Two Backpackers
6 Things To Leave Off Your Packing List

What to Pack for Hiking

When you finally take the leap to travel long term, one of the first things on your mind is all the things you think you need to buy for your trip.  The travel gadget industry is making a fortune from us thinking that we have to pack a lifetime of gear into our tiny backpacks.

Pack List

I remember the excitement, scouring the internet for packing lists, creating a ridiculously long and expensive what to pack list.

And before you march to your favourite outdoor adventure store armed with a list of outrageously expensive travel gear you absolutely must have to be a true and authentic backpacker, you may want to rethink these ones.

Pack List

1. Special Travel Soap and Clothesline

I washed my t-shirts one time with the high priced travel soap.  Guess what?   I had soap stains on my shirt and it still smelled manky.  I have yet to visit a hostel that didn’t offer cheap laundry service or at least know where one was located nearby.

2. Universal Sink Stopper

I always carried one, but never used it.  If you arrive somewhere that doesn’t have one, just ask another backpacker to borrow it.  You can also use your smallest piece of clothing, possibly socks, to block the drain while you hand wash your other clothes.

Pack List

3. Silk Sleep Liner

Completely unnecessary in Latin America.  If a hostel is that dodgy, the thin silk layer isn’t going to convince me to stay.  If you really think you need one save yourself 50-80 dollars and get your mother to sew $2 sheets together.   When you realize I was right and you throw it away, you will have only wasted $2.  If you are a camper, then you probably have different reasons for needing one.

4. Hanging Toiletry Bag

Before you start daydreaming of waking up in the jungle, about to take a rainwater shower to the sounds of birds chirping and butterflies floating by, you need to know this.  There is no where to hang that bag, so half the time it’s on a toilet.  It also doesn’t fold well and takes up too much room in your bag.  Just buy a regular toiletry bag, not a special travel one.

Pack List

5. High Performance Travel Clothing

Unless you are planning to run a marathon you probably don’t need a $75 shirt.  Talk to anyone in a hot climate and they’ll tell you that the overpriced shirt becomes a sauna.  I fell for it too.  But, then I left my $100 merino wool sweater, that I wore once, in Panama.

Since then, it’s $10 fake Abercrombie and Fitch hoodies for me.

For the record, I do have zip off pants and while they are amazingly useful, but also a $100, they make me look like a gringo, so I wear them sparingly.  If you can’t find a cheap pair just forget them all together.  I would throw them out if they didn’t cost me so much.

Pack List

6. State of the Art Swiss Army Knife

Maybe it’s because I’m not in the jungle for months on end, or I’m a wussy girl, but I have only ever used my knife to clean my nails.  The other other thing I wanted to do with it was open a bottle of wine, but I realized it didn’t have a cork screw on it.

So tell me folks, what outrageous travel item have you bought and then realized you had absolutely no need for it?  What did you do with it?  Throw it out or continue to carry it in hopes you may use it one day?

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Related posts:

  1. Preparing to Travel To-Do List
  2. Lack of a Travel Itinerary
  3. 6 Month Travel Summary
  4. Choosing the Right Backpack
  5. RTW Trip Budgeting for Central America


Tags: backpacking, travel, Travel Gear, Travel Tips, Trip Planning

39 Responses

  1. Jeff
    2 days, 8 hrs ago

    I bought that darn silk cover too. Agree that it’s a waste.I might debate you on the swiss army knife. I got around fine without it, but there were times when it would have been nice to have. Good list!

  2. Brett
    2 days, 8 hrs ago

    I once bought an em-Power travel adaptor for use on airplanes. The main problem with this is that very few planes actually had the empower adaptor…and even then, only if I scored the upgrade to Business class! Turns out I have had more flights with normal US two-prong plugs than empower plugs! It does have the redeeming quality of allowing me to plug normal plugs into a car cigarette lighter due to that attachment…but then, only when driving and needing to charge somethin that does not have it;s own USB/Cigarette lighter adaptor. But then…this was all in 2004…my how technology has adapted since then!

