A gorilla trek is a true, once-in-a-lifetime experience in every sense of the phrase. And what you certainly don’t want is to be worrying about what you’ve packed, or encounter that awful sense of foreboding when you realise your new hiking boots don’t fit that well… To solve all your packing problems, we’ve put together our ultimate list of gorilla trekking essentials – what to take, what to leave behind and what to carry as if your life depends on it – leaving you to enjoy every moment of your trek.
Strange, but we promise these are your ultimate gorilla trekking essentials. The mountain rainforests are full of thick, tangled vines and a fair few will usually end up round your feet or dangling in front of you. Good, thick gardening gloves will protect your hands when you pull them away, and help you move any thick foliage aside as you walk.
We’re not recommending that you rush out and buy a whole new waterproof wardrobe, but if you are thinking of buying something, consider water-proof trousers – particularly if you’re doing two treks. Lightweight and quick-drying, they’ll air quickly for your trek the next day if you do happen to get wet in the forest. If you don’t have anything that fits the bill, don’t panic – many of the lodges have lovely fireplaces that will sort out a damp pair of trews in no time…
Long sleeves and long trousers
It might go without saying, but long sleeves and long trousers or pants are most definitely gorilla trekking essentials. As we said, you may encounter some stinging vines en route, and you’ll want to be as covered up as possible. If you’re worried about being too hot, take layers – think one or two light-weight, long-sleeve tops under a thin waterproof jacket.
Footwear: the eternal dilemma. Hiking or walking boots with ankle support are certainly the most comfortable for a gorilla trek. And the golden rule? Wear them several times before your trek and do not buy new ones just for the occasion – the last thing you want is a blister that means you have to turn back. If you don’t have hiking boots, trekking is entirely possible in supportive trainers or running shoes (I did it and I survived).
A small backpack
We don’t recommend carrying very much at all on your trek (camera, batteries, water and sun cream at the most), but it is useful to have a small backpack with you. It will keep your essentials together and if (horror!) your camera runs out of battery when you’re with the gorillas, you’ll know where to find spares quickly and with minimal fuss. Also consider a waterproof backpack cover if you have expensive equipment that you want to keep dry.
Aside from keeping your tootsies cosy inside your hiking boots, socks are essential for keeping your ankles covered. The forest in Central Africa can be a stingy, sharp sort of place and tucking your trousers into thick, good-quality socks provides much-needed protection. If you have knee-high hiking gaiters consider bringing them, but don’t go out and buy them if you don’t – socks will do the trick nicely.
Cameras & equipment
Serious photographers could consider three camera bodies with three different lenses – a zoom lens, a wide-angle and an in-between one. Three bodies might sound absurd, but those gorillas move quickly and you won’t want to be faffing around with changing the body. For not-quite-so-professional photographers, a camera is still a gorilla trekking essential. Make sure it’s fully charged and bring a couple of extra memory cards just in case.
That’s it for our top gorilla trekking essentials, but the following list is everything you’ll need for a trek. Remember that your lodge or camp will provide water and other essentials.