Borneo Kit List - Operation Wallacea

Expedition Information

Borneo Kit List

The objective is to take the smallest amount of equipment needed to be comfortable and safe. Your international flights baggage allowance will generally be around 20 – 25kg depending on your airline.  You will also need to carry your backpack sometimes for reasonable length treks depending on the forest camp you will be staying at, so the less weight the better!

Always aim to buy equipment that is compact, light weight, durable, quick drying, versatile and in good repair. You may find that you have suitable gear already, so don’t feel you have to buy everything new. Shop around and price everything before purchasing anything. Some items you may be able to borrow from friends or relatives, pick up second hand, or get deals off the internet. If you buy new kit, make sure you try it out before your expedition, especially new boots which often need time to fully mould to the shape of your feet. New jungle boots should be soaked and worn till they dry on your feet to prevent blisters whilst trekking. Label your baggage, clothes and kit; there are many volunteers, and some may have the same or similar items to you. Unfortunately valuables are very occasionally at risk, so please only take what is vital for your expedition.

Don’t forget to order your Opwall t-shirt for this years expedition!

What to take for terrestrial based projects

All equipment listed below is essential, unless stated as optional. Please follow these guidelines, but remember, you don’t necessarily have to spend a fortune—you may be able to beg or borrow from friends and family!

Rucksack Please bring a 50 litre minimum rucksack. Lowe Alpine and Karrimor are both good makes with adjustable back systems, though other makes also have this feature, providing a more comfortable fit. Many packs on the market today are not ‘rucksacks’ but ‘travelbags’ and there is a big difference. Rucksacks are built for wearing for a longer periods, whereas travelbags are designed for carrying between bus stations and airports. Depending on the forest camp you are allocated, you may be trekking for long periods with your large rucksack, so a rucksack with a waistband is essential. If you are going on a marine only expedition then a travelbag may be suitable, but please bear in mind that you will still need to carry this when travelling and on boats etc.

Rucksack waterproof cover (optional, but advised) This is optional, but advised. Please bear in mind that it does rain quite heavily in Borneo. At the forest sites you will be carrying your rucksack through the forest to camp, so it can get very wet.

Dry bag(s) It can be incredibly wet in Borneo, especially in the forest. A dry bag can be extremely useful for keeping your items dry. If you would rather not spend the money on this then you can use waterproof plastic bags (see below) instead, but please bear in mind that these are not as durable.

Waterproof plastic bags A combination of sizes and styles are necessary to keep water out of your kit and clothes. A large gravel sack or heavy duty bin liner will act as a rucksack liner (bring spares), and ziploc (freezer) bags are brilliant for keeping your camera, and other bits of kit dry (bring lots as they tear easily). There are some very heavy duty ‘dry bags’ on the market (see above) – the choice is yours – a combination of both may be best. As the environment is so humid it is a good idea to keep any electronic equipment in bags containing silica gel sachets as these will absorb moisture and minimise the possibility of damage.

Day bag/Small rucksack (plus waterproof cover) 20-30 litre. Needed for your field work for carrying water, paper, pens, binoculars, cameras etc., so ensure a comfortable fit. Can also be used as your hand luggage on flights.

Sleeping bag It can get surprisingly cold at night, especially in the forest camps, so some kind of sleeping bag is required. We recommend a 1-2 season lightweight sleeping bag. However, you may also wish to bring a silk or cotton liner or thin sheet for warmer nights, though this is optional.

Roll mat or Thermarest (optional extra – dependent on camp) Not essential. Can be used for both warmth and comfort. Roll mats can be purchased cheaply, whereas Thermarests are more of an investment (be sure to buy a repair kit).

Hiking boots/Jungle boots These are essential. Make sure your boots have firm ankle support, a semi-flexible sole with good grips and dries relatively quickly. Jungle boots (available from Nomad Travel— and some Army Surplus stores) are ideal for very wet conditions, but are not comfortable for long or daily trekking. Light-weight Gore-tex (or a cheaper equivalent) boots are waterproof and dry quickly in the climate, and are a much more comfortable and sturdier alternative. Ensure you wear in your boots before the expedition in order to avoid painful blisters.

Walking gaiters (optional) As mentioned, it can be very wet and muddy in the forest. Gaiters can help to keep your boots and the bottom of your trousers more dry. Please note these are optional and not a requirement.

