Essentials, Trash, Wants

by Kirsty on December 8, 2010

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Two of our friends are starting a three month backpacking trip around South East Asia in January and recently they have started asking us what they should buy or put on their Christmas list.

So I thought it would be good to share with you guys; some of the things we can’t live without, stuff we ditched within the first month, what we have picked up on the way and others that are now on our wish list (but either lack of money or unavailability have stopped us from getting).

Our Essential Packing List for Backpackers

Things we can’t live without

samsung netbookOur netbook Samsung N145 – We have an earlier version, the N130 and we loved it from day 1. So far it has performed great, we can check e-mails, write blog posts, edit photos etc anywhere we want, putting it down is the hard part.

Olympus Stylus TOUGHI got the 8000 (technology moves too fast) for my 21st birthday as I am pretty accident prone and it hasn’t given up on me yet. It is really good for under water shots (it can go down 10m) and so far has survived being thrown around at waterparks and canyoning.

32GB iPod Touch – Poi’s classic gave up a few months before our trip, so was replaced by this. The apps are amazing and it is really useful on the go especially as we don’t have any phones!


Pacsafe 100

Pacsafe Travelsafe – this was bought on a whim in a sale, but it’s used every day. We don’t carry much money or anything on us but use this portable safe, hidden in one of day bags on buses etc. When staying at hostels we attach it to a bed leg or something similar and we can leave our passports and credit cards locked up without worrying about them, even in the dodgy hostels. Great for peace of mind.

Pen and paper – Brilliant for writing down ideas or doodling, it’s so useful, we’ve even had to buy more!!!!

Flip flops – We wear them nearly everyday, I have Animal Swish Flops which are made of neoprene so they are really comfortable and Poi’s are more heavy duty ones from Karrimor

Things we originally packed but proved useless

Probiotics – I bought these as I read they can help with travelers sickness and counteract the side effects of our malaria tablets, but they tasted and smelt of sick! We stopped taking them after about a week and chucked the lot of them away. No regrets as yet.

pacsafe 120Jeans – I didn’t tend to wear them much in the UK but Poi brought some along, by Hong Kong they hadn’t been worn once so they were ditched. I think if we were traveling in Europe or a cooler climate we would have kept them but Asia is far too hot

PacSafe 120 Secure Backpack & Bag Protector – We both packed one but we ditched one at second stop in Hangzhou. They’re heavy and a bit of a pain to use. Especially as we lock all our valuables in our portable safe. The other has been used on two train journeys and once in a hostel room in the past three months. The main reason it hasn’t been chucked is that we spent quite a bit of money on them.

Things we have picked up on the way

Samsung N150– By Thailand we were getting fed up sharing one whilst the other had to use the iPod touch, so we took the plunge and got some money off because it’s bright yellow!

cannon sx30Canon Powershot SX400 – We picked this up in Hong Kong and it has been invaluable ever since. It’s a good bridge camera and  takes better photos in a range of light conditions than my Olympus. My brother bought this for us to help out with his letter art photography business (it’s pretty good if you’re looking for a unique gift)

Bottle opener – self explanatory! But we made a rookie mistake of not bringing one!

Scissors – again, can’t believe we forgot these! So far they have been used for a range of things including cutting backpack straps and Poi’s hair!

Things we wished we packed (ahem our Christmas list)

Hair dressing scissors – We’ve been looking for these since Vietnam, I’m now Poi’s hair dresser, but as I only have blunt scissors he tends to get a bowl cut! They’re also useful for cutting fringes. We’re so desperate for these we’re getting them sent from the UK.

amazon kindle Kindle – before we left we thought this was “just another gadget” but now we’re on the road and we have had to carry 5/6 off books this is a smart idea. If you can afford it before you set off I would definitely recommend it.

Better day bag – I have a pretty good Berghaus 25 l bag, but in Asia I get hot and sweaty in seconds. If I could repeat my purchase I would buy one with a mesh back system so the main pack is away from my back like the DEUTER Futura 32 Backpack

Tea bags – this is more personal preference, but Poi really has been missing his tea, so next time we will pack a few for those craving days

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{ 55 comments… read them below or add one }

flip December 9, 2010 at 12:01 am

love your list of stuff… i recommend you get a deuter since i think they’re really sturdy. i bought one in MBK (in Bangkok) and ive used it for a long time. it’s still not broken even after 5 years of on and off usage (inc 6 months of continuous travelling)…
flip´s last blog post ..Inside Bangkok


Poi December 9, 2010 at 8:42 am

That sounds great – we’re staying in Chiang Mai for a while now so we’ll be having another think about the day bag before we move on again!


