Posted by: Brian | January 31, 2009

Gearing Up

As I get closer to the date of my departure (which, I might add, is still up in the air), all the little details related to traveling are surfacing in my mind. I’ve applied for my visa, which admittedly I should have done weeks, no, months ago. Vaccinations have been administered for Hep A and typhoid, and I’m working on determining which malaria prescriptions I’ll need (different areas require different medications). Most recently though, I’ve been somewhat stumped on the subject of luggage.

The generic 3-piece set I’ve got right now almost certainly won’t work. I’m a little hard on it, and the set is starting to show its wear. After settling on the fact that my luggage would need replacement, I got stuck. What to replace it with?

Suitcase-friendly

Suitcase-friendly

Not suitcase-friendly

Not suitcase-friendly

In case you were curious, the phrase “travel luggage” returns such myriad results on Google that further exploration of the subject is absolutely necessary. I’d like to make international travel a regular part of my life after graduating college, so whatever I buy now needs to last. Higher-end luggage, particularly products that are suited for travel, come from brands like Eagle Creek, Briggs and Riley, and Travelpro, and price can range from $150-450, on average. Additionally, one sub-category that is particular to my situation are travel/adventure packs, from companies like REI and Patagonia. The last month or so of my time in China will be spent traveling, and not all of it in major cities (rural Yunnan and Tibet, as well as a some time in Thailand). I’m hoping to mix modern travel by plane and high-speed rail with some backpacking, walking in between certain cities and bumming rides from people when possible. Luggage-wise, I won’t be able to use a suitcase; I’ll be living out of a travel backpack. Therein lies my dilemma: the two different portions of my trip require two completely different types of luggage.

For now, at least, I think my solution will be to take both, and then ship my suitcase home along with any souvenirs before leaving for the month of travel. I’m leaning toward a hard sided suitcase, since it’ll almost certainly be handled roughly at some point on the way home. Something like this Samsonite should do the trick, I think.

As for a travel backpack, ensuring the safety of what I’ll have inside is equally important, but for very different reasons. While violent crime is rare in China, theft and pickpocketing is common against tourists and or anyone else that stands out (and being a red-haired white guy, I’m definitely going to stand out). With that in mind, my pack needs to be secure. Pacsafe is a company that makes anti-theft travel gear, and I’m impressed with their products. They might not be quite as big as other travel backpacks, but I’m trying to pack light anyway, so it should be fine.

If anyone wants to recommend a different product or point out something I might have missed, comment and let me know!

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