Marine booties/Hiking sandals are absolutely essential for walking through rivers at the forest site. Dive boots that cover the ankle are recommended as these will also provide cover from mud and biting insects. Please ensure they have a solid sole with a good grip and fit your feet well. A good alternative to dive boots is hiking sandals (TEVA or similar). These should have a firm grip and fit well. If you are visiting the marine site also then dive boots will be needed here, so one pair can be used at both sites. Please note that your walking boots and flip flops are NOT suitable for river crossings.

Footwear for around camp When sitting/walking around camp you will need to air your feet as much as possible and keep them dry. We recommend bringing a pair of good fitting, open toed sandals for this purpose, so that the air can get to your feet. A paid of TEVA style sandals as per the above would be fine, however these shoes must be dry whilst around camp, so ensure they are easily dried if also using them for river crossings. Flip flops are not suitable for walking around camp, but these can be used at the marine sites and in Labundo village if you are visiting here.

Clothing essentials We have compiled a list of what we believe to be essential items of clothing and have indicated numbers of each, based on a 2 week expedition. Light colours (not white) are recommended as they don’t retain the heat, also a combination of natural and synthetic fibres are advisable – whereas nylon has the advantage of drying quickly it can also cause you to sweat more thus causing chaffing and heat rash. Cotton on the other hand is kind to your skin, but can take a while to dry. Both have their strengths and weaknesses – ask advice when purchasing, though in the end it comes down to personal discretion and preference. As mentioned on our travel page, certain items of clothing are not appropriate due to cultural attitudes ; we hope you understand and respect this conservative sentiment – your suntan may be slightly compromised but you will leave knowing that you haven’t offended any of the locals.

  • Lightweight long trekking trousers 2-3 pairs (trousers that zip off at the knee are ideal). Thin cotton trousers are not suitable for trekking as these will rip on spiky plants, but one pair can be brought in addition to trekking trousers to be worn around camp.
  • Long shorts 1-2 pairs
  • T-shirts (loose fitting – no vests or crop tops) x 4
  • Fleece top  x 1
  • Long sleeved shirts x 2
  • Underwear – at least 1 weeks worth, 2 weeks better (Sports bras recommended for girls)
  • Swim suit (not bikini) or shorts x 1
  • Nightwear (shoulders covered and no short shorts for girls) x 1
  • Hiking Socks  x 6 pairs

Hat with a brim (optional but advised) Dehydration and heat exhaustion are two potential debilitating illnesses, especially in the first few days of expedition before you have fully acclimatized. The wearing of a hat in conjunction with regular fluid intake can make all the difference.

Waterproof jacket Rainfall is unpredictable in this part of the world, so a plastic poncho or lightweight rain-jacket is invaluable.  Expensive heavyweight goretex raincoats are not recommended – they are hot and may get snagged and torn by rattan.

Small towel/sarong Don’t bring a big thick towel as it won’t dry and is heavy and sarongs double up as sheets. There are also special travelpac towels on the market, which work very well, but these can be pricey, so it’s up to you.

Water bottles/platypus, etc A combination of leak-proof plastic bottles (total capacity 2 litres minimum) is imperative. There are many different styles to choose from (and many different prices) – it is not necessary to get anything fancy, though if you do want to invest in one of the ‘hydration systems’ on the market (Platypus, Camelback or Ortileb), they have the advantage packing flat when not in use, and often come with drinking tubes which may be useful if you plan to continue trekking post expedition. Nalgene, do a heavy-duty wide mouthed bottle with a measuring gauge. Check that the bottle you bring can take very hot water.

Strong Head Torch The stronger Petzl head lamps come highly recommended, though please note that ‘mini petzl’ models are no good for spotlighting nocturnal wildlife such as frogs, but are excellent back up torches should your main one fail. Mini maglights now come with very useful headbands so this might be an option. It is recommended that you bring a backup torch and enough spare batteries to cover the duration of your expedition.

Batteries 12 Duracell batteries with be sufficient for a two week expedition where you are spotlighting most evenings. (batteries are of a very low quality in country, so please bring them with you).

Watch with alarm It doesn’t have to be anything technical, but there will be times when you have to get up very early. A travel alarm clock will also do. If you get a cheap watch that is also waterproof then this can double up as your dive watch if you are also visiting the marine site.

