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3/19/2016 6:48 AM
 

 


A few years ago whilst leading an expedition in the Ulu  Baram region of Sarawak I became intrigued by a pack carried by one of the team members; during a brew stop I made inquiries and proposed that we swap loads for the next leg so I could try it for myself. So impressed was I with his HPG Ute that at the very next stop I negotiated its sale and bought it on the spot.


I’ve had the good fortune to work in remote and austere environments all over the world; but the majority of my time is now spent in the jungles of Borneo where I am currently based. 


The jungle is simultaneously the toughest and most rewarding environment I have experienced and one I fell in love with more than a decade ago, it offers every resource required to sustain yourself in abundance if you are willing to adapt and conform to it, but a swift lesson in humility to any foolish enough to imagine they can conquer it on their own terms.


‘Do not fight the Jungle, for thou art small and biodegradable’


Working beneath the canopy requires you to move on foot and be entirely self supported; you may travel to work by helicopter or boat, but getting the job done is ultimately going to rely on lots of leg work.

 

 


In the jungle things can go sideways very quickly, flash floods will cut you off, you will experience disorientation regularly, injury and sickness are common and deadfall can throw things into chaos in an instant; for these reasons your Parang, water containers, water disinfection, fire lighting tools and emergency medical kit should always be on your person, or when at rest, within arm’s reach.


 



Belt kit may seem a little old school these days but in the jungle its merits are undisputed,  carrying these essentials on your hips allows you to dissipate heat more effectively and keep your centre of gravity low, both very desirable factors in a hot slippery environment. 


I have been using the Ute and Prairie belt for the past few years and found the durability and functionality of HPG equipment ideal for the demands of the jungle. An especially notable feature of their designs is the attention given to the inevitability of component failure. The rigours of jungle travel put severe strain on equipment and things will eventually break regardless of their construction. I have carried equipment from manufacturers who attempted to mitigate such failure by simple overkill, employing double layer 1000D Cordura throughout for example; the result is equipment with enormous parasitic weight which is still rendered inoperable by a simple component such as a strap buckle breaking, with no satisfactory means to affect a repair or rectify the problem in the field.


Hill People have clearly taken a more thoughtful approach, an understanding that in the wilderness stuff is going to break, it doesn't matter how tough it is or whether it was made in America or Germany other than it might break less often; its just as important that when a component does break the equipment still retains overall functionality and any problems are field serviceable.  


A feature of the Ute pack/Prairie belt combination that in my experience puts it head and shoulders above other pack designs, even dedicated jungle pack concepts, is that it allows you to wear a full belt kit without having to carry the weight of a separate pack entirely on your shoulders.  The ability to throw your pack on and have it integrate into your belt kit, so that you carry the weight on your hips where it is most efficiently supported is what sold me on the Ute. Likewise when I establish a basecamp I can leave the Ute hanging next to my hammock and range unencumbered with just the Prairie belt.



For those who may be curious as to what comprises a jungle belt kit I detail my own outfit; with the caveat that every man’s ‘essential equipment’ is perfect only unto himself and acknowledged to be in a state of constant evolution, not least because one item is always worn threadbare and soon to be replaced, whilst at least one other item is the shiny new thing that we presently think highly of, but which may fall from favour having carried it long enough.


I ask then that you take this into consideration whilst examining anyone’s outfit and reserve judgement, for as Richard Harding Davis expressed it: 


“I have seldom met the man who would allow any one else to select his kit, or who would admit that any other kit was better than the one he himself had packed. It is a very delicate question. The same article that one declares is the most essential to his comfort, is the very first thing that another will throw into the trail. A man's outfit is a matter which seems to touch his private honor. I have heard veterans sitting around a camp-fire proclaim the superiority of their kits with a jealousy, loyalty, and enthusiasm they would not exhibit for the flesh of their flesh and the bone of their bone. On a campaign, you may attack a man's courage, the flag he serves, the newspaper for which he works, his intelligence, or his camp manners, and he will ignore you; but if you criticise his patent water-bottle he will fall upon you with both fists. So, in recommending any article for an outfit, one needs to be careful. An outfit lends itself to dispute, because the selection of its component parts is not an exact science. It should be, but it is not.” -  Notes of a War Correspondent, 1905.    



I have photographed the arrangement as clearly as I can, and in case any particular item prove of interest to the reader for their own outfit I have attempted to list pertinent details such as manufacture or any modification. Lacking the space to explain the reasoning behind the choice of each item, I invite you to request any further explanation as required.

