Primary Luggage: Osprey Meridien Convertible Roller/ Backpack
In both sizes, the Meridien packs come with a detachable day-size (20L) backpack. Mohit is using his, and I opted to leave mine at home in favor of my trusty eBags backpack. My eBags backpack saw me through 3 weeks in Turkey and Greece in 2007 and a month in Vietnam in 2008, and it still looks brand new. I love the multiple zippered compartments and sturdy construction. Both the Osprey backpack and the eBags backpack fit about the same amount of stuff, but the Osprey pack is flatter and longer, making it difficult for me to pack the not-so-flat things that I plan to bring.
A quick post-trip update: we both loved our Osprey bags! Mohit wished he had the smaller 22" version, which I found to be more than enough space for months of travel. Mohit used the extra room in his bag to stash the Lonely Planet giudes that we discarded along the way after leaving each country. The Osprey bags are very well made, super durable, and there's extra space to stash shoes in the compartment where the backpack straps are stored.
Day Bag: eBags Piazza Day Bag vs. Baggallini City Bag
Reading Material: Nook eReader
On our month-long trip through Vietnam last year, I packed 6 books. I finished them all halfway through the trip, and found myself without anything to read as we prepared to spend our last 4 days at a beach resort on Phu Quoc island. On our last day in Saigon before heading to the beach, I desperately searched for a bookstore selling English-language books, but all I could find were expensive photocopies of fluffy books- the genre you'd pick up at the magazine stand at the airport.
This time around, I didn't want to be stranded without reading material, since I devour books on vacation (during plane flights, bus rides, at breakfast, on the beach, before bed, etc.). In November I treated myself to an early Christmas present and ordered a Nook from BarnesandNoble.com. It's a good thing I ordered early, since I found out AFTER placing my order the the Nook was super back-ordered and would be delivered only days before we left the U.S. in late December! I also considered Amazon.com's Kindle and the Sony eReader, but opted for the Nook mostly because it allows users to share eBooks.
I personally think that eReaders are the best gadget ever for long-term travelers. I can load 20 or 30 books onto my Nook and carry them all in a size that's slightly smaller than the average paperback, even including the black leather cover I added to protect my Nook. So far, I've almost finished reading my first eBook, and I'm super pleased with my choice. The fully-charged batteries last for more than a week, the screen is easy to read and easy on the eyes (looks more like text on paper than a computer screen), and I can read the same books that I'd buy in paperback for about 30-40% off since eBooks are cheaper! (generally $9.99 or less). My only complaint is that travel guidebooks like Lonely Planet aren't yet available as eBooks. Mohit's using the extra room in his slightly larger Osprey bag to carry a few Lonely Planet guides that we'll leave behind after we complete those countries.
Staying in Touch: Acer Aspire One 10" Netbook
We knew we'd need a way to stay in touch with friends and family while on the road. We'll also need internet access to research accommodations and travel arrangements along the way. In the past, we've relied on spotty availability of slow shared computers in hotel lobbies or at backpacker internet cafes. However, since my 7-year old Dell laptop was on its last legs anyways, we decided to get a new 10" mini netbook to bring with us on the trip. Mohit chose a dark blue Acer Aspire One primarily for its long battery life (8-9 hours) and it sat wrapped under our Christmas tree until Christmas morning.
So far, so good! I've typed the last two blog posts on my new netbook. The processing and page-loading speeds are fast enough and the keyboard is a bit smaller but still easy to use. The netbook is tiny and lightweight, about the size of a thin hardcover book, and Mohit bought me a compact neoprene carrying case to protect the netbook while it's packed away in my backpack. The Acer Aspire One comes with a videocam. We've loaded Skype on the netbook and showed our families how to use Skype over the holidays so that we can call home and reassure our moms that yes, we are still alive.