Packing Hack: Pre-Packing Your Gear for Gorilla and Chimp Trekking in East Africa

When you’re packing for a big trip like East Africa, there’s your gear, clothing, shoes and toiletries. When you go gorilla or chimp trekking in Uganda, Rwanda or the Democratic Republic of Congo there’s a set of items you’ll need.

While packing your backpack, duffel bag or other luggage put your chimp and gorilla trekking gear in its own separate bag/packing cube. Then put that whole cube inside your luggage. I use re-sealable bags instead of packing cubes. See more about cheaper alternatives to packing cubes for petite women.

This way, when when you’re there, on the day of your trek, you won’t have to spend a lot of time putting your daypack together. AND you won’t forget anything, such as the gardening gloves, snacks, or gaiters, etc. because everything you need is already neatly packed.

My trekking packing cube with Clif bars, money belt, wipes, biodegradable baggies, gardening gloves, hair ties, memory cards and more.

So what should go in your chimp and gorilla trekking packing cube?

{Chimp and Gorilla Trekking Gear}

  • Energy boosting snacks: Clif bars or KIND bars, other protein bars, trail mix(?), chocolate. Since you’re packing this in your luggage, I’d go with Clif or KIND bars because they’re light and individually sealed airtight. Trail mix is bulkier/heavier and can spoil. Bring protein bars with you from home. There won’t be a place for you to buy anything there (unless you’re stopping in a big city like Kampala or Jinja).

  • Gardening Gloves: During the trek you might hold onto and brush against branches/trees and debris.

  • Gaiters: I read mixed things about these. You’ll really only need these during the gorilla and chimp treks. Some people said to just tuck your pants into your socks, while others said these were essential. I went ahead and bought gaiters because I can imagine my pants untucking out of my socks during the trek and I don’t want to deal with that.

Update: I was really glad I brought gaiters and didn’t just tuck my pants into my socks. I am not sure whether tucking in is less effective than gaiters but I liked that it was one less thing to think about.

  •  Baby wipes, ziploc bags, hand sanitizer: In case you’ve gotta go, during the trek there are no facilities. The guide will find a safe space for you to take care of business. You’ll need baby wipes to clean off and ziploc bags for the used wipes as there are no trash cans around. Put the bags in your daypack and discard them back at the lodge. Bonus points if you take biodegradable bags!

  • Cash for tips: (notes not coins): You will want to tip the guide and porters after the trek. Figures vary, but no less than $5USD per person. Most people give a few dollars more to the main guide. And no $1 bills, nor coins. Actually this applies not just for gorilla trekking but your whole trip. Best to have $5, $10, $20 bills on you. I also read that you shouldn’t take USD notes that are from 2006 and prior.

  • Camera gear: memory cards with a lot of space, camera with charged battery, f2.8 70-200mm lens. You wouldn’t put the camera and lens in your packing cube but you can put memory cards in there. Clean the camera lens before you head out for the trek.  Have your camera attached to a good camera strap. If you’re taking one camera body and you want an extra lens then you’ll have to put it in your pocket (is that even possible?). When you find the gorillas, you’re not allowed to take any bags with you when you approach them.

  • Extra Rubber-band hair ties: not claw clips because you’re gonna be wearing a hat much of the time and I don’t know about you, but those clips are uncomfortable with a hat.

  • Money belt. You will need your passport to check in for your treks. After that you will not need your passport. Either put it in your daypack or in a money belt that you keep on you.

  • The lodge you’re staying at should provide food and water for each person for the trek. You can put it in your daypack which will be carried by your porter.

{What to Wear for Chimp and Gorilla Trekking}

If you can, put these items in a packing cube, but if not here’s a good guide of what to wear.

  • long sleeve shirt
  • long pants
  • rain jacket with a hood
  • wear your buff or a scarf as a neck gaiter or a head band
  • proper hiking shoes or boots
  • hiking socks
  • Hat: some people find wide brimmed hats distracting as you’re trying trekking through the bush. Maybe not a wide brimmed hat for the gorilla trek, but a baseball cap instead.

