I’m Will Hatton, a professional adventurer and online entrepreneur. The Broke Backpacker is a leading authority on real adventures, extreme budget travel and how to become a digital nomad. The goal of The Broke Backpacker is to help show budding adventurers how to ditch their desks, hit the road and discover the freedom of owning your own online business.
This article will help you get to know the Osprey Exos 58 liter backpackin all of its glory while teaching you what this awesome backpack can bring to your worldwide adventures!
Let’s go for a ride into the world of backpack exploration!
Finding the perfect backpack is like finding the perfect partner. Once you have found that perfect match for yourself you can’t comprehend having anything less. With so many fantastic packs on the market, looking to purchase a new backpack can be a bit like flicking through Tinder on a lonely night.
You might be interested in a few other travel backpacks, but how do you know when you’ve found the best backpack for your traveling adventures? Every backpacker has different tastes, true, but after I met the Osprey Exos 58, I knew I just had to spread the good word. The truly versatile and lightweight Osprey Exos 58 might just be the backpack unicorn you have been after.
I have personally owned several Osprey backpacks and I have always been extremely pleased by their performance. As a person who has beaten the hell out of my backpacks throughout my traveling career, I can attest to the quality of both the packs and the Osprey company itself. Having hiked more than 3,000 miles over the years with an Osprey backpack, I can tell you that they are built for the long haul.
Let’s jump right in and take an in-depth look at one of my favorite Osprey backpacks on the planet!
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Why Osprey? The All Mighty Guarantee!
The first thing that must be said about Osprey when buying one of their packs is the famous All Mighty Guarantee. In short, this means that your Osprey backpack and all of its components have lifetime protection against damage. If only my other gear had the same guarantee!
Buying an Osprey backpack is a solid investment that you know you can use for years-on-end. Few companies out there will fix your pack for free in a relatively short amount of time. If you are a person that tends to abuse your gear, the All Mighty Guarantee is a blessing!
Osprey offers a wide selection of backpacks for just about every type of travel or outdoor activity. A backpacker needs a pack that serves many different purposes and is capable of traveling to all of the far-flung destinations as smoothly as its owner.
What does ultralight mean? You might want to confuse the word “ultralight” with ultra weak. Ultralight backpacking is an increasingly popular style of hiking or traveling where keeping the total packed weight and bulk of your backpack down to the lowest it can be is the general goal.
Exos 58 features ultralight design materials plus the ability to strip weight by removing sleeping pad straps, compression straps and the top lid.
The ultralight design of this pack is one of the major selling points of this pack for me. If you have ever had a large pack that weighs 4-5 pounds when empty you will know what I mean.
I have found that the Osprey Exos 58 has plenty of room for everything I need to pack, even on long distance hiking trips. They don’t call the Osprey Exos 58 the “ultimate thru-hikers backpack” for nothing. With plenty of innovative design features built into this Osprey backpack, it is no wonder that the Exos 58 is becoming a favorite among backpackers and long distance hikers alike.
Osprey makes the same ultralight backpack for female backpackers as well. The Osprey Eja 58 is the exact same backpack, just with the sizing designed specifically for ladies.
Why Osprey Airspeed Kicks So Much Ass
A Tensioned back panel keeps the weight in the pack off of your back, enabling highly ventilated carrying comfort. This brilliant weight-support upgrade makes carrying big loads much more comfortable.
Some ultralight backpacks are notorious for having weak (or absent) suspension. Osprey has managed to create an excellent system here, ensuring balance and comfort for long periods of time.
The Flapjacket – A Bit of Extra Convenience
Unclip the removable floating lid and replace with the fixed FlapJacket to protect your gear from the elements and minimize weight. This is pretty cool if you are wanting to remove your top lid all together in order to make the pack lighter or smaller.
Exos 58 with the top lid removed and the flap jacket in its place.
Osprey Exos 58 Review: Key pack features
Exos 58 Weight
The lightness of the Osprey Exos 58 is probably my favorite feature of the pack. Weighing in at just 1.2 kg (2.7 pounds), the Exos 58 offers the perfect combination of comfort and toughness without carrying any extra weight. Osprey has done a bang up job getting the Exos 58 weight down so low.
Many backpackers think that they need a large backpack. I’m talking 70-80 liters. While that size might be very appropriate for some, in general, it is too large for the average backpacker. With a bigger backpack, it is easy to fill it with stuff you don’t actually need.
When traveling or hiking, one should never carry heaps of useless items anyway. I understand that some folks want lots of extra space for the trinkets or clothing they pick up along the way. Also, long, multi-day trips in cold weather require more warm clothing and gear to be packed and require a decent amount of space, but the Exos 58 is not an absolute minimalist backpack by any means.
You still have room for both necessities and extra trinkets, including cold weather gear. Let it be noted that this particular Osprey backpack would not be my first choice for an extended winter hiking trip.
If you plan on backpacking in places like South East Asia or South America, you will find the Osprey Exos 58 to be more than enough for your needs. Because you will carting around your backpack just about every day, you want your base weight to be as low as possible.
The Exos 58 weighs next to nothing but still can hold lots of gear.
Osprey Exos 58 Carry On Ready?
This pack is slightly over the limit with regards to being an airline acceptable carry on bag. However, with the top lid removed it could be possible to get it small enough to be accepted (maybe). Always check what your airline allows before showing up at the airport!
Carry on travel backpacks are great if you plan to take loads of budget flights. A travel backpack that is too small for your needs, but is an acceptable carry on size does not do you much good in the end.
Osprey Exos 58 Weight Capacity and Carrying Comfort
The Osprey Exos 58 was built with comfort in mind. What is the point of an ultralight backpack that destroys you back and shoulders?
The light wire alloy frame offers great support even when carrying loads up to 40 pounds. It is still possible to carry more than that of course, but that is where the comfort zone limit is. You might say, “Well I want to be able to carry 50 or 60 pounds!” Unless you are doing some serious mountaineering, there is simply no need for you to carry that much!
I also really enjoy the thick padding on the shoulder straps. I have never had a problem with them digging into my shoulders or chaffing my back.
Dialing in your pack to what feels comfortable for you is very important. Luckily, the Osprey Exos 58 makes it easy to make adjustments. Like most packs, you will have three main points of adjustment: the shoulder straps, the sternum straps, and the hip-belt. Once you have the bag on, you can make these adjustments in a few seconds and be on your way to custom comfort in no time!
Exos 58 Backpack Durability and Toughness
If you are looking to pack massive loads, then this backpack isn’t for you. Not that a 40 pound load isn’t fairly big, but if you’re the kind of person that wants to pack everything including the kitchen sink, then I recommend checking out some of Osprey’s heavier duty models.
In general, I think the modern backpacker doesn’t require as much pack-load as they might think. It would be a mistake to think less size and bulk automatically equals less durable. Choosing a pack all comes down to what you will be using your backpack for most.
That said, the Osprey Exos 58 is pretty damn tough when it comes to long-term wear and tear. If you are looking for a pack that you can rely on in a huge variety of situations, the Exos 58 will meet all of your expectations and then some.
The Exos 58 is built to survive mountains, jungle, or the desert!
Osprey Airspeed Breathability
Constantly feel like your old pack is creating a back swamp under your shirt? I hate the feeling of a backpack not allowing any fresh air into areas that need it the most: your back and shoulders!
Enter the Airspeed ventilation system. The name of the ventilation system for the Osprey Exos 58 sounds like the design of a futuristic rocket ship part. However, we are not sold on fancy names alone! The system actually works like a charm.
The AirSpeed 3-D tensioned mesh back panel was designed with the purpose of meeting all of your free flowing air needs. There is solid 5 inches of air space between where your back sits and the frame of the pack!
Of course, if you are putting in long hours crushing some trail miles, you are bound to sweat. Having a good ventilation system in place allows you to stay as cool and dry as possible, even when you are working hard.
Ever experienced the feeling of being in a sticky, humid tropical country? Maybe waiting for a bus in the sun with your backpack on your back? The Osprey Exos 58 was built to do battle, even in the sweatiest circumstances.
Fight the back swamp blues with the Exos 58 ventilation system!
Exos 58 Organization and Pack Access
The main inner belly of the pack is just one big compartment. This leaves the general backpack organizing up to your creativity. Over the years, one thing I have found to be very helpful with organization is the use of dry bags. You can buy dry bags in all sizes.
I keep my sleeping bag. for example, in a 20 liter dry bag. If I am going on a backpacking trip, I will always have at least 3 separate dry bags: one for clothes, one for food/misc. gear, and one for the sleeping bag.
Backpack Compression Straps and Pockets
On the side of the backpack, you have dual access stretch mesh side pockets for storing water bottles and other gear with compression straps. At the bottom of the Exos 58, you can attach your sleeping pad or tent using more compression straps. These straps are removable in case you are really counting ounces.
There are two zip storage pockets located on either side of the lid or “brain” of the backpack. These pockets are super handy for storing all of your bits and pieces including your headlamp or snacks.
The front stretch mesh pocket is a good place to store your flip-flops, rain jacket, swim shorts, or anything else that you want easy access to.
If you want to attach any additional items to the outside of the pack, the top lid has loop attachment points for external gear storage. Along both sides of the outer mesh pocket, there are 4 attachment loops per side! You have plenty of options if you are looking to secure bigger items to the outside of your backpack.
