Backpacking America: Everything You Need to Know

For any backpacker looking for an excellent experience, the USA just has to be on your wishlist. It’s a vast country that takes in a huge range of environments from east to west. You will meet a lot of people, make a lot of friends, and enjoy every kind of landscape you can think of. From long stretches of desert to modern cities – it’s all here.

But make no mistake about it, America is a tough country for backpackers. Some of the terrains will be hard work, and with over 3,00 miles to travel, it’s going to be a long, arduous journey. But if you want to take on the challenge, we say go for it! Just make sure you are well prepared. We’ve put together this list of essentials you will need to make your way across America from coast to coast.

Grand Canyon


Before you get into America, you need authorization. You have to apply for an ESTA Visa Waiver which is necessary for tourists who are only spending less than 90 days in the country. Any more than that, and you may need to apply for a visa. According to, you’ll need several documents for your ESTA. A valid, biometric passport with a machine-readable section is a must. You should also have your return ticket or outbound ticket that will take you out of the country. It is also vital that you apply for your ESTA before traveling – give yourself 72 hours at least to allow for any issues.


America is so huge it has different time zones. As you can imagine, this means you will be experiencing many different weather conditions while on your travels. Make sure you have a comfortable backpack with enough clothing to see you through any major weather changes. You should also bring a backpack cover to protect your gear from rain, as well as a rainproof jacket for you to wear.

Golden Gate Bridge San Francisco

Camping and food

While you might have an idea of staying in elegant hotels every night of your trip, it’s a little unlikely. We suggest bringing a tent with you – something small and lightweight will do. A sleeping pad will also be welcome when you are sleeping on rough terrain. Before you set off on your travels each day, make sure you have plenty of lightweight foodstuffs – dried fruit and peanuts are good examples. There will be plenty of occasions when you are far away from a store, so bringing enough nutrition is a must. Finally, water purification tablets are also essential so you can drink from any source.


Don’t rely on your smartphone signal to keep your maps running all day and night. Bring an up-to-date physical map, too – along with a compass. You don’t want to end up lost in the middle of a forest or desert. Some are so vast that help will find it hard to find you.


Finally, make sure you bring some basic safety essentials. A first aid kit with any medication you might need will be necessary. It’s also worth investing in some pepper spray to scare off wild dogs. According to, you may also need bear spray.

OK, so there you have it – a basic toolkit for backpacking across the States. Good luck – and have an awesome trip!

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