If there's anything that glossy adventure magazines, back to school advertisements and study abroad brochures have sold younger generations on, it's the fun and excitement of wearing a backpack.
In fact, we have wholeheartedly embraced backpack culture, especially when it comes to bootstrapping travel. The allure of the life you can carry on your shoulders while venturing all over the world is understandably enticing.
So, assuming that you too want to be like those grinning, world travelin' go-getters in the pretty photos, you'll probably want to get a backpack and go somewhere. But if this is a new foray, you might need a little help starting out.
That's why we've assembled 5 tips for new backpackers. From the basics of choosing a backpack to using it.
Tip #1: Learn that less is more.
I don’t care if you can bench press your dad or hold a world record in anvil-tossing. If you’re planning to use your backpack on motion-heavy trips with multiple destinations and a lot of walking, you will get tired of schlepping around your pack…and fast.
Backpack manufacturers give you lots of specs on your potential new sack, but the most important one is liter capacity. The number of liters simply indicates how much unnecessary crap you’ll end up bringing. You always need less than you think.
For backpacking trips spanning at least a few weeks, a 65-liter pack should do it for those who would classify themselves as moderate packers. Longer trips across different climates or serial overpackers can opt for one in the 70-90 liter range.
Tip #2: Choose a backpack with top AND front-loading features.
If you haven’t started your backpack research yet, I’m sure this is all Greek to you. But all it means is that you can access your stuff multiple ways. Here's the main distinction:
Top-loading: one way in, one way out. If you need something from the bottom, either you're constantly digging or unpacking the whole thing every day. Not the best for time efficiency.
Top and front-loading: can lay down and open like a suitcase. For convenience's sake, it's worth spending the extra dolla dolla bills.
For a more extensive guide on the best backpacks for travel, check out Indie Traveller.
Tip #3: Do not let the shelves full of glitzy travel wares in Wal-Mart or REI entice you into buying unnecessary items. Stay strong!
Sometimes impulsivity and "Ooh, shiny!" can trick you into thinking you need a waterproof tarp, a fanny pack, travel-sized toilet paper rolls, a decorative passport holder and a mini-fan that spritzes you with water. Spoiler alert: you most likely don't need any of those things.
If you’re debating between needing and not needing something, your best bet is to not get it. Plus, you can always buy it later if you turn out to be more high maintenance than you thought.
Tip #4: You don’t need that many socks.
Similarly to tip #3, this one speaks to the overpacker in all of us. That little voice inside your head that's whispering, "But what if I neeeed this?"
Take stock of your items. Think about creative options when things start to get hairy.
You can wear dirty socks again. You will not die.
Underwear con be turned inside out. Again, no death.
Combination outfits and a few bright scarves can make old outfits look new. Hide behind other people in photos if you're worried about Instagram embarrassment.
Save the space for the stuff that matters: i.e., the things you will definitely use and do not wish to risk purchasing on your journey should you run out. Looking at you, tampons.
Need more specific ideas for packing? The Savvy Backpacker has some great packing tips and lists.
Tip #5: Put your dirty underwear in those nifty outside pockets.
So this sounds gross, I know. But if a thief tries to get into your pack, where’s he going first? All those neat-o zippered pouches on the outside. Here’s where you put all the stuff you wouldn’t mind parting with if absolutely necessary.
Imagine the pickpocketer’s face when he hastily slips a hand in an unzippered pouch, expecting to close his fingers around a camera or maybe an iPhone, and all he finds is your Tuesday underwear. And it’s Sunday. That’ll show ‘em.
Do you have more tips for new backpackers? Let us know in the comments.
Let's change the world.
Who wrote this?
Gina Edwards, Impact Explorer founder and lover of all pun jokes, making a positive change in the world, Stephen Colbert, Jif Peanut Butter, and staying inside on rainy days. Order may vary.