Five items you don't need to take backpacking

Say 'backpacking' and what springs to mind? Endless days spent on stunning beaches? Experiencing different cultures like the locals do? Or frazzled travellers carting an over-sized, over-stuffed bag on their bended back? Hmm...possibly a combination of all three. 

Planning an extended trip around the world is hugely exciting and there is a lot of advice online about what to take with you to guarantee your survival. There are gadgets and guides a-plenty, fancy clothing and jazzy 'essentials' galore, but with restrictions on your baggage allowance, not to mention what you can physically carry, it's worth knowing what you can leave behind.

Here are five things you don't need to take backpacking:

A sleeping bag

"What?" you might exclaim, but bear with us. Unless you are actually travelling to the ends of the earth, then don't pack a sleeping bag - buy one when you're out there. It's a faff to pack and a faff to carry, taking up valuable space. In fact, what a lot of backpackers recommend is to take a sleeping bag liner with you and snooze in that - it's cooler, smaller and easier to wash (yes, you'll need to wash it). Otherwise, you'll be able to pick one up cheaply from any number of backpacker-geared shops when you arrive at your destination.

Water bottle

All of the camping and backpacking shops will have rows of fancy water bottles on display. Some are unsquashable, some roll up, others are insulated, but each is unnecessary. You don't need a water bottle; it's just one more space-onsuming item that will need to be properly washed out. It also implies you will decant water into it from a tap, but you can't always trust tap water. Buy the sealed, bottled stuff and make sure you recycle your empties.

Wash cloths and towels

No and no again. Your mother may have instilled in you the practice of washing with a flannel, but it's a habit you'll need to get out of when backpacking, as they never get dry and they are never clean. Instead, they just smell and harbour minuscule populations of bacteria - which is just not nice. Dump the wash cloth. If you're brave enough, leave the towel behind too - many hostels will issue you with one if you ask. Failing that, buy a quick-drying version. Never bother with a beach towel, though; just pick up a cheap sarong from a beachside stall and lay on that.


Backpacking is fun and provided you have the right insurance and exhibit some degree of common sense, then you should enjoy your amazing experience without incident. This covers leaving your valuables at home. Sadly, wherever large numbers of people come together - be it in a hostel, at an airport lounge, at a mountainside campsite or a beach party, there will be opportunists looking for something to steal. Don't risk losing your grandmother's ring, your seven platinum credit cards or your latest generation tablet; leave them at home. If you are going to take an item of sentimental or monetary value, ensure your travel insurance policy covers it and know where it is at all times.

Guide books

Again, "what?" You need that guide book, right? Wrong, you don't. It is heavy and takes up far too much room. Read your guide books beforehand and get the information you need, perhaps download an app or access the guides online from an internet café (to prevent extortionate roaming charges) or simply ask other travellers for their recommendations. If there's one thing a backpacker loves to do, it's talk about where they've been so far, trust us. You'll meet people who'll tell you where to stay and what to visit - you probably won't even look at that guide book once you've landed, so leave it behind.

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