Lauren December 9, 2010 at 2:12 am

Great list! 🙂 I’ll be leaving for my trip in July 2011, and already I’m looking at packing lists trying to work out what are essentials and what I’ll regret bringing with me, it’s all so overwhelming!


Poi December 9, 2010 at 8:45 am

Yeah it’s really hard knowing what to bring – we chucked out so many little things even after the first couple of weeks. You soon realise what you don’t really need when your trying to squeeze onto crowded buses and carrying your bag around looking for hostels.

Look forward to following your journey!


Heather December 9, 2010 at 6:16 am

Ooh, thanks for the thoughts on the two Pacsafe items. I wondered about them before I left and ultimately decided not to get anything because I didn’t know if it would be worth it. Not really needed in Oz but if I travel further I’d love to invest in something like that. Gonna take your tip 🙂
Heather´s last blog post ..Guest post- On Top of the World Down Under


Poi December 9, 2010 at 8:49 am

Glad to help, the small travel safe has been really useful, worth considering!


Jill - Jack and Jill Travel The World December 9, 2010 at 6:29 am

I wish Mac would come up with a bright yellow macbook. I’d get one right away even if it’s not discounted :p
Jill – Jack and Jill Travel The World´s last blog post ..Bras and Tampons For Tricky Border Crossings — Weekly Travel Tip


Poi December 9, 2010 at 8:53 am

I dunno, this yellow is a bit dodgy, more dull than bright but who cares it was cheap!!


AudreyDez December 9, 2010 at 9:57 am

Great post! I will certainly check for a Pacsafe! Looks pretty great! Already asked for a backpack for Christmas, can’t wait to see if I’ll get it haha:)


Kirsty December 9, 2010 at 1:50 pm

We love our little safe and you can get it in different sizes so you can lock away laptops etc too if you take them with you.
It’s brilliant for us as we really didn’t get on with a money belt and chucked that on the first day!

I’m sure Santa will be kind 😉


Drew December 9, 2010 at 3:37 pm

I was totally eying up you yellow samsung with jealousy the other day. I really wish I could either get by with a small netbook or netbooks could be powerful enough for my needs:( Yours is like the VW Bug of laptops!
Drew´s last blog post ..What does a world traveling dad look like


Poi December 9, 2010 at 10:31 pm

My netbook hardly has anything on it and it’s still running pretty slow so I’ve been eyeing up Kirstys super speedy yellow machine as well.

You’ll have to stick to your fancy macbook, if you ever wanna swap though we’re open to that….


Amy December 9, 2010 at 4:07 pm

The Kindle will change your world! I love, love, love mine for travelling. The only downside is the expense of books if you read a lot, but it is worth it to get to read what you want, when you want. I also love my M-Edge leather cover and reading light – considering adding those to your list. I lost a piece of the light a couple of months ago and I am so sad.


Poi December 9, 2010 at 9:41 pm

Very tempted, it’s hard trying to find the books you want in local book stores but don’t think we can afford to spend the money after just getting another netbook!

Thanks for visiting our site!


Adventurous Kate December 9, 2010 at 4:55 pm

After traveling Southeast Asia for about seven weeks, the number one thing that I wish I had brought with me is…

GOOD DEODORANT. It’s hard to find deodorant in Thailand that does anything besides bleach your armpits. They are obsessed with white skin here.
Adventurous Kate´s last blog post ..The Endangered Beauty of Railay


Poi December 9, 2010 at 9:57 pm

They are really obsessed with it, I was looking at shower gel earlier and there was even a huge section on whitening for men!!


Zablon Mukuba December 9, 2010 at 10:26 pm

ipod touch is great to have while you are abroad


Poi December 9, 2010 at 10:33 pm

It’s come in handy a good few times so far, mainly just for games now though, it doesn’t get much real action anymore with the two netbooks.


Andi December 10, 2010 at 12:08 am

Great list! Nice new camera!!! I’m surprised you can’t find good tea over there???
Andi´s last blog post ..Cuba Day 8 Part 1


Poi December 10, 2010 at 12:30 am

I’ve get hold of some English breakfast tea but not found any branded stuff yet, not that I’ve been looking too much, tea is important but not that important.


Ali December 10, 2010 at 5:37 am

Great tips for those of us hoping to do a similar trip one of these days!
Ali´s last blog post ..100 Hamburger or My Charlotte Mileage Run


Poi December 10, 2010 at 10:38 am

We hope they come in handy!


