30.12.09

Bushcraft 101 ............. more

1. Fire isnt always necessary.
2. Fire and morale are linked - if you think you will fail lighting a fire in poor conditions it might be better not to try as damaging you morale might make a miserable night unbearable!
3. Never use a air tight container to hold freshly gathered tinder as its go mouldy from even the smallest moisture in the bark or wood.
4. Strike anywhere matches are great in the UK - keep em in a match safe but be aware other countries dont have strike anywhere matches, so learn to use normal safety matches - and safetly matches dont work in/on match safes!
5. Always light a one match fire - preparation is key
6. A fire lit at the start of a weekend should not go out before you leave camp - when you leave camp make sure its properly out!
7. A flame is only a part of the fires uses - embers are generally more useful than flames
8. A small fire is more fuel effeciant than a large fire - better to sit near a small fire than away from a large fire.
9. A stove is 3 times more fuel effecient than a enclosed fire which is three times more effeciant than a open campfire.
10. Theres no shame in using man made fire starters - wax card is excellent - matches are great - but you need to understand traditional fire lighting skills - whether starting a fire with a bow drill or a blow torch the preparation phase is still EXACTLY the same - a fire fails ONLY if you prepare it poorly!
11. Fire lighting success isnt a matter or time its a matter of distance - select the best materials not the closest!

27.12.09

The Bushcraft 101 of top tips

Cutting tool tips ..........

1. Three most common tools - knife, saw and axe. Knife is a useful tool for all applications. Saw, even a blind man can use a saw - its a safe tool and coupled with a knife can produce most of your needs. Axes are the most dangerious tools, buy a good quality one and if used with care it'll last a life time.
2. Knives, nothing is more likely to part a "shrafter" from his hard earned cash than a knife! The market is huge yet 2/3 of all tool sold arent worth a cent. Things to consider - cost to usage! As quoted before the man who uses a knife the most is usually the one who can least afford one - ergo the "factory" makers of cutting tools (frosts for example) generally make a excellent knife aimed at workman like users while the custom knife makers aim for those who use their knifes less .........which can often mean a budget knife like a clipper is technically superior to a expensive custom knife.
3. No one knife is good for everything and you cant re-nvent the wheel. Thus avoid gimmicky new tools made/designed by makers who either never really use them or just sell fearsome tools which have a celebraty name stuck on them. A traditional designed "hunting" style knife will general serve you better - a saami knife, a leuku and Puuko combo evolved over thousands of years, used and trusted by people who live or lived in the wilderness is a far better option.
4. Avoid knives with thick spined blades (unless you want a pry bar) - and a remember a blunt knife is a screw driver.
5. Saws and axes - while a small folding (pruning saw) is a handy tool it isnt a wilderness living tool - equally a hatchet is a good travellers tool but a felling axe is better if you plan to live in the woods on a longer term! Dont beleive me?? Look at any set of indiginious peoples and tell me how many you see using "compromise tools"! Or even go to your local garage and ask the mechanic there to repair your car using only a multi-tool!
6. Axe handles should ideally be the length of your arm from arm pit to finger tip as this gives you maximum machanical advantage and eye hand co-ordination. Like was a knife blade should be the width of your palm, for a leuku double the width of your palm is good as eye hand co-ordination is still there.
7. Other bushy hand tools include the crook knife or spoon knife, a hand craft tool for making bowls and spoons but not one you'll die without. Adzes and augers - again additions but not life dependant tools.
8. Avoid the classic trap of buying for buying sake - remember you have to carry these tools - a well used workman like tool speaks volumes of the owner while a man with shiney knives and more tools hanging off his belt than the average viking raider just looks stupid!
9. With the better designed knives cost doesnt alway equate to quality. A £10 frosts knife may well be better than a £200 custom tool.
10. Know how to sharpen your tool and well as basic first aid for cuts.
11. NEVER carry a cutting tool without carrying a first aid kit. NEVER use a cutting tool when tired, drunk or in poorly lit conditions (night time) Never throw your knife or stick it in the ground.
12. ALWAYS carry a small first aid kit - ALWAYS clean your knife after use - ALWAYS resheath your knife after use (a knife should never be left ont he ground or even a tree stump or log ect) unless you've been butchering game then clean the knife before returning to sheath.
13. Carbon steel can be given a patina by leaving it over night covered in Balsamic vinegar - this will blacken the blade (wide of the excess blackening in the morning ect and oil) Avoid knives with leather handles. Plastic, zytel or kydex sheaths can be cleaned with boiling water.
14. Experience speaks volumes - Learn to use your cutting tool throughly.
15. A pocket knife with a utility blade, a smaller "surgical" blade, can opener, bottle opener and awl is a useful tool and can in experienced hands (married with a axe) be the only cutting tool you need.

