When you’re staying at a hostel, it’s important that you pack smart. Great packing means making your trip and overall experience easier on yourself. But sometimes it can be hard to figure out what you should pack, and what you should leave at home.

Here at Hostelgeeks, we’re all about helping you make your hostel experience as awesome as possible. So, here’s a quick and easy guide to what you DON’T need to pack if you’re staying at a hostel.

This article is part of our full Hostel Guide.

Valencia Lounge Hostel in Valencia, Spain

Of course, keep in mind that different hostels offer different things (there are the 7 different types of Hostels), so it’s a good idea to check out the hostel website before you go (almost all of them have a section about what they offer).

After you got an idea of all the hostel’s services, you need to book the hostel like a pro.

Besides this NON-Packing list, we created a hostel packing list with 23 smart things to pack. You can download the hostel packing list for free here:

Hostel Packing List Download

But what to pack, and what NOT to pack for a hostel? Naturally, if you’re staying at a 5 Star Hostel, you can expect they’ll have more on offer than the gloomy cut-price place on the corner.

Are you flying only carry on? Then have a glimpse at the ultimate carry-on packing list, written by our friend Vicky.

Before we get started, have a look at this video. It is about WHAT YOU NEED TO PACK to travel light. Simple as that. Only hand luggage, no need to a 700kg bag.

Let’s just into the details what NOT to bring when staying at Hostels:

1. A Giant Towel

A decent hostel will rent you a towel for next to nothing, so unless you’re really scrimping and saving, there’s no need to pack one. If you do take a towel, it’s worth getting a thin travel towel that rolls up tight and dries quickly.

The only exception – if you’re staying somewhere with a beach, you’ll want one towel for showering and one towel for the beach. A single towel will get grimy pretty fast, and you’ll end up being covered in sand after every shower. Not nice – and we speak from itchy, uncomfortable experience.

2. Bedding

There’s no need to take your own bedding to stay at a hotel (sheets, blankets, pillows – whatever). Most hostels now give you bedding, or at the very least will be able to rent you some for a small fee. Have a look if you need to pay the sheets extra, when booking your hostel!

Even if you’re really set on saving money, sheets will be such a pain to carry around with you that it’s just not worth it even for the thriftiest of travelers.

Bottom line: don’t waste valuable packing space on sheets.


Good Hostels offer bed-linen, such as Maverick City Lodge in Budapest – 5 Stars for this!

3. A Sleeping Bag

Along similar lines to the bedding, you don’t need to bring your own sleeping bag to stay at a hostel. It’ll take up a bunch of space and hostels have bedding anyway. And you might not even be allowed to use your sleeping bag anyway!

Yep, you may be surprised to learn that lots of hostels don’t let you use sleeping bags. Don’t lug your sleeping bag all the way to hostel only to have to leave it in a plastic bag at the front desk!

4. Laundry Detergent

A lot of top travel sites recommend carrying your own personal laundry detergent with you. We don’t agree – either buy it at your destination and split the cost with your hostel buddies, or carry a couple of packets of powder designed for washing clothes in the sink. You may be having too much fun to wash your clothes anyway.

5. Lots of Toiletries

Get a few refillable travel-sized bottles and make good use of them. There’s no sense in lugging around a giant bottle of shampoo during your travels. Plus, sometimes people leave behind toiletries when they leave a hostel, leaving them free for the next guests to use. Score for you!

The With Inn Hostel in Kaohsiung, Taiwan and the Makati Junction Hostel in Makati, Philippines provide shampoo for free.


Hair Dryer and Daily Soap – Superbude Sankt Pauli in Hamburg pays a lot of attention to the details.

6. Multiple Guidebooks

Some travelers want to pack an entire library of guidebooks with them when they travel. But there’s no sense on taking three versions of a very similar thing.

Take the time to look through your guidebook before your trip. If there’s a suggestion you simply can’t miss out on, snap a photo of it with your phone.

Remember that the hostel staff are often like walking guidebooks themselves. Ask them for tips for things to do. They’ll almost certainly be happy to help you and, as an added bonus, will have cooler suggestions.

And one more tip – rather than taking along a heavy guidebook, download one of our portable Geeky Guides instead! They are completely for free to download. We show you 5 tips for your destination – easy and handy!


7. Too Much Stuff!

Chronic overpackers, this one’s for you.

Not only will all your baggage be a pain for you to drag around, your fellow hostel guests probably won’t appreciate tripping over your three-piece suitcase set in the middle of the night.

