More Information About Backpacking Food

tt3When you’re out in the backcountry putting in full days of activity, you want food that will nourish you, strengthen you, revitalize you and taste really good. This article will help you plan your backpacking meals and snacks.
How Much Food Should You Pack?
When pondering how much or little to carry, err on the side of taking a little more. One of the Ten Essentials for an overnight trip, in fact, is a supply of extra food. A reasonable goal is 1.5 to 2.5 lbs. of food (or 2,500 to 4,500 calories) per person per day depending on your size, weight and exertion level.

On the other hand, don’t overdo it. A common blunder is to pack too much food, forcing you to lug unwanted bulk and weight. Experience will teach you what amount of food works for you.

Meal Planning Considerations
Taste: Eat what you like. Don’t try to convert your taste buds to new types of food deep in the backcountry.

Calories: Don’t inaugurate a diet program during a multiday hike. You’ll need ample calories (and water) to fight off fatigue and headaches.

Nutrition: It’s fine to tear into a candy bar during a trip, but for the long haul you want to rely on complex carbohydrates and proteins. Intelligent quick snacks such as nuts and dried fruits provide more stable energy for your muscles than that candy bar.

Weight and bulk: Stick to lightweight and low-bulk backpacking food as much as possible, especially on long journeys. Consider repackaging foods into resealable plastic baggies to minimize bulk and garbage. Be sure to clearly label the baggies and include cooking instructions.

Ease of preparation: Unless you are an experienced camp chef, keep things simple. Always include no-cook food items in case your stove malfunctions.

Availability of water: This can vary greatly depending on where you’re going and can influence what backpacking food you choose to bring.

Fuel: Check the cook time for foods such as pasta, potatoes, rice, quinoa, etc. and make sure to plan for enough fuel (some of these dishes take a deceptively long time to cook).

Cost: Convenience has its price. Freeze-dried meals and energy foods can be expensive, but at the end of a long day when your weary body only has enough energy to boil water, such luxuries are justifiable.

Meal Options
Fresh foods: Refrigeration is one of those luxuries you leave behind at the trailhead. Most fresh foods are good for one day inside your pack, maybe two. Carrots usually last longer.

Dry foods (pasta, noodles, instant rice, soup mixes, drink mixes) are light, take up minimal volume inside a pack and offer you some decent taste alternatives.

Freeze-dried/dehydrated foods are super convenient. While relatively pricey, they deliver above-average taste and sustenance for very little weight.

Canned foods have a place in your pack only if the trip is short and your hunger for familiar food is high (some typically canned foods also come in vacuum-sealed pouches). Tuna or other canned meat products can be a nice toss-in item for a pot of rice, for instance. But skip foods packaged in traditional 15-ounce (or larger) cans or bottles. The weight and bulk just aren’t worth it.

Spices can boost the appeal of backpacking food. Consider bringing pepper, garlic powder or salt, basil, cayenne pepper, lemon pepper, cumin, crushed red pepper, cinnamon or whatever else is essential to your home kitchen.

Flavored beverages can taste mighty refreshing after a few days of nothing but water. Powdered drink mixes offer a nice mid-trip treat.

For winter camping, bring extra food to help keep your internal fires stoked. Carry your ready-to-eat items close to your body during the day so they are not frozen solid when you want to eat them.

Backpacking Meal Ideas
Breakfast

Backpacking breakfasts can range from fast and basic (an energy bar) to a lavish spread involving pancakes, eggs, meats and coffee. A hot meal can give you an extra boost, true, but a light snack means no cleanup and a quicker start to the day.

Popular choices: Instant hot cereals, dehydrated eggs, pancake mix, breakfast bars, granola, dry cereal, instant tea, coffee, powdered milk, juice, fresh fruit, dried fruits.

Lunch

Rather than take a prolonged break for a midday meal (involving unpacking, preparation, cleanup and repacking), a quicker strategy is to graze on a series of modest energy-boosting snacks throughout the day.

Dinner

This is your reward for a day of exertion. Backcountry gourmets don’t mind the extra challenge of creating hearty meals out in the great scenery. Most weary backpackers, though, opt for the just-add-boiling-water convenience of prepackaged freeze-dried or dehydrated meals, or simple dishes such as pasta.

Popular choices: Packaged meals, pasta, instant rice, ramen noodles, instant soups and sauces, instant stuffing, instant potatoes and tuna. Consider bringing along some favorite spices (onion and garlic powder, basil, oregano).

The Best 8 Stargazing Destinations In the World

tt2Visiting other planets may well be just beyond reach for your average backpacker but viewing them certainly isn’t.

With cities around the globe expanding, oozing into the countryside around them, skies unscathed enough to see the stars are becoming harder and harder to find. The International Dark-Sky Association (IDA) has tasked itself with the protection of our nights, setting up dark sky reserves and parks in an attempt to protect the darkness.

Here are the top 8 places to view the cosmos.

Monument Valley, Utah
Beneath Bortle class 2 skies, a categorisation that means the Milky Way is visible in all its technicoloured, swirling glory to the naked eye, this park in Utah is lit by stars so brightly that they cast shadows. The first park to ever be designated an “International Dark Sky Park” by the IDA, visitors can also take ranger led walks and put a few names to those sparkling dots.

Cerro Paranal, Atacama Desert, Chile
Deep in the Atacama Desert lies the Cerro Paranal mountain, atop which sits the Paranal Observatory. The observatory is home to the Very Large Telescope which here is using a laser beam to create an artificial star. This celestial imposter ensures a fixed point for the telescope and camera equipment to focus on and produce blur-free images whilst it studies the supermassive black hole that lies at the centre of our galaxy. That ought to be worth a look or two.

Death Valley, California, United States
Whilst the bleak grandeur of the Death Valley canyon and desert is worth a trip on its own, staying the night provides visitors with an incredible opportunity to see the stars with unparalleled clarity. The park service has even taken steps to reduce outdoor lighting to better enhance the view. And in true Californian style, visitors can make an event of the stargazing at a star party that sees horseback riding, open fires and guided astronomy.

Cherry Springs State Park, Pennsylvania, United States
Cherry Springs is a 48-acre park that offers a designated 360 degree stargazing field atop a 2,300 foot mountain. The incredible view offers a sight of the centre of the Milky Way completely unobstructed by lighting, overhead lines or air traffic.

Alberta, Rocky Mountains, Canada
Miles away from light leaking cities and pesky distractions, stargazers flock into the barren expanse of the Rockies to gaze in wonder at the heavens. Whilst you may have to dodge some bears the vista will certainly be worth it.

Mauna Kea, Hawaii
Over 4,000m above sea-level, perched on the apex of a dormant volcano, sits the Mauna Kea Observatory. Above most cloud cover it offers a breath-taking view of millions of dancing silver stars, the Milky Way and several planets. The slightly lower visitor centre offers similarly spectacular views but with access to coffee (important on late night star-stake-outs).

Lake Tekapo, New Zealand
Lake Tekapo is simply one of the best stargazing sites in the world and labelled as ‘Gold’ standard by the International Dark-Sky Association. The Aoraki Mackenzie Dark Sky Reserve by day is a whirlwind tour at the summit of Mount John, with open access to telescopes through which planets, stars and the sun are visible. By night the stars are a gleaming mass above the incredibly scenic mountains, discernible to the naked (and probably cold) eye.

Exmoor, United Kingdom
Exmoor National Park was Europe’s very first International Dark-Sky Reserve away from street lights, cars and buildings. Although the vista is easily seen, telescopes can be hired from park centres and there is even ‘dark-sky’ accommodation available. If you want a private walk through of the cosmos that can also be arranged with a ranger anywhere in the park. So you don’t have to travel the globe to see out beyond it.

Know More About Backpacking Tips for Girls

tt1Before You Jet Off
They may say this is a man’s world, but there’s no reason why us ladies can’t conquer the globe. In fact, thousands of British women pack in the nine-to-five every year and hit the road in search of wild parties, emerald shores and enchanting cultures. But if all of this seems a bit scary, here are a few tips to get you started on the journey of a lifetime.

