Jungle Trekking in South East Asia: Choosing Kit and Packing

by Henry Landon

Stream bed in Cambodia

Stream bed in Cambodia. Photo: Henry Landon.

Bushcraft is hard to define as a subject; but it is possible to see its influence in my life.

This influence can be seen in the decisions I take and my approach to everyday situations.

One of the ways the subject has helped me personally is with my organisation.

In preparation for my trip to South East Asia in February my kit was something I took care in organising.

Using a modular system to help me arrange my kit, I set about documenting the results. I'm sharing the images and lists in this article as a guide but please bear in mind the final packing list was tailored to the trip that I intended to make.

This article is a follow up to my Jungle Trekking in South East Asia article.

Backpack

One of the governing factors to my packing for this trip was that we did not intend to spend the night out in the jungle, instead staying in villages and guest houses.

This allowed me to pack very light.

Karrimor Sabre 45

Karrimor Sabre 45. Photo: Henry Landon.

The bag I used on this trip was a Karrimor Sabre 45 without the side pockets. This bag is very light for its size, robust and top loading. With a capacity of 45 litres this pack is ideal for light weight travelling.

One tip for checking-in back-packs at the airport is to fasten and tighten up all the straps as neatly as you can. This helps to avoid the bag being damaged on the conveyor belt if the straps get caught. One way to tackle this problem is to have your bag wrapped in plastic at the airport.

Modular Packing

Jungle trekking packing in a modular fashion

Modular Packing. Photo: Henry Landon

  1. Clothes in a dry bag – a few T-Shirts, a long sleeve shirt, one pair of long trousers, two pairs of shorts, socks and boxers;
  2. Flip Flops – not essential but good for helping your feet dry out after a long day;
  3. Towel – A light-weight cotton towel, extremely versatile and as the Hitch Hiker's Guide To The Galaxy states, “A towel, is about the most massively useful thing an interstellar hitchhiker can have.”
  4. Waterproof jacket – although my trip was during the dry season I took a rain shell just in case; it sat at the bottom of my bag the whole trip;
  5. Mug and water bottle – in the webbing case is a NATO mug and bottle, handy for carrying and boiling water, also in the pouch are some water purification tablets;
  6. First aid kit – CPR face shield attached to zip. For immunisations and prophylaxis, it is advisable to see your GP or local travel clinic before travelling to remote regions. The areas of Laos we travelled to have a high risk of Malaria and Dengue Fever;
  7. Mosquito net – most places we stayed had nets over the beds already, but a few did not and I was glad I brought this;
  8. Possibles kit – this kit is outlined below.

Possibles Kit

Jungle trekking possibles kit

Possibles Kit. Photo: Henry Landon.

This possibles kit was put together with this particular trip in mind and proved very handy. Not every item was used but if I didn’t have them I’m sure I would have needed them at some point!

  1. Dry bag - A handy bag for keeping your kit both dry and organised in your back pack; this one is the XXS size. All of the kit in this photo fits in the bag;
  2. Head torch – Compact, light-weight head torch with a red filter that helps save your night vision; spare batteries are in the blue plastic pot;
  3. Paracord – Extremely strong and durable, paracord can be used for a multitude of purposes.
  4. Glow stick – This small glow stick can last for hours and be used to read at night or for signalling;
  5. Compass – Navigating in the jungle can be very hard without a compass. Visibility is low and the thick canopy blocks out the sun and stars, hampering any attempt at natural navigation;
  6. Mosquito head-net – Fine mesh; can be used for a variety of purposes;
  7. Whistle, firesteel, pen knife, tinder in a metal container; all on a loop of paracord;
  8. Plastic Ziploc bags – These bags are handy for a number of tasks including water purification and foraging;
  9. Fishing kit – I drilled out the centre of this fishing reel to keep tackle inside and capped it with Perspex on ether end;
  10. Water proof plastic pot – For those things you definitely don’t want to get wet, containing headache pills, water purification tablets, sewing kit and other small items.

Wash Kit

Jungle trekking wash kit for adventure travel

Wash kit. Photo: Henry Landon.

Hygiene is very important to me when I’m out in the woods; in the tropics or back in the UK I try to keep myself and my kit as clean as possible. Everyone has their own criteria for choosing what to buy and pack. My personal take on this is that whatever I take should be as light and compact as possible while still fulfilling its intended use.

