Mexico Kit list - Operation Wallacea

Expedition Information

Mexico Kit list

The objective is to take the smallest amount of equipment needed to be comfortable and safe. You will need to carry your equipment and baggage on occasions and there are also maximum weight allowances which vary depending on the airline used. 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.

We have done some research and certain outlets will give you some excellent deals if you mention our name. In the UK our main contacts are: Nomad Travel (0208 881 8706), and Travel with Care (01980 626 361) for the terrestrial projects, Nomad offer discounts on both equipment and vaccinations at their clinics, for a voucher please email . Watersports Warehouse provide good deals on any marine equipment needed please email with Dive Voucher in the subject box and we will send you a copy. Please mention that you are joining an Operation Wallacea expedition when you contact Watersports Warehouse and you should be able to get a further discount on the published prices.

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 whilst Scuba Market has well priced PADI materials.

Try out your kit in realistic circumstances if at all possible before your expedition, especially new boots which can often need time to fully mould to the shape of your feet, and even more specifically new Jungle boots which should be soaked and worn till they dry on your feet to prevent blisters whilst trekking. All baggage, clothes and kit should be clearly labelled to avoid confusion. There are many volunteers, and some may have the same or similar items to you. Valuables are very occasionally at risk. Please make sure you have insurance, record all serial numbers and keep all receipts. Remember to carry all personal documents and cash safely in a concealed money belt.

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

What To Take

Forest kit

Hiking boots Make sure your boots have firm ankle support, a semi-flexible sole with good grips and dries relatively quickly. Light-weight Gore-tex (or a cheaper equivalent) boots are waterproof and dry quickly in the Mexican climate, and are a much more comfortable and sturdier alternative than choosing jungle boots.

Rucksack/travel bag/holdall. 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, you do not need to carry your pack for a long distance in Mexico so decide what you want not only for now but for the future. Please do not bring suitcases as the terrain in camp is uneven and they will not fit inside your tent.

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 plenty). There are some very heavy duty ‘dry bags’ on the market – the choice is yours.

Day bag/Small rucksack. Needed for your field work for carrying water, paper, pens, binoculars, cameras etc.

Sleeping Bag. It will be fairly warm at night in the forest so we recommend a 1-2 season sleeping bag and a sheet or sleeping bag liner than can be used separately on particularly warm nights.

Roll mat or Thermarest. Necessary for comfort when sleeping in a tent in the forest so please do bring one. Roll mats can be purchased very cheaply, whereas Thermarests are more of an investment (be sure to buy a repair kit).

Water bottle/platypus, etc. A combination of leak-proof plastic bottles (total capacity 3 litres) is imperative. There are many styles to choose from – 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, Ortileb) they do have the advantage of packing flat when not in use. Nalgene do a heavy-duty wide mouthed bottle with a measuring gauge.

Strong Head Torch. Night time opportunistic walks require the stronger Petzl headlamps. Please note that the LED and ‘mini Petzl’ models are not as good for spotlighting nocturnal wildlife such as snakes and amphibians, etc, so if you are completing a dissertation project in this area or have a specific interest in this survey you will need to go for a head torch with a stronger beam. Don’t forget spare batteries!

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

Watch with alarm. It doesn’t have to be anything technical. A travel alarm clock will also do.

Biodegradable soap/shampoo. You will be working in a extremely delicate ecosystem so to minimise impact on the environment we ask all volunteers to bring ‘green’ detergents. Please bring personal soap such as lifestyles or mountain suds but as water supply is limited in this part of Mexico please do not bring too many separate projects, particularly conditioners etc, that will increase your water consumption.

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 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.

Sunblock. An essential part of any tropical expedition kit – Factor 30, at an absolute minimum, is recommended.

Talcum powder/Anti Fungal Powder. Due to the humid nature of the tropics, 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/other fungal infections.

Sanitary pads/Tampons. Please bring a supply even if you do not expect to use them.

