The Challenges of Packing for an Expedition


It is hard to believe that we leave for Indonesia in about 72 hours! I have spent the last week visiting with family, testing equipment, and packing. We have been relearning a lot of techniques in preparation for the trip – we walked around the house with a Steadicam, created a timelapse of snow accumulating outside, and worked on an interactive 360 degree panorama of Rick’s living room. Since we won’t have Internet in the forest, I’m laminating quick guides that will remind me of the correct settings for the fun multimedia pieces we plan to create.

Packing for an expedition like this is truly a challenge, especially since we are essentially moving to Malaysia after the camping trip. After much deliberation, we think we will be able to stuff everything into four checked bags and four carry on bags. Most of these bags will be stored in Jakarta while we go on the expedition. With the help of porters, we will each be bringing two backpacks on the expedition itself.

So, what do you bring on a trip like this? Apart from the normal camping checklist and our camera equipment, here are a few of the more interesting items we have decided on:

Leech socks and scotch tape: Terrestrial leeches abound in the forests of Southeast Asia and we have to wear socks that tie off at the top to keep the leeches out. Today, a friend of mine also recommended that we bring scotch tape to tape up the zipper on the inside of our hammocks. Apparently leeches like to sneak in through small crevices in the zippers and can get on you while you are sleeping. Yeah!

Snake gaiters: We have snake guards that wrap around our lower legs to protect us from venomous snakebites. We’re most likely to step on small snakes – I’m hoping we will see the king cobras before we run into them (they get up to 17 feet long!).

Permethrin treated clothing: Dengue fever and malaria are both prevalent in the areas we are visiting so we have spent hours treating all of our clothing with permethrin (an insect repellant). This reduces the amount of Deet we have to put on our skin each day.

Biodegradable soap and a solar shower: We went back and forth on the solar shower for a long time, but decided that bathing in cold mountain streams could get old after a few days. The shower weights 1 pound 4 ounces and will hold (and heat) five gallons of water. This is our luxury item for the trip and I think it may be the best $32.00 we’ve recently spent.

Wilderness First Responder Manual and First Aid Kit: Rick and I are both certified Wilderness First Responders, but we always carry the manual for a refresher. On past trips we’ve had allergic reactions, E. coli, unexplained fevers, and even shingles. Fingers crossed that this one will be free of medical emergencies.

Bird Audio Recordings: In addition to our wildlife guides, Rick has put together a collection of bird audio recordings from the more than 650 species of birds found on the island of Borneo. These recordings help us identify species in the field, even when we can’t see them with our eyes. We get free recordings at

An extra of almost everything!: We have extra battery chargers, extra cords for each device, and extra sensor cleaners. I’ve had rats chew through cords before in hotels and can only imagine what might get into our things in the jungle.

Rain Gear for Us and Our Things: It is also monsoon season, so it is going to be very wet in the forest. This has led to its own packing challenges – we have a pelican case, silica gel, Contact Sheets from Mindshift Gear that serve as waterproof camera tarps, and a Hydrophobia from Think Tank Photo (these last two items were donated by Think Tank Photo to support the expedition!).

On top of all the packing, I have had trouble sleeping for the past few nights – waking up in the middle of the night to run through my to-do list. While lying awake in my warm and cozy bed, I have tried to imagine what it will be like to sleep in a hammock in less than a week. I picture myself reading a novel by headlamp at night and listening to the eerie call of frogmouths in the distance. I can’t wait!


5 thoughts on “The Challenges of Packing for an Expedition

  1. Ellen K. Jacobs says:

    Thank you for including me on this. Wow! I cannot imagine doing it, but am so pleased to be an armchair explorer. I look forward to hearing more and of course if you need anything Jane can’t do… Bon Voyage and lots of love, Ellen

  2. Erica says:

    Holy moly! Reading this makes me realize I would be dead within 12 hours of entering the forest. Luckily, you guys are obviously super well prepared.

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