Why Knowledge and Skills are so important in any outdoor environment with Aldo Kane
Welcome to episode 6 of the Hardest Kit on the Planet Podcast brought to you by Heinnie Haynes. In this podcast we try and extract as much knowledge and ideas as possible from some of the hardest people and companies on the planet. Our aim for the podcast is to continually provide you with some great knowledge and information from a wide range of people and companies who are actually out there doing the business.
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The Show Notes
In this episode I (Ben Roberts) talk to Aldo Kane, who is an ex Royal Marines Sniper. He then went to set up a really successful outdoor safety and security company called Vertical Planet.
In this episode we talk about all things planning, preparation, essential skills, knowledge and gear. Aldo provides some really great insights into how being prepared can hep you make the most of your time outdoors.
Click the link at the top of the page to listen or download. The full transcript as always is below . . .
Who are you and what do you do?
I’m Aldo Kane, and I run a company called Vertical Planet which is a safety and security company for people in the film and TV industry. We basically look after film crews and presenters right across the world: From stunt rigging through to rope access, security and diving. A broad spectrum of stuff, but it’s mostly in hostile and remote locations.
What sort of situations and environments do you find yourself in, both man-made and natural?
I used to be a Royal Marines Sniper for about 10 years, then went on to form Vertical Planet. I’ve worked in some really harsh environments from inside volcanos to under glaciers, on top of mountains and in jungle canopies. A real mix. It’s not just about being able to survive and throve in those environments either, as often we have some really expensive kit with us.
Looking at some of those environments then. What do you actually need with you inside a volcano for example?
The first thing you need for that is a massive set of balls. But, on a serious note, you really need all your proper safety kit. There are gases in there which don’t smell or taste, but can be lethal, so it is really important your safety gear is good to go. So, for this environment it was really sensitive gas sensors and things that you wouldn’t normally need for a day in the hills.
What about the standard kit you need then, for those who aren’t planning on going into active volcanos?
We generally split normal environments into jungle, mountain, desert and arctic. You could also add marine as well, but we don’t do too many of those. I tend to have a quite basic kit that goes to all environments. It includes food, water, shelter, knife, lights, boots and stove. That’s pretty much my start off kit, and live effectively.
Skills are also really important. Having the knowledge of the environment you are in is essential. Because, you could give someone the most advanced kit in the world, but if they don’t know how to use it, it is pointless.
How do you recommend people go about getting these skills then? And how would you advise people on how to research an environment?
More accidents I see happen in places like the UK where people don’t expect the extremes of weather. People take for granted that they’ll be ok, and go unprepared. So, we always spend time researching before we go anywhere
If you were to go walking as a novice, just use the internet. You can find so much information online from the specific websites, even places like Google Earth. Depending on what information you find, you may have to change the route or the skills you’ll need to know.
Skills such as being able to map read, then cook food, build a shelter, are all so useful. Do you have a first aid kit, comms equipment? Do you know how to use it all?
We have a rule where we say that if you are carrying it, you need know how to use it. There is no point having it otherwise.
This stuff changes with every environment.
This I guess links back to your days in the Royal Marines. So, how did you go from that to Vertical Planet?
Well, I found there weren’t a huge amount of transferable skills from being a sniper to being on ‘civvy’ street.
As a sniper I was trained to be effective at moving in any environment without being seen. These skills I picked up during this time, have all been used in my job. But, I did have to get all the formal qualifications first. I found that learning the skills was really important before considering the kit I was getting.
What made you decide then to change jobs?
You take a lot for granted when you are in the marines. You get some of the best military training in the world, in all the environments mentioned earlier.
From that I got all my climbing instructor qualifications. I worked on Oil rigs to build up my rope access hours. That also gave me time and opportunity to get skills and courses in other disciplines. I could then offer all these skills to the market. Basically swapping the sniper for the camerabag.
You can’t leave anything to luck in some of these environments. The camera people and presenters have a job to do. It’s our job to keep them as safe as possible, and to get them there and back. There is so much work that goes on behind the scenes to get all of these incredible shots, and that’s what I and my company try and help do.
The three key takeaway tips then are:
- Research the environment
- Get the appropriate skills
- Get the appropriate kit and know how to use it
(It’s really worth listening to this part, as Aldo provides some really useful addition info to each of these points).
From your experience then, which places have been the hardest to plan for?
Tough question. I write detailed risk assessments for everything. Most recently though, i’d say caves and volcanos, because there are so many abject dangers. In a cave system for example there can be flash floods caused by heavy rainfall almost 200 miles away. This is the stuff that’s hard to plan for and even harder to manage. This therefore takes loads of time, planning and patience.
Looking more generally now; Is there any gear in particular you have with you at all times in almost any environment?
It probably starts with water. For the last 3-4 years I have been taking a water filter. There is loads of water in the world, but there isn’t always clean water. I have been to places where I am surrounded by water, but none of it has been drinkable. I use the Lifesaver hand pump bottle, and a Water-to-go filter.
Why do you advise against plastic bottles?
I see it as an environmental issue. I was recently in Sierra Leone and went to the mouth of a river where it meets the Atlantic, and it’s absolutely chocker block with plastic bottles.
If you are away on expedition for days/weeks at a time, imagine how many bottles you’d use each day, then you’ll see what I mean. I want to try and be responsible when i’m travelling around the world.
Any other gear on top of a water filter?
I always take a Hennessy Hammock. Unless it’s freezing anyway. It’s really comfy to help me get a good nights sleep. It’s really versatile and just really great.
Knife is probably up there with water filter. In the jungle I have a Ka-Bar Kukri. I l also have a LightMyFire Knife, which has a fire steel in the handle.
Something I should also mention that in our industry redundancy is key. Having only one is the same as having none (two is one, one is none principle).
The next thing is light (a head torch). We always have a main and a spare. Recently I have been using the Petal Nao, which is self adjusting.
Explain the rules of twos
Don’t take two of the same thing. If for example my Petal Nao didn’t deal well with humidity it would be pointless having two of them. I would take two different types of as many things as possible. If you are by yourself this isn’t always possible, so it’s always worth considering what you need two of.
You need to identify this in your risk assessment. I.e. if there is a full moon and clear skies in summer, do you need two torches? Going back to what I said earlier it all comes back to the planning stage.
It doesn’t take anything away from the adventure by being well prepared! You can actually go out and enjoy it for longer and further.
Do you have any specific stories about how useful prior preparation has been to you?
Yeah, recently did a big climb in Venezuela up a big wall. We had planned in our heads prior that we would spend 7 days on the wall, then we’d top out, finished the filing then get picked up after a helicopter.
But, after the 7 days we had to bail out and go back down the wall. Because of the planning though, we were able to do this relatively easily.
On almost every trip I have been on we have used some sort of redundancy kit.
Who do you think is the hardest people and animals on the planet?
He hardest people i’ve met in the last 12 months or so have been in Africa, places like the DRC and Sierra Leone. It’s a tough life for them anyway but then add in factors like constant war, Ebola and things like that it becomes even more harsh. The DRC is such a hard place to make an existence. It’s one of the poorest countries on the plant. Everything is just hand to mouth, and really tough.
The DRC isn’t just tough for people, it’s tough for animals too, especially with the war and bushmeat trade. Mountain Gorillas have to deal with all this stuff on top of getting all the man effecting diseases such as Ebola.
How can people find out more about you?
Instagram: Aldo Kane