Southeast Asia is filled with breathtaking views, ancient temples and some of the friendliest people in the world. There are many great Southeast Asia adventures to be had in this culturally diverse area, so to maximize your enjoyment of these activities I’ve prepared a comprehensive packing list to help you prepare for this amazing experience.
Travel skirts are a great way to stay comfortable and keep cool in the heat of the day; however, you need to be cautious with the length as many temples and other sites will not permit you to enter if your skirt is too short. Exofficio’s Go-To Stripe Skirt is quick drying, moisture wicking and even includes a hidden zippered pocket for your cash. This skirt is also modest in length, allowing you to wear it anywhere. I pair my skirt with the Techspressa Support Tank, which is also quick drying and has a built-in bra making it convenient for most excursions. When visiting temples and other government sites, women are often required to cover their shoulders. In some cases, a scarf isn’t sufficient and you will need a short-sleeved shirt. My go-to shirts are the REI Northway Shirt and the Exofficio Camina Trek’r Shirt. Both tops are made of well-ventilated material that is breathable and quick drying, perfect for every adventure.
No matter where you are headed, you will likely pack a swimsuit. With it’s warm temperatures and high humidity, the climate in SE Asia demands that this be one of your essentials, but be sure to bring a 1-piece! Some areas have banned bikinis, so if you do not have a full-coverage suit, you will be swimming in your shorts and t-shirt. Also, be sure to include a Packtowl. These lightweight travel towels will not take much space in your luggage, but are great for drying off after taking a dip in a waterfall or lake.
Packing enough underwear for a long trip can seem overwhelming, but the Exofficio Give-N-Go line of undergarments will help you to be a minimalist. 2-3 pairs will suffice as the material is odor-resistant, wicking and lightweight. You can wash a pair in your hotel room at night and they will be dry by morning for your next excursion.
My favorite travel and adventure bra is the Patagonia Barely Bra. The recycled polyester and spandex material is soft, flexible and quick-drying, making it comfortable, while still being very supportive for any level of activity.
One of the common difficulties travelers experience in SE Asia is finding good, clean drinking water. A combination of a SteriPEN Freedom and a good reusable water bottle will eliminate the need for purchasing bottled water and will amaze those around you as they watch you quickly purify and drink water straight from the tap! My bottle of choice is the Travelers Against Plastic design by Liberty Bottleworks. You can drink confidently with this BPA free, 100% recycled bottle made right here in the USA.
Rubberbands and a good sun hat will keep your hair in check in this high humidity environment and allow you to enjoy the views rather than fret about your do. Don’t forget to add a nice, inexpensive pair of sunglasses to keep your eyes comfortable as well.
Keep your feet happy by packing appropriate footwear. A comfortable pair of flats is great for walking around cities and markets. Be sure to pack some sturdier light hikers such as the Keen Targhee II for cycling and hiking. A cushioned pair of lightweight sandals will go great with any travel dresses and skirts you’ve brought along for day or evening wear.
Most of the clothing I pack tends to have hidden pockets for cash and cards, but I also bring a pacsafe Camsafe V18 Bag for carrying my passport, camera and tablet around. I’ve been using pacsafe bags since my first trip to South America over a decade ago and continue to appreciate their built-in security. Pacsafe bags are slash proof and the Camsafe bag includes a secure RFID passport pouch as well as locking features for the zippers. The security allows me to take photos and enjoy my surroundings without the fear of someone snagging my camera or valuables. There is even room for a small jacket and any souvenirs you purchase throughout the day.
When it comes to pants, I seek comfort, durability and preferably a pair that can easily convert into shorts when necessary. The prAna Monarch Convertible Pant can be worn for days and will quickly shed any water when the weather turns sour. Even when converted into shorts, these are the perfect length for entry into any areas where modesty is required.
You will want a couple of long-sleeved top layers for cold or wet weather. The Patagonia Torrentshell Rain Jacket is my go-to, lightweight rain jacket that keeps me dry around the world. For cooler evenings where I just need a little added warmth, my Exofficio Sol Cool Ultimate Hoody comes along for the ride. This top goes great with pants or the Go-To Skirt.
If there is a theme in my packing list, it is that I aim for lightweight, quick-drying, breathable and most importantly comfortable clothing that allows me to focus on experiencing adventure rather than discomfort. Everything in my bag can be easily washed and dried overnight, keeping my luggage light while still ensuring I have the right clothes for a variety of activities. Below is a complete packing list from my recent 3-week SE Asia adventure, which I hope will help you pack light and comfortable for your upcoming travels.
Where's your Southeast Asia adventure going to be?
Your friendly travel gear expert,
PS: You might also like my last gear review: Torrential Downpour? The Torrentshell has you covered. Literally