Summer rolls around every year and it’s an exciting thing. Like many of you, I look forward to summer travel for two main reasons: warm weather perfect for basking in, and long nights perfect for extended exploration. However, packing for summer travel is a fine art if you don’t want to be burdened with sweatiness, stickiness, and stuffiness. To fully do summertime travel right, especially in those very hot and humid places, you’ll need to personalize your bag to include hot weather essentials. After plenty of adventures in hot and/or humid places (the Amazon rainforest, Hawaii, Hong Kong, Thailand, Europe in the summer, Death Valley, the list goes on and on!), I’ve curated a list of must-have items that will surely help you have the best time in hot climates.
This post isn’t meant to be a summer packing list. Instead, the items listed below have proven themselves to be indispensable and extremely useful, whether you’re island hopping in Southeast Asia, exploring the jungles in South America, or hiking in the rainforests of Hawaii.
*Please note: All of the products listed in this post are my personal tried and true recommendations and may contain affiliate links. You won’t be paying a cent more, but in the event of a sale, the small affiliate commission I receive will help keep this blog running. Thanks!
What To Pack Your Stuff In
In my opinion, a backpacking bag is the way to go, especially if you’re traveling to hot and sticky climates. On the one hand, you can lug a heavy suitcase around, but I think you’ll be much happier with a well-organized travel backpack – especially if you’re traveling for multiple weeks or visiting multiple destinations. You may think it would be a hassle to unpack and re-pack a backpack every few days but these items below will help you stay organized so you can easily move from place to place without much hassle at all.
Travel Backpack | If you’re going backpacking, you’ll definitely need a durable travel backpack. Even if you’re just going on vacation, a backpack is still the optimal option. You don’t want to be rolling your suitcase down a bumpy dirt road and potentially have to carry it up multiple flights of stairs to get to your hotel room. After many trips abroad, I’ve confirmed that I’ve been able to fit all my essentials in my travel backpack. Personally, I love my Osprey Aura 65. It’s extremely comfortable because of its super secure hip belt and perfect for those warm travel days due to the ventilation technology.
Alternatively: If you’re traveling carry-on only, this PacSafe backpack is comfortable, roomy, and theft deterrent – it’s my current go-to backpack for carry-on travel.
Lightweight Packable Day Bag | Inside my larger travel backpack, I always bring a lightweight, packable backpack to use for day-to-day exploration. The Hynes Eagle Carry On Backpack is perfect for carrying a few snacks, a lightweight jacket, cameras, phones, a water bottle, and whatever else I need for the day. On travel days, I store my most valuable belongings in here— my passport, camera, laptop, wallet— and it then doubles as my carry-on bag.
Packing Cubes | When you’re backpacking, anything inside your backpack has the potential to get all jumbled. To prevent this, the key item is going to be compartmentalization, aka your packing cubes. This set comes with a bunch of different sizes, so you can create a separate compartment for undies and socks, one for clothing, one for toiletries, and one for anything else you may want to organize. By using packing cubes, it’s so much easier to pull out only what you need, rather than dig through all of your luggage to find that one thing you’re looking for.
Laundry Bag | Summer = lots of sweaty, smelly worn clothes. Don’t soil your entire bag by mixing worn clothes with your unworn clothes! Definitely bring a laundry bag to separate your clean clothes from your dirty clothes to maintain the utmost freshness.
Shoe Bag | Similarly to the laundry bag, I always separate my shoes from the rest of my clothes with designated shoe bags. If you’re exploring, you’re likely stepping all over the ground on sticky, dirty, or muddy roads. So it’s definitely a good idea to keep the griminess away from your other belongings.
Must-Have Hot Weather Clothing Items
Merino Wool Clothing | Merino wool is the most versatile fabric ever and it’s no wonder everyone loves it. It keeps you cool in sticky-hot climates and keeps you warm when it gets cold and windy. When wet, you stay surprisingly comfortable as it dries. It naturally resists the growth of fungus and bacteria, making it odor-resistant (which means you can wear it multiple times before it gets funky). Time and time again, I lean on my merino wool items in hot, humid climates and they’ve never let me down! A must-have for backpacking!
- Wool clothing for women: T-shirt | Sports Bra | Lightweight Long Sleeve | Underwear | Socks
- Wool clothing for men: T-shirt | Lightweight Long Sleeve | Underwear | Socks
Moisture-wicking Clothing | You’ll no doubt be sweating in hot climates, so quick-drying clothes are definitely a must-have. However, moisture-wicking clothing is traditionally synonymous with athletic wear. Since you want to be comfortable but probably don’t want to look like you’re going to the gym while you’re traveling, I’ve picked out my favorite moisture-wicking items.
