Sep 23, 2010 at 3:21 pm #1263611
I don't know if anyone's posted something like this (or what was done to them) but I've started thinking about taking my lightweight aesthetic along with me in foreign travels. Staying in hotels & eating in restaurants and means the "big three" become the "big one", but the motivations and techniques are akin to one another: technique rather than the kitchen sink, multi-use, bringing just exactly what's needed, divorcing oneself from life's usual clutter, more miles laden, more peace of mind.
I'm imagining southeast asia in November (apparently warm and dry) but my destination isn't firm and I'm trying to solve the problem in general. Here's what I have so far (some weights are guesses), both as
HTML spreadsheet and in PDF form.
I'm comfortable in jeans and sneakers and I'd like to dress like I usually do, but Coolmax-blend jeans might avoid the pitfalls of cotton denim. The right sneakers should look half-decent in a half-decent restaurant.
I'd like a swimsuit that can double as either underwear or shorts.
An iPhone can be used for many purposes, but I'd rather not read or write on it extensively.
With my light weight, I might want to bring a better/heavier camera.
Four pounds on, four pounds carried, more or less. That's practically zero!Sep 23, 2010 at 3:47 pm #1648292
I know this is inspired by UL backpacking, but only 1 pair of underwear? =) I think that may be a bit much!
even on my 5 day trip to miami a few weeks a ago, I took 4 pairs of underware and 3 pairs of socks, and sleeping clothes (shorts could have doubled as running, tripled as swimming.) I wore rei adventure pants on the plane and in the everglades, worked well. and I had 3 button up shirts and 3 t shirts. trunks and a pair of shorts.
I fit all of that plus toiletries and flipfops into a 2100 cu in tnf daypack that fit under the seat on the plane… so I'm thinking you can go a little more luxury… like an extra pair of underware and a hat?=)Sep 23, 2010 at 5:28 pm #1648314
Well, I'm counting the Speedo's as underwear. If instead I were to bring trunks to use as shorts, I'd bring a spare pair. (Idea is to wash one each evening of course.)
It's true that it's probably worth throwing in maybe another pair.Sep 23, 2010 at 6:00 pm #1648321Sep 23, 2010 at 7:37 pm #1648356
Just one unsolicited suggestion: in lieu of speedos, I recommend very light weight shorts with a liner — so you can swim with it or wear in your hostel or on overnight trains, or even outside (though not in churches or temples and such). Something like the Insport nylon shorts which hikelight.com carries. Shorts will be heavier than speedos, of course, but can more versatile too.Sep 23, 2010 at 8:42 pm #1648377
credit card … with a high limit
thats all you needSep 23, 2010 at 9:10 pm #1648387
Unless you are going to a "fourth world" country where you need to take cash with you… most all countries in the world have ATM machines tie into an international network. Get cash / pay bills in the following order:
1. Cheapest way — use your ATM (or debit) card and access local cash at local ATM's — just like you do at home. You can expect the most favorable exchange rates. However, most banks will charge a "per use" fee. So withdraw a bunch at a time to minimize frequency of usage — but not so much cash as to make you a target.
2. More expensive — Charging things to your credit card. When paying bills, your card issuer and bank together will charge you between 1% to 4% extra. Not horrible, and it's often more convenient to charge bigger stuff (airfares, hotel bills, etc.) than paying in cash.
3. Most expensive — NEVER use your credit card to access cash — in any way or form — unless you are desperate and have no other recourse!!! Your bank will charge you a hefty fee PLUS exorbitant interest from the day of your access! There is NO grace period. My bank charges interest on my ENTIRE outstanding balance — even if I access just $20 in cash from my credit card!!! I found that out one time when I mistakenly inserted my credit card instead of my debit card into the ATM machine! To stop the double digit interest from accumulating, I had to pay off my entire credit card balance right then and there!!
So Eric — when traveling — don't use your credit card except to pay bills. Use only your debit card to get local cash.Sep 23, 2010 at 10:28 pm #1648398
Thanks, Ben, for the pointer to the Insport shorts. That's probably a better idea.
