When we originally left the UK over four months ago, our backpacks carefully packed, we were unsure whether we had the essential baby items we would need for our long-term adventure ahead (original list of baby items packed).
In the last few months we’ve covered thousands of miles by air, boat, train and road. We’ve travelled across Tioman islands, Singapore, Borneo, Java, Bali, mainland Malaysia, Thailand and are currently en route to Cambodia, which will be followed by a month in Vietnam.
We’ve climbed volcanoes, hiked up hills, trekked through jungles, canoed down rivers, ridden on the back of elephants, spotted orangutans swinging from the forest trees, fed monkeys, cycled around beautiful temples, slept in wooden huts and swam in tropical seas, all with our baby by our side.
Backpacking on a budget with a baby has its challenges, but I’m confident that we now have the experience to know what key items to pack when travelling with a baby.
These are my recommendations based on personal experience of travelling around SE Asia:
Before leaving the UK I researched many types of baby sling to find something that would be suit our adventure ahead. I finally chose the ergobaby sling and I have not been disappointed.
The ergobaby sling can be used to carry your baby on your front or back and the ergonomic design of the sling means that it’s beneficial to both you and your baby. My husband and I both find it extremely comfortable to wear and our baby seems to enjoy being in it as he often falls asleep so we regularly use the sleeping hood that supports his head and neck.
The ergobaby sling has given us the freedom to have unique adventures as a family. Amongst others we’ve climbed the Ijen Crater and Mount Bromo in Indonesia, hiked up the hillside in Tha Thon, Northern Thailand to visit the beautiful Buddhist temples, trekked in Borneo and we’re about to head to Cambodia where we’re going to be staying in a treehouse on an otherwise uninhabited island where the sling will give us the opportunity to explore the terrain. The ergobaby has already been a big part of our adventure and will remain a big part over the next few months.
Key benefits – comfortable for both baby and carrier (mum and dad), adjustable sleeping hood, lightweight, machine washable.
Phil and Teds Wriggle Wrapper:
A couple of friends bought us a wriggle wrapper a few weeks before we left the UK and I cannot praise it highly enough – we use it at least twice a day.
The Wriggle Wrapper has 3 functions:
- Secures a child safely to a chair so can be used in place of a high chair (ideal in Asia where high chairs are not always available)
- Secures a child to your lap so you can have your hands free.
- Can also be used as a secure sleep support on a single bed when your baby is small.
It’s lightweight, folds up into a small pouch and we carry it with us everyday in the daypack.
We’ve found the Wriggle wrapper most useful on the many interesting modes of transport we’ve been using across SE Asia. We can securely attach him to our lap when we’re on small boats, speedboats, tuk tuks and even elephants. He’s become used to the secure feeling it gives him and once he’s clipped in he relaxes and often falls asleep.
- Key benefits – lightweight, compact, washable fabric, adaptable
Maclaren buggy – Quest
The very few articles I could find on backpacking with a baby recommended not to take a buggy travelling, but I cannot disagree more. I would highly recommend taking a buggy, particularly as there is no additional baggage cost on flights.
When you’re on a long-term trip and carrying 2 x large backpacks and 2 x daypacks (one on-your front, one on your back), it would be extremely difficult to also carry your child.
The buggy allows you to carry your luggage and move around easily – imperative when you’re moving from location to location on a regular basis and need to carry your belongings between transport hubs.
During days out, predominantly in urban areas, the buggy which has a reclining back, proves comfortable enough for our baby to have a morning or afternoon snooze and coupled with the Koo-di sun hood (see below), we know that he is safe from harmful rays.
It’s also good to know that we have something safe to strap him into in places where it’s not suitable for him to be running around freely.
- Key benefits – lightweight, easy to carry when folded, reclines for comfortable snoozing, secure.
***PLEASE NOTE THAT THIS TRAVEL COT HAS BEEN RECALLED DUE TO SAFETY ISSUES (SEE LINK BELOW). DO NOT BUY OR USE***
The Kidco Peapod travel cot was a late addition to our backpack (click here to read my earlier blog post entitled ‘the Kidco Peapod joins our adventure’) but in the short time that we’ve had it it’s already proven its worth.
The Kidco Peapod was one of the few travel cots that I could find that is both compact AND lightweight so it’s ideal for backpacking. It fits comfortably into my rucksack, takes seconds to erect (and only a few minutes to pack away) and weighs just over 2kg.
