What you don't need to lug around while travelling. What you will possibly never need.

My general list, adapted from Leo Babauta's Ultralight:

  • Nice clothes – Suits, fancy dresses, things you'd wear to a high-end restaurant or on the runway. Go for simplicity and comfort!
  • Extra pants – If you are wearing one functional pair1, you will only need something to tie you over while the first pair is drying, a few hours at the most. They could be the shorts that you also use for swimming and running, but if you can wash privately at night, you don't need to bring any extras!
  • Extra shoes – Depending on your situation, you might want running shoes, hiking boots, or trail shoes. The second pair always comes free: Barefoot.
  • Cotton clothes, jeans – Everyone loves jeans! And cotton! But they're heavy, they aren't easy to wash, they take forever to dry, they're uncomfortable and cold when they're wet, and they can chafe if they're wet and you're walking around in them all day. Wear synthetics!
  • Jacket - These are bulky and not necessary for most places, even if it's quite cold. A wind/rain shell over fleece and base layer or T-shirt is good enough for most situations. Add an extra layer if the climate is cold.
  • Winter scarf – Maybe bring a long and thin head scarf that you can use for sun protection and as a scarf. You probably don't need any.
  • Gloves – Unless you go skiing, your hands will be just fine.
  • Hair straightener, dryer, curling iron, shampoo, etc. – Hair usually cleans and dries well when washed with water.
  • Makeup – I know many people like makeup, but surely nobody needs it.
  • Paper books – I appreciate paper books, and my girlfriend loves them. We both realised that books are far too heavy for travelling. Instead, we now read on our phones.
  • Notebooks – For years I would bring along a Moleskine notebook, hoping to journal or write or sketch. Barely ever happened, found I don’t need this. Just write on my phone.
  • Travel pillow – These are nice and bring one if you want, but most of these are bulky (the non-inflatable ones), and the inflatable ones aren't that comfortable. I make do without one.
  • Soap – Wherever you're going; there will already be soap there.
  • MP3 player – Use your phone.
  • Bluetooth speaker – You’re not a DJ. Bring earphones!
  • DSLR camera and assorted lenses and gear – If you’re serious about photography, sure, bring a small camera. But most of us just want some pretty travel photos we can share or document our trip with, and your camera phone works just fine for that.
  • GoPro – Most people aren’t adventure travellers, just use your camera phone.
  • Flashlight – Use your phone, but you probably won't need it.
  • Clothesline and sink stop – There is always space to hang a few clothes. For washing, sinks work in most cases. When the tub is too small or doesn't have a stop, I wash items in the watertight bag otherwise containing electronics.
  • Electric toothbrush – Manual toothbrushes work fine, are less prone to failure, and take up less space.
  • Jewellery – You're not travelling to win a fashion show unless you're a professional model.
  • Guidebooks – I used to always buy a guidebook for whatever destination I’m going to, but it’s bulky, and most of it isn’t needed. Instead, now I do research online and save critical info to a doc that I store on my phone.
  • A daypack – Some people bring a bigger backpack (55L for example) and then a daypack for walking around. Just carry the daypack!

You might want to pack many little things, which you could either do without or easily acquire if you need them. Avoiding overpacking gets easier as soon as you uncover the fears or ambitions beneath. For me, the one lesson I have to learn over and over again is: The heavy camera and laptop in my bag aren't bringing me any closer to being a good photographer. I am looking forward to eventually travelling without both.

  1. I like Bluffworks. Outlier are also good. ↩︎