Posted on 21 May 2013 by Kelly Campbell
Posted on 16 May 2013 by Kelly Campbell
MSR Stoves are manufactured by Cascade Designs. The company was established in the 1970’s after two engineers; who had been laid off during the Boeing financial restructuring in which 50,000 people lost their jobs and John Burrows, an outdoor enthusiast with a vision for improved equipment.
Their first product was developed to create a better camping mattress, as Burrows who was an avid mountain climber had found air mattresses had a tendency to leak while foam pads failed to give adequate support.
They spent months formulating, refining and testing until they developed a perfect design of open celled foam. Within a couple of years they had begun production of the first self-inflating camping mattress in the world. They have continued to develop product ranges over the years with the ethic of producing quality products which have the strength and durability to withstand the rugged demands of outdoor pursuits. They aim to manufacture the bulk of their products in house and have production facilities in different areas of the world including Seattle to support the community devastated by the Boeing layoffs.
MSR have a comprehensive range of stoves which are suited for the various demands of different camping and outdoor situations, including backpacking and family camping.
This simple and inexpensive stove has a hard case and great durability which is perfect for backpacking. It is a small canister model of stove which has a very basic design making it very easy to use. It is extremely lightweight at just three ounces and has a packed size of seventeen cubic inches. It provides good functionality and comes complete with a triangular solid case which provides the stove protection when in transit. The main disadvantage of this model is that although the pot support struts extend to a good diameter, they do not fold out completely flat. This means that your pan or pot is balancing on three little points which creates stability issues. It also has a raised center of gravity which exacerbates this issue due to the designs long stem. Check out the online exclusives at REI.com
This particular design has been popular since it was introduced in the 1980’s. It is a very dependable, versatile and lightweight liquid fuel stove. The simple design provides a great deal of stability with the three leg base supporting the central burner. The stove is easy to use and controlled with a valve on the pump. It is small enough to be practical for most expeditions and weighs just over eleven ounces. Set up and disassembly is very easy even in adverse conditions to provide a great degree of reliability.
The “Universal” aspect of this WhisperLite model is that it is hybrid fuel which combines the liquid fuel and canister capabilities. This allows you to burn almost any fuel with ease. With the new technology for air control, the optimal air and fuel mix is produced to ensure a great performance.
The main concern with the Whisperlight range was that it could be a little slow to light. The process of priming could be a little tricky and can take about two minutes. This issue has been addressed with the Universal model and is promised to be much easier to light and use. This should also address the other concern which was that the stoves struggle to simmer. Even if these issues continue to be a slight annoyance, it does provide a versatile cooking surface which is capable of heating foods and baking bread or even brownies.
This is one of the most efficient and storm proof liquid fuel stoves on the market. It provides very fast results and is compact and easy to use. Its design appears to be very simple but it is actually one of the most technologically advanced stove systems available.
Set up is simple. Screw the burner on, light it put on the pot and within three minutes your liter of water will be at boiling point. It features a number of innovative and unique features which make it an excellent performer. It is one of the widest stoves available and has a perforated metal surround which captures air and acts as a built in wind screen. It includes a regulator for pressure which provides a consistently low level of pressure regardless of the age and level of fuel in the canister. This ensures that the stove can perform well even in lower temperatures, higher altitudes or when the pressure of the canister decreases.
Unlike many other stoves, the Reactor does not only rely on convective heat. The burner has metallic foam incorporated which can dispatch radiant heat to improve performance. The large pot which has a capacity of 1.7 liters contains an inbuilt heat exchanger at the bottom of the pot. When this is seated above the convex burner, it blocks wind, traps heat and effectively increases the surface area of the burner. It is built to withstand the rugged use and abuse of expeditions with solid yet fold-able handles which are not compromised when the pot it full. The Reactor is also completely windproof. Even in very adverse conditions it performs very well while maintaining function quietly.