24.12.09

Bushcraft 101 - top tips

HERES A FEW MORE TOP TIPS ..................

1. Try to avoid arriving at your camp site after dark. with a good head torch and experience this need not be a problem but the novice may find setting up in the dark a problem.
2. Rigging a simple Tarp/Basha style camp should take around 30 mins max - if it take you as long as it takes others to set up a parachute classroom, dig a latrine and put up the tent and set up their own shelter as well as light a fire - your either doing something wrong, way to selfcentred and worried about personal comfort or just a work sherka!!
3. A good order for setting up a camp site is - Light the fire (and put the kettle on) - set up your tarp or tent - Stash your gear as you need it (organsie camp) - fetch in firewood (as much as you think you'll need then the same amount again!) - gather water - enjoy a brew while making dinner - relax around your fire with a full belly and a organised camp.
4. Site consideration, shelter or use of the prevailing wind, sun rise location, away from trails and water run off, location of camp fire and fuel, location of water.
5. Check for widow makers in over hanging trees!
6. At the end of your trip remember to ensure your fires fully put out and the scare hidden - leaving the site BETTER than you found it!
7. In freezing wilderness or if crossing frozen lakes where there is no risk of fire spreading due to snow ect sometimes its wise to leave a small fire burning when you leave camp - that way if theres a emergency you can quickly return to camp and use the fire/embers to reheat yourself or others - this simple plan has saved many lives of people living in true wilderness areas!

Happy camping ...............

22.12.09

The Bushcraft 101 of top tips

As the winter months tend to restrict our movements these are the traditional times our minds and hands turn to our kit - repairing and clean items hard used in the warmer month or browsing the web and catalogues for that new must have!!

So with this in mind I will randomly post a few top tips to help focus your search, help you plan for future trips or just select the right item from your favourite bushcraft trading post.

The bushcraft 101 of top tips -

1. Sleeping bags whether down or synthetic are better packed in a ruck sack by stuffing them in the top than by rolling them up and putting in a stuff sack as this prevents the fibres/insolation being crushed by repeated folding.
2. Always air a sleeping bag between uses if possible as you can perspire and breath up to .7 Litre of moisture into your bag each night.
3. When buying a sleeping bag ponder the following - do you want down or fibre? How warm is the bag and how cold will it be used down too? How much does the bag weigh? Does the bag have a baffle? Will the bag be long enough?
4. Remember makes extreme temperature range is always over imaginative as a rule of thumb drop 10 degrees and this will mean you always sleep warm! Also dont be afraid of a big bag - the bigger the bag the more insulation!
5. Sleep clothed - light wear (t-shirt and undies) in summer - warmer layers to match to cold in winter - wearing a hat and a scarf or headover in your bag will warm you a great deal.
6. In cold weather wear a balaclava over your nose and mouth - breath through it to warm the air before you take it into your lunges - alturnatively sleep with your outer layer smock over your head and breath into a sleeve - this will keep you warm and prevent ice build up around your face and bags rim.

More tips to follow!!

21.12.09

How feeble is our society??



Does our world exist on anything for than gasps of thin air??
A little snow and it grinds to a halt ......... even with the powers that be trying to help .............roads closed, channel tunnel grinds to a halt, airports cant operate, rich people in rural villages buy local shops out of stocks leaving old people unable to feed themselves ............ the list goes on!
Imagine what would happen if the authorities werent trying to help? If no one was there to clear the roads - delivery food - make the trains work again!
People trapped on the chunnel trains whinged "we werent given blankets or water!" - might as well just admit - "where not able to look after ourselves and we needed someone to do it for us!"
And why? Are we so pampered by civilisation that we have lost the ability to fend for ourselves?? Are we little more than sheep - raised and rared by the government like shepards who instead of fattening us up for the table fatten us up for the taxes we can pay them!!
Ponder this -
* Can you find your own water if the water were to go off or be contaminated for more than 5 days? Could to find 3 litres of drinking (and thats just drinking) water per day for each member of your family?
* Can you grow/hunt your own food if the supermarkets were to close? Can you ID edible wild foods?
* Could you make your own clothing or footwear if the shops all shut and you had to live in the wilderness?? Could you make clothing suitable for the enviroment by hand??
*Could you treat a toothache or a bad laceration without the hospital or a ambulance available? A sever burn or broken Limb - what about deliver a baby?
The world health organisation predict wars to be fought over drinking water in our life time! And lets not even bother pondering the oil peek crisis which has alreadt started!
Imagine a race or a civil war starts in Britian tomorrow - the infa-structure crumbles .......... could you even keep your house warm this winter without gas or electric?? Defend it? Feed yourself until the troubles subside in months? - not days or weeks but months!
Soft people in comfy homes with fat wallets often ask whats the point of survival or bushcraft training? Aboves the answer for if nothing else it trains us to be prepared - to plan for the worse while hoping for the best but dealing with whatever comes our way!
Weather like this only acts as natures little reminder - shes just flexing her muscle and telling us to prepare!

