Many items are essential when you are travelling or backpacking and many of those I will not list here as then this would become a tedious list of obvious items. Instead here I will include items that I found particularly useful whilst travelling, which I didn’t initially think about taking or understated how important or how useful they would be. In this sense I hope this post can be a useful tool to those unsure of what to pack when they go off travelling in SE Asia.
DEET: This amazing chemical concoction has revolutionised my life. Yes, that may be a bit of an overstatement, however this stuff works and it works well. I got myself some ‘Jungle Formula’ 50% DEET and some more potent 100% stuff before I set out. I applied it religiously to my body in the morning and in the evening every day and it kept those pesky mosquitoes and anything else that bites far away. It does taste disgusting, and makes your lips tingle if you kiss anyone, however I think this is a small price to pay when you get the advantage of not being bitten. This is especially important to me as I normally get bitten loads by mosquitoes and thus was worried they would make my trip to Thailand a nightmare. They are pricey (around £7 a bottle) however this is a lot cheaper than malaria tablets and I believe a small price to pay for itch free days and nights.
CityMaps2Go: If you have a smartphone this is the app for you. You can download maps of whole provinces in Thailand meaning you can use maps and see your position offline without paying huge costs of data roaming abroad. It is such a simple idea so I tell everyone I meet about how good this app is. It has most major tourist destinations on with loaded Wikipedia pages so you can read about the place you are visiting whilst still offline! They also have the names for places in the native language e.g. Thai and therefore it means you can always show to your taxi driver and watch to see if he drives you around the block too many times! An invaluable app and a bargain at £1.99 because they are constantly adding more maps and data it is amazing.
Flip-flops: With all the temples in Thailand and also many guesthouses and shops it is customary to take off your shoes as they are seen as dirty. Therefore you will be taking your shoes off and on a lot and leaving them outside therefore a pair of flip-flops is lightweight and solves the problem easily. I took the ones I trekked across the Sahara in so they are very well worn in, something you should bare in mind if you plan to do a lot of walking, blisters are not good.
Zip-off trousers: By far the coolest apparel however they are very useful. When the day is hot you can just be wearing them as shorts however if you enter a temple or a sacred place where you are required to cover your legs then you can just zip on the bottoms, easy-peasy. Alternatively buy a cheap pair of ‘elephant pants’ from almost anywhere in Thailand for ~150B or a sarong that you can tie around your waist, these are also good options.
Hand Sanitiser: Thailand isn’t the cleanest of countries and wherever you choose to eat may not have a place to freshen up before a meal. Therefore a small bottle of hand sanitiser in your day bag is great to help maintain personal hygiene and minimise the risk of getting ill.
Camera: Yes very obvious but it is well worth investing in a camera which can take decent photos before you travel. You don’t have to spend a lot of money nowadays to get one that can take pretty decent pictures. It is also worth spending some time understanding how it works so once you arrive you can begin capturing your journey. Don’t forget a memory card and battery charger!
Diary: A daily diary is cheap and it only takes a few minutes out of your day, you may fall behind but on long train or bus journeys these can easily be made up. It is a great way of writing details and storing memories so that they are never forgotten.
Dry Bags: These are great for organising your items within your rucksack and also more importantly, if like us you are travelling in the rainy season, keeping your clothes and items dry. They also double up as pillows should you need one whilst travelling. A few bin bags can also work keeping things dry, as a rucksack cover, liner, or even a makeshift poncho, they do work.
Kindle/eReader: With amazing battery life these are perfect for travelling, you can store many books and yet only take up a tiny amount of space, saving your back from the weight.
Money Belt: Again not the coolest of items however if you have a wallet with just a bit of cash in but store the majority in your money belt with you passport then you can have peace of mind should you get mugged or lose your wallet as you have all your valuables strapped to your body out of sight. A great idea and really worth taking, mine does smell a bit though now after wearing it for almost four weeks.
These are the ten items which I found invaluable whilst backpacking. Everyone travels in different ways so they may not be good for every type of trip but I stand by them and would definitely take every single one the next time I go backpacking in SE Asia, or even anywhere else in the world! Also if you take a Swiss army knife you can always make a stove to cook out of, and medical alcohol is incredibly cheap in Thailand so you can have yourself a very cheap camping stove if you are truly ‘roughing it’.