International Travel, Itineraries & Trip Planning

What I Packed for 5 Months in Asia, from the Himalayas to Southeast Asia

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When I left on my funemployment trip through Asia, the only plans I had was to start in Manchuria and work my way south as the weather got colder and to meet my boyfriend in southern Thailand for Thanksgiving. So I packed mostly warm weather clothes and a few layers for autumn in China, all rolled into a new 46L pack I’d bought after years of using a 30L. (For reference, a regular carry-on in the U.S. is approximately 45L. Check out this chart on carry-on sizes on various airlines.) Here’s what I packed for 5 months in Asia in a 46L pack and a small backpack, with packing tips and tricks to follow.

Too busy to read the whole thing? Here are my top travel must-haves

backpacking packing list 46L
With my trusty 46L pack.

My Packing List

It’s definitely possible to pack much lighter than this, but I wanted to do laundry as infrequently as possible, so I packed a little more. If you’re looking to be the next Instagram star, this packing list definitely does not give you room for a closet full of flowy dresses and floppy hats.

Wherever possible, I’ve linked to the exact item I brought with me.

Clothes & Shoes

  • 1 pair of jeans
  • 1 pair of shorts
  • 1 pair of convertible hiking pants
  • 2 dresses
  • 1 jumpsuit
  • 1 scarf
  • 2 pairs of leggings
  • 1 sports bra
  • 1 workout top
  • 1 set of PJs (aka old shirt & pants)
  • 1 thermal top
  • 1 thermal bottom
  • 1 leather jacket
  • 1 rain jacket
  • 1 sweatshirt
  • 1 sweater
  • 5 tops
  • 2 tank tops
  • 2 bikinis
  • 15 pairs of underwear
  • 2 bralettes
  • 1 hat that was rarely used and promptly donated
  • 7 pairs of socks
  • 1 pair of hiking shoes
  • 1 pair of flip flops
  • 1 pair of Grasshoppers (great walking shoes)
  • 1 small crossbody bag
  • 1 tiny, foldable 4L daypack

Other things

  • Quick-dry towel
  • Toothbrush & toothpaste
  • Floss
  • Razor
  • Nail clippers
  • Facewash
  • Dr. Bronner’s
  • Tweezer
  • Comb
  • Deodorant
  • Contact lens solution
  • Contacts & contact lens cases
  • Glasses
  • Tampons, pads, and pantiliners
  • Medication
  • Travel laundry clips
  • Earplugs
  • Sunscreen
  • Light makeup
  • Sleep mask
  • Passport
  • Credit and debit cards, some cash, a few blank checks
  • Master lock
  • Extra passport/visa photos
  • Headlamp
  • Small first-aid kit
  • Power adapters
  • Sunglasses
  • External battery packs
  • Water bottle
  • Book
  • Cellphone and charger
  • iPad mini and charger
  • Small notebook and pen
***I did have to pick up a down jacket and a set of Uniqlo HeatTech clothes along the way in order to survive December in the Himalayas. I was fortunate to get an old down jacket from a cousin that I could donate when I left the Himalayas, but you can also purchase a “North Face” one in cities like Kathmandu for $20-30.

How to Pack Light

So what’s the secret to packing light for long-term travel?

  1. Limit the size of your pack. For me, the 46L pack plus small backpack was already much more space that I had been accustomized to, yet given the space, I easily filled it. So don’t be Cheryl Strayed from Wild — buy a smaller pack and don’t overpack.
  2. On that end, try to pack at least 1/3 of your bag with toiletries, books, and other things you’ll need along the way, even if you can buy it at your destination. This way you don’t pack too many clothes and your pack will get smaller as you use and throw out these items.
  3. Pack clothes that are utility players. Can you layer it, use it for multiple things, match it with basically everything else in your bag? If not, it’s highly likely you should leave it at home.
  4. Choose clothes and shoes that you can chuck along the way. It’s a great way to clear out your closet and really get some last-minute mileage on those old pieces that are on their last legs.
  5. Whenever possible, deposit your smaller daypack, if you have one, at your hostel or hotel and stuff it with as much of what you don’t need as possible. It’s great for occasions like when you’re trekking in the Annapurna without a porter.
backpacking packing list Annapurna
Trekking the Annapurna in December isn’t all that bad weather-wise (until the sun goes down!).
Are you a serial over-packer? Feel free to ask questions, and check out some more inspiration in this story — look for Ellie Day’s section. Or are you an ultralight expert? Share your tips and tricks in the comments!
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Packing List Asia for 5 Months

11 thoughts on “What I Packed for 5 Months in Asia, from the Himalayas to Southeast Asia

  1. I am SO glad you posted this! I have a two week Korea/Japan trip coming up in November and have been looking into not bring a rolling suitcase.

    1. Yay I’m glad it’s helpful! I have had the same rolling carry-on for a decade in large part because I only use it for domestic trips (and really only half of those). Love my packs. Would also suggest looking into a travel backpack if you’re doing more city trips and want something with fewer straps and contraptions than a backpacking pack.

      Also, congrats again on the exciting news! <3 you

  2. Ohhh great list! I am about to go on a trip that may require all-weather preparations so this is really useful!

  3. Great list. I always layout all my clothes and force myself to remove one item from each category. This technique helps curb my tendency to over pack. I have never regret traveling with a small suitcase.

    1. Oh yes definitely, good one. I definitely had more than this initially and was like, nope, that’s too much, take it out.

  4. […] I left Denmark with $2000 in my pocket, I have no idea how long I will be out there, or how long that money will last me. Because of the lack of the budget, I made sure that I planned a little bit before I embark on my not so possible adventure. If you need a guide for packing list in Asia, check this out. […]

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