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October 28, 2008 7:19 PM   Subscribe

What was awesome to have when you lived in the jungle?

My sister is going to do research on orangutans in Indonesia sometime next year. Her birthday is in November and I'd like to get her something incredibly useful for her trip. From what I understand she'll be living, quite literally, in the jungle, without electricity or running water. Have you or has someone you know done something like this before? What one item, that can be purchased by a poor law student for $50 or less, were you SO glad you had? I was thinking of a really nice raincoat, but good ones are a little bit out of my price range. Having never lived in the jungle, I'm a little stumped. Any suggestions are greatly appreciated!
posted by PhatLobley to Travel & Transportation (24 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Babywipes? Not very eco friendly but as long as she keeps up with them after they are used, it should be no problem. You could get lots for $50.
posted by pearlybob at 7:26 PM on October 28, 2008

A headlamp.

If orangutans are anything like baboons she'll need to get up at 5am and chase them
down. A headlamp helps you navigate trails while still keeping your hands free.
posted by aetg at 7:28 PM on October 28, 2008

a nice knife. whether a leatherman, a gerber multitool, or something else.

never been to Indonesia, but i am an Eagle Scout with lots of wilderness experience.
posted by nokry56 at 7:30 PM on October 28, 2008

Not under $50, but worth every penny: get her a jungle hammock. Waaaay better than a tent, especially in the wet dampness. There are some less expensive models if you shop around a bit, though I think $100 is about as cheap as they get.
posted by zardoz at 7:35 PM on October 28, 2008

A machete! But I'm not sure she'd be able to take that there.
posted by fiercecupcake at 7:46 PM on October 28, 2008

A good mosquito net, preferably one impregnated with Permethrin.
posted by Etaoin Shrdlu at 7:52 PM on October 28, 2008

Mr. Shrdlu has it right. Indonesia is mosquito heaven, and malaria is everywhere.
posted by Class Goat at 7:55 PM on October 28, 2008

mosquito repellant with as much DEET as you can possibly find. Buy her as much as you can get for $50.
posted by youthenrage at 8:07 PM on October 28, 2008

Quick drying towel and/or socks.
posted by youthenrage at 8:08 PM on October 28, 2008 [1 favorite]

Rubber boots - not a very sexy gift, but a must-have.

Short of that, a pocket-knife / leatherman sounds like a great idea. Thoughtful AND utilitarian!
posted by puckish at 8:08 PM on October 28, 2008

I suggest looking through the Kevin Kelly Cool Tools archive. This pocket-sized UV water purifier is particularly useful. It would let her enjoy her time in the jungle and not bring dysentery back with her
posted by lockle at 8:11 PM on October 28, 2008 [1 favorite]

How about a solar powered charger for her iPod? She'll probably want to hear her own tunes after hearing so many of the local Indonesian Orangutan bands out there. (Sorry, in my world, the idea of a bunch of Orangutans playing music together qualifies as humor). Seriously though, think about the charger.

posted by No New Diamonds Please at 8:20 PM on October 28, 2008

i have an ex-roommate friend who spent last summer in the borneo jungle doing research with orangutans. i'll ask her and get back.
posted by sergeant sandwich at 8:38 PM on October 28, 2008

A friend of mine was in the military during the Panama invasion. He said the individually sealed wet wipes were a godsend during that time.
posted by mattholomew at 9:09 PM on October 28, 2008

You might still be able to buy her a nice raincoat: have you perused the Sierra Trading Post catalog? They have tons of outdoorsy stuff for cheap.
posted by chowflap at 9:21 PM on October 28, 2008

A headlamp and a bunch of batteries, and a couple really, really, good books. (A novel that takes place in the jungles of indonesia would probably be great, if it exists!) A good travel journal. A scented candle or scented lotion. (Smells are really good for making far away places feel more like home.) A really huge memory card for her camera.

Don't get her the practical "mosquito net/hand wipes/etc" gift. She'll get that stuff regardless, and anything else that's truly necessary will be available locally.
posted by Kololo at 10:38 PM on October 28, 2008

ok, here's my primatologist buddy's response:

"She'll have a ton of equipment to carry so you want it to be
1) useful
2) light & small
3) not something that she can get over there (rubber boots are plentiful as long as she's under size 10, she can get wet-wipes there too)

What I could not find there:
-high quality mosquito repellent (30-99% deet)
-medicines from home (make her a care package with anti-histimines, ibuprofen, aspirin, cold/flu medicine (even though it's hot you still get colds), laxatives, tums) because the last thing you want when you are sick is to try to read packaging that is unfamiliar :(
-electrolytes (like gastrolyte) are AMAZING for dehydration, it is like magic, I carry it on me all the time when I'm there
-yes: the permethrin treated mosquito net! Get a big one, mine was too small so I was always sleeping like a mummy to not get elbow bites
-a flashlight that is powered by winding not batteries
-knife sounds good
-industrial dry bags (like for kayaking) from the outdoor sports store, and reusable silica gel (the little packages that say "do not eat") because it is so humid that your electronics get fried. She'll have to read up on this.

Wow I could go on and on...hopefully she has people to give her advice? She can contact me.

Best of all just ask her what she needs. Probably shopping with her and being a support is the best thing that you can do it always takes me a month of stressful preparations and some well meaning gifts don't make the cut. Also tuck a letter into her bag :)"
posted by sergeant sandwich at 10:40 PM on October 28, 2008

A bunch of surgical masks so she can block out the smoke from the huge brushfires which rage through Borneo and Sumatra pretty much unchecked for months on end.
posted by mdonley at 2:03 AM on October 29, 2008

a silk sleeping bag liner, and a small inflatable pillow with pillowcase
posted by 5_13_23_42_69_666 at 2:29 AM on October 29, 2008

Berrocca tablets contain loads of vitamin B and are great for keeping mosquitos away as well as making a tasty orange drink out of purified water.

Waterproof socks and a Swiss army knife. Sweets that don't melt.
posted by Giant luck at 2:47 AM on October 29, 2008

I know it sounds funny but this is cheap, lightweight and easy to do. I spent some time with the Orang Asli in Malaysia and one of the things that really went down very well was when I showed them photos of my world. I had a few small photos of happy times that gave me strength when trekking and became really good ways of communicating visually with my hosts. Other than that, wet-wipes, kendal mint cake, dirolytes, small compass and swiss army pen knife all useful.
posted by numberstation at 3:22 AM on October 29, 2008

I used to live in a village surrounded by rain forest, and I am going to second the mosquito netting (although that could be found there) and insect repellent with DEET -- that was the only thing that worked vs insect.

Also my favorite possession during my 2 yrs overseas: a shortwave radio. Batteries can be purchased in most villages. It was great staying contacted to the rest of the world in terms of news and music. May cost more than 50 dollars though.
posted by Wolfster at 4:27 AM on October 29, 2008

IDNLITJ - but I can remember vaguely being there, and this much I can say. FREEDOM - numero uno reason for being there. Because you can BE and BE among compadres and those compadres can be 2 legged or 4. You can be in nature and breathe nature. And you can eat freely from the ones that grow above and the ones that grow below. And build your house from bamboo - major PLUS - major major. And water, fish and herbs available. And the connection to all that is. What else.......maybe I left something out. But that's the gist of it.
posted by watercarrier at 6:13 AM on October 29, 2008

Good lord, also tell her to bring tons of Benadryl pills, Benadryl cream, and cortisone cream. I'm recovering from being chewed to death in Costa Rica and I would have gone out of my mind without the Benadryl.
posted by fiercecupcake at 8:17 AM on October 29, 2008

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