Sleeping Pads – A grounded view |

My sort of backpacking  … 🙂

Winter backpacking requires more of everything: More warmth, more insulation, more gear, more equipment, etc. Sleeping pads used for winter backpacking are no different.  A person can have a -20F bag but if they are camped out on too thin or short of a pad, then the night will be much colder than expected. Near Mitchell Lake at sunset on a fine winter evening R-Value is critical to keep in mind when picking out a sleeping pad (or pads) for winter camping and backpacking. Generally speaking, an R-Value

Source: Sleeping Pads – A grounded view |

Getting To Grips With Hand Drill

Student of bushcraft getting to grips with hand-drill

Getting to grips with hand-drill. Photo: Paul Kirtley.

Excellent article by Paul Kirtley

Hand drill is an elegantly simple technique of fire-lighting.

Yet it is commonly seen as a more advanced technique of friction fire-lighting than the bow-drill method.

This is not necessarily the case.

It is just a different technique.

In terms of determining which technique may be more difficult in particular circumstances, you must also consider the context, the competence of the practitioner, the environment and the prevailing weather conditions.

The combination of these factors will determine the most appropriate method when one of these techniques must be relied upon for a fire.

Bow drill has become a central part of bushcraft teaching, certainly in the UK. There are several reasons for this.

Bow drill is the most widely-applicable technique of friction fire lighting. This is true in both terms of environmental conditions and available materials.

Read more HERE

Quiet Wanderings Reveal Wildlife At Dusk

Paul Kirtley’s article is well worth following up … we can each do this, even without all the camo-kit. Do remember not to wear rustly clothes and to try to get the breeze blowing from the animal to you … enjoy 🙂

The Frontier Bushcraft team often have some lovely wildlife encounters while out in the woods running courses. And so do the course participants – fallow deer walking past tarps at first light, fawns sitting silently amongst the bracken, badgers crashing out of the bushes onto a track, sparrowhawks swooping, vocal woodpeckers checking us out, foxes skulking on the outskirts of camp, a family of buzzards circling overhead, to name but a few of the recent occurrences.

These encounters are often fleeting and we typically don’t have a camera in our hands to record the moment.

Last week I had the luxury of some free time in the woods at our Sussex course site. James was leading an Elementary Wilderness Bushcraft Course and I was camped nearby.

I had made a point of bringing my DSLR camera with me.

The intention was to have a quiet wander around the woods to see what I could see.

But also have a camera at the ready.

I was particularly interested in getting some photos of badgers and was planning to head out in the early evening and mooch around until dark.

I put on some soft-soled boots, an old DPM smock, a floppy-rimmed jungle hat and some thin gloves to mask my hands.

Armed with binos and my camera I headed out to see what I could see.

Over a couple of evenings, I had some fantastic encounters. I wasn’t being particularly sneaky or stealthy, just walking quietly and paying attention to the wind direction. This is something anyone could do.

The photos below record some of my encounters over the two evenings I headed out…

Fallow doe looking at the camera

A fallow doe. I looking for badgers near where I’d seen them before but I heard a deer coming through the woods, then spotted her in the trees. She walked out from the trail on the left and I took a few photos. She picked up on the noise of my camera shutter and looked straight at me. It was then that I got this shot, which was the best of the lot. Photo: Paul Kirtley

Rabbit silhouetted

There are always lots of rabbits around. But it’s fun to stalk as close as possible before they bolt. Photo: Paul Kirtley

Juvenile badger coming down a grassy track

A juvenile badger. I heard the distinctive sound of a badger foraging in the leaf litter. It was under cover of long bracken though. Then I heard another. Eventually two cubs emerged, snuffling amongst the leaves together. After a noisy fracas with an adult badger, this inquisitive fellow came down the track. It got so close my telephoto would no longer focus. A fantastic experience. Photo: Paul Kirtley.

A fallow deer buck stotting or pronking

A fallow buck ‘pronking’ or ‘stotting’ in a crop field at last light. You can clearly see he is a buck by his pizzle and the antlers starting to form. Photo: Paul Kirtley.

The latter part of the day at this time of year brings with it a lot of wildlife activity. With some quiet movement, you may well be surprised at what you see or how close you can manage to get….

BBC News – Deer: 50% cull 'necessary to protect countryside'

This is very likely true, I know several places where there are too many deer for the habitat to support so not only is the habitat deteriorating but the deer are getting sickly too. Back in the Ice Age and for thousands of years after we had wolves and other large predators in Britain who lived largely on deer so keep the populations healthy. They have found similar benefits in Yellowstone and other places where they have wolves and large predators.

Venison – wild venison in particular – is superb meat, I eat it whenever I can.

However … I am concerned about he devious ways of our bloody ConDem’d government – this could be a slithery back door to allow hunting again! Hunting deer with dogs is bad for the meat as well as cruel – indeed anyone who thinks killing something is “fun” should be shot themselves! But on the meat side, when you are terrified and running you pump yourself full of adrenalin, the blood moves out of the limbs and concentrates around the heart and organs both to reduce blood-loss if you are wounded and to increase your  ability to run. This makes the meat tough and sour.

Shooting and stalking by well-trained people is kind in that the beast is gone with one shot – hence you need really good shots not a bunch of rich assholes who want to kill something to prove their man/woman-hood. The other beasts in the herd are not frightened or disturbed. you get exactly the beast you want and not the one who decides to run. You can also take out sickly and elderly beasts so helping the herd to be healthy – this is what the wolves do!

