China has a pretty wide variety of climates that can be generally sorted into a few different groups.

The north (Beijing area) is comfortable in the summer and cold and dry in the winter.

The south sees humid and hot climates with strong rains.

The west is slightly more arid with large mountains dominating most of it. 

The east is highly urbanized with low clouds, smog and great infrastructure.

In short, you’ll need to research your city carefully before heading to China.  Fortunately, China doesn’t really have extreme temperatures in most cities, and new clothing is readily available in most places at a very affordable price.

As such, I recommend bringing a simple checklist of weather gear for a life in China.

  • Standard shirts and pants with extra pairs of underwear.  Long clothing is generally preferred, as China is relatively conservative with attire.
  • A travel umbrella.
  • Sunscreen and lotion, especially in areas like Beijing, which are very dry in the winter.
  • A single travel jacket.
  • Sunglasses
  • Socks and sturdy walking shoes that are acceptable for work.

And that’s it.  Other gear, such as ponchos, heavy coats, thermal wear, air filters and mittens or gloves can be bought in China easily and cheaply depending on the weather in the area.  It’s not worth bringing such gear all the way around the world.

Just be careful when buying shirts and pants in China.  Chinese people generally have smaller frames, so westerners may find Chinese shirts and pants tight around the shoulders, chest and calves.  Be prepared to buy one size larger than you’re accustomed to.