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10 top tips about backpacking

Updated on January 28, 2011

Backpacking is low-cost, independent way of travelling. It allows you an almost unlimited level of flexibility with your itinerary, keeps you costs down much more than booking into expensive hotels and what is most important – gives you unique, unforgettable impressions and possibility to see true life of the country you are visiting.

Travelling in small local bus with local people, their chats, jokes, smells, sounds, ...hens is much more interesting, then travelling in the bus, full of other tourists. Though be ready to pay the costs of your own comfort for the unique impressions.

From my own experience (not as much as I liked, but there is some) I can say – it’s worth doing!


1.       Pack as lightly as possible. Remember, your backpack will need to be carried with you everywhere. You should be able to walk with backpack all day long and stay alive and happy in the evening. Just choose a backpack (35-50 litres should be enough) and tell yourself – it’s enough, you are not taking anything more, what doesn’t fit in. There is some strange mystery about backpacks – it always get full, whether you are ready for 2 days long trip to neighbour town or three years long expedition to other continent. Whether it has 20 litres of space, or 110 litres of space. You have necessary things enough to fulfil both, but not every thing is the same necessary.

The backpack itself must be comfortable.


2.       Clothes:

Take 2-4 sets of T-shirts, socks and underwear. You will be able to wash your items along your trip, but you can‘t expect that luxury daily.

Take fast drying items, better not white ones. Better colourful, so that one or few stains would not make you worry, if they are not washable. Your main concern is not to smell.

2 pairs of trousers – one on you, another one in backpack. It’s good idea to have one “nicer” trousers - for visiting museums, making good first impressions, while wearing others you should not worry about sitting on the grass, on pavement, climbing... etc.

At last one item with long sleeves. Better, if it is made of the fibre, which packs small, but warms well.

Waterproof jacket, which packs small and also is windproof.

Cap – only if you are going to wear it most of the time


Deciding about each item of clothes, check, how much space they take while packed, how fast they may get dry. Not even mentioning, that they should not demand ironing.


3.       Think well, what shoes to wear. Don‘t go travelling wearing new shoes, even if they seems comfortable. Test them well, wear minimum a week, wear not taking off for the whole day. In general hiking boots is good item to wear during different types of travels, but only if you think you can wear them most of the time – they are too heavy and take lot of space to carry. Think, maybe training shoes could be your main wearing par? Take a pair of sandals, even in wintertime – you will like them in the evenings, being indoors, going to shower, etc., besides sandals packs small and are not very heavy.

4.       Know well, which of your items are most important for you and where their places are. Without any doubts main items are documents, money, credit cards. What else – else could be mobile phone, camera, tickets, address book?  Decide for yourself, which are your most important items, which if you lose,your travel would be difficult to continue. Keep these items not in backpack. Keep in your pockets or special belt or neck-pocket, so that you would not separate from these items, even if you step away for a moment. Even if you go to toilet. Even if you only put your backpack on the bench and keep your eye on it all the time.

Know exactly, where you keep  each of your important item, so that leaving each bus, each hostel, each place, you could make sure in 2 seconds: documents in place, cards in place, camera in place...


5.       Sleeping bag – I like travelling with sleeping bag. Important – it should be lightweight and pack small. Sleeping bag saves your money, if in some hostels they ask extra fee for bedding. Saves your nerves, if the cleaneless of bedding seems suspicious. Serves as blanket if travelling in overnight bus. Saves you well, if you stay overnight in airport.

Saves you, if the night came before you could find normal place to sleep. In need it‘s possible to find many places to stay overnight, and with sleeping bag it‘s much nicer.


6.       Do you really need a towel big enough to wrap yourself in full height? My experience says, that better two  hancherchief size kitchen towels, then one big fluffy one. You might be surprised, what size of material is enough for getting you dry after shower. Big fluffy towels not only take a lot of space, if packed wet, they start to smell very soon. On the other hand sometimes you will need to put your small nice towel outside backpack. Don‘t pack wet towel! – You will not want to use it after.

Instead of shampoos and shower gels better to take good quality soap bar – takes less space, no danger of starting to leak, and if necessary, you can use it for washing your clothes as well.


7.       General advice is that a knife is very necessary tool while travelling. Well, maybe. But if you are going to take cheap flights with hand luggage only, good bye your knife.

My personal experience says, that it‘s possible to survive without knife, but simple teaspoon is very handy. If you bought a piece of bread and tin of tuna for your lunch, you can break bread by hands, you may ask someone else to open a tin, but are you going to ask anyone to spoon food into your mouth?

One of my favourite foods while travelling are yogurts (tasty, nutrient and helps stomach to cope with non-regular eating schedule and dry bread diet). Always have a teaspoon for your daily yogurt!

Simple torch is good to have. But only if you can reach it fast and easily, don‘t pack it „somewhere“in the backpack.

A pen and a notebook, maybe the smallest one, is just necessary- for writing out directions, reminders of place names, email addresses of people you met, planning itinerary etc).


8.       Travel guides. Would it be good idea to travel with heavy 500 pages travel guide about Baltic States, if you only are visiting few places in Lithuania, described in 12 pages? Get a copy of these pages you think are necessary to you. Later you may through away these papers, or to use them for starting campfire, or to use them for writing travel diary, or to use them for writing your destination in big letters for hitchhiking.

Visit local touristic information offices.  You will get free maps and free advices.


9.       Don‘t plan ahead everything in details. Communicate with people – with locals, with other tourists. You will get very valuable information about things to do, places to see. Maybe some interesting event, some festival or performance is going to take place just few kilometres away from your planned route – just change your route!

10.   Trust people, but even more trust your instincts. Don‘t get upset about things, which in other countries are less organized, then you are used to. Or organized differently. Enjoy the differences.


Anything important I have missed? Share your ideas.

Koz'ova, Ukraina. Sining in this church was  beautiful to tears
Koz'ova, Ukraina. Sining in this church was beautiful to tears | Source
Jasinia, Ukraine. Morning in street, named of honour of red Army
Jasinia, Ukraine. Morning in street, named of honour of red Army | Source
Latvia, 20 km away from Malta
Latvia, 20 km away from Malta | Source
Rusteikiai, Lithuania. Church of old believers
Rusteikiai, Lithuania. Church of old believers | Source
Barile, Italy. Christ, met in the street in Friday before Easter
Barile, Italy. Christ, met in the street in Friday before Easter | Source
Kosice, Slovakia
Kosice, Slovakia | Source
Zagare, Lithuania. Strange inhabitants
Zagare, Lithuania. Strange inhabitants | Source
Sardegna, Italy. Cork trees
Sardegna, Italy. Cork trees | Source
Lombardia, Italy. Head of Indian.
Lombardia, Italy. Head of Indian. | Source


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      sean crawford 5 years ago from los angeles

      Hello, your perspective of backpacking is interesting. I agree that the right shoes, backpack and amount of clothes are important. When i backpacked in Mexico, I Iearned that it is actually easier to buy cheap clothes in the country than bringing a bunch. As for a knife, I think its a no no. It can get someon in trouble with the authoritties or send a message to the universe that one is looking for trouble. Keep up the good work.


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