What to Pack for Backpacking in Southeast Asia - ultimate packing list for Vietnam - Thailand - Laos - Cambodia - Malaysia - Indonesia

VISA | Vietnam requires a visa for citizens of certain countries. Make sure to check the visa requirements on ivisa.com for your nationality before you go.

TRAVEL INSURANCE | Consider getting travel insurance from Heymondo when traveling to Vietnam. It’s our top recommendation for comprehensive and trustworthy coverage. Get 5% OFF through our link.

STAY CONNECTED | Buy a SIM CARD at the airport the moment you arrive or get an E-sim with Airalo to secure reliable internet access in advance.

HOW TO GET THERE | Discover the best flight deals to Vietnam on Skyscanner

GET AROUND | For the ultimate convenience and hassle-free travel in cities, we highly recommend the Grab App

ACCOMMODATION | Browse Booking.com to discover budget-friendly hostels and hotels.

TOURS & ATTRACTIONS | For booking the best & cheapest city tours and day trip excursions, check out GetYourGuide or Viator.

TRANSFERS | Ready to travel to your next destination in Cambodia? Book your bus or train tickets via 12go.

WHEN TO GO | Late February to April (spring shoulder season) for cooler and overall dry weather.

Packing List Guide Southeast Asia - Vietnam - Thailand - Laos - Cambodia - Malaysia - Indonesia

When you’re getting ready for your Vietnam trip, it’s crucial to think about a few key factors that will affect your packing list. Consider the specific regions you’ll be visiting, the weather during your stay, and the activities you have planned. Vietnam is a big country with different landscapes and climates, so packing smartly will help you make the most of your adventure.

Planning your Vietnam packing list starts with thinking about where you want to go. Vietnam is huge, and each region has its own weather quirks. So, it’s a good idea to dig into some research about Vietnam, figure out the places you’re keen to visit and decide on the cultural or outdoor activities you want to dive into. Check out our Vietnam Travel Tips for a helpful guide that takes you through the whole process of planning your perfect Vietnam trip. We also prepared a full 3-week Vietnam itinerary which you can practically take over! The only thing left for you to do is book accommodations and transport.

READ MORE | Vietnam Travel Tips | Complete Trip Planning Guide For First Timers

READ MORE | The Ultimate 3-week Vietnam Itinerary for First-Timers

Suggested two-day Sapa village trekking in Vietnam

When packing for Vietnam, avoid overpacking. Laundry services are widespread and affordable, so you can easily get your clothes cleaned anywhere you go. Think in versatile layers, especially if you’re traveling from the north to the south, where temperatures vary. Lightweight, loose-fitting clothes that you can layer are perfect for Vietnam and other Southeast Asian countries like Cambodia, Laos, and Thailand.

Recommended travel backpacks for Southeast Asia backpacking trip - Thailand - Laos - Cambodia - Vietnam - Malaysia - Indonesia

That’s why we advocate for backpacks; they offer greater mobility, a crucial asset in Vietnam’s dynamic environment. Drawing from a decade of exploring Southeast Asian countries, we’ve compiled a list of backpacks that we’ve personally put to the test. Vietnam demands a fair amount of walking, and your backpack should be sturdy and comfortable – essential for buses, trains, and those moments when your luggage is snugly squeezed to make room. So, when it comes to brand, size, and quality, choose wisely; you want your backpack to accompany you on many journeys to come! We are big fans of the German brand,  Deuter. We’ve been using their gear for years, and it’s never let us down.

If you find yourself torn between the backpack and suitcase dilemma, fret not! There are convertible backpacks that seamlessly transform into either a backpack or a wheeled suitcase, providing the best of both worlds.

Deuter AVIANT VOYAGER 60+10 SL – With a height of 175 cm (or 5’7″), the 60L capacity of this backpack feels just right and perfectly proportioned. Specifically designed for the female anatomy, it features a VariQuick back adjustment system for a customizable fit. The generously padded back system and straps ensure ultimate comfort, even during extended journeys. The integrated 10L daypack adds convenience. What sets it apart is the dual access points – both from the front and the top – along with separate bottom and lid compartments. The included transport cover at the bottom doubles as a rain cover.

Osprey Fairview 55 – For enthusiasts of the popular American brand Osprey, the Osprey Fairview 55 is tailored for women and comes with an adjustable torso fit. It intelligently separates into a main backpack and a smaller, detachable daypack, which can be either attached to the larger pack or worn on the front for easy access. The large front panel allows straightforward access to the main compartment. If you need additional space, consider the Osprey Fairview 70 for more packing room. And for times when you want to streamline, the back panel harness can be conveniently stowed away.