 

Fig.1


 


Fig.2


 



Laid out flat on the floor as shown in figure 1 pouches appear to be arranged too closely to accommodate a pack, but in the figure 2 you will note that when positioned as worn the curvature of the belt provides each component with adequate space. This is a small size Prairie Belt, with five and a half PALS loops per side in two rows, its possible that larger sizes will accommodate more. The black foam padding from within the belt has been removed.  


  

It’s not possible to make out in these photographs but the sheath of the Parang is affixed to lower hyperon loops, via a short loop of bungie cord at the rear loop and paracord at the front. The Parang is hung horizontally along the side of the body where it is less likely to become entangled and does not swing about the leg, this arrangement also allows for ergonomically convenient drawing and re-sheathing when the non dominant hand is occupied, both the design of the Parang and the orientation of carry are traditional to the indigenous peoples of Borneo, only the materials have been updated.  


 

Before I detail the items contained within the belt kit I will display the items which I carry on my person:  

 

Fig.3


 



  • Wrist Watch
  • Wrist sighting compass (Sunnto M9) (or a Silva 54 if trailblazing a new area)
  • Laminated Map if one is available, usually not, otherwise a satellite image with grid overlay.
  • Garmin GPSMAP 64
  • Whistle and small flashlight worn around the neck (Quantum D2 and 4sevens flat)
  • Bic lighter in waterproof cover (Exotac Fire Sleeve, lighter wheel/flint seize if not kept dry)
  • Leatherman charge (modified jaws, side clip)
  • Head Lamp (zebra H52W? runs on a single AA)
  • Hammock/Chair/Stretcher (UK Hammocks ‘EDC Hammock’)


The following photograph displays the contents of the belt kit in ‘exploded view’ with each item placed above its respective container, in order of packing, or as close an approximation as space allows:  

 

Fig.4

 

 

 

 

Described from left to right:


  • Fire steel attached to sheath, Exotac Nanostriker, Ferrocerium rods corrode rapidly in the tropics, disintegrating after just a few days under the canopy, this model is o-ring sealed in its own aluminium case which serves as a handle.


  • Parang, manufactured by Ben and Lois Orford, model ‘Eban Parang’ (modified by Ben on request, the edge having been ground closer to the handle, single bevel flat ground for the first 2” for carving, convex thereafter)


  • Trauma Kit, pouch manufacturer unknown, possibly ‘Zulu nylon’?, contents:


  • Nitrile Gloves
  • SOF® Tactical Tourniquet -Wide (TacMed)
  • NPA 7.0
  • Sharpie marker
  • Cohesive bandage (for pressure immobilisation of neurotoxic envenomations)
  • Israeli Pressure dressing
  • Hemostatic Gauze, Quik Clot
  • Compressed gauze, H&H
  • FoxSeal Occlusive Dressing, Celox medical
  • Tegaderm waterproof dressings x3
  • Steri-Strips x2 packets


All items in the medical kit have been chosen with a mind to their waterproof packaging.


  • Messkit, Vargo titanium BOT, a combined 1lt water bottle/cooking vessel/waterproof container. As waterproof container I frequently carry a camera in it on shorter trips. Carried in modified ‘bottle holder’ from Zulu Nylon Gear, (velcro attachment points stitched closed). Silicone ‘pint ring’ from Kleen canteen attached to make handling easier when hot, and as an attachment point to the pouch (see figure 2)


  • Canteen Kit, 1.1Lt titanium canteen, 700ml canteen cup and lid by keith-ti, nested with USGI canteen cup stove. Canteen pouch by Maxpedition. Lid inserts between canteen/cup and the back of the pouch.


  • Utility pouch, Universal hard case 75 from tactical tailor (modified to be waterproof), contains:

  • Oasis water purification tablets (40 tabs)
  • Heximine fuel tablets x6
  • 35mm film canister containing 8 effervescent electrolyte tablets, wrapped with fishing line/hooks, inside a section of bike inner tube.
  • Lighter
  • Beef stock cubes (Universal Plan B, when things go wrong, brew a cup bovril)
  • Alchohol Gel
  • AA batteries x2 (for head lamp and GPS) 
  • Alpkit chainset, clips to BOT, canteen cup and canteen to suspend them over open fires.


  • Sharpening stone, Fallkniven FS4 Flipstone, in a hypalon pouch of unknown origin.


  • Air Marker Panel, Jerven ‘Rescue flag’, stored inside Prairie belt against padding.

