A few years ago I was lucky enough to be sent off on an educational trip to experience the best of the Peruvian Amazon. What I’m ashamed to admit is that I didn’t read my briefing document very closely and as a result was the worst prepared person in the entire group - fairly embarrassing when you're meant to be a Latin American specialist! Anyway, cue 5 days of soaking wet feet, constant sweating (due to very fashionable but completely impractical trousers) and tying myself in knots trying to put toothpaste on my toothbrush in the dark holding the toothbrush in one hand, the torch in my mouth and the toothpaste in the other. It was not one of my finest moments I can assure you.
So, in a bid to prevent anyone else from the perils of packing badly for the jungle I hereby give you my top 5 packing tips (although frankly I could have added a lot more than 5 to this list).
- Socks. Lots of them. You cannot underestimate how horrific it is to come back from a day of jungle trekking to have a nice cool shower and then have to put back on wet socks. It is HORRIBLE. Now if, as in my situation, you are limited to a small bag for your trip into the jungle, do not be tempted to cut down on socks – at least have 1 clean pair that you can wear in the evenings to pad around the jungle lodge and at least 2-3 pairs for daytime (if you think you can dry a pair out whilst you’re out for the day – think again – I tried this, NOTHING dries in the jungle).
- Head torch. I’m sure the practical people out there are thinking – yes obviously. But the concept did not even cross my mind – I always thought head torches were just for rock climbers or similar mountaineering types or car mechanics. This is possibly one of the most vital things for a jungle lodge – not only is it useful for any night time excursions, but it is also useful for all manner of other things, for example checking your boots for poisonous spiders (this actually happened, the most dangerous spider on earth in my boot – I would not recommend it), brushing your teeth, putting on mascara in the dark for a dawn walk, rummaging around in your small bag looking for dry socks, getting to dinner without standing on any unassuming beast whilst also leaving your hands free to fend off any flying beasties that you might encounter. Basically what more can I say about head torches - they are truly the champions of the torch family.
- Mosquito Repellent – absolutely essential, especially in the Peruvian Amazon where all sorts of insects call home. I accidentally used repellent that is meant for clothes / tents on my skin – again would not recommend this – and make sure you wipe your hands before handling your camera equipment as the DEET actually melted the markings off mine. God knows what it does to your skin. Better not to think about it but at least I didn’t get a flesh eating insect-related disease.
- Long trousers and shirts / t-shirts – preferably made of a breathable fibre. It is hot. And steamy. You need to be able sweat and you will sweat a lot. Like the socks – make sure you take a couple of each as putting on slightly damp sweaty clothes each day is not a memorable experience. And after a while nobody wants to sit next to you either.
- Last but not least a water bottle – you will definitely need this. I’m not sure I have ever needed to drink so much water or been so happy to drink so much water – make sure you get a re-usable one that is light and doesn’t taste of either plastic / metal (depending on what it’s made of) after a couple of days. There’s nothing more revolting than slightly warm, plastic tasting water – apart from maybe wet socks.