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.


Things I wish I’d packed: Updated 11/3/2024

The only things I missed was having a dress and another pair of long lightweight pants.

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 … right?

I need to find better 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!

A Sunbella wrap would have been perfect in Borneo. I took one with me to Rome in the middle of a heatwave and once wet, it really helped keeping me cool. They are also great for sun protection (their original purpose).

I also wish I had a Scrubba portable washing machine – yes, a small foldable clothes washing bag. I don’t like handwashing and I’m not very good at this, a Scrubba really would’ve helped.


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.

I purchased a Sunbella wrap to take with me to Italy which was about 12 months after my trip to Borneo. I think I will always have a Sunbella wrap with me on every summer trip from now on, it was that versatile and like my own portable air conditioner.

A year or so after my trip, Scrubba did gift me a washing bag to try out; I’m not an affiliate and wasn’t paid to write about them.

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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