 
New Post
3/21/2016 6:25 PM
 
Can't see any pictures, is it just me?
 
New Post
3/21/2016 6:50 PM
 
AUSSIE wrote:
Can't see any pictures, is it just me?

Not just you.... I can't see pictures either.


Hill People Gear Coureurs des Bois (Brand Ambassador). Victoria faveat paratam. De Oppresso Liber.
 
New Post
3/22/2016 12:17 PM
 
Stewart has gone bush again, and we are having, to make a long story short, some technical issues on this end. We will get it sorted out as soon as possible as I am as interested in the photos as you guys.

Co-Owner Hill People Gear "If anything goes wrong it will be a fight to the end, if your training is good enough, survival is there; if not nature claims its foreit." - Dougal Haston
 
New Post
3/22/2016 5:07 PM
 

Worth the read just for the Richard Harding Davis quote, eagerly awaiting pics as well!

 
New Post
3/26/2016 8:08 AM
 
Pictures are up. You guys are going to be very happy about this.

We are fortunate in this matter that your conduct will be your marker and, thus, your reputation. The conduct of others on this forum has been, and will continue to be, their marker, and thus, their reputation. In the west, a person invests in one's reputation carefully. - 112Papa
 
New Post
3/26/2016 8:22 AM
 

Very squared away belt kit, Stewart!  Completely utilitarian and purpose driven.  Love to see a set up where lots of thought went into having tools immediately at hand for quick application in the unforgiving jungle environment.


Hill People Gear Coureurs des Bois (Brand Ambassador). Victoria faveat paratam. De Oppresso Liber.
 
New Post
3/26/2016 5:24 PM
 
Re Jungle Belt Kit Really enjoyed looking at your kit! Would be interested in hearing about your experiences with foot wear in the jungle environment?
 
New Post
3/27/2016 10:13 AM
 
Very savvy looking belt kit. Obviously based on a lot of thought and experience. I do not really know the jungle, but did spend a week on a different part of Borneo (Kalimantan) about 30 years ago. A tremendous diversity of flora and fauna. One of my most vivid memories is a "long" 30 minute ride on what seemed to be a pre-WWII airplane, complete with lots of rust, crates of chickens, etc. About 5 minutes after taking off from an air strip cleverly disguised as a cow pasture in the interior the engine started coughing and sputtering. My main focus was on trying to keep oriented so I could get to the coast if the plane went down. We made it, but I was very "present" the entire flight :)
 
New Post
4/1/2016 1:49 AM
 
Apologies for the missing photographs, in my rush to post this up before catching a flight I failed to properly host the photographs, thanks to Scott and Evan for sorting it out.

Nimbin hippy, jungle boots are a constant source of heartache.

I get through a pair of jungle boots about every 9-12 months and I agonise over having to buy a new pair every time. Not so long ago it used to be a simple choice between a pair of Atama/Wellco's or a pair of Altbergs but recently a number of companies have started offering jungle boots, my thoughts on those I have used (based on nothing more than my own personal opinion of course):


Rocky Jungle boot:


An excellent boot, I have worn through a couple of pairs of these and i'm about to purchase another pair, the 'enhanced' model has a far better sole pattern then the original version, but I'm finding it near impossible to get my hands on the new version. 

Very comfortable, drains rapidly with plenty of airflow around the foot to help manage immersion foot.

Throw away the insole that comes with it though, whilst its very comfortable its also a sponge that holds water and its the quickest way to rotten feet, its curious that such a good jungle boot is supplied with an insole that in my opinion is not fit for purpose, easily replaced though.

Altama/Wellco Jungle boot: 

THE classic american jungle boot, time tested and proven, the most durable jungle boot I have used. Unfortunately these just don't fit my feet, they are very long and narrow, if they fit you they will require breaking in before you can go blister free, but they will last a long time. In comparison with more recent offerings these boots don't drain well or allow your feet to breath much so you have to take extra care to avoid immersion foot.

recently Altama has announced a Mk2 version of this boot, which I haven't had an opportunity to try, hopefully its built on a different last. 

Panama sole is excellent and its directly molded to the upper, so unlike almost every other jungle boot in existence, it will never fall off, the upper will rot first.

