Backpacking Packing List 
Toiletries and Medical Supplies

"Backpacking Packing List Toiletries and Medical Supplies" 
was last updated on April 08, 2012 
All information below is subject to change

Toiletries, © Brown

Toiletries are probably the items that will weigh the most in your backpack.

So your challenge is to consider your personal needs and determine which of them you can't live without!

When backpacking remember that...

... Nobody cares if you haven't shaved for days...

... Nobody cares if you wear make-up or not...

I'm not saying that you shouldn't be hygienic, and skip the showers.

But I do believe that the majority of backpackers, stop caring about their appearance after they've gone backpacking for a couple of months.

That's because:

  • Backpackers are on the move most of their time. When they're on the move, they usually don't have the time to apply, say, hair wax.
  • Hate to say this, but the sweat and humidity in Asia make backpackers feel that they're "dirty" anyway

I will begin with the toiletries first, then the medical supplies.

Note: The point is not to bring, say, a whole box of Q-tips. If you need more - buy it locally.

Toiletries to pack for Asia:

First of all:

Get a hanging toiletry-bag for easy placement over the door handle, showerpool etc. This way, you'll see the content.

Must-have toiletries:

  • 2 in 1 shampoo/conditioner 
  • Shower cream/citronella soap 
  • Deodorant
  • Toothbrush with cap (so your tooth brush won't get filthy or crushed in your bag), or a folding tooth brush. 
  • Toothpaste/tooth powder 
  • Sunlotion/sunblock 
  • After-lotion 
  • Q-tips 
  • Tweezers

Optional toiletries:

  • Razor 
  • Razor cream 
  • After-shave cream
  • Your facial products 
  • Cotton pads 
  • Tampons/pads/menstrual cup
  • Contact lenses + case
  • Contact lens solution

Note: Buy small packets or bottles of toiletries of things that don't run out fast, like deodorant and tooth paste.

You should also buy small bottles of shampoo, shower cream and razor cream.

If you run out these are things you can buy locally.

Remember, small bottles take less space and weight!

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Additional toiletries to consider: 

  • Hair wax
  • Hair spray
  • Hair mousse

If I were you, I wouldn't bring any of the above. If using hair wax, the humidity in Asia will just make your hair poofy or glossy. Instead, go to local beauty parlors to allow you some luxury.

  • Razor kit

My boyfriend brought extra razor blades for Malaysia, but found out that they sold these in Asia as well... If you're traveling with your girlfriend/boyfriend, and you two can actually use the same razor cream (my boyfriend used mine), I would go for that! They sell Gillette series in major cities of Asia!

  • Basic make-up

I brought my whole kit with foundation and concealer and more, but I didn't need it because of the heat and humidity. I didn't see female backpackers use make-up either. Settle for a mascara and lip gloss to allow you a little luxury.

If you really need it, you can get make-up on the road. Eyeliners and mascaras are very cheap in the big cities of Asia. 

Read more about traveling without make-up in Asia

Don't bring:

  • Electrical tooth brush set (it's heavy and takes loads of space)
  • Electrical hair trimmer (heavy as well)
  • Too much make-up

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Medical Supplies 

REMEMBER: The effects of medicines vary from person to person. The maximal effect depends on genes, diseases and more. So just because the listed medicines worked on me or a fellow traveler, doesn't automatically mean it will work on you!

General tips:

  • Make sure all medicines are clearly labeled, and keep them in their original casing. You don't want the customs and border officials to suspect you.
  • Pack first-aid kit in your hand luggage so it's available at all time. Watch out for sharp items (like small scissors in ready-made first aid kits), and put it in your backpack.
  • The medicines you purchase locally, must be legal to bring back home. Just because it's legal medicine in Asia, doesn't mean it's legal in your home country. Laws vary from country to country... even within Asia.

Note: Don't overstock when buying medical items. Buy general medical supplies locally if you run out!

The pharmacies in the large cities of Asia are usually well stocked, and the medical supplies are cheaper.

Must-have medical supplies:

  • Mini ready-made first aid kit

For the extras, get a separate bag with transparent cover. It's handy and you'll find the right medicines right away.

You should get extras like: (in addition to standard first aid kit)

  • Painkillers (aspirin or paracetamol) 
  • Anti-septic cream (for cuts and scrapes) 
  • Anti-septic liquid/wipes for your hands (use it when there's no soap around) 
  • Band-aids 
  • Oral rehydration powders 
  • Pure Aloe vera gel (for sunburns) 
  • Tiger Balm (for insect bites, sore throaths and muscle-pains) 
  • Stomach tablets (for diarrhoea and constipation) 
  • Mosquito repellent with DEET 
  • Nose spray 
  • Eye drops 
  • Wet wipes

Don't overstock on the wet wipes like I did. I brought like 12 packages because I was so sure that no places in Asia had it. I was wrong though...!

Optional medical supplies:

  • Malaria tablets (consult with a doctor) 
  • Motion-sickness tablets 
  • Antihistamine drugs

Antihistamine drugs are a must-have if you have allergies against animal hair, dust, and/or chemicals like nickel.

Even dry, cold, hot or humid climate can set your allergy off. Stuff like cheap belts, ear rings, watches or zippers can contain nickel.

If you are allergic against peanuts or other types of food, be sure to ask about the content before ordering or purchasing. The dishes usually contain peanuts, or have traces of peanuts. They tend to mix peanuts in sauces, sprinkle it on Pad Thais, fish meals and so on.The same applies if you have gluten allergy. Make sure the food is gluten-free.

Read product labels, or ask. Learn local phrases for "allergy". Bringing your own food (light food) is an option you might consider.

Check out this website, and read more about traveling and gluten-free food.

  • Blueberry tablets (rich on antioxidants, and excellent for troubled stomachs) 
  • Medical charcoal tablets

Charcoal works by binding toxic substances in your stomach, and helps an upset stomach/food poisoning. 

  • Water purifying tablets (if you're going to rural places where water is scarce) 
  • Blister kit (if trekking) 
  • Prescribed medicines (enough to last the trip) 
  • Multivitamins 
  • Condoms 
  • Tattoo cream (if you have tattoos) 

For female travelers:

  • Birth control pills

You can also buy birth control pills at pharmacy stores in Bangkok. I stocked for a year, and they worked perfectly fine. I talked to some female backpackers who also bought birth control pills in Bangkok.

However, it is highly recommendable to buy at a chain store for your health safety. Make sure you find the same brand that you use in your home country.

  • Cranberry tablets

If you get an urine infection drink natural cranberry juice, or take it as a vitamin! For instance, you can get this infection by wearing a wet panty too long after swimming.

  • Vaginal capsules

If you're prone to urine infection, vaginal capsules is a must-have. If the bacterial balance in the vagina is disturbed, it will get irritated and itchy. This may happen when overloading on washing and soaping. Or if you forget/too lazy to take off your wet bikini panties after gone swimming.

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Examples of items you can buy 
at the pharmacies in Asia:

I've tried all of these and I consider them safe (PS: I'm not a doctor)

  • Aloe vera
  • Tiger Balm
  • Paracetamol
  • Motion-sickness tablets
  • Band-aids
  • Mosquito repellent
  • Tattoo cream
  • Wet wipes
  • Antiseptic cream

NOTE: Be extra cautious where you purchase medical supplies locally.

There are a lot of fake products on the market, which can be useless or potentially poisonous  Look for signs of packages being tampered with.

Make sure they're authentic before you buy them, and watch out for the expiry date as well. Buy from pharmacies or hospitals.

Need more backpacking tips for the road? Check out my eBooks!

Further reading:

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Toiletries and Medical Supplies

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