The choices you make before you even leave your front door can really determine the success of your trip. One of the most crucial pieces of kit to get right is your bag. Most serious travellers opt for a rucksack over conventional luggage, because dragging a suitcase across anything other than a shiny airport floor really isn’t fun. When it comes to choosing a rucksack, size definitely matters. Almost every traveller you will ever meet wishes they took a smaller bag. For most women, trying to carry anything larger than a 70-litre bag, when it’s full, will not only prove backbreaking, but may also impact your trip. Trying to squeeze your life into a 50 or 60-litre bag may seem a bit daunting, but you’ll be glad you did when you’re lugging it across a beach in 40-degree heat. Look for a rucksack that’s specifically designed for women, especially if you’ve got a smaller frame. A lot of rucksacks now come with a handy, removable daypack attached to the front; not only are these useful for daytrips, but also as somewhere to store things for easy access. Rucksacks with wheels, however, are not just impractical in most situations but also add to the weight of the bag.

Think carefully about what you take with you; are you really going to need your Ugg boots, your ski jacket and your dressing gown in Thailand? Remember, you can buy most essentials along the way if you’re short of something, but don’t forget the charger and an adapter plug if you’re taking a mobile phone or an mp3 player, and a spare memory card if you’re taking a digital camera just in case you can’t get to a computer. Packing your belongings in small bags can make things a lot easier to find and stop your toothpaste exploding all over your rucksack, but steer clear of noisy polythene if you don’t want to make enemies in hostel dorm rooms.

Of course, the most important thing to do before you go is to plan your trip. Some travellers like to go with the flow, whereas others like to book all their hostels and train journeys before they go. Whatever you fancy doing, make sure somebody at home knows a rough itinerary of which countries you plan to visit, and do a bit of research before you go so that you don’t spend your whole trip with your head in a guidebook.

Top Tip from the road – Remember that other travellers will probably have the same bag as you. Whether you tie some colourful ribbon to a strap, sew on some badges or use a luggage tag, you should make sure you can identify your rucksack.

Safety First
It can be pretty daunting to hop on a plane to the other side of the world, especially when our newspapers are full of horror stories from abroad. But remember, the vast majority of women come home completely unscathed, with no concerns other than how they’re going to afford their next trip. Some backpackers choose to enrol in a self-defence course to give them some extra confidence, but even if you don’t fancy that, there are some pretty straightforward things that you can do to make sure that your emails home recount tales of all-night parties and finding inner peace, not spending two days in the British Embassy and run-ins with the local police.

Flashing your cash is a sure-fire way to attracting unwanted attention abroad. Don’t be apathetic; muggings do happen, so keep your purse hidden. Money belts are an effortless way to conceal your valuables under your clothes or, if your budget won’t quite stretch to one, you can always hide some notes under tubeygrip bandages or even in your bra. Wearing loud jewellery won’t do you any favours, but a false wedding ring may prevent unwanted leering.

“If you think you’re at risk, set off a personal alarm, scream loudly or just convince the world that you’re utterly mad,” says Tom Griffiths, founder of Gapyear.com, “If you do find yourself in a mugging situation, having a dummy wallet, with a few old notes in it, will make your attacker think that you’re giving them everything you’ve got, and will save you the hassle of losing the important things like bankcards, photos and ID, let alone any money, that are in your real wallet.”

Mixing with new people, from all over the world, is part of the appeal of travelling but, however close you think you are to someone, keep it in perspective – you probably know very little about your new best friend, so keep your wits about you, especially if you’re drinking.

And don’t let your guard down in hostels, either, warns Tom. “You may have a key to your dorm, but assume that 50,000 others have had that key before you – there will inevitably be other copies. Tuck your valuables to the bottom of your sleeping bag, or stuff them into a pillow case and sleep on it.”

But don’t let a few safety checks put you off travelling. “The fact is, backpackers aren’t really at any more of a risk than other holidaymakers, as long as they prepare,” says Steve Jewitt-Fleet, Head of Consular Communications at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, “The largest amount of crime and violence abroad is young British people against other Brits in resorts such as Falaraki.”

Top tip from the road – Don’t advertise the fact that you’re a female backpacker; when you check into hostels and hotels, don’t write ‘Miss’ or ‘Mrs.’ on the form, and write your initial rather than your first name.

Think Beautiful
Ok, so travelling isn’t always a glamorous business; we can’t all look like the girls out of ‘Shipwrecked’ when we’re slumming it in the Aussie heat or dragging our rucksacks through the jungle. But there are a few simple tips that can make you look, and more importantly feel, a bit more like a lovely lady.

Let’s face it; a bad-hair day can make you feel minging, but what can you do to tame your tresses in the middle of nowhere? Taking your hairdryer and straighteners isn’t advisable – not only is it a hassle to find somewhere to plug them in, but they’ll also take up too much space in your rucksack and your hard work will be undone in minutes in humid weather. You’re better off encouraging your hair to dry naturally, using a serum or a salt spray to keep the frizz at bay. Take plenty of hair bands and kirby grips – they have a habit of going on travels of their own – to tie your hair up in really hot weather or pin it into a quiff to keep loose strands off your face.

But the hair on your head may be the least of your worries. Stray body hair is never a good look, and it may prove more difficult than you first thought to keep up your normal de-fuzzing routine. If shaving’s your bag, you might want to invest in a small bottle of shave oil to take with you, which cuts out the need for lots of water and shaving foam. Those of you that swear by waxing may have a bit more of a problem – although there are plenty of places around the world that will happily rip out your stray hairs, you might not be so happy handing over a chunk of your travelling fund every few weeks. Home waxing kits are a cheaper option – but of course they’re not as effective as salon results – or consider taking an epilator with you if you’re feeling brave.

Trying to keep your face in place in mascara melting heat is a tricky business. Don’t plaster your skin in foundation; opt for a healthy natural glow instead. If you really can’t stand the bare-naked look, take a mascara, an eyeliner and some bronzer with you for a bit of instant glamour, or get you eyelashes tinted before you go. If all else fails, there’s nothing like a pair of big sunnies to hide tired eyes.

The idea of living in the same clothes for the whole of your trip may seem a bit scary, but pack carefully and you can reinvent the same outfit again and again. Invest in a multi-purpose dress, for example: one that can be slipped on over a bikini to go to the beach, that is comfortable enough to be worn on day trips, and that can be dressed up a bit to go out at night. Remember, in some countries you’ll have to cover up a bit so make sure you’ve got a long skirt or some linen trousers too.

Top tip from the road – Take a big, pretty scarf or a sarong – it can be used for a blanket for sunbathing or sleeping, a scarf when it’s cold, as a head scarf on a bad-hair day, as a pillow on long journeys or over a bikini in places where you have to cover up.

Healthy Body, Healthy Mind
You may pick up some souvenirs along the way, but make sure you don’t pick up any unwanted ones; the travel bug is the only bug you should bring home. Protect yourself before you go by checking out what jabs you’ll need and whether you’ll need a course of malaria tablets for the countries you’re visiting. Having a check-up with your GP before you go is a good idea, especially if you need to discuss contraception options. The pill is the most popular form of birth control amongst women, but it may be unreliable when you’re backpacking, especially if you get a stomach upset, and your doctor is only likely to prescribe you up to year’s worth of pills – no good if you’re away for longer. A good alternative for some women is the contraceptive implant, a small hairgrip-sized tube that’s put just under the skin in your upper-arm, which gives you protection for three years. But remember, neither of these methods will stop you getting STIs while you’re away, so don’t rely on men, make sure you take some condoms with you too.

As far as periods go, take as many tampons as you can fit into your rucksack – they’re not widely available in a lot of countries – and pack a small bottle of hand sanitizer for those times when there’s nowhere to wash your hands.

Put together a small first aid kit, but don’t go mad – you’ve got access to emergency medicine in most countries. Some painkillers, antiseptic cream, diarrhea relief and re-hydration salts are useful staples to include, and don’t forget to take sun cream and insect repellent with deet.

Investing in a good travel insurance policy may seem like a waste of money, but it will be your only lifeline if your bag gets nicked or you get badly hurt. Some companies offer insurance that’s specifically for backpackers, but check the small print and make sure it covers any sports you might have a go at while you’re away, like surfing, scuba diving, snowboarding or… eek… bungee jumping.

