t count at all. Quit it! I’m surprised there is no kind of supervision of this kind of thing.

    Editor’s Comment: The comment by John was actually posted on May 23, 2009. Also, there is supervision over comments. I was not the editor at that time and do not feel the need for editing it at this late date. Though, thank you for your concern.

  • #64Jim

    I always pack a money belt, but, like some other commenters, hardly ever wear it. Mostly, it is a useful way to keep gathered in one place almost everything I want to put in the hotel safe at night. (Clearly, I don’t do backpacking — I had quite enough of that in the Army, thank you.) As to those zippered “safety” pockets, I have trousers that include them, and I use them, but I don’t entirely rely on them to keep my valuables safe. On the metro in Madrid, a cute youngster almost got everything out of one of those zippered pockets, but failed because (1) he was in training, not yet skilled, and (2) my friend spotted him at work. At home, I called the company that sold me the trousers and pointed out that their zipper opens down! That makes it a lot easier for the user to fetch out a wallet, but the drawback is obvious. The trousers seller. who shall go unnamed, has not changed the design!

  • #65Vrtno pohistvo

    18 things – too much!!!!!!
    It is true that too many clothes is heavy bag, I usually take 2 shirts, 2 trusses, 3 pars of underclothes, one pullover and a jacket. About soup – I never take soup. I even don’t use it at home. I think the best think for the boy and skin is pure water. Jeans is the best if you go to the colder places of the world. Reading material is totally unnecessary.
    Money belt/pouch is a great idea, on my last journey I was stolen at the camping site area in Kenya. I left my wallet in a tent in the evening, when we all get together by the fire. Before I went to Kenya my friend told me that the best way to hide money is money belt pouch. I regret still today that I didn’t listen! So take money belt/pouch with you!!!
    Why on earth would a towel be a useless item? Here I don’t know the answer. I always take a towel with me. But I agree there is always a problem where to dry it.
    Water filtration device – O my Good, I didn’t even know that exist so small water filtration device for travellers.
    I never ever go without my jacket! I often get cold, so in my bag is always place for a jacket. For the rest thing I thing there are much too big and clumsy to carry.
    In my bag you will find, same clothes, toothbrush, sun cream, fotocamera, 2 extra batteries, money belt/pouch, and towel, picture of my children and a map, and one bottle of water and butter biscuits. This is it!!

  • #66Brian

    I’ll be going to Sao Paulo in all of two weeks, and will be there a month… I’m definitely planning on real underwear, and some other necessities – it’s absurd to pay 50$r (22usd) for sunscreen in SP when I can grab it at Target for 4 or 5 dollars. I’m also taking my shampoo, conditioner, all of my vitamins, and everything else that i can possibly squeeze into two full-sized checked bags, a carry-on, and my personal item (read ‘massive backpack’). I’m not hiking through Amazonas though – I’m staying with a friend in the financial capital of South America, in the largest Japanese community outside of Japan. I don’t anticipate Pantene Pro-V posing an issue.

  • #67Ariadne

    I agree with you about everything except the towel. In the words of a wise man, “”A towel, it says, is about the most massively useful thing a hitchhiker can have. Partly it has great practical value – you can wrap it around you for warmth…. you can lie on it on the brilliant marble-sanded beaches…inhaling the heady sea vapours; you can sleep under it beneath the stars which shine so readily on the desert; use it to sail a mini raft down the slow heavy river; wet it for use in hand-to- hand-combat; wrap it round your head to ward off noxious fumes… you can wave your towel in emergencies as a distress signal, and of course dry yourself off with it if it still seems to be clean enough.

    More importantly, a towel has immense psychological value. For some reason, if a strag (strag: non-hitch hiker) discovers that a hitch hiker has his towel with him, he will automatically assume that he is also in possession of a toothbrush, face flannel, soap, tin of biscuits, flask, compass, map, ball of string, gnat spray, wet weather gear etc., etc. Furthermore, the strag will then happily lend the hitch hiker any of these or a dozen other items that the hitch hiker might accidentally have “lost”. What the strag will think is that any man who can hitch the length and breadth of the earth, rough it, slum it, struggle against terrible odds, win through, and still knows where his towel is is clearly a man to be reckoned with.”

