Bottled water at Tourist places

Shops love selling them since the margins are great, the local government loves them since it brings in additional tax revenue, and the tourists love them since they don’t want local bacteria to interfere with their enjoyment of authentic experiences. Mother nature pays the price. It’s a classic example of negative externality where the local businesses, the local government, and the tourists get the [perceived] benefits at the expense of the environment.

About 50 Billion water bottles are consumed every year. 80% end up in the form of landfills. 67 million barrels of oil is used every year to produce and transport them enough to fuel four million cars for the whole year. Next time you are planning to buy one, it might be worth considering alternatives. Hydration packs or collapsible bottles are an investment worth making upfront. While traveling, I usually fill them before leaving a safe place, for example, a hotel, hostel, or a restaurant, so that, I am not taking the risk of consuming unfiltered water or ending up on a remote island where there is no water fountain.

Sleeping in airplanes

PillowTies recently sent me an interesting piece of travel gear to try which I never thought could have existed. If you are a traveler like me who uses a pillow to sleep on long distance flights but does not like the dangling pillow then this is the exact gear you are looking for. It holds the pillow vertically forcing all the neck movement to be in the horizontal plane. So, one can comfortably sleep straight or sideways while still ensuring that the neck remains in a good shape. In fact, even when I am not sleeping and just playing with my phone or watching videos, I have enjoyed its support in keeping my neck straight. It is relatively sleek and hence would easily fit in your travel jacket or backpack pockets. I, first, thought that this might not work on all different seat configurations but I have tried it over many domestic airlines in the US and it has always worked.

Note: The initial installation does take some time to get used to, therefore, initially, I would recommend using a PillowTie only for long flights (4+ hours).

Carrying water during urban travel

Bottled water is  not only expensive but is harmful to the environment. Therefore, I try to reuse the same bottle while traveling. I used to carry a hard-plastic bottle while traveling and then one day at an airport, I saw another traveler carrying a flexible bottle, it looks like a pouch. Compared to a standard 500mL hard plastic round bottle it is slim and hence a good fit for a travel jacket. That’s why I fell in love with one and quickly added it to my traveling gear.

The one I carry around is Big Betty wine bottle. I use it carrying around water and it works perfectly well for urban travel.

Big Betty and a Gatorade bottle

Big Betty (750mL) and a Gatorade bottle (600 mL)

As always, with such items, price varies, so, if you are not in a rush, add a price tracker for it.

Choosing a Travel Backpack

Choosing a travel backpack is a topic of several online debates. Here are some of my learnings. The final decision depends on your preferences.

Size

First, start with the size, usual sizes are around 25L, 45L, 65L. The 25L is OK for a day or two and you can stretch it for a few days. It is almost what a good office backpack looks like. 45L can last for a few week-long urban trips. Of course, it cannot contain things like sleeping bag etc. Both of these are good choices for urban travel or travel not involving sleeping outdoors. For travel involving carrying sleeping bags or tents, a 65L backpack is unavoidable. But here is the flip-side. Not only, it is bulky but also, you cannot carry it in most airlines. You have to do a check-in which even if free, can be time-consuming. Here are some images from Google illustrating the sizes.

Weight distribution

The second most important aspect is the weight distribution. Some bags don’t provide hip or chest support straps. I would highly recommend choosing one which provides both.

A photo illustrating chest and hip straps

A photo illustrating chest and hip straps

Loading

The third important aspect of choosing a backpack is whether it is top-loading or front-loading. A top-loading backpack can only be loaded from the top while front-loading one opens up like a suitcase. Moving from top-loading to front-loading made my life much easier.

Front loading backpack

Front loading backpack

Some others concerns

  1. Don’t choose a bag with rollers. They are useful only at airports and hotel lobbies. Everywhere else, you are just carrying extra weight on your shoulders.
  2. If you travel with a laptop then ensure that the bag has a well-protected laptop sleeve.

What I decided on

I narrowed down my choices to following five 35L-45L backpacks since that is within the carry-on limits and can easily last for weeks.

  1. Tortuga Travel backpack  – 200$ for 44L
  2. Osprey Farpoint – 140$ for 40L. This seems to be the most popular backpack among the traveling community
  3. Minaal Carry-on bag  – 300$ for 35L
  4. Soot Electropack  – 280$ for 24+10L, a daypack can be pulled out of the bag – website dead as of Nov 2018
  5. Chrome Excursion  – 160$
  6. Venturesafe anti-theft backpack – 200$ for 45L. This bag definitely seems to have some good anti-theft and security features.

Eventually, I decided to go with Tortuga.

A secret which professional bloggers won’t tell you

I read several blogs while choosing a backpack and no one recommended a really simple trick for getting an inexpensive high-quality backpack. And that’s probably because this trick does not make money for the bloggers or the sellers. The trick is CraigsList. As of this writing, there are about 900 backpacks available to buy in my area. Most of them for about 50$.

Further reading

  1. Nomadic Matt
  2. Eastern Mountain Sport’s Guide
  3. Women’s backpack guide

 

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