Or ‘How to backpack without looking like a backpacker!’
If you can travel for months with only two pairs of denim shorts and two t-shirts, this post is probably not for you. Though I do salute you!
But if you’re packing for an extended trip to Asia, want to look good but still limit your backpack weight to 15 kg, this post is most definitely for you!
Packing for a trip longer than a month can be challenging. My last extended trip took in five countries across the Middle East, SouthEast Asia and Australia, over almost four months taking me from cities to beaches to jungles to yoga retreats.
Read on to learn the 5 simple steps for packing efficiently and all the essentials you need to backpack in Asia, without looking like you’re actually backpacking!
1. Buy packing cubes
These are the best thing if you’re travelling long term. They help keep you organised, make constant packing and repacking easier and just generally make life on the road run smoother! They’re also the easiest way of keeping your laundry separate from your clean clothes. I carried four; one for dresses, skirts and shorts; one for tops; one for laundry and one for underwear, bikinis and active wear.
Layout what you think you’ll need so you can see everything. And I mean everything- not just clothes but all your toiletries and electronics too. Then start to edit. Absolutely nothing gets through unless it can be worn with at least two other items. No statement dresses here I’m afraid!
3. Chose Your Essential Items
A few black basics which will wear well when travelling plus some extra brights for the sunshine! Here were my essentials.
1 pair denim cut offs & 1 Pair City Shorts
Invest in a decent pair and they’ll last you a lifetime! Custom Vintage Dublin are my faves. Always hand wash these! City shorts are perfect for travelling as they’re cool and easy to wear without being overly revealing.
A maxi dress
I brought a Forever 21 reliable (above). Perfect as a beach cover up or for going out in the evening. Monochrome is always a good bet.
A city shift
This navy H&M number I’m wearing above (in rickshaw) looks like nothing on the hanger but it’s light and floaty so perfect for humid Asian cities and still manages to look smart. Folds up well and doesn’t crease.
A basic tee (or 2)
Being honest, I probably brought five! But two good ones will suffice.
A Breton top
Because always. I brought three stripey tops which I now realise was excessive!
Sleeveless White Shirt
Again, dress down for the beach, dress up for the city. Simples.
Black high waisted leggings
Invest in a good quality pair, that aren’t see through. Faux leather are too hot for Asia, go for cool printed ones. Good for traipsing around town, long bus journeys, visiting temples or covering up in the evenings if there’s lots of mosquitos around.
A good cover up, easy to layer over leggings, denim shorts or a dress.
Perfect for the beach, team with shorts for parties or with high waisted leggings and a denim shirt when you need to be more covered up – but still keep cool.
Hoodies are bulky and you won’t wear them enough to justify taking up so much space. A lightweight, printed flowy cardigan is better. Zara and Primark both do good versions.
One bikini good for tanning (bandeau/brazilian cut) and another (sturdier build) which is good for activties/adventuring!
If you’re a Converse fanatic, this is your time for a break. Bring a proper pair of runner that’ll do for hiking and exploring. It’ll be too hot to wear your runners day to day so you’ll be keeping them for activities.
Don’t get Primark ones and expect them to last. Havianas are of course ubiqtious but I’m a big fan of Oysho; the prints are cool and they feel less basic than Havianas.
Underwear & Fitness gear
Only one complete fitness outfit and only if you have a regular fitness habit. When you only have 15 kg to work with, now is not the time for aspirations!
4. Squeeze in a Few Extras!
The above are some seriously edited down, pared back basics. Now throw in a few extras so you don’t get bored!
A 2nd pair of denim and city shorts
A 3rd Bikini
Make it a party one i.e. brightly coloured with a design that looks great but would leave you with terrible tan lines. Wear under crops going out at night.
A floaty dress (or two)
Because if you’re like me, you’ll be bored of the same two dresses.
Bright tops and crops
Your shorts and leggings will wear well and you can change it up with lots of brightly coloured tops which are lightweight and easy to carry.
5. And Pick These up Along the Way!
Save on some space and weight by picking these up when you get there.
Flashpacker essential but too tricky to transport. Hit the markets when you get to Asia.
Flip flops are definitely the norm but you can’t beat a proper pair of real leather sandals, especially for those days you want to feel a little less backpacker-y! Real leather sandals should be only about $20 in Asia.
It’s as simple as that!
Did I miss any of your essentials? Let me know over on my Facebook page x