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Struggling with what not to pack in your backpack for travel? Don’t worry, this post will have you covered.
We all have those little luxuries that we rely on. That concealer to make our eye bags disappear, those tongs that tame our frizz, that moisturiser that cures all ills, dry shampoo (which quite frankly, saves lives and actually could be deemed essential).
But, while we’re travelling and especially backpacking, space and weight are paramount.
With so many airlines being stricter with their luggage allowance and to avoid unnecessary back pain and frustration with your pack it’s vital that we sacrifice anything that isn’t completely necessary.
Of course, we’re not saying you live without your contour kit if it will make you have a better time and your cheekbones on point for those selfies.
But, if you’re choosing between that and toothpaste – this guide should help you get your priorities straight and even make more room for the stuff you need.
Believe me, when I say, you will NOT need a hairdryer.
Not only does it take up room in your pack but it’s not as necessary as you think.
When travelling in hot climates, the mixture of the sun and warm air will dry even the longest and thickest of locks in around 10 minutes.
If you’re worried about that natural-dry frizzy look, bring a comb with you on your adventures to brush it out.
If you’re anticipating the brain freeze you’ll experience when stepping out of a shower with wet hair into the cold most hostels/hotels will provide hairdryers for you in your shared/private bathroom.
If not, they will have one for you to borrow for a small deposit. Plus, there are countless benefits to saving tresses from the heat.
Not only will it show off you’re gorgeous natural style but it can give it some strength, make it grow faster and it will get that well-needed rest.
2. Beach Towel
This is going to sound really crazy but that fluffy beach towel in your backpack isn’t a necessity.
Not only will it be heavy and take up a lot of space, but can take hours to dry and if packed wet, can make your bag smell– ew!
My personal advice would be to consider buying a quick-dry microfibre towel or Turkish peshtamal. These can be bought easily and cheaply from your local outdoor shop or online.
These are both lightweight, take up next to no space, and can dry in a matter of minutes.
I will warn you that these come up small, so if you’re like me and love to wrap up in a towel after bathing I would buy an extra-large one or check the measurements before you buy.
From previous experience, I liked having both a microfibre towel for washing and peshtamal for the beach. Both are lighter and take up less space than a normal towel.
Some hostels and most hotels provide cotton towels for you free of charge as part of the room rate.
Top tip: If you’re worried about chilling on the beach without a towel, you can double up your microfibre, peshtamal, or even sarong/pashmina to chill out and catch those rays!
3. Mosquito Net
A lot of backpacking advice sites recommended taking a mosquito net with you if travelling to countries with malaria present.
Of course, this isn’t bad advice if you’re planning to go off the beaten track or delve into the jungle.
But, if you do a bit of research on the net or ask your doctor – you will find that most of the cities, touristy or built-up areas are low on the scale and so your normal malaria medication and mosquito repellent should be enough protection.
Lots of hostels, huts, or places you will stay if trekking will provide you with mosquito nets or have them hanging above the beds anyway. This is a great help and can provide you with some extra space in your bag.
When I travelled for four months around South East Asia, I chucked out my mosquito net after the first month as I simply didn’t need it. But, if you really feel it will put your mind at ease, go right ahead. It’s better you feel protected and have a good night’s sleep than panic.
Important: I recommend you take your prescribed malaria medication as advised by your doctor and should protect yourself at all times with a mosquito repellent around 50% DEET or above. If in doubt, always consult a medical advisor.
4. More than one pair of Jeans…or any at all!
Depending on where you’re travelling to, you won’t need denim jeans. Yes, they’re durable, comfy, and make your bum look good.
But If you’re travelling to a hot country those jeans, although cotton, will be uncomfortable to move around in.
For your backpack, they’re bulky, heavy, and take a year to dry if caught in the rain or you decide to wash them.
But, if you feel you couldn’t live without your denim threads while on the road then you certainly don’t need two pairs! Better to save essential room and stick with feather light cotton clothing.
5. Too many books
I’m pretty old school and so love to read a book that I can hold in my hands.
I love turning the pages and having something to refer to. But, having too many in your pack can weigh you down.
It got to a point where I had four books in my pack and I refused to let go!
Then I discovered a lot of hostels have bookcases with free book swaps which is an awesome idea.
So, when you’ve finished your book, fancy a change or you’re done with your travel guide – swap it for another or leave it on the shelf to find a good home.
Alternatively, if you don’t fancy paperbacks – you could invest in a Kindle or tablet.
Travel guides, books, magazines all can be downloaded to a multitude of devices including your smartphone nowadays.
Release the burden of carrying a library on your back!
6. Too much makeup
I would be a hypocrite if I told you not to bring any makeup whatsoever.
Lots of women will tell you not to bother. We’re all different.
Personally, I feel more confident with my makeup essentials. I also found it depends on what country and climate you’re visiting.
Those on fleek eyebrows may look great but could melt when you’re out in the sun!
For example, I found I needed less makeup in hot countries like Asia (due to the foundation and eyeliner literally melting off my face) but more in colder climates such as New Zealand in their winter.
I couldn’t possibly tell you what essential makeup items are for you but packing every ‘what if’ beauty product could take up a lot of unnecessary room.
At the end of the day, bring what would make you feel confident and comfortable.
A lot of the advice here is just guidance and not set in stone. You will learn for yourself what does and doesn’t work for you.
It all depends on how you’re choosing to travel, the countries and climates you’re visiting, for how long and you’re personal preference.
One great thing I saw a group of three girls do on my travels is to share the weight of some items they felt they needed in their packs. This included straighteners, tongs, and a full-sized hair conditioner!
Essentially, they then had three times the size/weight in their packs as they shared the load and had everything they needed by working as a team.
Ultimately, you should never sacrifice what you’re comfortable with and so if it’s something that’s really important to you – pack it.
You can always donate it, send it home or chuck it away later on.
Read more of my travel articles below!
Why the Osprey Farpoint 40 backpack is the best for travel
Reasons why you NEED to try travelling solo
How to take photos of yourself while travelling solo