Saturday, September 08, 2007

Long Gaps in time and other adventures

Been along time again, so busy, not had too much time to get out unfortunately, kinda miss my nights out under the stars, open live fire going, friends about or on my own on solo time. Learning more about whats around me, what secrets I will uncover that has been hiding in plain site all this time. New plants, new uses, new food to try, skill of the past to learn.

Been very busy, work, life commitments, so much to tell you, but unfortunately time is against me again, for shortly I'm travel east to the other side of the world. I'm going to be Back packing for 4 months round South East Asia, starting Hong Kong, Japan, Tibet/Nepal then Thailand and possibly South Korea.

Not done too much bushcraft, but it has helped me out from time to time, with either handy nettle cord to tie things or the inner bark of a Willow tree for a headaches I had when I was out n about. Bushcraft never ceases to amaze me, the skills I learnt are useful tools to help me in my lifetime. Make things that little bit better, provided by nature as well.

Since starting bushcraft I have become a lot more environmentally aware, I recycle as much as I can, waste as little of water and electricity as possible. I look at plants and trees differently now, what were once weeds I now know as useful plants that provide, food, cord and medicines.
It makes me stand in awe and saddens me at the same time, every thing we need is provided by nature if we only take time out to look at what around us. Yet as species we destroy and consume it all relying more and more on industrial solutions artificial and unnatural.

If any of you care to see how I'm doing you can see my journey on a travel website called .

Oh and I've just bought a Canoe too an open one. I know a few of you also canoe as well (Mungo being one that springs to mind.). Once I get back I'm looking forward to learning how to do it, hopefully, opening the door to new adventures into nature where I normally could not go.

Right end for now. I return in January. My bags are packed. And my faithful Hat is coming with me.
Take care. Keep learning.


Sunday, June 17, 2007

Wood carved Spoon!

The bushcraft knife is pretty much the most important tool used in bushcraft today, it is one of the lightest and portable of all the cutting tools used in bushcraft today. But without the skill in using it it can be more dangerous than help. Carving a spoon can help you develop that skill....

Its seems the standard right of passage for all bushcrafters at some point it to carve themselves a spoon to use. This does number of things, it helps you get used to using the knife and developing skill in cutting and shaving, it can teach you about what cuts can and can't be done with certain types of wood. And its incredibly relaxing and satisfying creating something useful you can use on every outing.

My current experience started with a few nice pieces of Birch I cut from some "managed" silver birches in my local woods. They were just lying on the floor waiting to rot so I couldn't let nice wood like that go to waste could I? ;-)

After reading an article on bushcraftuk about carving spoons I decided to have ago. The tool's I used were my trusty frost knife, an Axe and a folding saw. The Axe and saw were both used to get me to a point in which I had a basic spoon outline, which in itself was developing skill in Axe use.

This was basically, splitting a log in half and the drawing a rough outline with a pencil on the now flat surface. The saw was used to cut "stop" cuts at the right points to stop the axe from splitting or taking off too much. BTW the wood was still wet at this point.

Knife work then began on the now spoon outline created. I had an idea of what I wanted, I just needed to remove all the bits I didn't want from the wood! heh

As you can see it is rough but taking shape nicely.

I carried on over the next few days doing bits when time permitted, each time getting that little bit closer. The bowl of the spoon was the most interesting part as I had a nice elegant shape in my mind, it was also gonna be the most challenging as one cut too deep could either split the wood or change the shape of the bowl.

The next stage was to use the crook knife to hollow the spoon bit out itself, this too a little doing to discover how to use it smoothly without making an ugly mess. I found it easier to use small controlled strokes. Once I was satisfied with the shape I went on to sanding from big grit to fine grit paper until I had a nice smooth finish.

And here we have the finished spoon, it will need oiling to make it more durable and water proof. Am very pleased on how it turned out.

I should point out that it is best to have sharp tools to work with, sharp tools are safer and make the job a whole lot easier.

A fun project and which I am pleased with as now I have my own a bushcraft spoon that can join me on my adventures. And I know it is mine. :-)


Monday, June 11, 2007

Bushcraft cooked fish!

I have been meaning to do fish for a long while cooked bushcraft style. Finally I decided to try it one weekend and this is the result.

