You’re preparing for your volunteering trip and trying to make sure you have everything you need, without going overboard and packing the kitchen sink. Especially when you’re headed to an unfamiliar climate, it can be hard to know the difference between something you won’t be able to go a day without and a waste of luggage space that will go unused throughout your whole trip?
If you follow me on Instagram you’ll know from my pictures I’m very pale and very ginger, so staying cool when it’s hot outside is not something I’m naturally good at. However, teaching skateboarding in the middle-east has given me a steep education in beating the heat and there are a few things I just couldn’t do without. Follow these tips and be sure to pack these essentials to keep you cool throughout your hot-climate volunteering work.
A vacuum-insulated water bottle
When I first headed to Palestine I didn’t think about bringing a water bottle. I figured I’d buy bottles of water, refill them and keep them in the fridge so they’re nice and cold. The problem is that water stays cold for about 5 minutes in a hot climate and when you’re busy working, keeping your water bottle in the shade is not your number one priority.
When you’re hot, sweaty and tired the difference between taking a cool gulp of water and swigging what feels like bath water is night and day. Treat yourself to a decent, vacuum insulated water bottle, you’re going to be working hard in the hot sun and you’ll certainly thank yourself for the investment.
A small travel towel
A big travel towel is an obvious choice, but it’s also a good idea to pick up a smaller one that you can soak, wring out and throw over your shoulders to keep you cool. Cooling your spine will help you cool down overall and the moisture will make the most of any breeze there is. It doesn’t have to be a travel towel either, any light-weight scarf will do and depending on where you are in the world, you’ll most likely find that there is something traditional for that very purpose. In the middle-east, the Keffiyeh is a traditional scarf worn to keep its wearer cool when it’s hot and warm when it’s cold. In Cambodia, the Krama is a traditional fabric with many uses including being worn as a scarf and bandana as well as being used as a towel and even a hammock for small children.
To keep you cool? Ok, not exactly. However, getting a good night’s sleep is important and when it’s super hot, that means cracking open the window and making the most of the (slightly) cooler night air. You may well find that the pay off for that breeze is a whole lot more noise and that’s where the earplugs come in. There’s no way I could sleep with the window closed here in Palestine, it’s simply too hot, but with the main road, a pack of stray dogs, 2 cockerels and a very sociable donkey outside my window, I couldn’t sleep without the earplugs too. So that’s how a decent pair of earplugs can help keep you cool.
A mosquito net
Similarly to earplugs, it’s not the net itself that keeps you cool but what it allows you to do. You don’t want to have to trade bites for a breeze if your windows don’t have mosquito nets. Or take it one step further, armed with a mosquito net you can sleep on the roof if the heat is really driving you crazy! Just make sure your outside spot is safe and you’re allowed to be there. The great thing about travel mosquito nets is that they pack down really small, so if you don’t end up needing it, it won’t have used up space and weight in your luggage. On the other hand, if you do need it, you’ll be so glad you packed it.
Depending on the culture of where you’re heading you may not get the luxury of being able to wear shorts. However, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t pack any. Being able to change into shorts (in the privacy of your own home), after a long and hot day of work is one of the most beautiful moments of daily life in a hot-climate. It’s akin to taking your bra off when you get in from work but for your whole lower body.
So, those are our top 5 things you won’t regret packing for your hot-weather volunteering trip. Do you have something you swear by to keep you cool and comfortable in hot climates? Let us know in the comments below. Need more hot climate tips? Check out How to beat the heat and get a good night’s sleep.