What to pack for humid places – Borneo, jungle, and more

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.

Top tips:

  • 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
Wearing plastic ponchos in Borneo

Wearing plastic ponchos in Borneo after it bucketed down. Photo: Ben King


  • 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.

Girl in rain coat and wellington boots

Indi modelling jungle wear – long sleeves and pants tucked into leech socks & wellington boots

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
  • Swimsuit
  • Board shorts
  • Sarong
  • 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
  • Cap
  • 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
  • Thongs
  • 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)
  • Laptop
  • 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
  • Mints
  • Reading glasses
  • Face mask – spare


  • Wallet
  • Passport
  • iPhone
  • Sanitiser
  • Facemask
  • Sunglasses
  • Hair clips and bands
  • Mints
  • Tissues

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.

Not sponsored
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.

After planting a tree along a logged area of the Kinabatangan River in Sabah, Borneo. Long sleeves, leech socks and gum boots are must. Mum is in the background 

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