Preparing for backpacking Southeast Asia can be a stressful time before setting off on the adventure of a lifetime. Your first time heading off backpacking can be a time of so many questions with so many unknowns including what to put on your packing list for Southeast Asia. You wonder how you will survive travelling long term with just the bag on your back! But fear not, it does get easier and you do learn a lot along the way. So we’ve put together our ultimate backpacking gear list as a guideline for those wanting to know specifically what to include on a Southeast Asia packing list which should answer the question “what should I take backpacking?”
Ultimate Backpacking Gear List: Our Southeast Asia Packing List for Beginners!
So you’ve made that life changing decision to go backpacking Southeast Asia, well, you won’t regret it because it’s going to be one of the best and most memorable times in your life. But we’ve all been there, our first big trip looming with so many questions. So here’s our backpacking gear list beginners guide! Getting your bag contents right means you can enjoy your Southeast Asia travel that much more!
Southeast Asia Backpacking Essentials Asia :
Backpacking Asia Essentials: Passport & Visas
It does without saying that you should pack your passport! Be sure to check how long it is valid for, how many blank pages you have and what condition it is in before setting off.
You should also check each and every country you will be visiting and what the specific visa requirements are for each one. Some require you to apply from your home country but most in Southeast Asia are very simple.
Drivers License and International Drivers Permit
Be sure to also include your driver’s license on your South-East Asia packing list. It’s a useful piece of secondary ID and if you plan on driving or using a scooter/ Motorbike whilst away then you will need it.
It is also useful to get the right International Drivers Permit for each country. Though not always needed especially in Asia they are cheap and easy to get so it’s worth picking one up. You can pick these up easily at the Post Office.
Money and Cards
Organising your money whilst travelling is important and you should have a system in place so you always have access to your money.
Backpacking Southeast Asia: Our System Is This:
We keep our main pot of money in a savings account. This is accessible only online and not through any of our cards. We have connected accounts that are accessible via cards, however this is our main English account which does charge so these are for emergencies.
We transfer our monthly budget into another account. We use “Starling” an app-based bank that charges no international fees and offers a great rate. Using the app it’s easy to keep track of your spending, partition money so it can’t be withdrawn or spent with your card and temporary block your card at the press of a button.
We have two starling accounts each with a card. We used one as our main account and pretty much don’t use the other but have it incase we lose access to the other. Both are linked to separate phones.
This system means if our main daily card goes missing then only a small amount of money is in jeopardy and that card can be blocked very quickly and also unblocked quickly if we realise it’s not actually missing! It also means we have several back up cards and ways to access our money and keep it safe. It is also not that hard to set up and none of our accounts have fees.
Backpacking Southeast Asia: Tips For Managing Your Money Day to Day
If you can you should withdraw small and often and use your card only at machines and businesses that are reputable. ATM and card payments offer the best rate and generally speaking you want to avoid exchanging currency and carrying large amounts of money around.
However, you should always try to have at least some amount of local currency and some US Dollars too for small purchases and especially at border crossings. It’s one of the things we consider to be backpacking Asia essentials.
Generally speaking it isn’t to hard to get money when backpacking Southeast Asia but there are many places where cash machines are harder to come by and you should prepare for that especially in more rural areas, islands and countries like Laos and Myanmar.
Travel Insurance is always important but especially so when travelling around Southeast Asia and backpacking. You should be sure to get specific backpacking insurance and read the fine print such as which activities are covered and whether you can renew whilst still abroad. Don’t forget this on your South-East Asia packing list.
We recommend World Nomads as the best quality and most comprehensive and trust worthy insurance for backpacking in Asia.
Copies Of Your Documents
When I’m packing for Southeast Asia I always keep photocopies of our documents and keep them separate from your originals.
Another good idea is to keep digital copies on your laptops (back them up using Dropbox or other cloud software and email them to yourself), also taking a photo of your passport and keeping it on your phone is helpful as also back your phone to the cloud too. Make sure these place are all secure!