Osprey Trekking Pole Attachment
One cool new feature Osprey seems to be employing on all their new packs is the spot for trekking pole storage. The Stow-on-the-Go trekking pole attachment allows you to stow your poles in steep terrain or whenever you need your hands free.
I would like to take this moment to stress the importance of trekking poles if you do lots of hiking. Rumor has it that using them will add 20 years of life to your knees. If you plan on being active well after your middle age, I suggest picking some up.
Stash your trekking poles quickly when you need your hands free.
Osprey Exos 58 Sizing and Fit:
Osprey backpacks come in multiple sizes (small, medium, and large) based on your torso frame. The shoulder straps can be adjusted based on your height. You can also adjust how close the backpack sits on your upper back and shoulders.
What Size Osprey Pack Do I Need?
I am 5 10″ and about 170 pounds, and the medium size fits me perfectly. Osprey has quite a bit of information available on its website about how best to determine your size. The Osprey size comparison tables outline all the measurements for each backpack.
Newly released in 2018, the women’s specific Osprey Eja 58 liter is the female version of the Exos 58 pack. The Eja has received recent upgrades to its systems as well, including a tweak in both suspension and hip-belt designs for improved fit, carrying comfort, and load distribution.
Osprey Exos 58 Price
The brand new 2018 Osprey Exos 58 model runs $220 as of February 2018. Backpacks aren’t the cheapest pieces of travel gear, but they are the most important. They are an investment for many years to come. There is no better feeling then having the right piece of gear for the right application.
If you are in the market for an ultralight backpack, look no further than the Exos 58. Often in the world of outdoor gear, the more something is labeled ultralight, the more expensive it is. This is not the case with the Exos 58! When compared to other ultralight backpacks out there, the Exos 58 is a leader in its class for both quality and affordability.
Top Tip: If you don’t mind getting your hands on last season’s model, you can usually buy the backpack cheaper. I recommend buying the pack online where you can usually find the best price. I’ve seen this pack on Amazon for as low as $150 USD for last years models. You can always bring it to one of Osprey’s many distributors to attain the perfect fit, if need be, through heat molding.
Do you ever find yourself deep into a long term travel adventure and wonder how you can keep the travel train rolling? When I first started traveling years ago I wondered the same thing. Then I found the world of trimming weed in California and it totally changed how I was able to travel.
Seasonal jobs have always been staples in the dedicated backpacker’s diet. It allows you to make money while not having to sell your soul to a company in exchange for a year round salary and a life with restricted possibilities to travel long term. Trimming weed might just be what you have been looking for to help keep you on the road.
Quick answer: discover the world of trimming weed
Learn where to look for a job trimming weed.
Get a feel for what life is like on a pot farm.
Discover how much money you can make.
Explore the benefits of finding an awesome trim scene.
Learn how to find a job.
Review legality and risk.
The plant that has been keeping backpackers on the road for a generation
No job quite like it
All over the world, there are many opportunities to find seasonal jobs, but no job out there can compare to the work one can find on the small pot farms of Northern California. It truly is a fantastic and unique experience on many levels.
Take the location for example. Redwoods, rolling sun baked hills, wine grape vineyards, forests covered in ferns and edible mushrooms, and weed plants three and a half meters tall. Sounds ideal right?
Well by no means does money just rain down from the sky as the pot plants come into flower. Becoming a weed trimmer requires work ethic. You have to work hard for the cash you earn.
For broke backpackers, this is a dream job
If you can put in the time working for a month or two, you can be earning between $200-600 USD per day. In broke backpacker economics, this translates into 1 day of work that can equal a month (or more) of travel. Add up all the work days and the pay together. Suddenly trimming weed has paid for your plane ticket to arrive, your plane ticket to go where ever you want several times over, and plentiful cash to keep your backpack on your back with the road reflecting in your sunglasses for a long long time.
Garden of weed plants in all of their glory!
There is plenty of myth and legend surrounding the life and times of the so-called “trimmigrant”.
So, let us bring that legend back to reality and explain what you need to know in order to find a seasonal job trimming weed.
Where to look for a job trimming weed
The “Emerald Triangle” is an unofficial region of North California stretching from southern Mendocino County to the Humboldt and Shasta/Trinity County borders respectively. It is a region that has been producing some of the best quality marijuana in the world for the last 30-40 years. That means a few generations of backpackers just like you have been here over the years trimming weed to fund their travels.
Wine drinking and Weed Trimming. What else do you need?
People here have dedicated their lives to breeding the best strains imaginable. The results have manifested into a beautiful, potent, and highly sought after product. The southern tip of the “Emerald Triangle” region begins about a two-hour drive north of San Francisco and essentially goes all the way to the Oregon border (where the pot production does not stop, but we will keep this article strictly about California).
Beauty of the Emerald Triangle
West of where the majority of cannabis cultivation is happening lies the Pacific Ocean. A whole other world of adventure possibilities can be discovered on the coast. On your days off from working or when the work is finished all together, it is a must visit.
There are great stretches of wild coast, where the forest comes right up to the sea, and plenty of beautiful hiking tracks established to keep you busy. California is a big state with a lot to take in and it is a wise to not overestimate distances. Some stretches of road (especially on the coast) take ages to drive, as they are super windy. While it is a very important part of the trimmigrant experience to discover some of the beauty that California has to offer, let’s get back to the real reason for coming here: the work and the weed!
Working on a cannabis farm
Working on a weed farm often entails sitting on your bum. Lots of sitting! The most common job on a farm is the trimming of flowers (buds). This means that you are removing all of the unwanted leaves and stems from the buds in order to make them market ready. This is done using a special kind of thin-tip scissor.
The expectations of the growers
Some growers want every last little bud to be trimmed, while others only require you to work buds the size of your thumbnail or bigger. The standard really varies from producer to producer. What will be acceptable for one grower might not be for another.
At the beginning of the season, the grower should explain how he or she likes it, and will periodically check in with you to see that you are meeting that standard.
If you ignore the instructions of the grower and trim the way that you think it should be done, there is a good chance that you will be fired. You don’t want that, so try to be mindful and don’t do a bloody hack job. You are trimming weed, not chainsawing an old tree for firewood.
Since the plant you are dealing with is very sticky as it is coated with a THC laden resin, you might want to strongly consider gloves. Many growers will require them. If you are allergic to latex, just ask for latex-free gloves!
Save all of the brown chunks that accumulate on the gloves and by the end of the season, you will have several ounces of highly concentrated pure finger hash!
Beautiful flowers coming into maturity before harvest
How much money can you make trimming weed?
Things are changing fast in California. Legalization will without a doubt disrupt the legendary weed trimming payoffs of old.
When I started trimming weed 8 years ago, the standard was $200 a pound. Trimming should always be paid by the pound. You get paid for how much you do, simple as that.
Because of the saturated market and the legalization of recreational cannabis in California, the price paid per pound has fallen. It is still possible to find $200 a pound pay, like in the glory days, but the price more commonly seen now is $150-175 per pound, and as low as $100-125!
Trimming a pound can take between two and eight hours to complete, so if you are fast, you can really make some cash.
When the price per pound is lower it is harder to make more money of course, but if the pay is less, just put in more hours, deprive yourself of sleep, and at the end, you will be rewarded. Of course, you do not need any sort of work visa to do this work.
As of this moment, all the work I have ever done or ever heard of others doing has been paid in cash and is under the table (not taxed). This could (hopefully not for everyone) change in the future as the business of trimming weed and growing, in general, becomes more legitimate.
Hourly work vs trimming work
Another aspect of the pot farm can be hourly work. This includes harvesting, washing, hanging, sorting, bucking, and stripping plants. The pay can also range quite a lot from $10/hour to $25. There is a myth that if you are a busty lady, and you work topless, you can make a lot more per hour. I have never seen that happen, and to be honest, sticky, itchy breasts does not sound like a good time. However, if that is your thing, go for it.
Work hard from the beginning and show you are worth at least $20/hour! I personally enjoy the mix of trimming and hourly work. It gets you outside and keeps you off of your bum and more hands on with the plants. The hourly work can be a good way to supplement the days when you are trimming at snail pace.
Process of harvesting weed
Once the weed is harvested, it needs to be hung, then dried for several days to get the right cure. The next step is called “bucking”, where you cut individual buds off of the dried branches they were hung on. Some growers will do this for you, or some will pay you to do it.
Wall of buds drying on the line
Either way, it needs to be done at the right moment. The buds need to have the right moisture level in order to avoid mold growth. The bud can also lose some of its potency by being overly dry.
There is a ton of work to get through from start to finish on a cannabis farm. Be ready to bring your A-game work ethic. Your hands and bum will curse you, but your wallet will thank you.
How to keep yourself entertained while trimming weed
A great way to pass the long hours sitting in a chair with a tray full of bud on your lap is to listen to podcasts. You can be staying informed about what is going on in the world, be thoroughly entertained, and have something to keep your mind occupied while you pass away the hours.
As you will be part of a team, you will have a wide range of music taste to absorb. Headphones are key to staying on track in my opinion.
You will have ample time to sit and ponder your next adventure destination. This guide will help you to get motivated by teaching you how to Travel The World on $10 a Day so you can stretch your budget and travel even longer and farther than you thought possible. Well worth the investment!
