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Gadgets You Backpack Around the World With? 625

ryrw writes "I'm planning to spend a year backpacking around the world and the hardest question I have to answer is: What technology do I take with me? Aside from the obvious (digital camera, ipod, et. al.) what technological devices would you you take? Specifically, I wonder if I should bring my nice and shiny MacBook Pro. I can think of lots of uses for it (offloading pix, updating weblog, email, etc.), but I'm worried it will be lost or stolen along the way. Does anyone have experience with travel while toting technology?"
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Gadgets You Backpack Around the World With?

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  • by metlin ( 258108 ) * on Wednesday March 14, 2007 @01:45PM (#18350189) Journal
    Taking a notebook entirely depends on where you are travelling to. If you are travelling in the Europe, US or Australia, then you can happily chug your notebook with you. On the other hand, if you are travelling to Asia, it would depend entirely on your destination. The same goes for parts of Africa and South America.

    Now, you mentioned backpacking - so I am assuming that you do not particularly plan on staying at a hotel. A lot of backpackers stay in hostels, the Y and so on. If the latter is the case, you cannot leave your stuff in the hotel-room and go look around. So, carrying a notebook becomes a liability that needs to be taken care of constantly.

    As someone who's travelled a lot, I usually do not carry my laptop around if I am backpacking across the world. Most parts of the world have Internet-cafes or similar places where you can check your mail, offload your pictures etc. And lugging that extra weight (light as it may be) is still a pain. What happens if you get caught in the rain, or if you decide to get drunk in a totally random place? You can't always be worried about your backpack and doing so is likely to give a big hint to folks that there is something worth stealing in your backpack.

    Secondly, you will also need to get power adapters for various locations (Europe uses a different plug design and have different voltage/frequency setting than the US, and parts of Asia are a mixed bunch - in some countries, the plug is different but the voltage is the same as US or Europe and vice versa).

    If you really feel the urge to be in touch, get a PDA with wireless features and carry that around. If you can check your email from a wireless access point, then your PDA would work as well as your shiny MacBook. And you can also ensure that it's always on you all the time.

    The other accessory that I would take would be a nice, cheap, light tripod - look at some of the cheap, ultralight Amvona ones on eBay. They are very light and are totally worth it. And oh, carry a flashlight and a Swiss army knife. Both always come in useful. Also, get a good travel watch - I do a lot of outdoor stuff and I have a good Casio Pathfinder. It is absolutely worth it - it has a digital compass, a thermometer, a barometer, an altimeter and a slew of other features. Granted, you may not always use every feature, but at some point of time or the other, you will use at least one of the features. I have the PAG70-1V [], and absolutely love it.

    And finally, a good, light backpack (preferably one with a camelbag that's always got at least some water in it), good cargo-pants, good shoes and a light jacket go a long way towards making your life less miserable. Goodluck! :)
    • by metlin ( 258108 ) * on Wednesday March 14, 2007 @01:47PM (#18350235) Journal
      And I forgot to add - take at least one cheap Walgreen's camera for those times when your digital camera dies on you.

      You can always get AA batteries and regular film anywhere, and you will be thankful for it later on!

      It would suck if you were at some place where you really wanted to take some pictures, but could not because your memory card was full or because your camera didn't have enough power.
      • by CastrTroy ( 595695 ) on Wednesday March 14, 2007 @02:15PM (#18350845) Homepage
        Or you could just get a digital camera that takes AA batteries, and never use the internal memory except when you are in the situation mentioned above. Or you could even buy a couple extra SD cards, They aren't that expensive. It seems to me to be a waste to carry something that you never plan on using. Plus you'll have to deal with carrying that film around afterwards, which can be a pain.
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by tverbeek ( 457094 ) *
          The ability to run whatever equipment on AA cells cannot be overemphasised. Rechargeables are only useful if you have the appropriate current/adapter combo to plug in with. Since I switched from my 35mm SLR (which hardly required any battery at all) to digital, I've always made sure my camera could be powered by AAs in a pinch.
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by rizzo420 ( 136707 )
          i'd recommend extra memory cards for 2 reasons...

          1. they can fill up and you might not be able to offload the pics.
          2. it's good to keep those separate from your camera when you're not using hte camera on the off-chance your camera is stolen. a friend of mine had this happen to her when she was on vacation. she went swimming with her camera on her chair near the pool and someone ran off with it, taking all her pics with her.
          • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

            by 0rionx ( 915503 )

            My best friend backpacking through Asia was a self-powered hard drive enclosure. Just plug your camera into it, hit the transfer button, and it copies all the photos, instantly freeing you up to keep on shooting.

            It's great for remote locations where you don't have a computer to offload pictures to, and it's way cheaper than buying a bunch of large memory cards. I use an SLR and shoot exclusively in RAW, and on the average backpacking/sight-seeing trip easily shoot around 5 GBs of pictures a week.

            Here []

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by tverbeek ( 457094 ) *
        If your memory card is getting full and there's no way for you to offload files or get another one, dial down the image quality settings on your camera before you run out of space. Yeah, it sucks shooting in supercompressed 640x480 mode, but that's better than not getting the pictures at all.
    • by emj ( 15659 )
      I took my Palm and a fullsize keyboard add on when I was traveling in South America. And that worked out pretty fine.. But even that was abit to big, to carry around all the time. In the end the recharger was stolen, so I ended up carying around a dead brick for 4 months.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by rolfwind ( 528248 )

      Taking a notebook entirely depends on where you are travelling to. If you are travelling in the Europe, US or Australia, then you can happily chug your notebook with you. On the other hand, if you are travelling to Asia, it would depend entirely on your destination. The same goes for parts of Africa and South America.

