Packing List for Seven Months in Asia

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So, how do you pack one small backpack for seven months in Southeast Asia?

It’s not easy.

I’ve agonized over every single item in here.  And yes, I’m well aware that I’ve overpacked.  I couldn’t help it.  But I’ll send items home if I need to.

When it comes to clothing in general, I’m like Michael Kors — I LOVE fashion, but I’d gladly wear the same outfit every day.  (Black shirt, jeans and tall boots in my case.)  So I’m not agonizing over lack of variety.

Here is what I have in my backpack:


Three short-sleeved shirts.

Five tank tops.

There is actually another bright blue sleeveless shirt that my mom bought me and hid in my bag, so I added it.

The pink and purple patterned shirt works well as a dress-up outfit with the black ruffly skirt.


One pair black leggings.

One pair black yoga pants (not of the damn-my-ass-looks-FANTASTIC-in-these super-clingy variety.  I figured those were too much for Sri Lanka.  These are loose.)

Two pairs long shorts/capris.  (Prana.  LOVED the black ones so much I got another pair.)

One pair short shorts.

One pair super-short pajama shorts.

One sarong, which I plan to wear as a long skirt often.

One black ruffly skirt.

Other Items

One blue American Apparel Le Sac dress that can be worn in many ways.

One zip-up sweatshirt.

One three-quarter sleeve black shirt.

One thin purple cardigan-style shirt.  I plan to keep this in my daypack often for visiting temples.

Bathing Suits

Two bathing suits.  The one on the right is the one I got at the Robert Verdi party that I attended in July.

One yellow bandana.

Three pairs socks: two short and white, one longer and black.

Three bras (one strapless) and a bunch of undies.  No pics of those, ya pervs!


One pair sneakers with my super-arched insoles inside.

One pair Teva sandals with strong arch support.

One pair flip-flops for the showers and possible low-key or beach wear.

Every article of clothing fits into my Flight 001 Space Pak, which I also received at the Robert Verdi party.

So, where will I put my dirty clothes?  OH WAIT — the other side of the SpacePak is designed for that purpose!

This is the SpacePak standing up.

The Spacepak takes up most of the space in the backpack, but it’s worth it to have all my clothing in one place.  It’s a pain finding things in a top-loading backpack, but this makes things significantly easier.


Shower: Soap (that big bar has been replaced by a small one), razors and blades, deodorant.

Skin: Facial soap, moisturizer with sunscreen, benzoyl peroxide, hydrocortisone.

Hair: Solid shampoo and case, comb, Biosilk, hairspray.

Teeth: Toothbrush, toothpaste, floss, retainers.

Makeup: Foundation, eyeshadow, eyeliner, sharpener, mascara, lip gloss.

Lady Stuff: Diva Cup (guys, don’t ask), backup tampons.

Other: tweezers, nail clippers.

First Aid

Medication: Antibiotics (one for Thailand, one for elsewhere), Aleve, Immodium, Pepto-Bismol tablets, Benadryl, Sudafed.  I plan to buy malaria pills in Thailand.

Injury: Band-aids, assorted bandages, antibiotic spray.

Other: water purification tablets.


Hair elastics and pins.

Two pairs of earrings (one silver, one indigo) and watch.


DEET mosquito repellent.


Combination padlock.

Sleep sheet.

Eye mask and earplugs.

Moneybelts (one for the waist, one for around the neck).

Laundry soap.


Copy of passport.

Moleskine notebook and pens.

Business cards.

Guidebooks: Lonely Planet’s Southeast Asia on a Shoestring and Sri Lanka.

Book to read and later exchange: Abundance: A Novel of Marie Antoinette.

A few other items not worth mentioning.


Toshiba NB300 and case.  I LOVE this computer.

Canon Powershot SD 1400 and case.

iPhone, functioning as an iPod Touch while I’m away.

USB drive.

Various plugs and wires.

One converter — it will work for Thailand, Laos and Cambodia, but I’ll need to buy one for Malaysia when I arrive.

It all fits into three bags: my REI Venturi 40l bag (though I have the smallest model, so its capacity is 38l or so), my REI Zip Travel Daypack, and a cute crossbody purse that I found at Target.

