Ten things you think you'll need...

...but DON'T. 


It's easy to get caught up in "What if"-Land while packing for your backpacking trip. Trust me, everyone goes through it. Most of those "what-ifs" will make your life in the backcountry miserable simply because of the additional weight, so I recommend keeping yourself in check. Remember: every ounce counts. 

Here are ten things to leave at home:

  1. Arm warmers: Maybe this one's just a me thing. I'm kind of embarrassed to admit it now, but it's true. On my first extended trip, I took a pair to use when it was "too chilly" to hike in only a t-shirt, but it'd be too warm to put my jacket on. Please. Just don't do it. You'll warm up just fine. 
  2. A whole bag of toiletries: All you need is a very small bottle of castille soap. Use it as your shampoo, toothpaste, and dishwashing soap. It can do it all, and you only need a few drops. Leave all those "travel sized" bottles at home!
  3. A book: (Especially a hard-cover book! I once carried David Brooks' Social Animal on an overnight trip.) I admit this item might be slightly controversial, but here's my thinking...you'll be pretty tired at the end of the day. By the time you eat and get cleaned up, you might just want to sit and enjoy your surroundings, chat with your buddies or pass out. For me, reading was the last thing on my mind.
  4. Extra socks: I personally take one pair to wear while hiking, and one I wear at camp. After I wash my feet, I want something clean to wrap my feet with. (It helps me sleep to know I'm somewhat clean.) You will very likely not need more than two pairs - the one you're wearing, and one additional. 
  5. Dry sacks: One time I took three dry sacks so I could keep things organized just in case I lost something. If I didn't take so much stuff with me, I wouldn't have needed so many sacks. If you have OCD tendencies and need organization, consider using Ziploc bags instead. Then, reuse them for your next trip if they're not too trashed. 
  6. Rain cover: Just take a large trash bag to line your backpack with. 
  7. Extra underwear: I take one additional underwear besides the one I'm wearing. Wash your used underwear every night and you'll have a clean one ready for the following evening.
  8. Pillow: Even if you think yours is "small and reasonable," you will do ok without it. Roll up an unused article of clothing (like your jacket) and make it into a pillow. It's not going to be your plush pillow back at home, but if you tire yourself out enough, you won't even notice.
  9. Swimsuit: Your sports bra + underwear = swimwear. Or, you can jump into the cold water in your birthday suit. No need to take dedicated swimwear, even if it "weighs nothing" or is super cute. It's simply not worth it. 
  10. Pajamas: You're thinking you might get cold at camp and you'll need cozy fleece pants or the like. Yes, you might get cold at camp, but here's what you do: pull out your sleeping bag and wrap it around yourself. Voila! Don't take extra things if something else is multi-functional

Bonus - Heavy Sandals: These are completely unnecessary. Period. Instead, try Crocs. They're light, comfortable, and easy to locate.

Have you taken something you thought you needed, but didn't? What was it?