Whether you’re heading off on a multi-city tour, you’re heading into the wilderness for a hiking trip, or you’re heading into the unknown on a months-long backpacking trip, planning in advance can help you enjoy your trip more. Getting your backpack right is particularly important, as it’s going to be glued to your back for a large part of your time abroad. Happily, there are tried-and-tested tips from those who have been in the backpacking game for years on end. Here is a short, essential selection of those tips for those who are about to head out into the world with nothing but a pack on their back.
It should go without saying that you should try to pack light. Bring only what you feel you really need – and of those essentials, try to take small items, such as travel size toiletries. Items like shampoo and body wash in normal size would take up way too much space, but the travel-sized ones are perfect and allow more space for your other essentials like wipes and creams. After every backpacking trip, fully unpack your pack and lie all your belongings on the floor. Put aside those items you barely used. They shouldn’t come with you on your next trip.
When it comes to documents, it’s worth bringing more than you feel you might need. Crossing borders often involves passport-size photos and photocopies of your travel documents. If you run into trouble, a document with in-case-of-emergency numbers can be helpful, written in the languages of the nations you’re visiting. Finally, bring a printout of your travel insurance document – at least one of them – so you can access your policy when you’re not connected to the internet.
Once a real hassle to organize, it’s never been easier to get travel cash abroad. ATMs are now ubiquitous and take foreign cards. Still, save cash by bypassing local exchange rates and fixing your rate to, for example, the Mastercard standard by purchasing a specific travel card. That could be a credit, debit, or pre-paid card. Over the months, using this favorable exchange rate can save you hundreds of dollars.
There are considerably more electrical items in the modern backpacker’s bags. The smartphone is, of course, essential, as is the travel battery that you can use to charge it on the go. But you should try to travel with as few extra gadgets as possible, seeing as they’re a target for criminals and they’re liable to get broken on your many travels in the air, on sea and overland.
Above all, backpacking is about connecting with others. Bring photos from home to show people from different cultures or other small trinkets to share with local people. Gift-giving is a huge part of global culture, and even a US coin can make a small token gift to someone who helps you out. Bring a notebook and pen, too, so that you can note down numbers, words in different languages, and communicate with pictures when verbal language fails entirely.
These tips will help you backpack like a pro, whether you’re a seasoned backpacker or you’re going out into the world for the very first time.