“Look for the bare necessities, the simple bare necessities,  forget about your troubles and your strife” – (Baloo)

Last week I went in to the jungle for a night’s camping and, as darkness fell, realised that I had forgotten to bring in any food (although I had, curiously, remembered the beer) – it was annoying and I went to bed hungry, but not really that big a deal.

Forgetting or losing an item of kit can send some people into a spin, but the truth is that for most 2-3 day trips into the jungle you could easily survive without any of your kit (apart from your parang and compass) – you could live without food (although it’s not pleasant to do), water is easily found, there’s little danger of dying from hypothermia (although nights would be chilly) etc.

I remember Les Stound making the distinction between ‘enduring’ and ‘surviving’ – the former means simply sitting out the discomfort in hungry misery, the latter means taking control of the situation and satisfying the basic needs of shelter, fire, food and water (and beer!).

So, when packing for a short trip, it’s good to remind yourself that all the stuff your are taking is really there just to make life easier and more comfortable (rather than being absolutely necessary) but that the more of these items you take the less comfortable the trekking is going to be as the load on your back gets heavier.

I’ve had a few requests from people (mainly here in Malaysia) who want to start camping out in jungle but don’t know where to start in terms of kit to take in – this video shows what I use and hopefully will be of some help.

My advice for those starting out is not to overstretch yourself at the beginning and to test your equipment first.  Once you’ve got your kit sorted, take it for a walk – it doesn’t matter where,  round the park a few times will do (but try some hills too!) – just to check whether the weight is bearable and the rucksack comfortable.  Then do a test run into the jungle – there’s no need to go far (you could go a hundred yards off the road and into the jungle) and try setting up camp and sorting out food, water, fire etc.  For those in Malaysia you could visit Raman (the Orang Asli who lives at Gombak) and camp at his kebun for a night.  By checking your equipment first you will quickly discover any problems and become familiar with its use.

This is particularly important when it comes to hammocks – they are, by far, the best shelter system to use in the jungle but they do take a little bit of skill to set up in a way that maximizes the comfort they can offer.  Keeping your body at the right temperature in a hammock can also be difficult at first as the evenings are often warm and humid and the early mornings can be surprisingly chilly.

And then there’s the rain – your hammock shelter system must be 100% waterproof – no water creeping down the ropes, no splashback from the ground, no rain getting in from the sides – and the only way to be sure is to try it first in heavy rain.  You could do this anywhere – in your back garden would do – but test it (and adjust it) before you go on an extended expedition into the jungle.

The tortoise that I relocated ambled off into the jungle, seemingly happy with the new environment that didn’t have the concrete storm drains that tank-trapped him where I found him (or, for the time being at least, the looming threat of development).

About 30 miles from where I live is the Malaysian Elephant Sanctuary that relocates elephants displaced by the seemingly unstoppable spread of oil palm plantations.  It is a commendable effort to help these animals but, to some extent, it has the side-effect of making us feel better about a situation we should really be feeling extremely bad about.   Elephants need space, it’s as simple as that, and relocating them (into unfamiliar areas where other elephants have already staked out their territory) is a sub-optimal solution.

It reminds me of the line in Apocalypse Now:

“It’s a way we had of living with ourselves: we cut them in half with a machine gun and then give them a band aid.  It was a lie.  And the more I saw them, the more I hated lies”.

The politics of the rain forest here in Malaysia are both complex (in terms of finding workable solutions) and very simple (in terms of projecting the outcome) – what is needed is a system of fully protected, federal, nationals parks linked together with corridors of forest that the animals can use to go between them.  Unfortunately the state (rather than federal) system of forest control in Malaysia makes this difficult to achieve and the growing consumer demands of a growing, urbanized population mean that there is an ever increasing demand to clear the forest for our own ends – be it farms or oil palm plantations or housing developments.

Here in Malaysia I see some cause for hope in the changing attitudes of the younger generation towards the environment – but will the situation change fast enough to save the forests?  I don’t know, but one thing is for sure, future generations will curse us for the mess that they will inherit: the result of selfish exploitation of the worlds resources that has gone on over the last 50 years and the unchecked population explosion.

As a future Churchillian might say of our generation: “Never in the field of human conduct have so many been left with so little, and with so much blame lying with so few”