  3. Frank Dolendi
    2 days, 7 hrs ago

    On my first backpacking trip I bought a “special” travel lock that came with a wire cord that was supposed to be used to secure my backpack when left in the guesthouse or hostel. It turned out to be somewhat useful but not in the way that I expected it to be. After all of the worrying about my bag, the fancy lock and cord ended up only being used as a laundry cord. lol A $25 dollar laundry cord. I NEVER ended up needing to “secure” my backpack the way I anticipated I would.

  4. Sarah
    2 days, 7 hrs ago

    Hi — great to discover your blog! But, I respectfully disagree about the clothesline. When my kids, husband and I traveled around the world (with just one bag each), we washed clothes in the sink almost daily and always used a braided clothesline to use them. I also am a fan of high-tech fabric shirts because they dry quickly. And we used our Swiss Army Knife as a can opener more than once!
    The thing we packed that all packing lists include, but we never used, was a towel, and they take up a lot of room in the bag. Wherever we stayed tended to have a towel, or we made do without one.
    happy trails!

  5. Taylor
    2 days, 7 hrs ago

    I use a little wad of toilet paper to plug the sink when I do laundry, it works great!
    Also heaps of prescription medicine from home… You can buy it anywhere for much cheaper! (unless you need special medicine… Im talking Cipro or Anti malaria pills)

  6. Sarah
    2 days, 7 hrs ago

    oops — typo above — I meant “to dry them”. Also, p.s., I totally agree about the sink stopper!

  7. Betsy Talbot
    2 days, 6 hrs ago

    Lots of people make the mistake of thinking that no one has what they do back home - but they do! So don’t bring a bunch of stuff you would normally just pick up at the store as you would need it (drugs, shampoo, toothpaste, soap, razors, etc.). If you plan to go to a really remote place at some point you’ll know it, and you can stock up beforehand.

    We brought giant bottles of antibiotics from the travel clinic with us which take up too much room and will probably expire long before we ever get around to using them.

    Great advice!

  8. Adam
    2 days, 6 hrs ago

    I spent six weeks traveling through Sudan and Kenya. I made the mistake of bringing books to read in my spare time. Not only did they put a weight drain on my back and shoulders, but I read through all of them in the first week. I’m not one to preach against reading (I’m an English teacher in NYC), but there are better things to fill your time on those long treks than reading what you’ve brought.

  9. Allison Suter
    2 days, 6 hrs ago

    I totally agree, and totally disagree, about some items you have listed.

    Universal sink stopper - priceless if you are a dude who shaves, unnecessary if you are a girl. They aren’t even that good for doing laundry.

    Swiss army knife … WITH corkscrew and scissors. I don’t care about anything else. Absolutely necessary.

    I proceed to bring my silk sleep sheet with me on all my long trips (bought fro $6 in Hanoi, so at least it didn’t set me back $80). I proceed to shake my head at it. every single time I open my bag.

    I can’t travel without an itty bitty memory card reader. Priceless for downloading pictures from your new friends!

  10. ayngelinai
    2 days, 5 hrs ago

    @Allison

    Totally agree if my multitool had a corkscrew it would be awesome, now its just a heavy nail file.

    Also agree on the multicard reader, I use it daily (albeit Im a blogger) but at least once a week someone borrows it.

    That said in Canada they are expensive, on the road super cheap.

    I think my mantra will be ‘if you really need it you can buy it there!’

  11. Michael Hodson
    2 days, 5 hrs ago

    for the first time I am going to both agree and disagree with an Ayngelina post. Totally agree on most of these, especially number 1. Laundry is cheap to do - and frankly, you are going to be wearing dirty cloths a lot anyway, since you are sweating so much. BUT, I partly disagree on number 5. The one high performance clothing that is a must get for me is the quick drying underwear and T-Shirts. Again, since you are sweating soooo much, the typical cotton shirts and boxer shorts are horrible. Having the more expense stuff that dries really, really fast is handy. Great list though.

  12. Jason
    2 days, 5 hrs ago

    Brett, I had the em-Power too for my MacBook. I originally purchased it to use for business trips. I figured, what the heck, I will bring it with me during our budget travels. Well, I sent it home with 15lbs worth of other stuff after 2 months of traveling. I was never on an airplane, nor a car, so had no chance to use it.

