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Proper Packing

Order of information:

1. General packing advice

2. My top tips

3. A complete list of everything in my pack, alongside everything I wish I didn't have in my pack

I read through a lot of websites explaining what to pack when traveling to Southeast Asia. These became my travel bibles during the initial research stages of the trip. As a backpacker, you really abide by that one cliche saying the only items you have are the clothes on your back. Luckily for us, this can be carried in a specialty-made pack.

For Thailand and Laos specifically, there are several essentials to bring with you:

1. Loose shorts, loose t-shirts... It gets hot, especially around this time of the year

2. Long skirt/pants to cover knees in temples

3. Long-sleeved shirt to cover elbows in temples

4. Something warm for the plane (see plane prep post)

5. Sandals, slip-on shoes, hiking shoes, flip flops for showers

6. Hair and body cleansing kits, first aid kit, etc

7. Cute, loose dresses (these are the only things you'll want to wear during the hot season)

Go to any travel blog and they'll list this same stuff. It's all important for Southeast Asia, but here are some things I've changed up a bit or found to be undiscovered necessities.

1. Old Adidas-style tennis shoes. To save space, I've skipped the whole separate slip-on vs hiking shoes. I've combined them into the form of my Adidas sneakers, which provide support and are easy to pull on and off. I've accepted the fact that they will get ruined, never expecting to see the same shade of white again, but they're already old and starting to wear. It's perfect.

2. Plastic Ziplock bags. Baggies galore! Bring lots of them! My biggest suggestion is to actually store clothes in these suckers. T-shirts in one bag, shorts in another, pants in another, you get the drill. I also divide first aid, shower supplies, jewelry and makeup, etc, the same way. This makes it easy to find clothes/objects fast, as they are securely separated and then prevented from forming a massive ball in the backpack. For this trip, I used water resistant sacks for some clothes, mesh bags for others, and different sized Ziplock bags for a few more. Each type has different positives and negatives.

  • Water resistant: As the name suggests, they're great at preventing water damage. They also are easily distinguishable if you own a few different colors, making finding clothes a breeze. The con is that they, or mine at least, are less form-fitting, and rolled-up clothes can loosen over time. Again with a backpack, space is tight. (Also notice I said rolled-up. Rolling clothes, not folding them, makes even more space!)

  • Mesh: Honestly I only used this because I ran out of water resistant bags. However, it's good to bring one with the intention of carrying shower supplies with you to hostel showers, as they dry quickly. One can hang on a hook outside of the shower, containing clean clothes. I've found that there almost always is a hook outside of shower curtains.

  • Ziplock: They're waterproof, clear, and firm. They shut completely, you can see immediately what's inside of them to grab clothes fast, and you can choose between many different sizes to get the bag that will be stuffed just enough to keep the rolled-up bundle compact. Definitely put any and all liquids in one of these guys. Bring extras to put dirty/stinky/wet clothes inside, and don't forget to have a bag for carry on liquids during the plane ride home. The one downside to Ziplocks is that they are really loud to open and search through. If you're staying in dorms with 13 other people and need to grab clothes for the day, these bags will wake at least one person up, guaranteed. Trust me, it's not taken kindly.

3. Dry shampoo. Just bring it. It's a life saver. My favorite is Batiste.

4. SteriPEN water purifier. This thing is expensive, but I wouldn't vouch for it if it hadn't proven to be so worthwhile. Your hydration is probably one of the most important things to keep tabs on, especially in hot, humid places such as Thailand and Laos. This pen -- sorry, PEN -- is like magic. It treats all water immediately, allowing you to drink water from the tap. Instead of buying bottled water or having to wait four hours for iodine tablets to kick in, the SteriPEN lets you drink a half to a full liter of water within minutes. It's incredible, and beneficial to your health.

5. Small bottle of conditioner or a similar product. Toss out that huge, heavy bottle, and replace it for a cheap 4-ouncer. If you're traveling for a month like me, there is no need to lug around a full bottle of conditioner. If you run out by the end, it also probably isn't the end of the world. I know this isn't the same for everyone, but my hair is not thin or light, and I've found this to be true. DON'T do this with sunscreen -- you'll need a lot of it.