Finding the right weed trimming scene
Finding the right trim scene is the most important part of your whole journey into this world of weed.
I have heard disaster stories of people finding themselves at massive trim scenes with 40-50 people, living in squalorly tent camps with appalling sanitation, constant rain, no heat, shitty food, no shower, and long hours, only to discover that after a month or two of busting their ass, the grower has no money to pay them the tens of thousands of dollars they are owed.
In my opinion, this is worst case scenario and can be easily avoided by following your gut instincts, common sense, and by staying away from dirty, overcrowded trim camps. Sketchy dudes usually equal sketchy trim scene. You don’t want to find yourself trimming weed for the likes of sketchy people.
Who you want to work for is someone who is professional, organized, and seasoned. They know how to run a good trim scene like clockwork. They know how to make trimmers feel comfortable and they always pay on time.
Invest in some quality backpacking gear
As on any great backpacking adventure, camping sometimes is the only option. If you travel to North California without a job lined up, a good, waterproof tent and quality sleeping bag is an absolute must. Other times there will be housing provided. This is the best of course because it keeps you and your stuff out of the elements when the weather turns cold.
The amazing power of a good tent is not to be underestimated however. There are many greattents for backpackingout there. Do some research and figure out which tent is right for you.
In late September and throughout the month of October you can have long periods with no rain. This can be the perfect weather to sleep out in. Be prepared and you will be comfortable and cozy in any weather scenario.
How many people will you be trimming weed with?
The best trim scenes I have worked on are typically made up of small teams of 5-10 people. Small, organic farms are best. Find out whether any meals are included as part of your work arrangement. Sometimes the grower requires you to provide your own food and will take you on weekly runs to the closest town to resupply on groceries.
Classic old time grocery store in Humboldt County
If this is the case, make sure that they are paying you well. If food is provided or at least one meal a day, I think it is fair to accept a lower wage. The time you save from cooking yourself dinner every night is also huge. One of the best parts of the trimmers day is to sit down with everyone from the crew to a nice hot delicious meal. Nothing keeps a crew happy and motivated quite like a hot meal and a cold beer!
How to not be “that asshole” on a trim scene
It is important to stress that providing food is no longer the standard as it is very expensive to feed a crew of trimmers for a month or two. Don’t pout if food is not provided. If you happen upon a scene where this is still the case, then you lucked out, and you should be thanking the trim gods.
Whether you are traveling with your partner, your best mate, or solo, you are always bound to meet interesting people in a trim scene. They are often people like you. They are travelers, backpackers, gypsies, ramblers, and vagabonds who have come from the world over to cash in on the green harvest.
My biggest tip on how to win bonus points with your trim mates? Cook for everyone including the growers at least once and everyone will love you. Unless you can’t even make toast. Then just order a pizza.
Be kind to your fellow trimmer. Make connections and establish relationships. Respect the space, take care of it, and keep your campsite/cabin clean. Help out with chores and take turns cleaning the bathroom and shower.
Treat the communal spaces as if they were your own. Follow these basic ethics of trimmer life, and you will all but guarantee an invitation to return.
Enjoy the weed, don’t devour it like a savage monster
On a trim scene, the pot is beautiful and it is abundant. There is always plenty of smoke to go around. If you are not used to kilos of fresh cannabis at your disposal, I recommend that you take it easy. I’ve seen guys who can smoke 10-20 huge Bob Marley joints in a day and function normally. They are a rare and strange breed.
The average person takes one or two rips of a joint and is feeling pretty zooted. My point is, just because all of your teenage dreams lie before you in the form of an all-you-can-smoke buffet, it doesn’t mean you have to eat the whole pie in one go. Pace yourself, savor the different flavors. Get to know the various strains. Try to learn what you can handle before going directly into the 10 joints a day routine. Other drugs may be around as well. A good magic mushroom walk in the redwoods is always a good time.
How to find a job trimming weed
Of course, this process is much easier if you already know someone working in the industry. You already have a reference, someone who you trust, someone who trusts you and probably has a clear idea of what is being offered. If you do not have a job or someone to bring you to a scene then you do have options.
Let the adventure begin.
Finding a trim scene on your own can be difficult. But with some planning and a little luck, you will find yourself in the right place not too long after landing in San Francisco.
San Francisco’s iconic Golden Gate Bridge
If you are coming from out of state or overseas, then you will most likely fly in SFO (San Francisco International). From here, you need to head north. Before you arrive, I suggest that you try and line up some Couchsurfing hosts in SF.
Getting around Northern California
There are several buses North that you can catch from SFO and the city itself, but these can be quite expensive. A bus from SFO to Santa Rosa (1 hour ½ north) will run you back about $40! This is a convenient option; however, if you are trying to save some money I recommend putting an ad up on a ride sharing website like Craigslist. Hitchhiking is also great. I would not count on hitchhiking until you get north of the Golden Gate Bridge.
How far north you are willing to travel will open up a range of possibilities. I have found that more people find work in the smallish towns in Northern Mendocino, Humboldt, and Shasta/Trinity. The bigger towns have the benefit of more services, but also have more people looking for work.
Renting a small, cheap car for the first week will of course open more..
The best thing about travelling is the memories you create along the way! Your travel camera captures these precious moments, sealing memories that will last a lifetime. If you are like me, you may have a terrible memory. Taking plenty of photos on the road helps me ensure that I won’t forget a moment of my adventures, that the incredible highs and lows will be available to me at all times – simply by flicking through my photo albums. Most backpackers these days hit the road with some kind of travel friendly camera, even if it’s just a phone camera, and there is a lot of information out there on how to choose the best travel camera. Never fear amigos – I’m here to help.
The best camera for travel is versatile, lightweight and takes incredible photos… That’s what we are looking for when choosing a camera for backpacking. There’s a vast range of travel cameras on the market to suit every level of photography, from beginner to advanced and everything in between. Thankfully in this day and age, the best travel cameras don’t necessarily come with a massive price tag and travel photography is becoming more and more accessible. Point and shoot travel cameras are compact and are typically inexpensive, however, you won’t get the same kind of quality as you will with a DSLR.
A DSLR travel camera captures quality photos and offers a wide selection of lens options, however, they tend to be quite bulky and heavy. Mirrorless travel cameras have interchangeable lenses and are built specifically for taking digital photographs. A mirrorless camera is probably one of the best cameras to take backpacking, as it’s lightweight and snaps wicked high quality photos.
Many backpackers opt for using their smartphone as their travel camera and it makes sense – smartphone cameras are getting better all the time. An action travel camera is great not only for adventure but also for water activities as most include protective housing and they are tough as nails. Vlogging has become increasingly popular amongst the backpacker trail. If you’re into aerial photography, drones can take some insane footage which, when edited, can produce truly gorgeous videos.
You get it – there are dozens of different TYPES of photographers out there; some of us are super casual and just use our phone, others want high quality action shots as we raft down rapids and for some, the sky ain’t no limit and we want to capture gorgeous panoramas using a shiny new aerial drone.
When choosing what is the best travel camera for you consider the type, size, portability, versatility, durability, resolution, zoom and price range. Ok, Ok, I get it – that’s a lot of factors to think about. Never fear, I’ve spent the last hundred hours of my life comparing the best travel cameras out there, chatting to a couple of friends who are professional photographers and drawing on my experience… Read on amigos, and discover the best travel camera for your adventure.
What to Consider when Choosing the Best Travel Camera
Esme taking my photo in Bhutan
Size and Portability
The size and weight are really important factors to consider when determining what’s the best camera to take travelling. A full DSLR travel camera setup with extra lenses will be quite bulky and heavy to carry around – although the photos are usually worth it!
Think about what you actually want to get out of your camera – do you want truly epic shots that are professional photographer quality or are you happy with intermediate quality shots. If the latter sounds A-OK to you then think about picking up a lightweight, cheaper, camera.
The best compact camera for travel doesn’t take up too much room or add too much weight to your backpack. Mirrorless cameras are a popular alternative to DSLR’s, as they’re comparable in regards to image quality yet much lighter in weight and usually a lot less bulky. Point and shoots are usually the best travel camera for beginners, as they’re lightweight, simple to use and portable.
The best camera for travelling is super god-damn versatile, as you’ll be capturing everything from landscapes to portraits, action adventures to wildlife and everything in between. Your camera needs to be able to handle multiple different scenarios. DSLR travel cameras have manual lighting and interchangeable lenses with various zoom lengths. The best DSLR camera for travel photography includes a few key lenses at common focal length, or with a versatile zoom length. You really do need to have more than just one lens if you go down the DSLR route. Sometimes those candid travel camera moments unexpectedly appear, so you’ll need to be quick at changing lenses.
Smartphone travel cameras are great for those random photo opportunities, with flexible light/zoom settings. In my humble opinion, for the majority of backpackers, the best camera to travel with is a point and shoot travel camera, as these are so versatile! Point and shoots take decent quality images, have manual control options, excellent zoom range and usually come with a video function. Action travel cameras also have a video option and are handy for activities like canyoning, as they’re also waterproof. If you are serious about your photography, you may well opt to travel with two cameras – a point and shoot or DSLR and then an action camera to capture your adventures.
