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The Syndrome That’s Making You Buy ALL THE GEAR (and How to Avoid It!)

Shiny Object Syndrome: What Travel Gear Do I Need?

When planning a trip, poring over packing lists and visiting outdoors and travel stores, it’s so easy to get distracted. Your thought process might quickly turn from, “What travel gear do I need?” to something more like, “A water filtration system is a great product! And a vest with pockets would be the perfect place to carry my new water filtration system!”

Ooh, that could be handy.

Like the packet of gum at the front of the grocery store, you might pick up a compass or a whistle “just in case” as you roam the aisles, wide eyed and excited for your impending adventure. The staff at these stores might even talk you into extra products. Even looking on this site, you might convince yourself of items that you don’t really need for your specific trip.

And don’t even go on Pinterest if you want to avoid buying more amazing travel products!

It’s called Shiny Object Syndrome, and it can become apparent in any aspect of your life, but it’s especially problematic when you are trying to figure out what travel gear you actually need to buy and pack for that next big trip.

How do you avoid “shiny object syndrome” when it comes to packing and planning for adventures? Here’s a good way to start.

Our Easiest, Quickest Tip

The first, and simplest, way to avoid packing or purchasing items you don’t need for a trip is to, you guessed it, create a packing list!

Be sure to ask yourself, “What travel gear do I need for my trip to XYZ?” (with emphasis on need).

Write out everything and highlight the items that you need to buy beforehand. We definitely recommend pricing these items in advance so you can shop for the best deal leading up to your getaway. Then double check your list to eliminate anything you won’t reasonably need.

We can show you how in this post.

Have Tunnel Vision

Most people would say tunnel vision isn’t a good thing, but in this situation, it’s essential. Don’t even look around in other sections of the travel gear store apart from what you’re going for. Don’t try on travel clothes “just to see if they fit.” Don’t browse online for travel gear (you get a pass for hanging out at Her Packing List of course). And definitely don’t subscribe to those flash sales that send you daily emails. That’s a surefire way to buy things you don’t need.

Do you suffer from Shiny Object Syndrome when it comes to travel gear? Learn how to avoid it, and figure out what gear you actually need.

Smaller is Better

We probably sound like a broken record here at HPL, but choose a smaller bag. The less room you have to pack, the less likely you are to develop shiny object syndrome and purchase unnecessary items that you’ll have to cram in later. So really consider the size of your bag.

Can you go carry on easily? Do you really need a new bag for this trip or can you make do with one you already have? Go through a trial run of packing before you go to make sure everything you really need fits. Whatever doesn’t can stay behind! And anything else you need can be purchased when you get there.

Purpose and Value

Of course, there is a lot to be said about investing in pieces of gear that serve a better purpose than something you already own, and then replacing it out. And, if that piece of gear offers more value to you in the long run- easier travels in some way or form- then those may not just be shiny objects for you to avoid. Think critically about each piece in relation to your packing list (yep, we brought it back to the list!).

How do YOU deal with shiny object syndrome when it comes to travel gear and packing?

Written by Caroline

Caroline Eubanks is a native of Atlanta, Georgia, but has also called Charleston, South Carolina and Sydney, Australia home. After college graduation and a series of useless part-time jobs, she went to Australia for a working holiday. In that time, she worked as a bartender, bungee jumped, scuba dived, pet kangaroos, held koalas and drank hundreds of cups of tea. You can find Caroline at Caroline in the City.

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Reader Interactions


  1. Amanda | Chasing My Sunshine says

    I think this is a great article! Honestly, I’ve had gear-overwhelming-syndrome before. It actually stalls you in making your dreams happen! You think that you have to have this, that, and the other thing and you just put off what you really want to do because of gear. Thanks for writing something like this!!

  2. Svenja says

    Yup, guilty, I SO have Shiny Object Syndrome!

    I love browsing stores like REI, both online and brick-and-mortar, and I have way more gear than I could possibly ever need, guess that’s just the way my female DNA compensates for my total lack of interest in fashion and make up 😉

    I can easily travel with just the one pair of flip flops on my feet, some undies, a couple of t-shirts and maybe a spare pair of shorts, but as soon as I enter the “unnecessary gadget”-aisles, I switch from “need” to “want”…
    Luckily, I haven’t yet felt the urge to actually take ALL of those Shiny Objects I have accumulated over the past decades on the road with me!

  3. Julie says

    This is hilarious! I came on HPL because I’m procrastinating deciding on whether to buy a couple of new travel items! I’m packing smaller than ever before, so now the problem is deciding which new multi-use pieces I should invest in, and which pieces I already own could be considered multi-use.

  4. Lady Light Travel says

    I ask the question; “What bad thing happens if I don’t bring this item?”. If the answer is “nothing” or “not much” then it should be left behind.
    Each additional item add ounces, and multiple ounces add into pounds.
    I can see replacing an item with something that is smaller and lighter. Adding it in to an existing list is something totally different.
    And remember that gear suppliers are there to sell you gear, not help you pack lighter!

    • Brooke says

      Yep, every little bit adds up! I like to think about how I would get by without that item and work through those scenarios in my head. Pretty much the same result as your question 🙂

  5. MEISSOUN says

    Not myself – but my boyfriend… He went through a phase when he bought EVERYTHING and yes, a water purifier. Before we went to Japan. WTF?
    I think most of what he bought didn’t even make it into his suitcase. It was too full of all the Swiss cheese we had to bring his Japanese relatives 🙂
    The only thing that excites me is finding even smaller tubes and bottles for my creams. So that can’t be all too bad.

  6. Abby says

    Here I am a Grand Mother and planning my first trip to Europe! And perusing all these sites which are directed to young people- mostly.
    But as I have studied and contemplated, I realized that the best way to plan your trip is to KNOW YOURSELF.
    Seriously, after a lifetime I know I am comfortable in dresses; it’s what I usually wear, everywhere. Hats. A backpack rather than a rolling case.. Not a lot of widgets because I like multi-purpose stuff. I am particular about certain things when I sleep so yes, a silk mummy bag might be just the thing..
    I have travelled in the U.S. on plane, train and bus. With your help, I think I can figure out Europe.
    Thanks for all the great info!

    • Svenja says

      I don’t know where in Europe you plan to travel, but at least the countries I am familiar with (Germany, Denmark, Sweden, the Netherlands, England, Scotland, Italy, France, Spain) aren’t that hard to figure out 😉

      Just as you said, the best way to plan is to know what you like, what you’re comfortable with. So just ignore all those guide books that tell you to wear those hideous travel clothes or bring XY “because Europeans wear XY all the time, you don’t want to stand out, bla bla…”, and just pack what you feel good with. After all, YOU want to have a great trip!

      I usually just check the weather forecast, pack layers wherever I travel to, and generally pack what I feel comfortable in, which for me means jeans, t-shirts, simple pull-on jersey skirts, tank tops, my favorite Icebreaker hoodie, flip flops in summer, sneakers in winter or when I plan on hiking a lot.

      So far, I have never had any problems with just packing what I usually wear anyway.
      For reference, I’m in my late 30s, live in Germany, love traveling all over the U.S. and (mostly Northern) Europe.
      My packing might change a little if I ever travel to very conservative countries or places that just need some more specialized gear…

      Alright, that was quite an essay.

      Anyways, have fun in Europe, wherever you travel!

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