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

When it comes to keeping your clothing neatly organized in your backpack, investing in packing cubes is a game-changer. This way you don’t have to dig through your stuff and create a chaotic mess just to find that one item. We allocate each cube for a specific category – whether it’s t-shirts, bottoms, socks, you name it.

Luggage locks are an absolute essential on your Southeast Asia packing list to ensure the safety of your belongings while you’re on the move. They come particularly in handy in situations where you can’t secure your backpack in a locker, and they’re a must-have for air travel as well.

If you’re planning on engaging in water-related activities in Southeast Asia, like snorkeling or kayaking, consider adding a dry bag to your packing list. It’s a smart move to keep your belongings safe and moisture-free. This particular dry bag even comes with a waterproof phone case, which proves incredibly useful for capturing moments by the beach. All in all, a dry bag is a valuable addition to your packing list, especially considering the climate and occasional sudden downpours in Southeast Asia.

The same principle applies to your larger backpack – you will be happy having a rain cover to shield it from getting completely soaked. If you’re considering renting a motorbike to embark on the Mai Son Loop in Thailand or the Ha Giang Loop in Vietnam, this addition will be a true lifesaver on your Southeast Asia packing list.

For an added layer of security, especially if you’re a frequent hostel-goer, consider investing in a Pacsafe bag. These anti-theft bags are purpose-built to safeguard your valuables and are often referred to as “portable safes”. The stainless steel wire mesh integrated into the fabric is highly resistant to cutting. Whenever we found ourselves in accommodations without door locks or safes, we’d stow our passports and laptops in it before heading out. Fortunately, we didn’t have to use it too often. While it’s a bit of an investment, it provides peace of mind, and we always bring it along. It’s incredibly compact, lightweight, and can be easily stashed flat at the bottom of our backpack.

We each also have a cross-body bag that we carry next to our big backpack and a small daypack. This is to carry our phone, wallet, and other small things on the go and for easy access. Also handy to have for in the evening or if for once you don’t want to wear a backpack.

Carabiners are yet another handy addition to our arsenal. We make sure to pack a few every time. They typically find a home on our bags, ready to swiftly link them together, or secure items like a water bottle or a camera to our backpacks when we require hands-free convenience.

Personally, we’re a bit fanatical about the organization, so while this item may not be an absolute necessity, we find it incredibly valuable. A travel organizer allows us to keep all our crucial documents, including passports, boarding passes, and various currencies, neatly together. It streamlines the check-in process and ensures that all our paper documents are conveniently in one place.

If you’re anything like us, traveling with a multitude of chargers for your phone, laptop, and camera gear, this electronic cable organizer is a game-changer. It effortlessly fits into our smaller daypacks, providing a tidy home for all our cables, chargers, SD cards, and portable chargers. Say goodbye to the hassle of tangled cables; everything is neatly organized and easily accessible.

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.
Ultimate Backpacking camera Gear List Our Southeast Asia Packing List for Beginners

On a personal note, we tend to travel with an abundance of electronics since we work while on the road. Our WANDRD PRVKE 21L backpack is fully geared with everything necessary, from laptops to external microphones. We understand that not everyone shares our passion for photography and shooting, and for those looking to keep their backpacks more streamlined, we’ve listed only the items we believe might make your travel easier and could be fun & easy for capturing your incredible adventure.

A reliable power bank for your phone is an essential item on your Southeast Asia packing list for on-the-go charging. Particularly during long bus rides or full days of exploration when you may not have access to power outlets. This specific portable charger from Anker provides almost 5 full charges for your phone.

Don’t forget to pack a universal adaptor to ensure you can charge all your electronic devices during your trip. Different countries in Southeast Asia will require different plug sockets.

While we have a deep appreciation for physical books, it’s not the most practical to lug around weighty volumes while backpacking. Opting for a Kindle or e-reader allows you to carry an entire library of books for on-the-road entertainment. Given the likelihood of spending considerable time on long bus or train rides, it becomes the perfect companion for passing the hours. The latest e-readers feature a glare-free HD touchscreen, making it possible to read in direct sunlight while also offering adjustable brightness and color temperature. Plus, many of them are waterproof, ensuring they’re always ready for unexpected spills or the occasional dip in the swimming pool.

Another entertainment item for those overnight trains is headphones. We love having a good travel playlist or listening to podcasts while on the road. I’m personally more a fan of classic headphones while Moritz these days prefers earbuds from Anker.

While Southeast Asia is frequently modern and technologically advanced, there may still be instances where you need to print bus tickets or visas. We consistently carry an old-school USB drive from Sandisk with us because it proves to be quite handy in these situations.

