Thinking about backpacking but don’t want to leave the comfort of your vanity and wardrobe behind? You are not alone. As I’m getting more mature on my solo travels, I’m finding that I don’t want to sacrifice my comforts on my trips.
So many women today are backpacking the world, whilst maintaining their beauty routines, just at a lesser volume. Normally when we think out about backpacking these things come to mind: Exploring new cultures, sharing a room with 10 other people, and of course lugging the huge backpack around from country to country. Whilst it may not be the most glamorous experience, it is certainly one to remember and I’ve had my fair-share of backpacking in the past.
If you still enjoy backpacking like me, I recommend getting an action plan ready before you depart for your trip. Whether you are interrailing around Europe, taking a fast electric scooter around London, or travelling around the remote parts of southeast Asia, there is a lot to break down and most importantly pack if you wish to maintain your usual routine. Yes, you might have to neglect your weekly nail and eyelash appointments, but the money will be better spent indulging in the culture of the country you are in.
In this girl's guide to backpacking, I’ll cover those female backpacker comforts that we don't want to sacrifice when we travel. Here are my women backpacking tips.
Women Backpacking Tips
Pack Light, Practical Clothing
As a girl backpacking, first things first, you can’t go travelling without having enough clothing to get you by. Of course, you should not pack daily outfits for the long duration you are there ( as this can be a plane full of clothes) but instead pack light, versatile clothing that can be easily cleaned and well stored.
If you are going to a hot country, this will be a blessing to have airy clothing that keeps the breeze circulation during scoring heat. On my recent trip to Asia, I only took clothes that I know will dry overnight, no matter how much I wanted to take my new khaki shorts, they take days to dry.
Jeans might be cute and comfortable back home, but they aren't the most practical backpacking for women. They take ages to dry so lighter fabrics are much easier and lighter to carry.
Pack enough clothing to last you a week and a half, and be prepared to hand wash or pay for washing at the hostel’s laundromat. You can still bring nice outfits, but just make sure they are culturally accepted where you are going, and also light enough to not make up a large volume in your backpack.
Avoid Fancy Footwear
Unfortunately when we’re travelling we have to put our favourite heels down, and get realistic. Yes, you can expect to find some party spots when travelling to popular backpacking locations, but these are not the places to be best dressed.
Practical clothing also means having the right shoes. There will be miles of trails and hikes to take when backpacking, so make sure that your feet have as much protection as possible.
Opt for ankle-supporting, thick-sole shoes that will be comfortable for strenuous walks. Also, have a pair of shower shoes to protect you from the unsightly hotels or hostels you may be subjected to, and also a pair of comfy shoes for visiting the markets and relaxing by the beach.
I always take a pair of trainers/sneakers, flip-flops and soft sandals that double up for the evening. I love my Loom footwear for my solo trips.
Get Used to The Weight of The Backpack
If you are anything like me, you are probably dreading carrying the large backpack from country to country. If you have never carried these kinds of backpacks for long distances, then you need to get prepared. I honestly am surprised that I don’t have any back problems after years of lugging around 20kg backpacks.
Although it does not require military training to get it right, you should engage in some strength exercises to build up your tolerance or even pilates classes. Measure how much your bag will weigh at its heaviest, and start engaging in compound exercises in the lead-up to the start of the journey.
Pack Your Makeup Essentials
We all love to look and feel beautiful when we can, but when there is limited packing space and some gruelling border checks – including the dreaded hand luggage liquid rule – you can be limited on how much makeup you can bring. It is a big ask for avid makeup wearers, but when backpacking it is best to bring the essentials and leave the rest behind.
Your burnt orange eyeshadow will add little value to your journey and will be at risk of breaking during the rigorous trip. Bring your essentials such as concealer, bronzer (which also can double up as eyeshadow) and mascara for the days when you want to feel glam, even in the most indigenous locations! Leave the expensive jewellery behind though.
Learn How To Do Your Nails
Nails can make us feel like queens. The length and accent they can add to an overall look are great, but not so great when venturing into rural, agricultural locations as a woman backpacking on a cultural adventure. Some towns do have dedicated beauticians that are great at their craft, but you will be lucky to find them in most places you visit if you are going full off-the-grid mode In which case, it would be beneficial to master the art of doing your nails.
This may be painting them yourself, or bringing stick-on nails to keep your hands looking funky and elegant. For our high-maintenance ladies who otherwise love to invest in their beauty, this is a cheaper and more obtainable option when backpacking.
Maintaining Eyebrows & Eyelashes
Ever since I can remember I have been taking my own eyelash and eyebrow dye with me on backpacking trips. It takes me less than 10 minutes to do each one and each application lasts up to a month. It costs hardly anything for a dying kit and they are so small that they are easy to pack. Then I can wake up each morning knowing that my eyelashes and eyebrows look okay without any make-up. (It saves on make-up remover too).
Buy Local Accessories & Clothing There
You will be surprised at how many stunning fashion pieces you can find in rural marketplaces. Often, the handmade and vintage garments that can be found in developing counties are some of the most beautiful that you’ll come across. Don’t forget that many garments are made abroad in places such as Bangladesh, Vietnam, India and Turkey.
If you are worried about having enough clothing, keep in mind that there are some hidden gems to be found once you are there. Buying a gorgeous sarong also has a few different ways to wear it and it can jazz up your neutral clothing so take the time to visit the local stalls. Buying locally is also an amazing way to give back to the economy of the country you are in.
I honestly think that self-care is the most important thing when you travel solo and you can find spas and salons nearly everywhere nowadays. Opt for a Thai massage in Thailand, an authentic Balinese spa treatment or the local massage for where you are heading to for some well-needed pampering. You can always check out Groupon too as they have good deals in different cities for massages, salon treatments, hair and nails!
Choosing Your Accommodation
If you’re like me and still want to mingle and be sociable but can no longer sleep in a room full of strangers, consider having your own private room in a hostel instead. That way you have the best of both worlds; the company when you need it and your own space to retreat to. You may even meet a travel buddy to go and get a massage with! As a backpacking woman, if you're unsure how to choose a hostel, I've written an article below to help.
Overall, being a high-maintenance girl should not stop you from female backpacking. Whilst it may take a bit of adjusting to your new environment and getting used to not having everything you want with you, as backpacking women, there are small luxuries we can still bring with us for the trip to feel like our girlie selves. And there is something liberating about packing light and living on a capsule wardrobe for a few weeks. If I can still do it after living in Dubai, anyone can!