Packing for SouthEast Asia

Organized backpacking to simplify your life

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I will be spending 3 months in Asia, Summer 2015. After Michael and I decided we were setting forth on this adventure, I immediately began wondering what and how I was going to pack for such a long trip. I LOVE organization- specifically I love creating the organization. I put a lot of time and thought into my packing strategy for this trip, and put everything into my pack last night. Opening up the giant backpack can be overwhelming- it’s seems like a dark, bottomless pit. You need 1 item, but have to dig through your entire life. My packing strategy is to simplify my life while I am traveling, making it quick and easy to get to anything I need.

My biggest tip:

Pack versatile items. If you can only wear a shirt with one pair of shorts/pants, nix it. You want to be able to mix and match as much as possible to give yourself more options without taking up more space/adding weight. Also, think about specific activities- what do you think you’ll actually want to wear while bathing elephants in a river? Or riding a water buffalo in Vietnam? (You’ll get dirty, their skin may itch your thighs, etc– it really impacts the clothes you’ll pack when you start to think about specifics). Also, think light clothes- Asia is hot! My pack weighs a whole 24 pounds.

* I have in full detail almost everything I am bringing. I will point out where there are items for 2 travelers; since Michael & I will be sharing a few packed items.

If there was one item that I could not live without on this trip, it is my Sea to Summit Day pack. It literally weighs nothing, and folds up into a tiny ball so I can throw it in my larger carry on if needed for plane rides. It is pretty water resistant, so my camera/phone/wallet etc have all stayed dry. In addition, I take so many things out of my sack during the day that I tend to forget if I put it back (or accidentally left it somewhere) – the pack is great because you can actually feel through it without having to take it off your back (sigh of relief #42 of the day, I did remember to grab my phone off the table & pack it). It also stays in place on my shoulders and does not irritate my skin at all or make me sweat like a regular backpack would. I give this pack award of the year 🙂 Thank you Sea to Summit!

Random Tips…

Bring a large deotorant (3oz) rather than the travel size. 

Guys- pack athletic tops, not cotton! You will sweat right through the cotton. 

 Let’s Start with the pack

I  am bringing an Osprey Ariel 75 (fit for a women’s body). The pack is extremely comfortable and distributes the weight so I do not feel it. It has a zipper at the bottom and in the middle so you can access basically all of your pack without digging. The top has a draw string, which is designed so it can not open on its own. The top of the pack has an additional zippered compartment, providing a water proof shield for the contents in the pack…and a pillow if you fall backwards 🙂 The pack has 2 unzippered side compartments for water bottles, an umbrella, etc (these side items may fall out if checking a bag on the plane). There is also a small compartment inside the pack to hold smaller items you do not want getting lost.


– 3 pairs of shoes: 1 pair of keens, 1 pair of nicer flip flops (with cushion), 1 pair of beach flip flops + a plastic bag to wrap each pair in for packing

– Swim wear: 2 bikinis, 1 extra pair of bottoms

– Pajamas: 2 loose t-shirts, 2 pairs of comfy shorts, 1 pair of leggings

– T-shirts/Tanks: 12 Total

– Long Sleeve Tops: 3 Total

– Bottoms: 3 Pairs of Shorts, 3 pairs of yoga leggings (Designed for hot yoga, so I will stay cool), 2 skirts

– Dresses: 4 Total (1 maxi, 3 above the knees)

– Coats: Rain Coat

– Underwear: 12 pairs // Bras: 2 Regular bras, 1 Sports bra, 1 bandeou Bra // Socks: 2 pairs

– Mt. Rinjani Extras : 1 pair of gloves & Ear Warmers (ONLY needed if climbing Mt. Rinjani in Indonesia), a headlamp, flashlight & extra batteries

– Accessories: Hat/Cap, Sunglasses, Umbrella/Rain Ponchos, Laundry Detergent (I brought powder, enough for ~6-7 loads), 1 bar of vegetable soap for laundry stains,  2-3 travel kleenex packs, Mosquito Net Hat, an empty water bottle, Hand Sanitizer, a book for reading, A place to keep your passports/money/wallet/ trip papers (Find the system that works for you, I explained mine below)

– Tolietries: Toothbrush, 3 travel size floss, 18 small travel toothpastes, a brush, small comb, pony tail holders/bobby pins, 7 oz of shampoo total, 7 oz of conditioner total, lots of body wash samples, 3 small bars of soap, mascara, eyeliner, tinted moisturizer, hair detangler, bug spray with various deet levels, lots of sunscreen- four oz bottles & 4 small samples, 15 pads, 20 tampons, 1 razor with 4-5 extra heads, travel size shaving cream  ***Turn to samples!!

– Medicine: We brought Probiotics, Tylenol, heart burn medication, Benadryl, Diarrhea medicine & Malarone. Also, a First Aid Kit including hand sanitizer, antibacterial cleanser, bandaids, gauze, medical tape, tweezers, nail clippers, safety pins, etc.

