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09-10-2013, 10:49 PM   #1
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Travel across south-east Asia, Best way to travel with gear

Hi folks! The girlfriend and I are planning to do a two month stint across Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, Pakistan, and Bali. I've already picked out my three lens kit: Sigma 10-20mm f/4.5-5.6, Sigma 30mm f/1.4, and the Tamron 90mm f/2.8 macro (the older version with the limiter) along with my K-5, extra batteries, polarisers, and tripod/ballhead combo. Total, I'm at about 6lbs/ 2.7Kg.
My girlfriend's taking her Olympus e520 with the kit lens and a 40-150mm f/4.5.

That's down pat, but the whole carrying my gear poses a bit of a quandary. We're backpacking for the most part and I'm unsure which way to go with camera bags. The traveller's backpack that I've been using for a number of years comes in two parts: a large 70L pack with a smaller detachable day pack that can clip onto the main bag when I need to carry both. The system works quite well. However, this will be the first time that I'm travelling with a sizeable photography kit.

I've also seen camera bag liners such as this one.
My only concern with this route is that once I put the insert into the bottom of my day pack, how much of a struggle will it be to get my lenses out from beneath the stuff that I'll also be carrying, like a medkit, food, maps. etc.

I'm debating ditching the attachable day pack, and jamming a small camera backpack into my 70L bag. I'll have to ditch some extra sets of socks and undies to make the room though. The only thing that I'm really sure of is that I'm not going to be carrying a shoulder bag. I hate those things!

Has anyone done backpacking trips for an extended period with camera gear? What are you thoughts, experiences, and words of wisdom? Thank you for the help.

09-11-2013, 01:11 AM   #2
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Use shaving oil rather than an aerosol can foam. This saves a volume the size of a 55-300 lens in your bag. Or don't shave. That's my big travel tip.


edit:
Might add, go with nothing except your camera and a towel. You can buy anything you need really cheaply and there are stalls selling all you need at 3 foot intervals.

Last edited by calsan; 09-11-2013 at 01:24 AM.
09-11-2013, 01:51 AM   #3
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This might be more of a side note, but other than the obvious choices of traveling light and durable, another thing to keep in mind is to travel incognito. So, preferably something that doesn't scream "Hey! I'm a camera bag carrying a DSLR and three different lenses!!!". I personally haven't been to those countries you're traveling to, but my family and I've traveled many times back to my home land of the Philippines (also SE Asia, notorious for theft). As a general rule, we always try to stay low-key and not "advertise" any valuables we have with us (camera, phone, jewellery, wallet, etc). Obviously, it's inevitable when you take out your camera to snap those pics, but at least it's not being advertised 24/7.

Anyway, just a friendly tip...I know the above sounds pretty obvious, but I'm always amazed and shocked at how many people (especially those that haven't been to a developing country before) are pretty slack when it comes to looking after their belongings.
09-11-2013, 01:51 AM   #4
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I'm from Southeast Asia, and I have been travelling a lot these days.

Tips:

> Don't act like a tourist. Do your homework. The places you want to visit, the means to get there, etc., you should know it even before you get there. Google is a great travel guide. It is unavoidable that you will ask for directions, ask directly from establishments or from your concierge.

> Expect that a lot of people will befriend you. Be wary and alert. Asians are generally friendly, but it's almost always better to ask. Don't be afraid to ASK information but be wary of volunteered help/directions when you're not even asking for it.

> Leave the jewelries at home.

> If you must buy souvenirs, learn how to haggle. If the asking price is $10, ask if you can get it for $4! Really! I have an American friend who stayed with me for two weeks when she visited the Philippines, she was really surprised at how much you should bargain.

> Never leave your passport/cards in the hotel. Take only enough cash with you.

> And lastly, enjoy!

09-11-2013, 01:54 AM   #5
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Haha, and yeah...what drypenn said.
09-11-2013, 04:49 AM   #6
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Many hiking bags have a lower pocket which can be used to store your gear and access it more easily. I would indeed recommend getting an insert, however instead of the one you pointed out, look at the Ape Case inserts sold by B&H, they're among the best I've seen. There is also the Timbuk2 insert which is fantastic but a little more difficult to fit in a regular bag, it's really designed for their own bags.

