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Gear and equipment forum

Choosing the right bag...

Posted by gibson1291 on 13/7/2013 at 11:35

Hey,

I'm off to South-East Asia for 11 weeks this September and am wondering about the bag I will use to get me from A to B.

- What sort of sized bag would you recommend?
- Also I've read a few things saying that you shouldn't take a bag with a plastic frame on it. The bag I have at the moment has a plastic frame on the back to help keep its shape (and it also holds the actual arm straps onto the bag so it is non-detachable)...would this be suitable?
- Finally, will I need a smaller bag (backpack) to carry around my things during the daytime whilst my main bag is in the hostel? Or is it worth leaving all valuables in the hostels? I don't want to have to carry a raincoat around in 25 degrees when it may not even rain.

Thanks guys

#1 gibson1291 has been a member since 13/7/2013. Posts: 1

Posted by MADMAC on 13/7/2013 at 13:24

OK there are some variables here you didn't mention - like are you planning on cross country, mutli-day trekking with this bag? I am going to assume the answer to that is no.

"- What sort of sized bag would you recommend?"

Some guys love the idea of taking something small enough to be a carry on. That way they get off the plane, clear customs, and they're gone. No waiting for luggage. They're also small and easy to carry around. The big negative - can't carry much stuff. So you'll be doing laundry frequently. I love US Army duffel bags. I find them easy to carry, can put lots of stuff in them, and they're cheap. BUT, you need upper body strength to pick them up and haul them around.

"- Also I've read a few things saying that you shouldn't take a bag with a plastic frame on it. The bag I have at the moment has a plastic frame on the back to help keep its shape (and it also holds the actual arm straps onto the bag so it is non-detachable)...would this be suitable?"

Having not seen the bag, I don't see the harm in taking it if it holds all your stuff. If it goes to pieces, pick up a new one. If it's someting nice and expensive and not, in your view, expendable, then if you don't think it's rugged enough to get thrown around by airport luggage dudes, get something new.

"- Finally, will I need a smaller bag (backpack) to carry around my things during the daytime whilst my main bag is in the hostel? Or is it worth leaving all valuables in the hostels? I don't want to have to carry a raincoat around in 25 degrees when it may not even rain."

Keep any valueables in the hotel safe. If they don't have one, put your passport in your cargo pocket in a plastic bag. And yes, I find carrying a side bag very useful. But you can get one here and it can double as a souvenir when you go home.

#2 MADMAC has been a member since 6/6/2009. Posts: 6,957


Posted by LeonardCohen1 on 14/7/2013 at 12:10

Take whatever bag you have. It's not a big deal at all.

"Keep any valueables in the hotel safe."

Lots of hostels don't have room safe, even some hotels don't have them. I stayed in a 4 star hotel recently that had great rooms but no safe.

Small backpack are very useful for day trips for camera, towel, glasses etc.

#3 LeonardCohen1 has been a member since 24/7/2012. Posts: 2,148

Posted by daawgon on 14/7/2013 at 20:14

It's my observation that people just think that because they're traveling so far, so long, etc., that they need a huge bag to carry any and everything they might need or want to bring home. Many also believe that they have to spend a great deal for same.

Sorry, but I disagree with all of this. I've made several trips recently to SE Asia with either a 35 and 40 liter backpack, and it works wonderfully. Yes, I do need to do laundry about twice a week (I always send it out), but what wonderful mobility I have with this size. I can hop on trains, planes, whatever very easily, and still do very well. If I should need extra capacity for gifts/whatever, I just buy an inexpensive carryall/whatever to bring it all home.

I don't buy cheap, but I also don't break the bank for a backpack. I paid about $150. for my North Face travel pack - love it!

#4 daawgon has been a member since 17/4/2007. Posts: 1,093

Posted by MADMAC on 14/7/2013 at 23:43

"Lots of hostels don't have room safe, even some hotels don't have them. I stayed in a 4 star hotel recently that had great rooms but no safe."

I don't do "hostels" so I wouldn't know. Most decent hotels do have safes though. But in the event that there is no safe, carry your valueables with you.

