Summer is about to arrive, and that means it's time to strap on your backpack and see the world.
All you need are a few t-shirts and a swimming suit, right? After all, IT'S SUMMER!
While summer may be the best time to travel, it's not all sunshine and rainbows. As you cross borders, you'll also cross major geographical zones, and the weather can change on a dime.
If you're cruising through SE Asia or India, you're going to be hit by some epic monsoons. Heading to Eastern Europe for some hiking? Temperatures can drop into the 40s. If you're going to the mountains, such as The Rockies, you can even get snow!
To avoid a backpacking disaster, you have to properly weatherproof your stuff before you go. That means protection from sun, cold, rain, wind, and more.
Don't worry, you don't need to buy that $1000 waterproof backpack or spend all your money on new clothes. We've got a few tips below that will keep you and your stuff protected from the elements on the cheap.
Invest in a Graphene Jacket
You might think that the best way to weatherproof your stuff is to cover up your backpack. While that's important (we'll get to that next), it's not the top priority.
First, you need a good weatherproof jacket. Protecting your body is more important than protecting your backpack. There are a few reasons for this:
- Comfort: When you're dry, you're more comfortable. Nobody wants to hike around for hours drenched in rain. At best, you feel miserable. At worst, you'll end up with painful chafing and rashes.
- Health: It's easy to get sick or catch a cold when your body gets wet, especially if you're in a windy or chilly place. It sucks if your bag gets wet, but it won't directly impact your health.
- Electronics: You're more likely to keep electronics like earbuds and your phone on you. If you have a weatherproof jacket, those will stay cool and dry.
Now, which jacket should you choose?
We recommend a graphene jacket. Our top pick is GAMMA, a graphene jacket with built-in heaters. GAMMA will keep you comfy in temperatures from 70˚F all the way down to -20˚F.
What is graphene, anyways? Graphene is a newly discovered organic material that has a bunch of benefits for travelers. Graphene is waterproof, wind-proof, and UV-proof. It's also moisture-wicking, antimicrobial (aka germ-proof), and even insect-repellant.
Graphene is so versatile that the scientists who discovered it in 2004 won a Nobel Prize. Oh, and did we mention it's stronger than diamond?
Graphene makes GAMMA the first jacket ever to offer all-climate, all-season protection. It's also the toughest jacket ever made, so you can wear it hiking, climbing, skiing, and getting into general backpacking shenanigans, and it will last you for LIFE.
That's one jacket for a LIFETIME of weatherproof travel.
GAMMA is also super lightweight, so it's easy to pack. It weighs just 1.1 lbs (about as light as a hoodie) and folds down to the size of a t-shirt. You can easily pack it even if you're only taking a carry-on bag.
Graphen isn't exactly cheap, but we're recommending GAMMA in this post because it's on sale now for 40% off. If you're a frequent traveler, it will save you a lot of money and loads of space in your backpack for years to come.
Bring a Backpack Cover
No, you don't need to buy a state-of-the-art mountain climbing backpack for your trip across Europe. You may not need to buy a backpack at all.
On my first backpacking trip, I brought the backpack I used in high school and a duffle bag. As long as you're city-hopping, that's probably fine for you too.
But don't make the same mistake I did-make sure you buy a waterproof backpack cover.
A backpack cover is like a big waterproof bag for your backpack. It has an elastic rim so you can cover your backpack while wearing it.
A good backpack cover will cost you about $20, and it will protect your pack from moisture and heat. That's a lot cheaper than buying a new bag.
Follow the Plastic Bag Rule
The plastic bag rule is a bit like the towel rule from Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy: You always bring one. Or more than one, preferably.
Plastic bags are super useful when traveling. They're waterproof, easy to pack, and cheap. Here are a few ways to use plastic bags to weatherproof your trip.
- Keep one in your back pocket: Always keep a plastic bag in your back pocket. If it suddenly starts to rain, you can wrap your phone and wallet up in seconds.