The built-in mosquito net keeps our baby safe from the hungry beasts and the breathable fabric means he doesn’t overheat in the night. It also offers UV protection so can be used outdoors too – ideal for day-trips to the beach.
The model we have purchased lasts until he’s circa 3 years old so hopefully we’ll get plenty more use out of it over the next couple of years.
- Key benefits – compact, lightweight, simple to erect, insect proof, breathable fabric
Koo-di UV buggy hood
One of our main concerns about travelling around SE Asia with our baby was how to keep him safe from the suns harmful rays. The Koo-di UV buggy hood is something we use everyday and comes highly recommended as it protects your child by blocking out 93% of all harmful UVA & UVB rays.
It’s very easy to fit, is a universal size so fits most buggies / pushchairs and once folded takes up very little room in our daypack. When out and about it helps our baby to snooze as it keeps the bright sunshine out of his eyes and we’ve also used it in the evening as a blackout blind to help him sleep.
- Key benefits – blocks 93% of harmful rays, machine washable, easy to fit, universal size.
Other essential items:
In addition to the 5 items above we’ve the following to be very useful:
Designed to fit over most cots and buggies this has been incredibly useful for two reasons. 1) It keeps you baby safe from mosquitoes 2) it creates a barrier between your baby and others giving them a break from the regular touching and pinching. This is particularly useful when your baby’s trying to nap.
Airtight plastic pot (1.4 litres capacity):
I highly recommend taking a good quality airtight container to keep your baby’s milk powder in. The majority of milk powder sold in Asia comes in a 600g bag within a box or a pouch. Ants love the milk powder, but the airtight container has so far succeeded in keeping even the smallest of ants out.
Dish washing sponge:
Many guesthouses and hostels allow you to use their kitchen facilities but I’ve found that many had filthy cleaning cloths that I wasn’t happy using to clean our baby’s bottles. I bought a sponge that I keep in a small resealable bag.
I’ve got 2 of these clips with me and they have proven to be very handy for when we’ve bought food products that need be kept airtight. It keeps the food fresh on the inside and keeps the insects outside.
Small airtight container:
We bought one of these to take away, but I would recommend taking two the same size so that they fit one inside the other. If we’re staying somewhere where we have access to a fridge then we use our pot to store leftover food for our baby. It allows us to buy one portion of food that will last for 2 plus meals.
We only brought a handful of toys with us, but this has proven to be the most versatile and one that even 4 months on he loves to play with.
As well as building towers we use them in the shower, the sea, to build sandcastles and we are now using them to teach him colours. For the hours of pleasure he gets from them they take up very little room in the rucksack.
Although similar products are available across in Asia in bottles, I have been unable to find sachets. Sachets are perfect for taking out with you in your daypack as they’re light and small. I would recommend using the bottled local products during the evenings and only using the sachets when you’re out and about.
Baby change mat (all in one)
Apart from in new shopping malls in the large cities, baby change facilities leave a lot to be desired. Our baby change mat carries nappy bags, nappies and wipes and rolls up small enough to fit in the daypack. When on the move it’s very handy for changing your baby anywhere.
Space saver packing device:
This ingenious waterproof packing device compresses its contents so that it takes up very little room in your backpack. We use ours for our baby’s clothes. Once compressed his entire wardrobe fits into a space circa 28cm x 20cm, which fits comfortably into the bottom section of my rucksack.
Walking straps / reins:
Now that our baby is toddling around our walking straps are proving to be very useful. However, we’ve used them regularly since we arrived in Asia to secure our baby into cafe high chairs. The majority of high chairs that we have used in Asia either don’t come with straps, or the straps are missing. The harness allows you to secure your baby safely into the high chair so that they can’t stand up or attempt to escape when your back is turned!
Unwanted baby items
These are some of the items that I thought I would need but have discarded along the way.
I brought a baby bowl with me, but discarded it after one month as I never used it. If needed, the small plastic airtight pot can double up as a baby bowl.
I had planned to use the ergobaby sling for the hikes and more intense walking trips and packed a simple ring sling to use for smaller periods of time in towns and cities. Both my husband and I found the ergobaby far more comfortable to use and therefore we left the ring sling with our friends in Singapore.
I was worried that in some places I would be unable to find disposable nappies so I packed two re-usable nappies to use in emergencies. Although we haven’t always followed the main tourist routes we have always managed to find nappies so the re-usable ones were unnecessary.
