Backpacking Safety Tips

The most important thing to think about when going on a backpacking adventure is to be prepared for anything. As the saying goes, if it can happen it will happen. These tips will help you avoid any misadventures and enjoy your backpacking trip to the fullest.

Keep Hydrated

It cannot be stressed enough how important it is to keep yourself hydrated no matter what type of a backpacking trip you are on. The best way to do this of course is through the drinking of large amounts of water. You of course do not want to drink it all at once, but spread it out over the course of the day. Making sure that there is plenty of purified drinking water that is available for you and your entire group will lead to many happy campers.

It is important to note, that it does not matter what type of weather or what the temperatures that you are in when going on the trip, you will need to be hydrated. It may not be as obvious that you are losing fluids while on your trip in colder weather, but it is occurring nonetheless.

Dress for the Occasion

One of the most important pieces of clothing to a backpacker is their sleeping bag. This is the item that most do not think of as clothing, but in essence it is the clothes that you sleep in. Make sure that it has the proper ratings for the weather you will be encountering while on your trip.

Make sure to dress in layers as well so as to be able to put clothes on and off to adjust body temperature as necessary. Use your clothes as a thermostat regulator to prevent overheating and overexposure on the trip. Sun poisoning, heatstroke and hypothermia are all things to avoid.

Of course, you are going to want to take care of your feet as well while on your expedition. Make sure to wear hiking shoes or boots that will give you the necessary support so as to avoid twisted and sprained ankles. Do not forget to wear proper socks and sock liners so to prevent blisters and rubbing of the feet.

First Aid

Having an adequate first aid kit is one of the most essential pieces of equipment that you will need to carry on your trip. Make sure to of course have the bare essentials in the kit such as an ace bandage, band aids, burn cream and all other minimum items. Also, keep items to aid in rehydration if someone is dehydrated, such as a powdered electrolyte drink mix.

Make sure to keep things handy and to be ready for any type of danger encountered such as a snakebite kit, or emergency ice packs.

Food Safety

When you are going on a trip, food is always a good thing. Keeping it away from animals as well as safe for you are the two most important things to look at when going on a trip. Perishable items are never a good idea on any backpacking trip. This is because of the inability to keep them at the optimum temperature to preserve food quality.

When preparing food on a trip be sure to follow instructions and to use proper sanitation in order to limit the possibility of illness from poor preparation or cleanliness. The last thing that anyone wants is to be sick because someone did not clean the dishes properly. Wash, rinse and sanitize to ensure the safest practices. This goes for dishes and people as well.

Know the best food storage practices of the camp or area you are in. It could be hanging your food in a tree to avoid bears, or using provided lock boxes. Either way, you want o keep yourself and the animals safe by not allowing the food to fall into the wrong hands.

Know the Trek

Make yourself familiar with where you are going. Know what type of terrain you will encounter as well as the environment you will be in. These factors will go a long way in clothing, food and time decisions for your trip. These will also put you in better shape when it comes to being safe for your trip.

As always, be ready for anything and have a good idea of what you will encounter before heading out.

How Not Looking Like a Backpacker Gets You Through Customs and Immigration Faster

Profiling by immigration and custom officials is a fact of our travelling lives – and its more pervasive than you think. You’re not just being profiled based on race, ethnicity and nationality, but also by class – class of travel that is. Who do you think gets fussed over more by customs and immigration: a business class traveller with a few grands worth of Samsonite luggage in tow, or a budget traveller getting off a “no-frills” flight taking strain under a 65 litre backpack?

Recently I caught a Jetstar flight from Darwin, Australia to Singapore. While waiting at the luggage carousel at Singapore’s Changi Airport I watched as every traveller sporting a backpack was singled out for closer scrutiny by customs officials. In Singapore you get fined for chewing gum, and put to death if you traffick drugs. Authorities at Changi Airport appear to equate backpacker with drug mule, and suspect that all backpackers are carrying a lot more than just two weeks of dirty laundry on their backs.

So, if you’re a backpacker, what can you do when you arrive in a new country, to avoid having to play “20 Questions” with immigration, and having to air your underwear in public at customs? Understand that this post does not offer you advice on how to smuggle “your shady self”, narcotics, hard currency, or pirated porn DVDs, into another country. Rather this post is for the law abiding budget traveller who would rather not be treated like a “dirty backpacker” at the airport and enjoy a hassle-free run of customs and immigration. Here’s how:

Dress it up a bit – Immigration officers are not hired for their “fashion forwardness”, but rather their conservative outlook and their willingness to tow the line. Men, keep “boardies” and the “flip-flops” for the beach and opt for collared buttoned-up shirts, pants and fully enclosed laced-up shoes. Ladies, immigration is not the place to show off that “bangin’ bod” of yours. If your ensemble reveals your shoulders, cleavage and thighs – rethink it! Less is not more in this case.

Shave off that travel beard – Or at the very least give it a trim. A bushy beard can really change the shape of your face. Expect a few pointed questions and some hard “eye-balling” from officials if you don’t quite look like you did when your passport photo was taken. You’re also less likely to be asked to prove you can support yourself financially in their country if you look all bright and shiny.