Top tip from the road – Eat locally made yoghurt when you arrive in a new destination to build up immunity to the region’s bacteria and help prevent nasty stomach upsets.

Know More About Deadly Thoughts to Cut Your Travel Short

We all want to travel for as long as possible, right? Well the key to lasting a gap year instead of a few ‘gap months’ is to keep an eye on your finances and plan your travels well. I’ve been travelling, a few times, and I see the same seven deadly thoughts send people homeward bound every time. All they needed was a dose of my tried and tested advice and they could’ve been travelling around for as long as me.

1. “We might as well just get a taxi,” aka sloth

Going for that cheeky upgrade in transport, or choosing a slightly better hotel, or choosing a taxi when you could just walk, may seem like the equivalent of just a few pence when you’re in your South East Asian destination, but add that up over time and you’re just throwing money away. This lazy attitude will only serve to have you home sooner.

Walk; you never know what you might see compared to a whizz around in a taxi. And when it comes to working out how much a few rupees or rupiah are in pounds choose to compare it to a meal, or a night’s accommodation in your chosen destination instead, rather than it’s equivalent back home. That should stop you jumping in a taxi when you could get the bus.

2. “Wow, that’s so cheap! I’ll have two,” aka greed

I’m terrible for this. When the cocktails are half the price I’ll drink twice as much, cancelling out any savings and making me feel three times as rough the next day. I’ve also been guilty of doing this with clothes, jewellery, bags and even food. I absolutely cannot resist a bargain, which means I’ll spend even more to increase the savings. All this junk not only weighs me down but it makes my purse a lot lighter too. Stick to the original plan and just have one.

3. #FOMO, aka envy

If you start eyeing up your fellow travellers wanting to do all the adventures they are, wear the cool clothes they’re sporting and still always say yes to a drink or five whenever anyone asks you, you’re not going to last very long in the world of the gap year. I’d advise you to be selective in what you say yes to, at least after the first few months anyway. Of course your gap year is about trying new things and experiencing life out of your comfort zone but you need to make sure you can afford to say yes before you do, otherwise it’ll be a flight home booked on the credit card before you can even say ‘Bank of Mum and Dad”.

4. “I’m travelling, I deserve it,” aka gluttony

When you’re travelling around the world it’s tempting try all the food, everywhere. No local fare left unturned. I’ve done this, and can guarantee that the pounds will leap from your bank account onto your newly plump arse. Be selective in your eating and go for little and often if you want to try as many local dishes as possible.

5. “We don’t need a condom,” aka lust

No glove, no love. Or, if you’re not gonna sack it, go home and whack it.There’s no better way to escape your brilliant life of freedom and travel than to welcome a new pregnancy into the world. However hot and steamy your sesh make sure you’re protected. It’s not only a mini me you need to fear either, but you never know where your new and sexy object of desire was the night before, or the night before that. If they’re prepared to go bareback with you there’s no doubt they’ll have done it with someone else. And that, my friend, is how you get those grizzly diseases you learned about in high school.

6. “For fuck’s sake,” aka wrath

I can guarantee there’ll be many moments while you’re travelling when the anger can bubble up inside. The lack of queuing etiquette around the world, unclear signs in airports when you’re in a rush, not being understood when you don’t speak the language – just a few examples of times when the rage can threaten your experience. Don’t let it. Impatience, intolerance and lack of understanding on your side will only serve to ruin your time in a country. All that tutting and cursing under your breath won’t mean anything to the intended, so choose to be happy and chill your beans.

7. “I don’t need anyone else,” aka pride

Whether you’re too proud to ask for help with directions, help with working out you need to do in your activity or too proud to talk to people or to be nice, this limited thought will affect how fun your travel experience will be. Close yourself off to new experiences and new people and you’ll never do anything interesting. Life is always more fun with a new friend so drop that pride and go for it. Balls out.

How to Choose a Suitable Backpacking Clothes

Whether you’re going backpacking for two nights over the weekend or two months on the Appalachian Trail, you’ll need basically the same fundamental pieces of clothing for layering, with variations to address the specific weather or environmental conditions you’re likely to encounter.

Layers are key. You can stop and remove a layer when you start to sweat, and add a layer when you start to feel chilled. As for the latter, heed the mantra of outdoors experts: It’s easier to stay warm than to get warm. (For more information, see our article on Layering Basics).

Within this framework, the individual clothing choices you make will likely be based on a combination of the following factors, which may require tradeoffs:

Functionality: Features to consider include fabrics that are moisture-wicking and quick-drying, sun-protective, antimicrobial to avoid odors, and able to rebuff insects where ticks, mosquitoes and other pests are a nuisance. Also consider how pockets, zippers, hoods, vents and many other details affect the performance of the pieces you choose.
Weight vs. comfort: Some will forgo the convenience of added features in order to save ounces while others will opt for comfort despite the added weight.
Fabric Basics
hiker zipping up his layers
Here’s a quick primer on typical fabric choices for key layering pieces:

Wool: Once maligned for being itchy, wool is now getting its day in the sun. Ultra-fine merino wool is itch-free, naturally breathable and moisture-wicking, fairly fast-drying and not prone to odors. Wool makes ideal socks, hats, tees and base layers. Despite all these benefits, some people avoid wool because they feel their skin is sensitive to it, and it can be expensive.

Polyester/nylon: These synthetics tend to be very quick-drying and quite durable. They make excellent pants and shirts. Some people find that synthetics can feel a bit clammy and they start to stink more quickly than natural fabrics.

Silk: Because silk moves moisture off your skin more slowly than synthetics, it is considered best only for moderate cool-weather activities. “Treated” silk has been chemically modified to enhance wicking. Silk makes a soft, luxurious layer and adds no bulk, but it can be prone to odor and is potentially vulnerable to abrasion and sunlight.

Cotton: There’s a reason experienced hikers and backpackers warn their friends, “cotton kills.” Though it’s a comfortable option for lounging around, cotton should be avoided for active pursuits. Cotton doesn’t efficiently wick moisture away from your skin, takes a very long time to dry, and is a poor insulator. It’s especially important to choose a wool or synthetic option for base layers and socks.

Shop Women’s Hiking Clothes

Shop Men’s Hiking Clothes

Base Layers
hiker in baselayers
Your base layers are important because they manage moisture and keep a layer of warm air near your body. Choose a wicking fabric such as polyester or ultra-fine merino wool to keep your skin dry so you stay warm and comfortable. Wool can have a cozier feel than a slick synthetic fabric, a nice touch in colder temps.

Underwear: For backpacking trips, underwear is a matter of preference: Some men prefer boxer length, some women prefer the boy-short cut. Some women swear by wool undies, others only wear nylon-spandex mesh undies. Some backpackers prefer not to bother with underwear at all. If you do wear underwear, make sure they’re airy and breathable, (which means not super tight) and are not cotton—once damp, cotton takes a long time to dry, which is uncomfortable and can cause chafing and yeast infections.

A general rule of thumb: Bring two to three pairs of underwear. Rinse out a pair as often as you feel it’s warranted.

Bras: Choose a pullover sports bra without any clasps. Those metal or plastic parts can dig into your skin if they end up under your pack straps. Consider bringing an extra bra, or bring a super-lightweight camisole to wear while your bra is drying.

Tank top/camisole: A versatile piece, this lightweight top has many functions: adds to core warmth, makes a lighter alternative to a T-shirt and makes a good sleep top on warm nights. They may be made of silk, fine wool or synthetic fabrics.

Base layer top and bottoms: Also called long underwear, and available in different weights, these are a must for cool- or cold-weather backpacking. Choose from crew necks or zip-necks, which are a nice option for their ease of venting. Bottoms are multifunctional: You can hike in them under rain pants on rainy, chilly or windy days; they feel good to put on when you arrive in camp; and you can reserve a clean pair to sleep in.

Shirts, Pants and Shorts
detail of convertible hiking pants
In general, bring one to two T-shirts, one long-sleeve shirt and one pair of lightweight yet durable synthetic pants. A pair of ultralight running shorts with a built-in brief can be a boon for hot weather: You can also swim in them and wear them while you wash and dry your pants.

