Visiting the World’s Largest Tropical Rainforest
The Amazon rainforest is one of those bucket list destinations that almost doesn’t even seem real, let alone accessible. But it is both of those things! However, it requires some different considerations with regard to packing for such a unique environment. Our visit was to the Ecuadorian Amazon, which consists of a mere 2% of the Amazon as a whole. With activities like trekking through the jungle by day and at night (yikes!), spending hours at a time sightseeing in a canoe (we saw river dolphins and a sloth up close!), or trying to actually sleep in your glamping quarters – despite the fear of critters snuggling up next to you in bed (yep, that happened), you’ll want to be prepared for whatever possibilities the jungle has in store.
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So then, let’s get to what you came for: our 13 Packing Essentials for a Trip to the Amazon Rainforest.
This is our number one for any trip, but it’s worth reminding that you’ll especially want to stay hydrated with clean water in the Amazon. Depending what season you visit during, there’s a good chance it will be hot, and a better chance it will be humid. And since you’ll be spending much of your time outdoors, it’s a must to replenish.
Ok, maybe this should have been the first item in this list of Amazon packing essentials, especially if your visit is during the wet season, like ours was. This was one of the best, inexpensive investments we made prior to the trip. We liked the idea of a poncho better than a rain jacket because it covers more of the body, and it’s easier to throw over a backpack. Do yourself a favor and pick up a simple, lightweight hooded poncho. They’re super packable, so it’ll be easy to grab when you need it – which will likely be on the daily.
A reliable pair of waterproof shoes is a must, preferably something that sits above the ankle in height. If comfort is a concern, ankle-height doesn’t have to mean a clunky, stiff boot. There are plenty of hiking shoes out there that are more like shoes or even sneakers. Again, coverage is key, because… jungle.
Yes, it’s hard to imagine wearing long sleeves in a hot, humid jungle, but here’s the thing – Mosquitos – not to mention underbrush and the sun. Did you know that white is much less visually attractive to mosquitos than colors like black or red? That was just one hot tip our travel agent laid on us before our trip to Ecuador. Do yourself a favor and bring a lightweight, long-sleeved white shirt to wear as a top layer. We went with a button-down, to make it easy to put on or take off a layer as needed. Trust us, it beats the alternatives of being bitten and burned!
Speaking of underbrush, it can poke or cut through lighter weight pants like joggers, rain pants, or leggings (which btw, mosquitos can easily bite through). It would be wise to have at least one pair of something thicker, along the lines of hiking pants.
We always opt for natural and eco-friendly products as much as possible, and when it comes to bug spray, definitely DEET-free! It should be no surprise that mosquitos are abundant in the Amazon. While it’s impossible to remain completely bite-free during your visit, you certainly can, and should, try to mitigate it. Surprisingly, we didn’t get chewed up too badly! As a side note, we found the mosquitos in the Florida Everglades – during the winter month of December, no less – to be unrelentingly worse, as if they had an actual thirst for bug spray, lol. But in the Amazon, they seem to take the hint.
This one’s pretty self-explanatory, and it’s always essential to have protection from the harsh rays of the sun. We highly recommend a sustainable, reef-friendly, organic, mineral sunscreen. While you might not be swimming around any reefs in the jungle, you might find yourself taking a dip in a river or lagoon. And who knows – if you’re in the Ecuadorian Amazon, you might be headed to the Galapagos Islands next, where you will need to respect the reefs. A leave-no-trace mindset is a must, especially in such unique and protected ecosystems.
You’ll want to have a hat for sun protection. Something of the wide-brimmed variety would give the best coverage, but even a baseball cap would help shield your face and scalp. That was what we wore, simply because we already owned a few. And since we don’t wear hats often anyway, we didn’t feel like shopping for more. But we’re talking about you – so go for it! A hat will also help keep sweat out of your face, and you can spray it with some of that bug spray to keep the skeeters away from your head!
I know. It seems painfully obvious, especially to us former southern Californians who go nowhere without their trusty sunglasses. But not everyone wears them on the regular. So, for those team no-shades people that might be reading this list to figure out what to pack, you’ll need to bring some sunglasses. Polarized lenses would be ideal, as even in the rain, the glare can be tough on the eyes. And since you’ll likely be wearing them extensively and on the daily, it wouldn’t hurt to have some cheap emergency backups, too.
We’re talking crew socks, at least. Not ankle or no-see, you want over-the-ankle. The key here, as you might be noticing, is coverage. A thicker sock provides more of a barrier between bugs and underbrush, and one with moisture control is best for long hiking days. And if you’re planning to purchase some new waterproof hiking shoes as we mentioned above, be sure you choose a fit that allows for the thicker sock.
If you have the opportunity to go on a nighttime walking or boating excursions in the jungle, a.) DO IT, and b.) use a headlamp instead of a flashlight. They’re super dorky but awesome, especially because they leave your hands free for navigating through any brush, spider webs, or prying your way out of the mouth of a 20+ foot anaconda. Oh, just kidding. They almost never attack humans. You legit might see one though, along with countless other really cool and creepy wildlife. And the value of that inexpensive light being attached to your head (instead of dropped from your hand) when you get the crap scared out of you is priceless.
12. Small Day Bag
Even the minimalist has a handful of items that they need to have with them throughout a day. If your Amazon trip is anything like ours, you’ll probably be spending the better part of the day and/or evening out exploring with a guide and group, away from your “base camp.” You should have a small bag to keep any necessities on hand that you might need. And keeping in theme with previous items, hands-free is best.
A dry bag is a vital piece of outdoor gear, and invaluable in a place like the Amazon. It’s durable and submersible, and made for keeping any sensitive items dry, like phones, passports, camera gear, etc. They provide a watertight enclosure by rolling down the top and clipping it together, rather than a ziplock seal. You might be ok with a ziplock freezer bag as many people consider, but a proper dry bag’s material is much more durable, so aside from the waterproof seal, it will stand up to the threat of puncture from sharp objects.
If for no other reason, they’re freakin’ fun! But there is another practical reason – lack of cell service. It’s doubtful you’ll have anything more than “SOS” in place of any bars while in the Amazon. So if you’re traveling with at least one partner you can always be connected if you get separated. We might even encourage you to intentionally separate, just for fun! Just be sure to use proper walkie talkie etiquite. You have to say “over” and make that “pcccht” static sound when you finish talking. Jack Black anyone?
There you have our top 13 packing essentials for a trip to the Amazon, and we hope it’s been helpful in preparing you for what we’re sure will be an unforgettable and amazing trip. As we mentioned, bookmark our Packing Essentials for the Amazon kit on Kit.co for additional items and easy reference.
And if you’d like to see our experiences in the Amazon, visit our YouTube channel! We’ve got a playlist with our entire Ecuador Series, which covers our two-weeks in the country, including Quito, Mindo, Cotopaxi, the Galapagos Islands, and the Amazon. Or, if you’re only interested in the Amazon, go straight to the those videos here:
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