Preparing to backpack is about a lot more than filling an ample bag with a ton of stuff you think you might need over the next weeks. Of course, this method might get you to the train station quicker, and you might not even notice the problem for a few hours – but our bodies were not made to carry randomly assembled weights on our backs, and a poorly thought-out pack will soon result in unexpected aches and pains just when you’re meant to be enjoying your adventure. The ‘chuck it in’ method will also likely result in finding yourself far from home with several items you don’t need while something vital is missing; and you’re bound to find, when a burly border guard is staring down on you or you’re exhausted and ready to pass out for the night, that your passport or toothbrush is right at the bottom of your bag.
The key to avoiding these pitfalls is twofold: picking and packing. The day before you travel, take time to lay out your stuff into a pile of essentials and one of ‘wish’ items. Once you’ve done a dummy pack of all the essential gear, you’ll know how much of your wish list will fit in the bag – and how much you can bear to carry. Essentials are items that will make your travels comfortable, safe and easy, without doubling up on other items.
There is a science to the packing part: put lightweight stuff to the bottom of your bag, heavy things closest to your back, and mid-weight things in the middle and top. By now, you’ve already twigged it’s useful to put your passport, toothbrush, and any medication in a separate pocket where it can be easily accessed.
It’s by no means a quick process, which is why it’s calming to pack comfortably in advance of your departure time. You can also ease the process by referring to this excellent new infographic, which comes replete with suggestions about just what constitutes an ‘essential item’ and a few more tips on making that weight comfortable on your back. It’s the adventure of a lifetime, and you’ll want to free up that concern so you can enjoy the rest of your trip.
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