Equipment Information

Urban-SERE Phoenix

Comments on Kit and Our Equipment Recomendations

This page will regularly be updated and added to. If you need advice or suggestions we haven't covered yet please do get in touch via the contact us page.

Photos to accompany these write ups will follow in due course.

This section is intended to inform you of what to look for what assessing the quality of your equipment. It is not a recommended list of equipment for you to purchase. Although, no doubt, we all like to buy the best and latest equipment available, the information here should temper that desire as we most probably have the majority of equipment we actually require. We will also make comments on equipment we have used and will give an honest appraisal - if it's no good, its not good! We are lucky to have the knowledge and skills and experience to not be blinded by the manufacturers blurb and tell you how it really is…

Dust off your old equipment and check it over… It's probably still very good and will save you lots of money.

Conrad Allen
Conrad Signature
  • Survival Kits
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    Survival Kits
    First and foremost there are no survival kits that fit all occasions and prepare for every situation. We believe that the majority of off the shelf survival kits are very poorly thought out, contain cheap and substandard equipment and are really tailored for the kids playing in the woods and NOT the serious outdoors man. But thats what you should expect from a kit costing £20 or less.

  • Boots Summer/Winter/Expedition/Gaiters
    Scarpa Manta Mountaineering Boots
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    Boots Summer/Winter/Expedition/Gaiters
    Boots are always an emotive subject with everyones opinion counting. N two pairs of feet quite match and therefore boots that fit one person well may not have that same comfy feel on the next persons feet.We prefer a lightweight boot for most of the year and a heavy weight winter mountaineering boot for the winter and extremes of snow, ice and wet conditions.

    Scarpa Manta - a good winter mountaineering boot with a shank and able to take crampons for snow and ice walking and limited climbing.

    Miendle Desert Boots - a good general boot for warm conditions. Although NOT waterproof it will dry quickly once wet.

    Alpina Alaska - for Telemark and Nordic skiing (£300). An excellent boot with good flexibility and good waterproofing.

    Alico Boots (Army Surplus from GI JOES’ for £25 brand new still in box). These boots have been used by Royal Marine Commandos in the arctic for decades and stand the test of time. When used with a cable binding on nordic skis they are adequate for ski touring and moderate mountain use.

    Scott Voodooo Telemark - the latest style of telemark boots are a plastic shell with an inner boot which laces up. There is a bellow across the toe which allows for the movement required when in a telemark position. The support these boots afford allow for alpine style parallel turns to be carried out with ease and will allow a competent alpine skier to rapidly progress with telemark as well as integrate previous skills to good effect. If they get wet they have the advantage of being able to dry out the inner boot more easily than the old style leather boots.

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    Gaiters are a must in deep snow or extremely wet boggy ground. here are essentially only two types of gaiter. the traditional type that clips to a lace or the Yeti type that seals around the bottom of the boot with a rubber rand.

    That rand can be very tight and if the boots are not stiff or shanked then the Yeti will either pop off or else bend the boot in half making it extremely uncomfortable if not unwearable.

  • Knives Fixed Blade/Folding Blade/Locking Blade/Multi-tools
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    Knives Fixed Blade/Folding Blade/Locking Blade/Multi-tools
    Knives come in two main categories: Fixed or Folding.
    Within the folding category we have multi tools and 'Swiss Army' type knives with plenty of blades and attachments.

    All of the
    Victorinox Swiss Army Knives are good quality with multiple blades and good quality steel. Although not very hardwearing they are great tools.

    Our favourite fixed blade is a
    Falkniven F1 which has a good thick blade and a sturdy sheath. It can be used to split logs and will take abuse well remaining sharp owing to a good laminated blade.

  • Lighting and Firelighting - Flint & Steel/Lifeboat matches/Lighters/Torches
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    Flint & Steel - Fire Lighting/Lifeboat matches/Lighters
    My personal favourite i the Light my fire brand. The flint is good quality and the steel used has and keeps a good edge for producing a good quantity of parks. The steel has a whistle incorporated into the handle which is useful addition.

    Lifeboat windproof and waterproof match are awesome. They come in tubs of qty 25 and are sold by BCB

    A Bic disposable litter is a must to be carried at all times.

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    Petzyl are without doubt my preferred supplier of had torches. They are solidly made and give a good throw of light.

    RXP is a rechargeable work which can be programmed toggle different lumens at different settings as well as light brightness its also able to give narrow beam or wide angle. Perhaps the best feature I feel is that it will dim when looking at reflective surfaces so looking at your map doesn't blind you. There are adaptors available to run on AAA if the rechargeable dies.

    Tikka is a standard head torch using LED bulbs with several brightness settings.

  • Base Layers (Clothing)
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    Base Layers (Clothing)
    Close to the skin thermal underwear as we would conventionally refer to them. Hello Hansen Merino Wool.

    HH Helly Hansen Lifa - this polyester fabric is fast wicking but will also harbour bacteria making it smell pretty foul even after only a short period of time. Its very good and reasonably hard wearing but very smelly after wearing requiring regular washing out.

    HH Merino Wool - A great fabric that is warm and heard wearing and even flame retardant. This will not harbour bacteria in the same way as Life does and can be worn for several day without the build up of smelly bacteria becoming offensive.

  • Thermal Layers (Clothing)
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    Thermal Layers (Clothing)
    Insulating layers

    SWAZI - This clothing is fantastic quality and very hardwearing. It is made in New Zealand
    and was designed for hunters who spend many hours if not days outdoors in pursuit of their goal. Tight fitting and very thermal we have used this in the arctic circle and found it to be excellent equipment. However, as it is nylon based it is very susceptible to heat and fires so keep well away from naked flames.

    Buffalo - Mountain Shirt and Belay Jacket are warm and windproof utilising fibre pile and Pertex as a cover. This material combination allows for rapid wicking of moisture to the outer Pertex where body heat and wind will allow for evaporation and quick drying. Accordingly buffalo should be worn next to the skin as any other layers will prevent this evaporation and drying from taking place. If you must wear a inner layer make certain it is fast wicking like the HH Life or Merino wool types.

    TNF Nuptse Jacket - is down jacket made from Pertex with a 700 fill capacity and is very warm and wind proof. Although the Pertex weather proofs it to a degree thesis far from waterproof and should be safeguarded at all times.

    Mountain Equipment Annapurna Jacket - This jacket is top end, very warm and very good quality of extreme cold weather.

  • Shell Layers (Clothing)
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    Shell Layers (Clothing)
    Windproof and waterproof layers come in various fabrics. Each with its own pros and cons:

    Goretex - is the original breathable waterproof fabric. It is a laminated membrane between two other fabrics, typically nylon. Although the membrane is porous, its size only allows water vapour to pass through and NOT water droplets and this gives the waterproof qualities. However, these microscopic pores nee fro eb kept clean and unblocked so regular washing will be required and the outer fabric may be proofed with repellent to prevent water beading on the surface. When older the tape on the seams may begin t de-laminate and come away. These seams can be resealed with a good quality tent repair seam sealer but will be a bit fiddly and can be messy.

    Rab Event
    - is a similar fabric to Goretex and works in principally the same way.

    Ventile - is a cotton fabric with a tight weave that once wet swells to form a waterproof surface. That means it must get wet in order to work. Not very common but very comfortable to wear, once dry its as soft and comfortable as any other cotton clothing. When wet it is stiffer like cardboard and as cotton is hard wearing too a point.

    Jackets/Parkas - should have an integral hood and storm flaps on all zips preventing water from easily penetrating. Cuffs should ideally have storm protection and velcro tabs to allow them to be pulled closed and prevent heat loss and water or snow getting in. Press studs are good and work in all weather conditions where as velcro can freeze and become difficult to stick.

