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Is 40 Too Old To Go Backpacking?

Backpacking means different things for different folks. One person might delight you with stories of exploring cities and towns across Europe, Africa, or Asia. Yet, another will say that while Cheryl Strayed doing the PCT (Pacific Crest Trail) was all well and good, the PNT (Pacific Northwest National Scenic Trail) is far superior. Regardless of how you define backpacking, is there an age limit?

40 is not too old to go backpacking. People continue backpacking past their seventies, provided they are in good health, wear the proper clothing, and use quality equipment. Using earplugs and booking a private room will also make staying in a hostel nicer for guests over 29. 

Is 40 Too Old To Go Backpacking
Is 40 Too Old To Go Backpacking?

Backpacking after 40 is a varied experience. It’s important to know yourself and the type of experience you are after. If staying in a hostel is too much, consider using a B&B.

Similarly, there are thru-hiking tours that can be done without having to stay in a tent. But many backpackers have found hammocks as the cure for “can’t rest on the ground” woes. 

Read: 11 Ways To Look A Decade Younger

7 Tips For Backpacking Over 40 To Explore Countries

Travel is proven to be good for our brains. But it can be expensive and lonely when only staying at hotels. Plus, bus tours are not everyone’s style.

Thankfully, backpacking is a pocket-friendly way of exploring your own country or abroad. With a little research, hostels can be found in prime locations, making exploring easy and fun. In addition, you’ll meet new people, including others over 40. 

1. See A Doctor Before Backpacking Over 40

Nobody wants their adventure cut short due to poor health. Also, traveling shouldn’t be used as an excuse to delay your gyno visit or prostate exam. Get your eyes checked and see the dentist. Have the doctor ensure your blood pressure, blood sugar, and that weird mole are all examined. 

Losing a tooth filling while backpacking is annoying. Likewise, having your blood sugar go haywire while exploring Tibet is not ideal. Nor is tromping through Italy the time to discover that weird pressure on your lower belly is a hernia. 

Even if your doctor does find something that needs addressing, that doesn’t mean your backpacking adventure will be canceled. Many people with chronic illnesses and disabilities travel, including backpacking. But to have a fabulous time exploring the world, you need the right kit and know how to care for any special health needs.

2. Travel With A Friend Or Have A Point Of Contact

Traveling alone can be risky but rewarding. So while it is considered safer to backpack with a buddy, if you are going at it alone, make sure you have one or two points of contact that have a copy of your itinerary. Check in frequently to notify them of any plans change so everyone knows you are alive and well. 

Travel with a friend
Travel with a friend

3. Over 40 Backpackers Pack Ear Plugs & Eye Mask

Hostels can easily be researched to see if they have a party reputation. However, even those with a peaceful vibe can have street or farm noises that disrupt a good night’s sleep. Also, the flimsy curtains can let in light from the moon or the street. So do yourself a solid and pack quality earplugs and a comfortable eye mask. 

4. Rent Bedding And Towels, But Bring A Lock

Reduce your travel load by renting your bedding and towels, but do splurge for your own lock. These days, many hostels insist you use their bedding for hygiene reasons (yes, some young whippersnappers try to haul in dirty linen). 

Rent the towels
Rent the towels

5. Book A Private Hostel Room (Pod) Or Nab A Lower Bunk

Many hostels allow you to book ahead and provide options such as requesting a lower bunk (do you want to be climbing up and down in the middle of the night?) or having a private room or pod.

Some private rooms are the size of a modest master bedroom. Others are simply a pod, think closet with a single bed that just fits. But they are quieter and give you elbow room, and they still cost less than a B&B or hotel. 

6. Consider “Flashpacking” When Backpacking Over 40

Flashpacking is when the over-40 budget allows for more luxury than the average backpacker. It can mean taking a taxi than the cattle cars to the accommodation. It might mean that every 3rd night is in a luxury hotel or a nice B&B rather than a hostel. Perhaps it means nicer dinners out rather than cooking in the hostel kitchen. 

