Up In The Air: Floods and Torrential Rains

Khairil Yusof
4 min readNov 15, 2018

Packing for civic tech work travel working near water such as floods, rivers and coastal areas, with electronic gear

Jakarta Flood, 2007

After being stuck in traffic, and then having to get out and wade through knee deep water during Jakarta floods of 2007, I resolved to be better prepared when travelling during monsoon or rainy seasons of tropical countries.

This is my current travel equipment for these situations when I’m travelling.

Water shoes

Any shoe will get wet, unless you’re wearing knee length rubber boots. Flip flops can easily get lost and don’t provide much protection from debris in city floods.

Water shoes, provide more protection, and will also drain and dry quickly once you’re out of the water. They also come in a variety of designs. If you’re expecting to walk a lot, shoes like Columbia Drainmaker work well.

I prefer something like the Adidas Jawpaws, because they’re light, and compact to pack.

Adidas Jaw Paws

Waterproof Bags

There are two ways to protect your backpack.

One is to have an external waterproof cover, which you wrap your whole bag in. Usually these are quite thin, and I don’t quite trust them from having a rip and leaking if your bag is dropped or in water for extended periods of time.

A safer option, is to have a large waterproof dry bag (to put everything in), or smaller dry bags, where your main backpack will get wet, but key things such as your laptop, clothes, camera stay dry. Look for dry bags that are made of tough waterproof tarpaulin like material. They’re heavier, but safer. You should always test first, either filling it up with water to test for leaks, or submerge it in a bucket/bathtub and check for air bubbles.

If it’s a large bag, to put everything in, make sure it has backpack straps. You want your hands free to hold umbrella, hold yourself against sampan or friend when getting of boat without a jetty, or to clamber over some obstacles.

12in Thinkpad Laptop protected by 5L waterproof dry bag
5L Waterproof Dry bag

Another alternative are bags with an inner liner of waterproof tarpaulin like material like my go to bag, the Chrome Cargo Backpack. Note that bags like this only last about 2–3 years before the waterproof liner starts to degrade.

Tech Equipment

In 2018, most electronic devices are somewhat water resistant and can work fine in humid conditions. Smartphones are somewhat waterproof so a quick accidental dip or using them in rain is fine. Laptops and interchangeable lens cameras are not so water friendly, and without some sort of special casing, it’s best you keep them in your dry bags until you’re in dry protected place before you use them.

I’m not going to cover waterproof devices for this article but there are casings for cameras especially action cameras like GoPro, ActionCam or water and shock proof compact cameras like the Olympus Tough line.

Clothing

In torrential rain, you are going to get wet no matter what if you’re out in the rain long enough. As covered already, keep your change of clothes dry in your dry bag or waterproof backpack. There are ways to reduce how much you get wet if in rain for shorter periods of time.

The rain deflector stick, or as it’s more commonly known, the compact umbrella is a must. It’ll help keep you drier for longer in torrential rain, and completely dry in lighter rain. It also works as an effective shade, against the hot tropical sun.

Compact Umbrella

A pack-able or disposable light rain coat works well to also keep you dryer for a bit longer when coupled with an umbrella.

Finally light quick dry shirt and pants. They will dry quickly and if you squeeze water out of them, will mostly dry within an hour or so, even while you’re wearing them. In hot tropical wet weather, you will want a few pairs of these shirts, pants and underwear, that you can quickly wash and dry within a few hours. Not only will they get wet from rain, but also from sweat. I like Uniqlo’s Airism collection, but other similar lightweight quick dry clothing from other brands work well too. These modern polyester textiles are super lightweight and comfortable.

Notes

Up In The Air is a series of work travel tips and equipment for folks working in civic tech who have to work in the field and in a variety of different environments around the world.

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