T-shirt: Again, go with wool or synthetic. One tip is to bring two tees: one for hiking, and one to keep clean for sleeping in.

Long-sleeve shirt: Here’s where locale comes in and where specific fabric benefits come into play. If you’ll be hiking in the sun-drenched Southwest, for example, it’s smart to bring a long-sleeve shirt rated UPF 50+ (many have an extendable collar for added neck protection). If you’ll be trekking Northeastern forests, consider a long-sleeve shirt as well as long pants that contain an insect repellent to discourage ticks, mosquitoes, no-see-ums, black flies and more.

Convertible pants: Creek crossings and hot weather make convertible pants a good choice. Zip-off pants give you a real pair of shorts with nice gear pockets, but can be fussy to reattach; also, some find that the zipper can dig into their legs. Roll-up pants are a popular option, with button tabs above the ankle or near the knee. Cinch-pants also let you adjust the length.

Yoga pants/tights: These are a comfy choice for putting on at camp. While stretchy and easy to hike in, if your trail involves any rock scrambling or dense brush, think twice: They won’t be as durable as nylon pants. (Tight clothing also does a poor job of protecting you from mosquitoes.)

Hiking skirt, dress or skort: Most are stretchy and skorts have a built-in liner. An insulated hiking skirt over yoga tights can be a great way to add warmth in cooler weather.

Mid Layers
hiker wearing a puffy midlayer jacket
Here’s where warmth comes in. A standard recommendation is to bring two of these layers, usually a simple lightweight zip-neck fleece top and a puffy jacket, but adjust as needed for your specific trip.

Fleece top: This is one of your most versatile pieces. On colder days, you can wear it while hiking and/or sleeping. On warmer nights when you don’t need to wear it sleeping, it serves as a soft pillow. Even if you’ve been hiking in a tee all day, a fleece feels good to pull on as the sun goes down. To save ounces, choose one with a quarter zip and no pockets.

Puffy insulated jacket or vest: Again, depending on the weather forecast, you may want a fairly substantial down jacket if it’s going to be cold or snowy. If milder temps are on tap, bring a down vest, lighter-weight down jacket or synthetic insulated puffy. It’s good to be prepared for any sudden downturn in temperature. Any of these should compress compactly. For more in-depth information, see our article on How to Choose Insulated Outerwear.

Soft shell: A third option is a soft-shell jacket. Often these are water-resistant (not waterproof), may block wind, and may have a light fleecy lining for a bit of warmth. You still need to bring a solid rain jacket, though, for keeping dry in a storm, and soft shells are not very compressible.

Rain Jackets and Pants
hiker wearing a rain jacket in the rain
See those dark clouds gathering? You’ll be glad you have your hard-shell outerwear. Choose a rain jacket and pants that are waterproof and breathable, which makes them fairly comfortable to backpack in. Remember: Keeping dry is key to avoiding hypothermia.

Also choose a jacket that’s got pack-compatible pockets and an adjustable hood so you retain visibility as you hike. Pants with full-length side zippers can be the easiest to get on and off while leaving your boots on. Look for pants with an elastic or adjustable waist, and pockets, which are nice to have.

Tip: Even on dry days, some backpackers wear hard-shell outerwear as protection from wind and cold. And some hikers believe rainwear is the only layer that keeps mosquitoes from biting.

Accessories
Keeping your feet, head and hands comfortable is crucial to a successful backpacking trip.

Socks: Socks are one of the most important items you can bring backpacking. If possible, try out all kinds of socks and sock combinations well in advance of a long backpacking trip so you know what feels good with the boots or shoes you’ll be wearing. A wool/synthetic blend with plenty of cushioning works best for a great many people, especially those wearing boots. Many people like to wear a pair of thin liner socks underneath a heavier pair. If you’ll be hiking in trail runners, you may want a lighter-weight pair of socks.

Sock tip: When you stop for a lunch break during the day, take off your boots and socks and let your socks dry in the sun. Dip your feet in a stream or lake if there is one, and let them dry out too. Do the same at the end of the day in camp, so you go to bed with clean, happy feet in a clean pair of socks dedicated to sleep.

Hats: Bring two types: one for sun protection, one for warmth. If you’re fighting sun in the desert, consider a wide-brimmed hat or a billed cap with a sun cape attached. Your warm hat can be a simple wool or synthetic cap, one you can also sleep in.

Gloves for warmth: As long as the weather stays fairly mild, you can get by with a pair of stretch three-season gloves with a smooth exterior that resists light moisture and a fleecy interior that offers a little warmth.

Gloves for sun: Even our hands need UV protection, so wear sun-blocking gloves on desert hikes. These can be full-fingered or half-fingered and can be found in hiking or paddling departments. Look for a pair rated UPF 50+, or at least UPF 30.

Other accessories: A cotton bandana (finally, cotton gets its day) or a polyester neck gaiter are great to have for all kinds of reasons. Either can be worn on your head to keep hair out of your eyes, or around the neck for sun protection (or warmth, in the case of the neck gaiter).

Sleepwear
socks on a backpackers feet looking out from inside a tent
No matter how long your backpacking trip is, you’re bound to end up with dirty, smelly clothes that you won’t want to sleep in. One way to deal with this is to keep a clean tee and bottoms reserved only for sleeping. A lightweight pair of socks adds the final touch.

Tip: Keep the clean sleep socks inside your sleeping bag so you don’t lose them; keep the other items in a stow bag separate from your smelly hiking clothes.

How to Clean Your Clothes While Backpacking
hanging clothes and towels to dry in a backcountry camp
The most environmentally friendly way to wash your clothes is simply to rinse them. Dunk them in a rushing river or scrub them on lake stones and you’ll be surprised how much grime comes off.

If you must wash an item, and have a portable folding sink or bucket (or even a cooking pot), you can carry some water a good 100 yards away from the source and scrub that item with a little bit of soap. Hang or lay your wet clothing in the sunshine to dry.

More Information About Backpacking Tips for Women

There are more women backpacking today than ever before and women are inspiring other women to get out there: The jump in number of women hikers on the Pacific Crest Trail can be attributed in great part to Cheryl Strayed’s 2012 transcendent memoir, Wild.

Whatever motivates us to hit the trail, most of us women find our backpacking experiences to be empowering, soul-enriching, even life-changing. Whether we hit the trail solo or with others, for a single weekend or for months on end, the ability to carry what we need on our back in order to commune with nature, and with other outdoor enthusiasts we meet on the trail, is simply unmatched in other aspects of life.

If you’re young or old, a first-timer or veteran hiker, you’ll find inspiration from other female backpacking enthusiasts. Following are some suggestions to help you prepare for your next trip. Many of these tips apply to both men and women, while some will address common concerns that women backpackers face.

If you’ve never been backpacking before, or need a refresher on the basics, be sure to read our article on Backpacking for Beginners.

Gear Considerations

Regardless of your gender, of course you need to make sure you have the right gear to head into the backcountry, including the Ten Essentials. That also means the following:

Camping and hiking gear: Make sure your pack is comfortable, you know how to set up your tent, you have a quality sleeping bag and pad, and you know how your stove and water filter work. Bring along repair supplies for the above. Note that there are women-specific options for backpacks and sleeping bags that may provide a more comfortable fit and better performance than unisex or men’s styles.

Clothing and boots: Make sure you have clothing appropriate for the weather and your destination. Fast-drying underwear is of particular note for women because it helps you avoid yeast and urinary tract infections. Also, be sure your boots and feet are comfortable. For more tips, see our articles on how to choose backpacking clothes and how to choose hiking boots.

Hygiene items: In addition to basics like hand sanitizer and personal wipes, women do have some specific gear considerations for hygiene.

Menstrual supplies: Many backpacking women like to use a menstrual cup because it reduces the extra weight of carrying tampons and it cuts waste. It’s a good idea to carry a “go kit,” an ultralight stuff sack or dry bag that holds your clean supplies along with a separate sealed bag for waste. For more information, see our article, Backpacking With Your Period.
Pee funnel: Planning to backpack in cold or rainy weather? A specially designed funnel lets you keep your pants on and stand up to pee; and, with practice, you can use it in your tent at night with a bottle.
Pee rag: Some women suggest using a cotton bandana instead of toilet paper when you pee. Tie it to the outside of your pack to dry in the sun. Rinse it as often as you can.
Safety items:

Safety whistle: This can be a deterrent to animals and humans as well as a way to call for help.
Bear spray: This could come in handy for bear attacks (or human interactions if warranted).
If you’re traveling solo or to very remote locations, you might also consider carrying a personal locator beacon (PLB) with satellite messaging so you can send an “I’m fine” message once a day (or at a pre-established date and time) and so you can send an SOS if something serious happens. Also, before you go, always leave your detailed itinerary with someone you trust.

Mental Preparation

Remember that knowledge is power, so before your trip, do your research and make a mental plan for how you will deal with the following possible scenarios:

Human encounters: The people who go out on trails for long distances tend to be friendly, helpful and generous. That’s not to say unfortunate things can’t happen. Here are some tips women backpackers have shared that help them feel prepared to avoid and deal with dodgy situations:

Avoid camping within one mile of a road or trailhead. Stick to camping in established campsites.
Avoid camping on or near a game trail. You don’t want animals—or hunters—literally running into you.
Trust your gut. If you meet someone you feel uneasy about, don’t feel you have to answer questions about where you’re heading, camping, etc. Feel free to make up an excuse to leave them. Tell them you have to make your miles that day, or are getting an attack of giardia—so goodbye! Stride off confidently.
Wear a large, fixed-blade, holstered knife in a prominent position on your belt. That can make someone think twice about hassling you.
Carry a can of pepper spray made for personal self-defense if that makes you feel more secure.
Don’t hesitate to use your safety whistle if you need to. Three blasts is the universal call for help.
Animal encounters: Are there bears and cougars where you’ll be hiking? Learn how to store your food using bear-proof methods and what to do if you encounter a threatening animal. Definitely carry a can of bear spray if you’ll be in bear territory, and hike in a group of three to four or more. See our articles on Backpacking in Bear Country, Food Storage Basics and Bear Canister Basics for more information.

For smaller potential hazards, such as snakes, again, find out if any poisonous species may be found where you’re going, how to identify them, how to avoid them, and what to do if you encounter or get bitten by one.

Getting lost or injured: Carry a detailed topo map, GPS and compass and know how to use them to avoid getting lost in the first place. See our articles about reading a topo map and how to use a compass. On a long-distance trail, know ahead of time where your “escape” routes are to civilization if you get sick or hurt and need to cut your trek short. Chances are, if you’re on a well-traveled trail, someone will stop to help.

Loneliness: Being alone for days on end can be a challenge—and also empowering. You’ll solve your own problems and make your own decisions without input from others. If you prefer to backpack with someone else, especially as a newbie, find a partner through your own group of friends or local hiking clubs. If you’re solo on the trail, help create a community of other solo hikers. And then there’s the tried and true companion, if your route allows: a dog.

Physical Preparation

Spending multiple days hauling a pack weighing 30 or more pounds up and down uneven terrain will challenge you in countless ways. From head to toe, you’ll need strength coupled with a solid level of cardiovascular fitness. An ideal pre-trip training plan includes the following:

Cardio workouts (hiking, cycling, elliptical training, etc.),
Training hikes with a weighted backpack (increase weight and distance over time to build stamina)
Resistance workouts to build strength and stability
Also, before tackling a long-distance trail, practice short trips of at least a couple days.

Tips To Live Like a Local While Travelling

Say Goodbye To The Tourist Trail
Most travellers spend months trailing other tourists and ticking off every restaurant, bar, and trek mentioned in the guidebook. There’s nothing wrong with this method of travel. But there is another way.

Leave the tourist trail, set down some roots for a few weeks in a city of your choice and learn how to live like a local on your gap year. Doing so will lead you to unforgettable memories of that country, and the time to do more than just scratch its surface.

Find the best eateries

We often select meals based upon guidebook recommendations; an assured approach to finding a stomach-able lunch. But actually just disappearing down a side street and following the bellies of the locals can produce greater results.

From stumbling upon delicious tempura in a four-seater restaurant near Kyoto, Japan, to devouring wildly spicy, 20p noodles from a hole-in-the-wall eatery in Chonquing, China, I’ve discovered that taking a chance on your lunch leads to delectable discoveries.

And while many advise against street food for its potential effects on your insides, watching your food being prepared before taking a seat alongside rows of dining locals is often worth the risk. Generally, it’s down to the luck of the draw whether you suffer travellers’ belly or not. Live a little.

Learn the lingo – or communicate in other ways

How much you interact with local people in any country relies on one thing: you. Proactive, fearless travellers who ignore their linguistic failings (and, in my case, accidentally introduce their name as ‘parrot’) will always meet a vast number of interesting people.

Although few travellers have the luxury of spending enough time in one place to become fluent in the local language, even basic classes can get you up to speed. The result? Chatting with new people whose perspectives on the world are infinitely more interesting than those twenty other travellers you met, all hailing from your home country.

What’s more, as your mum probably told you, politeness and friendliness are invaluable, and a smile can substitute for a thousand foreign words. A friend also swears by the socially-cohesive power of sharing snacks from your home country: I can attest that a gifted packet of pickled-onion Monster Munch to tour guides can build strong friendships.

If languages aren’t your forte, find a social activity that transcends linguistic boundaries: take tango classes in Buenos Aires, play wallyball (a cross between squash and volleyball) in Bolivia, or learn to make ceviche (a delicious, marinated fish dish) in Peru.

Experience public transport

If you’ve never taken a sleeper train through Eastern Europe, well, you’ve never lived. Overwhelmingly romantic, it offers a scenic, comfortable form of transport for locals and travellers alike.

For risk-takers, Chinese buses are an experience not quickly forgotten: a combination of appreciating the driver’s terrifying capacity to avoid a full-frontal collision, while being unable to tear your eyes away from the undecipherable Chinese adverts playing incessantly on the internal TV.

Try the tipple of choice

Sampling (in moderation) the local tipple in its native habitat will offer you a new outlook on a country and teach you about the subtleties of a culture.

For example, Japanese sake – best sampled in a Tokyo speciality bar – is a pungent, fiery alcohol seemingly at odds with the refined nature of Japanese people. Tasting various flavours of vodka in a cosy Krakow hangout will show you Poland’s warmth and welcoming nature. Chicha – a maize drink originally made by children chewing the grain to initiate fermentation – demonstrates friendly Bolivian culture at its most hospitable, and most sozzled.

Stumble upon cultural – and often downright weird – events

One of my strangest travel experiences to date was the Kanamara Matsuri or “Festival of the Steel Penis” in Tokyo. Penises on wheels, forged from metal or wood, were pushed through the assembled crowds, while onlookers nibbled on phallus-shaped lollipops. ‘Bizarre’ doesn’t quite do this memory justice.

Sound interesting? Signing up to Facebook groups for cities will alert you to celebrations like these. Keeping your eyes peeled for events also bears fruit: when in Slovenia, I stumbled upon a film screening in Ljubljana Castle. I have no memory of the film, instead what lingers is the image of the castle at night seeped in soft lighting, with the crowd seated beneath the stars. Magical.

Embrace every offer, talk to every person – and maybe even date one

If you’ve attended events, chances are you’ll have met people keen to show you their city’s highlights. This does come with a caveat – obviously due caution must be exercised whenever you meet new people. However, these invitations often lead to the most memorable travelling experiences. A friend of mine who lived in China told me about randomly meeting a communist painter at the local university. What followed was a bizarre evening in the company of famous artists, with wine, card games and dressing up to pose for communist-inspired portraits.

Not only this, but by deviating from the tourist hubs to find more interesting local joints and being prepared to chat to anyone is a great way of practising languages, or offering your English for a bit of inter-cambio (language exchange). Dating a local can also help you to discover the country, although you may find – as many have before you – that you never actually leave…

Make a fool of yourself
Recognising that you’ll spend half your time looking/speaking like an idiot as you work out how life works in your new country – but also accepting this as part of the transition into travelling virtuoso – will save you a lot of embarrassment in the long run. Plus, remembering that people in every country go out of their way to help foreign travellers will make you realise that others will do the same for you.

