“But who wants to be foretold the weather?  It is bad enough when it comes, without our having the misery of knowing about it beforehand” (Jerome K. Jerome, Three Men in a  Boat)

I thought it would be useful to talk about the weather  and the effect the tropical climate has, particularly on those not acclimatised to it, for the simple reason that this is often the element of jungle trekking that newcomers find most difficult.   However, once you know what to expect, you can both mentally adjust to the new environment and adjust your camp routine/gear/clothing accordingly.

Perhaps the first step in adapting to this hot and humid environment is to understand your own limitations – it is more difficult to exert yourself physically here than it is in a cool dry climate and you need to make allowances.  These can be as simple as conserving energy whenever possible, slowing your pace down slightly, carrying the lightest load you can get away with and, most importantly of all, not planning a trip that is too ambitious until you have at least tested yourself on a shorter/easier trip first.

It also means that you allow for the heat and humidity and dress accordingly.  I wear well worn, cotton clothes that are baggy and airy, wool socks and cycling shorts in place of underpants.  The cycling shorts (usually the only synthetic clothing I use) are because cotton can rub against your skin when wet and cause soreness.  Wool socks may seem a strange choice, but cotton will rub your feet sore when wet and synthetics will make you feet sweat (I even avoid the wool/synthetic mixes if I can).  Synthetic ‘wicking’ type shirts are quickly overcome by the amount of sweating you’re doing and, combined with the overall humidity (which effectively stops the sweat from evaporating from your skin), you end up with a  film of sweat between your skin and the shirt (and unpleasant and clammy feeling for me at least).

All the sweating you’ll be doing also means you need to drink more and replenish mineral salts that you are losing.

At the equator, the sun beats down brutally during cloudless days and the jungle trekker does well to stay in the shade of the forest….I would go out of my way to avoid a trek over open countryside in the middle of the day here if it meant I could stay in the shade of the forest.

The equatorial location also has an impact on the way you camp as darkness falls quickly, rains usually come in the early evening and you will want to go to sleep early so that you can wake early and take advantage of the relative coolness of the mornings.

A number of you have written in asking about my camping routine and that’s what I want to cover in this article and the video below.  None of it is rocket science but hopefully there are some useful tips for those not used to camping in the jungle.

In terms of priorities once a camp site has been chosen; usually the first thing I do is set up the hammock and tarp (although not necessarily removing the tarp from its snake skin), after that fire and water are the next two priorities: setting up a gravity fed water filtering system and collecting wood for a fire.  If the insects are being pesky then getting a fire going takes priority simply because the smoke will drive them away (throw some green leaves on the fire once it’s going and that will produce lots of smoke) but usually fire and water are done simultaneously.

I alway trys to get my food cooked and the dishes cleaned and put away before the light falls simply because it’s easier to do during daylight.  And after that the hammock beckons and often by about 9pm I am away in the land of nod.

Finally the other factor that often confuses the newcomer to the tropics is the weather, which can change quickly and dramatically and is very location specific.  In the northern and southern hemispheres the weather forecasts are more reliable than they are at the equator and, although there may be defined rainy and dry seasons at the equator there can also be a lot of variation within these seasons (indeed within the same day!) and the weather can be completely different in two locations no more than a few miles apart.   Of course the main weather factor that affects the jungle trekker is the rain (as temperatures remain fairly constant throughout the year) – the good news is that getting wet during the day in not something you need to worry about – just something you need to mentally get used to, accept and ignore – but staying warm and dry through the night is important.

Rather than rely on long range forecasts (which are often wrong) I try to anticipate changes in the weather from the signs around me (the most obvious being cloud formations and thunder) as these usually give you an hour or so warning of an approaching storm.