You have decided it might be fun and maybe cheaper to backpack on your next vacation. But what exactly does backpacking mean in real life terms?
Backpacking of course has criteria: Fitness, tolerances, needs and desires, how long will I be there, where am I going, culture, climate, transportation, accommodations, etc.
Backpacking is fun, free spirited, easy, inexpensive and oh so cool. But if you don’t know what you are getting into, it can be a disaster. Here are some questions you need to ask yourself before deciding if it is right for you.
Fitness – how fit are you?
- 1. How much weight can you carry? Carrying weight on your back is not as heavy as carrying it in your arms. Most backpacks have supports that rest on your hips relieving back and shoulder pressure.
- 2. How far can you walk carrying a heavy load? Again consider carrying on your back.
- 3. Can you climb stairs carrying a heavy load on your back?
- 4. Can you lift a heavy load up above your head? Determining how much weight you can lift is crucial.
- 5. Do you have health issues that could spiral while away from home, probably in a foreign country? Is it worth the risk?
- 6. Are you in shape; do you walk a mile daily? You will need to practice walking, carrying your backpack loaded with your acceptable weight a month before you leave.
- 7. Are you macho man/woman? Don’t be foolish. Is it macho to fail?
- 8. This is not an age or male/female thing; it is a fitness thing. Be realistic.
Criteria – what do you expect from your trip, in terms of enjoyment and tolerance?
- 1. Do you want an easy, luxury vacation? Obviously backpacking is not for you. Don’t fool yourself.
- 2. Do you mind sweating and getting tired? You will sweat and you will get tired. That backpack can feel like an albatross after schlepping it all day.
- 3. Do you want others to carry your bags for you? Not going to happen. You are on your own. Your traveling partner will be handling their own luggage.
- 4. What type of experience do you want to have on your trip? This is something you really need to think about whether you are 19 or 65. A backpacking trip is an adventure, not usually easy, but always an interesting experience.
- 5. Ask yourself why you are considering backpacking. Saving money and traveling light, experiencing the local scene are great reasons. But … you must know what you are getting into.
- 6. Will you be okay wearing a limited wardrobe? There isn’t much space in a backpack for extras. You will wear the same outfit over and over.
- 7. Can you tolerate sub-standard conditions? Third world countries have hostels and cheap hotels, but remember, their nice hotels are not even what you have at home. Hostels in Europe are better but some are not; check Trip Advisor for ratings. If you are miserable, you will not be happy and finding a better place takes time and energy, and you will probably pay more than you intended.
- 8. Are you even remotely a diva? Come on now, you know if you are or not. If you are, you will make your traveling companion very miserable backpacking. Save yourself a friend
You still think backpacking is a good idea? Great! Now what? Read the following articles for more nitty gritty guidance:
The Nitty Gritty of Travel Backpacking II – Buying A Backpack
The Nitty Gritty of Travel Backpacking III – Packing Your Backpack.
The Nitty Gritty of Travel Backpacking IV – On the Road – How can I get there and where will I stay?
Have fun by having a good attitude and remember, “Life begins at the end of your comfort zone.” Neale Donald Walsch