16 Things Not to Pack for Hiking
DISCLAIMER: due to some of the content from comments made on this blog post, I’ve decided to add this disclaimer.
first of all, my reasoning for this article is mainly geared at hikers who are looking up cut weight. If you were with your children, other hikers, or have more needs than most, these tips may not be for you.
The Internet is hard to interpret sometimes. For example, I suggested that you don’t take as much water with you. What I mean by that is to only take the amount of water that you need to take rather than taking too much. When I first started hiking I used to take too much water, and it did significant problems with my back. That’s why I always recommend folks buy a water filter, test their water filter, and know how to use it before they go outdoors with it. And you should also check the local weather to make sure creeks and what not have water in them.
some of these items are going to be a must for some people to take, and that’s perfectly fine. Don’t take my article to heart. Thank you for reading and thank you for your comments.
Many people make the mistake of packing things they shouldn’t pack. It’s no wonder I can even walk today because my backpack was about as heavy as a car when I first started hiking.
Not packing the stuff you don’t need can help improve your hiking experience.
But first, you need to know what not to pack for hiking, and that’s why I wrote this article.
Why Consider These Things Not to Pack for Hiking?
Packing too much can do various negative things that you should consider before you start hiking.
Too much stuff will weigh you down. That means you’ll get tired easily. It could also set you up for an injury by having too much weight on your back and shoulders. Weight isn’t always a good thing when you’re hiking for recreation.
Another issue is that too much stuff can damage your gear. If you smother your gear with too many items, it might break in your pack. Packing too much will also put more pressure and wear on your backpack, which could lead to tears and rips.
So, it’s a good idea to determine what things to not pack for hiking to protect you and your gear and make your hike more enjoyable.
Leave this Stuff at Home!
Do you really need any of the stuff listed below? I bet you don’t.
1 – Valuables and Jewelry
Valuables, jewelry, and makeup are items you should not pack for hiking.
If you lose some of these things, it can turn into a crisis. If you leave them in your car overnight while backpacking, they could get broken into and the items stolen. I’d recommend leaving it at home.
You don’t need to look good on the trail.
2 – Heavy Lenses for Cameras
It’s okay to bring a camera, but do you need lens options?
I’m a photographer, and we all have that one lens that works for everything. Why not just bring that one lens instead of every single kind of lens you could image for different types of shots?
Are you hiking or doing professional photography?
3 – Too Much Extra Anything
There is very much such thing as too many extras.
Do you need several rolls of TP? I’ll admit it, I poop more in the woods than I do at home, but one roll of toilet paper lasts me about 3 weeks of hiking trips. If it doesn’t work for you – maybe take a trip to the doctor before your hike!
Sometimes extra is too much.
4 – Heavy Clothing
Do you need to bring jeans with you?
Don’t pack or wear heavy clothing! Hiking clothes are lightweight, and they can even keep you warm. This is why spandex is my go-to choice for apparel. It’s not flattering by any means, but it’s practically weightless.
Spare clothes and layers shouldn’t be heavy.
5 – Too Many Shoes
You really need to have one pair, the ones on your feet.
People bring an extra pair for camp. They bring a pair for creek crossings. I bring neoprene padded socks for creek crossings. I wear the boots or shoes I’m wearing on the trail and at camp.
Leave your closet at home where it’s supposed to be left.
6 – Bulky Items
Sometimes going cheap means getting bigger things.
Weirdly, many of the cheaper hiking things are bigger and bulkier. You’d think lighter things would be less expensive. Sometimes though, you need to pay a little more to have less bulk.
Bulk means more weight on your back and shoulders.
7 – Books
Books are for libraries, not hiking trails.
Do you really need hiking guidebooks? Can’t you just print something out or write it on paper? Carrying around books sounds like something you’d do to help you stay in shape and lose weight. I think you might want to reconsider that for the hiking trail.
After a long day of hiking, I don’t desire to sit down for a good read.
8 – An Actual Pillow
Comfort doesn’t have to be your bed.
People bring pillows on their hikes. Full pillows! Pillows don’t seem heavy until you stuff them into a backpack and realize they will take up the majority of the space in your pack. Then they start to get a little heavier than you thought.
Invest in a camp pillow. It’s flat and lightweight until you blow it up with your mouth.
9 – Too Much Kitchen Stuff
Do you need that many kitchen items on your hike?
Eat and drink from the same cooking cup. Use the same spork for everything. My kitchen has a pocket rocket stove, a small fuel canister, a cooking cup, and a spork. I can pack it all together nicely, too.
Leave your kitchen in the kitchen where it belongs.
10 – Extreme Survival Tools
It’s okay to have waterproof matches, but do you need an animal trap?
