Tips and Tricks for Backpacking
We like anything to make our lives easier, right? The same goes for backpacking. Being a badass globe-trotter isn’t easy so with that in mind we have put together this whopping list of backpacker hacks (especially for New Zealand)!
Learn how to pack right, create your own inflight entertainment, make some mini speakers for those pre-drinking hostel nights and so much more in this collection of backpacking hacks. You’ll also learn about crafting useful things out of the limited possessions you have, such as soda cans, bottles, sweet containers, pill containers, trash bags and more!
For more advice on preparing to come to New Zealand check out: Backpack Vs Suitcase and How to Get a Working Holiday Visa.
1. No Inflight Entertainment?
Make your own. Boom.
2. Get Cheaper Flights
Enable private browsing when searching for flights. You will see cheaper prices. Get more “cheap flight” tips in How to Book a Cheap Flight to New Zealand.
3. Put Milk into a Water Bottle
For some reason, no one has invented a milk bottle or carton that doesn’t leak when put on its side. Leaking milk in the hostel fridge will make you an annoyance to everyone involved. On the other hand, water bottles are pretty sturdy. Give it a go!
4. Everything is a Food Container!
Keep containers for your leftovers. Don’t be that person that stores food in hostel pots or bowls in the fridge. You’ll be saving the planet too.
5. Use Your Camera Phone
Take photos of your hostel room number, booking references, and anything else you don’t want to retain in your head. You’ll realise that a phone can be used for a lot more than taking selfies. By the way, have you checked if your phone will work in New Zealand?
6. Roll Don’t Fold
… your clothes. What did you think we were talking about? This will create more packing space. It’s science and art rolled up into one.
7. Stop Liquid Cosmetics From Leaking
We’ve all been there. As Ross from Friends would say: “major shampoo explosion!” Unscrew the bottle lid, place a piece of plastic wrap on top then screw the lid back on. A good backup if the cap bursts open!
8. Stuff Shoes and Wrap Them in a Shower Cap
Save of packing space by stuffing your shoes with socks. Plus, wrap shoes in a shower cap to protect your clothes.
9. Use a Pillbox for Small Items
… like jewellery. Ask your grandmother.
10. Dietary Requirements Card
Don’t speak the language well? And you have dietary requirements? Sucks for you but there is a hack for this. Carry a card explaining your food allergies in the languages of the places you’re visiting.
11. Put Chargers in a Glasses Case
Stop cables from tangling. But then where do you put your glasses?
12. Can’t Find Your Clothes in Your Backpack?
Keep your clothes in separate bags e.g. so all your t-shirts are together.
13. Roll (Almost) a Whole Outfit into 1 Roll
Socks, underwear and t-shirt: sorted.
14. Wrap Soap in a Washcloth
What the big guy said ^^
15. Make Instant Speakers
By putting your phone in a cup. Your hostel room just got a little livelier.
16. Exercise Like Crazy the Day Before You Travel
To reduce jetlag. Find out more ways to beat jet lag with the 10 Simple Ways to Get Over Jet Lag.
17. Keep Earrings Together
Using a button.
18. Turn a Soda Can into a Camp Stove
In the case of an emergency dinner party (or just because you really are cheap), this trick is one of the most popular ones. You only need a knife and a pop can and “voila”! Add a candle and you are ready to warm up that can of baked beans that you desperately need.
19. Use an Old Milk Bottle as a Lantern
We consider this one more of a social trick than a practical one, as you will need a headlamp for this trick and, well, a headlamp is pretty useful by itself. However, headlamps have a narrow beam of light that only focuses on a small area, making for an awkward night of blinding your friends as you look at them. The solution? Make a diffuser with a milk bottle or simply wrap a tissue over the lamp and solve that problem in an instant.
20. Use an Old Pill Bottle as a DIY First Aid Kit
Old pill bottles are an essential item for any light-packing backpacker. You can pack a lot of essentials into a small pill bottle while having them easily accessible at the same time. Use the same trick for your survival kit.
21. The Best Fire-Starters are… Cotton Pads Dipped in Wax
NO joke, give it a shot. Instead of spending precious dollars on chemical fire-starters, try ladies cotton pads and dip them in wax. You will be able to keep them for a month and they will light in an instant.
22. Use Chips as Tinder
Some kinds of chips burn pretty easily, especially if they are oily but dry like the ones in this picture. Use them as tinder if you can’t find anything else to get that fire going!
23. Do Not Travel Without a Power Bank
Phone, camera, tablet… you’ll probably travel with all sorts of gadgets but when on the go, it can be hard to keep them charged and ready to use. Choose a power bank with a high amperage so it holds more power. Some even have a solar panel on their back so they can recharge themselves – pretty nifty! See which ones we like in the 21 Travel Gadgets for Your Gap Year in New Zealand.
24. For Extra Rain Protection, Line Your Backpack with a Trash Bag
New Zealand weather is unpredictable, often displaying four seasons in one day. To make sure that your pack stays dry, line your backpack with a cheap trash bag so, in case of a surprise shower, you are still sure to find a dry pair of socks to wear at night.
25. Pack Your Bag Right
Weight distribution is essential when packing your bag. The general rule is to keep the heavy items at the bottom of the bag, but there is a lot more to be said on the subject so check out our article on how to pack your bag for a gap year in New Zealand.
26. Use a Toilet Paper Roll as a Phone Stand
Simple and efficient, here is your $20 phone stand made for 2 cents! Plus, you can draw on it and make it a personal piece of art.
27. Carry Your Herbs and Spices in Old Tic Tac Container
For those finer pallets that cannot stand a bland meal, carrying a few herbs and spices around is essential. In the outdoors or from hostel to hostel, campsite to campsite, there is nothing more annoying than a clunky backpack full of glass jars ready to break. Swap the original spice containers for Tic Tac boxes and have heaps of herbs and spices to make flavorful meals on the go!
28. A Crayon Will Burn for About 30 Minutes
Can’t find a candle that fits in your bag? What about a pack of crayons? Small and easy to carry, each of them should burn for about half an hour- plenty enough to last you the night.
29. Use Beeswax to Waterproof a Ton of Things
Beeswax is amazing. It is truly the item that does it all. One of the most impressive uses of beeswax is waterproofing, from shoes to backpacks. Give it a shot, you’ll be surprised!
30. Carry a Fabric Bag
Aside from the obvious “save the planet, don’t use plastic bags”, a fabric bag will also save you money as most supermarkets in New Zealand will charge you for a plastic bag – usually around 10c per bag. Fabric bags also make for great pillows when stuffed with a jacket and a jumper, something to keep in mind for your next Great Walk.
31. Bitten? Rub a Soap Bar on the Bite to Ease the Itch
You are bound to be bitten by those annoying sandflies a few times when spending time in the New Zealand outdoors. Don’t fear, we have a tip for that as well. Rub a bar of dry soap onto the bite for a few seconds and the itch should disappear within a few minutes. Repeat as often as needed. By the way, check out 7 Ways to Stop Sandfly Bites.
32. Make a Spoon Out of a Coke Bottle
Plastic bottles are a huge source of pollution on our planet and should be recycled as much as possible. You can cut a Coke bottle into a spoon shape to drink that soup that you warmed up on your can camp stove. That might make you feel better about your soft drinks addiction… For other ways to recycle while on the road, check out Be Green When Backpacking in New Zealand.
33. Repair Almost Anything with Dental Floss
Strong and cheap, dental floss is a multi-tool for any crafty backpacker. Repair a cut in your backpack in an instant. Because it is a ticker type of wire, it will stay in place often better than traditional thread. Win-win!