When it comes to packing for Southeast Asia a lot of people get stumped and have no idea what to include on their Southeast Asia packing list. You are not alone and I, too, spent time researching and looking at blog posts to help me figure out what I needed to bring to this exotic place.
The first thing you need to know is that the southeast Asia climate differs significantly throughout the year and from country to country. Areas in northern Vietnam can get snow, monsoon season basically shuts down entire islands and humidity here is like a year-long season that never ends.
And lastly, before we get started, remember that less is more with a SE Asia packing list. The last thing you want to do is be carrying around an oversized heavy backpack in the humidity. Pack what you think you need and then cut back and backpacking Asia will be so much easier.
Weather in Southeast Asia
Southeast Asia is a large region and backpacking through Southeast Asia means that you could hit different types of weather. Myanmar could be in monsoon season while the Thai islands are perfectly sunny and virtually cloud free. It could be snowing in northern Vietnam while the south is still quite warm.
What I’m saying is: do research on weather for where you’re going and for what time of the year because it will make a difference on whether or not you should be packing extra sunscreen or a rain jacket.
You will be able to find sunny and dry places any time of the year. Typically you want to spend summers in the southern countries such as Indonesia (May-August). Countries such as Thailand, Cambodia, Laos and the Philippines experience their dry season in the winter (November-February). Vietnam, since it’s such a long country experience different climates from the north to the south but always expect cooler temperatures in the north. Singapore has the most consistent weather year-round due to its proximity close to the equator. Find more detail about monsoon seasons and weather.
Step number one: get a backpack, an essential on your packing list for backpacking. A more expensive backpack does not necessarily mean that it is a better backpack. Look for quality, some of the best brands are North Face, Osprey, Gregory and Deuter. But don’t brush off the store brand packs as they are generally cheaper and of the same quality.
Backpacks are made for both men and women and it’s a good idea to try some on in store to get a feel for what is comfortable on you. In store weights are placed in the bag so you can tell if there are any areas that don’t feel good. Do some research beforehand by browsing backpacks on Amazon so you’re better prepared. REI is your best bet to find a pack in the USA or MEC in Canada.
Below are some recommended packs that are around 50 liters, I don’t recommend getting a bigger pack because you really do not need it. Some are slightly higher than 50 liters and that’s because they have a removable day pack (a bonus I personally have and love)!
Asia Packing List Tips
- Less is more!
- Roll everything (sorry I’m a roller not a folder!)
- Pack items around the edges of your pack to save space
- Packing cubes to stay organized
Use the following sections to create your own personalized backpacking packing list.
What to Pack for Southeast Asia Essentials
No matter where you go in Southeast Asia these items will be absolutely necessary to add to your packing list for Southeast Asia.
Temples throughout Southeast Asia will require you to cover your knees, shoulders and chest when before entering out of respect. I recommend getting a long pair of linen or similar lightweight pants. It’s ideal if you can slip them over shorts if you don’t want to wear them around all day. Alternatively, you can be a super tourist and buy temple pants (the ones with the elephants on them) when you get to Southeast Asia.
You can thank me later for telling you to pack a sarong. It is the single most versatile thing you can pack. Use it as a something to lay on at the beach, wrap it around your waist or to cover your shoulders when you go into temples or use it to help protect your from the sun. Don’t leave without packing one or buy one once in Southeast Asia.
Unfortunately, there are many diseases in Southeast Asia that are carried by mosquitoes so regardless of it you have gotten vaccines for diseases or not still wear mosquito repellent as not all diseases (such as dengue fever) have a vaccine. You can choose to use a spray with uses deet or opt to use bracelets that don’t use deet.
Reusable Water Bottle
Some wouldn’t consider this an essential but if you care even a little bit about the environment then it is. There are many places to fill up water bottles in Southeast Asia which reduces the usage of plastic bottles in countries that don’t recycle and are some of the biggest polluters to our oceans. You can even get collapsible water bottles so they don’t take up much space.
This is obviously a must. Buy yourself a universal adapter and you’ll never have to buy one again! I personally recommend the first option below because it has USD slots so you can charge multiple things at once.
Southeast Asia Travel Checklist
With this packing list for Asia you can easily use it as a checklist to make sure you don’t forget a thing.
READ MORE: The Ultimate Worry Free Pre-Travel Checklist
Backpacking Southeast Asia List for Clothes
If you manage to under pack you can easily grab pieces at markets around Asia and major cities have shopping malls. While packing keep in mind that Southeast Asia is hot and humid. The best materials to wear in this weather are natural materials. Cotton is your best bet and those lovely lightweight wicking materials made for sports are amazing too.
- 5 tanks
- 3 t-shirts (it is a necessity to have shirts that cover your shoulders when visiting temples)
- 1 dri-fit shirt (excellent for when trekking or getting active)
- 1 lightweight sweater (for travel days and cooler nights)
For the most part you’re going to be packing for comfort but also make sure to add in a few cute tops for when you have nights out.
