The Beginner Backpacker’s Guide

This simple and straightfoward guide looks at two elements: gear and training. This site is funded off donations and commissions, and all links are through Amazon. The aim of this article, however, is to make informed recommendations. We never try to sell stuff you don’t need. Like Fetty Wap chips.

What you do need are the essentials to human life.


Staying hydrated is the most fundamental requirement for venturing out into wilderness and really anywhere outside your home. This is especially true in the arid climates of the Southwest or locales devoid of potable drinking water. You need AT LEAST 1 litre for about every 3 miles you venture, even more so in Summer seasons. Not only do you want to have water on hand for yourself, but you must have backup reserves for yourself or others in possible distress.

Hydration bladder

Camelbak 3L

Most bladders I’ve come across are pretty reliable when it comes to storing water without leaks. This particular one has been a champ for versatility and comfortable packing. It holds 3 litres, so should get you through 6-9 miles total. Most (good) backpacks have a specific insert for bladders like this one, so you don’t have to mess around with it too much and have easy access to your water supply. For longer treks, you may need to find access to water supplies, carry extra bottles, or use a life straw/purification tablets.

The backpacking world is full of arrogance.

Backpack on a budget

The backpacks themselves can get really expensive. And rightfully so. After years of experience and modifications, its nice to arrive at a custom “luxury” pack that feels like you’re carrying butter. But if you’re not looking to blow $750 for one gear item, check this out:

Jansport backpacking backpack

Jansport isn’t just for your first day of 8th grade. They actually make high quality backpacking gear that will last years (as long as you’re not reckless). “Pro” backpackers will scoff at this. I’m not afraid to say, however, that the backpacking world is full of arrogance. Stick with what you need, not what people are pushing to fill their egos/wallets. Mine has been through over 16 locations involving multiday treks, and there is not a stitch missing.

Training Techniques

Of course, the best way to train for backpacking is hiking with weight on you. But sometimes it’s not feasible to go out to remote locations every morning. Even developed hiking trails can be a pain in the ass, as local ones may be overcrowded and full of dogshit. But do go whenever you get the chance. When chance doesn’t do its job, however, here are some suggestions for training.

Quads, Quads, Quads

Focus on all the wonderful, painful, miserable workouts that make you question whether you really want to get into this shit. Follow this routine, and drink plenty of whiskey:

  • 5 sets of lunges
  • 5 sets of squats (2 plyo)
  • 3 sets on the seated leg press
  • Cycle for at least 20 minutes, level 8 or higher

Use weights up to your ability. Don’t cry, I’ve already done that for you.

Practice Posture

Not many people mention this, but practice straight-back/relaxed-shoulders whenever possible. Make it habit, as you need to be fully conscious of proprioceptive processes when making the hike. You will be glad you did. Practice posture in sitting meditation. Practice posture while driving. Practice while you slam doughnuts. Dammit, practice everywhere and anywhere.

Not only does this create good habits, it does strengthen back muscles as well.


A lot of the game is mental. When you’re walking for miles on end, 30+ pounds hanging off your shoulders, your psychological stamina counts every bit as much as physical. There are a few things you can do to prepare:

  • Listen to Lil Xan on repeat for 3 hours straight.
  • Stare at a poster of some unidentifiable mountain until you get to the point where you’d do anything in this world to just go eat a cheeseburger instead. Then proceed to stare for another 40 minutes.
  • Put on headphones. But don’t play anything. Just listen to nothing. Forever.
  • Ask anyone you come across if they want a piggy back ride. Give them one. But don’t stop. Have them on your back until death is imminent.

Happy trails!


Madonna Stirs the Pot with ‘Dark Ballet’

What kind of music would you make after being one of the world’s biggest pop stars for 40+ years? Madonna has ventured to the highly experimental and politically charged psychoballad, “Dark Ballet.” With elements of Russian ballet, synth pop, and just plain weird crap, Madonna proves she can still be as different and eccentric as womanly possibly.

Hear more about this track, JUMEX, the unheard of BabyJake, and Silversun Pickups in this week’s episode of Southwest X Northeast.

SWxNE Episode III: The Silversun Pickups Are Back! by SouthWest X NorthEast Podcast

Butter Coffee in Little Italy

On the corner of Mulberry Street and Broome, right near the heart of Little Italy in NYC, is the creamiest coffee you could imagine.

This buttery beverage is made with grass-fed butter from moo cows, MCT oil, and delicious organic coffee. It runs $6.50 for the classic, roughly the same price as a hit of Chinatown heroin.

MCT oil, medium-chain triglycerides, are a special kind of fatty acid with supposed health benefits. According to one research publication:

Greater rise in fat oxidation with medium-chain triglyceride consumption relative to long-chain triglyceride is associated with lower initial body weight and greater loss of subcutaneous adipose tissue”

Translation: this stuff is supposed to burn fat. Which is good, because the delicious pizza across the street does exactly the opposite.

The name of the shop that sells this creamy caffeinated concoction is Greecologies, a Greek yogurt place for hot white girls.

