Should you bring a laptop while backpacking?

I had made a posted about why the Asus EEE 1000 is perfect for backpackers not too long ago. Before I purchased it, it was a long difficult process to decide if I even needed one.

Perhaps you’re creating a documentary around the globe and need the computer for video editing, storage, and burning. An online entrepreneur needs a laptop to continue traveling as that’s their source of money. Whatever the case is, it proves it’s entirely based on what you will be doing with it.

Laptop on vacation

Laptop on vacation by kwiatowska

There are three important key points in deciding a laptop – weight, size, and cost. Weight is important because of course you’re carrying it all the time. Size because there’s only so much you can fit in your backpack. In cost you need to ask yourself, “Will I cry if I get this laptop lost/stolen/broken?” Purchase a laptop with the least amount of weight in the smallest size for the cheapest price.

Internet Cafes are available worldwide. You need to ask yourself if the computer available in Internet Cafes is enough for you. Keep in mind the places you will be traveling. You do not want to be seen playing games on your laptop in an area that’s going to attract people. Don’t scream “STEAL ME’. It’s best to keep the laptop locked up as often as possible. Also – Laptops for country backpackers would be useless as there’s nowhere to charge the laptop.

If you’re only going to use a laptop once a week or less, why bother bringing it? If you’re backpacking for only a few weeks, again why bother?

Pros for bringing a laptop

  • If you make money online (blogging, surveys, etc). That money could be what is supporting you to continue traveling.
  • No need to search for Internet Cafes.
  • Blogging can be done in the comfort of your bed, beach, etc.
  • Security issues using computers at Internet Cafes.
  • Long term travel (1+ year’s). Internet café fees can start racking up depending where you are and how long you are using it over a long period of time.

Cons for bringing a laptop

  • Weight: You feel every single step carrying it around.
  • Takes up space: Living out of a backpack makes every inch of your backpack important. I can deal with weight but with space, there’s nothing you can do but get rid of things.
  • You will also need to get power adapters for various locations
  • Carrying a laptop becomes a liability that needs to be taken care of constantly.

There are many things to consider. As you can tell, there is no answer to the question if you should bring one. As for me, I have a website to update so you’ll find me using my Asus EEE everywhere I go.

  • Luisa

    Very good information, well thought out. I’d be surprised if anyone has any question

  • http://experienceexperiment.wordpress.com/2008/05/03/harley-rt-day-2-a-giant-success/ Greg Dawson

    Michael – Great info man. I bring my laptop everywhere with me. I do freelance work so it’s essential, plus a run a few web sites so having access to them is a must.

    Yes, it does take up room and it’s at risk for being stolen, but that’s what locks are for. I would add that one must make sure it is password protected and that all files are backed up somewhere just in case.

    I brought my laptop on my month-long trip to Argentina and found many free wifi spots at local cafes. Also, I took it on my motorcycle trip down the West Coast of the U.S.A. and there are many wifi spots along there as well.

    It’s also great for keeping in touch with friends and family and letting them know about what you’re up to!

    Great post!

  • http://www.startbackpacking.com/travel/ Greg

    Spot on….and always a dilemma I face. In 2006, I went for a year without carrying my 4lb toshiba, and it was great…I could stand on my backpack, toss it around, leave without the stress of someone easily cutting into a thatched bamboo hut and pulling it out.

    But…with a blog, several websites, etc I feel obligated now and wow does it way me down! Especially when you toss in an SLR camera and accessories. I look like the overpacked tourist…and feel the need to explain myself to other backpackers….IM WORKING! :)

  • http://www.adventurerob.com Adventure Rob

    Updating website on what I’m doing and communicating with home with ease and cheap cost is why I carry mine.
    Also my camera memory card is 2Gb, the laptop is 160Gb so I can take a lot more pictures without worry of having to delete good ones, or print and send home, all of which adds up money.
    The other thing is I can download and store music and swap what I fancy over to my phone (mp3 player) rather then upgrade to a big capacity mp3 player.
    I’ve also used my laptop outside expensive hotels with free wifi to find cheap accomodation which is usually harder to spot when you first arrive in a new place. So the original cost of it gradually does not become an issue as it pays itself off in that way.

    I carry a Samsung NC10, 10.2″ screen, 1.3kg.

  • Danni Straver

    I love this post. Might reconsider bringing my macbook on a trip next month.
    Thank you! :)

    • http://artofadventuring.com/ Michael

      Thanks! Which macbook are you going to bring?

