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Rain forest pack list
September 26, 2005

Visiting a tropical rainforest promises to be a memorable experience. Rainforests house around half the world's plant and animal species and are home to indigenous people who live in ways quite unlike those in the western world. Further, rainforests are found in a variety of landscapes: some are situated on scenic mountain ranges, others hug giant lowland rivers, while more still are found near beautiful beaches and coral reefs. Rainforests offer opportunities for cultural exchange, photography, adventure, fishing, hiking, relaxation, birding and wildlife spotting.

Pack list for your rain forest trip

It's a good idea to pack light. That said, there are a fair number of items you probably want to bring to the jungle. Below is a full list, although you may not need all this stuff.

Also see A practical guide for traveling to the rainforest.

Health and comfort related items
  • Insect repellent
  • Ant-inch / insect bite relief products
  • Sunscreen
  • Lip balm
  • Sunburn relief products
  • Pre-moistened towelettes or baby wipes
  • Hand sanitizer
  • Moisturizer
  • Medication (altitude sickness, colds, fever, bites)
  • Basic first aid kit (band-aids, aspirin, disinfectant / antiseptic, tweezers
  • Instructions on medications if you have special requirements for attending doctor.
  • Toiletries
  • Spare contact lenses and glasses
  • Ear plugs if you are a light sleeper
  • Clothes-washing soap

  • Raincoat / poncho
  • Wide brim hat
  • Flip flops / sandals
  • Walking shoes/old athletic shoes/hiking boots. Be sure they are comfortable -- blisters are not fun in the tropics where they are likely to get infected. 2 pairs are a good idea since one pair will usually be wet and muddy from hiking.
  • Socks. Your socks will likely be thrashed by the end of the trip. Be prepared to wash them daily.
  • Bathing / swimming attire
  • Shorts, although long pants are a better bet for hiking
  • Long pants. I prefer cotton or quick drying material to the high-tech synthetic stuff that tends to be hot. Breathable is good. Quick drying is good -- jeans are not fun when wet and hot.
  • Light cotton shirts can be preferable to T-shirts, though T-shirts are easy
  • Lightweight long-sleeved shirts for protection against sun and insects
  • Bandanas can be useful for all sorts of purposes
  • Lightweight jacket -- it can get cold especially at elevation
  • Underwear
  • Sleeping attire

Hiking stuff
  • Lightweight day pack for hikes. Waterproof is nice but plastic bags inside the pack is an option.
  • Binoculars for birds and mammals
  • Sunglasses
  • Water bottle and/or a CamelBak-style backpack. I use a plastic water bottle acquired locally -- less stuff to bring and there's no pain when they get lost or smashed.
  • Flashlight and a headlamp

Camera stuff
  • You should pack your film in your carry on. Some airport x-ray machines now damage undeveloped film. Check with security people at the airport.
  • Charger
  • Current converter and plug adapter
  • Extra film, batteries, and memory cards. Bring more than you think you'll need.

Other stuff
  • "Gifts." Pens and school materials for kids, not candy. You should give gifts for children to their parents or teachers, never directly to children.
  • Extra bag for tourist items you pick up along the way. Old clothes can be given away at the end of the trip -- less stuff to take home and more room for locally produced goods.
  • Travel guide, field guides, reading material (sometimes this can be left behind in lodges where it can be appreciated by other guests)
  • Travel clock with alarm
  • Cheap watch
  • Notebook, journal, pens (including a permanent marking pen)
  • Zip lock bags are great for keeping your clothes and gear orderly and dry.
  • Mosquito netting. Many lodges have mosquito netting -- ask before you go. If you don't know where you will be staying (i.e. "winging it"), it's probably a good idea to bring netting.

Passport copies

Always have several copies of the photo page of your passport. Color is preferable. Keep these in separate places in your luggage and on your person.

Get your visas (if required) well before departure. Make sure your passport is valid for at least six months after the date your return from your trip.

Protecting your gear

If you are taking valuable electronic equipment like cameras, camcorders, sound equipment, etc, you should make a list that includes a description of each item, serial, and model numbers, and your name and home address. This will let customs agents know that your aren't planning to sell the gear in the country as well as help protect you from the appropriation of your equipment by unscrupulous customs and police officials. It will also help if your things get stolen and you need to fill out a police report (which in and of itself can be an adventure in some places). It's advisable to make several copies of this list.

Silica gel packets help protect your camera against humidity.

IF you have the room in your luggage and are taking nice gear, you may want to get an all weather, shatter-proof Pelican case. Definitely bring lots of Zip lock bags for keeping your stuff dry.

Also see A practical guide for traveling to the rainforest.

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