Not coming with me are two remnants of my childhood: my FAVORITE placemat in the world, which I would stare at every night, having my family quiz me on countries; and the atlas that I would pore over with equal obsession.

I’m happy for little Katelyn, who would watch Carmen Sandiego every night, who would head straight to the geography section in the school library, who would teach herself French and Spanish however she could.  Her dreams are coming true!

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69 thoughts on “Packing List for Seven Months in Asia”

  1. I love packing list posts. Not to 2nd guess, especially cause I am not a woman, but seems like you have a lot of clothes there. The pants, especially, take up a lot of room. One thing you will like about SE Asia is dirt cheap laundry. You are going to be able to clean (quickly) for very little money. Other than that — looks like a great list. You might ask about malaria pills when you get there and talk to folks that have been a while. I don’t think I bothered in SE Asia and if you are there for 7 months, you might not want to also (that is a long time to be on those pills — can screw with your liver, I think). Exciting. Enjoy!!

  2. Yay! I’m so happy for you–have a great time! I love the last line of your post about little Katelyn. That’s a big part of why we pursue our dreams, isn’t it? There was that part of us when we were young that thought anything was possible. We shouldn’t disappoint them. Yay little (and big) Katelyn! Good luck!

  3. “A few other items not worth mentioning” I must read far too many packing lists, I tried guessing what that could be by rereading your list… yes, I have a bit of an addiction to knowing what people take travelling. :p

    Sounds like you have everything you’ll need! Well planned!

  4. That last bit made me misty-eyed. Especially as I see my 9 year old pour over travel books and is already talking about where she’ll go, or not (Kansas) her gap-year. And on a much more shallow note, that floral bikini is sooo cute!

  5. I’m impressed by your packing list. I suspect you’ll end up using some of those clothes items much more than others – I always do 🙂

    One thing I find useful is to bring with me old clothes which I then throw away after they get dirty and then buy a few new cheap ones along the way IF needed.

  6. Great list Kate. Complete but essential.

    From my side, I can say that next time I’ll go to Asia I’d really like to live with a pack close to zero. You can buy everything over there at a very cheap price, so I’d likely to take my chance and travel with an empty backpack (apart from laptop and camera…)

  7. You’ve put togeather a great list.

    I wish I could have a 40L backpack, but I have a 60L… gotta take SLR camera, laptop (digital nomad), and my skateboard. Ugh. Don’t wanna lug it all around, but I have to have it! Just like you have to have your clothes!

  8. You won’t run out of clothes!:) I generally go with “less is more”. Clothes are cheap and easy to find in SEA, and so are toiletries. I also make use of the great cheap laundry services available in hostels or close by. That also cuts down on the amount of I have to carry.

  9. I think you did a great job packing. All you have to be comfortable with is that you can carry it around today. I’m packing myself right now and know I’m bringing a few extra things that I could cut out. I figure those confidences will come back and I’ll find my austerity again after a bit.

  10. I may have missed it in your extensive list but don’t see anything for rainwear?! Believe me ….you will need it…although you could always invest in the plastic capes that are sold everywhere and cheaply.
    When it rains in SE Asia it really rains….having just spent a fairly soggy month in Borneo and a couple of years ago it was pretty wet in Vietnam. So I also suggest at least one small towel…which I also can’t see.An extra very light sarong can double as a towel when necessary.

    Personally I would be leaving out a few of your tops etc as you can buy extras very cheaply if you need them….and taking either the yoga pants or the leggings!

    Otherwise a very good list. Have a wonderful holiday!

    1. Hi, Gail — I did forget to mention my microfiber towel. I did not pack any rain gear — I think I’ll wait to see how it is. So far, in 18 days, there has been only one rainstorm…and I think I weathered that one just fine. 🙂

  11. Awesome list! While you might think you overpacked, I always think it’s better to have too much than too little and as you said you can always send items home if you need to.

    I’d love to know what missed the cut and didn’t make it into your backpack!