  1. Tissues;
  2. Sun cream – Factor 15 for arms and legs;
  3. Sun block – Factor 50 for face and back of the neck;
  4. Tooth brush;
  5. Talcum powder - Great for looking after your feet, I have decanted it in to a smaller bottle to save weight;
  6. Alcohol free hand gel – again, this has been decanted to save weight;
  7. Soap – There are plenty of travel body washes and shampoos available on the high street but I prefer to just take a small bar of soap. Its lighter and does the same job;
  8. Mosquito repellent – invaluable part of any wash kit when in Malaria or Dengue Fever areas. The best way to avoid getting sick is not to get bitten in the first place;
  9. After bite – For when you do get bitten...
  10. Toothpaste;
  11. Deodorant.

Food

Having hiked in Asia before, I know that trail food is hard to find in most places. Above are the snacks I took with me for the two and half week trip for me and my girlfriend.

Trail food for jungle trekking

Trail food. Photo: Henry Landon.

This was of course supplemented with all the delicious local fruit we could get our hands on. Laos, and Vietnam have strong French influences having been colonised in the past, so local bread is very well made and easy to find.

Packing Discipline

Back pack packed for jungle trekking adventure travel

Packed! Photo: Henry Landon.

The problem with packing - particularly when you pack quickly, without thinking things through - is the just in case moment, you have all your kit in your room and you think, I’ll pop that in “just in case”.

To stop me doing this I generally go though my kit twice and take out everything that I can possibly do without.

As you can see from the image, all of the previously-mentioned kit fitted in this bag with plenty of room to spare, you can just see the top of the clothes dry-bag inside.

This left me with lots of room to bring back souvenirs and Vietnamese coffee!

Thanks for reading. As a small reward for getting all the way to the end of this article, I have included another image of the beautiful fishing traps that where so well received in the first article Jungle trekking in South East Asia. Enjoy!

Fish traps

Fish traps. Photo: Henry Landon.

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Henry is a member of the Frontier Bushcraft Instructional Team. He has enjoyed the outdoors since he was very young. With family in Scotland and Sussex, every holiday while growing up was spent in one of these places. Continuing his interest in the natural world and embracing travel, Henry has spent time in Africa, Asia, Europe and North America. Henry is a keen canoeist and climber. He holds the Single Pitch Award and is an aspirant Mountain Leader.

 

{ 18 comments… read them below or add one }

Dano

Interesting article thanks for sharing, I have just a couple of comments / suggestions for alternative items
I found that pump or roll-on insect repellants are prone to failure, liquid can leak and ruin anything plastic, I opt for wipes (individual) with deet or cream which is less likely to leak but they can so always place in a couple of sandwich bags. Aerosols seem not to last as long and are fairly bulky, also prone to failure and dripping
For bites and stings (itching in general) I have never found anything that works as well as witch-hazel gel, this stuff goes everywhere with me
For deodorant I use the solid crystal type, these are totally effective last for ages and take up little space, the only disadvantage is that if you drop them on something hard they will break, but even then they can be used
In the bag for the mozzie net carry 30feet of thin nylon string and a few little hooks, sometimes it’s difficult to find anything to hang the net off so you may have to string a line across room/trees. I have resorted to removing pictures from walls or putting a pebble behind drapes to tie to (not many pictures or drapes in the jungle though) (in my experience you are more likely to get bitten in the arrivals lounge of the airport or the taxi to your first destination than when you are covered in deet and in a net in some village or jungle)
As stated talk to your GP or Travel Nurse about malaria and typhoid (typhoid and amoebic dysentery really suck!)

Reply

Henry

Hi Dano,

I’m very pleased you enjoyed the article, and thank you for you comments.

The repellent wipes are a great idea, bug spray is a temperamental item at the best of times.

The after bite pen I used is effective if applied straight away to the area, but I will give witch-hazel a go next time.

I have never tried the solid crystal deodorant, in the woods in the UK I find wet wipes and some roll on does the trick, but the solid crystal deodorant sounds like a good idea for the tropics.

Mozzie nets can be tricky to put up in the jungle or in guest houses unless incorporated in a hammock sleeping system; your experience of removing pictures from walls and using pebbles behind drapes is I’m sure something that a lot of us can relate to and certainly brought a smile to my face 🙂

Your dead right about typhoid sucking, its enough to ruin any ones day. I am guessing you are talking from personal experience? It would be good to hear more about your own adventures if you would like to share?

Best wishes and thanks for reading,

Henry

Reply

Dano

Hi Henry, for those of us looking for bushcraft in far flung places traveling there is all part of it so sure I can do a piece on my experiences and hopefully your readers may find some value (or amusement), give me a little time and I will email it in

Reply

Kirkland Baptie

Hi Henry,

A very nice article many thanks for posting. I always enjoy seeing how others place a particular value on the items within their kit. I take it your camp set up was pre populated or you were in hotel accomodation as you have not included sleeping bag or shelter. I’m working my way down to packing the essentials only for my own trips into the wilds and I also find the Sabre 45 (with side pouches) is my ideal rucksack. Unfortunatly I have suffered a blip and find myself packing my 60/100 L sabre with side pouches instead. Still it is fun to experiment. Once again enjoyed your post and greatly appreciated the eye candy at the end 🙂

Reply

Henry

Hi Kirkland,

I’m glad you enjoyed the follow up article, and thank you for your comments.