I also have a note on my phone with all my important info like Passport Numbers/ Contact details for Insurance etc. We think having access to your important information is one of the essentials for backpacking Asia.
Packing list for Southeast Asia:
Choosing A Backpack For Your Southeast Asia Travel Adventure:
We recommend the Osprey 70l Backpack and have used it for almost 4 years and they are still going strong and so makes the top of our ultimate backpacking gear list. Before you can even start compiling your Packing list for Southeast Asia you need to know how much space you have!
The pack breaks down to a 55l main backpack and a smaller 15l daypack that attaches to the larger pack or can be worn on the front. This means the main pack allows enough space without encouraging overpacking by being too big making it the best Southeast Asia backpack to take.
The best bit about the backpack is that it is a front opening pack that opens up more like a suitcase rather than a top loader. This makes it so much easier to organise, pack and retrieve items from your bag. We really recommend this type of bag as a top loader is a real nightmare when trying to fish our something from the bottom so an front opening pack is top of our backpacking packing list!
We’ve found these bags to be comfortable, practical and hard wearing so add them to your South-East Asia packing list.
Daypack/ Front Pack & Organising
If you go with the Osprey they you can use the 15l pack as a daypack.
However we’ve found this to be a little too small for our laptop and camera (though most people if not bringing a lot of equipment should be fine). So instead we bring along a larger 27l Osprey Pack to carry all our valuables when moving from place to place so that is always a consideration when compiling a packing list for backpackers.
We do also bring along the 15l pack and have it attached to our bags as an extra bit of storage so both make our ultimate backpacking gear list.
I also use the 15l pack day to day for my camera whilst out and about so I can keep my other valuables in my larger bag in a locker in the hostel. This way I can keep all my valuables organised and together without having to pack and unpack each time and having them float around the locker so one of these combination should make your Southeast Asia packing list.
So essentially we bring 3 bags each, this sounds a lot but it works well for us, doesn’t add too much weight but makes our packs versatile if we need to temporarily carry something extra. It also and most importantly to me means I can keep my valuables like passports/ laptop etc together and safe at the accommodation and take another smaller backpack out during the day with my camera and other items. So that’s why we have 3 bags on our South East Asia packing list!
Packing for Southeast Asia: Items To Help Pack & Protect Your Gear:
Using packing cubes has literally been a life changer for us and is a game changer on our backpacking gear list! Backpacks can easily become untidy and unorganised with so much packing and unpacking. Which is why using a toploader without packing cubes is a recipe for disaster! When you also consider how to pack for Southeast Asia you should roll your clothing when putting them inside your packing cubes.
Using a front opening pack alongside a selection of variously sized packing cubes really allows you to both fit more in to your pack and keep everything organised. You can have a cube for underwear, for t-shirts and for pants. We also use them generally for other accessories to keep them together and partitioned. Honestly packing cubes are one of the most useful things on our ultimate backpacking gear list and one of our essentials for backpacking Asia
Dry Sacks are another lifesaver in keeping your items dry and safe which is why they are high up on our ultimate backpacking gear list. They come in various sizes and can be used to organise your gear just like packing cubes but are crucially waterproof. Given the climate of this region dry sacks are a must on any Southeast Asia backpacking packing list.
We use them mostly for valuables and electronic items whilst on the move in case we get caught in a downpour. We have smaller ones for our passport and documents and larger ones for cameras/ laptops and consider them essential on any South East Asia packing list.
They are also great for day to day use if you are out and about with your camera or going on things like boat trips so include them on your Packing list for Southeast Asia.
Another way to keep your stuff safe and dry is to get a backpack cover. You can get a larger one for your big pack and a smaller one for your front pack. These work really well for keeping everything dry and we’ve never had our pack get soaked whilst having one on our pack, even whilst motorbiking in pouring rain in Vietnam. It’s something we consider an important item on any backpacking packing list.
