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“Put on your rain jacket,” the Kiwi guy said.
I looked up at the blue sky, with no cloud in sight.
“It protects you against mosquitos,” he added. “Trust me, I’ve been here for a couple of days already.”
Have you ever ended up in the middle of nowhere and realised that you forgot to pack the most essential items? For me, one of the biggest appeals of staying in a jungle lodge in the middle of the Amazon was its remoteness. Far away from cities, traffic and big malls, I could enjoy nature. But it also meant I had to be extra careful when packing so I wouldn’t forget anything important.
Believe me, you do not want to visit the Amazon without insect repellent.
To help you and share my experience with you, I have put together this list of five essential items that you need to bring into the jungle. While I put together the list when in the Amazon, it can be applied to jungles all around the world, no matter where in the tropics you are.
#1 Insect repellent
There is a reason I have mentioned mosquitos multiple times in the last few paragraphs. I do not think I have ever seen as many as in the Amazon during the wet season. We spent most of our time on a boat, so it wasn’t a problem, but the moment we stopped, thousands of them came to attack us. My guide’s legs were black with mosquitos. I did not even know that such a thing was possible!
Whatever you do, do not forget your insect repellent. I brought 50% DEET and it was barely enough. Yet, I don’t recommend anything higher than 50%. DEET is toxic, not just to mosquitos but also to you, so stick to 50% or less. Just make sure you bring enough bottles. We had to reapply our spray every half an hour or it would wear off.
I doubt using it that often is healthy, but it was only for a couple of days and I haven’t died yet. And since mosquito bites are not just itchy, they can cause diseases, too, I would rather apply the DEET.
The thing about remote jungle lodges is that they are usually not connected to the electric grid. That means that they rely on generators and electricity is most often limited to a couple of hours in the evening.
Wildlife is most active early in the morning so we got up early and went to bed early, usually at the time when the lights were switched off. But when I had to get up in the middle of the night to use the bathroom, I was very glad to have a headtorch.
I could have used my phone, but if you have ever tried to pull your pants back up, awkwardly balancing your phone at the same time and trying not to drop it into the toilet, you will love a headtorch. It is also great for late evening walks, so you have both hands available to take pictures of the tarantulas you find out there.
#3 Rain jacket
Did you notice how wet the jungle feels? I was constantly drenched in sweat due to the high humidity. In a place as green and humid, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that it rains often.
Be prepared and bring either a rain jacket or a rain poncho. The good thing about tropical rain is that it usually stops after half an hour and the jacket will protect you during that time.
Plus, as mentioned above, rain jackets also provide excellent protection from mosquito bites. They help you save DEET, as those nasty insects cannot bite through them. Yes, going out with a rain poncho in the heat of the day sucks. It only took two minutes before sweat was running down the inside of my poncho.
But at least, I did not get bitten.
#4 Long Clothes
The jungle is so hot and humid that I wanted to wear as little as possible. So when I packed, I was tempted to bring lots of t-shirts and shorts.
But there are numerous reasons why long sleeves and trousers are the items you need in the jungle.
First of all, they protect you from the sun. Second, they protect you from scratches and burns while walking through the woods. Maybe you can recognise poison ivy back home and know how to avoid it. But in the jungle? I wouldn’t know how to tell which plants can hurt me and which ones can’t.
Third, and I know I have already mentioned this a lot, long sleeves can protect you from mosquitos and other animals that try to eat you.
When choosing your clothes, go for light and natural fabrics. Thin cotton is ideal, and a loose fit so the air can circulate and you don’t get too hot. I have some cheap white long sleeves that I took into the jungle and that were perfect for that purpose.
#5 Books or card games
Most animals are active in the early morning or the late evening. We got up early, went out for wildlife watching, came back for breakfast and then had lots of time to ourselves.
During the heat of the day, it is best to relax in a hammock and do nothing. I recommend bringing a good book or two for those hours of downtime.
I carry a Kindle for my travels and I spent many hours lying in a hammock, reading. The Kiwi boys who were in the lodge at the same time as us liked to play cards. Whatever you do, take something to keep you occupied.
If you follow this list, you should have the most essential items you need for the jungle. Besides that, you only need toiletries, a few spare clothes and underwear.
If you want to read up on my personal jungle experience, click here. I can also give you five reasons why you should visit the Amazon in Peru.
Do you have anything you would like to add to my list? What did you take into the jungle?
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