And the nice thing about planning something like this is that the onebag guy suddenly seems badly weighed down. I'm already a lighter packer than him, but I generally travel with my wife & 2 young kids so my portion of the luggage is relatively trivial. But thanks also for that pointer, John.
As far as the "pack only a credit card" concept, I kind of have this fantasy of walking out the door empty-handed and buying anything I might need on the road – that inconvenience will keep it to a bare minimum and then all luggage is multi-use as a souvenir. The TSA would probably take me for a hijacker though.Sep 23, 2010 at 10:31 pm #1648400
depends HOW you use yr card … my card has no additional charges to buy by card … only for foreign currency transactions which you would pay with debit anyways
if yr worried about the cost of foreign currency transcations with yr credit card … then go look at a foreign currency card
note that almost everywhere will accept some credit card … not everywhere accepts debit … the cost of debit transactions can be very high depending if not done through yr bank's machines …
ex. certain cash machines charge a flat $ 2.50 fee here … even assuming you take out $100 .. thats a 2.5% loss … if you take out $ 20 … well … then add any conversion fees …
add to the fact that certain credit cards do have additional insurance or other benefits on purchased items …
there's also the fact that you probably dont want to carry a lot of cash with you overseas in yr pocket …Sep 23, 2010 at 10:55 pm #1648403
@b-g-2-2Locale: Silicon Valley
"note that almost everywhere will accept some credit card"
Eric, have you ever been to East Africa?
I found lots of places that would take only three forms of payment. Either local currency, the Euro, or the U.S. greenback.
Travelers checks would work in some large establishments. Plastic didn't.
–B.G.–Sep 23, 2010 at 10:57 pm #1648404
nope … never been there … i take it they dont take debit either in that case
point is … what is more accepted internationally … credit cards or debit cards
take both if you want … but if i needed one item … it would be the credit cardSep 23, 2010 at 11:02 pm #1648405
We travel pretty much the same way — one small bookbag. Like you, the packs mentioned in "OneBag" are max carry-on size, and way too big — unless one is going to Siberia in the middle of winter — or doing gear-intensive trips.
But traveling UL got me a 45-minute 'interrogation' with Passport Control when crossing from Jordan into Israel. The Israeli officials were not very trusting of independent travelers to begin with (most people who go there go in groups) — and eyeing my bookbag, they just didn't believe I was a tourist.
"Do you have hotel reservations?" No.
"Where are your clothes"? On me plus a second set in my bag.
"Where are your other clothes?" There're no other clothes.
They just kept asking me about my other clothes!! :)
After deploying three sets of "interrogators" — they finally relented — let out a deep sigh — and said — almost reluctantly — "OK, welcome to Israel"!
Now just imagine if you try to enter without even a small bookbag! :)Sep 23, 2010 at 11:11 pm #1648407
I think I need to clarify. My bank (Bank of America) issues an ATM card which doubles as a debit card. That's why I wrote up above "ATM card or debit card". The point is that one should use one's ATM card to get local cash using local ATM machines wherever possible. It's the cheapest way. And I also wrote up above that one should "bunch up" one's withdrawal to minimize the frequency of usage because banks charge a user fee each time. But again, it's generally the cheapest way to get cash.
In contrast, using a credit card to get cash is THE MOST EXPENSIVE way — and frankly, should never be used except in the direst of emergencies!