Get your story straight – Make sure you have completed all your arrival paperwork fully and correctly. Most importantly you need to be able to put down an address of where you will be staying your first night in their country. Before arriving, book at least one night at a local hostel on Hostelworld.com and print off the email confirmation. Research how you are going to get there from the airport. An officer might quiz you on this. Don’t volunteer any more information than you have to. Stick to answering only what is being asked. You’re less likely to be asked to provide proof of onward travel if you can recite some semblance of an itinerary.

Carry your backpack – If you are walking from the luggage carousel to the exit and you’ve got your pack on your back, expect an customs official to want to look inside it. If you have anything to declare – declare it! If you know you’re not carrying anything declarable and want to get through customs a lot faster, carry your pack. My current pack is an Osprey Waypoint 60. I can tuck all the straps away and carry it like a duffel bag.

Uncomplicated travel begins and ends with respecting a country’s laws, and your first encounter with its laws are its immigration and customs officials. You want to get out of the airport without too much hassle, and officials just want to get through their shift without too much drama. Help them out by researching visa requirements and customs rules before you arrive. Score some points right off the bat by taking a little effort with your appearance and your arrival in a new country will be downright breezy.

What is a Flashpacker? 10 Traits That Separate Flashpackers From Backpackers

As promised, here are what I see as some of the defining elements of flashpacking. (Please excuse the HUGE generalizations. It’s all in fun!) These generalizations come from my reading experience and about 10 flashpackers I’ve met in SE Asia so far (which is to say I don’t know too many, so I’m interested to hear from more of you!). Most flashpackers I’ve come in contact with has been through the blogosphere.

1. Flashpackers are NOT a sub-set of backpackers. Backpackers being defined here as those who travel on a strict budgets, use backpacks, and prefer traveling experiences over touring experiences (a distinction that is like the problem of evil discussion in philosophy, mix two beers and you could go at it all night long). In my experience, the different attunements to money make the two fundamentally different types of travelers. Flashpackers will, for example, stay in a super budget hotel, but splurge on the famous restaurant in town. Therefore the fundamental credo of the backpacker might be to seek out budget experiences that are “locally authentic” (in the best cases), whereas the credo of the flashpacker would be to seek out high value experiences that are personally interesting.

2. Flashpackers have mobile income or more budget then they could expect to spend during their allotted travel time. This is perhaps the most critical difference-flashpackers have been defined before as merely backpackers with money, and the money element is what is generally the driving the key differences between flashpackers and their backpacking counterparts.

3. Flashpackers seek out high value experiences and services. Whereas a tourist might seek high convenience, or highly transparent experience (understandable or pre-arranged) and the backpacker seeks budget experience-whatever is cheaper. Flashpackers seek a high value for their dollars. Yesterday I shared 30 minutes of my morning walk with a backpacker (just off the bus with two huge bags, must have been over 50 lbs of stuff, this seems to be about the average for backpackers) on the SE Asia circuit looking for a hotel room-she must have spent an extra 2 hours trying to save 2 dollars (or 1 pound for her) on accommodation. The flashpacker, with a more flexible budget, would have traded 1 dollar for 2 extra hours of exploration. The flashpacker will also stay at a luxury resort if it’s a good value and an interesting experience-whereas backpackers might eschew this experience as in-authentic.

4. Flashpackers have business or career experience. In general, this seems true. Two things seem to fall out from this-most flashpackers I’ve meet are trolling up a million business ideas, foreign lands are an ideal place to cross fertilize business ideas and create high value outcomes and partnerships. Also, flashpackers tend to be more skilled negotiators-backpackers will trudge around town all day looking to save a dollar-a flashpackers will learn how to save 25% off their hotel by using the right strategy.

5. Flashpackers are more experienced. Most flashpackers are former backpackers who caught the bug, turned it into a science, and managed to create a lifestyle out of constant traveling. A standard mold for flashpackers is essentially former backpackers who now have some money.

6. Flashpackers carry 50 dollars instead of 50 pounds (of luggage). Two days from now I get on a plane to fly to Hanoi, where the winter season is starting. My first order of business will be to get a warm jacket and hat.

7. Flashpackers are concerned about the time value of their money. Because they have more freedom with their budget, flashpackers are more likely to rent cars or use budget airlines than take more time consuming travel options.

8. Flashpackers are often on career breaks. If they haven’t yet managed to have mobile streams of income through companies, many flashpackers are living off of a good amount of savings and tend to have at least some small assets.

9. Flashpackers travel with toys. Laptop, phone, MP3 player, video camera, SLR camera, you name it. Flashpackers are digitized and connected to the world.

10. Flashpackers are FAST and FLEXIBLE– a more often than not, LIGHT. Their flexibility with budget, and efficiency with digital communications, allows them to use “GIT” or “get it there” techniques to keep their packs light and efficient. If the average pack weight for a backpacker is 40-50lbs, flashpackers are would average about 20lbs.