Sunday, 19 February 2017

Jungle Style

Some lessons learned from time spent in jungles. Some learned first hand, some from guys that have spent a lot more time in them, and paying attention to what they did and had to say.

In no particular order.....

The ineffable:

The jungle is not evil, hostile, or out to get you. You are utterly irrelevant to it.

In the jungle you are not a predator, you are prey. Remember your place in the food chain.

There is no such thing as a shortcut in the jungle and if you can’t see your camp you are lost until proven otherwise.

If something looks dangerous or nasty, it is.

If something looks pretty and harmless, it’s dangerous and nasty.

Gringo “common sense” and logic do not apply and do not work in the jungle.

The locals are smarter than you are, it’s their world, and you ignore their instructions and advice at your peril.

Any gear that you “saved money on” will fail at the most critical time.

Things that work at home may not work in the jungle, but things that work in the jungle will work at home.

Always have a plan. Always have a plan “B” because your first plan will not work. Always be ready to improvise, because plan “B” usually won’t work either.

Don’t trust your “instincts” as you do not have any for the jungle. Do what you are told, and don’t do what you are told not to do.

DO NOT let your guard down or take unnecessary risks. Then you have committed the mortal sin of stupidity, and may receive the ultimate punishment for it.

The greatest survival tool in the jungle is your own brain, attitude, & sense of humor.

You can’t keep up with the natives, but try and copy their gait on the trails.

Don’t piss off the monkeys.

DO NOT wear cotton.

DO NOT wear shorts. You’ll be begging to have your legs amputated before too long.

DO NOT wear sandals. Look up Tunga Penetrans.

Boots. I like military jungle boots. Wellco and Altberg are two reputable brands. Make sure they are well broken in before you show up in the jungle. 

Wool and/or polypro socks.

Polypro undies only. Or don’t wear any at all. Synthetic t-shirts and undies quick dry, no chaffing. No cotton.

1 set travel clothes, 1 set sleep clothes.

Wash all your gear in plain water before you go. The bugs seem to stop bothering you after you spend a few days in the bush. It helps if you don’t reek of sweet-smelling laundry detergent when you set foot into the woodline.

More socks.

A sweat rag or two. Mountain biking gloves that have terry cloth on the back of them to wipe away sweat about to run into your eyes.

Admin - Camp:
Hammock. Period. Lots of choices out there. You need to sleep off the ground at night. Anything left on the ground will be eaten, carried off, or become home to something unpleasant. This includes you.

Tarp. Many hammocks come with a tarp, but if not, get one to go with it. Some of the tarps included with the hammock, like the hex one that comes with a Hennesy I personally find a bit small, so considers a larger one.

Two suggestions about any small items you carry - make them bright and tether them to yourself. If you drop anything, finding it back will be either impossible or involve a search so difficult it defies belief. Unless there is some good reason for you to be hidden away, any small items you carry (and maybe even big items) should be bright - day glo orange, fire engine red, screaming blue, fluorescent fuschia - doesn’t really matter. But anything earth tone will be gone forever if you drop it. Lighter, pocket knife, compass, bug juice, etc. - bright and colourful, or make it bright and colourful. Spray paint it, wrap tape around it, tie a big bright fob to it, etc. 
You lose your machete or parang and you’re in serious trouble.

Travel light. The more gear you haul, the more you will sweat.

Waterproof everything. It will still get wet, but not to so great a degree to destroy it. Plastic bags are your friend. And have some extra bags for backup.

You can eat anything with enough hot sauce.

Other Gear:
Bug Juice. Sawyer Controlled Release is the cats ass for bug juice. Keep some Ultrathon 100% DEET around too.There is a product called Bite Blocker which is good. If you forget to apply bug juice you will find out where you missed while squatting to shit. You want to pay attention to the areas on your body where your clothing sits flat against your skin; your thighs and the backs of your shoulders for example. Other areas that are preferred; your neck, the areas around your nose and mouth, and the area behind your ears. (Some speculate that mosquitoes can sense areas of the body that have great blood flow). They also “key” on carbon dioxide that you exhale and the lactic acid produced by your active muscles.

Small stove to heat water. A small alcohol stove will do.

