Packing in general is tricky, double that when you are packing for an adventure in the South American rainforest that will have you doing everything from piranha fishing the rivers to camping in hammocks deep in the Amazon jungle to a Jaguar safari. Not to mention the constant battle with humidity, strong sunshine and pesky critters!
I spent 10 memorable days in the country of Guyana’s jungle and here’s the packing list based on my trip.
What to Wear: Jungle Clothing & Accessories
A pair of comfortable, hiking boots with ankle support and have good tread are a necessity. The trails can be muddy and uneven causing you to slip easily (a couple people in our group slipped while on a jungle mountain climb!), so make sure they are a good quality boot. Also, get something with breathable material, so your feet won’t get too hot.
My hiking boots were the Bearpaw brand, but are unfortunately discontinued. These Columbia Newton Ridge boots are very similar and highly rated.
For milder hikes, exploring the villages or to hang out in in the evenings bring a low ankle hiking shoe. The KEEN Terradora hiking shoe offers both style and comfort.
After a long day hiking the first thing you’ll want to do is give your feet some room to breath, but you also want to be protected from the mosquitoes, so bring a pair of waterproof sandals that you can easily wear with a pair of socks (I know that sounds very fashionable, but you will thank me later!). These are also great in the outdoor showers where you may feel uncomfortable in bare feet.
A full brim hat will help keep the sun off of you and keep you cooler. Make sure that you get one with a tie around your neck so it doesn’t fly off when you’re riding in the boats. I brought the Bodvera Outdoor Hat and it worked out great especially because of the crisscrossed fabric around the middle of it so that I could hook a carabiner through it and hang it from my backpack when not in use.
Though you probably won’t want to swim in the rivers (piranhas! Need I say more?), there may be a pool at one of the lodges and it’ll be a big relief from the humidity to be able to jump in!
Bring quick dry full-length pants with lots of pockets and in neutral colors (bright or flowered fabrics can attract bugs). It’s practical if one pair can be either rolled up to make capris or unzipped to turn into shorts, though most of the time you will want to be wearing pants that cover your legs to protect you from insects. A pair of long comfy leggings are also great for hanging out around the lodge.
I brought one pair of prAna Halle pants, two pairs of North Face Aphrodite 2.0 Pants (so comfy!!!) and one pair of Black Diamond Credo pants.
The best shirts for the rainforest are long-sleeved button-ups with a collar that can be flipped up to keep the sun off your neck. Though breathable quick dry ones are said to be the best (like this one from Colombia), I wore simple lightweight button-ups from a discount store like Marshall’s and it was fine. Also bring a couple of comfy long-sleeved shirts to change into when your hanging around the lodge or sleeping in the jungle.
You will be in some areas with less bugs and you’ll want to remove your long sleeved shirt to relieve you from the rainforest heat. Slip a tank (or tee) underneath your outfit and you’re all set. Tanks are also perfect for sleeping in since most lodges will not have air conditioning, but will proved mosquito nets. I bring a variety of simple ribbed Zenana tanks on EVERY trip!
A couple t-shirts are nice to have for the lodges or for under your long sleeved shirts. I brought the cute Not All Who Wander Are Lost t-shirt pictured below.
You’ll want to make sure that ALL your shirts are long enough to tuck securely into your bottoms to prevent bugs from finding their way up your back. One night while we were camping my shirt was accidentally untucked for an hour and I woke up with little bites on my butt. No fun!
Bring comfortable and quick drying underwear and sports bras to wear underneath your clothing. You don’t need to bring a pair for everyday since these are easy to wash by hand in the sinks at the lodges.
You should have comfortable hiking style socks that are mid to long length (no ankle/bootie socks!) They need to be long enough to be able to tuck your pants into them when hiking through the rainforest so no critters can crawl up your legs. I brought five pairs of SEOULSTORY7 hiking socks.
A sarong or large scarf has many uses, so it’s always wise to travel with one. In the Amazon jungle it can be used as a makeshift towel, to cover your shoulders at the lodge (when your tired of wearing long sleeves!) or to wrap around your bathing suit if you are going for a swim.