Of course, we still recommend putting valuables in dry sacks inside your bag but it’s another layer of protection but with the weather in this region backpack covers should be on any Southeast Asia packing list for backpackers.
Luggage Locks and Cages
Luggage locks are another way to keep your gear safe and an essential on any backpacking packing list.
We recommend using locks on your main pack and keeping it locked whenever and wherever you can, especially in transit. Never keep valuables in your main pack but still be sure to keep it locked, even often whilst in a hostel, as losing your clothes and other equipment would be a real inconvenience.
On your front pack where you keep your valuables we also recommend locking the zips together when you are in transit and when it’s left inside your locker at the hostel.
We also recommend using a security wire. We use this to secure our daypack inside our locker and our luggage whilst transiting. They can be used to attach bags to things like poles or luggage racks or your daypack to your seat whilst you sleep on a night bus. We think it’s an important addition to any packing list for Southeast Asia.
What To Pack Backpacking Asia: Clothing:
Trousers/ Pants/ Shorts:
We tend to pack 1 pair of pants/ trousers.
These are usually hiking style, quick drying pants that we use quite rarely in South East Asia given the weather. These come in handy when in transit (Bus AC can be freezing!), when riding motorbikes, hiking in cooler climates or to protect against bugs in the jungle or evening so even though you might not use them ALL the time they are important on any South East Asia packing list.
They are also useful for visiting temples so something to consider when working out what to pack backpacking Asia. We don’t recommend bringing too many pairs of pants on our ultimate backpacking gear list as they tend to take up a lot of room!
We pack some lightweight pants
When we are packing for Southeast Asia we bring along either some tracksuit pants or those typical lightweight “backpacker pants” as they roll down very small.
They are handy mostly for slipping over shorts for temple visits (Southeast Asia clothing needed for religious places) and adding an extra layer if you do find yourself somewhere unexpectedly cold (like the north of Vietnam in winter!) and are small and light clothes to pack for backpacking.
They are also good for night buses where the temperature can fluctuate overnight as they don’t take up much room in your daypack so a no brainer when considering what to bring for backpacking.
2 pairs of shorts
We include 2 pairs of shorts on our packing list for Southeast Asia. A pair of technical hiking shorts with lots of pockets that are handy in transit and for hiking. Our other shorts are lightweight sports or board shorts. These are ideal for day-to-day wear in hot climates as well as for working out so be sure to include them on your backpacking packing list.
What to wear in Asia: Most of my shorts come to around or just below my knee so I’ve been generally ok when visiting temples as a woman.
T-shirts / tops
We pack around 5 t-shirts
We pretty much just wear t-shirts from day to day. We try to pack ones that aren’t too tightly fitting as they can be uncomfortable in hot climates. We also avoid vests as they aren’t appropriate for things like temples and often just lead to burnt shoulders but that’s just us! So consider that when compiling your South East Asia packing list.
We’ve found 5 is enough to avoid doing laundry all the time and isn’t too heavy so it’s the perfect amount of clothes to add to your Southeast Asia backpacking packing list.
We always include a long sleeve base layer on our packing list for Southeast Asia. These are light and pack down very small and come in very useful. They are great when trying to avoid getting burnt. But they are also a great extra layer if you do find yourself in an unexpectedly cold area of the region without taking up too much extra space. When we’ve been biking and hiking in Northern Vietnam as well as cool mornings in the mountains of China and Myanmar they were a lifesaver so an essential on any backpacking packing list.
We Bring Along 1 Lightweight Hoodie.
In Southeast Asia we don’t wear hoodies too often but there are times like on night buses or planes where you need a hoodie. Once you adapt to the weather in this region you can also find it chilly if it drops below 25 c especially if you’re on a motorbike or its raining or in the evening.
Having a hoodie is always useful and doesn’t take up too much room, it’s easy to overlook warm clothing on a packing list for SE Asia but they are often needed.