While we strongly encourage you to immerse yourself in the outdoors and limit screen time during your Southeast Asia backpacking adventure, having a small tablet can be incredibly useful. Even before we began working on the road, we found handling emails, making bookings, and checking things on a tablet more comfortable than on a phone. Additionally, for some Netflix indulgence during our journeys :p, a tablet provides a screen size that’s just right. If your tasks involve travel writing or photo editing, a travel-sized laptop might be more convenient in this scenario.

General electronics and camera gear packing list for Southeast Asia

If there’s one item that will truly enhance your travels, it’s an action cam! We personally have been enjoying the Go Pro Hero 10 on our latest travels. Depending on the range of activities you have in mind—whether it’s snorkeling, kayaking, or hiking—a GoPro is an ideal tool to capture your underwater adventures or any extreme environment where using your main camera or phone might be challenging. Its versatility shines as it captures both photos and videos, offering super wide-angle shots and even the option to shoot in raw format. While the GoPro can handle some water exposure, consider an underwater case for deeper dives. The compact size of an action cam is perfect for travel, but for hands-free filming, we recommend using a backpack mount to secure it to your backpack or another attachment.

For solo travelers seeking to capture some self-portraits, investing in a versatile selfie stick that doubles as a tripod can add a fun dimension to your journey! Consider the Joby Gorillapods; they’re compact, sturdy, and flexible, allowing you to attach them to branches or fences for creative shots. With various mounts available, they offer versatility for use with both phones and cameras.

As mentioned earlier, nowadays, you can effortlessly capture all your travel memories with your phone. However, if you’re keen on exploring photography further, consider starting with a budget entry-level model. We’ve always had a soft spot for Canon as a brand, you might want to check their entry-level DSLR model Canon EOS Rebel T7/2000D. For a lighter option, a mirrorless camera could be the perfect fit. If you’re just diving into photography, the Sony Alpha A6100 or Sony α6400 are excellent choices.

Always good to take a few spare SD cards for your camera, we personally don’t like deleting on the go and want to make sure we have enough memory space with us. We can personally advise the SanDisk Extreme Pro SD cards, and we usually buy ones with a minimum of 128 GB to be sure that we have enough space (also depends on whether you shoot in RAW). Lately, we also have been testing the Samsung Pro Plus Micro SD cards for our Go Pro & drone.

Undoubtedly, this falls under the category of a splurge item and isn’t essential. It will occupy a notable amount of space in your daypack. Nevertheless, it’s an incredibly enjoyable addition that provides a unique perspective of your surroundings. We have the DJI Mini 3, a small and compact model. Before taking flight, make sure to familiarize yourself with the regulations, as flying these devices isn’t permitted everywhere. In 2023, it stands out as the smallest, lightest, and best-value mini-camera drone in DJI’s lineup. Not only is it the quietest, but it’s also the simplest and most fun to use. Moreover, it falls below the maximum weight threshold, eliminating the need for additional registrations, and making it a hassle-free choice.

Practical Travel Gadgets & Accessories for southeast asia
  • Bring a Reusable water bottle and fill up at refill stations with clean water whenever possible. Alternatively, consider investing in a Life Straw or high-quality filtered water bottle from GRAYL that can turn any water source into safe, drinkable water, ensuring you’re never without a clean water supply!
  • Ziplock bags – these always come in handy to store away snacks or leaking bottles.
  • Elastic Bands or closable clips
  • Duct tape – we have used this multiple times during our travels!
  • Microfiber Towel – for at the beach or in case your stay doesn’t have towels.
  • Flashlight or head torch – useful on poorly lit alleys, or if you stay in hostels and need to find something in your bag without putting on the light.
  • Swiss army knife / Multi-tool – Make sure to store this in your checked-in luggage when flying, not your carry-on luggage!
  • Sleeping mask – Although we only started bringing this recently, it has been a game-changer for our sleep, especially during overnight rides or in hotel rooms that often lack darkening curtains.
  • Noise-cancelling earplugs – Same as the sleeping mask, but definitely recommend if you will be staying in hostels. The walls in Southeast Asia are thin!
  • Travel journal – Carrying a compact journal while traveling is an excellent way to reflect on your experiences and chronicle your adventures.
  • Waterproof watch – Moritz likes to bring a watch and this waterproof Casio watch in army green is just the perfect men’s accessory.
Toiletries Packing List for Southeast Asia

TIP | We use travel-size containers for shampoo, body wash & lotion, etc. so we don’t have to bring the full-size bottle.