Hat or bandana. Dehydration and heat exhaustion are two potential debilitators, especially in the first few days before you have fully acclimatised. The wearing of a hat or bandanna in conjunction with regular fluid intake can make all the difference.

Small towel/sarong. Don’t bring a big thick towel as it is heavy and won’t dry quickly enough . Excellent travelpac towels (eg Lifeventure) are available, but can be pricey—a tea towel will do the job. Sarongs dry quickly and can double up as sheets and skirts.

Latin American/Spanish phrase book or dictionary. This is a recommendation stressed by previous volunteers. Those who brought them found them invaluable and those who didn’t sorely wished they had.

Clothing—essentials: Dark colours don’t show the dirt, but they do retain more heat than light colours, so we recommend light colours. 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 – seek advice when purchasing. We suggest using long trousers and sleeve in the forest as there are many biting insects and the vegetation can be quite thorny so please ensure you bring plenty.

  • Lightweight long baggy trousers (2-3 pairs)
  • Long shorts (2-3 pairs)
  • T-shirts (loose fitting – 7-8)
  • Long sleeved shirt (5)
  • Had or bandana
  • Swim suit, bikini or shorts (2)
  • Sweat band
  • Socks (6 pairs)

Binoculars. These are really useful to see much of the wildlife in the forest. 8 X 42 are the best to bring but any you may have at home will suffice.

Camera. You will have lots of opportunities to take pictures but please bring a waterproof carrying case for the camera

Additional kit for dive site

All the equipment listed below is essential for diving projects. Some is available to hire on site, except for wetsuits and dive watches. If you decide to hire, budget around ($15) per day for a full set of equipment. If you plan to continue diving in the future, it might be well worth investing in your own kit. You will need;

  • Buoyancy Control Device (BCD)
  • Regulator
  • Fins
  • Mask and snorkel

Wetsuit. If you wish to use one it is essential that you bring your own wetsuit. The purpose of a wetsuit is twofold, to keep you warm whilst underwater, and to protect you from marine life that may sting you. It is for this reason you cannot dive in just your swimsuit or bikini. The water is very warm though so a thin wetsuit is best or you may wish to use a combination of a rash vest and knee length board shorts as an alernative.

Dive watch or computer. This 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 Dive Master whereas Opwall regulations require that all divers are accompanied by a Dive Master who times their dives. Under these circumstances we don’t consider it necessary but if you have a waterproof watch or dive computer please take it.

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. Both varieties are available for 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, 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.


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

Teva type sandals or flipflops.

Hat or bandana. An important barrier against heat stroke.

Clothes. You may wish to consider bringing along a few additional clothing items for the marine site such as shorts, vest tops or t-shirts or sun dress.

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

Notebooks and pencils. A requirement for all projects – if you want to splash out, waterproof books are definitely an advantage.

Dive torches. If you are an advanced diver or are planning to take your advanced training whilst in Mexico please bring two dive torches, one main torch and a smaller back up torch.

Dive knife. This is a recommended but not essential item.

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 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
Please bring your completed, original PADI forms with you on expedition, but you’ll need to send them beforehand to us for checking. Please find more details on the expedition document pages.

Medical Kit

Although every expedition will have its own medical supplies, and medical teams on site, you MUST carry your own personal medical kit. This way you will be as self sufficient as possible, and able to treat minor scrapes and injuries yourself, which is vital when, for example, you are involved in a jungle training exercise.

The following are essential items:

  • Sun cream (SPF 25+)
  • Insect Repellent
  • Antihistamine tablets (Piriton/Piriteze) and antihistamine cream- please bring plenty.
  • Hydrocortisone cream
  • Paracetomol
  • Ibuprofen
  • Rehydration salts (Dioralyte/Electrolade)- please bring plenty.
  • Alcohol swabs/antiseptic wipes
  • Elastoplast – waterproof and fabric x 4, medium size (if allergic, use micropore)
  • Cotton wool or gauze
  • Blister plasters

You may also wish to consider taking the following:

  • 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 (dive projects only)
  • Vitamin supplements

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).