Gorilla trekking clothes and gear


Sep 3rd, 2006, 06:41 AM
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Gorilla trekking clothes and gear

We'll be in Uganda in Nov and are starting to think about packing. I've read trip reports about some of the difficulties of gorilla trekking and am wondering what to bring...

- heavy fabric long pants? Will my nylon cargo pants work OK with the thorns and stinging nettles?

- If I wear the nylon pants, will leg gaiters protect from ants, thorns and mud?

- gloves? How heavy...leather, kevlar, golfing, etc.???

- walking stick? Worth bringing one or just use the bamboo ones provided at the camp?

- warm clothes for the hike? Does it start off cold then turn warm as you work up a sweat?

- rain gear? I think it is still the rainy season in Nov.

- safari vest to carry photo gear while photographing the gorillas?

Any other tips about trekking would be very welcomed. We are getting so excited after reading all those trip reports and seeing the wonderful pictures of the gorillas. Thanks for your help!

ovenbird is offline  
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Sep 3rd, 2006, 07:05 AM
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Hi Marsha,
We did Gorilla Trekking in Rwanda in July and here are my thoughts:
(bear in mind that we didn't trek in Uganda so temps. will be different)

Hiking boots are a must!! We had only runners due to losing our luggage and we found it difficult in the wet forest.

Rain gear too is a must. We were lucky and didn't need it as we only had one very light shower but in the afternoon there was a downpour and those who had had longer trekks were bound to get soaked if they had no rain gear. If at all possible I would suggest fairly good breathable wet gear - I purchased a new jacked before we left especially for this trip with the trek in mind and it turned out to be not very breathable (I got pretty soaked from perspiration)!!!

I would just take gardening type gloves.

I would leave the walking stick at home and use the ones they give you.

I'm not too sure about the safari vest - it might be a bit awkward to carry but then again I've never used one. We just carried our camera gear around our necks with spare batteries, cards etc in my jacket pockets while we were at the Gorillas.

Definately dress in layers so you don't swelter later into the trek (at least this is the case in Rwanda).

You are going to just LOVE those Gorillas!!!!! What is your itinerary?


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Sep 3rd, 2006, 08:26 AM
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hi,there i did uganda 2 treks in june 2005.i was thinking before i left i needed all this junk! WRONG! glad i didnt bring any of it.
ok,i had boots,a rain pouncho-the cheap kind you buy at k-mart,i wear my long work pants over-thats what i used for the treks-then they washed it for me before i left bwindi-DICKIES SLACKS.
i brought the leather type garden gloves-never used them.bring them anyway.
i left the vest in the tent-too humid in there-you will get soaked with sweat.
i did use a long sleeve shirt.
i brought bug stuff-never used it!
oh-i always bring a couple of bigger plastic bags with me-just big enough to carry your cam bag in. incase it starts raining-you throw it in that bag. that happened on the 2nd trek on the way back.
the stick-just use the one they give you-no need to get all fancy or complicated with this
i guess you could use those nylon slacks-one couple did have them. but that was on the 2nd day-the 1st day was more trying-i think they would have ripped those slacks.
video is the way to go-i had my reg slr loaded with fuji 800 film 36count-shot some with that-but the video is much cooler.
hope this helps-if i think of anything else i will post.
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Sep 4th, 2006, 06:28 AM
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Imelda and Dave, thanks so much for the info. I'm glad I won't need to bring all that "stuff"...it will certainly help lighten my duffle!

I'm still undecided on pants...nylon or heavy cotton. Dave, if my lower legs are protected by gaiters, do you think the pants might still get shredded?

Did you use porters or did you carry your own bags?
ovenbird is offline  
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Sep 4th, 2006, 06:55 AM
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hi,i used regular boots.the nylons could get ripped-i believe that.i would save those-dont bring jeans what ever you do. but regular work slacks maybe-even ones that are not that good-you can leave those behind-no problem.
shredded? no-dont believe so.like i mentioned-i had regular boots-i tucked my slacks inside my socks.
porters???? oh yes-even if you dont think so-hire anyway-please do. when you see these people huddled in front of you-how could you not.they bring out a different group of porters for every trekking group every day.i gave my guys 10dollars each-had to. besides i'm spending so much on the trip-a porter tip is peanuts really.they will remember you!all i trekked with was with my cam bag-i couldnt be bothered with it-i already knew i would hire porters.
hope this helps.
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Sep 4th, 2006, 10:23 AM
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We used a porter too and like Dave, gave him $10. The price is only $5 but we felt he totally deserved the extra. Had we gone on a longer trek I think we would have given him more (ours was about 1.5 hours). He was SO thankful.