Preppers and extreme survivalists sell all sorts of crazy tools. These tools are often heavy, bulky, and weird to try to pack. And you’ll probably never use them, even when the apocalypse comes.
Take practical survival tools, not novelty items.
11 – Huge First Aid Kit
Are you sure you need that trauma kit for a hiking trip?
Don’t take an entire first aid kit. Take enough for you and a friend. Take only the things that you know how to use. If the injury is too bad, you need to get help rather than trying to be Dr. Feel Good!
You’re a hiker, not a hospital.
12 – Folding Chair
This is what I call comfort to the extreme.
Even if your folding chair is carbon fiber, it’s a bit too much. Sit down on a downed tree, a rock, or the ground. Do you really need a chair out in nature? I mean, why not just pack a cot instead of a sleeping pad?
It’s okay to sit on nature. It won’t bite…unless you sit on something that will bite.
13 – Huge Weapons
Take it easy, Terminator; it’s just a hiking trail.
If you’re packing a fire extinguisher-size bear spray can, a sword, or an AR-15 to defend yourself in the wild – you’re probably going to trip over that stuff and hurt yourself before anyone or anything else does. Why not just a simple bear spray can? How about a pocket knife? What about a small compact handgun?
Are you a hiker, or are you, Rambo?
14 – Shower Bladders
Just be stinky, for the love of all things clean.
Don’t pack a shower bladder for your backpacking trip. Take some wet wipes or wash them off in a creek. Save the shower for when you get home after a long hike as your reward for doing it.
It’s okay to stink – we all do out in the woods.
15 – Too Much Water and Foods
There is such a thing as too much food and water.
Your heaviest item should be your water; you should bring enough to last a few days if you must ration it. But that’s limited to a few bottles and maybe a hydration bladder. But if you’re filling your bag with a week’s worth of food and water, you’re going to an extreme.
Use small carb-loaded trail bars instead and pack a water filter.
16 – Too Big of a Backpack (or too little)
And finally, of all the things not to pack for hiking comes your backpack.
If you carry a backpack that’s too big, it adds extra weight and invites you to fill it up. But on the other hand, carrying all your necessities in a backpack that is too small for everything can lead to problems. Ensure that you choose the right backpack for the right amount of gear.
And always try to put comfort before pocket options on a backpack.
And there you have it! That was the items not to pack for hiking. Avoid packing the stuff above, and you’ll have a great time while on the trail. But if you pack all the stuff above, you’ll run into problem after problem on and off the trail. If you enjoyed this article, consider subscribing to my free monthly newsletter for more hiking tips. Thanks for reading, and be sure to leave a comment and share this post with others.
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Founder, Hiking with Shawn
Howdy folks! My name is Shawn Gossman and I founded Hiking with Shawn. I’m an avid hiker, cyclist and outdoorsman here in the Shawnee National Forest. I was born and raised in Southern Illinois and never want to leave. Click here to learn more about Shawn Gossman
First off, There is no such thing as too much water. That is not something you should be telling people who may be reading this article as a beginner. Additionally, don’t tell people to skimp on medical supplies. If someone wants to bring a book hiking, why tell them no? Books are light. You’re acting like they’re bringing a textbook into the woods. You sound like the unbearable people who go out into the woods and act like you know everything and are superior for your unfounded knowledge.
This is an article for backpacking. Not hiking. Maybe you should change the title.
Wow. Tell us how you really feel. Thanks for the comment, anyways.
Thanks for your article I enjoy reading about hiking and cycling and anything out doors I was in hospital for two years fighting cancer I’m better now since I’ve been home I been hiking biking exploring my community made me love the outdoors all over again can’t wait to get gear to hit a Thur hike thank you again and who cares what anyone says be your self always smile life is good
I’m definitely fine with constructive criticism. The initial name calling was so mature of the comment creator but I’m sure they were emotional when they did it. I’m fine with it. Thanks for the kind words.
I’m in agreement with Casey.
It’s all within reason. You should plan your route ahead and have a good idea when and where you’ll find more water. There are limits to how much you really need to carry. I’m saying this as someone who is guilty of over packing food and water.
I used to overpack water on my hikes. It ended up hurting me and making me not want to hike. There is definitely strategies to take. These comments have given me inspiration to create a new post about all this. Thanks folks!
Yep. Good comment.
You said it..a water filter and a qt canteen. Camera, books maps, a flashlight, emergency communication can all be together in an average phone. A longer trek take a charger pack. I live in UK so don’t know about bear sprays but weapons. Best I have is my Swiss knife and trekking poles. For a treat some whiskey in a small bladder bag . Cheers
I agree. Maybe not the whiskey because I’m too weak for hard liquor 😂 but I’m with you on everything else. Thanks for the comment my friend.
