Explorers Connect

Tahir Shah's top twenty do's & don'ts for expeditions

Adventure RevolutionJames Hipkiss

1. Lead from the front. Never ever ever ever expect someone to do something that you're not willing to do yourself.

2. Make sure that you have plenty of food -- good food -- and that the team eat before you do.

3. Think ahead. Never march on too late into the afternoon without taking into account that a storm could sweep in. So, build a camp when it's not raining, even if you haven't marched very far on a given day.

4. Look after the team's feet. Without good healthy feet they can't walk. When wading day after day through rivers, it's critical to try and dry them out at night.

5. Take a few luxuries and bring them out once in a while to surprise the team. In many of my expeditions I've carried packets of mono-sodium glutamate, which peps people up like nothing else, especially when everyone's cold and wet.

6. Be prepared. The Boy Scout Motto, but nothing could be more important. Have equipment and supplies for all obvious eventualities.

7. Take equipment that can be cannibalised into something else. I rate army surplus highly for this reason, and basic sturdy stuff from an ordinary hardware store as well.

8. Treat the team to rest days, especially if you're on a long journey. Everyone needs a good rest.

9. Take a soccer ball, or something that can encourage team participation and relaxation both at the same time.

10. Take practical stuff that can traded or given out to local people and tribes -- like knives, buckets, plastic containers, rope, beads and plastic sheeting. Top 10 Things to Avoid on an Expedition

11. Avoid singling out one man and scolding him publicly, unless you really intend to make an example of him.

12. Don't underestimate the amount of food you're going to get through. When you leave the town and press into the jungle it's not going to be easy to get supplies. Take food that can be cooked into large helpings -- such as rice, dried beans and spaghetti.

13. Don't camp too close to the banks of a river, because it can swell dramatically with rain, and wash you away in the night. I speak from experience!

14. Avoid anything that will break the sense of team cohesion. Don't encourage the team to string out too far as you move through the jungle or up a river. Keep together.

15. Don't take any equipment that can't be smashed around endlessly. The best stuff is the gear you can break down to make something else, or equipment that he's several uses. A few square metres of plastic sheeting, for example, is worth its weight in gold.

16. Don't expect porters to march without enough hot food -- it's impossible to overemphasise the importance of hot food, and plenty of it. Bonaparte said 'An army marches on its stomach', and nothing more true could ever have been spoken.

17. Don't dare push on if you don't have your goal very clear in your head. You must know why you're there and what you're searching for.

18. Avoid leading all the time. By this, I mean, there's something worthy in being aloof when you need to be.

19. Don't ever think that you're the first person to have stepped in a certain part of jungle or region. The tribes always know how the land lies. They are the key to what you need and what you want.

20. Avoid taking too much equipment. You only need a fraction of what you plan to take, and ninety percent of that can be bought on the cheap in local markets at your local destination. Never fall for buying 'expedition' crap at European or American camping stories. If you have to buy gear before you leave, take army surplus stuff. It's cheap and can be ripped to bits if needed.

Words by Tahir Shah