This post may contain affiliate links, including Amazon Associates. This means that I will make a small commission from any purchases you make, at no extra cost to you.

If you are wondering what to take backpacking, you’re in the right place! Compiling a backpacking checklist can often be difficult but light backpacking really isn’t as hard as you think! You will be surprised with how much you can live without. This backpacking guide will hopefully give you a clear idea of what you will need to take away with you, and what some of my backpacking essentials are!

So here’s ultimate backpacking Southeast Asia packing list:


Based on my experience I would say consider 3 different bags in your backpacking checklist:

  • Large rucksack for all of your stuff
  • Smaller rucksack for hand luggage
  • Bum bag for your valuables (money, phone, passport etc.)

For my shorter 5 week backpacking trip to Europe I took the Eurohike Pathfinder 45L Rucksack. However for my Southeast Asia backpacking trip I used the 65L Eurohike Pathfinder Rucksack. The larger bag comes with a rain cover, definitely a backpacking essential. When looking for your bag be sure to check out Millets, Go Outdoors and Trespass – I’d say these are some fo the best backpacking stores.

girl in front of train with rucksack packing guide
Eurohike Path Finder 65L pictured here

A smaller rucksack should be on every backpacking checklist. This could be used as a Hand luggage bag or a day bag to take out with you when exploring, so definitely a backpacking must have. I used the 10L Karrimore Sierra 10 Backpack (also available a bit cheaper at Sports Direct). Another backpacking essential is without doubt a bum bag. Carry all your most important personal items in here to keep them close to you.

In order to organise all your backpacking gear you are going to need packing cubes! These are my ultimate backpacking necessity and should be a part of any backpacking kit. They just make everything easier and take away the frustrations that inevitably come with living out of a backpack for months. Compression cubes are excellent for lightweight backpacking.

BACKPACKING ESSENTIALS – you won’t survive your trip without these!

packing for a backpacking trip
  • Passport – this should be top of any backpacking checklist! Make sure it’s got 6 months validity!
  • Printed out copies of your passport
  • Boarding pass(es) – paper copy and copy on your phone
  • Luggage labels – name, address of where you’re staying, contact phone number and / or email address. (I did use a luggage strap but it disappeared after my first flight!)
  • ID – driving license etc.
  • Bank cards – keep them all in separate places, so if you lose one you don’t lose them all!
  • Currency – for Asia US dollars was useful to have as a back up!
  • Passport photos – essential when getting visas
  • Visa(s) – check the entry requirements for countries before you go on the Government Travel Advice website
  • Travel Insurance documents – I kept a hard copy and then a copy on my phone so I always had it to hand should I need to reference anything. Hopefully you won’t ever need it though!


I can’t stress this enough – light backpacking is the only way to go! Clothing is really easy to buy at your destination should you need and that’s why it doesn’t come highly regarded on my backpacking gear list. Make sure your backpacking clothes are clothes you don’t care about too much! The laundry service as the hostels doesn’t always leave the whites looking white. So your best backpacking gear doesn’t necessarily have to be your best gear!

One of my number 1 tips for backpacking is take a jumper or a fleece! Sunrise hikes end up being cooler than you think or sometimes hostel aircon is just too good! A Southeast Asia backpacking guide wouldn’t be complete without mentioning temples. Be aware that you may need to cover up for temples, so a kimono or sarong should be on your backpacking checklist.

Flip flops are essential backpacking gear! They are perfect for when you just want to slip something on, especially in hostels. Also ensure you have a waterproof within your backpacking supplies – take a small compact one for optimal lightweight backpacking!


packing for a backpacking trip travel liquid bottles toiletries

If you are putting some backpacking toiletries in your hand luggage make sure you have travel bottles, to ensure you don’t exceed the liquid limit. It’s best to get a set with a variety of different containers, like this one from Life Venture. To help with lightweight backpacking I took smaller quantities of toiletries and bought more when I was out there.

packing for a backpacking trip SPF lip balm

Lip balm – get your hands on a SPF one so your lips are protected from the sun UV. The higher the SPF the better so I went for the Blistex Ultra SPF 50+.

