Some great tips for backpacking in South East Asia

South East Asia is a beautiful place and is well worth the time to visit, and there is plenty of advice out there about what to do and what to pack. What you decide to pack will really depend on the type of holiday you are planning on having.

Do you want to lounge on tropical beaches or is your plan to do do some jungle bashing in Borneo? Are you wanting to absorb some culture exploring ancient temples or do you want to go hiking in the Himalayas?

Here are few essential tips on how to pack for a great trip to South East Asia.


Whatever your plan, a suitcase is probably not the best option. It really is impractical. Some places do not even have ordinary roads to walk on. So a backpack is usually a much better choice. You do not need a huge one either.


A smallish front loading backpack is the type preferred by most experienced backpack travelers as these are easier to pack. You should also consider a lockable one to discourage thieves Choose a waterproof bag particularly if you expect to be traveling during the rainy season. A durable, robust, well-made bag is a wise buy as it will last for many years.


Travel bag
Travel bag

A 40 to 60-liter backpack is about the size you should be looking at. As far as packing goes, don’t panic if you have forgotten something. In the event that you need the forgotten item, most things are readily available and very inexpensive in South East Asia. Shopping is a pleasure.

Most places in South East Asia are quite warm, so you will mostly need to pack lightweight clothing, with cotton being a good choice. Neutral light colors work well for mixing and matching and for coolness. Add in a few scarfs for variety. Scarfs can be tied into tops.

  • Trousers

Most experienced travelers in the region would say that you don’t need jeans. They are too hot, heavy and take a long time to dry. Some light trousers will be more useful.

  • Sarong

A sarong is always a good item to include. It can act as a good shawl in chilly weather, it can cover your shoulders and head in places where these need to be covered, and it can double as a quick dry towel too.

  • Shoes

Flip flops and sandals are what you’ll want to wear on your feet most of the time. Some lightweight hiking boots will be needed if you expect to be walking a lot.

  • Towel

If you do not want to use your sarong as a towel, a microfiber towel is a good choice, and it doesn’t take up a whole lot of space. You may feel that you would like to include a silk sleeping bag liner. However, the vast majority of places in the region are clean.

Since clothing is so inexpensive in this part of the world, perhaps you’ll want to take some money and very few clothes and buy all you need when you get there.


South East Asia has many first world cities. You will be able to buy most kinds of medicines, although you may want to pack a couple of painkillers, antihistamines and Imodium. Bug repellent and sunscreen will be needed. When you run out of these things, they can be easily replaced.


You also do not need a huge toiletry bag for the same reason. Keep small bottles of the items you need.  It is better to pack only dry items into a small toiletry bag, or it will begin to smell a bit nasty after a while. Solid toiletries are really practical. They last ages and do not take up too much room plus they get smaller as you use them.

Toiletries bag
Toiletries bag

Rather than carrying empty bottles around these really work well. Solid versions of shampoo, shower gel, deodorant, and sunscreen can be bought. A regular bar of soap works better for travel than bottles of gel soap. Tweezers, nail cutters, razor, and hairbrush should be packed. Girls, you may want to look at the Diva cup which will save space and is always available.


There do not seem to be a lot of Internet cafes in South East Asia anymore, so if you want to mail your friends and family, you will need to think about taking your laptop or your phone.  If you want to have a laptop with you, the lightest one available will be the best choice. Battery life will likely be the deciding factor as far as your choice goes.

If you are not a photographer and all you want are happy snaps then you may want to just make use of the camera on your phone. If you expect to find time to read, carrying a pile of paperbacks is no longer necessary and an e-reader is worth having. All the guidebooks you need can be loaded on to this too.

Getting a prepaid SIM card for your phone is also something you may want to consider. This is a cheap option for texting, data and phone calls. You can also use Skype as wi-fi is available in lots of places.

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fmssolution is one of the authors writing for Outdoor Revival