Lillian Gaitho’s thoughts on how and what to pack before hitting the trails …
Flash Packing or Ultralight Packing; Six Tips you’ll Need on the Road
Backpacking as a model of travel attracts a manifold of interpretations depending on an individual’s experience, or as described in travel journals. However, one common belief for the free spirited travelers who chose to hit the road with their life bundled up in a carry-on is that, the world is their home and thus their playing field. A back packer may chose to go ‘ultra-light’ by limiting their luggage to the bare minimals of survival or pump up some splendor on the trail, by adding some style in a “flash” fashion. Whichever you fancy, here are a number of tips from travelers to help you backpack your way to nirvana!
Pack sensibly, for the sake of your back and the speed on the trail. As older wanderers with a longer experience will tell you; you’ll only use half of what you carry. Having an itinerary ahead or a good idea of where your paths may take you is crucial to ensuring that you pack accordingly. Also, check the weather patterns and predictions at your destination; you will need to keep cool in hot weather, as well as keep warm in the cold. If you are choosing a jacket, pick one with as many pockets as comfort can take, they’ll prove useful for quick storage space. Cargo pants maybe the century’s most overrated in a backpacker’s limited wardrobe, but their usefulness cannot be downplayed.
While On the road…
From dehydration and diarrhea to malaria and sexually transmitted infections; a myriad of maladies pose one of the greatest threats a backpacker’s merriment. This can be linked to an ever-changing environment, uncontrollable external conditions, changes in nutrition and diet as well as general fatigue. On the other side, the carefree spirit in hostels and camping areas especially since everyone (well, most) travelers seem to be on a permanent high and hunt for the next rush. Best advice would be to keep your morals and sense of judgment alert at all times, but remember safe is always better than sorry.
Please don’t kill the vibe
Of course, we all do not agree on the unwritten backpackers rule to “stay lit” night and day, but neither do you want to be the ultimate anti-social party-popper. Engage other travelers whenever time and topic allows as opposed to burying yourself in books or losing your head in endless playlists. Chatting up those on your course will definitely open your mind up to new experiences, as well as get you a chance to discover more and exchange ideas. Away from the travelers, interact as much as possible with the locals and seek to learn their way of life and culture, remember the best and most effective way to learn is through immersion. Where language barriers occur, try to be more imaginative and look for ways to communicate-this could be a chance to learn a new language, or even invent one!
The ability to make decisions on-the-go is perhaps the best survival skill for a backpacker. Forget all the pretty painted sketches that every journal says you should trot, and let your imagination and the itch to explore guide you. Once you’ve picked where to make your memories (or impressions), check out the most effective as well as imaginative mode of transport that will give you the ne plus ultra
experience. For instance, you may find hopping on a train from Nairobi to Mombasa more rewarding than flying, as you’ll have a chance to take in more from the scenery en-route. Also, if you’ll be walking, do a bit of research on the terrain to enable you prepare accordingly. You could consider hiring a bike too, if you plan to hitchhike, do a quick study on security and look up reviews from others who have been there.
Every market is said to have it’s madman, or a fair share of bonkers! While you do not really need to worry about market days and their craft, you certainly need to stay aware of your surroundings. Muggings, pick pocketing and other petty crimes cannot be ruled out in many areas, and especially because the town’s new faces seem to attract just the wrong attention. Other measures to take include not flashing your latest iPods and selfie sticks as well as securing your cash and card transactions throughout.
Just like rules of the jungle, there are rules of the trail. Top on the rovers commandments is the all-important note to do some distance before you dump; at least 200 ft away from the trail, campsite or water source. This is for the obvious need for environmental sanitation, take time to sink it deep enough. The second (unwritten) rule is to leave the cairns and other markers as you find them; remember this could mean life or death for the next hiker without a clue of the trail. One last bit, always remember hikers going uphill have the right of way but apply common sense; if for example there is an injured hiker, the rules could change. Slow down and say hello, even catch a quick chat on the conditions “up there or the other side”
This is just a top-of-the mind set of rules, you can make some on the go. Whether flash packing, ultralight packing or experimenting with the yet-to-be-discovered; do not break the rules!