The Backpacker Boogie

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Outside the Old Town

There are a couple of things you learn when backpacking but one of the most important is

  • The Backpacker Boogie

The ‘Backpacker Boogie’ or ‘The Dance’, whatever you call that move straight after you put on your backpack.  I have perfected this ballet of balance and strength all the while maintaining my inbuilt grace.  Hmmm, perhaps those of you reading this will scoff at the idea of ‘grace’ and Saskia in the same sentence, but since I am the author of this article, that is what I have; grace, style, flair especially when it comes to putting on my backpack; my home away from home – or what others have referred to as ‘the thing that makes you look like a turtle’.  (After the horse compliments I do seem to get the animal ones more.


The backpack lies on the floor, closed, ready to be lifted.  Heed my warning - Do not fall for the bait of the seemingly innoxious bag, it is not that simple.  The bag is a worthy opponent, which you need to tame.  The straps, the weight and your core strength all come in to play within a few seconds of lifting.  An amateur might make the mistake of lifting the pack too early and get caught within the straps, which, normally are designed to relieve pressure but in this situation may cause you stress.  Or, worse still you may lift your pack without having taken the necessary precautions of clearing the area around you and bang into people or objects.  All mistakes are highly amusing to those around you but not to the novice backpacker.

The technique I have perfected is to put my right arm into the strap and looking around me, lift with my knees and swing with my body in a nice quick action allowing the momentum of the force to propel the whole backpack onto my back and slip my arm in the awaiting strap.  Simple – much like the tango. 

Once on the back, it is then that the Backpacker Boogie begins.  Mine is more of a jiggle from side to side but I have seen other people do more of a samba step rocking themselves into the pack.  Whatever works for you, but it is this movement of shifting the bag into position that seems to unite backpackers around the world.  A knowing nod or a snigger can elevate you from backpack hero to backpack zero in moments.

Some of the items on sale

I have been in both situations, (a hero and a zero).  A novice mistake can happen to the best of us.  The confusion of camera straps or food bags you don’t take into consideration can mean that the mighty will fall (and not just figuratively but literally as well).

I had a lowlight recently.  I got excited to be reunited with my pack after a long bus trip and wasn’t ready to pick up the bag – I had temporarily forgotten all of the rules myself and therefore ended up lifting the bag, without checking around me and I hit someone.  This was bad in itself, except it got worse; I had not weighted myself correctly and didn’t lift with the full power required and broke one of my straps – of course Murphy’s Law ensured it was quite an important one too as it kept the bag on my left shoulder.

  Furthermore I ended up all over the place with bag straps from the backpack mixed in with the camera bag and then getting my arm stuck in the shoulder carry strap. A right mess.   Amateur.

Always ensure you have full focus when you are about to embark on the Backpacker Boogie because I know that this breakage would not have occurred if I had of maintained concentration.  Let this cautionary tale act as a warning to you.

Author Rudyard Kipling said ‘the first condition of understanding a foreign country is to smell it’, but for me it is about getting there and the only way to travel on this journey is to follow Lady Gaga’s advice and ‘Just Dance’.

vances says:
You packed a lot of laughs back in that entry...

Posted on: Dec 18, 2010
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Outside the Old Town
Outside the Old Town
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Some of the items on sale
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photo by: Marius1981