This is not that kind of a conventional packing list which tells you how many t-shirts or shorts you probably need for traveling Southeast-Asia, but rather a list of all those things that are not so obvious when packing for your trip. This list is about 10 things we forgot to pack and missed the most while longterm traveling through large parts of Southeast-Asia.
1. Mosquito Net (One Central Suspension)
Yes, many hostel rooms provide a mosquito net so why bring your own? That is because in most cases they are holey as swiss cheese and not safe, especially when you travel on a low budget. Just one suspension? Yeah just one, because it' s annoying enough to find one proper attachment point, but many common mosquito nets require four. We had a mosquito net which had to be tucked under the mattress and that is pretty laborious when you just have to go for a pee. Hence, we recommend choosing one with an entry for an easy hop in.
2. Ultralight Hammock
I know there are plenty of hammocks available in almost every spot. But sometimes you will hang out beside the tourist trail and at some more reclusive beaches. There is nothing better than finding your personal palm trees at an almost empty bay and chill in your own hammock reading a good book. But you better check the chance of falling coconuts - statistics shows, you are more likely to die by a falling coconut than by a shark attack.
In many regions, bungalows are the better choice than hostel / hotel rooms. Some of them have a decent hammock, but some don't. Imagine yourself watching the sunset standing at your bungalow balcony enjoying the travel brochure like view .... and now imagine that same picture with a cozy hammock.
In addition, a hammock has been used by travelers as an emergency bed in case of fully booked spots. In combination with your own mosquito net, you'll have a free or at least very cheap accommodation. Most bungalow operators will let you use sanitation if you eat/drink at their restaurant.
3. Backpack Rain Cover
Southeast-Asia is a tropical and humid destination with a decent chance of rain. But besides from protecting your stuff of getting wet, a raincover moreover serves as a dust cover. While using public transport like bus or minivan your backpack often gets tied to the roof or at outside luggage racks. Doing so, dust will find its way into your bag. This might harm your electronic devices like camera or laptop. Moreover, a rain cover works as theft prevention, because it's a psychological hurdle. It inhibits a thief of a quick grab solely he has to pull it off or cut it.
4. Sleeping Bag Liner
In Southeast-Asia, you will travel near the equator with its tropical climate. There is no need for blankets or real sleeping bags. But sleeping without anything which covers you is pretty uncomfortable. That's why we recommend a cotton sleeping bag liner. It gives you the cozy feeling of a blanket without making you sweat like hell and besides that, it preserves you from getting too close with dirty sheets at low budget accommodations.
5. The 12-in-1 Headband
We consider this as a must-have for travelers. It's so multifunctional and handy to have. Use it as scarf or cap while transport with freezing air-con. Wear it as a protection-mask during a motorbike trip on dusty roads. Or use it as a sleeping mask, whereas at long distance bus rides and get some sleep even by bright daylight. These are just a few of the countless possible uses. We never travel without it and neither should you.
6. Electric Travel Kettle and Travel French Press
This is especially useful for longterm travelers. We often missed this awesome combination. It allows you to prepare your favorite coffee or tea whenever you want it and have access to a socket. Apart from that, it's a money saver because you can skip restaurant and eat ultra-cheap instant noodles every now and then. Backpackers have a high chance to get acute travel diarrhoea or even worse during their stay. If beeing sick forces you to stay at your room for a couple of days - you'll gonna love this combination, that's promised.
7. Favorite Hooded Sweatshirt
We recommend packing one cozy and warm hoodie sweater even in spite of the general high temperatures you expect when packing for your Southeast-Asia trip. So why is that? Asian people love air-conditions. Therefore they often massively over-use them. Have you ever managed to sleep while freezing like hell. I didn't during a 10h bus ride, because I was busy shivering. Sleep and uncomfortableness aren't the ones and only reasons. Whenever you leave the bus/minivan/ or shopping mall it feels like running into a wall of hot, humid air. This sudden temperature changes increase your risk of catching a cold.
Near the equator, sun is falling like a stone during sunset. It's pitch black at 7:00 pm. Having a proper headlamp is really useful - for example on your way back to your hostel from dinner in remote areas. Or to navigate if you have shared bathrooms outdoors. If you sleep in dormitories, you do your bed neighbors a big favor by leaving the lights switched off and use your headlamp instead when coming home from partying.
Besides your backpack, you will need smaller daypack for roaming around the city or beaches. Good ones can be folded to tiny packing size and then be squeezed in your backpack when not using it. Going on a one-day trip can gather some kilogrammes of weight (water, camera, large beach towels, etc.). Because of this, a daypack should be made of a strong and persistent material on the one hand. But on the other hand, it should be ultralight weight so it doesn't unnecessarily weigh down your backpack. Some backpackers go for waterproof shoulder bags, which have obvious advantages.
10. Tablet-PC plus External Hard Drive
We, unfortunately, packed just a web-enabled e-book reader - perfect for reading and internet research. But it lacked several useful functions. For example, we always needed an internet cafe for camera photo backup, which is basically no problem at all. But here is the downside - computers of internet cafes are massively contaminated with malware, so we had to erase our external harddrive and lost a plenty of photos. Tablet-PCs have a perfect packing size and weight. Free Wifi is very common in most backpacker accommodations so you can easily do some internet research about where to go next or skype with friends and family back home. We suggest spending some Gigabytes of your external hard drive on unseen films and the next seasons of your favorite TV-series for evening entertaining.
This is about all the small things that have fully proven their great usefulness during our trip:
- Ear plugs - ideally suited for dormitories, long distance bus rides, flights and so on.
- Duct tape - can fix nearly everything.
- Some small hooks - as attachment points for your mosquito net.
- Combination padlock - you better lock your low budget accommodation.
- Dental floss - good for your teeth and can be used to fix ripped mosquito nets and much more.
- Strong cord (3-4m) - as a clothesline or to wrap/repair stuff.
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- What did you forget to pack and missed the most?
- What kind of thing would you take along, that we did not mention?
- High value suggestions will be added it to the list above.
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