Push Pin Travel Maps

Getting to Yelapa

Yelapa Falls is one of the most treasured sites in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. Located uphill in a dense jungle environment, it is not the easiest location to get to. It’s not very difficult either if you have the right information. All-in-all, the experience should cost you around $13.50 (250 pesos). You should also be fairly fit (basically be able to walk an incline on two feet).

First stop: Boca de Tomatlan

Most of the resorts are situated on the main road between central Puerto Vallarta and Mismaloya. This makes the bus ride extremely easy. The fare is about 8 pesos (approximately fifty cents in US currency). You could also take a taxi if you want to splurge the extra 140 pesos ($8 USD). Either way, it’s a fun and beautiful ride to Boca de Tomatlan. The bus stops right near the coast, and a cab will bring you even closer. As soon as you get out, salespeople will try to sell you a water taxi. Some may cost upwards to 2000 pesos ($100), which is way over-priced. A fair price for a group water taxi should be 220 pesos per person roundtrip ($12 USD).

From Boca de Tomatlan to Yelapa Beach

The boat ride is about 25 minutes to Yelapa beach. This beach is fairly remote and exclusive. The service is extraordinary, and beach chairs are included with the boat ride. Make sure you hydrate before making the trek up to the falls. And by hydrate, I mean 3 cervezas and a coconut water.

From the Beach to the Falls

From the dropoff point, the start of the walkway to the falls is about a 5 minute walk Southward on the beach. You pass by a lagoon toward houses on a hill. Signs point to a stairway labelled “Waterfall” (easy enough).

You climb steps that seem to be hundreds of years old. Watch out for horse shit.

Push Pin Travel Maps

From there, its a pretty straightforward path. If youre ever unsure, plenty of locals can help you in English. Just be sure to sample their raicilla, a powerful and smoky Mexican moonshine.

Also be sure to sample delicious pie from either the beach or one of the corner stores on the way.

After you fill up on pie and raicilla, it’s time for more raicilla. Upon approaching the falls, there is a restaurant with great food and drink. You will be well-taken care of when you make it up there. The falls may or not be running, depending on season and rainfall. Regardless, it’s worth the trip.

Essentials to Bring:

You will need sunglasses, and a great source is Sunglass Warehouse. You can great deals, as most shades are under $15 dollars. I’ve had my aviators for over 2 years now, and have been really happy with their product design.

You’ll also need sunscreen of at least 40 SPF.

A water resistant bag is a must-have for the boat ride and potential rains. It’s almost a guarantee you will get wet.

EarthPak, $18.97 on Amazon

Avoid bringing sneakers, as you will have to jump out of the boat and into the ocean when you get to Yelapa beach. Instead, get yourself a pair of sandals good for hiking in. A highly recommended brand is Keen, and can be found on Amazon for $80.


Finally, be sure to have a decent water-proof camera. The GoPro Hero5 is a solid and affordable choice.


Have fun and stay adventurous!

Investing to Fund Your Travels

Traveling is full of adventure, memorable experiences, margheritas, romance, new opportunities, and bliss. You either make it to that landmark you’ve always wanted to see or you discover something incredible. But traveling is also expensive. Even with incredible fare deals and extreme budgeting, you still need money. Sometimes a lot of it.


I work hard like anyone else, but with that work comes expensive maintenance costs. Reliable transportation, student loan payments, gifts, it all adds up. That’s why passive income can be a huge help when you’re planning that next trip to Jamaica or Sweden.

Here are three steps to earning enough dough through investments, even if you have no experience in the market.

1. Save

You need a base sum to set aside for investment. Easy for some, difficult for all of us 🙂

To make any significant gains (without taking wild risks), you need at least $1,000. Hoping that you would grow your fund by 10%, this could bring back a return around $100. Ideally you should be able set aside $3,000-$5,000. A 10% return on $5,000 brings you a beautiful $500.

This is really the hardest part. If you’re having difficulty saving, you need to do one of two things: cut your expenses or grow your income.

2. Download Robinhood


Robinhood may be your best avenue for one simple reason: no commissions. A commission is a fee charged to you for buying or selling a security (stock/bond/mutual fund). E-trade charges $6.95 every single time you buy or sell. I’ve been suckered into paying over $40 in a day just to get my money back.

Robinhood works on selling their premium plans rather than commissions. And you don’t even need the premium plan. I’ve made over $620 using the standard free Robinhood platform. Pair that with a vacation package deal, your trip is paid for!

3. Geek Out


Making a good investment takes some research and evaluation. Here are some good questions to ask before buying a stock:

– How much has it gone up in the past year? (As opposed to the past few months. You can buy something while it’s down, but look at the trends over the past year.)

– What is the risk vs. reward? In Robinhood, there is an indicator telling you the volatility of a stock. High volatility may mean more risk.

– What are others saying? Check Seeking Alpha, StockTwits, Yahoo Finance to see various perspectives.

Quick tips:

– Buy various stock to diversify your portfolio. One small loss in a mix of investments is much better than banking on one stock’s performance.

– Use investopedia to look up terms you are unfamiliar with.

– Don’t panic when a stock is down. It may take a while for it to come back, but they usually do come back (unless crashing).

Sign up to get free stock!