      Actually, there are enough parts of Europe I wouldn't want to chug a notebook with me, unless you are only talking about an available electrical connection and not safety/security.

      I would sugge

    • I second this, apart from the fact that you should ditch the ipod and the chargers that go with it. They give off impressions and they can be a hassle to have around.
    • And some places have no standard at all for plug design. My dad travels to Venezuela (i think, that's where the problem is) and they seem to have no standard at all as far a electicity goes. Plug designs can change from one hotel to the next. And to think that people in north america complain that we haven't standardized on 240 volt yet, and are still using 110 volt.
    • This was some good advice, so I just want to back it up. I have done a fair bit of traveling, and not just to tourist locales. I have been to England, France, Canada, Mexico, Japan, China, Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand, Taiwan, etc. One thing I have learned is travel light. You will be frustrated and annoyed having to carry to many things. As for the electronics issue, I guess camera and music are fine, but forget the laptop. That will just be begging to be stolen. What would you rather do, enjoy your trip, or basically babysit electronics around the world? I totally get what your trying to do (stay connected, blog about the trip, etc), but internet cafe's will have to be the way to go. You can try and make some friends along the way that have laptops (or even locals) so you can upload your pictures. Take a notepad and a couple pens and just write out your adventure and just type it up later. Not reason to dwell on your prose, write done, what, when, where, why, etc. You can fill back in the details later. You don't want to see the Seven Swans Pagagoda and not remember what it was called later on, but long as you write blurbs to yourself about what you did and when (so you can get the order right), you can easily remember the rest later.

      Most importantly, have fun, thats the point. Life is about experiences.
      • by thewils ( 463314 )

        You don't want to see the Seven Swans Pagagoda and not remember what it was called later on

        What worked for me visiting countless temples, shrines in Japan was to take a pic of the sign on the way in. Usually you get an entry ticket or some blurb when you pay, so take a pic of these too, then you can toss the blurb on the way out.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Rei ( 128717 )
        I'll second the "pack light" comments. In Japan, we had a serious pack weight/space problem. Part of the problem was that we thought we'd be spending a lot more time at campsites than we did, but when you're constantly on the move, you often don't have the time to make the arrangements to get to and stay at a campsite. There was almost no time in which a laptop would have been useful; we were constantly so busy. So much to see and do, and so little time to do it in (we were there for three weeks and cov
    • by altoz ( 653655 )
      Totally agree with the above poster. Travel as light as you can. The biggest liabilities are the heavy things and though most hostels offer some sort of locker (bring a combination lock with you, it's very useful), it's a constant threat to be stolen and you're definitely not going to want to bring it with you for day trips.

      The most useful things are digital cameras (most internet cafes have memory-card to CD burning services for $5 or so), mp3 player (a surprising amount of tourist places now have podcas
    • The PAG70-1V link isn't working. Maybe this [] would help?

      The all look great BTW.

    • by Gr8Apes ( 679165 ) on Wednesday March 14, 2007 @02:09PM (#18350691)
      Well said.

      However, if you're truly going backpacking, don't bring a notebook of any type. You won't use it. I went for a 30 day trip through just Europe a while back (pre digital camera days) and brought 35mm camera with a couple of lenses and a medium sized lightweight tripod. Got great pictures, but that rig sure got heavy.

      Went on another much later with a small digital camera and a super small tripod, took about twice as many pictures, got some relatively decent ones considering it was a point and shoot on a 4" tripod :) and in general had a great time. The tripod/camera combo was pocketable, used xD cards so carrying a 1000 pictures worth of memory was no problem. I enjoyed that vacation more because taking pictures was quick and easy, without having to lug what seemed like tons of crap.

      It really depends upon what the purpose of your trip is. The time frame of 1 year also adds to it. If you're frequently going to places where power in unreliable or unavailable, look for something to take that runs on easy to get batteries.

      I'm also going to guess you're going to be carrying some sort of cell phone, since you were considering a notebook. Maybe look at getting a phone that doubles as some or most of the functionality of the notebook that you needed will suffice?

      Most importantly, remember you're going to see stuff, not your gear (you can do that @ home) unless you're writing a travel book or something like it.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by webbroberts ( 249675 )
      Tripod: I'd vouch for the Ultrapod: a fantastic piece of equipment. Incredibly light and flexible.

      Flashlight: get a headlamp, so you can see what you're eating. Get a little red keyring LED, so that you don't kill your nightvision when you get up in the night. On bike tour, I kept mine on my wrist every night when I slept.

      Forget anything pricey. You won't need it. Get a cheap watch, a plastic compass (and learn how to use it), and good plastic flatware.

      And don't forget the EARPLUGS. Hostels are imposs
    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by odoketa ( 1040340 )
      Skip the laptop. It will get broken.

      I've done a round-the-world and several extended trips. I always carried a palm with a butterfly keyboard. They don't really make anything as good these days, but a pda with wifi and a micro SD will get you your media and your internets. Then slip the micro SD into the converter and use it with your digital camera. These days cards are so cheap you might as well just carry a bunch. I've seen studies that seem to indicate they're pretty well impervious to everything.

