Everything You Need to Survive the Amazon Jungle

February 9, 2015
How to Pack for the Amazon Jungle as a Solo Female Traveller

In the Amazon jungle, everything is trying to eat or kill you, so it’s best to be well prepared. From September to October 2014, I volunteered for six weeks in the Amazon jungle of Peru with the conservation charity, Crees. The centre I stayed at was on the bank of a wide river deep in the Amazon jungle and at least a 20-minute boat ride and a 30-minute trek from even the smallest village.

Being so isolated from any civilisation, it was essential that every item in my pack was useful. Whilst lugging your backpack from bus to boat, then boat back to bus and up three wooden flights of steps, you do not want to think you’re carrying something you do not need. Therefore, make sure you follow this survival packing list.

Everything You Need to Survive the Amazon Jungle

What you’ll need:

1. Shewee

Each day of volunteering was spent taking surveys in the jungle, sometimes from early morning until late into the evening, so my first essential item was a Shewee. Unfortunately, I could not find any shops supplying Shewees before my trip because they had all been sold out! Rest assured; at some point, you will need to urinate in the jungle. I promised myself I would not go in the jungle, as I feared something might crawl up there. However, I found myself desperate one fateful day and woke the next morning to seven bites on my buttocks.

2. Mooncup

My second essential item, similarly, is a Mooncup (or any menstrual cup). One survey I took was tracking woolly monkeys, which involved me and two other women leaving the centre before 5:30 AM and returning after 7 PM. It was a blessing that I did not have to wrap and store away used tampons or pads in my bag during that time. Because I was volunteering with a conservation charity, I did not think it would be prudent to thank Mother Nature with offerings of non-biodegradable tampons scattered about the forest.

3. Microfiber towel

I cannot stress this enough: the Amazon is not the place for thick, fluffy Egyptian cotton. A normal towel will never dry in the Amazon, and a cotton towel will fossilise before it dries in the jungle. A microfibre towel is compact, a feature which a normal, cotton towel also lacks, and leaves more room in your backpack for more bulky (yet still essential) items, like socks.

4. Socks

My incredibly well-travelled uncle always claims he can endure any discomfort providing his feet are well looked after, so his advice on how to pack is to include more socks than you think you’ll need. And then pack some more. Whilst in the jungle, your feet will get wet, either from sweat or from vast amounts of rain. Spare, dry socks are gifts from the angels after a long day of surveys.

5. Wellingtons

It may be surprising to hear, but it rains a lot in the Amazon. You can cross a creek in the jungle one day and the next day see that the same creek has turned into a river. Wellingtons were the best footwear for this inevitability. The staff at Crees also reassured us that Wellingtons were the best footwear for protection against snake bites and there are a lot of snakes in the Amazon.

Everything You Need to Survive the Amazon Jungle

6. Watch

Being in the jungle meant we could not simply charge our many electrical items we depend on so much at home, so our phones were often switched off and useless. For each survey, the group (understandably) had to record who had gone, where they would be in the jungle, and their estimated return time. It is easier to stick to your ETA and not cause panic if you have a watch to keep track of the time.

Everything You Need to Survive the Amazon Jungle

7. Open-mindedness

Clearly, if you’re the type of person to book a trip to the Amazon, you are probably already quite open to new experiences. However, there will still be times when you question your sanity. Remember, you’re in the Amazon: normal rules do not apply here. I have a terrific phobia of wasps and had never been stung until I went to the Amazon and they got me four or five times.

One survey included emptying butterfly traps, which had often trapped not just butterflies but also flies, moths, bullet ants, and (of course) wasps. After my initial terror, I reminded myself where I was, that I had always wanted to be there and how amazing the experience was. I wasn’t about to let a few little wasps ruin that for me.

Being in the Amazon jungle was like no place I’ve ever been to, and in the end, these small essentials made my experience much better during the more stressful periods.

What you won’t need:

1. Moisturizer

Your skin will never be dry when you are in the Amazon jungle, even during the aptly named ‘dry’ season. Even three weeks after I returned to cold, dry England, I had many people politely comment on how soft and smooth my skin was, and would stroke my cheek (the one without seven bites on it). Leave the cumbersome, heavy bottles of lotion at home and enjoy not having to do that as part of your morning regime for a while.

Everything You Need to Survive the Amazon Jungle

2. Pumice stone

In spite of being on my feet throughout the day, meandering over roots, rocks, and snakes, the soles of my feet were always smooth and beautiful. That quickly changed when I was back in England.

3. Friends from home

Originally, my trip to Peru was supposed to include a university friend and but she got offered a placement for a PhD in Germany and decided to do that instead. I was quite nervous about traveling alone and being stuck in the jungle with a group of people I may have no interest in or connection with. I ended up adoring almost everyone there and have developed friendships stronger in those six weeks than I had in school.

In the jungle, I felt like every day there was a possibility that I might die. And yes, this may be true of every day in a city or town, but in the Amazon, I feared death by jaguar, charging peccary, or a burrowing parasite. Secondly, you will look disgusting. The people I was with saw me bright red in the face, hair and clothes plastered to my body with sweat and covered in mud, dead bugs, and butterfly bait and they still wanted to be friends with me.

The Amazon is a very intense environment and as a result, strong relationships develop quickly. So be ready to make new lifelong friends.

How to Pack for the Amazon Jungle as a Solo Female Traveller
New friends in the Amazon


Everything You Need to Survive the Amazon Jungle photos by Rachel Mills. 

About Rachel Mills

I am currently living and working in Brighton. I have a bachelors and masters degree in philosophy and write fiction in my spare time, spanning across TV and film scripts, short stories and novels. I do a lot of fundraising through running races such as a 5km Race for Life last year and the Brighton Half Marathon this year. I have been lucky enough to have been travelling to different countries from quite a young age; at the age of 9 I spent 10 days in Cairo, Egypt where my Aunt and Uncle were living, with my family I’ve travelled all over Europe and I have been to Canada and Morocco with friends. My next trip plan is to help look after rescue elephants in Thailand!

One thought on “Everything You Need to Survive the Amazon Jungle

  1. February 9, 2015

    We love your survival list, and for the Shewee to be number 1…well what an honour!
    We’d love to send you a Shewee ready for your next adventure, please email me.

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