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Should I Take a Laptop Backpacking

Updated on July 16, 2011
Vacation Packing Guide For Worldwide Travel (Non-Boring Travel Guides)
Vacation Packing Guide For Worldwide Travel (Non-Boring Travel Guides)

Vacation packing - as you've never thought of it before.


Should I take my laptop backpacking

One of the common questions beginner questions on the travel forums is whether to take a laptop when travelling. I've done both and my advice is to definitely think carefully and be aware of your options. Why do you want the laptop? If its just because everyone else has one or you think it might be a good idea but don't know why - think about it some more.

The number one question which you need to think about is the same as when considering any bit of travel gear - what do I want to use it for. If the answer is because everyone else has one or I think it might be a good idea - think of a better answer!Its not just a laptop you need to carry

Accessories for your Laptop

Along with your laptop you are going to need some or all of the following:

  • plug converter, fortunately most laptops will run on dual voltage - check to see if the power box is stamped 110/220V. You will need the right shaped plug for countries that you go to.
  • external hard-drive. Until flash or USB drives get as fast and as cheap an external 5.25" hard drive still probably the best backup option. It would be bad enough losing the laptop - you don't want to loose your data as well

14" HP NC4200 laptop, external DVD and external hard drive. CD case for scale.
14" HP NC4200 laptop, external DVD and external hard drive. CD case for scale.
  • most laptops come with inbuilt wireless networking but is a good idea to bring a short length of Ethernet cable too - sometimes you have the option to plug in but not wireless - or the wired option is just so much faster
  • good battery life, which may involve an external "travel" battery that some laptops have extending battery life up to 7 or 8 hours.
  • cables lots of them: power cable, cable for the external drive, firewire for the video camera, mini-USB for the camera, cable for the external DVD
  • a well padded skin or wallet to protect it from dust and knocks
  • a discrete bag to carry it all in that does not scream - I'm a laptop steal me!
  • external speakers if you are going to use the laptop for watching movies or playing CD's.

Good Reasons to Take a Laptop Traveling

  • being able to manage and edit digital photos as you take them. Instead of using the camera to review shots, we downloaded everything every few days and culled and edited on the laptop. So by the end of the trip we had a catalogued, captioned set of photos.
  • being able to write a diary on a keyboard rather by hand (I am so addicted to the cut and paste function!) - no PDA has yet come close to providing as good a form of data input as a proper keyboard, particularly if you are a touch typist
  • being able to write notes for blogs and website during the days couldn't get any Internet access.

  • being able to run spreadsheets to manage expenses here and at home * having your own customised browser with your bookmarks and other settings.

  • sometimes you will have access to wireless Internet in useful locations such as airports and Starbucks Cafes.

Not so good reasons to take a Laptop traveling

  • notice how I didn't mention using your own laptop in Internet cafes in the advantages list? Often you're not allowed to or you have to pay more. You'll still need a USB stick to upload photos, and some places won't allow those either.
  • weight - we were travelling by car but it was still I pain to carry around

  • security - making sure it didn't get left lying around in the open and protecting it from dust and heat

Want to buy a laptop for traveling

If you are determined to buy a laptop to travel with look for these features:

  • light is good, lighter is better, try to get something less than 1.8kg
  • small is good 14" or less
  • buy a commercial rather than a retail computer, it wont be as pretty but it will have a mat screen, much easier to see in sunlight, and will be repairable
  • don't buy new, look for refurnished deals, its unlikely that you need a high spec machine

Best laptop computers vary depending on what you, the consumer really wants.

About the Author

Thanks for reading - this is Lis from Lis's Travel Tips an eBook series that I decided to write after being less than impressed by travel tips available in "real" published books.

I have travel writing all over the web - but I decided to start publishing some of it in a different format - hence my new eBook available at Amazon (see below) and elsewhere. Check out my Vacation Packing Tips website

Vacation Packing Guide For Worldwide Travel (Non-Boring Travel Guides)
Vacation Packing Guide For Worldwide Travel (Non-Boring Travel Guides)

Packing for vacation - it can be a pain - until you read this book and find out the real way to save your back, time and wallet!



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    • profile image


      6 years ago

      really interesting debate - most travelers seem to be going Europe which I would imagine the security issue is less but the requirement for a laptop is also less.

      I am looking to travel Central America for 3months - I'm doubting a laptop would be a good idea no matter how much I'd have those moments where I'd really need it.

      Although I am considering a refurbished netbook as a compomise.


    • profile image


      8 years ago

      Want desperately to take my laptop travelling mainly because I will be working as I go and when I'm spending 3 months in one place I will want to:

      1) Watch british language tv and films

      2) Upload photos and keep everyone up to date with my life and myself up to date with theirs

      3) research the local area (gyms/clubs/etc.etc.)

      4) Have something that feels like home to spend long hours on when I'm homesick

      5) Change the music on my ipod

      6) Search for job opportunities

      &) Write my meisterwork

      I don't want to take it because:

      1)It's heavy and cumbersome

      2) It's the only thing I can't sleep with under my pillow that's worth any money and it might not be any safer in hotel rooms.

      3) At the times I am travelling proper and not holed up in a small flatshare in a city it will be next to useless and just a pain in the ass.


    • profile image


      8 years ago


      im about to head to europe to travel for a few months and really want to take a laptop.

      I talk to my parents regularly so having Skype there whenever l want is def a pro.

      To be able to download all my photos is also a bonus. Although it is a good idea to copy all pics onto 2 CD's or 2 USB's and send one home regularaly incase something gets stolen.

      To have access to watch movies whenever you want and be incontrol of the music on your MP3 when your away is def another con.