Remember, anything you forget you can probably buy or even borrow from someday else in the hostel. (Or use as an excuse to go shopping).

Repeat after us – do I really need this?


This is the lounge of Marken Gjestehus in Bergen, Norway – a lovely 5 Star Hostel in the heart of the popular Bergen.

8. An Impractical Suitcase

Think about what sort of bag is going to be most practical for your stay. If you can avoid it, don’t bring anything bigger than a carry-on. Some hostels are a little tight on space, and you’ll probably be sharing that space with other travelers.

You might also consider the sort of place you’re staying in. Dragging a wheeled suitcase around a charmingly cobblestoned historic city may be more trouble than it’s worth.

9. Cooking Basics

One of the upsides of staying in a hostel is that you can cook your meals yourself. While hostel kitchens are definitely not the same across the board, 99% of the time, there will be basics like oil, salt, and pepper available for guests to use. If in doubt, stop by the kitchen to check before making your supermarket run.


10. A Bulky Laptop

Unless you’ll be working on the road, there’s probably no need to bring a cumbersome laptop with you. Instead, consider either leaving it at home or taking a smaller laptop or tablet.

You can do just about everything on your smartphone or tablet these days anyway. Leave the bulky computer at home. That way, you won’t have to worry about somebody taking your laptop or having it break while you’re on the road.

Ani&Haakien Hostel Rotterdam

11. Fancy Valuables

We’re all about traveling in style, but a good rule of thumb to follow is that if you can’t bear to lose it, it should stay home. That goes for things like expensive jewelry, pricey cameras, and even sentimental objects.

If you really can’t avoid bringing something valuable on your trip, stick a small padlock in your luggage. Most hostels will also have lockers you can use or rent.

Hostels are generally safe, but no matter how many hostels will try to tell you they want to be your “home away from home”, er – they’re not! Be sensible and don’t leave valuables lying around.

Plus, who wants to worry about stuff when they’re traveling? Get out there and have fun! Here is an example how hostel lockers look like at Mountain Hostel Tarter in Andorra.

Secure lockers at Mountain Hostel

12. An Unfriendly Attitude

Part of the fun of hostels is getting to know other travelers! You don’t have to be that guy or girl who goes to every single barbecue, games night, and bar crawl that the hostel does, but at least say hi to the other people at the hostel. Spend some time in the common areas, offer to help cook and share a meal with other guests, or chat to the staff.

You could end up making a lifetime friend. We’re speaking from experience again here, and trust us, it was much nicer than the sandy towel one we mentioned earlier.

And speaking of annoying things…

13. An Obnoxious Alarm Clock

The alarm clock guest always seems to set their incredibly grating wake up call for a ridiculously early hour.

He or she is the mortal enemy of the guest who goes to all the hostel events and bar crawls. And also the mortal enemy of the guest who loves to sleep in. And also the mortal enemy of the guest who had a long day of traveling the day before.

And also the mortal enemy of…well, pretty much everyone stuck sharing a room with them.

Please, please, please, for the love of hostelers everywhere, leave your shrieking alarm clock at home!


If this is the size of your alarm clock, change it!

14. A Jam-Packed Calendar

Just like your suitcase, it’s not a good idea to overpack your calendar when you travel. Hostels offer all sorts of fun stuff going on, whether that’s activities, tours, events, or classes. Take advantage of them!

It’s great to be prepared, but you’ll get way more out of your trip if you leave some space to grab a spontaneous drink with your new travel buddies. Cheers to hostels, and to travel friends!


Weather update, events, tours, and more! This is the chalk board at Ani&Haakien Hostel in Rotterdam.

Summary What NOT to Pack to Stay at a Hostel

As you can see there are many things you really do not need at all when staying at a Hostel. When you choose a 5 Star Hostel over a regular Hostel, you will find even more amenities making your life easier. Any questions left? This is a quick list of things you won’t need at all when staying at a Hostel.

Besides the chronic overpacking, a friendly attitude and social-mind is important and key to a great hostel experience! Also, interesting to know, many hostels have a small in-house shop. Well, shop may be exaggerating, but you can buy a tooth brush and small things at the reception.

The Wow International Hostel in Tainan even has its own honest corner shop.

Hostel Packing List Download

Download the real Hostel packing list for free here. You can also add your own items at the end of the list!

What’s next? More powerful hostel insights:


Happy Packing,


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What NOT to Pack to Stay at a Hostel - Packing List for Hostels