So you’re planning to go on a backpacking journey, but are a little confused about how to prepare, what to bring, and how to actually, you know, make it a rewarding experience. If you’ve never experienced backpacking before, don’t let stories of people getting broke or running out of energy scare you; because with some preparation, you can easily prevent many of the novice backpacker pitfalls.
Here are a few preparation tips to help ensure that this backpacking trip won’t be your last – but instead, the beginning of several memorable adventures that can educate you so much about the world around you.
1. Research The Destination
Even if you’re a part of a been there, done that group, being informed and up-to-date on the location of your planned visit is a critical step to preparation. Destination guides can provide you with detailed insights into seasonal temperatures, the potential terrain you’ll have to face, what hostels to stay in, cheap eats, and other specifics to the zone. It’s also a good idea to read about the dos and don’ts of a city to see what other backpackers have encountered upon their visits.
2. Get Physically Ready
While you don’t require the conditioning of an MMA athlete to enjoy backpacking, being physically ready can make it a lot less stressful. You’re probably going to be carrying a heavy pack around for at least a couple of hours, and based on where you’re headed, potentially at an elevation where it’s harder to breath (in places like Switzerland). If possible, practice walking with a heavy backpack beforehand. There are no courses that’ll physically prepare you for a backpacking adventure – the best preparation method is to go out there and experience what it is like in real life.
3. Pack The Right Meals
Meal planning for backpackers can be a fun thing – but if you pack the wrong stuff, it can just about disrupt your experience. Because you’re unlikely to have access to a cooler, taking perishable things along is out of the picture. Your easiest and lightest option should be those freeze-dried backpacking meals as you’ll only need to add in water for complete preparation. That said, they could also get expensive. If you’re planning on eating within a budget, you’d want to avoid those canned meals. The ideal eats for dinner can be those all-in-one packaged rice or noodles. For daytime, energy bars and oatmeal packs should be the most convenient to prepare and eat.
4. Get Relevant Vaccinations
See if you need any vacations for your destination of choice. In fact, this should be at the top of your to-do list; getting sick would just ruin your experience, so make sure your body is resistant to any looming diseases. These spread quickly through things like food, water, animal contact, and mosquitoes. Most vacations require just a one-time visit to a healthcare provider, but for specific ones you’ll need to do a course of shots that may go on for several weeks. Most insurance plans for travelers cover the cost, so call up your insurance company and see if it something they’re prepared to cover.
5. Let a Friend or Relative Know About Your Journey
This is something every backpacker should do, not just when they’re traveling for the first time. It’s a good idea to let someone know where you’ll be going. If you experience an emergency, it will be much easier to get help if someone can tell the police/emergency department of your location. You may also look into taking a personal locator beacon along. It can be activated in emergencies to ensure that help arrives to the place where you are rather than you having to go somewhere specific to get assistance.
6. Get The Necessary Supplies
Backpacking requires a surprising number of things. You’ll have to bring a sleeping bag, map, stove, pot, headlamp, etc. If you forget to take these essentials along, your trip might not turn out to be as enjoyable as you’d expect. Not every supply is necessary, but essentials like stoves and sleeping bags need to be packed. Make sure to join a backpacking group and talk to a few experienced backpackers to get a better idea of what supplies are necessary and what you can leave out behind. Repurposing some of the things you already own instead of buying things right off the bat is also a good idea. For instance, a lightweight folding spork may seem nifty, but a spoon that is there in your cupboard should also suffice.
7. See If You Require a Visa
Visas are the official stamp you need to get into certain countries. US, Australian and European citizens can go to many countries without a visa for up to 30 days. However, each country has different requirements, so it is essential to inform yourself on where a visa will be needed, and if it’s something you have to apply before entering that country (many countries offer visa on arrival). It would be a big letdown if you get to a place prepared for your backpacking journey, only to be stopped at the airport for not having the required visa.
8. Research Traditions and Cultures
This is also a vital step to planning a backpacking journey, because you want to make sure you’re not offensive to the citizens of any country you’re planning to visit. For example, it is vital to wear long-sleeved shirts, long skirts, pants, or headscarf before entering mosques and temples in certain countries. There are a multitude of cultures in the world, so it’s extremely crucial to educate yourself on how to dress and behave in these places so you don’t end up attracting the attention of locals while out and about in their country.
The pre-planning phase should be a fun experience for backpackers. By considering these eight guidelines, you’ll make your backpacking journey go a lot smoother and you’ll feel more at ease knowing you have the basics covered. So good luck!