Ray Mears, TV Bushcraft Legend

It’s the ultimate Show ’n’ tell, with the world's most respected outdoorsman. With a peerless, first-hand knowledge of living responsibly off the land in wild places, Ray's TV programmes and books have introduced generations to the outdoors. But never mind that: what's in his backpack?

Ray Mears, and the contents of his 'sack. Photo: Tom Bailey / Trail Magazine

Billy can & Littlbug stove
Where I can I like to light a fire as it's ecologically sound, but I do use a stove. What type depends on where I am. Under this billy can is a Littlbug stove, which you can put wood in. I often take a little Trangia burner, with which I use eco fuels. It’s totally silent – so you can just sit and listen for wildlife.

Ray Mears Leaf Cutter rucksack
Rucksacks are overly complicated today: covered in webbing, with often ridiculous overburdening of weight. This one is very light, and is based on a pack I had made for the jungle. Three large external pockets – which take the capacity to 90 litres – mean you can live out of the pack without opening the central section. Sixty litres is a good size (this is what I take for a week's trip, with a week's food); 25-30 litres I find is ideal for overnights in Britain.

For the mountains, I take a Hilleberg Akto. For other environments, I might take a bivvy, or a hammock; each system fits the same space. I use the Hilleberg Bivanorak in the Arctic – it‘s very spacious. And it’s ideal as while it very rarely rains in the Arctic, it does sometimes.

Sleeping bag
I always use down bags. They are good to compress, they are light and take up less volume in your pack. Volume is important and light weight is important, but not to the point when you lose strength. I go lightweight and I go very simply, but everything I pack is strong. 

I always have binoculars. You miss so much if you don't.

Good for rubbing, chapped lips and so on. It's good for beginners, too – as in a field dressing you can also use it for firelighting. Petroleum jelly, as it suggests, is flammable!

A 3/4 length model. You don't need any longer.

Your compass is the key to the wilderness. Navigating is really important, and you double up on the things that are really important: take two ways of making a fire, two ways of navigating, two torches and two cutting tools. 

A knife can make your life possible in a remote place if you have the skills to use it. It's a very important tool. When you're stressed by bad conditions, your knife has to be very strong – a folding knife doesn't do the job and isn't safe. A fantastic small knife is all you really need. This one is a Woodlore knife, made [to Ray’s design] by Alan Wood.

Custom first aid kit
I keep this in a dry-bag. It's quite specialised: a trauma kit – and I can deal with quite serious situations with what's in here. I'm not a believer in pre-packed, one-size-fits-all first aid kits – you always have to adapt something to your own needs and applications. 

This is just a stainless steel army mug, but I've become quite attached to it. It's been all over the world with me. You can reheat things in it, you can bail a boat in it, you can eat from it. I've even had arrow poison made in it: afterwards, when the natives gave it back to me, they said they knew it was safe as they had all drunk from it.

Read LFTO's interview with Ray Mears here.