Wondering what you need to pack for China? The weather is pretty diverse here- it can go from hot and humid to cold and snowy in just a couple of days. How do you know what to put on your China packing list?
As two people who live in China, and frequently take trips here, we have a very good idea of what you’ll need to pack. And there are some things that you may not have thought of!
We wanted to share our China packing list with you so that you know what to pack for China on your next trip.
Our China Packing List
Before you think of what you need to back, you need a catpack backpack to put your things in! We’re big advocates of travelling with a hand luggage sized bag only, but if you don’t think you can manage getting everything into a 40L bag like we do we still recommend travelling light. When you pack for China, you should think about the amount of walking/ hiking/ trekking you’re going to be doing. You don’t want to be lugging a huge backpack around!
Everything on our China packing list fits into our Osprey Transporter 40L backpacks, so we promise it’s possible to travel carry-on only if you want to.
Yes, we travel with an Osprey Transporter 40L backpack- and we love it!
It comes in a variety of colours for those fashion-conscious travellers and it’s a lightweight, versatile and easy to pack bag. You can use it as both a backpack and a holdall for those times when your shoulders are begging for a rest. It can also be folded away (a bit like a raincoat can) so if you want to use it as part of a bigger piece of kit it’s easy to do so.
While the shoulder straps don’t have as much support and cushioning as many other backpacks, we find that because it’s only a 40L bag this doesn’t make a huge difference as you aren’t carrying a lot of weight.
Our bags have been the start of what we pack for China for over a year now and they’re still in perfect condition. We use them every day for work, travel and play- here’s a glimpse of our bags, one year in.
Still looking perfect!
As well as the main compartment there are four other handy sections to separate the other things you’re going to pack for China. Plus the bag opens like a suitcase which means you can access your belongings in just a few seconds when you need to. My old backpack opened from the top which meant I could never find anything!
We think the Osprey Transporter 40L is a perfect start to your China packing list- and at only £49.99 it’s the most affordable backpack we’ve come across so far.
Probably one of the most important things you’ll need to pack for China! Have an idea of when you’ll be travelling so you can guess at the weather. For example, if you’re going to Beijing in winter you’ll need a coat.
Top tip! Save room in your backpack by wearing or holding your coat when using transport. China loves air conditioning, so you may need it anyway!
If you’re not sure what the weather will be like, then layers are your friend. As a woman I always carry a vest top, t shirt, cardigan and thin jacket. This means I have at least 4 layers available to me at all times. A thin scarf is also very useful as you can use it as an extra layer, cover up, sarong or beach towel depending on where in China you are!
Always have a sturdy, comfy pair of trainers with you. There’s no need for hiking boots- we climbed Huangshan without them- but take some supportive trainers for all your walking needs. I wear Nike Dual Fusions and Seb has Reebok Pheehan Runs.
A hidden gem for backpackers, packing cubes should be an essential for your China packing list. These babies allow you to condense your clothes into smaller, easy to pack cubes. This means your bag will be more organised and your stuff easier to access. No more embarrassment at the airport when your bag is being searched and your knickers attach themselves to you electronics…
They’re extremely important for China as those layers I’ve just advised you to pack for China will take up a lot of space, and packing cubes will compress your clothes into a smaller area.
We use three packing cubes similar to these, and I couldn’t travel without them now!
For aspiring digital nomads like us, a good laptop is a vital piece of kit in our China packing list. We both use fairly standard, high spec laptops which are a little on the bigger side but pose no problem for our Osprey bags.
As much as our laptops are great, and fit into our backpacks with no problem, we’re looking to upgrade them to something ultra-lightweight in the future purely to alleviate some extra weight from our backpacks. We already pack light, but the less we can pack for China the better!
Why travel around China without a great camera? You’re going to see some amazing sites like the Great Wall, pandas in Chengdu, Shanghai’s bund, and incredible mountains…
The camera we use for photos is a Canon Powershot SX530. It’s a very reasonably priced bridge camera that is great for point and shoot photography. It gives you options to change settings manually but being a bridge camera it lacks some of the control you get with a DSLR camera. However, unless you’re a budding professional photographer we don’t think a DSLR is necessary- though we love the Canon EOS 700D if that’s something you’re interested in.
We have had no problems at all with our Canon Powershot SX530. It’s incredibly easy to use and one great benefit is that it has built in wi-fi. This means you can transfer the photos onto your phone as soon as you’ve taken them.
We have taken some great shots with this camera and its small, lightweight size makes it an ideal addition to our China packing list.
Make sure a great camera is something you pack for China!
Not just for calling home, your phone will be one of the most important pieces of equipment you have when travelling in China.
It will be your guide, your translator, your map, your currency converter and a whole host of other things. I think we can all agree it’s a vital addition to your China packing list.
Top tip! There’s no need to worry excessively over the safety of your electronic equipment when you travel to China. We always recommend caution but on the whole it’s a very safe place to be. Use one of the handy hidden compartments in your Osprey backpack to store your valuables!
The iPhone has such an easy to use interface and with seemingly endless apps from the app store you can be certain there is something to help you when travelling in China.
The high-quality camera is also a big plus for those moments when you can’t get your proper camera out in time to capture something special.
We’re certainly not suggesting you need 2 iPhones like we have, but when you pack for China just make sure that your phone will work on foreign networks. If you’re in the Country for any length of time you may come to realise your phone might not be compatible with Chinese signal or internet…
Technically this one isn’t a physical part of your China packing list but it’s something you won’t be able to do without!
You may or may not know that many websites- including Google, Facebook, Twitter and YouTube- are blocked in China and you’ll need a VPN to access them. We’re written a whole post about the so called Great Firewall of China- have a read if you’re unsure what this will mean for your adventure in China.
There are some free VPNs around but they’re notoriously unreliable and will limit your internet access to just a few minutes per day. Not cool if you need to keep in touch with people, run a business or website and just generally keep in touch with the outside world.
We have used ExpressVPN since before the beginning of our travels and we have found it to be one of the best VPN networks around. At only $8.32 a month, it’s an absolute bargain.
The other big benefit of ExpressVPN is that as well as the hundreds of servers around the world, you can connect and use it on 3 devices at a time- there’s even an app for your phone!
It’s even beneficial to have a VPN when you’re not in China- fancy watching American Netflix? Or want to keep your information private? A VPN can even save you money when you look at products from different locations!
We’re not sure why you wouldn’t add ExpressVPN to your China packing list!
The final thing that we pack for China is our Amazon Kindle.
If you’re someone who very much enjoys reading and travelling, there comes a point where it’s no longer sensible to take 20 books away with you.
The Amazon Kindle is our go to device for e-books as it’s very small, very lightweight and it has a great battery life. Plus, you can download pretty much any book that you can think of- including the Lonely Planet China guidebook!
And you can pre-order my eBook, ‘Around the World Itinerary and Budget: Southeast Asia’ if you want!
Now you know what to pack for China we wish you luck on your trip! We hope our China packing list was helpful and you feel a little more prepared for your adventure through this amazing Country.
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