Thailand is still the ultimate backpacker destination, with so many backpackers making it their first stop on a larger gap year adventure. Despite this, many first time travellers don’t know what to expect from Thailand and struggle with knowing what to pack and what to bring, with so many backpackers taking way too much. Here is the ultimate packing guide for backpacking around Thailand to help you choose what to take and what to leave behind.
Thailand is an amazing destination for backpackers, with an almost culturally ingrained backpacker infrastructure making it easy for travellers of all experieces to get around, world famous food, an awesome climate and stunning beaches, jungles, mountains and cities too. And the best thing is, it is still very budget friendly on the whole despite the package tourists moving in en masse over the last decade!
The problem is so many backpackers make that cardinal newbie sin of overpacking and then spending months lugging a huge oversized backpack around with them. You don’t have to do that. You don’t need as much as you think you will and the tropical climate means that a lot of your clothes will be lightweight and easily rolled up to fit in your pack.
The perfect clothing packing list for Thailand.
Again, you really don’t need as much as you think you do and remember there are always plenty of laundries around to wash your gear and you will inevitably pick up extra clothes along the way too.
- A weeks worth of underwear.
- 5 or 6 basic light cotton T shirts/tops.
- One or two long sleeved T shirts (for covering shoulders on temple visits, layering up and mosquito bite prevention during the evening or during treks).
- 1 or 2 light shirts that can be smart or casual as required.
- 2 pairs of shorts.
- 1 or 2 lightweight dresses (for women).
- A pair of long trousers. (these should be good for trekking through jungles or smartening up when you are accessing temples or going on a night out, as well as covering skin for mosquito bite prevention as needed.)
- 1 pair of light cotton trousers (You can buy these in Thailand, everyone has to have a pair of fisherman/elephant pants!)
- 1 Fleece or Hoodie (It can get a lot cooler up in the northern mountains and if you travel on an overnight bus or train they can crank the air con up to sub zero so a good hoodie can go a long way!)
- Hiking trainers that can look smart casual with long trousers and also act as good hiking footwear, plus a pair of flip flops.
- 1 or 2 swim shorts/swim suit.
- Sarong (for women) or a shemagh or similar (for men). These are seriously versatile items that can be used to cover up shoulders when necessary for temple visits or as head and neck covers in the sun.
You’ll notice that there is less than two weeks worth of clothes here plus a couple of extra specialist items like the swim shorts and sarongs, and this is deliberate, you really don’t need more than this.
Do you need a raincoat in Thailand?
No, not really. A lot of people ask me this because they are worried about travelling in the rainy season and think they need one.
Let’s be honest though, Thailand is a tropical country, and does have a lot of downpours, especially in the rainy season, but a lot of the time the weather is bright and sunny and you will duck into a mall or a small eatery if you do get caught in a shower and wait until it passes (which is usually quite quickly!) And even when it does rain it is still warm and tropically humid.
The rain is rarely much of a problem in Thailand. It happens, then you are back to blue skies and sunny weather again.
If you do want or need protection from the rain because you know you will be out exploring all day or whatever and there is a chance of it, just buy a cheap plastic poncho when you are over there like the majority of the locals do! It will scrunch up a lot smaller and be a lot lighter in your pack than a raincoat, and do you really want to carry a coat around with you for the trip?
Dressing modestly in Thailand.
Although Thailand is generally quite conservative there is also quite an open and relaxed attitude to travellers. It is still a good idea to have a modicum of awareness depending on where you are though. A beach hut or the full moon party is going to be more relaxed than more rural areas of Isaan or parts of Bangkok. If you are visiting a temple or place of worship then you should cover up your shoulders and knees, and that goes for both sexes. So if you aren’t wearing a T Shirt that covers your shoulders or something long that covers your knees a sarong or shemagh goes a long way. Technically and ideally you should cover ankles in a temple too but I have observed a bit of leeway on this. Of course shoes/flip flops should be left outside.
Apart from a few basic essentials; a razor, a small 100ml bottle of liquid toothpaste and of course your toothbrush, you can pick up pretty much everything else you need in Thailand, there are 7/11s and pharmacies everywhere so you can pick up deodorant, shower gel and shampoo anywhere. So you can just keep getting small bottles as needed which will keep the weight in your pack down and make it easier on you when going through transit.
Tampons are also relatively easy to find in pharmacies and 7/11s in major cities and towns throughout Thailand, although I will be honest I cannot verify the availability of different types or brands (I’m not an expert in this area to be fair) I do know that women shouldn’t have much trouble finding something to suit their individual needs. So by all means take some with you but know that you can replenish them too.
First aid kit.
A small first aid kit is absolutely essential. Now don’t worry you don’t have to carry a Paramedics emergency bag with you here, just a small pouch will do, easily fitted into a small side pocket and easy to carry with you in your day pack when you are out and about. There are plenty of pre filled first aid pouches on the market, but you can easily make your own first aid kit up as well. It doesn’t need to be filled with anything fancy, just the absolute basics that you will know how to use in a pinch.
You will also need to take some good insect repellent with you. For full travel health advice on Thailand check out the travel health section of the Thailand destination guide, but you will need a range of mosquito bite prevention to protect yourself against a range of insect borne diseases such as dengue. Choosing the right insect repellent spray is essential, and you should make sure it contains at least 20 – 50% of one of the active ingredients DEET, IR35353, Icaridin or PMD.
This is generally down to personal choice but you really don’t need much more than a camera and a phone, and the chargers. And of course an adapter as well.
One thing I do always recommend regardless of where you travel is a collection of good, waterproof stuff sacks to keep your kit organised in! Roll up your clothes into a couple of coloured stuff sacks, keep your electronics and chargers and important stuff in another different coloured sack and then just slide them into your main pack. That way your stuff is organised and also weather and water proof as well!
You will at some point need a good solid padlock, and preferably a steel cable lock too. This is for securing your locker at a hostel or your pack to something solid on an overnight train or bus.
A good refillable water filter bottle is always a good idea too. Not just because you may want to avoid tap water if your stomach isn’t used to the bacteria, but because if you are travelling long term you will end up buying a lot of water bottles, at least 2 a day, so by carrying your own refillable one you can save the planet by not using up a ton of plastic which does not all get recycled (if any), and save a fortune by buying multiple bottles daily. It all adds up. Use the code in the sidebar to get 15% off one of the best water filter bottles for travellers too.
Carry on only.
I am sure you have noticed by now but this doesn’t seem like much at all, and it really isn’t!
This packing list is designed to work for a carry on only pack! You can fit it all into a small bag and with weekly or twice monthly laundry visits is more than enough to last you as long as you are travelling for, and will leave you a little room for a few extra bits you buy and pick up along the way. Watch the video below for more tips on how to travel carry on only.
Of course if you wanted to travel with an average sized backpack then that is all good too! That just means you’ll have even more room to take some awesome souvenirs home!
The whole point of this article is that you really don’t need all that much. Thailand has a tropical climate so your clothes should be light and comfortable, you don’t need an outfit for every single day of your six or twelve month trip because you can wash or replenish cloths as you go, and you can pick up anything else you need as you need it too.
You don’t have to travel carry on only of course, but you certainly don’t have to over pack either!
I hope that this helps make your trip planning a little easier for the land of smiles. Thailand really is one of the best gap year adventures you can have! So stop worrying about your kit, get out there and enjoy it!
Did you enjoy this article? I would love to hear your thoughts in the comments section below or on my Facebook or Twitter pages and please feel free to share it with any or all of the social media buttons. If you want to get more great backpacking tips, advice and inspiration, please subscribe to updates via email in the box to your right.