Your big backpacking trip to South East Asia is coming up? Bought a cute and fancy backpack but have no idea what to fill it with.

This feeling is often shared by even the most experienced backpackers especially when they are travelling to places that they have never been before. First of all, there is no such thing as perfectly packing for a trip. There will always be things that you have to buy along the way, improvise with what you have and just be resourceful. This article aims to make sure that you have the essentials you need to successfully backpack through South East Asia over a few months.

“Backpacking is the art of knowing what not to take”

As I mentioned in the very beginning, backpacking is all about eliminating what you do not need. Even something that only weighs 5 pounds can feel 10 times multiplied by weight when you have been walking for some time with your backpack. The joy of backpacking lies in its . Do not over-pack your bag and suffer through your trip just because you wanted to pack some extra outfits. Here are 8 essential items that you need in your backpack. (In no particular order) Enjoy your adventure!

1 – Clothes

Packing your clothes is often the most difficult task in the whole packing process. You do not want to overpack, but then you do not want to under-pack either. Especially if you are travelling for a month or more, it is important that you have enough clothes to last a while without having to worry about what you are going to wear the next day. Here is a small guide to give you an idea about the must-have clothes. Always keep in mind that when it comes to backpacking, less is more.

Essential Items You Should Carry In Your Backpack - clothes

  • Lightweight tops in different colours which can be layered and also mix and matched
  • Long-sleeved shirt/t-shirt
  • Sweaters/Jacket for cold weather
  • Cardigans to layer with tank tops when needed
  • Shorts and Long pants
  • Leggings
  • Dresses/Skirts
  • Comfortable walking shoes/ shoes if needed
  • Lightweight and wool socks according to the weather
  • Rain jacket
  • Underwear
  • Scarf/Shawl

2 – Toiletries

Staying clean and hygienic is essential when you travel both for your travelling experience and your health. While you can buy toiletries from the places you travel to, it is always good to have a toiletry bag packed with you at all times.  If you want to take this bag with your carry-on, it is important that you are compliant with their liquid limit demands to avoid any confrontations. In general, it is less than 100ml per bottle. Put the liquid items in a clear zip-lock back to make the clearing process easier for both yourself and the TSA. Following are some suggestions that can go to your toiletry bag.

Essential Items You Should Carry In Your Backpack - toiletry bag

  • Dental hygiene products (toothbrush/toothpaste, floss)
  • Hair care products (hairbrush/shampoo/conditioner/hair oils)
  • Deodorant
  • Sunscreen
  • Makeup (lipstick, mascara, simple tinted moisturizer)
  • Soap/Facewash
  • Feminine hygiene products
  • Facial Tissues

3 – Snacks / Food

A hungry traveller is an angry traveller – you do not want to be that! It is always good to keep your backpack packed with some snacks and dry when you want to eat something along the way. You never know where you can get hungry! This is especially important if you are a trekker and will be in places without easy access to food at all times. Following are some of the suggestions for the snack items that you can pack. Always make sure you check the airline regulations about food if you are flying.

travel snacks

  • Dried fruit
  • Pretzels
  • Nuts
  • Protein bars
  • Seeds (sunflower, pumpkin)
  • Granola bars
  • Jerky

4 – First Aid Kit

You never know when you will face an emergency health issue when you are travelling. You could fall and injure yourself, get a sprain, have a headache, stomach problem and many more things. It is always good to keep yourself prepared for at least the basic aid items at least until you can go to a doctor. Even if you do not need it, you can always help someone in need when you have a well-thought-out first aid kit with you. Apart from the first aid kit, make sure you check with the country you are travelling to whether they require any vaccinations done before you enter the country. Safety first!

first aid kit

  • Pain relievers
  • Bandages, band-aids
  • Vitamin C and throat lozenges
  • Medicine for diarrhoea
  • Medicine for any allergies you have
  • Motions sickness pills (if needed)
  • Sting reliever
  • Thermometer
  • Sanitisers

5 – Important Travel Documents

As a traveller, you are always bound to have your identification and travel documents with you at all times. It is better to keep a separate organizer with you to keep your documents together since they are some of the most important items you will have in your backpack. These documents include your passport and visa, any verification or identification you need specifically for the country that you are travelling to, your personal government-issued ID card and student cards from your academic institution if applicable and any -related documents you have.

travel documents

Moreover, this is also where you organize your cash and credit/debit cards that you are taking with you. Take copies of all these documents, and keep them in separate places in your bag in case you face an emergency.

6 – Charger and Adaptors

Being connected is one of the most important things when travelling. There are advanced electronic devices with us at all times. Make sure they are effective by remembering to pack your chargers, power banks and any needed plug adaptors in your backpack. Keeping a few extra of these items is also a smart thing to do. Since we are depending a lot on our phones from keeping communication to reading maps, a dead battery is the last thing you need when travelling. Keep your electronics charged at all times, since you never know when you will need them!


7 – Water bottle

Travelling while hydrated and dehydrated are two extremely different experiences. You do not appreciate the value of a sip of water until you are dehydrated and desperately looking for some. Make it a habit to keep a water bottle with you at all times. It does not have to be full to the brim all the time. But never let it go completely empty. Ideally, keep a filled water bottle in an accessible place in your bag, and keep an empty water bottle inside your bag to use when needed.

reusable water bottle

8 – Safety items

Keeping yourself and your belongings safe is one of the biggest priorities for travellers. Therefore, always do not hesitate to give an extra layer of security to your belongings and the place you are staying in. Keeping a few padlocks handy in your backpack can come useful in many situations. If you are staying in a private room at a hostel alone, you can use it to add an extra lock to the door. You can use it to secure your lockers and even your backpack itself.

Take with you a wallet with RFID protection. RFID wallets feature a layer of carbon fibre preventing the electromagnetic fields from reaching your cards.

Passport locked away