We Pack a Rain/ Waterproof Jacket.
In Southeast Asia we bring along with us a good quality waterproof jacket. In this region it can rain… hard! So it’s always good to have a good waterproof jacket especially if you plan on touring on a bike add it to your packing list for Southeast Asia. Waterproof jackets are also good windbreakers for bike touring even on dry days and hiking in cooler temperatures with layers underneath.
In most of Southeast Asia even in the coldest areas and times of year a base layer, t-shirt, hoodie and waterproof jacket is good enough to keep you warm but are light enough to recommend in our ultimate backpacking gear list.
If you are motorbike touring then a waterproof poncho is also ideal as it will cover your legs and bag at the same time so add that to your backpacking packing list or buy one when you get there!
We pack around 7 pairs of underwear and socks.
Generally speaking in Southeast Asia we can go days without using socks because we wear flip-flops so you could get away with packing less. It’s best to pack a variety of socks from sports socks to trainer socks for comfort in hot temperatures and when compiling your South-East Asia packing list consider how often you will be wearing shoes and for what activities.
With the weather in Southeast Asia it is wise to pack a cap to protect your eyes and face from the harmful rays of the sun, so add that to your backpacking packing list!
We pack 1 set of swimwear each.
I bring along a bikini with some swimming shorts
Paul just packs swimming shorts.
We generally just bring a t-shirt swimming to slip on and off and with me wearing shorts to swim I don’t need a sarong. However that would be a useful thing to include on your packing list for Southeast Asia if you prefer not to swim in shorts.
Swimwear generally packs down pretty small and we keep it all in one packing cube.
Flip Flops/ Thongs
Invest in a good pair of Flip-Flops/ thongs as you will be doing some miles in them! Get some with fabric straps rather than plastic and thick protective soles with grippy bottoms for when it’s wet. It might at the time seem a lot to spend but you will get your wear out of them. Be sure to include good a good quality pair of flip flops/ thongs on your Asia backpacking packing list!
Trainers/ Lightweight Hiking Shoes
We tend to only bring one type of shoe with us when backpacking and they are either running shoes or lightweight trail shoes. These pretty much cover all bases and are suitable for hiking, day-to-day use as well as for working out and running. Trail shoes we feel offer the best of both worlds and are usually pretty light but hard wearing too.
Laptop & Case
When you’re considering What to pack for Southeast Asia you need to think carefully whether a laptop is going to be a must have or a burden. For us with our blog and photography it’s one of the first things we pack, but consider how much you will use it and whether you will worry about the added weight or value to take care of. A tablet is also useful but lighter and cheaper!
We bring with us our Macbook and wholeheartedly recommend Macs given their longevity and durability, especially whilst travelling. The MacBook Air is also ideal for travelling and keeping weight down.
We use a Thule hard shell case for keeping our laptop safe. It has the perfect balance between protecting our laptop but being compact and lightweight. For keeping your laptop safe it’s highly recommended on this ultimate backpacking gear list.
Phone & Case
We use iphones as our day-to-day phone. They offer great usability and a good back up camera too as well as cloud backup. We recommend a strong and durable phone case as well as using tempered glass and setting up a backup service on your device too.
Our phones play a crucial role in helping us whilst travelling. We use maps.me, Google translate, Money conversion apps as well as banking apps. We also book transport and accommodation through them as well as them being valuable tools for keeping in touch with friends and family back home. They are also ideal for long journeys where you can download movies, music, games, books and even watch netflix.
Remember your packing list for Southeast Asia backpacking should factor in technology and apps too!
On your packing list for Southeast Asia backpacking you might want to consider what camera equipment to bring along. Some will want to compromise and bring heavier larger cameras, or bring a good quality compact and others are happy just using their phone.
The Sony A7II is one of the best full frame mirrorless cameras on the market and offers amazing and professional quality whilst being lighter and more portable than a dSLR. The range of lenses available is vast too. We use the 24-105mm f4. This is a little on the larger size but as a travel lens it pretty much covers all bases.
