SE Asia trip preparation help
Replies: 17 - Last Post: Mar 27, 2013 12:54 PM Last Post By: spa_trip_is_on_me
Mar 25, 2013 12:06 AM
SE Asia trip preparation helpHello! I am going to be stressful and throw a lot of questions at you with a lot of unnecessary information. Any help you can provide would be lovely!
Backstory: I am spending 2 trimesters at Mahidol University in Bangkok beginning in October. When classes end in March, I will begin a minimum of 8 week backpacking trip through SE Asia. I will also have time to travel around Thailand during weekends and small breaks while classes are in.
Timeline: October-June (So I am trying to prepare for seasons accordingly)
I am typing up a budget for items that I will need to take with me to Thailand...pre-trip expenses essentially.
1) Backpack: I really would only like to have a 40-45L backpack and maybe another daypack. I currently own a big Osprey Atmos that is fantastic for camping, but I feel like it would be very awkward to travel with in cities and on airplanes + it's a top-loader which might be annoying for travel. And it usually isn't allowed into overhead compartments. I'm looking into a travel pack, but I cannot get a good idea of which is the best brand, design, size, etc. Does anyone have suggestions for brands and sizes to look for? I've looked at a couple of the REI brand and Osprey online, but a lot of the reviews say they're great for weekend trips and week long vacations, but that's not my situation. I know it comes down to preference and varies for the individual, and it won't make or break the trip, etc. But a good starting point would be lovely.
I will be needing a laptop for the study portion, and I guess it will be nice to have with me later! So I need space for that. And possibly a DSLR camera...any tips on how to effectively pack the two would be grand.
I'll be looking at what I plan to pack first, then choosing the pack...but a range of good brands to be looking into would be good to be prepared for when the time comes. I also need help on some of the following items to determine what to pack.
2) Uniform: The university requires a uniform of plain white button-up shirts (short for regular, long sleeve for formal), navy pants, black leather shoes (formal) or all-black, plain trainers (regular). Obviously the Thai students are able buy the uniform there, would it be possible for someone of pretty significant height to find clothes and shoes in my size in Bangkok? Or should I just pack it all up before I get on the plane to Thailand for the arrival and then either donate it to another student or mail it home? I really don't want to carry around useless clothes and heavy shoes for the journey after the studying!
3) Footwear: For the travelling portion, I was thinking taking my beloved Chaco flip flops and sandals. The sandals were a gift and don't get tons of action, but I'd like to have something I know will stay on my feet and have something a little more relaxing. Is that all I'll need?
4) Clothing: Aside from my uniform, I was thinking about taking a rain jacket, 3 tshirts, 2 shorts, 2-3 pairs of underwear. I will be travelling to Chiang Mai and Chiang Rai for a week each trimester, but unsure of exact dates. Would I need to pack my Columbia pants or a long sleeve shirt (maybe a button up for possibly needing to look halfway dressed up)? Or would that just be wasted space? And if anything gets messed up or I find I want another shirt, I can just buy there.
Also, what is good on the rain jacket front, material and brand wise? I know I'm probably going to steamed up and sticky in a lot things, but I'll be needing something.
5) Souvenirs: I'm about to open a can o' worms, I know. I like stuff. I like to have things. I can tell myself I won't buy things I don't need all I want, but I won't. So being realistic...with limited space in a backpack that has my essentials how do I handle the souvenirs situation throughout the trip? I will be flying out of Bangkok at the end of my trip as well as starting there...so if there are things I really am just dying to have, they can wait and I could buy a duffle somewhere. But in Laos or Cambodia or Vietnam...is it possible to safely ship things if I pay the price? I'm thinking on the paintings and clothing side of souvenirs...so hopefully not things I'm not worried will be broken. Maybe I'll end up being wrong and not buy anything, but I need to be prepared for what to do if the situation occurs haha.
Thank you for at least reading if you did! I know I sound like an over stressed first timer. I think I'm just getting very anxious because I've still got 6 months and just want to go already! But thank you for any guidance, and any other advice you can give!
P.S. I'm aware there are threads on these types of things already...but I keep sifting to find "Do what's best for you!". While true, I plan on messing up a lot on this trip,,,so I'd at least like to have a solid foundation before I go!
