Tag Archives: Bushcraft

Baker Tent Hunt – the half-dome shelter

In addition to the full size campfire tent and lightweight versions we’ve looked at, one of the simplest ways to achieve a ‘campfire tent’ setup would be the ‘half dome shelter’.

Source: Period Shelters -http://poisonriverparty.homestead.com/Shelters.html

In fact this construct was used widely in woodland camping by the North Eastern native American populations. One such construction was shown in Ray Mears series on “Rogers Rangers” an exploration of how WIlliam Rogers led expeditions and raiding parties in the early british military campaigns in the Frontier country with Canada, fighting both the French and the opposing native tribes. The demonstration by a descendent of the local tribes showed how a half dome shelter would be built. Interestingly the structure of the frame would be made at the camp site, from materials found thereabouts, whilst the covering was made from wide sheets of birchbark, which being the most valuable material as well as extremely lightweight, would be carried from camp to camp – a new frame simply being built as required at the next location.

Ray shows how with a fire built out front the shelter is extremely insulating, and practical allowing easy access in and out, and the ability to cook under cover using the fire in front of the shelter. These are all characteristics of the “Campfire Tent” or “Baker Tent” we were looking for.

That episode showed a beautiful end result of this technique – I am keen to try this technique, but using a tarp instead of birchbark.

So in searching for a modern version of this ‘half-dome campfire tent’ i began looking into surprisingly fishing “bivvies” which typically do have this half dome shape, as well as a rigid or semi-rigid frame built in. There are many types of these bivvies on the market, with the key differentiating from our point of view being weight and b8ulk, as we will want to carry this in a canoe, as well as portaging where necessary.

carp bivvi or brolly

So clearly some of the larger more heavy duty fishing shelters, or “carp bivvies” or “brollys” as they are also known in the world of course fishing are not suitable in this case. The most interesting I found were these two:

The Fox Evolution XS Shelter/Bivvi.

This has a rigid, interlocking hooped frame which interestingly stays in place when the shelter is collapsed, making setting up and taking down very quick and simple, as well as great resistance against the wind. Also importantly this one can be set lower in bad weather, another feature of Bill Mason’s campfire tents – that of being highly adjustable to the weather conditions. Here’s a pic:

fox evolution bivvy

(a good review here) The downside of course here is that its still quite heavy at 4.2kg (if you compare to a tarp/pole/line setup), but even more importantly its bulky at 1.9m long (!) and 11cm’s diameter size when packed.

All the fishing bivvi info you’ll ever need is here at http://www.bivvies.co.uk/

The Wychwood Rogue Shelter.

This is the most lightweight of the bivvi shelters, with simple shock-corded poles in place of more rigid frames, but again the ability to change the shape significantly from wide open and high at the front very low and enclosed in bad weather. The shelter is extremely lightweight, has good fixings and guy ropes and is very easy to put up (once you’ve tried a few times – at first its quite confusing!). So this one really began to get our attention and we purchase one on Ebay for an incredibly cheap price of just £25, compared to the normal price of about £48. It was a brand new and unpacked one…and in fact the chap who sent it out actually sent out 5 in one box not realising it was a group – I let him know and he arrnged for the others to be picked up – we’re an honest lot here.

So the Wychwood shelter in backyard and canoe trip test turned out be absolutely excellent – the only downside that the poles although light, because they aren’t designed for canoe camping as such are quite long at about 5 foot, rather than being made up of shorter sections- and that does make it a bit big or rather long in the boat, although its no real problem.

The Shelter when set up really does make exactly the half-dome ‘campfire tent’ shelter we were after, and even looks very much like the native american shelters that inspired the idea. It’s a fantastic shape and has only one downside I can see – which is faced into strong winds it can take quite a bashing and become unstable – but if you’re on good ground for pegging this hasn’t been a problem for me even in extreme conditions, lowering the front egde means you can position it carefully in the wind, to get some downforce in play as well.

Wychwood Rogue Shelter

On less good ground for pegs it can be more of an issue. And in fact on a winter camp last year what were the most violent gusts of winds I’ve ever experienced anywhere on 3 continents hit our camp for a short while, probably half an hour only. Fortunately the direction was favourable, as the shelter got buffeted in the back edge forcing the structure down rather than taking it skyward! With some stones to weigh down the back, some extra pegging to a big log and some crossed fingers, the shelter actually withstood this onslaught, however lying in the shelter with all hell breaking loose around me and snow starting to fall (sideways) I was forced to consider ‘what to do IF it was going to fail’. In fact with this shelter there’s a good option here, and one which is actually useful part of the set-up in good weather too: by simply removing the poles you are left with an excellent simple tarp, again with good fixing point and a slight dome shape that helps enormously when constructing a tarp shelter. So the solution would have been to collapse the poles and just cover the swag with a very lower tarp cover, down and out of the wind behind the canoe.

