At the beginning of this year BCS head instructor packed his bags for a trip to South Sudan as part of the United Nations Mission In South Sudan (UNMISS). As an engineer he was there to deliver engineering by way of construction (vertical & horizontal) to the mission. But this would be different, this would be a very austere environment so it was essential that he looked after himself.
I was fortunate enough to have some gadgets provided to me by our friends at Above & Beyond and many thanks to Darren for assisting. I received a parcel in the post with some Niteize products, a solar charging panel by BioLite and a Ultra UV Water Purifier by STERIPEN . There were a few other useful bits such as Nite Ize gear ties and a Nite Ize BugLit LED micro flashlight. More on these later. I also packed a pair of Fjallraven Abisko lite trekking trousers, Greenland shirt, Barents Pro trousers and an Abisko Cool Shirt for wearing during down time. I had a 35 litre Abisko daypack which would be used daily along with some of the brands brilliant gear bags. This environment would surely test the G1000 material in a completely different way from the Swedish environment. The Fjallraven gear was provided by our friends from Rosker and most importantly our main man Ross Bainbridge.
One of the initial jobs for us would be setting up our own base and providing our own potable water using our own systems. The water was drawn direct from the River Nile which has every water borne disease in it known to man! It was crucial that we got this right. I was lucky enough to get some products from Sawyer and Water to Go which i distributed amongst the lads.
So the first couple of months was pretty much making ourselves as computable as possible whilst supplies arrived and one of our issues was power. I was lucky that i had the Nite Ize Radiant 250 Lumen rechargeable head torch which i needed every night for the whole deployment! I charged this up every day using the BioLite SolarPanel 5+ Plus. The head torch has a simple indicator LED that showed green when there was enough charge in it or red when it was getting low. It also switches itself off when the charge is very low. I would hook it up using the supplied USB cable to the solar panel and leave it in the sun for several hours each day which would give me more than enough charge to ensure i could read etc once the lighting towers were switched off at night. I really found this combination useful due to the readily available supply of the sun!
I had my Nite Ize Gear ties used for various tasks but mainly for connecting times around my accommodation with my micro lite firmly wrapped around a pole in my mosquito dome. These i left in-situ as they were so useful they stayed for the next guy. The Nite Ize Figure 9 Tent Line i utilised as a washing line as it could be tensioned and adjusted. Unfortunately 5 months of solid sun and exposure to the elements saw the cord degrade but that to me is to be expected and acceptable. A great item. I know that the items were used in a more practical use than designed for but needs must and all that!
So over the months i was there i found that the Fjallraven gear was really good in the heat as well as during the really humid and sticky evenings. The Greenland shirt was really good even though it is slightly heavier than the Abisko Cool but both kept me comfortable and cool as well as protecting me from the dreaded mosquitoes! The trousers were the same and having been subjected to several months of field washing in chlorinated water there was no fading or deterioration and they now have a very comfortable softness to them. I have used these items in Scotland in all seasons and it is amazing how versatile they are and usable in all environments!
The Abisko Hike 35 Backpack (cheers Svante) was absolutely abused over the time away with it being chucked in the back of trucks, thrown on to helicopters, planes and generally kicked about as well as worn and sucking up a load of sweat. A great item that i have been using now for over a year and it has been used in all weathers. A really great pack.
Water! – This became a real focus for me.
South Sudan is a land locked country but there is no shortage of water mainly because it has a long wet season as well as having large areas of swamplands. The White Nile runs through the middle of the country so getting water should be relatively easy!
With a huge amount of Internally Displaced Persons (IDP) living in Protection of Civilian (POC) camps within United Nation (UN) camps there is a massive requirement for clean water to not only survive but also to try and keep disease down. Where I was located in Malakal I was only about 2km from the Nile and I watched daily as women from the POC camp left to collect firewood and water. There were standpipes in the POC but with 50000 IDP in an area a little larger than 750m x 600m then the risk of disease is massive. All sanitation is either Deep Trench Latrines (DLTs) or a squat at the side of the road! Open sewers run throughout with children playing in the fluorescent green water. Cholera and E.coli are rife and a lot of the IDPs succumb to these diseases.
The Nile has every water borne disease known to man in it in this area and it was imperative that we as UN troops had a sustainable, potable and safe water supply. I was fortunate enough to receive some great products as mentioned to take out and use. I will summarise them below:
Sawyer 4litre Bag2Bag Filter
Firstly many thanks to Tony Male at Sawyer Europe for assisting me.
This is a great item and is so simple that it packs away to nothing and would be great in any camp location on expeditions. I filled this great bit of kit with pure raw Nile water so it inevitably had a lot of nasties in it. The filter allows raw water to pass through a filter by gravity into another bag which can then be decanted via a tap in to a waterbottle, pot or cup. Field tests showed that the water was safe to drink from the filtered bag which was coloured blue. from the dirty water bag which was coloured grey.
This bit of kit gets a thumbs up from me and was used daily whilst our own water treatment plant was being installed. A great product in a nasty environment.
Sawyer Mini Filter
I dished a few of these out to the lads to use and in one of the locations where there was a raw sewerage leak in to the water borehole they pressed them in to action and all was well, however i digress. I conducted the same test as above with the EHT and again great results. The EHT’s were blown away by the filter and for the price and the quantity that can be filtered it is a winner every time and again is so small it is easy to pack away. My only dislike is the squeeze bag that comes with it as it can be a faff to fill but overall it is a great item.
Water To Go
Firstly many thanks to Dave Shanks for assisting me.
Having used this product for the past 2 years nearly in the UK in all conditions I was fairly confident with its abilities. I used this as my daily water bottle filling it up from various sources of dubious quality and i did not succumb to any ill effects. I received similar thumbs up from other guys who had them dished out to them.
The one thing that it lacks is a cap to keep the ever present dust off of the mouthpiece but Dave at Water to Go has told me that he is working on a redesign. Great stuff.
My final test was proper back to basics and it is one that is grass roots level simplicity. The good old canvas Millbank bag. I have used this endless times in many continents and i must admit that sometimes the old methods are the best.
I took raw Nile water and after allowing it to run through to the black line I collected a litre in my water bottle. It took a while due to the close weave of the canvass. I then took a filtered only sample and then added a water purification tablet to it.
Using the remainder of the filtered water from the Milbank bag i used the steripen for the required time to treat this and again the field tests showed all clear. However if i was to store this water for a long period the pathogenic organisms would recolonise.
Over the months i used all the items above at various times with some being used more than others. I am now back in the UK and ready to hit the hills and different climates again and i will continue to use and abuse the products above until they either break or outlive me!
A great big thank you must go out to Darren at Above & Beyand, Ross at Rosker, Svante at Fjallraven, Tony Males at Sawyer eu, Dave Shanks at Water to Go for all the assistance, patience and understanding.