There’s no shortage of packing list articles on the Internet today — and the amount of information given can be overwhelming for a new traveler. The majority of these articles focus on everything that you should bring with you, so we’re going to write about what you should leave behind. With so much conflicting information out there, how do you know what’s worthwhile packing and what’s going to end up being a waste of space?
With two years of backpacking experience, here are the items that haven’t worked for me.
A money belt
Money belts are nearly always included in packing lists as en essential item to keep your money safe and secure when you travel. I read these articles and dutifully packed my shiny new money belt the night before leaving. On the very first day of my trip, I proudly took it from my backpack, strapped it under my clothes and began exploring.
It took less than an hour for me to really start to despise the money belt. It was large and uncomfortable, and made of material that sticks to you when it’s hot outside. It didn’t fit to the shape of my body, instead rubbing against me. Walking into a store and paying for something involved an awkward process where it looked like I was rummaging around in my underwear for change.
What to take instead: Act how you would at home — put your money in a pocket, a wallet, a purse or your daypack. There is, however, one exception: if you’re going to be traveling somewhere where crime rates are high (think Rio de Janeiro), then it’s worth getting one of our recommended money belts.
For most places in the world, however, it’s completely unnecessary.
A Silk Sleeping Bag Liner
With visions of hostels being dirty, bed bug infested places, I paid almost $100 for a silk sleeping bag liner that I have never used. Hostels are clean, cautious of bed bugs and bedding is changed regularly.
What to take instead: Nothing. Make sure to check the reviews beforehand and don’t stay anywhere that sounds dirty or bug-ridden.
Dedicated Travel Clothing
Dedicated travel clothing, such as $100 t-shirts that keep you cool or zip-off pants that keep you from looking cool are simply not worth what you pay for them. The biggest problem with travel-specific clothes is that it makes you look like a traveler — and by looking like a traveler you’re an attractive target for thieves.
Dedicated travel clothing is expensive, ugly and makes you stand out in the countries you travel through. If you wouldn’t wear it back home then you won’t enjoy wearing it on the road.
What to take instead: Pack the kind of clothes you’d wear at home.
An Entire Cupboard Worth of Medicine
We all do it. We want to prepare for every single incident that could possibly occur on the road and so pack our backpack with dozens of different pills for every ailment. I left with 200 x motion sickness pills, 100 x paracetamol, 100 x ibuprofen, 100 x Imodium, 5 months worth of anti-malarials, 50 x rehydration sachets, 50 x Benadryl, 50 x congestion relief tablets, 2 courses of antibiotics, 100 x bandaids… the list goes on.
Most of these I’ve barely touched; half have since expired. Every single thing I’ve mentioned above I’ve been able to buy in every country I’ve visited. In fact, a lot of the time when I’ve felt ill I’ve actually been outside and popped into a pharmacy to get supplies, adding to what I already had back at the hostel
What to take instead: By all means, take everything mentioned above, but you don’t need to take hundreds of everything. Take one packet on each and replace them when you run out.
Expensive Swiss Army Knives
Another item that always pops up on travel packing lists is an extremely expensive Swiss Army knife. I spent over $150 on mine and haven’t used it once.
What to take instead: Look for a much cheaper knife that comes with scissors and a bottle opener — that’s probably all you’ll use one for.