Our smaller compact camera is the incredible Sony RX100, we’ve had several versions of this camera as in terms of compacts it is the best on the market. Offering full manual, a 1-inch sensor, pop up viewfinder and rotating screen it’s an idea accompaniment to our other camera or to use as a main camera as we did for many years. It’s also very small too!
Be sure to also stock up on memory cards and spare batteries too, add them to your backpacking packing list!
We bring with us a small travel tripod for our photography as well as a GorillaPod. These two offer us a compact but diverse way to capture the images we want whilst on the road and for photographers are a must on any ultimate backpacking gear list.
Our backpacking Asia packing list always includes our trusty Gopro as well as some additional mounts/ floats and cases.
GoPro’s are the perfect way to capture your adventures in the water or other extreme environments where you wouldn’t want to take your phone or main camera. With the ability to take super wide-angle shots, even in RAW these days as well as video and be attached to just about anything and everything they are a versatile, durable and compact camera everyone should put on their backpacking packing list.
We also bring with us various methods of backing up our laptop on the road as well as having cloud storage set up.
Firstly we have cloud storage set up with Dropbox. This means our photos and files are always safe and also accessible on our phones via the app.
We back up our photos using Pen Drives as they are a safe and compact way to do so. We keep these in a small dry sack and if needed they can fit into your pocket!
We also bring with us a portable Hard Drive to do a “Time Machine” backup once a week. This feature essentially copies your entire computer onto a specific hard drive and can be restored directly from that drive if needed.
Southeast Asia Travel Adapter/ Chargers
Southeast Asia has a variety of different plug types so it’s best to be prepared! When you consider the question “what adapter do I need for Southeast Asia”, you should consider a multi country adapter/ cross Southeast Asia travel adapter as it does vary across the region.
Our home electronics use the British Plugs which can be found in some places like Malaysia and Singapore as well as Hong Kong which is slightly outside of the region but close by!
We bring with us a multi country adapter that will fit any plug socket type. We also have another multi USB plug with changeable plugs which is useful for charging things like cameras, phones etc. Both of these are must buys on our ultimate backpacking gear list.
Another item to add to your backpacking Asia packing list is an extension/ power board so you only need one Southeast Asia travel adapter. Also useful in some hostels with limited plugs.
Portable Power Packs
Portable power packs are another useful item to pack and one of the things to buy for backpacking. We’ve found them absolutely invaluable whilst travelling around the region both day to day, on transport, overnight if there is a power cut or not enough plugs in a hostel too. So they’re an essential item on any Backpacking in Southeast Asia packing list
These come in very useful for long journeys on transport where you don’t have access to power points and can also be taken out during the day incase your phone or camera runs out of juice!
For those long bus, train, plane and ferry rides this is a must on your Southeast Asia packing list.
For The More Extra Travellers Amongst Us!
For travellers with long hair a hair dryer is a must, especially in humid conditions. I know that for me drying my hair is important for staying healthy whilst on the road and the ideal of bring along a hairdryer inside a small backpack isn’t exactly ideal. Most hostels of course don’t provide them either so bringing one along yourself is a necessity. We recommend the Phillips Moisture Protect Hair Dryer and the Philips Moisture Protect Straighteners if you just can’t live without them on the road. Both are compact, robust and lightweight and work well in any country.
So, you’re backpacking in Southeast Asia what are the accessories to be sure to remember?
We tend to bring along a small pair of shorts and t-shirt for sleeping in rather than dedicated pyjamas given the usually hot temperatures. They are also very easy to roll up and place in one of the mesh pockets inside our packs.
Having proper eye protection is important in hot and sunny places like Southeast Asia. Be sure to invest in a good pair with adequate UVA and UVB protection. It is also wise to have a hard case to protect them. Don’t finish your Southeast Asia packing list without them!
