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…
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.
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
You’ll see the Kelly Kettle and Eydon STORM Kettle in use all over this site: If you haven’t already got one then we heartily recommend that you become acquianted with this fantastic piece of gear: perfect for river trips and camping. And if you are wondering where you can get one, we’ve provided this selection of Kelly Kettles, Ghilie Kettles and accessories from Amazon.co.uk:
Took a trip to the River Wye at the end of May with our Australian visitor “OZMan” to show him what it’s like in a country that has rather more water and lush growth than they get down under. A fantastic trip again in gorgeous late spring weather, OzMan even took a dip in the river and climbed tup to the top of Yat Rock, he was really struck by the beauty of our English countryside. I lent him one of our genuine Australian swags so he’d feel right at home! Somewhere along that lazy river as the evening drew in towards dusk I spotted a rare “Hobby” falcon flashing over the surface of the water catching bugs, something I’ve never seen before – a really beautiful bird, with a very distinctive agile flight full of twists and turns as it races after dragon-flies and moths, eating them on the wing. As the canoe drifted silently on the water we came very close, right under a branch where it had stopped to rest for a while, so I could see that striking red underside and dark moustache features. But it’s in flight you want to see this bird – a really magical experience, and one you’d be unlikely to see except from down at the water level in a canoe, approaching silently on the water.
Just returned from a Wye canoe and wild camp – my first ever solo trip of this kind. It wasn’t supposed to be solo but my buddy couldn’t make it last thing, so I went for it alone as I was already in the valley. Just a ‘one nighter’ although an amazing experience to do on my own – it didn’t feel lonely although I was alone.
Plenty of company from the local wildlife though. Highlights were observing amazing aerial displays from the Symonds Yat Peregrines, also as many as 4 Greater Spotted Woodpeckers sighted, loads of jumping fish, as many as 12 deer really near the river bank and the first ducklings of the season were out too.
A fairly chilly wind meant the fleece stayed on and at times the breeze in my face made it difficult to progress with Old Red without a 2nd paddler, putting in effort too. I nearly tipped the canoe by not paying attention to a large rock just under the surface, given away by the rippling water over it. At the time, I was letting the canoe lazily drift sideways and got a hell of a shock to find myself tipped sideways on the rock as Old Red struggled to stay upright, in the middle of the river. Luckily, I just managed to push myself off of the rock with the paddle before the situation got worse. There was a second or two when I thought I’d be tested in the cold water with an unexpected swim! Phew. Was a wake up call for me and I will learn from that. The tough nature of the Old Town made handling it on my own, on and off the car and in and out of the river easy enough. They can take quite a bit of dragging around, given their robust build quality.
No rain came at night but I had a pretty good tarp rig set up and had a great night sleep despite the owls, really close, doing their Tawny thing. The river was full of May Fly early evening flying up in huge numbers. No other canoeists were seen on the trip although I did get up at 6am and left my wild camp spot, with no traces at 7.30am so I was the early bird.
I had no matches, lighter or gas burners as back up – just good ol’ Kelly Kettle and a striker with a few bits of shavings and Birch bark in my pocket.
Birchbark for getting the fire started, using a firesteel.
I collected a few bits of dry twigs on the journey down river. Pleased to say my fire lighting skills are fairly good now with a tidy little campfire going in no time giving hot water for tea and towards something to eat. Great bit of comfort, that. Same, in the morning. I didn’t bother taking a camp chair or stool. I just lay out on my sleeping bag by the fire until 1am listening to the wildlife and the Wye before getting in under the tarp. Cool.
Tarp & Canoe set-up
It was a clear night too. I felt as comfortable as I would be in any hotel! I had everything I needed really and I didn’t have noisy people in the corridor at 2am trying to find their rooms and get their key cards to work! And anyway, who wants a ‘five star’ bill when you can have a ‘million stars’ for free?! Get Out, Stay Out.
‘Old Red’ our new Old Town Discovery 158 canadian canoe had its 2nd outing on Sat 10th with an overnighter involved. The usual and amazing magic of the Wye Valley featured again on this trip. Daytime temperatures were up to 17 degrees on the Saturday with quite a chilly 5 at night as we lay out under the stars in the Swags. The trees still looked very Wintry and they’re late this year, but up close, you could see the buds of Spring bursting out everywhere. Another few warm days and that should make a huge difference.
