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Packing tips for a backpacking trip

The irony of packing for a trip of epic proportions lies in precisely the lack of stuff you are able to bring with you. Here’s a few tried and true things to bring and tips to travel light from the road less traveled.

1. Dryer sheets (laundry softener sheets)- I read this tip in a Condé Nast Traveler magazine some time back and it is by far the best piece of advice I’ve used for any kind of travel. I’m an olfactory-focused person, and the dread of the dirty-laundry smell permeating throughout my pack was a very real threat the first time I took an extended trip. Slip a few dryer sheets in-between your rolled clothing to keep the whole bag smelling light, lovely and fresh from the line.

2. A few extra large sealable plastic bags – These are terrific for temporary storage of wet swim suits and for encapsulating dirty laundry. Utilize those dryer sheets again and override the laundry smell by putting a sheet in a sealed bag (especially with the socks) and you’ll be delighted at the effectiveness.

3. Face wipes – To clean the dirty city off your skin, or to de-salt after a day at sea; for those times when a sink isn’t to be had. There’s nothing like a fresh face to make you feel instantly revived. Be sure to go green and buy biodegradable ones!

4. Hand sanitizer- Use sparingly; you’re going to want your own immune system functioning at its peak. Go all natural and avoid the alcohol-based kind. Juni Hand Refresher (www.xango.com) is my germ killer of choice: all natural, fresh smelling and moisturizing.

5. Underwear x2- There is nothing more reassuring on a long trip than having a clean pair of underwear close at hand. Just when you think you’ve packed too many pairs of underwear, pack two more. Take out a shirt or two if you need to make room. TRUST ME. You can re-wear a shirt several times, but undies, well, you get it.

6. Sarong – This was the most versatile item I used in my pack. I picked one up early in my trip to Thailand as a cover-up at the beach, but used it countless ways. It doubled as scarf, a blanket, sun protector, a temperature regulating head scarf, a pillowcase, a dress, changing screen and even a towel. I won’t travel without one.

7. E-reader – I am a book lover. The feel, the smell, the look of a real book is irreplaceable to me. I swore for years that I would never go digital. I felt like I would be betraying the books that have shaped my character to do so. And then I was given my Nook for Christmas. Best. Present. Yet. While I will never lose the pleasure of caressing paper pages, my e-book allows me to bring an entire library with me while never adding pounds to my pack. I download free e-books from my local library’s website. I even download guidebooks, maps and language books of the regions I’ll be visiting. Awesome!

8. Small dry bag – It is comforting to be sure your electronics are protected within the contents of your pack. Even if you aren’t traveling by boat or near bodies of water, rain or spilled drinks are the enemy of your camera, phone, e-book, passport, etc.

9. TSA-approved lock – If you lock your pack, TSA is almost guaranteed to break it open and then you’re lock-less on the trip. They’re really cheap but can help you avoid being a sitting duck. Just remember, anyone can cut open the pack, or take the whole thing- the lock is just to prevent you from the simple unzip-and-slip on the train or bus.

10. Baby wipes and small package of toilet paper – It is essential to have a backup plan in case things go awry. Your body might not be used to the food you’ll be eating. Just sayin’.

11. Carabiners- A few of the simple, cheap carabiners (not necessarily the weight-bearing kind) are a neat and useful tool. I use them to hang towels, hang my pack away from the ants in our bungalow, and to attach my muddy shoes to the outside of the pack after a hike in the jungle.

Go forth and adventure!