If there is nothing more exciting for you than putting away your backpack, putting on your hiking boots and walking, you will be like most other adventurers.
Whether you’re travelling to regions closer to home or abroad, leaving spontaneously for a long weekend or going on a backpacking adventure for several months, discovering places with your feet alone is exciting, intense and takes you to places many tourists never even bother to visit.
There’s just nothing like feeling the complete freedom of slinging on a backpack and getting away from it all.
So for your next backpacking trip, I wanted to give you my Top 4 practical backpacking tips to make sure you get the most of your journey
Keep Things Simple
As you can imagine, when backpacking you need to keep things as simple as possible by packing the absolute minimum possible.
In fact, when travelling by air (and depending on the length of your trip), you might even get away with using your backpack as carry-on luggage and save money on the baggage check-in fees – I’ve seen it done although the airlines are cracking down on this more and more so do make sure your backpack fits the required size.
But the main point is to keep the weight to an absolute minimum.
Believe me that the less you wear on your back, the better you’ll feel. Your body and energy levels will be grateful, and you’ll have a much better experience overall.
As there’s a good chance that you’ll be moving around quite frequently, it can get quite tiring (and even irritating at times) when having to put and remove your backpack constantly.
If you happen to be staying in a major city for a few days, another good way to make your trip more comfortable is to have a smaller backpack packed into your larger backpack. This way where you can simply move around the city without having to lug around your main pack.
Although it’s pretty obvious, I’ve come across a quite a few backpackers with an astonishing amount of gear.
You need to be pretty ruthless when it comes to backpacking so choose functional, space-saving and lightweight clothing rather than thick sweaters or even jeans. These are not only lighter, but they’ll keep you warm and dry during your adventures, no matter what the weather is like.
READ MORE: 20+ Insanely Useful Backpacking Essentials
The Right Footwear
As soon as you start walking, you can’t do without one thing: sturdy but comfortable footwear. Believe me that there’s nothing worse than spending your whole trip with uncomfortable shoes.
Generally speaking, strong and sturdy trainers are a good pick. If you’re buying new ones before travelling, just make sure they’re well broken-in before you leave because you could end up with blisters and that’s the last thing you need on a backpacking trip.
Also, and before you leave, do your research on the weather conditions at the various destinations because this will also affect your choice of footwear.
For example, in Southern European countries, during the summer months, you can just get away with strong trainers. But if you plan to visit more northern European countries during the summer, you’ll almost certainly want to make sure you have waterproof footwear because whilst it rains far less, it’s very unlikely you’re not going to get away with no rain!
And of course, if you plan to visit mountainous areas or just going off-the-beaten-track, you’re almost certainly going to need more sturdy trekking footwear. If this is going to the case, you’ll probably need both trekking footwear and a pair of lightweight trainers as well.
The Right Clothes
Just like footwear, functional and lightweight clothing is the obvious choice. Not only does this save space in your backpack, choosing the right clothing will provide ideal protection against wind, cold and rain and, without you sweating.
So if you happen to be travelling during autumn or winter, use the ‘onion principle’ by having several layers because this will give you the maximum flexibility and ensure that you are ready for pretty much anything.
From underwear to jackets, each layer has a specific function. For example, the base layer, which rests directly on your skin, eliminates perspiration without absorbing it, for which synthetic fibres are perfectly suited. A simple hoodie or lightweight sweater as an intermediate layer will keep you warm and finally, the outer layer will protect you from wind, rain and even lower temperatures.
A Final Note on Documentation and Insurance
Although highly unlikely, one of the worst things that can happen is losing your documentation so it’s a good idea to take photocopies of your passport and take a note of any emergency phone numbers with you (for example, emergency consulate services).
Even better, scan all your important documents and keep a copy on your smartphone. That way you can eventually go to a business centre (most major towns have them) and transfer / print them out from a computer.
Also, don’t forget about travel insurance. Yes, it’s an extra expense but it gives enormous peace-of-mind. For example, if you need any medical treatment this can be especially expensive so it’s vital you have the right insurance in place.
Finally, don’t forget that if you’re travelling to the USA on a backpacking trip, you’ll need to get an ESTA visa exemption before leaving the UK.
For Americans travelling to Europe, providing you’re an American citizen you don’t need any visa, at least at the time of writing of this article. But starting from 1 January 2021, you will need to complete ETIAS visa exception if you are travelling from the United States (which by the way, doesn’t include the UK since the UK will no longer be part of the European Union by that time).