Kit Testing


REI Mountain 3 Tent


For those parts of the expedition that are far from creature comforts, the Tracing Tea team will be living in five of REI’s fabulously strong and adaptable Mountain 3 tents. Although designed to sleep three (as the name suggests), two team members will be in each tent to give us, and our kit, that little bit of extra space. Weighing less than 10 lbs a piece, the Mountain 3s pack down well, saving us precious space in the 4x4s. The poles are made from DAC aluminium and clips at each pole intersection strengthen the pole structure, which could well come in use if we encounter high winds in the mountains. The seams are taped to make the tents more waterproof (always useful) and the vestibule has specially designed snow flaps to keep wind and snow away from the tent door. Although the tents come with fairly good inbuilt groundsheets, we’ll be using additional footprints to protect the tents from rough ground and the usual wear and tear that occurs as a result of prolonged use. Over the course of the trip we’ll be keeping a close eye to see how the tents perform in all weather conditions - from the monsoon in Bengal, to the mountains of northern Pakistan and the arid steppes of Kazakhstan – and also monitoring the durability of the tent fabrics and poles. Rarely before will a tent have received such an endurance test!


Big Agnes Encampment +15 Sleeping Bag


Jumping into bed with Big Agnes on a cold night has not been top of the agenda – until now. The big lady herself weighs in at a little under 4 lbs, happily takes a man up to 6’6”, and is comfortable down to 15F/-10C, which we think is quite impressive. The shell of the bag is Ripstop nylon (a god-send if you don’t want to keep sewing up holes before they run) and it’s filled with polyester or nylon as you wish. As a gesture towards freedom off choice, the team have got polyester/down bags as per their personal preference. As you can see from the shape of the bag, the Big Agnes is a good choice for regular use as it actually gives you room to move around, or at least fidget a bit, without being restricted by the fabric. Another clever design feature is that, unlike most mummy bags, Big Agnes is available in both a right and left version so that two can be zipped together for couples or, more likely for us, in the case of extreme cold. The left-handers among you may also be leaping for joy at this point as you can now have the zip wherever you like.


Eagle Creek Toy Chest Duffel


The problem with conventional rucksacks is that they just aren’t stackable. Obviously this is less of a problem if you’re hiking, but when space is at a premium strange-shaped packages are a big no. Bring in the Eagle Creek Duffel. Billed officially as a toy chest, the duffel is in essence a heavy duty, compartmentalised sports bag. The bag is made from thick PVC to ensure everything inside remains waterproof and the compartments (which can be taken out if desired) are great for keeping clothes, toiletries, boots and everything else separate. The 90ltr capacity means that personal gear can be taken for all eventualities and the top-opening system means that, unlike with a rucksack, you don’t have to take everything out to see what you’ve got. The only thing we’ll be adding to these bags are shoulder straps – Eagle Creek have missed something there. Other than that, we’re impressed.


Lifeline Ultimate Survivor


On a trip like Tracing Tea, there is always the possibility that something will go seriously wrong, whether it be an accident, natural disaster, or political incident. To assist in these worst-case scenarios, each member of the team will be carrying a Lifeline Ultimate Survivor pack. The 32-ounce bottle contains an emergency blanket, rain poncho, hand warmers, a candle and a box of waterproof matches to help keep out the worst of the elements. Assorted small tools, a whistle, compass, a 20-piece first aid kit, a torch and accompanying AAA batteries are also included.  We’re not entirely sure why a lip balm holder is also included in this emergency kit, but then it’s nothing if not comprehensive!


Reliance Luggable Loo


Oh what a glorious name! And quite a glorious product too. No longer will the bottoms of Tracing Tea be taking their chances with the wildlife of the wilderness as we now have our very own Luggable Loo. As you can see is a very simple design (basically a bucket and a seat) but it saves digging holes or squatting in midge-infested undergrowth. An ordinary plastic bag can be fitted inside so everyone can deal with their own, and thus no-one draws the short straw of having to empty the bucket at the end of the day. The plastic lid and bucket are durable, easy to clean and the handle makes for painless carrying. We love it!


Tracing Tea | Expedition vehicle: Ford F350 Superduty®


Our documentary route from India to the UK is a journey of over 15,000 miles through some of the most unforgiving terrain and weather conditions on the planet, from the rugged Himalaya to rough desert tracks, from the baking heat of summer in India, to deep freeze of East Europe in Winter. All this calls for a seriously tough vehicle, and the F350 is as tough as they come. With an engine displacement of 6.4l, this fine machine can produce a highly respectable 350 horsepower and 650lbs of torque at revs as low as 2000rpm - ideal for the snow or desert sand - and can start in under 2 seconds at -20F (-30C). It's real strength, however, lies in the design of its frame, with the cross-members both riveted and welded. Add to this that the Super Duty® is the only pickup to use all high-strength steel (2x stronger than regular steel), and the end product is a max payload of over 6000lbs. A film crew truck also needs to be extremely maneuverable, for ease of movement around difficult locations, particularly cities. The F-350 DRW Crew cab has the best turning radius in its class and its innovations such as reverse camera system, integral tailgate step and one-touch folding wing mirrors will combine to ensure a hassle-free experience for the crew drivers over the course of the journey.