One thing to note, when I was reading about who to tip and how much before I went to Africa I thought it was quite a lot but when we got there we tipped all but one person MUCH more than the recommended as we felt that they really deserved it and 'what's a few more $ when we spent so much on the Safari anyways' especially when you think of how little people have.... just a thought!

I second Dave with the 'no jeans' - DEFINATELY do not take jeans to hike in. Something in the line of combats or a little lighter would be fine though and yes, if you've got some old trousers that you could leave behind those would be ideal. In fact I'm sure you could find someone who would really appreciate it if you left them the trousers.

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Sep 4th, 2006, 01:05 PM
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Good answers so far.

- heavy fabric long pants?

I've worn both nylon outdoor action-type pants and canvas ones. If you wear the nylon type and have them washed in camp, do not let the camp staff iron them. They will fall apart as mine did on my first trip.

- If I wear the nylon pants, will leg gaiters protect from ants, thorns and mud?
Perhaps from ants, though ants were not a problem. If they make you hotter, don't take them.

- gloves? How heavy...leather, kevlar, golfing, etc.???

gardening gloves that are easily stowed. I think I used them briefly one time.

- walking stick? Worth bringing one or just use the bamboo ones provided at the camp?

use the one provided, but do take one

- warm clothes for the hike? Does it start off cold then turn warm as you work up a sweat?

I was never cold but did get extremely hot due to high humidity.

- rain gear? I think it is still the rainy season in Nov.

It can always rain where the gorillas live. Rain gear for you and for your camera equipment. I like waterproof socks, Seal Skins, more than the less breathable Gortex.

- safari vest to carry photo gear while photographing the gorillas?

Like the others say, no vest. I just used a camera bag around my waist and pockets.

Porters will carry your gear and water, but take some water that you have on your person. That way you can sip every few minutes and not just when the group stops for water, which is often, but not every few minutes. This helps prevent dehydration.

Have fun!
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Sep 4th, 2006, 07:02 PM
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I trekked in nylon-convertible pants...which was a HUGE mistake. I was completely stung all up and down my legs and back. So, the gaiters won't protect you completely. Wear thick trousers, jeans worked for many and I'd wear them in Rwanda (don't know about Uganda) if it wasn't raining. But ideally, thick work-cargo pants would do the trick. I ended up trekking back in my boyfriend's waterproof pants...this was a sight as I'm 4' 11" and he's 6 foot! But my stings were that bad!

Also, gloves are a good idea. I had leather gardening gloves and they worked great. Don't buy the thin fabric kind.

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Sep 5th, 2006, 12:27 PM
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I wanted to get one of the walking sticks they sold as souvenirs, but I didn't want to both trying to get it on the plane.

Now of course I wish I had it.
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Sep 5th, 2006, 02:06 PM
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My wife and I trekked the M group in Bwindi about 10 days ago. We were fine in our nylon convertible pants. We had them as shorts as we hiked the first 90 minutes in the open, then switched back before we entered the jungle in earnest.

Ants shouldn't be too much of a problem if you watch where you step. She wore low-top hiking "boots" (not serious ones) and I wore running shoes. Both were fine. Some entrepeneur should open rubber boot rental stores in Bwindi and Kibale - the guides and trackers wear those for a reason!

We had basic gardening gloves but did not use them. The provided walking sticks were fine for us as well.

We didn't use a porter and don't like the "back sweat" caused by backpacks, so I had a camera bag waist pouch and my wife had a lumbar pack with slots for 1 liter nalgene bottles.

We didn't want to haul around rain jackets and we were lucky. We figured that if it rained the two of us would be soaked with rain, and the trekkers wearing jackets would be soaked with sweat. Based on personal experience and some online reviews, I believe that the "breathable waterproof jacket" is a marketing fantasy. Having said that, a cheap poncho that folds into a tiny pouch is probably a good idea.

I'm not sure of the temp in November but by the time our trek started it wasn't cold at all.

