Southeast Asia Backpacking Packing Checklist
What to bring – Travel essentials
The following packing list is ideal for trips of about one month or more. There’s lots of places to do laundry in most of Southeast Asia (you could also bring some hand wash), so don’t worry about bringing enough clothes to last for your entire trip.
Remember to pack light, don’t over pack. Lugging a heavy bag around is a hindrance, especially in the Southeast Asian heat. Pack the essentials, and leave a little room to bring back souvenirs!
If you remember nothing else remember these few essentials
(+ photocopy, this is important in case you lose your passport)
• PASSPORT PHOTOS
Again you may need these if you lose your passport. You will also need passport photos to get Visas for some countries
(In the form of cash, card, or travelers cheques)
I always recommend bringing some cash (in the currency of your arrival destination) to get started, a few dollars, and a card (or travel card)
• BOARDING PASS/ TRAVEL TICKETS
Remember all boarding passes and travel documents and consider having photocopies of these
•TRAVEL INSURANCE DOCUMENTS
If you have purchased travel insurance (which I recommend you do) make sure you bring a copy of your travel insurance documents in case of emergencies
• 2/3 x T SHIRTS OR TOPS
• 1/2 x SHORTS/ SKIRTS
In a lot of places in Southeast Asia tourists do wear shorts. But always remember to be respectful, check the rules, and never wear shorts in Temples.
• 1/2 x LIGHT TROUSERS OR LEGGINGS
Bare in mind that you will probably buy at least one pair of Elephant Pants in Asia!
• 7 x UNDERWEAR
• 5 x SOCKS
• 2 x SWIMWEAR
• 1 x SUN HAT
• 1 x RAINCOAT
• 1 x WARM JUMPER
Night buses are often air conditioned far too strongly, and a warm jumper will prove invaluable for keeping you warm on these journeys!
• 1 x FLIP FLOPS
You might consider waiting to buy these in Asia, they are usually much cheaper!
• 1 x CASUAL SHOES (i.e. Trainers or Converse)
• 1 x WALKING SHOES/ BOOTS
Whether you choose to bring shoes or boots depends on how much hiking you think you will do.
If you feel you are likely to hike mountains and long trails, a pair of boots may prove invaluable.
For walking boots i took a pair of Brasher Hillwalkers. I would highly recommend these, they were comfortable, waterproof and easy to walk in. You could also try Regatta.
For walking shoes (as boots are often bulky and difficult to carry) I recommend a pair of Tevas. For every day walking and small treks they are comfortable and extremely resilient. Try these for women, or these for men.
To carry your toiletries, take a look at my Patchwork World Map Pouch
• MEDICATION Including Malaria Tablets
• SUN CREAM
This is often difficult to find in Southeast Asia, so bring enough for your trip!
• MOSQUITO REPELLENT
To accompany your Malaria Tablets you should apply mosquito repellent frequently
• SHOWER GEL
• TOOTHBRUSH & TOOTHPASTE
• BABY WIPES
• SANITARY PRODUCTS
• HAIR BRUSH
• HAIR BANDS
• MAKEUP (Optional)
• HAND SANITIZER
And any other products you deem to be essential in your day to day life
Many people chose to take pictures on their smart phones, if you don’t, bring a camera to document your trip!
Also remember your camera case, to protect your camera while travelling and any chargers/ batteries.
You may also consider bringing a GoPro. Or for a cheaper alternative I have an Apeman, which I love!
• PHONE & Charger
• TABLET (Optional)
Not everyone chooses to bring a Tablet travelling, but I find it very useful for when I have no access to a computer. You could chose an Ipad Mini. Or if you're looking for a cheaper alternative, I recommend this Fire Tablet.
You will probably encounter a few different types of sockets in Southeast Asia. I recommend bringing a worldwide adapter.
• CHARGERS/ BATTERIES
For long bus/ train journeys or treks you may also want to bring a portable charger.
• FIRST AID KIT
Plasters and antiseptic are important for emergencies, always travel with a first aid kit, just in case. Try this travel size first aid kit or have a look in your local drug store (or Boots/ Superdrug)
• SUN GLASSES
• EAR PLUGS & EYE MASK
Hostels and night buses/ sleeper trains can be very noisy, ear plugs and eye masks will make it easier to sleep. Try this ear plug & eye mask combo.
• MONEY BELT
Money Belts are recommended for security while travelling, placed under your clothes it is unlikely that thieves will see and take your money belt. Keep important things in here (like your passport or spare cash) when out.
For a simple money belt try the Samsonite Double Pocket Money Belt
Also Take a look at our 10 Best Stylish Bumbags for Travelers!
• SLEEPING BAG LINER
Most hostels come with bed linen, however if you plan on camping or are worried about the cleanliness of the bed linen then consider bringing a sleeping bag liner. Liners are lighter and easier to carry than sleeping bags, and are cooler in hot climates. (Silk liners are more desirable, but also more expensive)
Try this poly-cotton liner, or this silk liner.
• TRAVEL TOWEL
You can bring a normal towel, however microfiber towels dry much quicker and fold smaller, and so are easier to transport while traveling.
• MOSQUITO NET
This is particularly important if you are planning on camping. I recommend this net.
• DRY BAG
There are lots of water based activities to try in Southeast Asia (For example Tubing in Laos). A Dry Bag will help keep your valuables safe in the water.
Padlocks are important for hostel lockers to keep valuables safe. You may also wish to padlock your suitcase while traveling.
Not everywhere you travel in Southeast Asia will have streetlights. A torch is essential for safety, particularly in rural areas. I prefer to use a head torch!
• PENKNIFE (Optional)
This is not essential, but if you are planning on doing a lot of hiking a penknife may come in handy. I used a penknife to eat a coconut that fell from a tree!
• GUIDE BOOK
When travelling I like to have a guide book, although you can research most places online. Lonely planet guides are concise and interesting; they provide information on what to do, where to stay and where to eat.
Try: Lonely Planet Southeast Asia on a Shoestring
Or alternatively: Lonely Planet, Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos & Northern Thailand
You may also want to consider bringing a phrasebook!
• WATERPROOF PASSPORT HOLDER
Not strictly essential, but with rugged travelling I find it important to protect your passport and other travel documents with a waterproof cover. Alternatively you could try these DriStore bags.
• PLASTIC BAGS
Plastic bags always come in handy when travelling; for example to store dirty washing or muddy shoes. When packing my rucksack i separate things into plastic bags, this makes it easy to unpack and repack your backpack without fuss.
• TRAVEL JOURNAL
Not essential, but i personally like documenting my travels in a journal to keep a nice record of my trip. I use the Luckies of London advisable.
Now you will need two bags to carry everything in
• MAIN BACKPACK
I took a 42l Lowe Alpine Crag Attack rucksack, which I can highly recommend.
42l proved big enough to fit everything I needed, and was easy to carry.
• DAY BAG
I recommend the ever popular Eastpak backpack; they are surprisingly spacious, stylish and rugged, with a long guarantee.
Jan Sport Backpacks are also very popular.
Or take a look at our 10 Best Stylish Backpacks for Travelers!