  • #68patrick

    I pack LOTS of underwear and socks, as I hate to wash. However seldom more than the shirt I am wearing! Why? I collect Tshirts! The one I am wearing getting dirty? I simply buy a cool local one, and I have my personal for me gift immediately!

    As for the Soap, everyone knows that this is why you steal the lirttle soaps from trips. To use on other trips! They are small, and usually you get a few bottles of shampoo with them! Keep these and then use the soap at each hotel that does not have it, along with the shampoo. Take a couple on third world trips that you go on, which is the only place you will use them. Throw the small little bar leftovers in the trash when you change hotels, and you will not have to worry about wet stuff in your luggage at all.

    I work for a Hotel in Santa Barbara, and we have found that a number of people take the shampoos, and soaps just for that reason. Ask, and any maid will give you a few!

  • #69Christopher

    I used to pack three or four pairs of trousers, a few pairs of shorts and lots and lots of shirts/t-shirts. Then, after years of travelling around the globe, I finally figured out . . . that I’m a slob. I wear the same shorts every day until they’re filthy. Two t-shirts, one long shirt, a pull-over in case it gets cold in the evening.

    I disagree with the underwear comment. I’m a slob, but I like clean underwear.

  • #70Jason

    I confess I cringed when you mentioned paper underwear. Is it really comfortable enough to wear esp. for doing a lot of walking? I have to agree with soap/shampoo – hotels always have a good supply of them, although sadly for me, my skin and scalp is very sensitive, and gets very dry when I use different brands. With my sensitive skin and my OCD ways, I think the dream of packing light will elude me forever :P

  • #71Charles

    Straight up whoever wrote this is an idiot. Conserve less spend more waste more is the motto here. What this guy doesn’t get is many places do not have the facilities for recycling that the US does, so by buying more plastic bottles sure you are saving weight but at what cost? The trail of garbage dumped into the stream(not an uncommon practice) is no excuse for shaving a few ounces. And you have to be kidding about the jacket thing, ever heard of a shell? Weighs less and waterproof, so what if a nice one costs a good chunk of change. And Zippoffs, sure they could stay at home if you’re traveling to a city or not carrying your own stuff, but kids are always going to stare at the Gringo, regardless of clothes.
    Sure this list is applicable to some situations for travel but the list could have been better off at 12 items or even 10 items not to bring. Sure electronics, adapters, towels, and scarfs can easily be left at home. But the purpose of traveling should not be get there light to buy buy buy. This should be a thing to leave off a TOURIST list, not a travelers list.

  • #72Scott

    While I don’t agree with John’s use of language, his post is right on the money & I got a good laugh out of reading it. I do get a little tired of all the “politically correct” travel blogs & comments I’ve been reading of late.

    Give away my jacket? I am regularly amazed at how many people are so willing to donate to charity when they don’t even have a retirement plan set up. Charity is nice, financial irresponsibility is stupid.

  • #73Leslie

    wow. stupidest article i have ever read. im pretty sure i need almost all of these everytime i travel….

    an ipod? seriously? how heavy is an ipod……probably the item i use most when i travel.

  • #74Clinton Skakun

    A few of these things on the list just don’t make any sense. When was the last time you were on a plane and there was a kid screaming behind you and the parent was doing nothing? The first thing that comes to mind, “god I wish I had my ipod!”

    As for reading material, why not? Unless you have a kindle, books are a great way to pass time while you get into those long boring instances (again, like on the plane).

    I guess the rest also depends on where you’re going to be staying and traveling.



  • #75Max

    It all really depends but New York City in January without a warm winter jacket AND hiking boots would be impossible. I think I was about the only person in Manhattan with dry feet…thank you hiking boots!

    On the other hand, Egypt in summer was sandals only (no shoes no socks required), a single spare T-Shirt, two underwear and toothbrush + sunscreen in bag. At the end of the day take the sweaty underwear+t-Shirt with you into the shower and because the air is so dry they’ll be dry the next morning.

    However, due to excessive air-conditioning (bus, train, plane, cinema) you’ll always need one warm long sleeved piece of clothing because otherwise you’ll freeze even in an Egyptian summer.

