Let's start with some basic rules for your backpacking packing list:
Note: It's better to pack too little, than too much!!!
There is always an opportunity to buy most of the listed items on this page locally.
You should bring clothing in cotton for 3 good reasons:
You can also bring a few clothes in viscose and linen.
I love wearing linen shorts and viscose dresses, because the materials breathe like cotton and are comfortable wearing. However, these curl up after washing. It's your choice.
Use long-sleeved shirts when visiting temples. It's usually required that visitors (male and female) dress modestly, covering up elbows and knees. (Dress codes vary from country to country). A long-sleeved shirt is also handy for avoiding mosquito bites in the evenings.
For female travelers, use a bikini top instead of a bra. Bikini tops are a must-have because they don't take any space in your backpack, light to carry and comfortable wearing. Find bikini tops that support well.
Tutorial: Packing checklist specifically for India (coming soon!)
Bring cargo pants if you know you'll be trekking for a long time in the jungle. It will protect you more from insect bites, leeches, ticks, snake bites etc.
The temperature in Asia is mostly hot and clammy, and your body will most likely be too bloated to fit in them. Also jeans are heavy and take ages to dry. Instead buy "Aladdins" or fishing pants locally at the market. They're comfy, loose and come in different colors.
A cheap option is to buy washing powder so you can wash undies and clothing at the guesthouse!
If you don't want to wash them yourself, check if the guest house you're staying at provides laundry service (most of them do).
Otherwise, family shops will do your laundry in a couple of hours or maximum a day. Most places charge you for per kilo. Look for signs on the streets! Depending on where you are (cheaper in North-Thailand than South), the prices vary from 10-30 B per kilo. These prices may change.
You can bring small binoculars if you know you'll be trekking a lot, and watching animals and birds.
I brought mine, but only used it once.
Don't bring items with great sentimental value. If you bring photos, make copies before leaving home.
You should not bring more than one book. Buy, sell, rent or trade books in Asia, for example Bangkok on Khao San Road or Soi Rambutri.
Wearing expensive jewelry will just attract thieves!
However, if you can't travel without, bring neutral jewelry.
For instance: I recommend bringing a pair of colored earrings or in wood.
Thieves won't see the difference between fake silver or not. Keep in mind that you're going to places where poverty and theft are huge issues. If you lose them, you'll regret you brought it.
What backpacking essentials should you bring for your trip to Asia?
What are the must-haves when backpacking in Asia? There's so much, so it deserves a separate article!
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