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the ultimate backpacking guide


So you’ve decided to leave the campground behind and go on a backpacking trip instead. No nightly feels, no overcrowded airports, and miles upon miles of open country — what’s not to love about backpacking? With a little planning and preparation, your trip can turn out absolutely perfect, especially when you consider the risks and do what it takes to avoid them.

If you’re new to backpacking and want your trip to be spectacular, here are the basics you need to get familiar with.

know how to pack your backpack

Most backpackers like to simply throw their gear into their pack without any organisation, but this often results in forgotten items or unnecessary luxuries. There are a few essential aspects of correctly packing your backpack:

  • Backpack capacity: How long will your trip last? Shorter trips will require less gear, and longer ones will require more gear and require more space. Choose a lightweight backpack that provides enough space to accommodate your essentials, but leaves no room for luxuries that would only weigh you down while you’re out there. Don’t forget that your backpack shouldn’t exceed 25-30 % of your body weight!
  • Backpack weight distribution: Internal frames have become the norm, and you’ll want to pack your backpack based on this aspect for correct weight distribution. The heaviest items should be centred high between the shoulder blades and close to your back so your hips will hold most of the backpack’s weight. Medium-weight gear (first-aid kit, water filter, stove, etc) should be placed in the middle and furthest from the back. The most lightweight items should be placed lowest in the backpack.
  • Backpack organisation: The easiest way to keep everything organised is using the classic colour code. This helps you locate your supplies more easily while on the trail. As a rule of thumb, essentials such as a GPS, snack food, rainwear and headlamp need to be placed in a front pocket for very easy access.

... and what to pack

After you’ve acknowledged the basics of correct backpacking, it’s time to move onto the supplies you’re going to need during tour trip. Of course, what you pack depends on where you’ll be going and how long you’ll be staying, but there are a few essentials no backpacker should leave without in any case. These include:

  • First-aid kit
  • GPS and compass (if needed)
  • Water filter
  • Map
  • Flashlight + extra batteries
  • Matches, lighter or another fire starter
  • Hydration bottles/reservoirs
  • Sunscreen (necessary for warm climates)
  • Emergency cell phone (fully charged)

research the place(s) you’ll be visiting

It’s essential to know what you should expect during your trip. This helps you with planning and packing, and prevents many undesirable consequences. Research the location in terms of weather, culture, and potential dangers. Write down the emergency number in case anything happens. Make sure the trail you’ve chosen is marked, and never make side trips!

secure your backpack

It’s easy to lose sight of your backpack while you’re buying another drink or admiring a breathtaking view, so it’s important to keep it fully safe by securing with a lock. Pickpockets are everywhere, and may take advantage of any situation if they can, so you need to be prepared and never leave your guard done. Also, don’t accept anything from strangers, and definitely don’t take your wallet out of your pocket in front of other people — it helps them know where you’re keeping it, which can lead to obvious troubles.

choose a cross-body purse

If you’re planning to bring a purse with you, stay away from totes and clutches, as they can be very easily stolen. Instead, choose a cross-body purse — they’re difficult for thieves to steal, and you will never lose sight of your valuables. What's more, a cross-body purse won’t burden you when you’re carrying a big, heavy backpack, so it’s certainly your best bet!

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