- Moisture-wicking clothing for women: T-shirt | Travel Bra | Shorts | Underwear | Socks
- Moisture-wicking clothing for men: T-shirt | Shorts | Underwear | Socks
- My boyfriend swears by his quick-dry Under Armour gear!
Pro Tip: Other great hot weather fabrics include cotton, linen, and silk. Finding clothes made of these materials will also set you up for success on your hot weather vacation. No matter what you pick, avoid polyester at all costs! Polyester blocks the outward flow of moisture and heat which causes the sweat to build up, making for one very sticky and unhappy traveler!
Insect Repelling Lightweight Pullover | Too lazy to treat your clothes with insect repellent? I know, it’s a process. The ExOfficio BugsAway pullover is the next best thing– it’s super lightweight too.
Hiking/Travel Pants | You’re going to need a pair of multi-purpose pants that will stand up to adventure anywhere. They should be quick-drying, sturdy, and offer protection against the sun as well as from insects. Don’t worry, these aren’t the traditionally ugly hiking pants you’re thinking of.
- For women: the Margaux Cargaux Travel Pants and its 11 pockets = functionally awesome.
- For men: Prana’s Brion Pant comes very highly recommended.
Light Rain Jacket | Traveling to hot climates does not necessarily mean there won’t be rain or wind. Packing a light rain jacket will definitely come in handy in unpredictable tropical climates. They’re ultralight, wind and water-repellent, and take up virtually no space so they’re easy to carry wherever you go. No matter the season or the length of my trip, I 100% always pack a light jacket with me.
- For women: Love, love, love my North Face jacket (plus it comes in so many colors)
- For men: This Columbia jacket is a cult favorite (also comes in so many colors!)
Walking Shoes | One pair of closed-toed shoes (walking shoes or running shoes) is always crucial for any trip. These ones that I’ve been traveling around with are super light and breathable. I can even walk 15+ miles in them before getting sore feet. If you plan on doing some hiking but don’t want to bring your hiking boots, then trail runners are the way to go. They provide stability for running as well as sturdiness so you can trek on mud, rock, dirt, and gravel alike.
- For women: Adidas Cloudfoam runners are classic looking and ultra-comfortable.
- For men: ON Running Shoes have risen in popularity, and for good reason! They are comfortable as heck, my boyfriend loves his pair.
Adventure Sandals | Tevas and Chacos are my go-to brands for multipurpose summer sandals. If you’re planning on having an adventurous day or two, you should definitely consider getting adventure sandals — comfortable for long-distance walking, safe for submerging in water, and super durable. I’ve taken my Chacos whitewater rafting, swimming in waterfalls, and hiking up mountains and they’ve performed superiorly each time. Highly recommend these sandals for your summer packing arsenal.
Must-Have Hot Weather Toiletries
Cooling Facial Mist | When you’re faced with mid-day humidity, it can be very hard to deal with. Keeping a small bottle of facial mist in your purse or backpack on a hot day will save your life. This mist takes all the cooling, soothing ingredients you can think of—aloe, cucumber, and green tea—and combines them into one refreshing spritzer for your face. It’ll feel like you’re under the misters at a five-star spa.
Leave-In Conditioner | I recommend bringing leave-in conditioner to help nurture your hair after spending time in lakes, waterfalls, or oceans. As someone with naturally frizzy hair, my hair tends to get tangled, coarse, and even more frizzy after it’s submerged in water. This leave-in conditioner is a cult favorite – just put it in your damp hair after your shower and comb it through.
SPF 30+ Sunscreen (For Face) | COOLA sunscreen is my new go-to facial sunscreen. My face doesn’t feel sticky or goopy, which is so important for feeling comfortable when you’re out and about. If you’re going anywhere in the tropics, you’ll be close to the equator so you really want to use a high SPF – I don’t go below SPF 30 in hot and sunny climates.
Sunscreen (For Body) | Applying sunscreen to your body is absolutely necessary for tropical destinations. Even if it’s overcast and cloudy, the UV index can be very high, so be sure to apply whenever you’re outdoors. If you plan on snorkeling near the reefs, choose a coral reef-safe brand like Coola or Sun Bum, as traditional sunscreen contains chemicals that damage and even kill the precious reefs.
After Sun Cooling Spray| Let’s be real– you’re probably going to be spending the majority of your vacation outdoors under the sun. Chances are, you’re going to get a nice tan, and maybe even a sunburn or two! Even if you don’t get sunburned, you should still treat your exposed skin to some much-needed hydration with an after-sun cooling spray or after-sun lotion.
Body Wipes / Feminine Wipes | Feeling a bit gross but don’t have the time to shower right in that instant? Just whip out one of these body wipes for a quick refresher. The feminine wipes I like are infused with cucumber and aloe. Trust, you will feel and smell so much better. Always good to have a few handy in your travel bag.
