By, Mike Joy. Mike Joy is a prolific traveler, expert packer, and Community Manager at Couchsurfing. (Top photo by Rawpixel.com/shutterstock)
“But they’re so cute! And I may need to dress up for dinner sometime!” No. You won’t. They take up too much space and you will rarely (read: never) need those boots. Leave ’em home.
After a few multi-month backpacking trips where space is a premium in the backpack, I have isolated a few extras which are completely worth the space they take up. They may not be the most necessary items (no walking shoes on this list) but they will make your trip just a little bit easier. It is inevitable that you will need to make some tough cuts while packing, but we would make a strong argument to include the following in your pack — trust me — your trip will be better for it.
Does it take up a lot of room relative to other items of clothing? Yes. Do you often get towels at your accommodation? Also yes. Until you don’t. And I know you’re thinking you can use a T-shirt or sheet or just air dry, but trust me. You can not. Cut out something more expendable like underwear and pack a towel. A quick dry one is even better! (Shameless plug for a Couchsurfing towel!)
I remember a trip in which I thought that flip-flops were unnecessary as I would be hiking and in pretty cold weather. I was wrong. I bought a pair within the first two weeks. Let me paint you a picture. You arrive late in a hostel after a long trip – you just want to take a relaxing shower before crawling into your dorm bed. You pull out your toiletries bag, your Couchsurfing towel, and wander to the bathroom. You switch on the light and your eyes immediately focus on the shower drain not doing it’s one and only job. Flip-flops may not keep any of that from touching your feet, but it will keep enough of the grime below your precious foot pads that you will be able to take the quickest army shower the world has ever known.
3. A lock
Admittedly, I still do not own one of these. And I think I am an idiot for not. The number of times I have left valuables in an insecure location (read: locker) because I don’t have a small key or padlock is. Have I ever had something stolen? No. Does it only take once to completely ruin your trip? Yes. I suggest a combination lock — probably costs five dollars, but the peace of mind is priceless. The Master Lock on Amazon is a great choice as the top loop is pliable so it will fit all sorts of lockers.
4. A comfy sweatshirt
This is an item that has taken me a A LONG time to come around to bringing. My reasoning is this. Travel is hard. Travel is tough. Travel is long. There is nothing better to throw on when you are tired and over everything than a soft fuzzy hoodie. Plus, as every traveler knows, if a bus has air conditioning — it will be set to FREEZING.
5. Portable charger
Will it be dead at the worst possible time? Of course. But the chance of this little battery pack saving your life when your bus arrives two hours late and you watched the entire last season of Stranger Things on the eight hour journey, is still pretty high
6. Water filter
Although the ad will show you sticking this straight into a pond — I would suggest you only use this with the slightly less risky tap water on your trip. Many countries have water that is relatively safe, and this may just give you that extra piece of comfort that you won’t wake up in the middle of the night feeling like your stomach has knives in it. Check out the Life Straw if you really want to go wild.
Trust us. Put these in your backpack now, whether or not you have a trip planned. Just leave them there and let the universe work its magic.