    Overtrousers - are useful when sitting around in the wet or when benighted as an outer protective layer. However, they need to be well fitting to prevent them becoming trip hazard and should have a belt or drawcord to keep them up. If they do not have side zips and are difficult to put on easily and quickly it is highly likely that individuals will not put them on at the earliest opportunity and instead rather get wet legs and feet as a result.

    Salopettes - are abetter idea and will protect the back and kidneys from the damp and the cold. However, they should be easily put on or taken off and should have full length side zips got make this easy. Some have integral gaiters and this should be considered before purchasing that variety.

  • Sleeping Bags

    Sleeping Bags
    Without being too sujective, sleeping bags are very much a personal choice. However, they fit into two main groups (Natural or Synthetic) and the choices and characteristics of these two fillings comes down to our ability to keep it dry and price. The synthetic bags are warm even if wet and are arguably more robust in construction. However, as is always the case, there is a trade off and in this case its is pack volume and weight. A down sleeping bag of similar capability and warmth rating is likely half the weight and pack size.

    Box construction and Pertex covering are now largely expected as the norm. These features reduce cold spots as the stitching is off-set and the Pertex wicks away moisture allowing it to dry out.

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    Natural Insulation feather and Down
    Mountain Equipment Snowline sleeping bag rated to -25C is a goose down sleeping nag with a porter outer with allows moisture in the bag to be drawn to the outside where it can evaporate. Conrad has use this model in the Andes at 20,000' and highly recommends it. However, its comes at a cost which is not only expose for the bag but also that should it get wet it will be impossible to dry out without a tumble drier.

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    Synthetic Insualtion
    Typically the filling these days is Quallofill or Hollofill. This works well but is bulky. There are also fibre pile sleeping bags like those made by Buffalo and these are all weather systems but are bulky and heavy.

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    Cheap and Effective Options
    British Army Surplus Grade one Arctic Sleeping Bag - the latest issue sleeping system is rated to -20C, so as long as its in good condition it should be adequate. You can always add a silk liner to boost the ratings few degrees.

  • Survival Bags
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    Survival Bags
    Large polythene bags generally 2 m long and 1 m wide. Enough to get you and your gear inside and scrunch the top around your head, keeping your face outside to reduce the chances of suffocation but also to reduce the amount of moisture and condensation you are blowing into the bag which will only serve to keep you damp or wet. These were what everyone used in the mountains before Goretex was created. They are cheap but still as effective today as they always were. They are normally bright colours to aid in being found although some of the thinner and more disposable types may be clear polythene.

  • Bivi Bags
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    Bivi Bags
    Before the advent of Gore-tex, the survival bags mentioned above were what every outdoors man and mountaineer carried. Once Gore-tex was invented and became freely available at a sensible price, it became used for tents and as bivi bags allowing lighter travel and giving everyone the freedom to bivi out in relative comfort compared to either using the polythene survival bags or having to carry tents etc. These day bivi bags are most used as waterproof sleeping bag cover and are used regardless of whether a tent is being employed or not.

  • Tents
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    Terra Nova Quasars tents are simple excellent test that stand up to all weather and all conditions. Conrad has owned one since 2005 and apart from resealing the seams a few yeas back it has given perfect service. He has used it at 20,000’ in the Andes on Mt Aconcagua as well as extremely wet trips away in Wales and the Peak District.

    Terra Nova Laser Competition 2 is a very lightweight two person tent designed of mountain marathons. It is tight fit and easily pitched although in very wet conditions carrying out any functions inside the tent would require movement that involves flexibility.

    Tentipi are large tipi style tents that come without inner tents or groundsheets but these can be fitted. The groundsheets of the inner tent and the simple groundsheet can be unzipped internally allowing a fire to be used in the larger tents. There are also wood burning stoves that can be used with a chimney opening in the apex to allow for smoke removal. These tents are very good in all climates although too heavy and cumbersome for back backing, they are great as a basecamp.