Since then things have changed and although I haven’t yet tried constructing a shelter using sticks with this tarp, I have used it with canoe paddles attached to the canoe for stablity and that really works well – then you simply take the small rolled up tarp part of the shelter and its extremely minimalist as well as being very effective in both wind and rain, with enough room for two people and gear to sit out of the rain.

“Backyard Test” of the Wychwood shelter canoe-tarp rig:

canoe tarp backyard test

And in use for real on a canoe trip:

canoe tarp wye

So there you have it – the Wychwood shelter is our recommendation for the half-dome campfire tent shelter and as a canoe-tarp rig; so it’s a great buy for the price.

read more in our “Baker Tent Hunt” series.

The Wye in July – Mid Summer Canoe Trip

Mid July, perfect weather and a 4 day run down the Wye, wild camping along the route. What a great trip that was, here’s how it went!

 

Kevin doing the J

Kevin doing the J

 

First beach for tea 15 mins after put-in at 'Hole in the wall'

First beach for tea 15 mins after put-in at 'Hole in the wall'

View from the first island 15 mins after put-in

View from the first island 15 mins after put-in

Another view of first island

Another view of first island

First island - the river was teaming with salmon at this point and was only a few feet deep.

First island - the river was teaming with salmon at this point and was only a few feet deep.

Kevin attempting to look serious.

Kevin attempting to look serious.

A group head out, rushing on past us while we stop for tea.

A group head out, rushing on past us while we stop for tea.

First island - It really wasn't deep at this point!

First island - It really wasn't deep at this point!

Back on the water

Back on the water

The water was clear and shallow (and very warm!)

The water was clear and shallow (and very warm!)

About 20 mins from the put-in

About 20 mins from the put-in

Nice place to live!

Nice place to live!

Calm and slow (and a little deeper here)

Calm and slow (and a little deeper here)

Not sure what town, maybe Ross-on-Wye ?

Not sure what town, maybe Ross-on-Wye ?

A nice 'artistic' shot.

A nice 'artistic' shot.

 

Kevin trying to catch salmon with his toes.

Kevin trying to catch salmon with his toes.

Perfect weather - clear blue skies

Perfect weather - clear blue skies

The new wet bag didn't get much testing.

The new wet bag didn't get much testing.

No caption needed here.

No caption needed here.

Power pylons are very ugly in comparison to the surroundings.

Power pylons are very ugly in comparison to the surroundings.

Just about to head off after another break

Just about to head off after another break

A few locals

A few locals

 

More locals

More locals

Another 'song of the paddle' shot

Another 'song of the paddle' shot

Perfect weather - perfect place

Perfect weather - perfect place

Another break

Another break

Someone's left the remains of their fire

Someone's left the remains of their fire

A bit of shade was appreciated!

A bit of shade was appreciated!

Logs of river grass - great colour but it slowed the canoe!

Logs of river grass - great colour but it slowed the canoe!

And again.  The water was only a few feet deep here.

And again. The water was only a few feet deep here.

Look at that J stroke - like a canadian ;)

Look at that J stroke - like a canadian ;)

Artistic shot alert

Artistic shot alert

Great scenery

Great scenery

The river was like a mirror here.

The river was like a mirror here.

 

 

Whats paddling?

Whats paddling?

Taking it easy.

Taking it easy.

Stunning place and weather

Stunning place and weather

A beatiful means of transport!

A beatiful means of transport!

'Bushman Kev' looking the part

'Bushman Kev' looking the part

Another stop on the shady side of the river

Another stop on the shady side of the river

 

Sun soaked!

Sun soaked!

'Bushman Kev' makes like a salmon

'Bushman Kev' makes like a salmon

The water was warm really - 'The Man From Atlantis' moves were just for effect.

The water was warm really - 'The Man From Atlantis' moves were just for effect.

Whats the large dark shape with fins swimming just out of view

Whats the large dark shape with fins swimming just out of view

Different locals

Different locals

'Bushman Kevin' back in the water

'Bushman Kevin' back in the water

Well thinking about it...

Well thinking about it...

And then there was no turning back

And then there was no turning back

Tranquility

Tranquility

Who needs a PFD?

Who needs a PFD?

More tranquility

More tranquility

The cliffs just around the corner of our campsite

The cliffs just around the corner of our campsite

 

Its Hot!

Its Hot!

This was the view point from the meadow just above our campsite beach.  Blissfully tranquil.

This was the view point from the meadow just above our campsite beach. Blissfully tranquil.

And the meadow looking the other way

And the meadow looking the other way

Meadow just before dusk.  There were a lot of wild deer tracks here.

Meadow just before dusk. There were a lot of wild deer tracks here.

Just before dusk on the meadow

Just before dusk on the meadow

The cliffs opposite our campsite.  There was a peregrin falcon nested here and loads of owls at night!

The cliffs opposite our campsite. There was a peregrin falcon nested here and loads of owls at night!

The cliffs opposite our campsite

The cliffs opposite our campsite

The campsite - blurry due to shaky hand Dayne and a fire thanks to 'Bushman Kev' (2 for 2)

The campsite - blurry due to shaky hand Dayne and a fire thanks to 'Bushman Kev' (2 for 2)

'Bushman Kevin' slept in a scorpion proof (apparently) bed roll.