  • #76Trish

    There are a few good points. And I do agree that you don’t want to over pack, but at the same time you want to be comfortable and enjoy your vacation to the fullest.

    The things like not bringing your own soap can be understandable if you are not picky or don’t have sensitive skin. But if it adds to your enjoyment, bring it.

    Also, the buying a coat where it is cold doesn’t always make sense, even if you factor in a specific cost of doing so. It could be inconvenient when you arrive in a cold place. Instead of relaxing, settling in, and taking in the scenery, you would have to go shopping right away whether you wanted to or not.

  • #77Buckhead Dan

    3 Pairs of underwear? Wowsers, that is taking a chance in my book. I could do without most of the stuff you mentioned, but I gotta have extra underwear. I will point out that I’ve never actually used most of it when I went somewhere tho, so you are definitely right about that.

  • #78lee

    firstly johns comments gave me a laugh – thanks for telling it how it is !

    This list is an epic fail. The ipod is probably the greatest invention for backpackers ever. It passes bordem, drowns out “the sounds of travel”, is a conversation starter – you can introduce others to artists from your home and vice versa (i’ve actually discovered a number of bands thanks to fellow travellers.

    As for zip off pants there light weight, quick drying, practical, and if you get dark colours they can be worn anywhere. (tip; just get a pair where the zip off is at or below the knee and not at the mid to upper thigh)

    I dont understand why people take laptops/phones when they backpack, the idea of travel is to forget about home and experience something new or different. Plus there are internet cafes everywhere – how many of us have ended up in a conversation with the person next to us ? Plus these items are usually a magnet for theives.

    Money belt is great for emergency cash, passports credit card. if its strapped to you and you dont use it in public its safe.

  • #79AdventureRob

    Everyone is different, I think that’s the thing to take from this list. iPod is essential to some, but a lot manage without any form of music if it’s not important.

    Lightweight travel towel is important though.

  • #80Raym

    Every destination and every type of travel has it’s own bare minimum I guess. But in the end, 3 pairs of underwear is the bare minimum no matter where you go…

  • #81Jacki

    You can consolidate 4, 9, & 10 if you have an iPhone… You can download a few eBooks and travel guides onto it, download a language translator into it, you can use it as a mini-laptop for emails and blog updates (if that’s your shtick), have it for emergency phone calls, make dogital copies of all travel documents, traveller’s cheques and credit cards, and only requires one tiny charger. For bonus points, iPhones now have really good cameras built in so you could also ditch the fancy digital cameras and all the crap you have to lug along with them.

  • #82Kristie Dean

    I ALWAYS bring books, and I’ve ALWAYS been glad I did. However, now with an ereader, it makes more sense to bring it – 100s of books at my fingertips but only one small device. Before, I’d bring books that I was willing to ditch as I went along. I also make my own travel guide and bind it up with my itinerary and confirmations – it makes a GREAT souvenir.

  • #83Federico

    Plenty of silly recommendations in this list…why not take a book to make those long bus trips less annoying? Or the zip off pants? Beacuse they make you look silly? Who cares, I thought it is about being practical and traveling light. And to think that this post has over 30k stumbles…

  • #84RJ Ulbricht

    I can’t believe I have to leave my levi’s at home! I wear them 7 days a week. Sounds like I will need to detox.

  • #85dana

    Very useful this article. I always recognize that excessive luggage when I went on vacation. Not in so I get my water filter, but I took a lot of clothes and unnecessary. So you give up jackets and many many other clothes.

  • #86Summer travels

    I totally agree. I like the article very much because most of my friends do the opposite of what it says it is unnecessary. It is very annoying when you go 3 or 4 day trip and some of your friends brings his entire wardrobe. There are so many garments that use them all to be dressing every minute.

  • #87Anita

    I teach ESL overseas and I agree with the person who said “If you want it at home, you will want it overseas.” Having a job ia a bit different. You will have money for things that you need along the way but not so much in the beginning. The techie things are a must for me. Crazy layovers and delays in a big, noisy airport? Plug into the Ipod and put on a sleep mask so that the rest of the world goes away!