Fish can been cooked a number of ways, de-boned, skewed, steamed, baked, or in leaves on hot coals. I thought I'd try wrapped in leaves on hot coals approach. The leaves I choose were Dock leaves as they were recommended on the bushcraftuk forum as safe to use not to mention very abundant this time of year! I picked up about 8 large sized leaves which was enough to wrap the fish up well.

I don't think it matters how you wrap them, I had about 3 layers of leaves on the fish as I was paranoid I'd burn straight through it to the fish. When I was out gathering leaves I also made a point in grabbing 1 large Nettle stem to use as cordage to tie the package together. Actually the first time I've actually used that particular skill for anything serious. I placed the fish on the hot coals I had prepared earlier and covered some of the top with hot ash and coals also. (To get an even cook)
After about 20-30 minutes I pulled the package out of the heat and opened it up. It smelt great.
After opening the leaves up gingerly I half expected the fish to be either a) Burnt to ashes or b) undercooked. Surprisingly it was neither and I had very succulent looking trout to eat. The flesh just fell away from the bone, it was perfect and tasted absolutely fantastic!

Bloody nice fish, best I have to say I've had in a long long time, full of flavour and tender to eat. Another item added to my bushcraft knowledge. You have to try it!


Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Super busy!

Been really busy of late, had no time to go and play in the woods for anything, work keeping me sufficiently tired and doing plenty of climbing too. Hoping to get out this weekend though and get a night under the stars.

Got new kits too, 2 new sleeping bags, both Bargain prices, a Nanok endurance 0 degree bag and a Mountain Equipment Firewalker 3 bag. This bag was used recently in a bunk house in wales, it was really warm, too hot at times, was sweating most nights in my liner. Only managed to get a good night on the last night where I used it as a basic duvet.

Been thinking of getting a new stove too, a remote canister stove that's stable and has a low profile. Will sell one of my whisperlites to fund it, so it shouldn't cost me in theory anything really.

One thing I did see whilst in Wales is a set of plaques in memory of a couple that passed away at separate times, was pretty touched by it to say the least. I took a picture of it and had a moment paying my respects. The top plaque says "In Memory of George Wroe 1915-1999. Walking Llanberis pass whenever he chooses. And his wifes as you see.

Right busy busy for me. Will check back soon, with Sleep bag reviews and kit setups.


Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Busy times, Hammock discoveries and fungus

Been very busy with climbing, work, business and hammock testing, worked a few things out with the hammock as well.

Right When sleeping in the dd hammock you have a tendency to slide slowly down until you centre of Gravity is at the bottom of the dip, hence your feet end up dangling over the edge of the hammock. To solve this you can either set it so the foot end is slightly higher than head end, or you can always get inside the hammock. I haven't tried to sleep inside it yet but it was very warm on the occasion I did try lying inside of it. Also played with some tape as well, round tree instead of using the rope.

Inside the hammock

Tape round a Birch tree (note: new hammock)

Also ordered a new Hammock from the Bushcraftuk Forum in a Group buy. It arrived and I played with it on a lunch time, it is much wider than my dd one, but does not come with straps nor is it double layered. Needs a proper test though. It certainly is very wide, I can lay width wise on it!!

Fungus and fire craft:
Managed to get some Horsehoof fungus or Fomes Fomentarius the other weekend off an old birch tree.

I wanted to see if I could use it as I had heard many people say it can make good tinder for catching a spark from firesteal. Took a little researching to find out how to use it, turns out its the outer layer just below the hard exterior called the Amadou which you need to separate from the rest, this you scrape to get a little fine downy pile which you can then drop sparks onto. I did this and got a nice glowing stable ember, just needed to get that into a flame, I did get chance to test this out one night with a tinder bundle (My first ever) but didn't manage to blow it into a flame, am guessing my bundle wasn't good enough as it was made mostly out of dried grass so was very fine. I shall try again later with tinder bundles and let you know how I get on.

Busy Studying as usual a little a day, though I do think I need to step it up a little if I'm going to reach any of my expected goals and bag the exam in a couple of months time. Work is the usual boring place, with not a lot of interesting things happening really. But they say it is what you make of it. It is busy just boring and not very challenging at all, feel like I'm wasting myself there. But that will change soon, so I just need to be patient.


Friday, March 02, 2007

Hammock Camping (Kit Review Part 2)

Hammock Review Part 2

Carrying on from the first review (hammock-camping-kit-review-part-1) I was itching to get out and test the hammock...

