The Ultimate Packing List for a Jungle Trekking Trip in Sumatra and Borneo

Jhon, our trekking guide in Sumatra, looks for wildlife in the trees.

Jhon, our trekking guide in Sumatra, looks for wildlife in the trees.

 

PREPARING FOR THE JUNGLES
OF SUMATRA AND BORNEO

Thinking about going on a multi-night jungle trekking adventure in Sumatra or Borneo? These are the only places in the world to spot wild orangutans, among a plethora of other species, and also immerse yourself within primary rainforest. The experience is truly remarkable, but a few packing tips can really augment your experience (and comfort) when camping out in the jungle.

But first, some things to prepare for— the remaining rainforests of Sumatra and Borneo are dense, wet biospheres of life. The region, like its name would suggest, receives a lot of rainfall. You can expect some serious mud, humidity, foliage and vines, streams, and slippery slopes, as well as tree branches to grab onto to help you navigate this verdant world. You can also expect your fair share of insects and creepy crawlies, but far fewer mosquitos than I would have imagined. Common bugs were ants, wasps, and flies, as well as lots of beetles.

A large male wild orangutan in the jungle of Gunung Leuser National Park.

A large male wild orangutan in the jungle of Gunung Leuser National Park.

GEAR AND PACKING

Sleep

Getting a good night’s rest in the humid rainforest is not the easiest task. You have bugs, heat and moisture to battle, but there are certainly ways to improve your sleep quality from a gear perspective.

Sleep sheet— this will significantly improve your sleep quality, as most of the time it’s too hot for a full-on sleeping bag, but you want to still lightly cover your body.

Lightweight sleeping bag— a lightweight sleeping bag may be good if you get cold easily, as it can get cool in the jungle, especially in the early morning depending on which month you are travelling.

Inflatable sleep pad or air mattress— essential, as it makes your sleep a lot more comfortable and adds a necessary layer of protection between your body and the ground.

Travel pillow— because you’re camping in hot, humid weather, you may not have many clothes or a sizeable sleeping bag to make a comfortable pillow with. Therefore a travel pillow or inflatable pillow would go a long way in improving your sleep comfort in the jungle. I don’t care for the inflatable ones and find them very uncomfortable, so I’d go with a memory foam one— just my two cents.

Bug net for inside your tent or sleeping structure— mosquitos, bees and flies are definitely an annoyance in the jungle and they can easily ruin your sleep. A bug net will help keep them out, and one that fits inside your tent is a good idea. Keep in mind these do not completely help against ants and beetles, which are also numerous in the jungle, but tucking the net underneath your sleeping pad will definitely help keep those out as well.

3-season breathable camping tent with rainfly— many trekking guides may already have tents or may design alternative structures for sleeping that better suit the jungle, but if you’re bringing your own tent, I suggest bringing a breathable 3-season tent for 2 people (even if you are using it solo, the 2-person tent is much roomier and more comfortable than the solo tents). I suggest the Mountainsmith 3-season tent for 2 people— it’s lightweight, breathable, mesh coverings and has a solid rainfly. Not to mention, it’s affordable. Temperatures during the day can get pretty hot, while at night you can expect warm to cool temperatures with constant humidity regardless of the time of day.

River bathing in the Sumatran rainforest.

River bathing in the Sumatran rainforest.

Bathing and Toiletries

Environmentally-safe soap and shampoo— so you can bathe in the rivers. There are many natural hot springs in Sumatra, and these can be great bathing opportunities to rid yourself of the sticky feeling of sweat and dirt from the jungle.

Quick-dry microfibre towel— the jungle is humid and a quick dry towel will help a lot.

Biodegradable cleansing wipes— very useful for when you don’t have a river or pool to swim in, a good wipe-down with these will help make you feel a little better about yourself before you go to sleep.

Clothing

Leech socks— these are absolute necessities, especially if you’re travelling in a season with more rainfall. Leech socks are cloth booties that you put over your socks that cover your foot and lower leg up to near your knees. Leeches are unable to bite through the cloth (unlike socks, they can bite through those).

Bandana— you’ll get sweaty out there, definitely have something to help soak up the sweat and something that you can dip into the rivers easily to rinse and cool down. A lightweight cap is also very useful.

Quick dry t-shirts (see these for men, and these for women)— again, it’s very humid, so quick dry clothing will prove to be the least “sticky” options in the jungle.

Long lightweight trekking pants (see these for men’s, and these for women’s)— you definitely do not want to trek in shorts. While it may seem like a good idea at first, leeches, bugs and sharp plants scraping against your legs is not a pleasant experience. Rather, definitely have some strong, lightweight trekking pants.

Lightweight, waterproof trekking shoes (check out KEEN)— there’s no need to have large, clunky hiking boots. Rather, expect muddy conditions, with lots of ups and downs between slopes and ravines, as well as a few streams and river crossings. You’ll need good traction, and also something lighter weight and waterproof to help get you through the jungle.

A heavy flash rainstorm in the Sumatran jungle.

A heavy flash rainstorm in the Sumatran jungle.

Electronics

Headlamp— an extremely useful aid for bathroom trips in the middle of the night and walking around camp. Also, if you choose to bring an ultra bright headlamp, it can be used to go on night safari walks to spot amazing nocturnal animals in the jungle.

Ultra bright tactical flashlight— (for nocturnal animal spotting)- a strong high beam flashlight is useful to help find nocturnal animals if you’re interested in night safari walks.

USB power bank— for charging phones/tablets. If you are looking to use one to charge camera batteries, you can look for something more powerful like an external battery pack for camera/laptop charging.

Activity

Lightweight daypack— great for going on day trips while based in a camp, or if trekking with porters, it’s very useful for carrying what you need for the day (camera, water, sunscreen etc)

Water filter/purification system— for treks that go way out into the deep rainforest, having a water purification system is extremely useful, since you may not always be able to wait for water to boil when you’re thirsty.

Dry bag— staying in the jungle can be a very wet experience. Rains may come down without warning and are usually very powerful and very short lived. Additionally, river crossings are also quite common. Having a dry bag for your essentials and electronics is a good idea to keep them safe.

RELATED CONTENT

 
An aerial view of Gunung Leuser National Park in Aceh, Sumatra, Indonesia.

An aerial view of Gunung Leuser National Park in Aceh, Sumatra, Indonesia.

JUNGLE TREKKING TRIP PACKING CHECKLIST

 

Clothing

Sleep and Miscellaneous

Toiletries

  • Sunscreen

  • Hydrating lotion

  • Environmentally-safe soap and shampoo

  • Toothbrush/toothpaste & dental floss

  • Deodorant

  • Razor

  • Biodegradable cleansing wipes

  • Bug repellant

  • Hand sanitizer

  • Feminine hygiene products

  • Lip balm

  • Hair ties/hairpins

  • Cotton swabs

  • Packets of tissues

  • Toilet paper

  • Neosporin/Bacitracin & bandages

  • Contact lenses and cleaning solutions (if needed)

Medications

  • Any rX or OTC medications you take or may need

  • Ibuprofen/Tylenol

  • Loperamide/Imodium

  • Antihistamine/Benadryl

  • Broad spectrum antibiotic

  • Personal first aid kit

Electronics