This week, when most of Britain will be relaxing over the May bank holiday weekend, myself and 9 other women will be setting off on a unique survival challenge for five days in the forests of rural Wales. Meeting each other for the first time on Day One, we will have to organise ourselves as a team to build shelters, forage for food and light a fire from scratch – aided only by basic gear and minimal food rations.
The inspiration for this expedition came from Bex Band, aka the Ordinary Adventurer, a UK adventure blogger and founder of Love Her Wild – a community all about inspiring women to get outdoors adventuring. Over 140 women applied to be part of this expedition and the final team represent women from all walks of life. We range from 21 to 67 and come from different cultural backgrounds and abilities. We have a team member who has Parkinson’s disease, another who describes herself as ‘plus size’ and a retired librarian who has never camped before. Despite all the barriers one might think our group faces, we want to show that adventuring really can be accessible to all and we hope to inspire women in the process.
As for me, I am a total amateur history buff and have always been fascinated by how ancient hunter-gatherer peoples lived. I applied to this expedition because it is an opportunity to discover if modern humans can still hack it out in the wild. The Great Outdoors is our original hood after all – can we remember to live and love life beyond the roof and four walls of our accustomed habitat? Ultimately, I think this expedition will be all about the team and how everybody functions together. Humans have thrived as a species because we are able to cooperate and work together to resolve our basic needs. This challenge is a chance to put this into practice in the ultimate back-to-basics scenario – and that is why it fascinates me!
Yet it will be far from relaxing or easy. Many adventures have a tendency to focus on physical endurance – travelling far, high or fast. The Woods (as we are calling it) will be a physical challenge, but in a very different way. We will be out in the elements 24/7 – at times likely cold, wet, tired, sleeping without the comfort of roll mats and a convenient shelter. We will be hungry and tested mentally, physically and (most likely) existentially. Amidst that we will need to bond together to organise and survive as we have never needed to before. To be honest, I’m a bit terrified it all – especially the hunger part. It struck me the other day that – despite being a fairly outdoorsy person – I have never spent five consecutive 24 hour periods entirely outdoors ever in my life!
Ultimately, I think this expedition will put much deeper issues into perspective for us. There are 65 million refugees worldwide, and 10% of the world’s population live in extreme poverty – defined as less that $2 per day. We in the West take for granted our access to clean water, toilets, reliable energy, sufficient food and secure shelter. So much so that we cannot imagine life any other way. Our five days in The Woods will be nothing compared to the deprivations faced by people the world over, but I think it will give us a glimmer of an insight into a reality we do not acknowledge often enough.
If you are interested in the gear we will be allowed to use, take a look at the kit list below – probably the shortest list you will ever see for an adventure expedition! We will not be using our own phones but our expedition leader Bex will be recording and sharing our progress with live videos, photos and updates on social media – so do follow us to see how we get on!
Finally, we are unbelievably grateful to Berghaus, Alpkit and Merrell for their sponsorship and support in providing us with some gear. If the May bank holiday lives up to its infamous weather reputation, you can be sure that we will putting the Berghaus waterproofs thoroughly to the test in the usual British Spring conditions!
The Woods Kit List
Each team member will be allowed to bring: one waterproof bag for all items; waterproof clothing kindly provided by Berghaus; 2 changes of warm clothing; sleeping bag and bivvy bag; walking boots; small knife; pen and paper for keeping a diary.
As a group we will have the following:– one cooking pot; foraging guidebook; axe, folding saw and large knife; outdoor first aid kit; toilet paper, shovel & antibacterial hand gel; 2 large water containers; camera; flint; emergency food rations.
Our food rations for the five whole days will amount to the following per person:- 1kg rice, 100g red lentils, 200g flour, 200ml vegetable oil, one tin chickpeas, one tin kidney beans. We based our food rations on the supplies given to Syrian refugees in Jordan, but our portions amount to well below the recommended daily allowance for adult females. We will be looking to supplement our basic rations with food foraged in the woods – wish us luck!