Things to Carry While Hitchhiking & Backpacking
Minimalist hitchhiking packing list of things to carry while hitchhiking and essential hitchhiking gear.
In this article I am explaining what are the essential things to carry while hitchhiking and backpacking on a budget and what is the essential hitchhiking gear that proves useful on the road, based on my personal experience accumulated during the years hitchhiking and travelling as a backpacker around the continent. Briefly, the hitchhiking packing list is made of:
Below, I will explain in detail how each
of these essential items for hitchhiking
- Small clasp knife with can opener, spork, stainless steel mug
- Lighter, candle, rope
- Sleeping bag, tent, mat
- Plastic water bottle of 1 liter
- Headlamp and red beacon
- Map of the country or of the area You are going to explore
- Waterproof rain jacket
- Hygiene set
- Health set
- Marker, pen, notebook
- 1 paper roll and a plastic bag
Worth to mention is that when hitchhiking
long distances, "hitchhiking" is
synonym with "camping" - even if
"camping" is never synonym with
"hitchhiking" - and sometimes, because of the difficult weather conditions as extreme cold or extreme heat and severe precipitations in the area where the hitchhiker travels, hitchhiking fits into the category of the extreme sports which require also survival skills. Also, many people who choose to travel as a backpacker prefer to camp instead of paying for accommodation. Because of all these aspects the hitchhiking packing list made of the essential hitchhiking gear and the things to pack for hitchhiking is very similar to the packing list required for trekking on the mountains.
There are lots of backpackers around
with backpacks that look terrible, and I
mean that they are not balanced (which can
hurt on the long run) or they have no sense
of aesthetics (like shoes, pans and other
things outside) or they are extremely heavy
(because inexperienced backpackers don't really
know what are the useful things to bring while hitchhiking or backpacking and so they pack lots of
unnecessary items). Here are three golden rules to follow when
deciding what to pack for hitchhiking or for any trip when travelling as a backpacker:
Concerning your hitchhiking backpack, whether You intend to travel as a backpacker for one week or for one
year, the ideal backpack volume is around 40 liters, between 38 and 42 liters.
This way, in case You will have to take a plane,
most of the airlines will allow You to take
for free your backpack as hand luggage with
You in the cabin. Based on my experience
accumulated during the years, a good hitchhiking backpack is one that has also a raincover built in - because
there is no waterproof backpack and rainy
days exist (especially when hitchhiking around Europe or in parts of the world where it
rains for several days or weeks in a row).
- Among the things to pack for hitchhiking or backpacking, money and documents should
never be two of them: never put money or
documents inside your hitchhiking backpack and always be ready
to lose your backpack. Keep your money always
scattered in different places on your body;
before starting the trip, creating some hidden
mini-pockets on your clothes where to put
part of the money is wise; pack your hitchhiking backpack
in such a manner to result balanced.
- Except for the mat and tent, everything
else which does not fit into your hitchhiking backpack
it means is unnecessary for your backpacking trip
and should be excluded from your hitchhiking packing list.
- Once You pack your hitchhiking backpack with all the backpacking and hitchhiking essentials, clothes
and everything else You think is useful,
try running with it for 30 meters - if You
cannot run, it means that You must prepare
your hitchhiking backpack in a different
way until it will result possible to run with it (maybe giving up to some unnecessary items and gear and consider only the most useful ones and that are multipurpose).
When packing your hitchhiking backpack, besides the essential hitchhiking gear and the things to carry while hitchhiking,
consider also the weight of the other things
You want to take with You and leave at home
what will not seem useful almost on a daily
basis, because grams create kilograms and
kilograms create pain. When buying backpacking and hitchhiking essentials, always opt for
the items that have multipurpose use and
that weight as little as possible. The first
time You put your packed hitchhiking backpack on your
back, maybe You will feel that is not that
heavy, but after two months on the road carrying
the same weight every day You will feel more
and more tired, so every single gram that
You can avoid carrying from the very beginning
is a benefit for your health and has a major
impact on your journey in the long-run.
When You finish packing your hitchhiking backpack with clothes, food, water and everything that You put on your list of things to bring while hitchhiking, make sure that
the final weight of your backpack does not
exceed 20-25% of the weight of your body (20% if You are a woman, 25% if You are a man),
otherwise You seriously risk to hurt yourself. This is the ideal backpack weight for backpacking and hitchhiking.
Here is what happened to a friend of mine.
Before her trip she comes to me saying she would like some tips meant to help her build her hitchhiking packing list for her almost three weeks journey around Europe as a backpacker. I told her that she should consider a minimalist hitchhiking packing list carrying with her only those things that based on my personal experience accumulated during the years I consider essential items for hitchhiking and travelling as a backpacker (the ones that You can also see on this list of backpacking and hitchhiking essentials).
