Below are my recommendations for what to pack in Southeast Asia, based on what I brought for almost eight weeks of backpacking throughout Vietnam, Cambodia and Malaysia, as well as eight weeks of traveling throughout southern India.
This has been my go-to packing list for traveling to warmer climates for several years now. I first used it when backpacking for almost eight weeks throughout Vietnam, Cambodia and Malaysia, followed by eight weeks of traveling throughout southern India. More recently, it’s kept me organized when preparing for trips to Central and South America, as well as Malawi.
I’m a very practical person and generally not really concerned with fashion, so when I travel, I like to keep things simple. I’m a firm believer in wearing simple, neutral layering pieces, and then throwing on a scarf or some jewelry. I try to choose cotton and other light, breathable fabrics that can be packed easily and dry quickly.
Below is my packing list, both for clothing and other necessities such as toiletries. I’ve also included several other tips and considerations for packing for a longer trip in a warmer climate.
What to Pack for Southeast Asia: Clothing
Everything on this list fit in my Eagle Creek backpack, which I’ve used for 15 years. I find that 65 liter backpacks are most common for longer trips, but you might need more or less depending on your packing habits.
- Four tank tops – I wore one on the plane.
- Four t-shirts
- Black leggings – I wore these on the plane.
- Cargo-type pants
- Two knee-length black skirts
I personally don’t like to wear jeans when I travel in warm climates, because I find them to be too heavy and uncomfortable, although I know this is a staple item for many.
- Maxi dress – It’s good to have at least one longer skirt or dress for temples.
- Three sundresses
- Two pairs of pajamas – shorts and tops
- Bathing suit – I actually ended up losing my bathing suit in Malaysia. It was very hard to find a replacement, so be careful!
- Yoga tank – I didn’t do nearly as much yoga as I thought I would, so I probably didn’t need this.
- Sports bra – I didn’t use this much either.
- Quick-dry workout shorts
Layering pieces & outerwear
- Long-sleeved shirt
- Thin black cardigan – I wore this on the plane. I probably should’ve worn a thicker hoodie instead.
- Light windbreaker – This is one item that I rarely used, so I probably didn’t need it.
I admit, I was pretty chilly during the 24 hours I spent on Halong Bay in Vietnam. However, it definitely wasn’t worth it to carry around a fleece throughout my entire trip – which is what my dad wanted me to do – just for one night. If you’re going to do a cooler-weather activity, look to buy or borrow a jacket when you get there. Sometimes you can rent clothing and other gear from outdoor retailers.
- 10 pairs of underwear
- Two bras
- Light scarf for evenings
- Pashmina – I used this on the plane.
- A clutch purse for evening & a fold-up cloth bag to use as a purse during the day
- Jewelry (I wore simple jewelry during the day but brought a few necklaces and earrings for evening.)
- Athletic sandals – I wore these on the plane.
- Black flip flops – Flip flops are especially necessary if you’re going to stay in a hostel.
- Dressier sandals for night
What to Pack for Southeast Asia: Necessities
Here are some additional items, including what to pack in your carry on:
- Basic makeup
- Shower supplies – including shampoo, conditioner, body soap, face soap, razor and shaving cream
- Toiletries – including deodorant, as well as a toothbrush, toothpaste and floss
- The most important toiletries for me are always chapstick and sunscreen – These items can be expensive and hard to find outside of the U.S.
- Laundry detergent packs & stain remover
- First-aid kit – including prescription medication and vitamins
- Bandana & small quick-dry towel – A towel is essential if you’re going to stay in hostels.
- Snacks – granola bars and nuts, as well as lemonade and ice tea packets to flavor water
Other Packing Tips and Considerations
- Weather can change dramatically based on time of year and region, so be sure to do your research. Check to see what the high and low temperatures will be at each of your destinations, as well as if any rain is expected.
- Depending on the length of your trip, you’ll likely need to do laundry occasionally – you sweat through clothing pretty quickly in humid climates. I’ve always found it to be fairly cheap, quick and easy to get laundry done at my hostel or hotel. I also carry travel-sized packets of laundry detergent to use in the sink if needed.
- You might be able pick up some inexpensive clothing at markets or shops along the way. However, I am very tall (5’10 or 178cm), and have big feet (size 10 in the U.S.), so I can’t rely on finding something that will fit me off the rack, especially in countries where most of the women are more petite.
Is there anything I forgot that you would recommend?