Backpacking Budget Savings and Splurges

Now that I’m back in Canada and am looking over the things I bought for my trip through Asia, I’m starting to think about the areas where I could have saved some money. Whether it’s discovering you’re a different kind of traveller than you really are or not being as reliant on a piece of gear as you thought you might be, there are always budget cuts you can make in hindsight.

Further, there are some things I wish I would have spent more money on before leaving.

Here is a breakdown of the areas I wish I would have saved (and splurged) on.

Savings

GoPro

It seems like everyone on the backpacker trail these days is toting around a GoPro. They’re great cameras if you are an adventure traveller – whether you’re out on doing something extreme for an adrenaline rush, speeding down a highway on a motorcycle, or diving and snorkelling in the deep water.

As much as I wanted to be the kind of traveller who went out and did extreme things that make for a GoPro highlight reel, I learned as I went along that it’s not who I truly am.  The things a GoPro makes look amazing just weren’t part of my itinerary.  And so, my GoPro sat dormant in my backpack for much of the trip.

That said, GoPros are great for certain types of non-adventure video production. It’s a great reliable camera for shooting standups without having to worry about being in focus, and for car/bus/boat transit shots it’s also a fantastic option. But all of those things I could (and actually did) shoot with my iPhone (which I already had and didn’t need to buy).

In hindsight, I would have been better off saving the roughly $350 that I spent on a GoPro, and put it toward the overall trip.

Tripod

Invaluable while in Japan and rarely used once I got to Southeast Asia, my tripod became a burden to carry around in my backpack. While it didn’t cost me anything, it did make what was a rather light pack a much heavier one to carry (since Air Asia wouldn’t allow it to be part of my carry-on complement, and required it to be checked – so I just made it part of my packing routine for my pack).

I still think carrying a Tripod is important for shooting video like I’ve done for this blog, but it may have been worth splurging on a more lightweight, compact model which could have easily fit in my daypack.

Anti-Malarial Pills

By no means am I doctor, nor would I recommend any medical advice to you. However, I never did crack open the $60 bottle of doxycycline that I picked up for my trip. Every malaria high risk area I thought I was going to visit never became part of my travel plans.

Truthfully, my biggest health concern while travelling was dengue fever – something that seemed to have Malaysia on high alert.  I spent money on DEET-laced mosquito repellant to keep the mozzies at bay since there is no pill to pop for dengue.

However, I’d rather be safe than sorry, and I was glad I had the pills with with – just in case I ended up making my way to a high risk area.

The North Face Daypack

When I was in Japan, I discovered the Fuse Box backpack from The North Face.  It’s a popular model in Tokyo – people seem to have them everywhere you look.  Chris even bought one, and I fell in love with it and knew I wanted one.  So, before leaving Japan in December, I picked one up at the price of about C$150.

While the Fuse Box had the benefit of being a rubberized bag (which gave me some piece of mind when going to wetter areas), and it was well-built, it wasn’t a good ergonomic pairing with my Osprey backpack. Because the bag is effectively one big box without m/any compartments to put smaller gear in like other backpacks have, it felt like I was lugging around a considerable amount of dead weight every time I picked it up, despite it being loaded with roughly the same gear as I had in my Herschel backpack while in Tokyo.

While the Fuse Box looks great (and is a pretty decent everyday backpack for city life in Tokyo), it just wasn’t practical for the trip. I would have been better off taking my Herschel backpack (which I already owned) as a daypack, and ate the cost of replacing it in the event it got worn out while on the trip.

Splurges

Under Armour

I have sworn by wearing Under Armour in the gym, and the next time I hit the backpacking trail I will be making sure my pack is filled with it.

The quick-dry nature of UA’s gear makes it a breeze to keep clean.  Heat Gear shirts kept me dry as I made my way through sweltering areas in sub-tropical Malaysia.  And, while compression shorts are designed for those tough days at the gym or while playing sports, I found them to be my favourite underwear on the trip – versatile enough to go in to the water, walking down a trail, or exploring an urban jungle.

Overall, UA gear is just well-made for life on the road.

A Smaller, Better Camera

I love my DSLR, but it became a bit of a beast to carry around.

Had I taken the $400 I spent on a new lens for my DSLR and the $350 I spent on the GoPro, I could have walked away with a much better, smaller, lighter camera to use for shooting video and photos on the trip. I saw some great cameras while on the road which would have been perfect for vlogging and taking snapshots for both this blog and social media.

This is one of those pieces of gear I plan to upgrade sometime in the next year.

Quick Dry Towel

This was one of those things I cheaped out on before leaving Canada.

The price for a microfiber quick-dry towel was running about $25 at my local outdoor goods store, and I thought, “I’m sure I’ll be able to find one for less while I’m on the road.”

Nope. In fact, the only quick dry towel I was able to find was at a camping store in Kota Kinabalu, and they wanted nearly $35 for it. And there was a total of one towel to choose from.

I ended up buying a cheap, heavy, cotton towel for about $12 at a department store instead, which (thankfully?) I forgot at a hostel in Vietnam near the end of my trip. It was always wet, never was fully dry, and frankly was a burden to carry around.

Next trip, I’m getting my towel before leaving the country.

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What are your backpack savings and splurges? Let me know in the comments!

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