8.12.09

Mora thoughts on the Mora knife

Heres a very interesting review I found of the Mora knife (www.thefreelibrary.com/) - I particularly like the quote from the blacksmith - something to consider in this day and age!





The Mora knife: The backwoodsman's choice.

Ask any back-country inhabitant--homesteader, hunter, trapper, fisherman, prospector or backwoodsman--what tool they most frequently use. The answer will most likely be their knife. This bit of wisdom is nothing new. Every historical account we have of early settlers and frontiersmen speaks of knives and their uses. Look at the paintings of the Flemish artist Pieter Bruegel and his graphic depictions of peasant life in the middle ages and one notices the knife that hangs from each person's belt. The myriad of chores from butchering and dressing game and livestock, preparing hides, whittling Whittling is the art of carving shapes out of raw wood with a knife.

Whittling is typically performed with a light, small-bladed knife, usually a pocket knife. Specialised whittling knives are available as well. and carving wood, to cutting rope, opening feed bags and preparing food is the work of the knife.

The daily tasks the knife performs are timeless. Bruegel's peasant, an early American settler and a contemporary homesteader

Not only are the tasks timeless, but the pattern of the working knife is timeless as well. Accounts from the American frontier speak of simple, straight knives with blade lengths of four to six inches, carried in deep pouch sheaths. This is the knife of the peasant, the trapper, the farmer. It is simple, functional and inexpensive.

Blacksmith Jim Dickson once said that people who use knives the most are usually those who can least afford them. This being the case, the charge then is to put a knife of the highest quality into the hands of those whose life and livelihood depend upon it. All at a price that those with a slim wallet can afford. Enter the Mora Knife Mora knife in Swedish Morakniv. The "mora" is a term used to refer to a range of popular belt-knives manufactured by the cutleries of the town of Mora in Dalarna, Sweden, primarily by Frosts knivfabrik and Mora of Sweden (previously known as KJ Eriksson). from Sweden.

This writer has had the good fortune to take several wilderness survival courses, both winter and summer, with Mors Kochanski at his camp in western Alberta. Mors is perhaps the finest instructor of sub-arctic survival skills in the world. It was while training with Mors that I was introduced to the Mora Knife.

The Mora, is a true survival knife Survival knives are intended for survival purposes when lost in a wilderness environment. Military units frequently issue some type of survival knife. Hunters, hikers, and other outdoor sport enthusiasts also purchase and use great numbers of commercial survival knives. , suited to daily living in the bush. The Mora's configuration conforms to those patterns which have stood the test of time and have endured since the iron age. It is the traditional Scandinavian pattern and a more useful knife would be difficult to imagine. The straight blade is available in lengths from four to six inches and is of superb Swedish steel. The edge has a Rockwell of 60 on the hardness scale, which means that it will keep its razor edge yet, due to the grind and bevel, is easy to resharpen. The handle is oval in shape and made of birch. The Moras come with and without finger guards and blades come in high carbon and stainless steel. I prefer high carbon but either holds a superb edge.

What is extraordinary about the Mora is the price. Depending upon sheath material and model, prices range from $12 to $28. Thus fulfilling the promise of the finest backwoods knife at a price which is affordable.

Mora Knives are available from Blue Ox Knives, 728 Westview St., Philadelphia, PA 19119, (215) 844-5960. Write or call for price list.

DAN SHECHTMAN Dan Shechtman is the Philip Tobias Professor of Materials Science at the Technion - Israel Institute of Technology. In 1982, he discovered the icosahedral phase, which opened the new field of quasiperiodic crystals. Resources

D. P. DiVincenzo and P. J.
728 WESTVIEW ST. PHILADELPHIA, PA 19119

6.12.09

Gary and Steve go walk about!



As a bushcraft instructor its rare that I actually get time to enjoy the outdoors for myself these days so I was more than keen to join my friend Steve when he proposed we hike the North Downs Ways or at least half of it anyway.



But being bushcrafters we couldnt do it hiking from b+b to b+b, packed down with brand names and luxuries, we had to do something more "traditional" - after all did the Roman's under Ceasar do that? Or the Pilgrim's??



