Backpacking through Asia should be a life changing experience, but if you don’t pack accordingly it might change your mood and physical well-being and simply make you switch your holiday plans.
Travelers all around the world have their own idea of what the essentials are, and it’s usually a bit different from person to person. This is because everyone has their own style and their own needs. Your safest bet if you want a carefree adventure is to listen to the basic advice every experienced traveller would give you and mix that with some personalized ideas. Always keep in mind which part of Asia you’re backpacking through. Southeast Asia is really different from Southwest Asia, so do your homework before leaving to get the most out of your trip.
Don’t pack too many clothes. Backpacking with your whole wardrobe on your back will be impractical and painful. It will wear you down and you’ll get tired really quickly. Three t-shirts is enough (really!) and a cover-up, like a cardigan or a light sweater, is a good idea if you want to visit any religious landmarks. You’ll do fine with two bottoms, underwear and a bathing suit.
Keep in mind that while jeans might seem like the obvious choice, remember denim is not exactly lightweight and can bring added weight to your pack if its wet as well. You don’t have to pack more clothes if you’re staying for a longer time, you just have to wash them, just like you do at home. It’s better to pack fewer clothes and this is why: backpacking through Asia usually takes travellers to places where clothes are really cheap. So if you absolutely need something, you can often buy it for ridiculously low prices. A good tip is to invest in a waterproof backpack to keep your clothes dry during the wet season.
The shoesAh, the shoes. They’re usually heavy and bulky and drag your backpack down. So getting something that’s just right is the best way to go. Asian weather is usually warm and humid, so your feet should feel light, airy and protected as well, in case you’re a big hiking fan. Sports sandals mix all of those up, but in case hiking is your holiday’s main event, you should pack a pair of hiking shoes. But be careful, bringing new shoes on your trip is a hiking suicide and will disable your legs for any sustained effort so make sure to bring shoes that you know are comfortable and ones you have already worn previously. If you don’t plan on doing much walking, flip-flops will work great, especially given that you always have to take your shoes off for something: going inside someone’s house, entering temples and so on.
The toiletriesYou don’t need to bring your entire cosmetics shelf with you. In fact, don’t do it. It’s not like Asia doesn’t have drugstores and some parts of the continent are known for their fantastic skin and body care products. The only thing you should consider grabbing off that shelf is your razor, some deodorant and feminine hygiene products (if you’re a girl, if not, less to carry around). Wet wipes are also a good idea, especially if your destination is Thailand, where toilet paper is scarce. Don’t say we didn’t warn you.
Bug-spray is the key. Especially during monsoon season, mosquitoes are particularly active and they can really be bothersome if you don’t have outside helpers. You don’t necessarily need to pack it, as it’s widely available in drugstores across Asia, but you really have to remember to get one as soon as you arrive. Hostels will provide you with mosquito nets, as a general rule, so nighttime is safe. Don’t go over the top with packing drugs, because you can get them when you arrive and if you need them. If you’re planning a hiking trip, get a basic first aid kit together, with some band-aids, stomach pills, pain relievers and antiseptic.
If you’re not looking for complete disconnection, some basic gadgets will enhance your experience. The lighter, the better. Choose a tablet over a laptop, a smartphone over a tablet and so on. A good camera shouldn’t be replaced by an Iphone camera, though, if you want quality pictures of your trip. A mobile phone and chargers for everything, plus a couple of cables to connect your devices to any computer or tablet are useful too.
Of course don’t forget your adapter and converter! Do some research to see which adapter is best for your destination and your electronics and make sure to look into a converter as well. Most electronics will tell you the power voltage it is convertible to but some electronics will also need a power converter in addition to the outlet adapter. You don’t want your camera’s batteries burning out right before a visit to a temple in Thailand.
Passport-size photos of you will be really useful if you want to go from one country to the next, because tourists usually get a visa upon arrival and they charge you two extra dollars if you don’t have pictures. A pocket knife will open those cans for you, not to mention you can even attempt opening a bottle of wine with it.
A towel is a good addition to your backpack, as some hostels don’t have any. Travel towels are made especially for folks who want something that dries fast and is lightweight, so find something like that. Earplugs are another traveller’s favorite, and they can be used in busy hostels located on noisy streets. Or the other way around.
Backpacking through Asia is beautiful and it needs your body, especially your back, working just right. So make sure you pack as light as you can and focus on what you do, see and hear, not what you wear.
BIO: Amber Kingsley is a freelance writer for RedSeven Leisure and has contributed to several travel sites and blogs. She has backpacked all through Europe solo and with her best girlfriends for an adventurous hen party. She knows how important smart packing is for any kind of vacation and hopes these tips will help backpackers and other travelers as well!