I have been an avid camper most of my life, from early childhood on fishing trips with my dad, Scouting, and with friends as an adult. The year before I left the US my friends and I went at least once a month for twelve months. So not an expert but experienced.
I relocated to South East Asia a few years ago (Malaysia) and part of the stuff I brought was camping gear.
When I decided to go camping here I knew I needed to learn how to camp in a jungle environment but I couldn't find much practical information in any of the usual places; online (which shocked me) in books or from people. Although I did stumble across a blog of a local which got me started.
So my first instructable is to hopefully help others with some tips.
As mentioned above I'm not an expert by any means so if you have tips or information please share!
Step 1: Things to Know About the Jungle
The jungle is a great place to camp, however it's very different than anywhere else I've camped.
First it is always wet....always, and you will be wet. It's called a rain forest, and well it rains...a lot.
So the ground is wet, there's lots of running and standing water. It's hot and humid so you will sweat, water from the outside and water from the inside.
You will be wet. It's impossible to stay completely dry, so have loose, thin clothing, dry things to change into at night and foot ware that can take being wet.
There are many bugs that will bite, sting, suck, and generally make you uncomfortable or just creep you out. The two big ones are mosquitoes and leeches.
Mosquitoes can be really annoying but more importantly they can make you sick. Malaria and Dengue fever are the main things here. So repellent and mosquito netting are a must.
Leeches won't make you sick but they will annoy and creep you out! You may not even know they're there until you look down at your sock and see it all bloody. It doesn't hurt but it itches like crazy while healing.
The best defenses are leech socks and tobacco and/or strong repellent.
Those are the main differences for now.
Step 2: Sleeping
It gets you off the ground which is wet..Did I mention it rains a lot? . Also it gets you up up out of reach of the leeches, ants, spiders and other crawlies.
A hammock with a tarp and mozzie netting is about the most comfortable way to sleep. I'm a total convert, I thought I'd feel safer in a tent but there are few places to set them up and with the humidity it gets really hot!
There are many hammock styles and systems. There are several with built in flys and netting; Hennessy or Clark good if not a little expensive options. I have a basic nylon hammock I tie up a ridge line for the rain fly. Make sure the fly is big enough to cover the entire hammock and enough area to cook and keep dry.
I didn't think I would ever get cold in SE Asia...But I did, a hammock is so cool with the air circulating around your entire body, I got cold. Now a carry a silk sleep sheet and a foam pad.
The pad also make a good place to stand or sit off the wet ground.
Bamboo is everywhere. It's incredibly strong and easy to work with.
Most locals will throw together a table, a frame for a tarp roofed cooking area, and benches very quickly when out for any length of time. Some even make split bamboo hammocks!
Step 3: Clothing and Rain Gear
As mentioned before it rains a lot (see a theme here?) I take rain gear as a back up for the umbrella, but it can be hot though sometimes I get just as wet from sweating in the rain gear. But when the heavens open up and its raining so hard you can't see three feet it helps.
As far as what to wear that's an individual choice. Light, tightly woven cotton is the most comfortable, synthetics seem to feel hot and sticky. I have learned to stay with long pants and sleeves to keep the leeches off.
Leeches wait on leaves get on you as you walk by, they move like Slinky's up your boot or pant leg looking for a way to skin.... so everything is tucked in and buttoned! Some people even wear coveralls. Leech socks are also good to protect your feet and lower legs. They are usually a tightly woven cotton foot with a nylon upper which either ties or has elastic. Leeches can get down into your shoes and regular socks are no deterrent.
I wear gloves when handling bamboo it has fine hairs which will irritate your skin. They also protect from thorns.
I wear shorts around camp where I can keep an eye out for leeches. A wide brim hat can keep the sun off.
Step 4: Emergency Gear
There are lots of survival kits and instructables around, I've made many over the years but Doug Ritter's from Equipped to Survive.com is my favorite. I carry backups for the compass (button), fire(sparker) and shelter (emergency blanket) as well.
I always carry more than on way to purify water, make fire, make shelter and have light. (I'm paranoid)
I also have a mini LED light and Leatherman micro on a key chain. A bandanna, tissue and folding knife(if I'm not carrying the Leatherman Wave) and a pocket sharpener.
I often replace the folding knife with a Leatherman Wave multitool which has a saw, serrated blade and a file that are useful.
I am not an advocate of the big "survival" knives one can buy they are just too big to be useful.
That being said I learned from the indigenous people here that a "Parang" (a machete about the length of my forearm) is a necessity in a jungle environment.
Step 5: Cooking and Water
Food and water are obviously necessary. Food is a personal thing I take lots of instant dried meals from the market with some fresh stuff that will keep.
I carry a MSR dragonfly stove, I can't get white gas here but I can get unleaded petrol. There are several choices locally for stoves but I brought this with me from the US.
I have a MSR cook set but usually only carry one pot unless I'm with a group. I like to experiment with cooking in bamboo which is everywhere and you can boil rice and other things in it.
I use the miox for my primary water purifier it's easy and good for large volume. It can be hard to stay hydrated since you sweat so much... The different drink mixes are nice for variety.
Step 6: Cleanliness and Comfort
I mostly use a head lamp it's very easy and keeps hand free. The small butane lantern is a nice area light and the "forever flash light" is a pretty bright spotlight after a bit of cranking...
I use a Pack towel since it dries quickly, same with the bandannas.
I always carry a 100% DEET repellent and wet wipes.
The cell phone has a GPS and I use it to mark my starting point and waypoints if I go off trail. It also has books to read, books on tape, a back up camera and I can call for help if I have a signal!
I use a thing called a PowerMonkey which is a rechargeable battery. It will recharge the phone twice on one charge and has a solar panel to recharge it in the field.
Step 7: Final Thoughts and Tips
The jungle at first is kinda scary, but it's a really cool place to explore!
It can be a really harsh place on your gear as well as your body! It's hot and wet... If it can mildew, it will. If it can rot, it will. If it can rust, it will and fast.
The soles of my moderately expensive hiking boots from the US fell off after two days! My next instructable will be the use of Shoo Goo.
Remember the tobacco? Even if you don't smoke bring tobacco either in cigarette or pouch form. Make a "tea" with the leaves, now soak the cotton parts of the leech socks, and your clothing if you want. I even put it on some exposed skin (but not too much! nicotine is a poison)
I learned this from the Malaysian jungle natives, leeches hate the nicotine!
As I have belabored, it's a wet place so starting a fire is really hard! Good dry tinder is essential, I use candles, and cut strips of an old tire as fire starters.
The locals build a frame over the fire to dry the wood to be used and keep the rain off the fire. Sometimes dead bamboo is dry inside so you can break it up to use.
Extra tarps rigged above a small fire works but keep it high enough not to burn the tarp and let the smoke out.