An opportunity to test the hammock came up and I jumped at the chance to give it ago. The area we were heading was heavily wooded with Pine (useful) so just needed to find a nice place to pitch the tarp and Hammock. Luckily I found a nice place, and promptly had my tarp up and tied the hammock to underneaths two handy tree's the right distance apart (in my case 3 and a half double paces) I tried another new knot which was just round the tree once and finished with a standard bow knot like you'd do laces on your shoes up with. The Hammock started at bum height and I tentatively sat on it, whilst very carefully keep a suspicious eye on the knots. Last thing I really wanted was to be dumped on my ass... though to people I came with would find it bloody funny I expect!

The knots held so I had a lay down on it, it was bliss, nice to get the weight off my feet, I couldn't wait to sleep tonight. The sleeping Mat (thermorest ¾ ) and bag came out and was put on top. Now the hammock itself has an option to actually climb in it and cocoon yourself inside, but I opted to just sleep on top this time round, will need to try inside later on. The only real modification I made was to attach 4 drip cords to the ropes so water would run off in the event of heavy rain. With a little more faffing with my tarp as it didn't shield me from the wind properly I was ready.

The beauty of the hammock is that I didn't need to check the ground for a flat area's or move any stones or avoid roots or potential flood area's. I could just hang the hammock anywhere I pleased so I was spoiled for locations. I was with a few other people and I noted they were prep'ping their area's clearing bits of wood, rocks and doing the usual checks. The time taken to get a tarp and hammock up was very quick, I think with more practice the time could be halved easily, giving more time to simply enjoy the surrounding and get on with any other important jobs such as gathering firewood.

After half a day Bushcrafting I retired to my bed ... er hammock. Getting in a sleeping bag easy, I unzipped my bag sat in and swung my legs round, then zipped up. Felt good inside, I noted straight away there wasn't the usual hard floor beneath me or any rocks or roots I may of missed. As i looked up at my tarp I thought about when the weather gets better and I can do without it completely, can fall asleep looking up at the sky, which is pretty much the same about bivvying I guess. Just not as comfy ;-)

My nights sleep was very restful, woke up the odd time as my bag wasn't my usual one so not as warm. But a few adjustments of the shoulder baffles I was happy again and drifted back off to the sound of the woods.

Altogether a very good nights sleep. Woke up just fine, and was pleased I could just swing out and not have to pick myself off the floor if I was sleeping low. The one thing I did notice was that the lines had stretched slightly seen as it was new. So I was slightly closer to the ground. But I think that was a one off and don't expect it to happen next time.

Summary: I'd highly recommend a Hammock to anyone who wants to sleep out, its comfortable and easily less hassle when choosing a place to stay, you are protected from insects marching across your face, any stinging plants, small rodents and flood too. It also doesn't leave a impact on local vegetation, it leaves you time to do other things such as enjoy yourself in the surrounding.

Some Random Hammock shots:Hammock with bag nicely rolled up, note the drip cords already attached. You can just see the zip down one side.

Shown with a 30 cm ruler to show scale, the bag itself is not tightly packed at all and could fit into a much smaller bag. This version is actually the bag for the Travel Hammock.

Gets my approval!


Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Hammock Camping (Kit review part 1)

Model: Camping hammock
Colour: Green
Cost: £24
Weight: 700g
Dimensions: 2.4m x 1.3 flat, 30cm x 8cm (stuff sack)
Limits: 150KG - 6'5"

Right having heard about all the good things about a hammock on various forums and being an impressionable young man, not to mention a gear freak, I decided on trying a hammock out for myself. A lot of people recommending the ddhammocks site as being A)Very good B)Light and most important of all cheap too :-)

I ordered on Thursday afternoon, was posted Friday morning and an email was sent to my order address confirming it was posted. Very efficient. So a good start, was impressed.

The parcel arrived Monday morning much to my excitement and I eagerly ripped into the packaging. First thing I noticed was that the bag had the wrong details printer, being mostly in Thai so I read the note enclosed which said that the bag indeed was incorrect and that they were hoping to change at some point in the future, just waiting for next shipment.

