Being British we’re inherently obsessed with the weather. It’s in our blood, there’s nothing we can do about it. So before we set off on our first backpacking adventure, we agonised over temperature charts and rainfall counts. Just what were the best times to visit the countries on our bucket list? Did we need rainy season clothes? Or could we just chase the sun?
Well here’s the thing, as much you can plan your travel itinerary to avoid the worst of monsoon seasons, hitting some wet weather at some point will be inevitable. Let’s take travelling around South East Asia as an example. Weather patterns in this part of the world are so varied that they even vary within the same country.
Rainy Season Clothes For Backpackers
We learnt not to worry about something we couldn’t control. And also quickly found out that there are actually numerous benefits to travel in rainy weather. So the best thing you can do is pack rainy season clothes and embrace the rain. Again something that goes against the grain with us Brits, but we manage it and so can you.
Here’s the best tried and tested rainy season clothes for backpackers plus lots of useful advice and travel tips about travelling in rainy weather.
What To Wear In Rainy Season?
In the majority of popular backpacking destinations, monsoon season also means that the weather will be hot and humid. For this reason, you want to pack rainy season clothes that are light, breathable and dry quickly. So from underwear to footwear, here’s our tried and tested recommendations for what the wear in rainy season.
Best Fabric For Rainy Season Wear
Merino wool or bamboo and organic cotton are your best options when choosing the best fabric for rainy season wear. Because as well as being cooling, quick drying and light, they are also durable and eco-friendly. When deciding dry or rainy season clothes for travel, it is best to always chose quality over quantity. Kathmandu, Uniqlo or Columbia are all great for good quality gear.
For rainy season clothes for your bottom half, choose something short – it’s much easier to dry your skin. And ladies, it’s good idea to pack some light travel dresses. Underwear wise, you want quick dry, comfortable material. For men, these are the best. And you can’t get better than these for women.
There will however be times when it’s best to have your legs covered. For example, on a jungle trek your legs need to be protected from things such as poisonous plants and leeches. A good quality pair of sport leggings are designed for the job and still comfortable enough to wear when wet. For men these are a good option and for women I recommend these Nike Pro leggings.
If you know you are going to be adventuring somewhere rainy but cold, you may want to invest in some waterproof overtrousers like these. Being wet and cold is no fun at all.
Best Backpacking Rain Jacket
In our opinion, the best options when it comes to the best backpacking rain jacket is one that is waterproof, windproof and breathable, all while being as lightweight and compatible as possible. For a good balance between quality and cost, we don’t think you can get better than Trespass Qikpac travel rain jackets.
Best Rain Poncho For Backpacking
Your other option for rainy season clothes to keep dry up top, is a rain poncho. Personally I love them because they’re easy to sling on quickly, cover more of my body than a waterproof jacket and protect my day bag too. I have a November Rain poncho. Not only is it waterproof, it’s windproof, really durable and has a convenient zip down the front.
Shoes For Rainy Season
We don’t carry walking boots for the simple reason that, for us, the frequency of use doesn’t outweigh the hassle of lugging then around. We pretty much live in Havaiana flip flops, but not in the rain, they are terrible for walking in a downpour in. The best rainy shoes for rainy season are non slip trekking sandals. These are the Merrell ones that I have.
We also have good quality sports trainers that we use for exercise, trekking and long days exploring. We have these FlyKnit Nike trainers. Lightweight, breathable and supportive, they are great footwear for rainy season as they dry quick and have grippy soles. They also squash down nicely to shove into your backpack because of the collapsable heelback bit.
Water Resistant Backpack
There are lots of things to consider when choosing your backpack. Ideally you want one that is both top and front loading so you can access you stuff easy, has lots of different compartments to keep your stuff organised and is comfortable to carry. But what you also want is something that is going to keep everything dry when the heavens open.
And not every backpack does so you need to check. We love our Lowe Alpine backpacks for this reason. They have everything. The waterproof cover is part of the design, tucked away in a pocket at the bottom for when you need it. Check out our recommendation for the best water resistant backpacks here on amazon.
It’s also a good idea to carry a lightweight, packable, water resistant day pack with you too while travelling in rainy weather. We love these ones from ZOMAKE.
Backpack Rain Cover
Alternatively if you are set on a backpack style that doesn’t have an inbuilt backpack rain cover, or maybe you already have a older one you want use, just get a seperate one like this.
More Backpacking Rain Gear
To keep your electronics and important documents you need to pack a few dry bags. These are invaluable for travelling in rainy season. Your rainy season clothes will dry out, your iphone won’t. Another piece of good rain gear that we always carry is a compact umbrella with one of these brolly bags.
Other things for your rainy season clothes packing list should include a quick drying microfiber towel, for drying off after you’ve been caught in a shower. Water resistant sun protector. It’s can be quite difficult to get good quality sun cream so I always stock up on Piz Buin when I go back to the UK.
I don’t tend to wear much makeup, but for the ladies, this is the best waterproof mascara that I have found on the market. It lasts through rain, sweat, humidity, tears but you don’t need to hoof makeup remover around to take it off with, it just comes off with warm water.
