Tips on Keeping a Backpacking Journal

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    Tips on Keeping a Backpacking Journal
    By Ronald D Mitchell

    When going on a backpacking trip, a journal should be a “must do” activity. Unfortunately, keeping a daily journal to chronicle events experienced has declined over the years. It used to be that journal keeping was common. Almost everyone kept a personal diary at home and certainly kept a journal of any trips taken. There are historical biographies that would not exist today had it not been for people keeping accurate journals.

    For many, the time spent traveling will provide some of the most vivid memories of their lives. However, memories fade. Keeping some record of your backpacking trip is an excellent idea and will help keep the experience fresh in your mind long after your return.

    Thankfully, all of the backpacking trips I have taken are documented in journals and those journals have been moved to my computer and arranged in book form where I included many of the pictures taken on those backpacking trips. The memories made on each adventure can be relived whenever I choose to relive them. For me, I would deeply regret not being able to recall the wonderful adventures taken. Had I not kept journals, the majority of those memories would have faded away with time.

    Even if you don’t like to write that much, at least write down a few notes about each day. By starting with small entries you will be surprised how you will start expanding your notes each day. (And even going back and adding notes to earlier days — I know, that’s how I developed the habit.)

    Taking Photographs

    You know the old saying, “a picture is worth a thousand words”. Photographs can really bring to life your memories of the experiences on your backpacking trip. If you are not a pro, don’t worry about it. You can use an inexpensive digital pocket camera to take some very fine photographs. The technology in cameras is so much better today. You should see the difference in comparison of my earliest backpacking trips’ pictures compared to my last trip. In years, the difference was 16 years; in quality they are worlds apart! And the digital camera I used on my last backpacking trip cost much less than the camera used on the first trip.

    When taking photographs during your trip, as much as possible be sure to include everyone traveling with you. I know it sounds corny, but my 13-year old grandson really was impressed by seeing pictures of his Dad in my backpacking journal from a backpacking trip when his Dad was a 17-year old. Now my grandson can hardly wait until he gets to go backpacking. Taking photographs really bring back those wonderful memories.

    Make Your Journal All You Want It To Be

    A few suggestions regarding things to remember about a backpacking journal:
    • Take a small journal. Lugging around a 5-subject spiral notebook is overkill and takes up too much space.
    • Keep your journal in a freezer bag to keep any moisture away from it.
    • Before your departure log who, if anyone, is with you on your backpacking trip.

    A good backpacking journal should contain certain criteria:
    • It should be compact enough to not take up much room in your backpack;
    • It should fit easily into a waterproof and airtight container like a freezer bag;
    • It should have enough blank pages to accommodate all your logs;
    • The journal should have cues to remind you to keep notes on specifics.

    Here are a few cues that might spark your memory of your day’s adventure:
    • Where were you when this day began.
    • What were the weather conditions on this day.
    • What route did you cover today.
    • What was your favorite memory, or memories of the day.
    • Did you meet a new friend, and did you choose to get their address for future communication.
    • What meal or meals did you enjoy most today.
    • Where did you end this day.
    • Where did you spend this night (i.e., name of hostel, hotel, or other location).
    • If this was an extra special day, would the details entered in your journal be enough to pass on your memories to a friend, or your children and grandchildren?

    A good way to check that your journal is all you want it to be at the end of each day, ask yourself the following questions:
    • Did I get contact information for all the new friends made on this day of the trip?
    • Did I include enough detail on this day to provide myself or a friend with a guide if you should return to the same location?
    • Did I include all this day’s memories?
    • Is this entry something that I look forward to passing on to my friends, children, and grandchildren?

    Please do not fall in to the trap of thinking that you can remember your every experience and write them down when you get home. Chances are great you will not remember a lot of things that happened on your backpacking trip to Europe. A well kept backpacking journal will help you relive the experience for the rest of your life and hopefully be a journal you would be proud to pass down to your children and grandchildren.

    Blogging Your Trip

    An additional method to making you journal all you want it to be is blogging while you are on your trip. There is an online service that will help you keep an online blog of your trip: Of course, this is optional and recommended only if you know that you take along a laptop and can be consistent in doing daily entries. Otherwise, we recommend just sticking with your daily journal. But your ultimate goal should be: Make the trip of a lifetime remembered for a lifetime.

    Having experienced backpacking many times, I finally decided to create my own website devoted to my “hobby”. You are invited to visit and browse. I have listed a lot of resources that I have used in planning backpacking trips.

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