Some military surplus items are perfect for travellers; light weight, not to expensive, still available from unused stock and many different ways to use them. The US army patients effects bag is such an item.
When wounded soldiers were taken to a (field) hospital, staff placed an injured soldier’s personal belongings such as wedding rings, watches, glasses or letters in these bags. Each bag has two drawstrings on top and a gusseted bottom to stand upright when full. Inside the bag is a rubberised pocket to separate items. On the outside of the US GI personal effects bags is a small white square where the soldier’s name would be written. Another version which is not so common is meant for dead soldiers and has a label which much more details to be filled in. Among the details; Killed in action. Measuring 12 inches tall and 15 inches wide, these cloth bags make perfect toiletry bags, laundry bags, or other small item bags for campers, Scouts or travellers.
1. A good rucksack
2. Insect repellent
4. A money belt
5. Walking shoes
7. Lightweight shirts and trousers
8. A light scarf (sarong)
9. Lightweight towel
10. Antibacterial wipes
11. Hair conditioner
Our list would be:
1. A good rucksack (daypack)
2. Insect repellent (especially during rain season)
4. A money belt
5. Walking shoes
6. Flip flops aka slippers
7. Lightweight shirts and trousers
8. A light scarf (sarong)
9. Lightweight towel (big)
10. Microfibre towel (small) (very useful to protect your neck from sunburn)
11. Small foldable umbrella (especially during rain season)
12. Rain poncho (especially during rain season)
13. MP3 player (if you are a music lover)
14. Blue tooth speaker (if you are a music lover)
15. International driving licence
16. Credit card (as a backup for a debit card failure)
17. Buff multifunctional scarf
18. A piece of rope
19. Duct tape
20. Instant glue (If duct tape fails to do your emergency repair)
21. Travel guide (Lonely Planet, rough guide etc.)
22. 3 way electric plug (2 extra sockets for charging your electronic devices)
23. Camera tripod (better pictures and selfies with self-timer)
24. Rubber wash bowl or bucket (if you want to do an emergency hand wash of your clothes)
25. Ear plugs (when staying in a hostel)
26. Portable luggage scale aka travel scale (If you like to buy tons of souvenirs or cheap clothing)
27. Flight bag; a thin sleeve that you put around your backpack or suitcase that act as a protective waterproof layer to catch dirt. Luggage handling is often under high time pressure and done very rough and disrespectful.
7-Eleven and other shops
A lot of items like ear plugs, scotch tape, instant glue, shaving foam, small washing powder, toothbrush etc. are also for sale at the 7-Eleven or Mini Mart stores. They are literally located on almost every street corner in Thailand. Flip flops, light weight trousers, light weight T-shirts and a small folding umbrella can also be bought at shops and street vendor stalls on the roadside. Often for much lower prices (100 – 200 bath) then in visitors their home counties. Be aware of a poor quality. When buying flip flops it’s wise to buy instant super glue at the 7-Eleven. Usually they are glued together with water based glue that will dissolve after getting wet again. In case of a plastic disposable rain poncho it is best to look for a big western size made from a slightly thicker plastic back home. The disposable rain poncho’s sold in Thailand are usually from a poor thin quality and too small to cover a tall western person.
The French army F1 backpack was in use till the mid 90s. Nowadays you can still find them in many (online) army surplus shops. Main reason for that is because they are extremely durable and made out of tough heavy duty materials. This backpack is super strong and won’t disappoint you.
The French army F1 backpack is compared to a modern lightweight backpack a bit heavy (2,2 Kg) and a bit uncomfortable. Actually it is more a very luxury duffel bag. For example; it doesn’t have side pockets and it has grip handles on both sides. Besides that you can also wear it on your back.
The Rucksack Other Arms from the British army and the Osprey Porter are both “single” compartment backpacks where you can hide the shoulder straps. This allows you to use it as a hand carrying bag. Both the backpacks are not very high compared to their width.
The Osprey Porter. Source: expertworldtravel.com/osprey-porter-vs-farpoint-backpack-travel
If you spend most of your time carrying your luggage at your back when hiking or going to the woods and mountains, then a real backpack is most suitable. If your backpack spends most of its time in a luggage compartment of a bus, train, air-plane, mini van, taxi etc. then a single compartment bag with no extra straps or side pockets is more suitable. This setup comes close to a suitcase that you carry on your back.
The area is very close to the Khaosan Road but much more quite and relaxed. The area sees almost no traffic because it is tucked away from the big main road. It is almost like a small village inside the big city.
The area is full with small coffee shops, foot massage shops, backpacker hostels and small (street food) restaurants. At the “entrance” of the area you’ll find the more upscale Nouvo City Hotel and a 7-Eleven supermarket for all your necessary supplies. One street food style restaurant that is receiving very positive reactions for their high quality sea food is Jokphochana Restaurant.
The relatively cool mountains in the north of Thailand (close to Chiang Mai and Chiang Rai) are very suitable for coffee and tea production. The royal family launched several projects to support the hill tribes who lived in these mountains. One of the things was the introduction of coffee growing as a replacement for the opium growing. The small coffee farms try to focus on the production of high quality (single estate) coffees rather than big volumes of cheaper blend coffees. Some brands are Doi Tung, Phu kha, Doi Chaang, Nacha Coffee and Akha Ama.
Coffee shops in Thailand can be found in all sizes and shapes. From simple street vendors to luxury bakeries with a shady garden. One of the biggest Thai coffee shop chains is Black Canyon Coffee. Besides coffee you can also buy food here. When you are exhausted from the heat, look around for a shop with a glass front window and door. This is very often a coffee shop with air conditioning inside ! Sometimes you can also recognize coffee shops by the drying of used coffee powder outside the shop. This is used as a natural skin scrubbing agent. Especially in the smaller streets (sois) this can be seen.