Consider adding a waterproof camera to your good rain gear. We have this durable Olympus TG-5 Tough one and love it. It’s also great for taking underwater photos and videos it’s hard wearing-ness means it can take a take a knock or two without being damaged.
While travelling in rainy season in South America we witnessed some seriously spectacular electrical storms. Unfortunately what usually followed was power outages and surges. Instead of risking your phone, kindle or laptop getting fried, get yourself one of these travel surge protectors. We never go anywhere without this backpacking rain gear.
How To Dry Clothes in Rainy Season
Make sure your rainy season clothes are rung out as much as possible and hung up spaced out. If you can’t get your clothes out drying outside under some shelter, the next best thing is to hang them inside and put a fan on to circulate air in the room. If you leave them scrunched up with no air circulation they will take ages to dry and likely start to smell damp.
Alternatively, if one is available, for smaller items you can use a hairdryer. Or if there’s an iron, put your microfibre towel over the clothing and iron them. You can also just take your rainy season wear to a launderette. Just bear in mind, they operate on weight and wet clothes are heavy. So it may cost more than you expect, especially in countries where water is expensive.
Rainy Season Diseases
Before we get into the benefits of travelling in wet season, of which there are quite a few, let’s just cover off a few basics about rainy season diseases. Pools of water are breeding grounds for mosquitos. And depending on where you are in the world, with the mosquitos comes dangerous diseases such as malaria, dengue fever and zika.
Make sure you pack a good quality insect repellant. We don’t use DEET after becoming concerned with what is was doing to our skin when it corroded James’ watch. We use Incognito anti-mosquito products. They are made from all natural ingredients and are super effective. Check out the insect repellant spray, incense sticks and anti-insect room refreshers.
Other serious and nasty rainy season diseases are Cholera and Typhoid. The bacterias that cause them, thrive in unclean water and in the absence of good sewage systems and proper hygiene practices, can spread like wildfire. Travellers are also more at risk of contracting Hepatitis A and Japanese Encephalitis when backpacking in wet season.
You should speak to your doctor or a travel clinic about the recommend vaccinations for the specific countries you are travelling to in rainy season. But as a basic precaution also always carry some hand sanitiser with you and use it regularly, especially before you are about to eat if there aren’t any suitable hand washing facilities.
Travel Insurance For Rainy Season
Wherever you are going on your backpacking adventure, good quality travel insurance is an absolute must. For travelling in monsoon seasons or to off the beaten path travel destinations we recommend using World Nomads travel insurance. Simply because they cover loads of adventurous activities as standard that you need expensive add ons for with other providers. Get a quote now.
Benefits of Rainy Season Travel
Okay, now let’s get into the good parts of travelling in rainy season, because my friends there are quite a number that you may not necessarily have considered.
Less Crowded Attractions
Any chance of rain automatically means less tourists. It’s understandable. Especially if you are from a rainy country like the UK and only have a few weeks holiday a year to escape it. The last thing you want is a wash out. Luckily for longer term travellers like us we can capitalise quite nicely on this.
It rained the day that we explored the grandiose Angkor Wat Temples. But you know what? It was perfect because it only added to the mystique and meant that as tourists we weren’t standing on each others’ heads to get the good views.
Less tourists also means less demand for accommodation. So hostels and guest houses are all competing with each other pricewise to draw you in. In the countries where we travelled during rainy season we found that we had much more negotiating power for haggling prices down and found great value accommodation. We usually book the first few nights, then speak directly to the hostel or guest house.
More Comfortable Travel
Non-stop sunshine is all fun and games on the days where you’re relaxing next the pool or on the sea with a nice cold beer in hand. Not so much when you’re carrying your entire life on your back, waiting in the slowest moving queue with zero shade, only to board a bus with knackered air-con. Don’t enjoy sweaty stinky travel? Rainy season backpacking is for you.
The Landscapes Are More Beautiful
We love city life, but we love getting out in nature more and travelling in wet season affords views of mother nature’s landscapes like no other. The bright green, luscious foliage of Laos’ valleys and the wild overflowing expanses of the Cambodian jungles during monsoon season are simply gorgeous. It rained a lot while we were in Asia but we wouldn’t have changed it.
The other thing to point out in terms of travel in rainy weather is that it rarely lasts long. In wet season in Mexico for example, it would predictably rain each afternoon at the same time for around an hour or two and then it would be blazing sunshine again.
So if you’re fretting over travelling during rainy season at all, don’t. Take our advice, pack the right rainy season clothes and embrace it. It’s all part of the excitement of travel.
Ask away in the comments if there’s anything else you’d like to know about what to wear in rainy season or advice for travelling in monsoon season.
**This Post was originally published in February 2017 and has been completely revamped to provide you with the most up to date and accurate information**
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Yorkshire born & bred, Sarah is a professional blogger who loves to travel. Pushing her boundaries with new adventures is her jam, so you likely won’t find her in one place for too long. Also a serious Marmite addict.