What to Pack for a Year in Asia

No matter who you are, where you are going or for how long, everyone requires different supplies. Nick and I spent a year in Asia and had to pack warm clothes and camping gear for Mongolia and cool clothes and climbing gear for Southeast Asia. Again, you have to pack what makes you comfortable, but here are some helpful tips and our favorite brands. Always remember, you can leave items behind and pick up new treasures. Be flexible.


Guidebooks – Lonely Planet is our favorite, and they have great phrasebooks too. Remember to do research before you leave (checkout guidebooks from your local library to save money) or download the electronic versions to save space when packing.

Packs – Try on various packs to see what works best for you. I am carrying a Deuter Traveler 55 L +10 L daypack. This backpack has the ability to zip up into a duffel, zips around the bag for easy access and has an attached daypack. Nick is using the Osprey Aether 85L with a small daypack that straps onto the front. He also purchased a Sea to Summit waterproof duffel / rain cover to use when flying and in rainy weather. Don’t forget luggage tags so you can track down lost luggage.

*Both of our bags weigh 35 pounds, however as we travel we will constantly be gaining and shedding weight.

Clothing – Always think about how you can layer your clothing and try to wear loose fitting clothing. If you wear leggings, make sure you have a tunic or something that covers your butt. I favor merino wool as I love the natural benefits of wool and synthetic quick drying materials as washing will be frequent.

4 pants – 2 Outdoor Research trekking pants, leggings, and rain pants.

6 tops – 2 merino wool tank tops, 1 merino wool short sleeve shirt, 1 linen tunic, 1 Patagonia sun shirt, and 1 fleece

2 jackets – 1 down puffy and 1 rain jacket

2 shoes – Chacos and trekking boots

1 black patagonia maxi dress

3 of each underwears – 3 Point6 merino wool socks, 3 exofficio underwear bottoms, 3 sport bras and 2 bathing suits.


Accessories – sarong, bandana (use over your mouth for pollution, over your eyes to sleep or as a wash cloth), fake wedding bands, and a watch.

Med Kit – We are brining 2 small med kits. 1 kit has individually labeled and bagged emergency items we hope to infrequently use and the other has easily accessible compartments for frequent use.

Emergency Med Kit –

Emergency- Quick clot EMS rolled gauze, scissors to remove clothing, Latex gloves, ammonia inhalant, large emergency trauma dressing, and burn gel.

Survival – Whistle, lighter, hand warmers, peanut butter, waterproof matches, wax treated cotton balls, aqua tabs, compass, and a foil blanket.

Prescriptions – See your doctor for what best suites you, however consider Malaria meds, altitude meds, antibiotics (wound, GI, and respiratory), pain meds (for my herniated back), yeast infection meds (incase you take an antibiotic) and of course, make sure you are up to date on all vaccines. We went to our local VNA, which has a travel department and got all vaccines that were recommended (Japanese Encephalitis, Rabies, Typhoid, etc.)

Preventative- World Health Organization oral rehydration salts, Probiotics, and Emergen- C


Everyday Med Kit –

Medications – Aleve, Immodium, DayQuill and NightQuill, Dulcolax, Peptobismol, and Pepcid AC

Accessories – Thermometer and eye drops

Skin Care – Hydrocortisone cream, anti itch (Triamcinolone Acetonide), and antibiotic ointment (Mupirocin)

Wound Care – Various Band- Aids, blister specific Band-Aids, tweezers, razor blade, butterfly bandages, Moleskin, gauze, alcohol prep pads, and a small roll of duct tape.


Camping – International MSR WhistperLite stove, MSR micro Water filter, cooking pot, sporks, fuel can, tin mug, Therm-A-Rest Z-lite sleeping pads, Nalgenes, MSR dromedary, knife, Big Agnes lightweight tent and sleeping bags (Steamboat, represent).

Climbing – 2 black diamond harnesses, 1 60 m rope (70m is not necessary and a 30m is good for most), 13 quick draws, 1 guide ATC, 1 GriGri, 1 ATC, comfy multi pitch shoes, tight single pitch shoes, 2 anchor systems and chalk bags. *We are fortunate enough to have people meeting us in Vietnam with our climbing gear, however look into ways to store your gear when it’s not necessary (hostels, lockers at airports or expensive shipping). Anyone have any suggestions how to trad climb in Asia, as the gear was too heavy for us to bring.

Sleep – Earplugs, sleeping bag liner, mosquito net, pillowcase, inflatable neck pillow (great for long bus or train rides).

Electronics – Camera (GoPro and Refurbished Leica D-Lux), phones, charges, extra batteries, goal zero battery pack, solar charge, and laptop (I choose to bring it to keep our blog up to date and edit photos).

Safety – Locks, rubber door stop and pepper spray.

Toiletries – Quick wick towel, Dr. Bronners (all in 1 soap, shampoo, conditioner & laundry detergent), contacts, 2 pairs of glasses (make sure you have access to your prescriptions), contact solution, contact case, retainer (we are nerds), 2 pairs of glasses, tooth paste, 1 shared toothbrush (we have no hygiene standards), floss (the dentist told us to floss more), Ben’s bug spray, hand sanitizer, hair ties, brush, nail clippers, wet wipes, and sunscreen.

TIPS & TRICKS – When you are doing a homestay it is always nice to be able to give something back. Nick and I are brining toothbrushes (Global Grins) and maple candies. We are also bringing a fabric Frisbee, hacky sack and a small photo album to create shared experiences.

* Don’t pack prescription pills in bottles; pack them in small zip lock bags with your prescription label visible inside.

* If you have bad eyes, pack 2 glasses in 1 case. I brought my glasses, a backup pair, prescription sunglasses and sunglasses and fit them in 2 cases.

*Make copies of your passport photos to bring with you, and remember, you will probably need 2 photos per visa.

*A lot of my friends who have spent long periods of time in Asia suggested we buy cheap fake wedding bands as some hotels and hostels won’t house single females or non-married couples.

*Spray key clothing items with permethrin spray (insect repellent) – good for 6 washes

* In order to utilize space, don’t forget to use packing cubes (we like Eagle Creek) and stuff your trekking boots.

* Cut the handle off of your hairbrush to save the absolutely necessary 2 inches of space…or not.

* Wrap duct tape around your Nalgene for emergencies.


Before You Go…

Vaccines, prescription medications, visas, evacuation insurance (MedJet Assist), and Google Drive. Make a checking account with Charles Schwab (no ATM fees) and apply for a Chase Sapphire credit card (no foreign transaction fees).

Create a Google Drive folder that you can share with your family. Include copies of important documents, visas, flight receipts, a budget, prescriptions, and an itinerary. Before you go, download these documents to your device so that you can access them even when you don’t have access to wifi. You can store photos on this drive so you never have to worry about losing them.

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