I saw a soon-to-be first-time traveler ask online about backpacks – specifically, which one he should take for a three-week trip. The question opens a massive can of live eels. Let’s see what I can do to offer some quality backpack tips.
1. What kind of backpack traveler do you want to be?
Your backpack can just be a suitcase you wear on your back from hotel to hotel. Ot it can signal intent to camp, ability to cook on the fly and a desire to go hiking a lot. So which are you? Be honest with yourself. If you’re the first option, you’ll have more room for extra shoes, evening wear and various fancy city shit. If you choose option 2, your tent, sleeping bag and cooking/eating gear will eat up space when you load your backpack. Plan accordingly.
2. Don’t buy what your friends have.
Chances are, they’re different than you – shorter, taller, stronger, weaker, longer-legged, squat. Go to a quality outdoor store. Find someone who knows backpacking.Tell the salesperson your plans (duration, activities, destinations). Good salespeople will have you try on multiple packs; they’ll adjust them to fit you, load your backpack with some weight and give you backpack tips based on what they see.
If you skip this step, you will regret it when you chafe and ache in interesting new places after a few days of hiking and walking.
3. Get the right hook-ups.
If your backpack is just a wearable suitcase, you might not need room for a hydration pack or external bits to daisy-chain ice axes, crampons and whatnot. I’ve stowed stuff outside my backpack for easy access while hiking many times. But the urban/urbane backpack wearer might not need all that.
4. Put the right stuff in.
Space is at a premium. Load your backpack with layered clothing that dries quickly. My favorites include Ex Officio (underwear), tasc Performance (short- and long-sleeved shirts, undies) and Kuhl (Breakaway Coffeenna shirts). They all dry quickly and are comfortable while hiking. You can wear them a LONG time before they get ripe.
I only bring hiking boots and running shoes for the inevitable vacation 10K. I’ll have some workout gear and a nice button-down shirt or two. Everything goes into handy compressible stuff sacks.
Here’s something you absolutely should leave home: your computer. You can get by for three weeks using Internet cafes or computers at hostels. Unplug, tech-obsessed hipster!
5. Sundry other tips
- Consider a rain cover for your backpack.
- Load your backpack, and hike in it several times before your trip.
- Pack days ahead of time.
- Leave some space for souvenirs.
- Bring a headlamp.
What backpack tips would you add for a new backpack traveler?