Category Archives: Backpacking

What to Pack for South East Asia

When researching a trip I always love to plan outfits and look for recommendations for what I need to pack for backpacking. My first backpacking trip was around South-East Asia and I made many rookie packing errors. I overpacked, everything was far too heavy, it was a nightmare finding things and I didn’t have much room to buy more stuff. Having lived in Thailand and travelled a lot of South East Asia over the last three years I have definitely improved my packing skills.

For 20 Backpacking Essentials for South East Asia then read my blog post here. For the ultimate list read on…

First things first….A backpack – while suitcases might appear easier with wheels and you don’t have to carry them, in reality a backpack is a better idea. South East Asian cities have mostly uneven pavements blocked by street food vendors, restaurants spilling out onto the sidewalks, clothing stalls and people haggling and queuing which makes trying to get a suitcase down the road very tough work. Sand and suitcases also rarely mix and hopping on and off boats and ferries is much easier with a backpack. I currently use a 40L Dry Bag as my backpack, really similar to this  Aquafree Dry Bag, 40L – Blue from Amazon. I love that it rolls down so if I have less items I can make it even smaller and I’ve also used this as hand luggage for various trips too.

What to Pack for South East Asia: Clothing- Women’s Packing List

 

Dresses – I love short summery beach ones like this and long maxis like this Floral Print Split Maxi Party Dress for classier nights to sky bars and covering up for temple visits.

 

Denim Shorts – my summer staple and they go with everything

what to pack south east asia
Hiking in my denim shorts with my little dry bag

Elephant/Baggy Trousers – if you want to go backpacking then you have to buy a pair to fit in with the backpacking crowd. I prefer to look less like a backpacker and love styles like these Floral Printed Trousers . They are great for temple visits and bus and train travel when you don’t want to stick to cheap leather seats.

what to pack south east asia
Visiting the White Temple in Chiang Rai, Thailand in my baggy pants

Leggings and a hoody – because it does get cold! I’ve been on many buses, trains and planes where they blast the air con and it is not fun. Come prepared. I also pack socks.

 

Cover Ups – I love pretty crochet cover ups like this Cover Up Crochet Dress (Off White) for looking good on the beach and a sarong is really useful as a beach towel, covering your shoulders to be respectful or to stay out of the sun and even as a lightweight blanket like this great value Cover Up Sarong.

Maxi skirts – great to mix and match with various tops and good for covering legs to protect from evening mosquito bites and for temples, like this one here Summer High Waisted Coral Print Maxi

 

Chinos – preferably Khaki coloured so you look the part on those jungle treks! Don’t think about doing it in shorts – one word – Leeches.Buy ones similar to these Belted Casual Chino

 

Bikinis/swimwear – so these may be my downfall and I definitely have way more than I need. I love sporty styles for water sports like this and strapless styles for avoiding tan lines. I also don’t recommend wearing thong/g-string style bikinis around South East Asia as there are still conservative areas and you could offend people.

 

Playsuits – I love these casual styles to throw on over bikinis or to wear out at night to party. I like styles like this Bohemian Romper

 

What to Pack for South East Asia: Footwear

 

Flipflops – easy to get in and out of as in many places you should remove your shoes before entering people’s homes, temples and even some shops where people live above it. These Summer Beach FlipFlops are right up my street.

 

Walking boots – jungles, mountains, national parks, don’t be the muppet wearing converse and falling over when hiking.

 

Sandals – I personally dislike wearing flipflops all the time and feel it cannot be good for your ankles. If you want to visit posh skybars or clubs in cities like Bangkok then a dress code applies and you will be turned away for wearing flipflops or even Birkenstocks.

 

Tom-style pumps – I think these are great if you think walking boots are a little extreme. I always wear these for activities like white water rafting, visiting waterfalls and I prefer to use these when driving a scooter as well.Mine are a similar style to these TOMS Women’s Slip Ons

what to pack south east asia
My handy pumps for National Park exploring

What to Pack for South East Asia: Accessories/Extras

 

Jewellery – I wouldn’t recommend taking anything valuable or sentimental as you may lose it or risk it getting stolen. I take a lot of stud earrings like these Women’s Stud Earring (6 Pairs) and a couple of bigger pairs for a night out. I usually buy some cheap rings or bracelets for some party nights. There are some great cheap earrings in markets out here so definitely come planning to buy.