Shot on Nikon D5500
If you’re the type of person who’s worried about using their travel camera in public, discreetness is important. This helps when I inconspicuously snap pictures in uncanny places and situations. Sometimes you feel a little awkward, whipping out your expensive DSLR travel camera, tripod and lenses in a small remote village in the middle of Myanmar. You can avoid scrutiny of your DSLR travel camera by using an old camera bag, with no brands names splashed all over it. This makes it far less steal-able and will allow you to take better candid shots.
The best pocket camera for travel is a point and shoot travel camera, these are inconspicuous, small and discreet. Mirrorless cameras tend to look more flashy although they don’t look quite as expensive as DSLR travel cameras – these are the Rolls-Royces of the camera world. Both action travel cameras and smartphone cameras are super discreet…
It’s definitely worth having a durable travel camera to take with you on your trip – See your camera as an investment, one that you want to last a lifetime! You can find point and shoot travel cameras that are durable, shockproof and designed for rugged conditions. Even if you don’t plan on rugged travelling… It’s pretty easy to accidentally drop your camera, so you want something tough that can handle a few knocks.
If you’re planning on exploring the great outdoors; whether it be surfing a gnarly wave, climbing a wicked peak or taking on the rapids in your white water raft, you’ll need the best waterproof travel camera for the job – something that’s also shockproof and durable. Smart phone travel cameras tend to be delicate and not very heavy duty, however, the new iPhone 7 is splash, water and dust resistant. Some mid-high end DSLR and mirrorless travel cameras are somewhat weather resistant, and have sealed joints, offering some protection against dust and rain. Try to pick something that’s durable and won’t break under the pressures of travelling… I’ll cover some of my favourite, super tough, cameras later on.
Shot on my Panasonic Lumix DC-ZS70K in Iran
Your photo resolution is a crucial factor to consider. If you plan on printing, enlarging or publishing your photographs, then the size of the image, megapixels and your choice of lens will all come into play. I always shoot at the highest resolution, as you can’t go back and add more pixels to your photos, but you can downsize. This allows you to crop the photo without affecting the quality of the picture.
Zoom is one of the first things people consider when purchasing a good camera for travelling. However, zoom isn’t the most important consideration in a travel camera. In some cameras, like point and shoots and smart phone cameras, extreme zoom often compromises the quality of the image.
The zoom on DSLR and mirrorless travel cameras depend on the interchangeable lens. A telephoto zoom with a 55-200mm lens is great for most photos you take while travelling, whether it’s on the beach or with elephants at an ethical sanctuary – do your research guys. If you want to capture a wide angle, then opt for an ultra wide-angle 18mm zoom lens. It’ll capture the whole beach or view that you’re looking at and you’ll have a truly awesome image.
One of the first shots I took on my Nikon D5500
Video is a feature that some travellers love and others rarely use. For travel Vloggers, the video feature is a necessity. Most travel cameras, like point and shoots, smart phones travel cameras, DSLR, mirrorless and action travel cameras include some kind of video feature. In fact, it’s pretty rare these days for a camera not to include video functionality.
If you want to take professional videos, then it’s advised to invest in the right accessories like a tripod and microphone. Articulated LCD screens are perfect for Vloggers, whereas GoPros take awesome high quality action videos. Most travel cameras do shoot decent video and if you’re a casual blogger, your smartphone is probably the best bet for making videos on the road. I personally don’t often shoot videos on my DSLR and instead stick to my iPhone. Alright, let’s break it down, what are the main types of travel cameras out there…
Mirror VS. Mirrorless Travel Cameras
Whenever you peer into a DLSR travel camera, you’re looking through a mirror located inside the camera. The image you see is a reflected scene, portrayed through the mirror, covering the travel camera sensor. When you capture a photo the shutter flips up, exposing the sensor to the image and storing it on your SD card. The complicated moving parts inside your DSLR travel camera is why mirrored travel cameras are fairly bulky.
Mirrorless travel cameras are popular amongst travellers – They’re much smaller, easy to carry and have no moving parts inside. The image you see comes directly through the lens and onto the sensor, so you’re seeing a digital image, rather than a live vision. When mirrorless travel cameras first came out, the quality wasn’t great, however with innovation and improving technology, they’re now on par with the best DSLR travel cameras.
In general, I recommend going for a mirrorless travel camera – they are lighter, more compact, take great quality images and are usually a fair bit cheaper than DSLRs. Below is the most mighty of tables you have ever seen, compare the stats and then keep on reading to find the best travel camera for your trip…
360 Travel Cameras
Worth a mention, 360 degree travel cameras have become increasing in popularity over the years and you can catch some trippy ass photos with them – if you want to take some truly weird and wonderful images, these are one of the best cameras to travel with. When the first 360 degree cameras came out the images and videos were of poor quality, however, the options on today’s market are much improved. These awesome travel cameras come with multiple cameras on one device, used to capture the entire surroundings in high definition video or pictures.
These days, almost all travellers hit the road with a phone and camera and the majority of digital nomads travel with a laptop as well. When I first hit the road, I had none of this and to be honest, it was a truly glorious time – but that’s a story for another day!
When it comes to digital backup or even just the best way to backup photos, there’s nobody that needs to be more careful than the digital nomad! Digital backup is actually not a very high priority for most people. I know that I ignored securing my shit for way too long… I’ve met a lot of people on the road who have lost years of photos, movies or content and so finally I decided to dive into the somewhat confusing topic of advanced digital security and tell you why digital backup and advanced digital security are so important and how you can make them a part of your daily life without much ado…
Today, we are going to cover
Protecting your gear from thieves
Catching thieves if they do steal your gear
Tracking your valuables across the world
Backing up your data to physical devices
Backing up your data to a cloud storage service
The best way to backup photos
How to go ‘invisible’ online with a VPN
How to protect your passwords with one nifty trick
Alright amigos, let’s jump right in…
Keeping your shit safe in the physical world
Whether you’re a cafe, co-working space or beach hammock kind of person, choose your working location strategically. Follow Wild Bill Hickock’s advice and try to put your back up against a wall, a corner is even better – this way your enemies, or pesky thieves, can only come at you from one or two angles.
When you are in ‘the zone’, it’s unlikely you’ll be paying close attention to what is going on around you so keep your valuables out of sight – don’t have your phone next to you on a table and for the love of God, don’t leave it there if you pop up to get a quick refill of Java or to use the facilities. 99/100, it will still be there when you get back but trust me – that one time when it isn’t, will really suck.
Here are some tips to keep your stuff safe in the real world…
Don’t bring unnecessary valuables with you to your work-spot: A laptop and phone are normally enough, do you really need your iPad and iPod as well? Limit the potential risks.
Keep your phone in your pocket – there is no point in having it next to your laptop and it makes an attractive prize for an opportunist.
Keep your bag locked – it’s always worth having a couple of cheap luggage locks with you for your bag zippers.
If you’re more worried that someone might swipe your phone, try Project Prey. This FREE digital security program will track your gadgets locations, utilise your camera to take pictures of the thieves and allows you to remotely wipe your gadgets to keep your data safe. Prey also can capture logins, passwords and personal information which, if used as leverage, can help you get your devices back. This digital backup plan is a tiny step towards advanced digital security.
For your laptop, there is a Front Door Software program called Retriever. With Retriever, you can have a message pop up on your computer screen when it boots up. This can be your contact information or even the offer of a reward.
That said, it doesn’t hurt to drop a small GPS tracker in your backpack. Tuck it into one of the smallest pockets of your bag. This way, if somebody does swipe your bag, you can hunt them down and murder them get them arrested.
Crucially, you should really be insuring your gear. Most insurance policies don’t properly cover gear and will only pay out to a maximum amount of about $750 per item, and that’s after you have paid a hefty excess. For a reliable company that CAN insure your gear, we recommend Gadget Cover . Their cover is widely considered the number one choice for photographers wanting to insure expensive cameras equipment.
Limited Laptop Lifespans Can Fuck You Over
Just taking kickass pictures might not cut it in the big, bad world! Figure out the best way to backup photos and protect your content.
A recent study showed that one-third of all laptops fail within three years of being purchased. This means good digital backup and advanced digital security (back yo’ shit up bra!) is even more important, especially for digital nomads. So, when it comes to maintaining advanced digital security on your older laptop, you should not only be backing up to the cloud but you should also be keeping your laptop safe from knocks. I travel with this laptop case, it’s basically indestructible. If your laptop does breathe its last breath, CrashPlan more on this later, should be your first port of call. If you don’t yet have a laptop; check out this extremely detailed breakdown of the best laptops to take travelling.
Keeping Your Digital Backup Nearby
Digital Security is dull… but important, don’t mess it up.
I always travel with a mega-USB (this baby has 128MB and is tiny, I leave it plugged into my laptop at all times for extra space) as well as a portable hard drive. I back up my entire laptop to my hard drive once a month and keep my hard drive stored separately from my laptop so that if I lose one, I don’t lose them both. There’s a bunch of hard drives on the market but the Seagate 2 TB is the one I use, it has two terabytes of space (which is a lot!) and is tough as hell. If you want a really tough USB, I recommend this one.
Figure how to store digital photos, physical copies may not be feasible every time!
As a digital nomad, almost all of your advanced digital security efforts go towards protecting your work. However, you do have personal data on your devices as well. For many, this means heaps of pictures! Obviously, you want to backup photos of your travels and to do that, you need to know how to store photos. What’s the best way to backup photos, you ask? Again, I recommend backing up to a portable hard drive but I also recommend checking out Flickr – they have a free digital backup option, but they also specialise in photo backup so they are one of the best and most affordable options.
