Category Archives: Bushcraft Gear

Biolite Camp Stove – Portable Power!

On our trips we do quite a lot of filming and photography to capture the scenes and the places we’ve been, and power for the gadgets especially mobile phones is always a problem, especially on longer trips like the River Spey Adventure we have planned for July this year. In the past we’ve tried solar power packs and taking extra batteries and portable battery packs, and none of these really worked well enough.

Recently there’s some new technology around mobile power supplies, including hyrdrogen fuel cells such as the PowerTrekk where in theory all you need is a water source to refill the cell to create power; these are somewhat extreme perhaps more suited to use by the military – you have to store and handle these things carefully, and they aren’t that cheap, but interesting nonetheless.

But then this appears. The BioLite Camp Stove – simply it’s a stove, with a heat exchanger converting heat to electricity, and USB ports on the side! In fact it’s a type of stove called a rocket stove, which uses a turbine principle where acceleration of the combustion process is provided by a small electric fan.

The simpler version of this is the ol’ favourite the Kelly Kettle, somewhat more robust potentially, which uses the ‘chimney effect’ to create that same acceleration – but the BiolLite uses a fan to the same effect.

It was developed out of a project to create a cleaner-burning stove for use in developing countries where smoke inhalation from poorly-combusted fuel from indoor cooking fires is a major source of premature death (i.e. bigger than malaria!) from pneumonia – something not many of us here in the West are aware of I think. It’s a huge killer and it makes this project one of great importance. And the camp stove is a spin-off, but please visit www.biolitestove.com

The BioLite camping stove and USB phone charger in one!

and find out more about the wider project.

We’ll hopefully (subject to supply!) be getting a Stove sent to us in July for testing and hope to try it out for camera and phone power on our Spey Adventure, and am really intrigued to see this thing in action. Here’s a photo which tells it’s own story!

Hobo Stove, Wood-gas Stove, Wild Stoves

A local company to me “Wild Stoves” has started making these lovely looking wood-gas ‘hobo’ stoves. It will be interesting to see how this compares to cooking and boiling water on a Kelly Kettle, but so far it looks very good and packs away very small. I’m going to have to get one…

here’s a video demo from the makers:

Marmot Bivvy Tent

There’s a lot of choices for bivvy bags and one-man ultralight tents. With these you do have the condensation issues, the often garish colours (fine for Mountaineering of course), and the delicate materials than can easily get snagged or get spark holes and tend to flap around in the wind, but there are still some nice designs around. This one from Marmot is quite a clever design, although the day-glo colour is not for me, but looks like some real thought has gone in to it:

The Wynnchester Australian Swag Bedroll

Great news for anyone interested in trying swag camping: As part of our “Wynnchester Camp & Adventure” project to bring back robust traditionally-inspired canvas camp gear we’ve been working to design and manufacture our own design of Australian swag bedrolls right here in the U.K. Previously the only option was to buy from Australia with shipping costs often being more than the cost of the swag! To my knowledge they are the only Australian swag bedrolls being made in Europe. They are available now to buy online from www.wynnchester.co.uk.

So: After a year of design and planning I’ve just had the first batch of the product through, and I have to say it is truly a thing of beauty! Have a look at the pictures below and see what you  think.

"Wild Canvas" Australian Swag

The video:

Based on many years of swag camping in different types of australian swags, for different purposes, 4×4 trips, canoe trips, car-camping and family camps, and in different environments: from the Australian desert to the British winter, at designated camp sites, or wild camps in woodland, mountainsides, beach camping and on river banks and lake shores, we’ve been able to design this one from the ground up, with some new features based on real-world use, and also we’ve avoided too many unnecessary features, velcro, guy ropes, or bright colours which many modern australian swags suffer from – this is true to the traditional swag in design and purpose and also I think it is a thing of beauty that you can cherish and get many years of use from, hopefully taking you to some wild places and enabling you to experience wild camping at it’s best, and at it’s simplest. Here’s some of the design and manufacturing features:

