Travel by Backpack!
A friend of mine was going on her first backpacking trip and needed some advice about what to bring. I looked in her backpack and the first thing I found were fake eyelashes. Those definitely wouldn’t be going! Then we looked through her ten-pound bathroom bag and I told her to make some decisions. Did she really need two types of shampoo or three half-bottles of sunscreen? Some things had to stay behind.
Not everyone is as bad a packer as my friend, but it can be tough to know what to take on a backpacking trip. Taking too much will give you back problems, but leaving something out might get you stuck on the beach in hiking boots. Finding the right balance in your luggage is a matter of sticking to the necessities and knowing what you can find on your travels.
Stick to the necessities.
Good shoes are crucial. You’ll be traveling with lots of weight and you don’t want to get so sore you can’t walk by day three. A good pair of running shoes is usually your best bet. Hiking boots get really hot and they’re heavy to carry when you’re not wearing them. Also, most backpacking journeys have some resting time on the beach, so take some flip flops.
Weather is unpredictable all over, so be sure to have warm and cool clothes. But don’t take much! Three or four t-shirts is enough. If you’re going somewhere hot, you won’t need more than one pair of pants along with your shorts. A sweatshirt or a light jacket is a necessity even in hot countries, and a bathing suit might prove useful even in cold places. Top it off with a few pairs of underwear and some socks, and you’re all set for clothes!
Next, you need some bathroom supplies. Hostels might not have everything, so you should have the basics: toothpaste, a toothbrush, soap, shampoo and a towel. Sunscreen, bug spray and aloe for sunburns are good ideas, too.
When in doubt, take less.
Whether you’re in Brazil, Croatia or England, you can buy toothpaste or an extra pair of socks. Some people actually prefer to buy their clothes on the trip, since they can be much cheaper than they are at home. Also, never forget that where there are travelers, there are laundromats. If you only have four changes of clothes, that doesn’t mean you have to wear the same underwear for three weeks. There will be opportunities to wash them.
Have money ready.
You never want to carry around enough cash for your entire trip. You should have a debit card and ideally a credit card, too. These days, you can find ATM’s in pretty much any big city in the world. There are times when your debit card might not work or the bank listed in Lonely Planet isn’t there anymore. In those cases, American money never fails. Virtually anywhere you go in the world, people will take U.S. dollars.
So keep things light, have some U.S. cash and a debit card and you’ll figure out the rest. If your clothes get a little muddy, that’s all part of the adventure.
And of course, don’t forget your passport!