Backpacking can be a thrilling experience and is the preferred style of travel for many people. Living from a backpack while exploring new territory is liberating and empowering, but if you don’t take the right precautions, it can also be dangerous.
Those who backpack without packing the right items and planning ahead risk several problems, including being caught without proper medical care and falling victim to thieves. Luckily, preparing yourself for a safe backpacking journey simply comes down to common sense.
Check out these 10 tips and tricks to follow which will keep you safe while you’re on a backpacking adventure.
10 Tell Someone Where You’re Going And When You’ll Be Back
The idea of disappearing for a while to find yourself while you explore the world with nothing but a backpack may sound romantic. But if you want to stay as safe as possible while backpacking, you should always tell someone where you’re going and when you expect to be back.
This way, if something happens and you don’t return when you’re supposed to, people will know to come looking for you. You don’t have to check in every minute, but make sure to let loved ones know where you are.
9 Pack Your Own First-Aid Kit
You have to be strategic about what you bring on a backpacking trip. One non-negotiable item is a First-Aid kit that is well stocked. This is especially important if you’re traveling somewhere rural, where it could be difficult to come across medical supplies.
Even if you don’t end up using your medical kit, this is one of those times where it’s better to be safe than sorry. Among the items in your kit should be any medication you need, bandages and a good antiseptic wash. You can buy a pre-assembled kit and then add to it.
8 Divide Your Cash Into Multiple Hiding Places
Whether you’re backpacking or traveling in general, it’s a good idea to divide what cash you’re carrying into different places. This reduces the chance that you’ll lose everything you have if you are robbed. Keep some in your wallet (which should be kept in your front pocket) and also put some in your backpack.
Some people like to bring a fake wallet with a few notes in it while traveling. This can make all the difference during a mugging, where the attacker gets away with the fake version while your real wallet is contained in a hiding place.
7 Invest In The Right Backpack
The kind of backpack you bring is extremely important because your backpack serves as your lifeline while you’re away. It needs to be strong and secure enough to protect your valuable items from both potential invaders and nature itself.
There are several quality backpacks available that have purposely been designed for traveling. Some things to look out for when choosing a backpack are a strong zipper that can be locked, material that is durable that won’t fall prey to weather or invaders, and hidden pockets to store things you want to protect.
6 Stay Alert At All Times
One of the best things you can do to protect yourself while backpacking is staying alert at all times. It’s easy to become distracted when traveling in a new place, but it’s always in your best interest to stay aware of your surroundings.
Keep in mind that seasoned thieves know how to get away with stealing things from travelers even when there are crowds of people around. Don’t rely on safety in numbers when it comes to protecting yourself and your belongings. Always stay alert and move away from anything that gives you a bad feeling.
5 Bring A Doorstop And A Cable Lock
A doorstop probably isn’t on the standard list of things to pack on a backpacking trip, but it’s a cheap and effective safety device. A simple way to stop people from breaking in, sticking a doorstop under your door will stop people from entering if they’ve managed to pick the lock or steal the key.
A cable lock is also another valuable item to pack because it locks your possessions to objects that can’t be moved—like a toilet, for example—and enables you to move around without your backpack for a while.
4 Avoid Dressing To Stand Out
It’s not a good idea to stand out during your travels, so anything you can do to make yourself blend in will reduce your chances of becoming a target for those who prey on foreigners. Changing the way you dress can make all the difference when it comes to looking like a local.
How you dress to blend in will depend on where you go. For example, if blonde hair makes you stand out, it might be an idea to wear a hat or scarf on your head. In a culturally conservative country, you’ll want to avoid wearing revealing clothing.
3 Research Your Destinations Beforehand
Though there’s a certain freedom that comes with spontaneous travel and exploring wherever the wind blows you, it’s smarter to plan ahead. Decide where you’re going and research that place in-depth, so you know which neighborhoods are safe and which you should avoid.
It’s also a good idea to book your accommodation in advance for the first night at least and make sure it’s somewhere you can arrive during the day or night. Having a secure base and knowledge of the area will reduce your likelihood of running into trouble.
2 Leave Expensive Electronics Behind
It’s tempting to bring along your expensive new gadgets on a backpacking trip, but unless they’re absolutely necessary, it’s a better idea to leave them at home. First, there’s always the chance you’ll lose them, and watching them carefully is another burden that you probably don’t want while you’re trying to enjoy yourself.
Secondly, flashing expensive items, whether they’re gadgets or jewelry, makes you a target for thieves. If you’re traveling to a country where most locals couldn’t afford the items, you’ll make yourself stand out like a sore thumb.
1 Take A Self-Defense Class Before You Leave
If you follow common sense, the chances are you won’t have to resort to physically defending yourself. But anything can happen while traveling, so it’s best to always be prepared. Take a few self-defense classes before you leave for your trip so you know how to defend yourself against potential attackers.
In many cases, predators pick on people who look weak and unable to fight back. Knowing a few moves will give you a boost of confidence which will deter attackers, and will also help you if the situation calls for it.