Needless to say, packing is very important. What gear to bring and how much is enough for the entire trip?! It’s a mind-bending question sometimes. Reflecting on many years of phượt-ing (“Phượt” – a recent surge of travelling/backpacking on private motorbikes in Vietnam), I’m gonna share with you a lift of essential and vital items to carry for a 3-5 days trip. Some of them might appear to be unnecessay but trust me, don’t skip them on your long motorbike trips in Vietnam.
Note: Drip-dry material is highly recommended.
1. 1-3 pairs of comfortable travelling pants/trousers, one durable for regular use, the other two are for in case the first one too dirty or wet.
2. Thin T-shirt, underwear and socks, 3-5 equal to number of travelling days.
3. 1 sweater if travelling in winter.
4. 1 thin jacket if travelling to slight cold place to protect against wind and frost.
5. 1 thick jacket for winter. However, this jacket have to be as lightweight as possible.
6. A long scarf to protect your head, neck and face against sunlight and wind blow.
7. 1 pair of shoes. Durable, lightweight, motion-supportive, dark-colored sport shoes are good choice, but the best is army boots.
8. Personal hygiene items (towel, toothbrush, shampoo, etc) in a small bag.
9. Sleeping bag if you plan to sleep in tent. However, tent sleeping is honestly not safe so just do it if travelling in big group.
10. Cash. Vietnam is a cash-based economy. Always have cash in hand! Even in big cities, cash is still dominant in most of transactions, not to mention the mountainous and rural.
11. Driving license is a must-have if you travel by private motorbikes (phượt).
12. Vehicle registration and motorbike insurance is also a must for the vehicle you’re travelling on in case of traffic police incidents.
13. Passport and ID for accommodation checkin (required from motel level above) and sometimes to present at the border if you want to pass.
Put all of these in a fanny pack so you know they’re always there and reduce the chance of mixing up with other.
14. Helmet that can fully cover and protect your head and keep out the wind noise from ease to minimize exhaustion, or at least 3/4 ones, never a half-head or thin fragile fashionable one if you don’t want to get into trouble.
15. Elbow and knee protection to minimize injury in case of accidents. Very important!
16. A pair of sunglasses if your helmet does not have an integrated one. Mind the blinding sun above your head.
17. A dedicated motorbikes pair of gloves that allows firm grip.
18. Raincoat, thick and durable ones can be easily found at Phượt shop.
19. Rain boots for the rain and mud of course
20. Thermos bottle if travelling in winter.
General group items
If you are group leader, consider bringing or having someone bring these items.
21. Big and small plastic bags, 20kg (44lb) to wrap your backpack in case of rain and 5-10kg (11-22lb) to keep dirty clothes and others.
22. Electrical multi-outlets for charging in case your room doest not accommodate all, which is common.
23. Hair dryer to dry gloves, shoes, etc and dry hair for women. Very handy indeed!
24. Medical kit includes basic and essential medicines like cough, flu and cold remedy, quick painkiller, antipyretic; and bandage, alcohol, etc.
25. (Backup) Foods are dry and fast foods, water, a few Redbulls, tea and coffee (if you like), glucose (to mix into water and drink to reduce fatigue).
26. Rearview mirror. In Vietnam’s law, you just legally need 1 rearview mirror on the left, which induces (young) travellers to remove the other one or replace with a fashionable one all to keep the police away, but keeping both is advised for enhanced safety.
27. A basic motorbike kit, for quick solution in case your vehicles breaks down at sparsely populated places before you can have further better check when you see motorbike mechanic shops.
28. Extra motorbike key, to give to someone else in your group in case you lose the first key, which happens to me quite often on the going.
29. Rubber band of about 3m (10ft) in length to fasten something onto motorbike when needed.
30. Full check and maintainance before any trip is highly advisable. Make sure it is reliable.
Above is necessary items for a long motorbike trip in Vietnam (Phượt trip). You are open to bring some of your favorite travel stuff but keep in mind, necessity over comfort. Let’s try to save some energy for enjoying the view with a bit of bearable discomfort then exhausting yourself from the weight on your back.