Jungle trek packing list: what you really need to take on a jungle trek, from someone who’s done it!

by Kelly

You booked your jungle trek! Suddenly the realisation that you’ve never trekked before and you have no idea what to take sets in. Sound like you? It was me before going on our 9 day jungle trek adventure to Bukit Lawang and Gunung Leuser National Park. I went as minimal as possible as I knew we would have to carry everything we took. Below is what I took and what I really wished I had taken once I was a few days in! This is your jungle trek packing list-

The ultimate jungle trek packing list:

This list are my jungle trek packing list essentials, things I would 100% take on a jungle trek again. I was so unprepared…did I mention that we bought pool floaties to sleep on…that lasted one night! We spent the next nights sleeping on a paper thin yoga mat. Seriously it may sound like a lot to carry but it is worth it!

1. A light backpack.

I had my SLR backpack and I knew I would take it as I wanted to take all my camera gear. Mike took his small backpack which was a little too small. Ultimately neither was great and something in between would have been better. This bag is cheap, roomy enough (read the review by a girl in the army who bought one!) and light enough to trek with:

2. A water bottle or filter straw:

You are out in the jungle marvelling at the incredible scenery, don’t take single use plastic if you can avoid it! The trekking staff will boil and cool down water each afternoon so you can refill your bottle each day. Take a decent water bottle.

This Lifestraw is also an excellent idea, the straw filters out nasties and are a little extra protection for you while drinking from freshwater streams.

3. Water purification tablets:

There are 2 main brands, here are the benefits of both for you to choose from:


This is the brand we used and in all honesty it did taste a little like chlorine. It was easy to use and really felt reassuring to be guarded from some of the potential viruses.

The tablet dissolves clear within minutes and disinfects the water within 30 minutes.

Each tablet treats 1 litre of water. Treated water may be used to disinfect items such as toothbrushes.

Pack contains 40 tablets/costs approx $9.99 AUD

Protects against:

Katadyn Micropur Forte:

Tablets dissolve clear, 1 tablet treats 1 litre

Pack contains 100 tablets/costs approx $35 AUD

Effective Against: Protozoa, Bacteria, Viruses
Treatment Time: Viruses & Bacteria 30 mins | Amoeba & Giardia 120 mins

My opinion – if you can spend the extra go with the Micropur Forte as it protects against a wider range of potential issues. Another trekker in our group had these tablets and we were able to try them. They did not have a chlorine taste to them and protect against a wider variety of potential issues. Next time I would probably take these ones!

4. Trekking shoes:

Yes you do need them! Don’t wear old sneakers like I did… it was a mistake and I regretted it. You will need the grip they provide as often there is only mud under foot and you will be slipping everywhere in normal sneakers.

You can get ones which cover your ankles and they do provide more stability but are a little heavier. The lower shoes are lighter but less protection for your ankles. People in our group wore both and there were pros and cons but honestly the most important thing is the grip! Make sure it is decent. Shoes like these are great!

5. Water walking shoes:

Again this is not a maybe, it is a must take item. We were told that there would be ‘occassional’ river crossings, this actually meant you will walk for 8 hours up a river with the slipperiest stones ever. Think waist deep in the river with very strong currents. You 100% need good water walking shoes! Here are some that are a great option. The reasons that I like them are that they have a thick sole-the rocks are sharp in places and the thin ones made you feel it constantly. They have mesh to let the water out while you are walking and they securely attach at the top. Don’t take thongs thinking you can wear these, they will break/come off and float down the river in the first few hours. Also old sneakers are no good, the soles might be thicker but the people in our group wearing them said that little stones got in and were hurting their feet, it wasn’t possible to keep taking them off to get the stones out.

6. Walking poles:

You may feel like Gandalf but these are an excellent investment. Three clever ladies bought some with them and they had way more stability than the rest of us. The wrist straps are great for when you can’t use them and they can fold up and dangle from the strap until you use them again. They used them walking up and down the mountains and also on the river walk. At camp there was often a muddy ledge that we had to walk over to get into the tent and the poles were essential to not slip in the mud when you went to the toilet at night. I really really recommend the poles!

7. Clothing: All the clothing items I would take with me again:

Trekking pants:

Again if you don’t already have them, yes you should get some. Don’t question it. I got Mike some and didn’t bother for myself. You really don’t have to buy expensive ones and I wished I had them… watching everyone else switch from long pants to shorts mid trek makes you jealous. I wore leggings that I would wear to the gym. They were fine but they were too tight and leeches can get through them to your skin. Trekking pants are breathable and sit just off your skin so that any leeches that get on you can’t attach as well. Tip: tuck them into your socks! We took one pair of pants to trek in each and just kept re-wearing them everyday. You’ll feel awful putting them on but after the first few minutes you are filthy from trekking anyway and really don’t think about it again.