  13. Sheila
    2 days, 5 hrs ago

    Great list. I was seriously debating on getting the silk sleep liner, but I think I’ll pass.

  14. Akila
    2 days, 5 hrs ago

    Yep, we never used our silk sleep liner, rarely used our Swiss Army knife and ditched almost all our high performance t-shirts for regular old cotton shirts. However, my husband swears by the high performance underwear and pants and I like the bamboo wear sweaters because they are light and not smelly. Great post Ayngelina!

  15. Jason
    2 days, 4 hrs ago

    Frank, I have been there too. I purchased a wire lock to lock up things and never used it. I had so much stuff that was a waste. The unknown scares us, so we end up spending a lot of money to be prepared. Once we discover things are so bad, we realize we overreacted a little bit.

  16. Jason
    2 days, 4 hrs ago

    I can relate to so many comments here. We spent $300USD on Cipro and Malaria pills in the US. It was available everywhere in Latin America for a fraction of the cost. And, we stopped taking the Malaria pills anyway.

  17. Jason
    2 days, 4 hrs ago

    We are high performance clothing people too, but not the kind that looks high performance. Did that make sense? ExOfficio underwear is #1 for us. We wear it everyday and clean them in the sink almost every night. It lightens are load, because we only need a few pair and they dry quick. We did have a piece of rope that we used as a clothes line in our hostel room many nights, but we were in a private room. This would be a bigger problem in a dorm. We also had our clothes done by the laundry service, but as i said, the underwear, usually washed in the shower. I have an ExOfficio t-shirt too, that is only 15% cotton. It looks like a thin casual t-shirt, nothing like an Under Amour spandex shirt. I wear the thing constantly, it’s my favorite shirt.

    A lot depends on what type of traveling you are doing. If you are a camper / hiker, the list probably changes. But, for a casual backpacker / traveler it makes perfect sense. Aracely and I did do a lot of hiking, sometimes multi-day trips. This made the sleep sac desirable for us, because when we got in our sleeping bags at night, we were filthy and smelly. The silk sleep sacs kept our sleeping bags clean. And when it was to hot, they served as our sleeping bag in the tent.

  18. Jason
    2 days, 4 hrs ago

    We swear by the underwear too, specifically ExOfficio.

  19. jason
    2 days, 4 hrs ago

    I’m with you on all except the Swiss Army Kiife…mine has been used a lot: scissors, toothpick, tweezers, mini flashlight, screwdriver, etc.

    We do need a clothesline in countries where laundry gets expensive but dental floss will do the trick.

    Nice list.

    Jason

  20. Frank Dolendi
    2 days, 4 hrs ago

    Jason I totally agree. The second I touched down it became obvious to me that I wasn’t going to “get the use” out of the lock that I thought I was. I lost my fears quite fast thankfully.

  21. Frank Dolendi
    2 days, 4 hrs ago

    As far as the performance clothing goes, I stand by ExOfficio underwear. It is an absolute must for travel anywhere warm or humid and they only take 15 min. to dry after washing in the sink. Light, dry, and easy to pack, you would be crazy to bring anything else.

  22. Evi
    2 days, 4 hrs ago

    Great list, though I might quibble a bit on the sheet, if you’re in India at least. (Though definitely wouldn’t spring for the $80 silk one.) We ended up buying a sheet - couldn’t bring ourselves to sleep on another hairy, stained, nasty bed.

    Another thing I’d leave out is a power converter. All you really need is a universal plug adapter - I think almost all electronic devices by now convert the power themselves.

  23. ayngelina
    2 days, 3 hrs ago

    I had a pair of ex officio and agree they were awesome and I was devastated when I lost a pair of $15 underwear. Without getting too personal I wear $1 thongs that I buy along the way and they don’t take that long to dry. I certainly wouldn’t pay $14 more for ex officio again unless I wanted full briefs

    @Evi agree with you on the power converter and if people are thinking of getting an expensive plug adapter they may want to wait as here in Latin America they are 1-2 bucks

  24. Dalene
    1 day, 23 hrs ago

    My ex-officio stuff did not last long at all. Bra had massive hole in it within 6 months, and pants wore through pretty easily. Perhaps I needed to bring more clothes and stop re-wearing so much…hmmm. Won’t buy that line again.