Iced coffees in Thailand are usually prepared with condensed milk and a lot of sugar. It is so popular that there is even a page about it on Wikipedia. Pailin “Pai” Chongchitnant from www.hot-thai-kitchen.com shows how you can prepare these coffees by yourself.
Canned and instant coffee from the 7-Eleven supermarket
In every supermarket from 7-Eleven you can buy instant coffee and canned ice coffee. Usually it comes with milk and lots of sugar.
In Thailand it can be hot and sweaty. A light weight thin piece of fabric can absorb that sweat around your head of wrist. On a motorbike you can use it as a scarf to protect your mouth from flies and dirt. In busses it can be chilling cold because of the airconditioning. Then you can use it as a scarf to give you some extra warmth. When sleeping in a bus or hostel you can use it as a blind coffer for your eyes. Also suitable for naughty sex games.
When you are traveling you need to wash your clothes sooner or later. Luckily you can find many laundry services in Thailand. They will wash and dry your dirty clothes for 40 to 200 Thai Bath. But sometimes you just want to wash one or two items or you just stay one night in a place. Then it is an option to do a quick hand wash in a bucket or in the bathroom sink. For these situations it is super handy to have your own small rubber bucket with you. It is light and it doesn’t take much space in your suitcase or backpack. In case you don’t have soap with you you can always buy some in a small package at the 7-Eleven. Or you can off course use some shampoo or shower gel.
The Dutch / Belgian military rubber bowl will stand right up by the pressure of the water what is inside. The bowl isn’t that big (approx 4 litre) but it is large enough for a T-shirt, a pair of socks, some underwear and a short. Just let your laundry soak in the water with soap for a few hours and then wash the soap out of the laundry under running water from the tap.
The Polish WZ89 army backpack (aka Frog or Puma camouflage) is a cheap and simple backpack. Just a big sack with two straps on it. It was in use in the Polish army from 1989 and until 1993. The typical camouflage pattern is called the Zába Pattern, which in polish for Frog. On military surplus store websites it is also called the Polish Puma camouflage pattern. In Germany this camouflage pattern is often referred as Pumatarn.
The bottom is protected with a rubber (PVC) coating. So when you place your bag in a small puddle of water or in some wet grass not all your stuff is totally soaked. For a better protection it is wise to use a big plastic bag inside the backpack itself since the fabric is very thin and not very water resistant. In military surplus stores you can also buy special water resistant laundry bags.
The top side of the pack has two drawstrings, one on the very top and one a bit lower down the body. The lower drawstring allows for loading to regular capacity, similar to a normal rucksack. The top drawstring allows you to expand (overload) the pack to the size of a big backpack. Keep in mind that there is no padding on the shoulder straps. So if you you load up on weight it’s going to cut into your shoulders and may hurt. The big top flap can be closed in two different heights; two triglides on the bottom or two triglides half way the pack.
The rucksack is constructed of very flexible material and doesn’t have a rigid frame. This simple construction gives very little wearing comfort. However this also makes it ideal for packing and compressing your luggage down to a small package and in the same time it also allows you to expand the bag to carry a much larger load. It is also possible to fold the bag down and take it with you as an extra bag in your main luggage. Since the weight of the pack is only 0,75 Kg it is not that much extra.
Other comparable designs.
There is also an improved version of this backpack with a different camouflage pattern (WZ93 Pantera) and stronger materials. The M93 Pantera camouflage backpack. The fabric of the M93 backpack is waterproof and the name tag is stronger and equipped with a better plastic window.
The much bigger and heavier French F1 65 liter military backpack might have been the inspiration for this design. That bag is also more like a duffel bag, comes also with a rubberized bottom, and is also closable at two different heights. But that bag is made of much heavier canvas and the rubber is thicker and comes higher from the ground. This makes the weight of this pack going up to 2,15 Kg. The backside of the pack has a padded back support in a triangle form, the shoulder straps are padded and the pack has a simple belt to let the weight rest at your hips. These features makes this backpack / duffel bag quite comfortable to wear. More info in this special blog about the French army F1 backpack.
Many people regard a soft backpack without any back support or padded shoulder straps as a ridiculous idea and the worst design ever. However the famous (military) backpack company Berghaus made a similar backpack The Berghaus MMPS Grab Bag. This bag has also one main compartment without side pouches. Only the cover lid is a little more sophisticated with a pouch behind a zipper and some webbing for attaching extra gear. This bag is also meant as an extra light weight bag that you can take with you in your main luggage.
Bicycling is a very good and comfortable way to go around. You’ll see more than by walking and it doesn’t go that fast that you’ll miss everything around you. The movement on the bicycle will cause a slight breeze and will keep you cooler than you might think. You can stop everywhere for a drink or to make some beautiful pictures.
In and around many tourist destinations in Thailand it is possible to rent a bicycle or to book a guided tour. For example in cities of Bangkok, Pattaya, and Hua Hin. In the beautiful landscapes around Chiang Mai and Chiang Rai or between the beautiful ancient temples in the historical city of Ayuttaya and Sukhothai .
The team from Sukhothai Bicycle Tour organize and guide tours through the Sukhothai Historical Park and through the quite and peaceful countryside around Sukhothai. The provided mountain-bikes are in excellent condition and suitable for tall western people. For small kids they have small children bikes or special extensions to the bike of one of the adults.