How many liters should my backpack for Southeast Asia be?
Due to the warm climate in Southeast Asia, the packing will be light! Throughout the day you’ll likely be wearing T-shirts, singlets, and shorts to keep cool. Luckily, you will not need to pack numerous heavy jumpers, trousers or jackets which would take up a lot of space in your backpack. We do recommend packing one warm outfit as the plane and bus rides can be quite chilly when the air-con is on.
When searching for the best backpack for Southeast Asia, we suggest purchasing a 40L-60L backpack as this will be more than enough for your travels.
Keep in mind that measurements can vary quite a bit per brand. A 40L backpack from one company may have the same space as a 45L backpack from another company. Reading the online reviews will give you some insight into whether the backpack will be large enough to suit your needs.
Front or top loader backpack for Southeast Asia?
We personally love the front-loading backpacks when traveling through Southeast Asia.
The majority of larger backpacks (+60L) are top-loaders and are more suitable for long term treks where you need to bring hiking gear.
For trips to Southeast Asia, however, we recommend to use a front-loading backpack because it will much be much easier to take out your clothes, toiletries, and essentials on a daily basis.
You can simply open your backpack and see your belongings instead of digging to the bottom of your top-loading pack and having to pull everything out on a daily basis.
Unfortunately, the selection of front-loading backpacks is still quite limited, but luckily we managed to select a few good ones after extensive research.
One of the most popular brands of backpacks for Southeast Asia travelers is Osprey. This company specializes in travel backpacks and have been in the business for many years, perfecting their backpacks with each new model.
Not only does Osprey offer lots of awesome features such as extra pockets, locking features, easy triggers for the zippers, but Osprey backpacks are made from very durable materials and come with a lifetime guarantee.
My top 3 front-loader backpacks
#1 Osprey Kestrel 48-58L
Advantages: Great quality, comfort fit, better air circulation, may be carried as hand luggage on most flights.
This backpack is by far my favourite. While lots of travel bloggers recommend the Osprey Farpoint model, I think the Osprey Kestrel model is a much better choice to backpack in Southeast Asia.
The backpack has several compartments, easy-glide zippers and even includes a rain cover. Another advantage is that the comfortable backing offers extra netting for air circulation, which is great when you have to walk for more than a few minutes on an extremely hot day.
You can get this backpack in multiple sizes, the 58L backpack is the most popular size. If you are concerned with packing light, then this might be the one for you. However, if you are a packing pro, the 48L will likely be perfect for you.
I always prefer to leave some extra space in case I buy some extra shirts or souvenirs, so I bought the 58L, M/L version.
Carry-on luggage for flights
If you measure the backside of this 58L version you’ll see it’s just slightly over the dimensions (55cm) of allowed carry on luggage for flights.
Luckily there is a trick for this: just bend the backside slightly on the top and bottom and the length less than 55cm high! I already travelled with this 58L version as carry on luggage for several times without any questions being asked.
Obviously, this trick only works if you don’t stuff your backpack from top to bottom.
You can view the Osprey Kestrel here
PS – keep in mind that Osprey offers S/M and M/L versions of these backpacks. Visit this size guide from the Osprey’s website that perfectly explains what to look at when choosing the right size.
#2 Osprey Farpoint 40-55L
The Osprey Farpoint is a very popular backpack for Southeast Asia travellers as well as it offers several advantages.
There are two models of the Osprey Farpoint to choose from, the 40L and the 55L. The 55L backpack is actually a 40L, plus a small 15L daypack. Both backpacks offer a lot of value for money but are more suitable for short trips.
Are you going away for 1 or 2 weeks? Then the Farpoint is an excellent choice. The 40L is very light and perfect if you plan to travel a lot of short distances.
The great advantage of the Osprey Farpoint is that it can pass the airport luggage control as carry-on luggage. Osprey carefully considered the size of this backpack to ensure it could be used as carry-on luggage with most airlines. This will save you a lot of time when you arrive at the airport and can simply walk off the plane straight to immigration instead of waiting for your bags at the luggage carousel.
While this is not a very luxurious backpack with lots of compartments, it’s simplicity will suffice for short term travels.
An advantage of the 55L version is that it also includes a small removable daypack of 15L which comes in very handy for day trips and going to the beach. The daypack has a lot of compartments that will help to fit all your gear, passport, money and anything else you need for a short day trip. If you don’t have a day pack yet, this is a great choice. Keep in mind that the larger backpack is slightly different than the solo 40L. The daypack will fit all your accessories while the larger back is not much more than an open bag without compartments (less than the solo 40L).
Summarizing, the Farpoint is a great choice for short trips and can be carried on the plane as hand luggage. The 55L even comes with an extra great daypack which is great value for money. However, keep in mind that this backpack is less comfortable to carry for long distances. If you are walking for any distance of approximately 30 minutes or more, it may start to cause back pain.
You can view both versions of the Osprey Farpoint here.
#3 Lowe Alpine Kulu 55-65L
What I love so much about this backpack is that the company carefully considered all aspects (and struggles) of travelling.
When you backpack Southeast Asia, it is unavoidable that you will have to switch between many buses, taxis, and planes to reach your next destination, meaning you will often only need to carry your bag only a few meters. Side straps can get in the way and be quite annoying but with this pack, they can be easily put aside and not used. You can even use the cover on the bottom to protect the complete backpack from getting damaged during the trip.
While it’s quite a large backpack for travel to warm countries, it would be great if you plan to do some hiking have some colder countries included in your travel itinerary. The extra space could be very useful for packing hiking gear and warmer clothes.
You can view the Lowe Alpine Kulu backpack here
What to pack?
If you’re not sure what you need to pack to backpack Southeast Asia, view our packing list for SouthEast Asia here for some helpful tips and tricks!