Digital Backups to a Hard Drive are Not Reliable
Keep in mind that thieves aren’t the only threat to your data. Laptops do break and so do hard drives – the majority of hard drives last about 3-5 years so it’s worth installing Active@ Hard Drive Monitor ($5.99; Windows) and SMARTReporter (free; OS X) which will both give you some advance warning of hard drive failure. So before delving into digital backup and advanced digital security, take care of physical security first!
I strongly recommend purchasing Crashplan – it has saved my ass more than once. CrashPlan, once installed, will automatically back up the entire contents of your laptop to an online cloud service. You can then ‘download’ all the data and settings on your laptop to a new device if your old device is lost, damaged or stolen.
Treat the Cloud like Your (Digital) Security Blanket
Keep your data as snug and safe as these little guys
Owning a laptop means that eventually, your digital security methods will fail you and you’ll lose data. If you don’t regularly backup photos or do a computer backup, you could lose a whole lot. Protect your data and utilise advanced digital security practices – OK, that’s a mouthful, let me break it down – save to the god-damn cloud! This way, if your device is stolen, your work isn’t. For instance, you can store your photos online for free with Dropbox. However, a better way to protect yourself might be a program like CrashPlan. What is truly excellent about CrashPlan is that when it does a computer backup, it downloads everything on your computer to the cloud. This means that the ability to backup your data and backup photos are endless. From $5 a month, it might just be the best way to backup your photos and the best way to store digital video especially if you are a content creator.
A VPN is your Digital Invisibility Cloak
Your invisibility cloak (or VPN) can cloak you in digital security
Investing in a VPN is well worth it. Not only is a VPN often the only way to access certain sites or apps in some countries, like Tinder in Iran or Facebook in China, but a VPN offers you a level of digital security and anonymity that is well worth having.
Here’s a simple question – do you trust your government? Do you trust the government of every country you want to travel to?
If the answer is yes, well… I can’t really help you, you my friend are beyond help.
If you answered no then huzzah, pass go, collect 200 bucks and get yourself a VPN.
Standing for Virtual Remote Network, VPN’s essentially hide you from the rest of the virtual world by bouncing your IP address to a different god-damn continent and making you much, much harder to track. This digital security solution can keep your bank and Paypal from realising you’re changing countries every three days, which will also keep them from freezing your accounts – pretty useful.
A VPN will also help you stream entertainment from sites like Netflix, which isn’t available worldwide. I’ve tried and tested over a dozen VPN providers on my travels, my favourite is PureVPN which, so far, has worked in every country I’ve tried it in.
What’s the Secret Password?
Ever felt the need to have a password for your passwords? Time to deal with your digital security issues!
To improve your advanced digital security whilst travelling, begin with your password. Did you know even the best password is useless if you have auto-login enabled on all of your devices? If you can’t go without this convenience (I know I can’t), LastPass might be for you. This digital security control saves all of your passwords for you and will autofill all your fields. This way, you only sign into LastPass and it signs into everything else for you.
Digital Security Summary
Alright amigos, you got this far, you now know what to do. So you really have no excuse for not protecting your gear!
Give your devices a whole lotta love-if you want them to stick by you for longer!
So amigos, biggest lesson here is to treat your devices, your digital backup, and your personal advanced digital security with a whole lotta love! The more love you show your devices and your digital security methods, the more likely they are to be with you for a long time. So go ahead, take the plunge into the idyllic world of complete digital security!
As any number of deeply inspirational Facebook memes will tell you, traveling can be an incredible experience. Meeting foreign cultures and fellow travellers, exploring ancient jungles, lazing on sun-drenched beaches and somehow managing to keep down exotic foods certainly sound appealing. Indeed, most of the time, traveling is all fun and games. But it isn’t always. In fact, backpacking can sometimes involve quite a lot of dangers abroad especially if you are keen on dangerous activities.
Sometimes I long for those naive days of my youth when I had not yet been exposed to the harsh realities of backpacking and begging your parents for a Western Union transfer. Alas, those days are behind me now, having receded almost as far as my hairline, but what I do have left over after these years in the field is a keen sense of self-preservation. In this article, I’d like to share with you some of my more precarious experiences abroad, some of the ‘dangerous activities’ as I’d like to call them. You’ll see that travel insurance is generally money well-spent.
Welcome to Tijuana
Try not adding pharmacies to your list of “must see” places!
After graduating high school, I wanted nothing more than to explore the world and embark on a voyage of self-discovery. Somehow, I ended up in Tijuana, Mexico, which at the time was one of the more dangerous places in an already troubled country. As far as finding yourself goes, I’m fairly sure I didn’t find me there. What I did find was a pleasant enough beach several miles out of the city, a disturbingly large number of strip clubs, and several touts inviting me to come witness a donkey show. Although I have myself not been exposed to the latter activity, which I would imagine is mainly dangerous for the performer, those who have generally do not enjoy discussing the experience. As far as dangerous activities go, Tijuana is clearly swarming with them!
My parents and other family members had repeatedly warned me not to go to Tijuana unsupervised which is why, being the adventurous 18-year old with a lush head of curls I was, it seemed like the best idea in the world. I installed myself in a pensión in Tijuana beach, and for a while, things were going rather well. Unfortunately, I one evening had the bright idea of going out to discover the city nightlife.
I took a taxi to Tijuana city and sat down at one of the less depressing-looking bars. I was soon approached by a young Mexican fellow who bought me several rounds of drinks and who all in all seemed friendly enough. This was, in hindsight, my second mistake. Strangers usually don’t buy you drinks unless they have a very good reason to. After a while he suggested we go find some girls, which again seemed reasonable enough at the time.
After a long walk we arrived at what looked like a hotel and we ascended the staircase, where we were joined by another young gentleman. Suddenly, the mood soured, as both men pulled knives and put them on my throat while rifling through my pockets. When they had finished with my pants, they attempted to cut off my necklace, but I explained that it had significant sentimental value to me and was of no use to them. They relented. I then asked for a dollar back for the taxi home, which they generously gave me. I decided that as far as robbers go, these two were alright. They did however make off with a great deal of cash as well as my passport. As far as dangerous activities go, I kinda pushed it in Tijuana.
Moral of the Story: Don’t go to Tijuana
Sleepless in Serbia
Apparently, this was going on while I was in jail. Photo Credit RaveJungle
Those familiar with the European festival scene may have heard of Exit Festival, held in Novi Sad, Serbia. After having accidentally booked my flight three days later than my friends, I finally arrived at the campsite outside Petrovaradin Fortress, an impressive landmark and spectacular location for an electronic music festival. A traveling merchant promptly offered to sell me some Marijuana, and I gladly took him up on his offer. It really didn’t seem like one of them ‘dangerous activities’. It was a concert after all!
Later that day, we began to make our way to the festival grounds in the sweltering heat. It was well over 40 degrees Celsius and we were all ill-prepared for the climate, but we hadn’t come all this way to lie sweating in our tents. At the time, I was relatively inexperienced in smuggling narcotics through festival checkpoints, and I thought that my tobacco pouch was a perfectly suitable location for hiding my weed. I was wrong.
The guard lost no time in opening up my tobacco and, upon taking a deep whiff of its contents, quickly clapped me in handcuffs and handed me over to one of his burlier colleagues. This colleague then marched me over to the police wagon bent over while my friends cheered me on for reasons which are unknown to me to this day.
It was dark inside the back of the police wagon, and my danger sense was tingling, but at least I had company. Unsure of what was awaiting us inside the police station, my fellow arrestees and I decided to stick together in case we were beaten, or worse. Luckily, it didn’t come to that. All of the busted festivalgoers were locked up together in what seemed like a large classroom, and the atmosphere was actually quite jovial. I wasn’t too distressed aside from the fact that I missed the only two acts I had come to the festival to see, Deadmau5 and Beirut, because I was locked up in a Serbian jail. The sleeping arrangements were non-existent, but I managed to curl up on the floor and doze off until daybreak.
The next day, we were summoned to see the judge. I was made to wait till very last, which according to the warden was because I had long hair and an American passport, which to me at the time did not seem like very good reasons for detaining someone. I only later remembered the NATO bombing campaign on Serbia, but I still can’t explain the long hair. After finally being summoned, the judge initially demanded the princely sum of 600 euros, but after some bartering with the assistance of my assigned public defender, I managed to get her down to 500 euros. A quick walk to the ATM with a police escort later, I was free to return to the festival. I doubt most travel insurance plans cover drug-related money issues, but it never hurts to ask. At least it may cover your less dubious dangerous activities.
I didn’t mean to spend half a year on Koh Phangan. I’d imagine few people do. However, things have a funny way of defying your expectations. I washed up on Koh Phangan after the outstanding Experience Festival on Koh Tao, a five-day long Psytrance extravaganza which I’d recommend to anyone looking for a special way to blast into the New Year. The owner of a beach-side resort, a Polish woman with a brusque but lovable manner, was kind enough to let me stay right on the seaside in Baan Tai. I pitched what was left of my tent under a tree. Little was I to know this tent would be my home for the coming months.