 

Hair bands and kirby grips  anything to keep long hair off your sweaty neck in hot humid temperatures, I always bulk buy 40 Pack Black Hair Ties as out here buying individual ones in markets can add up!

 

Towel – Invest in a tiny travel towel that dries quickly. I recommend a cheap one as you will probably have to throw it away because of the smell by end of trip. Buy yours RainLeaf Microfiber Towel before you travel as I have rarely seen them for sale over here in South East Asia

 

PJs– shorts and t-shirt PJs – no sleeping naked in dorm rooms please.I love these Sleepwear Short Sleeve Pajama Set

 

Smallzipped bag to wear across the shoulder like this one Crossbody Travel Bag and/or a small day backpack– protect your items from thieves and big enough to keep a bottle of water in too , like this Casual Travel Daypack

 

Dry bag– like this 5L one Dry Bag Sack is great for monsoon seasons, boat trips, desert island swimming…

For Thailand’s island summaries read this post here for the best places to party, snorkel, dive and chill on the beach…

What to Pack for South East Asia: Toiletries

 

Make up – I only wear mascara and I use a tinted moisturiser which includes a high SPF. I find anything else just seems to slide off your face in the heat and humidity.

 

Deodorant – obviously but also be aware that many products in South East Asia have whitening in them so when buying more over here read the label carefully.

 

Tiny bars of soap –  Some hostels/hotels provide these and others don’t so I feel it’s really useful to start collecting them.

 

Hand Wash Gel – small tube, very useful for doing small hand washing when needed or rinsing out swimwear etc, get small packets like  Tide Travel on Amazon

Washing Line– best thing my friend bought for me before I went – Go Go Travel Clothes Line which is one long line of twisted string with hooks either end for drying things

 

Insect Spray containing DEET Get 50% DEET from Amazon Repel 40% DEET Insect Sprayas over in SEA I have yet to find stronger than 15%

 

Toothbrush/toothpaste – and gum for when all else fails and you end up without sinks in off-the-beaten-track areas of Indonesia

 

Baby wipes– these are incredibly useful and very cheap. I use them to remove make-up,sun cream, sweat, dirt and cleaning bags or shoes, buy yours here Wipes Travel Pack

 

Hand Sanitizer – For those train/bus toilets where they often don’t provide soap, come prepared with Original Hand Sanitizer

 

Suntan Cream– I never like to go lower than SPF 30. The sun is extremely strong here.

 

First Aid Kit – after-bite for stings – once out there buy Golden Cup balm – local cure for insect bites!, plasters, antiseptic cream, diarrhoea tablets (and lots), painkillers, the Pill, nail scissors, string (you never know)

 

What to Pack for South East Asia: Extras and Essentials

Passport

Insurance Details (just in case) and visas

Phone/Camera

Gopro I love my GoPro Hero 4 for all my adventure activities and especially diving. Check out Amazon’s range here GoPro HERO4 BLACK.

Read this post for Thailand’s best dive sites…

Selfie stick – totally acceptable in S.E.A GoPro Selfie Stick

Small purse

International driving licence is required in some places to rent scooters. I found this true in Taiwan.

Sleeping bag liner – great for when your accommodation feels less than clean, I love my mummy version with a hood like this Backpacking Sleeping Bag Liner – Mummy

Eye Mask I love the look of this 100% Silk Eye Mask

Ear Plugs like this pack Noise Cancelling Disposable Foam Earplugs

Headphones

Mini speakers for parties in the bedroom. I love this mini one from Amazon which is teeny tiny and has great reviews Mini Bluetooth Speaker

Adapter – for all countries buy one like this International Travel Power Adapter

Moving around South East Asia? Book your trains, buses and ferries here! The more you book the cheaper it gets! Big discounts are available, particularly for group bookings.

