China is one of the top three most visited countries in the world – and with its massive size, rich history, diverse landscape and quirky fashion – it has something for everyone.
But visiting China can be a bit of a culture shock for many visitors. In fact, you may even be wondering what you need to pack for a trip to China!
But we’ve got you covered. By the time you get to the end of this handy guide, you’ll feel more than equipped to gather all of your key China packing essentials before heading out. And then, after all that business is handled, comes the fun part – getting to China and starting your epic adventure!
So, let’s get right to it!
The Ultimate China Packing List
Packing for China can be daunting. But we’re here to help. In this guide we will run through exactly what you need to bring to China including the right bag, clothes and some handy gadgets.
The Backpack and Luggage: Nomatic Travel Bag
Before you even take on the task of figuring out what to pack for China, you’ll need an amazing backpack to pack it all into. For all types of travelers and destinations, our number one recommendation is the Nomatic Travel Bag.
The Nomatic travel bag covers every detail to make backpacking travel the best experience. Because of its smart design, it manages to provide loads of packing space in a convenient, carry-on size package! Its handy built-in pockets make plenty of room for all the necessities on your what to pack for China checklist – you’ll find separate compartments for important items like shoes, water bottle, electronics, underwear and socks. As an added bonus, there’s also an RFID-safe and cord management pocket.
You have a choice between backpack or duffel bag carry, and extra carrying comfort for your back thanks to its innovative strap system and detachable sternum strap. And its black, waterproof material is every bit sleek and modern as it is durable and tough. There is a reason why most Broke Backpacker staff swear by this backpack.
Alternative Luggage: AER Travel Pack 2
Our number two selection for an epic travel backpack is the AER Travel Pack 2. Like the Nomatic Travel Bag, this AER backpack is fully featured, big enough to hold an extended weekend of clothing, and tough enough to last years of travel abuse.
I have taken the AER Travel Pack 2 on multiple trips and since then it has risen has in the ranks of my go-to travel backpacks.
Check out our AER Travel Pack 2 review to learn more.
A Suitcase: Nomatic Carry-On Pro
Backpacks not your thing? That’s ok. Our friends at Nomatic are back again with a great alternative to their badass Travel Bag; the Nomatic Carry-On Pro.
This suitcase is ultra-durable, sleek, and comes with a handy tech compartment for transporting your laptop and other electronic bits. Nomatic has been an industry leader when it comes to travel gear and that reputation is reflected in the quality build design and functionality of the Carry-On Pro suitcase. A carry on size is also really handy for travelling around China when space on public transport can be rather limited.
Check out our Nomatic Carry-On Pro review to learn more about this epic suitcase.
The Camera: GoPro Hero9 Black
For most of us, our smartphones now feature cameras with stunning photo capabilities.
But… if you are an aspiring photographer who wants to take next-level photos and video beyond iPhone selfies, I recommend going with an action camera like the GoPro Hero9 Black.
It does deliver pro-quality video and gives you a bunch of a different angle options and shooting speeds to work with for photos (including a selfie-mode).
Think of a camera purchase like this as a long term investment that will have you capturing epic shots well beyond your time exploring here.
If you are looking for something cheaper for video specifically, check out these epic GoPro Alternatives.
What To Pack For China: Personal Gear
China is the biggest consumer economy in the world and you get pretty much anything you need there, relatively cheaply. However, they do tend to do things a little differently and it pays to make sure you get the essential gear sorted before you do.
Let’s find out what you should bring to China.
You’re all big boys and girls so we are not going to tell you what to wear (but do wear something). Instead we’re gonna focus on some essential gear that you may not have thought about.
Good Shoes – Salomon X Ultra 3 Low Aero
Visitors to China have a tendency to underestimate the amount of walking that is part of the day to day China experience. Shuffling between ancient sites and busy markets, checking out the Great Wall, and exploring the mountains outside of the city all make the miles on your feet add up.
I admit that most shoes that are also good for hiking are not the most attractive pieces of footwear. But they are some of the most comfortable and deliver good ankle support for a long day of walking about town.
Plus, China offer excellent day hiking opportunities, so packing a pair of hiking shoes gives you the option (and eliminates excuses) to go head for the hills when the city becomes too much.
Check out the women’s Salomon X Ultra 3 Low Aero.
Good Rain Jacket – Arcteryx Beta AR
China’s geographical expanse is huge (and getting bigger…) so it’s climatic diversity is pretty dammed varied. However, note that China does have proper season and Beijing can get bitterly cold in winter and can get wet at other times.
There is no such thing as bad weather, only the wing gear for it. Don’t let a bit (of a lot) of rain ruin your trip and make sure you are ready with some top notch rain gear.
This is our pick of the many rain jackets we have tried. It’s reliable & stylish and looks good worn out in the mountains or in city bars.
Thermal Layer For Winter
If you are visiting in winter of going up into the mountains or the Tibetan plateau, prepare adequately by bringing a thermal layer!
Don’t risk hypothermia, add this to your China packing list.
Travel First Aid Kit
You don’t need to tote around half a pharmacy, but a well-stocked first aid kit should be in all our backpacks. Stuff happens on the road and it’s inconvenient and embarrassing when you can’t manage small situations like a cut finger or hangover migraine.
You can tuck this lifesaver away in a forgotten pocket – and it’ll be there when you need it.
