The rough guide

Can tech help you sur­vive in the un­com­pro­mis­ing wilder­ness, with no idea where you are or where you’re go­ing?

Australian T3 - - MAN VS TECH - Words: Michelle McLaren Pho­tog­ra­phy: Ben Brain

It’s un­be­liev­ably early on a Fri­day morn­ing and I’m be­ing bun­dled into a car, given a blind­fold to put on and driven… Some­where. Af­ter hours in the car, dur­ing which no-one gave away any in­for­ma­tion, we ar­rive... Some­where. The sun is com­ing up and the first de­tails of my chal­lenge are re­vealed: can I sur­vive and nav­i­gate alone in the wilder­ness, and re­turn to my start­ing point safely, with only tech to help me?

Well, I won’t ac­tu­ally be alone. I’ve got a buddy pho­tograph­ing this en­tire ex­pe­di­tion, doc­u­ment­ing ev­ery­thing us­ing the new Fu­ji­film X-E3, and who I’ll yell at for help if I end up in a 127 Hours- type sit­u­a­tion. But he’s been told not to help me with this task.

The team hands me a pair of Salomon X Ul­tra Trek GTX hik­ing boots (mirac­u­lously in my size), an Arc’Teryx Beta AR Jacket and an Icebreaker Cool-Lite Mira Pullover Hoody. I as­sume I’m at risk of get­ting wet, be­cause they then give me a Patag­o­nia Storm­front back­pack... And there’s more tech good­ies in­side.

I’m start­ing to feel ap­pre­hen­sive, so the team fi­nally tell me the fi­nal part of the chal­lenge: I need to find my way to the top of the huge moun­tain in front of me, and back down again, but on a com­pletely dif­fer­ent route.


Go­ing through my back­pack full of tech, I first pull out a Black Di­a­mond Re­volt head­lamp. It’s light out, but only just, so I pop it on. The Re­volt has mul­ti­ple LEDs for dif­fer­ent lev­els of il­lu­mi­na­tion. I don’t need the ones de­signed for bet­ter nav­i­ga­tion at night (I hope I’ll be back down by then!) but it’s help­ing to make things clearer now.

Next out of the bag is a Handpresso Auto Cap­sule portable cof­fee maker. Whether you con­sider this to be true sur­vival gear prob­a­bly de­pends on your daily need for cof­fee. I’m pleased to see it, and could do with a cof­fee right about now. The Handpresso Auto Cap­sule is very easy to use: just plug it into your car’s 12/24-volt socket, add water and a cap­sule, then watch it brew a tasty espresso.

Like some kind of tech ma­gi­cian, I next pull a DJI Mavic Air out of the bag. A drone? Re­ally? When I ask how a selfie drone is sup­posed to help me climb a moun­tain, the team says it has fea­tures that might be use­ful to me.


At this point I still have no real idea of where I am, but next out of the bag comes a big, heavy-duty look­ing phone. Now we’re cook­ing! It turns out that this phone is ac­tu­ally the Land Rover Ex­plore Out­door, pur­pose built for ad­ven­tur­ing and ex­plo­ration. I turn on the phone (mer­ci­fully, the team has charged it fully) and the GPS tells me that I’m in Snow­do­nia. So yeah, all I need to do is find a route that will take me up Snow­don, and an­other to come back down again. Sim­ple, right?

Surely the eas­i­est way for me to do this is by fol­low­ing some other peo­ple up, but the team quickly says that’s against the rules. Also, no one else is fool­ish enough to be around at such an un­godly hour, so it’s pretty quiet here at the mo­ment. It’s okay, though, be­cause the phone comes loaded with ViewRanger, which gives me ac­cess to pre­mium Ord­nance Sur­vey map­ping.

I search for Snow­do­nia on the phone and, quick enough, a range of routes ap­pear on screen. I de­cide upon the PGY track go­ing up, and guess I’ll


fig­ure out what track I’ll use to come back down once I get to that point. I’ve also been given some Bi­na­tone walkie talkies, but these are more of a safety gadget for stay­ing in touch with the team in case any­thing goes wrong dur­ing the chal­lenge.


Af­ter a quick look at a few tu­to­ri­als on how to get the DJI Mavic Air up and run­ning, its use­ful­ness dawns on me: I’m some way off from the trail I want to join, and can’t see how I’m go­ing to get over to it, so I send the Mavic up for a reccy. Be­ing able to see (via the drone’s 4K UHD cam­era) that the path

over one rise is too rocky saves me time. Us­ing the Mavic again, I’m able to scout out a gen­tler path fur­ther along.

With the drone’s job done for now, I fold down its pro­pel­lers and stuff it into the Patag­o­nia back­pack. The sun is try­ing to come out and it’s rel­a­tiv­ity warm, so off I go. But I soon re­alise that I don’t have a full water bot­tle with me. Luck­ily there’s one more gadget in my back­pack of tricks: a LifeS­traw Go water fil­ter bot­tle.

The LifeS­traw Go uses a two-stage fil­tra­tion sys­tem to re­move bac­te­ria and pro­to­zoa, so I can fill it up from nat­u­ral sources (rivers, lakes and such) and drink with­out worry. I top it up from a nearby wa­ter­fall, down half, then re-fill it to get me to the sum­mit.


A few hours in and I’m near­ing the top, as ev­i­denced by the in­creas­ing cold. The Welsh rain ap­pears around this point too, so I pull on the Arc’Teryx jacket and all gad­gets apart from the water­proof phone goes into my pack.

Reach­ing the sum­mit, I de­cide to check in with the team back at the start. The Bi­na­tone Ter­rain 850 has a range of 8km, which is just as well as I’m around 7km away from the near­est team mem­ber.

The weather is turn­ing ever-colder and windy, so af­ter a de­cent rest I’m eager to get down. Out comes the Land Rover phone again to help me work out what the fastest trail. I find some­thing promis­ing but have trou­ble work­ing out where to join it, so I wan­der around with the phone out in front of me, like an ori­en­teerer with a com­pass. I’m soon on the trail. Half­way down I also have the chance to re­fill my LifeS­traw Go from a stream.

I ra­dio in again to tell the team which trail I’m on, so they can see me com­ing (and give me a guard of hon­our). The ter­rain gets re­ally rocky and slip­pery around here, so I’m glad to be wear­ing Salomon’s firm-grip boots. Arc’teryx’s jacket is also hold­ing up well, and the Patag­o­nia back­pack is still keep­ing all of my gad­gets dry and pro­tected.

Ok so this isn’t hard­core sur­vival­ism, but I’m no out­doors fa­natic and with­out tech I’d have strug­gled to find the fastest, safest routes up and down. It takes more than sim­ple re­ly­ing on GPS co-or­di­nates to get from A to B.

As I sit in the car, rest­ing my feet, I spy the Handpresso – I have an­other pod spare, and have plenty of water. I to­tally de­serve one more cof­fee for the road...


RIGHTA head­light can make all the dif­fer­ence on early morn­ing starts, evening de­scents, or when you’re ex­plor­ing darker spa­ces

LEFTWho needs to queue in a cafe when you can use a Handpresso portable cof­fee maker in­stead?

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