#5 MADMAC has been a member since 6/6/2009. Posts: 6,957

Posted by stefanw on 15/7/2013 at 06:35

"SE Asia with either a 35 and 40 liter backpack, and it works wonderfully."
Couldn't agree more, especially with another small bag. If you have hiking/walking boots you can just wear them on travel days, and do the same with any other large items.

#6 stefanw has been a member since 10/12/2010. Posts: 50

Posted by MADMAC on 15/7/2013 at 07:54

Really the only knock to having a small bag is you are stuck doing laundry fairly often. Please don't be one of these guys that wants to have the small bag but doesn't want to do the laundry fairly often. Sitting next to one on the bus sucks.

#7 MADMAC has been a member since 6/6/2009. Posts: 6,957

Posted by LeonardCohen1 on 16/7/2013 at 11:36

"carry your valueables with you."

It's not practical at all times to carry valuables. You don't want to cart your passport and laptop to the beach or walk 5km around Bangkok with your laptop and camera all the time. Laptops don't fit into safes anyway.

What I do is lock them away in a bag then cover the bag with dirty clothes. Works as well as any safe. Cleaners always seen nice and friendly. I leave 10 or 20 baht in coins lying around to see if they are honest - they haven't taken the money yet.

#8 LeonardCohen1 has been a member since 24/7/2012. Posts: 2,148

Posted by MADMAC on 16/7/2013 at 23:27

I don't travel with laptops either. The only valueables I was thinking of is a small camera (that you take with you to take photos) and your passport.

Beach creates it's own problem on that score of course, but I'm hardly an expert there.

#9 MADMAC has been a member since 6/6/2009. Posts: 6,957

Posted by ajayjain1 on 17/7/2013 at 05:44

You may carry a cheap or second hand low cost laptop or palmtop for your better internet use.

http://apjtours.com

#10 ajayjain1 has been a member since 17/7/2013. Posts: 1

Posted by bedu on 22/7/2013 at 02:15

Take a small 40 litre bag/pack, and a 10 litre day pack. A large pack is heavy, bulky, and in my opinion, not needed.

Laundry service is cheap here. Even if you pack only a few items of clothing- there is no need to smell here.

MAC said put valuables in hotel safe- don't. They are easily broken into here with the master key and then no-one gets the blame, so you lose everything. Break up your money into 2 or 3 separate places.

My suggestion- Take a Pacsafe Travelsafe and lock it to something secure whilst out of the room, put a small amount of money in the hotel safe, and carry some as well.
Or an Aquasafe for when you go swimming.

Upload a copy of your passport, flight ticket to email, so you can access them everywhere.

#11 bedu has been a member since 27/1/2007. Posts: 58

Posted by LeonardCohen1 on 9/8/2013 at 13:50

"They are easily broken into here with the master key"

Only a manager will have access to such. Room safes are very safe. Used them many times and never lost a thing.

#12 LeonardCohen1 has been a member since 24/7/2012. Posts: 2,148

Posted by MADMAC on 9/8/2013 at 14:04

"Break up your money into 2 or 3 separate places."

You can't break up your passport and your ATM card into two or three separate places though. They have to go somewhere. I prefer the hotel safe if there is one. As with Leonard, I've never had a problem with them.

#13 MADMAC has been a member since 6/6/2009. Posts: 6,957

Posted by mattocmd on 9/8/2013 at 19:34

I LOVE my Pacsafe gear...I'd never travel without it. I use the metrosafe 200 to carry around my laptop and camera. I usually carry around those items with me during the day but store them in the pacsafe room safe in my room at night if I go out for beers.


For money, I use the Winn leather security wallet. Just store a bunch of 100s in there and exchange them for local currency as needed. The only problem I had with this was in Burma when I got caught in the rain and it caused a lot of my 100s to have black stains on them..rendering them useless in that country!

#14 mattocmd has been a member since 13/6/2007. Location: United States. Posts: 365

Posted by bedu on 9/8/2013 at 22:50

Begs the question MAC, which 5* hotels do you stay at? :P

Actually that is my point, the hotel staff have a key, they break in and then deny all knowledge, and you lose your stuff.

In an ideal world- you'd use the safe, and at a posh hotel, fair enough, but at a 600-1000 baht hotel, probably not.
And how many backpackers pay more than 2,000 baht a night anyway?

