HIKING BASICS

How to Plan a Backpacking Trip: Making the Best of Your Backpacking Trip

A backpacking trip is an inexpensive way to see some of the most beautiful places on the planet, whether in your hometown or halfway around the world

There is no better way of experiencing the thrill of the wilderness than going on a backpacking trip. It diverts from the annoying crowds and crowded RV sites. You get a chance to spend time with your loved ones and more so connect with nature. But for the trip to be successful, you need to plan for it carefully.

Here, we focus on how to plan a backpacking trip for it to turn out not only successful, but also exciting. Using the tips discussed here, helps you get the best trip preparation using minimal effort while, at the same time, getting the best experience.

How to Plan a Backpacking Trip

Whether you are planning for a long or short trip, local or international, these tips should help you get the best out of it.

Detailed Understanding of Backpacking

There are many types of hiking, and backpacking is one of them. It involves bringing your gear on your back while hiking, and lasts more than a day. At times, it may be an extended journey requiring camping, though not always. Backpacking is referred by different names in various regions, with some calling it bush walking and trekking, in Africa, hill walking in Britain, and tramping in New Zealand.

hiker passing queulat bridge

Different regions around the world, cater differently for backpackers camping options. There is a variety of tenting around hiking areas in N. America, while Europe has invested heavily on shelters and mountain huts. Similarly, South Africa uses simple huts.

Planning a Backpacking Trip

Different people have different backpacking needs.

Couple hikers with map in mountains

That is why, it is important that, before embarking on that trip, you ask yourself the following questions.

  • What’s your desired destination?
  • What’s your budget?
  • How long do you wish your journey to last?
  • Who are you after a given period? Your partner, alone, or as a group?
  • What is desired mode of touring?

Answers to the above, act as a sound basis for making the best choices and rewarding yourself with the best travel experience.

Decide on a Destination

A decision on your backpacking destination is the most crucial. It sets the tone of the trip by dictating the adventures and experiences you will encounter throughout the whole trip. It also profoundly affects your next possible destination. For these reasons, you need to be careful when making your decision on where to backpack.

A camera, a compass, agenda and a pen on a map

When making this decision, the following choices are important and must be factored into your decision making.

  • Research – As obvious as it sounds, it is as equally important to carry out research on the places you have in mind. Confirm the cost of staying there and whether it fits your budget. Other things that you need to consider, when doing your research, include the security of the place; as you may know, your safety is of paramount importance. The internet makes it easy to research on the canceling of any place you want.
  • Take advantage of blog forums – To check out other travelers experiences in different areas, visit blog forums. Most backpackers will leave reliable information that will profoundly determine your experience in various places.
  • Focus on your favorite places – Places you have always desired to visit should come at the top of your options. If they fit your budget and prove to be safe, why not try them out?
  • Be definite about what you want to accomplish during the backpacking trip. Are you looking to add more experience in your CV, or you are looking forward to being involved in charity work? Are you traveling for getting exotic cultural experience, or you want a place to divert your mind from your daily busy schedule and just relax? Depending on what you want to achieve, you can choose a place that will help you fulfill the desires of your heart.
  • The amount of time you want to travel, helps you make a realistic plan of the things you can achieve during your trip.
  • After settling for the destination, check the seasonal calendar of the place. In case there is some cultural festivity that takes place in the country you will be visiting, you might consider visiting during the period so as not to miss.
  • Finally, check your travel insurance if it applies in the place you want to visit. If it doesn’t, you might be faced with loads of bills to pay, in case you fall ill or accidentally lose your travel documents.

Booking your Flight

If there is anything backpackers are known for, it is their ability to find the cheapest way out of anything, hence making the best of their trip even with little cash. This saving goes a long way, even in booking their flights and choosing the means of transport during the expedition.

Although, there is no such thing as the time when you cannot book your trip, even a day before the travel date, it is highly advisable that you do it in advance. Booking in advance helps you secure flights at a cheaper rate. Also, if possible, consider subscribing to airline newsletters, as they always have announcements on any available cheap flights. Similarly, consider joining travel hacking websites, as they also increase your chance of scoring cheap flights to different destinations.

Ariplane on sunset

Your flexibility as a backpacker, is what will enable you to land cheap flights. The following tips will be useful in helping you get cheap plane tickets for backpacking trips.

  • Booking multi-city flight is the best option when visiting more than three domestic cities within the US.
  • Book multi-city national flights when you fly to over three cities abroad.
  • Get around the around the world tickets as they offer you exceptional value when it comes to multi-stop international trips.
  • Air-passes give you an opportunity to see more of a region/country at an affordable price.

Before You Fly Tips

After you have chosen your destination and have booked your ticket, it is time to ensure that all your documents are in order. The airline industry is known to enforce strict regulations whether you are flying domestically or internationally. For this reason, ensure your travel documents are in order before the flight date.

Double check you have the things listed below to ensure everything is in order before your flight.

