November 26, 2015. Thanksgiving! I set out on my expedition for Trailblazers. I was hired to take a team of scientists into Bolivia to uncover the potentially life-changing discoveries. Triple canopy jungle can be one of the most dangerous places on earth. Almost everything in the jungle tries to protect it self and that means it wants to hurt you. Not to mention, we were in an area full of drug runners who allowed no one to stand in their way of completing their mission in order to get paid and provide for their family. Harsh climates, dangerous terrain, poisonous plants and insects and hostile natives. I wanted to be prepared for anything when I lead my team on our first expedition.
FIRST THINGS FIRST I searched high a low for the perfect pack to make my way through the jungle. I needed something with lots of space, light-weight and durable to hold all my gear. I went with the Mystery Ranch Legend. Unfortunately this bag is no longer on the market. But Mystery Ranch has a whole line of awesome gear for whatever next adventure entails. The most important thing with humid temperatures and lots of activity is staying hydrated. The main compartment of the legend is supplemented by three-liter drinking system. It is also reversed the upper compartment valve, which becomes removable as two separate compartments with one zip. Out side the of the back pack are side pockets designed for bottles/jars of water. I needed clean drinking water on me at all times. I also packed a 2 quart canteen and water purification tabs.
NAR'S Expeditionary Personal Aid kit (X-PAK) equipped me to address the first aid needs of a small group with any injuries ranging from major bleeding trauma fractures to minor cuts and abrasions. This kit was great but I also packed the NAR MICRO IFAK KIT.
Our time in the jungle was coming up on the rainy season. Rain, mud, humidity and the river could be at it's highest.
Dry bags were an essential part of my gear load out. We were on the river for days. These come in all sizes and they were light enough to take in my pack and small enough to fit in the corners of a small flat boat.
I also needed my Beyond A6 Rain jacket. This jacket is a packable, fully waterproof shell designed for protection against wind and rain. This jacket is built with lightweight 3-layer Gore-Tex®.
I also never go to the jungle without my headband. Honestly, it's a team thing. Walking through the jungle it helped keep the sweat out of your eyes and all of the wonderful creepy crawlys out of your hair.
Most people don't know it, but you can go hypothermic in temperatures as warm as 70 F. When you are trekking through the humid jungles during the day with temperatures reaching 100 degrees fahrenheit, as the sun starts to go down, the temperature drops rapidly. The combination of sweat, wet clothing, and this enormous drop of over 30 degrees can cause you to go hypothermic. Keeping a dry base layer is essential to survival. Another imperative part of survival is fitness. If you're out of shape, breaking brush will wear you out even more, because it's causing you to sweat more and lose even more water. I will touch on more on being FIT FOR SURVIVAL in upcoming articles.
I could not have made it through the jungle with out my machete. Heavy duty enough to withstand serious cutting and make short work of everything from tall bamboo to small tree limbs, the hefty 12-inch blade’s unique curved shape offers three specific sections.
I also kept my Suunto Compass around my neck at all times. Guiding the team though new territory, this compass also doubled as a signal mirror in a survival situation.
With no cell service, and only a simple survival whistle to communicate with your team when you split up. It was imperative that I pack the Spot as part of my gear. It let my family and friends know that I was ok and if needed I could notify national emergency responders of my GPS location at the push of a button.
The READYMAN Wilderness Survival Card is the ultimate survival tool in a 1/2mm thick, wallet size card made out of extremely durable, rust-resistant stainless steel that is both easy to clean and light enough to carry in your wallet on a daily basis. You will always have this card handy in case disaster strikes.
Vortex Monocular Solo RT was just what I needed to see any lurking trouble along the river. It is build to be carried as a standard piece of equipment and ver close at hand.
Not sure I will ever leave home without my fixed blade. The Gerber Strong Arm and I have been on some and incredible adventures and gotten in to lots of trouble together. It features a serrated edge, and full tang 420 HC blade with ceramic coating. It was designed for the military survival training. Whether you are using it to split wood or cutting through the tendons in your hand. This knife is effective to say the least. Ask me how I know...
Triple canopy jungle is pitch black at night. The kind of dark that won't let you see your hand in front of your face. My First-Light Torque was on my person at all times. It can hook to your molle gear or be used with the finger loop and still free up the use of your hand.
GERBER MP1 is my multi-tool. You don't need more tools. You need the right one! Built with 12 professional-grade components, including pliers, three blades, three screwdrivers and a pry bar bottle opener, the MP1 also distinguishes itself with its distinctive butterfly design and high quality carbon steel, spring-loaded jaws.
Craghoppers and Beyond Clothing outfitted this mission with the appropriate outdoor clothing that my team needed for the environment! I packed light with some simple quick drying base-layers as well as outerwear.
Gatorz Octanes are my shades of choice. If you know me, you know... I ALWAYS have my shades. I wore Gatorz in country and I continue to wear them everyday. In fact, I still have my shades I wore through all my deployments to Afghanistan. They have literally been all over the world with me. The aluminum frames are light weight and durable and perfect when packing for a "only pack what you can carry" trip.
Training during travel is probably the most important part of my life. If I wasn't able to do so, my body would not be able to handle the level of activity that these kind of expeditions require. Staying FIT FOR SURVIVAL is imperative. I will write more about this later. The TRX is my most essential piece of equipment. I can take it with me to the jungles of Bolivia, wrap the straps around a tree, and get an awesome workout.
Other Easy Finds:
When I’ve seen colleagues, friends, and family recently there were consistent comments of “You look like you’re half the man you were!”
My typical response to this is, “Half the man on the outside, but twice the man on the inside.” And to this, I usually get quizzical looks.
Most people who see the obvious external weight loss and transformation have no idea of how much more of a transformation occurred within the mind of the person.