7 Stupid Mistakes You Make When You Go Backpacking

Let’s immediately agree on one thing.

Backpacking is a wonderful way to travel the world, explore new places, and experience unique cultures.

But the trip of your dreams can easily turn into a nightmare if you don’t prepare adequately.  Packing the wrong things, leaving all your bookings to the last minute, and not researching enough about your destinations are just some of the mistakes beginners tend to make.

And these blunders can easily lead to little inconveniences or even real dangers. 

So how to plan a backpacking trip successfully? Keep reading, and you’ll find out. In this article, we’ll go into details of the 7 most common mistakes backpackers make so you can avoid them. 

Let’s begin.

#1 Booking Flights In The Last Minute

Let's start off with the most common mistake rookie backpackers do. Believe it or not, it's easy to get so excited over your trip, that you forget about actually booking the flights.

booking flights

This is not a good idea. Let us explain. If it’s the high season, the ticket prices can change very fast. Before you know it, the costs can double.

To avoid this from happening, it's good to start booking your tickets as soon as you begin planning your trip.

Look for a good flight search engine and sign up for their newsletter. Who knows, maybe you'll find your next travel destination from a sweet deal that box in your mailbox one day.

Some good search engines for cheap flight tickets are momondo.com fly4free, and Secret Flying.

Once you have the tickets, it's time to look for hostels. But watch out for the unsafe ones.

#2 Choosing Hostels Only Based On Their Price

If you don't have much of a budget, then saving your money is obviously essential. However, when it comes to choosing a hostel, you shouldn't go for the cheapest options available.

hostel sign

Before booking a bed, you should at least go through the reviews on the booking site and see what others are saying.

Does everything sound okay? No problems with the locks or any other safety issues? Only book a bed, when the feedback for the hostel seems mostly okay. A great website for that is Hostels Worldwide.

With the tickets and hostel off of our backpacking checklist, it's time to get to the packing part of it.

#3 You Pack The Kitchen Sink

Although it's tempting, you should avoid trying to fit your entire wardrobe into the bag. It's also a good idea to leave your forks, knives, and beloved coffee mug at home.

Problematic suitcase

What most people find especially handy is using packing cubes. They allow you to save space and protect your clothes and gear.

Your backpacking gear should include only the items you absolutely need. You can supply yourself with everything else while traveling.

A typical backpacking starter kit includes:

  • Clothes for different situations and weather such as winter tights, for example.
  • A towel (microfiber)
  • Water bottle
  • Toiletries
  • Backpacking tent or tarp (if you're planning on sleeping outside and the weather allows it)

When backpacking in Europe, it's inevitable that you'll be eating a lot of delicious street food. In fact, the same goes for backpacking in Asia or South-America or even Bulgaria.

To ensure that you will stay in a good shape and be able to accomplish prolonged treks, it's a good idea to think how not to gain weight.

Try to eat healthy and even bring some fat burners if you like. Add some great backpacking foods like protein bars to your meals and let your hiking improve your fitness.

Another thing to remember is that your hiking backpack weight should not go over the allowed luggage weight on your flight.

Airlines are pretty strict with their baggage weight limits, especially the cheaper airlines. The excessive pounds can end up costing you a lot of money.

That’s why you should probably consider having a pack that’s carry on compliant. When traveling, packs with a removable daypack are super useful because they allow for a better flexibility and carrying comfort.

If you're planning on renting a scooter, there's one more important piece of equipment you should have. Let's take a look.

#4 You Don’t Wear A Helmet When Scootering

Renting a scooter in Thailand or Vietnam is a great idea. The best part is that you can do it without any driving experience. It's easy to learn.


But regardless of your experience level, you should never drive without a helmet. An accident without protection can cause serious injury.

So please wear a helmet and stay safe. And make sure all your buddies are wearing theirs as well. Speaking of your travel buddies, let's take a look at the topic in more detail.

#5 Backpacking With The Wrong Company

No matter if you like backpacking with friends or solo, chances are that you’ll make some connections along the way.

Making connections that can evolve into friendships is one of the best parts of hostel life and backpacking.

two girls hiking

But we shouldn't forget our own travel goals. Let me explain. When forming relationships on the go, it can turn out that many of you share the same next travel destinations.

Naturally, you'd want to continue your travels together. And that's great. But make sure everyone in your company agrees on some fundamentals.

These include the time you usually wake up, the kind of places you go for dinners, and the preferred modes of transportation.

Looking out for each other is a great way to reduce your risks of getting scammed.

#6 You Are An Easy Target For Scammers

The world is full of friendly people, and fortunately scammers are only a little part of it. But when traveling on a shoestring budget, you don't want to lose money on scams that could be easily avoided.

You can recognize the most common ones in touristy areas when you see someone offering stuff for free. That's right, the free tours, or drinks, or bracelets, may end up being quite expensive.

Learn how to recognize the most common fraud schemes and avoid them. For instance, check out this crazy fruit picking scam in Australia. It's unbelievable!

And we've come to our last tip. This one may seem obvious, but considering the severe consequences of ignoring it, we thought it deserved its place in this list.

#7 You Drink Tap Water And You Don't Care

Tap water in Asian or South-American countries can contain harmful bacteria. If it's recommended to filter your water, you should always do it.

Don’t forget to check the quality of the tap water in the countries you’re visiting. That’s especially true when you’re outside of the USA or Europe.

tap water

There are portable water filters and they are not expensive. As a rule of thumb, always drink bottled water. You don't want to spend a good portion of your trip at a local hospital.


Backpacking is a great way to experience unique adventures and make new friends for a lifetime.

Make sure to plan your trip ahead to avoid some of the most common beginner mistakes. Use our 7 tips to get you started. Trust us, you'll be glad you did.

What did you think of our beginner's guide to backpacking? We're we able to answer your most burning questions, or was there a topic left uncovered? Leave comments below, we'd love to hear about your experiences. Your opinion is important to us!

best winter hiking hats

Asen Stoyanchev

Founder of this website, Asen is a passionate hiker and writer who is also a gear nerd. He’s been featured on many established hiking websites where he gives hiking advice & tips. When he is not trekking with his family or friends, he is writing articles and product reviews. Asen spends most of his time in Bulgaria but he constantly travels the world in seek of more unforgettable experiences. Read more about Asen here.

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  • May 18, 2020
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