    • by t8bloom ( 446084 ) on Wednesday March 14, 2007 @02:17PM (#18350895)
      I traveled around Thailand and Cambodia for 3 weeks and ultimately felt overburdened by the tech I chose to bring. I'm a pro photographer (although not a pro travel photographer) and the amount of gear I carried dictated the security level (and therefore price) of the places I would allow myself to stay. Ultimately this increased the price of my trip nearly to the cost of my gear. For communications I carried a palm TX with keyboard. This was lightweight and sort of worked out, but the wireless ethernet connect charges were outrageous compared to the cheap and ubiquitous internet cafes. Plus, the browser on the TX leaves much to be desired, so I ended up having to use the internet cafes for most everything anyway. In retrospect, after seeing how much I paid in hotels to help secure my gear (mostly cameras), extra batteries, converter plugs, wireless ethernet charges, etc, I would have been way better off traveling unburdened by all those electronics, and just brought a small camera, very lightweight tripod, and extra flash memory.
    • by ephraim ( 192509 ) *
      I'm going to second the recommendation for traveling light.

      Take as *little* as possible, including clothing. Do laundry three times a week if you need to. Any electronic goodies you take with you should be the kinds of things that are absolutely necessary and fit in your pocket and/or daypack that you have with you all the time.

      I did something like this 3-4 years ago. The most expensive items I had with me were (1) Malaria medication, (2) digital camera and accessories, (3) mobile phone. Take the bare n
    • I'm with you.

      I backpacked/rode-trains across Europe (London to Budapest and back) a while ago, and I didn't bring a laptop with me. Granted, they have lighter ones today than when I went, but I still don't think it's that justifiable.

      An iPod might be a better bet, particularly if you got one of those adapters that let you download files from a digital camera card directly to its hard drive for storage. But all the other things that you could want to do with a laptop, you can probably do at an internet cafe
    • by CdBee ( 742846 ) on Wednesday March 14, 2007 @02:21PM (#18350963)
      I travel with a 366mhz Apple iBook

      ABS and metal case - very tough
      replacement 4400mah battery gives 6-7 hours usage
      worth little so its safe to use anywhere
      Running OS 10.3, it can connect to Wifi, dial-up, any ethernet router and bluetooth cellphone modems (via a USB dongle)

      Its slow but its never let me down - and I can charge it from a cgarette lighter socket using an aftermarket charger
    • iPhone (Score:3, Funny)

      by soft_guy ( 534437 )
      The iPhone can probably do most everything you want. Its a phone, email, decent camera, replaces the iPod, etc. I'd take the iPhone and leave everything else.

      I'd go with just the clothes on my back, an iPhone, and that's it.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by ehrichweiss ( 706417 )

      And oh, carry a flashlight and a Swiss army knife. Both always come in useful.

      Never, ever, ever, EVER carry a knife, Swiss army or not, into Mexico. I'm not sure about European countries or the like but in Mexico they want to put you in jail so that some of your American dollars can help out their budget. I have a former friend who went that I specifically told not to bring anything remotely considered a weapon and he, like the 'tard he is, brought a swiss army knife and sure enough he got searched and landed himself in a Mexican jail. Cost him over $1500 to get out..for a swiss a

      • Sorry to hear that.

        I went into Mexico on a climbing trip. Not only did I have a couple of knives but I had an ice axe (shades of Trotsky in Mexico City) and other sharp pointy metal objects. No problems. Even walking around Mexico City I never had the slightest problem. A couple of soldiers even politely said "no" to photographs (I always asked first). I travelled around Puebla and some small towns south of there without any trouble of any sort.

        Maybe it is just bad luck with some people? Wrong time, w
    • by Lumpy ( 12016 ) on Wednesday March 14, 2007 @03:34PM (#18352537) Homepage
      Missed one.

      A nice small cheap GPS. skip the stupid mapping functions and useless color screen. Being able to set a way-point at the train station and then navigate to that waypoint 6 hours later saves your mind fast.

      I would take that over a do-it-all watch any day.
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Cyberax ( 705495 )
        GPS receivers might be illegal at some countries. So be careful.
      • Don't take a GPS (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Belly ( 153998 )
        Don't take a GPS unless you're going to try crossing the Sahara desert alone or something. Yeah, it might be nice to have, but assuming that you're travelling a year to see places and people, and have some adventures, you'll have a lot more interesting experiences if you *talk to people* (simple sign language counts as talking...) rather than have your head buried in a GPS every time you're not sure where you are.

        Some of the most interesting things happen when you end up where you didn't expect to end up. S
  • by popo ( 107611 ) on Wednesday March 14, 2007 @01:47PM (#18350237) Homepage

    Did anyone else fall for the original "Palm Software-Only GPS" download?

    It drew a big "X" on your palm pilot screen, along with some text that read "You Are Here".

  • Not knowing a lot about the type of traveling you're doing or your own needs... When I travel I take my GPS. I have a Garmin iQue M5. I only have the North America pack for it so traveling overseas may require additional software but it works well for me. Since I only keep a 512 meg card in it it's also useful to get the details of a local area loaded to it with the laptop. I don't know if they have Mac software for it but none the less, that's what I like to keep handy.

