Backpacking – The Basics

When most of us think of backpacks, reminiscent thoughts of lugging books around our school campuses come to mind. Rarely do we imagine living out of one for a month or more. The idea of “backpacking” consists of basically traveling mostly by foot for days on end, all the while living out of a backpack. Backpacking is certainly not for the faint of heart. You won’t see any divas sojourning through the Scottish Highlands carrying a 75 liter life source upon their back.

When the word “backpack” becomes a verb, adventure always accompanies it. One must have a high tolerance for carrying heavy loads for long periods of time if they care to enjoy their excursion. Especially if you are traveling with another person, you don’t want to be the one to weigh them down just because you are being weighed down. Before departing on your backpacking adventure, it would be a good idea to pack your backpack full of everything you will need, put it on, and lug it around the block or around the house for a few hours. If you’re wheezing and dry heaving after awhile, maybe try some conditioning methods to build endurance. I’m tellin’ ya, it’s not your usual vacation prep; the trip will be exhausting without it.

Living out of a capsule about half the size of your body requires sacrifice. I’m talking about hygiene. In a 65 liter bag, you’ll need to pack clothing lightly. That means you’ll most likely be stuck in the same dirty pair of pants for days on end. Just smell the thrill backpacking through Europe! A backpack with a detachable day pack is advisable when selecting a carrying companion. That way, you can keep your giant lug in a locker, or somewhere safe, while you travel lightly around your city of choice.

We all know that when sojourning through Europe, there are few things that make a person look like a tourist more than a huge, lumpy bag on your back. That is exactly true. However, in a later series, we will touch on ways to keep from looking like an American tourist, so that your backpack can be the only giveaway. From hostels, to couch surfing, every night you spend in beautiful Europe will see you returning to that bag for literally everything you will need. Don’t forget locks for your backpack’s zippers, either. As much of a wonderland as it is, Europe is not incapable of theft. Without your trusty bag, you are up a creek without a paddle, or more appropriately, in a foreign land with absolutely nothing.

Justin and I are looking forward to living out of backpacks for at least a month next summer. Are you like us – a rough and tough adventurer – or would you rather stay in a hotel in your favorite European city for a few days with a shower and enough clothes for every day of your stay? Leave a comment with your answer below, and we’ll respond. We’d love to hear how crazy we are compared to the rest of the world.

6 Responses to “Backpacking – The Basics”
  1. Camped and backpacked – France, Italy, England, Ireland, Spain – dipped a toe into N Africa the easy way. The idea of breaking new ground and meeting new people (some are invariably nuts) is a holiday. Researching the locations and getting background to the people there is essential to the understanding of the ground you tread on. Having the right kit is also a must. Great article and bang on the money for prospective backpackers.

  2. Thanks for the encouragement! I’m glad you mention researching before the trip, because too often, travelers will arrive with no knowledge of their destination other than what they learned in gradeschool. Glad to hear from someone with such experience!

  3. redboots says:

    Make sure you get a really good pack that fits your body type. I would kill my back if my backpack didn’t fit properly. I’ve been doing plenty of 2-6 km walks to/from bus and train stations. Not always pleasant.

  4. And the advice from a vetran travel writer I found helpful.
    Before you pack for the holiday lay all your clothes and money out on the bed. Then take half the clothes and twice the money.

  5. Bron says:

    I don’t think I’ll ever use a suitcase again now that I’ve used a backpack. And it doesn’t need to be backbreaking! In fact, if it is, you’ve taken too much stuff or your bag isn’t fitted correctly. Getting around (eg to and from train stations, up stairs, over cobblestones) is an awful lot easier with everything on your back than dragging it behind you.

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