No matter the forecast, wet weather often has a habit of showing up when it's least expected (and least welcome). For travelers, that usually means the heavens will open while you're dragging your suitcase around looking for that elusive hotel, or when out exploring a new city without shelter or taxi in sight.
There's not much you can do about the rain, but there are several ways of stopping it from soaking your luggage and damaging everything inside when you're on the move.
These are five of the best.
Choose Weatherproof Luggage
When buying new luggage, looks and brand names matter far less than one practical consideration: will it protect what's inside? On that basis, be sure to choose suitcases and backpacks that have a good degree of weather resistance.
You don't need something that can emerge unscathed from being dropped in the ocean (although that does exist), but it should be able to deal with sudden showers, wet floors, and leaky roofs.
For backpacks, this means thick, water-resistant fabric, and a waterproof base. Suitcases should either be hard-shelled, or made entirely from weatherproof material.
In either case, check the zips carefully. They're the most likely place for rain to enter, and many manufacturers don't bother to waterproof them properly or at all.
Carry a Dry Sack
A small dry sack is a surprisingly useful travel accessory, and one that's worth keeping in a handbag or daypack when you're on the move. When the rain starts (or you're out on the water), just drop your electronics, passport and other valuables in it, roll the top over a few times and clip it shut.
Everything inside will stay nice and dry, no matter how wet the bag gets. In general, pick one with a capacity around 5-10 liters – it provides plenty of room when you need it, and takes up little space when you don't. If you're carrying tablet computers or large cameras, perhaps consider something a little larger.
Use a Rain Cover...
Even a good weather-resistant backpack won't keep the elements out for ever, and that's where rain covers come in. Little more than an elasticated plastic hood that wraps around everything except the harness, they are built in to some models of daypack and backpack.
If yours doesn't come with one and you know you're likely to be spending time in rainy conditions, buying one is a cheap and useful investment.
There isn't much to distinguish between different models – just make sure to get one that's the right size for your backpack, and leave it out to dry once you get to your destination to prevent mold and mildew from forming.
That said, if the company that makes your backpack offers an optional rain cover, it's worth paying a little extra to get it. At a minimum, you know it'll fit properly, which is vital for keeping the water out.
...or a Garbage Bag
If you're using a suitcase, or just didn't get a chance to pick up a rain cover for your backpack, there's a cheap alternative when heading out in the pouring rain.
Buy a large garbage bag with drawstring ties from the nearest convenience store, then put all of your gear inside it before tying the top and stowing it in your luggage.
It's a hassle, and not completely waterproof, but it'll keep everything a lot drier if you're out in the rain for a while. Some people use them alongside a rain cover or poncho (below), to double-down on the protection.
Pack a Large Poncho
When all else fails, consider keeping a disposable poncho in your bag. They're thin and light while in their packaging, and should be easily big enough to cover both you and your handbag or daypack if you get caught in the rain.
The largest sizes will even cover most or all of a full-size backpack. They won't do anything to keep a suitcase dry, though, so you'll need to use a different approach if you travel with one.