Vietnam Packing List Tip Bring a Smaller daypack for daily adventures

Deuter Aviant Access Pro 60 + 10L – Moritz’s choice in Deuter shares some similarities with its Osprey counterpart. Featuring a single, generously sized main compartment accessible from the front, this backpack offers a more suitcase-like feel compared to the traditional top-loading style. This design makes organizing and packing belongings a breeze, with handy side pockets and a dedicated shoe compartment inside. The exterior showcases a spacious pocket that houses the included 10L daypack with a comfortable, padded back. It can also be securely attached to the shoulder straps when needed. The entire back panel harness can be neatly stowed away, providing easy transport and a sleek, streamlined look.

Osprey Farpoint 40 – An excellent alternative to the Deuter for men. Like the Deuter, it offers a spacious main compartment accessible from the front, ensuring easy access to your belongings. However, it lacks the additional side pockets found in the Deuter, which can be quite handy. Additionally, it doesn’t feature an adjustable strap system in the back for a customized fit. Similar to the Deuter, it does come with a practical cover to neatly stow away the straps during transport.

The Osprey Farpoint 40 is designed for a compact travel experience. If you need more space, there’s the option of the Osprey Farpoint 70L, complete with an extra attached daypack for added versatility.

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

Deuter Giga 28L – With ample capacity and well-designed compartmentalization, this Deuter daypack is perfect for day-to-day use in Vietnam. If Sapa is on your itinerary, where trekking through remote villages is likely, a smaller daypack with padded straps and room for essentials like water and snacks becomes essential. For a more compact option, consider this light daypack from Deuter.

WANDRD PRVKE 21L – Our second daypack in the lineup is the WANDRD PRVKE 21L, accompanied by their removable camera cube tailored specifically for safeguarding camera equipment. This pack boasts discreet compartments for neatly storing smaller items, including a hidden passport pocket at the back. With side access for convenient retrieval of your camera on the go, the camera compartment opens from the back, providing a convenient overview of your belongings. Additionally, there’s an expandable section at the top to keep personal items separate from your camera gear.

Hue the ancient capital of Vietnam a must-see on your 3-week Vietnam Itinerary

Efficiently organizing your clothing in your backpack becomes a breeze with packing cubes — a game-changer for your Vietnam packing list. Say goodbye to chaotic searches for specific items; allocate each cube for a specific category, whether it’s t-shirts, bottoms, or socks.

Ensuring the safety of your belongings on the go is crucial, making luggage locks an absolute essential on your Vietnam packing list. They prove handy in situations where securing your backpack in a locker isn’t an option and are a must-have for air travel.

For water-related activities in Vietnam, a dry bag is a smart addition to your packing list. Keep your belongings safe and moisture-free, and opt for one with a waterproof phone case for capturing beach moments. Considering Vietnam’s climate and occasional downpours, a dry bag is invaluable.

Extend the life of your larger backpack by adding a rain cover. If you’re contemplating a motorbike adventure on the Ha Giang Loop, a backpack cover will be a true lifesaver.

Enhance security, especially in hostels, with a Pacsafe bag—an anti-theft bag designed as a “portable safe.” Integrated stainless steel wire mesh adds resistance to cutting, providing a compact, lightweight solution for safeguarding valuables.

Include a cross-body bag next to your big backpack and daypack for on-the-go essentials like your phone, wallet, and small items. It’s perfect for evenings or when you prefer not to wear a backpack.

Carabiners are yet another handy and versatile addition to our travel gear arsenal. They typically find a home on our bags, ready to link items together or secure a water bottle or camera to your backpacks for hands-free convenience.

While not a strict necessity, a travel organizer streamlines the check-in process by keeping crucial documents like passports and boarding passes neatly together.

For travelers with multiple chargers and cables, this electronic cable organizer is a game-changer. It fits into smaller daypacks, providing a tidy home for cables, chargers, SD cards, and portable chargers, eliminating the hassle of tangled cables.

Include a laundry bag to separate dirty clothes from clean ones. With laundry services being affordable in Vietnam (around USD 1 per kilo), it’s an efficient way to keep your backpack organized.

Clothes Packing List for Vietnam Pack versatile and think in layers

All the items mentioned above efficiently fit into my Deuter AVIANT VOYAGER 60+10 SL backpack, organized using the roll-and-stuff method, highly recommended!

