40 Travel Essentials for Hot Weather and Tropical Climates

Summer rolls around every year and it’s quite 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.

Packing for summer travel is a fine art if you don’t want to be burdened with sweatiness, stickiness, and stuffiness while traveling. 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 (like 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 complete summer packing list. Instead, the items listed below are those that 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.

So without further ado, let’s dive into my list of hot weather essentials!

*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!

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Hot Weather Travel Essentials: What To Pack Your Stuff In

First, you’ll have to decide what you pack your stuff in. You have two main options–wheeled luggage or a travel backpack.

If you’re going to be staying put in one destination without having to move around that much, a wheeled suitcase is a great option.

If you are going to be moving around from city to city or island to island, in my opinion, a travel backpack is the way to go.

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.

1. 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.

2. Wheeled Luggage

Size of Monos Carry On Pro - In Depth Review

If you are leaning more towards a wheeled suitcase, I’d recommend a carry-on size.

Personally, I love the luggage by Monos Travel. Their pieces meet all the important criteria when looking for luggage–design, quality, and affordability.

If you’re looking for premium, minimalist luggage built with only the finest quality materials and components, get these bags!

I personally own the Carry-On Pro and have been loving every minute I get to travel with it.

Read More: Monos Carry-On Pro Review: Is It Actually Worth The Price?

3. Lightweight Packable Day Bag

Playa Del Carmen Travel Backpack - TravelsWithElle

Inside my larger travel backpack, I always bring a lightweight, packable backpack to use for day-to-day exploration. The Bellroy Sling 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.

4. 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.

5. 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.

6. Shoe Bag

Similar 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.

Hot Weather Essentials: Clothing

7. Merino Wool Clothing

Merino wool is the most versatile fabric ever and it’s no wonder everyone loves it for outdoor and travel use! Merino wool clothing 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!

Things To Do In Eastern Sierra, CA - Mammoth Lakes, Big Pine Lakes, Bishop, and More

8. 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.

Pro Tip: Other great hot weather fabrics include 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!

9. 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.

10. Travel Pants / Shorts

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.

I absolutely adore prAna’s sustainable travel pants. Don’t worry, these aren’t the traditionally ugly hiking pants you’re thinking of!

Again, I love the shorts that prAna makes–they’re good for traveling, hiking, exploring, and downright lounging!

The next thing I want to discuss is bike shorts for the ladies.

Let me be the first to tell you about my newest discovery on how to keep my legs from becoming a huge sweaty mess… I love Thigh Society’s shorties for hot weather! 

There are two different options I like depending on what look I’m going for. If I want to wear an above-the-knee dress on a hot day, I go with The Cooling 5″ option. It’s so thin, meaning “sweaty butt” won’t be an issue.

And they’re especially useful if it happens to be a windy day. These lil’ shorties make me feel so much more comfortable knowing that I have an extra layer of protection and coverage should the wind decide to do me dirty and lift my dress in one swoop.

The other pair that I have is The Original, which has become a staple in my hot weather arsenal too. They’re super-versatile because these guys are very opaque, meaning they can be worn alone or layered under clothes.

I find that I can wear them in all sorts of situations — while exploring a new city, ziplining, ATVing, working out, on airplanes, on road trips, and even as pajama bottoms! Love ’em!

Thigh Society - Hot Weather Essentials

11. 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.

The perfect rain jacket will be 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!

Read More: 5 Best Women’s Travel Vests For Style, Safety And Smarter Travel

12. Swimsuit

There’s a good chance you’ll be jumping into the water during your trip, so you’ll definitely want to bring along multiple pairs of swimsuits. That way, you’ll be able to alternate between swimsuits while the others are drying out.

13. Walking Shoes

One pair of closed-toed shoes (walking shoes or running shoes) is always crucial for any trip.

My all-time favorite travel shoes these days are the tried and true Ecco Soft 7 (they’re stylish, comfortable, and have been raved about for decades since they were first created)! The best part is that they have them for both men and women.

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.

14. 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.

15. Sandals

When traveling to tropical destinations, sandals or flip-flops that you can casually walk around in and lounge around with are a must.

For sandals, I alternate between my Birkenstocks and Oofos Recovery Slides— both allow you to walk miles and miles.

We recently discovered the Oofos slide at our local REI store and boy were we sold on it. From the moment we slid them on our feet, maximum comfort! It was like walking on clouds!

Not only were they perfect for our recent vacations in Mexico and Hawaii, but we also now plan on gifting this to everyone we know!

For something more waterproof, going with something like the Oofos or this EVA version of the Birkenstocks sandals will allow you to hit the beach, go into the rainforest, enjoy water parks, and walk with comfort as well.

Hot Weather Essentials: Toiletries

16. Cooling Facial Mist

When you’re faced with mid-day humidity, it can be very hard to deal with. Keeping a small bottle of cooling 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.

17. Dry Shampoo

Bring some dry shampoo to use in between washes to instantly revitalize and freshen your semi-dirty hair.

18. 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.

19. Reef-Safe Sunscreen

Applying sunscreen to your face and 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, as traditional sunscreen contains chemicals that damage and even kill the precious reefs.

Here are a few travel-sized biodegradable sunscreens you can easily buy online:

20. 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 aloe vera.

Bring along something like B.TAN’s after-sun lotion, the perfect way to maintain that summer glow while also repairing dry sunburned skin. I like this brand over others as it’s sustainably created in Australia. 


21. 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 Goodwipes body wipes for a quick refresher.