Jaime December 10, 2010 at 10:57 am

I love this post this is why:
1) I have the same Olympus Tough & i too think it is great.
2) I had never heard of the PacSafe Travel Safe & like it a lot.
3) I have been debating on getting a PacSafe 120 or one similar and well now I know I dont really need it.
4) I just put a bottle open in the cube holding all my stuff.
5) I already had hair dressing scissors in my cube jajaja!!!

Thanks for sharing this all us RTWsooner appreciate list like this. Well I do at least…
Jaime´s last blog post ..STATE OF MY BREAKAWAY


Poi December 10, 2010 at 11:35 am

Haha turns out our list was perfect for you then! We’ve used the pacsafe safe everyday so worth chcking out.

But maybe you should be giving us advice seeing as you’ve all ready done better than us by thinking of packing hairdrssing scissors and a bottle opener!

Cheers Jaime!


Jen December 10, 2010 at 6:54 pm

There’s a free kindle app for the itouch and a nook app, both offering a great selection of free books…love it.

And really? Yellow laptop?! Lol


Poi December 12, 2010 at 5:00 pm

aww cool we’ll check them out!

Yeah, it’s a nasty yellow but it was cheap!


Migrationology December 10, 2010 at 8:03 pm

Cool, I like that Pacsafe bag for putting valuables in. I don’t have one but looks like it’s pretty good. I’m with you guys and flip-flops, the thought of claustrophobic shoes sounds terrible!
Migrationology´s last blog post ..Getting Married in Egypt


Poi December 12, 2010 at 4:59 pm

Yeah the pacsafe is good, turned out to be a great random purchase!

I can’t remember the last time I wore shoe’s, I love it!


Amanda December 11, 2010 at 2:17 pm

Awesome list, guys! It’s always interesting to read about the things people find they don’t need while traveling, along with the random things they wish they’d brought along!
Amanda´s last blog post ..Hobbits For a Day- A Journey to the Shire – Part 2


Poi December 12, 2010 at 4:57 pm

Thanks Amanda – we thought maybe someone would find it helpful!


AdventureRob December 12, 2010 at 11:29 am

Seriously get rid of that big pacsafe straight away.

I bought one before I left for travel but returned it shortly after and got my money back. Mine was the 75 and was 1kg and took up so much space even folded up.

I’ve only ever seen one other person since with one, and they looked like an odd paranoid person who was very new to travel.

Things go missing/get stolen. But taking precautions prevents that better than a pacsafe, which just screams ‘THERE IS SOMETHING REALLY VALUABLE IN HERE MORE THAN THE OTHER BAGS!!’

I just use normal locks on my bags, in hostel dorms I see a lot of people just leave theirs open with expensive laptops/cameras next to them. If anything is going to get stolen, it’s going to be that before a locked bag tucked away in a corner.

Samsung netbooks are awesome (I had the original one – the NC10) no idea what the latest one is (as mentioned technology is hard to keep up with). I have a 13″ macbook pro now though as I’m not travelling so much and settle in areas for longer.
AdventureRob´s last blog post ..Campervan Tips – Eating And Cooking


Poi December 12, 2010 at 4:54 pm

The one pacsafe we have left doesn’t get used so I think it will be gone by the time we leave Chiang Mai. Quite a few times we thought about using it but like you said, we thought it made our bags look more of a target than anything.

Yeah both our netbooks have been great so far!


Jenneil December 12, 2010 at 1:54 pm

Great to see you guys are doing well.

Would you suggest picking up a Netbook before we embark or are they cheaper in SE Asia?


Poi December 12, 2010 at 4:46 pm

We’ve only looked for netbooks in Thailand and to be honest they are about the same price & less selection so maybe before you leave.


Rod Martin December 13, 2010 at 4:08 pm

Two more most important items for travel
#1 Sense of humour
#2 Sense of proportion

We also swear by our “chilly bag” or “cooler bag” – designed to hold 2 wine bottles but is good for packed meals/beer etc on bus and train trips. Surprisingly these are extremely hard to find in Asia
Rod Martin´s last blog post ..Living the High Life in Had Yao


Kirsty December 14, 2010 at 12:08 pm

I agree with a sense of humour… it gets us through a lot of tough times.
The cooler bag is a good idea too 🙂


James January 25, 2011 at 3:47 pm

Thanks for the experience about gear. Just wondering if you lug the netbooks around when out on a day trip or leave them at the hotel/hostel? If you leave them at the hostel, do you just lock them in the room or let the staff keep them?

Thanx again.


Poi January 25, 2011 at 6:20 pm

We always leave them at the hostel, usually locked up in our backpacks as well. If the place seems very dodgy then we will take them with us but its very very rare!