However the Reactor does have some drawbacks. Although it is great at boiling, the stove does not perform well on low heat levels and struggles to simmer. This means that even more durable foods need to be constantly monitored and stirred. It is also limited to specific cookware which means that the standard pot supplied is rather large for one person and is far more suited for parties of three or four. However a smaller 1 liter pot and a larger 2.5 liter pot are also available for purchase separately.
The other major drawback is the fact that it functions so quietly and the burner is encased by the cooking pot that you struggle to tell if it is still lit. You have to lift the pot completely off the burner to check which can be extremely problematic if you are trying to cook something more complex.
Despite these issues, the Reactor has a very advanced design which is ideal for situations which require storm proof, compact and efficient cooking options such as backpacking.
The Dragonfly provides a very stable cooking surface which has the excellent stability and control of any country kitchen. It can handle large cooking pans and pots and is able to handle simmering for even extended periods of time. It is remarkably easy to use and set up, but it does consist of a heavy and large frame which makes it difficult when weight and size are at a premium.
The Dragonfly makes an excellent stove for base camp. It can easily accommodate larger groups and can cook at high levels or low simmers with a simple turn of a valve. It has three big legs which when unfolded provide a very wide cooking base. It has a robust fuel pump and the slightly thicker line allows the burning of a number of fuels including diesel, white gas, kerosene, gasoline and even jet fuel. The line is a little short, so it does restrict the cooking area slightly but it does provide the control of a regular kitchen stove.
The stove is not really suited to lightweight users. It has a substantial weight of almost fourteen ounces and requires almost two liters of pack space which makes transportation a bit of a burden. It is also quite loud during use and the fuel line is a little inflexible. However, for serious expeditions where you are establishing a base camp, it provides the convenience and flexibility of kitchen style cooking, or the capacity to accommodate larger groups if the burden of carrying can be shared.
The range of MSR stoves is expansive and built to withstand the demands which outdoor pursuits and expeditions place on equipment. However, they all have their strengths and weaknesses which make them better suited to certain activities. Before you commit to purchasing a new stove, you should consider a number of factors including;
By considering all these issues, you will be able to assess which particular models are best suited to your needs. Most importantly, when you do purchase your new stove, be sure to fully familiarize yourself with the basic operation, assembly and dis-assembly process while in the comfort of your own back yard. You should be completely confident that you can fully use the stove before you attempt to take it on an expedition. Finding out that you struggle with particular techniques or complexities of use while in extreme conditions can be at the very least frustrating and at the very worst dangerous. You should have complete confidence in your stove and any other equipment before you enter the wilderness.
We also have a review on the Coleman Sportster Stove that you mind find interesting. Please click the link to be taken through to the review page.
Posted on 13 January 2013 by Kelly Campbell
More and more people are enjoying camping and we have been saying it for a long time and here is proof (well in NZ anyway)! New Zealand Camping and Caravaning on the rise and why are we not surprised. New Zealand is a beautiful country with dramatic landscapes that should be enjoyed. Stuff.co.nz has published an article which explains some of the reasons why this is
The return of the “old-school” caravan is part of a surge in interest from New Zealanders, particularly young families, in camping in New Zealand.
Department of Conservation Wellington visitor centre manager Wendy Challis said while the cost was appealing – as low as $6 per night to stay in a DOC camp ground – the surge was also being pushed by people “getting back to nature”.
The environmental benefits of camping were also appealing to people, she said. “It’s a greater awareness and appetite of what we have at our own doorstep.”
It was a secret long-known to overseas visitors, who had been camping in New Zealand in droves for years, as had retired New Zealanders.
“DOC campgrounds are a hot favourite,” Ms Challis said.
For Stokes Valley couple Naomi and Josh Cooper, the decision to camp at the Paekakariki Holiday Park this summer was partly driven by money but also as “an experience” for their daughters, Heilee, 10, and Jorja, 9.