-Blankets/Towels: A Travel towel, wash cloth for your face, & optional travel blanket & travel silk sleep sheet/bag (we used these almost everywhere)

– Electronics: A Camera (Along with an extra battery and memory card) and a GoPro if you have one (along with extra memory cards)

I am going to start from the Bottom Up in terms of how I packed…


I am bringing 3 pairs of shoes: a pair of keens, black Sanuk flip flops (they are slightly dressier than regular flip flops and have more cushion) and a pair of Jcrew elephant flip flops for the beach/activities involving mud (and I plan to leave them there).

Guys: 1 pair of flip flops & keens

I wrapped each pair of shoes in a grocery store plastic bag (since I am a total earth freak, I actually had to go out searching for these since I always use recyclable bags). This way, if a pair gets dirty and you do not have time to clean them, everything else will stay clean/dry. I put these at the bottom of my pack.

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Swim Wear:

I plan on living in my bikini in the Thai islands/Indonesia/the Philippeans! I packed 2 bikinis and an extra pair of bottoms. I packed a few dresses that can double as beach cover ups (in the clothing section) along with shorts and loose tops.

I am keeping the dry bikinis in the little green mesh bag, and the wet bikinis (if we need to leave a place before one drys) in the drawstring backpack, to keep other clothes from smelling like mildew/getting wet.

Guys: 2-3 pairs of trunks &  stick them in a bag setup similar to this.



PJs: 2 old college t-shirts, 2 pairs of old what I call “comfy” shorts  and a pair of old leggings. I plan on donating my pjs at the end of the trip. The shorts will also come in perfect for muddy activities (bathing elephants). When choosing pjs, think about clothes you can walk around a hostel/hang out on the couch in and be comfortable after a long sweaty day and clean shower.

Guys: athletic shorts & old tshirts that can double for other things.


T- Shirts/Tanks: 

I have 12 tops packed- 2 t-shirts, 1 short sleeve cardigan for the temples (shoulders must be covered) &  9 tanks (I took one out after the photo). IMG_5526


I packed 1 pair of lulu lemon athletic shorts, 1 pair of jean shorts, 1 pair of soft cotton free people shorts, 1 light weight skirt, 1 loose flows skirt, 2 pairs of teeki leggings (designed for hot yoga, so they are great in the heat) & 1 pair of Altar Ego Leggings (slightly warmer than Teeki, which will be good when climbing Mt. Rinjani because the summit is freezing).

Guys: Pack lots of athletic shorts, 1 pair of long athletic pants & a pair of long, light weight pants for bars/nice restaurants if you think you may be headed to say Lebua or Vertigo for drinks in Bangkok. IMG_5519

Dresses / Beach cover ups:

I packed 4 dresses (one I threw in after the photo) that could all function as day, night or beach wear. They are all extremely light weight and comfortable. I packed 1 maxi & 3 dresses that end above my knees (the dress not pictured is a racer back Athleta dress).


Long Sleeve/Jackets: 

I packed my North Face rain jacket, a sweatshirt material long sleeve top, and added in a long sleeve under armor cold gear top (for Mt. Rinjani & camping in Denver beforehand) and a flowy long sleeve loose cotton top.


Under Garments: 


I packed about 12 pairs of panties, all which I plan on leaving there; 1 sports bra, 1 bandeau bra & 2 regular bras (1 which I plan on donating)

Guys: 10 pairs of underwear should be sufficient

Warm Accessories:

I am bringing 2 pairs of socks, both of which I plan on leaving there- primarily for the airplane ride and our Mt. Rinjani climb.IMG_5521

The gloves and earmuffs (Michael has a winter hat packed) are for Mt. Rinjani.  


Since Michael and I are traveling together, we strategized Our toiletries packing. The larger bag holds all of the toiletries we will be using most often, and the smaller bag holds all of our extras (extra shampoo, conditioner, sunscreen, bug spray, floss, tooth paste, body wash, etc). Since we are always checking our bags on the flights (they are too big to Carry on- in terms of size, not weight) we do not have to follow the zip lock bag rule for the amount of liquids we can bring.

We packed various items to primarily share: 4 Travel Toms Deodorants, 18 Toms travel sized toothpastes (for 81 days), normal size toothbrush (because using a travel size toothbrush for 3 months would be just brutal), floss,shampoos, conditioners, body wash, shaving cream, Chapstick, tea tree oil facial pads, face lotion, face wash, hair detangler, a comb, 2 razors, pony tails, bobby pins, 2 elastic headbands, small sample perfumes, eyeliner, mascara & tinted moisturizer. We also packed plenty of bug spray from uncle dans with very high deet (we purchased 98%, 60% and 20%– while we typically are against deet, Laos and Lombok are both higher risk Malaria zones so we decided not to take any chances) and lots of sunscreen of various spfs. Facial Pads/wipes are great because the bag only gets smaller, verse holding onto a bottle that takes up the same amount of space regardless of how much product you have left.

The squeeze tubes are great and can be refilled while there.


I packed plenty of pads and tampons (I bought the mini Natra Care  ones at whole foods so  they take up basically no space for travel!)