The Hammock itself is dark green in colour and large enough to house a sleeping bag on it as well as in it. Its construction is double layer nylon weave with a zip up one side so you can actually enclose yourself fully inside of it in your very own cocoon. Both ends have rope threaded through it that bunches up to give the hammock its proper shape. The rope itself is nylon green weave a little frayed at the ends, but easily sealed with a little heat so not a problem. (I always seem to be modifying kit in some way or another.) The ropes which turn end up double ended on each end can then be tied to the nearest vertical object such as a tree or in my test case the racking in the warehouse. Weight is 700g with ropes (which is pretty good I'm lead to believe) size being 2.4m by 1.3. It does seem big at first but once you set it up it seems OK.

Now for the set up. Having wondered my way into the ware house in search of a nice section of Racking strong enough to carry my modest weight (yer yer) I tied both ends on to a suitable section using a mooring hitch at first only to ditch it in favour of a better (IMHO) set-up, of which I have no idea what its called. I made sure the height was roughly bottom height from the floor at first and proceeded to carefully, sit back on the hammock until the ropes were taught and settled. This turned out to leave me approx 1 inch from the floor... useful. SO up I got and redid one side so the hammock was at a good height again. Then I sat down again into it.

First impressions..... very comfy, I swung my legs round and laid back. Very comfy. Shoes were off and put on a convenient shelf near me and I settled in. I noticed the sides were quite high so I could get a sleeping bag on it and not be worried about rolling off one side.

I must admit I dozed off a few times during this stressful, intense test session!

Summary: A very simple comfy set up, though I will need to try actually sleeping on it for a night with sleeping bag and roll mat. Also I may modify the strapping to I can have just the one rope tying off instead of the double one. Should be easy to achieve using a Krab on either end. Also drip lines would need to be added so when it rains water does not run down the ropes soaking the hammock.

Can't wait to try it out.


Wednesday, February 21, 2007

New Stove experiment

Been quite a while since my last post, have been very busy not had too much chance to play really, managed a couple of climbing session but nothing serious. Recently I got a chance to have a go at making a wood burning stove from basically a cutlery holder. The idea being I can use this where is may not be quite as safe or convenient to have a open fire whilst still giving me the option of getting a brew going if needed.

The cutlery holder was a bog standard one bought from a crappy but famous Swedish furniture store. I simply cut a square flap in the front which would allow me to feed wood into it and added two steel tent pegs to hold anything that may slip down the inside rim. As you can see the stove is made of Stainless steel and has plenty of hole in it for air. Just needed to test it now.

And the weekend after I managed to get into the Peak district and do some climbing, so I grabbed the chance to test it. Armed with my crusader cup and a brew kit I had a play. I used the standard method of starting a fire with birch bark and a firesteel then put some pre-cut wood in it. (Used my Axe before hand to do that as it was a nice excuse to chop something up :-) ) As you can see I managed to get two cups of hot water out of it, making a coffee and hot chocolate as well. It even managed to roost a few Marsh Mellows with the remaining heat. Fantastic!

Am pretty pleased with it in all, simple and elegant way to make a brew without any of the dangers of an open fire. If I change it slightly I'd like it to of been slightly shorter so the cup or pot would be closer to the embers. But as it is it does a nice job at funneling the heat up anyway.


Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Meeting a hero...

Been a while as I've been kinda busy, but recently I've managed to meet someone I admire greatly, one Mr Ray Mears.

Yes that's right, Ray Mears, the UK's leading survival and bush craft expert, someone I've watched and learnt from through his DVD's and Book for a long while now. Have always wanted to meet him and see what he is like in real life.

The venue was Tumbridge Wells south of the UK, about 5-6 hours driving solid, (south of London) He was doing a talk on various Photo's he has taken over the years. Well it was quite an adventure getting down, what with traffic through London, getting there an hour late and missing a good chunk of Rays talk. Also having my car attacked by some madman in a red van with a stick for no reason what so ever, while I might add traveling at 70 mph (now that was surreal!).

Got down in time to still catch a good section of his talk and then the question and answers bit at the end, finally a book signing in the bar. That is where I met him in person. Its hard not to sound like a complete fool when talking about him, I've always admired this man, so meeting him was pretty special I think.

Impressions of him in real life. A genuinely nice man who loves his bushcraft, his life and is very passionate about them all. He even goes on to say what makes him different is that he likes to do bushcraft instead of talking about it. Amen to that.

