The Grey .......... a movie review!!

This weeekend I went to see a excellent movie, The Grey.

OK so it's not strictly a bushcraft item but it is outdoorsy, and if it inspires someone to venture forth and embrace the nature is that a bad thing?

In essence while appearing a "bushcrafty" type film this is not really one however. The story is about a group of plane crash survivors who are stalked by a pack of Wolves in the snowy realms of the arctic. The behaviour of the wolves is debatable from a natural prespective and the survivors make, IMO, many text book survival mistakes so dont go thinking of it as a trainging manual either.

The sceneic views are stunning and if you like the arctic you'll enjoy it for the cold climate alone!

I havent, however, seen a film for a long time which made me stop and think like this one did, not just about the skills or content and story but theres something deeper and a little haunting about it. I cant really put my finger on it but this film has left me a little disturbed, haunted by a resonance I am still trying to work out.

Its a great film and well worth a view, dont expect a happy ending but sometimes lifes like that - I will definately be seeing it a second time and recommend it.


Winter WEISS is a go-go

The snows have come to Arjang - winter WEISS in March is ready, and we are closing the book to bookings very soon so anyone still thinking of coming contact us ASAP as your chance will soon be gone!

And if the snow isnt enough .......... could these beauties tempt you??


A sad story -

Proof if it were needed bushcraft and survival skills should never be taken at face value.

A further to this story .........


One blanket and a frosty weekend

After a recent debate on a online group I pointed that in the old days when bushcraft was less commercial and a bit more about skills and being a part of nature the ideal was to learn the skills to allow you to go out into the nature equipped with only a blanket and a billy can.

Well this got me thinking - I wondered how many so called bushcrafters and even more so some so called instructors or experts have actually done it - actually gone out for a period of time with only a blanket and a billy (and a cutting tool of course)??

I first had the pleasure of this in 1998/9 when I attended the Ray Mears Journeyman course in Dunkeld - a wet September in Scotland taught us well! Later while an assistant with Ray I often went walk about for the odd weekend to keep my hand in.

But then time and laziness, soft living and kit over pendance tricked me into forgeting the ideal I so long sought to obtain!! Well this weekend I decided to revisit the basics, the beginnings and good back to nature, go native.

23 years have pasted since those days so the experience was going to be interesting, can I middled man weather the weather a younger man can?? Could I even remember the basic "tricks of the trade" to make a night under a blanket possible?

The answer is yes, for this weekend I went down to the Ashdown forest area and spent a cracking weekend with my old friend Tomo on a lovely peice of private land and there armed with Billy and Blanket I set about revisiting memory lane.

I DIDNT WANT TO BUILD A SHELTER - it wasnt going to rain the sky was clear and the stars were bright and the temperature was dropping as low as a frosty -6c hind sight a shelter with a good fire reflector would have been better - but we cant always have everything can we!

So I built myself a frame of logs held in place with pegs and then a bed of braken and leaf little 18 plus inches deep to be my bed. I also prepared enough wood for the fire as the basic principal of the sleep system was that the fire was my main source of heat!

Well the fire was blazing and the bed was toasty ........ I drifted off into a cozy sleep ..........until 2 and half hours later the fire started to die down. Awoken by the creeping chill I restoked the fire and slept once more - this of course is common and became the routine for the night.

I made a few mistakes of course - rusty skills are like that. First I should have put my bed on the down wind side of the fire so the breeze would push more heat my way. Secondly I barely had enough wood to last the night. Thirdly, and not one I have come across before, I removed the fire side log of the bed in the early hours this made the heat of the fire much more appreciable and there was nothing between the flames and myself.

Moral of the story is yes a middle age man can survive temperatures down to minus 6c with only a blanket for cover - but you need to get out there and do it as learning from your mistakes while its safe to do so (I had A SAFETY TENT AND SLEEPING BAG SET UP JUST IN CASE) is far better than making those same mistakes when possibly your life or th elife or your loved ones might depend on it with all bushcraft skills practice not kit makes perfect!!

Swedish Army Jeep coat

Swedish Army Jeep coat.

A few years ago I was given this jacket by a friend who no longer wanted it and after a little use put it int he loft and forgot about it.

However with the coming cold weather I wanted a parka to wear and while routing around found the Swedish army jeep coat - and boy am I glad I did.

The coats quite a heavy peice of kit but its worth its weight in gold in cold weather!! The design is simple enough with buttons down the front, reversed buttons for the last two holes at the bottom - button and tag adjusted cuffs and two bulgy lower pockets. The liner is of a heavy pile, similar to the helly hanson field jacket, which can be buttoned into the parka or as below worn on its own thanks to crafty little fabric loops that allow the liner buttons to be used.

