Are you new to backpacking?

You’ve come to the right place, this introduction to backpacking guide is for anyone looking to explore new places, learn about different cultures, try fantastic food and meet incredible people!

Mount Bromo Crater JavaWhat is Backpacking

The term backpacking can mean many different things but here it generally relates to someone going on an multi-week, month or country trip.

First Time Backpacking

So it’s your first time heading out to travel and you have no idea where to start or how to plan? I’ve been there. We all feel this way, and we all have moments of uncertainty. When I set off on my first adventure I definitely didn’t know how to plan a trip. I had no clue what traveling would be like or even what to expect. Turns out I was not as alone as I thought, once you start backpacking you quickly become immersed in this massive community of fellow travelers from all around the world.

Camping in TurkeyWhat to Pack

This topic deserves it’s own guide, but here’s a quick version. What you should pack depends on these 2 important questions, where do you want to travel to and what do you want to do?

If you are staying in one country or a region with a similar climate, you need to pack a lot less than if you are visiting different areas, with different climates and activities.

  • When packing the main thing to remember is that you need less than you think. You usually end up with an outfit or two that work great and find yourself always wearing them.
  • There are plenty of places to wash clothes, most hostels will help you find a place to get your laundry done.

Wild Tip: Bring your own travel or all purpose soap to wash basic things in the sink. Besides soap I always carry a small length of rope to hang dry my clothes.

  • If you packed for a specific country/climate and then you decide to travel somewhere different or you need something for a hike or activity, don’t worry malls and stores do exist in other countries and you can most likely find what you are looking for. It’s better to buy something for short term use instead of carrying extra gear that you don’t need or won’t use throughout your whole trip.

Wild Tip: If you are leaving the beach to do a high altitude hike, some hiking tour companies will provide cold weather gear if you ask them or make sure to ask around your hostel if someone has gear to let you borrow.

Backpacking ScotlandWhere can I find Good Backpacking Information

Ideally, your finding some helpful information at Outsidevibes! And if you can’t find what you’re looking for on the site, or you have a specific question, remember you can always get in touch with me by posting comments or through the contact page. I am happy to try and answer any questions you have.

Other Great Places to Find Information

  • The best place to get information is from fellow travelers! Don’t be afraid to ask questions from dorm mates and people you meet on the road. Maybe they just finished that activity you want to do or they have just come from your next destination.
  • Ask questions at the place you are staying. The owners, managers and volunteers at your hostel are a great resource, usually they are from the area or know about it.
  • Do research online through sites like Trip Advisor, Reddit or other travel blogs. Even just a simple Google search will help you find information.
  • Buy a guide book. The most know company is Lonely Planet but there are other great guide book companies out there, Frommer’s has been the staple of guidebooks for years, Moon Guides or Rough Guides are equally as informative. Just make sure you get the newest revision, you don’t want to get somewhere and find that a bus is no longer running or a pension is not open any more, trust me it sucks.

When planning a trip, I try to get a general idea of where I want to visit and I book my accommodation for the first city or two. After arriving, it’s easy to ask for advice. Do some research and figure out what you’d really like to see, but if you have time, traveling on the fly is a great way to see the world.

North Dakota WinterSaving Money to Travel

Money, this is the bummer for everyone traveling or someone who wants to travel. The best way, I found to save money, is to set a savings goal. Plan to have “X” amount of dollars saved up before you leave.

To decide on a savings goal you should first decide where you want to visit, how long you want to travel and plan how much your daily expenses will be. This will let you come up with a general budget to stick to.

  • Wild Tip: Since I travel long term, I always set a monthly spending budget, and I use the free Dollarbird app to record my general day to day spending, to help keep me on track.

Saving money is one of the hardest part about planning a trip. Personally, when I try to save money I avoid eating out, I stop going to bars with friends and cut out any other needless spending. Saving money this way is tough, I miss out on events and feel a little cooped up, but it all becomes worth it when I hit my goal and get to travel.

The best advice that I can give, is to find a balance. Do pick up more work hours or a second job, and cut out needless spending, but also try and find time for your friends and the things you love. Finding this balance can be hard but it is worth it in the end.

Fakarava French PolynesiaWhat to Expect when Backpacking

It’s difficult to put into words what backpacking feels like. On each of my trips I have experienced a full array of emotions. But I can truly say that if you plan on traveling for an extended amount of time you are going to eventually endure some hard days, physically and emotionally, but you will also have some of the best days of your life.

  • There are a lot of variables that will affect your travel experience. Mostly what kind of trip you have will depend on, budget, planning, location and activities.
  • Take things slow, don’t oversee or overdo and burn yourself out. Remember you can’t see or do everything and you should not try to. I’ve found this out the hard way. Trying to everything only puts extra stress on your trip.
  • Try not to go over budget too often, it’s okay now and again, but you do not want to be struggling the last few days or weeks of your trip because you ran out of money.
  • Be smart, cautious and courteous when traveling and you should be just fine.

Downfalls of Backpacking

As fun as backpacking is, I couldn’t write an introduction to backpacking without mentioning some of the downfalls.

  • Haggling – In a lot of countries haggling is a thing. It not only gets old being ripped off but it sucks having to bargain for everything.
  • Moving constantly – Finding transportation takes work and changing cities is often hard on your body. Add that to finding food and accommodation every day, will take a toll on you. If you are feeling burnt out, take a break in one place and relax before heading to the next town.
  • Meeting People – Some days you just don’t want to meet new people and go through the same niceties or conversations. It’s okay if you take some days away from meeting new people, use that time for yourself and re-set.
  • Dealing with language barriers, scams and getting sick on the road are other things you will encounter when backpacking long term.

Coincidentally, many of these challenges are also what make backpacking great. Seeing new places, meeting new people and enjoying new food and experiences.

Final Thoughts

The best piece of advice I can offer is to take each day as it comes. There are going to be good days and bad days. Always remember if you are unhappy traveling, there is no shame in heading home early or finding a new destination.

I hope this quick introduction to backpacking helps with some of the basic questions you might have. Check out Outsidevibes Travel Resource page for more information, travel tips, guidebooks and gear reviews. Enjoy your travels!

Hiking Mount Merapi Java Indonesia
Selfie with the first trail sign

Introduction to Backpacking the World

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