So many of these items are obvious. If you are a experienced hiker then they will read this and stop after the 2nd listed item and say, “do they think I am an idiot”. If a inexperienced hiker reads this, I believe there common sense would tell them not to bring half the items listed and get bored after the 8th item. Not helpful at all…..
Thanks for the reply. I tried to implement humor. The people who follow me the most are typically the ones that get it. You didn’t and that’s fine. I’ll try to add disclaimers more in the future. Thanks for the comment.
Lots of good ones born from years of experience! Family guy with small children, so if I have to lug around the kitchen sink, that’s what I’ll do. And our outings are incredibly short lol. Happy trails,, I’m looking forward to reading moreover of your articles!
Totally understand it. With kids, it’s different.
But the article was certainly helpful in encouraging me to carefully weigh the necessity of everything I bring. Love big knives but I think my Opinel is my best friend.
Me too! I bought a big gerber knife that I really like but I have a nice pocket knife that weight significantly less. I never use a knife for anything a pocket knife can’t do so it made since to downgrade.
I may not agree with everything you said (not only am I a klutz but I’m also 70 yrs old! so a well equipped, good sized first aid kit, a small paperback and journal are musts!), but the way i interpret your post is as a suggestion to make people simply think twice about “need vs want”…and that’s a GOOD thing, hiking OR backpacking!
Can’t do monthly commitment, but perhaps I can support you by purchasing a bit of your Hiking with Sean merch👍🏽😁
Keep up the good work, kiddo!
Pearl ~ “The Old Fossil”
A big part of the article was mainly humor but in reality, if some of these items are essential for you, take them! I do bring a first aid kit but I don’t take items I don’t know how to use. A journal is good 🙂 even a book is fine but for someone wanting to cut weight, I included those items.
Thank you for the kind words. Don’t feel like you’re obligated to spend any money 🙂 reading my content is payment enough and I’m very thankful for it.
I am 100% willing to carry the extra weight of a chair. I rest so much better when I’m off the ground. Sitting on uncomfortable and wet nature sucks.
Personally I don’t typically sit on day hike but that’s just me. But if I were to need to sit, I’d take sit pad. They’re usually easier to pack but if a small chair makes your better, by all means take it 🙂
We used EasyRest Chair that turns an easyrest sleeping pad into a stadium chair. 10 oz
Nice! Is the easy to carry? I’m always worried about it being awkward to carry.
The EasyChair has 2 16″ back stays that you roll the folded chair around and fits next to your thermorest pad on your pack.
I wholeheartedly agree with Casey. I read this article hoping to get some tips since i am a beginning backpacker, but instead i found a condescending list of opinions that aren’t even helpful and may even be wrong. What would be the harm in having too much water? If your pack is too heavy you can just drink the extra water until it lightens up, id rather do that then bring a filter and hope to find enough streams to drink from. They make compact first aid kits that are lightweight and can be extremely helpful with minor injuries. I have an extremely compact and lightweight tent-chair that is completely worth the weight because it provides a comfortable seat anywhere. A small book is neither bulky or heavy. I think Casey summed it up perfectly about how this article comes off as you being the unbearable person who tries to tell others how to enjoy themselves through your opinions based on unfounded knowledge. I hope our comments allow you to do some self reflection and write more approachable, and informed articles.
I think you and Casey are interpreting this in a way that it wasn’t meant to be. Bring as much water as you want. But if you fill your bag with so much water that it starts to hurt on your hike, then there is a problem. Most of the article was meant to be fun. The majority of my response took it that way. But you two did not which is fine because it’s hard to interpret things on the internet. I have no intention to reflect other than maybe putting a disclaimer for those who take things the wrong way. Thanks for the comment.
I enjoyed reading the article and getting the tidbits of humor mixed in with good advice on what not to carry and an explanation through your experiences of what is absolutely necessary. Not everyone will agree, but the ones of us that do thank you for sharing your insight and time.
Thank you for the comment. I did mean for a lot of it to be humorous but I should had explained more on a few of them. It has inspired me to write (already wrote it today) an article about hydration. I’ve had the personal experience of making very bad decision as a beginner hiker when it came to hydration. That article is next and will publish on Wednesday. Thank you again for the comment! 🙂
I would sub the pocket knife for a muti tool it is about the same size and weight and gives you options
A multi-tool is a great idea! Thanks for the comment.
Instead of telling others what to do or not do maybe just write about what works for you and why. This article come off as a condescending, know-it-all piece of droll.
Just let people enjoy the outdoors in whatever way is most rewarding for them.
