30.12.08

Fur for the modern caveman

I wonder when it was that our ancestors worked out that wearing the fur of the animals they ate would allow them to leave the savannah and venture further afield? Without a doubt clothing of plant fibres where a later development so I feel safe in assuming that it was fur clad man who originally crossed the glaciers and populated the world!

Why do I point this out? Well with the chilly weather and the forth coming Winter WEISS my thoughts have turned to cold weather clothing - I'm a complicated soul eh!! ")

There is a simple equation for the outdoors man when is comes to insultion -
Pile clothing is better than fleece and down is better than pile!!

This is a generalisation and doesnt take into account synthetics like thinsulate ect ect.

So what does that knowledge do for us? Well it means we understand that a pile fleece like a helly hansen field jacket is warmer than a standard polartec type fleece - it also arms us with the info that pound for pound in both weight and cost down is still the best insulator.

Many people go on about the qualities of Wool and I agree as base and mid layers wool is excellent for its wicking, insulation and nonodour properties - but for outer layers such as jackets or for heavier insulation then the above comes into its own and wool is found wanting (ever worns a soaked woollen jacket or jumper?).

My own dress code for the cold - winter weiss with temeperatures down to say -12c is a thin and medium wool layer under a windproof smock while active - over this I add a down vest for rest stops ect. If inactive in the snow I'll wear a snugpak Sleeka under the windproof and keep the down in my daysack for emergency use or incase the temperatures drops further!!

24.12.08

With proper training - even a weekend this near disaster might have been avoided - survivall skills arent just for christmas they really are for life - and the preserving of it!!

Missing Canadian woman survives 4 days in snow

HAMILTON, Ontario (AP) — A Canadian woman who went missing during a blizzard has been found alive, buried in 23 inches of snow four days after her sport utility vehicle got stuck in a snowy field.

A police search dog and its handler were trudging through almost knee-high snow on Monday when the dog took off across a field, signaling he had found Donna Molnar, who disappeared Friday.

Overnight temperatures dipped as low as 2 degrees (f) during the four days the 55-year-old Ancaster, Ontario, woman was missing.

"When I came up to her she was covered in snow, just her face and her neckline was exposed," said the handler, Ray Lau. "I was surprised she was alive."

Lau found Molnar just a few hundred yards away from her SUV, conscious and wearing little more than a winter jacket. Police credited the snow's insulating effect with keeping her alive.

"That's the miracle. That's a Christmas miracle. Sometimes the good don't die young. Donna Molnar is an exceptional person," said Mark Mackesy, a family friend who spent the weekend comforting Molnar's husband and son.

Staff Sgt. Mark Cox said she is in danger of losing some extremities to frostbite, though she is expected to survive.



Proof if it were needed that even the urbanite needs survival skills and survivall savvy!

But regardless we're glad she made it out alive - well done the searchers to!!

6.12.08

Survival - its practical not posh

Well at least its not about brand names and gucci gear ..........

Over the last few years bushcraft (my other love) has been taken over by commercialism (I know I sell gear too but there has to a limit) but survival being less "popular" with the TV watching population as yet and thus far, never has been about the brand names and long may it be so, survival is about improvising, adapting - its about using your brain not your wallet.

And that labourisly brings me to my point - Clothing, and cost to wear ratio's ......... or in english what clothing is worth spending good cash on and what are you better off adapting or spending less on!

Boots - footwear is important - bad or poorly fitting boots can cripple and reduce you to painful hobbling and tears - what are best - well I say in temperate conditions wear you can get by with ok footwear (but not top notch stuff) the British army boot is best value for money - these are my summer boots! But if the weather ont he turn or your going somewhere wet or cold - Lundhags win hands down - they cost a few bob but remember they will carry you everywhere and will be hard pressed daily - being waterproof too they may seem expensive but are actually pound for pound and mile for mile great value for money.

Trousers - like bots these are going to be on your body 99% of the time - they will get dirty - they will be scratched by scrubs and scorched by the fire - they will be expected to preform no matter what the weather. So whats best - well the old Britsh army lightweights used to be the thing - but loo and behold they are rarer than hens teeth these days - so whats replaced them? Well like boots I think you get what you pay for and being an item thats hard used your better off buying well - Fjellraven greenlanders are my favourites but in truth any good poly cotton trousers will do - go for trousers that are 65/35 mix and these will be fast drying and tough!

