Backpacking Tips for Beginners

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 you’re island hopping in Thailand or trekking the Himalayas there’s one thing that’s vitally important: your luggage.

Ten top backpacking tiips to make sure your travels go smoothly before you even leave the house:

1) Clothes: there’s some debate on how much you should take and of course it depends on the climate and culture of the place you’re visiting. Some guides will tell you never to take jeans (they’re 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 it’s hard wearing enough that it won’t fall apart, a colour that won’t show stains and fairly light. If you’re going on a round the world trip, or anywhere where they’ll 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 what’s needed.

2) Make sure you get a backpack that’s 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 it’ll feel full. If you’re like me and can fill any size bag you have then a good tip is to take all the toiletries you’ll need at the start. That way you’ll free up space for souvenirs as you go and not have to learn how to ask for tampons in Swahili.

3) Take anything you wouldn’t 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 you’re going into places where you don’t trust the local health service.

4) Speaking of health services, do NOT skimp on shots. Your GP will tell you what you need, although it’s 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 traveller’s wallet. This is a flesh coloured pouch that you wear around your waist under your clothes and which will hold your passport, traveller’s checks, money, bank cards, photo cards, emergency contacts, anything you can’t afford to lose. Once this is on you should leave it on: I’ve known plenty of people sleep in them. You might also consider keeping a decoy wallet with one day’s worth of money in case you end up getting robbed.

6) In A Hitchhiker’s 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 you’re going, it goes without saying you’re going to see some truly amazing things and you’ll 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 isn’t, the chances are you’ll 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 it’s either an old favourite you won’t mind reading again and again or something you don’t mind swapping.

9) This one’s so obvious I shouldn’t 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. Don’t take anything you can’t bear to lose and be ready to swap stuff along the way.

If you want more travelling tips, check out our