What follows is a list of things I’ve learnt from 8 years of backpacking and all those interesting experiences that come with it. These Backpacking hacks are a culmination of things I’ve thought up and that others have passed on.
GET A CARRY-ON SIZE BAG
If you can survive with only carry on luggage it will make life so much easier you can usually get away with a 40L bag but make sure you check the dimensions
When browsing for flights be sure you use private browsing or a system where your cookies aren’t recorded as the flights you are looking up will magically increase in price. Also book on the airlines page and be sure to check in the local language not just the one you speak. I once saved a hundred bucks by switching to Spanish from English while booking an internal flight in peru. Must have been a ‘surcharge’ people who didn’t speak spanish
ONBOARD FOOD AND DRINKS
Chances are you’ve caught a cheap flight which doesn’t include any food items but the occasional complimentary soft drink. If you’d like to upgrade to an alcoholic beverage onboard keep in mind small bottles of alcohol are under the 100ml maximum liquid for most flights
GET YOUR OWN ROW OF SEATS
I’ve been on far to many flights to count and I’ve never seen this mysterious upgrade to business class, I also have long hair, a beard and am usually still a little dirty from a last minute hike but I have found a way to occasionally get your own space on a plane. Simply wait to get on last at the gate and look for spare rows of seats, you’re the last one so chances are you’re not sitting in anyone else’s seat and more then likely wont be noticed to be in incorrect seating by flight attendants.
Also try to avoid sitting next to the toilet for obvious reasons or at the very last seat on the plane as it doesn’t usually recline
DON’T BUY A MONEY BELT
Everyone tells you to buy a money belt and that your belongings will be safe if they are in there. You’re a tourist and anyone who is going to rob a tourist looks for their damn money belt or their second wallet, their sock. Put your money in something that other people don’t want to touch, girls keep your spare cash in a tampon box or rolled up inside a hollowed out lipstick, guys the stick deodorants can be removed from the container and you’ve got a perfect little hiding place.
CUSTOMISE YOUR BAG
Customising your bag somehow will help it not from being confused with another travellers, you may have found the coolest, most unique backpack from the western Sahara but someone somewhere will have the same one! Making your bag your own will help from another weary traveller accidentally picking up yours at a airport or station.
CAMERA BAGS.. dont be obvious
When purchasing a camera bag you don’t want to have big brand names that tell people either what’s in it or what you spent on it. Everyone knows that if you’re walking around with a Nikon, Canon or Lowepro branded bag chances are you have an expensive camera inside. I own a canvas pack that is nothing special but inside its padded and specifically built for holding a DSLR and 3 lenses
ALWAYS PAY IN LOCAL CURRENCY
Get money out where ever you go, if they are offering you to pay in a foreign and usually stronger currency there is a reason for it, also never use airport money exchange unless you absolutely have to.
SAVE ON BANK FEES
If you can find a bank that has no overseas fees or partnering banks where you are travelling, bank fees add up and make a huge difference… you could have travelled an extra week in Asia 😉
PRELOAD GOOGLE MAPS ON YOUR PHONE
This is one of the most important back packing hacks! You’re smart phone is a GPS!! Simply load the maps of where you are going or the city you’re in when you have wifi and you’ll be able to track where you are in relation to it. I tried this out in the backstreets of Delhi and while the city maps arnt always perfect I didn’t get lost in the maze.
COOK IN HOSTELS.. OR EVEN BETTER COOK WITH FRIENDS
If you’re travelling on a budget, especially in western countries where eating out isn’t that cheap you’re going to want to cook at hostels. This will extend your trips budget and chances are you’ll learn to cook local foods. Try and cook in groups with friends you meet, as cooking in bulk is always cheaper. Also keep a small spice collection, eating on a budget doesn’t mean it doesn’t have to be delicious!
WASH YOUR CLOTHES IN THE SINK
Washing in hostel sinks will save money and time especially when you’re clothes aren’t ‘that dirty’ but you want to wash some under garments. Make sure you always keep some washing powder/bodywash for these moments. It’s also a must to have a small clothesline. This is another reason why you should always have a small rope.
WANT A PRIVATE SPACE IN A HOSTEL DORM?
Take the top sheet off your bunk or sarong and tuck it into the bunk above, boom private room!
Micro towels are great and absolutely worth the investment, they save space dry effectively and aren’t too expensive.
TRAVEL WITH A SARONG
Sarongs are a versatile travel essential, they are super lightweight and can be used in many ways!
- A light blanket on those long bus rides with overbearing air conditioning or sun beaming into the window can be relieved by a sarong
- For girls they make about 12 different dresses
- Great towel substitute that dries almost immediately
- Covers sunburn without being hot under layers of clothes
- Can substitute as a headwrap or coving shoulders for places like temples with religious/cultural dress requirements
- Can be a sheet when that hostel sheet isn’t so ‘clean’
- They don’t ever really smell like your micro towel will eventually
- Saving glare on a laptop screen while editing photos/writing
I even cut a hole in one once and made it a poncho while on safari in scorching heat in Tanzania, then tied string to each of corners and made a sun shelter.
You will get blisters and if they don’t stay dry they can get infected so take care of them. A band aid/medical plaster first then duct tape over that and it will stay on and stay dry
STAY ORGANISED WITH ZIP-LOCK BAGS
Ziplock bags are a must for travellers, you can separate all your clothes into different categories, which will make life so much easier and also either keep smells in the bag or keep foreign ones away from your belongings. If you cant find ziplock bags trash bags are also a great waterproofing
I learnt this in Colombia when my bag got soaked with fish guts on an overnight bus and everything I owned wreaked, its funny now but it wasn’t for me or anyone in my hostel room that day.
You may see it as unnecessary but a water filtration device is worth every penny, not only will you not be wasting plastic buying hundreds of water bottles but you’ll also save the money and time of buying filtered water in third world countries. Just buy a life straw, its worth it!
While not always the most stylish shoes they will make you far more comfortable and dry
NEED A LAMP
Any light diffused on a water bottle makes for a great makeshift lamp
NEED TO START A FIRE WITHOUT KINDLING
A great substitute to start a fire is wax coated cotton balls which are very easily made, otherwise corn chips will burn quite well
NEED TO WATERPROOF FABRIC
Bees wax rubbed onto fabric and then heated into the fabric will created a great water resistant coating without destroying your item
NEED A STOVE
A small stove can be made out of a few items and is actually quite effective
- Medical kit
- Sewing kit
- Pocket knife / multitool
- String/small rope
- Waterproof bag
- Wire lock
PLEASE SET UP DROPBOX OR BACKUP YOUR PHOTOS!
I have heard so many people tell me they lost all their photographs and as a photographer that would be heartbreaking. Its too easy these days to backup your photographs, so DO IT!! Set up an online backup system, or if you’re like me keep a hard drive for your working purposes and a second in a case with your passport.
Also take a picture of your contact details every time you start a new set of images on a memory card and name your hard drive as your email address because you want to make it as easy as possible for someone to contact you if it gets lost.
Also email yourself all your important documents just for a backup if needed.
I hope all these backpacking hacks have helped out in some way for your future adventures and I’m excited for you to get on your way. My goal in life is to get more people out there experiencing the world. I believe the more that people travel the more they will be open to new experiences, new cultures and new inspirations. To me a more open and welcoming world is a better one!
If there is anything you think i should add to this list please email me.