On the subject of a vest for photo gear, I had heard from atravelynn that hip packs are sometimes allowed for the hour with the gorillas. In my case, I was directed to leave it behind so I put my 18-70 lens in my pocket. It was a tight fit, but I'm really glad I brought it. The gorillas were next to a swamp, so to keep us from standing in sludge for an hour, the guides had us 3 meters away instead of the recommended 7. There were several periods when my 70-210 lens (105-315 w/ digital crop) wasn't wide enough!

My parting advice is not to go too crazy buying gear - I fell into that trap a bit. Hiking through Bwindi is no walk in the park but it is not like you're scaling Everest either. Just cover the basics and enjoy the gorillas!

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Sep 5th, 2006, 02:57 PM
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Welcome back, Matt! Hope you enjoyed your trip. Looking forward to hearing about it.
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Sep 5th, 2006, 03:19 PM
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Wow, what a wealth of information! Thanks to everyone for your insights. Yup, I'm prone to that gear buying trap and also to being a worrywart.


NO to gaiters, walking stick, warm clothes, safari vest.

MAYBE to old disposable cotton pants, gloves, rain gear.

YES to using porters.

I don't use a DSLR, so I should be OK with wearing my camera on a neck strap and stuffing batteries and memory cards into my pockets. My significant other, however, has a DSLR and might have trouble finding pockets big enough for his wide angle lens, extra batteries, and memory cards.

Matt, thanks for putting this into perspective...we will absolutely enjoy those gorillas!

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Dec 6th, 2006, 06:47 AM
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Just a follow-up now that we've actually done a gorilla trek in Uganda.

We wore hiking boots, long sleeve shirts over t-shirts, and nylon cargo pants tucked into our socks. No leg gaiters or cotton pants. This worked fine, although I do have a number of tiny rips in the pants made by thorns! And we just jumped over or walked quickly through the ant swarms to avoid getting them up our pants (remember to tuck those pant legs into your socks!)

We both wear eye glasses and took them off while hiking. This way we didn't have to spend gorilla viewing time trying to clean them. I used an anti-fog preparation because my glasses always fog up in high humidity.

We didn't take and definitely did not need warm clothes, a safari vest, or walking stick (just used the sticks provided.)

Rain covers for backpacks were handy since we did almost the entire trek in a torrential downpour. We started out wearing rain jackets which were removed and tied around our waists once we started climbing uphill (much too hot and sweaty). But we could have used an umbrella for the first 30 min. we were on the wide open trail...this is where we initially got soaked.

Dave said his gardening gloves, which were made specifically for working with thorny plants, worked well. I brought the same, but didn't use them. I had a few thorny punctures that festered a few days, but then healed without a problem.

We each hired a porter to carry our backpacks and did not think we would need pullers and pushers...silly us! If we did it again, each of us would definitely hire at least one more porter to be a pusher. The porters carrying our backpacks also acted as pullers. These folks are in amazing shape!

Once we got to the gorrillas, I stuffed extra batteries and memory cards in my rain jacket's pockets (the jacket was tied around my waist at this point) and carried my camera (Pana FZ7) in my hands or in my jacket pocket. Dave clipped his DSLR to a body sling and carried it that way. He did this in the Galapagos where it worked very well. However, it didn't do quite as well in the impenetrable forest since we spent most of our hour with the gorillas chasing them.

It was much too dark to get decent still photos with either of our cameras. I ended up using the movie function on my camera, which worked fairly well. I was able to figure out how to pull individual frames and make still pictures, so it wasn't a total loss. Plus the movie clips provide us with a different type of memory since we can't capture behavior as well with photos.

A word of advice...take everything your lodge gives you for lunch. We didn't know better and pared ours down before the trek to what we thought we would eat and drink. The most important reason is that you will have food if your trek takes a long time (one group was out for 9 hours.) The second reason is the porters are not given water or food for the trek, so you can give them what you don't eat. They really appreciate it.

As everyone said, seeing gorillas in the wild is an unforgettable, indescribeable and very special experience!
ovenbird is offline  
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Dec 6th, 2006, 12:16 PM
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Welcome back Marsha, it sounds like you had a fantastic trip and I'm glad all the advice paid off. That trecking sounded like hard work though, in Rwanda I hadn't heard of using 'pullers' or 'pushers' - I guess it isn't as difficult to reck as Uganda

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Jan 8th, 2007, 02:00 PM
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I'm travelling to see the gorillas in both Uganda and Rwanda in a couple of weeks. Getting very excited now!
The info you've all provided here has been really helpful.
Can I just confirm something...
Is it usually easy enough to carry your own camera (say around the neck/shoulder) while on the way to the gorillas or should I leave it in the backpack with the porter? Is there time to retrieve it when we reach the gorillas?
Additionally, does insect repellant help at all with the ants as I react badly to bites??!
many thanks
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Jan 8th, 2007, 02:04 PM
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You will most likely be a couple of hundred feet away from your porter so
take your camera and memory cards, film, etc. with you when viewing the gorillas.