    We brought our silk sheet liners and were so glad we did. Yes, we stayed in those sketchy hostels but even if the sheets probably were fine, sleeping in the sheets just made me feel a little safer. I am one who gets munched on by all hungry bugs within a 10 mile radius, so any bit of protection is welcomed by me!

  25. Liv
    1 day, 22 hrs ago

    I like to think of myself as very good at NOT overpacking but I have to confess sink plugs are not always easy to find in countries in the middle east, so I often take one of those. Wouldn’t bother if I was going to America, Australia etc though!

  26. Erin
    1 day, 21 hrs ago

    Completely agree with all of these. We do like our long sleeve merino tops as they are warm, don’t smell and are long lasting, but we could manage without them. On the other hand we could do with some quick drying socks -it was a real problem in colder climates.

  27. Melvin
    1 day, 21 hrs ago

    I agree, but not with the knife… that’s something I really like on my trips. It’s not that you use it daily, but it was good to have it a lot of times already.

  28. Warren Talbot
    1 day, 20 hrs ago

    I just love to see our favorite bloggers together teaming up with this post and the list of people who inspire us peppering the comments. Obviously what to leave behind is a popular topic and one we wish we had listened to more before we left.

    For some unknown reason we continue to carry the sink plug (which we have never used) and the silk sheets which were used once in the jungle to effectively fend off a puma in the middle of the night (at least that is the story we are both using as to why we keep carrying them). In truth, your article may be the final kick we need to donate them to the population here in Lima.

    My personal favorite about the expensive travel shirts we bought is the smell. Every time we go on a hike Betsy reminds me that my shirts stink (thanks to all the chemicals they put on them to resist sunlight, bugs, meteors, and screaming children) but I just can’t seem to part with them.

    Thank you for the intervention. I am going to pour a second glass of wine and reflect on my backpack.

  29. Dustin Main - Skinny Backpacker
    1 day, 20 hrs ago

    Agree with it all, except the clothes. I’m a big believer in proper clothes = good times. All my shirts besides one poly T are merino and I think they’re awesome. Warm when wet, cool on warm days. I will agree that they’re not fantastic 100% of the time, +40c jungle or Egyptian summer was a little much. I can’t stand wearing cotton T’s.

    My couple pairs of pants (besides one pair of gore-tex climbing pants) are zip offs. I don’t care if it makes me look like a tourist though.

    Brought a really basic swiss army knife, and barely use it. The mini scissors once in a while only.

    A lot of the things really depend on where you’re traveling though. Travel soap is handy when you’re camping, and a lightweight sleep liner (of one sort or another) is good for couchsurfing so your host doesn’t have to keep washing the sheets all the time for each guest.

  30. Kristi
    1 day, 19 hrs ago

    Agree on the power converter, I only needed an adapter for my electronics on a RTW trip and converters can be bulky & heavy. For a sink plug, I took a rubber grippy thing - you know those small, flat things you use to open jars? Takes up very little space, light, and can potentially be used for other things than plugging a sink. Haven’t used my clothesline a lot (it is a small, stretchy elastic one), but was really helpful a few times when I had to dry a lot of stuff due to the laundry situation or there weren’t any hangers available. It would be a good tip to find out the laundry situation in the countries/areas you’re visiting. For example, everyone (including the hostels) seemed to outsource their laundry to a service in the places I visited in Argentina & Chile so I wasn’t doing it myself. In other places, there are do-it-yourself laundry facilities everywhere. Same with towels. I took a travel towel - takes up a lot less space & dries much faster - and used it every day for months in countries where towels aren’t included at hostels and then didn’t use it for a month in a country where towels were included. I read a lot of reviews/blogs where people swore by them and others claimed they were unnecessary and/or smelled funky after awhile. For me, buying & taking one was the right choice, but it depends on where you’ll be. It was great in New Zealand because we had a car so I just hung it in the back seat after checking out of the hostel and it dried quickly as we drove to the next stop. That doesn’t work so well if traveling solely on public transportation… Washing it occasionally is a good thing.