The Coopers had not been camping since their early 20s and wanted their daughters to experience the camaraderie they remembered of children at camping sites. “Also, with adult campers, the adults are really friendly people,” Mrs Cooper said.
Paekakariki had the added bonus of welcoming their great dane-bull mastiff cross, Dodge.
Pukerua Bay woman Conor Twyford knows the benefits of camping well.
Camping in Paekakariki with her two twin sons, Joseph and Patrick Rockell, 7, only 10 minutes from home, she has the enjoyment of camping with the comforts of home. “My husband can go home and bring stuff we forgot. We love it. This is the fourth year we have done it.”
But, costing $90 just for three nights camping, the bargain aspect also played its part, she said.
“I haven’t got a lot of leave this year, so we can do something quickly and feel like we have had a proper holiday.”
Martinborough Top 10 Holiday Park owner Frank Cornelissen said while people were saving a bit of money by staying in campgrounds rather than resorts or hotels, they were not skimping on dining and drinking out.
“The whole family can go away for not a lot of money.”
There was a “definite” increase in people choosing to camp in recent years, with a noticeable increase in the return of “old-school” caravans.
As well as the classic family camping holiday, he was seeing a lot of younger groups of friends.
Top 10 Holiday Parks chairman Gerald Nolan said campgrounds were generally full at this time of year, but there had been a surge in people tenting.
New Zealand Motor Caravan Association general manager Bruce Lochore said membership in the last year had risen by 13 per cent – largely driven by baby boomers retiring. Those who would have retired to a $450,000 bach were now spending $150,000 on a mobile home, which was not only cheaper, but gave them more freedom.
Retirees these days also seemed to have more energy to travel.
“They want to make the most of it.”
We know now that New Zealand camping and caravaning is on the rise and we would love to hear from people from other parts of the world. If you are new to camping let us know and tell us about your experience. Leave a comment below.
Posted on 06 January 2013 by Kelly Campbell
When we write information on our site, we often come across some great quotes that are funny, inspirational or just stupid. We feel it is only fair to share our favorite camping quotes with you. So here is our list so far!
This quote from Ralph Waldo Emerson is one of our all time favorites!
- Camping: nature’s way of promoting the motel industry. ~Dave Barry, Only Travel Guide You’ll Ever Need
- Some national parks have long waiting lists for camping reservations. When you have to wait a year to sleep next to a tree, something is wrong. ~George Carlin
- Camping: The art of getting closer to nature while getting farther away from the nearest cold beverage, hot shower and flush toilet. ~Author Unknown
- I got into an argument with a girlfriend inside of a tent. That’s a bad place for an argument, because then I tried to walk out and slammed the flap. How are you supposed to express your anger in this situation? Zipper it up really quick? ~Mitch Hedberg
- It always rains on tents. Rainstorms will travel thousands of miles, against prevailing winds for the opportunity to rain on a tent. ~Dave Barry
- How is it that one match can start a forest fire, but it takes a whole box of matches to start a campfire? ~Christy Whitehead
- In every walk with nature one receives far more than he seeks. ~ John Muir
- I go to nature to be soothed and healed, and to have my senses put in order. ~ John Burroughs
- To me a lush carpet of pine needles or spongy grass is more welcome than the most luxurious Persian rug. ~ Helen Keller
- The clearest way into the Universe is through a forest wilderness. ~ John Muir
- What would be ugly in a garden constitutes beauty in a mountain. ~ Victor Hugo
We hope to keep adding to our favorite camping quotes list as we come across new ones, we would love it if you could add your personal favorites to. Comment below and let us know your top quote!
Posted on 31 December 2012 by Kelly Campbell
With 2013 just around the corner, this is an opportunity to make hiking and getting fit a new years resolution. Hiking is excellent for fitness and your general health and well being. To help you prepare for getting fit by hiking, we have found a short summary of what you need to get started from the readers digest.
An enjoyable way to explore the world around you, hiking can take you from the trails of your local city park to wilderness areas.