In any case, one extra recommendation is to get a small case for one lens, that you can attach to your hip (with the backpack's hip straps). Either a dedicated lens case, or a P&S case, whichever you prefer. It will give you easy access to one extra lens without taking off the backpack each time.
09-11-2013, 05:14 AM   #7
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For the camera, a small camera bag that attaches as a waist pouch and also has a sling will be good.
It relieves the weight off the shoulders and back.
Its also easy to put in front in crowded places where there is a chance of pick pocketing.
Plus its easier to access when in front or just swung to the front with the shoulder sling on.

I may offend those from western countries, but from my travels, I find that the rule of law (and observation of it) is actually much better in S.E Asia than in much developed countries (eg. Europe; Australia; US ).
People are poor, but they are also simple and friendly.
That said, there will always be crime in any country, the usual safety/precautions as mentioned by the folks above apply.

So how will you manage your data? (many SD cards?? )
09-11-2013, 12:04 PM   #8
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I can comment about Vietnam as my wife is originally from there and many of my in-laws still live there. We took a trip to Vietnam in 2009 and my gracious in laws arranged to take us to many points of interest from South (Ho Chi Minh city) to North (Ha Long Bay) and many places in between. Although at that time I only took a simple P&S I did make a few observations for future reference and cannot wait to return.

Vietnam is a developing country and yes poverty is readily apparent with the contrast between the haves and the have-nots being very prominent. So of course you have to be observant with your belongings and downplay any flashiness in your manner of dress or material goods that you are traveling with. Even my mother-in-law does not walk around the city without paying attention to this especially in crowded places as pick pocketing is common. Most tourists I saw wore their backpacks in the front rather than behind and my in-laws advised me to do the same. Next time when bringing a more extensive camera kit I will obtain one of those packs that have the gear access opening from the area that is directly in contact with ones back, it may be a bit more inconvenient but I would rather be over cautious than under cautious.

I had the benefit of having trusted family members serve as our tour arrangers and guides so we had no need of taking care of this since basically we did things as locals would but there are a myriad of options for all manner of tours for foreigners and I highly suggest you incorporate some into your itinerary if you can since although its a little more expensive than "free-wheeling" it they are still a remarkable value by developed country's standards and I found that those who work in this industry are quite proficient at speaking English. In addition tours can be arranged to almost anywhere you may want to go including some of the other countries you have mentioned. Transportation is relatively inexpensive and comfortable, that includes bus/train/airline/ferry although we did not have enough time to take the train but I would definitely like to next time. Also surprisingly it is very inexpensive to just higher a taxi driver even to destinations that from our point of view may seem at first cost prohibitive, for example my father-in-law hired a taxi to take us from Nha Trang to Hue which is a distance of about 300 miles and a beautiful drive. I cannot remember exactly what the fair was but I remember thinking at the time how remarkably inexpensive it was.

I do highly highly recommend you visit Hue, it was my favorite part of the country...the scenery, city, people and local culture are absolutely beautiful also the Hue style of cuisine is the best in all of Vietnam but it is spicy so if that bothers you make sure you ask them to tone down the "Ot" (chile). While there I was fortunate enough to stay with extended family that live within the walls of the city in the historic district but there are plenty of nice accommodations with a wide range of prices . There are mountain temples there and despite some of the more popular beach cities elsewhere in Vietnam I found the beaches in Hue to be more appealing due to their more natural state. Another great city to visit is DaLat which is less than 200 miles from HCM and is in the mountains. This is a favorite destination of Vietnam's locals as the weather is more temperate and my father-in-law described to me how since he was younger it has been popular for honeymooners and romantics to go there. Him and my mother-in-law love it so much they plan on retiring there in a few years. Also if time permits try to check out Hoi An and though we did not have the time I very much intend to spend some days there next time as per my families suggestion.

In essence just use common sense and remember to be mindful of your belongings...I had a great time...Vietnam is a beautiful country where the people in general were cheerful, friendly and good spirited and I wouldn't hesitate to re-visit when the opportunity permits. Above all enjoy this unique experience.

