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First Solo Trip - Backpack Contents

One week officially left before I go - milestone achieved! While this milestone event is fairly palatable I am obviously preparing myself mentally for more notable challenges in my near future. With now less than one full week between myself and departure it feels like I am ready to go...

As much as I am expecting to learn quite a bit from this adventure, I must admit I was a tad surprised by a few things already. The hardest lesson that I have learned yet, and one that I am sheepishly sharing as a caution to other first time travelers, is in regards to travel vaccinations. I consulted with a travel doctor in regards to vaccines I may need. I was foolishly unaware that neither my insurance benefits package, nor my provincial healthcare protection would cover travel vaccines. I suppose I have been spoiled in that when I go to the doctor I tend to not even give a thought to billing ramifications. The doctor advised me that travel vaccines are expensive and I inquired about my medical coverage - he mentioned that usually it would be covered through my benefits. It turns out that it was in fact not covered. Now to clarify, the doctor was fairly clear about not knowing whether my benefits in particular would cover the vaccines - but again, it honestly had not crossed my mind how expensive "expensive" is. At the end of the day my bill was $1800 - the single most expensive component of my impromptu adventure turned out to be something I had completely not accounted for. Lesson learned - but there was more learning yet to happen in regards to vaccines!

Vietnam Vaccinations For Canadians

travel vaccines are expensive
In total I was vaccinated against Rabies ($750), Japanese Encephalitis ($500), Hepatitis A, Hepatitis B, measles, mumps, rubella, space-fever, your Mom, Nickelback and a ham sandwich. What I have since learned is that while it is important to be prepared, there is such a thing as being too cautious. If I had been more informed at the time I would likely have passed on the JE and potentially the rabies as well - especially since they are the two most expensive.

It is also worth noting, and something that I did not even think of, is the potential for getting some / all of my shots while away. Too late for myself to even need to consider the option, but apparently a series of rabies vaccines in a world class hospital like in Bangkok for example, might cost around $60. I am all for local health care but $60 VS. $750 is something that I at least would have considered. Also worth noting is that apparently many people travel without vaccinations. Almost every traveler I have talked with mentioned not having the same vaccinations that I now have...sigh. Live and learn. I have barely even started the planning stages and already the lessons are piling on hard.

TLDR - I tried to suck a rabies vaccine out of my arm like a snake bite but still had to pay for it. I may have paid for a few vaccines which arguably I did not need but I will just have to be happy with my extra degree of protection. To be sure I get value for my money I am going to pet every stray dog that I find in Vietnam and eat nothing but bat sushi for breakfast, lunch and dinner.

Pre-Vietnam Luggage Checklist

Would you like to see my luggage? Sure, I knew you would. In order to stay as mobile as possible I am traveling with only carry-on luggage. This means that I must stay within a 22" x 14" x 9" size restriction, but more importantly 7kg total. I am planning to fly internally in Vietnam as my primary form of transportation, like a 6 hour flight from HCMC to Hanoi for $40, so this is the way that I elected to go. After speaking with more experienced travelers I was advised to travel as light as possible. Well, I sure am light - but I feel like I have everything I could need!

This Swissdigital backpack is the bag I ordered for my first travel adventure. It is big enough to hold everything listed below, plus it is made from a very durable material. It is waterproof and has RFID protection to prevent my credit card information from being stolen while I travel. This bag ended up being a fantastic purchase and I highly recommend it to anyone looking to travel "carry on only" like I did.

4 pairs of socks
4 pairs of undies
1 pair of shorts
1 pair of swim shorts
1 pair lightweight long pants
2 t-shirts
2 collared shirts
1 light jacket / rain coat
1 light fleece sweater
Prescription sunglass
Backup prescription glasses


This is a 10" ASUS Transformer Book which was critical for being able to work while on the road traveling. This is a solid state drive computer with a keyboard, which also can separate and be used as a tablet. The SSD drive means that I can get up to 14 hours of working time on a single battery charge. Even more importantly, this laptop charges via micro USB so it does not require a power pack and plug to charge. This helps to keep the weight as low as possible, while having the convenience of being able to recharge this laptop from my external battery backup. This is a budget computer and there are certainly more capable ones on thee market, but for the price this was an amazing purchase.