Tip: Add a few bits and pieces to the first aid kit after you purchase it, like extra headache medicine, any personal meds you need (like allergy pills), whatever you take to calm your stomach and a few more plasters.
Travel Insurance From World Nomads
Ok, you can’t pack travel insurance in your backpack, but you can take out a cheap policy to insure yourself against theft, flight cancellations, accidents, etc.
I admit I traveled for many years without having travel insurance. Because of it, I paid the price a few times in foreign hospitals. Things can go wrong in China. You may lose your passport, your luggage or you may get sick with a tropical bug. It pays to be prepared for the worst by having good insurance in place.
We use either World Nomads or SafetyWing. You’ll be happy you did if the time comes to use it.
Sun God Sunglasses
A reliable pair of sunglasses is undoubtedly one of your China packing essentials – even in the winter months it can be bright in the afternoons. Our favorites are SunGod Sunglasses because they deliver on quality and style.
They’re built tough with triple-layer scratch-resistant lenses and trademarked Adventure-proof Frame Material. You can also customize them with your choice of lense and frame colors to reflect your own style. Plus they’re covered by SunGod’s lifetime guarantee of free repair. Check our in-depth review here.
Another backpacker/traveler favorite for staying organized is a hanging toiletry bag. It’s extremely helpful to have all of your accessories neatly gathered in one bag that you can hang for easy accessibility, especially when counter space isn’t plentiful or even available. A well-organized bag is worth having whether you’re tree whilst camping or a hook in the wall – it helps to have quick access to all your stuff.
Make sure you fill it with all you need before you leave. Whilst you can find most things in China, trying to explain the particular kind of hair pomme you need across a language barrier can be challenging.
Historically, I have been the guy who has my stuff all over the bathroom, so getting one of these things really changed the toiletry game for me. Plus they are not too expensive either. A no-brainer essential.
Money Belt – By Active Roots
Whilst China is not particularly dangerous, crime can still happen and tourists are sometimes targeted.
Therefore it is always a good idea to use a money belt to hide your cash just in case something does go wrong.
Your Passport or Other Government ID
You will need a passport and Visa to enter China. Furthermore, you will be asked to produce it multiple times during your stay such as when buying train tickets, checking into hostels and on many more occasions.
Having ID on you at all times is highly important in China. If you are not happy carrying your passport in the streets with you, get a photocopy and/or screenshot on your phone.
Let’s face it; for the foreseeable future, COVID 19 panic is just going to be a part of travel. How do we do our best to mitigate the risk while still traveling and experience life’s pleasures? Pack the right PPE gear.
COVID 19 apparently began life in China and for a time was the global epicentre. They take it very seriously and have imposed some severe lockdowns, rules and limits on personal freedom.
COVID has sadly fuelled anti-western sentiment in China. Therefore, to protect yourself from even more unwanted attention, wear a mask and look like you are playing your part. Seriously.
Single-use plastic bottles are a huge threat to Marine Life – Be a part of the solution and travel with a filter water bottle.
The GRAYL GEOPRESS water bottle is the ONLY all-in-one filter water bottle setup you’ll need. Whether you need to purify the water from a hostel sink in Kathmandu or a stream trickle in the Andes, the Geopress has got you covered.
Read our full review of the GRAYL GEOPRESS!
The Basic Stuff To Pack For China
On top of the essential items listed above, here is an additional suggested checklist of what to pack for a trip to China:
- a few pairs of comfortable pants/jeans
- 1-2 pairs of shorts (summer/late spring)
- A few pairs of socks
- (Sexy) underwear x 2/3
- Ladies: a few dresses, pants, outfits, or desired lady apparel for a night on the town.
- Dudes: A few collard shirts or something half-way decent for a night on the town.
- Smartphone with a good camera for photos if you are not bringing an actual camera
- Portable power bank for charging your phone on the go
- Phone charger
- Amazon Kindle for quiet moments
- Copy of your passport just in case
- Cash (not too much, there are ATM machines in cities)
- Packable Towel
- A Chinese phrasebook!
Final Thoughts on What to Pack for China
There it is, friends! Your China survival guide – unabridged with a detailed top needs of what to pack for China, tips on what to wear in China to travel comfortably, a breakdown by season and how to pack accordingly for the weather. Plus, we’ve included our recommendations for women’s and men’s packing considerations – and what NOT to pack for China.
Just remember to pack smart, stay comfortable and stay safe. Let your senses be taken over with the beautiful landscape, rich cultural history – and definitely the delicious dumplings and wontons! Keep your mind and heart open, and you’re sure to have an experience of a lifetime!
Also – don’t forget to sort your travel insurance! We’ve put together a roundup of the best travel insurance for backpackers, or if you’re low on time, get a quote from World Nomads now, our favourite travel insurance provider.
“Find out how YOU can support the site. We work hard to put out the best backpacker resources on the web, for free! It’s all about helping out our tribe of awesome backpacker readers [that’s you!]. Please visit the link to find out how you can help keep the site going 🙂
For the sake of transparency, some of the links in our content are affiliate links. This means that if you book your accommodation, buy a book or sort your insurance, we earn a small commission at no extra cost to you. I only link to stuff I’ve actually used and never endorse products or services that are not up to scratch. Thanks for your support.