What Not to Pack for a Hike – 10 Things to Leave at Home

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Packing for a single day hike or a multi-day one can take some thinking to choose what you need while away accurately.

Packing light is essential, but it can be hard to know the right things to take and what to leave behind. To help you achieve the right balance, here are ten things that you do not need to pack for a hike.

What not to pack hiking:


1. Wrong Clothes

Choosing proper clothing can be difficult, especially if you are doing a multi-day hike. Before packing, check the forecast and look up what conditions usually are like in the area when you are hiking.

When hiking, always avoid cotton clothing and jeans. Synthetic fabrics help to wick away sweat and dry quickly. Jeans can be stiff as you are walking, and if they get wet, they will bog you down quickly. If you really want to pack jeans, limit yourself to one pair.

Photo by Fred Kearney on Unsplash

Bulky coats are also something to avoid, even if the weather is colder. While you are walking, you will be working up a sweat, even on cold days. That sweat will go through any layers you have underneath, and this can be dangerous.

Instead of bulky coats, go with multiple layers. If you genuinely need a coat, pack one that is thinner. It will still keep you warm without the risks that a bulkier coat brings.

Thinner layers are less likely to get caught on branches as you go by as well. Consider a waterproof jacket or one meant for windy conditions.

When packing layers, it can be easy to pack too many. Keep an eye on how bulky your pack is getting. It is easy to focus on your top half, but do not forget an extra layer for your legs if it will be cold.

Also, just some friendly advice–do not wear white clothes. It is almost a guarantee that you will get wet or fall in a mud puddle.


2. Jewelry or Valuables

It may seem obvious, but you do not want to carry jewelry or other valuables on your hike. They are incredibly easy to get lost, and you have little chance of ever finding them again, even if you hike the same trail over and over.

Photo by Maddi Bazzocco on Unsplash

Even everyday jewelry like wedding rings or your staple necklace is best to be left on your jewelry tray at home. Expensive rings or watches can also make you a target for anyone looking to steal items in less crowded locations.

Other valuables should be left behind as well. You are not hiking to impress anyone. Carefully consider if you need these things on your hike. If you are in an area that you might be bargaining, having less expensive tastes will help you blend in to look more like a local and help save you money.


3. Soda, Alcohol, and Energy Drinks

You may think that soda or alcohol would be a great way to relax when you reach your destination. Swigging an energy drink might even help get you there faster, right?

No. All of these drinks should be avoided while you are hiking. Sodas and energy drinks are both filled with sugar that will make your hike much worse, not better. The sugar in the drinks will actually end up making you more tired as your body’s glucose levels are off.

Caffeine, found in most sodas and almost all energy drinks, also causes you to urinate more. This will cause you to be losing more fluids than you are getting from drinking. Too much caffeine can also cause insomnia, which is not great if you have more hiking to do the next day.

Alcohol can also have sugar in it, depending on your drink of choice. Drinking alcohol can cause you to become dehydrated, and at higher elevations, your body will have trouble adjusting to the altitude. Besides, you are more likely to take unnecessary risks or have impaired coordination could lead to an accident.

The moral of the story: stick to water and the occasional sports drink.


4. Camera and Camera Accessories

Although valuables have already been covered, another thing to leave at home is your camera accessories. In fact, if you are not a photographer, you probably do not even need your DSLR camera that is tempting to bring.

These cameras are heavy and delicate. Not only do you have to worry about being a target for thieves, but it is also straightforward to break your camera or extra lenses while you are hiking.

Photo by Mihai Lazăr on Unsplash

Your phone or a more compact camera will probably be good enough for the photo opportunities you encounter.

And while it is tempting to bring along your selfie stick, these cause many mishaps every year. If you are dead set on bringing something along to take photos, invest in a compact, lightweight tripod that you can set up more securely.


5. Books

Wanting to read a book in nature is not a problem. It can be a great way to entertain yourself while taking a break. However, you should limit yourself to only one book.  

