This Southeast Asia women's packing guide will tell you everything you need to know about what to pack when backpacking Southeast Asia. Southeast Asia is one of the best areas to strap on a backpack and have an amazing adventure. Southeast Asia was our first real backpacking experience and certainly won’t be our last. Read on to get a full list of everything you should pack for traveling Southeast Asia!
Southeast Asia Women's Packing Guide: Weather
Since the weather in Southeast Asia is usually warm, humid and sometimes rainy- you will most likely want to pack clothes for that. The amount of time you are going won’t really dictate the amount of clothes to bring as you can pay about $1.00 to have your clothes washed for you in most countries throughout Southeast Asia
What Backpack Should I Choose for Backpacking Southeast Asia?
Choosing a backpack can seem like a very daunting decision. I brought a 60L backpack and it was just enough room for everything. Some people like a little more room although the more room you have the more likely you will feel the need to fill it- which makes for an uncomfortable experience lugging around a really heavy backpack. I would recommend to stick between 50-65 liters.
Osprey Farpoint 55 Travel Backpack + Rain Cover- This is the backpack I plan to get for our next backpacking trip. It has front loading capabilities, hip belts that can be stored when not being used, a detachable daypack and much much more. You know it's an awesome bag when I get giddy just thinking about it!
Osprey Nova 33 Day Backpack+ Rain Cover- I found I was more particular about my daypack than my large backpack. When moving from place to place we strapped our big packs to our back and our daypacks to our front. Make sure the daypack you get does not have a frame built in or you won’t be able to where it on your front. The osprey nova will be the daypack I get for our next adventure. It has so many organization pockets and its comfortable to wear on your front and back.
Southeast Asia Women's Packing Guide: Travel Essentials
‣Shacke Pak Packing Cubes- Pretty much a lifesaver. Shacke paks are nylon and water resistant. They also pride themselves on their zipper quality-which seems like a no biggie but a broken zipper can really make or break your travel experience.
‣ Compression Bags- We did not have any of these but we did use our ultra light dry bags as compression bags which really helped save room in our backpacks. Not sure how the plastic compression bags would work out- but i think it would be worth a try!
‣ Zipper Lock with Passcode- We locked our day packs with these cable locks when walking around just for added protection. Also sometimes when we felt it was needed we used a bike lock to lock our main backpacks to furniture while out exploring for the day . These 4 ft cord cable locks would probably be a lot lighter than the bike lock we carried around.
‣ Cocoon Sleeping Sheet- I slept in my cocoon sheet at about half the places we stayed. Whenever I felt like the sheets were a bit questionable I just used my cocoon and felt instantly 100% better!
‣ Steripen- we actually used Water-to-Go water bottles while backpacking because we did not know about this awesome UV water treatment at the time! Steripen is totally the way to go. You can most definitely buy bottled water and it doesn’t cost a ton- but using a Steripen with a reusable water bottle reduces your carbon footprint and saves you money at the same time!
‣ Heavy Duty Waterproof Dry Bag- Your adventures around Southeast Asia are bound to take you to water at some point. Whether it's Island Hopping in the Philippines or getting poured on while zip-lining through the jungle in Laos you will be glad you have a dry bag to protect your valuables.
‣ Buff Headwear- Great to wear around your face when on motor bikes to prevent you from inhaling a bunch of dust and exhaust. A buff around my mouth and nose was also a lifesaver when we rode on some pretty terrible overnight buses where I swear the exhaust pipe was inside the bus.
‣ Neck Pillow- I used my neck pillow on most overnight buses and long day trips. I was really happy I brought it along even though it was a pain in the ass to carry around.
‣ Sewing Kit- We used a sewing kit to fix broken parts on our backpacks or torn clothing. We were happy we brought it.
‣Door Stop- Some places like beach huts don’t have locks (or not so great locks) so a door stop makes for a better nights sleep.
‣ Head Lamp - Useful for when you are staying in a dorm room and come back to the lights already turned off. Also useful for any Southeast Asia excursions you might partake on.
‣ Deck of Cards - We played cards all the time while backpacking! It's a great way to pass the time when bored or to meet new people by starting up a game of cards! Southeast Asia is a great place to meet fellow travelers.
