What do you pack when camping in the Philippines? I celebrate every chance to explore this archipelagic wonder. Camping is one of the best ways to immerse oneself in the country’s rain forests, beaches, and volcanic mountain ranges.
We started out with an extensive and ever-evolving list of things to bring, but so far, this is our semi-final go-to list. Feel free to add or remove items from this list when you’re packing.
- Drinking water. Use good, big bottles, or hydration bladders if you’re super on the go and your bag has provision for it.
- Large water container for places with no water source; for drinking and washing; can be filled at your destination so you don’t have to lug around a full container.
2. Clothes and footwear
- Bring appropriate footwear. If nothing else, the proper footwear can make or break your camping trip. Do your research! When in doubt, go for hiking boots.
- Be prepared for hot, cold, and wet weather. Airconditioning, freezing high altitudes, sudden typhoons, intensely sunny days — don’t underestimate what nature can throw at you , even if this is a tropical country.
- Bring hike- and forest-ready clothes. Don’t underdress. While you want to immerse yourself in the outdoors, it’s also a good idea to avoid the occasional itchy plant, mosquito, or blood leech.
- Bring rubber slippers. You’ll want something to slip on and off at camp or shower areas.
- Bring swimwear. Just in case.
- Don’t forget your socks, underwear, and sleepwear.
3. Electronics, Documents, & Other Valuables
Keep in a safe, dry place. Can be stored in vacuum-sealed food containers (like Lock & Locks) and/or in a dry bag for good measure.
- Phones and other gadgets. Keep minimal.
- Emergency contact equipment, like:
- 2-way radios for your team
- Emergency backup phone — a cheap sturdy phone (think Nokia) you can use if your main phone runs out of battery
- Satellite phone, ideal for solo trips
- Camera gear. Document your trip, but pack with care.
- Chargers, batteries and power banks. Very important!
- Cash. Bring more than enough cash. In more remote areas, cards won’t be able to help you buy anything. Break your cash down into smaller bills before the trip. Php100 bills and below are best. This is simply to avoid awkward-to-difficult no-change situations.
- Important documents like plane or bus tickets.
4. Basic Tools
- Sports watch
- Knife — for everything. We have a few different kinds, mostly switchblades, for different purposes, like cooking, cutting ropes and twigs, self defense and more. But you can have one all-purpose knife a la Bear Grylls, too.
- Pepper spray
- Travel blanket and neck pillow
- Plastic bags/trash bags for trash, dirty clothes, etc.
- Sealable plastic/Zip Loc bags
- Folding umbrella
- Pen and notepad
- Clothesline (twine or any similar string)
- Extra batteries
- Mini carabiners or steel hooks. While extremely useful for hooking things to other things, not all carabiners are made to support the weight of a person.
- Wire cutter
- Face/hand towel
- Body towel
- Wet wipes/tissues
- Alcohol spray or hand sanitizer
- Throat spray (Kamillosan is soothing and doubles as breath freshener; minty stuff can also clear your sinuses and help with motion sickness)
- Feminine wash and toilet seat spray (for traveling; there most likely won’t be toilet seats when you’re camping)
- White Flower, Tiger Balm or any other menthol ointment preferred by your Asian ancestors
- Beauty kit, with:
- Small mirror
- Elastic hair ties and bobby pins
- Small comb or hair brush
- Safety pins
- Face moisturizer (argan oil is my one item to rule them all)
- Your bare minimum amount of makeup
- Cotton buds
- Bath kit, with:
- Shampoo & soap
- Toothbrush, toothpaste, & floss
- Other important skincare items:
- Insect repellent
- Petroleum jelly or body butter for windburns
- Aloe vera gel for sunburns
6. Camping Gear
- Sleeping bag/s
- Travel pillow
7. Cooking Items
- Camping mug
- Camping cutlery like sporks and sprongs
- Portable camping cookware (can double as bowls)
- Mini-stove and fuel of your choice
8. Med Kit
- First Aid
- Gauze pad and medical tape for small and large wounds (better than Band-Aids)
- Glucolyte Plus powder to replace fluids and electrolytes lost due to vomiting or diarrhea if you get sick
- Hydrocortisone cream (for irritation)
- Antifungal cream
- Bandages + clips
- Betadine (liquid povidone-iodine, topical for abrasions)
- Prickly heat powder
- Petroleum jelly
- Cotton pads
- Vinegar — first aid for jellyfish stings
- Emergency meds
- Ibuprofen (e.g. Advil) and/or mefenamic acid – for pain and inflammation
- Paracetamol (e.g. Biogesic) – for headaches, pain
- Diphenhydramine (e.g. Benadryl AH) – for allergies, nausea, may cause sleepiness
- Cetirizine (e.g. Benadryle One) – for allergies
- Loperamide (e.g. Imodium, Diatabs) – for diarrhea
- Bisacodyl (e.g. Dulcolax) – for constipation
- Decongestants like Bioflu or Tuseran (Phenylephrine HCl Chlorphenamine Maleate Paracetamol) – for headache, pain, fever, and/or colds
- Your most essential daily vitamins (C, B complex, fish oil, etc.)