Air-tickets

Technology came to make things easier, and that is why e-tickets took over from the paper tickets hence shorter lines at the airlines.

Economy class tickets on a laptop

However, this doesn’t overrule the fact that there are still some details about your e-ticket that need clarification. Confirm you have the following when going to the airport;

  • You either have the booking number or credit card at the check-in.
  • An identification photo and a copy of your ticket to be shown at the security gate.
  • Ticket confirmation before the flight, which you can do on the airline’s website. Also, any changes on your trip will be posted on the website 24 hours before departure.

IDs and Passports

Crossing the border without your identification documents is hard. To avoid any inconveniences, always confirm that your documents are in order.

different colours passports

If you are backpacking domestically, you will be provided with a government-issued photo identification such as a passport or a driving license.

Visas

There are certain countries that you will require a travel visa to visit. To know the visa requirements of the country you are visiting, double check with the embassy of that country or go to their website to check.

Image of a China visa.

In case you don’t have a visa yet, you need to go through the application process early enough, as it takes even two weeks to complete. Do not let the inconveniences of the lack of a visa delay your backpacking adventure.

Money

While going for backpacking trips internationally, ensure you have your money distributed across traveler’s checks, credit cards, and cash.

Credit card on cahs

Getting money via ATMs has made it easy to get cash when overseas as the machines will produce the money in local currency. Regardless of this ease, you need to ensure that you have;

  • Enough cashed money to help you pay for your taxi money from the airport, your first meal and accommodation.
  • You keep your receipts separate from your traveler’s check.
  • You have a secure way to carry your documents and cash; you can consider money belt.

Immunization

Certain countries have a restriction that you must get immunized before entering; ensure you do it to ease your acceptance in the country.

Mosquito on a person's skin

Also, anti-malaria medication should be taken days before the travel date.

Backpacking Resources

Once you are set with the travel issues, it is time to look for backpacking resources. These will make your hiking encounter easy.

Travel Guidebooks in Sunlights

To ease the route searching pressure, use resources that match your skill level. Some of the resources that you should consider include:

  1. Guidebooks and website are the best backpacking resources as they clearly outline trail features including difficulties, elevation, water sources, elevation gain, and directions. Additionally, websites have an added advantage as they can give you an insight of how the trip is likely to be from recent reports from other hikers.
  2. Word of mouth from other backpackers who might have visited the area you are planning to go. You can be sure that these will give you first hand experience and from it, you can know what to expect during the trip.
  3. Talking with the local hiking organization is another great way of getting information about an area. Since they are more acquainted with the place than any other person, you will get the most up-to-date information regarding the hiking trail.
  4. Topographic maps are also an intelligent way of familiarizing yourself with the trail and especially is you have a slight idea of what to expect in the place you are going hiking and are conversant with reading these maps. To get more accurate information about the trail, try cross-referencing what you read from the map with information gathered from other people who have already used the route before.

Read our best backpacking and hiking books to guide you in planning your next trip.

Get Clear Route Details

After choosing the trail, it is time to familiarize yourself with it to avoid unpleasant surprises while already backpacking. Having a clear image of the path will help you outline your day to day hiking plan. Consider looking at the below features on your trail.

Terrain

Understanding the terrain helps you know what exactly you are getting yourself into. By correctly interpreting a topo map, you will know where you will start gaining elevation and the best place with a clear view for resting.

Man Carrying Black Backpack Standing on Brown Wooden Dock during Daytime

Check the trip reports to keep you informed about any washed or re-routed trails, muddy paths, or even poisonous plants.

Campsites

You can either use topo maps or information from previous backpackers who have used the route to help you in determining the details about campgrounds.

Hiker at Howard-Creek-campground

You need to know the distance from one campsite to the other or if there are optional places where you can stay.

Water Resources

Previously, we discussed the benefits of bringing along water filters. They are, however, useless if you have no clue where the water will come from. When checking out the trail details, be sure to check the available water sources along the way and the distance between one source to another.

A man using a water filter

This information will help you in determining the amount of water you need to carry from the starting point to the first source, and the distance between the sources. Knowing the type of water available in the area is also important in determining the type of water filter to bring along. Here’s our informative piece on choosing the best water filter for backpacking to give you more choices.

Gear Supplies Preparation

After acquainting yourself with the terrain, it is time to prepare and ensure that your hiking gear is in place. There are many benefits associated with preparing your supplies in advance, including avoiding forgetting anything that is crucial for your trip.

Packing in layers ensures enough space for everything.

When packing, it is crucial to keep the following tips in mind:

  • Know your airline baggage free policy so as to avoid carrying too much luggage that might lead to paying for your backpack.
  • Have a packing list ready and start the packing process early such as days or weeks ahead of your travel date. Doing this gives you ample time to ensure that everything is in place and also purchase anything that might be missing.
  • Roll your clothes instead of folding them. Rolling clothes tightly helps minimize spaced used that you would by folding them.
  • When packing, avoid packing stuff that will get you in trouble with the airport security. Being held at the airport due to something you would have avoided is the last thing you want to encounter.
  • Park dual purpose clothing to help in maintaining your baggage light.

