The Black Girl’s Guide To Backpacking
Photo Credit: valentinrussanov | Getty Images

Photo Credit: valentinrussanov | Getty Images

The Black Girl’s Guide To Backpacking

Gear/Tech
Amara Amaryah
Amara Amaryah Feb 17, 2022

Black women and girls are traveling lighter, ditching the all-inclusive vacation for something more adventurous and this Black girl’s guide to backpacking is our way of affirming and supporting the shift in travel habits. With a notable representation of Black girls backpacking we find that there are brand new tips and travel hacks to share.

Whether thinking about what to pack to cater for Black haircare or skincare, or even thinking about how to maintain cultural habits while on the road, we have created this Black girl’s guide to backpacking just for you.

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Choosing your backpack

Photo by RF Studio

So you’ve decided to go on this backpacking trip across the world. The very first thing you’ll need? A worthy backpack.

Investing in a backpack that will be sturdy, kind to your back and generally reliable will save your life. This made it to the top of the list in our Black girl’s guide to backpacking because there are quite a few things to consider.

For an average backpacker who isn’t an extreme minimalist or able to fit an entire suitcase on their back, a 35L backpack will suffice. This is the standard, go-to size. We also recommend buying a waterproof backpack with sufficient padding to protect your shoulders and back.

Maintaining haircare while backpacking

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Your precious haircare routine that took years to peg down doesn’t need to suffer while backpacking. The notion of having to travel with your assembly of haircare products is enough to put any Black woman off backpacking. We have a few tips to help this become a reality:

Think about the essentials to minimize the stress of over-packing. Swap the hairdryer (mini-though it be) for an old t-shirt and dry your hair this way instead.

Buying shampoo and conditioners in bar form will likewise save you space and potential spillages while traveling.

Also, taking things a step further, learn the ingredients that work for your hair rather than being attached to a brand. I.e. if your hair soaks up shea butter, look for products while traveling that include that ingredient.  Oil that you can find in almost all countries is olive oil and it’s moisturizing properties makes it the ideal conditioner that you can pick up wherever you end up without having to even pack it.

Multi-purpose must-haves to pack or buy

On that note, the only things you should be packing as a backpacker are multi-purposeful products. These will be your new best friends for your life on the road.

Take our example of olive oil, you can use it for your hair, on your skin and in your cooking. Coconut oil works in the same way and additionally can work as a massage oil.

We mentioned how bountiful the effects of tea-tree oil are and we’d like to add aloe vera gel to the list too. Equally healing on burns or skin ailments, aloe vera gel can even be used as hair gel and even a face mask.

Be minimal but maintain your standard

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Being a backpacker doesn’t mean your standards have to drop, at all. Yes, you will be able to carry all your clothes in your two hands but this doesn’t mean that you have to sacrifice what truly matters to you as a traveler. For instance, if you’ll be spending time in hostels and are concerned about bed bugs and things of that nature, pack a thin sheet and pillowcase in your backpack.

You can also pack light and still feel close to home. As another example, if there is a piece of clothing or a yoga mat or something that makes you feel homey, prioritize that so you can maintain your sense of routine and connection to home. Make the space and balance it out, you’ll thank yourself later.

Hostels, hotels and Airbnbs

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Vladimir Yelizarov

Backpacking is tiresome on the body. Being comfortable in your accommodation is key for the Black girl backpacker.

Consider this when making your budget before the trip. Do you prioritize having a private bathroom or do you prefer a shared room for social time in a hostel? Will you need alone time after traveling or will you prefer a shared kitchen to end the evening exploring? We recommend considering how your travel style and needs may adjust as a backpacker.

Save stress and money

Black-owned New York City
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Backpacking is usually the cheaper way to travel, so we hear. Having said that, if you’re not aware, you could still make some mistakes that end up raking costs (and stress levels) all the way up. Here are a few things to consider while backpacking:

  • Book an accommodation that is close to the train station/bus station/airport if possible, to make that incoming and outgoing trip smooth and cheap.
  • Don’t skip on travel-insurance, if you do find yourself in an emergency, you’ll thank yourself for it.
  • Download your area maps before arriving in a new place using maps.me. Save yourself the mobile data and stress of getting lost by downloading the maps while you have wifi so when you’re traveling you have the map at your fingertips.

Things to do when arriving

  • You’ll find your routine as a Black-girl backpacker but here are some things to help you establish your routine:
  • Find a market/supermarket to buy your goods and cook your meals with the seasoning and spice you desire.
  • Find a local place to do laundry
  • The trick to backpacking is finding ways to not waste time, time is extremely precious when moving with your life on your back from city to city. If you are vegan or vegetarian, use apps like Happy Cow to know where your go-to spots are or find out where the Black-owned businesses are in your area.

Socialising as a Black girl backpacking

Credit: Elevate

Making friends and finding your circles is a huge part of the backpacker experience. Aside from meeting the day with openness while traveling, we recommend joining Black expat Facebook groups or WhatsApp groups to connect with Black travelers and other Black backpackers to share tips and swap notes with.

The easy-to-forget things

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This Black girl’s guide to backpacking wouldn’t be complete without a list of things to never forget:

  • Flip flops (for the showers in your many accommodations)
  • Reusable water bottles
  • Hot-water bottle (light-weight and easy to pack life-saver for any stomach or lower-back pain)
  • Silk bonnet or pillowcase
  • Disinfectant wipes/spray

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