2016 is a great year to travel.
But what to pack?
Here’s the key: Less is best.
I spent about 8 months travelling in S.E. Asia. In that time I visited four countries: Thailand, Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia. I could have done more, but I wanted to get to know each location rather than just ripping through taking selfies.
I always saw backpackers (usually women) with these massive 80-120 litre backpacks. They look awkward and miserable. Travelling like this sucks for so many reasons: Baggage costs add up. It takes longer to pack and find things. You risk getting robbed when you put your pack under or on top of a bus. And it’s just tiring to lug massive packs around in the sweltering, humid heat of the tropics.
I did two 4 month Asia trips with a 44 litre Kelty Redwing. Travellers were always amazed that I had such a small and light pack. I bought it used for $40. But if I went back, I’d definitely pick up one of these Osprey Farpoint. They’re perfect! I could write a whole post on backpacks, which I might do later.
You can buy clothing in Asia for 1/4 the cost of North America. Laundry services are $1 a kilo. Delicious and cheap street food is bountiful. And you can’t spit without hitting a guesthouse or hostel.
So pack light. Pack efficient. Think 1 pair of pants, 2 pairs of shorts, 3 shirts, 2 pairs of socks, 4 pairs of underwear.
Most of the following gear you cannot find easily in S.E. Asia.
This isn’t a whole packing list. Just what I consider essential gear for minimalist travel in hot climates
Note, if you buy any of this stuff from my links, I receive a small commission.
Here’s a list of my essential items:
Compression (Stuff) Sack
A compression sack compresses all of your clothes. It’s amazing how much you can squish down. Essential for space management.
For dirty laundry. Also useful for keeping things dry.
Pacsafe Travel Safe
I don’t trust safes, backpackers, locals, or cleaning ladies. Hostels are basically thieves guilds. And it’s easy to rob a backpack. The Pacsafe travel safe is my top favourite travel item. Made from a metal mesh it can’t be cut into. It has a wire that you can cinch to your bed, or under a sink. It’s small, flat and weighs practically nothing. I used it for my laptop, passport, camera, money.
I remember having a four hour layover in Manilla, and I was exhausted. There were so many sketchy looking dudes there, and I couldn’t keep my eyes open. So I stuffed all of my expensive things into the Pacsafe, looped it through by backpack from inside, secured it all to the bench and took a nap. Unless someone had bolt cutters, I was safe to nap. Seriously, get one.
I don’t want to say it’s dangerous in Asia. It’s not. Asia is awesome! Check out Maverick Traveller’s posts on S.E. Asia. But it is a poor region and you should have your guard up for petty thieves.
$100 U.S. Currency in small, untarnished bills
Having $100 in American has saved my ass more than once. Bank card lost, credit card not working. Get small bills as most Laotian’s can’t break $50’s. Keep them crisp because they won’t accept old ones.
Packable Wind Breaker/Rain Jacket
Just a lightweight jacket for those rainy, cold evenings. I’ve been caught out on a scooter in the middle of a mini typhoon before. In Northern Thailand and Vietnam, it can be scorching in the day, and quite nipply at night. get one you can fold it up into a little ball and fit in your day bag.
Merino Wool Underwear
Cotton underwear is horrible. Your ass n balls will sweat, get soaked, and stink. Wool underwear is expensive, but it wicks away sweat, stays cool on hot days, and warm on cold nights. Wool is anti-bacterial. Do yourself a favour and grab three pairs. That’s all you’ll need for a week. Just don’t tell the girls you multi day your undies. But who cares. If they’re backpacking their $4 undies probably smell worse than your $30 briefs.
For light in the dark when you need both of your hands. Like when it’s late in a dorm and you need to find something in your pack.
First aid kit
Get the basics like band aids, iodine, and pain killers. Trust me, you’ll use it all at some point. Add some hydration salts in case you get sick and need to rehydrate. There are pharmacies everywhere in Asia, so you’ll always be able to find what you need.
Just bags for organization. I like Eagle Creek. More the merrier. I have one for documents, one for electronics and cables, one for miscellaneous junk, one for toiletries. One for gold, rubies, and various treasure.
Kindle Paper White
It holds 2000 books, is backlit, and last two weeks on one charge. I love it. Read my books.
Micro Fibre Towel
A small, quick drying, lightweight, anti-bacterial towel. Can be used many times before it stinks.
A place to keep large amounts of money and credit cards. Wear it while you sleep and outsmart pickpockets. I want a waterproof version next.
Many people get by just with their smart phone or a tablet. I’m a blogger, so I need a good, lightweight, high quality computer. This is probably my most stressful item to travel with, but I love my Mac. Totally priceless for booking flights and hostels, researching destinations, watching movies on planes and trains.
But it is expensive and the Apple brand screams “Hey, steal me!” That’s why I have my Pacsafe.
Any smart phone is fine. But having a camera, a computer, GPS map system, and Google translate just rules. I might switch from Iphone since my last phone was stolen while I was swimming with a Russian model in Thailand. Most expensive romance adventure…ever.
Collapsable Plastic Cup
You always need a cup, for…drinking things. This one compresses. Flat and small.
Plan to be getting laid. Man, woman, bring your favourite rubbers and lube. Asia Condoms are small and cheap. I like Trojan. I brought lots and used them all mostly with one girl who travelled with me. Good times. Sigh. She lives in Mongolia.
Inflatable travel pillow
Sleeping sitting upright sucks. This will keep your head from bobbing around like a drunk baby. It’s inflatable so it doesn’t take up space.
Don’t travel without insurance. That’s just dumb. It’s not that expensive anyway. I use BCAA.
Ear plugs and eye mask
You’ll want these for sleeping pretty much everywhere. Trains, planes, hostels. Lights will come on and off. You will hear…things. Farts, giggles, moans, snores. Not sleeping sucks.
RFID blocking passport holder
This isn’t essential, but it’s just cool and useful. And my friend designed it. Hold your passport, cards and small bills in an RFID blocking wallet. No hacker is gonna steal your Baht!
These are just my essentials.
the general idea is to be highly organized, and minimalist. Most carriers have a weight limit for carry on luggage. I was able to get my entire backpack, with everything inside of it, down to 14lbs (6.3 kilos), which was easily enough to carry onto any flight or bus.
But I fear loss. I spent much time making her as light, efficient, and awesome as possible. If she was stolen I would cry for a day…and then move on.
This is my list. Yours might be different. You might want a taser, or nipple clamps. As the Thai say…Up To You!
***Let me know about your essential travel items in the comments.***
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