Optional items for women:

  • Lightweight Rain Jacket – While we personally didn’t pack rain jackets for our March travels during the dry season (we packed foldable ponchos just in case but didn’t need them), consider bringing a rain jacket for those sudden downpours!
  • Hiking Shoes (lightweight and low cut) – Everyday sneakers worked well for us, but for Sapa, you might want hiking shoes depending on the weather. When we visited and found the terrain muddy, we opted to rent rubber boots. If you’re in the market for hiking shoes, Salomon is a brand we recommend for extra support, excellent grip, and stability on challenging surfaces like pebbles and gravel. These shoes are also equipped with a GORE-TEX membrane, ensuring waterproof protection – a valuable feature in case of sudden rain showers or muddy areas.
  • 1 pair of comfy flip-flops – While not a necessity in Vietnam, consider bringing them if you plan on hitting the beaches in Phu Quoc or Nha Trang.
  • Light waterproof rain jacket – If you’re traveling during the rainy season or to regions like Sapa, consider packing one.
  • Hiking Shoes – Moritz recommends low-cut ones from Adidas for Southeast Asia, especially with Gore-tex. Advisable if you plan on hiking in Sapa.
  • Flip Flops – Only necessary if you’re heading to the beach; otherwise, we don’t really see the use. 
Ultimate Backpacking camera Gear List Our Southeast Asia Packing List for Beginners - Vietnam - Thailand - Laos - Cambodia - Malaysia - Indonesia

Traveling with electronics can enhance your journey, and while we, personally, carry an array of gadgets for work and photography in our fully equipped WANDRD PRVKE 21L backpack, we acknowledge that not everything we carry is essential. For those seeking a streamlined experience, we’ve curated a list of essential and enjoyable electronic items to make your travel easier and capture your adventure effortlessly.

A reliable power bank is a must for on-the-go charging, ensuring your phone stays charged for navigation, taking pictures, or a full day of exploration. The Anker portable charger we recommend provides almost 5 full charges for your phone.

Vietnam’s power outlets are of types A, C, and D, with a standard voltage of 110/220 V and a standard frequency of 50 Hz. While travelers from America, China, Japan, Europe, or India may not need an adaptor, we always pack a universal adaptor to charge multiple electronic devices simultaneously.

While physical books can be heavy, a Kindle or e-reader lets you carry an entire library for on-the-road entertainment. Ideal for long bus or train rides, the latest e-readers feature a glare-free HD touchscreen, adjustable brightness, color temperature, and are often waterproof for durability.

Essential for entertainment during overnight trains, headphones are perfect for enjoying a travel playlist or listening to podcasts. Classic headphones or earbuds from Anker can enhance your auditory experience.

In situations where you need to print bus tickets or visas, a USB drive from Sandisk proves handy. Despite the technological advancements in Southeast Asia, having a USB flash drive can still be useful.

While we encourage immersing yourself in the outdoors, a small tablet can be useful for handling emails, making bookings, or checking information. For a touch of entertainment, a tablet provides a just-right screen size. A travel-sized laptop might be more convenient if your tasks involve travel writing or photo editing.

Photography packing list for Vietnam Must have items Tripod and Action Cam

An action cam, such as the GoPro Hero 10, can elevate your travel experience. Perfect for activities like motorbike tours, kayaking, or hiking, it captures underwater adventures and extreme environments. With wide-angle shots, raw format options, and compact size, it’s super versatile and a fun way to capture your travel. Consider an underwater case for deeper dives and a backpack mount for hands-free filming.

Solo travelers can enhance their photography with a versatile selfie stick that doubles as a tripod. The Joby Gorillapods offer compact, sturdy, and flexible options, allowing creative shots by attaching them to branches or fences. They work well with both phones and cameras.

While phones suffice for most travelers, exploring photography further may lead you to consider an entry-level camera. Canon EOS Rebel T7/2000D is a budget-friendly DSLR, and for a lighter option, Sony Alpha A6100 or Sony α6400 are excellent mirrorless choices.

Always carry spare SD cards to ensure ample memory space for your camera. SanDisk Extreme Pro SD cards, with a minimum of 128 GB, are reliable. Samsung Pro Plus Micro SD cards are also great options and are suitable for GoPro and drone use.

