Backpacking can be a struggle, whether you’re a first-timer or a seasoned backpacker there are things to overcome daily. To lend a helping hand we’ve compiled a list of the top 30 things to try and save you the heartaches that can occur when backpacking. With this list in your back pocket, your trip will be optimized and you can focus on switching off and enjoying your travels.
Although after reading the recommendations below you maybe even warier of your trip (if you’re a first-timer) don’t fret too much, everything will fall into place and if you forget something you’ll figure it out.
Backpacking can be one of the enlightening experiences of your life, so hopefully, the list below will help you avoid some of the common pitfalls of backpacking and you can make the most of the journey.
Backpacking can also be a struggle, whether you’re a first-timer or a seasoned backpacker there are things to overcome daily. To lend a helping hand we’ve compiled a list of the top 30 things to try and save you the heartaches that can occur when backpacking. With this list in your back pocket, your trip will be optimized and you can focus on switching off and enjoying your travels.
Although after reading the recommendations below you maybe even warier of your trip (if you’re a first-timer) don’t fret too much, everything will fall into place and if you forget something you’ll figure it out. Backpacking can be one of the enlightening experiences of your life, so hopefully, the list below will help you avoid some of the common pitfalls of backpacking and you can make the most of the journey.
1. Pack some emergency cash
Cash these days is an unused payment form for a lot of people these days, but having an emergency stash stowed away can be a lifesaver if you happen to misplace your wallet. Whether its US dollars or another currency, we highly suggest packing some emergency cash in your backpack or safe place other than your wallet/travel belt (if your one of those types of people)
If the worst-case scenario happens and you happen to lose your wallet or bank cards this emergency cash should tide you over until you get your finances in order. Make sure to store in a well-disguised place. Whether that be in a pocket in your backpack or the bottom of a shoe. Make sure it’s somewhere that’s difficult to find and somewhere where you’ll remember too.
2. Pack a soft or Insulated Water bottle
When you’re traveling with one bag, space is everything. To maximize your efforts, pack a soft foldable water bottle. Although it won’t keep your liquids warm or cold like a Swell or Thermos it’s convenient and weighs next to nothing.
If you are going to bring a thermal water bottle, we suggest going with the smaller version. These bottles are good at keeping temperatures for long periods. So, in my opinion, these are worth bringing along too.
Pro-Tip – Make sure your water bottle is empty before going through airport security. Once you get through there are always water fountains available so make sure to fill up and save on those extortionate airport prices.
3. For readers out there we suggest investing in a Kindle/E-Reader
Books are great and what better way to kill a few hours at an airport or by sipping a cocktail at the beach with your favorite book in tow.
As a backpacker, you have to be cutthroat with items that make it into your bag, so if a book is essential to any journey we suggest investing in a kindle. Where you can store thousands of books in the size of a small children’s storybook. Battery life on e-readers is also very good. Most e-readers have about 4 days of battery life, so it should give you ample amounts of juice before you arrive at your first stop.
4. Bring Small Hand Sanitizer bottles and Baby Wipes
Hand sanitizers are so chic at the moment and when your backpacking they are a must-have. Depending on the type of trip you have planned there is a good chance that you’ll probably be roughing it up at some stage. So whether you get ready to chow down to some local delicacies or need to relieve yourself in a not so sanitary looking place, sanitizers can help you out when you’re in a pickle.
Baby Wipes can be a godsend when you can’t get to a shower and are feeling a bit gross. They’re perfect for sprucing you up and getting you through another few hours or days until you can get yourself a nice warm shower or dip in the ocean.
5. Don’t forget the Sunscreen
Wearing Sunscreen should be a school taught practice for and it might be these days for all we know, but when I went to school it was never mentioned. It’s integral that you don’t forget this vital piece of equipment as there is nothing worse than getting sunburnt on your first day and sleeping in an unfamiliar place.
Try to avoid sunscreens that have a lot of fragrance in them. In countries where there are mosquitos and flies, the fragrance will attract them, so best to go with the unscented variety.
6. Style goes out the Window
Although there will be many instagramable opportunities on your adventure. You need to be practical in the types of clothes that you pack. Overall, you need to be reviewing the clothes you are potentially packing based on two factors. Firstly, you need to review the functionality of the piece of clothing. Does it have pockets, is it protective enough to deter mosquitos and what types of fabrics are the clothes made of.
Make sure to pack moisture-wicking clothes to help you be dry in all situations. Quick-drying pants/shorts are also very important. If you can get pants that transform into shorts there even better (although a questionable fashion choice). Raincoats and gear, in general, are important as you can’t let the rain deter you from a day of exploring. You never know when you might get caught in a rain shower, so best to keep these in your day backpack on the regular.
The second element you need to take into account is the piece of articles of clothing weight vs comfort ratio. If the jumper you are planning to bring is super cozy but it weighs a lot then you need to decide if the comfiness is worth the vital space in your backpack. A warm lightweight jumper and jacket are also essential. A general word of warning avoids cotton pieces of clothes. Once they get wet, they retain the moisture for long periods, so don’t pack them.
