How to Set a Budget For Backpacking the World

By Jonah Ryan

Last Updated:


So many of us have daydreamed about backpacking the world.

It’s something that invokes thoughts of wanderlust, adventure, and untold experiences.

Backpacking is one of the few traditions left that still yields unique results every time.

Even if you go to the same location as someone else at the same time of year, every little bump in the road will shape yours completely differently.

After thousands upon thousands of explorers have set off to see the world as it is, there’s still no certain grasp on what backpacking will actually do for any individual.

For some, that might sound like a daunting task.

For others, that’s exactly why they want to do it.

If you’re in the latter half, then backpacking the world is definitely in the cards.

Great, so now you’ve decided that you want want to travel and live out of a backpack, but there’s more to it than that.

You can’t just have everyone pay for you, but you also probably don’t want to wait until you’re retired (unless you’re already retired, in which case more power to you).

So how are you going to pay for the backpack, the supplies, the plane tickets, the train tickets, the accommodations, the…?

You get the point.

Luckily for you, although experiences might be different, the monetary value is a little more dependable.

You have to know your location, what you’re willing to sacrifice, and a few other things.

But there’s still a general idea to be had so you can budget a little bit before you set off to be the next Columbus.

How Much Money Do Backpacking Supplies Cost?

Well that’s kind of a broad question, but you have to know what you’re willing to lose and what you absolutely need before you can answer this question.

Some people need their hair dryer, a toaster, three refrigerators, and a 40″ flat-screen tv in order to feel alive.

That might be a stretch, but you get that point too.

It’s time to come to terms with what you can live without and what you need to feel comfortable enough.

There’s nothing wrong with needing some extra headphones or gloves for when it’s cold, but unfortunately the cast iron pan might have to stay at home.

I’ve set out to backpack the world before, and my budget was about $1,000 on supplies, and I probably ended up pretty close to that.

You should be sure to get a quality backpack, since it’s literally going to be the only thing between everything you own and the outside world.

My backpack was about $150.00, but if I were to do it all over, I’d probably hit around $300.00 easily on the backpack alone.

If you’re going hotel to hotel every night, this might not be as big of a concern.

Next, you have literally everything else you want to bring with you.

A lot of things that you have should be stuff you already own, like clothes, laptops, phones, etc.

Don’t get all fancy and think you need that cliche traveler shirt, trust me it won’t mean anything in a month.

Be smart, know your situation, and spend accordingly.

You can easily spend $500.00 or even $5,000.00 and both can be completely justifiable.

The one piece of advice I will give you here is to realize that everything you own is going to get dirty, wet (possibly), thrown, dropped, and damaged at some point.

Leave the fancy stuff behind.

The Price of Travel

How long will you spend in one country?

A week, a month, or a couple days?

Plane/transportation costs can be your lowest or highest expense.

My mindset was to fly twice; Once to the location, and once away from some other country that I took all kinds of other transportation to in order to get back home.

You should try to avoid flying more than twice in any one month period, at least at the start.

If you want to fly more often, a much larger budget or a job is in order.

Public transportation is your best friend, since you’ll be taking taxis and buses everywhere if you’re smart (or trains).

A plane ticket from California to Southeast Asia might be $600.00, but if you fly there one way and check out that whole part of the world, then you don’t have to worry about other flight costs.

However, a plane ticket from Southeast Asia to the UK is about $500.00, which almost doubles your plane tickets.

Spend half the money getting to and from the UK to Southeast Asia, enjoy the travel (since that’s the whole reason you’re there) and take your time getting back.

Another great tip is to avoid planes altogether and stick to whatever countries are connected to your continent.

It might sound restricting, but from California (again, my location) you can go to all of South America, all of the USA, and all of Canada without touching a single plane.

Don’t even get me started about all the locations you can hit in Europe/Southeast Asia/Russia/Asia/India/etc.

How Much Money Should You Budget for Backpacking?

Okay enough of the fluff talk, you want numbers, right?

Doing my best work, you’ll need about $20,000 per person per year to live and travel comfortably.

You can also do $15,000, or $10,000 if you backpack and tent camp every night.

Some people also do couch surfing, which saves loads of money as well.

Don’t be intimidated by these prices, as there’s always overseas jobs, or online work as well.

Just work 2 jobs right now, save every penny you can (skip the restaurants, movies, new clothes, everything), and get to your goal.

I worked 60-70 hours a week to get to where I wanted to be for my budget before I quit my job, you can too!

Anyways, I truly hope that this is the last article you read about backpack budgeting.

Stop making excuses about why you can’t go, because there will¬†always¬†be another reason.

Trust me, from someone who avoided full-time travel through 2 solid years of constant daydreaming and making up excuses, you need to start now.

Today is the day that you start filling that Amazon shopping cart will everything you need to travel the world (and nothing you don’t), and start working as hard as you can to save that money.

Your friends and family will be there when you get back, and they’ll forgive you for not going to every outing.

Now pull out the notebook and start jotting down ideas, and stop procrastinating.


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