Packing for 4 Months in SE Asia


About 2 weeks before we left for 4 months in SE Asia, I started frantically googling “packing list 4 months SE Asia” or “packing list 3 months SE Asia” or “packing list 4 months around the world” or any other similar variation I could think of. Lots of people have written plenty of posts about their packing list, but I’ve been asked about mine, so I thought I would share. I didn’t find anyone else’s list that I followed exactly for various reasons – mostly because we brought really small bags and my minimalist husband harped on me to keep what I brought to a minimum (because he knew that I would be filling my bag with fabric to bring back!). What follows is what I brought and a few suggestions about what I would do differently next time.

  • 3 tank tops
  • 2 button down shirts
  • skirt
  • linen pants
  • 2 dresses
  • tee shirt (to wear as pajamas)
  • swimsuit
  • 7 pairs underwear
  • 2 bralettes
  • leggings
  • lightweight wool sweater
  • lightweight down jacket
  • rain jacket
  • slip on shoes
  • sandals
  • scarf

Sop Jam weaving family

TOPS: 3 tank tops and 2 button downs was a good number. The 3 tanks were RTW that I purchased at the last minute. They were rayon so they were light weight and dried easily. I made one of the button downs and bought one RTW. One was a light linen and one a light cotton. I found that I wore them almost every day. They kept the sun off my fair skin so I didn’t have to put sunscreen on my arms and they gave me the coverage I needed to be respectful in temples and other holy places. I recommend getting these in light colors. I also carried my scarf everywhere because it could warm me up if we stopped somewhere that was too air conditioned or I could wear wrapped around me instead of a button-down for sun protection or modesty.

BOTTOMS: My one skirt got really, really old by the end of the trip. I’d bring a second one if I ever did this again. I made this skirt (unblogged) to fit loosely around my lower waist and hit below my knee. The looseness made it comfortable in the heat (even if it’s not the most flattering it could be) and hitting below the knee was essential for being respectful entering temples. I added a pair of leggings to my bag half way through the trip as it really expanded my options for when it did get chilly and I could wear them to sleep in if the room was too air conditioned (since we found sometimes the option was either full blast or none at all). The wide leg linen pants I brought were great almost all of the time – a couple of times I wished that I had narrower leg pant to wear, such as when we rode an elephant or went trekking. The “tourist pant” (an elastic waist rayon pant) was sold cheaply everywhere so you can pick up a narrow leg along the way if needed.

pink floral dress and monkey

DRESSES: I’m totally a dress person and my only mistake in this regard was bringing two dresses that had fit problems. Totally my fault for frantically making them in the 4 days between our wedding and our honeymoon (stupid choice, yes, but it felt really important at the time). One was a lightweight linen and the other was rayon, both fairly loose and below the knee so they were comfortable in heat and dried quickly. I would have lived in these had I not been irritated with the fit every time that I did.

UNDIES: 7 pairs of underwear was a good number. I probably didn’t need quite that many, but they don’t take up much space and it was a lot more convenient to wash several pairs of underwear in the sink every several days instead of a couple every couple of days. One swimsuit was plenty, although pay attention to how well your suit fits you and think about whether you’ll be doing much swimming or snorkeling since then a supportive, well-fitting suit matters a lot more than just lying on the beach (in the shade). I wore bralettes for the trip and was glad not to have had cups or underwires.

mud trekking in Sapa

SHOES: I brought one pair of canvas shoes that slipped on and one pair of technical sandals. If you’re into outdoorsy stuff and are planning on actual trekking, you will want a pair of ultralight hiking shoes or tennis shoes. I kinda wish I had brought a pair. A pair of good fitting, supportive sandals works well for walking all around towns and light treks. I made the mistake of bringing a pair that had leather straps that stretched out after getting wet so I had to buy new sandals in the middle of the trip.


WARM THINGS: Having a nice lightweight wool sweater was amazing – it keeps you warm but breathes and doesn’t get smelly. I wore it a lot, more than I thought I would (in the evening, on airplanes, in air conditioning). I bought an Icebreaker merino sweater (in a men’s size so it would be long enough in the sleeves) and recommend every penny of the splurge. I barely wore the down jacket on the trip, but on the few times that I did I was very glad I had it. I get cold easily, so if you don’t and you’re not going during the winter, you might not need the jacket. I also loved having a nice rain jacket, even though I only wore it a few times as well. Again, the few times I did, I was very, very happy to have it. There are cheap plastic anoraks available everywhere and Adam opted to buy a couple of those along the way instead of carrying a rain jacket, so that’s also an option.

Note: We also went to Australia and New Zealand in the middle of our trip but we bought a new, warm wardrobe when we were there and then mailed it home since it was SO cold in NZ.

Comments 4

  1. This post brought back so many memories of frantic packing! I did lots of semester abroad as a student, and then lived abroad for years, so there was a lot of “I need to pack everything I’ll need for ___ months in 2 suitcases!” freakouts. I had panic attacks a month before leaving all the time, until I taught my self the mantra “You can buy it there.” Glad that approach worked for you too in a pinch! :)

    1. Post

      I was actually amazed at the fact that I could have bought just about everything there! The only thing I absolutely couldn’t find was shoes that fit since I have very large feet, so I had to get my replacement sandals during the week were back in the States.

  2. Great post! I always find it really hard to pack for trips. I end up with a few things that I don’t wear and others that get worn to death. My absolute staples are a large jersey scarf (worn as a scarf or a wrap); a week’s worth of undies (as you say better to do a weekly ‘smalls’ wash) and natural fibres (they may wrinkle, but they are always comfortable and they press easily if needed). :)

  3. Erin, I could never do this in a million years. I bring a huge suitcase when I go away for 5 days. Maybe one day I’ll be forced to pack light, but until then, I bring a ton of crap with me everywhere. :) This was a really interesting post – thanks for sharing. And congrats on being so resourceful on your trip!

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