This article was created in collaboration with The Backpacker Co.’s insights and quirky tips.
Backpacking has turned into an art, immortalized by movies like Vertical Limit, 127 Hours, Into the Wild, to name a few. Today, backpacking is not restricted to trudging through the wilderness in your jeans, but can be extended to any kind of travel that includes carrying just a single backpack.
While a few travellers think ‘I can’t really do it’ and prefer the comfort of luxury hotels, many of us have fancied the idea of travelling far and wide on foot for days, with nothing but a bag on our backs. But where do you start?
We’ve been told that some of the best countries to backpack through include France, Spain, and India, and will guarantee memories and mementos that will last a lifetime. Backpacking in cities and in the wilderness are two very different experiences, but both come highly recommended.
It may seem simple to throw a few things in a sturdy bag and set out on a journey, but it’s not. Here are some backpacking tips to get you started if you’re a newbie:
1. Get fit first:
Even before you consider stepping out, you need to be sure of your physical health. If you tire out easily after a couple of minutes of walking or jogging, you need to take a step back and consider getting in shape before the big journey.
It’s important to have strong lower back, upper back and abdominal muscles, in addition to strong legs. Cycling is one way to ensure all of these muscles get worked on.
For those of you who are already fit and work out regularly- good job! But do consider putting on a backpack weighing 5 kilos and setting out on a jog. Out of breath? You still need more practice. Keep setting goals for yourself, until you feel you’re capable enough to carry heavy loads without straining yourself. That would turn the exploratory trip into a nightmare.
2. Research, research, research:
Read books, surf the internet, talk to people who have backpacked before. You will need to understand the basics, as well as first-aid and responding to emergencies. If you’re travelling in a group, discuss these safety measures with your teammates.
3. Get to know the terrain:
Make sure you are well acquainted with the weather and local food. Try to make a few local friends- they will have the best advice on trekking through the country and exploring offbeat spots that guidebooks tend to miss.
4. To carry or not to carry?:
It is tempting to carry your whole world with you on your holiday, but regret seeps in later when you are tugging your luggage around in beautiful cities. Pack basic essentials like a pair or two of clothing, toothbrush, medicines, sturdy pair of hiking boots and comfortable sandals, socks, and all your important travel documents.
Leave room in your bag for shopping on the go and ditch your laptop and other gadgets.
5. Technology vs. old school methods:
Technology has ensured that you have constant navigation in a new country. With downloadable maps, online check-ins, pro cams, selfie sticks, language learning apps on the go, as well as networking, travel has transcended to a whole new experience.
Despite this, it is always recommended to have a map and compass in hand (yes, a paper map and a metal compass).
There is no guarantee when and where your iPhone might die out, leaving you stranded in the middle of nowhere.
Useful tips you need to keep in mind:
- Stay dry as much as possible
- Consume enough water (about a gallon a day, and more in the summer heat)
- Be cautious of blisters
- Sterilize water
- Stay clear of bugs
- Limit the amount of waste you generate
In case of loss of travel documents, get in touch with your country’s embassy immediately. Get your medical cover much before the journey begins, and carry your usual meds for cold, fever, stomach upsets and minor wounds.
A special note for our charming women backpackers:
If you think travelling during menstruation will be difficult, do consider investing in menstrual cups! They come pretty cheap and last for ages. They guarantee zero mess, and can be sterilized in boiling water after use. So much better than sanitary napkins or tampons, I assure you, since there is no chance of an infection, and you have no disposable waste on the move.
Ready to plan your very first backpacking adventure? Comment and tell us where you’re headed. Happy Backpacking.
A special editorial thank you to the following for their valuable insights, first-hand experiences and tips: