Summertime in the Everglades National Park is, in a word, brutal. It is not a hospitable environment for those of us who spend most of their day in air conditioned buildings. I didn't realize this when my wife and I first moved down back in 2005 and so I put on my shorts and my short sleeve T-Shirt one morning and headed out for sunrise to see what photographic opportunities awaited (no bug spray either). I drove and drove until I found the place I wanted. This place had the potential to yield beautiful sunrise reflections in the water and the small mangroves growing there. So, I got out of my car and started setting everything up and just as the sun started to rise I realized my mistake. It only took a few moments for every inch of my exposed skin to be covered in biting flies and mosquitoes. I screamed (a high pitch shrill of a scream), threw all of my stuff in the car, left the Everglades, and didn't return for two years. Why did this have such a negative affect on me? Because I wasn't prepared.
You might be asking why I just don't go in the winter? Well, I do go in the winter but the Everglades truly come alive in the summer time. The water is up, the skies are filled with dramatic clouds, and storms roll in and out daily. I often say the best time to be in the Everglades is also the worst time. You may also be asking why in the world would I keep going back? That's an easy answer; because I want great photos. The more I go the more I learn and the more I learn the more I want to go back and the more I go back the greater photo opportunities present themselves.
After my initial experience I started piecing together what I needed to survive the Everglades in the Summer. Each time I would venture out I would come back with some "thing" that I needed to make it through the next time.
If you venture into the everglades or are thinking about going I have put together a list of items that will make your experience as good as it can be. I have also included links on some of these items should you want to pick them up. Robert Chaplin is a great photographer as well as a friend. His website has a store where a good bit of this is can be purchased. Take a look here.
- Snake Boots: These are not just for snakes though a little piece of mind goes a long way. If you purchase a pair make sure they are waterproof. Much of the glades are wet but only to about calf deep. So these boots not only keep you a little safer from our slithering friends but they keep your feet dry. Take a look here to see the type that I purchased.
- An Old Set of Sneakers: Some places can have water up to your waste or higher and while the snake boots are waterproof they don't offer any help in deep water. Oh, and an extra pair of socks is a great addition. Some dry shoes or the snake boots mentioned above would also be a good idea. Sorry, I don't have a link to your old sneakers... that would just be weird.
- Flashlight: If you think there is a chance that you will be out there before or after sunset a small flashlight will be of great use. Take a look at Robert's Store.
- Bug Tamer Plus Parka: This is the single biggest help that I have come across for dealing with the Everglades in the summer. It keeps all the bugs from getting to all the places you don't want them. It even has a hood with a bug net to cover your face. This is a MUST have. This suit is made of a mesh material that helps keep it cool as well. Take a look at Robert's Store.
- Thermocell: Thermocells work great especially if you are going to be standing in a given spot for more than a few minutes. While this is effective the Bug Tamer Plus Parka is still a must. Thermocells can be found at Walmart or Home Depot or like most things in the universe on Amazon.
- Bug Spray: The strongest you can find. It never hurts to give yourself a quick spray even with the Bug Tamer and Thermocell. Especially if you have expose hands, which I always do when holding my camera. This can be found almost anywhere.
- Walking Stick: You can use a tripod in this instance but it never hurts to have one in your vehicle just incase you want to walk without your tripod. You can find these at many of the National Parks Stores or you can use an old mop handle. Your choice.
- Long Sleeve Shirt (Fishing shirts work good): Keeping yourself covered is a must though with the Bug Tamer you can get away with short sleeves if you plan to wear the parka at all times.
- Long Pants (Military BDUs work great): You can find these at your local Army Surplus store. However, if you want to look online here is a good place.