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Packing List: Backpacking in Southeast Asia

Written by Jessica on March 20, 2011

This list is for a six week trip through South East Asia from December 2008-Jan 2009. We started in Hanoi, Vietnam and traveled south to Ho Chi Minh City with a few stops, then crossed through to Phnom Pehn and Angkor, then south to Bangkok. From Bangkok we flew to Phuket and spent a week on the islands, and then flew south to Kuala Lumpur for a few days before heading home. 

We were not working on this trip. But could easily have added a laptop in place of a bunch of camera supplies and done just fine.

Backpacks with gear for travel to Southeast AsiaThings we did well

  • Packed less clothes and got rid of what we didn’t use. The weather was hotter than expected so we didn’t waste any time throwing out jeans and buying some lighter pants.
  • Skipped Malaria tablets. Consider where you are going and if the meds are really necessary. We stayed mostly in cities and malaria free places. We took precautions against bites, rather than choking down on terribly tasting, overpriced meds.

Things we could have done better

  • Taken less camera gear. Just before this trip I bought a great selection of new camera gear. I upgraded literally everything and decided to take ALL of it with. It was worth carrying the nice lenses and the new body, but it wasn’t necessary to take an extra camera body, extra battery charger, tripod or flash adapter. Also, one backup hard drive was plenty. That camera bag probably weighed 40 pounds.

The List

Download and Excel file of this list here: Southeast Asia Packing List

Items Brought & Used Wished we didn't bring Wished we had Notes
Electronics Equipment
Backup hard drive X     We had the 125GB hard drive, now recommend the new 500 GB option.
Mini Alarm Clock X      
Plug adapters x2 X      
Paper map   X   Never Used
Lonely Planet Book X     Shoestring version
Passports X      
Visas X      
Credit Cards X      
Copies of Everything X      
Plane ticket itineraries X      
Journal X      
FOR BOTH        
Rain jackets   X   Wished we would have invested in smaller lighter jackets. Find these Marmot jackets on sale at REI for the win.
Fleece Jacket X      
Backpacking pack (1 for clothes, 1 for cameras) X     This is the new version of the backpack. A full list of camera gear is here.
FOR HIM        
Jeans   X   Could have done with light weight cargo pants
Shorts x3 X      
T-shirts x Vest x5 X      
Cottons Overshirts x2 X      
Socks x5 X      
Underwear x5 X      
Glasses X      
Sneakers X      
Sandals     X  
FOR HER        
Pants- lightweight full length x2 X      
Jeans   X   Gave away after a week
Shorts x2   X    
Sarong X      
T-shirts and Tank Tops x5 X      
Light weight over shirts x3        
Warm Long sleeve shirts x2 X      
Swimsuit x2 X X   Really didn't need 2
Socks x3 pair X      
Underwear X      
Bandana X      
Teva Sandals X      
Sneakers - small crappy pair X      
Sunglasses X      

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#6 Barry 2013-07-11 19:21
This is a really refreshing summary of what worked well and didn't, thanks for taking the time to update it!
#5 Jessicam 2013-05-29 14:51
I agree with Mel. Use the one provided by your hotel. If you plan to camp or stay in really cheap hostels and aren't sure if they'll have towels, then check out somethings like the MSR pack towel. They are small and dry quick, so you don't have to worry about things molding in your backpack.
#4 Mel 2013-05-29 07:49
Hey Lucy,
I vote no towel. Most hotels and hostels have towels and hotels are usually very cheap in SEA so its affordable for backpackers as well.
#3 Lucy 2013-05-15 16:09
What would you recommend towel-wise? I'm debating between a small bath towel, travel towel or no towel. Cheers.
#2 Raymond 2012-02-24 01:59
list is helpful
#1 Tyler 2011-10-25 08:04
Hey, Nice article. Just finished my Backpacking trip and im missing it already!

Check out my blog

For more tips and guides on backpacking in Southeast Asia.


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