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  • Writer's pictureBushwise

A practical guide to packing for a field guide course

Updated: Dec 15, 2023

BY: Kevin Lefevre

Camp manager blogs are written by our current students who each get a chance to lead and manage a group (of their fellow students) for a period of one week.

Knowing exactly what to pack for any trip can be a mission. I have to admit, I struggled getting my luggage sorted for the six months of the Bushwise Field Guides course. 

Sleeping gear set up for a night in the bush

PHOTO BY: Christian Rabie

Nobody likes to carry unnecessary things in an already heavy backpack. So, in addition to the list of things to pack that Bushwise provides, here are a few tips from a student’s perspective.

1) Leave some items for local shopping

The town closest to the Balule campus is Hoedspruit. Although not massive, it has character and there’s an array of shops to peruse. I found that prices are often cheaper here than back home, especially for international students. Some shops to check out include:

  1. The Great Outdoors for camping gear 

  2. Pick n Pay for overall shopping

  3. Ruggedwear for bush clothing 

Since we wear our uniforms every day, it’s a good idea not to overpack on leisure wear, and buy extra uniforms instead. And the plus side is that uniforms get washed for you on campus.

Example of clothing to pack for field guide course

Leave the fancy suitcase at home, too, and take a sturdy backpack that can stand a beating. Choose one with good back support for walking with, and make sure you can carry everything by yourself.

The local Postnet is a great delivery point when shipping in extra gear. And this can be useful when you miss something you left back home. 

2) Pack books for downtime

When you arrive on campus, you’ll receive a number of books that will assist you throughout the course. The campus library also offers a range of reading material and is available at all times. 

My advice to you is to only pack books for leisure reading. Don’t bring loads of nature books from your own collection. The wifi on campus works well for being in the bush.

Field guide training books being used for exam week.

Take comfortable clothes. The amount of times I repacked my bag, thinking, ‘should I take this?’, or ‘do I look cool in that?’ is ridiculous. Remember, you’re going to do a nature-course with like-minded people. Nobody cares if you bring five pairs of walking shoes. 

Pack one of each essential item of clothing and wear neutral-coloured clothing that you feel comfortable in. 

3) It’s in the little things

Here are some items to include if you want to pack smart: 

  1. a microfibre towel

  2. hydration backpack instead of a water bottle

  3. a small torch that’s easy to carry, or a headlight

  4. earphones over headphones 

  5. a multi-tool instead of a sheath knife

  6. a good sleeping bag (South Africa can get very cold in winter) 

Compare your gear with your fellow students, and make a list of what you feel you’re missing. You will have enough opportunities to buy the remaining things in town. Keep in mind that you have to take everything back home with you when you leave, so don’t buy too much to carry!

Field guide students on the first day

In the end, you can only prepare so much for an adventure. Don’t forget to stop to enjoy the excitement.

Ready for your bush adventure? Browse through our courses and read our FAQs to see what other students want to know before going abroad.




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