To hike comfortably, raise your fitness level to the point where you can walk 4 to 5 miles on level ground without undue fatigue or strain. Then start walking up and down hills. (Going downhill is actually harder than going up.) Take along a knapsack to get used to carrying extra weight.
For short hikes, almost any pair of previously worn, comfortable, sturdy shoes will do, except sneakers, which do not provide ankle support or traction. For longer hikes, wear hiking boots. Ask a knowledgeable salespe
rson at a camping and outdoor equipment store to help you select a suitable pair. Dress defensively; take along a poncho and sweaters to protect you from weather changes such as sudden rainstorms and from colder air (which can be up to 30 degrees lower) on mountaintops. In areas where hunting is permitted, you should always wear bright colors.
If you are hiking for more than a couple of hours, be sure to take food and water. Hiking burns about 300 calories an hour and can dehydrate you quickly. Drink 1/2 cup of water at least every 20 minutes, more if it’s hot or you are sweating profusely.
Respect your environment: Don’t litter, trample plants, or disturb animals. Be safe: Don’t drink untreated water, overextend yourself or take chances. In remote areas, it’s a good idea to know First Aid.
If you would like more information on hiking for fitness then click the link to take you through to the article and don’t forget to like us on Facebook
Posted on 28 December 2012 by Kelly Campbell
Ever thought about doing something completely different? If you like wild camping then I don’t think it gets much wilder than camping in Antarctica. The world property channel have posted an article on how you can experience the beauty and wonder of the antarctic.
Been everywhere? Done everything? Well…ever been to Antarctica? Ever camped in Antarctica?
Well, now’s your chance. Now’s your chance to sleep under the stars in Antarctica, taking in the summer night (and 24-hour sun) from a surprisingly-comfortable tent. A Norwegian company called Hurtigruten began taking customers on out-of-the-ordinary sea-cruise voyages in 1892, first in Norway, and now, with offices in a number of countries, to a variety of destinations. Hurtigruten isn’t new to Antarctica; it’s been sailing there for years. But now, its customers have the option to spend a night sleeping off the ship…which will probably be the most memorable night of their lives.
You’ll join the crew in pitching two-person tents on the frozen landscape of the White Continent…perhaps being watched by “locals” such as penguins or seals. You’ll lie down for the night in cozy, comfortable bedding materials. You’ll go to sleep and wake up to the sun. You’ll be enveloped in the sounds of silence, and by a sun-streaked sky so brilliant at some times and so subtle at others that you’ll probably keep waking up to see it. And, in so doing, you’ll get a glimpse of how it might have been for explorers such as Roald Amundsen and Earnest Shackleton (although, because of modern equipment and safeguards, you’ll be a lot safer than they ever were!).
You’ll be accompanied every step of the way by two experienced expedition guides for every 15 participants. And you’ll be supplied with all cold-weather needs (except pajamas!). Depending on the weather, guides will take you out on short walks; give you fascinating discussions about what you’re seeing, hearing, touching and experiencing; show you how to listen for “polar sounds”; keep you supplied with hot drinks (and a cold-drink toast); and wake you up for the White Continent sunrise.
The Antarctica trips – aboard the MS Fram – were developed in collaboration with the Norwegian Polar Institute. All meals are still onboard ship. Although the camping option is offered on every departure, the final decision regarding the nighttime-camping stop is based on the available locations as well as prevailing weather conditions. And there’s plenty of variety, too; Hurtigruten offers five different Antarctica itineraries.
There’s a 13-day “Classic Expedition” and a ten-day “Polar Circle Expedition,” each focusing solely on Antarctica. You’ll sail through the dramatic Drake Passage, tracing the paths of those earlier explorers, and you’ll land on breathtaking spots filled with exotic wildlife.