Dry Sacks / Dry Bags
As well as the dry sack we mentioned earlier you can get dry bag that are thicker and come with a strap usually to be worn as a bag rather than placed within a bag. These are really useful if you’re off on a boat trip or an event like Songkran or Thingyan where you’re going to be getting wet!! For the weather and activities you will come across in Southeast Asia these are must buy items from our ultimate backpacking gear list.
Alongside a base layer packing a buff and some gloves is an ideal way to keep warm in Southeast Asia especially if you’re motorbike touring or renting a scooter in cooler climates. These pack down small making them an ideal additional to our Southeast Asia packing list as they really do help when its chilly or dusty in the case of the buff.
A travel pillow is a must for long journeys on planes, trains and buses which is why it’s on our ultimate backpacking gear list. Getting one that is not only compact but also comfortable and practical is the challenge. We’ve often also travelled with a rolled up small proper pillow on our bags and that has been amazing for night buses and also hostels with super hard pillows, which can be common when backpacking in Southeast Asia. Those neck ones that a lot of people use we don’t find to be too useful, but instead a small pillow is much more versatile!
Eye mask/ Earplugs
For noisy and busy hostels or long transport an eye mask and earplugs are a must for a good night’s sleep. Be sure to get a thick enough mask and not just use the free one you got on the plane on the way out… you’ll find it’s almost pointless! For hostels and buses they are a must from our ultimate backpacking gear list
Torch/ Head Torch
Having a torch and/or head torch is really useful for camping, hiking, exploring caves as well as those power outages common across Asia and walking home on poorly lit streets. We’ve also found them idea for some photography too especially nature photography whilst on night walks in Borneo.
Camp Knife/ Multi Tool
What to take in your backpack when travelling? Having a multi tool/ camp knife is always handy especially when camping and hiking. Be sure not to carry it in your carry on luggage when flying!
We have a small portable sewing kit which is handy for repairing clothing/ loose buttons etc. It’s a great money saver on new clothing so be sure to include it on your Southeast Asia packing list.
Having a small journal whilst travelling is a great way to reflect on your experiences and keep track of your adventures. It is also a good way to pass the time whilst on long transport or in the hostel at night.
Other Items On Our Ultimate Backpacking Gear List:
Other handy items to items to take backpacking in Southeast Asia:
Tape/ thin Rope/ Paper Clips/ Elastic Bands/ String/ Cable ties/ Bulldog Clips/ small carabiners/ spare bobbles/ bobby pins are also useful a list of items for backpacking.
Health and Toiletries:
Tampons and decent pads can be hard to get hold of in some parts of Southeast Asia. So using a reusable mooncup really takes away the anxiety of not being able to get hold of decent sanitary products which is why we’ve included the Mooncup on our female travel packing list. It is also a lot better for the environment than single use products making it a must for any Southeast Asia packing list for women.
First Aid Kit
We bring along with us a small basic first aid kit with plasters, bandages, blister pads, antihistamines, painkillers, diarrhea pills, antiseptics, anti-inflammatories, tweezers, safety pins, tape, gauze and scissors.
Many people also bring with them sterile needles if you are travelling to somewhere where you might be unsure on how sanitary hospitals might be. This might be something else you add when you consider what to pack in backpack for travelling.
Of course, don’t forget your toothbrush! We are sure to keep ours in a case to keep them clean and protected with a case which should be one of the things to bring on a backpacking trip.
Solid Shampoo and Soap
Solid shampoos and soaps are great alternatives to heavy and bulky bottles that have a tendency to split! These are easy to wrap back up and reuse and use much less plastic too as well as being easier to pack making them much more practical things to take on a backpacking trip than cumbersome bottles.
Quick Dry Towel
Many hostels won’t provide you with a towel so having a light, compact and quick drying one in your bag is a must on any Southeast Asia packing list. These are also ideal for hiking and camping or heading out for a swim.