Medical Kit See below.

Biodegradeable soap/shampoo/washing liquid To minimise impact on the environment we ask all volunteers to bring ‘green’ detergents. Most volunteers will at some point be washing directly in streams and rivers but it is worth considering that all waste water is untreated and will return to the surface water system eventually, so please bring biodegradable shampoo and body wash.If you want to wash any of your own clothing please bring a bottle of Ecover (or similar) clothes washing liquid – this is essential for the mobile expeditions. This will be donated to the village for general use afterwards. If you are visiting Labundo on your expedition you will alternatively be able to pay the lady of your house to wash some clothes for you. Unfortunately, biodegradeable soap is not available in Borneo.

Insect repellent There are mosquitoes and other biting insects that can carry disease vectors for malaria, dengue and other diseases present at the site.  In order to protect yourself you need to be covered up at all times and to apply mosquito repellents on any bare skin (eg face and hands). However, you are joining a conservation research project, which at this site involves handling or being in close proximity to amphibians.  Mosquito repellents containing deet can kill amphibians if you are handling them with hands covered in deet and since some of the species you will be encountering are Critically Endangered, we want to be sure that those participating in the surveys are not wearing deet.  There are other animal handling or close proximity projects where deet is also a major issue, so it makes sense to look for the most effective non deet repellent available for when you are involved in animal handling or close proximity projects (see and Many of our staff use Mosi-guard which can be bought from Amazon.

Talcum Powder/Anti Fungal Powder Due to the humid nature of the tropics, and incessant rain at the beginning of the season, it is imperative to take extra special care of feet and crotch areas. Regular application of talcum powder can aid drying, and anti fungal powder can help prevent and combat athletes foot and other fungal infections.

Sanitary pads/tampons Please bring a supply even if you do not expect to use them, as these will be very difficult to buy on the expedition.

Sunblock An essential part of any tropical expedition kit – SPF 30 minimum recommended.

Notebooks and pencils These are a necessity for all field work. Dissertation students are advised to bring waterproof books.

Sunglasses (optional) Expensive brands not advised, as they may break or get lost.

Binoculars (optional) This will make a huge difference to your expedition and the animals and birds you will see. 8×42 binoculars are recommended if bringing.

Plug/socket adapter (optional) There is electricity in Labundo for charging cameras etc, but you will need a plug adapter suitable for your equipment.

MP3 player/playing cards/book (optional)  There will be some down time during the expedition where you may want some form of entertainment. You will be expected to leave kit in your hut/backpack during the day, therefore we can’t guarantee the safety of any electronic devices that you bring.

Camera (optional) If you have one bring it – you will come back with some amazing pictures. Consider a disposable camera if you are worried about safety/dirt/humidity, the underwater ones can be great if you are diving. Keep it in a ziplock bag.

Indonesian phrase book or dictionary This is a recommendation stressed by previous volunteers. Those who brought them found them invaluable, those who didn’t sorely wished they had.

Communications Please note that there is no phone signal inside any of the forest node camps. We use radios and satellite phones to maintain emergency communications, but these are not available for use by volunteers and are for emergency use only.

What to take for marine based projects

Dive Training Courses All those learning to dive will need to bring a PADI Open Water manual, RDP and logbook with them. They’ll also need a form of PIC, which allows you to register your completion of the course at the end of it. You can find information on purchasing these from If you want to buy these items elsewhere, please remember that the PIC is rarely included with the training materials, but it is still required. You can buy them on their own from our partners, but they’re £28 (or equivalent) each. You will not be able to complete the Open Water course if you arrive on site without these items. Please also ensure that you have a paper PIC, not electronic, due to the remoteness of our dive sites.

If you are already a qualified diver, we will require proof of your dive qualifications on site. You will also need to bring with you your completed log books, and PADI forms. We do accept non-PADI qualifications, as long as it is equivalent to or more advanced than PADI Open Water.

PADI Forms This is not essential, but it is always a good idea to bring hard copies of your PADI forms with you to site. What is essential however is that you submit your PADI forms to us online in advance of the expedition so that they can be checked and stored. You can do this via our portal.

