Asia Travel Tips

Backpacking Essentials- 13 Reasons to Pack a Scarf

13 reasons why a scarf is a backpacking essentia

Packing your backpack before setting off on your travelling adventure can be a nightmare, especially if you are as bad at packing as I am.

There is one item that is a must have for any backpack, and that is a scarf. Not a woolly one, but a large, light and extremely versatile one that has many, many uses.

It is pretty amazing how one piece of material can be used in so many ways. It is small and light, so it won’t take up space in your backpack, and with 13 different uses, you can’t afford not to bring a scarf on your travels.

If you are like me, and a bit of a scarf fiend, you should already have one of these scarves. But if not, don’t panic, as soon as you touch down in your location, grab a sarong and prepare to be amazed!

The 13 uses for a scarf when backpacking


1. Scarf. Obvious, but true.


2. Towel. I was surprised how a really thin piece of material works so well as a towel. It is perfect for travelling in hot climates and frees up a lot of space by replacing a towel. I would also recommend it over a travel towel as they can get really smelly.


3. Pillow while on buses or trains.


4. Blanket while on buses or trains, and in places with no sheets, or if you are somewhere with a grotty mattress, use the scarf as a shield between you and the bed.


5. You can use your scarf as a shawl for when you are cold, like on the breezy pre-dawn drive to Angkor Wat.


keeping warm in siem riep the traveloguer


6. Mosquito protection- when we were sitting on our balconies we would wrap them round ourselves to stop them eating us alive.


Scarf for mozzie protection-traveloguer


7. Beach towel


8. Sarong


9. Cover up for temples- can be used as a skirt to cover up your legs, or as a shawl to cover your shoulders if you forget to wear sleeves, and even on the head to cover your hair.




10. When staying in a hostel bunk, it can be used as a privacy wall by tucking it under the mattress above. When we worked in a hostel in Auckland, we also used sheets and a pole to make a ‘fort’ for the top bunk.


With the help of your scarf you can have your own cosy space and it works at blocking out some light in the mornings. I love how it makes it easier to drift back to sleep in the mornings because you don’t have to wonder if there is someone watching you. (Or is that just me being weird?)


using a scarf to make a fort


11. When sleeping in a car, can be used to cover the windows, because trust me, you do not want to wake up in a car that has been baking in the sun for a few hours. It is horrible.


12. When really drunk in Jakarta you can use your scarves to make a fun game of posing for photos as superheroes, a Mary-type figure, or as someone with wings. And when sleeping in a car it can also be used to keep you amused by turning it onto a hat.


uses for a scarf the traveloguer


13. We only realised this after A lost hers, that we should have made a series of photos of our scarves out and about all around the world.


13 uses for a scarf- the traveloguer


 I should explain that when I was travelling in Asia, my friend and I
both had big scarves and we fell in love with how versatile they were. They were with us through it all, from keeping our necks warm on our flight from Dublin, to sleeping with them most nights, to protecting us from those evil mozzies; the scarves soon had a special place in our hearts.


Then one sad day, after a long journey, we arrived in Kho Samui to spend a night before heading on to Kho Phangan. We had showered and eaten and were coming back to our room when A suddenly got a bad feeling. Where was her scarf? She couldn’t remember seeing it since we arrived. We both thought the worst, but didn’t want to believe it. We hurried back to the room and she started looking for her beloved scarf.


But it was gone. We tried to think back to the last place she had it on. After a little more denial, we had to admit that she had left her poor scarf on the bus.


We freaked ourselves out by how devastated  we were about it. It wasn’t even my scarf but I too was grieving. That was when we realised how special our scarves were. They had been with us through it all. Every amazing place we saw, every night spent swinging in a hammock, every harrowing bus ride of insomnia, our faithful scarves were by our side. And A felt like she had abandoned her child. We couldn’t believe it had taken us this long to even realise it was missing.


Then we kicked ourselves for not having any photos of her scarf. It was gone forever and we had no evidence of their relationship. It was a sad, sad night.


The next day, our mission was to find a replacement for her. We chose a fabulous rainbow coloured one that was a lot more happy looking than the dearly departed one. It could never replace the original, but its bright colours and similarity to the gay pride flag made our grief a little easier to bear. In fact, I was a little jealous of her new one. Mine, although dear to my heart and very soft, was a dull green colour, and suddenly I wanted more.


When we got to Bali, I bought two brightly coloured ones and took turns using them. But my original was still number one.


As I plan my next trip, I am still tempted to bring it along, even though it now has some interesting stains on it, and is in Dublin. But maybe I should bring a newer one, and make new memories with that. I just hope I can somehow get Sean to form a equally strange attachment to a man scarf so that he doesn’t think I am a complete freak.


