31.12.12


Monday 31st December 2012. 2121hrs ……………

As I sit here, at the ending of the another year, beside the fire with my grand children beside me and a brave new year creeping over the horizon I ponder what it is I would like to share with you the most dear reader?

Over the year you have seen my trips out into the wild and rugged world – you have read my reviews and hopefully been inspired and entertained.

Maybe you have visited the nordmarken website (www.nordmarkencanoeuk.co.uk) and decided that in 2013 you will try something new, visit the place where Ray Mears claimed canoeing was close to a religious experience or maybe muster the courage to join us on one of our excellent WEISS courses.

Or maybe you have just learnt from my mistakes – saved yourself money by not falling to easily into the commercial trap which is set and baited so well?

My wish for 2013 is that I get to meet many of you in the wilds – to share a campfire and a kuksa, to swap a tale and a skill – to learn and to teach, to see and to experience somewhere I’ve never been before and to share the experience with friends old and new. Finland is definitely on the menu - as of course is Sweden and if my wyrd be such maybe even a trip the British Columbia ........... the coming year is full of potential!!

As I sit here with my oldest grandchild soundly sleeping while her baby brother is wide awake and gurgling with delight, full of life’s zest I take pleasure in that simple innocence and draw strength from their, as yet, unknown hopes for the future which I look forward to being a part of (please God) – looking upon them I realise the one truth that the ending of a year should bring home to us all, that life is too short to waste it on the small stuff – and so this is what I will share with you, as well as my best wishes for the future, I will share this wisdom ---

NEVER PUT OFF VISITING TIL TOMORROW THE PLACES YOU CAN VISIT TODAY, GET OUT THERE AND DO, ENJOY THE WIND AND THE RAIN, BASK IN THE SUN BUT DONT BE AFRAID OF THE SNOW. LEARN SKILLS AND DONT WASTE MONEY ON USELESS KIT - BUT ABOVE ALL SPEND THE TIME YOU HAVE WITH THOSE YOU LOVE BE THEY FRIENDS OR FAMILY OLD OR NEW!

And with that I will sign off – Happy New Year to you all ………………..

27.12.12


The closing of a year is always an important time, a time for us to consider change, a time of hope for something better and a time to look back and remember the adventures and the camp fires of the passing year.

And for me it is also a time to complete an experiment I started at the end of last year. It’s all about going (heres a few phrases) back to basics – the common man approach – carrying less by knowing more – etc etc – phrases we all hear all the time spouted out by experts and guru’s who rarely practice what they preach!!

So what am I going on about? Well starting with the article I wrote on this blog about bedrolling (http://survivall.blogspot.co.uk/2012/08/bedrolling-future.html) and the you tube film (http://youtu.be/H6Prd3MSDHw) - these might help but it is something that has been brewing in my heart for a while now.

Basically, it’s a wish to leave behind the commercialism, the brand names and the general watering down of what bushcraft is to me. Popular bushcraft is ok, if it is your thing great - but there are only so many spoons you can carve, there are only so many knives you can own and never use, only so many brand name items that the guru’s wear on tv or recommend (because they sell them) that the sheeple can buy before the path becomes muddled and confused.

To me the whole ideal of bushcraft is to find a simple, low impact way of passing through nature, in the beginning it was to achieve the aim of being able to go out into the woods with only a billy, a blanket and a knife and to be able to live comfortably, something I have done now many times.

Then like many I too fell into the commercial trap – the money pit of consumerism where the true needs of an outdoorsman are lost to the money making endeavours of the industry ………… the amount of money I have wasted on overpriced crap is truly shocking! Knives, dozens of them which I thought would be ‘the one’, only to end up giving away, selling or dumping before going back to the same old knives I always use ………………Now, at last the simple truth has dawned on me – if I go back to them again and again then maybe it is these that are ‘the one’ and so why waste time and money??

In simplifying your approach to gear you also simplify your kit and come quickly to understand what are really needs and what simply wants! Put it another way, the bushcrafter needs to learn to read the tracks in the retail store or bushcraft school shop just as he learns to read the tracks of the flora and fauna around him. Learning to do the former can save you money if nothing else, learning to do the later can keep you safe or fill your belly. For me army surplus seems to be the way ahead - Swedish military surplus is popular for example and justifiably so!