We heard the Peregrine Falcons calling in the distance and soon after saw one of them zooming down the valley like a jet, and disappearing over the trees. We also encountered a very defensive male Canada Goose who wanted to fight anyone that passed; to keep Mrs Goose safe. We met him two weeks ago on that trip and he was fairly touchy then to any passers by. We kept away both times to give them some space. Countless Buzzards soured in the warm air and a Sparrowhawk darted around the trees just yards from Old Red as we drifted silently. In the morning, we were awake by 6am listening to what sounded like hundreds of birds singing at the same time. At camp, I was pleased with my improving skills with a striker and small pieces of Birch bark shavings to get a small camp fire going, for directly boiling the Kelly Kettle and cooking some meat that I propped on a sharpened green stick.
During the night, I lay there listening to the Tawnys and my eyes had adjusted quite well under the fairly bright night sky. I heard a worrying noise on the pebbles and stones about 20 yards from me and picked up the outline and profile of a large Mink bounding towards our spot, closer and closer.
Midnight Mink... poking around the camp
The Mink then stopped very abruptly, sniffed the air, and did a ‘I just smelt a bloke’ kind of U turn back to the river. As he raced away, he tore up stones behind him, like a car doing wheel spins! I heard the splash as he hit the safety of the Wye again.
On day 2, only 3 other canoeists were seen by us so it really felt like we had the Valley to ourselves which was a great feeling on that warm Sunday morning, as the lambs skipped on the banks along side us.
The STORM Kettle from the Eydon Kettle company has been getting good use all winter, keeping out the cold, but I’ve just cleaned it ready for Spring season and plenty more use. What a great piece of gear it is… I definitely prefer the black finish to the standard metal finish of most “Kelly Kettles”. I’m packing now for our first real canoe trip of the year, where we’ll be testing out an inflatable “Sevylor Colorado” 2-man canoe from Brookbank Canoes, as well as a new Red Old Town Discovery 158 so stay tuned. Some stormy and damp weather ahead which I hope blows through before the off-date… if it’s windy and cold then the STORM kettle will be pressed into service again, hoping for some Spring sunshine though…
This is another variation on the Kelly Kettle (Volcano Kettle), STORM Kettle (Eydon Kettle) and Ghillie Kettle: used in Australian bush camping the “Dingo Bush Kettle” look fantastic – slightly different to our northern hemisphere variations, this one has no separate fire base meaning you light a small fire on the ground directly beneath it, perhaps surrounded by a few rocks to limit any spread – this perhaps points to our different climates – lighting a fire direct on the invariably wet ground in the west coast of Ireland where the Kelly Kettle hails from isn’t going to work very well! It does however come with instead a small “metho tray” for liquid fuel cooking.
It looks very nice and the vertical handle would work very well for lifting off the flames and pouring. As a result of this kind of handle rather than the overhead ones of the Kelly/Eydon Kettles using it as a water carrier is not an option. The pouring spout is a lot narrower too, which is great for pouring, but not so good for re-filling. The capacity is 1.2 litres, so just a bit more than the smallest kelly kettle and enough for just 2 cups really, by the time you’ve spilled a bit! But still a great piece of gear and by all accounts a very authentic piece of Australian bushcraft gear – perfect for use with Australian-style swag camping! (See our swag stories for more on this great way to Get Out & Stay Out). We’ll see if we can get one imported and test it out here in our wetter, windier climate!
The Campfire Tent has been getting good use during this winter snow: kind of a ‘Backyard’ test for a snowbound winter camp here. The campfire tent proving itself again – giving great shelter from strong and bitterly cold Northerly winds, whilst allowing the openess for cooking, observing nature and snowbound views, and generally ‘messing about in tents’! In this weather the views have been absolutely stunning and I haven’t missed a thing – including a huge shooting star one evening. I set up just before the snow came in 10 days ago, and after the main snowfall the roof of the tent had about 5 inches of snow weighing it down – that’s a LOT of weight, and happy to say the canvas, stitching, poles and guys all stood up to the test. The pegs have been completely frozen into the ground so they aren’t going anywhere, which has helped in the very strong winds we’ve had. Walking the fields all the activity of nature is written into the snow in footprints – from tiny mice trails and bird footprints, to thin and whispy deer tracks and big badger prints – all the activity you’d normally miss in the dark is recorded for the following morning.
Also here is a backyard test of a new “Hekla 30 firebox“ from Tentipi, a great bit of kit I’ll write more about in detail later.. The tent itself is from Green Outdoor and features in the Winter Camp story below. For now here’s the video: