Suitcase or backpack? How to pack a backpack? What do I need to pack in? The preparations are essential for a smooth journey. The packing is one of the most important steps.
The following hints handle longer hitchhiking trips. In most cases they also fit with backpacking in general.
The one and only question: Suitcase or backpack?
The hitchhiker has to reckon with extensive walks over partial rough terrain. To carry a suitcase thereby can be very annoying. Also trolley bags don’t always do a good job because you can’t always count with proper asphaltic streets. A suitable backpack instead is always comfortable. A 75 liter backpack from any discounter from around 25 Euros achieves its purpose easily for occasional backpacker. For whom who travels more frequently is the sky the limit. I have a backpack from Vaude for 180 Euro. Because of its wearing comfort, carrying luggage nearly gets a delight.
How to pack a backpack?
The correct way of filling is also quite important for the wearing comfort. Please follow these hints to minimize the leverage effect on your back:
Heavy items should be stored closely to your back and the light ones in the outer parts as well as at the top and bottom of the backpack. The center of gravity of the backpack should be closely on the body and at the upper part of your back. It’s perfect when you get all your stuff inside the backpack. Unfortunately, you can see too many backpackers who drape themselves like Christmas trees. That looks not only ridiculous it’s also absolutely bad for your back.
The greenhorn mistake No.1 is definitely packing too much in instead of too little. I remember our first backpacking trip very well were we already celebrated farewell from unnecessary stuff on the first day. When I’m packing I put all my stuff on a table and check the necessity of each item.
Over the years I adopted the following strategy:
You take as much clothes as fit into a washing machine. You carry the clothes as long as you have clean ones. The dirty clothes can be collected in a cloth bag. When you run out of fresh clothes it’s time to make your laundry. With that method you always have clean stuff without carrying heavy ballast. Nowadays nearly all hostels have washing machines. If not, you can always find a launderette. Keep in mind not to carry whites and wools. It would be a pity to be forced to run an extra washing machine because of one single white T-shirt or waistcoat. Everything should also be combinable with everything. It’s a big shit if the last clean shirt doesn’t fit with the last trousers.
Indispensable is a small day pack for the trivial necessities when the backpack is stored in your accommodation. If you are on the road with your entire luggage, you can cram the small one into the big one or use the day pack for the storage of your valuables. (See also “Money”).
Whether for camper or in hostels or a friend’s house: You are fucked without one. The huge sleeping bags of many fill nearly the half backpack although nowadays so called hostel or indoor sleeping backs are offered for a reasonable price. They don’t exceed the size of water bottle of 2 liters. In the summertime they’re also adequate for camping.
Don’t forget the common hitchhiking stuff: paper board, some sheets of paper, sallow tape for fixation, felt pen and road map of course. Apart from that a rain coat and a pocketknife are of big use. So and so, you will forget one or the other necessity. Predestinated to get forgotten by me are towel, swimming trunks, sunscreen and also sometimes toothpaste.
Travelers who plan to camp needs some additional stuff. The tent should conform to the number of travelers. If there are two of you, you can split the tent cover and the bars. A camping mat is in my opinion unnecessary voluminous junk in the summertime. You will see it in another way over the first two days but after that you will get used to sleep on the hard ground. In the cold season the sleeping back should be a warmer one than above mentioned. Camper who wants to cook also need gas cooker, pan and the other usual utensils.
No journey will work without it. The nightmare of each traveler is probably being robbed without it. To avoid this just carry out the following constructions:
Use your day pack: When you are hitchhiking many drivers will ask you to storage your language in the trunk or on the back seat. Should somebody run away together with your stuff while you are getting out of the car everything would be lost but if you have your most important belongings with you in your day pack you are even not fucked.
Separate your money. Is everything in the backpack and it gets stolen, you are really fucked. If you are carrying everything on your body and you get robbed, it’s not better. I carry the most vulnerable belongings on my body where they probably are at safest. Beside this it’s recommended to store a bank note in the backpack. If you get robbed, at least you can travel back home with it (or in really bad situations to your embassy). However, if this nest egg should be stolen together with your other entire backpack, you won’t die because of it. It’s a good idea to have several cash and credit cards. So you can carry one on your body and bury another one in your day pack.
Another option is the good old shoe trick. Most of the trainers have a removable padding. Under it is a perfect place to store your emergency bill. Nobody will expect it down there.
Last but not least you should note down all the card numbers and emergency phone numbers for all of your credit and bank cards. Please store these notes in your backpack, day pack and also in your wallet. Abroad you should also have a copy of your passport, entry documents and the contact address of the respective consulates and embassies of your country at all of these places. It makes life much easier in case of loss.
If you should get really fucked abroad, have a look at the website of the respective Ministry of foreign affairs of your country to have a look what your embassy can do for you and what not..