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  • Reply
    March 23, 2014 at 10:01 pm

    Brilliant post, you are so right, they are incredibly versatile! 😀

    • Reply
      March 24, 2014 at 5:52 pm

      Thanks Emma! They really are brilliant! Thanks for stopping by 🙂

  • Reply
    Michele {Malaysian Meanders}
    March 24, 2014 at 2:30 am

    I think reason #12 is hilarious. I’ll add 2 more reasons that I discovered in Australia. If your scarf is lightweight and semi-transparent, drape it over your head as a fly net so you don’t accidentally inhale the tiny flies buzzing around you. Also, dip a scarf in water, wring it out, and wrap it around your neck to help you keep cool when the temperature is hot. That’s what saved me during our hike around Uluru when the temps were 45C.
    Michele {Malaysian Meanders} recently posted…A Rat the Size of a Toddler and other Australian Animal LessonsMy Profile

    • Reply
      March 24, 2014 at 6:12 pm

      They are brilliant uses for a scarf Michelle, I wish I had figured out the fly one before, I hate the flies in Australia! Great idea about using it to cool down as well, thanks for sharing your tips! 🙂
      Christine recently posted…Travel Planning- Pre-trip PurchasesMy Profile

  • Reply
    The Crowded Planet
    March 24, 2014 at 7:01 am

    Great tips! can’t help but agree with you on all fronts… I always travel with a Cambodian Kroma and a sarong!
    The Crowded Planet recently posted…Jordan Road TripMy Profile

  • Reply
    March 25, 2014 at 2:22 am

    Who knew that there were so many uses for a scarf! 🙂 Fun post!!

    • Reply
      March 31, 2014 at 1:21 pm

      Thanks Lauren, and thanks for stopping by and having a read! 🙂

  • Reply
    March 25, 2014 at 3:48 am

    I definitely need a scarf! So many uses for it – I should have already thought about it. Cannot wait to see Sean’s man scarf. Really fun post :). Thanks for linking up to the #SundayTraveler.
    frankaboutcroatia recently posted…What to do in Croatia in springMy Profile

    • Reply
      March 31, 2014 at 1:25 pm

      Yeah it really is useful. Haha, I have to start working on a plan to introduce a scarf into Sean’s life. I’ll keep a lookout for one from now on. 🙂
      Thanks for your sharing of this post, I’m looking forward to linking up again, as soon as I get a post ready! 🙂

  • Reply
    Dennis Kopp
    March 25, 2014 at 5:35 am

    You are right Christine, there are certainly many reasons to pack a scarf, or a sarong how I like to call it. When I first started travelling I bought one of those travel towels and absolutely hated it. One day I lost it on a bus and replaced it with a sarong. Ever since I would not want to miss it and I am still amazed in how many ways it can be used… 🙂
    Dennis Kopp recently posted…UNESCO Prambanan Temple CompoundsMy Profile

    • Reply
      March 31, 2014 at 1:29 pm

      Hi Dennis, yeah those travel towels are so gross. I never owned one, but it seems like every time I stay in a hostel, someone in my room has one drying out on their bed and they always seem to have the same awful smell! Thanks for taking the tie to comment 🙂

  • Reply
    March 25, 2014 at 7:27 am

    A very practical post! I always travel with one too – usually for a pillow and the more conventional use, but now I have a few more ideas 🙂
    Caitlyn recently posted…A traverse around TriglavMy Profile

    • Reply
      March 31, 2014 at 1:34 pm

      Hi Caitlyn, I’m glad I could give you a few new uses for your scarf! Thanks for stopping by 🙂

  • Reply
    March 25, 2014 at 8:08 pm

    You’ve inspired me to add a scarf to my current packing pile! I’ve never thought of using one for a towel. Or superhero posing. 😛
    Jess recently posted…New England SpringMy Profile

    • Reply
      March 31, 2014 at 1:41 pm

      You definitely should Jess, they are so light and barely take up any room, which is great for someone like me! Thanks for stopping by:)

  • Reply
    Adelina | PackMeTo
    March 26, 2014 at 3:07 am

    So true! Scarves are just too useful. I carry two with me usually: an infinity scarf which I can turn into all sorts of dresses and clothing options if needed and a more normal looking one that I can use as a blanket if needed. Thanks for linking up to #SundayTraveler.
    Adelina | PackMeTo recently posted…Pretending to Be Royalty at Schonbrunn Palace in ViennaMy Profile

    • Reply
      March 31, 2014 at 1:43 pm

      Oooh, I am very excited to hear about a scarf that turns into a dress! I must look in to getting one, thanks for the tip Adelina! 🙂

  • Reply
    Bianca @itsallbee
    March 26, 2014 at 6:45 am

    Love this post! So true on some many levels. I usually travel with one and it has saved the day on many occasions on a lot of the points you have mentioned.
    Bianca @itsallbee recently posted…Look Mum No Hands!My Profile

    • Reply
      March 31, 2014 at 1:47 pm

      Thank you Bianca! They really are a lifesaver 🙂 Thanks for your comment 🙂

  • Reply
    Rebecca Knight
    March 27, 2014 at 9:58 am

    This is a really great run-down of different things to do with a scarf. Many of these I have never thought of, but I will keep in mind. I have done the shawl and HAT !

    It is kind of like the towel in the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Universe, only better!

    • Reply
      March 31, 2014 at 1:50 pm

      Thanks Rebecca. Haha, I love that you have done the shawl and the hat, I thought I would be on my own with those ones! Thanks for visiting and leaving a comment 🙂

  • Reply
    March 30, 2014 at 1:50 pm

    Great post. Totally agree with you…the scarf is the ultimate travel utility tool. My girlfriend always has one when we’re traveling! Thanks for sharing some more ways to use it, they will be most helpful!
    Travis recently posted…Blogging from A to Z April ChallengeMy Profile

    • Reply
      March 31, 2014 at 1:57 pm

      Glad you liked it Travis! Thanks for stopping by and your comment! 🙂

  • Reply
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