In exactly nine days I will be skipping the country and busting out the backpack. Just your typical South-East Asian romp, except for one measly little thing: my backpack hasn’t seen the light of day since I can’t even remember. Call me a sucker but I’d much rather be pulling a bag than piggy-backing one. I blame my aversion to backpacks on the only god-forsaken thing it can be blamed on: my post-school European Gap Year. *cue cringe*
I loved the whole backpacking concept yet hated the actual idea of a backpack. So, after 10 months of using the pack as a pillow, stool, flotation-device and rain-shield oh, and let’s not forget the back spasms – enough was enough. When that trip concluded I shoved that thing so far into storage it was never to be seen again. ‘Til now.
My thoughts are along the lines of ‘if you’re going to be traipsing across dirt, hiking along stone, and bussing around third-world countries for five weeks with no more than an airfare booked then a suitcase on wheels isn’t probably going to make sense. Best to be carrying your precious cargo over the mud in Laos instead of dragging your Samsonite.
Apropos today, during a fairly lengthy procrastination period, I decided to reacquaint myself with the lost art of backpacking and have formed some backpacking tips and tricks. I successfully feel 20 years old again…
My Backpacking Tips and Tricks
My Backpacking Tips and Tricks #1 – Assume That Your Backpack Will Get Wet….
Anything of value including books and electronics should be in reusable plastic bags. Waterproof covers for backpacks are nice to have, but sometimes they leak or you don’t have time to put it on. If a monsoon storm pops up while your pack is sitting in the luggage hold of a bus or boat, you can kiss your Kindle goodbye.
My Backpacking Tips and Trips #2 – Bigger Isn’t Always Better…
The average person will want to opt for the largest bag possible, but this isn’t always the best idea. Decide how much clothing you really need to carry, considering if and when you’ll be able to do laundry, and find something that will accommodate your personal needs. Choose a bag that’s too large and you may have trouble storing it on planes and trains. Choose a bag that’s too small and you won’t be able to bring home any extra goodies.
My Backpacking Tips and Tricks #3 – Pack A Jacket No Matter What!
You’ll have to decide how much clothing to pack on your own, but remember – you’re going to be stuck carrying it for a long, looong time. Always pack an extra sweater or jacket even if you’re visiting a warm climate. You’ll be glad you did if you find yourself stuck in a storm that drags a cold front through the area with it.
My Backpacking Tips and Tricks #3 – Imodium Is Your Friend…
You don’t need to carry a pharmacy full of medications in your backpack, but make sure you do pack some sort of antacid and an anti-diarrhoea formula as these are often hard to find in strange places. Bring earplugs in case you find yourself in a noisy hostel, and never ever travel without a pair of cheap flip flops. You’ll want to wear them in the shower or while you’re doing laundry.
My Backpacking Tips and Tricks #4 – When In Doubt, Flashpack!
Who are these elusive breed of people, and are you one of them? The easiest way to describe them is as backpackers prepared to spend a bit more. For traveller and writer Russ Thorne, it is “not being ashamed to get a tour guide in a museum, having some slightly more upmarket meals, and generally not forcing poverty on yourself like it’s a badge of honour”. This might mean a dive camp in Fiji with meals included, upgrading to a sleeper on a train rather than sleeping in your seat, or simply checking into a hotel rather than putting up the tent. Flashpacking may be bad for your budget, but every once in a while it’ll be good for your sanity.
My Backpacking Tips and Tricks #5 – Don’t Get Your Knickers In a Knot about How Much to Pack!
How many pairs should you take? With packing, less is definitely more. Most gap years are spent in the tropics, which means you won’t be wearing much anyway, and anything you wash will dry quickly. Extreme light packers will be in a cycle of wearing one pair, washing another and drying a third, but this is a bit harsh for most of us. Double the number and you’re probably about right.
Feature Image via Diaries of Wanderlust
Meme by Kristen Hubbard