Five Surprising Things You Never Need to Pack

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I went backpacking in South America for two months. I covered six countries and various altitudes where, even in summer, weather varied wildly. Some nights I slept in a t-shirt and shorts. Other nights I would be bundled in two pairs of pants, every shirt I owned and two pairs of socks. One of those being a pair of Alpaca socks that I picked up at a street market.


In a small hostel/B&B in Puno, Peru, the owner did not have heat. She actually prepared me a hot water bottle that would warm me as I slept. Some things you cannot (and shouldn't!) plan for. But others might be over thought. I could have done without the following.

Body lotion. Use suntan lotion instead! Of course my skin needed to be hydrated daily with the sun and the altitude, but it also needed to be protected. I had packed backup bottles, I had friends who met me along the way bring me some and yes, I splurged when it was pricy. I went through suntan lotion at a rate of one per week. I had a full travel size container of body lotion at the end of my trip.

Travel clothesline, sink stopper and detergent. I washed my own clothes exactly once. And then I discovered the greatest invention in the world. The lavanderia. I'd drop off my clothes in the morning and return later, or even the next day. The cost to wash and dry an entire backpack of dirty clothes, save the clothes on my back, $3USD.

Shoelaces. What was I thinking? I brought these to tie my bag closed, but I also had a lock for my bag—what were shoelaces going to do that a lock couldn't?

Waterproof money holder. If this is useful depends on you. I do not go swimming in the ocean at home. What made me think I would abroad? I am a landlubber and this was a waste of money.

Electronic door stop. I agree that bringing a doorstop is good advice for a solo female traveler. Even better advice? Take the batteries out when not in use. I left my backpack at left luggage so I could spend the day at the beach. I took my claim ticket and headed out. A few minutes later the man who gave me that claim ticket came running after me and asked me to return to the counter. It seemed urgent so I agreed. As we got close to the counter, I understood why. I heard an alarm. THE alarm. The batteries came out and never went back in.

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