She goes on the trip for few weeks and after she gets back we meet again, so I ask her: "What was it like travelling as a backpacker and hitchhiking around Europe?" She replies: "I packed more things than what you recommended me and after few days I started to really hate my backpack because was really heavy and couldn't enjoy my trip carrying it all day long every day wherever I went. So after few days on the road I felt I couldn't continue backpacking and hitchhiking anymore so I had to spend all my money on public transport and accommodation in hostels to rest better and leave my backpack there while exploring the towns."
This story is nothing special, but underlines well the importance of packing light. The verb "backpacking" means carrying a backpack for long distances or long periods of time. To enjoy your trip as You picture it in your mind, pack as light as possible from the start.
Things to bring while hitchhiking and essential backpacking and hitchhiking gear:
In countries where the petrol stations are
more modern, like when hitchhiking around Europe,
if You have your mug is possible to get hot
water for free almost always to prepare your
tea, coffee or other hot drink.)
|* Small clasp knife with can opener, spork,
stainless steel mug
(If You donít have a spork, then a spoon will prove to be a lot more useful than a fork.
Is important to have a stainless steel mug, or made of some sort of metal, so that is possible to put it on fire to boil water when camping to sleep. Hitchhiking long distances involves a lot of camping. Backpacking on a budget can also imply camping.
Against big predators, like bears for example,
is ineffective. To do the perimeter of your
tent usually 20 meters of thin rope is enough.)
|* Lighter, candle, rope
(The candle is very useful to light a fire
in wet conditions.
If You camp in an area where small wild animals
live there as well, making a perimeter around
your tent with the rope will scare them away
when they approach your tent and smell the
rope. Keep in mind that this survival technique
is effective only against small animals,
like foxes for example.
|* Sleeping bag, tent, mat
(Concerning your hitchhiking gear, is good to always include the sleeping bag among the things to carry while hitchhiking. Because this alternative travel style is not mathematics and there is always the possibility to get stuck somewhere. A mat and a tent is good to have when hitchhiking longer distances. A sleeping bag is one of the most useful things to pack among those on your list of hitchhiking essentials.)
|* Plastic water bottle of 1 liter
(0,5 could be too little, while 1,5 could be too much. In relation to the ideal backpack weight for hitchhiking and backpacking, your goal is to carry with You as little as possible.)
|* Headlamp and red beacon
(As hitchhiker, You will do lots of kilometers
on the right seat, but also lots of kilometers
walking. Sometimes the driver will drop You
outside of town after it gets dark and You
will have to walk few kilometers until reaching
your destination. Lights are of fundamental
importance - a headlamp is among the essential items for hitchhiking. I recommend to include it in your list of things to bring while hitchhiking. And as camping
gear, the headlamp often proves very useful.
Read "Have faith, things will work out" to see an example of a situation when
lights made a difference for me.)
|* Map of the country or of the area You are
going to explore
(Though among the things to carry while hitchhiking, the
map is not mandatory for every hitchhiker, using one will help You hitchhike effectively. In some situations a GPS can make a difference
- if You own an Android device with a GPS
antenna, Maps.me v5.2.1 is a useful app that
offers detailed and updated offline maps
and GPS navigation.)
|* Waterproof rain jacket
(Sometimes You will have to walk through showering rain or blowing snow, whether You like it or not. Hitchhiking is an extreme sport and if You want to enjoy everything that has to offer You have to be ready for it. A good quality waterproof rain jacket will prove very
useful, a lot more than an umbrella. Usually
a 10000 mm waterproof rain jacket is enough. On the list of things to pack for hitchhiking I would put
the waterproof rain jacket among the "must have" hitchhiking gear.)
|* Hygiene set - small scissors, 100 ml bottle
of shampoo, toothbrush, toothpaste
|* Health set - medicines and condoms
|* Marker, pen, notebook
(The marker is a "must have" for
every hitchhiker. Is quite easy to find carton
or paper, but not a marker. So when You plan
to hitchhike, take a marker with You. A marker
is on the top things to carry while hitchhiking - don't
start a journey without it.)
|* 1 paper roll and a plastic bag
(Besides the toilet use, is possible to use the toilet paper in many other ways. For example, when trying to find a ride is possible to write your destination on it and make a hitchhiking sign with it, to clean your tools, to light a fire, and even as extra insulation under your hitchhiking clothes.
The plastic bag is useful to keep separately your dirty hitchhiking clothes until able to wash them. If You camp in the nature, is useful also to take your trash with You.)
Written by Claudio Adriano Dobre; first in 2012, last updated in 2017. © 2012-2017