Meet our toughest client

As a result of our Expedition-Tested philosophy, we’ve provided outdoor gear to some pretty tough customers over the years. Having spotted Steve Backshall in one of our Rufiji™ shirts on TV, we tracked him down for a chat between expeditions and shooting for the BBC

As a result of our Expedition-Tested philosophy, we've provided outdoor gear to some pretty tough customers over the years. Having spotted Steve Backshall wearing one of our Rufiji™ shirts on TV - and again on other shows over time - we knew our products were being put through their paces in some of the world's wildest destinations on trips filled with adventure.

As a foremost adventurer and naturalist, it is an honour to call Steve Backshall one of our customers. We tracked him down between expeditions and shooting for the BBC to talk about all things adventure, gear, and - of course - safaris. Main image source: Still from Extreme Mountain Challenge, Venezuela.

Steve Backshall in Venezuela for BBC's Extreme Mountain Challenge

Tell us a bit about who you are, what you do, where you've been, and what drives you.

STEVE: Hello, my name is Steve Backshall. I'm a wildlife television presenter, a naturalist, and an author - and I've been lucky enough to be travelling for a living for the last 25 years. Wow, that really ages me! I started off writing guide books for Rough Guides; then I moved to National Geographic. I was with them for five years as an adventurer in residence. I've been with the BBC ever since - mostly working for their natural history unit.

My travels have taken me to 105 countries, which is quite a lot actually. When it gets down to it, it's slightly more than Michael Palin and slightly less than the Queen which kind of puts it into context, I guess. I think I specialise in places which are frontiers - the wildest places we can find - and then obviously places that are fantastic for particular kinds of animals. So, for example, if I'm looking for jungle wildlife, I might go somewhere like Guyana or Brazil or Panama - places that have incredibly high biodiversity. If I don't find the jaguar or the harpy eagle that I'm hoping to find, then I'll probably find something else - even if it is just a very large bug.

For those budding and hardcore adventure travellers out there, are there any not-to-be-missed destinations you'd recommend and why?

STEVE: Destinations that I'd recommend you absolutely should not miss? I would say the Himalayas is at the very top of that list. I don't think any traveller should go through their lifetime without seeing the Himalayas. It is, to my mind, the most stunning of all geographical locations around the world. You know, I love the Alps. The Alps is a sensational mountain range but, when you're standing in the valleys in the Alps, the mountains are maybe a 1000 metres higher than you. In the Himalayas, they can be 4000 metres higher than you - even more! Just the size of →

Our toughest client, Steve Backshall.
Play me

them - the scale - is impossible to put into words. It's a place that changes minute by minute through the day as the light changes and the clouds and the weather changes.

What gear wouldn't you leave home without?

STEVE: The gear I wouldn't leave home without? Well, that changes with every single environment that I'm going to with the temperature, the weather, and the various things that I am going to be doing. The only thing that I always carry with me is a good medical kit and, in that, I always carry superglue. That's my number one tip because it's fantastic for covering up blisters, for covering quite decent sized wounds - it can be used as a really good dressing - and then obviously you can use it to stick your fingers to your face if you feel like it or stick bits of your gear together or stick the sole of your boot back on if it's coming off.

From extreme heat to extreme cold, how do you deal with these conditions?

STEVE: In some ways, extreme cold is one of the easier things to deal with because modern down technology is really, really effective against dry cold that you get well below zero. It's much, much harder to deal with temperatures that are hovering around zero or just above but are wet and windy. It's almost impossible to be comfortable in those kind of conditions. I mean, I've been more miserable on the north face of Ben Nevis in the later autumn or early winter than I've been on the top of Himalayan summits or way up in the Arctic Circle. It's just much easier to deal with dry cold.

Dry heat that you find in the desert? Again, there are plenty of strategies more than anything else - more than clothing - that you can use to deal with desert heat. Being mostly active in the earlier part and later part of the day - trying to lie low right in the centre of the day - that's important. And then quite often you have to keep warm at night because temperatures in the desert can easily get down to zero once the sun is gone.

The end of the expedition in Maun, Botswana.
It's a place that has the most extraordinary sunsets where you can see herds of gazelle just leaping through the waters.
Lechwe running through shallow water in the Okavango Delta, Botswana

What is your most memorable safari destination in Africa and why?
STEVE: We've done diving safaris in the Okavango where we've been an arm's breadth away from crocodiles and actually even, unfortunately, hippos, although we did not plan that bit. That certainly was not something I would like to replicate. It's a place that has the most extraordinary sunsets where you can see herds of gazelle just leaping through the waters and elephants coming super close. It's really special. We've done some stuff on horseback in Botswana as well and it's kind of different. You very rarely see other people. You feel like you've got it completely to yourself and that's fantastic.


The Karakoram mountains in Asia

Any bucket list destinations?
STEVE: My own bucket list destinations I would say the Karakoram in Pakistan has been number one for at least the last decade. I've had two expeditions planned, sorted, all ready to go and then, just weeks before we were due to leave, they had to be pulled because it went to Foreign Office advisory, so it became too dangerous for us to go there. The Karakoram has the K2 and Broad Peak and all these other iconic mountains and stunning scenery. It's somewhere that I will get to eventually and it can't come soon enough!


Steve Backshall climbing Mount Upuigma in Guyana.

Ain't no mountain high enough:
Steve Backshall climbing Mount Upuigma in Guyana.


Swimming with a sperm whale

Nature up close.
Steve Backshall swimming with a sperm whale in BBC's Super Giant Animals.


Steve Backshall and a bald eagle on BBC's Deadly 60

Birds of a feather:
When he's not climbing a mountain, fighting off hippos or at the bottom of the ocean - Steve Backshall can be seen on a number of television shows including BBC's Deadly 60.


View basket