One day I was on my way to the infamous Guy’s Bar party on the east coast of the island, and I somehow (i.e. drunkenly) dropped my wallet in the back of the 4×4. According to eyewitness reports the wallet had been taken by a youngster traveling with us in the cab, but after several hours spent trying to find the little scamp, I decided that the best option was to go to sleep. The next day, things looked very different.
With little more than a throbbing headache to my name, my cash and bank cards now in the possession of some young hoodlum, I sat on the coast and mulled over my options. Luckily, there weren’t many. I felt I’d already exhausted my parents’ generosity in terms of Western Union transfers, and from what I’d heard, having a bank card sent over from Europe took at least a month and a half. It was then that I decided to become a resident of Koh Phangan.
I applied for a job at the guesthouse I was squatting and was quickly hired by the aforementioned Polish lady, presumably out of pity more than any specific qualifications. My wages were being allowed to move my tent closer to the toilet, access to the fridge, and five Euros a day. As far as I was concerned, I’d struck gold. Thus began some of the most interesting months of my life, but that may be a story for another time.
As it happens, I also lost my phone during these months, and an unsuspecting Thai person (I’m assuming) used my Dutch subscription SIM card to make no less than 700 euros worth of calls. They’re not kidding when they say Koh Phangan is expensive. It did indeed take several months for my new bank card to arrive, but by then, I already considered myself a Koh Phangan native. Looking back, while seemingly negative events can lead to very positive experiences, it’s always nice to have some money.
Moral of the Story: Consider substance abuse counselling
That’s it for the first part of ‘Learning the Hard Way’. If you’re not tired of reading about other peoples’ misfortune (or stupidity), or just like reading up about “dangerous activities” tune in for Part 2 coming soon!
If you are heading off on a backpacking adventure and you’re not the best behaved individual, you should definitely get travel insurance. Check out this post for a breakdown of the best insurance providers for backpackers. I would definitely recommend the World Nomads Insurance to be safe during your debaucheries!
Exclusive 5% discount with World Nomads – one month only.
For one month only, I can offer you guys an exclusive 5% discount with World Nomads Travel Insurance – these guys are hand’s down the best travel insurance company out there! Simply visit World Nomads through this link and then use the discount code BROKE5 – This is a limited offer that is only running till September 3rd!*Please note – This coupon code will unfortunately not work for US or Canadian travellers due to financial service laws. This promotional code cannot be used with any other discount offer, including World Nomads Members*
Even if you don’t get insurance with World Nomads, Please do get some sort of insurance from somewhere, there are lots of decent options online. Do not indulge in dangerous activities without one!
Do you want to travel the world forever? Well my friends, the best way to stay on the road is to build an online income and for that – you need a travel friendly laptop. When I first hit the road, I travelled without a phone, a camera or a travel laptop but these days I carry all three. My laptop has literally changed my life – not only can I earn money online but I can also stream Game of Thrones, and I think we can all agree that that’s pretty damn important.
When choosing the best travel laptop, it’s important to consider which specs will optimise your digital experience. First consider what is the best type of laptop for your travel style, and how you plan to use your laptop for travel.
I live on the road full-time, and it’s important for me to have the best travel laptop for the job. For me, this means a custom built Mac with extra storage so I can save thousands of documents, videos, playlists and more onto my desktop without messing around with a portable hard drive. There are a lot of laptops out there and it can be a bit of a minefield so I’ve put together this ultimate guide on the most versatile laptops, the most cost-efficient laptops, the best laptop for blogging and digital nomads and, of course, the best budget laptop on the market.
There are two types of people in this world. Mac and PC users. Which one are you?
What Type of Traveller Are You?
“The best travel laptop” is a pretty broad statement since there are many different types of travellers. If you aren’t planning on using your travel laptop for online work, you don’t necessarily need to splash out on a top of the range laptop. Bloggers and digital nomads, for example, are going to have completely different priorities to a casual backpacker, who isn’t working remotely.
What will you use your laptop for? Will you be working on the road (writing, editing, etc.), or mainly surfing the web? Do you expect to save large files on a hard drive (photos, videos, etc.), or just stream online?
Do you need the processing power to run multiple editing programs, or is your prime concern staying connected on social media?
Are you travelling with minimal room in your backpack?
The best travel laptop for backpackers is going to be completely different to the best laptop for travel and work, or the best laptop for a travelling photographer, for example. Never fear amigos, I’m going to cover them all…
What Specs to Consider Before Buying the Best Travel Laptop:
Once you’ve identified what type of traveller you are, you can choose what is the best travel laptop for your unique travel style!
Price is probably the most important factor when choosing the best laptop for travelling. Unless you are working online, you really don’t need to spend $1000+ to get the best travel laptop. There are several cheap travel laptops and mid-range options that are great laptops for travel. Remember that high value items, such as a top of the range laptop, are often hard to claim for on insurance.
Portability is especially essential for the on-the-go, minimal traveller, and an important factor to consider when choosing the best laptop for travel.
You want something light so that your backpack doesn’t end up weighing too much (As we say in the hiking world, ounces add pounds and pounds add pain!). If you haven’t yet picked up a backpack for your trip, check out this post for plenty of backpack inspiration.
Your travel laptop’s size is also important (usually correlating with weight) to easily pull your computer in/out of your bag at the TSA security line, etc. The smallest travel laptops and tablets have less storage space and processing power, but they are also cheap and highly portable.
3.) Battery Life
It’s always nice to have a reliable battery life, especially if you are taking your laptop up into the mountains. The best laptops for travel have at least 8 hours of battery life, and some can last for an entire day. If you are spending a lot of time off the grid and still need access to your laptop then consider picking up a portable battery capable of charging a laptop.
Quick travel tip: make sure your wi-fi and blue tooth are turned off (when you’re not using them) to save battery!
4.) Storage Space
Most of the top travel laptops (with ample battery life and affordability) lack a large amount of storage space, and if you’re going to store a lot of photos and videos from your travels, it’s important to have ample hard drive space!
I’ve found it’s well worth investing in a cloud drive and/or an external hard drive, especially since photos and videos take up a lot of room. This way you don’t have to sacrifice laptop portability for storage space on the actual laptop. My first travel laptop, a MacBook Air, didn’t have too much storage space so I kept a lot of my photos and videos on Dropbox and stored my movies on a nearly bulletproof portable hard drive.
Typical external drives with 1 terabyte cost around $80 USD, and cloud storage (through Google, Dropbox Microsoft, etc.) average around $10 a month. It’s also important to back up your files in case your travel laptop gets stolen (like my friend Ana’s did in Costa Rica)!
5.) Processing Power
If you are running editing programs and high-resolution videos, you should also prioritise the processing power.
The CPU is like the “brain” of your computer. At the moment, Intel Core i7 is the highest performer, but also the most expensive. Intel Core i5 should work for most of the best travel computers, and anything older is fine if you’re just surfing the web.
A separate graphics chip allows gamers, 3D designers, and high-res video editors to run their programs without taking up a ton of RAM and slowing the overall performance of the computer. An integrated graphics chips (one that shares system memory) is just fine if you don’t have these needs.
If you want a separate graphics chip, keep in mind Apple only puts separate graphics chips in their Macbook Pro 15in computers. The 15 inch MacBooks are more expensive, and in my opinion, anything over 13 inches is too large to be considered one of the best laptops to travel with.
6.) Do you prefer Mac, PC, or Chrome OS?
Most laptops run one of these three operating systems: Windows, Chrome OS, or Mac OS X (for MacBooks only).
Windows notebooks offer the largest range of options for the best travel laptop. The newest window computers offer cool features like touch screens, 2-1 convertible tablets, fingerprint readers, and dual graphics chips.
Mac’s newest operating system, MacOS Sierra, comes with all Apple computers. Once you get the hang of Apple’s programs and trackpad/keyboard short cuts, Mac is the best user-friendly laptop (in my opinion) for the average person who knows nothing about computer engineering or coding. Macs are expensive, but also reliable, which is important when you are travelling around the world and don’t have time/money to take a computer in for repairs.
Chrome-OS is Google OS’ – simple and secure operating system, usually available on small portable laptops. The drawback? It’s mainly limited to surfing the web, checking email, and navigating social networks, not doing stuff offline. Still, ChromeBooks are the best cheap and light laptops for the minimal traveller.
Is a MacBook the best travel laptop for you?
Conclusion? Most travellers are going to need to prioritize versatility, weight, battery life, and price when picking the best travel laptop. Digital nomads and travellers working remotely are going to need powerful laptops for travel to handle multi-tasking and intensive programs.
Reviews for Best Budget Friendly Travel Laptops (under $300)
If you’re looking for a cheap travel laptop, the obvious choice is a Chromebook or low-end Windows systems. I’ve listed the best travel notebooks for the budget conscious or minimal traveller below.
The Lenovo is one of the best ultra lightweight laptops in this price range. This Windows OS laptop has 9 hours of battery life, a nice design, and is one of the most affordable light laptops for travel. The performance is good enough for web surfing, editing documents, and viewing movies. The keyboard and touchpad’s quality, however, is less than subpar.
Overall, this is a cheap laptop and the best travel laptop for the minimal traveller, who wants to stream online and run basic programs. This is probably not adequate for anybody who needs to work online.