Consider flashpacking
Consider flashpacking

7. Over 40 Backpackers Can Try WWOOFing

An excellent way to dip the toe into the backpacking world is to start with WWOFing. People volunteer at an organic farm, receiving free room and board while learning about the area and organic agriculture. Plus, you meet new people who might be excellent connections for future backpack adventures.  

8 Tips For Backpacking Over 40 To Explore The Wilderness

Hiking is excellent for health; even Harvard University agrees. However, backpacking over 40 means, you need to drop the competitive edge and do it at your body’s pace. Also, be wise about what risks are worth it. The experience can be highly social or one of peace and reflection. But getting out on the trail is worth it at any age. 

1. See A Doctor If Backpacking On The Trail Over 40

Backpacking on the trail has higher risks than going through cities and towns. So you must ensure there isn’t anything going on before you head out. But even if the doc finds something of concern, that doesn’t mean backpacking is over. However, it might mean packing a new medication or having a small procedure before you hit the trail. 

2. Get The Best Shoes And Socks

Over 40 is not the time to mess around with poor-fitting shoes and cheap socks. Instead, treat your feet with the dignity they deserve and equip yourself with quality hiking boots with superior grip. Socks must be made from a technical fabric, moisture wicking, and feel good. Stay away from cotton. 

3. Fit Yourself With A Quality Backpack

A 40+-year-old body is already taking on wear and tear, and poor posture can accelerate damage. Thus, get a quality backpack that fits. The correct pack for you might not be the most expensive.

But this is not the place to be trying to save money. Nor is this the type of thing you want to buy online. Get it fitted and checked, stuff it with gear, and move around before you buy. 

4. Never Hike Alone And Have A First Aid Kit

Nobody should hike alone or without a first aid kit. But when you’re over 40, you need to be smarter than the foolhardy youth. Your body simply doesn’t bounce back from poor choices like a 19-year-old can; bless their hearts. 

First aid kit
First aid kit

5. Use Hiking Poles If Backpacking Over 40

It could be argued that everyone should be using hiking poles. But if you’re over 40, use your wise brain and give yourself the gift of stability and balance. It isn’t that you are more likely to fall or trip. It is that if you do fall or trip, your body takes longer to recover. 

6. Backpacking Over 40? Sleep In A Hammock

Hammocks are breathing new life into middle-aged and mature backpackers. Once the body passes the 30-year mark, the ground begins to feel harder, and the body stiffer in the mornings. But hammocks hold the body beautifully, providing support and comfort in ways that sleeping on the ground cannot. 

The only drawback is that hammocks take up more weight and space than an ultralight tent setup. It isn’t the hammock that’s the issue, but the accessories. But it is worth it to keep you on the trail. 

7. Seep At B&Bs When Backpacking Over 40

Not all thru-hikes leave backpackers stranded in the wilderness. There are routes, especially in Europe, that will leave you close to a B&B or hostel each night. It simply takes some planning. Some of the more popular routes will have shuttles or buses that can help get you from the trail to the accommodation and back again. 

It’s a brilliant backpacking option if your body is done with outdoor camping but still longs for the open trail. 

Bed and Breakfast
Bed and Breakfast

8. Backpack With A Hiking Tour

Some people over 40 have acquired some chronic illness and disabilities that make carrying a full backpack impossible, require a bed to sleep in, or need access to modern bathrooms with hot water for medical needs. However, many of these same people can still hike. If that’s you, look into backpacking tours. 

Backpacking tours haul your gear (typically with vans) to the next spot, so all you have to carry is a day pack. There are also enough people to ensure safety. These tours also set up tents or have booked accommodations such as cabins, glamping tents with a proper bed, or B&Bs. 

Conclusion

Backpacking over 40 can be a fulfilling adventure beneficial to the soul and body. Of course, it might take a little more planning than younger people require, quality gear, and a doctor’s check.

But it will be worth it. All it requires is a will, and you’ll find your way. After all, if Yuichiro Miura did Everest at 80, you are still young enough to make your backpacking dreams come true.