22.2.13

I have finally found it ......... my perfect haversack


As many of my regular readers will know I like to use a haversack - I carry my emergency pack in one (above). I use it instead of having my possibles in my pockets so no matter what I wear I always have the same gear with me in a familiar place.

But not all haversacks were created equal - and for a while I have searched to find the one that ticks all my boxes. The above came closest being of a size and shape I liked.

 
 
This haversack was good initially - good size too but the plastic feel of it made me wonder at its fire safety? It is a excellent dog walking satchel however and that's the roll it now plays ........... 

 
The Finnish army respirator sack was like wise a great item - I have used it a lot but its too big - yep too big imagine??!! When I say this I am serious in as much as the size tempts the user to cram in extract items not necessarily needed!
 
Then the other day I found this on ebay --------- a Czech Bread Bag - material feels like rough hessian or hemp but it is the perfect size, the bread bag design is perfect to my mind over the more "easily" accessible respirator sack design thus preventing loss of gear. Better yet the flap is long and hangs almost down the entire side of the sack, that added to the fact the webbing strap metal tips are quiet heavy goes to ensure loosing kit from within would be hard to do! The bag has a second strap for closing the main sack for extra security as well as three sectioned pockets and the main sack - the sectioned pockets are well sized and I have even packed my Austrian Poncho rolled up in the middle pocket.
 
The bread bag design also means it can be hung on a belt as well as the shoulder strap - which is handy when hiking - lastly the material is rough open weave and I decided to Wax mine for added weather protection, the material proved perfect for this and I am now the proud owner of a waxed cotton bread bag that's so versatile I haven't even started to discover how useful it will be.



All I will say is at £4.50 each on evil bay I am well pleased with it - so much so I ordered a second just in case I ever needed to replace the original!!
 

21.2.13

Emergency survival training.

Resting on our laurels isnt the way we do it - mostly because as instructors we enjoy getting out there and experiencing the "life" - neither myself or Steve are into bushcraft for the sake of our ego's and as such we understand the only way to train students properly is for us to get out there and do what we would ask them to do, then we understand the problems our students face - I've known many an instructor who could not practice what he preached, having learnt just enough to cover their subject, so I ensure that is never the case with us we regularly get out there and do!

So that's the reason why myself, Roger and Steve ended up in Sweden with only emergency packs or survival kits for an over night scenario.

The Survival kits/emergency packs we carried were all varied but the stimulation was honesty - fear of the unknown which is what stops a lot of people from doing similar is understandable and even the guys had to be nudged onto the straight and narrow with a timely "you'll only be cheating yourself!"

So what did we carry? Myself I carried a haversack with the usual items I carry anywhere aka my possibles bag - now I don't believe in x amount of item kits, carry what you feel safe carrying and ignore these so called experts of preach otherwise - but in my kit on this occasion I carried (and remember the scenario is we where overnighting fishermen)
  1. Haversack
  2. Flask of hot water and brew kit
  3. Possibles - torch, paracord, sharpening stone, compass, tinder, space blanket, first aid kit.
  4. Laplander saw - M95 knife
  5. Single bed size Wool blanket
Of which the only items I didn't need or use on this occasion was the compass and the first aid kit.



Steve carried a kit he has in his snugpak response pack - this kit he has carried for many years - its his go to bag and the same kit he used to carry on our fasach ile courses the contents of which is -

Larger so will just list it - Hi viz dry bag, reusable space blanket, Lanyard with compass,whistle,firesteel and micro torch, matches, alc gel satchets, toilet paper, first aid, led torch, 9hr candle, stove (wild woodgas) merino buff, energy bar, 1 litre of water, 10m gaffer tape, titanium cup, salami, 2 x10m paracord, 6 x pegs, go lite basha, cylume, another energy bar, 2 x hot choclates, feeznal lens, more matches, tinder card, brew lit, 2 more alc gel satchets

Roger who has done some "work" with the Swedish RANGERS packed along a kit they advised - flask, ice picks (in case you go through the ice) snow goggles, spare gloves, trangia stove and fuel, fire kit, map and case, compass, torch, mug, chopping board (wooden) 1 sweet meal - 1 main meal (both MRE) - 2 x boiled sweets, 3 x stock cubes, cup-a-soup, brew kit, cordage, candle, paracord, fishing kit, mini (button) compass, puritabs, cylume, tin foil, sewing kit, first aid kit, ffd, flares 1 para 1 hand.