      • Danni Straver

        Have my white macbook and a 17inch pro. I am considering the white one since even if I lose it, it is cheaper to replace.

  • Danni Straver

    I love this post. Might reconsider bringing my macbook on a trip next month.
    Thank you! :)

    • http://artofadventuring.com/ Michael

      Thanks! Which macbook are you going to bring?

      • Danni Straver

        Have my white macbook and a 17inch pro. I am considering the white one since even if I lose it, it is cheaper to replace.

  • http://choyungteatrial.com/ carla brown

    i cant even think about it..without..it..it will harder for me…to keep on writting..

  • http://choyungteatrial.com/ carla brown

    i cant even think about it..without..it..it will harder for me…to keep on writting..

  • http://senchateareview.com Sencha tea

    Very good information.Thanks.

  • http://senchateareview.com Sencha tea

    Very good information.Thanks.

  • Adamasao

    I know this is an old post, but just for new readers I’d like to add a couple of things.
    First, with most netbook chargers these days there’ll be no problem with the different voltages, etc, available in different locations. All you’ll need is an adapter to plug it in to the socket.
    Which brings me to the next pro – sure, you’ll need to carry around the netbook charger, but having the netbook will enable you to leave at home almost all of your other chargers.
    Having an mp3 player, a DSLR, a point n shoot, a Nokia phone (with GPS), an iPhone, an iPod (all this between 2 people:))… these start to add up if you need a charger for each one, but I managed to find USB chargers for every piece of electronics except the DSLR so only had to take take 2 chargers in total – al the rest you can charge via the netbook USB ports.
    This is also VERY helpful when you’re stuck in the common backpacking situation of shared rooms and limited outlets.

    Great article!

    • http://artofadventuring.com/ Michael

      Good point. I actually did the same with the USB. I always charged all my devices via USB including my digital camera which I found only Samsung and Kodak did.
      Thanks for the comment!

  • Adamasao

    I know this is an old post, but just for new readers I’d like to add a couple of things.
    First, with most netbook chargers these days there’ll be no problem with the different voltages, etc, available in different locations. All you’ll need is an adapter to plug it in to the socket.
    Which brings me to the next pro – sure, you’ll need to carry around the netbook charger, but having the netbook will enable you to leave at home almost all of your other chargers.
    Having an mp3 player, a DSLR, a point n shoot, a Nokia phone (with GPS), an iPhone, an iPod (all this between 2 people:))… these start to add up if you need a charger for each one, but I managed to find USB chargers for every piece of electronics except the DSLR so only had to take take 2 chargers in total – al the rest you can charge via the netbook USB ports.
    This is also VERY helpful when you’re stuck in the common backpacking situation of shared rooms and limited outlets.

    Great article!

    • http://artofadventuring.com/ Michael

      Good point. I actually did the same with the USB. I always charged all my devices via USB including my digital camera which I found only Samsung and Kodak did.
      Thanks for the comment!

  • Noah Fernandes

    This article has helped me with a long asked question I’ve had. And the truth is, like you say, there is no answer. It’s all about the relative pros and cons, and right now I feel carrying it has more cons than pros so I’ll probably be leaving my laptop somewhere safe (or sell it to get some extra pocket money for the trip).

    I finally own an iPhone and I’ve found it tremendously useful. Its my phone, my internet connection, my calculator, camera, hostel finder, map, GPS, converter, music, book library and Skype to name a few and it fits in my pocket! I’ve found various apps out there dedicated to travelling, some of which are mentioned right here on this blog (thanks Michael!).

    One drawback is it’s tiny screen and keyboard which makes it difficult (but still possible) to write blogs. I guess this could be solved with an iPad or an external blue-tooth keyboard though.

    Another drawback is, unless its jailbroken, its not very computer social. Meaning you can’t simply walk into any random cyber cafe and unload pictures, swap songs, etc. Also, it doesn’t act as an external hard-drive if you were thinking of unloading your DSLR’s images into it.

    On the whole though, it suits me just fine and unless I need to do some serious work while travelling, I’ll leave my laptop back home and take just my trusty phone.

  • Noah Fernandes

    This article has helped me with a long asked question I’ve had. And the truth is, like you say, there is no answer. It’s all about the relative pros and cons, and right now I feel carrying it has more cons than pros so I’ll probably be leaving my laptop somewhere safe (or sell it to get some extra pocket money for the trip).

    I finally own an iPhone and I’ve found it tremendously useful. Its my phone, my internet connection, my calculator, camera, hostel finder, map, GPS, converter, music, book library and Skype to name a few and it fits in my pocket! I’ve found various apps out there dedicated to travelling, some of which are mentioned right here on this blog (thanks Michael!).

