Fiji kit list
The objective is to take the smallest amount of equipment needed to be comfortable and safe. You will 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 the terrestrial element of your expedition
All equipment listed below is essential. 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 pack. 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, decide what you want not only for now but for the future. Make sure you have a waterproof cover for the rucksack.
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 ziplock (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 – the choice is yours. 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 Needed for your field work for carrying water, paper, pens, binoculars, cameras etc.
Sleeping bag It can get surprisingly cold at night, especially in the forest camp, so some kind of sleeping bag is required. We recommend either a 1 or 2 season lightweight sleeping bag, a fleece bag or a silk or cotton liner in conjunction with thermal underwear.
Roll mat or Thermarest Can be used for both warmth and comfort in the forest. Roll mats can be purchased cheaply, whereas Thermarests are more of an investment (be sure to buy a repair kit.)
Hiking boots/Jungle boots 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—www.nomadtravel.co.uk 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 Fijian climate, and are a much more comfortable and sturdier alternative.
Sandals Teva type/reef sandals crocs or flip flops are a necessity as you will want to let your feet breathe after a long day’s hiking. The advantage of Tevas are that they stay on securely in water, flip flops are fine for on-land but are not suitable for wearing in the water.
Clothing essentials We have compiled a list of what we believe to be essential items of clothing and have indicated numbers of each. Dark colours are recommended as they don’t show the dirt, 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.
- Lightweight long trousers 1 or 2 pairs
- Long shorts 2-3 pairs
- T-shirts (loose fitting – no vests or crop tops) 4
- Fleece top 1
- Long sleeved shirts 2 -3
- Thermal underwear 1 set (optional, most people do not need these)
- Swim suit (not bikini) or shorts 1
- Hiking Socks 6 pairs
Hat 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.
Waterproofs 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.
Towel Needs to be quick drying. A travel towel, small/thin towel or sarong are ideal but do not bring a standard towel.
Water bottles/platypus A combination of leak-proof plastic bottles (total capacity 2 litres) 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. (Fijian batteries are of a very low quality, so please bring them with you).
Watch with alarm It does not 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.
Medical Kit See health and safety section.
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. Please bring both personal soap such as lifestyles or mountain suds and 1 bottle of Ecover (or similar) clothes washing liquid. The latter will be donated to the village or base camp for general use. Unfortunately, biodegradeable soap is not available in Fiji.
Insect repellent ‘Mosi-Guard’ is an effective, environmentally friendly insect repellent that does not contain DEET.
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 other areas. Regular application of talcum powder can aid drying, and anti fungal powder can help prevent and combat athletes foot and other fungal infections.
Sunblock An essential part of any tropical expedition kit – SPF 30 minimum recommended. Please bring reef-safe sunblock (http://www2.padi.com/blog/2013/06/27/coral-reef-safe-sunscreen-for-scuba-diving/) because the reefs are very healthy and very shallow so therefore susceptible to damage.
Binoculars (8×42 recommended) Without binoculars your experience will be much reduced. You will not be able to see the birds nearly as well if you don’t take a pair of binoculars with you.
Sunglasses A good pair are important to protect your eyes from the glare reflected from the water.
Notebooks and pencils These are a necessity for all field work.
What to take for the marine element of your expedition
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 http://opwall.com/get-involved/making-a-payment/padi-pack-and-pic-purchase/ 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 us, but they’re £26 (or equivalent) each. You will not be able to complete the Open Water course if you arrive on site without these items. 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: These need completing online via your portal (https://portal.opwall.com) as soon as possible and no later than 3 months prior to travel. Just login and click the “Your PADI documents for this booking” link. Regardless of whether you are snorkelling, diving, are already qualified, have a planned course in the future, are qualified under a different (non-PADI) body, all participants have to complete the information. Please be completely honest in your answers to medical conditions.
It is very important you do this as soon as possible. Depending on the answers to the medical statememt, you may have to see either a doctor or a dive medic. This can take time, sometimes a couple of months if tests are required, and we are not allowed to let you in the water if it’s not done.
The form itself has to be completed by yourself and then accepted by a parent/guardian. If you’ve not set up a parent/guardian account you will have to do that first.
Wetsuit Everyone needs to bring a full length 3mm wetsuit with them. 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.
Rash vest For those that “feel the cold” it is advisable to bring a rash vest with you which is worn underneath a wetsuit for added warmth.
Mask and Snorkel. Ample supply available for hire, but you may want to purchase your own to ensure a good fit.
Fins and Booties. Fins come in two varieties, full foot fins (booties not necessary), and fins with straps that require neoprene booties. It is completely down to personal preference. Fins are available for hire on-site.
Weight belt. These are supplied – please DO NOT bring your own weights.
Octopus/regulator and console. This is your breathing apparatus, only worth buying if you plan to do a lot of diving in the future. We do, however, hire these out.
BCD. BCDs (buoyancy control devices) are inflatable vests that can be inflated/deflated to alter your buoyancy under water. Available for hire.
Spares. If you have your own kit, we would recommend spares such as mask and fin straps and snorkel keepers.
Dive watch or computer A timing device is a requirement under PADI regulations for qualified divers. However, PADI allows Open Water divers to go off diving in buddy pairs on their own without a Divemaster whereas Opwall regulations require that all divers are accompanied by a Divemaster who times the dives of the whole group. Under these circumstances we don’t consider it absolutely necessary, but it is a really useful to have one because there may be times when you have signed out for snorkelling and need to be back at set times or on other occasions when having your own timing on a dive would be useful such as if you and your buddy do a shorter dive than the rest of the group. So if you have a waterproof watch or dive computer please take it. If not buying something as cheap as a Casio W800 watch that is water resistant down to 100m is more than adequate and is reasonably priced on Amazon.
Padlocks At the marine site 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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org for a voucher. Travel with Care (01980 626 361) (www.travelwithcare.com) offer a 10% discount to Op Wall volunteers.
For Marine Projects we highly recommend the following (UK only); Triton Scuba (02392 838773)http://www.tritonscuba.co.uk/environment/operation-wallacea/. Dive kit packages are available at discount prices, call Triton directly to discuss. Watersports Warehouse (01736 751066) http://www.watersportswarehouse.co.uk/shop/scuba-diving-equipment/operation-wallacea.html. If you want a discount code please email email@example.com. 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 Storehas a good range of marine equipment with outlets in both the US and Canada.
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 essential items:
- 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)
- Rehydration salts (Dioralyte/Electrolade) bring a plentiful supply (8-10 sachets)
- Alcohol swabs/antiseptic wipes
- Elastoplast – waterproof and fabric x 4, medium size (if allergic, use micropore)
- Cotton wool or gauze
- Blister plasters
- Hand sanitiser
- Crepe Bandage and safety pins
- Sanitary towels/tampons
You may also wish to consider taking the following:
- Sea sickness tablets or aquastraps/seabands for boat journeys
- Sterile gauze Non-adhesive dressing, medium size (Melonin)
- Zinc oxide tape
- Canestan pessaries (treatment of vaginal thrush if you are prone to this)
- Ear drops such as swim ear (dive projects only)
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).
We recommend “A Rapid Biodiversity Assessment of the Nakauvadra Range, Ra Province, Fiji” which details several taxa from the region.