So quiet a difference in the three kits and three approaches ,,,,,,, what would you choose?

Well I guess it all depends on your skill level eh??

Anyway - so we started the exercise after lunch - before lunch we broke camp packed our gear and cleaned up the site which upon arrival we found to have a fire circle full of beer cans and broken glass (in a true survival situation the beers cans abd glass would be handy but for this is was just a shocking shame as it was almost proof even Sweden is falling out of love with the nature when its people can leave a mess like that!)

After lunch (a bowl of mash potato flavoured with cup-a-soup) we started - firstly we did a recce to find ourselves a good camp location - this is important as many people just charge in to the first place they find - at least check an area 100m around your location if not further you might find something better!


 

This was were we selected - rocks blocking the wind off the lake with a fire place already in the centre.

We cleared the snow to ground level bearing in mind the native American saying that mother nature will warm you - then we lay beds and carpets of spruce bows salvaged (in the interest of conservation and to prevent more unwanted trees being used etc) from our over camp.

Myself and Steve having some form of shelter sheet erected these on the far side of the shelter allowing roger the protection of the rocks and the benefit of these acting as reflectors to the fires heat.

 http://youtu.be/DJRQpdIWlCk - this is a little film of our camp


Camp established we then set about gathering our fire wood - we gathered what appeared to be enough and then a little more - started a long log fire which I angled across the camp so myself and steve were partly side on but so roger had the benefit of one full side to himself!

We needed water by this time having drained our hot water from the flasks and so Rog went off to recce a spot as we already knew melting snow was a last resort. Diamond geezer only found a small ice berg which he smashed up and brought back to camp - the rocks behind his sleeping area became known as the fridge! And we commenced the endless cycle of melting ice and drinking warm drinks.

Darkness feel upon us with the slow inevitability of death and we all settled down for the night - I remember asking Roger the time before I wrapped myself in my blanket and drifted off to sleep.

Around midnight harsh hushed whispered and much blowing and snapping of sticks awoke me - Steve and Roger where both hard at it trying to rescue the fire. For a while I lay and watched them - to many chef spoil the broth - but eventually I too roused myself and lent a hand.

 
Two things became evident, firstly Roger had slowly crept closer and closer to the fire and that the fire had likewise spread towards him rather than maintaining its long log lay and that it had also crept up hill a little leaving a empty belly on the rocks ...........................on top of this is seems the wood was burning out at a alarming rate - indian make fire keep warm white man make big fire keep warm gathering fire wood - even with all his layers on Roger seemed to feel the cold far more than myself or steve, I guess the reflectors/shelters we had were doing a good job and a check on the little thermometer I had showed the temperature between or shelters was a steady 0c - outside we discovered it already down to -7c.

Having slept about four hours I decided to stay awake a while and manage the fire - this unspoken decision was welcome as the other two settled down and were soon snoring.

I maintained the fire for a while then eventually gravity took my eyelids and I too nodded off. Again the fire burned down but this time better stacked etc it was quickly restocked - a hot drink made and we all crashed out again.

First light was slow coming, we were all awake before dawn and had enjoyed several cups of tea.

With the sun creeping over the horizon we discussed the night and what we would do now if it was to become an extended stay out - the main point was better harness the fire!! Obviously we didn't need to set up rescue signals and all those chores but we were mindful of the tasks - it took some doing to stop Roger using his flares but we didn't want to start a "false call!"

With the day now well started we sat beside our fire making some pine tea a little disgruntled as we had been told a journalist wanted to interview the three crazy "English" he was supposed to arrive about 10 am ..........................................................12 oclock and we were still waiting - then eventually suited and booted like a fish out of water he arrived!!!



Questions flowed, notes were scribbled and photos taken, the reporter was most surprised when I stated that we didn't call ourselves survival experts, "why he asked?" Because I explained in our experience to many so called experts aren't. Humility is a virtue and any man who says he knows everything proves by so doing that he doesn't!

It was lost on him I think but he was happy to understand the title wilderness living instructors instead.

Well as quick as he came the shivering wretch was dragged away and we broke camp with agusto ..................Food, a shower and a porcelain seat awaited us back at Risviken - we had proved the points we wanted to - we had established what "should" be in a emergency kit and what a load of tut some people also recommend ............... all this done in the view of future training so any one hardy enough to attended it!

