Travel Alberta - winter survival guide

Heres a interesting little read for anyone interested in winter survival or a fan of Mors Kochanski, survival ex.pert and wilderness living instructor.



The Tenderfoot course is always a highlight of our courses year as its a fun course for us to teach and a excellent course for those few hardy students with the courage to come and walk the walk!

The courses primary role is simple - its to allow advanced bushcrafters to come and practice the bushcraft ideal of going into the woods with just a cutting tool and a billy can.

Many bushcrafters can only dream of what these guys experience. And that is the key - the course is hard and in that the experience gained is priceless!

Nature is always the best teacher and this year the weather was wet, cold and windy - prefect weather to encourage good shelter building!! Cold nights soon taught the students the importance of a glowing campfire. Added to this game prep, water precurment and foraging and the guys got a full and varied course ..........but no bearclaw course would be complete without a few little twists to stretch our guests and this year we also had them prepare first aid kits from nature and prep a three course meal for the instructors - proving their advanced skills and enpowering them with the confidence of a true bushcrafter, far an above the wild camper relient on expedition style camp!!


Knife classifications

I had a email today from someone asking me to explain knife classifications - what I mean by a camp knife.

So, always happy to oblige, enjoy.

Since mans earliest tools were made our species have always used cutting tool - originally knapped from flint the hand axe was the stone age swiss army knife. But time and technology changed things and we as a species went through the stone age, the bronze age and into the "as Conan might say" age of steel.

Our ability to manufacture steel has seen man develope a vast array of tools each with a specific role from weapons of war to farmers impliments, from eating irons (knife fork spon) to space ships.

Globally the event of steel saw a transformation in primitive peoples lives, but just as the people where tempered by their enviroment so their cutting tools where tempered to the roles they would be used for, from the leuku to the kukri, from the pen knife to the paring knife.

Time has seen the availablity of tools from around the world made available to us all and as such we, the decerning bushcrafter, can now choose the best tools for us.

Even Ray Mears, one of the earliest UK based writers on bushcraft, in his earliest book comments on how he uses a small home made carbon steel knife while hiking but a large modified MOD survival knife (wilkinson type d) and a pocket knife (opinel) for his base camp kit.

As such the classification of cutting tools works thus - (this is my version and not necessarily all instructors would agree with me but I know what works for me)

Pocket knife - UK legal penknife, ideally with a can and bottle opener as well as a decent cutting blade. Usually carried in the pocket and ideal for opening packets, peeling and preping food especially veggies and fruit.

Utility knife - (some call it a whittling knife) - this is the classic puukko of the Finnish. Blade should be approximately 4 inches or so - this would be the Woodlore style knife. Interestingly Ray Mears (again) says that with a knife of this size and a folding saw you can produce and do most things. This is potentially correct in the typical UK expedition style camp situation. Ultimately the utility knife should be a jack of all trades, capable of peeling fruit and veg while also being able to baton and split wood and carve spoons and triggers for traps.

Camp knife - this is a bigger knife, Leuku or similar. The camp knife is the bushmans version of the axe or hatchet. I know, I know if your going to the boreal north then a axe is better than a camp knife - but come on how many bushcrafters, especially UK ones, actually go into the boreal north? and if they do how many actually carry a full sized axe which is what they should carry? or do they carry their axes religiously as the great prophet told them too? Anyway the camp knife is a larger tool. This type/size of tool is more typical among native peoples than any other type - native people dont compromise on this and generally will carry/prefer a 7 plus inch blade - picture if you will a native man sat cross legged carving and in so doing holding his knife half way down the blade ..............a camp knife should be capable of doing all the tasks in camp from butchering game to hammering tent pegs. One thing a camp knife is handy for is lifting hot pots off the fire!

Neckers are generally utility sized.

Crook or crooked knives are spoon knives and like all carving tools are specialist and fall into the specialist catagory.

So hope thats clearer - ideally the bushcrafter will carry/own three tools - a pocket knife, a whittling knife and a camp knife.

Size shape and design will matter greatly but these are the catagories - axes and saws are handy but if you have the three types of knife you can live without them.

