Not ending up with hoards of unused crap at the bottom of your backpack comes down to knowing a bit about yourself and your trip before you leave. So before you hop on that plane, do a bit of introspecting by asking yourself these questions:
What do you want to do while overseas? Climb mountains? Partake in a dose of cultural tourism? Wander through ancient temples? Eat until your zipper pops noisily off?
Where will you mostly be based? Camping? Up a tree? At the beach?
This touch of thinking will go a long way when deciding what to take with you.
After comparing packing lists and (at times) empathizing over back pain with travellers on the road, several items kept coming up in conversations. Things which that ended dying a lonely, forgotten at the bottom of backpacks. Do you really need these 10 overrated items?
1. Malaria pills
So many travellers in South America run around with unused bottles of pills in their packs. But these are only necessary when you’re truly going to a malaria-infected zone, and as a bonus, are often cheaper in the country in question. Check with more sources than just your doctor before making your purchase (as docs can be pretty prescription-happy, after all!).
2. Elastic clothesline
Sure, these babies are light weight and small. But if you think about it you can knot your undies over almost anything or sling your clothes over a rock, fence or chair. Basically, as long as there’s sun, you’re done.
3. Dressy shoes
One of the first things to die unused in a backpack, your dressy shoes will surely come out once. But soon enough you’ll see that on a night out – unless you like to visit the Ritzes of the world on your trips – you can use a headscarf, pair of earrings or pashmina to dress up your usual jeans-and-top or light summer dress, and no one will be in the least offended if you’re wearing *gasp!* normal sandals.
4. Dozens of every type of clothing
Seriously, with three tops, a week’s worth of undies, a couple of bottoms and a multi-purpose dress, you’re good to go. Remember, you’re not going to Mars, so if you truly find you’re missing an item, pick it up on the road (and get a souvenir in the process).
5. Enormous hiking boots
Know your trip. If your ultimate purpose is to scale heights and experience altitude sickness, than by all means, your boots must go with you. But if you’re doing the occasional, regular sort of challenging hike plus a spot of camping, you can probably get by with a pair of runners.
6. Tent and roll up foam mattress
Same deal. Are you going to be continually camping? If not, rest assured that your hostels and Couchsurfing hosts will be offering you some sort of horizontal, reasonably soft sleeping surface!
7. Money belt
Basically, these babies are obvious, ugly and scream: “Hey guys, I’ve got valuables in here!” every time you have to search for through them to find cards or cash. If you’re worried about leaving your valuables back at your accommodation, use an inner pocket: Sew a small calico pouch to the inside waistband of your trousers and store your cards and extra cash there. It’s impossible for someone to get at it without your being very aware of the fact, they aren’t bulky like a money belt can be, and if you must take cash out of it during the day it looks much more stealthy.
8. Padlock or backpack security mesh
Guys, putting a padlock on your back, tying it to posts at train stations, or God forbid, encasing it in one of those backpack security mesh thingummibobs – is like attaching a sign to it that says “Lots of valuable stuff in here, folks.” Instead, have your true valuables attached to you (See Step 7) and don’t cling to your pack like a Titanic survivor to a life jacket. Less intense attention = less chance someone, erm, unsavoury, will take an interest in your belongings.
Let yourself go a little bit. Use locals and other travellers as your guides. Ask them questions. Listen. Let it marinate. Make decisions on what you’d like to see – and go.
10. Day pack
Again, if you’re not planning on heading off on dozens of day hikes, a small backpack is generally unnecessary for exploring towns, cities, beaches and the like. A little sling pouch bag, or foldable cotton shopping bag is usually enough to carry about what you need for the day.
What have I missed? What dies at the bottom of your backpack when travelling?
P.S. You might also like 17 Cheap, Easy to Find, Must-take Travel Items (You Probably Already Have at Home).