What to pack for a Vietnam adventure

Rich in history and new experiences, Vietnam is a heady mix of eclectic architecture, colourful scenery and tantalising smells. And with a little planning, you’ll be ready to take on everything it has to offer.


In the last few years, Vietnam has exploded in popularity. With the bustling city markets in the Old Quarter of Hanoi, the white sandy beaches of Nha Trang, and the rolling green hills of Sapa, it’s easy to understand why. There’s a little something for everyone.

So what are you meant to pack when there’s rain, heat, jungle, and more adventure than you can shake a stick at? Here’s what you’ll need to consider:

Vietnams’ changing weather:

For the most part, Vietnam is hot. Depending on the time of the year, you can expect high temperatures, humidity and/or tropical showers. But temperatures can vary drastically between the north and south. For example, in the mountainous regions of Sapa, temperatures can drop to as low as 10 degrees.

In short, make sure you research the weather for the time of year, and the different regions you’ll be travelling in.

Your kind of adventure:

Vietnam is home to a different kind of everyday adventure – a special kind of chaos you learn to embrace the first time you cross the road. Spend your days exploring the local markets, visit one of the many museums, or immerse yourself in a traditional cooking class.

A delicious way to bring Vietnam home with you.
A delicious way to bring Vietnam home with you.

If you can't get enough of the outdoors, you're in luck. Vietnam is home to lush, tropical scenery with picturesque views. You might want to sweat it out on a tropical hike, cycle through the rice paddies, or kayak down the Mekong.

Hiking may include the chance to stare whimsically into the horizon.
Hiking may include the chance to stare whimsically into the horizon.

The adventures you want will impact the gear you bring, so it's a good idea to make a list of the things you might do while you're away.

Whatever you choose, make sure you squeeze in some time to experience what only Vietnam can offer you: junk sailing around Ha Long Bay, a hike up Dragon Mountain, or an overnight train to Hue.

Packing List for Vietnam:

Lightweight, breathable layers will help you stay cool, comfy and dry, and help you transition between changing weather conditions and activities. Amounts below are a guideline; adjust to how long you'll be away and how often you want to wash.

Clothing:

3-4 x quick-dry T-shirts. You’ll sweat through these quickly in the warmer months, so it’s an idea to have fast drying material to wash and dry overnight.

2 x singlets. Sometimes it's too hot even for T-shirts. Chuck in a few tank tops for everyday wear, but make sure you add some sunscreen.

1 x long pants or skirt. Important or religious sites can have strict dress codes, so pack something that covers your knees. T-shirts will come in handy for this reason too.

2 x shorts. Leave the denim at home. Instead bring at least one lightweight pair that dry fast and can be worn for more active pursuits — and another that you can wear everyday. The Nduro shorts are a good blend of both.

1-2 x dresses. For the ladies, pop at least one travel dress in your backpack. Loose dresses are a godsend in the summer and ideal for the beach.

1-2 x swimsuits. Essential if you're travelling up and down the coast!

1 x warm layer. If you're heading for the hills in Sapa, bring a cardigan or lightweight jacket to layer on top of your tees. If you don't expect cool weather, pack a lightweight merino layer to keep warm while you're in-transit.

Rain jacket. Visiting in the wet season? Bring a packable NGX rain jacket If you expect to get caught in a tropical shower or two, the lightweight Pocket-it might be a better option.

5 x quick-dry underwear. Because damp undies are the worst no matter where you are. Bring less if you don't mind hand-washing every other night.

Other considerations:

  • Active gear with moisture-wicking properties. Good for the heat, and getting outdoors.
  • T-shirts with anti-microbial fabric. These will help keep your body odour in check.
  • Clothing with built-in RFID technology. Carry your stuff in your pocket? These will help keep your cards safe.
  • Reversible clothing. Pack light with reversible tees, skirts, or dresses.
  • Merino tees. Merino is a natural temperature regulator so it'll keep you cool in the heat.
Keeping cool is priority number one.
Keeping cool is priority number one.

Footwear:

Sandals. You'll cover a lot of ground in Vietnam, so think about a versatile, open-toed sandal. It’ll keep you cool, comfy and offer you a bit more support than a pair of thongs. Find a pair that will work well during the day and won't be out of place at night.

Closed-in shoes. They'll be times when you'll need a bit more protection. A good runner or trail shoe won't be amiss, but consider a smarter travel shoe that can do multiple things at once.

Hiking Shoes (optional). If you have a specific hike or trail or mind, research the kind of weather and terrain you can expect. In some instances, a lightweight trail shoe will be enough, but if you've got something big in mind, you'll need a proper hiking boot.

Merino socks. If you're wearing closed-in shoes at any times, treat your feet to some merino socks. They'll wick sweat away from your foot, minimise the dampness and help keep blisters at bay.

A hiking boot will give you extra comfort and support on the harder trails.
A hiking boot will give you extra comfort and support on the harder trails.

Luggage & Bags:

A backpack. Vietnam is bumpy underfoot, so a travel backpack will outperform a suitcase when you've got to get somewhere in a hurry. Ideal if you need to squeeze it on a bus or a train.

A daypack. A must for any trip is a good daypack that can fit your everyday essentials, including a reusable water bottle so you can hydrate on the go. Daypacks will come in handy when you have to go to the beach, jump on a boat, or buy a whole bunch of groceries from the market.

A cross-body bag. If you don't need much during the day, or like a bag to keep your valuables in sight at all times, consider a smaller, over the shoulder bag with multiple compartments and secure closure. You can easily access your phone, camera or passport.

Catching a lot of public transport? A backpack is the way to go.
Catching a lot of public transport? A backpack is the way to go.

Accessories

  • Packing cells. Keep your things organised or just stash your dirty laundry in one to keep it separate.
  • RFID money belt or bag. To keep your valuables close and safe.
  • Microfibre towel. An extra-large once doubles as a beach towel.
  • Sunglasses
  • Hat
  • Mosquito repellent/bug spray
  • Sunscreen
  • Travel Adaptor (Plug A or C, I.E. the one with two round pins)
  • lock for your bag.
  • Portable battery pack for when you're on the move.
  • Hand sanitiser
  • First-aid kit including personal meds, immodium, paracetamol, antihistimines (if you suffer from allergies) and antibiotics, just in case.
  • Personal toiletries
  • Tissues. Toilet paper isn't always available in public toilets, so come prepared at all times!

Get ready for your Vietnam adventure with adaptable travel gear