Checklist: 7 Essential Tips When Backpacking

Tim Parry


man in black backpack during golden hour

Backpacking has managed to creep its way up on people’s travel bucket lists over the last few years and there’s a good reason why. It’s a practical and more immersive way to experience cultural diversity minus heavy luggage and expensive hotels.

It makes traveling attainable for everyone, especially the younger generation. But as simple as it sounds, there are so many things to consider when it comes to backpacking.

Like any other travel, it entails planning and meticulous preparation to ensure a hassle-free and memorable adventure. So, to help make things easier for you, we’ve compiled 7 of the most essential tips when backpacking regardless of your destination.

Backpacking as a Solo Traveler, a Couple or with Friends 

1. Essential Tip in Backpacking – Planning your trip properly

If you’re reading about backpacking tips right this moment, odds are you already have a destination in mind and are just finalizing your trip down to the very last detail. You could be thinking of going to a neighboring country or traveling halfway across the globe. But regardless of distance, backpacking without a plan is a recipe for disaster.

Although it can be fun and thrilling leaving everything to fate, there are things you still need to prepare before getting on that flight. And the first thing you need to do in order to prepare is to research. Look up all the important information you need for your trip. How long does it take to get to your destination? Do you need to secure a travel visa in advance?

How many days will you be gone for? What are the weather conditions going to be like? Where will you be staying? The more you know, the easier it will be to prepare yourself and everything you will need. If you are a yoga person, you will definitely want to make room for your yoga mat!

Once you’ve gathered all the necessary information, it’s now time to put things into motion. This is where you start booking your plane, train, or bus tickets and securing all travel documents, especially if you are heading to another country. Now is also the time to look up weather conditions and start packing your belongings for the trip. While you’re at it, download offline maps of your destination and look up public WiFi locations for when you get there.

2. Essential Tip in Backpacking – Popular destinations and other tourist traps

When traveling to a foreign country, the last thing you want is to look like a tourist. Not that there’s anything wrong with it, but simply because you want to avoid being taken advantage of by locals eager to prey on clueless travelers.

This is where your research will come in handy. When you know about the popular destinations and you have an idea on the places you want to go, it becomes easier for you to avoid tourist traps.

But what if popular destinations are also part of my itinerary, you ask? Go visit! It’s perfectly fine including heading to famous tourist spots if you really want to see and experience them for yourself. And that’s the qualifier – IF YOU really want to. But if you’re only going there because “everybody goes there,” there’s a higher chance you won’t have the same pleasant experience as other people.

Do keep in mind that your trip only serves the purpose of your satisfaction and not anybody else’s. So, if you don’t mind spending money on overpriced food at a popular restaurant (that you can most probably find in another lesser known place), feel free to do so.

And when you do find yourself in the middle of throngs of tourists in these attractions, make sure to stay alert and be extra mindful of your belongings. It would be of great convenience if you could store your essentials in a money belt such as this one, which you can keep close to you at all times.

3. Essential Tip in Backpacking – Gadgets and gear to haul

Bringing gadgets and travel gear is a given in any trip. But when you’re backpacking, you have very limited space available which is why it is equally important to be smart and practical when choosing which items to bring. Luckily, activities in Cabo San Lucas won’t need a travel adapter!

First among the list is a portable power cube complete with outlets and USB ports for all your devices. This is especially helpful if you’re planning to stay at hostels or shared dormitories where there’s a shortage of power outlets. You wouldn’t want to be running out of the batteries in the day because you weren’t able to charge your devices the night before, would you?

Another common problem encountered by backpackers is not having the correct adapter to use in a foreign country. While most accommodations rent out their adapters to guests, they are very few in number and you basically have half the people in the hostel looking for one. To save yourself the hassle, just bring your own universal travel adapter with you.

Thirdly, do not leave home without a compact and light power bank that can fit in your day bag. When you’re backpacking, you’ll be out for most of the day, probably only finding time to stay in your room at night. It goes without saying that your smartphone should have power the entire time because you’d definitely need it for the maps, translator apps, and so many other things that one cycle of full battery life won’t be enough. B0194WDVHI

Other than your clothes, toiletries, camera, laptop, and travel documents, these three are the first things that should go in your bag as you prepare for that much-awaited trip of a lifetime.

4. Essential Tip in Backpacking – Pack only what you need

If you’re going backpacking, we don’t need to tell you it requires forgoing the luggage and squeezing everything into a trusty backpack, right? But for it to be possible, you need a pragmatic approach to packing. Pick clothes that are appropriate for any climate and keep them as basic as possible. A windbreaker, for example, can be a substitute for a jacket or raincoat, while an inflatable pillow  can help you sleep more comfortably if you’re camping outside.