 Day light
 Night light
 And the walk home

A great little night out which thanks to a little knowledge we all enjoyed - had it been real we would have all made it home after our impromptu night out - but how many wouldn't have? Even as we packed up we pondered the story the reporter had told us of a lady from Stockholm way who hadn't made it home just the night before or little exercise.


Överlevnadstrio förenar nytta med nöje - nwt.se - Ditt Värmland, just nu!

Överlevnadstrio förenar nytta med nöje - nwt.se - Ditt Värmland, just nu! Heres a article about our recent adventure - the journalist visited us at the end of our survival exercise.

20.2.13

Subarctic Sweden - travel log

Wilderness trips are often memorable, the memories cherished by those who shared the journey. Today I decided to write a travel log of a recent trip to subarctic Sweden, will added some pictures at the bottom for those who like that sort of thing ;) - I hope you enjoy.

Up at 0530 on a grey drizzly British morning I was looking forward to my trip to one of my favourite places in the Sweden. At Stansted airport I met up with my travel companion and friend of many years Steve.

Before boarding the plane we managed to "squeeze" in a full cooked ........... which was nice!

Arrived at a snowy Stockholm Vasteras at 16.15 where the temperature was a chilly -4c. The airport bus "whisked" us to Stockholm central where we met up with the third member of our party Roger, a south African living in Sweden.

Rog took us back to his place as we had time between buses and his wife cooked us a wonderful pasta and chicken dinner - later that evening, fortified, we boarded the Stockholm underground and began our trip! The sense of adventure was tangible and we all, rucksack laden as we were, couldn't wait to reach our destination and begin.

0500hrs -10c we arrived at Arjang Varmland and before beginning our first 15km hike decided to have a coffee. Swedes drink coffee like we Brits drink Tea and although none of us were really Swedes 'when in Rome'.

While we enjoyed the fresh air, the warm coffee and mentally prepared ourselves for the coming hike a car, a dark shadow, cruised towards us. Head lights blazing the vehicle suddenly flashed us with a spot light, Roger cursed, "If that's the local Police ,..........." but lo and behold it wasn't the police. Totally out of the blue my old friend Preben had decided to come collect us and save us the long dark hike to Risviken where we would be starting our adventure! On top of this unexpected surprise the crafty of old fox had also prepared a welcome for us and when we arrived we found reindeers skins, flasks of hot water and coffee, a lantern, fire wood and even a trout! What a great welcome and a good start to the week!

0930 -10c after a few hours sleep we all woke, packed our rucksacks and headed off into the Swedish country side. The plan was to hike cross country to a near by lake known as Jarnsjorn or the Iron lake. The hike out went without incident, well apart from a hilarious fall of two on icy patches en-route and we soon reached the wilderness shelter located on the lake which was to be our first nights camp. These shelters "DANO's" are dotted all over Varmland and set up with established campfires and supplied with firewood - to use them you need to pay for a nature card the funds of which go towards the up keep of the shelters.

Although the three of us haven't travelled together before I was impressed by the efficient manor in which we jelled - like a well oiled machine we went straight into camp routine, Steve set about lighting the fire, I gathered spruce tips to lay as a 'carpet' insulating us/ our feet from the frozen ground while we relaxed around camp and then myself and Roger set off to gather more fire wood.

As darkness closed around us, our camp established and well provisioned we relaxed with a dram of Jagermeister and a hearty meal of pasta and meatballs - spiced with a liberal dose of Tabasco sauce.

One thing about 3 people sleeping in a DANO is you don't get a good nights sleep as every movement, fart or snore is amplified! There is a thin rocky strip which reaches into the lake here and one thing we found was that the ice and snow covered these - these rocks are usually about a meter above the water level but when I walked across to them I went through the ice and calf deep in water - the weight of the ice on the lake must have caused the water level to rise!

Next morning we awoke to a light snow, Lynx tracks passed hither and dither around us - breakfasted on fried bacon and polar bread fried in the bacon fat which tasted fantastic! Before saddling up and starting on our second hike this time down to a place we all (anyone who has done WEISS training) know as 'the island'.

Before we reached the lake the snow had grown heavy, temperatures were down to -6c and the wind chill well below this so we took shelter (and lunch) in a wildlife observation hut before crossing the ice of the lake for our final destination.

Thus far on the trip I had been wearing a polyester zip necked base layer and a Swanndri Bushshirt, while my companions were dressed in more modern clothing - the first major difference we started to notice was that while I was warm in my clothing I never overheated or sweated whilst the other two did - this was a pleasant surprise to me and the start of a learning curve.