The outer jackets material is a heavy cotton and not disimilar to that of the Snow smock, which is commonly dyed by folks, and its totally windproof as far as I can see and the outer jacket worn on its own makes a excellent field jacket in its own right.

The jackets available on line for around £25 and to be honest I think its worth ever penny and more. I will certainly be wearing mine more often and if not worn it will definately be in my sack ready for the next cold night!

Swiss Army alpenflage poncho/cape

As a bushcrafter we are not immune to wet weather, indeed sometimes the best time to be out in the woods is in bad weather as its a time when we can get the woods to ourselves as the other "Fair weather" woodsmen stay at home and admire their shiney new gear!

But to venture forth in a wet world we need to have a good waterproof system of clothing - but as most conventional waterproof clothing is synthetic its of very limited use around the camp fire - especially as these jackets cost more than the average weekly wage these days!

So whats the answer? Wax cotton - nahhhhh - again way to expensive and not breathable in the slightest.

How about a poncho - cheap so while synthetic "expendable".

Late last year I came across the SWISS army poncho and instantly liked it - its very similar to the old british rain cape/gas cape and is made from a tough robust rubberised nylon. The cape has closable slights for arms - a press studded closure up the front AND a hunched back allowing it to be worn over a back pack!

Perfect - like all poncho's it is also a little more versatile as it'll double up as a tarp, a floation device etc etc.

Alpenflage isnt a common camoflage so even if you wore this at a festival you'd look the part ............ I really like the design, weight and applications of this simple yet effective peice of kit!!


update Sourdough

Tried a different way of cooking the sourdough today and had better results. For starters I used strong white flour as opposed to plain flour, this meant my flour had a strong gluten base.

Secondly, I cooked it slightly differently - cooking for 20 minutes with the oven on full heat and then for a further 20 minutes at gas mark 6 - this made the crust thinner but kept it crunchy - lastly I didnt take the bread out the oven for about 10 minutes after I turned it off so allowed it to cool a little slower (my thinking there is to try to recreated a fired bread oven effect)

Well - I am now very happy with the results and will continue to do this - next I need to see if I can do it in the field!!


New Year - new skill ........... SOURDOUGH.

For years now I've been making Bannocks, which are basically flour, salt, baking powder and water. They are easy to make in the field and both tasty and filling but the fly in the butter milk is the need for baking powder to be used as the rising agent. Or more to the point almost anywhere in the world we can obtain salt and flour as these are staples, but baking powder may not be as readily available so what alternative??

Baking powder certainly wasnt easily avialable for the early settlers in America or the gold rush pioneers who scratched the Alaskan soil seeking pay dirt. For these people a replacement or maybe a predecessor to baking powder or yeast was SOURDOUGH starter sometimes called Wild Yeast.

As I say I've made Bannocks for years, tried various recipes from tne standard mix and including everything from beer bread to banana bread, so for the new year I decided to give Sourdough a try.

Starter. The trick with sourdough is the starter, this is essential and easy to make taking only time!! Start your starter with 1 cup of flour and one cup of water, mix together and set it aside for 8 hours. Add another cup of flour and water and leave for 8 hours. Finally add another cup of flour and water mix and set aside over night.

Come morning your mix will or should be a bubbly mass with a seperated layer of murky looking water on the surface. If it is excellent thats what we want.

Now to make our dough ............

We'll use what I call the 2'n'6 recipe, this is 2 cups of starter, 2 cups of water and 6 cups of flour .......... oh and a teaspoon of Salt!!

So add two cups of starter to a mixing bowl (and make sure once you do you feed your original starter in the starter container with one or two cups of flour and water to ensure you have starter for next time) then add the rest of the ingredients and mix - you dont need to knead it and mess around just stir it all together and once you have a doughy lump put the bowl aside (cover it) in a warm place for 8 or more hours .......... this will allow the dough to prove and double in size!!

Next morning ..........or the evening - preheat your oven and the cooking pot at max (500 degrees) for about twenty minutes. Flour a work top and your hands - pour/scrape out your dough and then fold it over itself from each corner, this is all the kneading you do. Now swiftly place the dough into your cooking pot and replace lid.

Cook this for 20 minutes then remove the lid and cook for a further 20 minutes or until done.

Final loaf should be solid on the outside, with a good stiff crush and bubbly/airey on the inside.


To my mind, thus far, my sourdough reminds me of crumpets which is really nice and I throughly recommend you try it for yourself. Sourdough may not replace Bannocks for the bushcrafter due to the time constraints but for a long term camp with limits supplies they are a great alternative.