Backpacking is not just for hippies

Embarking on a backpacking adventure can be a great way to set yourself free and explore the world.

Many adventurous types prefer the backpacking method of traveling for the flexibility it provides and the minimalist, inexpensive style it affords travelers. If you’ve ever thought about strapping on a pack and embracing the travel bug, here’s a quick guide to help you picture what to expect and make a checklist of the essentials to get you on your way.

What backpacking is and why travel this way

Backpacking allows you to travel with everything you need stored in a pack, which you carry on your back. This method of packing requires you to be very specific about what you choose to travel with, as you must be able to carry it all comfortably, but it frees you from lugging along traditional suitcases. This allows you to be completely flexible and fully mobile with your travel plans.

You can switch trains, book a last-minute flight, take public transit or board a boat just as easily as you can take on new cities and rural trails by foot. Hiking to out-of-the-way spots becomes simple when you have everything you need strapped right to your body. Because of this, backpacking in Asia or South American is very popular, as these areas have many beautiful spots that can be reached only on foot.

Backpacking in Europe is also a common choice, as there are so many countries and things to be seen, and backpacking lets you keep plans flexible and move quickly, so you can explore more areas. In keeping with the minimal, low-cost energy of this kind of travel, many backpackers opt for low-cost accommodation, like hostels, making this a highly affordable way to explore.

Finding a backpack

The key item to ensure backpacking success is a high-quality backpack. Selecting an ideal size, quality brand, and useful features will all help to make your trip more comfortable. For men, a 60-65 litre size is ideal for comfort while still providing adequate room for longer trips. For women, backpacks that are 50-55 litres are usually ideal. A good travelling backpack will have a front access that allows you to open it up like a suitcase for convenient packing.

The fit and comfort levels are the most important factors in choosing your pack, but you may also want to consider the various features available with each model. Hiking backpacks may provide tie straps to secure a tent, or come with a rain cover. Travelling backpacks may include a smaller day pack for casual excursions when you can leave your main pack at your accommodations.

What to bring

When packing, the goal is to take as little as possible, as you’re trying to keep the weight down. Roll clothing rather than folding it in order to save space. Pack heavier items closer to the bottom of the pack to keep your center of gravity low for stability. Toiletries, clothing and shoes are all essentials, but if you’re heading off grid, basic backpacking meals are important as well, while if you’re staying around towns, a laptop, phone and chargers may be a key item. You can add in books, journals, sports equipment and more to complete your packing checklist.

Backpacking can be a great way to get out in the world and travel from location to location. If you’re feeling wanderlust sensations, it may be time to find the right backpack to fit you, make your packing checklist, gather up the essentials and start mapping out your next adventure.