The Essential Southeast Asia Backpacking List

The Essential Southeast Asia Backpacking List

Fitting all your life in one backpack is easy. Just follow this packing list.

This backpacking list can change of course, depending on where you are going, the time of the year you are going and the purpose of your trip, but here are the basic fundamentals to help simplify the process!

Also read: 18 Travel Packing Tips From The Experts

backpacking list

First up, clothing:

  • Jacket – Ideally waterproof for versatility. Don’t go for a basic cotton hoodie, instead opt for a more lightweight shell that you can easily pack compactly like this and this.
  • 2-4 tops – bring a variety, and consider your destination! If you know you are going to a more conservative country, bring long sleeved tops.
  • 2x bottoms – a pair of long pants, a pair of shorts?
  • A dress or a button down shirt – for dressing up, of course! This is for the night out that you would want to look a tad bit fancier for.
  • Swimsuit – I would consider this a must in South East Asia, even if you aren’t going by the beach. You never know what swimming holes you’ll stumble into.
  • 4x underwear – A no brainer. If you can bring more, the better. You never know.
  • Sunglasses – SO IMPORTANT in this part of the world. Protect your eyes, people!
  • Headwear – Underrated item of clothing that will help you explore scorching hot Asian towns without getting a heatstroke.
  • 3x socks – Synthetic wool is great because it helps to regulate the moisture and help with the stink. It’s also great because you’re not buying wool and contributing to the horrible animal industry.
  • Shoes – Wear something versatile! This should be your main footwear, so make sure you can walk long distances in them. Still look good would be ideal! Try these, or these – I like them because you can pair them with your classier clothes for those slightly fancier occasions, and they still work.
  • Slippers – I usually buy some cheap rubbish ones that will just last me the duration of my trip, and throw them away before journeying back home.

backpacking list

Next, toiletries:

  • Wash sack – Check out the Scrubba, perfect for being the laundry sack and for washing your grime!
  • Tooth paste and tooth brush – Obviously
  • Deodorant – Please
  • Shampoo/soap/conditioner – Fill up disposable travel sized bottles and bring them with you! You can dump them after you’re done, and you also won’t encounter problems putting them in your carry on.
  • Travel towel – Check out viscose towels, especially this one. These tiny lightweight towels absorbs up to 9x it’s weight in water, and with one wring you can release 90% of that water.
  • Coconut oil – Personally, I dig bringing a little coconut oil because it acts as a makeup remover, body lotion, hand cream, hair conditioner etc etc. Nature’s wonders!
  • Makeup – Bring makeup items that you can use for more than one purpose to save space, ladies and gentlemen (yes, men can wear makeup, don’t conform to heteronormative beliefs)! For example, use your lipstick on your cheeks and your lips.

backpacking list

Also read: 10 Useless Things You Should Stop Packing For Your Trip

Miscellaneous items:

  • Mini first aid kit – Plasters, peroxide, anti-bacterial wipes, analgesic of choice etc
  • Passport
  • International driving license (if you intend to drive)
  • Bank cards and cash – Always cheaper to get money changed in your home country than at the foreign destination!
  • Water bottle
  • Insect repellent – Super important in SEA! Instead of buying horrible chemical repellents, opt for little bottles of essential oils that repel insects! For example, citronella, lavender, lemongrass essential oils ward away mosquitoes. Be insect bite free and still smell good.
  • Ziploc bags, garbage bags – I swear, there is going to be a point during any trip that you wish you had some bags on you.
  • A lock – Sometimes, hostels provide lockers without locks on them. Also, use it to secure the contents of your bag.
  • A day pack – Lightweight bag, fanny pack, etc

backpacking list

Remember that the type of bag you use is also important. If photography is important to you, perhaps get a bag that can fit all your photogear? If you like camping, bring a sleeping bag, mosquito net and the most lightweight tent you can find. If you work while on the road, use a bag that has a functionable laptop sleeve.

About Author

Ashleigh Goh
Ashleigh Goh

Ash is a self-identified feminist hippie filmmaker and loves the mountains and trees. She has travelled extensively through the US and has spent some time working/living/studying in Montana and Austin. She is constantly on the pursuit of personal growth, and travel gives her exactly that.


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