Once this ground breaking idea – ok, ok, common sense – dawned on me I, and I advise you all to do this, caste my eyes back to my greenhorn days remembering the kit I carried then and then pondered the kit I carry now. Did I carry more back then as I didn’t know so much? Well actually no, it seems now I carry more??
Why??
Because I am told to by the sellers of the must have gear!

“No one tells me what to carry” I hear you cry – no? Me neither but it’s the suggestion that’s the killer. For example why do I carry a spoon knife for a weekend in the woods? Do I intend to carve a spoon? No, then why carry one? Is it going to be minus 15c while I’m out?? No? Then why do I need a expensive wool coat or shirt when maybe a simple wool jumper will do?

Let us expand on the wool jumper argument  as an example – what is the real difference between a brand name wool shirt and say a british army jersey heavy wool?? Apart from price of course! Really nothing – except what the seller tells you and the suggestion that the wool shirt with its snazzy autumnal colour scheme will make you a better bushcrafter, or if you are not a better bushcrafter it’ll make you look like one …………… which of course is utter rubbish even though many newbies and even some so called experts fail to understand that! “oh but their harder wearing or more in tune with nature” more sales pitch swallowed by the willing gullible – after all the army wouldn’t issue a jumper that wasn’t hard wearing or toned down to blend with nature! Be interesting to know the "true" processes used to make and dye these items too - how ecological are they? 
We have all seen guys dressing to the nines like little Ray Mears clones who can’t even tie a boot lace let alone a taut line knot, or wandering around the place with 3 knives and several axes hanging off them (and hopefully a first aid of adequate size to match) which to the trained eye are obviously as unfamiliar to their hand as they would be to a martian or a 3 year old, but the naïve bushcrafter carries them firstly in the belief that they make him look like a pro and secondly because he knows no better, after all that bloke on the bushcraft forum with all the pictures of the shiny looking tools says that Is what he does and he must know what he’s talking about he has over 10,000 posts ……………right? WRONG! And lastly lets not forget the fact "they have paid for them and will show them off!"

So, why carry more? I can find no answer. It’s easier to replace missing knowledge with gear than to speed the dirt time learning the knowledge needed and if you lack the knowledge it is wise to ensure you have the correct gear UNTIL you gain the knowledge - but if you have the experience and skills why lumber yourself with all that tut? So is the guy loaded down with all the must have gear telling us he's a expert or merely proving he isn't??

Comfort? Maybe it is more comfortable to have a dutch oven than a billy can – maybe it is more comfortable to have a cool box full of steak and beers than to carry a few rations in your rucksack, maybe it is more comfortable to have a folding chair than to sit on the ground or your sleeping mat but maybe that 4 x 4 you need to carry it all isn’t – take only pictures leave only foot prints, not fire scares and certainly not dirty great welts in the track where your cars tyres have torn up the earth, scaring mother nature!! If you seek that kind of comfort why not go to a proper camp site which is designed for it??

OK, I won’t labour the point, you know what I’m saying.

So to me simplifying my needs was a simple thing, it was merely a matter of looking back, understanding my needs, my true needs and sorting out the wheat from the chaff. Anyone can do it, leave out anythings that have only one use for example, select items with multiplicity in mind. My kit (now) is robust and weighs less than 20lbs including 2x 58 pattern water bottles and 24hrs rations ………so I have food and water for 24hrs, well the food can be stretched for as long as three days if needed but the water cant! So that’s 20lbs of kit which will (baring food) last me indefinitely and has been used year round from the deep winter cold to summers hazy heat both in UK and the Swedish boreal forests! Use common sense when it comes to food and water and you have a kit which would certainly be good to go for a week or two hiking (I intend to use this set up below for my next hike of the wall for example) or canoeing most places in the world – and which with a tweak or two would be spot on for most of the other places too!!

So what do I carry? It isn’t some silly survival kit, it is proper gear it is just not fussy and the items I carry are versatile!

Below are two lists – one for bushcraft the other for hiking – note the merge between the two and the distinct separations also.