This is an unlocked Samsung Galaxy S4 MINI that I brought with me to Vietnam. With an unlocked phone it is easy to get a local SIM card once you arrive and have phone, text and data services while you are traveling.

This is a 32 GB Apple iPhone 5s that I brought with me as both a backup phone (it was also unlocked) but mostly for the huge 32 GB storage that this phone has. It was very convenient using this phone for my camera as it can store thousands of pictures. It is known that snatch and grab thefts with phones happen frequently when taking pictures which is why I elected to travel with separate phones for data and for pictures.

This is a 20000mAh external battery charger which is critical for keeping charged up while traveling. This is the largest size of battery that you are allowed to carry on an airplane. It has enough charge to recharge my phone seven times over, or more, and can recharge the ASUS laptop more than twice completely. The laptop with this external charger alone can easily provide over 40 working hours on a single charge!

This is an universal travel adapter 220V to 110V that you need to convert the power source from 220v-240v down to 110v-120v. This adapter also has different plugs to match electrical outlets in over 150 countries.

These micro USB charging cords are used for the laptop and Samsung phone charging as well as for charging the external battery backup. It is very convenient sharing one cord style for all phone and laptop charging needs, including charging the laptop from the external battery backup. I brought two of these micro USB cords as well as an iPhone charge cord.

This 128GB Micro SD card is a critical component to bring if you like to take a lot of pictures and videos like I do. This card has a giant storage capacity, which is very useful especially since the ASUS laptop has a very limited internal memory. Adding this card to the ASUS laptop is a major improvement and allowed me to take pictures essentially non stop for a month without running out of room.

Meds / Toiletries
One (emergency) roll of toilet paper
Dental floss
Hand sanitizer
Mosquito spray (30 DEET)
Sunscreen (110 SPF!)
Travelers diarrhea medication
Anti-malaria medication
Small towel

Additional Items

At the advice of someone more well traveled than I am I brought along a flat rubber sink stopper. This turned out to be a very useful item for allowing me to plug sink drains for doing laundry in my hotel rooms. There are laundry services available everywhere in Vietnam however it is very convenient to do some quick laundry in your hotel room when you need to or have less than a full load that you need clean.

Luggage locks are important to have anytime you are traveling. I keep all the zippers on my backpack locked (together) at all times - whether on the road and when I am leaving my bag in the hotel. You can set your own combination with these locks. You might think that you would notice someone opening your bag but pickpockets are stealthy and operate quickly when an opportunity presents itself. Having locks on your backpack makes you less of a target.

This retractable cable lock is something that I use on my backpack any time I have to be away from it. When I leave my bag in a hotel room for the day it is locked with the luggage locks, but I also use this cable lock as an additional layer of security. Pass the cable through the luggage locks, around the backpack, and then around a heavy chair, table or bedpost in order to make the bag much harder to steal. My logic is that anyone who wants to open my bag or walk away with it is going to need to put in some serious effort to do so. Most commonly I just attach the bag to a chair in my hotel room to make it inconvenient to steal.

These are UPF 50 - UV protection arm sleeves. I burn very easy in the sun and the sun in Vietnam is nothing to be toyed with. These sleeves are like wearing portable shade. They are ultra lightweight so they do not feel like wearing a sweater in the sun. You feel instant relief from the burning of the sun the second that you put them on, and they are comfortable enough to wear for the whole day.

Honestly I am impressed that I was able to fit this much stuff all under 7kg. The scale that I have access to is not as accurate as I would like and I am somewhere between 14.5 lbs and 15.5 lbs. Since the external battery weighs over half a pound I can always carry that in my pocket to make bag weight if need be. As far as I understand it is unlikely to even have my carry on weighed but I, of course, want to be prepared. I have also taken the extra measure to bag every last item in my bag into zip lock freezer bags. This will help to keep everything small, segregated, clean and dry - hopefully! One week to go and none of it feels real. Everything is numb. When I talk about it I feel like I am describing a scene from a movie - totally unreal to me. I imagine that once I am in Vietnam it is all going to feel very, very real. I can't wait to get on the road and going to Vietnam is going to be a great way to get started!

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