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Traveling light in civilization
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Eric Fredricksen
(efredricksen) - MLife

Locale: Silicon Valley
Traveling light in civilization on 09/23/2010 16:21:59 MDT Print View

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.

Some discussion:

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!

T kawa
(kitsune) - F
too light? on 09/23/2010 16:47:19 MDT Print View

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?=)

Edited by kitsune on 09/23/2010 16:51:29 MDT.

Eric Fredricksen
(efredricksen) - MLife

Locale: Silicon Valley
Re: too light? on 09/23/2010 18:28:00 MDT Print View

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.

John S.
(jshann) - F
Re: Traveling light in civilization on 09/23/2010 19:00:09 MDT Print View

Ben 2 World
(ben2world) - MLife

Locale: So Cal
Re: Traveling light in civilization on 09/23/2010 20:37:11 MDT Print View

Hi Eric:

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 carries. Shorts will be heavier than speedos, of course, but can more versatile too.

Edited by ben2world on 09/23/2010 20:51:25 MDT.

eric chan
(bearbreeder) - F
credit card on 09/23/2010 21:42:42 MDT Print View

credit card ... with a high limit

thats all you need

Ben 2 World
(ben2world) - MLife

Locale: So Cal
Re: credit card on 09/23/2010 22:10:33 MDT Print View


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.

Eric Fredricksen
(efredricksen) - MLife

Locale: Silicon Valley
Re: credit card on 09/23/2010 23:28:19 MDT Print View

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.

eric chan
(bearbreeder) - F
bills? on 09/23/2010 23:31:08 MDT Print View

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 ...

Edited by bearbreeder on 09/23/2010 23:56:05 MDT.

Bob Gross
(--B.G.--) - F

Locale: Silicon Valley
Re: bills? on 09/23/2010 23:55:05 MDT Print View

"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.


eric chan
(bearbreeder) - F
africa on 09/23/2010 23:57:43 MDT Print View

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 card

Edited by bearbreeder on 09/24/2010 00:02:06 MDT.

Ben 2 World
(ben2world) - MLife

Locale: So Cal
Re: Traveling Too Light... on 09/24/2010 00:02:15 MDT Print View

Eric F:

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! :)

Edited by ben2world on 09/24/2010 00:14:02 MDT.

Ben 2 World
(ben2world) - MLife

Locale: So Cal
Re: Debit Cards on 09/24/2010 00:11:38 MDT Print View


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.

eric chan
(bearbreeder) - F
sorry on 09/24/2010 00:13:02 MDT Print View

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


Edited by bearbreeder on 09/24/2010 00:18:43 MDT.

Ben 2 World
(ben2world) - MLife

Locale: So Cal
Re: sorry on 09/24/2010 00:18:08 MDT Print View

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. :)

Edited by ben2world on 09/24/2010 00:29:53 MDT.

Bob Gross
(--B.G.--) - F

Locale: Silicon Valley
Re: Re: sorry on 09/24/2010 00:26:03 MDT Print View

"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.


Ben 2 World
(ben2world) - MLife

Locale: So Cal
Re: on 09/24/2010 00:26:27 MDT Print View

Eric C:

"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.

Edited by ben2world on 09/24/2010 00:28:20 MDT.

Eric Fredricksen
(efredricksen) - MLife

Locale: Silicon Valley
Crusty backpacking on 09/24/2010 00:30:02 MDT Print View

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.

Ben 2 World
(ben2world) - MLife

Locale: So Cal
Re: Crusty backpacking on 09/24/2010 00:35:49 MDT Print View

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.

Dale Wambaugh
(dwambaugh) - MLife

Locale: Pacific Northwest
Re: Traveling light in civilization on 09/24/2010 01:26:04 MDT Print View

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.