‣ 2-3 Heavy Duty Ziplock Bags- Since we left from Korea to backpack and ziplock bags aren’t a thing there I really would have liked to have some when backpacking. They are useful for so many different reasons! Pack a couple you won't be disappointed.
Southeast Asia Women's Packing Guide: Toiletries
One way to travel more sustainably and remain eco-friendly to our planet is by buying toiletries/body products that are organic, fair-trade and sustainably made. I find it super important to know what is in the things I am putting on my body and that they are not harmful to our environment! Of course when you are traveling long term it can be difficult to do this- so I always start with buying and packing the essentials at home and then use my best judgement while on the road.
Toiletry Hanging Bag- I wish there was a way around this as toiletry bags can get a bit bulky but really to keep all of your toiletries organized this is your best bet. I just always packed this at the very top of my backpack to avoid crushing any liquid containers.
‣Organic Sunscreen- This Raw Elements organic sunscreen has no harsh chemicals and it's completely waterproof so it won’t pollute the water you’re swimming in!
‣Shampoo and Conditioner Bars- Honestly the best thing for any type of travel. Ethique Shampoo Bars are equivalent to 3 bottles of shampoo! They are also cruelty free, all natural and the wrappers are compostable!
‣Diva Cup- Alright ladies- if you have not yet joined the bandwagon- it is time to do so! (or at least in my humble opinion) Using a diva cup has really changed my world (at least at that time of the month) and when traveling in Southeast Asia finding tampons is hard and they are expensive! Make sure to pick up some Diva Cup Wash to go with it.
‣Bamboo toothbrush + Organic Toothpaste + Toothbrush cover + Organic Floss- An estimated 1 billion plastic toothbrushes end up in landfills each year. Also- why use toothpaste that could be slowly eroding your teeth away?
‣Makeup essentials- foundation, powder, cover-up, blush, mascara and eyeliner. I didn’t bring anything else and didn’t miss it either.
‣Deet bug spray- this one is hard for me because I know how bad deet is for myself as well as the environment. I brought one canister of high deet bug spray and ran out of it quickly and then it was actually really difficult to find bug spray with deet in Southeast Asia. I recommend wearing long (loose fitting) pants and shirts in the evening when the mosquitos are at their worst.
‣Quick Dry Microfiber towel- lightweight and packable. I brought along two different sizes, one for my hair and one for my body. We used these whenever a guesthouse didn't provide towels or when swimming.
‣Wet wipes- Wet wipes are seriously my best friend when on treks or times when you cannot shower.
‣Deodorant-I love ThinksSport deodorant! It's great for athletes or when in hot humid climates like Southeast Asia. It also is free of any harmful chemicals.
‣Face wash- Christina Moss Natural's face wash is great for sensitive skin. It's all natural, non-drying and non-oily. It also goes a long way because you don't have to use that much!
‣Birth Control (if you take it)
‣Charcoal tablets- great to help soak up any dodgy food you ate.
‣Motion sickness tablets- you will experience many windy and curvy roads. I use Meclizine as I find it makes me less drowsy than Dramamine.
‣Electrolyte replacements- In case you end up with food poisoning and need to rehydrate yourself quickly.
‣Probiotics- I like to take probiotics everyday t0 keep my guy healthy when trying a bunch of new and different kinds of foods. Also great for getting your stomach back in check after a bout of food poisoning.
‣Sleeping pills- great for those over night buses (make sure your valuables are in a safe place before taking these)
‣ Malaria medication- if you choose to take malaria medication it is possible to find it in Southeast Asia
‣Traveler’s diarrhea antibiotics*
‣Your favorite type of pain killer
Make sure to check out our article A Beginners Guide to Eating Street Food so you can enjoy the awesome street food in Southeast Asia (hopefully!) without getting sick. We can’t guarantee anything but we followed our own advice and Ron only ended up with one bout of food poisoning in 5 months of traveling!
**We got an over the counter prescription for Travelers Diarrhea (food poisoning) from our doctor before leaving. Thankfully we only had to take a couple of them.