 

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backpacking packing guide list backpacking packing guide list

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Backpacking Essentials for South East Asia

“Who actually likes packing?” an incredulous friend said to me recently. I do. I love packing. There, the nerd in me is out. It taps into my organisational and planning skills and it helps me get really excited for wherever I am visiting! In the past I’ve had a few friends ask me what they should bring backpacking, whether for themselves or buying presents for a friend or family member who is about to leave on their first backpacking trip. The following are all items I actually use or wish I had used the first time I went backpacking. I pack all these items when I have travelled around Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Taiwan, Sri Lanka and India. The first time I went backpacking around South East Asia, I completely over packed. My backpack was enormous, I complained all the time and often threw a few tantrums and made my travel buddy carry my backpack more times than I would like to admit.

What to Pack in your Backpack: Backpacking Essentials for South East Asia

Here’s how to NOT be a royal pain in the arse when backpacking, avoid complaining and pack these 20 useful and practical items:

  1. Dry bag – These are so incredible useful when you are on and off boats and in monsoon or rainy seasons around Asia. I have a 3L and a 5L and I prefer the larger size as I can fit more stuff in! I bought mine in Thailand but if you are after one before you leave check out Amazon for Dry Bag Sack, Waterproof
backpack south east asia pack
Me adventuring around with my dry bag

 

  1. Small backpack – I only recently converted to be a day backpack kind of person! Before I was always resistant as I thought cross-shoulder bags went better with my outfit (so vain). Since travelling to India, I am a total convert – you can fit a bottle of water in it and it makes everything feel lighter and more manageable! I bought mine at a market in India, it’s not too big and the perfect size for me!
backpack south east asia pack
Incredible India and me and my little backpack!

 

  1. Kindle – As a complete bookworm, I was always slightly wary of the famous Kindle or e-reader. I love the smell of real books, turning the pages and swapping with friends. However, they are also fairly unpractical for travelling light and the glue melts in the sun or hot countries and the pages fall out. So now I have learnt to embrace the Kindle and I wouldn’t travel anywhere without it! The battery lasts forever (even when I frequently forget to turn it off) and any classic literature is free to download and read! Even better when I am on a budget and want to spend money on travel activities and not books! Check out my list of inspiring travel reads here. Get yours from Amazon Kindle Paperwhite E-reader
backpacking south east asia pack
Reading on the beach in the Gili Islands, Indonesia

 

  1. Travel journal – I love writing and like me, so many travellers I know love to document their journeys in a notebook so that they can return to the memories of how they felt at that time. It’s also a great present for anyone setting off on their trip. Just make sure it’s a light one like these from Amazon…

 

  1. First aid kit – I am by no means a medical expert but the following are a few things I include and have used in my first aid kit, plasters, anti-histamines, immodium, charcoal tablets, seasick pills, scissors…

 

 

  1. Sleeping bag liner – This one I find so so useful. When backpacking you might not always be staying in the nicest accommodation and you might not always find the sleeper trains or buses the height of cleanliness. This is where your sleeping bag liner can be used, it’s light so perfect for hot countries and means you don’t have to touch that questionable material underneath you! I have one with a ‘mummy’ hood meaning my hair doesn’t have to touch anything and when being stared at on Indian trains I can just pull the whole thing over my head – Sleeping Bag Liner Travel

 

  1. Tiger balm – I swear by this stuff and so does most of Thailand. I use it for mosquito bites, for warding off bugs, for muscle aches and even to put under my nose if I end up sleeping near a smelly bus toilet! It’s generally more expensive in the UK so wait until you get to South East Asia and buy from a local convenience store like 7/11 in Thailand.

 

  1. Clothes line – this was a present from a friend before I went on my first long backpacking trip and it was so incredible useful. Nice hotels often provide towel rails or drying clothes horses, budget accommodation does not! You can hook the clothes line between two wall fittings in the bathroom or outside and put your clothes in between the twists to stop them flying away in the wind. Mine was similar to this Adjustable Bungee Clothesline

 

  1. Gopro Hero – The first time I went backpacking I didn’t have a GoPro and only discovered them later in life – however I feel I am now making up for lost time. I recently bought a new one, the Gopro 4 as it has a screen and you can use down to 40m for diving. The new gopro 5 can only be used to 10m for diving so you need to buy something extra if you want to take it diving. I bought mine from the Amazon equivalent in Thailand – GoPro HERO4 Silver.
backpacking pack south east asia
I took this with my gopro while diving in Nusa Lembongan, Indonesia – the coral colours were unbelievable!