On the 13-day “Weddell Sea Expedition,” you’ll follow the route of British Captain James Weddell, who managed to reach the 74º latitude in 1823 – the first one to do it. The 17-day “Christmas Expedition” celebrates the season with traditional carols, festive meals, Santa Claus visits and a New Year’s gala…and has two extra bonuses – the Falkland Islands and South Georgia. The longest expedition is the one called “In the Realm of the Great Explorers.” On this 19-day trip, you’ll trace the path followed by Sir Ernest Henry Shackleton in Antarctica in 1908-1909, and also visit the sub-Arctic eco-systems of the Falklands and South Georgia.
Antarctica is the only continent with no permanent human inhabitants. However, it doesn’t lack for non-human inhabitants. Its home to millions of penguins, thousands of seals, and large pods of whales who come here to feed in summer. It’s the coldest, driest, highest, and cleanest continent. And you’ll see sights such as giant icebergs (when they “calve,” or break up, the earth shakes and the air is filled with a thunderous roar), groups of penguins swimming out to sea to hunt for krill, and leopard seals patrolling the shorelines.
Camping in Antarctica is really an experience of a lifetime. REI also do trips to Antarctica where you get the opportunity to view the wildlife and go camping and kayaking, click the link for more info.
Posted on 13 December 2012 by Kelly Campbell
If you want to know how to start adventure racing then click the links
Posted on 13 December 2012 by Kelly Campbell
Myself and Patrick have signed up for our first adventure race in February. I am not sure it has properly sunk in yet. But hey the videos on YouTube made it look like so much fun! Many people have shown interest and asked how they can start adventure racing. Well below we have found an interesting article and the perspective from someone that was in the same boat as us (and you). If you are new to adventure racing then this should hopefully answer some of your questions.
Here are some of the other things we get asked when we tell people about our ”adventure”.
“Are you excited?” Yes!
“Are you nervous?” A little.
“Are you fit enough?” Umm, next question……
“Are you mad?” Most definitely!!
Here is one of those YouTube videos that made us think it would be great fun!!
New to Adventure Racing?
So was Nic Davies, (‘late 20s’, Melbourne) until she tried an Anaconda Adventure Race. Before trying adventure racing, Nic hadn’t done any sort of racing at all ‘if you don’t count Little Aths’, so it was a steep learning curve. Nic tells us a little bit about getting involved in adventure racing, from learning new skills to training for four different disciplines, all while keeping sane (and employed):
“For anyone, it’s a pretty daunting task attempting your first adventure race. For me, it was huge. What’s the swim like? How hard is kayaking in open water? Will I be able to ride my mountain bike up a steep hill after swimming, running and kayaking? Can I ride my bike up a steep incline full stop? What do I eat, (do you stop to pee?) Wow. Oh – and what gear do I need before I can get started?
Even thinking back, I realise that I’d bitten off quite a lot. But, I did it, I completed the Anaconda Adventure Race in Lorne 2005, and then had another go at the Gold Coast race in 2006. Since then I’ve also completed a six-hour rogaine, and a 24-hour adventure race. All these great new races and opportunities have opened up since I made the effort to learn new skills and take a chance.
I still feel like a bit of an adventure racing newbie, but I guess that helps me remember what it’s like to start out. So here is some info I wish I had 18 months ago, that should help those ready to try their first adventure race this year. It all comes down to two things – the toys and the training.
First things first, enter the race. I entered my first Anaconda Adventure Race as an individual, but in hindsight should have considered being part of a team. I could have handled two legs, run and kayak, or at a pinch, run, kayak, swim, but all four was tough. Don’t be afraid to post your profile under the Team Mate Finder section of the race website, detailing your goals and the legs you’d like to do. This take the pressure off a little and you can really enjoy the day.
