The course itself runs over a weekend and we have been running these for various cadet squadron's in the south east of England for about 8 years now - I teach these for free (well food and board anyway) and really enjoy them as its a labour of love - giving something to the future, maybe a future Ray Mears will be beginning their "career" with me, and if not at least I hope to teach the kids a little of my love and understanding of nature.
This weekend we covered all the usual skills,
- Knife craft
- Saw craft
- One match fire
- Arctic (firesteel) lay fire
- Shelter building
- Game harvesting and prep
- Water collection and purification
- Outdoor cookery
- Flora selection and ID
But as an aside I also wanted to try a new minimalist kit ideal - basically sleeping under a £1.95 tarp with just a blanket - October temperatures and the prospect of torrential rain would test this idea.
Above was my bed for the night - 100% wool blanket with an economy tarp roof - I have slept in the blanket before at minus 10c in Sweden but in that environment we had a fire to heat us. Here, the ground was water logged and the night nothing but constant rain so the only fire we had was the communal campfire. How did I fair - well I slept well but I think this was as much due to the fact I was also wearing a hoody made from a US army blanket (top picture) as to the blanket but it was a damp experience as the rain was heavy. To heavy indeed for the tarp whose weave wasn't tight enough and while not leaking and drippy did allow moist through in the form of fine spray or mist.
Overall the experiment was a success and the kit would have allowed me to survive - but in the conditions experienced it would have been a miserable night especially if you were in a survival situation. The tarps cost and weight make it attractive but end of the day I think a Poncho and poncho liner while heavier would offer longevity and more versatility.
Luckily for me breakfast was a sausage sandwich or two and with these and a hot campfire coffee inside me all was again right with the world!
Cadets carry out game prep - we did both bird and mammal
They also enjoyed their wild food - kebab (below) and in a sustaining and tasty rabbit stew
And our winner - was the only female on the course (well done Katie) hence Girls rule and boys drool ..... She got her individual fire going before any of the boys and then commenced to light the cooking fire, enjoying the warmth of the fire she managed while the lads had to endure the wet weather gathering fire wood!! Lesson's were learnt - especially fire wood that's sat on the ground isn't the ideal wood for cooking. One thing I always remember from my woodlore days which is as true today and it was then is that those who learn fire lighting in wet weather learn it better than those who learn it in good weather and this weekend the fire was very much centre of attention and a hard task master teaching the cadets well!
A great weekend - good to catch up with old friends and even better to share a little knowledge with the future generations of not only our service men and women but also bushcrafters and outdoors folk!