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After more than a decade of backpacking you’d think I have my packing list down to a tee, but once again I found myself frantically sorting through all my options when it comes down to organizing my bag for backpacking South East Asia. As a guy packing for Southeast Asia you’d assume it to be easy; board shorts, singlets, couple of shirts and your favorite party shirt, but to maximize your space there’s a little more thought that should go into your planning.
So how do you pack your bags for a year on the road? In a nutshell, its a combination of research and past experience. I had the experience, but now I needed the research. For the first time ever I actually sat down and did some forward thinking on the climates we were going to be traveling through. What I found was pretty consistent across the board for Southeast Asia weather… hot and humid, with a decent chance of rain.
With that in mind I started to look for light, breathable clothes that wouldn’t weigh me down and take up too much space. Finally I was starting to put a little thought into my packing list. This time I swore I was going to be more planned and prepared, as opposed to rushed and unorganized.
In the past I’ve been known to just throw anything into a bag and hit the road. I’d choose style over practicality, and comfort over space saving. But those days are over, and I’m here to share with you the best packing list for men traveling to Asia.
Best Tops to Pack
1 Patagonia Micro D Fleece
1 Patagonia Torrentshell Rain Jacket
3 Button Down Shirt
Most of the weather in Southeast Asia is hot and humid, so I’m not really going to need too much cold weather gear. In saying that I have still packed a couple of items to combat the odd cold night, and the very frequent downpours during the rainy season.
I’ve gone for a super lightweight black Patagonia fleece as my only warm upper layer. To battle the rain I’ve got a light breathable Patagonia shell jacket to keep me cool and dry. This is definitely going to be handy during monsoon season in the Philippines. (I feel like a bit of a walking advertisement for Patagonia, but I honestly just love their gear!)
For other tops I’ve thrown in a couple of breathable cotton t-shirts, some singlets and my favorite party shirt, knowing that I don’t need much because Southeast Asia is a mecca for cheap disposable clothes at every stop along the way. If you’re tossing up whether to bring that extra t-shirt or shirt… don’t! I’ve probably got one too many to be honest, but when going away for the year it’s nice to have your own clothes sometimes.
Pants to Pack
1 Patagonia Cotton Pants
5 Board Shorts
1 Running Shorts
I’m definitely bottom heavy on this trip, as I’ve packed a lot of different styles of shorts. I’ve only opted for one pair of long pants, choosing a pair of light cotton pants from Patagonia (in case I need to go anywhere classy). The rest are are all board shorts with pockets.
Board shorts are the definite winner on the backpacking checklist for Southeast Asia. They have so many practical functions; light to wear and pack, quick to dry and never need ironing. You can take them for a run, then jump in the beach and let them dry off as you walk home. Jump in the shower and wash them with yourself and then hang up to dry. You’ll never need to pay someone else to wash them.
Best Shoes for Southeast Asia Travel
Even though you can get cheap knock offs of most shoes I’ve gone for the originals on this trip, because sometimes you can’t substitute quality. I’ve packed the mandatory Havaianas thongs (or flip-flops to you non-Aussies), a pair of light Nike Free Runs and some Teva sandals.
Free Runs, or any other shoes with that light, compactable material are great to travel with if you like to stay active. I know they’re not the best work out shoe due to a lack of support, but they sure beat packing your heavy cross-trainers.
And the Teva sandals. Let me stop your trail of thought by saying, I get it! I used to think Teva’s were only reserved for Americans, like it was something you could only buy if you worked for the Peace Corp or in a summer camp, but boy was I wrong. These are by far the best addition to my traveling checklist. As someone with flat arches, my Teva sandals offer way more support and comfort than rubber flip-flops ever could. With a handy clasp buckle to clip on and off and a neutral color scheme, I like to think I make them look stylish, even if your first thought is middle-aged tourist with knee high white socks.
Other Stuff on the Backing List
1 Baseball Cap
1 UV Buff
5 Pairs of Jocks
3 Pairs of Socks
As a guy traveling Southeast Asia there aren’t as many nifty accessory options. As a girl, you’ve got so many more options in multifunctional and beautiful patterned shawls and colorful sarongs (For a full list be sure to check out Christine’s Girls Packing List for Southeast Asia). What do guys get… hats. Rather than purchase some of the cheaper knock-offs I brought along a couple of things from back home. My SF Giants hat to represent along the way, and a super functional Buff (High UV Pro).
If you’re not familiar with Buff headwear you should check them out. They’re extremely well suited to the hot, humid and sunny regions of Southeast Asia to protect you from the heat and cool you down. They also have an SPF 50 factor to limit the suns harsh UV rays from penetrating straw hats and the like.
I’ve also got some socks and jocks, but not too many. Everything you’ll need is here and a quarter of the price if you need to buy something along the way. I’m on a wash one, wear one rotation at the moment with the jocks, and I haven’t even brought out any of the socks I packed.
So there you have it, my year long list of accessories and clothes for Southeast Asia all summed up beautifully in this short post. This is basically me for the year, bar a couple of purchases along the way to restock my ratty clothes that will inevitably wear down and fall apart. It might seem like a few things, but considering I’m living out of a backpack for the next year it really isn’t a lot. My whole life packed into a 70L backpack and hauled onto my back, trudging through the excitement of backstreet Bangkok, hiking the uninhabited countryside of Cambodia and popping in for a swim with turtles in the Philippines.
Last word of advice, pack light and be prepared to add to your clothes selection after seeing how cheap some of the stuff is in Southeast Asia!
What Should I Have Packed?
There aren’t too many things that I missed along the trip. When it comes to clothes a lot can be bought over here. There are definitely a couple of gadgets and gizmos that I might have included, but you can check out that post to see all the little extras we missed.
What Should I Have Left At Home?
Probably just the quantity of clothes. Everything we packed was handy, but we probably just packed too much. My rain jacket was useful for all those rainy days, but it didn’t get a massive workout because when it rains the best thing to do is just get under cover. T-shirts, shorts and shirts are in an abundance and if you don’t pack as many items you’ll have a little more room to pick up some fun travel souvenirs along the journey. I definitely should have cut back on those and as a result I ended up ditching a few along the way.