What NOT to pack when backpacking
Okay, we're all guilty of overpacking and taking things with us that don’t even leave our backpack. When you’re at home packing for your big trip, tossing in that extra pair of skinny jeans seemed like a really good idea, but when you’re lugging your backpack around in the heat of Vietnam, all that is on your mind is, “why the hell did I pack all this stuff!”
What I could take if I had a porter to carry my bag
I have still not mastered the art of packing, but there are a few things I have learned along the way that I can share which will hopefully make your backpack a little lighter!
When I start to pack, I lay out all of my clothes and things I want to take. This is my dream packing list, this is what I could take if I had a porter to carry my bag, but I don’t, so I half what I have. Then I try and put it in my backpack and it doesn't fit, so I half it again! Then if my pack is still bursting at the seams I take out even more, because I know I'll want to buy some souvenirs from my trip, and how am I going to carry them around if I just have enough room in my bag for the clothes I have now?
Here is my list of things you can do without. However, this list does vary depending on the climate of the countries you are visiting and the length of time you are there.
HIGH HEELS / NICE SHOES / DRESSY CLOTHES
I don’t know why I do this, but I always take one nice pair of shoes and I NEVER wear them. I always think I will need them for a night out or something, but I always end up wearing flip flops. The only time I really suggest taking nice shoes backpacking is if you are going on a working holiday and are looking for a job right away. If you’re not looking for a job right away and plan on travelling for a few months first, just buy a pair when you get an interview. Same with dressy clothes—take one top or dress that can be dressed up or down and that is fine, and like the shoes, you can buy some office attire if you're job seeking.
LOTS OF BOOKS
I love guidebooks and I still find room for them in my bag. Even with having the internet at hand in most places I still like to have a book. I think it's the fact I can take it everywhere and even read it when I'm on the move or have no battery power, or no wifi. However, I don’t take a stack of books—one guidebook and one novel. You can usually swap books at hostels, so I swap when I'm done reading it. I also carry a journal and sometimes an address book, so that's four books right there. I did tell you I'm still trying to master packing light!
EXTRA TOILETRIES, LOTS OF COSMETICS, HAIR DRYERS AND STRAIGHTENERS
This one mainly applies to women. You can buy shampoo and conditioner in other countries, you know! It may not be the brand you're used to, but it usually works, so keep your bottles small and buy a new bottle when you run out. I even resorted to 2-in-1 shampoo when I was travelling in Australia to save space. Same goes for shower gel—use shampoo if you are really packing light, it does the same thing. Also I find if I am travelling in a hot country I hardly wear make-up, maybe just mascara, that’s it. Hair dryers just take up too much space and so do straighteners. Again, same as the ‘nice shoes’: if you are on a working holiday and plan to travel first, then just buy a new hairdryer when you get settled; they are cheap enough. Let your hair be ‘au natural’ when you are travelling!
FLUFFY TOWELS/PILLOWS/SLEEPING BAGS/SLEEP SHEETS
You’ll find that most hostels all over the world provide linen, so you won’t need a sleeping bag, pillows or sleep sheet. However, if you are going to more remote places or plan on camping then a small sleeping bag or sleep sheet is ok. Don’t bother with a fluffy towel or beach towel either, these take ages to dry and take up too much space. Invest in a travel towel, they may not be as luxurious as your towel at home, but they do the job. Sarongs are a good space saver, too, and can be used a beach towel, picnic blanket, sheet, privacy shelter, sun shade, skirt, dress, head scarf, you name it!
We do love our gadgets, but you can’t take them all
EVERY GADGET UNDER THE SUN
iPhone, iPad, iPod, laptop, tablet, smartphone, digital camera, SLR camera, kindle, kobo, Nintendo 3DS, we do love our gadgets, but you can’t take them all! Not only do they take up space, the chargers alone can fill up a small backpack, and they are waiting to get stolen. Choose your electronic friend carefully and make sure it does all you want it to do. Personally, I travel with my phone and tablet or laptop (depending on my length and type of trip, the tablet/laptop sometimes gets left at home), a small mp3 player and a small digital camera (if your phone doesn't cover these for you). These can all fit in my daypack and be carried with me if needed or if there are no security lockers in the hostel.
JEANS OR MORE THAN TWO PAIRS OF PANTS – WEATHER DEPENDENT OF COURSE
Lots of people say don’t take jeans, but I still do if I am travelling where the climate is not always boiling hot. I don’t want to look like a backpacker or hiker when I am in a city, I feel more comfortable walking around a city on a cloudy day in my jeans. I usually take one pair of jeans and one pair of linen, cotton or zip-off pants, but if I am going to country where I know it is going to be VERY hot all of the time, I will leave my jeans behind and just take linen pants which can be worn to cover up from the sun or when visiting temples.
Have you ever over packed, taken something with you and never used it? Hopefully this list helps you out when you’re packing for your next trip.