Crossing the ice we arrived at our new campsite with about 2 hours of daylight left - I suggested we 'quickly' set up our shelters then concentrate our efforts at gathering firewood. A sound plan however little did I know that whilst my own shelter (laavu) was erected in about 30 minutes the other two would take much longer, indeed it was only later I discovered that Roger didn't even have a shelter with him and was planning to build a lean too ............. with only a hour of daylight left and the cold creeping in I felt the pressing need to motivate the other two, and with a sudden buzz of activity we collected fire wood and hacked a hole through the ice to ensure we had a good water supply (we covered the hole with spruce bows to stop it refreezing but also to warn anyone crossing the ice the hole was there!)

Water in a frozen world is as equally important as anywhere else - so if you can secure a supply it makes life easier - melting snow is a labours task as it takes a lot of snow to produce a small amount of fluid which usually tastes burned, melting ice is better but as we later found you can have a pot of water boiling around the edges while there is still a block of ice slowly melting in the centre!

-4c today and Preben came out to do a little ice fishing with us. We augered holes in the ice and set up rods baited with prawn. Preben demo'd alternative methods of ice fishing for the guys while we waited.

Apparently 0830 to 1030 is the time the fish are biting here and almost on queue I had my first bite ........several time we had fish take our bait but no strikes and then just when we least expected it I caught our first - a nice big Trout! Several more bait thefts later and then came our/my second catch of the day! Happy as larry we called it a day as two fish were more than enough for us!

Cold weather conditions make some people become very self obsessed and overly concerned about their personal comfort or perceived safety and this became evident amongst us too. While drying his wet goretex lined boots (I wore Lundhags and had no problems) Steve even managed to burn holes in his socks!

That evening for dinner we had chorizo and rice and Ponassed Trout, a veritable feast!

Today again -4c but the wind chill was down making it feel much colder especially on the exposed lake ice. Today we started our survival exercise and I will write a review of this separately but for now it will suffice for me to say we would only be using 'honest' emergency packs (by honest I mean we all avoided the temptation to add other extra's aka comforts we wouldn't usually carry) the temperature would drop to -10c and our scenario was that we were ice fishermen who had run out of day light and been forced into a over night camp.

Morale amongst us was very high, it was a long, felt even longer, chilly night even though the temperature within our shelters was a constant 0c and the following morning we had a visit from a journalist from one of the local newspapers.

Lunch time we called it a day and broke camp - recovered our rucksacks which we had secured away from camp in case of emergencies and headed off across the ice back to Risviken.

Back in Risviken we feasted on digestive biscuits, squeezy cheese and MRE apple jelly before going off with Preben to look at some wolf tracks which had been found skirting the edges of the adjacent lakes to his.

Early to bed tonight - with last light being at 1725 we all slept soundly as tomorrow we had a long 5 hour bus trip back to Stockholm to look forward too. While I lay there in my sleeping bag I reflected on the trip and what I had learnt, what kit worked and what never, and these are the pertinent points I will share with you at this time.

  1. Any food with a liquid content - eggs or squeezy cheese - will freeze so better to go for other alternatives like pasta, cup-a-soups and salami sausage etc.
  2. The M95 sissipuuko is a fantastic tool and while on my summer solo hike I bemoaned it saying I only seemed to use a pocket knife in the frozen world where I found myself it was worth its weight in gold.
  3. Swanndri bushshirt - original NZ made - was a eye opener and a fantastic garment. The price of these is ridiculously high these days but if you can pick one up on ebay for a more reasonable price I'd recommend you do as mine was warm through the trip, so much so I never needed any other additional insulation, it breathed whilst hiking so I avoided over heating and the dreaded sweat and was safe around the fire. I have to say I am a convert to these garments.
  4. Matches - I lit every fire we had with matches. I have heard people including "guru" types dissing matches as being less reliable and yet this is not my experience - indeed I would say that someone who has trouble lighting a fire with matches shouldn't be blaming the matches but pondering their own skills and fire prep.
  5. Socks - wear one pair for hiking and two pairs when relaxing in camp - but ensure your boots are big enough as squashed socks aren't warm in which case you'd be better off with less pairs.
  6. Work gloves are always handy - thick leather gardening gloves - especially around the fire and also saves getting hands dirty or cut while doing standard camp chores etc.

