09 December 2013

Backpacking 101

My lovely familia in Cinque Terre, Italy (June 2013)
187 days ago, I returned from a life-changing backpacking trek through Europe with my family. As hectic and crazy and way too short as it was, this was by far the most amazing trip I've ever taken and the best time I've ever spent with my family. 

Initially I was not 100% on board with the whole backpacking idea and spending 12 days living out of a minuscule pack that I had to cart around everywhere. You see I'm that girl you spot in the airport dragging multiple overstuffed bags behind her, a pair of rain boots that didn't fit in one hand, passport/wallet/keys in the other, and 2 pairs of sunglasses perched on her forehead. I am a walking, talking, textbook case of the overpacker. (See, I was a Girl Scout for 2 weeks so I take being prepared pretty seriously.) Needless to say, packing up 2 weeks of my life in a backpack was something of a challenge for me. However, despite my desire to stuff as much into my pack as possible and disregard my own personal good sense to not pack those giant 5 inch wedges that took up so much precious space (yet, I packed them anyway), I did, in fact, make some very good packing choices. 
The Herschel Little America Backpack
(from herschelsupply.com)

So here are my recommendations to anyone planning a short backpacking adventure. Trust me, they'll serve you well! 

1. a sturdy backpack: This here was mine- the Herschel Little America backpack. While perhaps not ideal for a more outdoorsy trip, my Herschel pack was perfect for the extensive train travel and almost constant moving around we did. Super roomy, stylish, extremely comfy shoulder straps, and made in America- what more could you want in a backpack?! 

The Totes mini umbrella
(from totes-isotoner.com)

2. a teeny, tiny umbrella: I got mine from Totes, but any small, compact, sturdy umbrella is a marvelous traveling companion. Small enough to fit into your bag or pocket, I was immediately grateful I packed this when, on Day 1, we waited outside the Musee d'Orsay for half an hour in the 40-degree Paris drizzle. Weather is unpredictable everywhere, so unless you're off to the desert, I highly recommend you bring a mini umbrella along. 

The Vapur Reflex
(from vapur.us)

3. the Vapur Reflex: Just look at this incredible water pouch! This little guy is reusable, collapsible, flattenable, eco-friendly- the ideal anti-bottle water-carrying device. It even has a handy side clip so you can strap it onto your bag or your person for even greater convenience. You can avoid purchasing pricey airport water bottles, bring it along on your hike, and then pack it away easily when you don't need it. Now I can't even imagine life without my Vapur! Highly recommended. 

4. a backpack cover: A brilliant idea by my mother, Valerie. It rained about half of our trip and the backpack cover not only keeps your clothes dry but also adds an additional layer of security against anyone trying to get their grimy paws into your pack. 

Check it out- I fit ALL THIS in my backpack
(disclaimer: I did not include the wedges. I don't recommend taking
anything so ridiculous.) 

5. a color scheme: This may seem silly or foolish BUT when you have limited space and NO LAUNDRY ACCESS, every article of clothing counts. Take a few hours, plan out your outfits and make sure you have enough to mix and match in the event of inclement weather, or the washing machine not working, or someone dropping gelato on your lap. Because that will probably happen if you are accident-prone like myself. Just look at all the stuff I fit into my backpack! I had plenty of versatile pieces, definitely a plus considering the 45 degree+ range of weather I experienced while in Europe in the spring.  

So those are my wise words of backpacking advice! Have you gone backpacking? What are your essential items for a successful trip? 

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