Living like a local requires more effort and proactivity than travelling. However, discovering countries this way will not only radically alter your perspective, but may even change the way you travel.

More Information About Unmissable Beaches on the Gold Coast

With kilometres upon kilometres of beaches that are envied world over how do you choose which of the Gold Coast’s incredible beaches to delve into? Well here’s a rundown of some of our favourites to make a start on, at least.

Surfers Paradise

This beach certainly lives up to its name, with a three kilometre stretch of white sand, swept by irresistibly, perfect surf-able waves. The district is also Queensland’s nightlife hub and a bustling shopping area. So check out this famous beach either for the waves, cocktails or a new wardrobe.

Coolangatta

Named after a 19th century shipwreck this beach is the place to head if you’re looking for a slower pace, a place to take the famously aussie laid-back way of life down another notch. The beach marks the technical end of the Gold Coast, and round the bluff is New South Wales. The beach boasts world class surfing opportunities, so grab a board and grab some waves.

Burleigh Heads

Burleigh Heads is the home of many international surfing competitions; the surf is just that good. The beach is protected by the headland so not only is it a great surf location but a safe protected dip for swimmers and body boarders too if you are not quite ready to stand on a piece of plastic as it hurtles towards the hard greeting of the sand.

Mermaid Beach

Named for the river that flows down to the shore, which was in turn titled after the explorer John Uxley’s cutter, Mermaid Beach is a quiet stretch of sand. It’s also next to Hedge Avenue, probably the most expensive stretch of property on the Australian coastline, dubbed ‘Millionaire’s Mile.’

Nobby Beach

If you’re looking for a quieter beach Nobby may be the one for you. Normally hosting families the lovely stretch of sand gained its name from a bullock that went wandering in the 1800s and was eventually found there.

Kurrawa

This beach is the home of the renowned Kurrawa Surf Life Saving Club which regularly hosts the Australia Life Saving Championships. When you’ve worn yourself out being pounded in the surf just a short walk inland is a choice of entertainment, bars and restaurants, including Dracula’s Cabaret Restaurant. Yup, really.

Kirra

This lovely clean beach is often the landing site for parasails and skydivers, who favour the soft sand when falling from the sky. If that terrifying idea doesn’t appeal the area is celebrated as one of the best surf spots for both beginners and as a challenge to the experienced surfer.

Let’s Learn About Travel Tips for Highly Sensitive People

Adventure is for Everyone
When you imagine an adventurer, who do you picture in your mind? It’s probably someone seamlessly travelling from one iconic locale to another, making friends wherever he or she goes, or someone whose mountain climbing and scuba diving escapades deserve to be documented in National Geographic.

Well, as an introverted, Highly Sensitive Person (HSP) who writes a travel blog, I encourage fellow introverts and HSPs who want to travel to broaden their personal definition of ‘adventurer’ to include themselves.

Highly Sensitive People comprise roughly 20 percent of the population, and introverts represent approximately 25 to 30 percent of the world’s inhabitants. The idea of trekking around the globe often strikes fear into the hearts of even the most adventurous HSPs, because daily life presents a slew of hurdles for them. These include food sensitivities, hypersensitivity to noises and odours, motion sickness, insomnia, over-stimulation, and the tendency to cry when overwhelmed. The serendipity and volatility of travel usually magnify the severity of these HSP symptoms.

Introverts often share many traits with HSPs, but the main thing to remember about introverts is that they gain energy from solitude. This makes solo travel and hiking an ideal pastime for introverts, by the way! That said, introverts find themselves drained after spending too much time socializing, and need to “leave the party” before extroverts do. Therefore, the idea of traveling around and striking up conversations with total strangers makes most introverts’ palms sweat.

I must admit that travelling is not easy for me. In fact, it’s often a love-hate relationship that I keep returning to because I’m addicted to it. Motion sickness, panic about missed flights— if you can think of a travel mishap or faux pas, it has probably occurred at some point in my travels.

I truly hope this account of my own travels and the accompanying tips inspire introverts and Highly Sensitive People to become their own brand of adventurer.

Plan, plan, plan
Living life on the edge usually does not sit well with introverts and HSPs, so it’s a good idea to make many of your travel arrangements in advance so everything goes as smoothly as possible. For instance:

Request an aisle seat: If you’re not sitting by people you know on the plane, it is wise to request an aisle seat when booking a flight so you won’t feel hemmed in during long journeys.

Eat and drink ginger: In addition to my trusty Sea-Band nausea relief wrist bands that I keep handy in my purse, I load up on products containing ginger when traveling by plane, train, automobile, or boat. Chewing anti-nausea ginger gum eases my stomach and helps my ears pop when experiencing fluctuating altitude while driving through the mountains or soaring through the air. I request ginger ale when the flight attendant’s drink cart comes by and pack Tate’s Bake Shop (gluten-free) Ginger Zinger cookies for a delicious snack. If natural remedies such as ginger don’t do the trick, ask your doctor which anti-nausea medication would be best for you.

Stay hydrated: When travelling, it’s easy to forget the necessity of water until dehydration sets in. Frequent bathroom trips can be a nuisance, but please remember to stay hydrated. Pack a refillable water bottle so you’ll never go dry. Also, I find it helpful to eat a light meal or snack such as crackers (or ginger cookies) while flying and then eat a more balanced protein-filled meal after my feet hit the pavement.

Knowledge is power: Google every travel question that pops into your head. There are no dumb travel questions. Talk to seasoned travellers and join Facebook travel groups for tips and feedback. Read the huge range of articles here at Gapyear.com. Read about which parts of cities are relatively secure and which areas to avoid. Learn where to go if there is an emergency. And, of course, research all the fun stuff as well! Know where to find the best ice cream, a scenic picnic spot, and the oldest book store in the city.

When preparing to visit Paris, I beefed up my French vocabulary by taking free lessons on Duolingo.com. It is also helpful to keep a sheet of essential foreign language phrases on you at all times while travelling in case Google Translate isn’t working at the crucial moment.

Travel socialising tips
It’s okay to make time for yourself: Sometimes, non-HSPs or extroverts misconstrue our need for alone-time (or nap time) as standoffishness, but, in order to enjoy the travelling life, a rested body and mind is a must.

When I flew to London, I would have loved to join the ladies from my travel group who were running to Harrods before attending the welcome dinner at the Princess Victoria pub, but I was so zapped from our flight and the bus ride to the hotel that all I could do was trudge to my hotel room and sleep for a couple hours.

Although my first day in London wasn’t action-packed, getting some much-needed respite helped me shake off my jet lag and start the next day more refreshed.

The Best Tips For Backpacking Around Europe

If I had a nickel for every time someone brought up the movie Taken when I told them my friend and I were renting an apartment in Paris – well, I’d probably have about 25 cents, but you get my point.

This past summer we left our home of California to go backpacking in Europe for two months – my first time in Europe and my friend’s second time out of the US. We visited nine countries and over 15 cities. Along the way we met up with other friends to continue the journey.

This kind of trip can easily go wrong in so many ways. To make sure ours went smoothly, we followed these tips.

Don’t be turned off by the price

Yes, traveling is pricey, but there are ways to make it less so. We knew people in a couple cities, so we were able to stay at their houses for free. Otherwise, we mostly stayed in hostels. Each hostel ranged from 20 to 30 euros a night. We also stayed in an Airbnb twice (in London and in Florence) and in a house we found on Couchsurfing.com in Venice.

A word about hostels: a lot of people think hostels are sketchy and are afraid to stay in them, but in our experience hostels are cheap, a great place to meet people and, usually, a lot of fun. We stayed in one hostel in Italy that had a nightclub on the ground floor—enough said.

In terms of eating, we packed a lot of picnics (Eiffel Tower picnics are a fantastic idea, by the way) to save money. We also ended up splitting a lot of pizzas, since frequently that was the cheapest thing on the menu.

