Hot, wet, humid and full of bugs; the jungle requires some specialist kit and a daily routine that takes a bit of getting used to. In this article I will cover the clothing and equipment you will need before venturing into the trees. What I hope to do is to give you some guidelines to help you come up with your own jungle kit.
The general routine for working and travelling in the jungle is to only take two sets of clothing, a wet set and a dry set. During the day I wear my wet set, all day, every day. This will get wet, from sweat and or rain and will generally stay wet for the duration of the trip. When I have set up camp in the evening and all the camp chores have been done, I wash myself and my wet set in a stream to remove any salt, which will cause irritation if allowed to build up in the clothing weave. I then hang my wet set on a line under my tarp, dry and powder my feet and change into my dry set. It is very important that you make sure you keep this set dry at all times, as having two wet sets is no fun! In the morning I pack away my dry set in a small dry bag and then put that inside my main dry bag. Its then time to put on my wet set, which will be cold and horrible, I don't think anyone gets used to this! However after five minutes its like you have never been out of them and its time for another exciting day in the jungle.
Clothes need to be tough to survive the constant wet conditions, the spiny wait-a-while vines and also protect you from biting insects. I generally choose natural materials over synthetics as I find cotton does not pick up body odours as quickly, although it does take a bit longer to dry.
Clothing is a very personal thing and what works for me may not work for you. Wet Kit Underwear I prefer to wear Lycra running shorts to reduce rubbing caused by wet trousers on your inner thigh. Some people wear swimming shorts and some wear nothing at all - like I said, its a very personal thing!
British Army lightweights or cotton cargo trousers are the best option. Keep them loose fitting to allow freedom of movement and also allow wait-a-while to catch fabric rather than skin. Having a few pockets enables you to keep important items on you at all times. I tuck them into the tops of my jungle boots to stop leeches getting in. Shirt I prefer to wear a long sleeve shirt, which allows me to have the sleeves up during the day then roll them if the mosquitoes are a problem. The 5.11 Tactical range make a very good cotton shirt that is tough enough to stand up to the rigours of jungle travel. It has good chest pockets, which can carry a lot of gear and a good vent at the back to help keep you cool. As with trousers it is best to keep your shirt baggy and tucked in. Socks I go for a good pair of thick high percentage wool hiking socks without seams on the heels, as this reduces blisters on pressure points. Wool does not start to smell as quickly as synthetic socks. Some people prefer to wear one thin pair of socks under the thick pair to reduce friction, but I find in the jungle my feet get too hot with both pairs on. It is important to clean your socks each evening, to remove sand build-up, which can lead to very painful feet.
There is no point trying to keep your feet dry in the jungle, it just will not happen! I have seen people feet fall apart in waterproof boots, as once in, the water cant get out. It is a better bet to accept wet feet and choose boots with this in mind. I wear US Military jungle boots with a good chunky Panama sole, draining eyelets and a canvas upper. The ones by Altama are good. Jungle terrain can be very muddy and slippery and normal hiking boot soles cant get enough grip. The Panama sole allows good grip and it also pushes the mud out of the sides to keep the tread clear. The two eyelets allow the boot to quickly drain any water after submersion during say, a river crossing. The canvas uppers also aid the removal of water, as well as help ventilation. Any foam or padding in the boots will just hold water and make them very heavy. Belt Avoid leather, as it soon turns mouldy in the damp conditions. I use an old roof rack strap! Hat I am not keen on wide-brimmed hats under the canopy as I find they restrict my vision too much. I always take a baseball cap but only ever use it if I am in the sun, for example on a HLS (Helicopter Landing Site) or travelling by river. Poncho I carry a US poncho that packs up nice and small and weighs very little. It allows plenty of air to circulate so you dont become sweaty, unlike in waterproof jackets. I only really use this when it has been raining for a long time. A short downpour is more refreshing than anything else!
Dry Kit Shorts
I carry a pair of cotton cargo shorts to wear in the evening. They pack down small and still have pockets to hold useful items such as a head torch.
A cotton T-shirt is all thats needed in the evening. If mosquitoes are a problem I just apply mosquito repellent. Crocs It is nice to powder your feet and give them a chance to air and dry out in the evening. However some people prefer to take trainers or lightweight converse shoes as they offer more protection.
You need very little equipment in the jungle, but what you do choose to take with you is very important. Rucksack An external frame pack has an advantage in the jungle as it increases air flow and therefore reduces the risk of getting a sweat rash on your back. Having external pockets means you can easily access commonly used items such as your brew kit or first aid kit, without having to go into the main compartment. Anything you want to stay dry needs to be put into dry bags as no rucksack is 100% waterproof. Depending on the length of your trip a 50-80ltr rucksack should be big enough. Remember the bigger your rucksack the more you end up taking!
I find dry bags made by Ortelib to be the toughest. I prefer to put things into lots of little bags instead of just one large one in case it gets punctured. Make sure you label the outside of each bag so you can tell whats inside at a glance. Shelter There is no better shelter for use in the jungle than the tarp and hammock; it was designed for use in this warm wet environment.