Why we love the jungle belt kit
The jungle belt kit is your single most important personal gear when being on a survival course or expedition tour in the jungle. I would go as far as saying, I would rather stand butt naked in a survival situation with my belt kit, than standing in one with only my clothes on and no belt.
We did not invent it!
We initially adopted it after participating in Bushmasters UK survival course in Guyana, and we have never regretted it when being on our own tours. It contains everything you need such as knife, machete, fishing kit etc. It’s your tool box and generally speaking it should never be further away from you than an arm’s length. Moving outside the camp area you should avoid unclipping it unless you have an extraordinary good reason (Toilet is okay…).
Our preferred belt kit is army graded and is a standardized belt that is used in many armies all over the world. I guess you could make your own belt, but the thing about army graded material is that it just lasts. Do not go out and make yourself a fancy leather belt that looks “all bushcraft”, because in the jungle this will rot out in a heartbeat. When dealing with jungle equipment the question you have to ask yourself is: could my life rely on this piece of equipment? I know that this seems to be a foolish question to ask of a belt, but the reality is that this army graded equipment is made to endure some of the most extreme conditions without failing and this makes it ideal for the jungle. Period.
On this first picture you can see how the exterior looks like and the setup is 2 pouches (1 Utility and 1 canteen), Machete and knife. Everything you could possibly be in need of is just by your hand.
Your best friend right by your hand
The machete speaks for itself. Remember always have the machete sitting opposite of your preferred hand(if possible) and especially make sure that the blade when being pulled out of the sleeve is facing away from the body. You do not want to cut yourself from sheer excitement when taking it out the first time.
On the back is a little knife, perfect for all the small things and especially gutting out smaller fish. In reality the machete would be enough, but it is just a bit more convenient sometimes with a smaller knife. It could as well be replaced by a multi-tool which always comes in handy in the jungle.
As said, there are two pouches; one is for your drinking bottle and aluminum cup. The canteen is always supposed to be full and should always be used as last remaining water. Remember when moving around you should always be carrying a camelbak for primary water source! The aluminum cup can be used for drinking, purifying water in, filling up your camelback, hot drinks and you can even prepare small meals in it. The utility pouch contains fishing kit, fire kit, fire steel, compass, throwing line, iodine, a couple of snacks and GPS. Even with all this stuff mentioned you would still have some space for customizing it with things you find necessary. I will get back to the specifications of the individual things we cary in the belt kit in a later post.
Survival kit is always attached to you
The woodsman would here understand that the belt basically is the survival kit. Of same reason was I telling earlier about the “no further away than an arm’s length” philosophy. People who are associated with the army would know this rule from having a weapon, because a soldier without a gun is deeply limited from doing his job and the same would count for any survivalist or participant on an expedition tour not having their belt kit. A good example is a story we heard from a survival course, where the last days are spent in isolation. The participants were dropped off on the bank of a river and this specific participant went in alone. The guy was a very outdoorsy kind of person and started soon after his arrival to set up his survival shelter. He found his place a little inland and after some time he decided to go to the river to fill up water. He took his canteen out of the belt and went down to the river (Hope you already here see the mistake). Well after filling up his canteen he turned around and started walking back to the camp. At some point he realized he was going in the wrong direction and went back towards the river. This makes brilliant sense, go back to last sure location and then start locating camp. So he started to walk back to the river, but the further he went the more he knew that he lost the direction of the river. If he had had his belt kit he would have had 3 vital pieces of equipment to help him out.
The small mistakes that escalates
Firstly, the machete. When you walk in the jungle, especially without an existing line you should constantly chop small marks on trees or cut branches as you go. You are creating a track that you as well can backtrack, but because he did not have the machete he was unable to do this. In his pouch there would also have been a compass that the tour leader as the last thing before isolation had instructed him in using and would always lead him back to the river and made it possible to at least find the place where he filled up his canteen. Ultimately he would in his belt have had a small radio that he could have used to call base camp who could then have located him. But he didn’t have his belt kit. As I remember the story, the guy wandered the jungle for a few hours before he started yelling for help. Fortunately he was actually so close to basecamp that the tour leader and local guides heard him yelling and located him. I guess we can all agree that all of this happened because he left his belt and all its equipment. Of course they would have found him again anyway since there were a whole team of guides and a very experienced tour leader very close by in base camp and there were plenty of other participants in the area as well. But if it had been a real life survival situation he would have been lost without anything to help him survive!
Even though this guys was an experienced outdoor person and only was lost for a few hours, he was pretty spooked when the team found him. The jungle is extremely hard to navigate and I do understand why he got lost, he as well realized in a very late stage that he was actually lost. Of course nothing happened to this poor guy, but the morale speaks for itself. YOU NEVER WALK ANYWHERE WITHOUT YOUR BELT KIT!
The belt kit as well makes it much easier to unclip all of your equipment when you are sitting in the camp area or having it ready just by your hammock at nighttime. Not that there is anything to be afraid of in the jungle, but personally speaking preparedness comfort me in some way.
Does not fit them all!
The belt will in many cases be necessary to use with an army bag where there is space for the belt. Actually some of the newer trekking bags are created much longer than the army bags and not only in height, they are as well created with a waist band that sits lower on the body, which causes the belt kit to not fit. The belt kit makes it highly comfortable to walk with the army bags and I would personally prefer this to any other constellation in the jungle. By using an army graded bag you would at the same time be sure the bag is durable enough to withstand the tropical conditions. I will in another post get back to the ideal jungle rucksack.
Get your own one jungle belt kit
The belt kit can be bought all over the internet on Amazon, Ebay and in army surplus stores. The surplus seems to be the cheapest and the belt, pouches, canteen and aluminum cup can be bought for something around 40-50 pounds but can be both less and more expensive depending on age and quality. We know for a fact that the belts are used some places by outdoor people in the western hemisphere and could be a piece of equipment that could be used after coming back from a trip to the jungle. We always lent it out to our participants so we know they have the right facilities to effectively carry their equipment when being on a tour.