I take my hat off to the people at Cotswold Outdoors as the lady spent about 45 minutes with us a few weekends ago giving us lots of tips about backpacking. She was leaving her job in two weeks time to go traveling with her boyfriend and she was full of enthusiasm for a novice backpacker like me! Here are her top backpacking tips that she shared with us.
Tip #1 – Rucksack Advice
She gave us loads of advice about rucksacks. But the main takeaway tips were:-
- The weight should be carried on your hips, not your shoulders.
- Getting a rucksack that has a breathable back is best (otherwise your back sweats and becomes very uncomfortable).
- Try the rucksack on in the shop and walk around with some weight in the pack for at least 20 mins or so. Include walking up the little ramps that they have in-store for when you are trying out new shoes. Yes, you may feel like a numpty, but if you are spending over £150 on a rucksack then you want the right one.
- Compression straps are your best friend. It doesn't matter if you buy a slightly bigger rucksack if the pack has compression straps as you can really pack them down to a good size.
- Torso size is important – getting a rucksack where you can alter the torso size is preferable for comfort.
- If your pack has a place for a hydration unit then this is also hugely beneficial for longer hikes such as ours.
- Try and buy a pack with a built in rain cover. If not then make sure that you purchase one and that it is stored in an easy to access area.
Tip #2 – Dry Sacks are a must
Hand on heart, I had no idea what she was talking about when the lady asked me if I had purchased dry sacks? For those of you who are not sure either, then dry sacks are waterproof bags that you put your stuff into, inside your rucksack to keep your clothes, documents and electrical items dry if you have bad weather. Apparently, quality is important. She did go on to explain that she had purchased a set of dry-bags from Aldi for a few quid each, but within days they had ripped and the velcro had torn away at the edges.
We have purchased two types of dry bags, both from Amazon. One set for clothes and the others are for documents / paperwork. The quality is excellent and I have even tried putting them in the bath to see if they leaked and both styles worked well. Check out my “gadgets” list at the bottom of this blog to see the ones that I purchased.
Tip #3 – What weight should you carry?
I have read online that you should not carry more than 10% of your body weight, however as I weigh less than 9 stone then this is going to be a bit of a challenge for me. The lady at Cotswold explained that she took no more than 15llbs. She was a similar build to me, so that gave me confidence to think that I could perhaps take a bit more than what I had originally planned. I am going to be very strict with this weight though and I will try not to take an ounce over 15llbs. I have been training with this weight, so hopefully it will all work out well.
Tip #4 – Food whilst you are hiking
Sucking on hard boiled sweets seems to work well, however the best type of food to eat is the apple. She did make me chuckle as she was practically having an orgasm as she was describing the joy of eating an apple in the middle of a hot day in the mountains. She even went into detail about “don't buy the red ones, it has to be the green ones as they are really juicy”. Moving on…
Tip #5 – Talk to people
Now this was excellent advice. Apparently, when you are hiking you will always meet up with other people who are walking the same trail or trek as you are. We are walking the Camino Frances and it is the most popular route, so my ears were now tuned in and I listened very carefully. She went on to say that most people are absolutely lovely, however you will gravitate to those who speak the same language as you – or English people tend to only talk to English people. She advised me to make the effort to talk to as many different people as I could and to break down those natural barriers.
On the other hand, she did tell me the story of this one woman who “knew everything, and did not stop to take a breath”. She ended up walking with this one woman for three days, which was three days too long! Don't be polite and stick with people for the sake of it. Make your excuses and move on if you find that someone is not your cup of tea. They will soon latch onto a new friend who may enjoy that person's company much better than you. (Wise words for a 20+ year old!).
Tip #6 – Blisters
I am paranoid about getting blisters. It's my fault as I have watched too many horror stories on YouTube! The advice I was given was as follows:-
- Buy a travel sewing kit. The needle is used to pop the blister so that you can drain it. Then use the thread as a natural drainage (you leave the thread hanging out of each end – yuck!)
- Compeed – now this is more my type of “dealing with blisters” – stick a plaster on it and it will be fine! (I have purchased a few packs of Compeed already:-)
- Socks and boots – getting the right socks and walking boots or shoes is essential. I have had my Soloman walking boots for about 6 months now, so I know that they are comfy. I do need to get myself some new socks though.
We have found that the staff at both Go Outdoors, Mountain Warehouse and also Cotswold Outdoors are a fountain of knowledge. Remember, there is no such thing as a silly question!
I can't wait to put all my new found knowledge into practice!
Do you have any backpacking advice for a novice?
I would love to hear from you.
What are your top five tips? Please comment below.
My Gadget List of things I am taking in my rucksack – no more than 15llbs – honestly!
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