Ideal backpack size for 6 months SE Asia?
In november me and two friends are embarking on our first true backpacking trip: Starting out in Thailand after which we will (attempt to) make the U-shaped trip downwards: Malaysia (and Sing.), Indonesia and the Philippines. We're planning on returning home around april/may, so 6 months should be a good approximation.
Thing is, we're not too sure about which size backpack to bring along. We know we should go as small as possible, but what's the limit? I was thinking about getting a 35 litre NF pack (my friend works at North face HQ so we get a nice 'n shiny discount), but while some sites claim this to be sufficient, others say it's just too small. I'd just like it to be as practical as possible, as in being able to take it with me in busses and trains and not being a too obvious tourist. I'm okay with not bringing my whole closet along with me, and i plan on washing my clothes frequently.
So, my question: Do you guys and gals think 35 litre could do the trick? Or should i rather go for a 40-45 pack (50 seems SO DAMN LARGE already!).
Thanks in advance for the replies!
But if you need more room 40-45L just enough to fit in a over head bin will work too. And won't stand out as much as a person with a 50+L either.
While I am unsure as to what you think you will be packing remember some things you may want to bring and their size:
laptop (which means power cord and accessories)
Camera (memory cards, power cable, extra battery, maybe an extra lense)
IPod or music playing device (means another power cord)
plug adaptors (for all the countrie)s and possibly voltage adaptor if need be
flip flops, shoes, hiking boots, sneakers (you will probably need at least one pair of sneaks and flip flops)
All of the above things will take up a lot of your space. I know that a lot of people wear a badge of "well I was only able to use a 25L bag for 1 year of traveling" and think it is something of an accomplishment, one thing I can tell you about extensive long term traveling is not only will you accumulate stuff, but by the end I guarantee you will end up being one of those backpackers with 17 backpacks on your front back leg whatever. I really don't understand why people don't just get a large backpack and be able to pack comfortably, have room to buy stuff and then bring a 15-20L backpack to keep on your front to be used a daypack and to keep all your valuables with you when you check your luggage.
If you are looking for a backpack that you will be able to keep with you on flights and buses, then I would go for the largest possible bag allowed to be carried on a flight which is probably 45L. I have a 75L northface backpack and a 30L backpack, both of which I have used extensively traveling. I think they are great bags so getting a discount on that will be huge for you.
Another way to go is to bring a few essentials from home and buy a wardrobe when you get to
SEA. Then before you return home you can chuck it because while these things
may be sentimental, the clothing will be gross.
Also about washing clothing: Keep in mind where you are going...remember during the time
you will be there it will HOT and HUMID which means things dont dry as quick as you
think. This is not arizona desert heat, this is sticky, wet heat and take it from me
trying to wash clothing in a sink (without a dryer) will be tough. YOu will need a few days
to have things dry. My suggestion is to consider buying thin pants that convert to shorts
or buy shorts and things that dry easily (like sarongs for women or dryfit and the like
material for in men's workout clothing).
My vote would be for 45L or even 50L if you can get it on an airplane.
Also, my suggestion would be for you to bring carabina clips. YOu get them from
any sporting goods store...These will be huge in allowing you to hang sneakers, flips,
bags and whatever else on the outside of your bag freeing up precious space inside.
Don't worry about looking like a tourist...unless you asian you will look like a tourist...
you won't be the first to make this route, and won't the last.
Also remember tolietries...that bag takes up a ton of space. My suggestion is to bring
anything you may need from USA that you can't get over there and buy the rest of it as
needed. That is a waste of space.
also, while you have this great plan to wash clothing, bring minimal clothing and pack
as little as possible...you will definitely wash way less than you think...try doing it for a month
and see how fast you get sick of it...I always say bring a little more and throw out
along the way...
I'm sorry to be brash and upfront but I can't stand reading posts from people who advocate bring a 30L
bag on a 6 month trip...this trip should be exciting and fun not annoying, arduous and tedious because
of how you ran out of underwear after three days, or don't have a clean pair of shorts or
t-shirt and are too lazy to do laundry.
