Hello all - getting ready for my trip through the region starting December 4th in Bangkok and working my way throughout Thailand, Laos, Vietnam, Cambodia, and Indo (8-12 months). A few questions...
-First off, I was initially planning on bringing my 85L osprey waypoint. The more and more I've read, it seems this will be overkill. Bought an REI 40L Vagabond days ago...can anyone attest to taking an 8-12 month trip through the region with a bag this size? I'm a guy, and I'll have minimal clothing + an 11" macbook air, gopro, and a kindle, so nothing bulky. I'm thinking I should be fine but wanted to hear from other people's experience here.
-Any general advice or suggestions regarding bringing a small laptop would also be greatly welcomed (tiny 11" Macbook air), it fits in my daypack.
-Second, I want to bring a pair of sunglasses. Months back I bought a pair of Maui Jim's but damn do I have some second thoughts (I can still return them). What are people's thoughts on this? Did anyone bring a pair of fairly expensive sunglasses and wish they hadn't?
-Third, I'm confused as to how people keep their bags/belongings safe. I'll want to stay in some of the less expensive accommodation, so that means hostels and what not. During the day when you go to the beach/hike/visit temples/eat, do you bring all your belongings in a daypack? Obviously I'll play this by ear depending on the guesthouse I'm at, but did people feel fine leaving some things behind in their main packs at the guesthouse?
-Fourth, I hear a lot about things getting stolen out of people's packs during transportation. With my 40L bag, will I be able to keep it on me on busses, ferries, and planes, instead of having to stow it out of sight?
My backpack I believe is a 70 or 80 L pack with a small day pack attached. I took a handful of t-shirts, 2 long sleeve shirts, 2 long pants, 3 shorts, pair of shoes, rain jacket and socks, underwear etc and that made a fair dent in the pack. I still had a fair amount of room but didn't want to fill it up any more since it was starting to get heavy enough. Long story short I think I would have a hard time fitting everything in only a 40 L pack. To me having a bigger bag isn't an issue since you don't usually have to carry it as you are usually using bus, train, taxi, tuk tuk etc and only ever have your bag when moving between cities. As long as you keep it light enough you can carry it a couple kilometers if needed then it doesn't really matter what size.
Laptop is a personal call, I ended up buying a small tablet when I broke my phone and it was kind of nice to have but a laptop weighs more and takes up more space. All I needed was email capability and browsing so a laptop made no sense for me.
Take your sunglasses if you want otherwise buy a cheap pair if you are worried about them. I rarely wear sunglasses and didn't take a pair with me but again that is a personal call.
Hostels usually have lockers, I recommend having your own lock with you. In guesthouses and hotels you have your own room and key. I also used little locks to lock my backpack and daypack although not all backpacks can easily be locked this way.
Most of the time you will likely have to or want to stow your bag. Buses are smaller over there and often don't have inside storage so you don't want to have to carry a big pack on your lap. I just had my locks on the bag and I kept my valuables in my daypack which I would take on with me. If someone wanted to break into my bag and steal my underwear then go for it.
Personally I prefer the larger rucksack - you do not have to fill it. make sure it can be locked.
I do not really have that much in the way of valuables but what little I have are likely to be safer if locked in your bag in the room than at the beach.
The buses to worry about are the "tourist buses" from Khao San Road but otherwise when in transit there is not much of a problem - if you are worried on the train buy a chain and padlock
can anyone attest to taking an 8-12 month trip through the region with a bag this size?
I can't attest to it, but during long travel stretches I've found that I inevitably accumulate little gifts and things along the way. I agree that it's not a huge deal to have a full-size bag because you're really only carrying it while in transit. But you'll also want a 'carry-on' bag for all of your valuables, and that should never leave your side while in transit.
Any general advice or suggestions regarding bringing a small laptop would also be greatly welcomed (tiny 11" Macbook air)
I've traveled off and on with an 11" Macbook Air for the last two years and have found it to be a brilliant little machine. Just make sure to keep it on you when in transit (as opposed to stowing it), which holds true for any valuables. If you're a real worry wort, you could make sure that your travel insurance policy will cover any lost or stolen electronics. Just make sure you have the original receipt and maybe a picture or two of the product in case you need to file a claim. Also if you ever need to file a claim like that, you have to get a police report from the local office.
Did anyone bring a pair of fairly expensive sunglasses and wish they hadn't?
I had an expensive pair of sunglasses once. They were lost, as were all sunglasses I've ever owned. Now I just bring a hat.
did people feel fine leaving some things behind in their main packs at the guesthouse?
This is sort of a 'play it by ear' thing. At first I was bringing my laptop plus cameras everywhere I went in a Thinktank Urban Disguise 50, which is a badass camera/laptop bag. But even though the Macbook Air is light as computers go, that little extra weight feels like a lot after walking around for hours every day (not to mention that the bag itself is a bit bulky), so I eventually stopped taking the laptop everywhere. I now still bring the Thinktank when I travel because it's small enough to be a 'carry-on' but big enough to fit the Macbook plus cameras plus other gadgets/chargers and any valuables. But I also bring a smaller camera bag in the simple duffel bag that I travel with (I just fill up the camera bag with t-shirts and what-not so it doesn't take up too much extra space in the duffel, then swap everything around when I reach my destination). Hostels generally offer lockers but you'll want your own padlock. At cheap guesthouses, I'll either ask if they have a house lock-box or just stash the laptop somewhere that's not super obvious in the room, like buried under all my dirty laundry for example. I also usually have an idea of a few good places to stay before I arrive at any destination. It's good to read some reviews beforehand just to find out if any guesthouses have had issues with theft. In short, just avoid dodgy guesthouses and you should be fine.
With my 40L bag, will I be able to keep it on me on busses, ferries, and planes, instead of having to stow it out of sight?
Sometimes you will, sometimes you won't. Especially on buses, probably not. My advice is to not rely on a single bag. As mentioned above, I keep all my valuables in the Thinktank and all my clothes and anything not super valuable in a duffel, which I can stow on buses without worrying about it. With that said, I've yet to have a stowed bag get rummaged through in my travels. But even if that happened, all they'd find is my ancient tea pot and that dirty laundry.
I don't take really long trips (4-6 weeks), but I do fine with a 40L North Face travel pack + messenger bag. I don't bring any electronics at all, and have plenty of room. When I do buy a few gifts or art work, I just buy a cheap bag. I have laundry done twice a week at my hotel/guesthouse - no problem. I started out in SEA at really cheap 2* places, but now I'm into nicer 2/3* places - got tired of tripping over sleeping hotel staff!
It's not only overkill, 85L would be heavy as hell.
Washing clothes twice a week would be a pain imo, that is why I took enough to last at least a week. Clothes especially long sleeve shirts and pants aren't that heavy but take up lots of space.
85L can be heavy but if you don't overload it isn't that bad and it isn't like you wear the backpack very much unless you are walking around trying to find a place to stay(and for a couple bucks could get a tuk tuk to take you anyways) or are too cheap to pay for ride to bus station etc.