The rainforest is true to its name! Sometimes you will be hiking and with no warning there will be a torrential downpour. Carry a lightweight, compact rain jacket with you that can be added to any outfit. No need to bring a heavier jacket, you will not use it! I brought the Cheering Waterproof Windbreaker Jacket which didn’t offer complete rain protection, but it was very lightweight.
A neckwrap is practical because it can be used in so many ways: around your neck to shade from the sun, to keep your hair off of your face and to put around your mouth so no bugs will get through. These VANCROWN Wraps did the trick and they come in variety packs!
It is so hot and humid that, if you are anything like me, your go-to hair style will be “bun and done”. Bring plenty of strong hair ties in case you lose a couple along the way.
There is more to traveling through Guyana’s rainforest than just shaded pathways, you will also be out in the middle of the sun a lot! Protect your eyes with a pair of polarized lens sunglasses. Make sure they are not too expensive, as they can easily be dropped in the mud or lost in the mucky waters.
A cooling towel was a last minute addition to my luggage…thank God! There will be nothing better than soaking a cooling towel in water and then wrapping it around your neck. ChillPal makes the ultimate chilling towel that can keep you cool for hours!
Most lodges offer a laundry service that is fairly cheap, so there’s no need to pack a different outfit for every day.
Safety & Medical
First Aid kit
Your jungle tour guides will typically carry a medical kit for your group, but you should have a little one of your own for things like small cuts and blisters. You can buy yourself a travel-sized kit that’s got a little of everything in it (like this one!). But, if you need to buy items individually here’s a general list of things you need:
- Zinc Oxide Tape
- Antiseptic Wipes
- Assorted Band-Aids
- Wound Dressing x2
- Hydration Powder x 12
- Blister Dressing
- Anti-fungal Cream
- Hydrocortisone Cream
- Foot powder
- Anti diarrheal medicine
- Antibacterial Wipes
Remember, you’ll be in the humid rainforest and that means BUGS! Though many of the lodges will supply a bottle of insect repellent, some do not and you will definitely want to bring your own to be protected.
I used a healthy spray of Off! Deep Woods on my exposed areas and carried Repel Mosquito Wipes, plus used mosquito repellent patches on my wrists and ankles. In hindsight, I would have also added the Sawyer Permethrin insect repellent that you spray directly on your clothing and lasts six washings.
Unfortunately, even with being overly protected (unless you plan on wearing a hasmat suit!) the likelihood of getting a couple bug bites is pretty high, so bring along an anti-itch cream to keep you from scratching your bumps and making them worse! A good cortisone cream will do just fine.
The sun is almost always out in Guyana and all over the Amazon jungle, even though you’ll be hiking through the rainforest’s canopy of trees there are long stretches of open patches and uncovered boat rides. It’s best to get a UVA & UVB, non scented sunscreen, so you won’t attract insects. I only brought a small tube of Neutrogena Beach Defense SPF 70.
Shampoo & Body Wash
You may need both shampoo and body wash when camping in the jungle or staying at the lodges, as some do not provide these basics. A 3-ounce tube should suffice, I always use the Humangear GoTubes because the containers are flexible (so I can get the very last bit of product out of them!) and I’ve never had them leak.
The humidity will cause you to sweat…A LOT! That will make your face feel and look very greasy. It will be very refreshing to use a hydrating wet wipe to remove the grub.
Pocket-sized tissue packs will come in real handy when there are bathrooms without a supply (happens more often than you’d think) and when the forest is your restroom.
Some tiny bugs may be attracted to your minty fresh toothpaste, so get tubes with a twist cap that can be securely fastened.
Keep in mind that because of the excessive rainforest sweat you may be using more deodorant than normal.
You can bring makeup, but frankly it will just melt off your face, so it’s better (and easier!) to not wear any.
A headlamp is perfect for wildlife night-spotting, sitting around campfire or reading in your hammock. The ones with the red filter option are best because it can help to keep the bugs from pestering you. All headlamps are not the same! Make sure that your headlamps light is strong enough (like the Black Diamond Headlamp I used). Also, don’t forget to load up on AAA batteries!