  • SPF 50 sunscreen – Suncream is really expensive in Southeast Asia because it’s only the tourists that need it. So make sure a good supply is on your backpacking checklist.
packing for a backpacking trip micro fibre towels

Microfibre towels – should be near the top of any backpacking gear list! They dry you and themselves super quick and come folded in little bags – ideal for lightweight backpacking! Best travel towel for backpacking: Mountain Warehouse have a really good range of them, but I ordered mine from Little Bodhi.

  • Toothbrush & toothpaste – be eco friendly and grab yourself a bamboo toothbrush with it’s own case!
  • Razors – make sure you have some good quality ones on your backpacking checklist. In Asia the razors I got out there were AWFUL and didn’t last long at all.
  • Nail clippers and tweezers – certainly a backpacking must have! You might not have thought about it but they’re little things you’ll definitely have lying around at home.


This is without doubt a backpacking essential because you never know know what might happen! Try and grab a travel first aid kit which should contain most of the essentials, and you will get a useful, small first aid pouch! Make sure you’ve got:

  • Plasters / blister plasters and bandages
  • Antiseptic wipes and cream
  • Paracetamol / ibuprofen
  • Malaria tablets (if you need them!)
  • Mosquito spray – 50% DEET MAX. PROTECTION
  • Bite and sting cream – Tiger balm is amazing for insect bites!
  • Water purification tablets – I’ve never used them but its good to have them in case of emergencies

If you are prone to travel sickness, try motion sickness bands or take some travel sickness tablets, something that was definitely one of my backpacking necessities as I made a lot of long bus journeys along windy, bumpy roads.


  • Phone – I took my usual iPhone and then a spare phone in case my phone got lost or broken. Don’t forget a couple of charger leads too!
  • Portable phone charger / battery pack – any backpacker will tell you this is a backpacking essential! Excellent for when you need to charge on the go.
  • Universal adaptor plug – these have every single different plug type in. Also get one with USB ports so you can charge more than one thing at once.
  • Laptop and protective case – so you can blog on the go!
packing for a backpacking trip go pro action camera

Go Pro Hero 7 Black – this is an amazing action camera, with excellent stability and films in 4k should you want it. It was definitely a great investment andone any traveller should make!

  • Go pro accessories – I definitely recommend getting the Supersuit as this will protect your GoPro when you’re doing more adventurous stuff. For a good value, wide variety of other accessories I went for a multi pack from Amazon.
  • SD cards – for your GoPro you will need micro SD cards. Amazon do some good offers on the SanDisk ones.
  • Use iCloud! – I pay 79p a month for 50gb of storage which is totally worth it to have all your photos backed up and safe. You never know what could happen to your phone.


  • Pillow case and sleeping bag liner – on the off chance you come across dirty bedding in a hostel!
  • Travel wash and laundry line – in case you want to wash the odd item, or the hostel doesn’t offer laundry services!
packing for a backpacking trip life straw water filter bottle

Water bottle with filter – having a reusable water bottle is always a backpacking essential in order to keep plastic waste to a minimum. When the water isn’t potable you will need something with a good filter! The ‘Life Straw’ means you can fill you water bottle up from anywhere and the water will be safe to drink, a great investment in your backpacking kit!

  • Ear plugs – because sadly a lot of snorers stay in hostels!
  • Bin liners for dirty clothes
  • Eyemask – brilliant for long journeys / night buses and when the hostel curtains don’t stop the morning sunlight coming in! A 3D one is often the best and comfiest.
packing for a backpacking inflatable trip neck pillow

Neck pillow – a backpacking must have on long flights and bus journeys! An inflatable one saves space in your luggage and Memory foam is always a good bet.

  • Small torch – you never know when you might need one, plus it doesn’t take up much space and is super useful.
  • Padlock – to keep everything safe in the hostel lockers. A combination one is best because you don’t need to worry about losing the key!

I hope this ‘Backpacking Southeast Asia Packing Guide’ has given an insight into backpacking essentials, the best backpacking backpack to purchase and how you can succeeded at lightweight backpacking. Good luck compiling your own backpacking checklist!

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