  • Tough, waterproof and beautiful high quality 18oz canvas – in khaki and green natural colours
  • Tough waterproof PVC base – again sourced in natural khaki colour rather than the often garish bright colours PVC often comes in.
  • Full-length, heavyweight zips – on both sides so you can enter and exit either side away from the wind, towards your campfire etc.
  • Pillow pocket to stuff your clothes, valuables, torch etc. in during the night
  • The design is made to form a natural dome shape over you when inside to shed rain
  • Storm flap which folds down blanket-style for good weather, meaning you can sleep open to the stars when the weather permits, and even if it changes during the night you can just pull the storm flap over and run the zips up past your head for more protection from wind and rain in the weather turns. Or add one or two poles to give extra internal space and further help to shed rain. Making the change easily without getting out in the middle of the night is very useful, unlike some swags.
  • Tough enough to walk on and sit on around camp or to unpack or sort your gear whilst it protects your sleeping bag etc. from mud, damp and dirt around camp.
  • Elipse-shaped foot section
  • Again the design is specifically worked out so that unlike a lot of Australian swags with boxed sections and hoods etc. this one will fold very flat meaning it rolls up into a much smaller package for travel and storage.
  • Webbing loops for attaching paracord to
  • Large size fits a 6-footer plus – one of the great things about swags is they are naturally roomy inside, allowing you to move around comfortably in your sleeping bag or just using blankets.
  • A hoop seam for fitting the aluminium pole kit if required.
  • Can be used with any type of mattress or none (if camping on sand for example) – thermarest, small air mattress, foam camping mattress or the army type roll matt.
  • Rolls up very small compared to other swags, with carry handle and buckle clips.
  • no guy ropes or pegs needed

If you’re wondering what the fuss is about, see our full posts on swag camping for more info on this great way to get out in nature. The Wild Canvas swags are be on sale either through me at www.wynnchester.co.uk. The price is not cheap but remember these will last a long time, putting up with rough treatment and sparks from a campfire. Then there’s the quality: the canvas is very tough 18oz weight and the very best money can buy, very hard to get hold of in fact, and that these swags are hand-made by specialists.

Compare this also with what’s available that is similar such as the Duluth Bedroll in the USA at 180 US dollars or the cost of buying a swag direct from Oz coming in at around the £200 mark just for the shipping! So yes it’s not a cheap throwaway item, but I can say from experience that even one amazing night out under the stars in some remote (or even not so remote) location and it will be well worth the investment. Knowing you can do that again in other places, whenever you want, as they say at Mastercard “priceless”.

OK here’s the pics: (click for full size images: note the colours are not exactly right in these pictures, the canvas is more of a green khaki than this brown – I’ll get more pics as soon as I have them).

The swag rolled up with carry handle – the rolled up swag measures about 60cms long by about 25cms width:

The storm flap open for good weather and easy access: this pic also shows the elipsed foot section and the natural dome shape that helps to shed rain.

The heavy duty zips with snug overlap where the canvas joins the PVC:

Photos showing thermarest self-inflating mattress and sleeping bag arrangement, with the pillow pocket and storm flap:

Enlarge this pic to see the beautiful weave of the natural canvas:

The full Wynnchester Wild Canvas swag – simple elegant and above all TOUGH as nails!:

[Update: there are new photos of the latest model in a darker green khaki colour with twin pre-curved aluminium poles on the website at www.wynnchester.co.uk. ]

May on the River

We just got back from a great overnight wild-camping trip on the River Wye. Weather was good, but very windy on day one which made the mailes hard going at times, but it cleared beautifully in the evening for our camp. We knew heavy rain was coming early the next morning so set about getting good tarp-rigs up for some protection, which worked great. Here’s some photos from the trip.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Land Rover loaded up for the trip.

The Land Rover loaded up for the trip.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Nice tarp-rig: we were expecting rain in the night

Nice tarp-rig: we were expecting rain in the night

 

 

 

Cold October Canoe Trip

A sudden down-turn in the temperatures in mid October didn’t put us off a planned canoe trip on the river Wye. We set off for a short trip with an overnight wild camp on the river, Autumn sunshine and the trees just beginning to turn, we had a brief shower once we got on the river, but sheltered under a huge oak tree, with acorns dropping all around us as the squirrels above were busy feeding before winter. There were a lot of pheasants around too, and we saw them scatter as the sound of a Goshawk called loudly from the tree just above us, something I’d never heard before – I still haven’t ever seen one of these elusive predators, even though the Wye valley and the Forest of Dean are one of the best places to see them, they are making a great comeback in recent years after being persecuted, like many birds of prey to the verge of extinction in the UK in the past. But the pheasants certainly know about them!