If you decide to go solo, where to next? You’ll need some gear. Talk to a seasoned adventure racer, haunt the forums or chat to the guys at Rapid Ascent. Get involved in a club such as Melbourne Adventure, they might lend you some gear. In adventure racing, there are the big-ticket items such as a wetsuit, mountain bike, PFD, paddle and boat, and a myriad of little items such as goggles, helmet, shoes and bike spares. Borrow as much as you can and buy second hand where possible, checking out Rapid Ascent’s Trading Post page in the forum. When you’re starting out, only buy new gear as a last resort. It can be an expensive one-off race if you never do another. I bought most of my gear, but fortunately they’ve seen plenty of use.
The two most important items I bought were my bike and my boat. I got one right. It’s important that both pieces of equipment are appropriate for your size and your skills. Err on the side of caution. You’ll reach the finish line quicker in a stable, comfortable boat that doesn’t dump you than a sleek, unstable boat that would prefer for you to swim. I bought a FINN, and I reckon I got the kayak right. There are plenty of kayak training tips under the ‘Kayaking and Training’ section of the race website, and don’t forget to check out the comprehensive kayak testing report - it’s a great starting point for understanding the different boats on the market and helping you choose the right one.
While I got the kayak right, I got the mountain bike very wrong. I ended up purchasing a bike more appropriate for my 6ft 4 brother, and more suited to downhill than cross country riding. The damn thing still bucks me off on most inclines. Try out some different bikes and making sure the bike you get is set up correctly. Go to course familiarisation days and try other people’s bikes. Look at what other people of similar builds and style are using and quiz them about their equipment and check out bike tips in the kayaking and training section of the race website. You KNOW when you’ve got the right bike set up correctly as it will feel like it is equipped with a motor. (mmm maybe I am going a little far here!)
Bugger the gear, I want to start training!
Assuming you’re as new to this as I was, learning new skills will be as important as getting fit. Those without a triathlon background are probably new to open water swimming. What worked for me was finding a decent coach to improve my technique. He taught me that you go faster by swimming smarter rather than harder. Train in the pool until you can swim about 2km, then try the open water. Start in a calm bay, put on the wetsuit, and concentrate on your technique. If all that open water is a little daunting, just stay close to the shoreline. Eventually you’ll need to work your way up to surf swimming, but just take it one step at a time. On race day, remember your training and technique and don’t get caught up in the biffo at the start. If you need to start at the back to feel comfortable, then start at the back.
Onto the run. Yee haa, my favourite leg! Except for the Gu spew burps. This leads to my next tip – eat in training what you plan to eat during the race. This seems bleedingly obvious, but I still didn’t try it, and I felt awful trying to gag the stuff down. The run leg of an adventure race can be damn hard – running up and down steep hills on rough trails or paths is tough, and course designers love throwing in hills, rocks and sand. So find some areas where the environment is pretty AND rough and train there – it’s likely to be a far nicer place to play than the city streets anyway. Once again, course familiarisation days are an excellent opportunity to test your skills on the race-day course. My favourite place to run is Ferny Creek in the Dandenongs. Those cool green ferns lure me out of bed and away from the tarnished cityscape every Sunday. Post training gluttony at any one of the many cafes is always a highlight and keeps training fun.
So you’ve done some swimming and running, but you can’t put off the paddling forever. Try several boats when you start, but once you’ve found the perfect boat you’ve got to learn to paddle it confidently. Like swimming, start small and develop your skills in calm, flat water. Practice your basic skills and techniques as well as safety procedures. There are some excellent kayak training and technique tips under the kayak and training section of the race website. Once you’re confident with the bascis, take your new toy down to the nearest flat water bay and get out in the more open water. Deal with some chop and get used to how your boat handles. You’ll fall in a lot, but that’s just part of the fun. Once you’re comfortable handling the boat in flat open water, it’s time to get into the surf. Once again, course familiarisation days are a perfect chance to practice in the same waters you’ll race in. Most importantly – STAY SAFE. My five metre Finn turned into an Exocet Missile the second time I took it into the (fairly tame) surf, sconning me on the noggin a beauty. I bought a helmet the next day, though you may as well re-use your bike helmet and save the money.
