Travel Blog

  1. How to fix these 7 packing mistakes even smart travellers make

    posted by Fred Perrotta | 24 Comments


    Packing tips

    Fred Perrotta is co-founder of Tortuga Backpacks, the makers of the ultimate travel backpack.

    Hostels are fun, inexpensive, and social. But you wouldn't describe them as "spacious."

    When you're sharing space with other travellers, packing light becomes even more important - and even smart travellers make packing mistakes that add bulk to their bag.

    Don't be that guy with the full-sized suitcase and rolling duffel bag. Keep it light. Your travels will be easier, and your hostel mates will appreciate you.

    Here's what to swap out of your luggage and what to swap in to travel light on your next hostel trip...

    Packing mistake #1: A space-obliterating, heavy towel

    Out: Full-sized towel

    In: Travel towel

    Travel towel

    Some hostels don't have towels or charge you to rent them. To avoid the uncertainty and cost, bring your own towel.

    A huge, fluffy towel might feel nice, but it eats up space in your bag.

    Instead carry a travel towel. These thin, microfiber towels don't look very absorbent, but they'll do the job. Unlike a cotton towel, they dry quickly, so you never have to carry around a sopping wet towel in your bag.

    Packing mistake #2: too many toiletries

    Out: body wash, soap, shampoo, toothpaste, detergent

    In: Dr. Bronner's Magic Soap

    Dr. Bronner's Magic Soap

    Dr. Bronner's magic soaps can clean anything. They are organic and safe to use on your clothes or yourself. The soaps come in a variety of forms (bar, liquid), sizes (two ounces to one gallon), and scents.

    Best of all, Dr. Bronner's soaps are concentrated, so you only need a few drops for most jobs. Buy a small bottle and carry it in your hand luggage or buy a larger bottle and store the soap in the next item on the list.

    Packing mistake #3: full-size toiletries

    Out: toiletries over 100ml

    In: GoToob


    Only liquids up to 100ml (3.4 ounces) can be brought in your carry-on luggage. Larger bottles have to be checked. Don't let your vanity force you to pay airline baggage fees.

    Pour must-have toiletries that don't come in travel sizes into a reusable travel bottle. You can find cheap ones at most drug stores, but GoToobs are higher quality and more durable. GoToobs are made of thick rubber and have a much better nozzle and cap than store-brand bottles, so you don't have to worry about leaks in your bag.

    Packing mistake #4: a heavy lock

    Out: Padlock

    In: TSA-approved lock

    TSA-approved lock

    You might need to lock up your bag in a hostel or train station locker when you're on the road. You don't need a big, heavy padlock to do it.

    TSA-approved locks are smaller and lighter but just as effective. Plus, TSA locks are small enough to use on your bag's zippers to keep your stuff safe even if it's not in a locker. Choose a cable lock (for flexibility) that uses a combination, not a key that could get misplaced.

    Packing mistake #5: too many adapters

    Out: Adapters

    In: Power strip

    Power strip

    You're already carrying plenty of gadgets and chargers. Don't bring a power adapter for each one.

    Instead, bring one adapter and a small power strip. A three-outlet strip should be big enough to charge all of your devices at once.

    Packing mistake #6: forgetting your laptop is a giant charger

    Out: Wall chargers

    In: Mini USB connectors

    Mini USB connectors

    If you're bringing your laptop, you can get rid of even accessories. Just use your laptop as a power strip and charge your other gadgets through your computer's USB ports.

    A few mini USB cables are lighter than adapters and power strips but will allow you to charge multiple gadgets from one outlet.

    Packing mistake #7: giving yourself to much space

    Out: Giant suitcases and backpacks

    In: Carry-on luggage

    So far, we've focused on the inside of your luggage. What about the luggage itself?

    The easiest way to downsize your stuff for a hostel is to carry less stuff, not just swap out individual items.

    Constraints can be good. A maximum-sized carry-on bag will fit plenty of stuff for a 7-10 day trip. If you're traveling any longer, you'll have to do laundry anyway. Spend an hour every week or two at a Laundromat and save yourself the hassle of oversized luggage.

    What's your favourite way to hostel-size your luggage? Let us know in the comments…

    Related posts:

    Thanks to Incase for the images off Flickr. Please note that all images were used under the Creative Commons license at the time of posting.

  2. 24 Comments so far.

    Saulo said on 17/11/2014 at 6:46pm

    Good tips. I would also recommend packing cubes, as they keep your pack organized and optimizes the space. I read people saying that packing for summer is easier, but I just can't agree with that. In the winter, though clothes are heavier, you actually end up needing to take less, since you don't really sweat them out and don't really need more than one heavy coat. Also, another packing tip for backpackers, DO NOT BRING EXTRAS! That means no extra pair of shoes or extra pair of jeans just in case you need them. The "just in case" things you bring along NEVER get used, and anyhow, if you actually end up needing something extra, just go out and buy it!!