Whether you go for a normal style or a hanging toiletry bag you are going to want somewhere to keep all your items organised and clean. When staying in hostels they are essential for bathroom trips and the hanging toiletry bags are ideal for showers which is why they made our ultimate backpacking gear list.
In tropical climates like Southeast Asia it’s always handy to have some mosquito repellent with a good amount of DEET so you don’t get eaten alive! These are especially important on your backpacking Southeast Asia packing list if you are travelling in areas where Malaria is present.
Having a good quality mosquito repellent should be on your list of backpacking items.
Antibacterial Hand Gel
Another handy thing to carry around is antibacterial hand gel. Getting sick is common whilst travelling around Southeast Asia and carrying around some antibacterial gel is a great way to avoid picking up bugs and germs especially in more remote or unsanitary places. So be sure to add it to your Southeast Asia packing list especially in this era of Covid 19/ Corona Virus.
Water Filter Bottle
Keeping hydrated in Southeast Asia is a must given the hot and humid conditions, but tap water is usually un-drinkable and the only other option is to continue to buy plastic bottles. A great alternative is to buy a reusable water bottle with a built in filter meaning you can drink the local water and keep your carbon footprint to a minimum too. Even non filter water bottles are a good idea as there are often safe places to fill them up too especially at your accommodation which is why it’s a must have on any Southeast Asia packing list.
Safety and Security:
As we mentioned earlier. We use several types of locks on all our bags. We always recommend combination locks so you can’t lose your keys. We use both traditional style locks as well as wire locks which are useful for securing your items within a locker for extra piece of mind. I use a combination of TSA locks for our checked luggage and make sure there is nothing of any real value whether monetary or sentimental in there. Then I use NON TSA lock heavier duty on my other bags/ Pacsafe safe/ lockers just because the universal key for TSA locks is out there in the public realm! I also use combination locks so I can’t lose they key!
We also carry with us security wires. These are especially useful for securing your luggage in transit especially if that is going to be something like an overnight train. You can lock your items to luggage racks, pole, chairs or even yourself. We also use them in the hostel luggage storage rooms, within lockers for extra security or when waiting around with all our backs.
Anti Theft Backpacks
For that next level of security you can invest in a pacsafe bag. These are bags specifically designed for keeping your stuff safe and include slash proof material, locking zippers and impenetrable zips. They come at a cost but give you real piece of mind which makes them a highly recommended item on our ultimate backpacking gear list. If you already have your other bags you could get a pacsafe safe wire bag which can be put inside your bag and secured or left as it is to keep your items safe. We use the 16L version and it can fit my laptop, cameras, wallet and passport in. I also use a NON TSA lock heavier duty to secure it too.
Another idea for keeping your stuff safe is a pacsafe backpack cage. These only come in bigger sizes which is a shame as they would be great for your smaller bags too. But they are essentially a wire cage that can fit around your bag to stop anyone breaking into it. You can then lock that up to something which makes it ideal for a Southeast Asia packing list especially on things like night trains.
Carrying a personal alarm is a great deterrent for any would be attackers, especially as a woman travelling in this region so be sure to add it to your Southeast Asia packing list.
Another useful item not just for security but for practical uses are small carabiners. We usually have some on our bags and use them to quickly attach our bags to one another or a fixed item so no one can run off with them! You can also get locking carabiners too for extra peace of mind.
A money belt is a great idea for keeping your wallet and passport safe especially when transiting. You wear them under your clothes and they are a great way to keep those important documents from getting stolen. In hot and humid conditions they can sometimes be uncomfortable and we don’t always use them, but they do have their moments so it’s always wise to have one.
Buying Whilst Away:
Not everything you need for your trip needs to be bought at home and carried everywhere with you or you might also wonder if certain replenishable items are available. Some things that are on your backpacking in Asia packing list can be left and bought when you need them and for much cheaper too such as mosquito nets, others are more expensive or a little tricky to get hold of.