While not essential, a drone like the DJI Mini 3 can provide a unique perspective of your surroundings. Compact and lightweight, it’s an enjoyable addition. Familiarize yourself with local regulations before flying. In 2023, it stands out as DJI’s smallest, lightest, and best-value mini-camera drone, hassle-free without additional registrations.

Vietnam travel tips A Complete Trip Planning Guide for first timers
  • Reusable water bottle: Bring a reusable water bottle to reduce plastic waste. Consider options like Life Straw or a filtered water bottle from GRAYL, turning any water source into safe, drinkable water.
  • Ziplock bags: Always handy for storing snacks or dealing with leaking bottles.
  • Elastic Bands or closable clips
  • Duct tape: A versatile tool that comes in handy for multiple situations.
  • Microfiber Towel: Perfect for the beach or when your accommodation doesn’t provide towels.
  • Flashlight or head torch: Useful in poorly lit areas or when you need to find items in your bag without disturbing others.
  • Swiss army knife / Multi-tool: Store in checked-in luggage when flying, not in your carry-on.
  • Sleeping mask: A game-changer for restful sleep, especially during overnight rides or in rooms without darkening curtains.
  • Noise-canceling earplugs: Highly recommended for stays in hostels with thin walls.
  • Travel journal: Carry a compact journal to reflect on experiences and chronicle your adventures.
  • Waterproof watch: Moritz recommends a waterproof Casio watch in army green, a perfect men’s accessory for the trip.
Toiletries Packing List for Southeast Asia - Vietnam - Thailand - Laos - Cambodia - Malaysia - Indonesia

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

  • 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 Vietnam and often holds whitening ingredients. You can also use this after the sun to moisturize.
  • Face wash & cream – I personally 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
  • Toothbrush and toothpaste
  • Nail clippers & file
  • Feminine hygiene products & tampons (not easy to find in Vietnam).
  • Basic make-up: Keep it simple: 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
Organizing and planning your packing list for Southeast Asia - Vietnam - Thailand - Laos - Cambodia - Malaysia - Myanmar - Indonesia
  • Passport – Ensure your passport is valid for at least 6 months from your arrival in Vietnam. Always carry a photocopy of your passport as a precaution against loss or theft.
  • Visa – Check the current visa requirements for your passport nationality before your trip, as these regulations may change. Visit iVisa.com for comprehensive information on travel documents.
  • 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.
  • Cards – Pack both debit and credit cards for financial transactions during your trip.
  • Vaccination certificate – Keep a copy of your vaccination certificate.
  • Cash Money – Carry euros and dollars; major cities often have exchange offices with favorable rates. Having some local currency upon arrival is useful for immediate expenses like bus fare.
  • Printed Booking or Stay Confirmation – Bring a printed copy of your booking or stay confirmation, useful in areas without immediate internet access. Consider getting a local SIM card or an e-SIM from Airalo for reliable internet access.
  • Emergency Numbers – Have a copy of your emergency contact numbers readily available.
  • Extra passport photos – Keep extra passport photos, handy for visa applications during your travels.
Experience limestone mountains, expansive rice fields, and quaint riverboat rides in Ninh Binh Tam Coc on your 3-week Vietnam Itinerary
The colorful lanterns of Hoi An are a must on your Vietnam Itinerary

TRANSPORTATION | For hassle-free bus, minivan, and train bookings across Vietnam, we recommend using the user-friendly platform 12go. Skip the queues and reserve your tickets in advance, especially during peak seasons.

ACCOMMODATION | Booking affordable accommodations in Vietnam is effortless with Booking.com. This platform is perfect for discovering budget-friendly hostels and hotels tailored to your preferences.

FLIGHTS | Find the best flight deals to Vietnam on Skyscanner. Benefit from their feature highlighting the cheapest days to fly and the flexibility to search by month or region. 

TRAVEL INSURANCE | Ensure comprehensive and reliable coverage for your backpacking journey in Vietnam with Heymondo. Prioritize peace of mind with their trustworthy travel insurance options. Get 5% OFF through our link.

STAY CONNECTED | Guarantee reliable internet access throughout your Vietnam trip by using Airalo. Install it on your eSIM-compatible smartphone before your journey for convenient connectivity.

TOURS & ATTRACTIONS | Explore the best city tours, day excursions, food experiences, and cooking classes in Vietnam with GetYourGuide or Viator.

VISA ORGANIZATION | Check visa requirements for your passport nationality before your Vietnam trip with iVisa.com.

Practical Travel Gadgets & Accessories for your Vietnam Packing List

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