Southeast Asia Packing List & 10 Must Have’s

Ready to take off on an adventure? Make sure you have everything you need with this Southeast Asia packing list, so you can move freely and enjoy the journey.

Exploring Southeast Asia should be on everyone’s travel bucket lists. It is affordable, relatively safe, fun, and such a beautiful part of the world! But, when you’re bouncing between locations every few days or weeks, knowing what to bring can be a bit overwhelming. This Southeast Asia packing list should help with that process and prepare you for the amazing adventures that are yet to come.

The most important thing to bring is a sense of adventure, and the ability to go with the flow. Things will go wrong, you may get sick, and you will probably lose some of these things along the way. That is all a part of the journey and memories that will last a lifetime, so don’t sweat the small stuff, and don’t forget to record some of the moments!

Assortment of tropical items laid out on a towel including a dive mask, shoes, a speaker, water bottle, reusable cutlery, shells, and sunglasses. Everything is included in a southeast asia packing list

Table of Contents

Top 10 Things You Can't Forget

1. The Right Bag & Packing Organizer

Getting the right bag for your style of travel is essential to start your Southeast Asia packing list. If you’re adventurous, make sure your bag has comfortable straps that you can wear on your back, and forget about needing wheels. For some people, that’s a small duffle bag that you can easily carry, or whatever you already have in your basement to save money!

I opted for the backpacking bag I already had and used for mountain backpacking – Gregory Maven 55L. It’s big enough, more unique (it’s maroon), and fits me perfectly. Unsure what to get? Head to REI for a fitting to see the best options for your body style.

2. Reusable Water Bottle & Filter

It’s hot and humid in this part of the world. Stay hydrated without using hundreds of plastic bottles! Everywhere has filtered water that you can refill, even if for a small price. Even if a refill costs money, it is definitely cheaper than buying bottles from the shops.

Trash is a major problem in Southeast Asia, especially within the tourism industry. Overtourism is a big problem in many of these locations, and helping to reduce your waste is one of the best overtourism solutions that travelers can help with.

3. Carabiners & Rope

These have come in handy so often to hang things and stay organized. This is the best way to hang your bags off the floor or create a drying line for your clothes! While staying in a bamboo hut in Bali for a month, so many friends saw our setup (since there was no storage/shelves/hooks) and went out to find some rope and do the same. 

If you’re staying in a hostel, this is a must. Bunk beds don’t always have a full curtain, and privacy can be hard to come by in such a shared space. With some rope, carabiners, and your towel or sarong, you can make a perfect little private bed fort!

 

4. Microfiber Towel

You’ll be hitting the beach quite a lot. And nothing is worse than having to shove a damp towel in your tightly packed bag. Microfiber towels dry quickly, and can be great for the beach, a yoga mat, or a small blanket! DO NOT bring a thick bath towel – you’re sacrificing a lot of space and weight with such a bulky item that traps sand and takes forever to dry.

5. Noise-Canceling Headphones

Backpacking Southeast Asia can be a bit overwhelming, so it’s nice to have the mental space when you want it. Noise-canceling headphones are a game changer for noisy hostel roommates, or long travel days when you want to just tune out and zone into your own space.

I use the Airpod Pros, which are so comfortable and easy to use without taking up much space at all. If you work remotely, maybe you need an over-the-ear style, but otherwise, ear buds are more than enough!

6. Waterproof Sandals

You’re going to need some easy slide-on shoes included in your Southeast Asia packing list. The warm weather, laid-back atmosphere, and plenty of water dips make them essential. Do yourself a favor and get some that are waterproof. This is essential for waterfall hikes or just getting caught in the inevitable rainstorm! 

7. Menstrual Cup

My heart hurts for the ladies that are traveling with a whole box of tampons… If you haven’t joined the menstrual cup bandwagon yet, welcome aboard. Once you try it you will never go back! 

In Southeast Asia, tampons aren’t sold everywhere. So, unless you’re ready to go back to bulky pads, a menstrual cup is the best option. I’ll be honest, in some places where water sanitation is a concern, tampons might be better. But for reasons of space saving, waste reduction, and cost savings, menstrual cups are superior. 

8. Stasher Bag

If you’re on that backpacker budget, food is a great way to save some money. The best way to cut costs is by saving the food you would otherwise toss in your stasher bag. This is great if you’re cooking and want to make some for a second meal, or to keep in your day bag to savor some of the street food you pick up out and about (you won’t want to miss this in Thailand)! 

These take up no space at all, weigh next to nothing, and are useful for collecting things on your travels too. When I go to the beach mine always ends up getting filled with shells. 

