Backpacking is one of the more appealing forms of travel for young adults for many reasons – It allows you to leave everything behind and enjoy the moment. It’s also fairly inexpensive if you plan to camp or stay in hostels. Backpacking may feel uncomfortable but it also offers an incredibly rewarding experience.
Whether you are backpacking for a weekend trip or for several months, there are many things that could go wrong. Avoid these common mistakes that first-time backpackers make at all costs.
There are approximately 1,300 steps in a kilometre and hiking trails are rarely flat. It won’t take long before a heavy backpack starts to take its toll.
Start with “The Big Three” – shelter, backpack, and sleeping bag. Only pack what you need. There’s no reason to bring a 4-person tent if you’re camping alone. If you plan to cook, bring a lightweight stove with fuel and a lighter. Alternatively, you can also stick with dehydrated foods like granola and oatmeal.
Most of the weight in your backpack will come from your clothes. Only plan to bring a few shirts and pants as you’ll likely be doing laundry every week. If it’s going to be cold, consider packing a down jacket and other thermal gear. You can always add or remove layers as needed.
Packing is a skill that comes with experience. As you start to backpack more, you’ll know what you need and don’t need.
2. Bringing Untested Gear
You just purchased some new camping and hiking gear, and you can’t wait to try them out. But the first time you put it all together should not be when you are deep in the backcountry.
Testing gear before you set out on your backpacking trip is essential. Make sure you know how to use any new equipment you buy. The last thing you want is to be stuck in the middle of nowhere with a malfunctioning water filter or a stove with the wrong fuel type.
Avoid these common mistakes by testing your gear and double-checking its functionality. Consider doing a test run on a nearby camping site or even in your backyard so you’re more familiar with your equipment.
3. Poor Planning
It may be tempting to book a last minute ticket on a whim. But you can’t just expect everything to fall in place especially if it’s your first time backpacking. Preparation is key from knowing what to pack to knowing how to properly set up your equipment. If you run out of supplies and you’re out in the wilderness alone, you could be putting your life in danger.
Planning is undoubtedly dull and tedious but it will help you avoid countless blunders. Research your route ahead of time and check if you need any permits. It’s also a good idea to learn about the weather conditions so you know what clothes to pack.
4. Not Getting Proper Vaccinations
Serious and tropical diseases are sadly a reality of backpacking in certain parts of the world. If you’re not adequately prepared, you could come down with a life-threatening illness. While influenza is a very common illness in backpackers, there are others which you really should get advice from a travel doctor on, including:
- Yellow fever
If you plan to travel overseas, and particularly if it’s to regions that are known to have infectious diseases, it’s important to have the necessary vaccinations. Check with your doctor around 8 weeks before your trip to allow sufficient time for any vaccinations to take effect. You may also want to arrange a general health check-up if you plan to be away for an extended period.
5. Leaving a Trace
The final mistake that many first time backpackers make is leaving a trace.
The Leave No Trace (LNT) ideology is based on a simple principle – Any campsite you leave should be left the same way as the day you arrived. Minimise your impact on the environment and treat nature with respect. That means you should pack everything including food and waste. Follow all regulations and double check the rules ahead of time for areas you’ll be travelling in.
Kym Wallis, the founding director of Higher Ranking has over 15 years of advertising sales, digital strategy, and business development experience. He is currently working as Digital Adviser for TravelVax.