GETTING DOWN AND DIRTY IN A JUNGLE
I’ve been lucky to direct shoots in challenging terrains all across the planet, from jungles to deserts and from low terrains to high mountains. Each environment brings its own unique challenges and clothing conundrums. If you hang around with enough adventure film crews, you start to realize the real professionals are extremely attentive about their kit and they will consistently use the same items that have been previously tested and utilized. The kit we take is not what you would often expect.
So I’ve written a guide with packing tips for 3 distinct environments (Jungle, Mountain, and Desert), which will include a couple of key rules to follow and my 3 top specific kit items;
First up, Getting down and dirty in a Jungle.
Rule 1: Surrender your ego and clothing to the jungle!
It sounds like a cliché, but jungles will literally chew you up and spit you out. All the experts who manage our safety and access constantly use the phrase; ‘Don’t fight the jungle... it will always win’.
So forget about packing heaps of technical gear designed to outsmart the elements or make you look ‘cool’ in your kit. The real jungle experts are a scruffy bunch, dressed in well-worn, light fitting, and dependable clothing. The ones that survive all seem to adopt a zen-like attitude as they get along with the environment and accept the minimal and practical mentality. See my next blog on dressing for the high mountain, where you’ve got more chance of pulling off the full Gucci-tactical look. From day one, you realise that your kit will get hammered and destroyed over the course of a shoot. After a couple of hours, knee deep in a muddy tropical swamp, you’ll look like a bedraggled castaway. Deal with it, embrace it, and don’t fight it.
Rule 2: Follow the wet and dry method; the jungle warfare way.
Boil your kit down to two essential sets of clothing that will go into either a wet or a dry bag. You’ll wear one set during the day and change into your dry kit at night. That’s it. I’m not talking about a set of your favorite PJs. I mean the same kit you’d wear in the day. Dry and rotate, dry and rotate. You’ll stink after a while, but on the upside, you are less likely to scare the wildlife away.
The reasons for the ‘wet/dry kit’ are simple. Jungles are bloody wet. It will rain consistently for hours and/or stop and start all day long, so the weather will go from baking sun to a tropical downpour in an instant. It’s almost impossible to stay dry. Crews that are new to the jungle often make the mistake of packing the latest and technical waterproof jackets and trousers. These kits may keep you dry in a downpour, but in an atmosphere of 90% humidity, you’ll just trap all your body heat inside your latest kit and sweat like a pig. This situation blows. If you are directing a crew, it will seriously throw you off your game. So ditch the waterproof jackets and trousers during the day, keep them for the night when you get to camp, and accept that your shirt and trousers will just get wet. In a hot jungle, trust me, it’s the best way.