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A Backpacker's Checklist: Adventures and Misadventures on the Road

Published at: 20 Dec 2022

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Two backpackers in front of a crystal clear lake in the midst of the mountains

As a backpacker, I've learned the hard way that proper planning and packing can make all the difference on a long trip. Whether you're traveling through far-flung destinations like Thailand, Peru, or New Zealand, or staying closer to home in Europe or the United States, having a reliable backpacker's checklist can help ensure that you have everything you need and nothing you don't.

Over the years, I've compiled a list of must-have items that have served me well on my adventures. Of course, every trip is different, and you may need to tailor your packing list to your specific destination and activities. But for the most part, these items should be a good starting point.

  1. A reliable backpack: Choose a backpack that is comfortable, durable, and fits all of your gear. Look for features like padded shoulder straps, a sturdy frame, and multiple compartments for organization. In the last years this has become a bit of an art and people choose based on their personal preferences and needs. For example, I have a friend who won't go anywhere without their laptop so they always make sure there's a laptop compartment, while another wants theirs to have wheels. There are many different brands to choose from that will cover your needs.

  2. Sleeping accommodations: Depending on your budget and style of travel, you may want to bring a tent, a sleeping bag, a hammock, or a lightweight sleeping pad. Don't forget a headlamp or flashlight for those late-night trips to the bathroom. If you're sharing accomodation with your friends, instatab could come in handy.

  3. Clothing: Pack lightweight, breathable clothing that can be easily washed and dried on the road. Bring a mix of long and short sleeves, pants and shorts, and layers for varying temperatures. Don't forget swimwear, a hat, and sunscreen for sunny destinations. My personal favorites are Patagonia and North Face products but a lot of my friends are happy with less pricey alternatives.

  4. Toiletries: A toothbrush, toothpaste, and deodorant are must-haves, but you may also want to bring a small towel, soap, and shampoo. If you're traveling to a destination with questionable water quality, consider bringing a water purification system or water bottle with a built-in filter.

  5. First aid kit: Accidents and injuries can happen anywhere, so it's always a good idea to pack a small first aid kit with bandages, gauze, aspirin, and any other necessary medications.

  6. Electronics: Depending on your needs, you may want to bring a smartphone, laptop, camera, or other electronic devices. Don't forget chargers, adapters, and backup batteries to keep your devices powered up on the road.

  7. Cash and documents: Bring enough cash to get you through your trip, but don't forget to bring a debit or credit card for emergencies. Keep your passport, visas, and other important documents in a safe and secure place. You won't believe how often I hear people tell me they lost an important document and figuring out what to do when you're abroad can bring serious headaches.

Now for the fun part: the misadventures! As a seasoned backpacker, I've had my fair share of hilarious and memorable moments on the road. Here are a few of my favorites:

  1. In Thailand, I accidentally booked a room in a "floating hotel" that was only accessible by boat. I arrived late at night, completely exhausted and jetlagged, only to discover that my room was actually a small hut on stilts in the middle of a lake. It was an experience I'll never forget, but definitely not one I'd recommend to anyone with a fear of heights or water.

  2. In Peru, I tried to save money by taking a local bus instead of a tour to visit the famous Machu Picchu ruins. The bus ride was fine, but when I arrived at the entrance, I was told that my ticket was for the wrong day. I spent the entire day trying to figure out how to get a new ticket and ended up having to pay twice as much as I would have if I'd just taken the tour. Lesson learnt, always double check your tickets.

  3. In New Zealand, my friends and I decided to go on a spontaneous hiking trip in the mountains. We packed some food and water, and set off without a map or a clear destination in mind. Long story short, we got lost and ended up spending the night in the wilderness. It was cold, wet, and uncomfortable, but luckily one of our friends has decent survival skills and taught all of us a thing or two.

These misadventures may not have been the most pleasant at the time, but they certainly make for great stories and memories. So if you're planning a backpacking trip, don't be afraid to embrace the unknown and see where the road takes you. And don't forget to bring instatab along for the ride to keep track of your expenses and split costs with your travel companions. Happy trails!

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