Backpackers Guide: Ultimate Packing List for South East Asia

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After our four-month backpacking excursion through Southeast Asia, we gained a whole new level of respect for backpackers who can do this for years at a time. By the end we were worn out, tired of eating rice with every meal and more than ready to set fire to every article of clothing we brought on this trip. If you are about to set out for a backpacking trip through this region, we have a couple of tips to make your time on the road a little easier. These are the top items you should bring with you while backpacking South East Asia.


Ok we know.. duh! But wait hear us out… If you are looking for a way to save money on any part of your trip, DO NOT cut corners with the kind of backpack you buy. Do not opt for the cutest or most stylish backpack. We promise you, once you are on week 3 of carrying that thing around, you are going to be kicking yourself for not really taking the time to find the backpack that is tailored to your needs.

A couple helpful tips for finding the perfect backpack:

  • You do not need a 70 liter backpack for a 2 week trip. Though this may be alluring, remember, the more space you give yourself, the more you are going to bring, thus the more you have to carry.

Pro Tip: Pack all your belongings first and then go out in search of a backpack. Once you know how much stuff you ACTUALLY NEED, it makes it easier to gauge how big a backpack you should get.

  • Find a backpack with breathability against your back. You’ll want some air and space between the actual pack and your back. If not, then you are going to be soaked in sweat just from walking from the bus station to your hostel.
  • You can find a backpack nowadays with every little bell and whistle you can think of, each accessory usually driving the price up higher and higher. So ask yourself.. do I really need this? If your backpack comes equipped with latches for tents and sleeping bags, yet you’re not bringing those items.. it’s probably best to look elsewhere.
  • Don’t be afraid to REALLY shop around. You’re talking to two indecisive souls who made countless trips back and forth to REI, the North Face and the Sports Authority. We also weren’t too proud to have an associate at North Face sit and help us roll up socks and shirts INSIDE THE STORE, so we could test how much the backpack could really hold. Do your research, keep your receipts and try to try until you find your perfect fit. After all, this thing will soon be your baby!

Athletic Gear

Two words, sweat-wicking. Filing your backpack with athletic clothing is absolutely the way to go. You’re going to want clothing that will move the sweat from your skin to the outermost layer of the garment, making it dry quicker. Remember, weather in most of Southeast Asia is a sweaty mix of heat, humidity and smog. You absolutely need light, breathable clothing if you want to be comfortable.

Another reason we live by the rule of packing mostly athletic clothing is because you readily have clothes to go on (almost) any adventure you can think of! Save (precious) room in your backpack and bring clothing that works in any situation!

Our favorite places to shop for gear are lululemon athletica at the higher end and 6 pm for more affordable digs.


Remember how we said we were indecisive? Well, we also spent what felt like hours upon hours in front of the GoPro section at Best Buy, debating over whether or not we should make this purchase. After asking a million questions and probably irritating the F*#@ out of all of the employees, we finally left with our beautiful, shiny Go Pro Hero 4.

We highly recommend this little treasure for any explorer, adventuress or just someone who wants to document every thrilling detail of their trip! It’s small (pretty key for fitting into a backpack), comes with a waterproof case and it records 1080 p 60 video as well as 4k. If you have no idea what any of this nonsense means, just know it creates MAGIC!

The accessories you can get for the GoPro further enhance your ability to use it in all of those ridiculously awesome situations you’ll find yourself in while backpacking South East Asia. We would suggest leaving all of the other cameras and recorders at home and letting this be your one stop shop for your media needs!

Trouble figuring out what accessories to buy? Here a couple of our favorites:

  • Chesty- Perfect for hands-free flicks. When we go hiking, tubing or even climbing, we strap this to our chest and don’t have to worry about anything else.
  • Blue Water Dive Filter- This allows you to take breathtaking underwater photos while you’re diving or snorkeling! The filter over the lens allows for a balance from the overwhelming blue hues of the underwater landscape.
  • 3 Way- Like the name explains, this handy accessory allows you to mount your GoPro in a couple different ways. Selfie-stick style, on a tripod or handheld. We loved using this while cruising through Asia on mopeds.

Waterproof.. Everything

Take it from two people who senselessly let high tide wash over their iPhones. Bring a waterproof case for your phone, your camera or anything else that is of value to you! Spending 10 dollars now on a new case is a lot better than having to replace it.

In places like Thailand, there are people selling waterproof bags that can fit all of your belongings. Yes, do it, don’t think about it, just buy it!

Drug Store Supplies

Warning: Bringing actual drugs to Asia could land you in a scary Asian prison FO’ LIFE. Just kidding, well no.. actually that’s pretty accurate, but we’re not talking about those drugs. We’re talking about everything from Tylenol to tampons. If it’s something you think you’re going to need, bring it!

Items that are sold at every corner store, grocery store and pharmacy in the western world could be hard to come across in Asia. Make room in your bag to accommodate anything that you think you might be dying for during your trip!

Backpacking South East Asia: Tips to Remember

  • Bring more underwear than you think you’ll need! If you have to wear the same shirt a couple of times, it might suck… but underwear, just no. If you have problems finding a laundromat you’ll be happy to have a few extra pair of skivvies!
  • Leave denim at home. The thought of wearing jeans in Southeast Asia literally makes us cringe. It’s hot, sweaty etc.. etc.. jeans are not your friends.
  • Don’t forget about necessities for long flights. Pack at least one hoodie or light jacket for cold flights, breezy nights or protection against sketchy hostel beds. We also loved having playing cards to bring out anytime we were bored.
  • Bring sunblock from home! Yes, you will find sunblock in all parts of SE Asia, however, not only is it pretty expensive, it’s really hard to find anything higher than SPF 30.

The ultimate packing list for backpacking South East Asia. Enjoy your adventures & bring these essentials!

Perri and Martin are participants in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to As usual, all opinions are our own.

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