- Antibiotics (like amoxicillin) are prescription only in the Philippines. But, they are good first aid treatment for severe wounds that can’t be treated immediately, like bad open wounds like deep cuts or intense inflammation caused by insect bites.
- Seasonings. Your choice, and it depends on what you’re eating. Cooking oil, garlic, onions, salt, pepper…
- Coffee. Instant 3-in-1 coffee is the just-add-water solution to your caffeine needs. But by all means bring brewed coffee if you have the materials! I’m still figuring out how to pack light and still have my morning barako…
- A protein source. Canned, bottled, preserved goods. Sardines, tuna, dried fish, and corned beef are your friends. We like corned beef because then we don’t need to bring more cooking oil.
- A carb source. Uncooked rice, pasta, baby potatoes, sweet potatoes, or bread. Of these options, bread weighs the least, is very filling, and you won’t need to spend precious water for cooking. However, it’s the most perishable, and though light, may be bulky. Rice consumes the most water, as it needs to be washed. Saltine crackers like Sky Flakes are easy to bring, but they aren’t the most filling of foods. Whatever carb source you like! We like baby potatoes.
- High-energy snacks. If you get the munchies between meals, and you don’t know how to forage for food (we don’t either), pack some good trail food to boost your energy. We like Fudgee Bars, Oreos, and Presto Creams.
- Other snacks and quick-cook foods. Instant noodles, quick-cook soup, oatmeal, cookies. (Knorr’s instant mushroom or crab and corn soups are pretty good, and one sachet is good for four people.)
10. Extra Bags
- Foldable tote bags. For additional items that may come up.
- A small dry bag. A waterproof place to put your valuables when you’re exploring away from camp. Great for the beach, but works anywhere! Your dry bag can also carry extra water or even double as a heat pack when you need it.
Full disclosure, I’ve only gone on a couple of camping trips so far, so I expect to be updating this list as the months and trips pass. Camping can save you accommodation costs, but it’s not about being cheap. Starting out is pretty expensive, by my standards: you have to invest in quality stuff — or learn the hard way. A good bag and a good pair of shoes can make your life considerably easier.
- Tell someone where you’re going.
- Coordinate with the local government. Wherever you’re going, there’s a barangay or town center, city hall, or police precinct nearby.
- Register if it’s required. If unsure, ask. Let them know, even in informal conversation, what you plan to do and how long you plan to stay.
- Exchange contact details. They will very likely be the first responders in case of emergency.
- Don’t forage for food unless you absolutely know what you’re doing.
- We listed antibiotics, but they are your last option. Remember, in the first place, they are prescription drugs. Use if you find yourself badly injured, in danger of infection, with no immediate help at hand.
- Always be alert, and safety first. Not everyone you meet is a nice person. Not all local governments are well-managed, and therefore they may fail you when you need help at odd times.
- Clean as you go for everyone’s own good. Your trash, your dying planet.
Pack as light as you can, but it’s better to be over-prepared than otherwise. The extra weightlifting is worth it, even if you feel like you’ve got your whole house on your back, as long as you’ve got all you need.