First things first, there are no rules when it comes to backpacking because with so many incredible activities and experiences. No matter where you are you’ll never find yourself far from something fun to tick off your bucket list. Trust us. If you’ve never went backpacking before, you might have heard some bad things about it. “You have to carry your gear with you at all times, expend tons of physical energy, and take advantage of accommodations that are usually far from four-star.”
So why do it? The truth is that if you’re willing to struggle a little, backpacking provides an incredible alternative for those seeking to explore the world on a budget. You may have to spend a little more time planning the nuances of your trip in advance but backpacking is fun, educational, and safe. All you have to do is be prepared.
1. START WITH THE BACKPACK ITSELF
The most important aspect of your packing phase is the backpack itself. If you choose the wrong backpack you’re bound to have a miserable experience as the straps begin digging into your shoulders and your back begins to ache.
The average person will want to opt for the largest bag possible, but this isn’t always the best idea. Decide how much clothing you really need to carry, considering if and when you’ll be able to do laundry, and find something that will accommodate your personal needs. Choose a bag that’s too large and you may have trouble storing it on planes and trains. Choose a bag that’s too small and you won’t be able to bring home any extra goodies.
When reviewing backpacks, make sure you choose one with durable material and strong straps. Remember the first time your cheap backpack broke in grade school and you had to try to carry it home? You don’t want to mimic that experience while traveling. Try finding a side-loading backpack with extra chest or waist straps to help distribute the weight evenly.
2. PACKING FOR YOUR TRIP
This is all about finding a perfect balance. You need to be prepared the situation, but at the same time you don’t want to carry around extra weight unless you need to. Always have an extra hoodie or jacket even if you’re expecting it to be a hot day. You’ll be glad you did if you find yourself stuck in a storm that drags a cold front through the area with it.
You don’t need to carry a hospital in your backpack, but make sure you have an antacid (like Tums) and an anti-diarrheal (like Pepto-Bismol) as these are often hard to find in strange places and can get you out of a sticky situation. Bring earplugs in case you find yourself in a noisy hostel, and never ever travel without a pair of cheap flip flops. You’ll want to wear them in the shower or while you’re doing laundry.
3. PLANNING YOUR TRIP
Gone are the days where choosing your next destination right before you leave the last one is ideal. If you don’t plan in advance you may find yourself staying in questionable accommodations – that is if you can find a place to stay at all. Even the most seasoned backpacker has a game plan, and you should to.
You’ll also want to plan your modes of transportation very carefully. Your airline tickets may seem cheap, but the average airport is on the outskirts (at best) of any destination. That means you’re going to have to take an extra cab or train to get to your destination. When added together, is flying still cheaper than simply taking a train that will likely drop you off smack in the middle of the city you’ve chosen?
4. MAKE FRIENDS AND CONNECTIONS
Did you know you can rent cell phones in foreign places? If you’re in a strange place, do so and use the phone to keep in touch with the friends you make in hostels or in the towns you visit. You never know when you might need their help or cross paths again.
Having a cell phone on hand is important if you need to call for police or ambulance services as well. There’s nothing worse than hunting for a pay phone in a strange place.
Backpacking can be an incredibly fun way to spend time, alone or with friends, and can be an enjoyable challenge. Take the time to plan your trip in advance and you’ll be amazed at how smoothly your trip will flow. Pack your best hiking shoes and get going. You’ve got an entire world to explore! Taking note of the above backpacking tips will help you on your way to a hassle free and safe trip.