    Also, in my times of travel I've nev
  • by 140Mandak262Jamuna ( 970587 ) on Wednesday March 14, 2007 @01:48PM (#18350251) Journal
    You dont really know when you will be surrounded by stone age natives planning to include you in their dinner plans. I have it in high authority that if you could show you control fire, they might mistake you for God. Since you are not bound by the prohibition against "impersonating a deity" unlike the protocol droids of the C3 series .... Dont leave home without a cigarette lighter.
  • What *I* bring... (Score:3, Informative)

    by garcia ( 6573 ) on Wednesday March 14, 2007 @01:49PM (#18350271)
    I frequently take long geocaching [] trips and like to have few things with me while I hike. It may be a leftover thing from when I was in Scouting and was constantly out backpacking, but it might just be that I hate carrying shit.

    Anyway, I *always* carry with me a mobile phone with Internet service (EDGE/GPRS). In my case I don't have one that I can tether but if you are seriously interested in bringing your computer (I wouldn't, the weight is too much) then at least you will have connectivity in many more areas than if you just had wifi. In addition, I can take quick snapshots and upload them immediately to my mobile images gallery [] on my website from where ever I am. The quality is shit but at least people can tag along virtually until I upload the nice pictures.

    Also, a nice GPS unit with good battery life (this is less of an issue these days with my Garmin 76CS (I haven't upgraded to the x series yet) will last three full days (~30 hours of the unit being on) on two lithium AAs. If I'm using 2500ma rechargables I might get 12 hours total.

    The GPS is a nice touch if you want to geo-tag your photos later. Upload your tracks and use one of the pieces of software out there to match the EXIF data to your GPS tracks and then you can map the photos, etc, etc. It's a nice touch.
    • by Descalzo ( 898339 ) on Wednesday March 14, 2007 @02:07PM (#18350661) Journal
      I agree. When I read the topic, I thought, "What kind of backpacking trip is this where one would even consider bringing along a laptop?" Clearly this guy is doing something completely alien to what I do when I backpack.

      I say if you're gonna be packing everything with you on your back everywhere, you've got to keep light. I read that even mp3 players are a bad idea, because every ounce (or kilohectare, for you metric lovers) counts when you're going any real distance with a pack on your back. I combine the mp3 player with the phone (but it doesn't do me any good, because my wife wants me to leave the phone at home with her).

      I went on a 15-mile hike with the Scouts a few weeks ago, and I felt every pound I had on me. One of the leaders even told about how he dumps excess water if he knows there's a stream a mile ahead.

      So I guess it's up to you. If you feel like you can take it, go on a 15-mile hike with everything you think you want to take. After 15 miles, you'll know what is worth hauling around and what's worth leaving. That's what worked for me. After that 15 miler I got a different pack, changed what I ate, changed how much water I carried (and how I carried it), and bought some new boots.

      Test-drive your pack. It's worth it!

      • by AK Marc ( 707885 ) on Wednesday March 14, 2007 @03:38PM (#18352597)
        Clearly this guy is doing something completely alien to what I do when I backpack.

        From what he said, it sounds like he'll be "backpacking" like "backpacking around Europe." That is, rather than taking a suitcase, the backpack will be the suitcase. Everything you need for the trip in there. You seem to be thinking of backpack-camping. That is where your backpack is your only thing. All food and housing (as well as water or water purification) must be contained within. That doesn't seem to be what he is doing. I've done both, and you pack differently for each. And we took a videocamera and GPS with us on a 40 mile hike, though we traded them off for who carried what at any given time. Oh, and of course, the cell phone, even though it was only good for about 2 of the 40 miles. But you gotta call for the pickup at the end...
  • I'd go for even less, myself, ideally a GSM phone/pda (and a couple global cards) with a portable keyboard to upload blogstuff and images. I'm generally an ultralight packer, though I can't see myself needing to code on the road.

  • Ok, I know its not geek correct, but really, don't take anything. Digital camera, ok, with lots of extra film, and a gps. But taking a lot of other stuff will only hold you down. Id bring my sketch book and a pen. I travelled in Europe for 3 months on such, and never missed gadgetry (but I tend not to have it anyway . . . just got a cell phone a few months ago, after 15 years of not having one . . . wow have they changed). Enjoy the world around you while you are travelling. There are always internet
  • Pack light (Score:3, Informative)

    by WinterSolstice ( 223271 ) on Wednesday March 14, 2007 @01:50PM (#18350309)
    When I've done long travel, I've tried to go as multi-function as possible.

    Paper journals (books)
    iGo charger or equiv (or a charger that can handle your phone + camera + whatever else)
    PDA for everything else from currency conversion to translation help

    That's a good set in my experience.
  • Unplug. (Score:2, Insightful)

    I'm as techie as the next /. reader. But seriously dude, unplug for a while. Spend your time and energy on the experience of the trip. With the possible exception of a decent digital camera to record your memories, leave the toys home.

    As to the problem of theft, don't take anything you are not fully prepared to lose. or break. If you MUST take a laptop, get an old junky one, and make sure it has zero personal info on it. I have an old Sony Viao 505fx that I take on motorcycle trips. It's tiny, but po
  • Pacsafe (Score:5, Informative)

    by WH ( 10882 ) <klynn.slashdot@kevinl y n> on Wednesday March 14, 2007 @01:52PM (#18350341) Homepage
    Having travelled extensively, including around-the-world, with technology. My best piece of advice is to purchase at least one Pacsafe mesh bag and ALWAYS use it when storing your gear in your room. Lock it to something that cannot be removed from the room.

    In all my travels the only thing I had stolen was one of those small space pens that can write upside down. Given that it was stolen from my bag in a locked room, I'm certain that if I hadn't had Pacsafe I would have been missing MUCH more...