9. Set of Warm Clothes

While most places are hot and humid and you live in a bikini 90% of the time, you’d be surprised by the number of times you need pants and a jacket. Southeast Asia has some incredible sunrise hikes, and yes – it is cold here in the middle of the night! While it’s a tropical paradise in most places, some mountains can get a bit chilly higher in elevation! A light jacket and warmer pants are essential for your Southeast Asia packing list.  

I travel with a lightweight down jacket that packs down small, a wool long sleeve, quick dry hiking pants, and warm socks. Even if you don’t hike, it’s nice to have some warmer options on a fast boat where it’s windy, or for a late-night beach fire. 

10. Leave Some Space!

Everyone’s always sharing what you can’t forget to pack, but nobody mentions extra space. Southeast Asia is a beautifully vibrant region with local arts, clothing styles, and travel memories you will want to pick up on the way. Don’t pack your bag so tight that you are nervous about the zippers busting out.

I was able to buy a Kimono in Japan, artwork in Cambodia, and a snorkeling kit in Indonesia to explore the tropical waters! 

Now that you're preparing your Southeast Asia packing list, learn more about the benefits of Slow travel to get the most out of your trip!  

Travel Essentials

In the US vaccines for Yellow Fever or Typhoid can run over $400, and are not covered by insurance. These are often much cheaper in SEA where more people get vaccinated. It's a good idea to pop into a pharmacy when you get to a new spot and ask about any outbreaks of Dengue as well!

Clothes

Your clothes are the bulk of your bag. Prioritize versatile options, stick to a color palette so you can easily mix and match, and favor items that are lightweight and wrinkle-free! Make sure you have 1 outfit for each activity you want to do. For example, 1 complete outfit to hike in, 1 for yoga, 1 for a beach day, 1 to go out in, and 1 to sleep in. 

It’s hot – leave your denim, high heels, and bulky jackets at home. Your shoulders will thank you later! Less is more – laundry services are available everywhere for very cheap ($1-2), and you can buy anything necessary while on the road. While clothes are important, you’ll find some amazing options on the road!

  • 3 bikinis
  • 1 full-piece (some areas in SEA are very conservative)
  • 7 underwear & bras for your needs
  • 2 pairs of socks
  • 4 tank tops
  • 3 shorts
  • 2 skirts / 1 long, 1 short
  • 2 dresses / 1 long, 1 short
  • 2 pants / 1 hiking, 1 flowy
  • Waterproof sandals
  • flip flops
  • trainers

Don't travel with your favorite clothes - they may be lost at the laundry, overworn to the point of destruction, or become an extra weight that you don't wear often and can't let go of!

Electronics

As much as you want to disconnect, it’s important to stay connected as well! Once you’re in Southeast Asia, you might not have the best options for new gadgets abroad, so make sure what you have works for what you need. Keeping up with your electronic needs is essential for your Southeast Asia packing list. 

  • Battery pack & fast-charging cables
  • Camera & charger
  • Travel Adapter with many ports
  • Noise-canceling headphones
  • e-reader
  • USB string lights (my favorite non-essential item I travel with)
  • Portable speaker
  • Headlamp

Accessories & Others

The water quality is ~not great~, both for drinking and for your hair. I have very fine, blonde curly hair that gets damaged easily. If this is you, I can’t recommend including a water filter for the shower enough for your Southeast Asia packing list! Especially if you will be staying in more private accommodations, protect your hair!

Another essential is a sarong – these are required in many temples, and are versatile as clothes, a small blanket, a beach towel, and for hostel privacy curtain! If you don’t already have one there are plenty of cute ones available at your destination. 

  • Microfiber Towel
  • Packable Sun Hat
  • Sunglasses
  • Sarong
  • Small bag / packable purse
  • Wallet that can hold coins
  • Small jewelry – you can buy more at the night markets!
  • Memory bag to collect tickets / money / memories and keep them safe
  • TSA lock – especially if you plan for hostels
  • Water filter system (life straw / Grayl bottle)
  • Shower water filter
  • First Aid Kit
Bags and towels hanging from carabiners and a string in a bamboo hut in Bali
Carabiners with Rope is the best organization hack

Explore the other destinations waiting for you in Asia!

Summary - Southeast Asia Packing List

No Southeast Asia packing list is complete without a few key items. From bus pray, sunscreen, and a camera, to the more unique items like a sarong, water filter, and space for a snorkel. This region has so much to offer – ancient temples, turquoise water with pristine aquatic life, and rich cultures. Be prepared to see it all!

What is one thing you couldn’t travel without?

Image with assorted tropical items laid out on a towel with text reading 'southeast asia packing list'

Posted by Taylor Mallaber

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