They say write what you know. We know backpacking, so we thought we’d share some of the tips and tricks we’ve learned through trial and error on the road.
Get a good backpack
If you’re backpacking for any length of time over an hour you’ll need to get a ruck that fits your trunk. I have a REI Venus backpack, which fits a female form, is both top and front load, has loads of side compartments that are easy to access, and the belt is thick, distributing weight evenly over my hips and shoulders. I didn’t want to spend big money on a bag, but after backpacking with a knock-off, low-budget replica for a year, I had major muscle issues and it just wasn’t fun. Be comfortable, get the right gear. Below you’ll see I’m in my lovely REI pack and I have great hiking boots, and I’m on uneven terrain out in the mountains of the Republic of Georgia.
Get the right shoes
If you’re going to backpack, it means you’re going to be walking, hiking, running for buses and trains, and generally living life on your feet. While our primate ancestors were content to barefoot it, we’ve evolved into soft-footed creatures in need of serious sole support. Don’t ignore your most important asset when you live life upright and out of the cubicle– get the right shoes. For me, that meant a nice pair of hiking boots. For others I backpacked with it was Crocs, or tennis shoes. Whatever works for you, get comfortable in your shoes before you go, and make sure they can transition from beach to mountain to urban terrain comfortably. Below you’ll see I’m in travel hiking shoes that go aqua to desert easily and also match a skirt (fashion is still important, folks!)
Get a good guidebook
Sometimes you just need a little help from a pro. If you’re going to be backpacking across multiple countries carrying around a Lonely Planet for each is a bit burdensome. However, you can always download to your phone, or simply follow free tips and advice found online on major travel sites and travel blogs (like this one, I say shamelessly self promoting ATC). Nothing is worse than going to a cool country and seeing a few things and then finding yourself on a train next to another traveler who raves about something you missed. Get the right highlights and get exploring. On the other hand, one of my favorite adventures, visiting Darvaza, a flaming crater of gas in Turkmenistan, wasn’t in our guidebook and we would have missed it if it weren’t for interacting with locals. It’s just as important to be present where you are, when you’re there as it is to be in the know before you go. Incidentally, my cat is named Darvaza. Below you’ll see us next to Darvaza, which wasn’t in the guides when we visited oh so many years ago.
Get quick-dry, travel clothing
It’s disgusting washing your clothes in a hostel sink. God knows what was in the basin before you. We’ve had to wash our clothes in canals, sinks, tubs of rain water and even, a lake and once a hose dripping water into a garden in the middle of the desert. The only way we were able to stay on the move is by having clothing that we could ring out and dry quickly. In the photo above of us at Darvaza we’re wearing quick-dry shirts. Our bottom halves are clad in non-quick dry stuff that we ended up tossing a few months into the trip. Hey, we learned on the road!
Gear up for Camping
If you’re backpacking, you might end up camping. We ended up camping out several times when we reached cities that had no lodging available. After a few nights on park benches or pulling all-nighters we decided to hear up. We got a three-person tent so we could pull our bags inside and out of the (potential) rain. We also got silk cocoon liners instead of sleeping b