Before we left, we set a budget of how much we were willing to spend a day, and throughout each day we either wrote down what we had spent so far or said it out loud to each other so we could keep track. This worked pretty well, and there were no surprises in our bank statements when we got back.

Pick your travel buddies carefully

Everyone’s travel style is different. A travel buddy can make or break a trip, so it’s important to put a lot of thought into who you go with. If you’re the kind of person who likes to plan each day out by the hour, for example, you’ll get frustrated traveling with someone more impulsive.

My friend and I both like going to the local places more than the tourist traps, could spend hours just wandering a city and seeing what we find, and don’t prioritize sleep when we’re traveling, so we got along great. Of course, if you’re planning on traveling by yourself, then this won’t be a problem.

Plan ahead

Although we’re both a fan of spontaneity, my friend and I bought all our accommodation and transportation a couple of months before our trip started. This made everything a lot cheaper, since we weren’t buying anything last minute.

Unlike the U.S., it’s really easy (and cheap) to travel throughout Europe. We took Megabus (a budget coachline) or cheap flights almost everywhere, and saved a lot of money doing so. We took an all-night 14 hour Megabus trip from Paris to Barcelona for only 20 pounds, which saved money on a hostel for the night and got us to Spain much more cheaply than other options would have.

Also, the other people on the bus were super friendly. One of the best parts of traveling is the temporary friends you make—the chances you’ll see them again are slim, but it’s fun to meet new people and swap stories.

Don’t over-pack

You’re going to be doing a lot of walking—a lot. Although you can leave your luggage at the hostel while exploring each city, there’s probably going to be a fair amount of walking from the airport or bus stop to each hostel, and that walk is going to be a lot easier if you don’t have 25 pounds of stuff on your back.

Since most of our transportation to and from each city was either by bus or Ryanair flight, we packed according to Ryanair’s carry-on luggage guidelines. They allow a suitcase that weighs 10 kilograms (roughly 22 pounds) and a smaller carry-on bag that measures out to 35 x 20 x 20 centimeters (about 14 inches across). By following these guidelines, we avoided hassle when boarding the airplanes, and also ensured that our luggage wasn’t too heavy to walk around with.

Make a general itinerary

Personally, I don’t like having a strict itinerary. However, I do want to make sure I get to see everything I want to see.

Since I was traveling with a group, before we left I made a Google doc of each city we were going to, and I asked everyone to write down places they wanted to go and sites they wanted to see in each city. Since we only had 48 hours in some cities, doing this ensured that everyone was able to see what they wanted to, even if we had a limited amount of time. We usually woke up around 10, found some breakfast, looked at our list and decided where to start our day.

Print out confirmations

Before I left, I printed out every flight, bus and hotel confirmation email I got. I carried these around in a folder in my backpack. This way, instead of having to find an Internet café or Wifi in every new city, all we had to do was look at what I had printed out.

Of course, every time we got off the bus or plane in a new destination we had to find some Wifi anyway so that we could find out how to get to our hostel, but having everything printed out still helped a lot.

Learn the language

You don’t have to be fluent in the language of every country you’re going to, but knowing a couple phrases helps a lot. I speak Spanish, and my friend speaks Greek, so we were prepared for Spain and Greece.

For the other countries, we bought a phrasebook and made sure we knew how to say “hello,” “thank you,” “please,” “where is the bathroom,” “I’m sorry, I don’t speak [language],” and a few other phrases to get us around smoothly.

Ask for recommendations

Since we don’t care for the touristy places so much, my friend and I relied more on where locals told us to go than we did the tour books. By asking people on the street and at hostels where to go, we found a lot of cool places we may have otherwise missed.

When we were checking in at the hostel in Barcelona, Spain, we asked the person behind the counter what to do that night. It turns out we’d arrived in Barcelona on the first night of the summer solstice, which in Barcelona is called Sant Joan and is a huge deal. People were dancing on the beach and lighting fireworks all night. We befriended some people from France and danced on the sand until 5 a.m.

Know what’s going on

Inform yourself about each country you’re going to before you travel. We went to Greece at the height of their economic crisis, and the ATMs were shut down so that people could only take out 50 euros a day.

Knowing this, before leaving Rome for Greece, we got enough euros out to last us each at least a week. By doing research on what’s going on everywhere you’re going before you’re there, you can be better prepared.

Lastly, and most obviously, take a lot of pictures, keep a travel journal if you’re into that, and have an amazing time!

Learn More About Unmistakeable Sounds of Backpacking

The Soundtrack of a Nomadic Life
No matter how long you go travelling for or where, if you stay in hostels and hang out with other backpackers there are a few sounds that I can guarantee will forever remind you of your journey.

I’ve been travelling for 12 years now, on and off, and during the off times it’s these sounds that bring back the freedom of the road and the best times of my life. But right now, as I come to the end of 16 months of solid travel, almost half of these sounds of backpacking drive me insane – especially the hostel related ones. I’m genuinely excited to get home and not be woken up by the plastic bag rustle and zip alarm.

I know, I know, I’ll miss them when they’re gone.

1. Zips
This has to be number one. Whenever I think of my years of staying in hostels it’s the early morning zip brigade that’s so emotive of budget travel. How many zips do these people have? Apple could introduce it as an alarm sound for anyone missing the road for sure.

2. Plastic bags
And in a close second place it’s those rustling plastic bags. Those damn plastic bags. There needs to be law for travellers to use packing cubes if they plan on sleeping in hostels and fiddling with their suitcase before I wake up.

3. Snoring
As soon as I hear the slightest snore I fixate on it and get so iritated I can’t sleep. Once upon a time I would’ve kept quiet, but now if they’re asleep and they’re stopping me from sleeping it’s just not acceptable. In the past I’ve shaken beds, slammed doors, shouted at people and even whacked them round the face with a pillow to get them to stop. In all my testing I’ve found the best thing to do is just say ‘stop snoring’ firmly and it’s amazing how it works. Not on my Spanish room mates last night though. They got the pillow treatment. I stay in all girls rooms as much as possible to avoid the snorers, and have requested to change rooms before too.

4. Thin walls and toilet sounds
You’ve got to the booking stage and you think a toilet in the room would be nice – easy for showering and those midnight toilet runs, hey? Trouble is, the rest of the dorm uses it too. If you’re in with the lads those end of night waterfalls are loud enough to wake you up, the early morning showers sound like the bathroom is about to take off and the 24-hour flushing has you questioning your life choices as you lay awake at 5am.

5. Squeaking beds
Whether your room mates are innocently wriggling around as they dream of wriggly things or actually full on getting down to it, the squeaky bed is one of the most annoying backpacking sounds possible. I always look at the hostel beds on the photos when I go to make a booking, and if it’s those shitty metal ones, jog on. Stay in them and as soon as someone on a top bunk needs the toilet in the night it’s game over for your sleep.

6. Snooze alarms
Argh, for god’s sake, if you set an alarm, get up! Unanswered snooze alarms going off in hostels is the main cause of stomach hernias among young people. Well, maybe not, but possibly. It drives me mad when people feel they can leave them to go off every few minutes. I recently read that if it’s your friend you can phone them and it’ll turn the alarm off, but no friend of mine would do that so not going to help here.

7. Backpacker introductions
It’s the only way to get to know each other and I’m (usually) genuinely interested in the answers. There’s an unmistakable dialogue that goes on between budget travellers that goes like this:

“Hi! Where are you from?”

“How long have you been here?”

“Where you going next?”

“Are you at uni or working?”

Etc etc etc.

It can start to grate, especially if you’ve been travelling for a long time, but as soon as you get sick of meeting people it could be time to go home, or at least, go to bed.

8. The rest of the hostel partying, while you sleep
Ah, there’s nothing like the sound of the hostel bar on the other side of the MDF wall as you try to sleep. I was in a hostel in Auckland in New Zealand and my bedroom was right above the party, the open roof club, with a window that wouldn’t close. If I was in the mood and didn’t have to get an early flight I’d have been straight in there, but I wasn’t, so I got angry instead and didn’t sleep a wink.

