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Packing List for the Jungle

Amelia on her last trip to a tropical forest in Madagascar Amelia McKinlay

Seven essential items for surviving the tropics.

There is nothing more exciting than gearing up for an adventure in the jungle. In one week, I will be heading to Borneo for two months to conduct ecological research in a tropical forest.

Although the rainforest conjures up romantic images of lush vegetation and spectacular biodiversity, preparing for a trip there can be a little less glamorous. Below are a few items I think are very useful when journeying into the jungle.

1. Dry bags

The near 100 per cent humidity and regular rainfall makes dry bags an essential in the rainforest, especially while camping. They are perfect for storing electronics and any other items that are important to keep dry. I would recommend bringing a few different sizes.

2.Microfibre towel

I take a microfibre travel towel with me on almost every trip. They fold up small, are quick drying (essential in the humid rainforest) and can double up as a gym towel when you return.

3. First Aid Kit

Having a good medical kit can make forest life much more comfortable and potentially prevent serious injury. I am bringing a small waterproof first aid kit that contains items such as bandages, water purification tablets, antiseptic cream, rehydration sachets and antihistamines. I would also suggest bringing a small supply of other medication and malaria prophylaxis if required.

4. Hat

I’ve had a few rough encounters with sunstroke and heat exhaustion. Each time it’s happened, I haven’t been wearing a hat.

It is crucial to protect against the harsh sun and I wouldn’t go anywhere in the tropics without one. I usually take a regular baseball cap, but this time I have bought a cap made of quick-drying material, which is lighter to carry around and more resilient to heavy rain.

5. Sleeping bag

Despite the hot weather during the day, it can sometimes feel cool at night. I am packing a lightweight, one-season sleeping bag designed for warm weather. It is compact and easy to carry and will keep me nice and warm at night.

If you get cold easily, I would also advise bringing a sleeping bag liner for an extra layer of warmth.

6. Binoculars

Wildlife can sometimes be difficult to spot in the rainforest. Having a good pair of waterproof binoculars is crucial for spotting distant animals.

7. Headlamp

I am staying at a camp with limited electricity so as soon as the sunsets, I will be heavily reliant on my headlamp. When I lived in South Africa, this was one of my most used pieces of equipment.

I have also packed a small solar powered camping light. I haven’t used one before but I’m hoping it will provide some extra light in my hut at night. 

Although all of these items will be handy, my biggest piece of advice would be to make a comprehensive packing list a few weeks prior to leaving to ensure nothing essential is left behind. I would also suggest doing some research before buying new equipment to prevent items from breaking while you are out there.

I look forward to arriving in Borneo next week with (hopefully) everything I need!

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Published in Volunteer Abroad Blogs
Amelia McKinlay

Amelia McKinlay is a master's student based in London, passionate about conservation and the environment. She has lived in five countries around the world. Previously, she blogged for Verge about volunteering at DAKTARI Bush School and Wildlife Orphanage in Limpopo, South Africa. Currently, she's researching tropical forest ecology in Borneo, Malaysia.

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