7. Travel Size Insect Repellent
This is something that warrants a place in your backpack. It’s a key addition if you plan on visiting countries where mosquitos and bugs are prevalent.
Be aware of the ingredients that are in the repellent you purchase. The top ingredients from Consumer Reports “Insect Repellent buyer guide were deet, oil of lemon eucalyptus, or picaridin. So, look for products with one of these ingredients included.
In general, try and avoid the natural repellents as the active ingredients weren’t hugely effective in repelling insects in the Consumer Reports testing, but if you don’t like using chemically produced repellants then be sure to bring the natural repellent.
8. Keep control of those pesky wires by storing them in a Ziplock bag
Ziplock bags are a lifesaver when it comes to traveling with limited storage space. There is nothing worse than trying to reach into the bottom of your backpack to find your iPhone charger and picking out the wrong cable or finding it’s intertwined with your laptop charger.
The one thing you should be aware of when storing cables in a ziplock bag is that the cables can tangle. So, if you’re super organized use a hairpin to keep the wires together. Although it can impact the longevity of the cord.
9. Bring an External Charger
Mobile phones are attached to most people these days. They are your banking information, your tour guide, your entertainment, your way to communicate, and your way to capture the special moments of your trips. So, it’s vital for many people that you have enough juice to last you long periods without a socket in sight.
External chargers are a great way to extend the longevity of your battery when you’re out and about. Most good external chargers offer a few chargers when full, so make sure to pack one for your trip. If you want to go to the next level, get a solar-powered charger to make sure you never get in a bind, as long as the sun is shining.
10. Book Hostels with Good amenities
If you’re backpacking for an extended period we suggest going down the hostel route. If possible it’s worthwhile booking one’s with amenities such as kitchen facilities, late check-in, Wi-Fi, and washing/drying facilities
Eating out for 6 months straight can get pretty expensive, so having the ability to pop to the local grocery store and pick up the ingredients for a home-cooked meal can be great. Now you’re not going to be cooking a roast dinner, but having the option to cook an easy meal is nice.
If you will be arriving at the hostel late, it’s important to confirm that they have a 24hr check-in as there is nothing worse than showing up to a hostel at 3 am and there is no one there to check you in.
11. Let your bank know your traveling
This is an integral step as you don’t want to have your bank card locked when you’re in middle Peru with a limited phone signal. Firstly, it will cost you an arm and a leg to ring the bank’s number if they don’t offer a free hotline and secondly, it’s additional stress that you don’t want to be dealing with at the start of your adventure. Making the 10-minute call before you travel can potentially save you lots of heartaches.
12. Make sure you have the right visas
This seems like a really simple step, but you’d be surprised at how many people miss out on one or two visas in their planning process. Not only can this mess up travel plans but it will also lead you to potentially miss out on great experiences.
If you are wondering if you need a visa to visit a specific country be sure to check out https://visalist.io/. This is a great site where you enter your country of citizenship and it will give you the option to choose the countries you are going to and will provide you feedback on the type of visa necessary if any.
13. Pack Miniature Toiletries
As space is at a premium, miniature travel-sized toiletries are great for saving space. They won’t last you the duration of your trip, but you can also replenish them throughout your journey.
These days there is a large range of products that offer travel-sized varieties and even if your specialty shampoo doesn’t come in travel size, you can always dispense it into a small container that can be bought in most pharmacies.
14. Take a picture of all your travel documents and passport
Hopefully, you won’t lose any of your travel documents or your passport, but it’s better to be prepared than scrambling if it happens. Having a picture of these documents can be helpful if you’re trying to enter a country or need to provide specific information about your passport in case you misplace any of these.
You should also email all these documents to yourself once you’ve taken a picture of everything, so in the nightmare situation where you lose your phone and travel documents, you’re somewhat prepared for the unenviable task.
15. Download Google Translate
This is a powerful app and can be a great tool to use when you explore new countries without any knowledge of the local language. You don’t necessarily need an internet connection for this app to work either. You can download the specific language files to your phone which can then be used while you’re offline. So, be sure to download the languages that you will come across on your trip.
Even the Google translate feature that allows you to aim your phone’s camera at a block of text and it will translate the copy to your desired language is available offline. Here are the instructions on how to download specific languages to your device.
16. Download locations from Google Maps
A mobile phone’s GPS will work without cellular data or Wi-Fi being enabled, so you can still leverage Google Maps to help you navigate your way through unfamiliar cities without a connection. Similar to Google Translate you will need to download the specific location maps to your device before losing connection to the internet.
Once you do that you’ll be able to navigate the city without having to worry about extortionate data charges. One thing to be aware of is that you can get driving instructions in offline mode but the walking, public transport, and bicycling directions are not available without data.
17. Bring a small Power strip
Plugs can be a hot commodity in hostels and when you’re out and about and looking for some juice. If you have a small power strip you can charge multiple electronics at once. This is super helpful and is a lot more efficient than charging things one by one. These are even more important if you’re traveling with other people too.
