Equipment Recommendations
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Alarm Clock | Batteries | Rechargeable Electronics | Camera/a>
Flashlight | Mosquito Netting | Locks | Mp3 Player | Tools | Watch

DISCLAIMER My purpose is to save you time and effort in deciding what to take and where to find it. I suggest you consult your local stores to find the best price for the items you wish to carry with you. The items suggested are based on the collective personal experience of previous teams who have made numerous trips with ACTI. Even so, many of these recommendations are in fact purely a matter of personal opinion or preference.

It is very helpful and contributes to economy of space and weight to have any battery powered units you take with you, (flashlight, Mp3 player, etc) to all use either "AA" or "AAA" Alkaline batteries. These batteries are small, efficient, easy to pack and carry and can be purchased almost anywhere. The larger "D" batteries are bulky and much heavier.

Rechargeable Electronic Items

Check the information plate on the transformer and look for a statement similar to this Input A/C 100 - 240v, 50-60Hz (see image below). Such units work in Uganda. You will need a plug adaptor such as the one on the right. It accepts standard USA type plugs in the female side while the male side adapts to fit the common receptacles in most parts of the world. Note: US three prong plugs and standard two prong plugs that are not polarized work find. Click here for info on two prong polarized plugs. The unit to the right also has a port for USB charging for most phones and tablets.

If your transformer label states "Input A/C 120v 60Hz" then it requires a voltage transformer (240 to 110) to prevent damaged or destruction of the device. Side note: I have found the small voltage transformer sold on most travel sites to be unreliable and a poor investment. It makes much more sense to search for a compatible A/C 100 - 240v transformer that has the output you device requires.

The electrical supply in Uganda continues to improve but still is not constant and in remote villages there is none. Therefore battery powered equipment is essential. When electricity is available, equipment with rechargeable batteries can easily be recharged. Many such items with built in rechargeable batteries (laptop computers, digital cameras, Mp3 players, etc.) have a plug in transformer that recharges the battery and will work even with the 220 volts in Uganda without any voltage reduction transformer. (see example below)

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On my first trip, I took a popular Nikon 35mm camera with a snap on flash and several interchangeable lens. This was big and bulky, and after just a week I was tired of having it around my neck. (This also makes an easy target for snatch and run thieves) My first response was to leave the camera behind but soon I found myself missing great photographs. I then decided to take just the camera and the smallest lens. Then I found I was missing great indoor shots due to no flash.

Once home, I went camera shopping and found a small digital camera (mine is the Olympus FE-300. It is small enough to fit in my pocket, had flash onboard, auto focus, even zoom plus other neat features. There are many options to choose from. I do recommend a model with a rechargeable lithium battery as these cameras really use a lot of alkaline batteries. While it is true these cameras cost more at purchase, in the long run, they are much cheaper to use than constantly needed new alanine batteries.

In the last decade the advent of Cellular Phones with Cameras has "almost" eliminated the need for any other camera. I say almost for once again, the issue of keeping a phone charged in rural areas is a challenge. Therefore, I take and use both.

Some on our teams take the disposable cameras and they too are small with built in flash. However, collectively, six or eight of them take up more room than one decent camera and six or eight rolls of film. They do offer the benefit that if lost or stolen, you do not incur a big loss.

If you take a camera that requires FILM, either slides or general use 200 ASA film has produced excellent results. SPECIAL NOTE: The baggage screening equipment used in US airports today WILL destroy film so provision must be made to have it so it can easily be inspected by hand and NOT IN CHECKED BAGS.

Increasingly team members have taken video cameras. It is great thrill to take a video of Ugandan children playing and then let them watch it. The only two issues with a video camera is that is it an expensive item you must keep track of, and a power supply to recharge batteries is not always certain.

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A dependable flashlight is absolutely necessary. The electrical supply is Uganda is intermittent and there is no substitute for having your own source of light. The small LED lights that are readily available provide good light, are easy on batteries, and fit almost anywhere (even on a lanyard around your neck) so you can always have it with you as you never know when a given day's activities will keep you on the go until after dark.

