How to Pack for Thailand: 10 Days in a Backpack

My husband and I recently returned from a 10 day trip to Thailand; our first trip together to Southeast Asia.  Since we are both active duty military, we barely had time to plan, and were more focused on completing our OCONUS leave packets in time. We basically bought the plane tickets, booked some guesthouses and decided to figure it all out when we got there. Surprisingly, this didn't end up biting us in the rear and allowed us some flexibility when it came to adventuring. Having traveled to Japan earlier this year, there was one big takeaway from that trip that I insisted we carry forward in Thailand: only bring a carry-on. That being said, Thailand is the backpacker's paradise, so rather than drag around a wheeled carry-on, we opted to ruck. Now, depending on where you travel in Thailand, what time of year you go and what activities you have planned, there are so many directions that this packing list could go. I'll tell you this about our trip: it was 12 days including travel (about 10 days in Thailand with just over a day of travel on either end), we traveled in late August during monsoon season, and we planned for less relaxing and more adventuring. By adventure, I mean jumping into waterfalls, light hiking and spending a day with the elephants. Our trip took us from Bangkok, to Chiang Mai to Pai; skipping the South entirely.

We weren't interested in partying and we didn't dress to impress. We packed for practicality along with the ever-present reminder that it could rain at any minute. So, what follows are pictures of what I brought. My husband brought the male equivalent (minus a male romper LOL...though on second thought, that might not have been a bad idea).

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So, what do I have in there? Going from left to right and top to bottom:

  • 1x quick-dry towel

  • A journal and Fodor's Guide to Thailand

  • Plastic baggie of essential items (explained in detail later on)

  • Hat

  • Small plastic baggie for passport, cash/cards, IDs, etc (I carried this in the drawstring bag)

  • The round green sack contains my undergarments and socks (5x pairs underwear, 5x bras, 5x socks)

  • Drawstring bag that I used as my daypack/purse

  • Light blue bag for toiletries

  • Rain jacket

  • 2x shirts (I wore one of these consistently on flights)

  • 1x jumpsuit that I bought after arriving in Thailand (you can buy these everywhere and I wore it constantly)

  • 1x romper (I packed this in my drawstring bag on the day we visited the elephants so I could quickly change into it after showering, but that was the only time I wore it)

  • Black t-shirt and shorts acted as my PJs

  • Purple-patterned wrap could be worn over my swimsuit or brought to temples to cover up my shoulders

  • Swimsuit

  • 3x workout-type shirts (not for working out, but something you don't mind sweating in or getting dirty)

  • 2x pairs workout-type shorts (see note above)

  • 2x pairs breathable pants (I wore one pair of these consistently on flights)

  • 1x pair sandals (flip flops could work, but I would recommend heartier sandals)

  • 1x pair running shoes or light hiking boots

  • Other items not pictured: phone & charger, headphones

Here's a pic of all the clothes packed into the waterproof sack like the one my undergarments were in, along with a pic of everything that ended up in the backpack:

These waterproof sacks were great! It is amazing how much stuff you can put into them and they collapse down much further than what's pictured if you squeeze them to get all the air out. We also used them to bring our dirty clothes to be washed at a laundromat. You can find them in most outdoors stores like REI.

There were a few items that I didn't bring, but that could've been useful:

  • small, collapsible umbrella (rain jacket sufficed, but didn't keep my pants dry)

  • digital camera (didn't want it to get wet since we traveled during monsoon season)

  • light sweater or steal an airplane blanket from the international flight (domestic flights were chilly)

Now, the following picture shows everything in that "essential items" bag that I mentioned in the packing list. This bag is well worth its weight and while there were several items I never used, I would still bring them again:

By far the three most essential items in this bag for our trip were the roll of to-go toilet paper, the travel-sized tube of Pepto-Bismol and the Dramamine. Many bathrooms that we used while out and about did not have toilet paper. For the dudes, this isn't a big problem (unless of course you've got a solids situation), but for us gals it's a consistent requirement. The Pepto-Bismol was used on one occasion after eating some questionable street food and it cleared up the mild nausea quickly. The Dramamine was essential for me on our drive from Chiang Mai to Pai. Three hours of windy roads up mountains with drivers who think the oncoming traffic lane is perfect for passing slower cars at blind turns. Here's a summary of the contents:

  • To-go toilet paper

  • Benadryl itch-stopping cream (never used it)

  • Lotion (never used it)

  • Bug spray (used it once...surprisingly very few mosquitos despite the rainy season)

  • Chapstick

  • Sunscreen

  • Pepto-Bismol

  • Dramamine

  • Advil or some kind of pain reliever

  • Benadryl pills (never used them)

  • Tums

  • Hand santizer

  • Theraflu (never used it, but I love this stuff)

  • Wet wipes (never used them)

  • Makeup remover wipes (love these things!)

  • Moleskin (used once when my sandals rubbed a spot raw on my ankle)

  • Bandaids (never used them)

Welp, that about sums it up! Below is what it all looks like after packing it in the ol' backpack. Weighed in just shy of 15 pounds! My husband's was about 20 pounds, but his clothes are bigger than mine. (*Shoes for scale). There was plenty of room leftover in both of our packs for souvenirs!

Happy travels!

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about the author

Riley is an active duty US Army Captain and the Founder of Right and Up. She’s currently stationed in Washington, DC, with previous assignments at Fort Huachuca, Fort Bliss, Fort Riley and Fort Benning. You can typically find her eating embarrassingly large amounts of food in local restaurants, or exploring her military town with her husband, Sean and her dog, Gus. Connect with her on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter!