Had a great long weekend in the woods this weekend and found time to explore several subject areas.
1. Roycroft Pack frame
2. Blanket Coats
3. Sleeping under a blanket
Now, people become very excited about "traditional" skills, there is a strong pro and equally energetic against lobby for both - we have indeed discussed here the 21st Century Long hunter concept to the conclusion that in reality a longhunter from way back then, if given the chance would use the modern kit we have to hand instead of (and lets not forget the stuff they carried in many ways was cutting edge for their time if they could get it) the traditional gear they had or had to make for themselves.
But such skills are fun to play with and practical in many ways - Fun because lets face facts why get into bushcraft if your not going to try "crafts" if your only ever going to hike with modern gear that to my mind is Hiking - if your only going to camp with modern gear then, yep you guessed it - its camping! Bushcraft is both but also more as we should be striving to learn to be able to replace our modern gear with improvised items and stuff we find in nature - go a little native if you like. We don't have to live the life, we don't have to do it 24 7, we are modern people with modern lives and we're only kidding ourselves if we think we're pirates or mountain men before we are modern men.
So, while we can camp out 99% of the time with modern gear I believe it helps focus the mind if we once in a while take a little trip down memory lane, "rough it to smooth it". Consider your skills as a knife edge if you don't sharpen it one in a while it'll become a very dull tool indeed.
To the first item then - popular at the moment the Roycroft Pack frame ....................
I'll not bore you with how to make one - there are you tube films enough for that - All I will say is its about an hours work and you need cordage and something to use as straps. The idea of the Roycroft (to my mind) isn't as a alternative to your standard pack (although in some ways it could be after all your not limiting yourself to a capacity) what you are constructing is a replacement for a lost or damaged rucksack .......... as an example of this on our summer WEISS course we take everything off the students except their knife and then over time they earn certain items of modern gear with the dilemma of how to carry it and making a pack frame is a good demonstration of their skills as well as a pertinent item to aid them during the course. One last thing I would point out is that as a frame its not that comfortable to carry so don't believe all those people who tell you otherwise - if it was the A or triangular frame would still be in use ............. but as a means to a end its a cool item to make and allows you to practice your knife and knotcraft in particular!
Blanket coats next - as you are aware I like these especially after my recent sub arctic trip to Sweden where my bushshirt proved so good! But a brand name item is very expensive and in some case not really worth the price asked - better surely to make your own, to your specs and in a size that fits you? Well folks that's what we have done. Enter stage left the Wiggy Blanket Coat ................
Made from old army blankets these over head smocks are excellent - toasty warm and well thought out (after many emails and phone calls bouncing back and forth) - mine is ex eastern block grey wool with a yellow blanket stitched hem - Steve's is a Belgian army blanket in a fetching khaki brown.
Very warm and as we proved this weekend warm even when wet! Two excellent features are the deep, deep front pocket and the baffled neck allowing the garment to close around the throat area and trap the warmth there.
Steve is now working on a lighter summer version which you might compare with a ranger shirt although higher spec as it will have the same hood and baffle features.
A wool garment, while heavy so not necessarily suited to hiking, is a excellent item for bushcrafting especially (and you know what is coming) around the camp fire.
Lastly, sleeping under a blanket - Over the years I've done this many times ranging from inside a debris hut to simply laying beside a fire. I've slept under the stairs and in an emergency shelter with the temperature down to minus 10 around me and usually its a lukewarm experience.
So if you have never tried it here's a couple of tips - firstly insulate yourself from the ground! Common sense but lets face facts it aint all that common. If you have a sleeping mat lucky you if not at least 10 to 18 inches under you is important. Your blanket can be part of this as can your clothes but here's a thing, usually I take off my fleece/wool shirt etc and place it under me as extra insulation, which I did on the first night and ALWAYS I have found I suffer from cold spots but on our last night, after nonstop rain for 5 hours my blanket shirt was wet and so I kept it on under the blanket and the difference in warmth was considerable. I am knocking 6 foot and fairly broad shouldered so while I know the diamond fold method of wrapping oneself in a blanket it doesn't work for me hence I am always left simply folding the blanket in half and sliding in between, this leaves one side open, so if like me you have to sleep like that have your opening always on the leeward side out of the breeze even if that means your back to the fire. Lastly, take off your boots, if you have spare socks put these on your feet too and try to have at least one fold of extra material around these as well as experience has taught me its always the "plates of meat" that get coldest quickest.
Well folks, a few quick points you might find helpful - questions?? Just ask .....................