Thanks for the comment, Joe. I appreciate it even if you misinterpreted it 🙂
I’m a professional tromboner, and I’m wondering if I should bring my trombone. Friends really dig when I play for them. I’d love to share my passion. What do you think?
😂 you got to bring that at least. Fill it full of water so you don’t dehydrate 😂
I’ve hiked off and on for decades but never an official thru hike. Many of my trips were short two mile hikes into the mountains and wilderness and then camp for a few nights; or do a longer 10-15 mile single day hike. However, this year I plan to do a short-ish thru hike (24-30 miles ~four days) with my family (kids included). While I knew several of these things it served as a good reminder for me to use extra caution not to overpack. I’m the over packer in our group. I really want to enjoy the four days on the trail, not hate it this should help when it comes time to divvy up our final packing list.
Thanks again, happy camping/hiking to you and all the readers (grouchy ones included 😁)!!
I appreciate the comments 🙂 I think when you’re with your family, it’s different. Especially kids. We have a long trail over here called River to River Trail. It’s 160 miles. It’s a popular thru-Hike, you should check it out 🙂
People tend to pack their fears. It is pretty funny seeing some of the first aid things none medical people bring. Most of it is ridiculous, especially when knowledge is zero grams and is what most people actually need in a true emergency.
Bringing too much water or food is wasted energy. A book is quite heavy. I cut tags off of everything to shave grams. If someone really likes having a book, who cares, it is the people who pack it just incase they get board, then never read it. The first, already knows what you wrote does not apply to them, and why.
Clearly some people don’t get it, which is what makes this so funny.
Some of the most useful articles I have read detail what is not needed. Our consumer culture convinces us we need a lot more than we actually do.
A corollary is the freedom that comes as a parent of young kids when you realize a diaper and wipes is enough and the 60L diaper bag can stay at home.
You get it 🙂 thanks for the comment.
Funny and helpful. Hiking is healthy and gives an appreciation of nature. For some reason, people criticize every thing. Your tips are useful, you see people over loaded with the kitchen sink. I really enjoyed it because of the humor.
And that’s what I’m trying to get at. People often take too much and end up being miserable and in pain. Trust me, that was TOTALLY ME when I first started. I learned the hard way for a lot of things. And that’s why I write this blog to help others. Some people will always take it the wrong way like I’m trying to stop them from enjoying nature or something like that. Thanks for the comment – I appreciate it!
Maybe if your hiking a common trail with no predators, but if you are bush whacking on a game trail then a pocket knife is the worst possible thing you could have for self defense, and 9mm may be plenty to disable a human threat but there are mountain lions up there then anything less than a 10mm or 357 will not stop an angry mountain lion or even a deer. And the most common prairie dog hunting rifle is an ar15, ar15s are way to under powered for animal defense. This guy probably thinks ar15s fire some sort of of ultra deadly over powered 50 caliber round(they actually shoot a spicy .22 bullet), most would even consider ar15s as under powered for mule deer hunting. If you want to be bear food in montana or another hiker ambushed by a mountain lion in California follow this guy, if you want to be safe bring plenty of water and deadly force to keep yourself and your family safe.
Nope, Your gun rights are yours. 🙂 I don’t get involved in that stuff. No predator animals here so no need for something that size. But we don’t have open carry anyways. We do have have concealed and I’m licensed for it but I’ve never felt the need to carry personally.
I love the advice! Fixing to visit friends & yes we’re hiking & yes I’m the over packing “mom” of any group I’m in lol I’ll keep all of this in mind! Thanks
Thanks for reading!
Books on my phone (I DO read on the trail) The chair was a tough choice but in the PNW the ground is wet more than is dry so this is a bit more than a comfort item (for me at least)
The rest work PERFECT for me. Last trip I had about 3 days too much food. I usually only carry 1 or 2 nalgene bottles for water. I make it a point to hike places with good water on the whole route.
Thanks for this guide it gave me some great things to think about and affirmed some choices I have made myself.
Thanks for the comments!
Surprised at how sensitive some folks are! Been a serious backpacker for about 15 years now, and found your list sensible. Multi- tool, water filter, both reasonable thoughts. I hike in the south west US, and you can’t carry enough water to back pack more than a day or two! And after a few days, every excess you brought will start to wear on you. A small first aid kit, as you mentioned is great, but, be realistic!
Appreciate the comment, Bill!
Great article! Knowing what not to pack for hiking is essential to a successful and enjoyable hike.
Thanks for the reply!
I adore the guidance! I’m getting ready to see pals, and sure, we’re going hiking. I’m in, and I’ll bear everything in mind! Thanks
Have fun and be safe!