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What to pack is always a question for experienced and new backpack travelers. It depends on where you’re going, how long you’ll be gone, and how much you want to carry versus how mobile you want to be. But the first rule of packing, at least according to us, is to relax. It’s just travel. It’s good times. It’s something you choose to do for fun. There are very few places in the world where forgetting something is going to really damage your trip. So read the following advice, accept it or reject it, meld it to your tastes and destination. But don’t stress. It’s just travel.

First, everything you choose to bring should be geared toward keeping you mobile and light. On my first trip, I nearly packed half of my apartment. If I could have gotten the microwave in my pack I probably would have. And during the trip I found moving to the next spot, or trying a different hostel down the street was often just too much trouble. Don’t get in that position. You want to be able to pack and unpack quickly and without hassle, find what you need when you need it and put it all back together quickly to move to the next adventure.

Second, your travel time is precious. Whether you have two weeks or three months, its’ not enough. So everything you bring should also be geared toward keeping you self sufficient and allowing you to focus on friends and experiences. If you’re only traveling for 12 days, you don’t want to spend half of one of those days hunting detergent to wash your underwear or medicine to calm your stomach. Finding needle and thread to repair a ripped bag can be a surprisingly time consuming task in a small, remote village. So bring those items that will let you focus on what you enjoy.

Third, don’t try to be a local. That might seem counter intuitive and, of course, you don’t want to look or act like Joe Traveler. But you also don’t want to fail to bring items on the idea that you don’t need them because the locals don’t use them. Locals don’t wear money belts because they won’t lose three days of a 9-day trip trying to get their passport back. And locals don’t wear quick-dry travel underwear because they have more at home and can hang them to dry for days. You only have two and need to wash and dry them quickly. We all want to be “core” and we all want to blend in. Great concepts. It’s just better to do it with a positive attitude and respect for those who live where you’re going, than with pretending you live there yourself.

And finally, smaller is better. I can’t stress this one enough. Getting on and off crowded buses, hopping a tiny ferry to an island, trekking from hostel to hostel to find the best deal – they are all so much more fun when you have a small, lightweight and compact backpack. Buy the smallest pack you think you can bet by with. Once you’re out there, no matter the size, you'll find a way to get by with it.  Also if you don’t think you need something, don't bring it. And lastly, utilize travel technology. There is some cool lightweight, compact stuff out there designed to keep you moving. Bring them. It's just more fun to travel light.