These small flashlight typically require three "AAA" batteries that are small and light. I make certain all my non-rechargeable electronic items use the "AAA" batteries so I need only one size of extra batteries. I put a half dozen in my carry-on and the rest in my checked bags.

Ugandans refer to flashlights as a "torch."

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I take a set of Master locks (all keyed alike or same combination) and about two feet of #1 welded link chain with me. Different location have different provision for locking things up. The main purpose of the locks is to keep from putting a stumbling block in front of others, as any thief could easily cut the fabric on a duffle bag. In some places the chain has been used to secure a door or to lock all my bags together so they would be difficult to carry off.

TSA in the US requires all bags to be unlocked or locked with approved locks. Approved locks will have the logo on the right on them. Do not keep all your keys in once place.

You can also use the self locking nylon "tie wraps" for some measure of security. If TSA cuts them off for inspection, they usually put one of their own in its place.

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Clothing & Net Treatment

I have found that Sawyer Permethrin Premium clothing treatment is another excellent tool to use in dealing with mosquitos and other insects.

It is very effective in treating your outer clothing to help protect you when outside after dark. Directions say that the treatment can take several washings but when I am heading out at night, I always given my pants and shirt a light re-spray. Just follow their directions.

I use the pump spray (see right) which avoids TSA issues with aerosols. When I arrive at a guest house, I spray their mosquito netting an hour or so before bedtime. This way if the net has a hole in it or if a mosquito gets inside, the spray will still get them.

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Mosquito Netting

As stated elsewhere, the war against the mosquito and the diseases they carry is never ending. In some places in Uganda I have slept without a mosquito net. In other places it is a necessity. Most beds in guest houses are single beds with a four inch foam mattress and they almost always have mosquito nets already in place. In the past, I encouraged team members to buy a net and take it with them but that is not really necessary now. If by chance you should end up in a place with no nets, they can be easily purchased for $20 or less. If you take your own or buy one there, it is nice to give it away as you leave. If children slept under a net, it is said the death rate from malaria would be cut in half. There is also good information here.

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Mp3s, CD Players, Walkman, Tapes

I have made the total transition with music players in Uganda. In the early 90s I took a portable cassette tape player, a stack of "C" batteries and a dozen or tapes. Then I went to a portable CD player. Now use a small Mp3 player which uses "AAA" alkaline batteries and holds hundreds of songs. As stated above, the issue of recharging any device in the bush can be a challenge.

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Shortwave Radio

There are a number of small shortwave radios that are designed for international travel. After my first trip I purchased one and took it on several subsequent trips. My purpose was to be able to hear US news on VOA, BBC, etc. However, I doubt I will ever take it again since most of the VOA news beamed into Africa in English is African news with only the major headlines about US events. There are a growing number of radio stations in Uganda (some in native languages and some in English and some that are bilingual). One FM station in Kampala carries the BBC news each day.

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It is always helpful to take a good multipurpose tool with you in Uganda. The Leatherman Tool® has proven satisfactory. It seems on every trip I make, at some point, having such a tool is necessary or at least helpful. On a team that is going to stay together most of the trip, only one would be needed for the team.

If you think you will only go on one trip like this, you might be very satisfied with one of the cheap imitations sold in many stores, but if you want something that will last, get the best to start with.

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Watch/Alarm Clock

I would not wear an expensive watch to Uganda. I simply take an inexpensive dual time zone watch and keep one time zone set to my home time and adjust the other to Ugandan time (East Africa Time). I have never had any trouble waking up in Uganda. Out in the bush, people begin their day at first light and soon there is more than enough noise to wake me up. But if you are a heavy sleeper, you may wish to purchase an inexpensive battery powered digital alarm clock. One word of advice is to remove the batteries when you pack the clock. An small alarm sounding in a checked bag can cause a big problem with TSA. I actually no longer wear a watch. I just use my cellular phone for time.

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