Finally, I do not mean to imply using debit card for "point of sale" purchases like we do here at home — but to use debit card/ATM card at ATM machines. Hope this helps.Sep 23, 2010 at 11:13 pm #1648408
i was feeling prissy …
i agree … bring the debit card along … but also bring the credit card along in case your debit isnt accepted
i dont really agree that credit cards are the most expensive way overall (i dont use them for cash) … depending on what benefits you might get from using said card … but that discussion is a other thread
ericSep 23, 2010 at 11:18 pm #1648409
Ah, no problem. On my travels, I always carry:
1. Wallet in a secure pocket – ATM card, credit card, plus a few days' cash.
2. Separate, even more secure pocket – 2nd credit card plus a few more days' cash.
3. Deep inside backpack – 3rd credit card plus a wad of crisp US dollar bills for emergency
Spreading the wealth around, I can continue traveling whether I get pick pocketed, mugged, or lose my backpack — just not all at the same time. :)Sep 23, 2010 at 11:26 pm #1648411
@b-g-2-2Locale: Silicon Valley
"wad of crisp US dollar bills"
That is another good point. If you take lots of currency, try to take all fairly new bills. In some third-world countries, they have a terrible mistrust of any old currency with tears or marks. They must be afraid that they will not be able to get it accepted by a bank.
I always carry enough new currency to buy a plane ticket to get home.
–B.G.–Sep 23, 2010 at 11:26 pm #1648412
"i dont really agree that credit cards are the most expensive way overall (i dont use them for cash) … depending on what benefits you might get from using said card … but that discussion is a other thread"
Re-read my first response to you — item #2. Charging things to your card is actually not too bad — and charging for purchases or hotel bills or airline tickets, etc. can be more convenient than paying cash. I use credit cards too — just not as frequently as using cash.
As for "most expensive" — that refers strictly to getting cash advance with your credit card. It's prohibitively expensive and really shouldn't ever be done — but you wrote above you don't do that anyway, so not an issue for you.Sep 23, 2010 at 11:30 pm #1648413
Incidentally, when I think of the giant pack I carried backpacking through Europe in my younger days, it's horrifying. Every time I arrived in a new city I'd have a stressful slog to find accommodations. Would have been so much easier to spring off the train and start sightseeing, and not have to grab the first place to stay that had room.
I did meet this SUL C*ockney [edited for profanity filter] who was roughing it on the beach in Nice (not a cushy prospect) who had nothing but his sleeping bag and a few items he'd added to the stuffsack. Seemed a bit crazy though.Sep 23, 2010 at 11:35 pm #1648414
Each to his or her own, of course, but when asked, I do try to talk people OUT of lugging a sleeping bag — unless they are actually camping.
This might make you feel better: my 'virgin' travel trip, I did it the way my parents did: Samsonite hard suitcase, clothes for 10 days, hair dryer, iron (all travel size of course) plus a carry on tote. Had to take a taxi everywhere I went! But once there, I noticed travelers using backpacks — and switched over — using successively smaller packs as the years went by.Sep 24, 2010 at 12:26 am #1648423
Dale WambaughBPL Member
@dwambaughLocale: Pacific Northwest
Rick Steves has some good techniques on traveling light— nothing as radical as UL hiking.
I like the "threes" method for clothing– one to wear, one clean, one dirty. Works good for socks and briefs anyway. Pants can be stretched more. A couple no-iron polyester button down shirts work for me. Synthetic tees are fine for casual. You can always pick up spares along the way.
Umbrellas are handy.
Warm climates make it all easy. I could do Hawaii with a Flash 18. Sandals mean no dirty socks. Quick dry shorts and shirts, sunscreen and a book.
Some UL gear swaps right over– rain gear comes to mind. Certainly the philosophy works– take only what you will use, multiple use gets more points, layering still does the trick, etc.
I like panel loading packs for travel. You can fold clothing better and they are easy to work from in your hotel room. Easier for customs too.
We did three weeks in Europe in the dead of Winter with simple carry-on convertible bags (read COLD and more clothing). You don't need a full-blown suspension, but pack straps are nice when you want to do a quick 6 block walk from train station to hotel and a shoulder bag/suitcase is a pain. I got a killer Eagle Creek convertible for $10 in a thrift store. Not UL, but very good for travel and bombproof.
Definitely *one* bag. It makes it so easy on transportation, climbing in and out of cabs, buses, trains– no baggage claim or lost bags. If you are doing hotels, a stowable day pack or shoulder bag is great for day trips where you want to haul a camera, map. guide book, water bottle, snack and a jacket/raincoat.