  • #88AnitaMac

    Brilliant list – so true too! We sometimes pack the craziest things! I agree with most although have a hard time ditching the chargers and some of the electronic gear! I love photography too much and need to recharge the battery often! Guess it is a question of priorities. I use an iPad now – doubles for so many things – save guide books or the relevant chapters, books if I want to read fiction and music. I agree that it is better to listen to your surroundings, and your less likely to interact with others with the music going, but sometimes a girls just has to tune out! (Or ward off harassment from some guy who won’t take the hint!!!) When I set off across Canada by bike (just starting a blog series on it now if you like to follow) I had far too much stuff! Could have used a few lessons from the above list. Life lesson learnt! Most everything has to serve double duty and if it is not crucial, not likely necessary! Climbing the Rockies on a bike with 10 lbs of books and party shoes, plus all the essentials – just silly!!!
    I also would add a sarong to your list – at least for the girls! Dubs as a towel, pillow case, blanket, skirt and when tied between two trees – a change room! My most versatile travel item by far!!!
    Happy travels.

  • #89Vi

    “12. Zip-off convertible trousers” – I can’t agree with this. Of course if you are just going from airport to hotel it won’t hurt to carry separate trousers and shorts. But if you are planning to do some hiking trips convertible trousers is must to have as it saves so much space and weight.

    Sorry, but it is your problem if you think you look ridiculous in these trousers. Don’t blame trousers.

  • #90The Sleepy Backpacker

    One thing I disagree strongly with is the zip off convertible trousers.

    I try to travel with just 2 pairs of these as that equates to two pairs of trousers and two pairs of shorts. That’s all I need bottom half wise.

    They dry quickly and are really practical in avoiding a full blown change of your bottom half, for example as it starts to get cold in the early evening in Africa and the mozzies start to swarm it is so much easier to simply reattach the legs to turn them back to Trousers.

    This is especially good when your own an excursion as you don’t really want to take your separate trousers or shorts in your day pack which may already be full.

    Trousers are trousers, they don’t look ridiculous, people shouldn’t judge you for wearing something you are comfortable and are happy to wear, if they do then they’re a little pathetic are they not?

    You don’t travel to look good, you travel to experience the world…regardless of what you wear.

  • #91Duncan

    Hi there!

    I dont think i could travel without my emergency funds. I keep them very close to my chest when travelling so in case of emergencies i am always (usually) able to get myself out of a difficult situation.

    US Dollars are usually best here as they are a global currency. That plus an ipod and charger for long bus journeys can be good, but not always that practical in the rainforest!!



  • #92Mark Lamaci

    Haha great article though I think a lot of it has to be taken tongue in cheek…

    Also jesus, most of these can be fixed by technology or common sense. Travel books? – Get a kindle.
    Travel adapters? – Get a multi.
    Towel? – Fair enough use a sarong.

    Worst suggestion has to be iPod though, cone on, walking on the beach, beer in hand, sun setting behind you. You need your tunes…

  • #93Dragonfly Traveller

    Living in Ecuador 6 months a year and travelling from Canada the other 6, we had a wedding to go to in March (early this month) in Des Moines – assuming it is winter in Des Moines we carted wintercoats down here! They now have a layer of dust – your best advice in the above post – buy it on location and only if you REALLY need it. Better to bring used shoes for the locals – much more apprciated and much more fun to open up conversations on the road!

  • #94AB

    As an aspiring world traveler, I’m so grateful for blog postings and discussions like these. Many thanks for all the tips.

  • #95Steve

    Good tips. The one superfluous item I always want to take tends to be binoculars. Never need them, but it seems like a good idea whilst packing.

  • #96Caroline

    I like to take one book. Reading is a great way to kill time at the airport and it can be swapped in hostels/hotels for something i’d never have chosen in a book shop. Kindles and other devices do seem great if you can afford them but they add something else to worry about losing/breaking – i have enough problems with my camera and sunglasses!

  • #97The Guy

    Some interesting points raised and I am mixed in agreeing or not agreeing with them.

    For example I agree with the idea of not bringing soap, it is available in the vast majority of hotels or choices of accommodation.

    Reading material? Long trips can be boring during the travel stage and it is a good time to catch up. I read most when I travel. I agree books can weigh you down so I always have my kindle handy. Thousands of books stored up and able to read at a moments notice.

