Monthly Archives: November 2009

Gear Review – Berghaus Waterproof Jacket

Currently a great deal on at GoOutdoors.com is the Berghaus Peak Waterproof jacket where this excellent waterproof is reduced from £149.00 to only £59.00 – a huge saving of £90!! So I dived in head first and took the chance to own one of these at this bargain price, click here for the web offer page.

The pictures on their website look rubbish and really don’t do it justice as it’s a really nice looking piece of rain-proofing gear, so here’s mine below, it has excellent freedom of movement, is extremely light and with a lot of nice features and excellently finished.

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Tripod for Cooking – the Ray Mears Way

With some new Dutch ovens pots on there way to me via Fedex, I was interested to see Ray Mears in his Northern Wilderness series using a traditional tripod simply made from some branches found at the camp site. Ray explains how this was in fact the way the “Voyageurs” worked, saving weight by not having to carry a metal tripod. Again unlike the classic dutch oven tripod set up there’s no metal chain suspending the pots either – instead ‘Withy” or thin sampling branch twisted to make it more flexible was used by Ray in this example. Further withies were used to secure the tripod legs at the top – here’s some outtakes:
Ray Mears tripod cooking

Ray Mears cooking with tripod
We’ll be trying this method at our next camp, once I’ve properly seasoned the new dutch ovens.

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Ray Mears – A Rare Sighting!

You won’t see this too often – everyone’s favourite bushcraft expert Ray Mears wearing a slick suit! Normally at home in Khakis and Goretex, it’s from the most recent of his Northern Wilderness series on the BBC – the suit was in honour of one of Ray’s heroes David Thompson, who opened up vast tracts of Canada and North America through his travelling and surveying when working for the Hudsons Bay Company. Ray was invited to unveil the plaque on the Grey Coat school where Thompson began his own Path through his schooling and natural ability in maths his life’s work took him to Canada, a Path of the paddle, the sexton (for navigating), horseback and on foot across Canada, working and learning from the Native peoples in how to travel in that vast wilderness. The series is absolutely stunning and will give people much more understanding of how the nation of Canada came about. You can catch it on BBC iPlayer – try the HD version which really gives amazing detail of the scenery.

Ray Mears in a Suit!

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Black Kelly Kettle!

Well yes and no – it’s actually an “Eydon STORM Kettle”, and the basic mechanism comes from the same source as the perhaps more well know “Kelly Kettle” brand, the West coast of Ireland where fishermen made simple copper kettles with hand tools, but these are made in the UK by the Eydon Kettle Company, founded by John Grindlay in the 1970′s and now used all over the World in many remote and wonderful places. They’re now bringing out a black version which will be on sale from Jan 1st and by all accounts it will be very distinctive. We’re expecting one in the post at the moment, and will publish a feature here on it, so stay tuned…!

[Update] – The Black Eydon Kettle arrived today and it’s a beauty! More to follow….

Eydon Kettle - Popular model in Black -New

Eydon Kettle Company

Eydon Kettle on base - new black version

The 'Apache' Canoe reviewed

Well it’s been around a year now since I first ordered my Ivory 16 foot Apache and having collected quite a bit of experience with it in lots of different environments and weather conditions I thought I would put my thoughts and opinions down for other people.

Apache canoes is run by a guy called Stu, and I must admit, when dealing with someone at the end of the phone he is great. He takes the time to make sure you understand where your order is and how everything is progressing. See the Apache website here I chose a 16′ model with Ash and webbing seats and Ash trim. I had Stu do the full fitting for me and was very impressed with the quality of work.

Here are a few pictures of the build, provided by Stu:

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So when the canoe was finally delivered I was very impressed. Unfortunately it took several weeks for the snow to clear enough to get out on the water safely! The first trial was a small river near home:

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My first feelings on this canoe were very positive, and in fact after nearly a year and several multi day canoe and camping trips they still are. The Apache canoe is very light and very responsive. However it does have some quirks and if you want to experience the best from this boat you need to understand them. The Apache can be tippy, I say can be because it’s all about how you paddle this canoe. For example if you are solo you really should load the weight carefully and sit in the bow seat facing backwards. If you can I would say to kneel as this really makes the canoe quite stable (it’s still no Old Town though!). Two up needs a little more care, the canoe is designed to be nimble and fast, and when you get used to it solo it’s probably one of the most fun canoes I have paddled (oh and it looks just great!), but put another person in the front and it does wobble.. and I mean wobble. But thats just the characteristics of this boat. Sit down, get used to its tipping point and you will soon get comfortable.

So I have done several solo trips with full gear for 5 days (well probably enough for 2 weeks onboard as I overpack :P) that took in grade 2 rapids, slow deep rivers, fast current and lakes, and you know what I loved doing it in this boat. It always turned heads with other canoeists and when paddled leaned right over just cut through the water, and at all times felt like it had enough rocker that you could just dip the paddle and turn! I found that I was using a lot less effort to do the same speed than other people in more classical boats..