  • Pocket Contents

    Information coming soon. Please check back.

  • Navigation Equipmnet Compass/Roamer/GPS/Watch/Mapping
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    Navigation Equipment Compass/Roamer/GPS/Watch/Mapping
    Silva compasses have always been my favourite as they stand up well to the rigours of the outdoors and are well marked with degrees and have clear base information. My favourite is the ranger with a folding mirror and also the type 4 which has been popular with the military for many years. The Type 4 comes in a military and civilian version - unless you need to use Mils - stick with the civilian version. (If you have to ask what Mils are… Stick with the civilian version)

  • Cooking Equipment Fuel/Gas/Burners/Bottles/Windshields
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    Cooking Equipment Fuel/Gas/Burners/Bottles/Windshields

    Trangia Spirit burner is probably the simplest of cookers but there are a few notable issues to be aware of depending on where its it being used. Firstly the variety I am referring to is the spirit burner ad not the Trangia cook set which could also use a gas bottle burner. The burner comes in three parts. the body, Lid and Simmer ring. The body is filled with methylated spirit and burns with a blue (invisible) flame and is very effective. the temperature is regulated by use of the simmer ring which is closed to cool and opened to increase the burn. To extinguish it is closed completely - DO NOT use the lid to snuff out the flames. The ring houses a rubber O-ring to allow the fuel to be carried in the burner all the time. As the top becomes hot in use, if the lid were to be used to extinguish the flame it would melt the rubber ring and the seal would be breached.

    Jet Boil - Sol Ti (small titanium) - Sumo (very large steel) all of the Jet Boil types are similar but w have specific experience of the types listed here. Firstly the Ti versions of all the Jet Boils are titanium, cost a lot more and are very lightweight. they also should only be used for biking water and NOT for cooking food. the flux ring at the base is aluminium meaning that titanium and aluminium have been welded together. That also mans that their expansions are different and any sustained heat will cause them to separate. Boiling water is fine but and longterm cooking such as boiling rice for 10 mins is bound to have an adverse effect. However, there is a pan run act can be added to the burner allowing the use of any pan or cook set to coo with. Although this overcomes the issue it also means that more pots and pans need to be carried too. Over all Jet Boil works well and is very effective although gas cannot be carried on aircraft and availability can vary. It is also important to know that in extremes of cold the gas can be temperamental in use.

    As with all gas canisters they will lose pressure at altitude and especially so in the cold. There is a technique whereby the gas canister is stood in water in a pot and this some how helps with the gas transfer and works well. But it is our assertion that there are better fuels and cookers for use in extreme cold or high altitude.

    MSR Whisperlight are great cookers with the ability to run on almost any combustible liquid fuel such as petrol or even diesel. They come with two jets for use with different fuel types. They have a fuel bottle into which a pump and regulator are screwed and then this can stay on the bottle until it needs to be refuelled. The cooker has a pipe which connects directly to the regulator and is robust enough to be handled by holding onto the fuel bottle. The whole system also comes with a wind shield and is a very effective, fuel efficient and hot burning cooker.

  • Water Bottles/Bladders/Treatment
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    Water Bottles/Bladders/Treatment
    Nalgene are our preferred choice of water bottles. They are very robust, easy to keep clean and have a wide neck to facilitate easy filling.

    difficult to keep the drinking tube clean and black mould can grow quickly as there is no UV getting through to kill it off.

    Water Treatment
    uses UV to treat water and is very effective. Although it uses batteries and must not be damaged it is effective in all weather conditions and temperature ranges

    Sawyer Mini Filter is a great water filter that will likely last you a lifetime as long as it is correctly cared for. It removes all sediment and pathogens that you will come across but it has major flaw in its capability. Once it has been used it must never be allowed to freeze. So even if you only use it in warm climates you need to make sure that in transit it doesn't get cold either so aircraft hold baggage is not a place to transport this filter.

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