How and What I Packed for 4.5 Months in Southeast Asia (as a female backpacker)

Here is my video of how I packed for my 4.5 month stay in Southeast Asia: 


Now that I've been on the road for a few weeks, it seems silly that I was so worried about packing everything as a carry on. It has been the easiest travel I've ever done; I will likely never pack a checked bag again. My pack was heavy, but with the hip and chest straps, it was incredibly comfortable. I also didn't really trust Brandon when he said, "oh you can buy clothes over there." My experiences with buying clothing in foreign countries has never gone too well. Either the clothes were just awful or way too expensive. SOUTHEAST ASIA IS THE EXCEPTION! So much variety, and very affordable! They don't have everything for everyone, but for the purposes of staying comfortable and cool in a very hot, humid climate, I was pleasantly surprised. That being said, I've already thrown out various items of clothing because I know I won't be wearing them, and I want room for new stuff!

Also I didn't go into explaining the electronics/camera bag that Brandon and I packed separately. There are items that, now we're here, we're ready to send home with Brandon's sister Brittany when she leaves in 10 days. Brandon's new iPhone 6 has almost eliminated our need for our DSLR camera. It's pretty incredible. Brandon is planning on doing a video to explain and review what we brought in the camera bag. Stuff we wished we had known!

Below is my breakdown of what I put in my 55L pack and how I feel about it now that we've been traveling for a few weeks:


-5 cotton tank tops (already threw out one undershirt; WAY too hot for an undershirt)

-2 polyester "dressier" tank tops (I've been wearing them, but they should've been left at home)

-2 black cotton dresses (one basic tube dress to wear at night with sarongs and one looser to relax in)

-1 pajama dress that has doubled as a day dress

-2 loose patterned beach pants (could've left one pair at home; would've preferred a pair of leggings instead)

-4 shorts (3 jeans, 1 sport; could've done more sport shorts)

-1 polyester cover up

-2 bathing suits

-2 long sleeve shirts (1 was for travel from NYC, but I could've probably left the other at home; might be useful as we travel up North where it's cooler)

-12 pairs of underwear and 4 bras (no regrets here)

-3 pairs of sandals (flip flops, birckenstocks, and a pair of Teva "adventure type" sandals; the jury is still out, but the Teva sandals are definitely one of the best things I bought for this trip: comfort and practicality win)

-1 pair sneakers (haven't needed them much at the beach, but definitely will for activities later in the trip)

Things I wish I had packed: more cotton, more loose tops, one more bathing suit, more loose dresses, a very light zip up hoodie or sweater

Things I definitely should have left home: everything polyester/rayon, extra unmatching bathing suit pieces (not sure where my head was at for that), and pants

Things I've bought or want to buy: SARONGS (they're amazing in so many ways; can be purchased for about $7), loose men's style cotton tanks (usually with Thai beer logos), a crocheted tank, another bathing suit, and dresses


-I brought travel sized everything (toothpaste, body wash, shampoo, contact solution, etc.) and it has lasted me almost the full time we've been away (2 weeks). The only full size toiletry I brought was deodorant (no regrets there). I have only had to buy new shampoo & new contact solution since I've been on the road.

-Waterproof makeup (more specifically, eyeliner, mascara and concealer; not at all essential, but nice to have when you feel like wearing a little makeup)

-Tampons (they are not popular here)

Things I wish I had packed: face wipes (left a bag at home), cloth headbands/wraps, eye makeup remover (waterproof mascara is a God send but the worst to get off your eyes!), more suncsreen

Things I definitely should have left home: hair smoothing serum (no point, your hair looks ridiculous in this heat), face powder/bronzer, perfume (it attracts bugs!), and my hair straightener

Things I've bought or want to buy: shampoo (it runs out fast having long hair), hand soap (most places don't have any in the bathrooms), more travel sized kleenex

First Aid:

**This was the least important in the packing stages, and has proven to be a really awesome resource. DO pack a first aid kit. It's not that this stuff isn't accessible, it's just that you never know where you'll be and what you'll need in certain situations. 

-band aids (between bug bites, blisters, scrapes, etc, we will be refilling these very soon)

-Neosporin (antibiotic ointment)

-anti-itch cream (bug bites are KILLER when they start itching)

-Ibuprofen (or other OTC pain killer)

-stomach relief medication (we got generic pepto in pill form and I will say this is essential as your body gets used to new foods!)

-OTC Sleep aids (we only use when we desperately need sleep on uncomfortable trains, planes or buses)

-motion sickness pills

-basic first aid materials: butterfly bandages, alcohol wipes, etc.


Things I wish I had packedliquid skin bandages (actually thinking about asking friends coming from home to bring this; cuts and scrapes on the feet need to be closed up quickly and effectively), better anti-itch cream

Things I definitely should have left home: vitamin C packets and tablets

Things I've bought or want to buy: more band aids and ibuprofen


-iPhone 5

-Surface 2 tablet (great for reading books through the Nook app and watching movies on the road)

-travel pillow (essential as a backpacker; budget travel is fairly uncomfortable)

-small clutch

-wallet/cell phone holder wristlet

-fanny pack

-2 pair sunglasses

-ring box (I wanted to have a safe place for my engagement ring if I needed to take it off)

-small tackle box of jewelry

-small travel size microfiber towel (has been so awesome to have; it dries us off really well and saves us from toting around a huge towel)

-passport holder

-dry bag (this has been a seriously important item; has doubled as a purse for most of the trip so far)

-waterproof phone case (haven't needed it yet, but I will)

Things I wish I had packed: a small, thin blanket (hostel sheets aren't the worst but sometimes at the end of a long day, I wanted to cuddle in a soft blanket)

Things I definitely should have left home: one of the clutches/wallets (I really should've picked one of these things and left the rest at home), one pair of sunglasses

Things I've bought or want to buy: a purse, possibly a thicker sarong to use as a blanket

What I've learned:

-Packing for this trip was a huge stress, but looking back, it didn't need to be. You should trust your instincts and knowing the types of situations you'll be in is a huge help (are you camping? are you doing outdoor activities? are you sitting at a resort for your whole trip?). But as usual, hindsight is 20/20.

-Most hostels will provide towels. Some hostels provide shampoo & body wash.

-If you have any doubt with an item; ditch it. Leave it at home.

-Toiletries are pretty similar everywhere you go.

-Backpacking is incredibly efficient and easy. My 55L pack was allowed on as a carry-on on planes, trains and buses with zero issues.

-Using the separate bags within your larger bag might be the best thing I've done for this trip. It keeps your bag incredibly more organized. I cannot imagine what my pack would look like without them.