THe top of my Pack (The part on top that attaches on)


The blue towel is Michael’s  and the green towel is Mine. The blue is from sea to summit (we actually are bringing 2 of these) and the green from McNett (both Microfiber towel so). I put them in a mesh bag where they can dry, and then put the mesh bag in the white drawstring bag in case we are traveling when they are wet. The green towel came with the zippered bag, but it is difficult to put it in the bag so I am keeping two wash clothes in there to dry our face.



We are bringing 2 sea to summit blankets (to function as a blanket, sheet, beach towel, etc). I put them inside a huge plastic bag to hopefully kill any bed bugs that may latch on to them throughout our trip. At the last minute, we also threw in 2 Sea to Summit Silk Sleeping Bags. 


the inside compartment of my pack:

Here we have 2 mosquito net hats from Sea to Summit (they both fold into the little pouch, and I opened one up for you to see), 2 waterbottles that we plan on leaving, an umbrella that I will leave, we each have a baseball hat (only mine is shown), 2 emergency rain ponchos, and a bag half filled with my homemade laundry detergent so I can do laundry in the tub and at our hostels/home stays that have on site laundry machines. I put the mosquito net hats, laundry detergent, rain ponchos & detergent all in a small plastic bag and put them in a the inside compartment of my pack. 


IMG_5504 In another plastic bag, we packed a safety combination lock in case we want to lock our bag up, a flash light, a head flashlight & enough batteries to replace both lights. The flashlights are primarily for Mt. Rinjani, but I’m sure will come in handy at other points. I packed all of this in a Small plastic bag and put it in a compartment in my pack.

my carry on bag

IMG_5543My carry on bag! I plan on using this bag primarily for plane flights, and then using my Sea to Summit pull out backpack (weighs nothing) when we’re out and about. I put all of our trip papers in a plastic sleeve that Velcro’s , and is really easy to get into (and everything is paper clipped inside : plane flights, hotels, activities, itinerary, & info are all organized together). I have a little bag for hand sanitizer, a mirror, Chapstick, a small spf, small nail file, & a small tube of face cream (my face gets dry on flights), eye cream, a pad & tampon. I put all of our medicine in the palm tree sleeve, including my traditional medicinals Tea and air borne for the flight. I packed tissues and a Baggie of facial wipes for refreshing ourselves (primarily when we’re walking around sweating during the day), a brush, a book for the flight, our PacSafe, my wallet, headphones, sunglasses, my camera/GoPro (I will never check this on an airplane). I also packed coloring books and bags of crayons for random kids, along with a few old Disney tops, visors, etc that I can  leave at homestays/donate. I also threw in some snacks at the end which will be gone by the time we get to Asia, including nuts, bars, pb&j sandwiches 🙂

 First Aid/Medicine: 

I love my Adventure Medical Kit- it’s waterproof, light weight and so easy to get into.
Inside, there are band aids of various sizes, travel antibacterial cleaner for wounds, hand sanitizer, gauze, waterproof medical tape, pads for insect stings/bites, dramamine, Benadryl, tablets to ease the symptoms of food poisoning, blister band aids, safety pins, nail clippers, tweezers & more.

We are bringing Potable Aqua Water treatment tablets to put in the tap water so it is safe for drinking.

We are bringing 30 malaria pills each — We chose Malarone.

We both had a tetanus booster (Rec. every 10 years) and took the typhoid vaccine again (every 5 years) before we left.

In my pill container, I have Tylenol, IB Profen, heart burn/acid reducer pills, anti diarrhea medication, probiotics and laxatives (constipation often arises on long flights/while your body is adjusting to new food).

I am putting all of our medicine in a pouch so it is all in one place, separate from the Medical Kit bag.



I packed fun, bright colored “fashion” jewelry – no diamonds, pearls, or anything worth value. 


We are bringing both of our iPhones with international plans, my Cannon Camera & GoPro. I packed the battery charger, the cord, & an extra battery in case it dies while I am out. I also packed multiple SD cards, and we packed flash drives to store the photos on if we run out of space (we are not traveling with macbooks). For the GoPro, we brought the shoulder harness and the floating buoy. We put all of the accessories in the small zippered bag, and the camera and GoPro inside a mesh bag, and then inside the medium zippered bag– adding basically no weight (and the eaglecreek bags are waterproof!


Overview of Bags: 

We brought a PacSafe to keep passports and credit cards in, and since it can act as an over the shoulder purse, I’ll also use this to go out at night. In addition, I will have my wallet during the day to keep the local currency in/have with me at the market since I find the PacSafe annoying to dig through – because it is SO secure. We are also bringing 10 extra passport photos each- in case we need them for visas, passport replacement, or whatever the situation may be and keeping them in the PacSafe.

The blue backpack is a sea to summit fold out backpack, and weighs nothing 🙂


IMG_5544We used drawstring bags (the ones you receive for free  at store checkout) to store clothes in (ex: bottoms together, tops together, etc). This makes it easy to grab the whole bag out of your pack and then find what you need within that bag.  IMG_5522  These Eagle creek bags are wonderful- they weigh nothing and are waterproof. We put electronic accessories in the smallest, electronics in the middle and my nice clothes in the largest, along with gloves/socks/head warmer to keep them from getting lost.IMG_5528

Happy Packing & Travels!