Hannah August 18, 2011 at 11:18 pm

Hi Kirsty and Poi, my boyrfriend and I are going to be travelling in India and SE Asia for about 5 months and have been debating about bringing the pacsafe 120 and 85 for our backpacks. I agree it is sort of big and heavy but our backpacks have drawstrings at the top so they can’t really be locked close (like most larger size backpacks). I’m mostly worried about the backpacks getting snatched off trains and buses in India. What do you think? Also you mentioned the small pacsafe you have, do you leave that locked inside your backpack when u leave for the day, or do you lock it separately to a bedpost?


Poi August 19, 2011 at 8:16 am

Hey Guys, you must be really excited about your upcoming trip, sounds great.

We used are pacsafe once on a train and felt a bit stupid doing so. Basically nobody was taking notice of us until we pulled out this huge metal net. I kinda felt like it was a big sign advertising that there was something worth stealing in our bags.

We didn’t use it again and instead just kept everything essential or expensive in our day pack and always kept that with us. So they most anyone could steal without us stopping them was a bag of replaceable clothes.

The small pacsafe however is brilliant. We leave it locked to whatever we can find in a hostel room, bed post, rails whatever. Again just chcuk the stuff we don’t want to lose in there when we go out, passports, credit cards, ipods. Put are mind at ease in some of the sketchier hostels.

For me I wouldn’t bother with the big pacsafe, it seems like a good idea when your at home but no one on the road uses them and you’ll stand out like a sore thumb which is exactly what you dont want.

Hope this helps!


Hannah August 19, 2011 at 10:07 pm

Thanks so much for the reply!


Waly October 30, 2011 at 3:13 pm

I backpacked through Asia for 10 straight years 88-98. In the end my pack weighed less than 5 kilos. Are you trying something new or dragging things from home?


Waly October 30, 2011 at 3:14 pm

A computer?


Poi November 2, 2011 at 10:29 am

Yes a computer, that’s where this website you’re reading comes from 😉


Poi November 2, 2011 at 10:30 am

Well done, thats a great achievement for those hostel brag contests that often go on. Is that why you did it?


Iona June 10, 2012 at 7:45 pm

Just about to fly out to Vietnam and visit Thailand and cambodia while we’re there. This website is really great! thanks guys 🙂


Poi June 12, 2012 at 2:47 am

Thanks – glad you enjoy it 🙂


Kinga January 28, 2013 at 9:48 pm

Hi guys, great tips – my boyfriend and I are beginning our trip to Asia in March. We currently trying to figure out what is a must, and what to avoid, so your post was very helpful. Quick question – we based in Ireland and all electronics are on the expensive side – would you recommend getting a notebook in Bangkok? Is it much cheaper there?


Poi February 5, 2013 at 6:13 pm

We bought both our Macbooks in Thailand and they were quite a bit cheaper than back home so it might be worth holding out if you can.


Ruth and Eddy February 2, 2013 at 1:22 am


Thanks so much for putting this up! My partner and I are going for about a year and are trying to do as much research as possible! Soooo excited!
The comments were almost as useful as the post itself!
Thanks again! Hopefully we’ll be able to spread the knowledge too once we come back (if we do – fingers crossed we’ll never want to come back!)

Thanks again!


Austin February 7, 2013 at 7:07 pm

Hi Guys,
I’ve just returned from a short trip to Thailand and thoroughly enjoyed it, infact so much I’m planning now for my return.
I’m so glad I found your blog it’s been so helpful.
My only worry while over there was the security of my iPad, wallet passport and camera, which size of pacsafe would accommodate my iPad?



Poi February 8, 2013 at 4:30 am

Glad you enjoyed your trip so much that you want to go back. We had a pacsafe but never actually used it, it seemed to draw more attention to us if anything which we didn’t like.


Austin February 26, 2013 at 3:42 am

Thanks, I never really bought of it like that.
Keep up the good work


Brandon @ Green Global Travel March 4, 2015 at 4:23 pm

I really enjoyed reading your post. These are definitely must have items to have when you go traveling.
Brandon @ Green Global Travel´s last blog post ..ECO NEWS: World Wildlife Day & #JustOneRhino Winners


Adventurous Aubrey March 14, 2016 at 5:42 am

Great post and Great list you, You are an awesome backpacker and you can bring all this stuff cause this is what you wanted to bring when backpacking. I like this article I can relate to this blog.
Adventurous Aubrey´s last blog post ..My Top 5 Favorite Pasalubong Delicacies


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