Your Definitive Guide to Backpacking – Pack Your Bag and Go!

Do you ever wish that life was a little more full of adventure? Do you ever see pictures on Facebooks that your friends have taken in exotic pictures and feel like you’re missing out? Do you dream of one day having the freedom and the money to explore and see the world?

Well it’s time to stop wishing and waiting; there’s nothing to stop you from exploring and seeing the world right now. And in fact, there has never been a better time to take up backpacking and to set sail for that horizon.

In this post, we’ll look at why now is the time for you to live your adventure. We’ll explore the best backpacking tips to ensure you really get the most from your travels and we’ll look at how you can backpack travel without spending half the money you might think you need to.

Five People Standing on a Mountain With Backpacks

Your adventure starts here… read on!

The Time is Now!

The first thing to recognize is that you don’t need to wait for adventure to come to you. If you’ve ever wanted to get out and see the world, then you should just put down what you’re doing and go.

Now I know what you’re thinking: this isn’t a good time.

You don’t have the money, you have too many responsibilities…

Your work would never allow it.

Your partner wouldn’t allow it.

You’ll have to wait a few years until a better time.

We’ll here’s the newsflash: there’s no such thing as a ‘better time’. You’re busy right now sure but don’t expect that life is going to get any easier. At least you can’t rely on that happening. You might well find that life gets a whole lot more complicated in fact in the next few months and that your dreams of backpack travel go down the drain as a result!

If you don’t believe me, then think about why you haven’t already gone travelling (seeing as it’s obviously something you want to do). If life was easier before, then you probably would have already gone travelling. You probably deferred those plans though, thinking that life was going to get quieter and less expensive in a few months. Which brings you to now: and it’s still not feasible.

Man Standing on a Mountain with a Backpack Watching Sunset

So the fact of the matter is this: you need to leave right now if you ever intend to go. Otherwise, one thing, after another, after another is going to keep getting in your way and making it impossible.

Sure, you could wait until you’re retired, but who wants to wait until they’re old and physically less able to really start living? Does that make any sense?

And sure, you could ‘focus on your career’ but then what’s the point of working all the time if you never enjoy the things in life that you want to enjoy?

(Of course there are a few caveats here – if you’ve just had a newborn child then you should maybe wait but there are always ways around that too. Take them with you!)

And here’s the thing: travelling doesn’t need to be as expensive or as hard as you assume. These days, it just got a whole lot easier.

And that’s where the idea of backpacking travel comes in. Adventure backpacking is the best way to truly get to know another country and to truly explore another country – and it also happens to be the very cheapest and easiest way to go!

What is Backpacking?

Essentially, backpacking means that you’re travelling with nothing more than a backpack. While that’s the literal translation, it has grown to encompass a lot of other ideas. Essentially, backpacking means that you’re traveling light and immersing yourself in another country and possibly another culture. Backpacking means that you’re travelling without a case, which means you’re travelling without lots of changes of clothes and lots of amenities.

Man Walking a Mountain Trail with Backpack

It means you have to be creative and you have to be willing to forego your creature comforts. And it’s when you do that that you start to have a truly amazing adventure!

Often a backpacking holiday will be a little longer than your average trip. Often it will involve spending less money on hotels and staying in things like hostels and camping sites. And often it will mean meeting up with other backpackers and discussing your holidays and travels together.

It can also mean travelling with a little less of a ‘plan, meaning that you’re heading out and going wherever the world takes you (because you can!).

Why Now is The Time to Go Backpacking

So if you thought that you couldn’t travel and see the world because you don’t have the money, then you can forget that idea. When you’re a backpacker, it means that you’re willing to stay in hostels and sometimes even walk from point to point.

And when you remove the luxuries, suddenly travel becomes a lot more affordable:

  • Get on a budget flight
  • Find a place to stay on couch surfer (which is free!)
  • ​Explore
  • Then grab a bus to the next town!
Two People Sitting on a Bench With Backpacks Next to Sea

Backpacking often means going away for 3, 6 or 12 months but it doesn’t have to mean that. If you do decide it should mean that though, then there are often ways you can get around the career challenges:

  • Take a sabbatical
  • Quit and find more work when you get back
  • ​Save up leave
  • ​Ask if you can work ‘from home’ (i.e. take your laptop with you)
  • Do work out there
  • Ask if you can be transferred to another branch
  • Set up an online business and become a ‘Digital Nomad’ (see below)

You might expect your work to turn down your request to go on sabbatical or extended leave but if you imply that this is important to you and that you may leave if they don’t give you what you want, then very often they’ll work hard to make it possible. Other times, you may find you’re met with less resistance than you expect!