However, if you bring stuff for the laundry, considering checking out
walkaboutravel.com...they have fantastic travelgear including a laundry set and they are
reliable, ship quick and affordable...they have everything you could imagine.
now if you can get anything of these things from TNF then do it...
1a: You can be on of two kinds of tourists:
The kind that is nervous, unsure, and looks like everyone is out to 'get them'
The kind that is looking for every listed experience on a checklist, anxiously, or:
The kind that walks confidently wherever they do, map in hand or not, and is constantly
relaxed, as if they have nothing better to do that day than see a famous monastery. They
are like the other kinds of tourists, Asian and home tourists, because whenever you go about
to just 'see things', you have the tourist gaze, you ARE a tourist, even in your own country.
Be proud of it, accept it, and people will accept you as an enquiring, open person. Your
trip will go much more pleasantly.
2. If you want to be the second kind of tourist, you have to practice a certain sort of zen mind, ie:
Take the backpack that makes YOU comfortable to be yourself, regardless of how it 'looks'
If you don't like the idea of washing your clothes every night after you get back from seeing things, take MORE clothes. Heres what I tend to do, and I am learning to be a smaller packer.
I have this massive 75 liter backpack that has served me for years. Lately I've not filled it to stuffing, so it looks heavier than it is. It is an REI standard model, no fancy names or features, except that it zips open in the center for easy access. This is a very nice feature to me since my previous one was a mountaineering bag that was top fed only. It does need to be checked, but that's not always a bad thing. It's big enough that I can put my travel day-packs inside it when I reach my destination, since personally, I don't like the Bag in Frong theory of moving around.
If you want to pack smaller, GREAT. But be sure that you are this kind of traveller BEFORE you set off, because wherever you go, there you are. If you are a packhorse carrying your school books going to school, and feel comfortable with a massive suitcase going on a two week trip, then you'll feel uncomfortable going about with ONLY a 35 liter backpack. You'll end up with a second 40 liter backpack or duffel bag just to put the stuff you've acquired. It might be a cool thing to try, but don't stay fixed to the idea if you just feel comfortable with more stuff.
I did Camino de Santiago with a 40 liter backpack, carried minimal clothing and a sweater, and yes, a mattress and sleeping bag for bad beds and floors. I carried very little food and no camping gear.
I did it fairly comfortably, BUT:
I stayed every night in a hostel or hotel, depending on the place, sometimes on the floor
I ate in restaurants and out of supermarkets
I washed my socks and clothes every night so I'd always have something clean to wear in the morning. Smelly clothes are easy to acquire on a hiking trip. I spend, literally, most of my time either walking(read touristing in your case), washing clothes, stuffing food in my mouth, and then sleeping. It got to be a discipline, not just a habit. In SE asia you don't have the hot dry climate of Spain, so you will probably not be drying out the washed clothing on a line very effectively. Bring some money for laundering and drying. Once a week, I would find a washing maching to put stuff into or pay for laundry just so the pants would come out cleaner, the socks and shirts extra clean without that sweaty smell.
3. I never collected anything larger than a small stone while on the Camino because I HAD NO ROOM. Even a book had to be carefully considered. That level of object acquisition discipline may be hard to maintain on a 6 month tourist romp, and probably not recommended unless the reason for the romp is to come back a better person(I don't discount this motive!!!)
4. If you get the Zen thing right, you can be in a town for a week, having memorised all the paths in the town that you cared to learn, and some harried tourist will come to you and say:
Excuse me, you look like someone who lives here. Do you know where *** is?
Then you'll know you are feeling comfortable.
Are you planning to bring any sort of camping gear? Sleeping bag, tent, cooker?
Do you tend to accumulate "stuff" on your travels? Buy local clothing, souvenirs, knick-knacks?
Do you bring a lot of gadgets? Laptop?
If the answer is no to all of these questions, you can get away with 30 liters quite easily, if you know how. Get quick-dry synthetic clothing and wash every other day (having only 2-3 pieces to wash means it takes about the same amount of time as brushing your teeth), or invest in super light weight wool clothing that doesn't get stinky as quickly.
