Packing List Guide Southeast Asia
Recommended travel backpacks for Southeast Asia backpacking trip

1. Choosing the right travel bag

When it comes to choosing between a backpack and a suitcase for your Southeast Asia adventure, it ultimately boils down to personal preference. But let me tell you, from my own experience, I highly recommend going with a backpack. Southeast Asia is known for its uneven surfaces, rugged terrain, and plenty of stairs. Plus, you’ll likely find yourself hopping on boats to reach some of the beautiful islands, not to mention navigating through various modes of transport.

Trust me, having a backpack makes all of this a breeze. I started my travels with a trusty suitcase at 20, adamantly claiming I’d never go the backpack route. But after a few trips, I quickly converted to the backpacking lifestyle. It just makes everything so much smoother, especially when you’re racing after a bus or making a mad dash through the airport to catch your connecting flight.

Now, if you’re torn between the two worlds, fear not! There are convertible backpacks that can transform into either a backpack or a wheeled suitcase, giving you the best of both worlds.

Having explored most Southeast Asian countries over the past decade, and discovering all sorts of destinations, we’ve narrowed down a list of backpacks that we’ve personally tried and tested. These gems are perfect for carrying your ultimate packing list for Southeast Asia. Let’s dive in!

Our Recommended Travel Backpacks

Selecting the right backpack is a game-changer for your trip. So, when it comes to brand, size, and quality, choose wisely, you want your backpack to accompany you on many journeys to come! The gear you pack can make your journey a whole lot smoother. Remember, in Southeast Asia, you’ll be doing a lot of walking with all your gear in tow, so the size and volume of your backpack definitely matter. It’s essential to know how much space you’re working with before you even start assembling your ultimate packing list for Southeast Asia.

Now, when it comes to your main backpack, we highly recommend trying them on with some weight in person. We’re all unique, and what works like a charm for one person might not be the best fit for your body. Personally, we are big fans of the German brand, Deuter. We’ve been using their gear for years, and it’s never let us down. Good to know, Deuter offers both female and male versions of their various backpack models, catering to everyone’s preferences. We’ve personally experienced these bags as comfortable, practical, and built to last, so be sure to include them on your Southeast Asia packing list.

Woman Travel Backpacks

Deuter AVIANT VOYAGER 60+10 SL –  Standing at 175 cm (or 5’7″), I find the 60L capacity of this backpack to be just right and in perfect proportion. Designed with the female anatomy in mind, it boasts a VariQuick back adjustment system, allowing you to customize the fit to your body. Plus, both the back system and the straps are generously padded, ensuring ultimate comfort even during long hauls. The integrated 10L daypack is a handy addition. What I particularly love is the dual access points – both from the front and the top – and the separate bottom and lid compartments. There is also a transport cover included at the bottom which doubles as a rain cover.

Osprey Fairview 55 – If you’re a fan of the popular American brand Osprey, you’re in luck. The Osprey Fairview 55 is tailored for women and offers an adjustable torso fit. It cleverly separates into a main backpack and a smaller, detachable daypack that can be either attached to the larger pack or worn on the front for easy access. The large front panel makes easy access to the main compartment. Need even more space? Consider the Osprey Fairview 70 for added packing room. And for those times when you’re looking to streamline, the back panel harness can be conveniently stowed away. 

Smaller daypack recommendations for daily adventures in Southeast Asia

Men Travel Backpacks

Deuter Aviant Access Pro 60 + 10L – Moritz his backpack from Deuter shares similarities with the Osprey counterpart. It features a single, generously sized main compartment accessible from the front, offering a more suitcase-like feel rather than the traditional top-loading style. This design choice makes organizing and packing your belongings a breeze. Inside, you’ll discover handy side pockets and a dedicated shoe compartment for added convenience.

The exterior boasts a spacious pocket that houses the included 10L daypack with a comfortable, padded back. It can also be securely attached to the shoulder straps if necessary. The entire back panel harness can be neatly stowed away for easy transport, giving the backpack a sleek and streamlined look.

Osprey Farpoint 40 – A fantastic alternative to the Deuter for men. Like the Deuter, it offers a spacious main compartment accessible from the front, providing easy access to your belongings. However, it lacks the additional side pockets which can often be quite handy. We also observed that it doesn’t feature an adjustable strap system in the back for a customized fit. Just like the Deuter, it does come with a practical cover to neatly stow away the straps during transport.

