11 Things no one told you about backpacking!

Currently we have been backpacking through New Zealand for two and a half months and still have quite a lot to explore around here. This trip is the first time that we actually went backpacking and smart people as we are, we immediatly decided to go on a trip of a few months instead of a short one! For a first time backpackingtrip, we must say that we have done quite well so far and have packed our bags pretty good! However we have learned a few things during our trip that if we knew them beforehand we would have done stuff differently. We would love to share what we have learned with all of you and if you have any more tips to add to the list, please write them down in the comments! We would love to hear them!

1) Do you really need a backpack?

You often hear the phrase ‘backpacking through Europe/Asia/…’ so you think it might be obvious that you should have a backpack. But really think about what kind of trip you will be having and if a backpack will be interesting to you. If you are going hiking and camping in the wilderness with ALL of your luggage and not just with a daybag, then a backpack is interesting. Otherwise a trolley or something in that order is usually a better way to go. There hasn’t been a moment in the past few months that we thought “thank god we have backpacks!” but there have been a few moments that we wish we didn’t. They get quite heavy after a while and you might get backpains if you have to walk too far with them. Plus they usually open up in all kind of different places, making it harder to lock them up with padlocks or something like that, which is something you should try to do as often as possible when staying in dorm rooms.

2) A backpack that opens up in the middle

If you have thought it through and decide that a backpack is the way to go for you, make sure you get one that is good and convenient. Something we really like in our backpacks is that you can both open it from the top as well as in the middle like a suitcase. This way you don’t always have to get eeeeverything out if you need to get that one item which seems to be at the bottom of your bag. It also makes it a lot easier to puzzle everything in and make sure you use the most of your space. So when you go backpackshopping, make sure this is a feature that they have!

3) Packing cubes

We have said it before and we will say it again: packing cubes! They are SO convenient! You get to use the most of your space, you always know where to look for a specific item of clothing, (un)packing becomes so much easier, everything stays organized and they usually come with a side to put your dirty laundry in as well. If there is anything we bought for this trip that we are the most satisfied of: it’s this! Living out of a backpack or a suitcase can become quite a hassle after a while and these packing cubes make it all so much easier. Both of us have three different coloured cubes for different kinds of clothing. We would highly recommend these to anyone. If you don’t feel like spending money on packing cubes, you could also use plastic bags to help with organizing your luggage. It is a cheaper option but also less convenient as they easily rip and your clothes can fall out of them if they are positioned in the wrong way.


4) Daybag

This should go without saying, but make sure you pack a daybag as well. You won’t always need to be on the road with all your luggage and you will want a bag to store your essentials in. Some water, some documents, your phone, … it’s all too much to be carrying in your hands or pockets!  You can get very lightweight and foldable ones which you can simply store inside your normal backpack and won’t take up any space at all!

5) Multi-purpose items

When backpacking, all of your belongings end up on your back for long periods of time, so you really want it all to be as lightweight as possible. So make sure you pack stuff with multiple uses. For example: you don’t need both a shower gel and shampoo, get a two-in-one bottle. Or bring along a scarf which can function as a scarf, a blanket or a pillow. Make sure to give this some proper thought when shopping and packing and save your poor back some unnecessary weight!

6) Second-hand books

7bae742c-f573-4116-a24d-32b830e96f2eWhen travelling you can’t be experiencing new stuff every second. Sometimes you just have to sit down, relax and recharge your personal batteries. A good way to do this is by reading books. But when you are travelling for a longer time, like we are doing now, you will need a few books to keep you busy for that duration of time. Although you don’t want to spend a lot of money on them and be carrying them around all the time. A good way to resolve this is by simply buying second hand books. We have bought and seen some really good second hand books around New Zealand which are in good shape for low value. And then after you are done reading them, you can give them to fellow travellers or try to sell it back to another second-hand shop. Another advantage is that when they sadly fall victim to you trying to squeeze everything in your bag and get all bended and wrinkled, it’s not that bad. 

7) Think about your clothes

Another smart way to save money but also time is by packing a smart selection of clothing. What we mean by this is: only select clothes that can go in one washing machine. We didn’t think about this so we brought along some red clothes, some more black clothes and a lot of coloured clothes. This means we have to do three washings each time. And because hostels or laundromats rarely offer a washing line you also have to dry all of your clothes in the dryer. We usually have to pay around 3 NZD per machine we use, so this adds up quickly!

8) Cotton is rotten

Another clothing tip that especially applies for when you want to go hiking in the mountains for example. Cotton absorbs A LOT of moisture and dries very slow! So when you hike and you sweat, your clothes will get wet. When you hike where it is cold this is problematic as your body will cool off too rapidly and in drastic cases might even cause hypothermia. You don’t want hypothermia… So make sure you pack at least one outfit that is made for hiking and is entirely cottonfree! We aren’t experts, but we have been told polyester and wool are good alternatives.

