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10 Backpack Essentials for Travelling in South East Asia

Passport, check. Boarding pass, check...but to help your travel in South East Asia here is your backpacking checklist!

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South East Asia. What image does that conjure up for you? For us, it made us think of days tubing in Laos, lounging on Kuta Beach and nibbling on banh mi in Vietnam, but no one ever really mentions the luggage situation. The resounding message is to “pack light” – which we agree with! But there are some things you can’t get by without…

1. Backpack

Suitcases just aren’t an option here – your best bet is a backpack, and the smaller, the better – you’re less tempted to bring your entire wardrobe! Aim for one between 40 and 60 litres that comes with it’s own waterproof cover. Shops will try to sell you a “protective” aircraft case, but don’t bother – your bag will be taking a beating sooner or later.

There’s more great travelling advice: Tips for Travelling in South East Asia

Explore the rivers in Hoi An

2. Waterproofs

Yes, waterproofs. Quite often, our eyes glaze over when we look at beachy photos and we completely forget monsoon season (December to February!). A lightweight raincoat will save you from the unhappy-camper look.

3. “Weather Appropriate” Attire

“What is this madness?!”, I hear you say. “I planned only to don swimmers and Bintang singlets!” Well, yes, you can do that most of the time. But if you’re heading into the mountainous regions of Chiang Mai or trekking to Mt Rinjani’s National Park, temperatures can drop to below 10°C. Hoodie it is then.

Are you planning on visiting Thailand? See the top 5 attractions you can’t afford to miss.

Krabi, Thailand

4. Scarf

Shawl, sarong, whatever you want to call it. This might be the most multi-purpose item for girls – it makes a handy cover up for temple visits and evenings out. It can also double up as a soother in high temperatures; dip it into cool water when you’re mid-trek and drape it over your shoulders for some light relief.

We doubt you’re going to be needing much of a cover up in these places though: The Top 5 Party Places in South East Asia

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5. Thongs

People say you need no other footwear. They are right. Apart from when you’re hiking – then you need…

6. Hiking Boots

There are some incredible treks around South East Asia, and a light-weight pair of shoes will enable you to explore so much more, whether you’re strolling in the cities or temple hopping in the hills.

Looking for more adventure? Here are the best ziplines in the Asia Pacific region.

Dahilayan Adventure Park, Philippines

7. Microfiber Towel

If you haven’t already used one of these, you’re on the brink of discovering a backpacker favourite. They weigh nothing and take no time to dry.

8. Unlocked Phone

Don’t worry, you can take your iPhone still and use that for wifi (more importantly, Instagram). But if you actually want to be contactable at all times, take an unlocked handset and buy a prepaid SIM when you arrive – they’re cheap, and they’re everywhere.

Check out the top 10 backpacking destinations in Asia Pacific – can you guess which countries are mentioned?

9. Toiletries

Yes…you could buy them out there, but the majority of products in the less developed regions will still carry skin whitening agents – even their deodorants. If you want to stay safe, bring your own little stockpile. Razors are notoriously hard to get hold of, too.

10. Sleeping Bag Liner

Generally speaking, you won’t be disappointed with the standard of accommodation in SE Asia. However, there’s always an exception to the rule, and in those cases a slinky lightweight liner can be your saving grace. (It also doubles as a laundry bag if you don’t end up using it!)

And our top 3 things to leave out of your backpack?

Jeans, hairdryers, and jewellery. We promise you won’t need them.

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Looking for more inspiration? Have a look where you can fly to in South East Asia with Skyscanner’s Flight Finder