How to stay healthy backpacking

We recently had a little bit of a health scare which necessitated a few changes to our backpacking itinerary, a handful of cancellations (we’re thankful for that comprehensive travel insurance now!) and a rethink of how to keep ourselves fighting fit before and during a trip. So, beyond the obvious stuff like daily exercise and getting in your greens, what should you be doing to keep you happy and healthy? Here are a few of our favourite tips on how to stay healthy backpacking!

Yoga Pose Mountain

Water Filter Bottles

Okay, so lots of Instagrammers are shilling them but for good reason: personal filtration water bottles are a must-pack item in the quest for water purification for travel. The two biggest brands are Lifestraw and Water-to-Go; both of which filter out all the nasty bacteria in local water and turn it from contaminated to clean.

While we have the latter, if we had a do-over we might choose Lifestraw, for the simple reason that they can be attached to your bag with a carabiner while Water-to-go bottles don’t have a handy place to hang them and can easily slip out of bag pockets while in transit. Hey Water-to-Go team, maybe some useful feedback for your product team?!

While you might think you’ll just live off bottled water, keep in mind that it might not always be available or affordable (like when hiking in places like Nepal). Or Evian bottles you bought at a roadside stall might just be refilled by an enterprising entrepreneur looking to increase their profits. And then there is the biggest thing to think about. Our planet. Continuously buying plastic bottles isn’t the greatest, and these options provide you with some of that feel-good factor that you’re doing your bit.

That being said, there are many countries in the world where it’s even difficult to get potable water, or cities where fresh water sources are not easy to find. Our advice? Just try your best!

YouTube Yoga

Just because we booked a retreat in Goa doesn’t mean we’re yoga lovers. Actually, we’re both pretty inflexible and have terribly short attention spans, making us largely unsuited to it. That said, doing yoga as part of our morning routine is one of the best ways to keep fit while travelling; both physically and mentally.

Try to pencil in 10-15 minutes each morning and head over to Youtube for free daily videos (no need to pay for an app or a subscription). Including yoga as part of your schedule will burn some rice-induced calories, stretch any aching muscles and the meditation of it should support your mindset for an awesome travel day!

Saying that, it doesn’t need to be yoga, or really first thing in the morning. There are loads of great 15 min workout videos that will help maintain some sort of routine when on the road.

Try Yoga with Adrienne, Bad Yogi or Ekhart Yoga for starters.

Yoga pose by the seaside

Pack probiotics

Give your gut a head start and invest in some good quality probiotic tablets. Gone are the days of probiotics being sensitive to light or heat; nowadays you can easily find some grade A tablets that will help to keep your digestive system working as intended. Gut health is particularly important when you’re travelling since you’ll inevitably be eating different foods to your usual daily fare.

And, if you do fall prey to a bit of Delhi belly or Montezuma’s revenge, ensure you’ve packed some activated charcoal tablets. Yes, they might be a little trendy but remember that they are used in emergency rooms for poisoning and overdoses because they work so well, soaking up toxins before they make it into your bloodstream or your digestive tracts.

Stock up on snacks

One of the first things to do when heading out in a new destination is to hit the local supermarket and buy some basic snacks. And by snacks, I don’t mean chocolate bars and crisps but rather piling up some fresh fruit, mixed nuts or oat/granola bars.

It means that if you’re feeling low on energy while traipsing around the city or stuck at the top of a viewpoint while on a hike, you’ve got something easy (and healthy) to eat. Plus it will deter you from shelling out for that dodgy-looking street food that you are only buying since it’s the closest thing available at the time.

Similarly, try to eat a full breakfast (no intermittent fasting for us!) and wrap up any leftovers or an apple or two, tucking it away for later.

First aid to the rescue

Packing your first aid kit pre-travel is possibly one of the most important favours you’ll do for your sickly self. Yes, there are pharmacies in all countries but they might not have the medicine (or brand names) you’re used to or a language barrier could see you go home with piles medicine instead of paracetamol.

Now, filling your first aid bag is a matter of preference – there are a few basics but it will also be up to you based on your own health niggles.

We’ve done a more detailed travellers first aid guide here, including a printable list.

Be smart

Okay, it’s a bit sarcastic but keep your wits about you. Don’t be too adventurous if the hygiene of a place seems sketchy. Choose veggies over meat. Buy good travel insurance (don’t skimp on it – it could save your life). Wear sunscreen (?). Essentially, staying healthy is just like staying safe when travelling: use your common sense, think about what you’re putting into your mouth and listen to what your body is telling you.

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