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Backpacking is easily one of the greatest and most fulfilling ways to travel; hitting the open road with the wind in your hair and all your worldly possessions for the trip in one bundle slung over your shoulder.
Of course, knowing you should actually put in your pack is pretty important, as it’ll be your lifeline for the duration of the trip, and you won’t have space to spare for all the usual luxuries of home life.
So, to get you started, here’s a checklist of some of the essentials that you should load up on before heading out.
Research and print out location reviews in advance
Although a big part of the pleasure of backpacking is that it allows you to be spontaneous and hit the road as and when you like, and in any direction, it’s still a good idea to have a sense of the areas you’ll be travelling through as well as a more in depth understanding of the big towns or sights you want to check off.
Many exploitative establishments exist in tourist-frequented areas, and rely on the fact that many visitors will be uninformed and so are likely to drop by.
Whether you’re researching something specific such as Lana Thai Villa 5 stars B&B, or something more general about the layout of a particular area, it’s a good idea to print your maps and reviews off and keep them with you as you travel. You can’t rely on your memory for everything, and wifi may not be too easy to come across at certain points along the way.
Pack your own medical supplies
Basic first aid equipment is an absolute must-have addition to your rucksack, as cuts, scrapes, motion sickness, and even food poisoning are all very real possibilities when you’re backpacking through a new country.
Most of the minor injuries and upsets you might experience can be dealt with quickly and easily with an antibacterial gel and an anti-inflammatory, but if you don’t have these basic medical supplies at hand you might find yourself coming down with a bad fever and having to try and navigate the local health system, or find the nearest open pharmacy that sells what you’re after.
Pack your first aid kit as if you were expecting to really need to use it, though, of course you hopefully won’t.
Bring a camera, not a phone, for photos
In the age of advanced camera phones, it can be tempting to try and go the minimalist route and just rely on your phone for all your basic photography needs as you’re hopping from one exciting new locale to the next.
The issue with that is, of course, that phone batteries run out much faster when you’re using them for photography, and you might actually need your phone in order to make an important call at some point during your adventures.
Add to that the fact that you might not always be around a convenient charging port, and the benefits of having a proper camera with you are pretty clear.
Keep some spare cash on you at all times
When you’re travelling light, as all backpackers are in the grand scheme of things, you’ll find yourself needing to pull out your wallet quite often to pay for things ranging from food, to transport, or even just the admission fees which are charged by different historical sites or at various cultural landmarks.
Depending on where you’re travelling to, it’s entirely likely you won’t be able to reach for your credit card every time an expense comes up, and ATMs can be few and far between, or prone to running out of money on certain days or at certain times.
Every backpacker should keep a decent amount of cash on them, plus a hidden bit of emergency cash in case of being pickpocketed or just needing extra funds for an emergency.
Keep an eye mask and earplugs within easy reach
As a backpacker, you can enjoy the luxury of travelling between idyllic mountain glades and bustling party capitals as the mood takes you. Of course, that means that you might not always be able to count on a quiet, dark environment to get a good night’s sleep in.
Sleep is important at the best of times, but especially when you’re out and about, experiencing new things and trying to get the most out of your trip, you don’t want to find yourself feeling like a zombie all day just because there was a bright street light outside your window in the hotel.
Something as straightforward as keeping an an eye mask and a pair of foam earplugs in your bag can allow you to shut the world out when you need to, and get the sleep you’ll need for another packed day.
Pack a notebook and start a travel journal
While a picture may be worth a thousand words, words are still one of the best ways of capturing the finer details of your experiences, and preserving them for years to come.
Packing a sturdy notepad and pen, and keeping a travel journal, is something that every backpacker should try at least once.
Not only does ending each day with a paragraph or two about your experiences help to store away the memories, it also gives you the perfect way of clearing your mind, collecting your thoughts, reflecting on your experiences, and preparing to meet the next day head on.
Don’t feel put off trying a travel journal if you’re not a natural with the written word. Think of it as something you’re doing strictly for yourself, as a way of deepening your appreciation of the trip.
Even if your notes are pretty vague, you’ll catch yourself smiling whenever you look back on them after the trip.