Lenovo IdeaPad is one of the best small and cheap laptops for travel
The Samsung Chromebook 3 offers a decent design, long battery life, touchscreen, and a hybrid hinge that turns it into a tablet, and is the lightest Chromebook on this list. Unlike other ChromeBooks, this one is using the sister system, Chromebook Plus, that allows you to download android apps and use them offline, making it a great Chromebook for travel.
The Samsung Chromebook is a great backpacking laptop
The Acer Chromebook is one of the better budget lightweight laptops on the market. The laptop has ultra portability, a comfortably sized keyboard, and a touch screen. The downside is it does feel very “cheap” with a plastic like frame. At 1.1 Kg and 11.6 inches, this is one of the best budget laptops for surfing the internet, and a great option if you’re looking for a small, portable laptop that doesn’t eat your bank account.
Reviews for Best Mid-Range Travel Laptops (~$1200 or under)
For under $1000, you should be able to find the best travel laptop for many of the specs that matter most to the average traveler: weight, portability, and reliability. If you are willing to spend a couple hundred more, the top pick may be the best travel laptop for you.
The Dell XPS is the best laptop for travel because of its superb battery life, 7th-generation Core performance and excellent Wi-Fi range. I love that it has more ports than on competing laptops, as well as an SD port. It also has a touch-screen higher-resolution option (for a bit more weight and quite a bit more money).
As for its design, the Dell XPS has a comfortable soft-touch, carbon-fibre deck, infinity display, and rose-colour option.
Often the trade off for a thin, best ultralight laptop is shorter battery life and too few ports. The XPS 13, however, gives you nearly 14 hours of battery power, and all the connection options you need while also remaining pretty light and compact for travel.
If you are a PC user, the Dell XPS 13″ is the best travel computer within the $1000 range. Though if you want more memory than 256MB, or an i7 processor, you will have to pay more money.
If you’re an Apple user, this is Apple’s best travel laptop for its price and this was the first laptop I took travelling which was adequate for working online.
The pros (as with any MacBook) are its integration with apple products, ease-of-use, trackpad and keyboard, design, and reliable performance. I’ve used MacBooks for 7 years now (my first one from 2010 is still kickin’), and I’ve never needed repairs (except to replace an old battery). I can’t say the same for any of the PCs I’ve owned, which is why I think Macs are the best user friendly laptops if you don’t have a computer background.
If you want a MacBook for browsing, streaming, social, and office, the MacBook Air is fast enough, especially with 2017’s updated processor speed and default memory (4gb to 8gb). But if you want a Retina resolution screen, “Kaby Lake” processors, and more power for editing programs, you’ll have to fork out the money for a MacBook Pro.
I recommend you go for as much storage as you can afford if you plan on storing music, images or video because you can’t add storage to Apple computers after purchase. If your laptop is used for browsing and light document work (Excel, Word, etc.) the 128GB should be fine.
For the newest ZenBook 3, you get what you pay for. This is a light weight, incredibly thin laptop with a sharp screen for watching movies and solid audio for listening to music, but you trade in battery life for the weight, and there is only one port for data and charging.
Still, for $699 the Asus is a solid option on our list for the best laptops to travel with.
Bulgaria, the land where Balkan and Slavic revelry meets eastern European grit and stoicism. The country is also incidentally the birthplace of the Cyrillic alphabet! Bulgaria is fast gaining ground in other countries in Europe as one that is high on most backpackers’ lists of where to visit. A big part of this interest lies in the diverse geography, ecology, the history of the people and of course, the Bulgarian food.
If you ever venture on a Bulgarian holiday, remember a few things: Bulgarians love to catch up with family, welcome visitors, feed them, and talk to them about their lives and culture. A big part of this bonding happens over meals. Bulgarian food, traditional drinks and Bulgarian cheese all compliment the splendid hospitality and surroundings. Here’s what you can expect from a traditional Bulgarian meal.
If you’ve eaten a lot of Turkish and Greek food, you may find they share some similarities with traditional Bulgarian food. What makes Bulgarian food unique is the beautiful balance between meat, yoghurt, cheese, and vegetables that work perfectly for the Bulgarian climate. You can always mix, match and leave out the stuff you don’t like, and rest assured there’ll still be something delicious and flavourful left to try. A traditional Bulgarian meal in the country or at the capital, Sofia, will cost you anywhere between 15-30 Bulgarian Lev (BGN.)
Getting Started with Bulgarian Food
Let me at it already!
This traditional Bulgarian pastry is something you’ll find across the country at bakeries, coffee shops, canteens and bus stations. It’s buttery, cheesy, goodness is highly addictive. This snack (that goes very well with coffee) is prepared by stacking up layers of filo pastry dough – or fini kori as the Bulgarians call it, with butter and traditional Bulgarian cheese before it is baked. If you’re on a diet, you’ll definitely overshoot your calorie limit with a couple of Banitza, but trust me – it’s worth it.
If you’re looking for a quick snack or appetiser in Bulgaria, your best bet is to grab a roll or slice yourself some Lukanka. A traditional salami, Lukanka is the Bulgarian variant of the Italian soppressata.
Perfect for snack time, and great to carry on a picnic
Lukanka is great as a snack, to eat with veggies or with cheese over drinks. The salami is a mix of meat and fat, cured with spices and herbs before it is cased and dried out. Every region in Bulgaria has its own unique way of making Lukanka, and some even patent their local Lukanka at the Bulgarian patent office!
Shkembe (Tripe Soup)
Bulgarians love soup and salad. The shkembe is a traditional Bulgarian soup made from tripe. If you look at a Bulgarian cookbook, chances are ‘Shkembe’ will be one of the first recipes you come across. So “What is tripe?” you may be thinking. If you remember what it is, chances are you’re wondering what it may be like in a soup.
Don’t miss the beautiful clay pot or ‘Gyuvetch’ that the soup is served in!
For the uninitiated, tripe is, of course, the thick stomach lining found in the bellies of cattle. But wait. Before you get grossed out, learn more about it! This traditional recipe is made by boiling cut or minced tripe for several hours with paprika, milk, and oil. Apparently, the more the paprika the better the shkembe. Little known fact: The shkembe isn’t just a traditional soup, it also doubles as a post-drinking snack to settle the stomach, and is a great hangover cure.
Tarator: Cool Cucumber Soup
When you literally need to feel as cool as a cucumber.
A summer refresher for the Bulgarians, Taratov is always go-to at the start of any meal. Legend has it that the recipe for the soup was stolen from the Greeks and appropriated by Bulgarians after adding a little water. Look for Bulgarian food online and this is probably one of the first things you’ll find.
This fantabulous soup contains cucumber, yoghurt, garlic, dill, and water. Sort of like a watered down version of traditional finger food dip, and super refreshing. Hardcore meat lovers may prefer the Bulgarian beef soup, Teleshkov Vareno, but Tarator is always a classic.
Bulgarian Food and Snacks To Grab On The Go
According to Bulgarian tradition, Shopska Salata or the Shopska salad is what newlyweds sit down and eat as their first meal together after the ceremonies. The recipe may seem simple, with just a few fresh cut vegetables like cucumbers, tomatoes, onions, and peppers as ingredients.
Fresh Juicy Goodness!
What you’re often missing though is the traditional Bulgarian white cheese or ‘Sirene’ that is grated on top of the veggies, giving this salad its unique flavour. The name ‘Shopska’ was apparently inspired by a big group of very frugal folks called the ‘Shopi’ who are of Bulgarian ethnicity, often living in the mountainous regions of the country.
Kebapche is a variation of one of the most classic dishes of our time across the world: (drumroll please) The Kebab. ‘Kebapche’ as they are called in Bulgaria contain minced meat, spices, and herbs rolled into a long sausage-like roll.
What sets the Bulgarian kebab apart is the fact that Bulgarians grate Sirene, their white cheese, on top of the roll. The kebapche is a great snack for when you are on the go in Bulgaria. At Sofia, a plate would cost you approximately 5.5BGN.
Lozovi Sarmi (Stuffed Grape Leaves)
Who woulda thunk Grape Leaves could be this amazing? Pic: FindBGFood
One of the unique Bulgarian dishes you can taste is the Lozovi Sarmi. Often eaten as a starter and sometimes even a main course, Lozovi Sarmi uses grape leaves as a base, and stuffs them with minced meat, rice, herbs, yoghurt and more. Pro Tip: Dip the stuffed leaves in some yoghurt and down some mineral water after every leaf to feel the flavours, wash down the food better and cleanse your palate every
The Traditional Bulgarian Food: Main Courses
Meshana Skara (Mixed Grill)
The Meshana Skara is the holy grail of Bulgarian food, especially if you love meat. The mixed grill includes the classic kebapche, and other meats like kyufte (meatballs much like the Indian kofta) and skewers of pork meat and a pork steak.
It isn’t as easy as it may look to eat the Meshana Skara solo. Phone a friend!
Cafes and restaurants usually serve meshana skara with fries on the side, the lyutenitsa paste. Of course, you gotta wash the meal down with a beer!
The Bulgarian Gyuvech is a great tribute to slow-food culture worldwide. The dish shares its name with the traditional Bulgarian crockery pot.
Compliments from the chefs and the potters of Bulgaria.
