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How to Pack Super Light and Have Everything You Need (Part 1)

I draw suspicion when I pass through customs sometimes.

"Where are your bags?"

"I don't have any."

"How long are you staying here?"

"Two months."

My friend Todd and I travel with just two tiny carry-on backpacks. Twenty eight liters. Not only is that all you need, it's all you should ever want. I'm going to explain how to pack everything you could possibly need and still have room for souveniers.

In fact, I carry a laptop, a professional camera, a bed, full rain gear and exercise equipment with me. If you don't need that stuff, you could easily pack even lighter.

The Slowest Train in The World

Cambodia has only one passenger train that still runs, and I'm on it right now.

Calling it a passenger train is a bit of a misnomer, though. Most of the few seats still attached to the floor are piled high with exotic fruits: durians, pineapples, and several others that I've eaten before but can't name. I think one's a jackfruit, and another might be a soursop.

Half of the back car is full of lumber which I helped load a few stops ago. I almost crushed my foot.

The train is slow, probably the slowest train in the world. The fastest I clocked it with my GPS was 17kph. That's fast enough that if you want to take a jog you can just hop out the back and run along.

The journey from Battambang, a city reasonably close to the Thai border, to Phnom Penh takes four hours by air conditioned bus. I've been on the train for 17 hours now and there's been no word on when we'll finally arrive. The official timetable claimed it would be 5 hours ago.

Gadling Gear: Deuter Futura 28 Backpack (Warning: Not for Heavy Packers)

In the (very near) future I'm going to write a comprehensive article about why and how to pack light, so make sure you're RSSed up and ready for that in the next week or two.

Consider this the prequel. The most important part of packing light is the bag, and I'm proud to say that I've found the ultimate bag for packing light, the Deuter Futura 28.

I found the Deuter Futura 28 by accident. I was at Whole Earth Provisions in Austin, Texas, getting ready for my 10 month trip around the world. I needed a bag.

I looked at the North Face bags, the Osprey bags, the Arcteryx bags, and all of the other usual suspects. None of them stood out.

As I was about to leave I saw a bag tucked away in the far corner. It was pushed back into the rack so that only someone obsessively evaluating every single bag would find it. That's me.

I had never heard of Deuter, so I assumed they must be some no name budget brand. After just a few minutes of examination, though, I realized just how wrong I was. This was the ultimate bag for the light packer.

Three Hidden Gems in Bangkok

With a title like that, it may surprise you that this article has absolutely nothing to do with ladyboys. I'm a little bit ashamed to say that when I first headed to Bangkok, I didn't expect much beyond backpacker bars and a ubiquitous haze of sleaze covering everything.

Boy, was I wrong. Bangkok is an incredible place to visit, and possibly even to live. I've only carved two weeks out to visit this year, but next year I'll be back for a month or two.

Here are some hidden gems that I discovered in Bangkok that really made my stay a whole lot better.

Gadling Gear Extravaganza: The Ultimate Travel Clothes

I'm all for fancy gizmos and high tech electronics. It's my bread and butter. But what really makes the difference when traveling, a lot of the time, are the simple essentials that you deal with every day.

Clothes, for example. The right clothes can lighten your pack, keep you dryer, warmer, cooler, and happier. Believe me.

Today's Mega Gadling Gear Extravaganza is going to cover all of the clothes I own, which are actually so few that they fit in a single Aloksak plastic bag.

... Okay, I just got a tux made here in Bangkok too (who can resist?), but I'm having it shipped back, so it doesn't count.

All of this gear has been tested personally by me on a crazy around the world trip that I'm five months into, and most of it was being pre-tested in Austin, Texas before I left.

Gadling Gear: Luxury Lite Cot

It was a crazy couple of days. We returned from trekking in Yakushima, Japan with just under 18 hours to find a condo for the next month in Taipei, pack, and get on the plane to go there.

And that's how mistakes happen.

My friend and I booked a great little condo in downtown Taipei. I could have sworn that it said there was a bed AND a sleeper sofa in the condo.

