Backpacking with a Suitcase
When you don't know what you're doing
In the beginning of this year I was fortunate enough to be able to travel internationally to New Zealand. A good friend of mine just so happened to be on leave from her work, and randomly invited me to go with her only three weeks before the flight.
I of course said yes. For some reason I believed it would be a great idea to jump on a plane with absolutely no travel experience other than the few camping trips I've been on in my own state.
When travelling, I assumed it would be a simple stay at a nice place and travel day to day to different towns.
Oh how I was wrong.
As it turns out, this friend of mine decided to book over 16 different places for us to stay at. 16! We travelled the entire Northern Island of New Zealand in a tiny little automatic car we dubbed as 'Marge' who was filled to the brim with our two suitcases and a case of water.
We jumped from place to place, only staying for one or two nights to sleep and take cover from the winter weather. We would drag our suitcases up and down slippery snow laden stairs to get to out rooms and in the morning we would have to somehow shove them back into the car, zipped up and ready to go.
Now let me tell you. Suitcases are not meant for day to day travel. In fact, according to the way we were living, we really should have been using backpacks, not suitcases that weighed the same amount as a ten year old child and spanned the length of my entire body.
My suitcase isn't even waterproof, which is exactly the kind of thing you want when you travel to the country of the long white cloud. It rains, a lot. And there is a chance of snow, frost, mist, and ice that seeps into everything that it touches.
So, here are my tips.
Packing for Backpacking
- Firstly, get yourself a proper backpack. Do not use a suitcase. I repeat, no suitcases. Instead, splash out and buy a backpack that is suitable for you to carry. Look at backpacks that are made from waterproof material, have thick straps, and pockets for any valuables you may want to bring with you. I suggest not bringing valuables, but if you need a place to put credit cards or your passport, make sure you get a bag with hidden compartments. A backpack should also never reach a size greater than the length of your torso. (Trust me, I know this from experience).
- Another tip, don't just take one bag. You're going to want to have a day bag for small trips to the store for snacks, or as a bag to carry your water when you go on short hikes or tours. Carrying around your entire backpacking backpack isn't fun when you want to go for a relaxing stroll through the forests.
- Pack Lightly. Clothes weigh quite a lot and can take up too much valuable space in your bag for more important items like a first aid kit or flashlight. You'll probably have to hand wash some clothes and let them dry in the sunshine. If you pack light clothes, you can always layer them up for when it starts to get chilly.
- Make sure your camera and water are always easily accessible. Don't get me started on how difficult it is to dig around in a giant bag for your water when you've climbed up a waterfall and are dying of thirst. A good idea is to get a drink bottle that you can clip to the side of your backpack, or even string it up and wear it like a handbag. Keep your water close!
- Safety items are always important to pack on a trip, whether you're backpacking for one night or ten. A small bag in your backpack should be reserved for items such as bandages, antiseptic cream, and any medications you may need during your travel. If you plan to go camping, it is a good idea to pack some bug repellant and sunscreen as well. Bandaids are excellent. They're good for scrapes and cuts, and sometimes can be useful when you need to stick something back together once you've dropped them. (For example a pair of glasses that may have lost an arm).
- Lastly, I really want to stress how important it is to check what medications you need to bring with you on your trip, and if you can take them with you internationally. Do your research, make sure the country you're going to hasn't put a ban on a specific drug. Also, make sure you've packed enough for your entire trip. You don't want to run out of something important and then not be able to find an alternative while you're out gallivanting in the trees.
That's only a few little things that seem rather obvious, but need to be said just in case you happen to get too excited over the prospect of travelling that you forget to think logically.
Hey, my name is Bethany and I am a full time university student currently studying media and communication in Australia. I have always had a passion for writing and have a love for creative like-minded people who I can share my works with.