18. A Waterproof cover for your backpack
This is a simple thing to carry and can save you a lot of hassle if you get caught in the rain or your bag becomes wet for any reason. Keeping the clothes and your belongings dry is so important. So, this little cover is well worth space in your bag.
19. Bring a microfibre quick-dry towel
These towels are quick-dry and anti-bacterial and are perfect for people on an adventure. They’re lightweight and can scrunch up to a small size, so they’re extremely convenient to carry. The towels are also super absorbent, so are good at getting you dry.
What makes these towels special and worth taking on your adventure is the quick-drying capability. They typically take around 15 minutes to dry if left out in the sun. We suggest bringing one for the beach and your body and one smaller one to wash your face.
20. Padlocks/Security cord and a Flashlight
When you’re staying in hostels and you wake up in the middle of the night to go to the bathroom. You can’t turn on a light if you’re in a shared dormitory. So flashlights can help navigate your way to the bathroom or even just reading a book at night. You can alternatively use your phone as light if you don’t fancy packing a flashlight.
Another really important thing to bring is padlocks. If you’re leaving your bag in a hostel and there are lockers it is best to lock your belongings up and even when you’re out and about we suggest that you lock the zipper to your bag as well. To make sure your belongings stay nice and safe. Security cords are also useful if you plan on leaving your backpack anywhere. They are heavy duty cords that you can wrap around your bag. They come in a small package as well like everything on this list.
21. Reusable utensils
A Lot of times you may be eating on the go, so travel utensils can come in very useful. They are also environmentally friendly so are a great option all round. There are several companies out there at the moment that offer great options for reusable utensils.
22. Powdered laundry detergent + Mesh Laundry bag
Ideally, you should dispense a small amount of laundry powered into a ziplock to reduce the size. We suggest double bagging this as no one wants to be powered all over their bag. Powdered detergent is super lightweight and perfect for getting fresh smelling clothes while on the road.
A laundry bag is also super useful. If you have a mesh one you can chuck it in the washing machine and dryer and no need to worry about losing any socks or items of clothing.
23. Universal Power Adapter
This one probably goes without saying but brings a universal travel adapter to make sure you can access power outlets in all countries. I would suggest investing in a semi-decent one that does the majority if not all the regions that you are visiting.
24. Take all the pictures
Pictures are great to keep saves and for backpacking excursions, these can be some of the most memorable experiences of your life.
So, make sure not to forget to capture each memory by snapping some shots. Too many times I’ve looked back at a time and thought to myself, “Why didn’t I take a photo here?” So, leverage your well-charged devices and get snapping.
25. Compartmentalize your packing
Packing cubes make the most of the space that you have in your backpack. They also really help with the organization of your stuff. You can have separate compartments for different types of clothes. For instance, you can pack all of your shorts and trousers in one compartment and t-shirts in another.
Ideally, your packing cubes should be strong and lightweight and extra points if the cubes offer compression technology.
In general, the most efficient way to pack clothing is to roll the clothing. This saves on space and is the best option for optimizing your packing.
26. Download your Spotify playlists and Netflix content before you fly
As data connections will most likely be hard to come by on your travels. Be prepared by downloading music, podcast, video content, and any entertainment you could need on your travels. Public Wi-Fi can be hit or miss in a lot of situations so having to download content while on the road is not ideal. If you’re traveling with a friend or a partner we suggest that you create a shared playlist, so you can get a good mix of your musical tastes. A travel speaker is also a good idea if you have space.
Depending on the country you are in International phone plans can also be pretty limited so downloading content from these sources is not ideal either.
27. Bring an outfit on your carry on luggage
If you have checked your backpack we suggest that you pack a full outfit in your carry-on luggage.
On the chance that your luggage doesn’t make it to your final destination. It’s good to be prepared with clothes to wear the first day while you wait for your luggage to arrive.
28. Bring Earplugs and a Face Mask
If you’re going to be staying in hostels and dorm rooms earplugs and a face mask can be vital if you want some shut-eye and you have some noisy roommates.
They are also good to use on planes and long bus journeys.
29. Don’t use the currency exchange booths at the airport
Bank cards and mobile payments are not ubiquitous in every country so be prepared to have to get some cash in certain countries. Make sure to stay away from currency exchange booths at airports.
They usually have very unfavorable exchange rates so it’s going to be pretty expensive to change your money. You’re much better off going to an ATM where the exchange rates are a lot better.
30. Research and plan your trip it will make your trip a lot easier
From planning your from the airport to your accommodations to figuring out what activities you plan on doing in each location. Detailed preparation is key to a successful trip. We’re not saying to have an hourly schedule for your trip, but a rough plan is always advised. This helps in prioritizing the areas you want to visit and the activities you want to do.
If you’re the kind of person that enjoys the ambiguity of not knowing what you’ll be doing tomorrow then roll with that or bring a friend that is well organized, so you don’t have to be. But having an overall view of your route and activities is always advised.