THE HOT AND HUMID MISSION: FINDING AN APPROPRIATE WARDROBE
If you have just been called to serve in a mission that is hot and humid you may be a little concerned about what you should wear in order to remain as cool and comfortable as possible. It seems everyone has an opinion to give, some are great and some are from people who haven’t experienced a mission in this kind of weather.
Let me offer clarity on a pieces of advice I was given that turned out to be wrong:
1. “I lived in that state/country before! Let me tell you what I wore. You’ll be fine!”
When you live in an area you have the pleasure, generally speaking, to stay in doors either at work or in your home, around some form of air conditioning. You generally drive a car from place to place and most vehicles are equipped with air conditioning. Also, as a native to the area you have already had your body adjust to the extremes in weather you may encounter.
As a missionary, however, you have limited amounts of miles in your car–if you have one. With the increase of missionaries many missions have changed transportation to include more bikes– which isn’t just to save on gas, but helps to keep the missionary fit and more importantly allows you to talk to people as you go throughout the city you are working in. Air conditioning is a beautiful thing you experience in a car on occasion, in homes of those you teach and also in the church buildings on Sunday– if you are in a country in the Philippines you will only experience air conditioning in the chapel on Sundays, when it is working properly. While your body will eventually acclimate to the weather patterns in your mission it takes time for that to happen. You will be really hot. You will sweat and you will feel disgusting, but eventually you won’t feel like that so just be patient, work hard and love the people. (Also, people who live in hot, muggy climates are used to sweat and seeing people sweat isn’t considered nasty like it is in the U.S. It is just the norm.)
2. “Whatever you do, don’t take black or navy on your mission. It is just too hot!”
I heard this one all the time, especially from elderly people. While it is true that darker colored clothing can make us feel warmer you will want to include darker clothing in your wardrobe. Instead of focusing on the color of your clothing I would encourage you to focus on the fabric content you will wear. Which brings us to this point…
3.“Don’t wear anything with polyester or spandex in a humid mission! Only Cotton!”
This one was surprising to me. Having grown up in Arizona, in a town that reaches 120-129 degrees in the summer I was very accustomed to wearing cottons. This was because I was in a dry heat and the cotton allowed our skin to breathe. Wet heat is a completely different ballgame folks. You will sweat more than probably ever before in your life–unless you grew up somewhere hot and muggy. When wearing cotton, in humid climates, sweat will be absorbed into the fabric and will remain wet. When we hung our clothes up after washing a load of laundry the cotton clothing had to remain on the line for 4-5 days before it was dry enough to wear. Polyesters took a few hours. The same thing happens when you sweat into your clothing. Polyester, though a little warmer feeling, will remain dry throughout the day. (PLEASE, please keep this in mind when purchasing your garments as well. Do not buy the mesh because you will feel like you have plastic wrap on your body all day. I asked as many sisters as I could about what fabric content their garments were. Most of us tried every type to get an idea of what we liked. The common consensus was the 50/50 cotton/poly tops and the Carinessa bottoms. Yes, Carinessa bottoms felt warmer, but they kept us dry down below. The cotton/poly tops allowed enough polyester to wick away moisture and enough cotton to feel cool. Ok..back to the fabric content…) Polyester also looks better for longer. The synthetic fibers don’t break as often as cotton does, allowing the garment to look better, and more professional for longer amounts of time. Often you can find polyester skirts that can be wadded up in a suitcase, pulled out and worn immediately! Cotton skirts you will be ironing daily and within a few hours of wear it will look like you didn’t iron it in the first place.
4. “Don’t waste money on expensive shoes. Just wear Crocs. They are great!”
When I went into the mission field I brought with me two pair of high quality leather shoes and one pair of Crocs because of a tip I got from a returned sister. Crocs have a cute line of ballet style shoes that seem like a wonderful option for humid countries where you would be walking on dirt roads. They are easy to clean and can be rinsed off at the end of the day. BUT, crocs also only have traction on the bottom of the shoe for the few weeks you wear them, then they are slick and you slide out when you are walking on any wet surface.
Not ideal for someone wearing a skirt all day long. Crocs also wear faster than other shoes. Most days I could feel the heat of the roads through my shoes while wearing them. I would wear holes in mine on a regular basis.
I was going through a pair of Crocs every 6 weeks. Add that up and you are spending a ton of money on shoes. Lets do a little math here– A sister missionary is on her mission for about 78 weeks. If you are going through a pair of shoes every 6 weeks you would go through 13 pairs of shoes. The ballet Crocs sell for anywhere between $32-59. So in the length of your mission you will spend approximately $416-767 on shoes for your mission. Instead I would recommend wearing a shoe with good arch support that will last the length of your mission, like a Dansko, for example. Dansko shoes are a little more expensive but in the long run will save you money. Danksos run anywhere from around $115-155. BUT, you won’t need to replace them if you care for them properly. Most styles of Danskos have a removable insole that allows your shoe to rest and dry thoroughly on the inside, keeping the shoe from deteriorating.
I have worn Danskos, Hush Puppies, Borns and Keens. If I left today with you to go on your mission as your companion I would purchase 2 pair of Danskos and a pair of Keen hiking sandals if I was going to a third world country on my mission. When it comes down to it, if your feet hurt, you aren’t going to work as hard! Plus, I know so many missionaries who have returned home from their missions with foot issues/pain they will now deal with for the rest of their lives because they were more concerned about the look of a shoe than the functionality of the shoe for their mission.
5. “Wear conservative clothing that won’t make you stand out.”
While you want to be sure you don’t look flashy, wearing solid colors and dull colors will make you stand out more than bright patterns will. Many of these countries love bright colors and patterns! Don’t be afraid to being a few things with you that you may not want to wear at home because they seem a little out there. In country you won’t even bat an eye at those items. I had a few dresses that I thought were a little wild looking with the pattern but those were the dresses women were begging me to leave for them when I went back home. And I did. Happily!
6. “Don’t bring a sweater or cardigan. You will never use it and it will just take up space.”
Eventually you will acclimate to the area you are serving in. And remember those chapels that are air conditioned? You will use those cardigans, believe me. Don’t bring to many but pack 1-2 for sure because they will get used, especially during the rainy season.
So there you have it! My last tip can relate to any missionary going out. Make sure you have a wardrobe that you can mix and match. You will get so tired of the same clothing for 18 months so make sure you can get creative with it. Here is a wardrobe specifically selected for the hot and humid climate. Many of these items are available on our website. If you have any questions feel free to call our store to talk to one of our helpful staff or message us on Instagram or facebook!
Good luck preparing and God Speed!