Well I got one of his books signed and also got to have a brief chat to him. As you can see with the very grainy picture. Was happy none the less.


Thursday, January 11, 2007

New sharpening technique?

Just a short one :-)

Knife sharpening is a subject that I do enjoy reading about and playing with new techniques. I normally just use 2 Japanese whetstones, 1000 and a 6000 one. Stropping was just something I'd heard of people doing, well that soon changed.

Normally I get a basic edge with the 1000 stone then I'd move to the 6000 for a nice mirror finish. After reading about stropping with a leather belt and having watched it on Ray Mears Extra's on one of his DVD's. I thought stropping was just an unnessasary act done by knife sharpeners as a final ceremony.

After a particualr intense session I decided to give it ago for the hell of it.

Stropping is the act of drawing the blade bevel away from you on a piece of leather to remove any bur's from the edge. It removes the bur and gives a better more stable edge, less minute fractures.

After doing this for about 25 strops I tested it on the usual piece of paper and it sliced through effortlessly. Even tried it on my arm seeing if it would shave some hair. Well it did. I was impressed. From now on I shall be stropping my blade.

Also I don't really think I need to use the 1000 as much as it just really shapes the edge, while the 6000 does the sharpening. Just a thought.


Thursday, January 04, 2007

Night in the woods

My first proper night out in the woods by myself, sure I've solo'd on mountains many times backpacking my way in the National parks. But this was my official first time in woods as a Bushcrafter. I was looking for a nice set of woods and I think I found it. The weather was set to be windy and rainy, I seem to have picked a fine night to do it!

Right gear wise I won't go into too much that I shall save later for a future post. I brought the basics Tarp, Bivvy bag, sleeping bag, water, food, fire making equipment of course and other items I thought I may find useful.

The site I found was very peaty so I couldn't build a fire on raw ground (underground fire risk). Luckily there were plenty of rocks near so I dug down a little and made nice rock bed for the fire. Next the tarp went up and fire wood was gathered for my dinner to be cooked on and the all important brew! Ended up just sitting the cup on the coals to heat me dinner and water, should of really made a hanger for it. (Note: If you look carefully you can just make out the cup on the left.)

The amount of firewood I actually went through was very surprising, I ended up gathering a lot more, but seen as I didn't have much main fuel near by and no axe I was limited to medium sized wood. It was enough to cook my dinner but not enough for a cup of tea, so I had to fall back on to the fuel tablets I brought as backup(Lucky) By this time I'd settled so didn't really fancy getting up again, plus it was pitch black.

The bivvy bag was out, mat inside and sleeping bag in ready, was time to write my journal. As it was dark I needed light so I thought it would be a good time to test the candle lantern. It performed brilliantly, nice warm light, subtle but enough to read and write with. And unaffected by wind and rain too. It was a bright moon at night, not quite full as yet but bright enough to throw silver light through the trees all about me. It was a very beautiful site, amazing how something so simple can stir such emotions. Just to think you'd never see any sights like this in the urban environment, the sky is normally bleached out by city lights. I think you lose a lot with when nature is pushed far away and excluded.

By this time the fire was out and smouldering, and I was happily writing away, it was getting cold and the temperature was dropping, wind started blowing too..was that movement? I decided to get the fire going again. After collecting what I needed I had a nice fire burning and it made a vast improvement to my morale. Amazing how fire can do this. The only fault I could find was that it was very smoky, as most of the wood I found was damp on the outside so I ended up smelling smoky. I shoved the rest of the wood I gathered on and climbed into my bag to sleep.

I slept well, it did rain but all I heard was the gentle pitter-patter on my tarp, I was glad I'd brought it instead of just bivvying. When I woke I reluctantly got out of my warm bag and got the stove running for a nice brew.

It was now time to go. Up came the rocks and I watered down the fire just to be safe. Next I made sure there was no trace of be ever being there, did my second litter sweep just in case I missed anything and walk out back to civilization. I was happy. Wondering when and where my next adventure would be.

What did I learn and what would I do differently?
Well I'd cut a lot more firewood, bring an Axe (which I haven't got yet) and I'd like to finish the stay without smelling like a smoked haddock! Perhaps a book to read and relax with? Oh and make the effort to make a pot hanger for me fire. That little extra effort would really be worth it.

Anyway, next up will be the gear I brought.