Be honest. Most of us don't know how to pack an overnight bag that doesn't look like a small floatation device. We're spoiled and comfortable in our home countries and we think we need tons of stuff to compliment every detail of our lives.
All that is fine and dandy until you embark on your first backpacking adventure. Then you realize how ridiculous your materialism is and discover the true importance of life.
This post is designed to help newbies understand how much you DON'T need to pack when stuffing your backpack. You'll want your luggage to be as light and portable as possible, if for no other reason than convenience in hopping off and on trains, planes and busses.
So here's my list of what NOT to pack for your backpacking adventure:
Make up – The goal here is to cram everything into one medium-ish bag that fits on your back. Make up is the first to break, melt and spill. Backpackers also aren't known for their glamour, so join in the stereotype and indulge your make-up free, earthy personality. You probably won't even miss it.
Jewelry – Don't even bother. I am a huge jewelry fanatic but on my travels I don't even bother anymore. Most of the time you will be working or hiking or doing something outdoorsy. There will be a few nights you make it to the club but even then, jewelry is not a priority. Save yourself the room and the high-theft profile by leaving this stuff at home.
Hair product – Again, most of your time will be spent outside doing hard work or fun hikes. Throw on a bandana and a pull your hair back into a ponytail because all that straightening and conditioning isn't going to do you much good while on the move. Think how much room you can save by not bringing a hair dryer, a straightener, leave-in conditioner, teasing combs, etc.
Electronics – Millennials, trust me. This isn't as hard as it seems. As a backpacker short on space, it is important to leave as many electronics at home as possible. Not only are they heavy and bulky but they take up lots of room and of course you'd have to pack a charger for each device too. If you write or work from online you can bring a laptop but other than that, leave the goods at home. You will also be glad you don't have to worry so much about theft.
Shoes – This is a hard one for most folks. It's easy to talk yourself into taking four, or six or twelve pairs of shoes – you know, just in case something comes up – but the truth is you only need about two pairs of shoes. I recommend flips flops that can be worn around town and doubled as shower shoes and a pair of tennis shoes. Everything else...is irrelevant.
Business clothes – Unless you have been promised a real job that requires business dress, I wouldn't even touch those khakis. I packed several biz-cas outfits for my first trip and boy was that a waste of space. I donated several outfits to a trash bin outside of Adelaide before the end of my third month.
Tons of books – As an avid reader, I know how hard it can be not to pack the top five books currently on your reading list. But as a backpacker, it's important to remember the golden rule of traveling light. Start with one book and when you finish it, find a book exchange at a nearby hostel. I realized I had an unending stream of interesting books by constantly swapping books in and out throughout my trip. The best part? Other than the first book, it didn't cost me a dime!
Absolutely anything that isn't an everyday necessity for survival.
Honestly, take about four outfits that are comfortable and easy to move around in. Use these for work and travel. Bring one t-shirt dress or v-neck shirt and board shorts that you can wear out to the club for the occasional outing. Pack a swim suit and something to sleep in and call it good. You really don't need more than that when you're backpacking. Once a week do laundry and where the heck out of those four outfits until all of your pictures are a blur of the same four t shirts.
Backpacking isn't about luxury or glamor or high-spending. It's about recognizing the mindset of living small, under budget and in the moment. Less is always more.