  • Utility vest? or money belt?: I’d only recommend a utility vest or a money belt if the pants and shirt you wear for gorilla trekking don’t have functional pockets.You know how sometimes women’s clothes have fashion packets with 0 functional value? During the trek, you’re gonna wanna have easy access to snacks in your pocket, so keep them on you, and not in your daypack which the porter that you hire will be carrying.And you can put your passport in there as well or put it in your daypack. You’ll need to take your passport (actually just a form of ID) with you, for the park rangers to verify your gorilla permit.There are some really cute utility vests out there, but that’s increasing weight…so tradeoffs. And if it starts raining, you’re gonna have your utility vest + rain jacket on….while it’s hot and you’re trekking. Unless you decide to be that person in the group who makes everyone stop over and over while you get sorted.
Buffs are a great lightweight travel tool and accessory. Use it as a neck gaiter, neck warmer, headband, wrist band, face cover. There are lots of ways to wear a buff.

{Items to Take/ NOT Take for Trekking}

Take Your Passport. Your passport is how they verify your ID against your trekking permit.

Take Polarized sunglasses. I didn’t include this in the packing cube list because you’ll probably be using your sunglasses throughout the trip.

Don’t Take Binoculars gorilla trekking. They add weight and you won’t use them.

Don’t Take Tripod/monopod: Unless you’re a VERY serious photographer or even a pro photographer you really won’t want to deal with a tripod/monopod etc. while trekking for chimps nor gorillas. The gorillas have been known to get really close to the people so having a stand will just detract from the experience.

Don’t Take Trekking Poles: don’t bother with taking them from home. The porters have them there for purchase or hire, for people of all heights. Note: traveling with trekking poles means you HAVE to check in your luggage.

{Product Recommendation: Gardening Gloves for Very Small Hands}

It took me a bit of time and research to find gardening gloves that would fit me. I ended up buying these kids pair. You will want to pack gardening gloves for your gorilla and chimpanzee treks in Uganda. As the guides whack bushes to clear your path to the primates, you might find yourself pushing brush out of the way or even grabbing onto a tree for support – and the thick gardening gloves will protect your hands. I like that these extend a little onto my wrist so there’s no gap in-between the long sleeve shirt I’ll be wearing my the gloves.

{Product Recommendation: Gaiters for Petite Women}

I read mixed things about gaiters. You’ll really only need these during the gorilla and chimp treks. Some people said to forego gaiters and just tuck your pants into your socks. And others said having these was essential. I went ahead and bought gaiters because I can imagine my pants untucking out of my socks during the trek and I don’t want to deal with that. Plus I like the peace-of-mind of having the coverage. It was a little difficult to find gaiters that would fit. I found these on Amazon. I tried them on and they fit! The $14 price tag was a lot nicer than some of the $40-$50 ones I saw at stores. But I’ll let you know how they did once I get back!

{How to Carry Your DSLR While Gorilla Trekking}

While you’re trekking you’re going to be too busy getting b!*$h slapped by brush and branches that you won’t be able to take pictures and…survive. Keep the camera inside your daypack, which is carried by the porter you’re going to hire. Once you arrive to the gorilla family, your guide will instruct you to put all of your stuff down and that’s when you can get your camera out of your bag. You can only approach the gorillas with whatever you have on your person.

You get 1 hour with the gorillas and in that time you can carry your camera however you feel most comfortable. From what I read of other people’s experiences, is that the hour goes by really really fast. So trying to change lenses, setting up a tripod etc. is not a good idea.

The best thing is to go with one camera body with an f2.8, 70-200mm lens + your iphone/Samsung etc. And that’s it.

Remember: no flash photography allowed. That’s why that f2.8 lens is so important. Oh and make sure to take a rain cover.

Good DSLR camera strap. You want to be comfortable while gorilla trekking or really anytime you’re carrying your DSLR. The straps that DSLRs come with are abysmal, uncomfortable, ads for Canon, Nikon, Sony. Invest in a good camera strap. I recommend the Joby strap for women and men. Read more here.

{Carrying your DSLR For Chimpanzee Trekking}

For this, since the terrain is much flatter, most people don’t hire a porter. I’m going to carry my DSLR in my crossbody bag. The chimps can move around a lot so being as lightweight as possible is key as you follow them. You can use the same f2.8 70-200mm lens for chimps as there will be similar low light conditions. And pack your rain cover.

At Murchison Falls and Ishasha, you’re going to either be in a boat or safari vehicle so no special gear or consideration needed for your DSLR. In these other places you might want a wide angle lens or even more zoom, but always balance that out with your comfort with the heavy weight of camera equipment.

I hope you found this info helpful! If so, please let me know in the comments. I love hearing from our readers, as well as your fun, funny, interesting, and helpful stories from your travel experiences! You might like to follow us on Facebook and Instagram too, where we share a lot of different content and images.

Happy adding stamps to your PassportPages!


Samta, Founder, PassportPages

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