Backpacking can be a lot of fun, it is a style of travel that provides a lot more flexibility than normal traveling with a suitcase. It is can also be a lot more work than normal travel. But the rewards of backpacking can be very much worth it, cheaper, flexible, spontaneous... It is important not to pack too much, for those just starting out it can be confusing about what to take and how to pack. Getting used to it comes with experience and for some travelers, backpacking becomes the only way to travel. Here are some tips for getting started on a backpacking adventure.


The Backpack

The first thing to consider is the type of backpack. If one is just going to travel for a short time, then a cheap backpack will be up to the task, if one is planning to travel for a long period of time then it is worthwhile to invest in a good quality backpack. One thing to think about is the size of the backpack. If one is planning to stay in normal accommodation and for a short period of time, then a 40-50 liter backpack is fine, if one is backpacking for a longer period of time and plans to go camping, then 70 liters may be the right size.

  • 40-50 Liter: Size For Shorter Trips Without Camping Equipment
  • 60-70 Liter: Size For Longer Trips With Camping Equipment
  • 80-90 Liter: Generally Too Big And Limits Mobility (And Encourages Backpackers To Take Too Much)

What To Pack

It's not too important about having the exact right clothing and equipment starting out. As one can generally buy anything, anywhere around the world on the fly. But it is important to travel as light as possible. Sleeping bags should be small. Don't take a large winter coat, instead invest in a warm light down-jacket. Typical hiking and outdoor clothing are great (woolen vests, good hiking boots, etc.). One should normally have two types of footwear, a good pair of hiking boots and something light - sandals, flip-flops, street shoes. The former is worn in the plane and while on the move, and the latter is when one is just strolling around town or on the beach.

Related: 20 Surprising Mistakes Most Backpackers Make When Traveling South East Asia

Remember minimal and miniaturizing is the name of the game. Don't buy too many shampoos, soaps, gels, etc. when starting out, these can be bought anywhere and as needed. They are very heavy if there is too much.

  • Tip: Buy A Backpack With A Day Bag - Day Bags Are Very Useful!
  • Tip: Don't Carry More Than The Main Backpack And The Day Bag

What one takes is also dependent on where one is planning to go. If one is traveling to tropical climates, then winter clothing is not needed. But even if traveling to tropical climates, always bring a sweater or down jacket. These places can get chilly - especially in higher elevations. "Tropical" places like Kenya, Uganda, Peru, and Cambodia can be cool or even cold at higher altitudes. Also, hot deserts can be chilly at night.

Some very useful things to put in one's backpack are:

  • Laptop: Computers Are Useful, Especially If Going For Longer Periods Of Time And Give The Chance To Work Online And Prolong One's Trip
  • Sweater/Down Jacket: Even In Tropical Climates
  • Flashlight: The Best Is A Headlamp - Especially If One Is Camping Or Exploring Caves Along The Way
  • Multiple Bank Cards: Don't Be Dependent On One Bank Card. Have Two Or Three And Keep Them In Different Places So If One Loses One's Wallet Or Bag, There Is Still Another One (Also Use Visa Or Mastercard)
  • Good Mobile Phone: Phones Are A Vital Resource In Modern Travel - Navigian, Booking Etc.
  • Power Bank: If One's Phone Has A Poor Battery Life
  • Cash: If Traveling Abroad It Is Often Needed To Have Euros Or Dollars In Cash. E.g. Many Visas Around The World Can Only Be Paid In Euros Or Dollars In Cash
  • Clothing: Generally One Can Buy Clothing Anywhere, But If The Traveler Is A Large Person, It May Be Difficult To Find The Right Size In Places Like South-East Asia
  • Prescriptions: If Travelers Have Presciptions, They May Or May Not Be Available In Other Countries. Also What Is Over The Counter In One Country Could Be Prescription-Only In Another

Related: 10 Tips And Tricks To Backpacking Safely On Your Next Trip

Don't Sweat It

Still one does not have to overthink or worry too much about what to pack. The vast majority of things are available anywhere. Forgot the socks? No worries, people wear socks in that country too! But don't take too much, it is common for travelers to pack for everything only to find they don't need it and so throw stuff out.

Next: Is It Better To "Backpack" With A Suitcase?