These pots are found in every Bulgarian home and often passed down through families over generations or gifted to couples at their weddings. A Gyuvech is a stew that contains beef, mushrooms, peppers and onions. The stew is cooked and then baked after some traditional Kashkaval (Bulgarian yellow cheese) is grated over it. A good Gyuvech will have cooked eggs and a whole lot of Paprika in it. So good way to
Chances are, you’ve seen and eaten Moussaka at restaurants all over the world. The dish found its way to Bulgaria from the Middle East when the Ottoman empire ruled for almost 500 years in Bulgaria.
Mmm dat Nutmeggy flavour!
Bulgarian Moussaka is a class apart. The baked dish may remind you of a lasagne, but with a lot more vegetables and eggs. The rich flavour of the local mushrooms and nutmeg make the Bulgarian moussaka stand out and are a real treat for the taste buds.
Kiselo Mlyako: The Secret to Bulgarian Longevity
The yoghurt Kiselo Mlyako is usually served alongside Bulgarian classic dishes. It is a thick, with a sour taste and eating it is supposed to be a great way to keep your gut bacteria healthy.
Tasty and thick. Perfect for a hot summer day.
Legend has it, the Nobel Prize winning zoologist and immunologist Ilya Ilyich Mechnikov studied Bulgarian peasants and the Bulgarian foods they eat. He then attributed their longevity to the amount of yoghurt they consume!
Dessert Time: Tikvenik, Bulgarian Pumpkin Pastry
When I was trying traditional bulgarian desserts, the Tikvenik caught my eye and had me at the mention of pumpkin. This delicious pastry is filled with pumpkin puree, brown sugar, walnuts, cinnamon and nutmeg and even some orange zest.
Once Tikvenik is served, the table is likely to go silent. It’s that tasty!
Basically, sugar, spice and everything nice – that’s what Tikvenik is made of! If you get a chance, make sure you leave space for this dessert after a traditional Bulgarian meal.
When You Want To Get A Little Tipsy
Bulgarians make Boza from a mix of rye, wheat and sometimes millets, adding sugar to give it a sweet taste. It is a mildly alcoholic drink, so don’t expect to get wasted unless you drink a sizeable amount (I’m talking litres.)
Statue of a Boza Vendor at Radomir
Bulgarians usually make their own Rakia at home. They use grapes, plums, berries and more to make this fruity brandy. Trust me, the potency can be fairly high. At stores, the alcohol by volume percentage of Rakia is around 40%.
If you’ve got some Rakia on your hands, go visit a Bulgarian family or spend time with friends bonding over drinks.
That Cheesy Goodness: All About Bulgarian Cheese
Kashkaval is the typical yellow cheese of Bulgaria. It is usually made from cow milk, sheep milk or a mix of the two. Bulgarians use Kashkaval to make the traditional pastries and main courses, they also use Kashkaval as a popular substitute for cheese in dishes like pizza.
The Bulgarian princess!
Try one of the most popular Bulgarian snacks, the ‘princess’. All you need is a slice of Kashkaval on bread, along with some ground pork meat.
This Bulgarian white cheese is a variety of the feta cheese, and Bulgaria is the only country that produces it.
Looks sumptuous yeah?
This is because of certain strains of lactic acid that the Bulgarian people claim belong exclusively to them. The Sirene is a light, fresh cheese and is most famous in Shopska Salata and stuffed red peppers.
Originally from Romania, the Urda is a cheese made from the whey of milk from sheep, cows or goats.
When the whey is hot, any cheese present separates. The cheese is then drained, smoothened, and moulded into sphere-shaped balls. Oncbe you grind the Urda cheese, it is great to use in desserts. Many Romanian desserts use the rich and silky Urda cheese.
That Awesome Moment After A Great Bulgarian Feast
Chances are, you’ll be stuffed after a traditional Bulgarian feast. But don’t nod your head ‘no’ when the sweet old Bulgarian lady asks you if you want to eat some more. Turns out that in Bulgaria that can also mean ‘yes’! – True story. Remember that Bulgarian cuisine isn’t just about the food. It’s about the history of the country, the people, and a whole lot more. Let it sink in while you enjoy every bite and build energy for your adventures in the country!
If you are travelling the world on $10 a day, the last thing you want is hefty ATM and conversion fees from your local bank. This is where clever travel banking comes into play. By properly organising your online travel banking you can save money, cut your spending and make sure you don’t get a nasty surprise – like a blocked debit card! If ever there is a way to dampen the travel vibes, it’s a blocked bank card…
To learn everything you need to know about travel banking, let’s dive straight in! In this post, we shall cover…
Avoiding ATM fees
Getting excellent exchange rates
Sourcing a travel card
Informing your bank
Picking up cash at the best rate
Protecting your money on the road
Avoiding ATM fees
There is nothing more frustrating when it comes to travel banking than being charged unnecessary fees every time you make a transaction from a foreign ATM. Those transaction fees can be the cost of your transport or the price of a beer.
My number one tip for stretching your money further may seem a little counterintuitive but I suggest withdrawing large amounts of cash at once, rather than extracting money each day. I know that in certain countries it can leave you feeling a little wary if you are carrying large wads of cash on you, so investing in a belt with a hidden security pocket is a good move.
Here is exactly how you can eliminate those nasty ATM fees…
Choose a global ATM banking network (ones that have free ATM withdrawals). HSBC is one of the best choices out there. If you’re from the UK, I recommend Norwich and Peterborough; they have zero fees as long as you deposit £500 a month.
Always make sure to ask your bank about their fees before you hit the road.
Pick ATMs in secure locations at major banks – fees tend to be lower than ATMs in hostels, shops or bars.
Every coin counts!
Getting Excellent Exchange Rates
First things first for this step of travel banking is you need to familiarise yourself with the exchange rate of the country you are going to. There are a tonne of currency exchange apps you can download onto your phone but my favourite is XE Currency Pro and it’s free! There are also some great online tools available such as this site!
My next piece of advice is to avoid currency exchange booths at all costs. Usually, people flock to these at airports but this is the most likely place to get stung with high fees. The best decision is to use ATM machines in the country you are travelling to, that way you will receive the local currency.
On the road, you will be bumping into fellow travellers constantly. If they happen to be travelling in the opposite direction to you, exchange your cash with them. I have used this trick quite a few times and swapped cash with plenty of travellers I’ve met on the road.
Use ATMs, avoid money exchange booths!
Using Travel Cash Cards
Travel cash cards are a great alternative to credit or debit cards as you can pre-load cash cards with multiple currencies. I strongly recommend the Travelex prepaid currency card as you can lock in your exchange rate ahead of time and there are zero ATM charges.
The Travelex prepaid currency card is well worth checking out, it can…
Be loaded with Euros, British Pounds, Australian dollars, Japanese yen, Canadian dollars and Mexican Pesos, US dollars and a whole bunch of other currencies.
Be used abroad at millions of locations.
Be reloaded whilst on the road.
Cash cards are not linked to a bank account, which makes them a lot safer to use. If your cash card is stolen it can be emptied but this is far preferable to somebody emptying your bank account and if you cancel your cash card in time, you’re all good. The Travelex cash cards are contactless and in my opinion, these are one of the best options for backpackers heading to Australia, Mexico, America, Japan or Europe. If you are backpacking Europe in particular, you should take a cash card.
Travelex is pretty much my preferred vendor for all things travel money and I always purchase cash from these guys when I am heading somewhere like Venezuela or Pakistan and I need to stock up ahead of time.
Sourcing a Travel Credit Card
There are several travel credit cards available (depending on where you are from) that allow you to transfer and withdraw money from ATMs with zero fees under a certain limit. There really are so many pluses in getting yourself a travel credit card but which one should you choose?
The chip and pin card from Barclays bank is a solid choice. This card allows you the freedom to pay for travel with your card and then redeem travel points.
If gathering airline miles is more on your agenda, then the Chase Sapphire Preferred card is a good option. This card comes with an incredible sign-up bonus. You earn 5000 bonus points after spending $4000 in the first three months of opening your account. Sounds pretty epic to me!
Travel hacking is used by many backpackers (including myself) to get cheap/free flights and accommodation via rewards on credit cards.
No matter which travel credit card you decide to go with, make sure to have done your research comparisons on which card will be the best travel banking solution for you. Check out my travel banking credit cards comparison table below for some more intel…
Chase Sapphire Preferred Card
No foreign transaction fee & flexible rewards programme
Annual fee of $95 after year one
Barclay Plus Arrival Card
No Foreign transaction fees & redeem your awards with any airline or hotel chain
Not the ideal card for someone who spends less than $4,200 on credit cards a year
Discover It Miles
Those who want to wait one year for full bonus
If you spend a lot, this isn't the card for you.
Bank America Travel Awards
Get unlimited 1.5 points for every $1 you spend on all purchases everywhere
Not as competitive as Barclay Plus.
Informing your bank
If your bank notices unusual activity on your card (making transactions abroad) it may suspend your account to prevent fraudulent activity. However, when it’s you making those transactions, a suspended bank card is a major pain in the ass.
Prevent an unwelcome surprise by informing your bank of your travel plans before you go. They will often put a note on your account to ensure your card is not frozen when you use it in the country you are travelling to.
Money transfer is just a touch away!
International Money Transfers
Sending money internationally between banks or using Western Union can be extremely expensive. I use Transferwise to send money, the fee is just 1% and your first transfer is free if you use this link.