    In the cooler climates where I’ve hiked a lot, wouldn’t trade my synthetic or wool clothes for anything - stay warm even if wet and dry so much faster than cotton. They aren’t necessarily high performance TRAVEL clothes, but high performance outdoor activity gear. A little more expensive, but I’ve always watched online for sales and bought them over time so I wasn’t spending a fortune right before a trip and have had good luck with durability. And they don’t comprise my whole wardrobe - I’ve still got cheap cotton tank tops & t-shirts that are just fine for a lot of days. Zip-off pants (or trousers as my British friends would say) saved a lot of room in my luggage - I could wear them over a pair of long underwear in really cold places and then as shorts in the tropics. I’ve used the corkscrew on my knife more than anything. Tried to use it on salami while camping & realized the knife was too dull to cut anything - if you’re going to haul one around, make sure it’s sharp! Doh!

    I love my hanging toiletry bag! Occasionally there hasn’t been a good place to hang it, but I’ve found more often there isn’t a place (at least a clean place) to set things down. Especially in hostel bathrooms that are a little dicey and covered with water, toothpaste, and who knows what, but I might be more picky about bathrooms & where I sit my stuff than most. More often than not, I’ve been glad to have the hanging bag which is the same one I use if I visit my out-of-town family overnight.

    Wow, I didn’t intend to address nearly every point of the article, but that’s my two cents based on my experience traveling round the world through drastically different climates. Even if I didn’t agree with everything, I think the completely valid take-away is that you don’t need every travel gadget or to spend a lot of money on unnecessary stuff just to take a big trip. Do a little research on your locations and introspection on your needs. It’s great to have everything you need on the road, but not if it makes it too difficult to be on the move and actually travel!

  31. Amy
    1 day, 19 hrs ago

    I think this is definitely a case of it depends on your personal preferences and where you’ll be. I have to disagree on almost every item, but others obviously feel differently. I agree on the special soap, because you’ll run out in a few weeks anyway, but the clotheslines is invaluable. Often there is little room to hang wet clothes. Although they aren’t perfect, I’m sad we lost our sink stopper behind in some random sink because many places don’t have them and a sock stuffer never works for me. I used my silk sleep sack every day in India because the levels of cleanliness in almost every place we stayed, from low to mid-level, were not the same as it home. In other countries I haven’t touched it, which is why I’m glad we went with the smallest and lightest version possible, even though the silk was expensive. I love my hanging toiletry bag - I find places to hang it and find it to be compact enough. We lost our multi-tool, so we’ve been living without it, but just yesterday we bought some fruit and had no way to cut it.

    So with everything in travel, it just depends on your preference! Good article though - it gives rtwsoon people some food for thought.

  32. Kim
    1 day, 18 hrs ago

    Dammit. I already bought my silk sleep sack. At least you saved me for a few other unnecessary purchases.

  33. Abbey Hesser
    1 day, 15 hrs ago

    Alright. Throwing my two cents in. I know a lot of people are freaking out about the silk sack. IMHO… I looove love love my sleep sack. It’s not silk. It’s not intended to fend off dragons or malaria infested mosquitoes or even bad looking men. It’s sole purpose is that I always sleep better in my own sheets. Hostel sheets are generally shitty and scratchy and I don’t LIKE it. For no other reason than that, I always and forever will keep my sheet sleep sack to go around me while I’m sleeping. In addition to that, it’s great for sleeping without pants on and for changing in if you happen to get bottom bunk but don’t have time to wait for the bathroom line to die down to just change. And did I mention sleeping without pants on? How often do you get to do that when you’re staying in hostels? The answer for me… every. night.