 

 

  1. Deet mosquito spray – once you are in South East Asia, the strongest DEET mosquito spray I have been able to find is 15% compared with 50% at home and I know which one I would want when faced with those jungle mozzies. This is one item I definitely recommend buying in advance, try Repel Max Insect Repellent

 

 

  1. Ear plugs – Again, an item it took me a while to discover but now I won’t travel without mine (and am constantly buying more as I lose them!) So useful for noisy train journeys and to block out the noise of crying babies, hawkers and the rest. These are not always easy to find in Thailand and the airport shops are way overprices so try ordering some from Amazon before you go. I recommend buying a pack with a few pairs! Protection Noise Cancelling Disposable Foam Earplugs

 

  1. Eye Mask – Another fantastic travelling item that I used constantly on flights, night trains and buses. I find it difficult to sleep and if you do too then definitely invest in a cheap eye mask. Mine is a cheap one from a Thai market but I love the ones that have a space around the eyes like Star Moon Deep Molded Sleep Mask

 

  1. Baby wipes – I never like spending a lot of money on those expensive make-up remover wipes and so I decided to go for tax-free baby wipes instead! They are so useful for sweaty moments, cleaning hands, shoes, backpacks, to use as toilet paper…the list goes on.

 

  1. Sarong – I think this is such a useful item. You can use it to cover your shoulders for visiting religious places, to cover up for warmth, to use as a towel on the beach, to lie on on the dirty ground.  I also recommend waiting until you arrive in South East Asia – so many pretty sarongs and scarves to choose from at the markets.

 

  1. Handwash for clothes – While you can get laundry done on mass cheaply in most of South East Asia, there is always the occasional time when you just want to wash the odd item so I recommend carrying a small handwash liquid around with you for when you really just want to wear that favourite top! (or you’ve suddenly realised that you’ve run out of underwear!) A friend bought me some like these and they were very useful! Travel Hand Wash Soap Sheets

 

  1. Selfie stick – In Thailand there is no shame in using a selfie stick and I honestly think you can get some great photos from using one. There is this gopro selfie stick on Amazon Waterproof GoPro Selfie Stick.  I have bought before in Thailand but it broke fairly quickly and I think it’s better to go with a real shop than a dodgy market in this case!

 

  1. Toilet bags to separate items – I usually get frustrated at how long it takes to find things in my backpack so I’ve recently started separating items using toilet bags or soft linen bags so I know what is in each one. I don’t recommend millions of plastic bags as no-one likes to be woken up in their dorm room by the noisy plastic bag person rummaging around for something!

 

  1. Travel towel – The first time I travelled I took a beach towel – What was I thinking? It was enormous, took up so much space and just collected sand for the duration of my trip. Fool. Try one of these small and quick-drying travel towels instead like RainLeaf Towel GreenI don’t think it’s worth spending a lot as after a few months it will smell and you will probably throw it away!

 

 

  1. Pack of cards – for those long, delayed train journeys, and for those wild drinking game nights you won’t remember. Everyone loves the person who brings a pack of cards for entertainment! Alternatively I received Dobble for Christmas (great present from my sister!) and this livens up any dull journey too! I know even use it to teach in my English classes, it’s easy to play, fast paced and so much fun. Amazon sells them Doburu (spot it) / Dobble (japan import)
  2. Anti-bacterial gel – because travelling as a backpacker is not always the most hygienic way of travelling. Use liberally after toilets, staircases, night trains and buses! Check out more travel in Thailand advice here 
    packing backpack south east asia
    Buy cheap sunglasses at the local markets too!

    Another useful item is a decent website for booking travel. Book your trains, buses, boats and ferries here…The more you book on this website, the higher the discounts!

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Packing Essentials Backpacking Disclaimer

This post contains affiliate links. If you click on the link and purchase an item I will receive a small commission with no extra charge to you. These are all genuinely things that I use all the time when I travel.