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      I second the Pacsafe. You might even want to leav it on the bag while wearing it in certain places.

      A friend of mine was in India, walking with two other friends in broad daylight when she had two people walk up behind her. One grabbed her pack. The other slipped a long knife between her back and the pack and cut all the straps. They were gone before she knew what happened.

      Luckily she had her money and documents in a money belt under her shirt.
    • Re:Pacsafe (Score:4, Interesting)

      by vkg ( 158234 ) on Wednesday March 14, 2007 @04:14PM (#18353351) Homepage
      Let me second the shout out on Pacsafe. They do really good gear - steel mesh bags that are only slightly heavier than regular bags, and which can be locked by a steel cable to objects like radiators.

      Now, there's an upside, and a downside. The upside is your gear is safe from somebody just opening your door, swiping something and legging it. The downside it it screams "I HAVE SOMETHING WORTH STEALING" and nothing will survive bolt cutters. So you have to be careful: keep the fact the bag is locked to the radiator fairly discreet for a start. Don't take stupid chances.

      On the lock front, I searched long and hard before setting on the Pelilock. Four digits, solid heavy brass, by the company that makes Pelican cases. These can be tricky to get in and out of the pacsafe holes, so check for a fit before buying. Otherwise, small padlocks are universally garbage as any lockpicker will tell you. [] []

      I'd add: a monocular can be incredible useful. Cheap, small, let's you figure out if it's worth trecking across the bay to see if that cafe is open.

      On the laptop front? No. If you *must* take a laptop, buy an old Thinkpad and throw Linux on it. The further you're traveling, the more that puppy is worth and the more of a boat anchor it becomes. Really, we're waiting for, say, the Apple Subnotebook or an OLPC device here. Travel with a laptop is just no good.

      The other really good option for email and web access is a Palm TX and a bluetooth folding keyboard. I tried that but had serious stability issues due to a flakey keyboard driver, but that was a while ago. I've heard other people raving about the combination, however.
  • I agree with the earlier post that a laptop would be more of a liability than an asset, but I've not backpacked in many moons. Have you inquired at the most traveled people [] website? It seems like they would at least have an informed opinion.
  • Probably not... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by duncf ( 628065 ) on Wednesday March 14, 2007 @01:52PM (#18350345)
    Obviously it depends on how much effort you want to put into taking care of it. This means things like always making sure you can find a safe storage location, lockable lockers, etc, which aren't always easy to find.

    That said, I think part of the fun of backpacking is not taking everything with you -- it's about seeing how well you can live without luxuries. Also, when you're backpacking, every kilogram and every litre counts; brining a laptop + its accessories means you'll have to sacrifice space that you could use for another couple pairs of underwear or a shirt.

    As far as pictures go, get a large memory card for your camera. You'll find places that will take your pictures from your memory card and burn them to CD while you wait. Internet cafes are ubiquitous in many parts of the world. I think you overestimate your need for a laptop.

    I wouldn't take a laptop. But it's really up to you.
  • Nothing (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anaphilius ( 146909 ) <.moc.liamg. .ta. .yenvogcm.nairb.> on Wednesday March 14, 2007 @01:55PM (#18350409)
    Do yourself a favor and leave the electronics at home. What an opportunity this will be! You'll be in interesting places, meeting new people ... why filter the experience through an assortment of electronic nonsense. You'll have plenty of time to carry that crap around during your entire career when you get home.

    This might be your last opportunity to live relatively low-tech. Embrace it.
  • A towel!! (Score:5, Funny)

    by CodeMunch ( 95290 ) on Wednesday March 14, 2007 @01:55PM (#18350415) Homepage
    Make sure you pack a towel. (and GPS!)
    • it is the mostmassively useful thing a backpacker can have
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward
      Heres the definative list:
      One .45 caliber automatic; two boxes of ammunition; four days concentrated emergency raisons; one drug issue containing: antibiotics, morphine, vitamin pills, pep pills, sleeping pills, tranquilizer pills; one miniature combination Russian phrase book and bible; one hundred dollars in rubles; one hundred dollars in gold; nine packs of chewing gum; one issue of prophylactics; three lipsticks; three pair a nylon stockings. Shoot, a fellah could have a pretty good weeke
  • Get device insurance (Score:4, Informative)

    by GiovanniZero ( 1006365 ) on Wednesday March 14, 2007 @01:57PM (#18350449) Homepage Journal
    I'm going backpacking through Europe pretty soon and I'm getting device insurance from USAA(my bank) it usually less than 100 bucks a year and they offer up to 5000 in coverage. A pretty good deal if you ask me. I wouldn't take my Macbook Pro with me unless I had it insured.

    I'm sure other insurance companies do similar stuff. Just be upfront about what you're doing when you get it so that you don't end up surprised later.

  • Nothing (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Normal Dan ( 1053064 )
    Do not take any 'gadgets' with you. You will not need them. You will not miss them. You are planning to backpack around the world. Why? To experience the world? Then do so. Gadgets will only distract you from that experience. Mp3 players and iPods are a horrible idea. You will miss the sounds of the world. Even the little seemingly meaningless sounds can be profound in there own ways. Having headphones on or looking at a digital screen all day will make you unapproachable and you will not get to
  • I'd take a lightweight boat. For roughly 3/4 of your trip, you'll need it.

    Failing that, the GPS / Phone is handy. One of those multi-tools is ridiculously handy, too.