- 1 denim short
- 1 active short
- 2 fabric shorts
- 1 legging/yoga pants (to wear on the plane and for trekking)
- 1 temple pant (buy these in Asia and look like a tourist but you’ll love em because they’re so comfy)
- 1 skirt (preferably maxi as you can wear it in temples)
- 1 maxi dress
- 1 short dress
- 1 romper/playsuit
Bring along a cute summer dress and romper because you will want to dress up some nights like when you hit up a cool rooftop bar in Bangkok. A maxi is a must, I always used mine as my laundry day piece because I didn’t have to wear a bra with it and could wash pretty much everything at once! Switch up the shorts based on what you’re comfortable with but from personal experience I liked wearing cute patterned shorts that were loose over denim in the heat.
BRA AND UNDERWEAR
- 14 pairs of underwear
- 2 regular bras
- 2 sport bras
- 1 bralet
- 3 pairs of socks
I always like to bring lots of underwear because it takes up so little room and that means I can get away with doing laundry less!
- 1 lightweight rain jacket (because monsoon season)
- 3 bathing suits
- 1 cover up (for beach days or buy a sarong in Asia because they’re everywhere)
- 1 lightweight long sleeve (if you go on treks that are early in the morning or for flying)
- Hat (baseball cap for trekking, beach and long days in the sun)
Really you will only need 4 pairs of shoes max and probably will just end up wearing your flip flops most of the time!
- Flip flops (get your hands on Havaianas and you’ll thank me later! They are worth the price for both comfort and durability and so cute!)
- 1 travel sandal
- 1 dressy sandal
- 1 running/hiking boots
If you plan on hiking a lot invest in some low ankle hiking boots, if not running shoes are fine for longer walking days. Flip flops are a necessity. Bring a travel sandal that you will be able to wear all day and that are easy to take off for when temple hopping. And bring a dressy sandal for when you go out for a night on the town! But keep them as small and lightweight as possible.
Toiletries for Southeast Asia Backpacking
Don’t worry too much on packing toiletries because it is easy to pick them up in southeast Asia if you run out. Minis are available everywhere and are what I recommend to travel with. I used minis for my whole 4-month trip! Ladies the only thing you need to stock up on is tampons as they are almost nonexistent in southeast Asia.
- Shower gel or soap bar
- Toothpaste, toothbrush and floss
- Tampons (stock up or use a menstrual cup, seriously the best thing you will buy)
- Sunscreen (again, stock up as it gets more expensive in southeast Asia and try to use one that does not harm coral)
- Mosquito repellent (20% DEET is recommended)
- Tweezers, nail clippers and nail file
- Razers (I use disposable ones)
- Wet wipes (you’ll thank me later!)
- Travel Medical Kit
READ MORE: What to Pack in a Travel First Aid Kit
Backpacking Gear List for Electronics
As a digital nomad I tend to pack more than the typical backpacker so go off of what you need and the less the better because these things get heavy and it’s nice to not worry about any valuables.
- Laptop/Tablet + charger
- Kindle + charger
- Phone (unlocked) + charger + waterproof case
- GoPro + charger
- GoPro accessories
- Extra GoPro battery
- Portable power bank (this one is perfect because of its size, small enough to fit in your purse)
- Universal adapter
- Grid-It (to keep your gadgets all together)
READ MORE: 8 Easy Tips for GoPro Beginners
All of the miscellaneous things that you don’t normally think of that make backpacking so much easier. Majority of these you should be packing even as travel essentials with a suitcase. If want your pack organized don’t go without packing cubes, they are a game changer!
- Small purse
- Water bottle
- Microfibre towel
- Packing cubes
- Rain cover for your backpack
- Locks (for your backpack and to use on lockers)
And that’s it! Everything you’ll need on your travel packing list. You could probably even cut down on what I’ve listed here but I like to bring options (duh) and avoid doing laundry too often if I can. Though it is extremely cheap to get laundry done in southeast Asia.
Remember you can always buy clothing once there because it is so cheap and cute! My best advice is to not pack any nice clothes because they are going to end up stinky, dirty or thrown out. Shoes in Asia are harder to come by because their sizes are quite small.
Pack everything and don’t forget to get rid of a few things!
Travel Insurance in Southeast Asia
Don’t even try and leave travel insurance off of your packing list for SE Asia! I’ve personally used travel insurance in Asia (when I got sick in the Philippines) have friends who have been hospitalized and have read too many stories to not travel with travel insurance. I personally used and recommend World Nomads, but if you’d like to do your own research you can use this guide to help you pick the right one for you.
READ THIS: A Guide to Choosing Travel Insurance
That’s it! You’re all set with an Asia travel packing list that will cover you throughout your trip!
Other posts on Southeast Asia
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