And as mentioned, backpacking doesn’t have to mean going away for months at a time. If you travel somewhere for just a few days using cheap flights and free/cheap accommodation then the expense is actually very low. And that means you can enjoy this kind of backpack travel more regularly – thereby getting to see a lot of the world without actually going away for long periods of time.

Male Backpacker Looking at Nature

In terms of infrastructure, there really never has been a better time to do this. If you can find a cheap budget airline and you’re willing to book in advance/last minute, or if you’re happy to fly at strange times, then you can normally fly within your own continent for $30, $50 or $100. Checking in is easier than ever and more and more people are even starting to commute this way!

Once you’re out there, you then have plenty of opportunities to find cheap accommodation. As mentioned, you have couch surfer for example and then there’s AirBnB. We’ll talk about these options in a moment.

And thanks to the internet, it’s now easier than ever to find backpacking tours, to meet other backpackers and to work online!

So there really has never been a better time to go… what’s your excuse?

Packing Everything Into Your Backpack

One of the skills of backpacking is knowing how to pack everything you might need into a backpack. Travelling this light means you won’t need to pay for luggage on flights and it means that you stay light and flexible as you move.

Here are some tips that will help you get to grips with travelling using such a small amount of space…

Orange and Green TETON Sports Scout 3400 Internal Frame Backpack

Get The Best Backpack

One obvious tip is to invest in a good backpack. This should be one with lots of separate compartments and ideally one that’s going to stand up to a little punishment. It needs to be comfortable to wear for extended periods of time and having a compartment where you can store your dirty laundry is another minimum requirement.

Roll Your Clothes

One great tip is to roll your clothes into tubes rather than folding them as normal. This actually keeps them flatter and it means that you can fit more in.

Your Capsule Backpack

You can only take so many clothes when you’re backpacking, so you need to think strategically about the specific items you’re going to bring. That means for example following the advice of the ‘capsule wardrobe’. Try to have just a few items and then make everything match and work with those. You ideally want a scenario where all your bottom halves work with all your top halves!

Don’t be Afraid to Buy Out There

Another tip is not to fear underpacking. If you’re backpacking and you find that you don’t have something you need – you just buy it. It’s in fact much easier to buy things like shampoos and hats than it is to bring them with you!

Different Colored Microfiber Towels

Get a Microfiber Towel

Something that’s very useful when you travel a lot is a microfiber towel. This is a towel made from microfiber (no surprise there), meaning that it will be very thin and can be easily rolled into a small, compact tube. That can then be carried in your backpack and better yet, it will dry almost instantly. It’s certainly an asset when you’re travelling light!

Kindle

Another useful device is a Kindle. This is something that will allow you to read any book you can think of and won’t add much weight to what you’re bringing.

Windows 10 Tablet

A Windows 10 tablet can do everything that a full PC can do, except in a tablet form factor. Some of these come as small as 8’’, which means they can be very easily stowed into your backpack. They can also sport good battery lives and they’re not all that expensive (meaning it won’t matter too much if they get lots or stolen).

Boat Shoes

Shoes are one of the most difficult things to transport but the secret is to take boat shoes. These are light and malleable to fit into a bag but they’re versatile enough to be warn straight from the beach into a restaurant.

Brown Man Boat Shoes

For more ideas, check out this guide to packing light!

Some Useful Additions That Every Backpacker Should Have

There are a few items that you should always bring with you as a backpacker…

  • Battery pack – This should give you multiple charges for your Kindle, your smartphone and even potentially a tablet. That in turn means you’ll never be caught out without Google Maps. Some of the lower capacity battery packs can get so small that they’ll be able to fit into a wallet like a credit card!
  • WiFi dongle – This is only necessary if you are heading somewhere that your carrier won’t provide free data
  • Notepad and den – You don’t hear that much about this but it’s an absolutely essential item. Not only can you use this to take notes but you can also use it to translate by using Pictionary!
  • Headphones
  • International power adaptor
  • Fanny pack that you wear under your shirt – Great for keeping things like your money safe and hidden
  • Padlock – A small padlock can come in handy when keeping your items safe in hostels

We have created a section on this website specifically for helping you to find the best gear for your backpacking. Check out our reviews section for backpacking gear that you know is going to be up to scratch!

Backpacking Resources

Now you have your bag and your motivation, you just need to come up with a plan and know where you’re going to stay and how you’re going to do it!

We’ve looked at a few different options but there are a couple of resources that are today absolutely essential for backpackers…

AirBnB Logo

AirBnB

AirBnB is a website that allows you to find places to stay that are being leased by private owners. For instance, if you happen to own a mansion in a capital city/attractive tourist spot, then you might rent out your spare room.