09-11-2013, 02:54 PM   #9
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Really great advice, thank you everyone!

QuoteOriginally posted by calsan Quote
go with nothing except your camera and a towel
I've hear of this method, but I'm too chicken to try it. I think I'd probably haggle for hours over everything. Ha! I think I'll probably leave some stuff at home though, and pick up socks and a phone on the way.

QuoteOriginally posted by arsn.r3d Quote
"Hey! I'm a camera bag carrying a DSLR and three different lenses!!!
I usually carry my camera on a homemade sling strap. I'll have nix that one and go for something a little less exposed.

QuoteOriginally posted by drypenn Quote
Never leave your passport/cards in the hotel. Take only enough cash with you.
I've heard this advice before, but I'm glad to hear it from someone with your experience. I'll have to listen to that.

QuoteOriginally posted by bdery Quote
Ape Case inserts
good pointer.

QuoteOriginally posted by pinholecam Quote
many SD cards??
. That's the plan. I've yet to find a cheaper, lighter alternative. I get about 900 pictures per 32GB so I'm aiming for around 96GB capacity total.

QuoteOriginally posted by pinholecam Quote
small camera bag that attaches as a waist pouch and also has a sling
. Worth checking out. I didn't know they made dual function kind of things like that.

I'll definitely put Hue on my list of places to see, gda13. My girlfriend is a die hard beach bum, and I'm really looking forward to getting an up close look at the temples and mosques through the entirety of the trip. Good tip on the chiles, btw. I did a one year stint teaching English over in China before moving back to Canada. While there, I travelled all up and down the country; in all my life I have never had such spicy food as in Szechuan Provence. Putting anything in my mouth felt like I opened the chest in the end of 'raiders of the lost ark'. 'Ot' will become a permanent lexical item in my Vietnam vocabulary.
09-11-2013, 03:10 PM - 1 Like   #10
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QuoteOriginally posted by Gerbermiester Quote
Hi folks! The girlfriend and I are planning to do a two month stint across Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, Pakistan, and Bali. I've already picked out my three lens kit: Sigma 10-20mm f/4.5-5.6, Sigma 30mm f/1.4, and the Tamron 90mm f/2.8 macro (the older version with the limiter) along with my K-5, extra batteries, polarisers, and tripod/ballhead combo. Total, I'm at about 6lbs/ 2.7Kg.
My girlfriend's taking her Olympus e520 with the kit lens and a 40-150mm f/4.5.

That's down pat, but the whole carrying my gear poses a bit of a quandary. We're backpacking for the most part and I'm unsure which way to go with camera bags. The traveller's backpack that I've been using for a number of years comes in two parts: a large 70L pack with a smaller detachable day pack that can clip onto the main bag when I need to carry both. The system works quite well. However, this will be the first time that I'm travelling with a sizeable photography kit.

I've also seen camera bag liners such as this one.
My only concern with this route is that once I put the insert into the bottom of my day pack, how much of a struggle will it be to get my lenses out from beneath the stuff that I'll also be carrying, like a medkit, food, maps. etc.

I'm debating ditching the attachable day pack, and jamming a small camera backpack into my 70L bag. I'll have to ditch some extra sets of socks and undies to make the room though. The only thing that I'm really sure of is that I'm not going to be carrying a shoulder bag. I hate those things!

Has anyone done backpacking trips for an extended period with camera gear? What are you thoughts, experiences, and words of wisdom? Thank you for the help.
I have so much experience 'backpacking' or whatever you want to call it. So far around 50 countries or so. I've lived all over and have gone to many places with nothing but a small backpack.

In fact, my current goal/system is set up/designed to be a super light/ultra light camera set up that allows me to travel with hands free as well as carry my stuff.

Rule #1. Go light. Especially in SE Asia you don't need a ton of crap. Everything. And I mean everything for your personal use should fit into a small backpack. A two strapper is best for this. In that pack put your clothes and stuff. Generally 3 days worth is enough.

As for a camera pack so far I have found one that looks like this...