6. Safety pins! Use these cheap babies to seal purses and backpacks to avoid pickpocketing. Just loop them around a zipper or two, connect them to the purse's chain or another piece of fabric, and bam, you're not a target anymore. They're also good for quick mends to clothes for us sewing-illiterate.

7. Bandana. This thing has so many uses, but mainly it's good to wipe away sweat. You can tie it easily to your backpack, and it's an easy wash. It comes in handy more often than anybody would like to admit.

8. Travel packs of tissues. Compact in their packages of 15 or 30, these little guys will be of use all the time. Spilled something in your bag? No problem. Messy meal on the go? No big deal. No toilet paper in this disgusting public restroom? You're covered.

Additionally, when doing research, I had a difficult time seeing posts about how much of each item to bring. How much is too much, and what will I need more of within the month's duration? After looking back at other trips and what worked then and what didn't, I finally came to a confident conclusion. I've listed my clothes below because a clear list would have definitely helped me in my planning stages. Everything is made with the lightest fabric possible, preferably made of a material that dries quickly. My backpack weighed 30 pounds, so I consider this list a relative success. However, there were some things I threw out along the way or wish I never packed, and I've included that information as well. Learn from my mistakes!

Clothes 1 rain coat 1 rain hat 1 pair striped capris for temples (haven't worn this once) 1 pair black loose pants 1 pair leggings 1 T-shirt dress 1 loose dress 1 long skirt

(wish I brought another dress because they're sooo nice!) 16 pairs underwear 11 pairs socks 1 bandana 1 money belt 1 faux jean jacket 1 jean cover-up shirt for temples 2 pairs loose shorts 1 pair high wasted jean shorts 1 pair exercise shorts 1 rust colored thick strap tank top 1 green crop top spaghetti strap tank 1 grey spaghetti strap tank 1 black thick strap tank 1 rust short sleeved shirt 1 white ribbed short sleeve crop top 1 grey short sleeved crop top with lined sleeves and neckline 1 grey short sleeve 1 black short sleeve (you could easily go with less shirts. But these were so small it's fine) 1 black bra (shouldn't have brought this -- only need one actual bra alongside the others)

1 blue bra 2 bralettes 1 sports bra 2 swimsuits 1 belt 1 pair sunglasses 1 purse 1 backpack

1 pair Adidas tennis shoes

1 pair walking sandals

1 pair flip flops 1 pink choker necklace (haven't worn yet) 2 pairs (of the same) hoop earrings (haven't worn yet) Extra stud earrings (have come in very handy as I've lost lots of earrings so far)


Face wash




Tampons (apparently they most often only sell pads in Thailand, so bring your own)

Dental Floss

Hand sanitizer

Extra tissues

Contact/glasses supplies

Shower Supplies

1 bottle shampoo

Small bottle conditioner

Half a bottle of body wash (threw this out and now use shampoo for this function after some spillage)

1 scrubbing sponge (immediately threw this out)

Daily Supplies

2 bottles sunscreen (because I'm allergic if I reapply the same kind -- definitely only recommend one. But make sure to bring it because many here are filled with bleach for extra whitening)

1 bottle dry shampoo

1 bottle travel laundry detergent


Water bottle

1 book

1 copy of The Atlantic (haven't read it yet but don't have the heart to throw it out without reading)

Important Supplies

Swiss Army Knife



Portable charger

Chromebook and charger (do NOT bring unless you're planning on blogging)

Phone wall charger

Phone to wall adapter (turns out I had the right one after my whole struggle with Roxanne's parents, and it turns out the American charger works in Thailand and Laos just fine anyway)


TSA lock for backpack

Small umbrella

1 copy of Lonely Planet's book on Thailand

1 copy of Lonely Planet's book on Laos (have since given it to people at our final hostel in Laos)

$100-worth of Thai baht before arriving (for the first couple of days to avoid expensive currency exchange fees at airports and such, and have since used it, obviously)

Extra baggies

Cosmetics and the Rest

A little makeup

2 scrunchies (have since bought more)

6 hairbands (Keeva recommends bringing a lot more and using them to hold rolled-up clothes. I think this is some of the best advice I've heard all trip)

Several bobby pins

Extra Food

1 jar peanut butter (a lifesaver)

Several packs of trail mix

Several packs of fruit snacks

Werther's Original candies

First Aid Kit

Nail clippers/files





Iodine tablets

Other medications/small necessities

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