If your baby’s crawling then they will get very dirty very quickly so I recommend packing the quantities I did at the start of our trip (click here to see the original packing list). However, once they’re walking you can reduce the number of items considerably, particularly as laundry is so inexpensive in SE Asia and the turnaround times are fast (within 24 hours is standard, but an express wash & dry can take as little as 3 hours).
Sterilising tablets – don’t overpack:
Hygiene was a concern before we left, particularly how we would keep our baby’s bottles clean and sterilised. I packed over 150 x Milton sterilising tablets, but I now realise this was too many as we haven’t even used one. Boiling water has been available in most places we have stayed and when it’s not local cafes have kindly provided boiling water for his bottles. I have disposed of all but 10 x sterilising tablets.
If you’re planning a trip or have any questions please feel free to drop me a line on the ‘comments’ section and I will reply as soon as I’m in an area with wifi.
How long do you think the Ergo will last your baby? I.e. to what age/weight. Has he always been in a carrier or sling?
When our baby was very small I used a Moby wrap to carry him around when we went out for walks. I only bought the ergobaby a few weeks before leaving the UK so it was the first time he had been in a back carrying sling, but he loves it.
The ergobaby sling is capable of carrying a child up until they weigh 20kg. I’m not sure what age that will correspond to, but our 17 month old baby currently weighs just over 11kg so we have plenty of wear left in it yet. We are currently using the sling for longer hikes and hill walks and both my husband and I find it very comfortable to wear for long durations. As he gets heavier and heads towards the 20kg weight I’m sure I will find it harder to carry him for longer periods, but as it’s so lightweight and compact we will definitely be using for our future adventures.
Here’s the link to the ergobaby website. I highly recommend their slings.
I hope this helps.
Hi Sue and family,
Great to get some ideas for what to bring, we might go to Nepal with our 13 month old. My biggest worry is traffic. As a backpacker it’s pretty hard to carry around a car seat, and sometimes I guess a cab ride is unavoidable…How do you tackle this?
Enjoy your trip!
Thanks for your message.
I guess the ideal scenario would be to take a car seat with you, but unfortunately this isn’t feasible when backpacking. We’ve also found that as car regulations differ from the West, many cars/taxis don’t even have seat belts in the back, so even if you did have a car seat it wouldn’t be feasible to use it.
Road safety was one of my main concerns about travelling with our baby. You might like to read my blog post entitled ‘road safety Sue’ as it gives an insight into my concerns and how we have tackled them.
One thing we have found very useful is the Phil and Ted’s wriggle wrapper. This is by no means a travel safety device and the manufacturers do not advertise it for travel use, but we’ve found it very handy for bus, minibus or boat journeys. It attaches your baby firmly to your lap leaving your hands free and I feel happier knowing that if the vehicle stops suddenly, or you go over a bump, that my baby won’t fall off my lap.
We also read the blurb in the beginning of the guide books as Lonely planet gives an overview of the travel options available in each country and the standard you can expect. After reading that the minibuses in Cambodia were frequently involved in accidents due to overcrowding and poor vehicle maintenance, we never even considered using one, favouring the larger buses.
At the beginning of our trip we also didn’t appreciate how different the standard of vehicles can be and on occasion, usually in the evenings, we had ended up in some vehicles that wouldn’t be considered road worthy outside of Asia. After learning from our experience, we made sure we always saw the vehicle we were negotiating a fare for (even a city taxi) before considering a journey.
I do hope this helps.
Feel free to contact me if you have any other questions.
Good luck with your trip.
Hello Sue, her better half and “the boy”:)
Your blog has been an immense help for me and I have to say I copied quite some of your baby travel stuff. We haven’t even left and I already love the wriggle wrapper!!!:) Our baby boy will be 8 months old in November, when we travel to Malaysia for 3 weeks. Since it will be a wet season for the east coast, we are still deciding either to have beach time in Borneo or Langkawi. What would you recommend for a baby? Where in Borneo was the best beach time for a young family for you?Did you give antimalarics to your boy in Borneo when you went hiking in the inland of the island? Did you find travel around Borneo (from Kota Kinabalu to Sandokan for example) safe? These roads are my major concern there. Since we only have 3 weeks, we won’t be on a budget that tight and are willing to pay for long distance taxis or rent a car in the mainland.
Do you have any suggestions on where to stay in KL and Cameron highlands? Especially for the latter I haven’t found many nice places for a good price.
Thanks a lot again:)