Maybe throw in a dress for nights when you’re feeling a little fancy or even add a pair of sandals when you want to let your feet breathe for a while. Just make sure you can use them more than once in the entire duration of your trip for full utilization. Some travellers choose allocate some room and pack hair products, and we do not have any recommendation for or against - just dont overpack on things you won't use. 

It also helps to know the proper way of packing your clothes – rolling instead of folding. This keeps them as less space-consuming as possible and gives you more space for other essential items. You can also use compressible packing cubes to separate clothes from towels, undergarments, and electric devices. Plus, it’s easier to just pull the cube out if you need something instead of taking everything out of the bag and putting them all back in.

5. Essential Tip in Backpacking – Familiarize yourself with the cultural basics

When traveling, it’s imperative that you immerse yourself in the local culture of the place you are visiting. Not only does it enrich the whole experience, but it also makes it feel more authentic and personal. Of course, it also means being sensitive to other people’s traditional practices.

You don’t have to learn the language before the trip. But if you can, try to master at least the most basic phrases to make your trip a little bit more convenient. Also, be mindful of their religious customs and ethnic beliefs and try to dress appropriately especially when visiting sacred places like churches, temples, parks, or shrines. Observing silence in certain locations or knowing when and how to bow or nod is a simple way of showing respect.

These are things travelers don’t give much attention to, but they come a long way in making locals appreciate your presence instead of detesting tourists and seeing them as an inconvenience to their daily lives.

6. Essential Tip in Backpacking – Food tips and gastronomic adventures

More than the scenic spots you see and pictures you take, food plays a crucial role in making your trip either memorable or regrettable. But what’s a trip without food, right? In any kind of activity, food is always part of the adventure. So, be open to trying local cuisine even if you don’t know half of the ingredients used, even if you have no idea how it tastes like, and even if you haven’t tried anything like it before.

The best places to try local delicacies would be the markets and hole-in-the-wall restaurants that mostly locals know about. Make it a point to drop by the local market where you can find fresh produce and popular delicacies.

Hole-in-the-wall dining establishments, meanwhile, are usually located at the center of town or tucked away in small neighborhood alleys. If you don’t know anyone who can guide you to these places, be mindful of your surroundings when roaming the streets. Most of the time, you can spot locals lining up at the storefront and this usually means it’s a favorite among them.

Try to avoid fancy restaurants and fast food chains that you can find at home. Make the most of your backpacking trip by fully embracing the local life.

7. Essential Tip in Backpacking – Be game enough to try everything!

Sure, you’ve got everything planned and ready for your trip. But what’s a journey without a little thrill? Planning for a backpacking adventure is more about creating a rough framework for your travel and ensuring you’ll have a good time. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be flexible with your plans.

Always remember to leave a little room for change or unprecedented happenings. Take extra precaution, too, especially if you’re visiting a foreign land where you next to no one. But always be open to whatever comes your way. Who knows? It might just be the reason for this trip to be the best in your lifetime.

Other things you might also want to consider:

Backpacking on a Budget

Backpacking trips usually last several days, sometimes even weeks or months. And when you’re living in a backpack, it’s easy to feel deprived of necessities and think that you need to spend on a lot of things to make yourself comfortable. But that isn’t always the case. Backpacking on a budget is also something you need to be prepared for.

When you’re on the road or halfway around the world, you don’t have access to a lot of the things you usually do at home and you tend to spend a lot of money to avail them. But most of the time, they are not essential to the trip like a local SIM card or pocket WiFi, for example. Before you go backpacking, make sure to have a working budget for the trip. This helps you save money by limiting your spending on unnecessary things. Try to also assess your preferences when it comes to lodging, transportation, and food. If you don’t mind sharing a room with strangers, stay at a hostel; if you prefer comfort and convenience during intercity travels, get premium seats on buses or trains. Set a daily budget and a separate contingency fund and work around it.

Backpacking with a Baby or Toddler

While it may be fun traveling alone and not caring about anyone else except for yourself, sometimes you also catch yourself thinking it’d be nice to share wonderful moments with a partner, a pet, or even a baby. Backpacking is already challenging as it is, but it becomes even more so when you’re traveling with kids.

If it’s important for you take your child with you on the trip, be prepared for all kinds of situations. Make sure your destination is safe for children and you have all the things the baby needs such as clean drinking water, formula, comfortable and weather-appropriate clothes. Whatever planning you do for yourself for a solo backpacking trip, it’s triple the amount of preparations when you’re backpacking with a baby. But if you’re confident with your parenting skills and you come really prepared, there shouldn’t be any problem taking your child with you. It may require more responsibility on your part, but it’s also double the fun when you’re together.

The best way to both cary your essential items and your baby in a very practical and ergonomic way is to use a hiking baby/toddler carrier - great for your back, comfortable for your baby/child and a very convenient way to go about your traveling!

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Tim Parry