Possibles (pocket items)
  • Small folding knife, lighter, Twine (paracord), torch, tinder card, firesteel, sharpening stone
 
  1. Neck/sheath knife – Small folding kuksa
 
Bushcraft
Hiking
Worn
 
1.      Socks and pants
Socks and Pants (long hiking pants)
2.      Trousers – 5.11 or Fjellraven (with braces)
Trousers – craghoppers with braces
3.      T-shirt (zip neck) and or
4.      Rollneck merino (cold weather)
 
 
5.      Light Fleece – check shirt
 
       5a, insulation Jacket –
       5b Swedish army parka – winter/extreme
 
 
6.      Jacket – dpm goretex lined
Jacket – waterproof/berghaus cornice
6a long johns (as underwear or sleep in)
 
 
6b Ventile windshirt/jacket
 
 
Rucksack packing list – Medium Alice pack
Rucksack for hiking - karrimor                                                    
1.      Patrol bag in brit bivi (for over nighters)
 
2.      Black Sleeping bag and Bivi
(USA system parts as needed in stuff sack)
3.      Army sleep mat - groundsheet
Therma rest
4.      US army Poncho + woobie
Tent (banshee or hubba)
5.      Hygiene items
Wash kit – small towel (bandana?)
6.      first aid kit
Hussif and first aid
7.      Winter hat –mitts – scarf (cap in summer) Mosi headnet
 
8.      Radio
 
9.      Cylume(s)
 
10.   2 x 58 Pattern Bottles + 2 x plastic mugs
 
11.   Puritabs
Pre-mac filter
12.   Cook Set – including spices etc
Msr stowaway + Woodgas stove
 
b.      MSR gas stove and vango set for hiking
13.   Brew kit
 
14.    
Flask (jack or Weiss)
15.   Spare clothing – insulation (long johns –thermal trousers)
 
16.   Axe/hawk
 
17.   Map/compass/gps
 
18.   Insualted clothing as required
 

 

And that’s it really, most items are now tried and tested over several years and so I know they work – ask yourself what do you carry? how much does your kit weigh??

Remember the rule of threes – if you carry an item and don’t use it for three consecutive trips then ask yourself do you really need it? Apart, that is from first aid and safety gear!

I hope this article has, if nothing else got you thinking, re-evaluating you kit and more importantly your skills or lack of them pertaining to your needs for kit at least!

23.12.12


Like many people into the hobby, or way of life (depending on your prospective) we call bushcraft I have become disillusioned with the commercial shadow that now hangs heavily over us. Some of it generated by the bushcraft industry - yes, after all how can you be a good bushcrafter, are at least wear the mask of one, unless your dressed in your expensive Swazi, your costly wool shirt or your lavish Fjellraven, and lets not forget your over priced and (often) over rated hand made knife (which wont even glow in the dark when Orc's are near) - oh of course the schools and the tv people lead you to believe you need all this gear, its their wallets you fill as yours is emptied. (And yes to my shame know its true as I was once part of that industry so I know the back stabbing and greed that haunts it)

But God loves a sinner come to the light and hopefully I will be forgiven for past transgressions too should I have made any. But that's by the bye as today things are changing, still their are those who will waste their money (often gladly??) on over priced gear just because its worn by X or sold by Y, whether they realise it or not its usually sold to them subliminally, the need generated in their minds rather than their reality - after all how do you get someone to part with hundreds of pounds for a new knife when the one they have is perfectly fine?  Many experienced people however, and it seems to be experience that's the key, are turning their back on the greed of the industry and its voracity and in so doing are often rediscovering a whole new range of gear which is neither expensive nor made only to last one season until the new more expensive model comes out!!

I have sent this past year testing out gear with a very back to basics approach, not initially intentionally, but as time went on I began to remember past trips from my novice days and the gear I liked then (before the brain washing of the must have branding culture) and to find items which cost a fraction of the price you might expect ................ and often which as are as good as, if not better than the commercial alternative!! (There is a whole article being written about this to come)

One such item is the Swedish army boot (pictured above) -  in essence a surplus version of the Lundhag boot - I have both so can compare them like for like and the only down side I can find to the issue boot is the weight.