These options are great:


Socks are something that I did take enough of and a must on your jungle trek packing list. I bought a big pack and we both had a new pair each day. This was my favourite moment of the day, putting on clean socks. You seriously do not understand the feeling! I have never appreciated a clean pair of socks so much in my life!

Trekking singlet/t-shirts:

Take a singlet, you will get hot on the trek. I had taken a long sleeve top to wear, thinking that it would be better protection from leeches. It lasted about the first 2 hours of the first day. I was glad to have it incase I needed it. Honestly I carried it around for the next 5 days.

I wore my singlet and sprayed mosquito spray. I took one. It had to last me the whole trek and it was really dirty by the end, heck so was I! I tried washing it out in the river but it never dried (and it was a sporty quick dry one…) so maybe take a couple. I would still take a quick dry gym type singlet or t-shirt as they are lighter and have larger holes so you get more air through but don’t try to wash them, you just have to wear a wet singlet the next day.


Okay it goes without saying, you’ll have underwear on your jungle trek packing list . Pack what you need for the number of days you are trekking for. Some had a new pair everyday most of us had a new pair every second or third day. Yes your standards will slip to a new level in the jungle. You will not care. You will really just care about how heavy your bag is. For the ladies you can get away with one bra for the whole trek. Yes, it will be dirty (see singlet advice above) – you will not care. I also took a gym crop to put over my bra, it is what I would normally do. I’d do it again.


I took one bikini, board shorts and I wore my singlet in the water to try and clean it-this was a fail as it never dried! I was also trying to be respectful of the guides and their way of life and a bikini would not be appropriate. The people in North Sumatra are very conservative and I did not feel comfortable wearing a bikini in front of the trekking guides. This was because I didn’t want to cause any offence. The trekking staff were all really lovely and kind, I freaked out about leeches on me and couldn’t bring myself to touch them and pull them off. I asked the guide to do it and every time he would as if it was okay to touch me to do so-even though I was frantically asking him to! I recommend having a rashie or t-shirt to swim in and board shorts. It is also what I wore on the river walk day as you are constantly in water up to your waist anyway.

A clean set of camp clothes

These are such an important part of the jungle trek packing list! I took a long sleeve t-shirt and a pair of thai style loose pants, in an attempt at stopping the mozzies from biting me! Mike wore a white cotton long sleeve he bought in India and boardies. Ultimately it doesn’t matter what you wear it only matters that you keep them in a waterproof bag so they are kept clean and feel a little fresh for the next night at camp. They were so nice to put on after wearing your dirty trek clothes. I put them in a large zip lock bag and then later reused that bag to take home my shoes.

8. Mosquito spray:

Take it. Take a couple of bottles. I recommend Bushmans if you are in Australia. If not then this one is pretty similar. It is strong and you will be grateful you have it. I sprayed everyday because everything bites me. I also sprayed my shoes, socks and leggings as our guide said that leeches don’t like it. It worked. Mike didn’t spray his socks and he was bitten a LOT!

9. First aid kit:

I took a very limited first aid kit and on our trek a lady dislocated her thumb when she fell. You need to take a first aid kit that has the basics for injury. Luckily we had another trekker with a more comprehensive kit so it could be strapped up and put in a sling. Here is a good kit with the essentials.

I only had band-aids and Benadine…both very useful though! I put Benadine on bites so they stopped itching and didn’t get infected and the band-aids were necessary for leech bites that wouldn’t stop bleeding (Yes, I am looking at you Mike!), and we also used some band-aids to stop the plastic tent leaking! There was a rip and when the rain started it began dripping on Mike’s head while were were sleeping! I was told that the guides had a kit but we never saw it, I would bring your own.

10. Air Mattress:

Unless your trek explicitly states they provide a blow up mattress for you, buy one. The best one we saw was from Kathmandu and was self inflating. That was luxury! Then there were the ones that were purchased online as no-name brands and occasionally deflated throughout the night. What ever you decide get, it is worth it. Here is one we recommend, not too expensive and you will really be glad you have something more than the thin yoga mat on rocky ground to sleep on.

11. Mosquito net:

Unless your trek is providing an individual tent to camp in, bring a mosquito net. It might sound ridiculous but I longed for a mosquito net. We took a sheet with us and once night fell I started worrying about all the bugs that could crawl on me in the night. I ended up putting the sheet over my head and tucking myself in. I looked like a mummy and didn’t care. A mosquito net would be better because it was so hot under that sheet. It would have been so easy to hang from the bamboo structure and tuck around my mattress.