    Leanna Erickson said on 15/11/2014 at 6:29am

    Good advice, sorta. I just got back from a Birding Expedition in Equador. In 25 days we visited all kinds of climates from Amazon rainforest (and believe me, it did rain) to the tundra-like Paramo at the edge of the Andean snowline where the cold wind whistles in your ears. We ate a few meals at fine (dress-up) restaurants, hiked in pouring rain, got up long before sunrise and slogged through mud on steep trails at high altitudes. Although we stayed in very nice birding lodges, we had little time to do anything but sleep and eat there. Forget about electrical appliances like hair dryers, and screw the lap top, IPod and mobile phone, etc. Unless you're in a hot, dry climate, microfiber travel towels don't absorb enough moisture to dry your skin or hair and never get completely dry themselves. You need hiking boot (although my Crocs Cross Trails were adequate, lighter and more comfortable most of the time), sturdy comfortable walking shoes, and a decent pair of sandals (think Birks or Tevas)for hot, muggy places or the bath. I really want to pack more lightly and compactly, so I read every how-to-pack article that I can, then adapt it to my circumstances, but I always end up asking myself, "Don't these people ever go anywhere: Don't they do anything when they get there?"

    Nicholas said on 11/11/2014 at 10:45pm

    good advice..i used to travel with a huge backpack the 1st trips i did but my last trip i just had 1 small backpack...less is more!!, so much better and easy to get around, just have to clean the clothes a bit more!

    Tamara said on 11/11/2014 at 3:15pm

    While some of those tips are true i have to disagree with the toiletry one. Having a little bottle is a huge pain in the ass. I buy travelsized toiletries for less hassle to get trough security but buy normal sized bottles as soon as i am my destination.

    Sarah Hawkins said on 11/11/2014 at 2:30pm

    travel towel is epic, had one, would recommend to all! though sometimes on short trips I find it easier just to pay the $1-2 fee and hire a towel in the hostel as then you don't have to take one at all or worry about drying it. They are very fast drying but it does start to smell after a while if you have to keep packing it when it's not fully dry when you leave in the mornings not sure I agree about charging stuff on a laptop - a lot travellers just use a smart phone or a tablet these days, which don't have USB ports, and even if you have a laptop, it takes an insanely long time to charge anything in my experience :( I do have an American/Canadian extension cord that I got for $2 in the Dollar Store in Vancouver one time :) and find that every helpful because only my phone and tablet charge via USB, my camera, laptop, shaver do not :( your too many toiletries all-in-1 soap thing is probably not a suggestion a lot of girls will follow ;) I normally just take half-used bottles of shampoo and shower gel on short trips of 1-3 weeks or go to the £1 store before setting off and leaving the rest of the bottle behind in a hostel for another traveller before flying back :) or minis but they cost soo much more! I also take the free toiletries from any hotel/motels etc I stay in through out the year and use those on short trips or a week or less B-)

    Adam said on 25/02/2014 at 6:43am

    Get rid of tooth paste and clean teeth with magic soap?

    Ana Saro said on 10/02/2014 at 4:39pm

    Thank You for the great tips...

    Kimberly said on 09/02/2014 at 3:30pm

    Nice toppic! Not so shure about the first advice. Travel towels are indeed smaller in size, but after a while they will reek. I always travelling with a small old towel for showering and a big sarong which can be beach towel, a dress (girls only ;) ) and curtain if you like some more privacy in hostel dorms.

    Adrian said on 09/02/2014 at 12:12pm


    Henry Ford said on 09/02/2014 at 1:10am

    That with the towel is a classic. Right, you can pack a travel towel - it's small and does the job of drying you after a shower. But this doesn't mean that you cannot pack a normal sized towel, too. The problem is that a normal sized towel takes too much space IN your backpack, but not ON your backpack. Just fold and neatly roll it, then strap it onto the side of your backpack! There will be so many times when you go to the beach and will thanks heaven that you have a nice towel to lie on. You can also use it to have a nice cover on dirty buses/seats. And it will come in handy as backup when your travel towel still is wet! Other main points to keep your backpack light: - consequently follow the summer: no jacket, no jeans! Just shorts. And a tracksuit as backup for windy days/cold buses which you strap onto your backpack as well. - no fancy shoes or trekking shoes! Trainers and flipflops, that's it. Travelling around the world my backpack is 7Kg - and I don't miss a thing.

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