Backpackers enjoy adventures into unknown territory, meeting new people and above all gaining a much deeper understanding of the world we live in. This is far superior to the typical tourist who will rarely encounter exciting challenges and never learn new skills. Backpacking is excellent training in back-to-basics living which is often envied by preppers. Here are 15 reasons why backpackers rock.
1. They know how to adapt.
Backpackers have a limited budget. This means they have to camp or sleep in hostels which may mean sharing a dormitory with lots of others. They know how to make the best of far from ideal sleeping accommodation. If they have been around Europe, they can recommend some great hostels. The knowledge that this means they can travel for longer and much further is what keeps them going.
2. They know the best ways to hitchhike.
Often when on long trails, there may be a need to re-supply with food and other essential items. Once on the road, they have to hitchhike to the nearest town to stock up. They know that they have to freshen up beforehand, smile and locate near a place where it is easy for the driver to pull over.
3. They know exactly how to pack.
They know exactly what they need for a long trek in the wild. They can plan ahead for food needs, clothing in extreme temperatures and navigation gear to help them when they may get lost. They also know what they can do without as they develop more backcountry skills.
4. They are expert nutritionists.
One of the key elements will be knowing what is the best, lightest and most nutritious food they have to carry as this will lighten the backpack considerably. They dispense with containers as far as possible and use ziplock bags. They don’t normally bother with water content foods such as fruit and prepared soups. They know that opting for freeze-dried or powdered foods which can be mixed with water at the campsite is going to save on weight.
5. They know how to plan a trip.
They know that they will have to estimate travelling time and also take into account some extreme weather conditions and plan accordingly. They know that every time they climb 1000 feet, the temperature is liable to drop by at least 3 degrees. Backpackers are aware of logistic issues such as where to stock up on supplies and what transportation will be essential. They know how to identify a safe campsite and will be aware of dangers posed by animals and poisonous plants.
6. They stay in shape.
Backpackers have to be fit and well. Lots of people think that having strong legs is enough for all that walking. The wise backpacker knows that a strong lower back and core are essential for carrying weight. They regularly work out on a rowing machine or just by cycling. They are also aware of the importance of having a medical check up just to see if there are any underlying health problems such as a heart condition. Not much point in calling 911 in the wilderness!
7. They know when to cross icy rivers.
They have learned that the best time to cross a dodgy river is in the morning. This is because the evening and night temperatures have cooled the water flow to a minimum. Later in the day, under the sun, the rivers tend to grow in volume and are more dangerous to cross.
8. They know how to start a fire.
They know that in an emergency situation or if they have to keep warm in very cold temperatures, they have to know how to start a fire. I know some backpackers who claim they know at least five ways of starting a fire. They know that they can process firewood, have a ferro rod, a survival knife and some cotton balls soaked in Vaseline.
9. They know about a country’s culture.
Backpackers who do their homework are always well rewarded. They know that it may not be politically correct to give vent to their opinions on the government, monarchy, legal system or drugs laws in public. The savvy backpacker would never insult the royal family in Thailand!
10. They will end up in random places.
Backpackers always have great stories to tell about situations or places where they had never planned to be. They will also have great anecdotes to tell about fascinating people they have met. The normal tourist will never be able to compete, as everything is so tightly organized for them.
11. They are content with very few things.
When they travel on a tight budget with very little weight, they realize how possessions, clothes and money and comfort do not matter at all. What matters is the adventure, the joy of the open road and the lack of a fixed timetable. Knowing this makes them feel content with very little.
12. They are more open-minded.
The great thing about backpackers is that they have seen so many different cultures and people all over the world that their world view is broad and tolerant. They are rarely bigoted and are also much more relaxed as they have experienced real danger or risky situations.
13. They love the night sky.
Ask any backpacker if they have ever experienced the pleasure of sleeping under a star lit sky. They will be enthusiastic because there are fewer and fewer places to see the night sky without the glare of urban lights, industrialization and pollution. Just think that a city dweller can only see about 500 stars whereas a backpacker in an International Dark Sky Park can see up to 15,000!
14. They are great map readers.
Experienced backpackers will know how to use a compass and read a map. Not many people can do that nowadays. But some backpackers rarely take the trouble to learn, which is foolish. This is essential when they may get lost and this basic skill can save a life!
15. They know how to purify water.
Backpackers always know about how important it is to be able to purify water because this is a rather heavy item to carry! In addition, they also know that 90% of the world’s water is not safe to drink without being purified. The USA backcountry and wilderness are no exception. Wise backpackers will know the ins and outs of chemical, chlorine or iodine treatment.
Many backpackers are only too keenly aware of the need to protect the environment. That is why they know all about the Leave No Trace rules and etiquette. The next time you meet backpackers, ask them!
Featured photo credit: Backpackers Road/Tim Berger via flickr.com