Edited by: BCtheKing12
Mar 25, 2013 8:28 AM
1First, if you have camping experience as in wilderness backpacking, then you realize that weight is your number one enemy. So always look for the lightest weight in any item you deem to be essential for you. There is no way around the 'what's best for you' question. I would not carry a laptop but you seem to feel it is essential. Obviously it is a heavy item but if you deem it essential then that's up to you. The alternative would be a laptop for school and a iPad for travel. The iPad can eliminate a phone (Skype), a camera, a GPS, a laptop (internet access) and an e-reader (books, guidebooks). It's a whole lot smaller (bulk in your pack) and lighter than any laptop.
Places like REI have all kinds of good quality travel packs. Once you know what size you will need for what you plan to take then the big factor becomes fit. The only way to know that is to try them on and go for a walk with weight in the pack. You can get an idea in the store but you then need to take it home, load it up and go for a real walk of at least a few hours. Simulate what you are likely to be doing when you travel in other words. Places like REI will let you return the pack if it doesn't work out.
If you want something in the 40-45L range then Osprey has the Porter 46 or Farpoint 40 available in that range. Both are front loading for convenience. They are good examples of what you can expect in this range but REI and other stores will have other brands as well. If it is a reputable brand, fit is what matters, not the name tag.
Bear in mind that a travel pack will always be a compromise when it comes to carrying it on your back all day. You have to weigh the amount of time you will do that vs. just carry it from a train to a hostel etc. I often go on trips where I spend more than half of my time actually hiking vs. urban travel. When I do I take a proper backpack, not a travel pack. Of course a normal backpack is not as airport friendly, etc. You have to make a choice.
Ignore comments about 'weekend trips and week vacations'. Those comments are by people with little if any experience of backpacking. They want to pack 10 pair of underwear and socks and a dozen shirts. Compare their comments to those of wilderness backpackers who understand what weight and comfort are all about. I can pack for an indefinite period of time in 3 seasons of weather in a 29L pack.
There are plenty of regular posters here who travel with a 30-35L pack long term. As you will only be in warm weather, you will see what you could drop from my list and add your Chacos.
For a daypack I suggest this: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6zmdDbskVlk For a bit more comfort if I plan to wear it all day (sightseeing in a city for example) I find a cardboard box and make an L shaped lining to give it some stiffness, standability on the bottom and padding for my back.
Re the DSLR camera, again weight is the issue. Unless you are really into photography in a semi-professional way, have a look at the GoPro line of cameras. http://gopro.com/cameras/hd-hero3-black-edition I think these are the ultimate camera for a traveller.
As for souvenirs, not my thing. I'm a believer in the 'take nothing but memories, leave nothing but footprints' school of thought.
Mar 25, 2013 8:36 AM
2Also have a read here: http://www.lonelyplanet.com/thorntree/thread.jspa?threadID=2297311
Mar 25, 2013 10:46 AM
3BCtheKing12, congrats on your Thailand/Bangkok adventure. You're going to have a gas.
Your initial instinct is correct, leave your Atmos at home.
I travel indefinitely via hotels/hostels through warmish climates with a 46 litre carry-on size backpack with LOTS of room left over inside - my cinches are all pulled to the maximum tightness.
That's including a set of nice clothes to crash an Embassy party or high-end club, normal day-to-day casual and hiking wear, beach clothes, personal hygiene products and everything else you need to be safe/comfortable plus a laptop, digital still/video package and all the peripherals.
During your travels you'll see lots of experienced backpackers doing the same - and many (especially without the camera/video/laptop stuff) will be quite a bit lighter/smaller.
Travelling light rocks because it allows me to keep my backpack with me all the time - no checking it into the baggage space under the bus where it's out of my sight and out of my control - and it's obviously way easier/faster to navigate a crowded train aisle, stow in a small boat, fit into a tuk-tuk, onto the back of a motorcycle and a million other situations.
If you're a big guy then bring your clothes/shoes with you.
As mentioned above a basic DSLR and laptop package is easy to manage even with only a carry-on sized backpack. If you're serious about your photos there's no need to make the unfathomable compromise to a GoPro to shoot stills.
Have fun with your research.
Mar 25, 2013 1:10 PM
4"the unfathomable compromise" Really? You can't figure out why someone might opt for a camera weighing 2.6 oz.?
It's called weight. Lighter is always better. Weight is a backpacker's number one enemy. The average backpacker is not that into photography that they need to haul a DSLR and laptop. If it's your thing that's fine but saying it's 'unfathomable' is really rather silly.