- Keep a bigger one for shoes: Your shoes are going to get dirty and smelly. You don't want them mingling with your clothes in your bag, so bring a larger plastic bag to secure them.
- A bag for wet/dirty clothes: Unexpected weather is going to happen. If you end up with wet clothes, you need to keep them separate from your other stuff. Keep a plastic bag specifically for dirty and wet clothes.
Sure, you could go online and buy special waterproof bags for all of these things, but a normal plastic bag works just fine.
This is also a great way to reuse bags from takeout food and shopping. It makes travel more sustainable.
Get a Microfiber Towel
A microfiber towel is a special kind of towel that's super absorbent, quick-drying, and lightweight. It was practically invented for backpackers.
These towels are made up of fibers much finer than those of your average towel. About 200,000 fibers fit in each square inch. Because there are so many fibers, these towels practically lift moisture off of you without the need to scrub and rub. They can even pick up microbes like bacteria and allergens.
If you're going to the beach or hiking in a wet place, you're going to want to dry off when you pitch your tent or arrive at your destination. A microfiber towel is easy to keep on hand. Some pack down so small that they can fit in your pocket.
Seal Your Shoes (And Bring Socks)
If you can afford waterproof shoes, they're worth a buy before your trip. But if not, you can waterproof your current pair for a few bucks using a waterproof sealing spray.
Waterproof spray works just like you think it would. You buy a can of the stuff (it looks kind of like a spray paint can), spray a coat on your shoes, and wait for it to dry. Voila! Your shoes are now waterproof.
We recommend applying a few coats to make sure your shoes are protected. Remember to let them sit for a day or so before wearing them.
You can find waterproof spray at any shoe store. It's made for shoes, and it really works. It might not be as effective as waterproof material, but it will keep your feet plenty dry during your trip. You might have to reapply the spray before your next adventure though.
Also, bring socks! It doesn't matter how hot it is at home. Your trip may be chilly. Socks will also help protect against blisters, and you can use them to safeguard your electronics from extreme temperatures.
Use Luggage Lockers Whenever Possible
If you're city-hopping, luggage lockers are your best friends. You can find lockers for your stuff all over the place: train stations, bus stations, airports, hotels, hostels, and more.
They cost a few bucks at most, and they're really safe. Many have attendants to watch your things and others are monitored by security cameras.
Whenever you can, stash your gear in these lockers. Take whatever you need for the day and leave the rest behind.
This drastically reduces the chances of your bags getting pummeled by sun and rain. And, it makes life a lot easier in general.
Another reason to do this is to avoid sweating your a$$ off. Weatherproofing your stuff also means avoiding sweat! Sunny days can cause you to sweat straight through your bag. This can make your stuff smell and can lead to bacteria and mold growth.
Only wear your bag when you're in transit. You might feel nervous when your bag isn't on you, but your gear will be a lot safer locked up.
It's critical to weatherproof your bag (and yourself) before your trip, but many people don't take the time to do it. Just one bad weather day can lead to misery, whether you end up with a broken phone, a fever, or a bag of wet clothes.
Let's sum up a few key points from above:
- Protect your body. This is the most important part. Get a good weatherproof jacket like GAMMA. You can get one for a big discount here or learn more at weargraphene.com. Then, seal your shoes-your feet need to stay dry and blister-free!
- Protect your bag. Get a backpack cover and be prepared for any weather. Don't just use it for rain. Use it to block the sun too. When you can, take your bag out of the picture by stashing it in a luggage locker.
- Protect your individual items. Follow the plastic bag rule and keep your things wrapped up and protected from moisture. Remember to use plastic bags to protect your dry stuff from your wet stuff too.
You are going to run into some bad weather on your backpacking trip. It's simply unavoidable. But hey, that's part of the fun of backpacking, right?
As long as you're prepared, rough weather will be a part of the thrill of travel!