Tampons and Female Toiletries
Tampons especially are hard to get hold of in many areas of Southeast Asia and pads can also be old fashioned and uncomfortable. It’s best to use a moon cup if you can or stock up in places like Bangkok, Malaysia and Singapore and in limited areas of Vietnam and Manila. You might also want to add tampons to your what to bring to southeast Asia list and time your visits to more developed areas for when you need a restock! Look out for Tesco Lotus, Watsons, Boots, Big C.
Sunscreen again can be a real minefield in when backpacking SE Asia. Be very careful buying it from anywhere but reputable chemists and pharmacies. It can be quite expensive as locals tend not to use it and many of them also have skin bleaching and whitening agents in them! Boots in Bangkok, Watsons in Malaysia and most places in Singapore should have good sunscreen.
Tiger Balm/ Pain Killers
Tiger Balm is a godsend! As soon as the plane touches down in Bangkok get yourself over to 7/11 and stock up! It’s ideal for treating all sorts of ailments from aching limbs to headaches, sunburn, bites and even masking bad odours and its dirt cheap in Southeast Asia!
Similarly buying other medication like ibuprofen and even antibiotics is a lot easier and cheaper across the region so there is no real need to stock up on these things when you’re backpacking SE Asia.
Many people pack a mosquito net before setting off but generally we’ve found them unnecessary. Unless you plan on doing a lot of hiking or spending a lot of time in really rural places we’ve never found the need for them but on a few occasions. Most hostels/ accommodation provide them if needed and often with AC they aren’t much of an issue in the dry season. If you do need them for a specific trip, like when we spent the night in Bako National Park in Borneo, then they are cheap and easy to pick up and pass on to the next backpacker!
Similarly Southeast Asia clothing is really cheap! So instead of overpacking you can always pick up more gear or replace yours along the way! We’ve found Malaysia to be one of the cheapest for genuine branded goods at lower prices and Vietnam to be good for decent quality knock offs!
Ultimate Backpacking Gear List Pro Tips:
Small drawstring bags:
Like packing cubes these can be ideal for organising your bag and keeping things separate. Have one for your plugs, for your wires etc. to keep things from floating around in your bag. It’s an often overlooked but really useful thing to have on your packing list for Asia.
Carry Emergency Cash
Always try to have on you some emergency cash as the back of your wallet. Most ideally that would be a crisp $100 note. These can be changed anywhere and can get you out of all sorts of trouble! It’s also wise to have at least some local currency as a back up at all times. We got caught in Vietnam on our bikes in a really remote area and almost had to sell our Vietnamese phone for fuel!! Pretty stupid of us but a lesson learnt! It’s also idea for border crossings too where you usually have to pay in USD and there can be some extra charges that may or may not be kosher but you will probably just want to pay and be on your way!
Pack a Poncho
Waterproof jackets and backpack covers are great, but a cheap poncho is a lifesaver in a sudden downpour and particularly on bikes. It just goes straight over the top of everything and you know you’re staying dry! It’s a must on any Southeast Asia packing list. Ok, you might look like a bit of an idiot (see below) but one of the things that backpacking in Asia really does is to kind of release you from being bothers about those things! All the locals wear them and no one really bats an eyelid! I walked around Phuket Old Town with a Pokemon plaster on my forehead one day! Backpacking liberating in all sorts of ways!!
What Would Make Your Ultimate Backpacking Gear List?
Southeast Asia Packing List: Handy Checklist:
Here is our basic backpacking gear list beginners checklist and a handy list of things to pack for travelling Asia guide.
Backpacking gear list beginners guide: Your Backpacking in Asia packing list downloadable PDF:
Check out our packing list for Asia backpacking checklist:
Download the PDF here: Southeast Asia Packing Checklist PDF
Just a handy little backpacking packing list Asia!
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Travelling and especially backpacking is a wild adventure, but make sure you are covered just incase something goes wrong, which if you’re living it up to the fullest it’s always a possibility!
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