'I'm being sent to Sarajevo. I need to go shopping,' was my best friend's plea over the phone. For an indefinite trip to the former Yugoslavia she was going to need some hardy kit. Tough boots, Arctic jacket, silk thermals, socks, hats, mitts, muffs, a Swiss army knife (natch), compass, water purifier, the lot.

So, off to Lillywhites. We hit the first floor to buy some bionic bovvers. At the end of one extraordinarily long section selling frumpy riding gear we found a wall of state-of-the-art hiking boots and trainers. We stared at the wall for a while, me pointing out the more useless and bimbo-y makes (the ones I would have bought) but no one appeared to help. The assistants - three of them - stood, doing nothing.

'Excuse me,' I said loudly. 'We want to buy some boots.' Within seconds a young man was climbing all over us. We eventually bought some boots for about pounds 100, a waterproofing aerosol for same, and some socks.

On the third floor we encountered jackets. A Gore-Tex outer shell with a zip-in lining was what we had been recommended. They came in most shapes, sizes and garish clashing colours - for men. Nothing to fit a 5ft 5in female. The salesman seemed deeply and genuinely uninterested in my friend's impending trip. So we left to find thermal underwear.

Again, not much joy here. Stocks were low and what they did have didn't fit or were ill-matching. We didn't buy anything. Our plans to buy other bits and pieces were also thwarted. No water

purifiers on sale, and a small selection of Swiss Army knives. We didn't think much of the hats or mitts either. We later found everything we needed at various camping shops on Southampton Street.

Lillywhites certainly wasn't the best place to find what we were looking for. Staff were apathetic. I wouldn't recommend anyone to go there, as we did, expecting to find everything we needed all under one roof.

Lillywhites, 24-36 Regent Street SW1 (071-915 4000) Mon-Fri 9.30am-7pm/Sat 9.30am-6pm