Tiputini Biodiversity Station: My Top 6 Tips + Packing List (Everything you need to know)

Teagan Serink Headshot
Teagan Serink
July 4, 2024
The view from aboard a small canoe. The person in front of the camera wears an orange life jacket and a pink sun hat. The canoe is on a small brown lake, which is framed by jungle plants.

As part of my study abroad program, I traveled to Tiputini Biodiversity Station, a research facility located deep within the Ecuadorian Amazon. It is hard to put into words how incredible Tiputini is (but I shall attempt to anyway). It is fully immersed in the wilderness, seemingly beyond the reach of humanity. It’s a magical place, like something out of a dream.

Of course, it took some adjusting to get used to living in such an unfamiliar, remote environment. This post contains the tips I have for future visitors to the station, as well as a packing list. 

Sometime soon, I will be posting a companion post to this one called “Stung by a Bullet Ant (& Other Adventures in Amazonia)”, featuring stories from my own Tiputini trip. So if you’re interested in learning more about the day-to-day at Tiputini, stay tuned :)

Without further ado, here are my 6 top tips and packing list for visiting Tiputini!



1. Bring Enough Clothes, and Make Sure They Fit

Nearly everyone in my group underestimated how much clothes they would need for the trip. The humidity and heat make you sweat a lot more, and thus your clothes get really stinky by the end of the day. You can get away with re-wearing your outer layers (pants, shirt, etc.), but you will not want to re-wear anything on your inside layer. Reluctantly wriggling into the same damp bra that had been glued to my body with sweat the night before is not an experience I am eager to repeat.

Also, make sure your clothes fit as you are packing them. I theoretically brought enough of everything, but once I got there, I discovered that half my bras and tall socks did not fit. I managed to get by wearing ankle socks at mealtimes, but my bare ankles earned me the title of sole sacrificial lamb to the mosquitos. That would not have been my role of choice.

For a complete overview of recommended clothing items, see the packing list at the end of this post.


2. What Not to Bring

There are a few items you will not need at Tiputini. These include:

  • Gumboots/Waterproof shoes – you are required to wear gumboots/wellies/rain boots when you’re on trails outside the station. TBS will provide these for you. Unless you have a very unusual shoe size (like you can only buy kids’ sizes, or need ultra-wide sizes that only a select few brands have), you will not need to bring your own. If you do have an unusual shoe size, email the international coordinator at USFQ and ask if they have boots in your size.
    The shoes you do bring, you’ll wear around the station, on the boat, and during travel days, so wear something comfortable and breathable. Your regular walking/running/hiking shoes will suffice. (For the love of all that is holy, do not choose anything with a waterproof coating like Gore-Tex. You will be suffering).
  • Laptops/Superfluous Technology – You won’t have much time to use your devices for anything other than taking pictures. Laptops are generally unnecessary, unless you rely on one to take notes during lectures. Ereaders, headphones, and gaming devices (e.g. Nintendo Switches) are more in the grey area; you’ll have more time to use them on travel days, but you might be too tired to do so. Phones, portable chargers, and cameras are must-haves, especially if you like taking pictures. Just remember that any technology you bring, you are putting at risk of water/humidity damage, so only bring what you’re sure you’ll use, and take measures to protect it (more on that later).
  • Shampoo, Conditioner, & Body Wash – Tiputini provides its own eco-friendly shower soap in each of the showers. I was skeptical of it at first, but it feels like it’s good quality and has a nice smell. Since the shower water is likely either recycled or dumped outside, it’s best to use the soap that they provide in order to lessen the environmental impact of your visit. However, you might want a travel-sized bottle of your own shampoo for the hotel in Coca.


3. Protect Yourself (and Your Technology) from the Rain

Definitely bring a raincoat or poncho to help you stay dry. I personally prefer ponchos because they can fit over a backpack, cover more of you, allow for more airflow, and are cheaper (I bought a decently sturdy one for $4.00 at the Kywi in Cumbayá). However, some people prefer raincoats because they fit snugly, tend to be more durable, and can have pockets. Whichever you choose, make sure to keep it accessible whenever you are on a boat. If you carry a backpack on hikes, put it in your backpack as well. (I always hiked without a backpack, and thus without a poncho. I had less to carry, but did get completely drenched on one occasion).

I recommend keeping your camera in a gallon ziploc bag or dry bag when you are not using it. If you bring your camera on hikes, bring the dry bag as well in case it rains. Portable chargers, cables, headphones, and any other technology should also be stored in ziplocs or dry bags. My phone has an IP68 rating, so I felt safe keeping it in my pocket, but used a heavy-duty case that has a rubber flap over the charging port (you can find cases like this from Otterbox or SupCase/Unicorn Beetle). Check the IP rating of your phone model to see what level of protection it’ll need from water, and prepare accordingly.

At the station, the humidity will be upwards of 90% (it got to 98% when I was there). This climate is not kind to technology. Whenever you’re not using it, I recommend leaving your technology in a dry box for peace of mind. These “dry boxes” are cabinets with incandescent lights inside them, so the air inside them is dehumidified. They’re located in the library (the building between the dining hall and the cottages), and are accessible to anyone. A lot of my groupmates put their cameras in the dry boxes before bed, but kept their phones and camera batteries in their rooms to charge.


4. Bring Light Sources

The generators at Tiputini only run for certain hours of the day, so lights out is typically at 9:30 p.m. Each cottage has a candle to use at night, which works in a pinch, but isn’t ideal. They don’t provide a ton of light, and if you want light in both the main room and the bathroom, you’re out of luck. To mitigate this, I recommend bringing a battery-powered lantern or two. 

You also will need portable light sources for walking around the station. It’s not super common, but occasionally a venomous snake will ramble through the station at night – you’ll want to watch your step. Some people in my group just used their phone flashlights; I went with a cheap headlamp from the impulse-buy section at Walmart.

If you want to go on night hikes, consider buying a more powerful, brighter flashlight. The guide at the front of the line will have one, but if you’re standing at the back of the line, you might want your own as well. 


5. Prepare for Mosquitos (or not)

At first, I expected the mosquitos in Tiputini to be awful. Soak-your-clothes-in-DEET, Ontario, Canada levels of bad. They were not nearly that bad. If you’ve ever gone camping in, say, the Pacific Northwest, they’re comparable to that (at least during the dry season).

I grew up camping near Edmonton, Alberta, Canada, so I’m fairly desensitized to mosquito bites. I opted not to use any bug spray at all while in Tiputini, since I didn’t want any animals I handled to get a dose of DEET. That said, I still took measures to protect myself from bug bites. First and foremost, I wore long sleeves. That might sound tortuous in hot weather, but I found some jersey shirts online that were really breathable (these will be linked in the packing list at the bottom of the page). Long sleeves protect you from cuts and scrapes in addition to bug bites, so I strongly recommend wearing them.

 I also kept my ankles covered as much as possible by wearing tall socks, though when I ran out of them, my ankles quickly acquired an uncanny resemblance to those of a smallpox victim. Lastly, I took anti-malarial medication, more for psychological reasons than actual necessity (the most recent malaria case in Tiputini was ages ago). Since I decided not to use bug spray, I brought a full tube of After-Bite to treat itching. It worked like a charm.

However, if you’re skittish about mosquitos, the pharmacy at Paseo San Francisco sells bug spray in non-aerosol spray bottles (the journey to Tiputini includes a plane ride, so aerosols are best avoided). They may also have the cream/lotion variety of bug spray, but I don’t remember for certain. 