Altberg jungle Classic/microlight:

Hand made in the UK  these fit well and are very comfortable. I have had many pairs of these, unfortunately the materials and workmanship do seem to vary from boot to boot, on some the nylon is waterproofed (bad idea) on others its not, on some the hardware is brass on others its steel and rusts. The option of a Panama sole on the classic model is attractive, but the sole unit is quite tall compared with the Altama making them less stable. The microlight sole clogs up in thick mud and is very slippery on wet rocks.

buy in person if you can (a good practice for any footwear purchase) 

Lowa Jungle boot:

German made, with the comfort and quality that Lowa is famous for. These are really nice boots, the sole pattern can't compare with the panama sole though, generally long lasting, I have seen the metal drain vents rip out when working in areas with jagged rocky riverbeds. 

Meindl Jungle boot:

Almost identical to the Lowa's but some how even more comfortable, the drain holes don't have the metal hardware that is occasionally a problem on the Lowa's, prohibitively expensive!

OTB Junglelite:

This was quite a special boot, I say 'was' because OTB was bought by New Balance which then discontinued them. The lightest, quickest draining, fastest drying and most comfortable jungle boots i have ever owned, the sole pattern was good in deep mud and slippery river beds, I often wore them without socks which help keep immersion foot at bay, their only shortcoming was that they wore out quickly and thus needed to be replaced more frequently. I live in hope that New Balance brings these back one day.

 
New Post
4/1/2016 6:41 AM
 

Stewart, have you looked into the Garmont Jungle boot?  I have had good luck with those in the jungles / rainforests of Peru and Colombia.  Granted, I'm not in that environment nearly as much as you are, but they have been holding up really well for me.  Great out of the box comfort and support, and they have a really good sole on them with a nicely designed heel that helps a lot on steep down slopes.  I have a pair of Rocky Jungle Boots, as well.  Those took a bit more breaking in for me, but I like them.

Of the two, for me the nod goes to the Garmonts.  I plan to use them again on upcoming trips back to Peru and also possibly Equador.  You might take a look at those.


Hill People Gear Coureurs des Bois (Brand Ambassador). Victoria faveat paratam. De Oppresso Liber.
 
New Post
4/1/2016 8:55 AM
 
Great thread, thanks for all the photos.
I like the picture of your jungle bed, I've only seen drawings of them before. Just curious, what size is the tarp overhead?
Mike
 
New Post
4/1/2016 9:44 PM
 
Thanks Steward love practical experience when it comes to kit choice! Will check out the boots you mentioned! Great thread keep it coming!
 
New Post
4/2/2016 12:14 AM
 
Alpendrms: I've heard several positive references to the Garmont boots but never seen them in the flesh, they seem especially hard to procure outside the US.

Michael Foote: I think that tarp is approximately 3m x 3m. 

Pole beds are pure luxury and very worth constructing if your in one location more than 2 nights. It seems that whenever I see a drawing of a pole bed the illustrator feels its necessary to lash everything together, but only two lashings are required for the whole arrangement (including the chair), one at the top of each of the two tripods (marked on the following photo with red X's)


All the other poles simply rest against each other and are held in place by tension alone. The horizontal bed poles cannot slide down the tripod as the pole bed sleeve will not allow them separate any futher, under your bodyweight as you climb into bed the poles slide down slightly (and thus apart) as far as they are able, and in doing so set the fabric of the bed drum tight. Tying these poles to the tripod as so often illustrated would simply result in a sagging bed. 

Under more austere conditions the same principle can be applied even without a pole bed sleeve:

 



In these photographs the palm frond mattress has been removed so you can see the rattan lashing that supports it.

 

A pole bed sleeve made of parachute material is so light and compact that I think little of packing one alongside my hammock for additional comfort it affords in static camps. Here the pole bed sleeve, chair and EDC hammock (which in the previous illustration you can see strung aside my pole bed to store my gear) are shown next to a 1lt canteen for comparison:


 

The stand alone chair works on the same principle and I almost always set one up at the head of my hammock, a cord affixed to the gathered end of the fabric is used to lash two poles to form a bipod which is lent against a tree, a cross bar is inserted into a sleeve sewn into one end of the fabric and rests on the uprights where it is free to slide and thus the chair conforms to its owner.

Having a comfortable place to sit at the end of a long day in the jungle is a huge boost to moral!


 

 


 
New Post
4/2/2016 5:31 AM
 

Stewart....how about clothing?  What's been working best for you?  Natural fibers like the rips top cotton of the old-school OG 107 jungle fatigues, or are you going with synthetic / fast-drying fabrics?

I've used Rail Riders clothing, Ex Officio, and also the Patagonia Jungle Uniform.  For me, each have their own advantages and disadvantages.  Just wondering what's been working best for you and your mates.