Yep, I'm guessing the sole and rubber foot is a heavier, possibly thicker, rubber and so making the boot heavier - but not cripplingly so, and on the plus side this means the boot will take more wear and tear and last longer!

So the boot itself then - well its a rubber lower boot and a leather upper, the upper is a thick, hard leather which in the best traditions of all armies around the world need breaking in. Mine I first treated with Neats Foot oil to make them a little supple then simply wore them until comfortable. The ankle height is good being very similar to the old British DMS boot for those who remember them!! The sole and foot are moulded together and 100% waterproof with the upper sewn so the tongue etc (if treated and looked after) will also prevent water ingress. Mine didn't come with any type of insole so initially I made innersoles from a section of old sleeping mat before buying a pair of felt inners which are warm and comfy.

Mine also have a square toe designed for skiing but that's cool with me and I look forward to using them in Feb for snow shoeing hopefully the toe will be an aid rather than a problem there!

So there you go - not much else to say as is always the case with a item that isn't designed to be flashy - they are tough robust boots waterproof and hard wearing which once broken in will offer the wearer protection and longevity.

Oh ya and best of all .................Lundhag Scout boots RRP at around £120, these Swedish army boots are the princely sum of £9.95 ...........or put it another way you could by 12 pairs for the same price as one pair of Lundhags!!

19.12.12


Call of the WILD by Guy Grieve.

I thought I'd take a moment to review this book as I've just been re-reading it and several things struck me.

Firstly, having now read it twice I have to say its an enjoyable book with a lot of relevant information for the buddying outdoorsman - I definitely picked up more info second time around so it was well worth two reads but ..............

And isn't there always a but - several things spoil the book for me.

Firstly, the authors seemingly endless need to big up the danger be it from bears, wolves, moose or the cold - its obvious to the reader he survived the journey so the continuous reference to danger seems a bit little a school boy trying to make his story sound better than it is.

Secondly, maybe this is a middle class thing us working class people don't get - but like his reference to danger I was bored and embarrassed by his continuous references to how he missed his family - blah blah boo hoo - sorry but most working people have to spend time away from the family when they don't want to - you did cos you wanted too. As a soldier I did (and it was in a lot more dangerous situations than a cabin in the woods) man up and get over it - you were there by your choice and doing something many of us would have happily given up a year with our family for!! All that belly aching sadly left me feeling he was trying to convince us or himself how much he cared about his family (the cynic in me whispers "and he knew his wife would read it").

Lastly, and this is my biggest issue, is the fact that he seems (and I say seems because maybe there is stuff he doesn't write about, such a payments for usage or other things) to have taken a lot of peoples time and help to indulge what might have been a dream but what definitely was a business/money making deal for him with his tv programme and book! The families in Galena who helped him, lent him almost everything he had including the dog Fuzzy who it seems he just left behind without a backward glance at the end of his time (oh ya I miss my family so much but couldn't give a monkeys about a dog!) the guy Glenn who sorted out and lent him a dog team and all the gear etc etc - maybe I'm wrong and maybe all these people knew the score and that was unwritten so as not to dilute the story but if not then he seems to have taken advantage of a lot of people good nature.

Anyway those three issues are the main negatives of the book and possibly say as much about me and my world as him and his.

But these things aside I did enjoy the book and if anything it fed the dreamer in me - and if im honest also gave a small reality check as you can see from the various chapters what hard work it all was at times!

So would I recommend the book - YES, definitely well worth a read or two!

16.12.12

For THREE DAYS IT RAINED, and I wondered if it would ever stop!!

This weekend myself, Tomo and Steve had a little get together in the woods - a pre-Christmas drink in the warmth of the camp fire with two of my best and oldest friends.

The weather was damp to say the least but our spirts were high as always, we were just happy to be in the woods no matter the cold winds and the driving rain!

We decided to be like proper bushcrafters this time and stick up a parachute, which for us was a saving grace as, you now know it was a little wet!

Nothing much to report dear reader as it was a chilled out affair and I have nothing new to play with or review ................... so heres a few pictures for you to enjoy!!












 Happy Christmas to you all