HI Hostels Blog

7 things NOT to pack for your hostel stay

Whether you’re at a small, intimate hostel or one with hundreds of beds, space is valuable. If you’re staying in hostels, you should pack light so that you can always be ready for the next adventure. Do your bit to be a good room-mate and keep your belongings in your area, not spread all around the room.

Below are seven items you can safely leave at home. I’ve made the mistake of bringing all of them. Now I can confidently tell you that you DON’T need them.

1. Oversized suitcase

If you prefer a suitcase to a backpack while travelling, keep it reasonably sized. We’ve all stayed in dorms where one person’s suitcase was so big (and always open) that it was like having another bed in the room. Keep your bag small (preferably carry-on-size), closed, and out of the middle of the room and walking paths. Under your bed is ideal. A big suitcase doesn’t help you carry more, it just weighs you down!

2. Sleep sack

Sleep sacks are like sleeping bags that are as thin as a sheet. They’re used as an extra sheet in cold weather and as a layer of protection from the hostels sheets for germ-averse travellers. If you read reviews before booking a hostel, you will see that you don’t have to worry about dirty sheets or bedbugs. Nothing would ruin a hostel’s reputation faster than a case of bedbugs. If a hostel is dirty or has bedbugs, travellers will leave bad reviews. You’ll find them. The biggest reason to leave your sleep sack at home is that some hostels don’t allow them. Why? Because you could bring bedbugs into the hostel.

3. Towel

Before departing, check to see if towels are provided at your hostel. If they are, you’ve just saved a ton of space in your bag. If towels aren’t provided, or you just don’t want to rent one throughout a long trip, bring a travel-sized towel. I use the REI MultiTowel Lite but any compact, quick-drying towel will do.

4. Dress clothes

On my first backpacking trip to Europe, I brought a pair of heavy, thick-soled dress shoes because someone told me that I’d need nice shoes to get into some European clubs. In retrospect, I would have been much better off with boat shoes to complement my walking shoes. If you’re staying in hostels, your nights out will probably be pub crawls, backpacker bars, comedy nights and karaoke. You don’t need fancy clothes for high-end club nights. If you were partying there, you would be staying in penthouse suites, not a hostel dorm.

5. Laundry detergent

Planning to do laundry, whether in a washing machine or by hand, is a great idea. Bringing detergent from home is a waste of space though.Carrying detergent means sacrificing valuable space in your toiletry bag if you’re travelling with just a carry on. Instead, buy it at your destination. In most cases, the detergent will be cheaper. You might even be able to buy single-use packets. Another alternative would be to carry magic soap, which can be used as detergent and as a body wash, face wash, shampoo, toothpaste and even as a general cleaner.

6. Full-sized toiletries

© Jorge Gobbi

Carrying full-sized toiletries (over 3fl oz or 100ml) means that you have to check your luggage which can be pricey. Travel-sized toiletries, while more expensive by volume, are still cheaper than the cost of checking a bag. If you need a large amount of something, you can always buy the full-sized version after you arrive. Shopping in a new country where you may or may not speak the language is always a fun adventure. Some brands don’t make travel-sized versions of their products. In those cases, use refillable, travel-sized bottles. You can find cheap ones at any drug store.

7. Point-and-shoot camera

A decent smartphone is 90% as good as most point-and-shoot cameras. Since you’ll probably be carrying an unlocked smartphone, use it for picture taking instead of a separate camera. You’ll be able to take advantage of photography apps to improve and share your pictures. Higher-end DSLR cameras are a different story. They are far superior to smartphone cameras. However, they will also take up a lot of space in your bag or necessitate a separate camera bag.

By leaving the above items at home, you can lighten your load, free up space in your bag, and avoid incurring the wrath of the TSA.


*About the author: Fred Perrotta is the co-founder of Tortuga Backpacks, makers of the ultimate travel backpack. If you’re travelling from city to city and staying in hostels, check out the carry-on-sized Tortuga Travel Backpack. Whats so special about a Tortuga Backpack? You can carry everything you need without having to check your bag, plus its easy to pack and is lockable.

Want to win a Tortuga Backpack?

HI-USA are giving you the opportunity to win a Tortuga Backpack when you share your feedback on eco-tourism through a short survey. Don’t forget HI-USA are one of the 15 countries that you can vote for in the bid for the HI-Sustainability Fund.

Here at HI, we’re serious about sustainable travel. That’s why we’ve set up the HISF (HI Sustainability Fund) – a project to help hostels reduce their CO2 emissions. We need your help to decide which hostel is going above and beyond to become more eco-friendly. You have until 30 September 30 to place your vote, choosing between 15 different countries, your vote can really make a difference, read more here.


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