How to Plan a Backpacking Trip: Steps to Ensure the Very Best Outdoor Experience

Hiroshima castle
Written by Sean Nelson

Backpacking is one of the best ways to explore the great outdoors for a number of known reasons. It is low cost, allows you to explore freely and it’s definitely a lot more fun. Well, that’s provided that you know how to plan a backpacking trip. Contrary to popular belief, backpacking too requires a lot of planning for it to be successful.

You don’t simply just wake up one morning and decide you will be traveling. Well, you could do that, but there are some disadvantages to this. One thing is for certain, backpacking is a lot less time consuming in terms of packing unlike the other options of traveling. However, for you to have a fun-filled and exciting trip, you need to ensure that everything is perfect, at least for the most part. Check out our tips on how to train your body for backpacking to be more prepared.

Backpacking Trip

This article will explore all you need to know about planning a backpacking trip; from what you need to carry to the advantages of planning carefully and most importantly, following your plan. It would be sad for you to make all these plans then end up doing the exact opposite. It beats the purpose and you may end up having a confused and less fun trip than you had imagined.

10 simple steps to plan your backpacking trip

1. Where will you go?

Your destination(s) should be the first thing you should look at before anything else. Determine whether you will be traveling within your country or outside and identify the specific locations you would like to visit. Choosing where you’ll travel to will be guided by your budget so as you’re looking at the options you have, check your budget so that you do not go overboard.

Next Backpacking Destination

Where you travel to should be guided by what you like or what you want to experience. It can be a destination on your bucket list or simply a place that interests you. While backpacking, you don’t want to spend too much so it’s often advised that you travel in the off peak seasons.

Check out: Best Hikes in the World: 8 Hikes Worth Putting on Your Bucket List

So make sure that you pick your destination with this in mind since peak seasons tend to have a lot of travelers which means that everything will be hiked.

2. Who will accompany you?

It may be a solo trip which is completely fine if that’s what you want but you may also want to bring a couple of friends along or even family. Only choose people who are equally interested in the backpacking trip as you are since jokers may derail you and you may end up not making the trip completely. They need to be with you from the very start so that you ensure that you are on the same page.

Man and Woman Planing Trip

To make things easier, ensure that everyone contributes an equal amount towards the basic things such as transport, food and accommodation. You could also choose to only meet up at certain locations during your trip, which means that everyone will have to have their own budget instead of a wholesome situation. For instructions and tips on how to hike alone, just read our article to find out.

Before moving on to the next step, you need to agree on the previous points since it is the only way to avoid arguments and misunderstandings later on.

3. What is your budget?

This has already been mentioned in picking the location. However, the budget drives the whole backpacking trip so you need to consider this carefully while planning. As mentioned, backpacking tends to be quite affordable for most people so if you play your cards right, you will have a lot of fun at a fraction of the cost. Make a rough estimate of everything you may need to purchase before the trip such as food, clothes and maps among others.

Budget Planning

In this list, also include things like accommodation and travel expenses and how much they may cost you. It means that you will have to do a lot of research so make travel sites and the internet your friend since they may help you paint a clear picture of what you will be doing and the expected outcome. Do a total of the costs and ensure that it is within what you can afford, after that you may go on to the next step.

4. Pick a date for the trip

There is a lot that goes into choosing a date for your trip such as the season, weather and location. As earlier pointed out, it is better to travel during the off-peak seasons since you will have a lot more to explore at a cheaper cost.

However, if you really want to visit a place due to certain things like a celebration or an event you are timing, simply ensure that the activities involved are within your set budget. The weather may change often but there is the general expectation of how the weather of a place is at a certain time of year.

Pick A date For Trip

Do proper research as this will help you in deciding the kinds of things you will need to pack. Ensure that the date you pick gives you enough time to get everything together so that you are all set when the time for traveling comes. Depending on how long ago you started planning, give yourself between two to four weeks to prepare and get everything in order.

5. Prepare everything you need

It is usually the most stressful part of planning since forgetting something important may cost you a lot. Make a list of everything you need and where to get it so as to save on time. If you’re a fun of bargaining or haggling, this should be fun for you since you will have a long list to practice on. Some of the most basic things you will need include:

  • A backpack.
  • A sleeping bag.
  • Books and maps of your travel destination.
  • Clothes depending on the weather but carry some “just in case” ones.
  • Cooking and eating utensils.
  • First aid kit.
  • Water filter and bottle.
  • Toiletries and personal effects.
  • Unlocked phone.

