31st August 2022
At GROUNDTRUTH, one of the most important things we take into consideration when developing a product is field testing. To really know a product's durability, we have to put them to the test in really hard conditions. Ed Stafford has spent most of his life in extreme locations around the world and has a wealth of travel experience.
Ed joined the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst 1998 and was promoted to Captain in February 2002, before leaving the British Army. In 2010, Ed became the first person to have walked the entire length of the Amazon River, documented in the 2011 TV series Walking the Amazon. Since then Ed has been travelling the world in some of the most extreme environments, a true explorer at heart.
APPLYING SURVIVAL TO LIFE
Written by Ed Stafford
If you're like me then you have a place for everything, especially in your backpack. The concept of chucking stuff in willy-nilly (and therefore potentially not knowing where an item is immediately) sends shivers down my spine. When walking the Amazon my rucksack was a 90-liter behemoth; the first thing that went into the top-loading cavern was a rubber dry bag that acted as a waterproof liner for everything (it turns out that it gets quite wet in the rain-forest). Inside that went my sleeping bag stuffed straight in loose, that would fill every nook and cranny at the base of the bag and ensure that I always had somewhere comfy to sit where I knew nothing would break.
This system was field-tested by my bum eight times a day, seven days a week, for two and a half years. It worked!
On top of the sleeping bag I’d slip my laptop, BGAN (satellite internet link), and other heavy electrical items that I needed to broadcast the expedition live from the jungle. All kept safe in a secondary dry bag with silica gel sachets inside. This precious bag would sit closest to my spine so that the weight would be skewed closer to my own centre of gravity and therefore not throw me off balance if I twisted my torso suddenly.
Behind the tech gear (further away from me) was a combo of clothes, admin kit (lighters, fishing kit, spare loo roll) and other essential stuff that I wouldn't need immediately I set up camp.
The top layer was my hammock and mosquito net that was an integrated system that I’d evolved over time. The double silk hammock was utter bliss to sink into each evening. Nothing made me feel safer or happier than powdering my feet (to stop trench foot) and stretching back into the voluminous space with my iPod churning out Kate Nash’s Foundations.
Once the dry bag was rolled shut I’d then stuff my often-wet basha (tarp) between the rucksack and the liner. This way it would fulfil two roles: first, it would store the basha in a space that didn’t matter if it was wet and, second, it would again smooth out the profile of the exterior of the bag by filling in all the gaps. Nice and neat.
In early 2020 my invariably military-influenced obsession with administration and travel systems that make life more efficient (and therefore easier) whilst in the field was rudely stopped in its tracks by covid19 and the ensuing global kerfuffle. Brexit, Boris, COP19, Vladimir Putin and the cost of living crisis - was there no end to the massive bombshells sent to destabilise all of our lives?
So in this world of seeming depressing chaos I thought to myself, “What can anyone do to meaningfully try and move things in a positive direction?” How could any individuals have any actual impact without annoyingly Supergluing themselves to public monuments?
The three sisters who set up and run GROUNDTRUTH are called Sophia, Nina and Georgia. They got in touch to see if I wanted to test one of their ingenious bags. I replied by requesting that rather than just test one - I’d quite like to collaborate and make a whole new range of bags with them.
I absolutely loved their story, I loved that their bags were made out of 100% recycled plastic bottles.
It might not be single-handedly solving the entire Planet's problems but it was a perfect example of a new generation of companies set up with morals. Sure it wants to be successful - but at any cost? No. These sisters want to do things the right way, and if every company did that, we really would be going a long way to solving the World’s problems.
It also means I get to geek-out on evolving designs (and endless sample versions) of pieces of luggage that I hope won’t just be people’s first choice because they are ethical, but will be a rising name in the travel industry because they are the collaborative result of years of sweat and passion which will also make them the best.
The GROUNDTRUTH x ED STAFFORD designs are launching this October! Stay tuned!