  • #98AJ

    I’m not so sure about leaving the towel behind. Sure, that takes up quite a lot of room. But even a small lightweight one is often better than you find in cheap backpacker places (if they have one at all).

    One thing I willbe doing on my next trip, is ditching the laptop for an ipad, that takes up almost no room in my pack.

  • #99Christian Rene Friborg

    I agree in most of the tips you gave here, especially with the jeans, books and reading materials. It is too much of a burden to be packing things that you don’t really need during a trip.

  • #100emma

    I think this list depends on where you travel. In East Africa I would have happily used a water purifying straw if one had been on hand, would have saved me hours of travel and pounds of bulk and a lot of worry, as well as shooting through one prescription of emergency antibiotics when I swallowed “bottled” water that had been refilled from some murky tap or puddle.

    I also watched “urban safariists” in their ultra clean zip off pants and chin-strapped safari hat get followed by every street merchant, sketchy opportunist and would-be “guide” in the town. It’s like the hallmark of the tourist with money. And in a land of squat toilets, maneuvering out of those things ensures a leg dragged through the muck on the choo floor. I brought some on recommendation of others, then quickly traded them in the local market once I saw how wrong a choice they had been. They did bring a good trade price though. So much easier for women to wear a longer skirt and flip flops in town, anyway.

    And I wouldn’t be without my jeans for travel. I don’t wash them more than once a month and especially in places with a lot of blowing dirt I don’t care at all if they get slightly grungy.

    However I do agree with the books… sadly! I always bring them and always they are the first things to go when I’m trying to reduce weight in my pack. At least they get me through the initial plane ride and I always wonder who picks them up where I’ve left them.

    And instead of a towel (even the quick dry ones feel creeeeeepy on my skin!) I use a sarong or kanga or whatever the local version of the large piece of soft fabric is. Those can be used as towels, cover up, sheet, blanket, scarf, skirt, bundler for laundry, etc.

  • #101The Joe Show

    This is a great article. I don’t know if I can travel without my iPod though. The thought of traveling in silence is frightening to me but maybe something that I should try one day. Also – I didn’t see children on this list – something that most people should leave at home. LOL I joke…kinda!

  • #1027 Years In

    I have to strongly disagree about the money belt thing. Money belts themselves are be a pain (they never seem to sit right), but one of the “hidden pocket” versions that hook onto your belt and tuck inside your pants works perfectly. There is nothing better than knowing that even in sketchy areas, your passport/bank card/etc. are protected. Plus, since it’s attached to your belt/pants, you will never forget it somewhere.

    And I would say a waterproof jacket is a MUST on any packing list, unless you travel exclusively in the summer, or only between the Tropics of Cancer and Capricorn.

  • #103John

    Great advice, I always buy charcoal tabs in case I get an upset tummy.

  • Add Your Comment

  • The Guy: I think Dave and Jodi raise some very valid points and they are consistent with my perceptions based on over...
  • Jay Daviot: Epic list! There are some great blogs there. Would love to see a few more blogs from photographers though...
  • John: I’ve always wanted to hitch hike across the USA.
  • Sara Wikoff: I found your post very interesting. I am just a Freshman in college and I have not decided my major yet....
  • John: Great advice, I always buy charcoal tabs in case I get an upset tummy.
  • Recently Featured Travel Blogs

    • A Girl and Her Thumb

      The thumb. A very useful part of the anatomy, especially when you decide to head out into the world, hitchhike and use other modes of transportation. For Jo Magpie, it (both actually) have served her well in her travels – always heading east. She’s once again on the move. Yup, east.

    • Home and Away

      Naomi, David and their two sons are ‘on a slow roam around the world’. Though both successful, David didn’t want his children to view him as the dad who was always working. So, with the business and house sold, possessions relocated – the four set off to explore. Their style of travel allows them to live/work in comfort while spending quality time with Lucas and Easy (Ezekiel).

    • Kiwi Blog Bus

      In 2008, the Annison family moved from the UK to New Zealand and bought a boat. In 2010, they upgraded to a camper van to explore the country. Though the cats stay home to help the elder son with the yard work and house, the remainder of the family (including the dogs) traverse the open roads of Kiwidom, searching for hidden treasures.

    • More of the best travel blogs