How to Pack for a Southeast Asia Backpacking Trip

Backpacking across Southeast Asia is a traveler’s right of passage. It’s a road trod by thousands of eager backpackers every year. From Thailand to Cambodia, Laos to Indonesia, Southeast Asia is popular for many reasons. The climate, the beaches, the decadent fun, and the affordability, to name just a few. If you’re about to set off on an adventure across the area, one of the first things you’ll need to do is pack.

That’s where this guide has you covered. We’re going to share the typical equipment and items that you’ll need in your backpack. Of course, you’ll want to customize this list to your habits and taste but this is a great starting point.

Your Southeast Asia Backpacking Packing List

Travel Document Pouch

It goes without saying that you’ll need your travel documents such as your passport, airline tickets, and any reservations that might need to be printed out. That means you’ll need somewhere secure to store them when you’re traveling. A small pouch that zips up will be perfect. If it’s waterproof then it’s even better. Using a pouch allows you to easily access them when you need them, and prevents them from getting crushed in the melee of your bag.

The Big Backpack

It’s such an exciting feeling when you get a new backpack. It’s going to accompany you everywhere you go, and it’ll house all of your belongings for the length of your trip. That means it is genuinely worth getting the best one that you can afford. Sure, your parents might have one that they used 15 years ago that looks half decent but technology has moved on since then.

New lightweight materials and ergonomic designs allow you to carry your items in comfort. Aim for at least 70l worth of space. That could be split over a 15l day bag and a 55l main backpack. It’s always worth weighing your pack before getting to the airport, if you’re unsure what the measurement on the scales means you can use online calculators to convert pounds to ounces, ounces to grams, or any conversion you need.

Packing Cubes

These zip-lock material cubes make packing and unpacking an absolute breeze. Segment your clothes and kit into groups and pack them into cubes. This makes it really easy to access items when you’re on the road, at a bus station, or at your next accommodation stop.

Backpack Cover

Spend any time in Southeast Asia and you’ll know that when it rains, it really rains. Often these short, powerful storms can come on with little warning. If you’re carrying your bag at the time and you don’t have shelter, your entire kit could get drenched in seconds. Many backpacks come with a waterproof cover in their base as a feature. If yours doesn’t, make sure to purchase one.


You’ll need a surprising array of clothing items when you’re backpacking across Southeast Asia. It’s more than just vests, elephant pants, and flip-flops.

      • Trousers: Get a good pair of quick-drying trousers. These will come in handy when you inevitably rent a scooter and for the aggressive air conditioning on public buses.
      • Shorts: You’ll spend most of your time in these, bring at least a few pairs.
      • T-Shirts: Again, you’ll spend most of your time in these, start with a few and then start your collection of beer logo, elephant adorned t-shirts.
      • Hoodie: A comfortable hoodie can be a godsend on cool scooter rides, long bus trips, or if you catch a chill and feel ill.
      • Waterproof Jacket: Get the lightest, most breathable waterproof that you can. Breathable is an absolute must otherwise you’ll be sweating and drenched from the humidity.
      • Hat: A good cap is a worthwhile investment. It’ll keep you cool, protect your head from the sun, and give your eyes some shade.
      • Swimwear: Bikini, swimsuit, shorts, whatever you need to be able to run into the sea. I’d also recommend a rash vest, they’re great protection from the sun when you’re snorkeling.

Key Takeaways

It’s fair to say this article was written with a pang of jealousy. Packing for your Southeast Asia backpacking trip is such an exciting moment. You’ve got it all before you and you certainly are in for a treat.

      • It all starts with your backpack, invest in the best you can afford.
      • Keeping your backpack organized will massively help you while on the road.
      • Don’t worry about clothes too much, you can easily purchase cheap ones while traveling.
Delve Deeper: Tags

Did you enjoy what you just read? Then you'll LOVE our book!
Going Gypsy: One Couple's Adventure from Empty Nest to No Nest at All Going Gypsy One Couple's Adventure from Empty Nest to No Nest at All 

- See how it all began!
ORDER NOW - Wherever Books Are Sold!
Amazon - Barnes & Noble - IndieBound - Books-a-Million
Also available as an audiobook from

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.