We canoed downstream in the most beautiful sharp autumn light late in the afternoon, the shower brought out the best rainbow I’ve ever seen, reflected in the river and reaching right across the sky. Arriving at our camp spot as dusk drew in, the temperature was dropping sharply, so with one strike from the firesteel on some birchbark and dry twigs gathered along the way we had a fire going, and set about organising the camp. With a bit of rain still in the air Hawkeye set up his usual tarp rig as a back-up, but we planned to sleep out until any rain came. In fact the sky cleared completely during the evening, but that meant the temperature really began to drop fast – with the fire roaring we were warm but a little apprehensive about how cold it would get during the night. The owls hooted all around the valley in the dark, and the sound of the fire crackling and the river running past made for a fantastic evening around the fire. We ate strips of rump steak on sticks over the flames, and big roast potatoes cooked straight in the embers – the best way: the ferocious heat in the embers cooks the potato much hotter than an oven, and really brings out the best sweet flavour, we both agreed that you need no more than potatoes cooked this way with some butter for a great camp meal. They were in about 40 minutes, then pulled out to cool: the surface turns to a kind of charcoal egg-cup, once cool you can hold that, break open the top and scoop out the soft potato inside, your hands get a blackened, but holy smoke it’s worth it!

Rainbow reflected in the water...

Getting the fire going and the camp set up at dusk

The stars were soon out, full moon rising too over the treeline, and later we retired to the swag and sleeping bags with the fire still providing plenty of warmth. I fell asleep with the freshening air, looking up at a billion stars, with the sound of the owls and the river, an unforgettable magical experience.

Sure enough during the night it got very cold: I pulled the canvas swag over my head to keep off the breeze, and slept soundly, perfectly warm and dry: still nothing better for me than an australian canvas ‘swag bag’ and sleeping out, no tent required. Worst case if you get heavy rain a small tarp over the top would do the trick, but unless you get heavy rain you can sleep right out there in the open, in comfort too.

Hawkeye woke early, and got the fire re-started from the remains of last nights logs, then poked my swag with a stick to wake me so I wouldn’t miss the most beautiful morning scene on the river I’ve ever witnessed: the cold meant a thick mist was swirling around over the water, shifted around by a light breeze, the river and the forest around was stirring. H had the Kelly Kettle on too so I had no excuse but to jump up, get some clothes on quick and enjoy some hot tea by the fire, just watching the day begin. The cold was such that a thick frost had formed on most of our gear, and it felt like a winter trip rather then autumn! Warmed my hands on the fire as they were getting numb it was that cold, definitely sub-zero by one or two degrees.

The Kelly Kettle fires up for some hot tea on a cold morning

Cold morning camp scene

The sun begins to wake up the valley...

After some coffee and hot porridge on the fire cooked in the trusty crusader mugs, we got into the canoes and pushed off to explore up river, paddling quietly through the swirling mist, the forest all around – a magical experience I’ll never forget.

Canoeing through the mist...

So here’s the video of the trip… watch it full screen if you can, hope you enjoy it.

New! The Poppin Storm Kettle

A new product from the Eydon Kettle company, makers of the famous STORM Kettles we use on this site, the POPPIN is a unique smaller, taller STORM Kettle, specially designed to “Pop-in” your rucksack or whatever else you use to carry gear around. It look a beautiful object from the photos we’ve seen and we’re hoping to get to try one out very soon and will of course report back on it’s usage here if we do. It’s slimmer shape would be a great advantage as of course the traditional shape kettles have to be quite broad for the way the flames will shoot up the chimney, so having a higher chimney allows a full 1.5 pint capacity in a much slimmer product, we’d expect that is a real advantage even just for storing your kettles – I’ve got 4 different ones and they do take up a bit of space! But the proof of any pudding is in the eating of course, but so far this looks like Eydon have done it again after our previous favourite the “Popular” model (see video here) and like that the Poppin comes in a gorgeous and very practical matt black heat resistant paint coating, and they really look the business – the true “Black Billy” of Australian legend, from the old folk song based on the Irish tune The Boys of Wexford song: “With a swag on my shoulder, black billy in my hand, I travel the bush of Australia, like a true-born Irishman” - A classic bit of Irish irony in there I think – a wandering Irishman, in a dusty land, far away from his lush green homeland (see our post “The History and Romance of the Australian Swag“) Some pictures of the new product below – and it’s available from the website here

The tall, slim Poppin STORM Kettle


The new Poppin Kettle with Cooking Kit and Carry Bag