There are obviously a lot of these posts out there on the internet and I read my fair share before embarking on my first backpacking trip. But now that I have built up my own wealth of knowledge and experience (such a twat haha) I want to share my advice for first time backpackers because I feel like it’s quite different to everyone else’s. Let me know if you find this helpful and if you have any unique backpacking advice to share as I’m always looking for ways to make travelling easier.
1. Get a Backpack That Opens at the Top and Bottom
And middle if possible! I can’t tell you how many people I have met backpacking who hate and find the thought of their backpacks immensely stressful. But that makes no sense! Your backpack should be your best friend, you’re going to be depending on it and its content for x number of weeks/months. So I highly recommend getting one that opens from the top and bottom making everything easily accessible. You don’t want to be that person in the hostel room scrummaging around at the crack of dawn, having to unpack their whole bag to reach something at the bottom, waking everyone up!
Also get a backpack with a belt. This takes the weight off your shoulders making it way easier and more comfortable to carry. All bags are different shapes and most are adjustable so try to find one that fits you perfectly. You don’t want to dread carrying your rucksack around. FYI the belt should be around your hips not sitting on your waist.
2. Use Packing Cubes or Bags
Again, to make your backpack less of a stress, get packing cubes. It makes for a happy backpacker, trust me! You can get them on amazon or if you’re on a budget you can do what I do and use fabric tote/ reusable shopping bags instead. Then you can divide up your tops from your bottoms, underwear, electricals etc.
3. Dry Shampoo in the Evenings, Not Mornings!
You may be thinking what is she on about? This is possibly the best piece of advice I’ve ever been given and can give! To avoid white marks in your hair, spray dry shampoo on your hair in the evening before bed. You’ll wake up and it will have absorbed all excess oil and left your hair looking fresh and clean without the horrid white dry shampoo dusty residue. Try it at home if you don’t believe me, it works!
4. Stock Up On Resealable Sandwich Bags
These come in handy so often I can’t even explain! Any leaky toiletries, bag them. Snacks and nibbles, bag them. Wet face clothes that haven’t had time to dry, bag them. Laundry detergent, bag it! The list goes on. You can even put your phone in one to make it reasonably waterproof for a kayaking trip or at the bottom of a beach bag. Although a dry bag would be better if you’re going somewhere you’ll be around water a lot!
5. Have Your Eyebrows and Lashes Tinted Before Leaving
If you normally wear makeup, make life a little bit easier (especially if you’re going somewhere warm and wont want to be wearing a lot of makeup) and get a brow and lash tint. It saves time while away, valuable space in your rucksack and makes you feel a little more put together in 30+ heat, when you really can’t be bothered!
6. Pack Light and Leave Space in Your Backpack
Ok, so this piece of advice isn’t particularly unique but it is important! You’ll be surprised by how much you actually end up using anyway and anything you forget can most probably be picked up along the way. Also make sure to leave space in your backpack for the inevitable souvenir spree.
7. Book Your First Nights Accommodation
I think this is worth doing for first time and experienced backpackers alike. Save yourself the faff of finding somewhere to stay when you’re jet lagged and prone to feeling overwhelmed. You don’t need to have a transfer booked but knowing you have a bed to sleep in when you arrive in a new country can be really comforting. You can then extend your stay there if you like it or move on to somewhere else taking in to account the advice of people you meet along the way!
8. Bring Sun Cream From Home
Obviously this depends on where you are backpacking (you’ll easily be able to get proper suncream in Europe, for example) but further afield, I’d recommend bringing suncream from home. In Thailand I came across so many fake Nivea/Hawaiian Tropic suncreams and met a girl who had been caught out and burnt pretty badly as a suncream she bought over there turned out to contain 0 SPF.
9. Baby Wipes and Ear Plugs are Essential!
Firstly, baby wipes. They make life so much easier when travelling and can be used for literally everything! From cleaning your face & body to camping pots and pans (with water to rinse out afterwards!), spillages, light stains on clothes. The list is endless!
Ear plugs will become your best friend. Once you’ve gotten used to the feel of them you’ll be able to sleep anywhere. As I’ve already mentioned, there is always someone who wakes up unspeakably early, rustles around, switches the lights on and is just a bit of a pain in hostel rooms. Or they’ll come back very very late and very very drunk and be equally as annoying. Ear plugs make this bearable. Come to think of it, a sleeping masking is probably a good idea too.
10. Stay in Hostels
Despite what I’ve just said about shared hostel rooms I still 100% recommend staying in them. It is the best way to make friends and making friends is such a big part of backpacking. Potentially the most important part. I have so many amazing memories made in hostels and think I will continue to use them well into my adult life. Also you save money and I haven’t come across a hostel employee who isn’t incredibly helpful and knowledgeable on the area they work in.
11. Bring Playing Cards and a Book
Having a book to read is obviously nice when you’re journeying for long amounts of time. However the reason I’ve added bring a book to this list is because swapping books with other travellers when you’ve finished is always fun and a great excuse to approach new people and potentially make some friends! Same goes for having a pack of cards. Endless hours of fun right there.
Lastly I want to add that the best way to approach backpacking is with an open mind. You will meet lots of amazing people, see amazing things and make amazing memories. Go with the flow and enjoy yourself. Good luck to any soon to be first time backpackers, I hope you found this helpful and let me know if you have any questions!