Overall a great week with two good friends, we tested ourselves, we enjoyed ourselves and we hoarded more wonderful memories.

 My Bushcrafty granddad - Preben

 The breakfast of kings
 

 Roger and Steve half way through day 1's hike
 


 My boots and gaiters encrusted in snow and ice - my LK70 in the back ground too
 
 Jarnsjorn DANO
 
 Roger and Steve half way through the second days hiking
 
 My Laavu
 
 Our water hole
 
 Moi in full hiking mode
 

 Ice fishing set up
 
 Mr Trout number 1
 
 Roger during the survival exercise looking like some downed bush pilot
 
 Steve looking very grubby
 
 Wolf track
 
 Our survival shelters - a bit of space blanket and a spruce bed - lovely
 

Well folks I hope you enjoyed my ramblings and I hope this has inspired you to get out there and enjoy the nature!




19.2.13

Stick tangs are useful!

A lot of people don't like stick tangs - and I can understand that but lets not forget that among the Scandinavian cultures stick tangs are the norm and when a culture survives and thrives in an extreme climate the wise man best take note of the reasons ............

One reason I believe a stick tang is popular in the north is there is less metal to touch the skin which is sensible when the temperature plummets but and reason for the stick tangs longevity is its ability to be field repaired.

Below is a knife of mine I damaged on my recent trip and which I repairs in the field - its not that pretty any more and will now be a necker and need a sheath making - but if I were in the "brown sticky stuff" being able to repair it might have saved my life .......... just a thought next time you dis a stick tang!


18.2.13

How to wear a wool blanket as a coat

A wool blanket is a very versatile item to carry - its a liner for your sleeping bag on a cold night, you can wear it around your shoulder beside the camp fire, its perfect for gathering debris or bracken for shelter building etc etc
 
 

So how do we wear one? Well we can cut one up and stitch ourselves a capote or similar - or we can wrap is around ourselves and in so doing allow ourselves to reuse the blanket in another role another day - so first take a wool blanket - preferably 100% wool and stitch on two paracord ties.

 


These we tie across our chest like a cloak!

 


 
 Take hold of the edges at waist height and over lap them wrapping them around your body

 
To secure the blanket now we can put on our belt or even tie with a para or similar cord!


This will leave our arms free to work - but when we want to be warm we can pull the blanket around ourselves and enjoy the blankets full warmth.



A cracking little way to wear what is without a doubt one of a bushcrafters most useful items and they cost less than any brand name wool shirt!

LK70 Swedish Army Rucksack


The Swedish Army LK70 rucksack is basically a larger version of the popular LK35. A external frame pack of, surprise surprise, 70 litres capacity!!

I recently took one of the excellent sacks with me to Sweden for a weeks hiking and winter survival training and I have to say it is a excellent sack. Mine was a cheap surplus graded one off ebay but even so the whole rucksack is rugged and built to take some hard work - the waist built is leather and the lid straps are also leather which is a good feature on packs being used in cold climates, although straps on mine were a bit stretched and frayed they still performed well.

The large external rear pocket is ideal for your stove, fuel and food while the two side pockets are long but aren't that large - in mine I carried wet weather gear on the left and my laavu on the right. the lid has a small external pocket ideal for easy access items such as a first aid kit. There is also a larger lid pocket on the inside while is where I store my wash kit, maps etc.

Overall a excellent sack - I would love to get myself a new one so if anyone knows where I can get one let me know!

But even graded for less than £30 I don't think you will find a better - more comfortable sack! Really is a pleasure to use and best of all no sweaty back!



3.2.13

Capote for the 21st Century

Like many of you I am a great fan of all things Mountain Man and Fur Trade era, it has been an inspiration and has fired my imagination on many an occasion, indeed many of the skills I have taught myself over the years have been discovered in the journals or stories from this period so imagine my pleasure when I was given a Swandri Mosgiel as a gift!!

These garments are heavy wool and of a similar design (simplified and less fancy) to the old mountain man Capote.

 
Above Swandri Mosgiel in Olive green

 
Above Mountain man capote - in green.
 
 
The Mosgiel is a zip fronted coat with a single external chest pocket - two hand warmer pockets and a inner pocket. the hood is zipped for removal and the cuffs button close.
 
 
Having owned a red Capote many moons ago I can safely say the Mosgiel to my mind is very similar is size and weight and I LOOK forward to trying it out in the frozen north very soon!