Pack It Up!

Since returning from my 10 week trip to South East Asia – my first proper backpacking trip! – I’ve been inundated with messages from friends planning similar trips. One of the messages I get time and time again (and I sent to all my backpacking friends before leaving!) is ‘HELP ME! How the hell do I pack for 3 months in a BACKPACK!’ Well, ladies and gentlemen, your prayers are answered, here lie the contents of my backpack. If you’re already bored, scroll on past the list for my top tips – hindsight is a wonderful thing.

Ready, set, go! Here is my backpack, fully packed and ready for a map to jump out and send me on an adventure. (Dora the Explorer anyone?)

I have an Osprey 55l in S/M. I’m 5′ 1 1/4″ (the quarter is highly important) and weigh about 50kg so I had to find a backpack the right size for me. I went for the largest possible to fit my frame. My recommendation? Go smaller. 40l is what can be taken as carry-on which will save you a lot if you’re taking flights.

Suits and Boots

  • 10 pairs of pants (I got dragged into my research and invested in moisture-wicking underwear to fend off the sweaty crotch syndrome often suffered in the humid climate of SEA… while I didn’t suffer this humiliation, neither did my travel buddy, who is less susceptible to peer pressure and did not invest.)
  • 1 bra, 2 sports bras and 2 bralettes (I can honestly say the bra maybe got worn once #freethenipple)
  • 3 pairs socks
  • 11 shirts (Way too many, I only wore 5 of these!)
    • 3 sports tops
    • 2 vest tops
    • 2 nice(r) strap tops for going out
    • 1 short sleeved blouse
    • 3 crop tops
    • 1 thick strapped linen shirt.
  • 2 lightweight jumpers to cover up
  • 1 sweater
  • 1 pair of exercise leggings
  • 1 pair of harem trousers (embrace them, you will soon be living in pyjamas)
  • 1 pair of denim shorts
  • 1 pair of sports shorts
  • 2 maxi skirts
  • dungarees
  • 2 bikinis
  • 2 pairs of pyjamas
  • flip flops
  • hiking sandals
  • trainers

Bits and Bobs

  • passport
  • microfibre travel towel
  • travel pillow
  • sleeping bag liner
  • chargers and adaptors (I packed EU, US and UK chargers, you can buy a universal one but I had these lying about)
  • bank card, and back-up bank card, and back-up back-up bank card
  • passport photos for visas
  • USD for visas
  • jewellery
  • hairbrush and hair tyes
  • diaries and pens
  • Kindle Fire (gotta have me my Netflix for those infernal 23-hour bus journeys)
  • pack of cards
  • dry bags (I’ll write more about these later)
  • waterproof cover for my backpack

The Powder Room

  • 2x 400ml Boots Once Factor 50 3hr Protect and Swim (This ginger needs her protection)
  • 2x 50% DEET bug spray
  • 2x deodorant
  • LUSH solid shampoo
  • Soap bar
  • Toothpaste, toothbrush
  • Cleanser and Make-up Remover
  • Basic make-up bag
  • Perfume
  • Moisturiser
  • Basic first aid kit – hand sanitiser, paracetamol, plasters, allergy tablets, rehydration salts and prescribed medication
  • wet wipes and toilet roll
  • small ziplock with washing powder for handwashing underwear.

I need all that…?

As you can see, I packed everything but the kitchen sink. I have always been known as a terrible packer, and recently turned up for a 6 day trip down to Birmingham for a friend’s wedding with the same backpack rammed full. However, this does mean I feel fully qualified to tell you what is worth bringing, and what just to leave behind.

My first tip is DRY BAGS. These were recommended to us, and I can honestly tell you they were a life-saver. Or at least a comfort saver.
‘Why were these so great???’
Well, my faithful readers, you may have heard about the humidity in SEA. In the UK we do have 98% humidity but IT IS NOT THE SAME. We found that the air was so hot and damp that anything left out of the dry bags got damp and would not dry. The other handy thing about dry bags is they also double as those infamous packing cubes you’ve been reading about on other travel blogs, and when you pack them and squeeze out the air they’re like little vacuum packs. Having everything categorised makes packing up at the end of your stay much faster as even when you’ve pulled everything out in search of that dress that will look just perfect for your Instagram feed; you’ve only actually disturbed a small portion of your bag.


As for toiletries, if you’re fairly confident in your appearance, ditch the make-up. I dragged mine all around SEA for 10 weeks and hardly wore it; backpackers don’t glam up. I did, however, get my eyelashes dyed (ginger eyelashes make you look like an alien; it’s highly attractive). The same goes for jewellery, straighteners, hair dryers etc. That hair is gonna be a frizzball no matter what you do, so own it girl. Solid shampoo, conditioner and soap were also a huge convenience. They take up next to no space, and no plastic means you’re doing good for the environment. If you have sensitive skin like me, it’s an idea to bring your suncream etc out with you, but realistically you can get everything you need there and it is mainly the same brands. Dry skin sufferers, take moisturiser unless you enjoy bleaching your skin cuz these cultures hate a tan. You’ll be swapping your Dove Golden Glow for Pearly White.


Logistics. Not sexy but very important. I would definitely recommend bringing USD as it’s cheaper than paying for VISAs in local currency. Having passport photos ready also speeds up the process and avoids a cheeky unofficial fee from the guards.


My final tip is to take whatever you want to pack, and half it. Get your staples (denim shorts etc) and plan your outfits around that. Research where you’re going and pack appropriately for there – make sure you have cover-ups for going into temples.
So there you have it, advice from the front line. If you have any questions about what I packed let me know down below!
...and so the adventure begins!
…and so the adventure begins! Kerry and I on the 5am bus to the airport on a surprisingly sunny day in Edinburgh.