My recent packing challenge was packing for Borneo where we’d be in high humidity, trekking in the jungle, swimming and snorkelling on islands, then spending 4 days in Singapore, a total of 15 days. I was limited to 15kg due to an internal flight in Borneo. My empty suitcase weighted 2.3kg, so I had a 12.7kg packing challenge ahead. I was so concerned that I was weighing items of clothes and only the lightweight, functional clothing made it into the suitcase.
I’m an anxious chronic overpacker normally, so here’s what I learnt and what I packed for Borneo.
- Take lightweight breathable fabrics that are easy to wash and wear and dry fast, such as technical silk from brands Styling You The Label and Airism by Uniqlo
- Avoid cotton, it takes ages to dry in humid conditions
- Function over fashion – this was a hard one to get past as I like fashion, but every item in my suitcase had to perform in tough humid conditions
- You’ll be constantly sweating, so bring enough tops to be able to change regularly
- Streamline toiletries – the bare minimum
- Handwash clothes while away – bring a travel clothes line and clothes wash detergent
- Bring a fan, I instantly had people around me asking me to fan them – it’s hot in Borneo and in Singapore
- It rains hard and fast and at times with little warning, so always carry a plastic rain poncho with you everywhere. I was drenched three times, only once while wearing runners which took almost 2 days to dry. You don’t need a heavy rain coat, a plastic poncho does the job, plus it’s small, lightweight and easy to carry in a handbag / backpack
- We were warned about leeches in the jungle before we left and I bought 2 pairs of long football socks. I needn’t have worried, we could rent special ‘leech socks’ and wellington boots from the jungle camp.
What are leech socks?
I didn’t know before signing up for the trip either. Leech socks are long socks with a loose cotton upper that is elasticated. Leeches can attached through clothing that is close to th skin and has a loose weave. The leeches in Borneo were small (thank God!) and best way to get a leech off you is to roll them until they form a ball and flick them off.
This is what I packed to travel to Borneo and Singapore
- 4 short sleeve shirts in technical silk from Styling You The Label (could be worn day time or to a restaurant, easy to dress up / dress down),
- 2 t-shirts, Airism by Uniqlo (wore one on the plane)
- 4 old t-shirts / tanks that I wear to the gym / pilates, I was happy to dispose of these during the trip (but I didn’t)
- 1 long sleeve fishing shirt from Under Armour for jungle trekking / leech protection
- I packable windproof jacket from Uniqlo (which we discovered is not waterproof)
- 1 long sleeve linen shirt (worn on plane)
- 1 3/4 length pants / shorts from Lorna Jane
- 2 pairs long pants, Lorna Jane (worn on plane) and Hennessy
- 1 pair light weight linen pants
- 1 pair knee-length linen shorts
- Board shorts
- 2 bra crop tops (what I’d wear to pilates) – easy to wash and wear
- 2 bras
- 6 undies
- 3 socks for runners
- 2 long socks (for protection from leeches, and I needn’t have bothered as I rented specific leech socks and gum boots)
- Rain poncho – small plastic one $5 from BCF (I bought another one in Borneo)
- Panama hat
- Pashmina scarf (worn on plane)
- Runners / sneakers (worn on plane)
- Keens Whisper travel sandals – perfect travel shoe for all day walking / getting wet, however, low on the style scale
- Fitflop cova sandal
Non clothing items
- Insect repellent
- Insect repellent velcro bracelet – seemed to work, I hardly got bitten
- Mosquito net for face
- Small binoculars (were useless, bring good ones or go without)
- Head torch
- Neck cooler scarf
- Packable backpack
- 2 packable tote bags Peak Design
- Fan, foldable
- Novel to read
- Wash bag Peak Design (toilet bag) with 4 x sachets of shampoo and conditioner. I made these stretch and only used three, toothbrush, small toothpaste, mini floss, deodorant, 2 x face creams (one with SPF), tweezers, nail clippers, comb, facial cleanser, leave in hair styling product (I usually use 3-5 products on my curly hair, but only brought one), all purpose Savlon cream, body oil moisturiser, cotton buds, face cloth
- Small make up bag: mascara, eye pencil, brow pencil, one eye shadow, 2 lipsticks
- Travel clothes washing detergent
- Peak Design capture clip to carry camera (not used, I used the camera strap each time)
- Silver necklace
- Sleep kit – lavender essential oil, ear plugs, eye mask
Carry on backpack
- Backpack, Peak Design
- Canon R6 camera with 24-105mm kit lens (I was immediately wishing I had a 400mm or better lens)
- Note pad and pen
- Singapore pocket guidebook
- Tech pouch (Peak Design) with all my chargers, cords, cables, hard drives, spare SD cards
- Inflatable neck pillow (which I never used)
- Bose noise cancelling ear phones (for plane)
- Apple ear pods
- Ziplock plastic bag with lip balm, mini hand cream, sanitiser, toothbrush and mini toothpaste, mini face cream
- Print out of my travel documents – vaccination certificate, travel itinerary
- Reading glasses
- Face mask – spare
- Hair clips and bands
My packing was a success. My suitcase weighted 12.6kg in total. This is THE LIGHTEST I’ve ever travelled (besides carry on only on short trips) and it’s certainly the lightest I’ve travelled overseas.
The only things I missed was having a dress and another pair of long lightweight pants. And hair product – I had frizzy hair for most of the trip, but in such humid conditions, it’s unavoidable – and that’s where it’s great to have a hat!
I would have liked to have another “nice” outfit for Singapore, however, I made do. I was proud that I was able to take the bare minimum. At the end of the day, it’s about experiencing a new place, not about what you wear.
This blog post is not sponsored by anyone and I’m not an affiliate of Styling You The Label, Uniqlo nor Peak Design. I love Styling You The Label clothing and Peak Design products – both were put to the test on this trip and were perfect for the job.
Let me know if you have any questions and I’ll try to help.