The Osprey Farpoint 40 boasts a convenient size, allowing for a very compact travel experience. If you find yourself in need of more space, there’s also the option of the Osprey Farpoint 70L, which comes complete with an extra attached daypack for added versatility.

Smaller daypack for daily adventures

In addition to our primary travel backpacks, which typically hold our clothes and are checked in during flights, we each carry a compact daypack that accompanies us on board. This smaller pack is reserved for our valuables and personal items like laptops and camera gear. We also bring along one of the extra 10L daypacks that come with our main Deuter backpack. This often serves as a secondary daypack for hiking when we need a bit of extra space. When we’re on the move, our daypacks are carried at the front for easy access, while the larger travel backpacks rest comfortably on our backs.

Deuter Giga 28L – Depending on your needs, we’ve come to appreciate the 28L Deuter Giga for its ample capacity and well-designed compartmentalization, making it ideal for daily use. Once we reach a destination, it often becomes our go-to for carrying travel essentials like water and snacks while on the move. For a smaller option, take a look at this light daypack from Deuter.

WANDRD PRVKE 21L – The second daypack in our arsenal is the WANDRD PRVKE 21L, which we got together with their removable camera cube, tailored specifically for safeguarding our camera equipment. It has many discreet compartments to neatly store smaller items, including a hidden passport pocket at the back. There is also side access for easy retrieval of your camera while on the go, and the camera compartment opens from the back, providing a convenient overview of your belongings. Additionally, there’s an expandable section at the top, keeping personal items separate from your camera gear.

Organizing and protecting your camera gear inside the WANDRD PRVKE camera backpack for Southeast Asia

2. Organizing and protecting Items

The Ultimate Southeast Asia Packing List For Female Travelers

3. Clothes Packing List for Southeast Asia

Opt for light and breathable fabrics like cotton or linen when selecting clothing for your Southeast Asia packing list. Choose versatile pieces that can be easily mixed and matched and dry quickly. Steer clear of overly tight or synthetic materials that can feel sticky in the heat. Comfort should be your priority – leave delicate fashion dresses at home, as they’re likely to suffer wear and tear. The combination of sunscreen, constant packing and unpacking, and rigorous laundry sessions can lead to fading and damage to delicate fabrics. In most cases, you won’t need an extensive wardrobe for your Southeast Asia trip. Laundry shops are plentiful and will wash your clothes for just a dollar or less. 

That doesn’t mean you can’t rock fashionable outfits! Just keep in mind that Southeast Asia generally experiences warm and humid weather year-round. The exception might be if you plan on hiking in places like Sapa (Vietnam), Pai (North Thailand), or the Cameron Highlands (Malaysia), where you’ll need some extra outdoor gear.

With the exception of the beach area, it’s crucial to remember that many parts of Southeast Asia are more conservative, and locals tend to dress modestly. When visiting religious sites, you’ll need to cover your shoulders and knees, so keep this in mind when choosing your outfits.

Below, you’ll find a suggested packing list for Southeast Asia, tailored for both men and women. Keep in mind that these items are just recommendations and may vary based on your individual travel style.

Southeast Asia Packing List Women

All of the above fit into my Deuter AVIANT VOYAGER 60+10 SL backpack divided over packing cubes. I highly recommend the roll-and-stuff method!

Optional items for women:

  • Lightweight Rain Jacket – We, personally, don’t pack rain jackets as we’ve never found the need for them. Whether or not you should bring one depends on whether you’re traveling during the peak of the rainy season. In our case, we usually opt for compact foldable ponchos or simply purchase disposable ones on the spot if necessary.
  • Hiking Shoes (lightweight and low cut) – The need for these depends on your planned activities. Everyday sneakers work perfectly for standard hikes. However, if you’re venturing into more intermediate terrain, it’s highly recommended to bring an additional pair of hiking shoes. I was immensely grateful for mine in Laos, where the landscape was rougher. Personally, I really like the brand Salomon, as they provide extra support, excellent grip, and stability on challenging surfaces like pebbles and gravel. Plus, these shoes are equipped with a GORE-TEX membrane, making them waterproof. You’ll certainly appreciate this feature if you encounter a sudden rain shower or find yourself in a muddy area.

Southeast Asia Packing List Men

Optional items for men:

  • Light waterproof rain jacket – As mentioned, we don’t pack rain jackets as we’ve never found the need for them. In our case, we usually opt for compact foldable ponchos or simply purchase disposable ones on the spot if necessary.
  • Hiking Shoes – Moritz got these lowcut ones from Adidas for South East Asia, they are also with Gore-tex.
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