Base and midlayers are much of a much ness - ignore the idiots who say "oh but cotton kills" - cotton doesnt kill the idiot who wears it in the wrong conditions or without adequate waterproof clothing kills themself - not the cotton, soldiers world wide are clad in cotton in the worst conditions on earth and they survive so its not the cotton its the idiots lack of common sense. That said if you have the choice wool mix works best in winter! In summer I like to wear a t-shirt and a standard shirt of cotton or similar!

Outer Layers - windproof and waterproof - ok if boots and trousers are pound for pound and mile for mile worth heavy spending heres where we meet the great con - the great modern rip-off - people generally spend more money on their jackets than they do on any other item - indeed I have seen folks whose jackets cost more than all their other gear together! And why? Goretex for example isnt all its cracked up to be (I know at least one american outdoors man who calls it FLAWTEX)- I've been soak through to the skin in goretex thats become saturated and ventile while good and comfy is only cotton with a high price attached to it - and again will eventually allow water in especially if not reproofed - worse once soaked its like cardboard to wear and clammy!

The answer - well lets think about what we want a jacket for - its a shell to protect our layers and keep in the warmth - and something to offer a handy pocket or two - maybe we want a windproof and something to wear around the fire to stop our synthetic fleece melting from a errant ember! In that case you really cant bet a cheap, light cotton jacket - cotton Gaberdine was popular with the forces for its drying speed and as such any old surplus jacket would do - a M65 fishtail is good as the liners removable and its not camo - a swedish army snow parka or smock works well and if you dont like em in white dye em - make them individual!! More to the point you could buy 10 snow parkas for the price of one ventile wind shirt - or 20 for the price of a ventile parka ......................

For that waterproof here there is two options - goretex is good but as said above isnt 100% and is expensive - pu nylon is 100% and cheap but suffers condensation problems - sooooooooo if you need a jacket weigh up your options - or 99% of the time I find a poncho to be the answer - these can be pu nylon and 100% waterproof as air flow allows the condensation to disperse - best of all a poncho as every soldeir knows can also be a tarp - a floatation device - a shelter door - a leaf littler carry - a stretcher .............amd more - and best of all all these thing for least than the fith of the price of a goretex!! Another good option is a jacket made from EXEAT a nylon treatment used industrially - I have a waterproof jacket in this and its about 10 years old - still waterproof and breathable and still in regular use - and a fifth of the price of a flash goretex - if image matters spend the pennies if function matters think outside the sales and marketing box!

Practical or posh - you decide but think on it - as a survivor your not worried about being a fashion victim and while buying the best you can afford makes sense I'd say focus the pennies on the stuff you'll get the wear out and not items you'll wear only if the weather turns dodgy!!

Buy the best you can afford doesnt mean but the most expensive item - it means buy the best item suited to your needs ...................

4.12.08

the future is here........

WELL not quite the future but the future of water filtration systems at least.

Last week I spent a excellent week on the yorkshire moors enjoy the little mini ice age which popped down from Siberia, weather down to -12c is always fun and this cold snap didnt disappoint!

But I digress - during my trip I took a SURVIVA-PURA CANTEEN as my only source of water carriage and filteration - the idea being that as its a drink straight from the bottle filter and the moors are generally pretty wet I wouldnt need anything else.

Fortunately I was right and the filter excelled itself - in the picture below I'm filling the canteen from a stream but I also took water from a peaty bog, a cattle trough and various other sources all with equal success - the filter handled them all easily.



I'll not bore you with the tech details but I will say that compared to the leading filter/purifier the PRE-MAC range this filter costs less and works as well preporting to filter and clean up to 700 (ish) litres.

Only danger is the fact that the canteen is filled at source and then the filter screwed in meaning contaminated hands and canteen body are a danger - my answer was to squeese the bottle and allow a small amount of cleaned water to overflow the lid and body being iodine based it still works on contact and thus makes it all safe.

Below is a picture of the water taken from the stream int he left glass and the eiltered water int he right glass ...................this method of water precurment is so easy I predict in the not so distant future all waterbottle will be like this