And for the ladies specifically, it’s always good to carry around feminine wipes, especially for those post-beach or post-swimming scenarios. The ones I like are both very affordable and take up no space at all.

Trust me, you will feel and smell so much better. Always good to have a few handy in your travel bag!

22. 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 oil blotting sheets whenever your face starts getting sweaty.

23. Cooling Face Mask

After a long day of exploring, nothing will feel better than propping your feet up and slapping on a cooling face mask for 10-20 minutes.

Lay back and relax! You’ll feel way more refreshed afterward.

24. 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.

Typically the closer you are to trees and jungles, the more prevalent mosquitos are.

If you plan to go hiking, ziplining, or ATV-ing in the jungle, I would definitely recommend packing an effective insect / mosquito repellent. We recommend the following travel-size options:

If you’re looking for more natural options, we recommend the following travel-friendly options:

Hot Weather Essentials: Accessories

25. Permethrin Insect Repellent Spray for Clothing

This insect repellent spray for clothing 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!

So, how exactly 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.

26. Sunhat, Bandana, or Buff

Keep the sun off your skin with a casual sunhat, bucket hat, or a Buff headband. 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.

Wide-brimmed straw hats are great for keeping the sun off your face and neck!

Secrets Maroma Beach All Inclusive Resort Riviera Maya - TravelsWithElle

27. 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.

28. Travel Towel

Travel towels are useful if you plan on having beach, lake, or river floating days but don’t have access to a beach towel. These are light and quick-drying, which is exactly what you need in hot, humid climates.

And if you’re staying at hostels, pay attention! Some hostels don’t provide towels, or they’ll have them available for rent. Save yourself the trouble and just bring one with you.

Travel towels are also very packable and take up little space.  I highly recommend this one.

29. 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!

30. 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.

Dry bags are also super handy for carrying around wet bathing suits and towels. Or even doubling as your laundry bag!

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Hot Weather Essentials: Gadgets

31. Snorkeling Mask / Set

snorkeling in kona hawaii - travels with elle

Bringing your own snorkeling set to tropical destinations is pretty freeing. It means you can choose to snorkel anytime you want without having to track down a rental shop to rent gear! This is important because not all snorkeling beaches have rental shacks nearby.

In addition, you’ll have the comfort of knowing the snorkel and mask haven’t been used by a million other people.

Seavenger, one of the best snorkel gear makers in the game, sells a Hanalei Anti-Fog 4-Piece Snorkeling Set that’s really loved by both kids and adults.

After doing hours and hours of research, I recently upgraded to the WildHorn Outfitter’s Seaview 180° V2.

Because I tend to get anxious/nervous in the water, I wanted something that would truly make my snorkeling life easier. This full-face snorkeling mask does just that. All the problems I used to face while snorkeling–water leaking into my mouth, limited google view, foggy goggles mid snorkel–completely gone!

It’s a bit pricier than other basic snorkel masks out there, but let me tell you this thing was a game-changer for me. Being able to breathe normally through my nose underwater made this mask completely worth every penny!

32. 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).

33. 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.

During my trips to Death Valley, Joshua Tree, and 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.

34. GoPro

If you plan on doing a bunch of adventurous activities (ziplining, skydiving, kayaking, paddling, ATV-ing) and/or want some underwater footage when surfing or snorkeling, you should definitely go with the waterproof GoPro.

35. Underwater Smartphone Housing

Don’t want to invest in an underwater camera? That’s fine, just stick your phone in an underwater phone housing! It’s designed to protect your phone from the harshest weather conditions while offering the freedom to safely capture those special moments underwater.

36. Reusable Water Bottle

Stay hydrated in the warm weather with a water bottle that can go anywhere with you—and fold up when not in use. I love the packability of these bottles!

For something that’ll keep your water cold in the face of scorching weather, Hydroflasks are my favorite.

37. 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.

38. Laundry Soap

Bring a super-concentrated laundry soap and a handy-dandy travel clothesline so you can do your own laundry. We usually wash our swimsuits and swim trunks after hitting the pool or beach to prevent them from smelling funky.

By doing your own laundry, you can save on those insane drycleaning fees hotels charge! What’s even worse–some of them charge per article of clothing!

If you’d rather save money, simply use the soap or body wash gel provided by your hotel to wash your clothes.

39. Sand-free beach mat

Did you know that these days there are high-tech beach mats for sale? Beach blankets that sand actually cannot stick to? Oh yeah, they definitely beat your average beach towel, that’s for sure!

There are actually beach mats that are quick-drying, waterproof, and sand-proof, making setting up on the beach super, super easy.

This amazing beach mat is all those things, plus it has sand anchor pockets and 6 ground stakes so that your beach mat is wind-resistant even when you’re not laying on it!

40. Travel Insurance

I never used to buy travel insurance, but these days, after all the pandemic-related canceled trips I encountered, I don’t travel internationally without it. Not only does it cover you for canceled trips, but if you get sick in a foreign country, your normal health insurance most likely isn’t going to cover you. But travel insurance will.

Travel insurance from WorldNomads is available to people from 140 countries. It’s designed for adventurous travelers with cover for overseas medical, evacuation, baggage, and a range of adventure sports and activities.

For a cheaper alternative (great in cases where you think you’ll need more basic coverage), we like SafetyWing.

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!

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Elle Leung

My name is Elle and I'm a travel blogger and adventurer based in California. I love helping people plan trips and create unique itineraries based on their interests and their budgets. I'm a huge fan of outdoor adventures and doing off-the-beaten-path things in my state (and all around the world too)!

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