6. And Now Some Rapid-Fire Tips

  • Definitely go swimming! I was a little hesitant to take a dip in the river, but it ended up being a blast. There’s an eddy current by one of the docks, which acts kind of like a natural “Lazy River” ride. I recommend bringing sandals, since the way to/from the dock can be a challenge to navigate in slides/flip flops.
  • Bring a portable phone charger. This gives you more flexibility about when you can charge your phone. You’ll probably be away from your room while the generators are on, and will only return when the generators are about to shut off. I left a portable charger plugged in while I was out on excursions, and at night I used it to charge my phone.
  • Take a nap in the library after lunch. I’d usually be overheating and out of sorts by the end of the morning excursion. After a 40-minute nap in the air-conditioned library, I’d be right as rain and ready for the afternoon excursion.
  • Bring grocery bags for packing wet/dirty clothes. You don’t want the smell to leech into your other stuff.
  • Use a clamshell suitcase/backpack or a bag with sections. That can help keep dirty and clean clothes separate.
  • Carry hand sanitizer. That way you can still clean your hands if the bathroom sinks don’t have water.
  • Don’t wear pants with cinch mechanisms at the bottoms of the legs. When you’re wearing boots, the plastic bits in the cinch mechanism will constantly dig into your calves. I ended up with a painful rash because of it.
  • Embrace the unexpected! No luck looking for birds at the tower? Ask your guide about the different calls and sounds you hear. Got rained out on a hike? Now you get to say you experienced the rain part of “rainforest.” Stung by a bullet ant? Now you have the perfect clickbait title for your blog (true story! Check out my “Adventures in Amazonia” post). Nature is unpredictable, so roll with the punches and try to make the best of your limited time in Tiputini.


Packing List

Of course, the quantity of items you bring depends on the length of your trip. The variable is the number of full days you will spend at Tiputini Biodiversity Station. This list assumes you will have three travel days (if you’re driving instead of flying, you will have more).


  • Comfortable walking shoes for travel days and walking within the station
  • Sandals or water shoes for swimming (can also be used as shower shoes if you decide you want them)
  • Sunglasses
  • Sun hat
  • Raincoat or poncho – you can buy durable plastic ponchos for $4 at the Kywi in Cumbayá (located here: https://g.co/kgs/gkRsWNu)
  • Light hoodie/windbreaker for travel days
  • Breathable long-sleeved shirts x2n (I bought mine from here: https://tinyurl.com/Jerzees-Shirts)
  • Quick-drying long pants (not jeans) x2n
  • Comfy t-shirts for travel days x3-4
  • Comfy pants/shorts for travel days x3-4
  • Tall/crew-length socks for wearing with boots x3n
  • Comfy socks for travel days x5
  • (for AFAB people) comfortable sports bras for hiking x2n
  • Sufficient underwear
  • Pajamas/Clothes for sleeping in
  • Swimsuit


  • Cell phone and charger
  • Camera and camera batteries, if you use one
  • (Optional) Headlamp or flashlight for walking between buildings at night
  • (Optional) High-lumens flashlight for night walks
  • Battery powered lantern (or 2) for when the power turns off


  • Toothbrush
  • Toothpaste
  • Deodorant
  • Pocket-sized hand sanitizer
  • Sunblock
  • Bug spray
  • After bite/Tiger Balm/Anti-Itch Cream
  • Skin care products, if you use them
  • (Optional) Travel size shampoo/conditioner for hotel in Coca
  • Neosporin


  • Large, refillable water bottle
  • Notebook and writing utensil for lectures
  • Plastic grocery bags for wet/dirty clothes
  • Ziploc bags and/or dry bags for technology
  • (Optional) Snacks
  • (Optional) Anti-malarial medicine
  • (Optional) OTC allergy medicine 
  • (Optional) OTC pain relief medicine

I hope that this information is helpful, and that you have a wonderful visit to Tiputini!

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Teagan Serink Headshot

Teagan Serink

Salutations! My name is Teagan Serink. I’m a junior at the University of North Texas, where I’m studying music, technical communication, and Spanish. I enjoy singing, birdwatching, and herping. This summer, I’ll be studying ecology in Quito, Ecuador!

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