Ditto on stashing money. I keep a "throw-away" wallet with a little local currency and "fake" plastic like membership cards. The big stuff is stashed out of sight.
I wouldn't carry any cash or documents in my backpack– it's the first thing to get lost or stolen.Sep 28, 2010 at 1:10 am #1649506
A light backpack makes it easier to enjoy your surroundings with an increased level of awareness while you are traveling or commuting.Sep 29, 2010 at 11:17 am #1649940
Mark VerberBPL Member
@verberLocale: San Francisco Bay Area
You list looks pretty reasonable for ultralight travel except you are missing a water bottle which I think of as essential. I am more of a light weight guy, so I carry more as seen my traveling light recommendations
As far as clothing goes, If you are really sure where you are going is warm and dry great, otherwise you might want to add an umbrella and maybe a light fleece, and maybe a warm hat.
I would second NOT doing coolmax jeans. REI Adventure pants are fine, though I favor travel pants that don't have obvious extra pockets on the leg. Personally, I would take a second pair of pant because there have been several times when I have spilled something icky on my pant and didn't have time to clean them before my reservation at a place that somewhat picking about clothing of the diners.
There are some places I have been that I was really glad I have sport sandals or shower slippers rather than having to walk barefoot.
Dr Bronner is a great all purpose soap, but I typically bring some Woolite to clean clothing… seems to work a bit better.
I would also suggest bring a small stopper and some drying line… I have used both numerous times.
No first aid items?
For small, general purpose camera I would recommend the Canon S90 / S95, Panasonic LX3 / LX5. There are several large sensor fixed lens cameras on the market as well.
I love the new Kindle 3 for reading, but you could save weight using the Kindle app on your iTouch.
Patagonia Lightweight Courier bag would work well for your list of items. It's not enough for what I bring on a trip, though it often comes for day use. The Patagonia backpack looks attractive, but I found that it didn't carry very well. If you want a backpack you might be better off looking at something else. Montbell and a number of other companies makes some light packs.
–MarkSep 29, 2010 at 2:21 pm #1649996
Thanks, Mark, for reviewing my list and for the feedback (including the useful info on your site).
I've been having trouble finding suitable pants that don't look technical. I went to REI the other day and hated Prana's Coolmax jeans for fit and heavy weight. The best I came across there was the Adventures pants which at least partly conceals the extra pockets, though I'd rather not even have them. Do you have any specific recommendations for pants?
I think I'll end up bringing shorts and mostly wearing those if the conventions at my destination are casual enough, and the heat is high enough.
I'm having the same problem with button-up shirts at REI. They have giant pockets that scream hi-tech.
As for first aid, I figure I can buy anything I might need.
I think I can perhaps use a pack strap as a drying line.
You're right about the Kindle – might as well use the iTouch. But really, it's paper that I prefer.
S95 is a great idea. I own too many cameras but I might need one more.Sep 29, 2010 at 4:07 pm #1650028
mark I found your site when I was packing a few weeks back didn't realize you were here. you famous=)
also, I really like the REI adventure pants for price and funcition, I dont' think the extra pockets are that noticable.
mark and eric, the S95 looks great for travel/hiking. i've been eyeing the new samsung NX 100 myself, with the adapter for my pentax limiteds… very tempting, but I think I'll save my money for my next question….
any use a frameless for travel? I was looking at the golite peak, or the MLD burn because they are both highly compressable and can double as a weekend pack. and when pack lightly I think they'll fit under an airplane seat.
PS i'd really want an all dyneema pack, but that's too expensive for the amount of hiking traveling I do=)Sep 29, 2010 at 4:28 pm #1650035
For hosteling type travel — my pack weight comes in at 8-10 lbs. For me, at that kind of weight, there is simply no need for a frame.
One good thing about a small and light backpack — it can do double duty as day pack when exploring town.
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