The definition of the ultimate backpacker that has been known in wilderness backpacking circles for many decades is simple. 'S/he who carries the least weight and has the most comfort.' It is always a trade off between weight and comfort as to whether you take any specific item or not. Each individual has to decide what s/he feels is necessary. If you decide a camera is a necessity that's fine but then you look for the lightest weight camera you can find that will meet your needs. That last step is (or should be) universal.
For most backpackers who are not semi-professional or just enthusiastic photographers, a simple point and shoot camera is good enough. So where to find the lightest one you can? If you feel you need a DSLR then which is the lightest weight DSLR that will do what you want it to do?
Rather than 'unfathomable' Terry, why don't you tell the OP which is the lightest DSLR you've found. Which is the lightest laptop?
One thing I can tell anyone who puts a pack on their back. If you do not know the weight of every item in that pack I can guarantee you that you are carrying more weight than you have to. Why anyone would choose to do that is unfathomable to me.
Mar 25, 2013 3:03 PM
5Thank you both for the responses so far!
Your threads were very helpful travelinstyle, and I'll have them bookmarked for when I finally get shopping. That daypack is also very cool. And I'll be travelling with an 11" MacBook Air...so while not quite iPad small, I think it is a good compromise in weight and getting all the features of a computer. I would like to be able to go with an iPad, but the courses at school will require lots of word processing, and I'm still iffy about jumping to tablets. When I get a chance I will head over to REI and start trying out some of the packs and see what works for everything I've got.
On the camera issue, I used to work at a sports photography place, so I have a little more experience with nicer cameras...but I've never done extensive travel photography. I may see if anybody in the family has a decent point and shoot if I find I would prefer not having the weight of the big DSLR...after that maybe I will start looking to buy. Seeing info from both points of view is good though! So thank you both. I just need to experiment packing things first before any final decision.
On another note, I keep reading about packing cubes? For keeping things compacted is it worth having one or two available, or is it just unnecessary accessories? I can imagine they're helpful for organizing, but not essential by any means.
Edited by: BCtheKing12
Mar 25, 2013 9:06 PM
Mar 26, 2013 9:23 AM
7BC, packing cubes are heavier and more expensive than one of the best friends a backpacker has. Ziplock bags. What's more, you can compress a ziplock and then zip it shut keeping it compressed with the air out. Packing cubes can't do that.
Terry, don't be ridiculous. Most backpackers aren't professional photographers. The need for a DSLR is not universal. I am not suggesting anyone compare a DSLR and a GoPro. I'm suggesting they assess their need and decide accordingly.
Stick your camera where the sun don't shine along with your 'something for crashing embassy parties'. That pretentious comment is truly hilarious.
Mar 26, 2013 11:59 AM
8Sorry I've struck a nerve once again, travelinstyle46. You are indeed one of the forum experts on backpacking super light, but when you try to force your particular style onto EVERYONE who ventures onto this forum then you slip into the ridiculous.
Your constant belittling comments and condescending tone towards everyone who doesn't fit your tiny little my-way-or-the-highway travel niche is a constant source of hilarity amongst the regulars here. When you start preaching about things that you know nothing about - like cameras and the digital world - then it becomes even sillier.
Please learn to accept the fact that there are LOTS of other travellers with a completely different style than you, and yes, some might even want to crash a party where you and your zip-off pants and hiking boots wouldn't be allowed past security. Get over it.
Thank God travellers have a wide range of different requirements/interests/likes/dislikes. It would truly be a boring travel community otherwise.
Mar 26, 2013 5:45 PM
I wrote, "Unless you are really into photography in a semi-professional way, have a look at the GoPro line of cameras."
You wrote, "If you're serious about your photos there's no need to make the unfathomable compromise to a GoPro to shoot stills."
Now I clearly qualified my comment. That's because the vast majority of those who post here and might read the comments are NOT semi-professional or professional photographers. The OP asked, not YOU and the OP has already noted the option to not carry a DSLR is a possibility for the OP as it would be for the majority of travellers who may read this thread.
You however ignored everyone who is not serious about photography and suggested that I had made an 'unfathomable' comment in the eyes of serious photographers. I made NO comment that applied to serious photographers. READ MY WORDS. I specifically qualified my comment in regards to serious photographers. The word UNLESS excludes serious photographers.
