Hitchhiking is the way of traveling where you depend on strangers for free rides. People have mixed opinions whether hitchhiking is a good idea or not. Some call it liberating, while others call it dangerous. It might be both. And I think it’s a great way of traveling.
I mean hitchhiking is a good way of meeting new people. It builds confidence and teaches you when to and when not to trust people. Hitchhiking also saves you a ton of money, and makes your trip a lot more exciting and memorable. Read these 9 hitchhiking stories. You’ll love them!
I’m writing this post for the beginners who want to explore the world of hitchhiking for themselves. I’ll list all the essential hitchhiking equipment you’d need for your journey. Then I’d add some easy tips that would make you feel like a pro. I’ll also write some hitchhiking safety tips for you. Keep reading!
Hitchhiking equipment & packing list
When it comes to packing list for hitchhiking, it’s more or less same as hiking/trekking lists.
also read: Trekking Tips & Guide for Absolute Beginners
Here are the most common essentials, along with my recommendations. They’re affiliate links. The products come to you at no extra cost, and I get some money from the seller. It helps me maintain this blog. Here you go:
Personal care essentials
- Paper soap, toilet paper
- Extra towels and napkins
- Toothpaste and toothbrush
- Sunscreen, moisturizer, mosquito-repellant, etc.
- Moisture-wicking undergarments (Merino wool or polyester)
- Lightweight convertible pants (even better if waterproof)
- 3-4 loose t-shirts
- Waterproof jackets or raincoat
- Bandana, caps or hats
- Socks (along with sock liners)
- Lightweight and waterproof hiking shoes
- A pair of sandals or flip-flops as comfortable alternatives
- Camping: Tent, bivouac sack, sleeping bag or hammock
- Cooking: Utensils, air-tight containers, disposable plates/bowls, solar cooker or stove
- ID proofs and documents
- Pocket knife, lighters, pad-lock
- Watch, torch, extra batteries
- Solar charger and power-banks
- Maps, compass, binoculars
- UV-protecting shades or polarized sunglasses
- First-aid kit
- Water bottles
Hitchhiking Tips: During your journey
1. It’s all about the location
Standing at a location where only a handful of people can see you, is a waste of time. Find a location where a lot of cars pass by. You’ll have better chances there.
Do not stand in a place where trees or signs block you from the drivers. Choose a better location or you might end up wasting hours sticking your thumb out in the sun for nothing.
You could wait at gas stations where cars often stop. Talk to people there. You’d easily find a ride after having a decent conversation with someone. It would also help you avoid getting in car with suspicious people.
If you can’t find a place where cars would stop, look for a stretch where cars go slower. Pick a spot where drivers can see you from far away and slow down to pick you up.
2. Get a sign
Signs help a lot! They tell the drivers where you’re headed. If the road forks into multiple paths, getting a sign would help you even more.
More importantly, they’re eye-catchy. A person driving for hours get used to the road and surroundings. So without a sign, they might not see you at all. But, it’s a human tendency to read any text in sight. I don’t know if this happens out of curiosity or habit, but it surely gets you something that you need: Attention.
3. Look decent
Drivers would make split-second decisions whether they should stop for you or not. Whether you like it or not, they’d judge you based on your looks only. And it actually makes sense, you are a complete stranger to them.
So wear decent clothes, smell good, trim your beard. Basic stuff. We all know it.
You need to look decent and trustworthy for them to trust you. Don’t look like a homeless person who hasn’t showered in days. Nobody would want such a person anywhere near them, let alone inside their car.
This is important. Nobody is going to invite you into their vehicle if you look depressed or grumpy. So smile!
It makes you feel look cheerful, happy and trustworthy to strangers. People might pick you up if they think you’d be a good company.
Also, you might want to take off your shades. People usually stop if you make eye-contact with them.
5. Be a good hitchhiking passenger
Tell your stories. When somebody picks you up, they expect good company. Tell them about your life and stories from the places you’ve been to. But don’t go blabbering on and on. Ask similar things about them as well. And listen with genuine interest. People love to talk to someone who actually listens.
Offer to pay for fuel or tolls. Hitchhiking is free in theory. But, you’re usually expected to pay something in some form. So politely offer to pay for gas or road tax or tolls; especially if the route is pretty long. They might turn it down, but it’s definitely a good habit to have.
At last, thank them. Sincerely thank the driver for their kindness. If possible, give them some souvenir as a gift. Please keep up the good image of hitchhiking community.
Hitchhiking Tips: How to stay safe?
6. Hitchhike with a buddy
Hitchhiking could be terrifying at times, especially for new people. If you’re one of them, I suggest you go hitchhiking with a buddy of yours. Take a friend with you, who is equally interested in such trips.
But keep in mind that hitchhiking gets difficult sometimes. Dragging someone along for the sake of company isn’t going to work. You’d feel guilty for putting them through a hard time when things wouldn’t go as planned.
If you can’t find such a person, make a friend along the way. You can easily find another hitchhiker on popular routes.
also read: 7 Tips on How to Make Friends at Hostels
7. Let someone know where you are
You should share your location with someone you trust. Tell your plans to a friend or family member. And ask them to check in on you every day. If they see your location somewhere you’re not supposed to be, they’d know something’s wrong.
You could also text them the license plate and basic description every time you get into a vehicle.
8. Sit in the front seat
Most vehicle come with child safety locks on rear doors. That means you might not be able to open the doors from the inside. So whenever possible, sit in the front seat of the car you get in.
If you have to sit in the backseat for some reason, check the locks before getting in. They’re located at the edge of the door and hidden when the door is shut.
9. Have your IDs on you at all times
It’s common for people to lose some stuff while hitchhiking. If you forget a bag or something in someone’s car, it’d be a nightmare to get them back. So you should carry your IDs, cash, prescriptions and medicines on you. Keeping them in a bag is risky.
Either grab a waist bag or a bum bag. They work best for this purpose. You could also buy one which hides under your clothes.
10. Trust your instincts
This is the most important tip. No matter how well you plan or how well-prepared you are, things would go wrong in unexpected ways.
Even when everything seems alright, you sometimes get kind of an itch in the back of your mind. You can’t explain it, but it’s just there. You feel a voice telling you that something’s not right. Hitchhikers need to listen to it!
You’d have to trust your intuition and make a judgement for yourself. If there’s still a doubt in your mind, refrain from doing anything that could put in danger. Don’t fall into traps just because you’re desperate enough.
Is hitchhiking dying?
I think it is! And it’s difficult to watch.
There was a time when nomads used hitchhiking as their primary way of moving around. It wasn’t weird to ask strangers for help. Sense of mutual trust was common. But, things have changed now. That sense of trust is fading away as much fewer people are into hitchhiking now.
I believe the reason is that most people use their own vehicles to travel around. Or it’s possible that people now don’t generally trust strangers asking for help. Is it because the media blasts way too much negative news at us? I don’t know. But I do know that it’s definitely hard to watch it slowly die.
Do you believe hitchhiking is going to become popular again? I’d like to know.
Well, there you go! That’s all I had to share. Don’t forget to drop a comment down below if this post helped you in some way or if you’d like me to write about something or maybe just to say hi!