Personally, I'd rather do more frequent quick hand-washing than lugging around pounds of dirty laundry and then having to find a coin wash for a big laundry day.
I have traveled quite with a 28 liter pack, and I never wished I had a bigger pack or brought more stuff. It's much easier to find things in your pack, you're less likely to forget things in ho(s)tel rooms. If you arrive at a new city in the morning, too early for checkin, you can just explore the city with your pack on your back. No hassles fitting big luggage in buses and the like. You can walk for miles from one end of the city to the other without breaking your back.
Granted, those trips were shorter, more weeks than months, but I don't see any reasons that would have prevented my from travelling indefinitely with this setup.
Thing about pack and something to consider is you may have to walk a considerable distance like we did in New York when the underground was flooded you couldn't get a bus or taxi for any amount of money.
What I would suggest is
Pick all the gear out you are taking not just clothes but cameras +++,first aid kit, books, shampoo,conditioner, you know where I am going with this EVERYTHING.
Next put it in a plastic bag, tie it up lift it above your head.
If you can't lift it there is too much so get rid of some things.
Next weigh it and convert to lts.
It will give you some idea of what you need.
I personally wouldn't have a backpack I always use a case, it came in very handy when trying to get off the train in India I can push like the best of them.
That's including a set of nice clothes to crash an Embassy party or high-end club, normal day-to-day- wear, beach clothes, personal hygiene products and the usual netbook, digital camera/camcorder and all the peripherals.
Travelling light is waaaaay more fun than dragging a huge pile of crap around just because you don't like to take 15 minutes to do a quick hand laundry every few days.
You bring the same for a month that you do for 2 weeks. Take what I brought, pack some extra clothes, a small computer and whatever other junk you feel is necessary; and you can easily keep it under 35L if you want to. It just takes a modicum of discipline to not bring every comfort of home with you.
Okay, I skimmed back and read Eppyboy's post after all. Do what feels natural. Don't listen to the guy who says all you need is banana leaves for shoes (travel enough and you'll meet this guy), and don't necessarily listen to the guy who says you need 4 (four?!?!) types of footwear unless you really want to take 4 (four?!?!) types of footwear.
Figure out what type of person you are, make a pile with the necessities, throw in a couple of must have comfort items that others will laugh at you for and then try to fit it all into a bag. You can even pack your junk into smaller stuff sacks, lug them to the shop, and try to put them into the bag you think you might be buying. This sounds ridiculous, but it's the absolute smartest way to shop. I used to work in the packs department of a major Canadian outdoor gear retailer and I would have applauded anyone who did this. Don't forget to leave a bit of breathing space for wet/dirty clothes that take up more space, and the really sweet and seemingly unique souvenirs that you're going to buy along the way.
I've got more links to a couple of packing experiences of mine in my signature if you care to see where I'm coming from.
Personally, I think this bag is more than large enough. I hardly ever have it packed full unless my clothes are wet, and it's because even after 6 months I can't bear to part with a few items I've barely used (3 favorite books, sleep sheet, laundry gear, some others items).
35-37L should fit in most overhead compartments, which is a huge plus in Indonesia, since if you're on any sort of time constraint you will end up flying, sometimes on smallish aircraft.
Also, having a bag small enough to drop between your feet on a bus, if you really have to, is great for peace of mind.
When I left my bag was packed full, and then I started ditching things almost immediately. Bulky jacket, jeans, shoes, etc.
If I could do it all over again, I'd fly into Bangkok with the clothes on my back and a daybag, and buy everything I needed there, or as I needed them, even the big backpack (lots of cheap knockoffs available, and since you only need it for 6 months you don't really need a lifetime warranty).
One exception would be electronics, which if you're Western you'll probably pay much less for back home, and actually get to try your items out or return them if they're not what you want.