Last though as per the Ray Mears quote - if your going for a walk in the woods you really dont need to go armed better than the average viking warrior so leave the hardware at home and take a sensible UK legal pocket knife.
It was a long held common belief that a folding knife must be non-locking for this provision to apply. A Crown Court case (Harris v DPP), ruled (case law). A lock knife for all legal purposes, is the same as a fixed blade knife. A folding pocket knife must be readily foldable at all times. If it has a mechanism that prevents folding, it's a lock knife (or for legal purposes, a fixed blade) The Court of Appeal (REGINA - v - DESMOND GARCIA DEEGAN 1998) upheld the Harris ruling stating that "folding was held to mean non-locking". No leave to appeal was granted.


The Survivall Kukri

Stuart from Iberian Lynx survival training recently posted a couple of videos of our SurvivALL kukri - so I've copied them here!

Interestingly enough I'm in the process of review the SurvivALL kukri against the Fallkniven A2 to see which is the best camp knife.

Many thanks Stuart - good videos!


When's a ventile not a ventile?

Or when is Gore-tex not gore-tex for that matter??

Answer when you dont pay through the nose for a trade or brand name - for example WVPM is the british army version of Gore-tex - LITERALY the same thing but half the price ........

And so with the SASS kit SAS smock - gumpth below

Top Quality All Weather Fabric

Windproof, Water Repellent and Highly Breathable, Traditional Performance Fabric.

Finest Quality dense Oxford weave cloth, woven from specially selected 100% cotton long stable fibres, and using about 30% more yarn than conventional woven fabrics. "Naturally" comfortable, quiet and fast drying.

The Special Air Service Windproof Smock is issued to each member of the SAS regiment. Both the four big cargo pockets at the front, and the left arm pen pocket are fastened using “no-loose” taped buttons. (Bigger size for gloved hands). The four cargo pockets also have fold over tops to help prevent pockets content loss. The attached hood has a front and rear drawcord, for a full range of adjustments. Velcro closing storm flap covers two-way heavy duty zip. Add to this velcro tab cuffs that can be adjusted from fully open sleeve to tightly fastened wrist, and the internal waist draw cord, means the SAS smock offers full windproof protection.

Large internal poachers pocket and inside open left chest pocket. Double layer fabric to hood, shoulders and elbows; rest single to speed drying.The weave allows the cotton fibres to swell when wet aiding the water repellent finish in keeping the wearer dry.Made and hand finished at our location in Lancaster, UK

I came across these excellent smocks while looking for a replacement to my old BAS smock. My criteria was simple I wanted a multipocket jacket with a full central zip, single layer ventile and ideally one for less than £200.
I looked at the usual suspects WEST WINDS and SNOW SLED - both generally dont do single layer jackets with decent pockets or only over the head smocks and both to expensive. Keela and Hilltrek like wise - the closest to my wants was the Bison Bushcraft ventile as this is the military style I had in mind but again the cost was way to high for the spec of the garment.
Then I stumbled across the SASS kit smock - £131.99 delivered - which is the best price for any ventile even over head jobs - these smocks are excellent and I am well impressed with mine - hence this blog entry!

Its a shame more people arent aware that some Ventile jackets arent ventile purely because the manufacturer doesnt pay for the name and hence doesnt charge you for the name either - why pay £200 plus for a name?
Ventile, oxford cotton or egyption cotton all much of a muchness - only difference is the price!
Like wise the kanny shopper should beware of people who sell no trade marked items as something there not too - with the price hike to match - Army Goretex bivi bags for example, are techincally Army WVPM bivi bags but add the word GORE-TEX and you can double the price even if it is technically false advertising.

If your looking for a Great, high spec, well made, excellent priced smock of a material thats not ventile (but is ventile) the SASS kit SAS Smock wont let you down.
And the service given by Paul at SASS is also second to none!

Mention Gary at Bearclaw when you order!


Hadrian's Haul

Al and Adam form Bushcraft Educational Society are planning to walk Hadrian's wall national trail and raise money for Help for Heroes charity.

Two great lads and a very worthy cause - follow the link for more details and to donate the charity.