    I'd also bring a spare set of sturdy waterproof steel toed boots (and put some gel inserts into them too). Sore feet suck.

  • What's the point of owning a shiny new Macbook Pro if you're going to leave it at home for a year? If you don't want to take it, sell it and buy a new one when you get back. Carrying a laptop is a bit of a drag though. The iPod, camera, etc can pretty much be toted without any effort. A laptop is a real pain (5 pounds with cords,etc) and I'd find myself worrying about it too much. If you are traveling alone, only take what you can drag with you into the can.
  • Suppose he said:

    I'm planning to spend a year backpacking around Michigan and the hardest question I have to answer is: What technology do I take with me? ... I can think of lots of uses for it, but I'm worried it will be lost or stolen along the way.

    Developing nations have no monopoly on electronics theft. Walk around the poorer sections of Detroit, or Baltimore, or Chicago, or Cincinnati.
  • Leave the ipod and take a good PDA, like a Dell Axim x51v. It's got WiFi, Bluetooth and irDa for connectivity, hardware-accelerated GPU for smooth playback of MPEG (including MPEG4 / DivX at high-resolution), VGA resolution LCD, standard VGA output for viewing movies, etc on larger screens, it actually works really well as a VOIP skype phone over WiFi (just turn it upsidedown and put your ear over the D-Pad - the mic is near the top). You can put a good browser like Opera on it, and with the VGA display y
  • First time I went abroad, I brought all sorts of gadgets with me: a mini-television to watch all the exotic foreign shows (before I understood the difference between NTSC, NTSC-J and PAL), a MiniDisc recorder to take "audio" photos of different places (worked out nicely), a laptop to "do work" (ended up using it as a glorified travel diary). The camera was low-tech film, so no worries about backing up files. I also brought a portable immersion water heater [] to boil noodles or make pasta.

    The second time I w
  • by Madman ( 84403 ) on Wednesday March 14, 2007 @02:05PM (#18350611) Homepage
    Don't go backpacking without a 1/4 roll of duct tape. You can make splints and bandages out of it, bodge just about anything, oh - and patch up your laptop after you drop it in a hostel fight.

    From experience Hotel = Laptop, Hostel = pad of paper

    Don't forget that travel is about experience, not about having your nose stuck in a computer. If you're going to do that, stay home - it's cheaper.
  • Without knowing your exact travel plans it's difficult to make a recommendation, but I'd certainly consider leaving the laptop at home. I was on the fence about bringing a laptop with me when we went to Europe for about 2-3 weeks. I'm glad I didn't, as you'd just worry about it getting stolen the whole time. If you're sticking to major cities, most hostels have internet connections to use for free or cheaply, and internet cafes are still common. In Rome we found a place that does your laundry for you (!
  • While a fresh-faced junior in college, I took a tour of Europe. One day, I left my camera in what I thought was a secure place. It was stolen, and along with it went all of my exposed film. Today, while film is essentially dead, the spectre of catastrophic loss looms even larger because it's even more convenient than before to store all of your information in one place, like your laptop.

    Therefore, my advice is, no matter what devices you plan to bring with you, take pains to have multiple copies of your
  • .... Is one of these Travel Plug Adapters from Kensington: [] []

    They allow you to plug in any device that does voltage conversion (check your AC adapter before you leave to make sure it does) into any outlet. That way you don't have to walk around with a ton of cables.

    Also, if you're an Apple Fanboy, Apple has the World Travel Adapter Kit that does the same thing with the power adapters that come with iPods, iBooks, PowerBooks, MacBooks
  • I did this in Europe in 2004. I took a Zaurus SL-5500 ($200 off eBay) and a wireless CF card ($40 off a LUG member). I ran Kismet and had the standard ssid "linksys" and "default" preconfigured. (BTW, the best open wifi was next to the Pompidou in Paris.)

    Checked my email, posted to my blog, looked up public transit routes, checked train times, etc. Never paid for Internet cafes.

    The Zaurus (or like device) is small enough to not notice, has a lanyard loop, and is reasonably durable thanks to the hard screen
  • I strongly recommend you not carry a laptop while backpacking. You will not use it much, and it will be a 10 lb (w/ accessories) monkey on your back the entire trip. You'll never be able to leave it anywhere.

    An unlocked GSM treo with a travel power adapter and a cheap 2 gig SD card or two should provide ample storage for maps and such, and all the connectivity you're likely to want via locally-purchased sim cards. This and an ultra-compact digicam that takes SD cards (and has a multi-voltage charger) is all
  • by theguru ( 70699 ) on Wednesday March 14, 2007 @02:12PM (#18350775)
    I practice lightweight backpacking, but I still sometimes carry some tech gear with me, especially if its multi-purpose.

    My TMobile MDA Windows Mobile phone (HTC Wizard in other markets) - Cell phone, web access (if I'm in an area with coverage), PocketPC applications for keeping logs, reading eBooks, listening to mp3s & podcasts, and I sometimes leave the camera at home and just use the built in camera in the phone.

    Pair the phone with a bluetooth GPS (I use a Pharos 500 in a GPS-BTII cradle) and a good mapping application for the PocketPC makes the phone/PDA serve another purpose. I carry a compass and topo map, and I know how to use them, but I rarely ever do if I have the GPS with me.