Oil Blotting Sheets | On a typical day in a hot and tropical place, your makeup will slide/sweat off your face in exactly three seconds after stepping outside. Rather than layering on more makeup, first, focus on tackling your shiny, sweaty glow. The solution? Use blotting sheets whenever your face starts getting sweaty.
Insect Repellent Lotion | Mosquitos love hot climates, so I would definitely recommend packing insect repellent with a high DEET percentage, no matter the season you’re traveling. Sawyer makes some really great bug repellent products, and they’re travel-friendly too!
Must-Have Hot Weather Accessories
Permethrin Insect Repellent Spray for Clothing | This clothing insect repellent spray is a game-changer. If you’re going to be outdoors a lot in areas where mosquitos are prevalent, I’d highly recommend preparing your clothes with this spray!
- How does it work? This is a treatment spray for clothes that adheres only to fabrics, leaving no smell or residue on clothes and doesn’t harm human skin. Permethrin spray lasts for up to 6 machine washes, which is more than enough for most tropical trips. Real life story– I hiked Machu Picchu after treating my hiking clothes with this, and I only got a total of 2 mosquito bites after the 4-day trip, whereas some of my friends got 20+ bites. Worth it.
- Pro Tip: Buy and use before you leave for your trip. A few days before departure, spray all of your clothes, plus anything else made of fabric that you’d like treated, like a sleeping bag or sleeping liner.
Hat, Bandana, or Buff | Keep the sun off your skin with a fancy sunhat, bandana, or a Buff. All three can be used to shield your neck or forehead from the sun. As a bonus, bandanas and Buffs can be used as headbands to keep hair and sweat off of your face. Soak your bandana or Buff then put it on your head, face, or neck for a quick cool down.
Cooling Towel | Perfect for working out, a day at the beach, camping, or simply sitting there baking in the sun—you’ll feel Chill Pal‘s cooling effect as soon as you take it out of the package. To activate the cooling towel, just soak it in water and wring it out, then wear it as a bandana or use it as a towel. Another hot weather game-changing travel essential.
Travel Towel | These are light and quick-drying, which is exactly what you need in hot, humid climates. Super useful if you plan on having beach days or staying in hostels. This one is a great option.
Travel Clothesline | If you’re backpacking and anticipate the need to wash your clothes on the go, get yourself a travel clothesline. This is a small and portable clothesline that allows you to hang up your wet clothes almost anywhere. I’ve found that it’s also really handy whenever I have wet bathing suits or towels that need to be air-dried. I love it for its multi-purpose functionality!
Dry Bag | Another multi-purpose item on the list! Dry bags are completely necessary for keeping your dry belongings (clothes, electronics, money, etc)… dry. Don’t set foot on a kayak, boat or canoe without putting your stuff in a dry bag. Trust me, it’s better than ending up with a phone or camera submerged in water in the case where the boat tips or something. It’s also super handy for carrying around wet bathing suits and towels. Or even doubling as your laundry bag!
Must-Have Hot Weather Travel Gadgets
Silk Liner Travel Sheet | Hot climates can sometimes mean hotels/hostels with no air conditioning, which may lead to moist and perhaps mildewy sheets. Bringing your own sleep liner can be a good idea in these questionable scenarios. You can even use this as a picnic blanket or a cover for your body when sitting outdoors (and when treated with Permethrin, can repel those pesky insects!).
Portable Neck Fan | A neck-hanging fan with upward air blow will make your life so much more pleasant whether you’re roaming through crowded markets or hiking in the rainforest in humid weather. When I went to Coachella, it was upwards of 100 degrees Fahrenheit. Having a constant breeze on my face when there was absolutely no natural wind was so, so amazing. This pair has a different style, similar to headphones that could be super effective as well.
GoPro | If you plan on doing a bunch of adventurous activity (ziplining, skydiving, kayaking, paddling, ATV-ing) and/or want some underwater footage when surfing or snorkeling, you should definitely go with the waterproof GoPro.
Underwater Smartphone Housing | Don’t want to invest in an underwater camera? That’s fine, just stick your phone in the AxisGo’s underwater housing! It’s designed to protect your phone from the harshest weather conditions while offering the freedom to safely capture those special moments underwater.
Scrubba Wash Bag | Whether you are backpacking through Europe or traveling on a budget in Southeast Asia, you are going to love the Scrubba Wash Bag and its ability to combat all those sweaty clothes. Equipped with a flexible washboard, this pocket-sized wash bag will not only help you do your laundry anywhere on the road, but also save you money and time.
Have any questions or additional recommendations for what to pack for hot weather travel? Leave a comment below!
Looking for more travel tips? Check out some of our other helpful posts!