Finally, let’s go for a ride. Like the paddling and swimming, it’s all about technique. Start simple. You might need to learn to ride in cleats, which will involve learning to fall over in cleats. You’ll quickly realise it doesn’t hurt (except for the ego) and you’ll happily get on with it. The two keys to riding are getting miles in the legs (by cycling on the road and trails regularly) and developing the skills to ride on trails. I was new to mountain biking but quickly learned that there is no substitute for getting out there and riding. I was pleased that my riding improved quickly after trying a few dirt criteriums (held under the Westgate bridge in Melbourne) and some enjoyable training on the trails of Lysterfield National Park. I’d often drag out some buddies (pack some spares) and finish up with a BBQ by the lake. Keep it fun! Again, take advantage of the course familiarisation days to learn about the course, then try to integrate that style of riding into your training rides.
I think Nic sums up how to start adventure racing, its been really helpful to us. We would be really interested to hear from you if you are new to adventure racing and if you have any other tips (we need all the help we can get). We will probably be posting our progress on here and hopefully pictures of us crossing the finish line!
Posted on 11 December 2012 by Kelly Campbell
For those of you that love wild camping and getting out in the wilderness with minimal provisions then read the article below on bushcraft camping for beginners. For those of you that are not aware of what bushcraft is, it is all about surviving in a natural environment using certain skills. There are lots of skills that encompass bushcraft, including fire-building, hunting and learning how to make shelters etc. Not only are these skills life saving but they are also great fun if you love the outdoors.
Out and About Live have written an excellent guide to get you started.
The key to bushcraft is having fun learning more about the countryside and it’s a great way for families to share the experience. Forget about wrestling grizzly bears and hacking down trees to build log cabins, bushcraft is about experiencing life outdoors at a more intimate level while learning how to tackle tasks and make things that our forebears did as the norm but that have been erased by our urban living.
Many years ago, I spent time in Europe learning survival skills. They seemed pretty irrelevant to my camping trips but some of what was learned then has stuck and forms an integral part of my adventures to this day. Not trapping wild animals and evading capture but how to read the lie of the land, light a fire, find wild foods and other practical skills that help to make camping more comfortable. More comfortable and more fun.
It’s not all about having to learn skills to avoid trouble but more about adding extra dimensions of enjoyment to being outdoors. Rather like finding out what bird made that call or animal made the tracks you spot around your tent.
Sharing those skills, however poor, is an essential part of the fun. I once spent several hours with my young son building a fish trap from stones in Loch Mullardoch in a remote part of the Scottish Highlands. It was actually a reservoir. By the morning, the trap lay bare in the sunshine as water had been released overnight, leaving it high and dry. Twenty years later, we still laugh about the anticipation that turned into disbelief.
FIRE BY FRICTION
A mini-bow, notched board, spindle, top board and tinder are the basic elements needed to produce a spark and then a glowing ember that can be coaxed into flames when blown on held in dry grass. It’s not as easy as reading ‘how to’ in a book or website and fanning the flames minutes later. The right wood, bone dry, is essential – cedar is good – as is plenty of time and patience if you’re having a go yourself. On a course, with the help of an instructor and right materials, it’s a doddle. It seems that most people burst out laughing when they start a fire without using a lighter or matches – and why not?
Building dens is a childhood game that starts at home under tables and, if you’re lucky, ends up in woodland. There’s something very simple and satisfying about using your hands and maybe just a couple of tools, to use natural materials for a shelter that will turn wind and rain without needing a mortgage.
Often used as an alternative term for the whole range of bushcraft skills and being aware of what is going on around you in the natural environment. More specifically, it has been used for making useful items out of raw materials. Fashioning simple items from fallen wood, such as small tables, back rests, boot, plate and mug racks, is an aspect that has more or less died out not least because it’s hard to find places to camp that have natural resources to use. Making usable bowls, cups and spoons from wood can, at its simplest, take a few minutes with a sharp knife or many hours with specialist tools. Watching experienced hands and eyes turn a lump of wood into a useful, even beautiful, utensil is eye-opening. The latter falls more into the ‘craft’ category but is certainly a complementary aspect.