After two nights on the 3 foot long sofa, I caved. I'd been eyeing the Luxury Lite cot for years now but just couldn't justify buying it. I didn't do much (any) camping, and I lived downtown.

Time to pull the trigger. My friend was so impressed with the pictures and stats of the cot that he decided to order one as well.

There's a lot to be impressed with. The cot is full length, keeps your entire body off the ground, yet it packs up to a tiny 2 pound 2 ounce package that you can fit in your backpack.

When the packages came (remarkably quickly, especially considering we were on the other side of the globe), we tore into them. We'd been waiting around all day because we knew that if we didn't answer the door for the delivery guy, we may never get the package (this already happened in Panama).

In my excitement I tried to build the cot without the instructions. No dice.

Thirty seconds after reading the one page instructions, my light-as-a-feather cot was fully assembled.

Gadling Gear: Kettlestacks

A little under a year ago I decided to get serious about working out and keeping my body in peak shape. After a ton of research (the kind that finds all these cool things that I write about every week), I decided that Crossfit was the best possible choice.

Not only is it great for strength, endurance, dexterity, power, and a number of other metrics, but it's also efficient. That means that instead of spending an hour in the gym I can spend just 20-40 minutes and still get huge results.

This is acheived by combining huge compound movements which work out several muscles at once with old fashioned weights.

The favorite tool in the Crossfitter's arsenal is the formidable kettlebell.

Luxury Hotels of The World: The Lalu Hotel (Taiwan)

To fully experience Taiwan's natural beauty, there's one destination that is universally praised: Sun Moon Lake.

It's the largest lake in Taiwan, and is so beautiful that Chang Kai Shek, Taiwan's first president, built a house there to vacation.

In 1997, after an earthquake destroyed his house, the lot was purchased and after five years of construction Taiwan's only six star hotel, The Lalu Hotel, was built. Shortly after it joined the ranks of Design Hotels, a premiere group of international boutique and luxury hotels.

I recently had the chance to stay there for a few nights and meet with the manager of the hotel to get the full tour.

When, after waiting a full six months, the chairman received the blueprints from the architect, he was furious. They showed a very simple design with long straight lines and no curves at all. For what would become the best hotel in Taiwan, it didn't seem very fancy.

The chairman was calmed down and after some convincing agreed to build the hotel according to the blueprints. The result, as it stands today, is a building which relies on high quality materials and workmanship, rather than gimmicks or fancy veneers.

This attitude doesn't stop with the architecture, but rather is echoed throughout the entire experience of staying at The Lalu.

Gadling Gear: Aloksak Plastic Bags

Wait... don't skip this article. I know on the surface it looks like an article about zip lock bags, but soon you'll realize that it's a lot more.

It's a story about love, lust, and the beautiful simplicity of good design.

We were in Panama, taking a motorized dugout canoe to the tiny island of Isla Robinson. Our first warning sign should have been when the pilot of the canoe handed us a tablecloth.

The entire thirty minute boat ride was spent with us frantically trying to use the tablecloth to parry the spray's advances towards our cameras. The video camera didn't make it - now it stays zoomed all the way in all the time.

"We've got to get waterproof."

How to travel Japan without once paying for a hotel

I love hotels, especially nice ones. It's great to know that you have a comfortable place to come home to after a full day of adventure in a foreign city. However, in Japan hotels are expensive, and if you've got a limited budget you can get more bang for your buck spending your money elsewhere.

I had this idea a week ago, and have been dying to write about it. But first I had to test it out firsthand to make sure that it actually works and is practical.

The one prerequisite is that you get a JR rail pass. If you come to Japan, this is an absolutely essential purchase. Basically you pay a fixed fee (just under $300 for a week or up to $570 for three weeks) for unlimited travel on all Japan Railways trains. This will take you all the way from Hokkaido in the north (where I am right now) to Fukuoka in the South. Everywhere.

The JR pass is good for travel on all of the JR trains except for sleeper trains and the fastest bullet trains, which is no big deal since the second fastest are almost as good.

However, I have found a loophole in the sleeper train rule. Certain sleeper trains have beds which are classified as seats, and can thus be used with the rail pass.

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