When planning your backpacking checklist, you should have the following things in mind:

  • Permits and passes are required when entering certain wilderness areas with some locations requiring entry through an annual lottery system.
  • Find out about the insects inhabiting the region you will be hiking and carry insect repellant to keep them off. Insects are a nuisance and can turn your expected fantastic trip into a nightmare.
  • Animals such as rodents, raccoons, and mice are a certain encounter in most backpacking areas. Know the best way to pack your food to avoid these little animals from harassing you. You also need to learn whether there are dangerous animals such venomous snakes and cougars dwelling in the region. If so, what measures should you take in case of an encounter?
  • You should carry enough food to last you during the backpacking trip, preferably 1.5 to 2.5 pounds daily per individual. Factors such as distance traveled, elevation, and the walking speed will affect the amount of food you will consume per day. For emergency purposes, you should always pack extra food. Our guide on the best backpacking food list will help you a lot so check it out.
  • Fuel is another important thing for your backpacking trip. The amount of fuel you carry is highly determined by the amount of food you consume per day. Other factors include whether you will require ice melting, making breakfast, and enjoying your cup of coffee while hiking.
  • Finally, check your gear condition and make sure that everything you have packed will serve its purpose accordingly. In case you are backpacking as a group, you need to set shared gear and decide on the best carrying measure.

Final Preparation

After you have packed everything, it is time to check the weather and plan accordingly. Depending on what you learn, you might consider postponing your trip or canceling it all the same. You cannot risk going out in a harsh weather just because you have taken time planning for the voyage.

weather forecast on a smartphone

Before leaving, make sure you leave your itinerary with a trusted person as anything is possible during backpacking. You should leave detailed information about who to contact in case you are not back after a certain period. Also, when leaving your car, leave behind a note with contact information in your car seat.

Useful Precaution Tips after Landing at the Airport

When going backpacking overseas or in a different state, it is important to be sure of your security after landing at the airport.

London Heathrow Airport

Doing the following will minimize chances of getting yourself in trouble in a foreign land.

  • Avoid unmarked taxis– there will be taxi parked at the entrance of the airport that will offer you transport at an affordable rate. There are also chances of either public transport means including busses. You can use these, but avoid boarding cars that you can’t affirm are taxis. Better still if you can find an Uber cab, they are trustworthy and will take you anywhere you want without overcharging you.
  • Ask for Help as at first it will be odd finding yourself in a new country, and you do not know where to eat or avoid visiting. Do not feel ashamed of asking for help from people working in your accommodation place.
  • Consider hanging around the dining area of your guest house and especially if you are backpacking alone. The high chances are that you will mingle with other guests and maybe find some of them have been in the area longer and can update you on what to expect.
  • Do eveything you can to fight the jet-lag as it can result in anxiety or even depression. To avoid sleeping too early, take a walk around your guest house or hang out with other visitors. Do your best to distract yourself from sleeping early. Get your meals at the right time and go to sleep during then right hours. Keep the phone off to avoid distractions while sleeping. In case you lose sleep in the middle of the night you can keep yourself engaged by reading a novel while slowly sipping a glass of wine.
  • Finally, make friends and have lots of fun! Create memories and capture every moment of your backpacking trip.

Concluding Thoughts on This Topic

Planning for your backpacking trip in the right way ensures that your trip runs smoothly and that you are ready for any unexpected dangers. Planning gives you an opportunity to come up with a solution to any encounter you might come across during backpacking.

Following this guide will lead to a successful trip and make you enjoy every moment you spend in the wilderness. Whether you are backpacking as a group or solo, backpacking should be fun and a great way to help your mind stray away from the daily routines.

For the ultimate 101 guide on backpacking, read our informative article on this topic.

A man with a map in his hands

If you found our article useful, feel free to share it on social media so that your friends can read it as well. Also, if you have any questions or just want to share some of your experience with our readers, leave a comment in the comments section below.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Rebecca J. Crawford
Rebecca J. Crawford

Rebecca lives in USA, but loves hiking all over the world. Her favourite is Everest Base Camp Trek in Nepal. It usually takes 16 days, but she likes to slow down, enjoy mountains, company of other adventurers and take more pictures, so it took her 28 days last time. Another passion of Rebecca is ocean, so all short and long hikes along the ocean shore bring a lot of joy.

  • Rebecca J. Crawford

    Not sure if you need immunization for a backpacking trip, but you should get immunized if you are planning to visit a country with a yellow fever problem.

  • Rebecca J. Crawford

    You are definitely right. You need to have a clear picture of the place you’re planning to visit. This way, you will be able to prepare yourself for any unexpected eventualities.

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