  34. RenegadePilgrim
    1 day, 14 hrs ago

    I agree on the travel soap. I used the Sea to Summit soap on a trek across Spain on the Camino de Santiago and it just didn’t get my clothes clean. Later on in my travels, my sister brought me some Dr. Bronner’s and it worked better. Once I was able to be in more “civilized” areas, then I was able to have my laundry done.

    As far as the “Tech” clothing, there are ways to get good deals on those kinds of clothes and there is NO way I would have wanted cotton clothing when I was in SE Asia. I was so glad to have my lightweight, quick-dry, synthetic clothing.

    And, lastly, I took my Leatherman with me and it was indispensable. I am very glad I took it.

    I liked this list though….it’s always good to share!

  35. Madhu Nair
    1 day, 5 hrs ago

    :) I have a swiss knife somewhere in my backpack … :) Have been on the road for about 18 months - haven’t used it even once :)

  36. Jaime
    1 day, 2 hrs ago

    I am about to take off on my RTW trip in 25 days and thankfully none of these items are going to be in my backpack. I have read through so many packing list that many of the bloggers have made. I love reading packing list & i am actually taking a lot of advise from everyone. I will be traveling light & everything is going to fit in my 40L backpack!

  37. Kelly Harmon, HipTraveler
    23 hrs, 8 mins ago

    Enjoyed the post and the lunacy of packing for a long trip! It’s hard especially with diverse climate changes and unexpected adventures. The only two items on the list that I’ve actually enjoyed having with me are 3.) silk sleeping bag, and 5.) high performance clothing. You don’t have to spend a lot on either. I bought my silk sleeping bag in the Hanoi night market in Vietnam for $3 and it made my overnight rides on the trains down right comfortable. Throw in iPod speakers (for music that reminds me of home) and some cheap snacks before boarding the long-haul trains and it’s practically a slumber party! Seriously fun! you can ball up one of your shirts to slip inside the sewn-in pocket of the liner and voilà you’ve got a silk pillow to sleep on. Besides, as a female, the silk sleeping bag provided some minor sense of comfort while sleeping in a train cabin packed with strangers / men. With regard to 5.) high performance clothing, I always travel with one Patagonia / North Face style pull-over and zip-up. Again, you don’t have to spend a lot. I bought mine for $14 in Sapa, Vietnam and was told that many of these popular American brands are made there, so it’s cheap! But if you can’t buy your travel clothes in Asia, Old Navy makes cheap $20 alternatives in the states. I’ve seriously worn mine everywhere… on early morning game drives in Africa, to freezing mountain climbs, to walking around metropolitan cities like Rome or London. I also learned the hard way that cotton (when wet) draws heat away from your body, while synthetic high performance clothing helps keep you warm… even when you’re stuck sleeping outside in the pouring rain. In general though, I second the notion of light weight fast-drying clothing that’s easy to layer, depending on the weather.

    cheers,
    hiptraveler

  38. Erica
    11 hrs, 11 mins ago

    We’re trying to put together our travel supplies so it is nice to read other people’s reviews of items. It looks like I won’t be buying those silk sheets!

    I was wondering about the Ex-Officio underwear. It looks like I will be investing in some of those!

  39. JB
    6 hrs, 49 mins ago

    I also would have to disagree about performance clothing, though what is meant by that might vary. For me it means mostly shirts that are made of synthetic materials. Nike dri-fit is the most popular example but Champion makes a nice, much cheaper alternative and I have a shirt from Asics that I like as well. Didn’t pay much for any of them and I love them. People always talk about ex-officio underwear and I have two pair but I have found Champion’s C9 brand offerings just as good and likewise for Underarmour.

    As for convertible pants, they seem to be a big point of contention but I personally love mine. I agree they make you look like a tourist, but I really don’t think I am going to ever pass as a local anyway so I don’t worry about it. Function and comfort first is my mantra. Plus, looking like a tourist isn’t always such a bad thing as you sometimes end up in some interesting conversations on the street as a result.

    I like having a hanging toiletry bag, but if I had to choose again I would find a different model than mine (Rick Steves). I just saw a really nice one that a German guy had from Jack Wolfskin (?). The difference was really just how it was laid out - his used space more efficiently and flexibly.

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