Adventures in Southeast Asia: What to pack for a year abroad

I can hardly believe it is less than two weeks until my year of adventure begins.  As my departure date nears, I’m doing all the final checks to ensure that I have everything that I need.  The first time I went backpacking in Asia, I made the same mistake that many first-timers do which is to pack everything you think you could possibly need.  I was so wrong.  Pretty much anything that you’d want or need can be found overseas.

So what should you pack?  The essentials.  Also keep in mind that you’ll want to buy stuff when you’re abroad as well, so ensure you leave plenty of room for those items.

As I’m a bit OCD about packing, I’ve had my bag packed for nearly two months.  For me, it gives me the time to think about everything that is in my backpack and decide if I really need it.  I’ve cut down the number of items and weight of my pack significantly over the past few weeks and now feel comfortable with what I have.

I will be spending the majority of my time in tropical climates which certainly makes things easier, but I also plan on doing a few mountain/volcano treks where temperatures can drop, especially in the evening and early hours. My destinations include:

Philippines, Vietnam, Laos, Thailand, Burma, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Goa and Kerala

My List of Essentials to Pack

Main backpack North Face Base Camp Duffel Small (42 litres)


  • 4 pairs of shorts: I always pack two pairs of denim shorts and 2 pairs of cotton shorts.  I like denim for days spent exploring, but also to wear on a night out.  Cotton is great for days at the beach.  Given the humidity in most of the countries I’m visiting, clothes take a lot longer to dry so I like to be prepared!
  • 5 vest tops: I love having a few to choose from, and I’m an avid collector of beer vests (see my Chang one in the photo!).  My favourite style though is a drop arm-hole vest.  It’s lightweight and comfortable and looks really cute with a bikini underneath
  • 4 bikinis: I like having a few to mix and match, but these can also take time to dry in humid climates so always good to have a few
  • 1 kimono or sarong: These are great if you are planning to explore sacred/religious areas as many of them require that your shoulders and legs are covered
  • 1 dress: Because sometimes I feel like dressing up a little!  I have a lovely knee length white summer dress from H&M which is perfect for those moments
  • 1 pair of jeans: If you plan on trekking in cooler climates these can help keep you warm but also protect your legs from vines or other plants that scratch or are poisonous
  • 1 waterproof jacket: I love my Jack in a Pack.  It’s compact (see photo), lightweight, has a hood, pockets and is waterproof!
  • 1 sports bra: Great for trekking!
  • 2 pairs of socks: If you plan on trekking these will prove invaluable!
  • 5 pairs of underwear: Wash your delicates as you use them!  Given I will most likely be spending a lot of time in a bikini no need to over pack here 🙂
  • 2 bras: Again, a lot of my time will likely be spent in some form of swimwear, so no need to over pack
  • 1 small handbag: I bought this yellow handbag in Bangkok last year and it has proven to be very handy!  It’s great for days spent exploring my immediate surroundings as it is big enough to fit the essentials – money, camera, phone
  • 1 towel: I personally don’t pack a towel anymore because it takes up too much space and I’m not a fan of those microfiber towels that everyone raves about.  I tend to just buy a cheap towel wherever I am, and leave it with the hostel staff as they usually wash them and lend them to guests who are in need

Day Pack / Carry-on bag Osprey Sirrus 24

Packing this bag is almost more important than packing your main pack.  If for some reason your checked luggage doesn’t make it to your final destination when you do, you’ll want to be sure you have a few essentials when you arrive.


  • 1 pair of shorts: As I’m departing from London in December, I will be travelling in jeans but as soon as I arrive in the Philippines I will want to get out of those and into something much cooler asap!
  • 1 hoodie/jumper: I always get cold on planes, so I like to have a little something to keep me warm
  • 1 pair of sandals
  • 1 hat: Protect yourself from the sun!
  • 1 pair of sunglasses
  • 1 mini toiletries pack: I always bring deodorant, moisturiser, sunscreen, toothpaste, toothbrush, mouthwash and hand sanitiser
  • 1 camera: You’ll more than likely have your phone, but I love using my GoPro to capture my adventure from the moment I land
  • Chargers: Whether its your phone, music device or camera make sure you have all the required chargers with you
  • Money/debit/credit card:  It’s always good to have a little local currency upon arrival for taxis/tuk tuks, etc.

Electronics and more

This list of course varies from person to person depending on where and how long you’re travelling for as well as your personal preferences, but my list has remained consistent with each adventure.


  • Camera: I always take my beloved GoPro and I also use my iPhone
  • iPod: Although I can use my iPhone for music, I prefer to have a separate device so I can save memory on my phone for my photos
  • Chargers: Don’t forget your adapters, but also any special chargers you may need.  I always carry
    • International usb travel adapter
    • 2x iPhone/iPod cables (just in case I lose one or it breaks)
    • Dual battery charger for my GoPro
    • Portable charger – great for giving your devices a boost if you’re going to be away from a charging point for more than 8 hours
  • Torch: These are great for overnight trekking but also just to help find your way in lowlight areas
  • Padlock: You will want to keep your belongings safe, especially if you’re staying in a hostel.  Most hostels will provide a place for you to keep your valuables, but you will need your own lock!

Let the countdown continue – 11 days to go…

Until next time, happy travels! 🙂

-Nicole x





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