I have been living in the woods in the UK for over a year now, yes I know it's a stupid thing to to do but it has given me the opportunity to really test out some pieces of equipment to their limits. Some things have fallen apart within very little time and other have proved to be worth their weight in gold. Here are some of my findings.


Plastic_cutlery.jpgIf you want you can spent a fortune on camping cutlery, but why? It invariably gets lost, the combination half a fork, half a spoon things are rubbish - who wants a spoon with holes in or a fork with impractically short prongs. Why not just use plastic cutlery? They give it away in M&S and contrary to popular belief it can be re-used.The only down side of free plastic cutlery over the stuff you buy in camping shops is that it's not as strong and it does tend to melt if you use it to stir whatever you are cooking. That said all the plastic camping cutlery I have bought that wasn't lost ended up snapping eventually - maybe that just says more about my food than anything else.

The one exception to this rule might be titanium cutlery, it won't snap, i'ts light and won't melt unless you are cooking inside a nuclear reactor (don't try this at home). However, do you really need titanium cutlery? It does bend and it is expensive, why not just take a knife and fork from home? Sure it'll weigh a few grams more but unless you're climbing mountains what does it matter? Better yet, fashion chop sticks out of sticks.

Posted on Friday, May 4, 2007 at 11:34 by Registered CommenterJam | CommentsPost a Comment



This is the newer version of the headlamp that I use, mine has the battery pack attached to the back of the head rather than, as here, dangling down. This change has been made to allow the wearer to keep the batteries warm and so get longer use from them.

I bought one of these originally because the specifications in terms of battery life and brightness of light far exceeded any others. The light can be used at one of three levels of brightness which can be handy. A flip up screen in front of the LED allows the torch like spotlight to be refracted and so give a wider field of vision. This does reduce the limit of operational light but if you need to look at something further away simply flip the screen down and you have a spotlight again.

In an emergency set the thing to flash mode and hope someone sees it.

Downside? I have had mine for months and it has been the only source of light that I have had for most of that so it has had a lot of use. Last week it started to turn itself off with startling regularity, this can be quite annoying. Upon further investigation I found that the cable from the light reaches the battery pack has broken so unless the cable happens to be in the right place the light does not work. I emailed Petzl about this and they said they hadn't heard of this problem before but offered to fix it if the problem was due to a fault with the headlamp rather than something that arose through misuse. I decided to fix it myself, partly as I wanted to see how easy it is to fix so that I know if it can be fixed in the jungle and partly because I think the cable probably broke as a result of my wearing it to read in bed.

I will probably take one of these to the jungle with me but the chap at Petzl did say the Petzl Zoom might be better for me as it can be taken apart and maintained.

Posted on Friday, November 10, 2006 at 15:12 by Registered CommenterJam | CommentsPost a Comment

Thermarest Repair Kit

thermarest repair kit.jpgIf you use a Thermarest outside without a groundsheet or other mechanism to keep it off the ground it will get punctures, lots of them.

It stuck me after a few goes of using this kit that it is unnecessarily complicated, sometimes there just isn't the time to boil a pan of water and allow it to cool over the recently fixed puncture. So I would go for days with a flat mattres, in the end I bought a bicycle puncture repair kit for a fraction of the price and fixed the hole in five minutes flat, easy. For long term repairs use the Thermarest repair kit, but if you are out and about I would recommend a bicycle puncture repair kit to keep you going.

Not relevant for jungle use, will be taking a hammock not sleeping on the ground.

Posted on Wednesday, August 16, 2006 at 11:34 by Registered CommenterJam | CommentsPost a Comment

Pre-Mac MWP Water Purifier Pump

water purifier pump.jpgPurifies up to 200 litres of water, tested and approved by the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. Constantly in my Rucksack but never used, so far I have been either taking water with me to the woods or collecting and boiling rain water.

Costs £64.95 from Ray Mears site

Replacement Filters cost £25 from the same.


Whilst I have never used it it is a constant companion "just in case" unless we become aware of any superior product this is coming to the jungle.

Posted on Monday, July 10, 2006 at 13:14 by Registered CommenterJam | Comments1 Comment

Waterproof Compression Sack

compression sack.jpgI bought this from Blacks Outdoors Shop on High St Kensington a week ago for £9.99. So far then it has only had to cope with the rigours of a few days at my parents house and a few days in the woods so I can't give it a full review as yet. Initial impressions are good though, it is made from sturdy material that gives the impression that it will last a long time.

My use for this it as something to store clothes in to both keep them dry, something I imagine is quite important in a Rainforest, and squeeze them down to use up the least space possible. I have experimented will all kinds of waterproof bags and the best of them have given up working after a month or so, this compression sack whilst not yet been fully tested is proving much better than the others that can be bought on the high street.