Knives, saws and axes are all tools commonly used in bushcraft. Used with great care and, if children are involved, under close supervision. Knives are an emotive issue these days and it doesn’t pay to saunter down your local High Street with a survival knife strapped to your waist. Why would you? The point is, they’re tools not toys or weapons and should be used in context – splitting or ‘feathering’ sticks for use as firelighters, for instance, or preparing food for cooking. Making your own knife gives a real sense of achievement; happily, there are many sources of knife ‘kits’ on the internet.
The countryside is awash with free food if you know where to look and when. At its simplest, it can mean picking berries to eat as dessert. With knowledge and experience, it’s possible to prepare a full meal, especially by the coast, plus dressing and seasoning, all from the wild.
Undoubtedly, one of the least useful aspects of bushcraft in practical terms and also one of the most enjoyable. Frustrating at times, there is so much to learn that nobody can ever say they know it all. After picking up a few skills on a course, it can offer plenty of fun, especially when combined with navigating by compass. Think about it and make up your own outdoor skill games.
- Always cut away from yourself.
- If you drop a knife, don’t try to catch it; let it fall to the ground.
- Don’t throw a knife to anyone wanting to use it; put it down to be picked up by the other person.
- Keep your knife folded or sheathed when not in use.
- Keep your knife sharp; a sharp knife is much safer than a blunt knife as it can be used more more surely and with less force.
- Never run holding a knife.
These are some of the essential bushcraft skills you will need if you are going to spend time wild camping, especially if you are alone. The beginners guide to bushcraft camping should get you started but we also have article on survival skills you make like to read. One of our favorites is Foraging for food while camping . You can also try one of classes that REI carry out to learn the skills or hone them.
Posted on 03 December 2012 by Kelly Campbell
Many of us take our dogs out hiking and whilst we all enjoy the company of our four legged friend, it often means we are carrying an extra load. Thankfully some companies have started to introduce dog packs to ease the burden. This means your dog can not only carry his own supplies but quite possibly carry some of yours too (depending on your dogs size). There are several dog backpacks for hiking on the market, however it is important that you choose the right one for your particular dog. Also you want to make sure that you introduce your dog to the concept of carrying items on his back slowly.
Here are some tips from REI on how to fit and load a dog pack.
As mentioned above, your dog can help carry the load. In general, young and healthy dogs can carry up to 25% of their weight. Some breeds can carry 10% to 15% more, while other breeds aren’t cut out to carry much at all. The amount you should pack also changes with age. Once again, this is a good topic to discuss with your vet.
Your first step is to measure the circumference of your dog’s chest. Most packs have a specific size so you can find the corresponding measurement. Then place the middle of the pack on your dog’s back. Straps usually fasten around the waist, chest and/or around the neck. Adjust all straps to tighten the pack to fit your dog’s body. Don’t pull too tight, as you’re not going anywhere if your dog can’t breathe. Be aware that a too-loose pack can slip off.
Dog packs made specifically for mobile hydration hold a few items that are great for trail runs or shorter day hikes. Other packs are made specifically fortraining and exercise. Packs that work best for backpacking will have more volume and extra padding to provide comfort on your dog’s frame.
All packs are designed to provide adequate weight distribution for your pet. Other common features:
You should also consider a waterproof pack if there’s a chance you’ll be in a lot of rain or snow. Also, the pack I use with Kiwi when I run is reflective and even has a spot to place a light. This really helps out with visibility, as many mornings in the Northwest are pretty foggy or sunless.
For a selection of canine backpacks for hiking or backpacking and customer reviews, click here. Please like us and share with your friends. You might also like our article on tips for backpacking with a dog.