Today I took the rare opportunity to get a few hours in the woods - these days it seems I eat, sleep and shit work and not by choice and if I'm not at work I'm commuting back and forth as the blood sucking solicitors still haven't sorted out my house sale ............... but all that aside or maybe because of it any down time I get I enjoy even more.
So today I took the rare ........... oh ya already said that.
The hike and woodland walk was great, but the reason I am drawn to write is because I had time to actually sit and think. And in so doing a few random thoughts popped to the surface and demanded to be shared.
My trip was dual purpose I wanted to recce my new woods some more and I wanted to hike with weight - so I packed my old LK35 with standard gear, wool blankets and even a canvas tarp.
And this was heavy .......and got me thinking about the kit we carry and why.
Most people carry very similar kits (and dress the same too) and whether your a Ray Mears fan with his "something to sleep in, something to carry it in, something to cook in" approach or a Dave Canterbury 10C's follower the kit you carry is generally that recommended by these perceived guru's and your peers (woe betide the forum followers wallet)...........and of course as a learner this is what you carry and learn to use and as such it becomes your kit, the norm and what you recommend to others - and that is great and if your content with this status quo good for you, but I wonder if sometimes we don't become a little bit to relaxed about our kit and loose track of the reason for carrying it.
As I sat in the dapple shade of a ancient yew tree these questions entered my mind -
Q1 - What is our aim? Are we practicing bushcraft as a hobby for bushcrafts sack OR is there another motive? Also what is the aim of the trip we are making - is it a day trip to a local wood or a week or longer hike across arctic Finland (as Ross points of for the day hike surely if we don't have all the bells and whistles of brand name kit WE WILL DIE!)
Q2 - How likely and how often are we going to achieve our aim? If our aim is just to enjoy the woods while walking the dog that's achievable daily but do we need bushcraft skills or kit? While if our aim is (and this is often my thinking when looking at kit - and one which is probably never going to be achieved but one which drives me to get the toughest most robust gear) to hike DUE SOUTH from the great slave lake to the Canadian border then bushcraft skills and kit might not only be handy but life saving.
Q3 - Do we need more or less gear - to achieve our aim?? Just because Kephart said he had one do you? Just because Ray Mears has a SFA do you need one? Often I will go into the woods for a couple of weeks and be amazed how little, if at all, I use my sheath knife or maybe my axe for example but my cook pot gets used daily and yet the cook pot isn't the thing most of use will happily spend a weeks wages on.
Q4 - How important do we want to make fire?? A comment on a previous post made me consider this for if we want fire to be central to our experience then surely we need a shelter and sleep system that can handle fire - is it a good thing or bad thing that these days we set up a camp with a central fire to cook on etc but then basha up 100 yards away and need to hike in bulky 3 season sleeping bags to keep us warm in the night while 100 yards away our fire burns down to nothing? Worse, I put it to you members of the jury that it is indeed a crime that we so do, some felon's even stock up the fire before turning in .............
Q5 Can we rely on Fire? For example if we decide our aim is a weeks hike across subarctic Sweden in Feb using a blanket and fire do we have the skills and knowledge to achieve this? Is it wiser to carry a sleeping bag and a stove (and I don't mean just as a emergency back up kit which like a first aid kit we should always carry if were smart)
So what are the answers to these questions?? I expect they are different for us all - some as I say will be happy maybe there are others like myself who even after all these years, with all the accumulated knowledge of over thirty years living and working outdoors who are yet to decide - or maybe it is and will always be so that outdoors folk never seem to reach that utopia of kit after all where would the bushcraft industry be if Ray Mears didn't change his rucksack or trouser brand annually?
Anyway folks have a think how applicable are Questions 1 - 5 in your outdoor sojourns ........