You can also find entire flats and houses on here which are people’s holiday homes or other properties that are currently vacant. The great thing about AirBnB is that it’s incredibly cheap while still offering some really luxurious and amazing places to stay!

You’ll miss out on some of the excitement of meeting other backpackers but as a way to stay somewhere cheaply, it’s a fantastic option – and especially because it will normally mean immersing yourself right in a local residential area and living as you would do if you really had a home out there!

Couch Surfing

This is a website where people let others stay on their couch for free. It’s an entirely free way to find accommodation and it’s a brilliant way to meet other like-minded backpackers. If you can find a free place to stay and a cheap way to get there… then there’s even less reason not to backpack travel!

Couchsurfing Logo

#Nomad

#Nomad is a website for people who work online while they travel. This is a great way to backpack as it means you don’t have to come home… and the website is also ideal for finding coffee shops with WiFi, finding work you can do online, or meeting other like-minded people!

World Time Buddy

This is a handy app and website that will allow you to check the time in any country which will come in very handy for communicating with your friends and family back home, as well as hopping between borders and staying up-to-date with the local time!

Sky Scanner

This is a website that allows you to find cheap flights, which is of course one of the most useful things that you can do as a backpacker! More cheap flights means more journeys without breaking the bank, which in turn is a definite win!

Asana

Asana is a project site that you can use to collaborate on tasks with people around the world. If you’re going to be travelling while working your current job – or you’re going to be a digital nomad – then this can be incredibly helpful.

What is a Digital Nomad?

Love backpacking? Wish that you never had to let it end? Well, that’s the dream of digital nomads everywhere!

A Digital Nomad Laying on a Beach Working on a Laptop

Essentially, a digital nomad is someone who uses ‘lifestyle design’ to be able to work anywhere and even hold down a job while globetrotting. Specifically, a digital nomad will normally be someone who works online, which in turn means that you’ll be able to work anywhere as long as you have a laptop and a wifi connection!

This does mean you won’t get to explore and party the entire time but it also means that you don’t have to come home when you run out of cash. And you don’t need to become the next Richard Branson here – just earn enough money in order to fund your travels and your stays in hostels! This means you can enjoy longer jaunts and it also means you can do so ‘guilt free’.

The big tip here is to find a job ideally where you have ultimate flexibility and where you aren’t trading time for money. Working as a travel writer is one option but if you have clients, then they might impose strict deadlines. A better alternative then, would be to run a blog for instance. That way, you could make money from advertising or from the sale of affiliate products and thereby earn money without having to be at your desk!

Being a digital nomad is a big lifestyle change but it can be made easier if you make the transition slowly. Start out just working online part time and then gradually build up enough business to go entirely online!

Backpacking Tips

Finally, here are a few backpacking tips to help you avoid going crazy!

Cook Your Own Food

This is a great way to not only feel more as though you’re actually living in the area but also to save some money. Find a local super market and rent accommodation with a kitchen (even some hostels have kitchenettes) and you’re good to go! If you’re staying in a hostel, then you can even share the food with the other travellers!

Female Backpacker Cooking on Rocks

Buy a Train Pass

Train passes can be very helpful for backpacking as they give you the ability to cover large distances very cheaply. These two money saving tips came from this list.

Phone Home

It’s easy to feel lonely when travelling on your own, so make sure to phone home regularly and to stay active on WhatsApp. These days, there’s no reason you can’t stay in touch with people while you’re globetrotting!

Make Friends With a Pilot

If you know a pilot, then they may be able to get you cheapstaff travelthrough their airline. This means you can get onto flights that never sold out and fill in the spare seats very affordably!

Visit Friends Abroad

Another very cheap way to stay somewhere when you’re travelling is simply to visit friends out in other countries. What’s more, is that they’ll be able to show you around the area and take you to the best sights!

Don’t Keep All Your Money in One Place

One of the worst things that can happen when you’re travelling is that you have your currency stolen. Keep more than one stash and that way, you’ll be less likely to lose everything and be unable to find help!

Talk to People!

While you might have liked the idea of going backpacking so that you could get some time alone to ‘find yourself’, the best adventures are the ones where you meet exciting new people and share experiences. Make sure to speak to the other backpackers you meet on your travels then and you’ll have a much richer experience!

Camera Strapped to Backpack

Take a Camera…

…But don’t live behind it! We do not go backpacking as a way to get a better Facebook profile picture!

Apart from these, you should also consider the following things :

 Hammocks & Hammock Straps

 Portable fridges for Camping

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