Backpacking Tips



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Backpacking Equipment

  • Use hi-tech fabrics which are light, breathe well, and most important of all dry incredibly fast:
    • Micro-fiber underpants and t-shirts
    • Several layers of thermals (the warmest include wool)
    • Quality trekking socks
    • Silk sock linings
    • Polyester trousers (the elasic include polyamide)
    • Microfiber towels
    • NO: sweatshirts, cotton t-shirts, cotton trousers, jeans, cotton socks, cotton underwear and thick towels.
  • To dry your laundry faster, roll each item in a towel and squeeze it, before hanging for the final dry.
  • When you wear bright colors (red, yellow, orange), you are seen from afar. It is efficient when you lag behind, or when people are looking for you, and it comes out great in photographs.
  • When climbing to a cold place without all the equipment (such as to Poon Hill in the Annapurna trek, or to Gokyo Ri and Kala Patthar in the Everest trek): in addition to the thermal underwear layers on top, bottom, head, hands and feet, put on the gaiters, which block the wind between the shoes and the pants. In addition, empty the backpack and put inside only the down sleeping bag, folded (not squeezed). Your backpack will protect your back.
  • Gaiters have different functions: they prevent rain drops and wet grass from leaking into the shoes, prevent thorny plants from sticking to the stockings, and when climbing volcanoes, also prevent pyroclasts from getting inside the shoes.
  • To those who suffer from cold (like me): thermal insulation from ground cold is more significant than insulation from air cold, therefor it is better to put an insulating sheet under the mattresses or under the tent, and use a mattress with high "thermal resistance" (I use Therm-a-Rest NeoAir XLite, 6.3 cm thick).
  • A down sleeping bag is the lightest, most compressible and offers ultimate thermal insulation.
  • It is much warmer to sleep naked inside a good insulating sleeping bag. You can also use a silk lining inside the sleeping bag, which improves the isolation, and is easy to wash.
  • At cold nights, insert the bottle with hot water inside the sleeping bag, close to your feet, together with the camera and extra batteries. Insert also your underwear inside the sleeping bag, so it will be warm and comfortable to wear in the morning.
  • Do not dry clean your down sleeping bag and coat, as it will ruin the waterproof cover. Avoid washing, and clean the cover with a wet cloth. If the coat or the sleeping bag are really dirty, wash it and dry well.
  • Get a fleece bag, insert clothing inside it at night, and use it as a pillow.
  • When you have a problem to use a toilet at night, use a plastic jar or a bottle.
  • Use a backpack which fits your body. A misfitting backpack will press and disturb you. When a pack fits well you can comfortably carry extra weight, because it transfers the weight through the skeletal system rather than forcing your muscles to carry the load.
  • Boots fitted size: With the boot fully unlaced, move your foot as far forward in the boot as possible. If the boot is the proper size for your feet, you should be able to slip your index finger down inside the boot at the back of the ankle.
  • Maintain your feet: rinse your feet with soap every day; keep your feet dry; use clean socks; while walking there is no need to smear the feet in ointments, the body keeps suitable fattiness naturally; cover blisters in a designated bandaid as early as possible.
  • Get a water purifier, and you will not need to buy mineral water along your trip.
  • Take with you a small transparent bottle to the airport, empty it before the hand luggage security check, and refill it in the gates' hall.
  • Before flights and long journeys, secure the flashlight in the "off" position.
  • Fly with your trekking boots on. In case your luggage does not arrive, you can manage gathering equipment buying, renting, sharing with your friends, etc. The probability to find shoes in your size is low, and start trekking with new shoes is not recommended. In addition, your backpack will be lighter.
  • When using local transportation, put your backpack inside a waterproof bag, so it will not get dirty or wet (e.g. when the backpack is tied on the bus rooftop, together with chickens, or when it rains).
  • When the equipment is carried by beasts and there is a chance for rain, put your equipment into sealed plastic bags, and insert a thick plastic bag into the equipment bag, and close inside all items.
  • Keep in your purse laminated Emergency Card, with medical details such as medications, allergies, medical insurance information and who to call.
  • Put all your documents in a dry bag, and carry them with you at all times.
  • Take a back belt for horseback ridings and snowmobiles.
  • Keep it light! Think carefully about the items you take along, given the type of trip and the expected weather.

Communication from abroad

To improve communication when you are abroad, make information from your personal computer available on your mobile or a foreign computer.

  • Address book: Synch your contacts between your personal computer and your mobile. In addition, as backup, export your contacts from your home email account (e.g. Outlook Client), and import it to the email you intend to use when you are abroad.
  • Scan and keep in your mobile important documents (such as your passport main page, which you will need when approaching your consulate, in case of losing your passport). Email them also to yourself.
  • Communicate: Open Skype, and give those you love your ID code. Install on your mobile internet call applications, such as Viber and Tango, and messaging application such as Whatsapp.

Connecting with locals

  • Learn to read and pronounce the numbers in the local language.
  • During the trip wear or use a local item. The locals appreciate the gesture, and acknowledge that this is a sign of respect for their local cultures and customs.
  • Smile a lot, talk to strangers, accept all invitations, and eat everything youre offered.
  • Leave your room tidy. When you are staying at local's home, share what you have, help in shopping and cooking, and share your experiences with your hosts.
  • Carry with you a small photo album with photos of your family, so you can share your life with the locals who share their life with you.
  • Bring presents for hosting families in remote places (not as beggary, but in return to warm hospitality); small, light and useful items:
    • Kids love stationeries like small booklets, pens, pencils, erasers, sharpeners and crayons.
    • Small led flashlights.
  • Look for opportunities to contribute, to give, to volunteer.

General Tips

  • It is possible to acquire very inexpensive air tickets on the internet. The inexpensive tickets cease quickly, and therefore advisable to order a number of months in advance. Search in Google for Cheap Flights, and obtain many comparison sites.
    Read more flight tips in How to get cheap flights - Business Insider, and 26 tips to help you survive a long haul flight.
  • It is advised to buy a local SIM card, so the locals can contact you easily. Before you leave your country, make sure your handset is SIM Free.
  • Take small bills of dollars or euros, to change a small amount at the airport, and just in case for use in unexpected events in remote places.
  • Check the exchange rates on the internet before exchanging money (so you will become aware of low rates offered in some airports).
  • Check the weather forecast, and get updated again every evening before departing into the field. I go hiking when the temperature is expected to be less than 28 Celsius degrees. When driving I change the route when rain or snow are expected.
  • Learn about Altitude or Mountain Sickness.
  • If you encounter a medical problem in an undeveloped area, you may want to turn to the most expensive hotel in the area, and in remote places to the nearest missionary, where you can find help.
  • I buy gadgets online at DealExtreme (DX), and recommend purchasing there in low prices and free shipment. Disclaimer: I am DX affiliate. If you buy using my link to DealExtreme, you credit my account. Thanks :)

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