Hill People Gear Coureurs des Bois (Brand Ambassador). Victoria faveat paratam. De Oppresso Liber.
 
New Post
4/2/2016 5:19 PM
 
Stewart
Thanks for the additional info. If I had tried to build a bed like that I'd have tied everything. Good to know a better way,
 
New Post
4/3/2016 12:21 PM
 
alpendrms wrote:

Stewart....how about clothing?  What's been working best for you?  Natural fibers like the rips top cotton of the old-school OG 107 jungle fatigues, or are you going with synthetic / fast-drying fabrics?

I've used Rail Riders clothing, Ex Officio, and also the Patagonia Jungle Uniform.  For me, each have their own advantages and disadvantages.  Just wondering what's been working best for you and your mates.

 

There's nothing wrong with cotton in the jungle but does rot fairly quickly, polycotton lasts longer but for me personally modern nylon weaves have been the best performers by far.

The jungle seems to dissolve clothing, nylon is immune to rotting but it will still fall foul of rattan barbs and similarly armed flora, any weave thick enough to resist being torn by rattan would be stiflingly hot to wear; as such jungle clothing is a consumable item. The Patagonia jungle uniform ticks all the boxes and looks to be superb, I would love a set of these, but as a private purchase I would struggle justify $342 on a shirt and pants  for regular jungle work, because no matter how good they are, I would be lucky if they last 6 months.

The pants I'm wearing in the last photo of my previous post (sitting in the chair) are Railriders Versatac's, they were superb, having used them them in deserts and savannahs all over the world for 3 years they lasted two months in the jungle before I slid down a muddy river bank ensnared in rattan and torn open the thigh. 

I highly rate RailRiders clothing, their Regulator shirts have been my default travel clothing for many years, the ultimate versatile blue shirt, smart enough for embassy appointments and executive lounges, tough enough for mountain trails and digging trucks out of the sand. Some of my RR shirts have been worn so much they have faded from UV exposure and I have resorted to dyeing them to restore the colour, but they are still going strong.  

 



I'm certain they would perform well under the canopy, but I like them too much to ruin them in the jungle.

For the best balance of cost, function and durability I usually wear a pair of crag hopper kiwi classics and a 5.11 Taclite shirt, I get the local haberdashers to sew zips into the openings of the large chest pockets of the shirt (the velcro fails) for a few dollars and the whole ensemble costs around $85.

I have been testing a pair of Helicon tex 'Outdoor Tactical Pants' in the jungle the past few months, i'm impressed with them, they are feature rich with well thought out pockets, a diamond guest crotch and 4 way stretch nylon construction makes them easy to move in and the price is very reasonable, these might be my new economical favourites.

 

 
New Post
4/3/2016 4:20 PM
 

Awesome info, Stewart!  Good to know the Rail Riders stuff is working for you.  Yep...my Versatacs and ventilated shirts are doing well for me, too.  I was able to get the Patagonia stuff through the PROgram on the Elite Defense website https://www.elitedefense.com/the-program.  I was able to save a lot of money going through that process.  Not sure if your work allows you to qualify for the PROgram, but it's certainly worth a try and maybe they can kit you out at a savings.  Stay safe out there!


Hill People Gear Coureurs des Bois (Brand Ambassador). Victoria faveat paratam. De Oppresso Liber.
 
New Post
4/3/2016 5:20 PM
 
The amusing part of this to me is that while I still have no interest in going into a jungle (reinforced by this thread :) ) , I find myself thinking about setting up a belt kit, and looking at parangs and goloks. Great thread Stewart and thanks for sharing the information.

Co-Owner Hill People Gear "If anything goes wrong it will be a fight to the end, if your training is good enough, survival is there; if not nature claims its foreit." - Dougal Haston
 
New Post
4/3/2016 10:38 PM
 
"OTB Junglelite:

This was quite a special boot, I say 'was' because OTB was bought by New Balance which then discontinued them. The lightest, quickest draining, fastest drying and most comfortable jungle boots i have ever owned, the sole pattern was good in deep mud and slippery river beds, I often wore them without socks which help keep immersion foot at bay, their only shortcoming was that they wore out quickly and thus needed to be replaced more frequently. I live in hope that New Balance brings these back one day."

I have 4 pair of these, 3 of them New in Box and another New but no box. If anyone is interested.

They really are really awesome boots.

1 x Size 10
2 x Size 11
1 x Size 11.5
All OD color
 
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