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Buying Lightweight Traveling Gear as a European for South East Asia (Part 1 – The Backpack)

February 25, 2019

Buying Lightweight Traveling Gear as a European for South East Asia (Part 1 – The Backpack)

Photo by Josiah Weiss on Unsplash



Reading Time: 6 minutes

Why a list for Europeans?

For those who already know a little a bit about lightweight traveling, you are certainly are aware of the benefits of it. Therefore, in this multi-part series, I want to focus on where and what kind of gear you should consider as a European.

There is a lot of amazing travel gear starting with popular one-bag travel bags such as the Minaal 2.0, socks from Darn Tough, the list goes on and on, but and that sadly there are a few hurdles that make buying them as a European quite difficult:

  • A majority of the companies that specialize in these niche products are US-based and only operate in North America
  • If they offer to ship to Europe, you have to deal with more expensive shipping costs and most annoyingly with customs that involves going to the customs office, waiting there, paying a fee…yikes
  • Returning the product can be a be difficult or in case of high post fees financially not worth it at all

As a result, I want to give some information and tips that I came across during my research.

In general, I will try to mention at least a more budget-friendly version and then an option which is definitely more expensive but got high praise from the one-bag community. This part I will focus on the most essential part of travel gear – the backpack.


Although I have experience with many products, the research also considers other peoples experiences.

The elephant in the room – THE BACKPACK

Oh boy, where do I begin? I will start with the minimal set on critical features a good backpack designed for lightweight travel should have and concisely explain why it is beneficial. Additionally, I will describe some optional criteria that you might be able to live without.

Minimal criteria:

  • Fit (most) Airline Carry-on Regulation: No need to check-in your luggage which means no fees on budget airlines, no waiting for luggage, no missing pieces.
  • Clamshell Opening Design: If you don’t go on an extensive trail with all your gear which the majority will not, you want to have a clamshell opening. Much more suited for traveling from city to city. Don’t need to pull out everything from your bag to grab your undies on the bottom your bag 😉
  • Volume: 30-45l: Depending on personal preferences you can go for 30l or “puristic” one-baggers travel even with considerably less or 45l which gives you plenty of space to carry everything around.
  • Quick Access Pocket: You can put your passport, headphones, phone there and easily grab it out of your bag without opening the main compartment of the bag
  • Separated Laptop Compartment with False Bottom: Especially, if you are a digital nomad and a laptop is your essential tool to work. A separated compartment gives you easy access. A false bottom protects your livelihood from sudden drops.
  • Water-resistant/rain cover: In SEA where a sudden rain shower can surprise you, you want your valuables to be kept dry
  • Comfortable to wear: Although these types of backpacks or not designed to carry them for endless hours. Nevertheless, they should be comfortable to wear.
    • In case, if you travel on the heavier side, distribute the weight. Sternum strap helps to disburse the weight of the backpack off your shoulders a little bit. It mainly prevents the shoulder straps to slide off your arms, so you can move your arms freely
    • A sufficient ventilation system on the backside of the backpack can help to prevent extensive sweating.
  • Water bottle holder: An accessible water bottle holder helps you to keep hydrated. No need for fiddling around with the backpack until you pulled out your water bottle.
  • Side Handle: There are times, where you have to hold or carry your backpack. A side handle makes that task easier as it increases the distance to the floor, so you don’t have to lift the bag depending on your size at all.
  • Quality: Nough said, your spending your hard earned money on it, so it should last a considerable amount of time

Optional criteria:

  • Sleek Design: Different strokes for different folks. This is very debatable and super subjective. Personally, I like backpacks to be sleek, subtle, and more urban style. In my opinion, you don’t necessarily need a bright yellow backpack screaming “Hello everybody, look at me. I’m a tourist on vacation”. Consequently, I prefer a backpack that does not stand out too much but if you look at it, you appreciate the quality in design.
  • Stowable Straps: In case, you have to check-in your backpack, to be able to stow your straps away prevents the backpack to get tangled up and get damaged. Plus it makes it carry it around on the handles stress-free.
  • Detachable Hip Belt: If your load is on the heavier side. Hip belts are an effective way to relieve your back from the weight of the pack. In the cases,

Here are my top 3 picks:

The Cotopaxi Allpa

Cotopaxi Allpa 35 Summary
Source: Cotopaxi







Video Review

The Osprey Farpoint 40 

Osprey Farpoint 40
Source: Osprey

Video Review

The Tortuga Setout

Tortuga Setout Summary
Source: Tortuga

Video Review

Are you looking for something else?

Here is also an awesome spreadsheet with over 100 backpacks, that might you help you narrow down your search. Shoutout to the reddit user Nepherim for creating and sharing this list 🙂


Thanks to all the manufacturer’s marketing departments for providing me with hq product photos. 

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