Diving and Snorkeling Equipment

With spending so much time in the water, you want to make sure that you have the correct equipment. Some of this can be hired on-site but in terms of comfort, temperature, hygiene and time on-site some of you may wish to buy your own. Below is a list of essential equipment required. If you do wish to buy any of these we strongly suggest that you call the agents that we work with directly (see below) as they will be able to provide you with both excellent advice as well as giving you information on their best deals! Purchasing equipment is especially recommended for those on-site for 6 weeks or more, as it will be far more cost-effective for you to buy.

Dive watch or computer  – Please note, dive watches/computers are compulsory for dissertation students, recommended for longer term university research assistants and only recommended for schools or one-week research assistants if they already have one. A timing device is a requirement under PADI regulations for qualified divers and, although there will always be a divemaster with every group, as a budding scientific diver you will be required to plan your dive with your buddy which includes timing your dive and safety stop. Also when snorkelling you are limited to how long you can be in the water for at one time therefore we ask that if you have a waterproof watch or dive computer please bring it with you. If not you can buy a simple Casio W800 watch waterproof to 100m (not that you will be going any deeper than 18 metres – however they are more reliable) for approximately £15 on Amazon.

Wetsuit It is essential that everyone bring a full length wetsuit with them, we suggest a minimum of 3mm but 5mm is also fine. This is to protect you from stingers in the water and sunburn and also to keep you warm! Triton Scuba have designed a package that includes this item as well as all the other required items that are on the kit list.

Marine Booties  As you will be walking to and from boats it is compulsory that you have a pair of marine booties to do this, flip flops are not allowed to be used in the water. Booties are required as they cover your entire foot, can be worn with clip fins and to the boat where they can be left when in the water if you are wearing full-foot fins.

Fins, mask and snorkel (optional) These items can all be hired on site, or you can bring your own if you prefer.

Dive knife This is a recommended but not essential item (compulsory for dive staff).

Swimsuit and rashvest Borneo is a Muslim country; therefore to show respect to our hosts we have strict dress code rules. Midriffs cannot be shown at any time, this includes when preparing to get in the water. For both comfort and modesty please bring a rashvest that can be worn under your wetsuit and on top of a bikini/swimsuit where necessary.

Underwater slate, notebooks and pencils One A4 underwater slate is provided for all dissertation students for the duration of their project and for RA’s to use as required depending on the projects that they are involved with each week. However you may also wish to bring your own as they are one of the most handy items to have underwater! Normal notebooks, pens and pencils are also essential for making notes during lectures. Underwater slates can be puchased individually or as part of the package with Triton Scuba.

Other Items

Sunblock Please bring plenty of waterproof sunlotion with a minimum of SPF 30. The sun in Borneo is extremely strong and you can get sunburnt within minutes, guaranteed to cause discomfort for days. Where possible please purchase coral friendly sun cream. These are products that use natural sun blockers such as Zinc Oxide or Titanium Dioxide, instead of the checmical ones. E.g Solbar Zinc sun protection cream (

Sunglasses A good pair are important to protect your eyes from the glare reflected from the water.

Flip flops In addition to the booties mentioned above for in-water or active activities, bring a pair of flip-flops for use on land.

Hat An important barrier against heat stroke and glare from the sun and good to wear on the boats as well.

Lightweight waterproof jacket Unfortunately, it’s not always sunny, and a lightweight windcheater/waterproof jacket is invaluable for keeping you warm on boats and the occasional tropical downpour!

Insect repellent There are mosquitoes and other biting insects that can carry disease vectors for malaria, dengue and other diseases present at the site.  In order to protect yourself you need to be covered up at all times and to apply mosquito repellents on any bare skin (eg face and hands). However, you are joining a conservation research project, and if you will be at our forest site this will involve handling or being in close proximity to amphibians.  Mosquito repellents containing DEET can kill amphibians if you are handling them with hands covered in DEET and since some of the species you will be encountering are Critically Endangered, we want to be sure that those participating in the surveys are not wearing DEET.  There are other animal handling or close proximity projects where DEET is also a major issue, so we recommend that you look for the most effective non DEET mosquito repellent available in your area (see and Many of our staff use Mosi-guard which can be bought from Amazon.

Torch/headlamp A torch is vital for when you are walking back to your accomodation at night. The huts on do not have electricity in them so we strongly suggest a head torch to ease navigation inside and outside of your hut.