There are thousands of photo opportunities in Guyana, as well as anywhere in the Amazon jungle, so don’t forget to bring your camera equipment! I carried a waterproof GoPro, an Iphone (the camera is actually amazing in the right light!) and my Canon 6D DSLR camera with a standard lens. What was missing? There are so many beautiful birds and wildlife in the Amazon rainforest, but many times they are hard to capture without a zoom lens. Next time, I’d definitely add a 300mm zoom lens for my camera.
Wildlife is unpredictable and mostly likely isn’t going to just happen to be a couple feet away so you can get the perfect view (especially the birds). You will get a lot of use out of a good pair of binoculars. For a more economical pair (under $30!) choose the Bushnell Flacon binoculars. If you plan on being a birder or want something more heavy duty try the Nikon 7577 MONARCH 7.
When you research outlet adapters for Guyana there will be a few different suggestions: type A, D and type F. I brought all three, but all outlets encountered during my entire trip were a standard American 3-prong. Just to be safe, you may want to bring a universal adapter. I’ve used the Tenachi Universal Adapter all over the world with no problems, though this upgraded adapter has USB ports whereas the Tenachi does not.
Electricity is available in most lodges, but many places have very limited outlets—sometimes only one per room. So bring along a compact surge protector with a few extra outlets on it. This was you can charge multiple items at once!
With the age of cell phones, a watch is not a total necessity unless you don’t want to be always grabbing for your phone or want to protect it from a random downpour. My Armitron jelly strap watch worked nicely.
Some lodges electricity is run by generator and they will turn it off at night, so you can’t be guaranteed that your electronics will be charging overnight. Plus, there are excursions deep in the forest that will keep you away from a power source for a day or two. You won’t have WiFi or cell service most of the time, but if you like to use your phone for photos and/or entertainment bring backup power. I used a battery backup Iphone case and the Rav external backup battery. Between the two, I always had power.
Take a look at your itinerary to see what size backpack you may need, keeping in mind that if you are flying to remote areas in small planes there will be a 40lb TOTAL luggage limit. You may want to solely bring a backpack or do what I did and bring a small piece of carryon luggage and the 44 Teton backpack. This worked perfectly for me since we were mostly staying at lodges with one night of camping.
Dry bags can be used to protect your valuables during river crossings or when the rain unexpectedly strikes, and also to hold wet clothing.
I did not bring enough carabiners! These practical clips can be used to attach things to the exterior of your backpack and bags. I used the only one I brought to clip my hat to the back of my backpack, but I wish I’d had extra in order to be able to to attach the water bottle, hair ties and so much more.
Staying hydrated is essential in the rainforest and a small 2-3 liter hydration backpack will help you do it. You can get a small one that slips into your larger backpack, so it can double as a daypack or make sure your larger backpack has a section for the water pouch.
Sometimes you are not going to want to lug around a large pack, so it’s really nice to have a small daypack that you can use when needed. My Waterfly sling daypack fit snug inside my larger backpack and was fantastic for short tours from the lodge.
You may be able to use your credit cards at a few random places in Georgetown, but any further out and it’s cash only. Most places will take USD, sometimes giving you change in Guyanese currency, so there’s no need to do a currency exchange.
Not including lodging and tours, I spent an average of $25 per day on tipping, snacks and souvenirs.
Have copies of your passport, vaccination card, tickets, etc in a separate bag from the original. You can also take photos of them to store on your phone.
Yellow Fever Vaccination Card
Technically, the country of Guyana only recommends the yellow fever vaccination, but if you fly Copa Airlines it is a mandatory requirement and you will be turned away from your flight without one. Double check with your airline and the country requirements before deciding to forgo the vaccination.
There are some quiet nights in the jungle, so bring a deck of cards, pocket game or a book (it’d be a good time to read mine: Bucket List Adventures!!—shameless plug)
Goodies to Eat
After a few days of chicken, cassava and okra you may be craving some treats from home. Bring a couple of your favorite bars, tea or snacks. I brought an assortment of Kind Bars and ate them all!
Just in case your clothing gets snagged on a branch in the jungle, bring a small sewing kit, like the ones you find in a hotel room (or this one) for some quick repairs.
Remember, that if you are taking small planes, all of your gear and luggage should weigh no more than 40lbs total!!! For me this was one small carryon suitcase and a 44L backpack.