  12. Earl Squirrelson

    I think that’s a great list!! You have packed what is important for you, which is all that matters. I must say, being a bloke I travel with a 65l plus a 30l so you well and truly put me to shame with your packing and elimination skills. Might have to follow your example for my next trip I just booked and paid for…

    Have a great trip, be open to new things, people, conversations, spur of the moment little trips and anything else that pops up (thats legal of course)


  13. Great list! Well organized! One thing though, Asia is HOT!!! I mean, REALLY hot!!! I had brought out long sleeve shirts for temple days, but with the blazing sun and high humidity, wearing long sleeve shirts were almost torture! The extra weight gets to be a pain too in the end. By suggestion, only bring one long sleeve but add a sarong. Sarongs can work as a beach cover-up, make shift bed sheet, light travel blanket, rolled up pillow, impromptu change room…etc. Oh, and LOVE the diva cup! =)

  14. You had me at “Michael Kors” ahh I love you even more now!!! I love him too~

    I love reading packing post. Something about them is just so interesting. I guess i like to know what every one it traveling with!

  15. I’m so happy for you Kate!! Whoohoo! All these packing lists will come in handy when I finally pack up! Have a great trip, and I love that Space Bag, what a great thing to have! Can’t wait to get your first tweet and post from SE Asia!

  16. Thanks for sharing your packing list Kate! Really helpful for our upcoming trip soon.

    I am absolutely in love with that AA Le Sac dress! As someone who loves fashion, i’ve been dreading the limited clothes that I can fit inside my backpack.

  17. Great list. You have done really well. Welcome to your new home. I’m so jealous. I’ve been complaining all day of how much s*** we have accumulated. I really only want this backpack

  18. What a coincidence! I have the same REI backpack–I used it when I backpacked in Europe last summer, and now use it just as my weekend bag. I love it–although I must admit, I picked it mostly for the color 🙂

  19. Oh my goodness, what an endeavor!!! Making packing decisions is hard for me when I’m just going somewhere for the weekend… I can’t imagine trying to pack for a trip like this!!!

  20. Something you should add or buy when you get there is a thin scarf. You can use this as cover up at temples… and trust me, you will rather want to use this then your current shirt idea because of the heat and humidity. Take up less space in your day bag and has many other practical uses. Including some extra warmth in the night if you need it. (like northern Thailand can and does get cold at night)

    Also, great choice on the Lush shampoo bar! However, I would even suggest bringing an extra or 2 as you can’t find that in Asia when it runs out. Bonus… store the extra in your space bag in the wax paper bag they come in and it keeps everything in your bag smelling fresh and yummy!

    Aside from all this… every single new long term backpacker will overpack. It’s all part of the experience! We did too. =)

  21. I’ve got the exact same teva sandals but in purple – they are really comfy! You have packed a lot lighter than Poi and me! We are still getting rid of small things here and there, I’m sure I’ve bought too many clothes but…. i dont want to part with them!

  22. Hi!

    I just want to say this; don’t pack too much! I live in China (if you need a couch in Shanghai, contact me) and everything (also clothes!!) are cheap if you bargain! Take the essentials only, so some jeans and shirts, underwear and the rest you can buy when you actually need it. Beside that the most important things are medicine/first aid, your phone, pasport, insurance and a map (also write down important phone numbers, just in case your phone dies on the way).
    Good luck and wave if you’re in the neighbourhood!

  23. I love that you won’t post pictures of your underwear, yet you openly mention the Diva cup.
    I am curious about the antibiotics – how many are you bringing? Are you taking them the entire time you’re on your trip, or just one pill?

    1. Hahaha. I have the feeling creepy dudes won’t be making sexytime to mentions of a Diva Cup.

      My doctor recommended two: one for Thailand, and one for everywhere else (Cipro). They’re for if I have any diarrhea/dysentary issues. There’s a strain of bacteria in Thailand that may be immune to Cipro, so that’s the reason.

      1. Kate, about the malaria meds, how many did you buy in Thailand?? Did you also get vaccine shots? And if so, which ones??
        I’m about to leave for 6 months in Asia and I went to see a doctor that told me I needed to take malaria meds the whole time I’m there, one a day, for 6 months!!! This seems expensive and not very realistic (to be traveling with so many pills), but I don’t know, is it really necessary?

  24. I’m very impressed with the kit list Kate and how you have done it into an article – absolutly brill! But what a lot of stuff – which doesn’t seem to matter at all as it seems to magically dissapear into those two small bags. Are you related to Mary Poppins at all?! I guess youa re getting up to 60 liters with the daypack as well? Gotta ask – being a technology type person and taking a lap top and now buying or bought an iphone, why are are you hefting ‘real’ books around? Also, a week into it – how it the packing working out? Wish you brought something else or are you ditching things?