Extra containers for water.

Machete or parang or kukhri. Whatever you carry, have a means to keep it sharp. It’s both safer and easier to cut with a sharp tool. Make a habit of sharpening it.

Good, small pocket knife. Never go ANYWHERE without your pocket knife.

Plenty of 550 cord, some zip ties and maybe some bungees.

Gloves. Synthetic, quick dry mechanics type. Several pairs. Wear them at any time you are moving. There are trees that make poison ivy look like moisturizing lotion.

Sewing kit. The jungle eats clothes.

Headlight. Ideally one with different colored lenses or LEDs.

Cheesecloth to strain water and a filter to clean the strained water

Purification tablets or a reputable water purifier to kill the viruses in the filtered water. Or even better, both. I always thought it was a good idea to have both the filter and the tabs. Two is one, one is none. Just because the natives drink from the river does not mean you can. The natives shit Hepatitis virus into the water. Don’t discount this.

Fire starter that works when wet.

Survival kit heavy on water purification and fire starting.

1st Aid Kit. The jungle makes you bleed and it’s real easy to get infected there. Steroid cream is the UNIVERSAL jungle medicine!

Foot powder and a thick plastic bag. You can dump a good amount of foot powder into a (foot sized) plastic bag, place your foot inside, and “shake and bake.” It’s very neat and light weight; just stick your foot in and shake. Be sure the bag is thick enough to stand up to abuse, yet thin enough to where you can get the powder between you toes and around your toe nail.

Duct tape. Prevents and treats blisters, seals Bot fly holes, and repairs most stuff.

Reflective nylon sheet with aluminum side/OD side. A casualty blanket it’s also known as. Amazing how cold you can get still at night. Poncho liner stays wet 100% of the time. Good for warmth, shelter, wind break, etc.

Gookinaid or similar electrolyte replacement.

A clear pair safety glasses. All sorts of stuff to whack you in the face.

Do all your traveling during the day and never at night because that is when all the big mean, nasty, critters come out.

Never grab or part vegetation with your hands, always use a stick or you just might get thorned, stung or bitten.

Should you find any vines or rope placed across a trail, it usually means “Danger - Don’t Go There!”

Should you get entangled in some vines, try moving backwards in reverse to undo yourself.

Cross water slowly and only at shallow & narrow places, rush across only if you see danger.

Never camp near stagnant water, ant hills or where animals have been eating and staying. 

Rain water trapped in plants is the safest water to drink without filtering and purifying it.

Plants that produce a milky sap or taste sour and bitter are considered UNSAFE to drink.

Before putting your butt or hand on the ground, check for snakes, insects and reptiles.

Never urinate in water, and always check yourself for leeches after a water crossing.

Avoid stepping on slippery wet logs and rocks. Step over or around them instead. That has to be one of the easiest ways to get injured.

Never run out of salt. Whether it’s for preservation of meat or flavouring a piranha broth, salt is vital to keep the body working correctly.

Dig for water. When it’s low water season and all the small creeks are dry, the next water source is never far from your mind. If you don’t have accurate maps then you have to be able to think outside the box if the next river never comes. Sometimes you’ll hear the rumble of thunder and be saved by a deluge that you can use to collect water from your rain fly: a 10 minute downpour can yield 30 litres - enough to wash, cook, drink and fill your bottles for the next day. Sometimes you’ll be in places with nice thick water vines that will give you a vital rehydration. If you don’t have such luck and need fluid urgently you can dig a hole in a muddy area and allow it to fill with muddy water. This can be carefully scooped out when the mud has settled and purified to drink within 20 minutes.

Keep your lighter waterproof. Leave rubbing sticks or using a flint striker to the romantics. The savvy jungle local will never be without his lighter, often kept waterproof in an old plastic tobacco pouch.

1 comment:

  1. Great post! But now I want more details! Where did you go? When? You need to write a book! And with pictures!! In 1987 my buddies and I hike the Napali coastline on Kauai. It was 12 miles to the campsite--I drank six liters of water and never pissed once. That was a cool trip. We looked like we fought a war by the time we got to the campsite--we were all bloody and scratched but it was AWESOME.