I shared my packing list before I left for my trip to Asia, and I thought it would be useful to show how the list changed when I returned to the US for a couple of weeks in October. The red text shows changes from the original list, and the blue text contains additional notes.
- 3 2 tank tops. I got a free tank top in Krabi, Thailand, which I used as a backup for sleeping. I tossed it in Nagoya, Japan since I rarely wore it.
- 6 t-shirts (1 for sleeping)
- 2 pairs of shorts
- 3 pairs of athletic shorts (1 for sleeping)
- 2 1 skirts. I originally packed one skirt and then had a long one custom-made in Hoi An, Vietnam. I had grand visions of prancing around temples in Southeast Asia in a flowing skirt. Nope, totally impractical: dragging a heavy skirt through dust was the last thing I wanted to do in the humidity. The long skirt sat in my backpack for a few months until I finally got rid of it in Bali. It was way too bulky, and I never wore it. An expensive lesson.
- 2 rompers. These were also custom-made in Hoi An. Unlike the long skirt, these were worth the investment. Since the backpacking scene in Southeast Asia was so casual, I got away with these as my default “going out” outfits. I received compliments about the fit from complete strangers – a nice ego boost. Thank you, Kimmy Tailor.
- 1 pair of gray jeans. I was surprised I actually wore these a few times in Southeast Asia. They got heavier use in Japan.
- 1 pair of leggings. I wore these more than I thought I would and kind of wish I had brought another pair. These leggings were my go-to for motorbike rides, bus and train rides, and temple visits.
- Casual black dress
- Belt. I wore this all the time with my shorts. It was getting raggedy, so I tossed it right before leaving Japan.
- 2 1 sweaters. I started with one sweater, which was good enough for my travels through Southeast Asia. When I got to Sapporo, I was freezing since temperatures were in the low 50s. I desperately needed another layer, so I bought a wool sweater from Uniqlo. I didn’t love the style, but it did the job. I tossed it at the same time I got rid of my belt.
- Rain jacket. I would have liked an umbrella as well, but it would have taken a lot of room in my backpack.
- Underwear (10 pairs)
- Bras (3 everyday and 1 sports)
- 2 swimsuits
- 2 pairs of socks
- 4 3 pairs of shoes (1 pair of sneakers, 1 pair of boat shoes, and 2 pairs of sandals). My sneakers were over five years old and had seen things. They got muddy on a hike in Nagano, so I decided to bid them farewell. I was happy to wear boat shoes on a daily basis; not quite as ugly as Tevas but still comfortable and sturdier than sandals or flip flops.
- 3-1-1 bag (most of the following items were restocked at least once during my trip):
- Moisturizer with SPF
- Shampoo. Sunsilk is everywhere in Southeast Asia, and it’s the best. It left my hair so soft. I was sad when I couldn’t find it in Japan.
- Conditioner. Difficult to find in the Philippines, but I didn’t have a problem getting it anywhere else. Also, it was glorious to get rid of my shampoo and conditioner when I was leaving Japan. They were ridiculously bulky and heavy.
- Face wash
Body lotion. I slather on lotion at home, but I didn’t want to lug around another big bottle. Southeast Asia was humid enough that I could survive without lotion.
- Eye cream. I normally use eye cream at home but didn’t pack it to save room in my backpack. I don’t know what I was thinking since the sun in Southeast Asia was unforgiving. I bought a tube of eye cream in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.
- Nail clippers
- Bug spray. Bought in Hanoi and so, so necessary for parts of Southeast Asia. The bottle had Hello Kitty on it, which made it even better. I could have tossed it after arriving in Japan, but I held onto it until I was about to leave.
- Vitamin C. I had to take vitamin C until June as part of my recovery from laser eye surgery. For some reason, I never mustered the nerve to toss these.
- Band-aids. Never used!
- Go Pro
- Chargers and adapters
- Extra memory cards and batteries
- Earphones. So vital, although my ear drums may never recover from the music I blasted to drown out snoring roommates.
- Small crossbody bag
- Hand mirror
- Compact mirror. This broke in half about a month into my trip, but I still kept one half.
- Travel towel. Useful but a bit of a pain since it didn’t take much time for the towel to smell (TMI?). I usually rented towels from my hostels and used the travel towel only at the beach or for diving.
- Headlamp. Bought for my trek up Mount Rinjani.
- Ear plugs. Not as powerful as earphones, but still effective against lighter snoring.
- A couple of plastic bags for dirty clothes
- Backpack rain cover. Great for the frequent rain in Southeast Asia and Japan.
- 4 3 TSA locks. Incredibly valuable. I used these on hostel lockers, and they offered peace of mind whenever I left my backpack in my room. I mysteriously lost one lock, so I’m going to buy a couple more.
- 6 packs of Ice Breaker mints. I ran out of these in Malaysia and never found an adequate substitute.
- Playing cards. These cards have survived a lot of games over the years and were already worn before I left for Asia. They continued to endure a lot of abuse once I was on the road, and I lost at least ten cards over the course of my trip. I’ll be replacing these.
- Folder for documents
Overall, I was pleased with my packing list. I wore or used every item besides the custom-made skirt I bought in Vietnam. That said, it was so freeing to get rid of items toward the end of my trip. Packing light is the only way to go.
I can think of only one item that I didn’t pack and wish I had brought:
- Ziploc bags. Some backpackers are adamantly anti-Ziploc bags since they’re noisy. If you stay in a dorm room, you’ll probably wake at least one person if you’re rustling Ziploc (or any plastic) bags while packing. Still, I wish I had brought extras, especially since I had a couple of leaky toiletry bottles. They also would have been useful to store smaller items. However, I couldn’t find Ziploc bags in convenience or grocery stores in Southeast Asia. The few Ziploc bags I had originally packed got crinkly and torn by the end of my trip.
I’m still in love with my Tortuga V2, my main backpack. On the other hand, my tote bag drove me nuts. I liked carrying it while walking through cities, but the thin straps strained my shoulder. It was completely impractical for treks; I borrowed day packs for hikes in Malaysia and Indonesia. The zipper started getting misaligned in the Philippines, so it would take at least a dozen tries to zip it properly.
I greatly prefer carrying a handbag or tote over a backpack while sightseeing, and I dislike the pregnant turtle look when carrying two backpacks (one in the front and one on the back). However, even I have to admit that a day pack will be more practical for South America, where I’m planning to do a few hikes. I’m going to suck up my pride and bring two backpacks.
I started traveling in South America in late October and had to adjust my packing list to account for the colder weather. I’ll share that list shortly!