  25. Not a bad go at it for a first timer – but as others have said you have over packed – hope you do a folow up of the stuff that you send home! Actually I wouldn’t send it home I’d give it away – we regretted throwing away worn out shoes in Vietnam when we found them for sale in Cambodia.

    Even in parts of Thailand and certainly in Malaysia and Sri lanka the sleeveless tops are totally inappropriate – if you start getting hassled alot its because you are dressed as a prostitute as far as the locals are concerned. You will also find that a loose cotton short sleeved shirt and a skirt is actually cooler than tank top and shorts – because they are looser – skirts work better than shorts/trousers in squat loos (or the side of the bus – you will probably get that in Sri Lanka not Thailand)

  26. Perfect! There are so many packing lists from guys, and it’s great to see one from a girl – I don’t wear makeup all the time, so I figure I shouldn’t bring it, but if I take a lot of pictures of myself it might be worth the extra effort…

  27. Hi there! I am completely obsessed with your blog but have never contacted you so here goes!

    I need your advice, or anyone else who is reading too!


    I am flying to Asia in November to travel for four months. I will be splitting my time between Thailand, Vietnam, Nepal and India before heading to London for a few weeks and then I’m moving to Germany to study for 12 months.

    I am so unsure as to what type of luggage to take! At the moment I have one small suitcase with wheels (it’s a cabin-sized one but can be expanded), and also a leather backpack that I will primarily use as a ‘walking around the city’ bag, but can also double as some extra space for whatever might not fit in the suitcase.

    I originally wanted to buy a 50L backpack that also had wheels and a detachable smaller backpack that I could take for day trips, but now I’m not sure that I need the extra backpack on it as I have my leather one, so it seems it would be a waste.

    I am unsure about the small suitcase I have, however, because I know you can’t always wheel it around and sometimes it’s necessary to carry it on your back. What is your advice on this? Is this true? And how difficult would it be with a suitcase, rather than a backpack, in Asia?

    It is also difficult as I am moving to Germany at the end so I have thought of leaving a bag of warmer clothes at home and having it sent to my friend’s house in London so I can pick it up from there and take it to Germany.

    Any advice you have would be fantastic!!!

    Thank you!

    1. Don’t take a suitcase. Everyone will make fun of you. Wheeled luggage is nearly useless in most of Southeast Asia — the roads are not made for pulling luggage. BACKPACK! And just send the warm clothes to Germany — you don’t need to drag them around Asia.

    2. as Kate said – don´t take suitcase. My friend did that mistake year ago and it ended up making a video-blog/movie about how ridiculous that idea was. he had problems even in Bangkok (not mentioning everywhere else we went). But everybody else around had a great time watching him fight his own luggage:D
      No really, take a backpack. You don´t really need wheels in Thailand/Asia, except maybe at the airport.

  28. Hi Kate! I love reading your blog and I was really excited when I saw this packing list. I was wondering though what you would have changed on your list now that you are done this trip and many others. Is there anything that you wish you would have left at home or always take now? I am traveling to south east Asia in the fall and I am starting my own packing debate. Thank you for sharing your traveling adventures with us!

  29. What kind of day pack should someone bring to SEA? I kind of like the idea of a XS classic Timbuk2 messenger bag. Or I was going to bring a packable fabric slouchy tote. But I’m fearful I will be pickpockted all the time.

    What do you recommend? A small messenger with a lot of pockets or a day pack?

  30. Hi Kate,

    I also wanted to ask, how can you get away with not checking your baggage like this? As you have 2 (3 including the purse) pieces of luggage, I guess you’d have to check the biggest even though it is of hand luggage size, because Air Asia only allows one piece I thought? That and there would be liquids inside.

    Thanks and as always, great post!

    Safe and fun travels


  31. Hi Kate,
    I’m going to SE Asia for the first time next week and found out today that malaria pills (Malarone) would cost $290 from my pharmacy here in the U.S. I see in the above story that you planned to buy pills in Thailand. How did that work out? Do you think most visitors take malaria pills while in SE Asia? I’ve heard some people have bad side effects from them. Do you have any recommendations about whether to take them or not?

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