Tech to Pack for a Budget Backpacking Trip
Traveling on a budget can encourage you to get a little bit inventive with things like dining plans, transport from A to B and the cost of seeing the local sights. But if you’re backpacking on a tight budget, the need for creativity gets that little bit greater.
Low-budget backpacking is all kinds of fun, and living out of a bag can be both immensely freeing and a steep learning curve. But it can be hard to know what to pack. Ensuring you have everything you need and can do everything you need to, without breaking the bank or your backpack, might feel easier said than done.
However, thanks to modern technology – including gizmos, gadgets and software inventions – it isn’t too difficult to travel like a nomad without laying down extra cash at every stop.
If you’re wondering what to pack for your next backpacking adventure, here are a few top pieces of travel tech to tick off your packing list before you go.
Tech to Pack for a Budget Backpacking Trip
Take a Portable Washing ‘Machine’
Hang on, what? But seriously, you’re reading that right. The last thing you’re planning to put in your bag is a washing machine, but chances are if you’re backpacking, you’re going to be reliant on hostel laundry services to keep your clothes fresh and clean.
While these are often inexpensive, the cost can soon start to add up and eat into the budget you’ve put aside for other things.
Smart wash bags like the Scrubba are perfect for people who need to pack light, but want to be able to wash their clothes effectively. Rather than dumping a fabric travel wash into the sink and trying to shift dirt and smells with your hands, put clothes and detergent into a Scrubba and let the bag’s internal rubber nodes lift muck and grime away in just a couple of minutes.
Don’t worry this doesn’t mean you’ll need to buy heavy bottles of detergent to bring with you. When you’re figuring out what to pack for backpacking, it’s more than likely you’ll see mini travel washes and detergent bars listed online – these are the perfect compliment to a techy travel wash bag, and help you do hundreds of washes from a bottle or bar that fits in your pocket.
Use International Budget Apps
When it comes to budget travel, one thing that a surprising number of people overlook is actual, proper budgeting. You set off with a loose idea in mind, and then you check a week into the trip and realize you’ve gone way over – or that you’ve been missing out unnecessarily by trying not to spend anything at all.
There are free and cheap versions available to download, but it’s well worth installing an internationally targeted budgeting app for your adventure. Pick something where you can input prices in a range of currencies if you’re heading to multiple destinations, so that it can do all the currency conversions for you and let you know the amount you’ve got left in familiar currency terms.
Some budgeting apps allow you to enter receipts or amounts spent in different categories, too, so you can spot quickly whether you’re overspending in a particular area (like nights out or souvenirs) and adjust your budget accordingly.
Apps might not be the first thing on your mind when you’re remembering to pack spare phone chargers, hiking boots and sleeping bag liners. But, if you don’t have one of these on your packing checklist already, be sure to mark it as a must-have.
Try Water-filtering Accessories
If you’re use to being able to drink water straight out of the tap, sometimes allowing room in your budget to buy water every single day can come as a bit of a shock. Eco-conscious travelers can also start to get uncomfortable with the amount of plastic bottles or plastic water bags they find themselves getting through over the course of an extended trip. The problem is, a lot of us don’t know what to pack for a backpacking trip to combat this.
Rather than spend spend spend on drinking water, try a water-purifying bottle or straw for size. Travel tech brands like LifeStraw and GRAYL make accessories designed to filter out 99.9% of impurities from water, including viruses and bacteria, chemicals and heavy metals.
If you’re going away for a long time, you might need to pack some spare filters for your backpacking trip. This can save you a lot of money on water purchases, as well as helping you to avoid sickness bugs caused by drinking bad tap water.
Install a Virtual Private Network
These are handy for a couple of reasons, but first, you might be wondering what a virtual private network actually is. Also known as a VPN, these are easy-use apps designed initially with cyber security in mind – they stop people from being able to steal your credit card details so easily online, and prevent advertisers from tracking you. But when it comes to travel, they offer other bonuses.
For a start, they can save you huge sums of money on the cost of flights, hotels and car rentals. That’s because different prices are often given to people booking in different countries, and when you connect to the internet through your own private network, you can select just about any country as your displayed location.
If you’re trying to save money on a flight from Thailand to Australia, for example, you may get a better price if you use a VPN to hide your real location and book as if you’re in Mexico.
In addition to this, you could try their more traditional use. If you’re logging on to unsecured WiFi at an airport, station or hostel, usually any information you enter online can be easily visible to hackers. Make a booking, and your payment details could be exposed.
The last thing you want when you’re trying to make a little money go a long way is to look at your bank account and realize it’s been drained. A VPN adds a layer of encryption to everything you do online. That means that even on a dodgy free WiFi connection, all of your information remains hidden from view.
With nothing to physically pack in your backpack, VPNs take up no space and add no extra weight – just install on your phone and you’re good to go.
Carry a Power Pack
This one might be a little more familiar. When you’re in a hostel dorm room, sharing one plug socket between a dozen people, the battle for battery charge can get a little intense. It’s also no fun when you’re doing a long-haul journey and your smartphone only stays awake for half of it. For these issues, make sure you’re suitably prepared by packing a power pack.
Portable battery packs are a modern travel tech must-have, ideal for times when you’re using your phone as a camera, map, tour guide and notebook as well as a way to keep in touch with your friends. For extra savvy traveler points, get a solar-powered version to pack in your bag so that you never find yourself hunting for plug sockets again.
For those who are keen to be super-prepared, you might also want to pack a spare charging cable for both your phone and the power pack. That way if one breaks, stops working or vanishes mysteriously from a busy shared sleeping space… you won’t wind up with flat batteries all round.
Download Instant Translations and Maps
Phrasebooks, dictionaries and physical maps are so last century. Save backache, bag space and money by downloading translations and maps for use offline instead.
Google Maps and Google Translate each give you the option to download information for those times where you’re out of data and out of reach of WiFi. You might need a city, or even a whole state, but provided you start the download while you do have data, it won’t be an issue and you can feel some peace of mind knowing you won’t get lost without a map to find your way again.
The translation app can dump everything you need from text-based translation guides to visual cues, so if you need to use your camera to translate a menu, road sign or anything else, you can do it data-free. Just as a water filtering straw can save you money on bottles of water, offline downloads can save you the high data roaming charges your mobile network might charge you while you’re away.
Wherever you’re headed, when you’re thinking about what to pack for your next backpacking trip, spare a thought for all the great travel tech that’s out there. There are plenty of things that won’t weigh you down or take up valuable souvenir space, but that will leave you feeling smug and supported while you’re away.
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