The backpacks and everything else will remain with the porters who will not be in the viewing area with you. All the extraneous gear is not allowed near the gorillas.

I usually keep the camera(s) around my neck and have my pockets loaded up with whatever I need during the viewing.
Afterwards, you can give everything back to the porter to carry down for you.

When will you be in Rwanda? I will be there in a couple of weeks too, along with sundowner, another fodorite here on the Africa forum.
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Jan 8th, 2007, 02:21 PM
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Lynneb: divewop is spot on re: having the porters carry your camera equipment. I'm not sure what is "usual", but there is no way while treking to find the gorillas I could have carried the camera on a strap around my neck without its getting soaking wet and badly battered. I left the camera in a plastic baggie in my backpack until we got to the gorillas (good thing since there was a pool of water in the bottom of my pack from the torrential rains!) Then I took it out along with extra batteries and memory cards to take to the gorillas.

I'm not sure if repellant works on ants, but it's worth a try. Just remember to keep your pants tucked into your socks and to move quickly through or over any ant swarms. That should help keep the ants from crawling up inside your pants.

You'll have an awesome experience!
ovenbird is offline  
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Jan 8th, 2007, 02:30 PM
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Lynneb, I will 'third' the recommendation of having the porters carry the camera equipment through the forest... however ... it is nice to get a couple of pics at 'the Wall' and of the hillside (NOT in the forest) on the way up / down but you can always ask the porter to stop for a minute to retrieve your camera and take whatever pics you want before entering the forested area.

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Jan 8th, 2007, 02:38 PM
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OnlyMeOirish & ovenbird:

Oh my! I never heard of the 'pullers' or 'pushers' either and thought I was on a Fodorís phishing website! Now I am just thinkiní I missed out! ;-)


>The second reason is the porters are not given water or food for the trek, so you can give them what you don't eat. They really appreciate it.<

SUCH a GOOD TIP! I am sure many folks on this forum will follow your advice and make sure the porters and trackers get fed!

Somehow I missed getting food and I forgot to ask my guide about it when I returned from trekking! I was busy and happy snapping photos though!


I had a long trek in Rwanda but I wore my vest so I could carry all my camera gear as I never let it go! I had the still camera around my neck, movie camera in vest pocket along with my glasses and lens cleaners. The views are incredible and there is not much time to get snaps trekking to & from and through the park.

The folks in my group did not have any hired porters but I am sure if you go that route he would be readily available to you.

I used gloves and was happy to have them for all the stinging nettle but I could have managed without them.

As far as the ants, sit where the locals sit!

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Jan 8th, 2007, 02:44 PM
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Yep - when you leave your bags, you take only your camera/passport/wallet. (they mentioned the passport/wallet both days). Big lenses and multiple cameras are fine.

Also, when you leave your bags, there's a chance that the porters will move them while you are with the gorillas. While we were with the Sabyinyos, the gorillas started to move towards the clearing where we had left our bags, so the porters moved our stuff to another location. I left my stuff somewhat in a hurry, so my jacket, water bottle, gloves, and bag was not too organized - but everything made it to the new location just fine. So did everyone else's - and I was the only one with a porter.

Regarding bug bites, I can only speak to my experience in PNV. I am an absolute mossie magnet and I did not get one bite our entire trip. I saw the little buggers, in our room too, but they must have been content with their local diet.

Regarding temperature, layering is key. I wore a wicking t shirt (though not once did I reveal this layer) and a smart wool or capilene long sleeve layer. In the early am I wore a fleece over this. For hiking I changed into a windbreaker - what I liked about the windbreaker is that it wasn't right up against my skin so it provided really good nettle protection. I wore heavy cotton cargo pants (Columbia) fashionably tucked into my smartwool hiking socks. I also can't rave enough about the Asolo Stynger hiking boots.
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