Backpacking should be one of the most carefree experiences of your life.
The reality is though, living out of one bag, choosing whether to prioritise the things you really want > the things you really need and mastering the art of unpacking, re-packing, unpacking (you get the picture) can actually be kinda stressful.
What’s even harder is you don’t want to admit it’s stressful – because no-one back home wants to hear you moaning about how hard backpacker life is while on Facebook and Insta you look like you’re quite simply living the dream, travelling from one stunning place to the next, drinking (albeit cheap and nasty) cocktails.
So here are some handy tips which might just save you from sounding, well, pretty ungrateful by revealing the troubles you can suffer as a backpacker.
1. Plastic bags are everything.
The humble plastic bag is the perfect travel tool. Save a couple (admit it, even with the 5p rule at supermarkets you still have loads in a drawer in your kitchen somewhere) and scrunch them up in your backpack. At some point you will be so thankful you did.
They’re perfect for keeping wet clothes separate, stopping shampoo bottles from oozing over your clothes and storing muddy shoes. Plus, they last a long time.
2. Keep this nifty item – hand sanitiser – in your bag.
You literally never know when there won’t be handwash nearby.
So it’s a good idea to keep hand sanitiser in your day bag – not buried deep in your rucksack – and regularly use it when you’re out and about.
3. Leave the gadgets at home.
Unless you’re away for a reallllly long time, there’s no point taking anything like iPads and laptops – it means you have more of that valuable space. Plus you won’t have to worry about them being stolen when you’re in hostels with questionable safes/lockers.
And when it comes to your phone you should probably replace it with a cheap mobile. Likewise, if you take a camera, don’t take one that’s crazy expensive – or if you do, at least make it a waterproof one.
4. Always have CVs handy.
Honestly – you can never be sure when a job opportunity will pop up. You might be lying on a beach, and start chatting to someone and they know of something going. It might be that someone you meet on a night out knows of a potato farm that needs workers (true story).
So, print out loads, make sure they’re updated and obvs include your best backpacker-applicable skills. Email a copy to yourself too. Just in case.
5. Treat yo’self to two towels.
OK, OK, we know we’ve been drumming into you how much you lack space when you’re backpacking. But one thing you can afford to make room for is two towels.
If you’re going to beachy destinations, you’ll get totally fed up of using wash towels that are a bit sandy, and equally you ideally don’t want to be sunbathing on a wet towel.
6. Invest in a big food storage bag.
There will be some staple items – tea, coffee, bread – that you’ll probably want throughout the trip. So, grab yourself a picnic bag, that can fold up easily when not being used, and when you’re travelling round a country – say, up the east coast of Oz – carry this on to buses with you.
It means you don’t have to try to squash these essentials (come on, tea is an essential) into your rucksack but you won’t have to buy new tea or coffee every single time you arrive in a new place. Money-saving at its finest.
7. Roll your clothes.
ICYMI, rolling is the new folding.
You’ll be surprised how much space you save – and it helps to avoid creasing your fave outfits. Once you get into the routine of rolling stuff you’ll never look back. It can also be done pretty speedily when you wake up after a night out and remember the strict hostel check-out time is 10am…
8. Keep socks in your handbag.
This might sound weird but if you’re wearing flip-flops all the time you’re not going to have socks on.
But when you find yourself on a long overnight bus journey or flight, you’ll be grateful of those socks.
It’s the little things.
9. Invest in a suitcase bag.
Yes, you don’t want to take a bag that’s too heavy and if it’s too big you might overpack – but that doesn’t mean you should miss out on having the ease of a suitcase with the comfort of a backpack.
It’s totally possible to get backpacks that unzip like a suitcase so you can find things easier. It’s also possible to get backpacks that have wheels.
The possibilities are endless.
10. Plan efficiently if you’ve got a travel buddy.
If you’re travelling in a group or a pair, discuss what you’re both packing – we’re thinking straighteners/hairdryers – so you don’t double up.
And once you’re there, it’s easy enough to share things like shampoo and conditioner – just take it in turns to pack these things in your bag.
11. Personalise your bag.
Add a tie/belt/strap/scarf/stickers/badge/whatever to your suitcase/backpack so you can easily identify it at the luggage carousel.
Many backpackers tend to have identical-looking luggage and ending up with someone else’s underwear just isn’t ideal, is it?