10 Items You Don't Need to Pack

Guest post by Josh Fenn 

It’s not always easy when you’re first venturing into one-bag travel to answer the question, “Will I need this for my trip?” 

Over time you will develop more experience and practice in packing to determine which items you really need to enjoy your trip to the fullest while traveling unencumbered out of a single bag. Here are ten commonly packed items that I believe most people can skip while packing for their next trip.


10. Shampoo

People notoriously wash their hair too frequently. Daily hair washing can actually lead to weaker hair and scalp health. You generally want to aim to wash your hair about 1-2 times per week; this works out perfectly for most travel situations.

On shorter trips, you can forgo your hair-washing regimen altogether. During longer trips, you can often utilize complimentary shampoo from your travel destination or pack a shampoo bar to save space.


9. Extra Shoes

An extra pair of shoes is one of the most common “just in case” items I find on people’s packing lists. The perfect pair of travel shoes should be able to work for a “jeans and t-shirt” day in the city as well as a formal dinner or special occasion. Of course, this depends on your personal style and taste, but a solid brown leather boot fits the bill for me.


8. Physical Books

Physical books are large, bulky & limit your reading choices out on the road. You need to ask yourself, “Will I actually have time to read during this trip?” If the answer is yes, consider picking up a refurbished e-reader or just rely on your phone to flip through a chapter or two if you find the time. The weight savings are incredible, and you’ll be able to bring your entire library with you.


7. Expensive or Irreplaceable Jewelry

It’s the dreaded situation very few think about until it happens to them. You pack a one-of-a-kind watch that has been passed down from your family or that brand new $5,000 laptop that you’ve saved up for years to buy only to have it lost, stolen, or damaged during your trip.

Even with taking precautions, there is always a risk of losing items you pack for your trip. I maintain this mindset while I pack and always aim to leave any items at home that I’m not comfortable with the risk of losing.


6. Pillows

Once you find the perfect pillow, it’s always tough to imagine sleeping anywhere without it. Unfortunately, pillows designed for the home are large, bulky, and difficult to fit into any reasonably-sized luggage. 

I fought this one for a long time, but trust me, you will get by just fine with the pillow that’s already at your destination. The bliss of traveling and leaving all of your day to day stressors at home will help you get to sleep far better than any pillow.

If you can’t bear to use a sweatshirt as a pillow on a long flight, or if you’re traveling somewhere without any available bedding, inflatable pillows are the way to go. I have this pillow that I generally use backpacking and camping for any situations that might arise. It’s extremely small and light (80g) and only takes about four breaths to fully inflate.


5. Your “Just in Case” Outfit

Pack what you know you’ll need, and nothing else. Clothes are more resilient than most people realize, especially travel-focused fabrics, and can often be worn multiple times if the situation arises.

If you’re ever in a dire situation where you need an extra set of clothes, you can always wash what you brought, or buy something new. In my years of travel, this has never been an issue that’s needed solving, and it probably won’t be for you either.


4. Large-Sized Toiletries

Big bottles of hairspray or body wash can be a complete nuisance when traveling. Not only are you forced to check your bag for any liquids over 100ML, but you also run a higher risk for spills and damage to the rest of your luggage. 

I’ve become a big fan of using these small capacity Nalgene bottles that I mainly use for wilderness backpacking. It’s more convenient for travel, but it also saves money by allowing you to buy toiletries in bulk and helps reduce plastic usage from the typical disposable travel-sized soaps and sunscreen.


3. Large Cameras

Even as a professional photographer, I’ve been traveling without a mirrorless or DSLR camera for most of my trips over the past several years. Cell phone cameras have advanced so quickly that you no longer need to decide between convenience and image quality for your family trip photos or captured memories. Under the right conditions, the images from my iPhone and professional camera setup are nearly indistinguishable. 


2. Over-Ear Headphones

Almost every major manufacturer now offers noise-canceling earbuds. The size is no comparison to their larger counterparts, and they offer incredibly similar audio quality to most people’s untrained ears. I stopped packing my over-ear headphones the day I received my AirPods and haven’t looked back.


1. Checked Luggage

I’m probably preaching to the choir writing on this subject, but I genuinely  believe everyone should try traveling out of a single bag at least once. Few things beat the freedom of carrying all of your possessions in your bag while exploring a new location.

It’s always a sacrifice of some kind to leave an item or two at home that you think you might need, but the pros outweigh the cons multiple times over, and with some practice, you’ll soon find yourself not missing anything you left at home.


Josh Fenn is a freelance digital content creator based on Portland, OR, USA. You can find more of his content surrounding minimalism, one-bag travel & more on YouTube or at www.joshfenn.com.