Southeast Asia Women's Packing Guide: Clothes
1. Tank Top | 2. Adventure T-Shirt | 3. Red Tank Top | 4. Pineapple Bikini | 5. Fedora Hat | 6. Dri Fit Shirt |
7. Jean Shorts | 8. Sports Bra | 9. Swimsuit Cover-Up | 10. Short Dress | 11. Maxi Dress | 12. Active Shorts |
13. Light Jacket | 14. Sports Bra | 15. Teva Sandals | 16. Chacos | 17. Low-Ankle Hiking Boots | 19. Travel Scarf
‣3 T-shirts- make sure you have some t-shirts for when visiting temples
‣1 Dri-fit shirt- great for trekking or beach days when you’ve had too much sun
‣1 Lightweight zip-up
‣1 Maxi dress
‣1 Short dress- Southeast Asia has some really cute dresses- you can always wait and shop once you get there.
‣1 Sarong- (to be bought in Southeast Asia) Perfect for beach days or if you go to a temple and need to cover your shoulders or legs.
I would say for the most part pack for comfort but also bring a couple cute tops for those going out nights. Also don't worry about bringing a ton of clothes, there are places to do your laundry EVERYWHERE and it's super cheap.
‣1-2 denim short
‣1-2 active short
‣1-2 pair of leggings/workout pants- great for transportation days
‣1 ‘elephant pants’- buy these in Southeast Asia (yes you will look like a tourist but they are so comfy it’s hard to not resist.)
‣1 pair of jeans- really jeans are up to you but they are great for those going out nights when it’s a bit on the chilly side
‣1 pair of cotton trousers- just as comfy as the elephant pants but in plain colors
Bra and Underwear
‣7 Quick Dry Underwear- having quick dry is beneficial if you can’t find a laundry shop and want to wash them yourself. We did laundry about once a week so 7 pairs was enough.
‣1 Sports bra
‣2 Regular Bras
‣4 Pair socks
‣Teva Flip Flops- I wore cheap flip flops most of the time and I so wish I had a pair of these Teva’s or Havana flip flops while backpacking
‣Dressy Sandals- for those going out nights! Make sure they aren't bulky and are lightweight.
‣Teva Strap Sandal- I wore these on days where we were walking a lot or when we were on island hopping tours
‣Toms- Not necessary but I LOVED having my Toms while backpacking. They are great for dirty cities and keep your feet comfy all day long
‣Running/Hiking Boots- If you plan on hiking a lot a pair of low ankle hiking boots would be a good idea to invest in. If you only plan to hike a little trainers will be just fine.
Southeast Asia Women's Packing Guide: Electronics
Electronics Organizer- Great to keep all those cords/chargers and different things organized.
Sony A711 Mirrorless Camera + Sony 16-35mm f/4 Lens - small and lightweight, takes high quality photos when paired with a good lens. Check out Nomadasauras' article for an in-depth look at the best travel cameras.
External Hard Drive- to backup all of those pictures. I would also suggest putting them online too just in case your bag gets stolen.
Headphone splitter- share music or watch a show with your travel partner
I-pod + accessories- I-pods are good if you don't have enough room on your phone for music storage. If you do then there is no need for one!
Portable power bank - this portable power bank can charge your laptop or any of your devices. Great if you are in an area without electricity or on a long flight/train/bus ride.
Universal Adaptor- this universal adaptor works in 150+ countries. Most devices convert voltage on their own so a voltage convertor is not needed. Always check your devices to make sure though just in case.
Global WIFI Hotspot- A global WIFI hotspot is a lifesaver when you work on the road. With 4G LTE, 16+ hours of battery life and a handy built in charger- life couldn't get much sweeter! We also have a discount code for our awesome readers- use code VOYAGER10 for 10% OFF your order!
Travel Insurance in Southeast Asia
Please please please do not go traveling without travel insurance! Many people think it's not necessary and we even thought about just skipping it but I ended up going to the doctor 2 times while traveling Southeast Asia! We were so glad we had insurance just in case something worse happened- thank goodness it didn't!
Just like most people, we also use World Nomads and have had great experiences with them! They are also the only policy holder you can activate while already abroad. If you are ever in a situation where you need to use your travel insurance make sure to call them first and speak about the situation!