(side note: the USA flag came with the bag... I wear it with pride around here... but on the road... take such flags and stuff off your gear, Mine is only velcro).

It hangs down over either hip and can easily and comfortably be worn while wearing a backpack. Hands free all day long.

When you are travelling if you get off the beaten path at all you might be riding around on a scooter or doing whatever... my entire goal for how I do stuff is to have a pack that allows me to drive a scooter while still having all my stuff firmly attached to me.

Biggest mistake people make is thinking they need to haul a laptop and 5 pairs of shoes and all that stuff all around with them. Leave it all. Take underwear, and couple changes of clothes and some solid sandals and you're in.

As for camera gear, take what you will but storage... take twice or 3x what you think you will need. 4x is better. Those little detachable portable hard drives are good... plug it into the USB at an internet cafe and transfer your files to it. Or just take a lot of memory cards. You can also carry a whole bunch of the thumb drives. Plug your camera into the internet cafe cheapo computer and transfer files onto those... they are cheap and light. wrap it with tape after you fill it up and label it. Also take spare batteries. At least 4 and a portable charger.

Anyway I can go on and on about how I do things. I can also tell you some cool places to go. Just ask.

Last edited by alamo5000; 09-11-2013 at 03:18 PM.
09-11-2013, 03:13 PM   #11
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QuoteOriginally posted by calsan Quote
Use shaving oil rather than an aerosol can foam. This saves a volume the size of a 55-300 lens in your bag. Or don't shave. That's my big travel tip.
Don't haul around soap and towels and all that stuff if you ask me. Don't haul shaving cream or anything like that either. Get a little scruffy... but they sell razors and soap and shampoo every place I have ever been. Get there and buy some stuff. It's cheaper anyway. When you go some other place leave it for the next guy and buy a new bottle of shampoo. (Read don't buy a big bottle of shampoo) etc. Contact solution or something like that might be an exception.
09-11-2013, 09:28 PM   #12
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travelling light looks like the way to go from what I've collected from a few friends and acquaintances who have done trips like this first hand. Is that a shoulder bag or a waist pack? It kind of looks like a cross between a messenger bag and an shotgun skeet bag. I like the way it's a bit more subtle, so many camera bags look exactly like expensive camera bags.

I'll never hesitate to ask about the highlight reel of someone else's travels! What makes it on your short-list of S.E Asia destinations to hit or skip?
09-12-2013, 12:34 AM   #13
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Don't forget to bring a universal plug adaptor.

And at least an extension with two or three sockets. It almost always becomes a problem how to charge everything (phones, cameras, etc.) at once after a day's worth of adventure and you'll find only one or two free sockets in the room.
09-12-2013, 06:55 PM   #14
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QuoteOriginally posted by Gerbermiester Quote
travelling light looks like the way to go from what I've collected from a few friends and acquaintances who have done trips like this first hand. Is that a shoulder bag or a waist pack? It kind of looks like a cross between a messenger bag and an shotgun skeet bag. I like the way it's a bit more subtle, so many camera bags look exactly like expensive camera bags.

I'll never hesitate to ask about the highlight reel of someone else's travels! What makes it on your short-list of S.E Asia destinations to hit or skip?
It's a shoulder pack that rests on your hip about 4 or 5 o'clock. You can put it on either side and still wear a backpack.

As far as where to go... if you don't go to southern thailand and the phi phi islands you need your head examined. Also go up north to Chaing Mai.

My advice is to plan nothing more than two or three days out. Just go and have fun. Don't try to meticulously plan out your spontaneous vacation.
09-12-2013, 10:53 PM   #15
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QuoteOriginally posted by alamo5000 Quote
It's a shoulder pack that rests on your hip about 4 or 5 o'clock. You can put it on either side and still wear a backpack.

As far as where to go... if you don't go to southern thailand and the phi phi islands you need your head examined. Also go up north to Chaing Mai.

My advice is to plan nothing more than two or three days out. Just go and have fun. Don't try to meticulously plan out your spontaneous vacation.

Hahaha! I love this!

Hey Gerbermiester, if you'll ever drop by Manila, Philippines, feel free to drop me a PM. I can show you around if it's a weekend!
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