9. “Do you have wifi?”
A few years ago I was making a video about hostels and the people on the front desk told me this was the first question 95% of travellers would ask. So now, even though I ask it all the time, I cringe every time I do. It’s the modern world though. Sit in a hostel foyer long enough and you’ll find this point proven in minutes.

10. Banging lockers
I stayed at this hostel in Taipei, super plush and new with fancy lockers with swipe cards. Great, I thought, until I realised that the 9 lockers belonging to my 9 room mates buzzed and whizzed every time you opened them which meant locker sounds banging, beeping and clattering all night long.

11. Doors slamming
Ooo, you can’t beat waking up from a good sleep by the sounds of the corridor doors slamming unnecessarily. Or even your room door as your fellow roommate wanders in at 5am determined to wake the other 11 of you up.

12. Accents
I grew up in a little village in the Midlands. I don’t think I even met an Australian, Kiwi or South African until I was about 20. All my world knowledge was gleaned from TV. Yes, Neighbours and Home and Away. Oh, and Shortland Street. Hearing all the different accents that surround you when you travel is awesome. At any point along the journey you could have a friend from every continent around you, although I haven’t met anyone from Antarctica yet.

13. Broken language attempts
Shamefully, especially with all this time I’ve spent travelling around Spain and Central America, I haven’t actually got much further than about 50 food and drink-related Spanish words, so I’m not one to judge. But hearing your new found friends attempt to find the way to the party with their limited vocabulary in Mexico is always pretty funny, and a definite reminder you’re not in England any more.

14. Social media alerts
It’s all great fun when you’re the one receiving the messages but if you’re sat near someone with their alerts turned on it can all get a little much. And if there are a few of them sat around with alerts turned on you need to tell them to turn them off before you flip. Or just go out and see the world. Your choice.

15. Clueless parents on Skype
“Hi Mum, can you hear me? Yes, yes, Mum I can hear you. Can you hear me? Mum, Mum, put the camera on.” And on it goes.

Skype seems to work perfectly fine when I talk to anyone but my parents. Every time we go through the same ‘does this work, does it not’ back and forth until we managed to establish that yes, it does. User error.

16. Other people’s moaning
I’m sorry to tell you but as you go through the world picking up friends you’ll probably pick at least one or two who just do not stop moaning. They’re too hot, too cold, the journeys too long, they feel sick, the food’s not good, etc etc. Work out the pros and cons and don’t be afraid to give them a wide berth if they start doing your head in. Change your route and get rid. And then just hope you don’t see them again along the way.

17. Laughter from around the world
The most beautiful travel moments I’ve found have been when new friends and I are sat around and laughing over the same thing, even though our lives up to that point have been thousands of miles apart, literally. Travel has a way of bringing people together and hearing laughter from around the world confirms this.

18. Drinking games
‘Shall we play a drinking game?’ ‘Kings cup!’ It’s been the standard way to get to know your hostel mates since hostel mates began. I’ve had some brilliant nights playing drinking games with people I’ve only actually met that day, or sometimes even that night. I’d advise you to learn a few games before you go so you can take control if the occasion calls for it.

19. Buzzing bugs
Argh, when someone leaves the door open and the buzzing bug gets in. And then all of a sudden you come out in hives, or thereabout. No matter how hard you try, or how foolish you look, you can’t catch the damn thing either.

20. Only the local language
You’re on a train and up until now all the local language announcements have been followed up by English, but now that you need them most, they’ve stopped. And when they start back up again you’ve missed your stop, hurrah. You need to keep all your senses switched on when you travel, if you’re going to make it back to mummy and daddy in one piece.

21. The airport buzz
When I leave an airport my ears ring. There’s something about all the sounds and being on high alert that I make that damn flight that causes me to feel pretty exhausted by the time I get out of them.

22. Old dodgy videos on bus rides
Why do bus companies in South East Asia seem to think the whole bus wants to hear the sounds of the Asian language film they put on at the front of the bus, full volume?

23. Classic songs
Travel for long enough and I can guarantee you’ll hear the sounds of Bob Marley, Toto’s ‘Africa’, Jack Johnson, ‘Hey Baby’ or ‘Society’ from Wild. Embrace the cheese.

24. That one song
There’ll be that one song that you hear everywhere and from then on until your dying day you’ll be reminded of your backpacking days with just the intro notes. This summer in Spain and Cuba Enrique Iglesias’ Bailando has followed me around, while my first summer at camp it would have to be Dontcha by the Pussycat Dolls and for my time travelling in Australia it would have to be Land Down Under by Men at Work.

25. The mobile phone drop
You’re in all kinds of difficult situations travelling. You’re up, you’re down and you’re probably drunk. This can lead to a certain amount of clumsiness. That unmistakable sound when you drop your phone on the floor, especially when it’s tiled, is sure to make everyone around you recoil in a way that I’ve only seen when men see one of their brothers suffer some sort of groin-related injury.

26. “Oh my god, that’s so cheap!”
You absolutely cannot beat Asia on price. I went to Vietnam for two weeks and spent $400 – brilliant! The currency there is so low you’re a millionaire on arrival. It’s why South East Asia remains so popular with travellers.

27. “Oh you should’ve been there 5 years ago…”
You’ve got to love a traveller who tries to out travel you. They sound like a dick. If you run into someone like Ben from The Inbetweeners, “Oh Burma is just so commercialised now” – that kind of thing – just wind them up. I’ve known at least two guys who were most perturbed that I’m a travel writer and have been to almost 60 countries, especially when I said the number was over 100. Muhahaha.

28. The poorly played guitar
Travel Asia or South America and there’s always one who decides it’s a good idea to bring a guitar along. In fact, in Spain last week there was a lady in my hostel who didn’t even know how to play it but carried it around with her – wtf?!

29. Songs by the campfire
I’ve had many a campfire while travelling – on a beach in Zanzibar, on Bondi Beach, at camp in America and on the beaches in the Philippines too. This is when it comes in useful to have actually made friends with the douchebag with the guitar. There’ll always be someone in the circle who can actually play and you get to relax, drink beer and request a song or two.

30. “I love you” / “Te Quiero” / “Je t’aime”
Ah, you’ve got to have a travelling romance, if only for a night. Someone telling you they love you in their language as you stroll the beach during sunset can’t be topped. Even if you never see them again.

31. Beach waves
If like me you’re from England, and not by the sea, the sounds of waves lapping at the beach are music to your ears. Lying on the beach and having the time to enjoy the moment as it is, is one of the most beautiful things about travelling. Enjoy it while you can!

32. Car traffic
You haven’t heard traffic until you’ve heard the beeping horns and zipping motorbikes of Asia. There are actual online tutorials on how to cross the road in Saigon, Vietnam, it’s that crazy. If you get off on that kind of thing you could try New York too. Remember to shout “Heyyy I’m walking here” in your best Brooklyn accent (from the Midnight Cowboy film).

33. Bum toots
You’ll get sick when you travel, it’s pretty much guaranteed. I still can’t describe the full trauma of what happened when I accidentally ate chicken in Delhi. I couldn’t be away from the toilet for a week and there were bum toots aplenty, to give you a brief overview.

34. Spewing
Would you rather it be yours or someone else’s you hear? The good news is you don’t really have to decide as you’ll hear both if you travel long enough. Too many buckets, too many magic pizzas and too much booze makes for a spewy Stuey.

35. Toilet chat
Chances are that never again will you have such an insight into the bowel movements of your fellow man. Travel India and within a few minutes of meeting people I can guarantee the conversation will be well on its way to whether you’ve managed to have a solid shit for a while or not. Go with it, and learn what you can.

36. “Welcome to London”
Touchdown and all too soon you’re back in England. You’re ready to see mum and dad, your best mates and your family, but as soon as that shine is gone you’re planning your next adventure. You’ve been bitten by the travel bug, my friend.

37. “How was it? You have fun?”
It’s the question everyone wants the answer to when you get home, but it’s too hard to describe in so few words the incredible experience you’ve just had in the world. And if you talk too much about it – that one time you were in Nepal… – you just sound like a show off.

And then everything goes back to normal but all it takes is the sound of a zip, or of someone with a foreign accent asking where you’re from, and all of a sudden you’re back on that beach with your 50p cocktail in hand and the sun in the sky.