  • Toiletry Bag – This is the toiletry bag we share together. In case I’m traveling alone, I use the following smaller toiletry bag.
  • Sunscreen – As a face sunscreen I can recommend Sun Bum Original SPF 50 Sunscreen Face Lotion, and for the body Sun Bum Original SPF 50 Sunscreen Lotion, both are oil-free, water-resistant, and reef-friendly. 
  • Mosquito repellant
  • Wet wipes – keep these in your hand luggage, will often come in handy!
  • Hand sanitizer
  • Tissues – Always have some paper with you because a lot of restrooms in Southeast Asia do not have toilet paper. 
  • Travel Medical Kit – Carrying a first aid kit is vital for Southeast Asia! The high humidity in the region can easily lead to infections in cuts and burns, making it essential to address such issues promptly. Our travel medical kit includes bandages, plasters, sterile gauze pads, disinfectant, tweezers, scissors, a thermometer, and a range of medications, including ibuprofen, paracetamol, diarrhea pills (loperamide), buscopan for abdominal cramps, and motion sickness tablets.
  • Refill Deodorant
  • Shampoo & Conditioner
  • Body wash
  • Body lotion – if you have very dry skin like me you will want to bring a travel body lotion as this is also not easy to find in Asia and often holds whitening ingredients. You can also use this after the sun to moisturize.
  • Face wash & cream – I am a big fan of products by The Ordinary Origins. Make sure to bring your favorite products, because again most facial products have whitening in them!
  • Razor
  • Hair Brush – Tangle Teezer Hairbrush for the win!
  • Toothbrush and toothpaste
  • Nail clippers & file
  • Feminine hygiene products & tampons (not easy to find in Asia).
  • Basic make-up: I don’t wear that much makeup anymore in general, and trust me in Southeast Asia it melts right off. So keep it basic, some mascara, eyebrow pencil, and maybe some concealer. One product I highly recommend is this tinted moisturizer with SPF from Origins, I wear it on top of my sunscreen, no need for foundation. Check out the following small make-up pouch.
  • Chapstick with sunscreen – don’t forget to protect your lips!
Organizing and planning your packing list for Southeast Asia
  • Passport – stating the obvious here
  • International Driver’s License – this is a must if you intend to ride a scooter or motorbike while in Southeast Asia, your driver’s license from back home isn’t sufficient. Fines are really high if you don’t have one.
  • Photocopies of your passport – important in case of loss or theft
  • Cards – Debit, credit
  • Vaccination certificate
  • Cash Money – We always carry some euros and dollars with us; often, in major cities, there are exchange offices with favorable rates. Also, just in case you need to exchange a bit at the airport to pay for a taxi or bus fare.
  • A printed copy of your booking or stay – in case you don’t have an internet connection yet upon arrival and need to know where to go.
  • A printed copy of your travel insurance – Prioritize travel insurance for peace of mind, especially if engaging in motorbiking or adventurous activities. Heymondo is a recommended provider; carry a printed copy of your insurance details in case of emergencies.
  • Copy of your emergency numbers
  • Extra passport photos – always handy for visas.

TRANSPORTATION | For checking and booking bus, boat, and train rides in advance, we recommend using the website 12go. This platform has been our go-to across Asia, saving us from the hassle of queuing at travel agencies or bus stations. If you’re traveling during peak season, consider booking tickets ahead, keeping in mind that peak season coincides not only with the best weather but also with festivals and local holidays.

ACCOMMODATION | Finding affordable places to stay in Southeast Asia is a breeze with Booking.com. It’s the ideal platform to discover budget-friendly hostels and hotels.

FLIGHTS | Discover the best flight deals to Southeast Asia on Skyscanner. We love that they highlight the days with the cheapest prices for a destination, and the ability to search by month or region for flexibility. Skyscanner’s filter system simplifies finding the most suitable flight, and you can stay updated on the best prices with price alerts.

TRAVEL INSURANCE | When it comes to travel insurance, especially for backpacking in Southeast Asia, consider Heymondo. It’s our top recommendation for comprehensive and trustworthy coverage. Get 5% OFF through our link.

CREDIT CARD | When it comes to managing your money while traveling, it can be a headache! We recommend getting a Credit Card that doesn’t charge you extra for foreign transactions.

INTERNET | Secure reliable internet access for your Southeast Asia trip with Airalo. Simply install it on your eSIM-compatible smartphone before your journey.

TOURS & ATTRACTIONS | For the best and most affordable city tours, day trip excursions, food tours, and cooking classes in Southeast Asia, check out GetYourGuide or Viator.

VISA ORGANIZATION | Before your trip, ensure you check the visa requirements for your passport nationality in the countries you plan to visit. Explore details on travel documents at iVisa.com.

Travel tips for planning a trip to Thailand Check visa Requirements

Southeast Asia Packing List Guide

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