I hadn’t ever been to SE Asia and even though I had consulted several other’s blogs about what to pack I decided ventured out on my own into the realm of long-term travel. I dusted off my pack and remembered the struggle I had had packing it for 10 days in Peru and suddenly felt overwhelmed. I remember Instagramming this photo and thinking, ‘Shit! Where’s my stuff going to go?!’ At the same time it was a challenge in freedom & minimalism – which is something I struggle with when it comes to clothing. So, I thought I would compile my personal list of what I should’ve left behind and what should’ve gone into my pack.
What Clothing I Brought:
» 16 Tops – this included camisoles, tank tops, my denim shirt, peasant tops, a sweatshirt, etc
» 7 Bottoms – this included a maxi skirt, 4 pairs of denim shorts, jeans & printed cotton pants
» 2 Swimsuits – one sporty, one a standard bikini
» 1 Pair of PJs, 1 Dress, 1 Baseball Cap
» 10 Pairs of Underwear, 5 Pairs of Socks & 3 Bras
» 3 Pairs of Shoes – a pair of canvas tennis shoes, a pair of Teva sandals & a pair of Merrell hiking shoes
I brought a few cute, printed tops thinking I’d want to wear some of my favorites. I brought a couple of solid colored tops and several tops that I knew I wouldn’t be upset if I had to part with them, but they were also mostly printed.
Vs. What I Should’ve Brought
This is what I had bought just halfway through the trip
» About 10 Tops – 6 or so of which should’ve been solid colored tank tops to match the ridiculously amazing printed pants I bought and wore everywhere, and some sort of breezy kimono that I could use to cover my shoulders and not die of a heatstroke. I still think it’s fun to bring a few cute tops to wear out and about – PLUS, you know you’ll pick stuff up along the way. I added an Angkor Wat tank, a tee from volunteering, a crochet top in Bali & a couple of tanks to go with all my new “elephant pants”.
» 4 Bottoms – I loved having multiple pairs of shorts (and I’m a denim shorts girl) because it gets hot, hot, hot there. I would bring three pairs of shorts and one pair of leggings. I didn’t bring any and I really regretted that. I could leave out the maxi skirt because I only wore it twice. OF COURSE, it’s not possible to visit SEAsia without buying elephant pants.
» 3 or 4 Swimsuits – I brought two, and I do highly recommend a sporty one that is really secure for doing outdoor activities. Even though two worked, I got so sick of wearing the same two swimsuits (this goes back to my love of clothes, but I’m just being honest). There are so many water activities that I got sick of looking exactly the same in all of them.
» 1 Pair of PJs, 1 Baseball Cap, 2 Dresses – I’m a pajama lover. Stacey actually called me the Queen of PJs at my Bachelorette Party and even though I never really thought about it before then, I LOVE to have cute matching pajama sets – and not expensive ones, just Target cheapies. Plus, I’m not taking up a shirt that I could wear during the day & I don’t have to do laundry as often. A hat is great for treks to protect your face and eyes and I highly recommend bringing one. I would add one more dress to the mix because it just felt nice to wear a dress out to dinner sometimes. I had one, but it’s kind-of like the swimsuits, I got tired of looking exactly the same every time.
» 10 Pairs of Underwear, 1 Pair of Socks & 3 Bras – Apparently, I feel like I nailed the undergarments, but socks aren’t needed if you don’t have hiking shoes or tennis shoes.. Just bring a pair to maybe wear around your room.
» 2 Pairs of Shoes – I only wore my Merrells twice and the other 99 days they were just getting smashed in the bottom of my pack – in fact, they were ruined when I got back because they had been wadded up. The next backpacking trip I take I’ll bring a pair of Teva sandals and a pair of some kind of canvas tennis shoes or Toms or something. I know THIS SEEMS OBVIOUS, but don’t bring a brand new pair of new canvas shoes. I did and they were a smidgen too small and I gave them to someone else in a hostel less than two weeks in – this left me in only my Tevas for about 101 days. I trekked in them, worked in them, visited temples in them, swam in them… I highly recommend them.
» Accessories – Just a few pairs of earrings, 1 headband & Ponytail Holders – I bought LOADS of bracelets and necklaces along the way.
This is obviously my personal list, some people backpack with much less & others with much more. I liked having some variety in my clothing options (not that I’m some kind of backpacking fashionista, but I included some of my favorite backpacker styles above), and I liked having enough room to pick things up along the way. Luckily, the clothing that I picked up along the way is very easy to fold up and travels well. The GREATEST TIP I can give for packing is buy some packing cubes! Not only was it amazingly easy to pack my things & keep them organized, but it also meant that if I needed to get something out of my pack, I just had to pull the three packing cubes instead of all the tops, bottoms, etc. I also brought a compression sack to keep my dirty laundry in. It kept them separate and because I could squeeze it down from next to nothing – saving loads of room!
What Else Did I Bring?
» Electronics & Their Chargers – Macbook Pro, GoPro Hero 3, Canon T1i & iPhone 5s with earbuds.
» 1 Book – Stacey and I would buy books along the way and then swap them with each other.
» 2 Journals & 5 Pens – I brought a standard sized one and a pocket one to take notes while I was out. In reality, I only needed the standard sized journal. I used every single one of those pens. Some where lost, but a couple ran out of ink.
» 1 Small Backpack & 1 Tiny Purse – This was perfect for day trips and even two-day trips. I used a backpack from Target, but any one you want will work. My purse was just great for days in town that I could shove only the essentials into.
» First Aid Kit – I put ibuprofen, bandaids, prescriptions & Neosporin in a ziplock bag. Although, I WAS STUPID. I was sick most of the time I was gone, and don’t know why I thought I wouldn’t get sick at all… I was sick all the time. I highly recommend asking your doctor for some antibiotics, take some allergy pills, Emergen-C, cold medicine & Imodium. I’m not saying take 101 days worth of this, but I am saying have something to at least jumpstart your healing process.
» Tampons & Panty-Liners – I brought way too many, but I carried the OB brand that saved a lot of space. However, I think I’m going to give the Diva Cup a try on my next trip. If you’re an avid tampon user, though, they can be hard to find. This is definitely all about personal preferences.
» A Jumbo Box of Granola Bars – I would definitely recommend bringing a little something, to get you through layovers and start you out with some bonus snacks, but I brought something crazy like 50 granola bars and I think I came home with about 20. I burnt myself out and I craved other things.
» Toiletries – Shampoo Bars (I LOVED these, but they eventually melted & I had to buy shampoo there) Deodorant & Soap (when buying these in Asia, be careful because they can contain bleach). Very Little Make-Up (Mascara, Eyeliner & Moisturizer). Bug Spray (I brought 2 Bottles, I only needed 1). Sunscreen – Use it. Sunglasses / Glasses / Contacts and Contact Solution Lastly, lotion – I won’t bring that again, it was so humid I didn’t need it.
Everyone has their own version of what extra stuff they need or want to bring along the way. As long as this list sounds it did all fit in my 55 liter pack and still left plenty of room for the knickknacks and clothes that I bought along the way.
The Short List of Clothing to Pack
Have you backpacked in Southeast Asia? What would you add or take off the list? Did you find that you felt you wished you had brought more of anything with you?
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