The list will be longer depending on your destination but the above mentioned are the most basic that you should pay a lot of attention to. Always ensure that you have enough utilities for emergencies since anything can happen, which is why it is important not to carry all your money in cash.

Preparing Backpack For Trip

Get a global card from your bank to ease getting money in whichever country you will be traveling. Also, why not check out our guide on how to choose the best satellite phone to stay safe when you’re out camping.

6. Travel options

Your travel options are determined, again, by where you are going. So if you will be traveling locally, think of trains or buses. traveling to another continent will require that you travel by air initially but once you’ve reached your destination, ensure that you know how to get to your next location. Always look for the best airplane deals you can find from the cheapest airlines.

Planing Trip Dates

This information is easy to find in travel and booking sites or by doing a search online. Once you have reached your destination you can either travel by bus, train, animal transport or simply walking. The idea is to use the most affordable means so you can save up and stay within your budget. It’s easy to travel around once you have an idea of where you’ll be going, use your maps and ask around for directions then decide on your best option from that.

7. Food and water

While backpacking, it is not a good idea to always eat out. You will need to prepare your own food a couple of times since it is cost effective and you avoid food poisoning especially if you are not very comfortable with the local food. It is for this reason that your shopping should include some canned foods such as grains and meat, something that you can easily prepare no matter your location.

Preparing Food For Backpacking

Also research a couple of easy recipes for when you are outdoors. Food doesn’t have to be boring just because you are not eating and a five star hotel, make it as interesting as you can with those recipes. However, traveling involves exploring new things and that includes new cuisines.

Must read: Best Water Purification Tablets: Water Treatment and Solution

Try out the local food at some of the eateries which are often fairly priced so you can definitely afford it. It is impractical to carry clean water that will last you the whole trip which is why you need a water filter. The best kind is a straw filter that you can drink out of any source of water you want. Research on some of the best in the market and buy it to guarantee yourself a clean drink every time.

8. Decide on accommodation

If you want the full backpacking experience, don’t sleep at the five star hotels even if you can afford it. Look for local hostels and affordable bed and breakfast places. These are usually easy enough to find if you have done your research well. It is usually risky to ask for recommendations from locals on where to sleep but if you can find a trustworthy person, that’s fine.

Woman is Deciding For Accommodation

The best way around this is to do an online search on the cheapest places to sleep in your location. You should also try out camping as it is by far the cheapest since you will have everything you need and will only have to pay a small ground fee. Ensure that you stay within the set budget on accommodation as this will save you a lot and you will have more to spend on other things such as souvenirs to carry home.

9. Health and insurance

This is a non- negotiable part of taking any trip. You need to check if your health cover offers international cover for when you travel. If it doesn’t then you need to set aside some amount of money you can spend on that. It may also help to identify hospitals or dispensaries in the area you will be just in case of anything, since you will know exactly where to go.

Man on a Doctor Checkup

Visit a hospital before the trip for a checkup and if you need a refill of your medication. You may also be required to present a health certificate for you to be allowed to travel to certain locations so you need to get that prior to the traveling day to avoid any delays. Remember to pack any medication that you’re on including those for allergies. If any to ensure that you have a smooth trip.

10. Travel and have fun

On the actual traveling day, get your backpack all set with everything you need and your tickets on time so that you’re not late for your flight. Start your trip according to all the places you have highlighted and don’t forget to have as much fun as possible.

Meeting New People

Make a lot of friends and learn some new languages. In shorty, make your trip truly unforgettable.

In conclusion

Planning your backpacking trip yields plenty of advantages which include:

  • Sets everything in order. You will be able to check every point of your traveling and ensure that it’s all perfect.
  • Allows you to set a budget and follow it.
  • Plans your time so that you can get the most out of the trip.

To sum it all up, choosing a backpacking trip is the best option for you if you have a low budget.

However, panning for the trip makes it even more worth it. You’re able to explore every single part about your trip and set it in such a way that it works for you.

Backpackers are having Fun

It is important to remember that backpacking is about the freedom and the fun so do not restrict yourself too much when making your plans. It will ensure that you still get that raw feeling that backpacking gives one but in a wise way. Write your plan, follow it and you will be well on your way to having the best trip of your life.


Sean Nelson

Sean was backpacking since he was 7. He was born close to the RMNP and his father was a ranger, so life surrounded by mountains and wildlife is a norm for Colorado. He likes to explore, but prefers to stay in USA. In his opinion, there are too many trails and options in US to go abroad.