As we all know, books are heavy. Unlike other consumable items that you are carrying, a book will not get any lighter. Limiting yourself to one book, and a small one at that, is the best for your pack.

Photo by Cynthia del Río on Unsplash

If you are in an area that you feel you need a guidebook for, evaluate how much of the guidebook you will use. Perhaps copying only a few pages with the information you need will suffice.

While Internet connections and battery life are a concern with phones, you can always search for information before you leave on your hike. By purchasing digital guidebooks or storing screenshots with helpful information, you will be saving room for things that might benefit you more.


6. Make-up and Toiletries

Even on an overnight hiking trip, leave the make-up at home. The wilderness does not care if you are wearing mascara. Bringing make-up along is unnecessary. Plus, removing at night will be hard as you may not have access to water or somewhere to throw away a face wipe.

Limit your toiletries as well. Keeping a bag with only what you need in smaller, sample size bottles is a good idea. Most toiletries you do not need in the great outdoors. Leave perfumes or colognes at home.

If you want to pack some over-the-counter medications, make sure that you leave the bottles at home instead of bringing them in a smaller container with labeled compartments.


7. Too Many Spares and What Ifs

If you are asking yourself, ‘What if I need this?’, then the answer probably is that you do not need it. You can drive yourself crazy thinking of all the situations in which you might need something. Most of the things going through your head will not happen.

That extra book, a pillow, or a towel–unpack them all right now. Books are heavy. Pillows are light but bulky. Towels become damp and stinky. All of these are things that you will be able to live without for a day or two.

The same thing goes for spares. Yes, an extra set of batteries or a spare cord is fine. Do not go overboard by packing four cords or an entire pack of AA batteries. If you do find you need something, a fellow hiker might be willing to help.


8. Hiking Boots or Extra Shoes

It can be tempting to splurge on a pair of shoes or boots made specifically for hiking. Here’s the secret: having a durable pair of running shoes or simple boots will be just fine for most hikers.

Running shoes are more affordable than many boots and have the durability that you need while on the trail. They are more lightweight and will be more comfortable on your feet.

Boots are heavier, and while they are often touted as waterproof, they rarely prove this on the trail. More than likely you will only wear specific hiking boots for a day or two at a time. Hiking boots are expensive and hard to break in.

However, if you are deadset on boots, make sure your pair is comfortable so that you are not beating up your feet as you are hiking. But seriously, consider saving yourself some money and do not worry about getting specific hiking boots. 

As for packing an extra set of shoes, forget about it. Shoes are both heavy and bulky. Nice shoes will get dirty, and sandals will leave your feet vulnerable. An extra set of shoes will take up too much room in your pack, or be thudding with every step if they are attached to the outside of your backpack.


9. Gadgets

Everyone likes their gadgets, but pretty much everyone would be better off if they left them at home for a day or two. After all, being in nature is about being unplugged!

If you need some gadgets, like a digital book reader or your phone, that is understandable. Consider that every extra thing you bring adds weight to your pack. And an extra cord. And they will be sucking up your precious battery reserves.

Photo by Rana Sawalha on Unsplash

Things that might be tempting but that you should leave at home:

  • Electric Toothbrush
  • Electric Razor
  • iPod or Mp3 player
  • Laptop
  • Fan
  • And More

Honestly, just leave most of your gadgets at home. For those that you feel are necessary, see if you can consolidate chargers or cords to save a bit of space in your pack.


10. Specialized Gear

Last but not least, do not feel that you need specialized gear to go out on the trails. Even a multi-day hike will not have you needing survival gear for your trip. You do not need an ax or complex multi-tools to get you through the night.  

If you plan on eating while you are hiking or camping overnight, you do not need an entire set of outdoor cookware. Buying only the pieces you need will save you money and weight.

Read more: Best Trekking Poles Under $100

Winter-grade gear is probably not needed for the hiking that you are doing either. Refer back to wearing light layers.

Also, consider how often you would use a piece of winter gear? Are you most likely going to be hiking in summer? If so, do not invest in bulky and expensive equipment than you will need.