 Rubbish, the waterproof layer rubbed through on one of the corners within a couple of weeks. The only way I'm taking this to the jungle with me is if I can't get anything better.

Ray Mears sells a similar product on his site but I have not tried his, I assume that they are good.

Posted on Monday, July 10, 2006 at 12:57 by Registered CommenterJam | Comments2 Comments

Fire Steel

fire steel.jpgCreates a spark that with a small amount of practice can be used to create a flame.

Absolutely brilliant, not just because it is hugely rewarding to light a fire without the use of lighter / matches / metal objects and a microwave but also because it is very very useful. It works in all conditions; wet, dry, windy, still, snow, hail, fog whatever. Far more reliable than any lighter could ever be.

Absolutely essential bit of kit

Good for impressing your mates with in the pub when someone asks for a light.


Never go anywhere without it

Posted on Friday, June 30, 2006 at 11:19 by Registered CommenterJam | CommentsPost a Comment


jetboil.jpg50% more fuel efficient than standard gas camping stoves.

The cooking pot doubles as a mug so if you just want to boil water for drinks and to heat boil in the bag meals it is perfect.

Purchase of accessories allows use with conventional cooking pots / frying pans.

A custom made 1.5 litre saucepan is available which utilises the same energy saving technology that allows the Jetboil mug to be 50% more efficient.

Lots of replaceable parts

The ignition went on mine and costs about £10 to replace but seeing as no other stove has an ignition I can't complain. When you are lying shivering in your sleeping bag at 6am having an ignition switch rather than having to fumble about with a lighter is very very pleasing.

Then a gauze went on the burner after about three months but I was using it a few times every day.

Then the lid disintegrated on the cup - expensive to replace but they have now brought out new lids that look much stronger. I'll let you know how they hold up.

I managed to break the mug, mind you I don't suspect it was designed to be dropped off a cliff in a heavily weighted rucksack.

In short then it is a very well designed and handy piece of kit that is perfect for weekends away, a day in the hills or even if you have space, for an emergency brew kit.

I believe that the screw top gas canisters that it uses, standard size fitting, are not available outside Europe and North America.

Overall view

Like having an electric kettle with you, very handy if you want a brew / boil in the bag meal  in a hurry with the minimum amount of fuss. Not much use for anything else and far too fragile for serious use.

Posted on Friday, June 30, 2006 at 10:49 by Registered CommenterJam | CommentsPost a Comment

Berghaus Cyclops II Vulcan

berghaus cyclops ii vulcan.bmpThis is one of the best bits of kit I have.

100 litre capacity as it is.

Unzip the two side pouches - 80 litre capacity.

Attach straps to one of the side pouches and you have a 10 litre day sack.

Zip the two side pouches together and you have a 20 litre day sack.

Having such large side pouches makes a refreshing change, it is possible to fit a stove / jet boil water bottle, plenty of food and still find space to slip in some cutlery and maybe even a book. Storing all food and cooking gear together in one place makes life a lot simpler. The other side pouch has plenty of space for bungee cords, para cord, tent pegs, knives, candles, head torch, radio, basha, camera, boot polish, catapult, binoculars, water filtration kit, etc etc...

Then there is still 80 litres to play with including the ample pocket on the top.

The workmanship and materials can not be faulted, I have put this rucksack through a lot of abuse over the past few months; I lived out of it over the coldest winter for years followed by the wettest May and now we are into a long hot summer and I have nothing but good things to report.

Overall rating  - 100% reliable.

The only damage sustained has been a small hole in one of the pouches caused by a creature gnawing through to get at my rice - now the pack is stored suspended from the ground


Posted on Friday, June 30, 2006 at 10:15 by Registered CommenterJam | Comments1 Comment

Tool Logic SL3 Survival knife


I got one of these as a gift from my parents and it is now with me almost constantly, only really leaving my pocket when going out clubbing or some other activity where carrying a knife is frowned upon. This knife is perfect for cooking and mainly gets used for preparing vegetables, slicing garlic, grating nutmeg (the serrated part of the blade is perfect for this).

Built into the handle is a whistle, useful for attracting attention.

The Fire Steel component creates a spark from which a fire can be lit and so makes this knife a doubly essential piece of equipment. I carry another fire steel and keep the one on the knife for emergency use only, just to be sure I keep a piece of tissue paper wrapped around the Fire Steel, this keeps perfectly dry and a surprising amount can be stored there. The real trick is to replace the tissues when it has been used. I'll just go and do that now.


I never go home without it



Posted on Friday, June 30, 2006 at 10:02 by Registered CommenterJam | Comments1 Comment