Way back when I first left the army and went to work as a assistant instructor for Woodlore I often went walkabout but being unable to afford camp sites or b+b's I used to go what I called "tramping" ......... and this is what myself and Steve choose to do this time. Traveling light, sleeping rough and enjoying the freedom to which our ancestors were born.





*I should point out here that tramping does what it says on the tin - its not expedition style campcraft, no luxuries and comfies. Tramping means sleeping rough, where you find a place etc - I should also point out that this my be viewed by some as tresspass which is a civil offence and I do not condone or advise anyone to take such actions. Damage to property, makes tresspass a criminal offence and that is something I am strongly against.


Unlike Scotland, England has no right to roam act and as such "tramping" means we are only expressing our natural right to travel and rest upon the lands of our ancestors - but we do not damage them or deface them so others can not enjoy them.

As such rule one - no fires!


Rule two - only uk legal cutting tools allowed (as you will see you dont need more anyway!)




On the last day of November myself and Steve set off on our travels.


Arriving at Dover Priory station we had a quick cuppa and posed for a happy snap before tabbing off through the town toward the start of the trail.



Here the North Downs Ways and the Saxon Shore way mingle so as a walker you get to enjoy both as well as the bracing coastal weather you also climb out of Dover on a route lined with bunkers and gun emplacements built during the last war.



As we turned inland the heavens opened and set the theme for the rest of a week where we (and Kent) suffered over double the counties standard monthly rainfall in two days married up with driving winds and sub zero temperatures.




The weather, rather than the miles was to prove our greatest challenge but enjoying our freedom we found some interesting shelters such as a old Pillbox where we stopped for a much needed hot drink!




I know many of you kit junkies out there will be dying to know what we took. Apart from wash kit and basic emergency items (first aid, compass, torch ect) we each took a sleeping bag, bivi and tarp. Warm jacket (Montane down) UK legal pocket knife (mine a Case Jr Scout, which proved more than capable of doing everything I needed a cutting tool for, from carving tent pegs out of thumb thick hazel to preping food and even helping treat a errant blister!) we both had 2 litres of water and a thermal mug. For food all we took was a few satchets of porridge, cup-a-soup and a reindeer salami.



Suffice to say much of the hike was just that hiking and as such not much to tell - so I wont bore you to much - pictures speak volumes and when the clouds permitted the views were stunning.






One or two tales worth mention however - midweek a terrible storm hit us, we slogged on and were soon soaked through to the skin - as night closed in a temperatures dropped we needed to find shelter, a shelter better than a wind blown tarp and the bushcraft Gods did provide as hiking deep into a stretch of woodland we came across a old lorry trailer used by beaters as a rest area. Never was such a thing more welcome and if not saving our lives it certainly went a long way to making them bearable that night!!




Another tale people might find of interest is the fact what 'out of season' we had the downs to ourselves and in a week came across only two other groups of people - and all of them soldiers! One group out doing a 30 mile hike the others out enjoying a bracing mountain bike ride .......... suffice to say we, as our ancestors would have done, stopped to exchange greatings and news. Much to the armies amusement they were impressed to see two 'civies' as mad as they were, even if they did point out that they were at least getting paid to be out there!



Hiking from Dover to Rochester we had planned to enjoy a steady stroll of about 1.5 miles an hour covering the 54 miles in a relaxed 5 days, bearing in mind the limited day light hours we planned to do 11 miles a day, allowing for us to gather food and find water ect as we went.




Much to our surprise the weather, or more correctly the rain and the subsequent sucking mud made this a harder task than planned and yet one which we could have easily completed in 4 not five days! The last night found us settled and comfy in a small strip wood only 4 miles from our expected finishing point.




We finished the walk hiking across the Medway Bridge, where I told Steve how Ceasars army had swam across the river and then fought a battle against a ancient British host before decending down to river level and a much deserved junk food fiest at the Golden Arches!




A fantastic week which even the bad weather enhanced rather than hampered. We were both reassured in ourselves to know we had succeeded where many other 'shrafters' would fear to tread. We had proved ourselves capable of living up to the bushcraft ideal, we were actually able to carry less by knowing more, we were able to replace kit with knowledge and feed and sustain ourselves along the way and we were able do, rather than just dream of doing, bushcraft!


Rather than just the usual sitting around a campfire and talking about it, admiring your shiny kit next time you get some free time why dont you saddle up your old rucksack, lace on your hiking boots and get out there for a tramp - experience the freedom and see if your bushcraft skills are as good as you would like to think they are!!??



One things for sure - if you do, your most likely to meet myself and Steve out there as now we've tasted the freedom of roaming wild we will certainly be doing it more and more -


For what could be more 'bushcraft' than going walk about just as our own aboriginal ancestors did?