    Solio photovoltaic charger ( - I love this thing... it has a built in battery that can be pre-charged from a wall socket, and then you can keep it charged from the sun. You can get tips to charge most of the major cell phones, but it comes with the common ones, a miniUSB, a female USB, and a car charger port (so you can charge anything you've ot a car charger for, if you feel like lugging those cables around). My phone/pda and GPS will all charge from USB or MiniUSB. A full day with this strapped to the top of my pack is enough to fully recharge my phone/pda.

    5.8oz for the PDA, 2.3oz for the GPS, and 5.6oz for the Solio charger. All my tech needs in under a pound, with some earbuds and misc cables.

    I have a base weight (backpack, clothes, shelter, sleeping bag, first-aid kit, water filter, and misc gear) minus consumables (fuel for my stove, water, and food) under 8lbs, including my "Geek Gear". I've used this loadout for up to a month at a time, with limited resupply.
  • Instead of an iPod, if you need music on the road, get a CD player or an AM/FM radio. When you need to listen to weather reports an FM radio will be more useful than an iPod. A camera is a good idea but think about the total number of pictures you need to take. Even if you only take 10 pictures a day, that's over 3000 pictures you'll be going through once you get back. Are you really going to do that? Is it useful in any way?

    I wouldn't bother with a tripod or an SLR camera. Carry something like the equivale
  • Perhaps a [] would be in order? It certainly won't help with the laptop, but it could keep your phone, GPS, iPod, and maybe the digital camera charged. You get that warm-and-fuzzy-save-the-planet feeling when you recharge from the sun, but you can also charge it from the wall and charge another devices at the same time. Mine came with a handfull of power adapters for use in other countries. I find it to be a fairly useful gadget, simply from the standpoint that it can recharge most
  • Nokia 770 or N800 (Score:4, Interesting)

    by smugfunt ( 8972 ) on Wednesday March 14, 2007 @02:14PM (#18350833)
    I am posting this from Val's Hostel in Dangriga, Belize using my Nokia 770.
    It's a pocket-sized "Internet Tablet" - WiFi and bluetooth with what I believe is the best screen on any pocket computer available.
    As well as reading Slashdot I use it for viewing and uploading photos from my bluetooth cam-phone, playing Freeciv, reading ebooks, VoIP...
    If you're going off the beaten track the meamo-mapper program will interface with a BT GPS and show you where you are.
    The newer N800 has a camera and FM radio built in.
    Carrying a laptop when backpacking is a major headache but my 770 does most of what a laptop would and lives in a pouch on my belt.
  • by 1u3hr ( 530656 )
    The first trip I did in Asia, I didn't even bring a camera. I bought a very cheap watch (you do need to catch trains, ferries, etc); that was it. The next trip I did bring a small camera and a shortwave radio; on a long trip in the boondocks it's nice to stay in touch with the BBC World Service. It was a bit disconcerting to be on an isolated beach in Thailand hearing about the Tiananmen Massacre live, though. The more stuff you take, the more you're a prisoner of it. Taking photos instead of experiencing i
  • I would never bring my premo laptop, too expensive and big. If I just need email, I bring a 2nd-rate PDA (even a Palm Vx is good enough). Otherwise I bring an old Toshiba Libretto, weighs 1.5lbs, with WiFi (WeeFee as the French say...), and allows email, surfing and digital pix transfers from my digital camera. A GSM phone is handy, with a Riiing SIM (, a SIM that works almost anywhere and has good rates. And I bring a "suicide kit", which is basically an RJ-11 phone cord with alligator cli
  • **1) Portable hand-crank and/or solar powered flashlight.
    2) Portable hand-crank and/or solar powered radio.

    Of these the first two is indispensable, often ignored but indespensible even if you only use it to find your way to the loo in the middle of the night.
  • by poopie ( 35416 ) on Wednesday March 14, 2007 @02:20PM (#18350939) Journal
    If you really want to be mobile and go a lot of places and see a lot of things, the key is to *NOT* encumber yourself with bulky/heavy/unreliable things.

    I traveled around Asia with a laptop, large camera bag, dive gear bag, and a backpack.
    I've done other backpack-ish trips with my PDA and phone.

    Long story short.

    Laptop: Spent a large amount of money on it right before my trip. Had to carry it in a separate backpack. Had to hold it over my head while I walked through waist high flood waters on the sidewalk. It broke, a travel buddy broke it, ruined a friendship. No place in Thailand could fix it. Warranty couldn't be honored without long trip to another country. Heavy. Needed lots of converters. Lugged a broken laptop around on my travels. Wasted travel time trying to get it fixed. Stayed in bungalows that had poor locks/security - worried about theft. By the time I could fix the laptop, it had depreciated to the point that I would have been better off buying a new one.

    Camera: Bring a small camera with extra memory cards as your PRIMARY camera. Burn CDs of your pictures regularly. Burn two copies. Keep one with you. Send one to somewhere safe. Large SLR cameras: Get a good telephoto lens and don't bring extra lenses. Decide how much you love photography and how much of your pack storage you're willing to devote to YOUR SECOND camera -- once you factor in the chargers and extra batteries and ram cards for each camera. Also, consider the security factors of your camera gear. Cameras are small and valuable/desirable and need to be protected. Keeping the number of things you have to protect to a minimum is a benefit when you travel. Also, you'll want to have some waterproof bag to put your camera/electronic gear in so that when you travel between cities in a minibus and your bags are on top of the minivan for 12 hours, you won't worry about the 4-hour typhoon-like rains ruining your electronic gear.