You could have responded far more helpfully by suggesting the lightest weight DSLR cameras currently on the market for those who feel they need one (and I consequently asked you to do so) but instead you chose to make a smart a** remark.
So why don't you try and contribute now and advise on the lightest weight DSLR cameras on the market. That might be of more interest to the OP than what clothes to take to crash an embasssy party and still fit it all in a pack. Better yet, why don't you post your entire packing list with weights including your embassy crashing gear and your camera gear. That's a list and weight I'd like to see.
My list and weights are linked above for 3 seasons, not just 'warmish weather'. My dry (no water, no food) weight carried, is a hair over 5kg/11lbs. Shall we compare? I'll even spot you your camera gear weight.
Mar 26, 2013 6:17 PM
10Oh for crying out loud stop acting like a crazy old lady. Stomping your Berkenstalks in frustration will only squish one of your cats.
Nice attempt at back-pedalling regarding the GoPros, but you're still wrong. They are designed for a very specific purpose and no matter what level of photography you're at they are not a substitute for even a cheap point & shoot when taking stills and the shooter requires a viewfinder or LCD screen for framing. I have a dozen of them in a sack in my office right now, I've used them all over the world shooting for Red Bull and countless other projects, I know what I'm taking about, you do not. I'm betting you've never even turned one on.
As for your continued inferiority complex over your minimalist lightweight style verses flashpackers like myself or the countless other differing forms of travel on this forum, honestly, it's time to get over it. We're all different, thank God.
Mar 26, 2013 9:46 PM
11I think you need to get over yourself Terry. I'm not back-pedalling at all. You are avoiding the point. I reacted to your attempted smart a** comment. Or do you want to deny it was that? Do you want to suggest it was just a response to the OP's question? I think not.
As for an inferiority complex, you must be kidding. You still go to an office and I haven't had to do that for 24 years. And re 'flashpacking', that's hilarious, I've been doing that without having to give it a pretentious name for decades. Flashpacking has nothing to do with how much weight you carry other than how much credit cards weigh.
I'm here telling travellers that weight is their worst enemy. That lightest possible is what to look for in any item they pack. That is the case regardless of what kind of traveller you think you are. What are you here to tell them Terry other than you're a camera expert but won't give them suggestions as to a lightweight DSLR?
Back to the GoPro . If you want a viewfinder you add one. That's been available for over a year now. http://gopro.com/hd-hero-accessories/lcd-touch-bacpac But if you have it on a skydiving helmet or the tip of your surfboard, you don't need a viewfinder do you. That's the whole point with them as far as I'm concerned. They're like a kit you add and subtract parts from. and for the average traveller who wants to 'capture' their trip they can't be beat. Still photos at 12MP, video, underwater, mount practically anywhere, wi-fi remote, heck you can even go full screen on your iPhone or iPad through wi-fi for a viewfinder if you want. Do you know what an app is Terry?
Now try back-pedalling on your statement, "no matter what level of photography you're at they are not a substitute for even a cheap point & shoot when taking stills and the shooter requires a viewfinder or LCD screen for framing." Explain to me where the problem is. GoPro has a viewfinder back attachment if you want one.
Mar 26, 2013 10:04 PM
You are a rude, condescending old gal who always goes ballistic at the slightest suggestion that anyone ever considers travelling in any manner other than what you personally deem proper.
You've Googled like mad trying to understand a camera that you've never owned or even turned on - let alone actually used - and you grasp nothing whatsoever about its capabilities or limitations except what you've desperately plagiarized from their website. You are not a photographer.
You need to calm down, rein in your massive ego and stop blindly attacking everyone who ever dares to voice an opinion contrary to yours. Honestly, pull on your big girl panties and accept the fact that other people's opinions and experiences are just as valid as your own.
Now, carry on with yet another hissy fit. ;-)
Mar 27, 2013 6:28 AM
Mar 27, 2013 7:14 AM
14Thanks OneScot, but you're wasting your breath. Our excitable friend is an instant Google expert on anything and everything that is lightweight. She can't see past those numbers even though she has absolutely no clue whatsoever what she's ranting about.
PS Anyone else who is seriously interested in investigating the GoPro's remarkable capabilities please feel free to start a new thread and ask further, or go over to the Travel Tech branch - there are several experienced photographers there who also understand the GoPro. It's a fabulous tool in certain situations.
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