Like a lot of people, I tend to believe in the old adage "Better to have it and not need it, than need it and not have it." I'm always on the lookout for new gear that will let me do more, or stuff that's just interesting. I'm always forgetting something on every trip, and I tend to compensate by incorporating redundancy in my equipment. Maybe it's my IT background, but I am firm believer in the notion that "Two is one, and one is none."
That can get one into trouble when dealing with a lot of physical activity. As a boy, up through my early 20s, I was an avid hiker and camper. I grew up tromping around the hills of northern West Virginia, both alone and with friends and family. At first I carried everything but the kitchen sink, finding an excuse for anything if I had room in my monstrous expedition pack, but hiking up and down those endless hills taught me rather quickly that less is often more. By the time I was 16 or 17, my warm-weather overnight kit consisted of a bolo knife, an old rubberized Army poncho and liner with some pre-cut lengths of paracord for a shelter, a first-aid kit, some MREs and a canteen or two. I'd eat local plants and occasionally animals if it was the appropriate hunting season, and purify water by boiling it in my canteen cup. I was young, and agile, and glad to be unencumbered.
Life has its ways of intervening, and I don't get out camping much anymore, much to my dismay. I've come to like my creature comforts, even when camping. But I still remember how on a long hike, every ounce felt like a pound by the end of the day. Considering a proper safari consists of a whole lot of walking, I'm taking a hard, hard look at what I really and truly 'need' outside of base camp. What I carry, and how I carry it, will become critical.
So first thing's first: a belt. I carry a decent amount of stuff on my belt on a daily basis. Thus, I need a solid, stiff, and durable belt that adjusts to the situation as necessary. For about 15 years, I've been using belts from The Wilderness. Their original Instructor Belt is a classic for a reason, but with weight an issue, I opt for the polymer-buckle "Frequent Flyer" model. With the 5-stitch reinforcement, I've found it plenty stiff for holding up my pistol and accessories all day. I also like that the nylon and polymer construction is unaffected by rain, snow, sweat or other environmental conditions like leather. There are a lot of good belts on the market today, but I've not yet had any reason to switch.
Now, what to carry on that belt? For daily use, I generally have a Leatherman Wave, a SureFire G2 flashlight (though I've upgraded it to a higher-end head and bulb assembly), and my pistol and spare magazine. When hunting, I add a belt knife for field-dressing game and a spare ammo carrier for my rifle or revolver. I don't anticipate taking a pistol to Africa (the laws are a bit Byzantine in that regard, from what I'm told), and the safari company will have skinners that are far better at their trade than I could ever hope to be, so I won't likely bring a belt knife (though I'll still have a folding knife, because a blade is useful).
I've been experimenting with a belt-mounted ammo carrier. Initially I bought a Rifle Ammo Pouch from Triad Tactical, because I liked some of the features. I figured I could keep rifle data and hunting licenses in the see-through flaps, and ten rounds each of .30-'06 and 9.3x62mm. I have no complaints about the quality of this piece of gear, but I just found it to be a bit more than I wanted to carry on a long hunt. I think it's a great piece of kit for carrying additional ammo on a backpack, or for laying out when you're in a hide or other stationary spot, but it's bulky on my belt and not all that quick to access when it's all folded up and buckled shut.
I also had a Twin Loader from The Wilderness, and I like it quite a bit positioned around 2:00 for a quick reload of the magazine. But that only holds two extra rounds, and I want a few more. At a recent safari rifle match, I noticed many competitors with simple, flap-closed cartridge carriers that held four or five rounds. While attending the Safari Club International convention earlier this month, I happened across several similar items. I found one from Westley Richards that suited me, and bought it for a reasonable price (they were liquidating some old stock due to a logo change). I think when combined with the Twin Loader, it'll give me sufficient ammunition on my person for most situations.
So that takes care of blades, tools, light and ammo. Next time, I'll talk about one of the most important things you can carry with you into the wild: water.