You can google this and you'll see many traveller's tales, and not only Thailand either.

I know you cannot split apart your ATM card and passport, but I was talking about money- divide it up into 2-3 amounts, so you don't lose everything, and also upload a copy of passport/flight tickets to your email so you can access it at any location.

#15 bedu has been a member since 27/1/2007. Posts: 58

Posted by MADMAC on 10/8/2013 at 00:59

"Begs the question MAC, which 5* hotels do you stay at?"

I really like the Pullman in Khon Kaen now that you ask.

#16 MADMAC has been a member since 6/6/2009. Posts: 6,957

Posted by ingridrichardso on 13/8/2013 at 05:59

I guess it all depends on the activities you're taking part in and how much you plan on packing! Generally, people say that it's best to lay out everything you want to take then try take about half of this

I'd say 60 litres in size would be suitable for 11 weeks and you can also get some great travel backpacks with detachable daypacks for when you're out and about during the day :) check out brands such as Vango or Highlander.

Also, if you'll be carrying it around for long periods of time, it's definitely wise to get one with a padded and adjustable back system to make sure you're as comfortable as possible!

Hope you manage to find something suitable.

#17 ingridrichardso has been a member since 13/8/2013. Posts: 1

Posted by LeonardCohen1 on 13/8/2013 at 07:12

"Actually that is my point, the hotel staff have a key, they break in and then deny all knowledge, and you lose your stuff."

Umm wrong, normal hotel staff don't have safe keys. They are kept by management.

"You can google this and you'll see many traveller's tales, and not only Thailand either."

I have googled this and it is very uncommon. A really small number of people have made claims of theft from room safes. Given that more than a 100m people fly overseas every year the chances of stuff being stolen from a room safe is extremely small let's say 0.00001% for arguments sake.

The chances of losing stuff you are carrying are higher, especially if you are drunk.

#18 LeonardCohen1 has been a member since 24/7/2012. Posts: 2,148

Posted by bedu on 13/8/2013 at 10:35

MAC and LC,

I was actually just trying to offer advice to the poster, just that I thought it was best to divide money up into 2 or 3 amounts, so that if you lost one, you'd have the others, not to start a full length discussion on if I'm right or not.

Everyone of course has different and equally valid opinions and experiences, however from what I have heard and also, I did just google to prove a point, hotel safe thefts do occur, and more often than you'd want it to happen, and some of those places were top quality resorts.

When I said staff, this included the supervisor and the management. They do open it up, whether it be by key or number combination, take what they want, maybe not everything, to make it look less like a robbery, and then close the safe and deny any wrong doing or take any responsibility.

But on the whole, I actually agree with you two, hotels safes are the preferred option, esp. in starred resorts, hovever I just wanted to give an alternative opinion.

I also stand by my opinion of a small bag being easier, I always carry too much, just in case and then never need half the stuff, and so really only need a 20-30 L bag, but yes, I also agree with MAC, they should wash clothes as often as possible, to prevent being a smelly traveller.

#19 bedu has been a member since 27/1/2007. Posts: 58

Posted by MADMAC on 13/8/2013 at 11:17

"I also stand by my opinion of a small bag being easier, I always carry too much, just in case and then never need half the stuff, and so really only need a 20-30 L bag, but yes, I also agree with MAC, they should wash clothes as often as possible, to prevent being a smelly traveller."

There are certainly merits to the small bag. Light, compact, fits in the overhead for an airline flight... on the other hand, you can't take as much stuff. So each individual has to weigh how important it is for them to haul stuff vice how important it is for them to be versatile with their pack.

#20 MADMAC has been a member since 6/6/2009. Posts: 6,957

Posted by LeonardCohen1 on 13/8/2013 at 11:25

"hotel safe thefts do occur, and more often than you'd want it to happen, and some of those places were top quality resorts."

Far more chance of being in a car crash on your way to and from the airport. But I agree with your other point about having money in 2 or 3 places to spread the risk if you're worried. If you're a couple you can share the money and leave some in the safe.

#21 LeonardCohen1 has been a member since 24/7/2012. Posts: 2,148


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