If you’re planning an adventure in Southeast Asia, our backpacking in Southeast Asia packing list will help you prepare for this journey of a lifetime. With so many countries to explore, the opportunities are truly endless. This incredible part of the world brings forth images of elaborate temples, unique cuisine and beachside bliss.
Our Southeast Asia packing list is sure to prepare even the seasoned traveller for an epic adventure in this colorful region. With such variety across cultures, you might not know where to begin as you start to stuff your bags. Read on and make sure you have packed these essential items for the journey.
The Best Backpack
As you prepare for any backpacking adventure, comfort and safety are your top priority. So at the top of our list is something you won’t be leaving without: the perfect backpack. Having a properly-sized backpack is a must. Keep these tips in mind when you are searching for the best backpack to cram it all in:
- Size: For your standard backpacking adventure, a 50-80 liter backpack fits most body types, but how big you go really depends on your comfort level.
- Fit: Check hip belts and chest straps, which should help distribute a heavy load.
- Access: We recommend a side zipper to access your travel items quickly, however, you should make sure your zipper has the ability to lock when needed.
- Safety: Look for deep, hidden pockets in your pack; you’ll need to designate a safe ‘home’ pocket for stashing your passport.
Once you’ve selected and sized up your pack, you can accessorize as needed. We love added straps to hitch on a canteen or easy-to-grab travel pillow. Look for accessories such as a rain cover or water resistant fabric on your pack for extra protection.
The Right Foot Protection
At the top of our backpacking in Southeast Asia packing list? The right shoes. Shoes can take up a lot of space in your pack, so we recommend limiting yourself to only two pairs: one for the beach and heat and the other for trekking through the jungle or city. Keep these things in mind when making your final shoe selection.
- Trekking might get hot, muddy and wet, so look for shoes that are quick-drying.
- Look for a sole of higher-quality and keep an eye on warranty.
- Wear the shoes regularly before you depart to break them in properly.
- Hiking boots that can double for urban settings are your best best.
We recommend packing at least two sets of bamboo compression socks to go with your shoe selection. These socks are lightweight and moisture-wicking which means your feet will be happy all day long.
Any experienced tuk-tuk passenger knows that the roads of Southeast Asia can be dusty, dirty and full of ruts and bumps. Make sure you grab a compact pillow to strap onto your backpack while you’re on the move. Consider the line of Cabeau Evolution® Travel Pillows to determine which works best for you:
- The Air Evolution is our inflatable travel pillow, and can deflate to fit into the carrying case –– which is size of a soda can.
- The Evolution Cool® travel neck pillow features innovative air circulation vents, ideal for hot, humid environments.
- The Evolution® S3 travel pillow is perfect for flying, so if your trip includes multiple flights and puddle-jumpers, this may be your best bet.
- All Evolution pillows feature safety clips that can be secured to the outside of your bag, in case you want to make more room in your pack.
The right travel pillow provides support when you most need it, and doubles as a comfort item for hammocks, treehouses, yoga retreats or hostels.
A versatile travel blanket will ensure that you are ready to watch the sunrise over Angkor Wat or take a gondola across a lake in Hanoi, no matter the weather.
Our Fold ‘n Go™ Blanket & Case is compact, cozy, lightweight, and made of easy to clean microfiber. If you need an extra blanket in a hostel, an improvised picnic blanket for a spontaneous lunch in Bangkok, or a sudden shield from the rain in Malaysia, this travel blanket has you covered –– literally!
This part of the world is filled with amazing natural wonders, including caves, beaches and hidden temples. If you are ready to dig into these dark wonders, a headlamp can serve a range of useful purposes on your trip.
Look for a headlamp that is solar-powered so you won’t have to worry about the weight of carrying extra batteries. Find a headlamp that is lightweight and comfortable as you wear it, and make sure the headlamp has a long range so that you can use it for cave exploration or nighttime beach walks.
Whether you want to see a temple by night or simply hop out of bed without disturbing your fellow adventurers, a headlamp is a smart addition to your Southeast Asia packing list.
With only one big pack and a bunch of dirty laundry, a wet bag is an absolute lifesaver when you are on the move with no laundromat in sight.
- Look for a wet bag that can attach outside of your backpack in case you run out of space inside.
- Make sure the liner is waterproof. That way your wet bag can double as a storage bag for swimsuits, wetsuits and other snorkel or diving gear.
- Look for dense, double-layer fabric that will keep odors away from your clean gear.
The best part about a great wet bag is that you can throw it into the washing machine along with everything else. A great wet bag also allows you to stuff more clothing into a smaller, more compact space in your backpack.
The Right Clothes
Don’t underestimate the value of choosing the right clothing to help you eliminate some of those non-essential items. Looking at the breathability of each fabric when you are packing will serve you well. Focus on the following fabrics while you pack:
- Bamboo: It can be eco-friendly and breathable, and has antimicrobial properties.
- Linen: This natural fabric allows your body to breathe.
- Cotton: Tried, tested and true, cotton is breathable and widely available.
We also recommend limiting shorts and tank tops. This part of the world is full of insects and you will want to limit your skin’s exposure to the sun. This will help you blend in with the locals as well. Modesty is highly valued in many Asian cultures. That’s why our backpacking in Southeast Asia packing list includes a list of our favorite fabrics and clothing tips to help you eliminate certain items from your stuffed backpack.
Sometimes, covering up is not enough to beat the sweltering heat, especially if your journey takes you near the equator. If staying indoors is not an option, pack enough sun protection to last your whole trip. Access to certain items may be limited, depending on where your itinerary takes you, so we recommend bringing the following in your backpack, just in case.
- At least a whole bottle of sunscreen.
- Shades with UV Protection.
- A great wide-brimmed hat.
It’s possible that you might find some of these items on the road, but be prepared for anything, especially if you plan to visit any remote or rural areas.
Nothing slows down a cross-country tour like a bad cold, flu or other bug, so make sure you reserve some space in your backpack for medicine you might need on your trip.
Visit your doctor before departure and ask about medications you should keep on hand. Depending on what region you visit, you may want to bring some anti-malarial medicine with you. Include a compact first aid kit to pull out in case of emergency.
Keep in mind, food-related illness is common in this neck of the woods, and your doctor can provide you with a list of dos and don’ts. Make sure you always know where your nearest hospital or medical facility is. You should always keep a booklet listing important travel insurance contact numbers handy as well.
As you float down the Mekong River, a laptop just doesn’t cut it if a power outlet isn’t available. We think the safest way to collect those once-in-a-lifetime memories is with a simple, old-fashioned journal. You may already be planning on bringing a lightweight laptop or tablet with you, but trust us, Wifi access is often spotty in rural areas.
Make sure you have a small journal easily accessible in your backpack. Pack one or two pens so you can record your observations, regardless of an internet connection. Your future self will thank you for jotting down those memorable moments that you might otherwise forget.
Our backpacking in Southeast Asia packing list is sure to help you get ready for the trip of a lifetime as you board your flight across the world. Before you go, make sure you’ve browsed all of the travel accessories from Cabeau and add anything else you need to your Southeast Asia packing list.