Biodegradable soap and shampoo etc Please bring biodegradable soap and shampoo with you to Borneo. Shampoos are available in country, however Borneo does not stock biodegradable products.

Water bottle It takes nearly two weeks to acclimatize to tropical climates and you will need to drink 2-3litres of water a day. To reduce our plastic waste please bring a water bottle with you. Fully filtered drinking water is constantly available for re-fills.

Padlocks At the marine sites we have small lockers for your passports, tickets and valuables. Please bring a padlock with you, we recommend the combination type as this ensures access without keys, which are easily lost.

Laundry Your landlord on the dive site will do your washing for you charged at a small fee per item, see the money section for approximate costs.

Clothing advice As mentioned, Borneo is a Muslim country. The dress code enforced on site is as agreed with the local community. As soon as you arrive in Borneo and throughout your journey to and from the marine sites, everyone must keep their knees, shoulders and midriffs covered at all times. A sarong is an extremely useful item to keep on you at all times. Once you are on site, you may expose shoulders, but no midriffs are to be shown and mid-thigh/knee length shorts are required. Please don’t go against these rules; it is disrespectful and you will only cause offence to our hosts. You will not need to bring many clothes, we have suggested a packing list below;

  • One or two pairs of knee length shorts
  • 2 – 3 T-shirts/ long sleeve shirts to cover shoulders
  • 2-3 vest tops to wear when in resort area
  • Swimsuits / Bikinis / rash vest to be worn under wetsuits
  • Light waterproof coat
  • Jumper / long trousers / long sleeves for cooler evenings and those of you working on Fisheries or Social Science projects that are based on Kaledupa
  • Sarong

Where to buy

For terrestrial projects we highly recommend the following (UK only); Nomad Travel (0207 833 4114) – discounts on equipment and vaccinations available. Please email for a voucher. Travel with Care (01980 626 361) ( offer a 10% discount to Op Wall volunteers.

For Marine Projects we highly recommend the following (UK only); Triton Scuba (02392 838773) Dive kit packages are available at discount prices, call Triton directly to discuss. Watersports Warehouse (01736 751066) If you want a discount code please email Call Watersports Warehouse for more information.

US and Canadian contacts In North America Back Country Gear and US Outdoor Stores have a good selection of equipment for the forest for volunteers in the US, whilst Mountain Equipment Co-operative is the best for Canadian volunteers. Scuba Store has a good range of marine equipment with outlets in both the US and Canada.

Medical Kit

There is a medical centre and medical professional on-site, but you must bring your own personal medical kit to deal with the basics. The following are recommended items:

  • Rehydration salts (Dioralyte/Electrolade) bring a plentiful supply ESSENTIAL
  • Antihistamine tablets (Piriton/Piriteze) and/or antihistamine cream
  • Hydrocortisone cream
  • Paracetomol (bring a plentiful supply 2/3 packs)
  • Ibuprofen (bring a plentiful supply 2/3 packs
  • Alcohol swabs/antiseptic wipes
  • Elastoplast – waterproof and fabric x 4, medium size (if allergic, use micropore) ESSENTIAL
  • Iodine liquid
  • Cotton wool or gauze
  • Blister plasters
  • Crepe Bandage and safety pins
  • Sanitary towels/tampons – Please note: Tampons are not available in Borneo
  • Sun cream (SPF 30+)
  • Insect Repellent [link as above]
  • Malaria prophylaxis
  • Ear drops such as swim ear (dive projects only)

You may also wish to consider taking the following:

  • Sea sickness tablets or aquastraps/seabands (the boat journeys can be rough)
  • Sterile gauze Non-adhesive dressing, medium size (Melonin)
  • Zinc oxide tape
  • Canestan pessaries (treatment of vaginal thrush if you are prone to this)
  • Anti-fungal cream
  • Vitamin/mineral supplements and/or protein bars/snack bars

Important If you need to take prescribed medicines whilst on expedition, please bring sufficient supplies to cover your stay. For example if you are asthmatic you MUST bring you own inhalers, or if you have a history or recognized risk of going into anaphylactic shock due to an allergy, you must supply your own Epipen. Always waterproof and clearly label drugs (with generic, rather than trade names). Occasionally there are restrictions on travelling with certain medicines. If you think this may be relevant to you, please contact your Home Office Drugs Branch (in the UK: 0207 273 3806).