The Backpack:
Quite simply the raison d’être of the backpacker. Its mere ownership qualifies for backpacker status regardless of age, social standing or number of children born since the last expedition. The internal capacity fluctuation challenges all laws of physics through its unexplainable reverse black hole properties: the exact same contents that fit in neatly with room to spare one day would not fit in a 40′ Maersk shipping container the next. Often mistakenly assumed to be the backpacker’s most important possession (see ‘The Daypack’), the backpack will spend much of its travel existence out of its owner’s sight – in hostel lockers or storage rooms, on the roof of a combi van or in the hold of a long distance bus – and can therefore not contain any of the backpacker’s most precious items. Whilst the loss of the backpack would undoubtedly present a sartorial dilemma, the threat to onward travel would not be significant.

The Daypack:
Of all the backpacker’s essential items of equipment, the daypack presents the biggest challenge. Whilst the holy trinity of mobile phone, wallet and passport (in ascending order of importance) will almost always be held on the backpacker’s person, laptop, iPad, camera and guide book must go in the daypack. And the daypack must therefore accompany the backpacker wherever he/she goes when on the move, inducing a constant state of self-conscious fear known as Daypack Paranoia (DP). It is not uncommon, many years after a particularly acute bout of DP in downtown Managua, for a retired backpacker to wake up in a cold sweat at 3am feeling to the side of the bed for a non-existent daypack. There is no cure for DP, other than booking another trip.

The Combination Padlock:
The unsung hero of the backpacker’s defence armoury, the combination padlock provides unjustified peace of mind that all valuables are safely contained within a dormitory locker made of second hand aluminium foil and decomposed balsa wood. Usage requires a PhD in mechanical engineering and the night vision of a Sierra Madre mountain lynx when returning to a pitch black room after a night out on the coconut brandy. Not to be confused with the common key padlock, unless in possession of a pocket hacksaw when the key cannot be located within any of the 79 backpack zip compartments twenty minutes before the departure of the 2am night bus to Mogadishu.

Ethnic Jewellery:
Permissible materials include leather bracelets taken from endangered species, shark tooth pendants fished unsustainably from within damaged coral reefs, and any ivory. Fairtrade and responsibly sourced materials are frowned upon. Not to be worn for longer than seven days upon returning, unless a return to Africa/SE Asia/Latin America is imminent. The backpacker must be able to relate at least one sentimental story regarding memento provenance, for example a 16 bed dormitory one night stand parting gift, or having haggled an additional 3p from a one-legged Angolan civil war orphan. Not to be confused with seven year old Glastonbury festival wristbands long riddled with fungal subcultures and at least one minor STD.

The Telecommunications Centre:
Mobile phone, iPad, iPod, camera, portable speaker; each conveniently comes with a differently-shaped adaptor and plug; and each will be lost at some point during the trip, typically with less than 5% of battery remaining on the device and when camping in the middle of the Central Kalahari Game Reserve. Total expenditure of replacement chargers or USB cables will usually exceed the original cost of the trip, or the GDP of Guinea-Bissau, whichever is greater.

Paper literature:
Modern day usage in its classic sense is almost obsolete, save for a handful of die-hard laptopless anti-Kindle technophobes. Now only for show, strategically positioned in the bus seat back pocket or on the communal breakfast table so as to render the title visible. Extra points are awarded for material in a language other than the backpacker’s mother tongue, obscure short collections of 19th century Danish plays, or any self-help topic. 

Emergency Toilet Roll & Wet Wipes:
Trips to any third world country or France MUST NOT be undertaken without these two items.

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