9) Refillable water bottles

fb57be7d-f390-42e4-9411-7961091647e4Do you like to save money? Do you like the environment? Invest in some quality refillable water bottles! You don’t have to be buying bottled water the entire time! You could also keep using one of the plastic waterbottles and keep refilling that one, but they usually aren’t really built to last. When you apply this tip, just make sure that A) you clean it often so it doesn’t start to smell B) you go to a country where the tap water is drinkable!

10) Flip-flops

Flip-flops are always nice casual footwear to have but they are also a must-have. When you are backpacking, you usually aren’t staying in luxury hotel rooms with a private bathroom, but in a crappy dorm with a shared bathroom. As they can sometimes be rather dirty (we just can’t say how often we have seen someone else’s hair in the drain or used bandaids on the shower floor…) we recommend you wear flip-flops in the shower. Not just because you don’t like the idea of such a dirty shower floor, but also because you don’t want to get foot fungus in a shower like that…

11) Microfiber towel

Handdoek 1ps1Another packing tip that applies to the bathroom area! A regular towel can take up a lot of space and doesn’t dry very quick. Therefore you will really want to bring along a microfiber towel on your trip. They are very thin, dry you very well and get dry themselves afterwards quickly as well! Simply a must and a great investment!


That’s all the tips that we learned so far which we think can be useful to you! You can always find more general travel tips in one of our previous blogposts: ‘How to improve your travel experience‘. Make sure to check that one out as well! More tips and tricks for better travelling! ๐Ÿ™‚


56 thoughts on “11 Things no one told you about backpacking!

  1. Great tips, guys! When I first started traveling I did a lot of research and managed to leave home with a backpack weighting 9.2kg! I was so proud! Shame I didnโ€™t know about the cubes back then, Iโ€™m really looking forward to buying some.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Wow, that is very well packed indeed! Our bags are a bit heavier… ๐Ÿ˜… and we really love our cubes! We prefer the ones from the brand Eagle Creek, but we also both have one from Flight 001 which isn’t bad either. ๐Ÿ˜Š

      We hope you are enjoying your trip up north! We miss you already ๐Ÿ˜Š


    1. You mean like a purse? We both had our backpacks, a general daybag and an extra tiny, easy to store daybag. Lynn also carried a purse. So big backpack on our back with the empty, tiny daybag stored inside it and then our general daybag filled with some stuff on our chest. And then Lynn had her purse over her shoulder as well ๐Ÿ˜Š did that answer your question? If you have any more, we would love to help.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I agree with all of this! My biggest error backpacking is no matter how hard I try not to, I always pack too many clothes! I end up having to get rid of half of them once I’m on my trip or some of them I don’t even wear the entire time! Oops

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Ah what a coincedence! We are from Belgium, Thomas is a historian and Lynn has a degree in tourism! So if you would like some tips on what war-related stuff to visit in Belgium apart from Ypres, just let us know ๐Ÿ˜Š sounds like you guys will be having a very interesting trip!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I mostly car-camp but must pack and unpack a lot so thanks for the tips. The N. California outfitter REI Coop doesn’t sell cotton garments-” cotton kills” (I said “while I’m wearing cotton socks watching TV?”). I use nylon, polyester, acrylic…but prefer silk, marino wool. I always pack too many clothes I bought at thrift shops and abandon many garments along the trip for fit issues, unsuitability, or because I don’t want to wash them or pack them anymore-a car-camping bonus. I’ll try the cubes if I can find them cheap enough, otherwise nylon bags. Thanks.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Sometimes you’re too busy doing to even think about it. Seems like I do all this stuff, but I know I would forget plenty of these details if I were to be telling anyone. A list like this is a great reference. Thanks for taking the time to write it all down.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for the lovely compliment! We wrote this in the middle of our backpackickingtrip, so it was fairly easy to remember our personal frustrations and what we would do different. Doing it afterwards would be a lot more difficult indeed ๐Ÿ˜Š glad you liked the list!

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Ralph Nyadzi

    Thank you so much for the tips. I’ll use them as my guide as I begin a new life of journeying soon. And the book image is just great. It reminds me of the interesting characters in that novel.Many thanks.

    Liked by 2 people

  6. These are all good suggestions. I was back packing 30 and 40 years ago before microfiber towels and cotton was the only clothing. Oh ya…I know, what a hardship…but if you don’t know of something better you don’t miss it. I still enjoyed this post and agree with everything you said.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Really great blog. Gives people who haven’t gone backpacking before a lot of useful information. One thing I would like to mention also is that when you are backpacking around, there are a few options for free accommodation. You don’t always have to stay in a backpackers, or sleep in your car, there is a site called Cultural Exchange where you exchange a few hours work a day for food and accommodation. This is a really great way to travel as you get to meet the locals and join in the everyday life of the local. Great way to experience one’s culture. The work is usually only around 4 hours a day so you get a lot of time to explore each area!

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Awesome tips thanks! Taking notes for my backpacking trip this year. Yes, I am going to take a backpack ๐Ÿ™‚ but I am going with one that opens like a duffel bag as well! I am so glad they have re-engineered bags for travelers!


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