12. Toiletries for cleaning:

Soap (try this eco friendly soap so you aren’t polluting the pristine environment) – so you can wash off in the river.

Sanitiser – You will be going to the toilet in the jungle and rinsing your hands in the river, use sanitiser as you won’t be able to use soap all the time, also nice to use before you eat.

Toilet Paper – you definitely need to take toilet paper! How much depends on you. I know everyone we were with tried to not need the toilet as much as possible but it really is inevitable! We had a roll each for 6 days and it was enough, just use it sparingly. Absolute must on jungle trek packing list!

Toothbrush/toothpaste – bamboo toothbrushes are the most eco-friendly option I can find at the moment

Toiletries for self care:

Lip balm – your lips will dry out and this will be a luxury! I love Burts Bees, it is 100% natural and feels very nourishing.

Face moisturiser – you wont need much but again it is a luxury you will enjoy. You won’t want to carry around a big bottle, get a reusable tub and put a bit in. Don’t bother with body lotion-you will be too dirty.

Wet Ones – you will never really feel clean but these are nice to wipe over your face or hands when you feel especially dirty. You don’t need a a huge pack, something like this will be fine!

Deodorant – I use this natural deodorant. I have tried so many different brands and none have worked as well as this one. It is really well priced too.

Perfume oil or Essential oil roll on – One girl in our group had brought along a little tiny roll on of essential oil. She was kind enough to share it and all of us really appreciated it. It was a luxury and one that I really loved. Seriously, you smell pretty bad after a couple of days trekking. Applying a tiny bit was a nice way to start and end the day.

13. A headlamp:

You will 100% need this. We used it to get to the toilet at night, find things in the tent once the sun went down. We even hung a few up in the middle of the tent so we could all have some light before we went to sleep. Jungle trek packing list must have.

14. Cards/travel games:

Once you make camp there is nothing to do but swim and relax. I took a pack of cards and Mike taught us all how to play ‘shithead’ which became the nightly obsession. Another lady had brought a travel games set with chess, checkers and backgammon. Whatever games you like to play, definitely take something as you will need to occupy a few hours before bed.

15. Gatorade powder:

This is a really great idea…that we had way too late! We thought of it when we were in Malaysia and searched every shop we went near in Georgetown to find it but all we could find was a kinda version of it in a chemist. It was awful, bring Gatorade from home. Next time I would buy a tub of it and have enough to share or at least to last us the trek. Yes the tubs are bulky, if there are sachets available that would be better. I would 100% take Gatorade powder next time. It would have been a really good boost while trekking and helped with the dehydration you start to feel. Mike LOVES the orange flavour, I will order these for our next trek!

Alternatively the Hydralyte tablets would be perfect as well, they are in an orange flavour and are a better option for dehydration. Absolute must on the jungle trek packing list.

Items you could have on your jungle trek packing list, but might not need:


I wore a cap for half a day, I liked the idea that my head was protected from bugs. After I bumped my head on 3 trees that I couldn’t see I shoved it in my bag and didn’t use it again until we were rafting down the river. Up to you if you take one, I probably wouldn’t again.

Eye Protection:

I wore sunglasses because I was worried that stuff would get in my eyes while trekking. Unfortunately with the low light in the jungle they made it impossible to see. If you are worried about getting stuff in your eyes (it happens) wear clear safety type glasses/goggles. Something that fits to your face around your eyes and not going to get caught on any thing and also without any tint. You might feel silly but it is the only option. Get as slim, thin and light weight ones as possible though. We both had sunnies, we never wore them.


I know it sounds crazy but went into the jungle thinking don’t touch anything to grabbing any form of plant life that looked like it was strong enough to support me! After trekking my hands had some large callouses from using the stick on the river walk day and my nails were ruined from all the trees. Now while I can cope with that I did think afterwards if I had worn some time of grippy gloves while pulling myself up using trees it might have stopped that happening. I’d consider trying it next time for my jungle trek packing list.


I was told that there would be enough food provided and it was true, we had fruit for snacks, a decent lunch, a huge dinner and lots of tea and coffee. Some people brought snacks and very kindly shared them although even they were struggling to use them up as we walked so much and didn’t have time to stop and eat. While trekking you were constantly pulling yourself up using trees so didn’t have hands free to eat anyway.

If you prefer to bring snacks then the most useful ones were: lollies, trail mix/muesli bar, Jarrah hot chocolate mix (a change from tea and coffee-someone did bring this and it was a really nice way to celebrate on our last night of the trek!), herbal tea, smarties style chocolates that don’t melt easily. I really didn’t feel hungry at all while we were on the trek and I probably wouldn’t bring any snacks next time…at most a small bag of lollies and maybe the hot chocolate sachets.

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Anne October 7, 2019 - 3:00 pm

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