    One drawback is it’s tiny screen and keyboard which makes it difficult (but still possible) to write blogs. I guess this could be solved with an iPad or an external blue-tooth keyboard though.

    Another drawback is, unless its jailbroken, its not very computer social. Meaning you can’t simply walk into any random cyber cafe and unload pictures, swap songs, etc. Also, it doesn’t act as an external hard-drive if you were thinking of unloading your DSLR’s images into it.

    On the whole though, it suits me just fine and unless I need to do some serious work while travelling, I’ll leave my laptop back home and take just my trusty phone.

  • http://hectorparra.com Hector G. Parra

    I really DON’T want to take my laptop, a 2008 15″ MacBook Pro. It’s heavy, big, and a liability, not to mention I’m traveling to get away from the damn thing. I was going to take my iPad instead. Problem is, as a software engineer and designer, the laptop is a ticket to making spare cash. Quite a conflict!

  • http://hectorparra.com Hector G. Parra

    I really DON’T want to take my laptop, a 2008 15″ MacBook Pro. It’s heavy, big, and a liability, not to mention I’m traveling to get away from the damn thing. I was going to take my iPad instead. Problem is, as a software engineer and designer, the laptop is a ticket to making spare cash. Quite a conflict!

  • Blendobass

    um… I am going to south east asia, I would stay there if I could find work… I build websites, and I use it to dj, not to mention my whole life…..

    BUT

    I am worried I will be on it to much, that is why I want to travel, to get away from BULL if you know what I mean.

    Its a conflict.

    I think I will take my android HTC phone (that overheats and might break down over there) and use that for secure emailing and stuff… and I will take an old ipod with my dj music on it, as well as a all my Traktor DJ app settings on it.

    I figure if I find a DJ gig I will have to burn CD”S or use someones traktor setup…

    If I want to stay over there and find work… I will be pissed that I left my laptop behind, but chances are I will end up back at home to Canada.

    My last 3 trips to SE asia I was glad I didn’t have a laptop for sure… but everyone that didn’t seem to need one had one, I don’t want to be wired up or watching movies, just work..

    Its a conflict, I still might bring my macbook and a little usb mixer with me, and leave the android home…

    • http://artofadventuring.com/ Michael

      I’m a DJ as well and understand your conflict. I would definitely recommend bringing your own laptop to DJ. Burning CD’s is often a mission and difficult to deal with. You’d have to prepare way too far ahead of time and take extra music with you incase the crowd is different than what you expected it to be. You’ll hardly find someone that’s willing to let you use their Traktor setup either. A crappy netbook won’t be good either as the sound quality will be really horrible. Definitely bring your macbook and a little usb mixer. You’ll get tons more gigs that way.

  • Blendobass

    um… I am going to south east asia, I would stay there if I could find work… I build websites, and I use it to dj, not to mention my whole life…..

    BUT

    I am worried I will be on it to much, that is why I want to travel, to get away from BULL if you know what I mean.

    Its a conflict.

    I think I will take my android HTC phone (that overheats and might break down over there) and use that for secure emailing and stuff… and I will take an old ipod with my dj music on it, as well as a all my Traktor DJ app settings on it.

    I figure if I find a DJ gig I will have to burn CD”S or use someones traktor setup…

    If I want to stay over there and find work… I will be pissed that I left my laptop behind, but chances are I will end up back at home to Canada.

    My last 3 trips to SE asia I was glad I didn’t have a laptop for sure… but everyone that didn’t seem to need one had one, I don’t want to be wired up or watching movies, just work..

    Its a conflict, I still might bring my macbook and a little usb mixer with me, and leave the android home…

    • http://artofadventuring.com/ Michael

      I’m a DJ as well and understand your conflict. I would definitely recommend bringing your own laptop to DJ. Burning CD’s is often a mission and difficult to deal with. You’d have to prepare way too far ahead of time and take extra music with you incase the crowd is different than what you expected it to be. You’ll hardly find someone that’s willing to let you use their Traktor setup either. A crappy netbook won’t be good either as the sound quality will be really horrible. Definitely bring your macbook and a little usb mixer. You’ll get tons more gigs that way.

  • http://travelworldheritage.com/ Maximuz

    I often bring a laptop to book or cancel my next destination. But I agree with size and weight. I have had netbooks in the past and just purchased an ultrabook. when backpacking, weight is everything.
    “Do I REALLY need deodorant?”