'Bushman Kevin' slept in a scorpion proof (apparently) bed roll.

The tarp looks good at this point (2nd attempt) and was made of a canoe paddle and waterproof tarp and rope and some 'stability stones'.

The tarp looks good at this point (2nd attempt) and was made of a canoe paddle and waterproof tarp and rope and some 'stability stones'.

'Canadian Dayne' tracks out for more firewood (more practice more like!)

'Canadian Dayne' tracks out for more firewood (more practice more like!)

A vegetarian Ray Mears in the making (great fire due to 'Bushman Kev')

A vegetarian Ray Mears in the making (great fire due to 'Bushman Kev')

Paddle upstream for more firewood

Paddle upstream for more firewood

A perfect campsite - it felt perfect until 'Bushman Kev's' better half rang to say a thunderstorm was on route..

A perfect campsite - it felt perfect until 'Bushman Kev's' better half rang to say a thunderstorm was on route..

'Canadian Dayne' playing in the water

'Canadian Dayne' playing in the water

The campsite from downstream - sure it looked bigger than that when we landed!

The campsite from downstream - sure it looked bigger than that when we landed!

Campsite from downstream

Campsite from downstream

Early morning mist.  5.30 am on Monday morning from the campsite.  'Bushman Kevin' was still snoring having sat up star watching all night.

Early morning mist. 5.30 am on Monday morning from the campsite. 'Bushman Kevin' was still snoring having sat up star watching all night.

Morning Mist at 5.30am and Dayne's camp

Morning Mist at 5.30am and Dayne's camp

Morning mist at 5.30am and Daynes tarp

Morning mist at 5.30am and Daynes tarp

'Bushman Kevin' wearing a mexican poncho goes firewood hunting sometime after 6am.

'Bushman Kevin' wearing a mexican poncho goes firewood hunting sometime after 6am.

Coffee or Tea?

Coffee or Tea?

Returning with firewood, Dayne's tarp drying on the beach.  Around 6 am

Returning with firewood, Dayne's tarp drying on the beach. Around 6 am

Leaving the campsite around 10am - a true example of 'no trace camping' :P

Leaving the campsite around 10am - a true example of 'no trace camping' :P

Day 2 was promising to be even hotter than day 1

Day 2 was promising to be even hotter than day 1

Locals again

Locals again

Day 2 and no real hurry

Day 2 and no real hurry

Another bridge (sure it has a name but I didn't know it and nor did I really care)

Another bridge (sure it has a name but I didn't know it and nor did I really care)

The day was really heating up to about 30 degrees or more

The day was really heating up to about 30 degrees or more

A rapid!

A rapid!

Just after the rapids

Just after the rapids

 

Artistic 'song of the paddle' shot again

Artistic 'song of the paddle' shot again

I would have worn a PFD but I chose to sit on it instead :P  I did wear my hat at all times though.

I would have worn a PFD but I chose to sit on it instead :P I did wear my hat at all times though.

Ahhh the unmistakable sign of civilisation... signs :)

Ahhh the unmistakable sign of civilisation... signs :)

Lets run rapid number 2... 'Canadian Dayne' executes a power stroke

Lets run rapid number 2... 'Canadian Dayne' executes a power stroke

Followed by a perfect Draw stroke to keep us out of the trees.  Apparently 'Bushman Kevin' was too busy taking pictures to help with the steering on this one!

Followed by a perfect Draw stroke to keep us out of the trees. Apparently 'Bushman Kevin' was too busy taking pictures to help with the steering on this one!

We managed to make our way here without a map or GPS!

We managed to make our way here without a map or GPS!

A shady spot

A shady spot

The smudge on the waterproof camera case hides the calm, collected thoughtful look on 'Bushman Kevins' face.

The smudge on the waterproof camera case hides the calm, collected thoughtful look on 'Bushman Kevins' face.

Ahh there it is (post smudge cleaning)

Ahh there it is (post smudge cleaning)

And again.  It could have been sunstroke (it was over 30 degrees I think)

And again. It could have been sunstroke (it was over 30 degrees I think)

Tea in the canoe - only 'Bushman Kev' and 'Canadian Dayne' could execute something like this!

Tea in the canoe - only 'Bushman Kev' and 'Canadian Dayne' could execute something like this!

It was lovely and shady here, just don't rock the boat!

It was lovely and shady here, just don't rock the boat!

Tranquility - Nature gets it just right everytime.

Tranquility - Nature gets it just right everytime.

Heading off from the shady spot

Heading off from the shady spot

We did not find a tesco's on route thats a rubbish bag!

We did not find a tesco's on route thats a rubbish bag!

A backwards 'song of the paddle' shot

A backwards 'song of the paddle' shot

 

Load up at the end.

Load up at the end.

10 minutes after heading home!  Thank-you for waiting God ;)

10 minutes after heading home! Thank-you for waiting God ;)