Backpacking Tips for Beginners
It’s hard not to yearn for the freedom of travelling and backpacking when the summer holidays hit and/or you’re waiting for graduation. Whether youre island hopping in Thailand or trekking the Himalayas theres one thing thats vitally important: your luggage.
Ten top backpacking tiips to make sure your travels go smoothly before you even leave the house:
1) Clothes: theres some debate on how much you should take and of course it depends on the climate and culture of the place youre visiting. Some guides will tell you never to take jeans (theyre heavy, bulky and take an age to dry) but I know plenty of people who have and managed just fine. Whatever you choose, make sure its hard wearing enough that it wont fall apart, a colour that wont show stains and fairly light. If youre going on a round the world trip, or anywhere where theyll be radical changes in temperature, I recommend you take lots of light layers as they keep in the heat more effectively than one thick one and can be taken on and off according to whats needed.
2) Make sure you get a backpack thats both comfortable and the right size: big enough for all your stuff and small enough that you can actually lift it. If you can test it out with something heavy in it before you buy it so you get a better idea of how itll feel full. If youre like me and can fill any size bag you have then a good tip is to take all the toiletries youll need at the start. That way youll free up space for souvenirs as you go and not have to learn how to ask for tampons in Swahili.
3) Take anything you wouldnt want to be caught without: extra tampons, Imodium plus, thrush cream (a common complaint among backpackers), condoms, birth control, any medication you need, the list goes on. A travel medical kit is a good idea, especially if youre going into places where you dont trust the local health service.
4) Speaking of health services, do NOT skimp on shots. Your GP will tell you what you need, although its advisable to go early: a lot of shots need to be taken a few months in advance.
5) Another thing not to leave home without is a secret travellers wallet. This is a flesh coloured pouch that you wear around your waist under your clothes and which will hold your passport, travellers checks, money, bank cards, photo cards, emergency contacts, anything you cant afford to lose. Once this is on you should leave it on: Ive known plenty of people sleep in them. You might also consider keeping a decoy wallet with one days worth of money in case you end up getting robbed.
6) In A Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy, Douglas Adams tells us that a towel is the single most useful thing a traveller can have. I read this book hungrily when I was a teenager pining for the open road and that is why it pains me so much to say this: you do not need a towel. A sarong will dry quicker, double as a skirt, a blanket, a rug for picnics, a privacy screen in a youth hostel… If you can’t bear the thought of having no towel, bring one you’ve cut in half.
7) Wherever youre going, it goes without saying youre going to see some truly amazing things and youll want to record it. Make sure you bring your camera as well as plenty of spare batteries/charger and memory cards. Oh, and check out the Mookychick photography tips before you go.
8) If this is your first time travelling, or even if it isnt, the chances are youll find yourself suffering from culture shock at some point. The best remedy for this is to spend a few hours buried quietly in a book until the world gets a bit less bewildering. Whatever you bring make sure its either an old favourite you wont mind reading again and again or something you dont mind swapping.
9) This ones so obvious I shouldnt have to say it, but check your guide book for destination-specific stuff you might need. From headscarves to mosquito nets, make sure you have everything you need before you go.
10) Lastly, be aware that travelling is hard on your personal possessions: books will lose covers from being shoved into a crammed day bag, clothes will fall apart, whites will not remain so. Dont take anything you cant bear to lose and be ready to swap stuff along the way.
If you want more travelling tips, check out our