A Woman Backpacker's Guide to Packing Light for Southeast Asia

Juni 10, 2015 6 min gelesen



Ladies, you’ve done it. You’ve booked your plane ticket to Southeast Asia…a most exciting and pivotal step in planning for your life-changing trip. Now, it’s time to buckle down and think about resources, gear and a backpack.

Southeast Asia is filled with varying cultures, where conservative tradition is highly regarded when it comes to women. You will also experience a myriad of changing climates and environments, from chilly nights in the mountains to dry, arid heat and tropical, humid jungles and beaches. Traveling light and knowing what to pack is a priority, especially when all you’re working with is a backpack. Here are tips for ladies when it comes to packing for Southeast Asia.
Choosing a Backpack
It’s not uncommon to see girls lugging around body-bag sized packs, stuffed to the brim when wandering Southeast Asia. They can be spotted contorting their bodies in odd positions to wrestle them onto their backs, or struggling determinedly to get the monstrous pack from their back and into a luggage compartment or hostel locker. This can be avoided with careful planning and preparation.
When choosing a backpack, aim for a small size. I went for a 45 liter + 10 for my six month journey through five countries. Starting small forces you to minimize packing immediately without the temptation of extra space to fill. It was nice having the extra 10 liters available if needed, and there were many pockets and zippered pouches that come in handy. Try to stay under 60 liters, and not only will your life be easier, but your spine and shoulders will rejoice.
Check out the lightweight Venturesafe™ 55L GII (W) anti-theft travel pack by Pacsafe. It was designed with the female form in mind and comes with plenty of anti-theft technology protection when crossing the borders.
Dun, dun, dun…Clothes
Oh man, this is a toughie for us ladies, am I right? How do you pack practical clothing while striving to look cute at the same time? I ended up overpacking clothes and either sending the majority of them back home, losing them, or just giving clothes away.
As you jump into the world of  travel, you’ll find that all this material stuff isn’t a necessity, and losing them isn’t a big deal. You learn to live with very little, and appreciate the items you do utilize.
Keep in mind that  you will most likely be able to buy what you need once in Asia, for lower prices than you would find back home. Travel sized toiletries are in every shop. You will be dazzled by the cute clothes at markets and find yourself looking for room in your pack for new purchases. Bring the essentials from home, such as shoes, bras, underwear, and swimwear.

Lay out the desired articles and then remove half the lot. Here is my list of recommendations:

  • One pair of quality sandals, good for copious amounts of walking. I went with Birkenstocks, and I will never go back to anything else. Not only are there tons of cute style options out there, but they were so comfortable that I even wore them for all my trekking trips, even uphill treks.

  • One pair closed shoes/sneakers.

  • One pair of nice evening sandals

  • Two dresses or one dress and one long skirt. Aim for cotton, solid colors that are easy to wash and can be worn for both day and night activities.

  • Two pairs of shorts

  • One pair of leggings for active wear and lounging

  • One pair of flowy pants (I recommend waiting to buy a pair upon arrival, as they are literally for sale everywhere, come in a variety of styles and patterns and are cheap). Essential for visiting temples.

  • One scarf (these can be found for sale in the markets). Essential for visiting temples.

  • One sarong. This can be used as a cover up, blanket, and towel!

  • Two bathing suits

  • One pair of good quality, breathable socks (if you prefer to wear closed toe shoes to sandals, then pack more pairs…but I primarily wore sandals, so I didn’t need socks too often).

  • One warm sweater or jacket

  • Two comfortable cotton sports bras or bralettes

  • Five assorted tank tops and shirts.

  • Five pairs of breathable, cotton undies.



Other Essentials…
Those Lonely Planet guidebooks are awesome for planning, but also take up vital space in your backpack. Invest in an electronic reader for the trip. There is so much you can do with it while saving heaps of space in your bag. Leave the thick Lonely Planet book at home—you can download them for free on a Kindle.
  • Headlamp. Trust me on this one. Just have one handy.

  • Water purifier/filter. Water bottles are the go-to in Southeast Asia, and they are cheap, costing just cents. But, it’s always good to have some sort of water purification equipment handy, just in case. I would recommend the SteriPEN Ultra. It’s compact, easy to use, USB rechargeable and uses a UV light to kill 99.9% bacteria and viruses found in water.

  • Battery charge dock. Great for emergency charging when in the middle of nowhere.

  • Waterproof bags. These are essential to bring. Do your research and find the right size/match for you. I went with this cheap set on Amazon. They are perfect for added protection from wet conditions.

Medications & Vaccinations
Women sometimes have to deal with certain issues on the road, such as UTI’s or yeast infections, menstrual cramps, etc. Changing climates, constant moving, dehydration, and exposure to new bacteria can wreak havoc on the body. If you are prone to these kinds of infections, I would advise visiting your doctor at home and discussing the trip and your health concerns. Ask if it is possible to have antibiotics on hand in case you find yourself in an unfortunate position while abroad. There are clinics and hospitals in Southeast Asia, of course, but not always within reach, and communication can be difficult due to language barriers.
Also discuss vaccinations with your doctor. Go over what they recommend and what you already have done. Look up a travel clinic in your home town and pay them a visit. They focus specifically on traveler health and can recommend hospitals and doctors to see in SE Asia. Waiting to arrive at your destination and then visiting an international clinic for vaccinations can be a huge money saver. It’s also nice to get advice from doctors that actually live in the country and know what is absolutely needed for the area, as opposed to doctors back home.

  • Bring a folder with copies of your passport and vaccination chart.

  • Tampons. These can be difficult to find. Bring a big stash of your own from home. I would also advise bringing condoms from home. They can be found in SE Asia in big cities, but in rural areas, you just never know. Always keep toilet paper on you as well.

  •  Swiss army knife

  • Cheap sunglasses! You will go through several pairs. Knockoff Ray-Bans are sold throughout SE Asia.

  • Make up: Why not bring a little bit? I stuck to my favorite mascara, eyeliner, powder, lipstick and perfume. Sometimes it’s nice to dress up and go out after all those dirty days on the road.



Extra Packs
Theft is something to think about when packing. Along with your big pack you will want a smaller backpack for day trips and a purse that can be kept close to your body at all times. These smaller, durable Pacsafe bags are great for protecting against prying fingers.
Venturesafe™ 15L GII anti-theft day pack:Includes 5 anti-theft features and built for comfort with a padded molded back support, padded shoulder straps and sternum strap.
Venturesafe™ 25L GII anti-theft day pack:Roomy, but still lightweight, this pack is great for long outdoors trips.
Citysafe™ CS50 anti-theft cross body purse:Keep peace of mind when carrying your passport and cash with this dandy little purse. Protects against bag slashing, features turn and lock security hooks and more.
Courtney Lambert
Courtney is a full-time writer covering soccer, travel and the outdoors. You can find her scouting out hole in the wall joints for the perfect carnitas taco, jumping in the ocean under the light of a full moon or exploring the beautiful Florida wilderness and documenting her adventures in her blog, www.localtravelgal.wordpress.com.

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