What We Wear
Many of you asked about what we wear when we go into the rainforest.
First and foremost, we must protect ourselves. There are lots of ticks, chiggers, mosquitoes, ants, and a few snakes that could bite or sting. So, we always wear long pants tucked into our socks and hiking boots that come well above our ankles. This helps to keep the ticks and chiggers and ants from getting inside our pants! We inspect our clothing periodically to see if any critters have tried to hitch-hike. We don't want them attaching themselves to our clothing and ending up back in our houses in our beds and chairs. Of course, we watch where we're stepping: we don't want to disturb a snake that may be hard to see because of its color blending with the forest foliage. The boots we wear have heavy soles and good ankle support and are thick enough so that spines from trees can't pierce our feet or ankles.
We carry strips of masking tape stuck on the outside of our pants. This can be used very effectively to remove ticks that find their way onto us. It really works. Jane says she will use this technique the next time she goes hiking back in New Jersey where there might be ticks.
We usually wear a cotton t-shirt tucked into our pants. The pants are 100% cotton painter's pants in a light color so that brown ticks are easy to see on the light background. Around our waist we wear a fanny pack in which we carry a bottle of water, a light snack like granola bars or fruit, some tissues, maybe a small flashlight, a pen and small note pad for noting the animals we see, where we are when we see them, and what time it is. We also carry a compass and a map of the island. Because the forest growth is so dense, we can't see far distances so we must rely on skills other than looking into the distance for landmarks in order to get where we want to go. The trails have markers to help hikers locate their position and we will explain that another time. We always carry binoculars or field glasses to help us identify animals in the trees. For example, it could be difficult to tell for sure what kind of monkey you were looking at in the tree tops without binoculars. And Jackie has marked some squirrels with colored beads that are hard to see without binoculars.
Sometimes Jane wears a sweat band. Jackie pulls her hair back. Greg often wears a cap. The bottle of drinking water is probably the most crucial item in our packs. We sweat a lot in the heat and very high humidity. Our bodies won't function adequately without enough water so we must drink every hour or so to replace what we are losing.
This is dry season now in Panama, and it lasts from late December to April. (But this varies somewhat) The trails are quite dry now, but in rainy season they are very muddy. At that time of year we would also use electric boot driers each night. We don't usually wear raincoats because it's too warm to wear them. We just get wet. It still rains some days in the dry season, but not every day, and we don't mind it much-- just need a hat so that we can see. However, if we are carrying equipment like a camcorder, we also bring either a plastic poncho or bag to protect the equipment. Jackie always carries a camcorder.
Some people use bug spray, hoping to keep the insects away. We haven't found it makes much difference. Jackie is right now itching a lot from numerous tick bites she got when crawling around under a fruiting tree to set up an automatic camera. Many animals use that tree for feeding and must have dropped off bunches of ticks that laid eggs. The baby ticks hatch at the beginning of the dry season (now) and are about as big as the period at the end of this sentence. They usually hatch in clusters of a few hundred!
Oh, and in case any of you are wondering, nobody worries about makeup much. You'd just sweat if off anyway.
Well, that's about all we have to say about what we wear and why. We hope you've enjoyed this entry. Talk to you again soon.