    Dive gear: Not gadgets, per se. If you're a diver and your travel focus is diving, nothing beats traveling with your own gear. On the other hand, try being one person carrying 150 lbs. of bags with you and see how mobile you are when you're looking for deals on accomodation... Check your gear and stow it in reliable lockers in a big city when you're not going to be using it.

    Backpack: Not a gadget, a necessity.

    PDA: in my experience, PDA battery life and backpacking around aren't very compatible. I *WANTED* to use my PDA a lot while traveling, but battery life drains after a few hours and requires a long time to charge. Do you want to travel or spend time sitting in cafe's waiting for your PDA to charge? On long trips, your PDA battery will die and when you need it, you won't be able to use it. You'll run your battery down very low and get used the scary warnings about "BATTERY LEVEL CRITICALLY LOW: RECHARGE IMMEDIATELY OR RISK DATA LOSS"

    Phone: chances are that your phone won't work in all of the countries you're traveling to. It's actually a good thing to have a working phone while you travel. Do your research in advance with your cell service provider. Make sure you have all of the proper adapters.

    Internet cafes are easy to find. Don't encumber yourself with unnecessary gadgets. You'll find them much more of a burden than a benefit in general. They'll keep you from meeting interesting new people. *IF* you choose to bring gadgets, make some tradeoffs so that you don't bring too much stuff and keep your bag light.
  • Yes, I mean the lot. Forget the camera, the iPod, the lot. Spend that year listening to the sounds of the world, not the sounds of you iPod, and being a participant, not a spectator through the lense of you camera.

    Not only will your experience be hightened but, when you are inevitably ripped off, you haven't lost anything.
  • why not buy one off-lease from TigerDirect or something? $350 gets you a nice P4 with enough going on to do what you want, and it doesn't hurt as much if it gets stolen or broken. It'll come with XP -- keep it and load OSS, or wipe it for Linux. Just keep anything you don't want to lose on thumbdrives in your pocket. You can't find a Mac for that kind of money, but you can probably find a nice HP or even a ThinkPad. And while I'm not sure about this, I bet you can find cheap thumbdrives all over the world a
  • Don't take anything on your trip.

    You don't need that shit. All it does is make you look like a disaffected Gen X-er who can't think outside your comfort zone of lattes, email, and Birkenstocks. Leave it at home and enjoy the culture of the places you're going. Questions like this are exactly why people hate Americans. You just don't get it.

    Get this - there are places on Earth (our planet) right now that do not have electricity. Never mind wifi or Internet or broadband - NO POWER. There are people who consid
  • My Two Cents (Score:5, Interesting)

    by g1zmo ( 315166 ) on Wednesday March 14, 2007 @03:33PM (#18352525) Homepage

    Pack what you think you'll need, and then leave 1/2 of it at home. No one ever gets on the road and wishes they brought /more/ stuff with them.

    Forget the laptop. On my first extended backpacking trip through Western Europe, I took a laptop with me and shipped it home within two weeks. It wasn't worth the hassle.

    Doing laundry on the road is expensive and can be a major hassle. Get used to being dirtier than you are at home.

    A sleeping bag isn't as important as I thought it was going to be, but I was still glad I carried it. Most hostels provide (or require you to use their) linens.

    A small shoulder bag or backpack is a good idea. Something to carry your camera, lunch, book, etc. while you're out and about during the day.

    Don't pack a year's worth of supplies. Take sample-sized products (shampoo, soap, etc.) with you to start out, and then replace what you need as you go.

    Buy the largest travel towel you can find. They're the ones which feel like thick felt, absorb crazy amounts of water, and dry out super fast. One of the best investments I ever made.

    Take a padlock with you. Most places that provide lockers expect you to bring your own lock. A combination lock is better -- no key means one less thing you have to no lose.

    Everyone has different ideas about security based on their own experiences. I happen to think the fancy cable/mesh things you can wrap around your backpack aren't worthwhile. They just make it look like you've got something worth stealing. A simple combination luggage lock on your backpack's main zipper compartment should be all you need. Of course, do whatever makes you comfortable.

    Don't be the American guy who dresses up like Ranger Rick to walk around foreign cities. Having said that, I usually preferred to travel with only 1 pair of shoes so they have to be versatile. I usually wear my light Timberland walking boots. Sometimes I'll take my Vans with me too. I also carry flip-flops 'cause I have a thing about the floors of public showers.

    A small flashlight for digging through your bag while everyone else in the room is sleeping. A cheap watch. A pocketknife. A few books. Don't worry about running out of books to read - books are a commodity and other travelers will always trade with you. Many hostels have a take one/leave one bookshelf.

    The biggest piece of advice I can give you is something that took me a long time to learn. Forget about trying to take fancy pictures of every architectural marvel, work of art, and scenic panorama you find. Take some of those, sure, but what you'll want when it's all over is pictures of the people you met and spent time with. Trust me. I have thousands of pictures public sculptures, beautiful buildings, cityscapes, mountain ranges, etc. None of them are half as interesting as the group shot of everyone crowded onto the bed in the dirty hostel in Rome, or the girl who cooked you a birthday dinner in Seville, or the guys you played soccer with that one afternoon in Taxco. For some reason, it wasn't intuitive to me that the really good memories revolve around interesting people, not interesting things.

    There's a thousand tips that people can and will give, but most of them you'll have to learn on your own. Have fun!

Don't tell me how hard you work. Tell me how much you get done. -- James J. Ling