Surviving Jungle Expeditions: Tips From The Experts

Secret Compass expeditions organises jungle adventures in some of the harshest and most challenging locations on Earth. Here two of its finest jungle leaders and survival experts share their top tips for anyone considering an epic jungle trek.

Meet The Experts

Rick Morales


Rick lives in Panama, South America, and leads treks into his local jungle. For Rick, that just happens to be Panama’s notorious Darian Gap (where Secret Compass runs an expedition every April).


Rick’s Jungle Essential: “Most definitely cutting edge: My Swiss Army knife and/or my machete.”

Jimmy McSparron


Jimmy has previously helped lead expeditions in Africa with Secret Compass. He lives in the depths of the Peruvian jungles, in a house with no walls that is getting reclaimed by the jungle around him, inch by inch.


Jimmy’s Jungle Essential: “A decent machete. Oh and an iPod with a solar charger so I don’t go mad.”

Clothing Guide

The jungle is hot, humid, wet, and full of biting bugs so it’s important to get your clothing spot on. Whilst short sleeves offer better ventilation, they leave you exposed to harsh vegetation like sharp grass blades, prickly vines and other nuisances found in the jungle. Long sleeves will shield your skin from cuts and bites and offer sun protection.


Jungle shirts need to be well ventilated, especially on the back panels. Getting a bout of prickly heat can range from the merely unpleasant to the downright agonising. Ensure that you find a comfortable loose fit that lets your body breathe, and choose something that’s easy to move around in so you can duck those vines!


It’s best to avoid cotton where possible as it holds moisture, so go for man made fibres which are quick drying.


The same approach goes for jungle trousers. Shorts are OK to wear when in villages and open areas, but once in the depths of the jungle there will be so much underbrush scraping against your lower legs that you won’t enjoy the extra ventilation.

Footwear Guide

The two most important features of your jungle footwear are comfort and traction. If you’ve worn your boots a few times and you find them comfortable, then look no further, as long as they provide you with good traction. You’ll be hiking in very wet, slick, and often rocky terrain, as well as through slippery mud. Your shoes should have good tread for both. You’re still likely to fall so it’s worth considering trekking poles.


Having boots that are waterproof isn’t critical, in fact if anything there is an advantage to non-waterproof boots, as they allow water to drain out much more easily. A boot with some small drainage holes is always useful to allow the humidity and the river water, from frequent river crossings and wadings, to seep out. Remember when trying on boots that your normal thick woolen mountain socks are not what you are going to be using in the depths of the jungle, so try them with thin socks.


As a handy bonus, buy some Gore-Tex liners or socks to wear if you need to go for a short walk at the end of the day after you’ve dried your feet. It just means that you’ll avoid that horrible cold clammy feeling when you put your boots on for that run to the long drop…

Surviving Mosquitos

There are mosquitoes in the jungle. There’s no getting away from that. But you can prepare for them in many ways – from sprays and repellents to mozzie-proofed clothing.

Fend Off With Fabric


When considering mosquito-repellent clothing, the important thing is the delicate balance between it being lightweight but also insect-proof. A very thin shirt on its own is great for getting rid of sweat but will unfortunately allow the mosquitoes in. Look for clothing that is already impregnated with Permethrin, a chemical that dissuades the little critters from landing on you in the first place.

As an alternative you can buy Permethrin in pump spray format and apply it yourself. If you’re a last-minute traveller try to give yourself at least 24 hours before flying to treat your clothes – you generally need to lie them out flat, spray both sides then allow to dry thoroughly for a day or so before packing and ultimately wearing them.


To learn more about using your clothes to keep critters at bay have a look at our guide to insect repellent clothing.



These days there are different schools of thought on using DEET – a chemical insect repellent. There is general agreement however that, although effective against mosquito bites, DEET should be used with caution. Higher strength quantities can damage watch and compass casings.

There’s rarely a need to go above 50% DEET unless you are in a particularly bad area.


Long sleeves and long trousers at dusk and dawn can be similarly effective. Should you wish to avoid DEET altogether, there are DEET free alternatives available.

Net Protection For Sleeping


For lowland jungle expeditions and adventures, a double-layered hammock is a must. This prevents insects from being able to bite through the bottom of the hammock. It also enables you when moving to higher ground to add a roll mat or some form of insulation between the two layers of the hammock, keeping you toasty at night.

An integrated mosquito net for your hammock saves space but if you’re using a regular mosquito net then go for a box-shaped net, as you can tuck it in under the mattress at each of the four corners and there is less chance of being pushed up against it – as can happen with nets which fan out from a single hanging point. If you touch the net: they will get you regardless.

In Partnership With
Secret Compass


Secret Compass is a pioneering expedition company that creates unique experiences for adventurers around the world. To find out more about our partnership and its benefits visit

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