I thought I'd wash my clothing more, but honestly, I've found that I can't be bothered, so I just pay a dollar or two to have a week's worth of washing done when I need it, and I'm almost always able to leave the next morning or afternoon, worst-case with a couple damp items that will dry quickly if you wear them. One of the above posts mention the humidity. It takes forever to dry things, even if you wrap them up in a towel and step on it to wring out every bit of moisture to speed the process along. I could probably get away with an even smaller pack, but I have 5 shirts, 5 pairs of underwear, and two pairs of cargo shorts, one of which converts to pants. Synthetic/quick dry clothing is just a waste of money if you're carrying as many clothes as I am, and paying to have your laundry done. When a shirt wears out, I buy another. Same with everything else.
As for shoes, I used to hate flipflops. Now they're all I wear. Unless you plan on motorbiking or heavy trekking, you don't really need them, and even then you can probably get away with a good pair of sandals with toe coverings. Shoes take up a lot of room and weigh a lot.
About the only toiletries I'm having difficulty finding are condoms. Bring your own. I'd recommend even bringing what could be described as an optimistic supply of them. Everything else, toothpaste, hair gel, body wash, razors, you can find in even small villages, although not always the brands, flavors, and scents you're accustomed to. Part of the fun, personally.
Screw buying special containers for liquids. There's a brand of bodywash called Lux that's sold almost everywhere. The smaller bottles are the best reusable liquid containers I've ever had. Not necessarily foolproof watertight, but I haven't had an accident with them yet, and if you're extra cautious just drop one in a ziploc.
Thailand is super-developed for tourism, and 7-11s are everywhere. Seriously. You'll be surprised. Malaysia and Indonesia (especially parts of Indonesia) are less developed, but still have 7-11s and Circle Ks everywhere in the larger towns. A lot of the budget hostels I stayed at in Malaysia didn't have mosquito nets, and had broken windows, and I got devoured. I didn't find that to be the case in Indonesia or Thailand.
I am glad I brought:
A powerstrip with a USB plug. Great for recharging the iPod (no laptop), and sometimes your room will only have 1 outlet for 10 people.
Rain cover for my backpack (seems obvious, I didn't think of it until a friend mentioned it).
I'm using a diver's 15L dry bag as a daypack. Easy to pack down because you just roll the top down an additional layer to accommodate what's actually in there. Also, it's pretty much completely waterproof.
A Kindle. Books can be expensive in SEA, the selection shitty, and they're bulky. I still grab a novel every now and then to trade around, and have a few non-ebook favorites in my bag.
If you like to shave with an electric razor, I've had a hard time finding one in parts of Indonesia. For now I've switched to disposable razors because I broke the one I bought in Thailand.
Advice specifically for Indonesia: it's a big fucking country. 4th most populous after the U.S., and what seems like an endless number of islands. I'd read up on a few and focus more time on each than trying to spend a few days on several like I did. I was frustrated at how much time I was spending in transit just to see similar cultures because I wasn't spending enough time in one place to learn the details that make them different. I wished I had spent more time on Flores and Lombok, or in the non-tourist areas of Bali.
Jakarta is a love/hate city. I'm on the side of hate. Filthy, hard to travel around, not much worth seeing. Escape! I wouldn't waste time in Kuta, either.
Hope you're having a gas.
Chris, the length of a trip is immaterial. Whether you're going for 2 weeks or 2 months you still bring the very same stuff. Nothing changes.
OPer: As mentioned several times above with a little planning and experience it's super easy to hostel/hotel throughout SE Asia with a 35-40 litre backpack with lots of room left over. No worries.
Chris, the length of a trip is immaterial. Whether you're going for 2 weeks or 2 months you still bring the very same stuff. Nothing changes.
On what planet in which universe?
My point is really simple... the OPer is going to SE Asia... whether you're going for a short time or a long time an experienced traveller is still taking (almost) the very same stuff... a couple of changes of clothes to cover a high-end night out, the usual day-to-day wear and beach/recreational. The same set of footwear. The same hygiene kit. The same still/video package. The same laptop, smartphone and all the peripherals. It's all the same stuff and it's all in the very same quantities.
It all fits into a 35-40 litre backpack with LOTS of room left over. No big deal.
So... what's confusing you this time?
Who is online
Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 3 guests