With an unseen enemy hot on our trail, we've fled into the wilderness to find a safe haven. Luckily, we're armed with the best tech for keeping warm overnight while we consider our next move…
To survive a night in bitter outdoor conditions while trying to evade capture from an unknown foe, who are most likely wielding guns and angry Alsatians.
Jamie Hibbard often escapes his real life to spend time up mountains or camping out in forests. He’s also an experienced mountain-bike rider. In reality, he’s never been chased by anyone.
You know you’re in trouble when you find yourself in the middle of a dark forest with no one and nowhere to turn to for help. That’s the situation I find myself in, trapped during the middle of winter. Zipped up in my tent that’s being battered by the elements, sleeping bag pulled up, my only company is the glow from my phone as I tap out this story. Airplane Mode activated, I go back over the details of what led me to this place. This case of mistaken identity.
I’m not sure why it happened; I haven’t managed to piece it all together. The crossed wires. The weird phone calls in the night. The emails that didn’t make sense. The huge sum of money being placed into my bank account. Then the knock at the door. Well, not the knock – the bang as a metal ram swung through it, taking it off its hinges. The masked men in my house.
I panicked. By chance, I was at the far end of the old house, its tight passageways buying me some time. I chucked on my Finisterre CWS Caelus Parka and grabbed whatever kit I had to hand; then I bolted out of the back door. I managed to collect the Cannondale Fat CAAD1 bike from the outhouse, and a few other bits, then left by the garden gate and went to the woods.
I know the area well enough; it seemed like a good place to buy me some time – just a few hours to try and work it all out.
When I was far enough away – when I could no longer hear the dogs or see the torchlights – I switched direction and headed up the hill, out of the valley basin. I needed to reach higher ground, to find somewhere I could hole up. Needed to collect my thoughts through the natural instinct to just run.
The light was fading fast. That always catches me off guard in the winter. One minute you can see for miles, the next you can barely put one wheel in front of the other. The bike’s tyres did their job, though; they didn’t falter in the slippery, muddy conditions, they just carried on rolling. My mind drifted to more peaceful times back in the summer, out on the sand dunes near my house. The bike had laughed in the face of those. It was huge fun and my kids loved it. My kids... Focus. Need to focus.
Now I’m here in this Heimplanet Fistral tent. The wind is hammering the sides, but it’s holding fast. If I was here in any other situation, I’d be smiling at the noise the raindrops make as they bounce and ping off the inflatable exoskeleton frame that’s holding all of this up. Thankfully, I left the whole thing clipped together after its last outing – the outer and inner sections connected to the frame – so when I found my spot to stop earlier, I just needed to pump air into the supporting struts and up it went. StilI buzzing from my caffeine-infused Blockhead Energy Gum and pumped on the adrenaline, I managed to get the whole thing up quickly.
Shedding some light
Once I’d pegged it down and climbed in, I had the chance to catch my breath for the first time since leaving the house. These moments of solitude also gave me the opportunity to take stock of all the kit I’d managed to bring with me. My backpack was still full from my last outing a few weekends back, so there was solace in that.
There’s a load of useable stuff here – as I was riding up, I feared that it might all be just wet socks and a bin bag. I quickly discovered that the torch from my phone wouldn’t be my only light source, as I had the Princeton Tec Helix Backcountry lamp with me. It’s a solidly made, chargeable light that pops up into a mini-tower, with machined-aluminium legs for stability.
Scouring the contents of my bag, I pulled out the BioLite CampStove to get some heat into my bones and to cook some food. It’s a cinch to use – chuck some flammable dry material in the bottom, throw the lit fire stick on top of that, then switch on the fan to keep the whole thing burning. The heat from it is impressive, plus there’s a USB socket, so I’ve now got my phone plugged in and charging.
The only thing I have to eat is a can of Heinz baked beans. Hardly MasterChef standards, but at least it’s sustenance. And tea, of course – you always need tea. Boiling river water to make it is slightly grim, but it’s better than nothing.
I’ve got a couple of Leatherman tools stashed here, too – the Tread and the OHT. Eagle-eyed fans of The Walking Dead may have seen one of the new motorcycle- gang members wearing the Tread bracelet at the end of the mid-season finale. Considering my current situation, that might seem like an odd thing to mention, but I’m all too aware of being trapped, so there are commonalities there that make sense to me. I just wish I was Rick Grimes right now instead of me.
The Tread is a handy thing to have on your wrist if you’re out on a bike on a regular basis – it’s got a lot of tool-head options – and it’s something of an allegiance flag to wave when you’re in your civvies. The OHT is a much more familiar multi-tool but, from experience, it’s hard to beat.
I can feel the temperature dropping outside – I think Jack Frost is going to pay me a visit tonight. Come the morning, I’ll be pleased I’ve got the Brunton HeatSync Vital vest with me. Imagine a self-heating hot-water bottle that you wear over a base layer, giving you a steady stream of warmth. It’s the sort of thing you’d make sure you packed for an Arctic Circle expedition – it’s that good at keeping you toasty. I’ll put it on in the morning before I continue my journey, hopefully leaving the treeline behind and getting up into the mountain. I’m not even sure if… hold on, that dog sounded close…
Man vs Tech: the gear
Heimplanet Fistral - £320
If you’re heading into the wilds and want a compact tent with a small pack size and a light weight, the Heimplanet Fistral is ideal. It comfortably sleeps two people within its geodesic structure, and it’s easy to put up thanks to its ingenious pump system.
Leatherman OHT - £70
Leatherman is renowned for making hard-wearing multi-tools, perfect for use in difficult outdoor situations. The OHT features spring-loaded pliers, wire cutters and other important blades, and can be operated with one hand for added ease and convenience.
Leatherman Tread - £190
This multi-tool bracelet provides no fewer than 29 tools – that’s if your wrist is big enough to keep all the links in! If you ever need an Allen key or a screwdriver at a moment’s notice, this is a great option. It looks pretty macho, too!
Cannondale Fat CAAD1 bike - £2,600
Whether you’re a fan of Fat bikes or not, you have to admit they’re bloody good fun. We’ve not ridden a better example than this from sCannondale. It’s excelled in all conditions we’ve put it through – mud, sand and mountainous terrain. It would make for a great expedition bike.
Brunton Heatsync Vital - £75
This under-jacket warming system is powered by the Brunton USB power bank, which activates the vest to give you a hot-water-bottle-style heat source. It’s perfect for bitterly cold days, or if you find yourself in a dire situation such as being trapped or lost.
Princeton Tec helix backcountry - £40
Perfect for camping, this lantern folds up neatly thanks to its collapsible globe and legs. It gives off a really pleasing, soft light, and there are a variety of different-coloured LEDs. You can also use it in-tent as a hanging light, and it lasts for a claimed 40 hours.
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