Yes your right, I stayed in guest houses and villages which are in abundance in South East Asia. Not taking sleeping kit allowed us to travel light, which is something I value when travelling in the tropics.

I couldn’t agree with you more the Sabre 45 with side pouches is an ideal backpack, the 60 litre version was the first I purchased, but I ended up filling it with “just in case stuff” 🙂

Thanks for reading to the end, and I’m pleased you liked the fishing trap eye candy.

Best wishes,

Henry

Reply

Matt

Hi Henry,

An interesting article with some great advice and what looks to be a rock solid, dependable kit list. I think this approach to packing would benefit a variety of travellers, from backpackers and gap year students to Scouts on DofE or Explorer Belt expeditions, for example.

What you were saying about being very disciplined and not popping something in ‘just in case’ is a good idea and I for one am guilty of doing this! But is it ever worth taking slightly more than you think you’ll need – particularly with non-perishable rations, for example – so that you can give items away as gifts to fellow travellers or local people you meet? In my experience these types of gestures can go a long way.

Thanks for sharing.

Reply

Henry

Hi Matt,

Thanks for your comments, I’m glad you enjoyed the article.

This kit list was tailored to my trip, but as you mentioned the principals of it can be applied to many different trips.

I am guilty of the “just in cast”… problem too. After coming back from trips I have starting looking through my kit and seeing what I used and what I didn’t, and not packing what I didn’t on the next trip. My kit has been getting lighter.

I completely agree what you say about taking extra non-perishable rations, my colleges will have a giggle about this as I am generally the guy with snacks in my pocket 🙂

It sounds like you have had some good travelling experiences too, I would be interest to hear more about them.

Thank again for reading the article and for your valid comments,

Best wishes,

Henry

Reply

Stu Badger

Thanks for your extremely organised kit advice. This appeals to my own nature and I have learnt over my travels to try to avoid “just in case”. Have never travelled in jungle territory though, looks amazing.

Stu

Reply

Henry

Hi Stu,

Your welcome Stu, I’m please you liked the article.

Staying organised takes a bit of time and forward planning but pays off in the long run, and as you mentioned the “just in case” syndrome is hard to avoid.

Best wises,

Henry

Reply

Paul Kirtley

The best badgers are organised badgers 😉

Reply

James Gohl

Usually, I take American Express card. I bring a good pack and fill it from local merchants.

Reply

Paul Kirtley

Yep, that’s another solution!

Reply

Kevin Roche

Really useful and clear article , thank you. By the way, rather than get ‘ripped off’ at the airport for wrapping my rucksack in cling film, I always take a roll of supermarket basic cling film with me. Cheaper, and you can use it for other things to…like wrapping sandwiches!
Also, probably obvious, but be careful your mosquito head net is not treated with anti-bug before using it to filter water, etc…doesn’t just taste bad but not good for you too. On the other hand, it is good to top up the treatment with a quick spray/soak before you go if you are going to some heavily infested bug region…like Scotland!
All the best,
Kev

Reply

Paul Kirtley

Hey Kevin, I saw your comment and thought I’d say “hi”. Good tips. Thanks for sharing.

All the best,

Paul

Reply

Henry

Hi Kevin,

I’m glad you enjoyed the article and thank you for your comments.

Cling film is indeed a handy item to have with you, strong, light and sterile!

Watch this space for the next journey based article.

Thanks for reading,

Henry

Reply

Bill Jackson

Great article, thank you. Modular packing is absolutely essential where inclement weather is likely (I’m on the Pacific coast of British Columbia, Canada.) On a multi-day trip in rain or snow, packing / unpacking helter skelter is a disaster. Even in ideal conditions, modular packing saves time, and makes things easy to find.

Reply

Henry

Hi Bill,

Thanks for your comments and kit suggestions, I’m glad you liked the article. I agree its no good trying to fish something out of your bag and spilling everything out as you look, be that on snow, mud or sand. Having your kit in a modular system really helps.

All the best,

Henry

Reply

Bill Jackson

Possibles Kit: I carry a folded piece of aluminum foil (helpful for fire starting in adverse conditions). Also a length of duct tape folded over a piece of emery cloth (the emery can be used to sharpen a knife blade). I agree that a backup knife is a good idea. The wooden handled Opinel knives are lightweight and easy to sharpen to a keen edge.

Reply

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