      You just need to be sensible when travelling. DOnt leave your laptop sitting on your bed in the hostel!


    • profile image


      8 years ago

      There are many valid reasons for taking your laptop on holidays with you. There are also many good reasons to leave it home. If you do decide that you need your laptop while on holiday, you should have a data backup plan in place, as you may return without it, due to theft, damage or loss.

      Here is a great artilce outlining ways to backup your laptop while travelling.

      Holidaying with your laptop – Use Cloud Data Backup Services

    • profile image

      8 years ago


      That's just stoopid...

    • adorababy profile image


      8 years ago from Syracuse, NY

      If I were to choose, I would not bring my laptop to my travels. Unfortunately but gratefully, I earn my living working online jobs so I definitely don't have a choice in here. But I would suggest not bringing it in your travels if you have no business pertinent to it.

    • profile image

      laptop asus 

      9 years ago

      Here in India take care a Laptop is an open door for our smart thieves.

    • profile image

      Salsa Dancing 

      9 years ago

      I have a 12 inch "netbook" it's pretty small and light for communiting and coffee shop usage in a city, however I wouldn't take this travelling with me.

      Probably need to look at something like a 9 inch near disposable laptop that I can get rid of once I'm done with the bloody thing.

      Btw, even the smallest laptops have behemeothly sized cables with the big "pack" in the middle.

      My samsung nc20 has a modest size cable, but I've had other laptops where the cabelling was HUGE.

    • profile image


      9 years ago

      Hi Lissie, i think people like me would love to bring laptop along during travel...This is not because of i purposely want to bring them, it is a norm for me...but i agree with u, in circumstances, we should ask ourselves why we need to bring them along. This is because definitely there's a risk of bringing them along during travel...thanks for reminding me, i think i should look into it next time before i go for any trip:)


    • travelespresso profile image


      9 years ago from Somewhere in this exciting world.

      I totally agree with your comments. Well said. I have taken my laptop on several trips including bumpy, dusty Asian roads. It's a few years old now and too heavy but I write a lot and take many photos so, for me, it's a must. I bought a Kathmandu neophrene sleeve to keep it in and that gives "bump" protection. Also my backpack has a padded section for further protection.

    • skgrao profile image

      S K G Rao. 

      9 years ago from Bangalore City - INDIA.

      Here in India take care a Laptop is an open door for our smart thieves.

    • Lissie profile imageAUTHOR

      Elisabeth Sowerbutts 

      10 years ago from New Zealand

      The original article actually pre-dated the EeePC - and its high not my list fo must have for my next extended trip! I would love to here how it stands up to months on the road in Asia: which is tough for any piece of equipment! In Asia you will find phone like booths for skye in every internet shop- usually sound proofed

    • profile image


      10 years ago

      Funny that nobody mentioned one of the main reasons that I carry a laptop around now, Skype. Although I've done it, I never feel quite as free to talk when in an internet place. They generally are small, hot and crowded, and there is very little privacy.

      I bought an Asus EEE PC 900 and find it perfect for traveling. At under 2 lbs and 9"x6", I don't hardly notice it in my bag. I don't carry an external drive, I just carry a couple of SD chips in that fit in a thumb drive like USB adapter (4G and my old 1G) and keep these with my passport and important papers. BTW, this is how I download my pics from the camera, it is much handier and smaller than carrying all those cords.

      Maybe some of you feel differently about this but there is nothing in my bag that I would cry over if stolen. Yes it would bother me, but aside from my travel docs, the trip would continue. I don't have much more in the laptop other than the stuff that I would want on the trip, so no fears about identity theft. The good stuff, if any, goes in the SD chips. At around $500 I could replace the PC when I get back home. Definetly not a reason to fret about too much.

      I have to confess, I've only had the EEE PC for a month and have only taken a week long trip with it, but I don't see any of my thoughts about it changing. Will report again after I return from 3 months in Asia.

    • profile image


      11 years ago

      I am too concerned about my laptop being damaged or stolen to even consider taking it backpacking; not to mention the difficulties of lugging the beast around. However, we have a friend with a very small laptop that he took on a six week backpacking trip. Every time he stopped at a hotel with Internet access, he would update his web site with pictures and logs of his hikes. It was nice to be able to share in his experience through pictures and emails.

    • helenathegreat profile image


      11 years ago from Manhattan

      I took my MacBook backpacking through Japan and Eastern Europe and never regretted that I had it (okay, maybe once on a VERY hot day in Osaka). Being able to watch DVDs in English was a lifesaver when I was sick of stumbling through German/Polish or staring at people blankly! But damn do these things get heavy and take up space!

      Great hub.. you bring up a lot of really important points!!

    • Marisa Wright profile image

      Kate Swanson 

      11 years ago from Sydney

      Lissie, I'm with you - it's surprising how heavy a laptop can get, once you've been carrying it around for a while! Plus there's the constant worry of it getting stolen. If you're the kind of person who feels they've lost their right arm if they don't have constant internet access, then you'll be willing to put up with that. Anyone else is likely to regret it pretty quickly!

    • Lissie profile imageAUTHOR

      Elisabeth Sowerbutts 

      11 years ago from New Zealand

      Good point Mike re the movies. I think the free wifi is very country dependent - there are not an awful lot of them in Australia, outside of Sydney and Melbourne!

    • profile image


      11 years ago

      I think you can save so much money by using your own laptop in free wifi places than having to go to internet cafes.

      A laptop is also good for watching movies while you are traveling.

    • profile image


      11 years ago

      I think you can save so much money by using your own laptop in free wifi places than having to go to internet cafes.

      A laptop is also good for watching movies while you are traveling.


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