So any downsides? 2 up canoeing requires some skill and confidence and the shell is fibreglass and is not as hardwearing as some of the solid and heavy canoes out there, but do I worry about that? After scraping on the beach and banking rocks for nearly a year, nope – hardly any damage. And if it does get damaged, fibreglass is easy to repair! So for a canoe thats 1/2 the price of many others, with a hand finished wood trim I would recommend it… IF you are already comfortable in a canoe. If you are newbie, stick with something much more stable.. 8 of 10 from me!

I’ll finish with a few other pics. Would also be interested in what any of our readers felt about the Apache canoes.

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photoThe Canvas bow cover is home made from white canvas and shock cord that loops over small screws under the gunwhales. I think it really finishes the canoe as well as keeps the splashes off in a bit of white stuff.

Campfire Tent – Baker Tent Hunt

Here’s the Backyard Test of the fantastic new “Campfire Tent” from Green Outdoor (who also make the “Bush Shelter” tent featured earlier as a ‘lightweight’ campfire tent option). As part of our ongoing “Baker Tent Hunt” series this full size tent looks really promising and is beautifully made – it passed the ‘Backyard Test’ with flying colours, easy to put up, withstood some strong winds and provided great shelter with the all-important open frontage of the classic Campfire or Baker tent. Stay tuned for the full experience in our forthcoming Winter Camp [Update: that report now available here: See Winter Camp ]

And here’s Bill Mason’s original tent from his book “Song Of The Paddle – An Illustrated Guide To Wilderness Camping”:

Inspiration for the Campfire Tent - Bill Mason in Song of The Paddle

Inspiration for the Campfire Tent - Bill Mason in Song of The Paddle

For more information on this tent see the details on the Green Outdoor.co.uk website.

Which Wood For Winter…

With winter well and truly upon us, it’s time to look at methods of keeping warm. Equally useful for the indoor woodburning stove as for the outdoor campfire, a knowledge of the burning qualities of our major native woods is invaluable at this time of year. Gather some Alder on your winter canoe trip and after dark you’ll find it hard to get the fire going, because of the high moisture content. Recognizing the exact species of wood from dead lying branches can be difficult of course, but look up, look up, and you’ll get a clue to what’s providing the wood lying on the ground.

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The Woodland Trust provides this excellent guide to the trees of britain which will help with the “look up” part with beautiful and accurate illustrations from the Collins book.

The “Crack Willow” Tree - very common on southern UK river backs and wetlands

The “Crack Willow” Tree - very common on southern UK river backs and wetlands

Willow is one of my favourite woods and Willow driftwood is common on our river banks where floods surge through in winter breaking branches from the trees which are often half-submerged for much of the year. In this guide the “Crack Willow” is described perfectly:

“Crack willow is aptly named, not only due to the twigs making a ‘cracking’ noise when broken but also because old trees often develop a large crack in their trunk and are prone to collapse.”

The leaf stalk and catkins of the crack willow tree.

The leaf stalk and catkins of the crack willow tree.

And also useful is this old rhyme from an anonymous source gives doubtless hard-won clues as the qualities of the different wood available:

Oaken logs, if dry and old,
Keep away the winter’s cold
Poplar gives a bitter smoke,
Fills your eyes, and makes you choke
Elm wood burns like churchyard mould,
E’en the very flames are cold
Hawthorn bakes the sweetest bread -
Or so it is in Ireland said,
Applewood will scent the room,
Pearwood smells like flowers in bloom,
But Ashwood wet and Ashwood dry,
A King can warm his slippers by.

Beechwood logs burn bright and clear,
If the wood is kept a year
Store your Beech for Christmas-tide,
With new-cut holly laid aside
Chestnut’s only good, they say
If for years it’s stored away
Birch and Fir wood burn too fast,
Blaze too bright, and do not last
Flames from larch will shoot up high,
And dangerously the sparks will fly….
But Ashwood green,
And Ashwood brown
Are fit for Queen with golden crown.

That ryhme from an unknown traditional source was found from an excellent web resource here at www.aie.org which also has a fantastic table of ratings and descriptions of the main wood species which gives a really good overview of the burning and seasoning qualities of different species.

Cooking on Kelly Kettle or Eydon Kettle

These kettles both come with cooking support stand kits, so you can cook above the kettle or in the base using the 2 semi-circular grids that come with the kits. However when cooking on the base this can mean it’s hard to keep enough heat in the fire as you can’t feed it without removing the grids – I’ve used this method – a simple copper bottomed indian wok with handles on either side: prop the handles with 2 sticks (make sure they are solidly dig in otherwise they’ll tip – you can always add a third stick for extra support on one side though, but 2 should be enough). That creates a kind of ‘bi-pod’ which suspends the wok above the flames, allowing you to feed in as much material as you need. Works very well for quick cooking such as frying or heating liquid based food like stews, the campers favourite baked beans or soup or porridge for breakfast. To stir just hold onto one of the handles, or lift the wok off, stir and then put back on the bipod. On a small fire base like this the handles don’t heat up much so you can lift off the wok when you’re ready – eat straight from the wok or transfer to plates/bowls. If the handles do heat up as they do when I cook with the wok direct on an open fire a single stick through each handle across the pot is all you need to lift it off safely.

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in situ at a morning camp stop in the rain, sheltered under a tarp:

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The wok used directly on a small open camp fire, porridge coming up!

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