So I’ll be watching this to see where it goes. In principle, it’s a good idea … but politicians always make a hash of principles, let’s try to keep a leash on them this time!

StagAround half of the UK’s growing deer population needs to be shot each year to stop devastation of woodlands and birdlife, a group of scientists says.

A study published in the Journal of Wildlife Management says this would keep numbers stable.

The deer population is currently estimated at around 1.5 million.

The researchers from the University of East Anglia suggest creating a venison market to make a cull ethically and economically acceptable.

The Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RSPCA) commented that any cull must be carried out in a humane and controlled way and be supported by “strong science”.

There are now more deer in the UK than at any time since the last Ice Age.

Stag Deer numbers in some areas appear stable only because thousands are being pushed into surrounding countryside

via BBC News – Deer: 50% cull ‘necessary to protect countryside’.

Hot Tenting Vs. Cold Camping – Outdoor adventure, gear, travel & skills

winter-camp-2013-16This is good …

Hot tenting beats cold camping, hands down. I remember the trip that changed everything for me. I was “cold camping” in Algonquin park, sleeping in my four-season tent at the end of a long and cold February day of snowshoeing through deep snow.

I had no heat source — which is what defines cold camping — except for my own body heat. It was -27 degrees Celsius when I crawled out of my frozen tomb in the morning. Getting up and get moving on the trail was the only thing that was going to thaw me out, but the bindings of my snowshoes (and my boots) had a thick layer of ice to chisel off first before I could get anywhere. With frozen fingers and toes I made slow progress to my vehicle parked at the access point. When I reached my car, jacking the heater full blast to thaw out, I pledged that that would be my last four-season winter camping experience, ever!

via Hot Tenting Vs. Cold Camping – Outdoor adventure, gear, travel & skills.

Eating shoots and leaves | Herald Scotland

Even in the dampest conditions, it's possible to light a fire with a little help from nature, while a number of items can be made from materials found in the woods, including coracles (a basketwork frame covered with animal hide), shoes and bowls, while food is everywhere

Very good article …

Here’s a question for a mid-afternoon daydream: if you suddenly found yourself stranded in Scottish woodland in January, could you find anything to eat?

Even in the dampest conditions, it’s possible to light a fire with a little help from nature, while a number of items can be made from materials found in the woods, including coracles (a basketwork frame covered with animal hide), shoes and bowls, while food is everywhere

Even in the dampest conditions, it’s possible to light a fire with a little help from nature, while a number of items can be made from materials found in the woods, including coracles (a basketwork frame covered with animal hide), shoes and bowls, while food is everywhere

Now, you might assume, as I did, that the answer would be no. However, going out for a walk with Patrick McGlinchey of Backwoods Survival School, based in Cambuslang, I soon learn differently.

via Eating shoots and leaves | Herald Scotland.

Wilderness Mentality

Stiperstones, Shropshire

I enjoyed this piece from Paul Kirtley, the Founder of Frontier Bushcraft it reminds me of the times I walk the moors alone and how good that feels. The picture is on one of my favourite local places, the Siperstones in Shropshire and the story of Wild Edric. to be out here is to be in touch with the spirits of this place, with all that is not human … a vital part of wilderness.


At Frontier Bushcraft we feel it’s important that bushcraft is taught in the context of

David Quammen captured aspects of wilderness and our relationship to wild lands in his deceptively simple statement, “Wilderness can be anyplace where human impact upon the landscape is small, reminding us therefore that we are too.”

It is possible to go to a DIY or home-improvement store, buy a few bits of timber, go home, make a working bow-drill set in your back yard and use it to create the beginnings of a fire.

But to me this isn’t bushcraft.  It certainly isn’t wilderness bushcraft. While I’m not suggesting there is no value in practicing the mechanics of a skill in your back yard, it’s important to remember that this is only a small part of the story.

The main story is the knowledge of nature required to apply this technique in the wilds. To go into unfamiliar woodland, identify particular species of tree, find dead, standing wood in the correct condition and make your bow-drill set; possibly in less than favourable conditions.  In addition, you have to be able to identify, collect and prepare available natural materials to transform an ember into a flame.  You also need to collect or create good kindling and other fuel for your fire.  If, in addition to this knowledge of nature, you add the skill and experience to make success of this technique a certainty, then this is wilderness bushcraft.

Sigurd Olson wrote, “Mankind was part of nature, he felt interdependent with the wilderness, and he knew that human happiness and well-being rested upon strengthening our ties to the natural world.”

When you travel in wilderness, particularly under your own steam, you feel very close to it. For a period you become locked to it.  You can’t just hop on a bus out of there when you’ve had a bad day. You can’t click your heels together to get back home. You have to see it through.  You are committed. You are part of a thing much bigger than you, exposed and responsible for yourself. For those who love to travel in wild places, this is a great feeling.

In the wilds, the effects of every action or decision we make is felt directly and the consequence of getting things wrong can be brutal. If you are sloppy, you will normally suffer the consequences. Detail, skill and judgement become crucial.

The mental shift provoked by focusing on detail, developing a high level of skill and using experience to temper judgement is strongly encouraged on Frontier Bushcraft’s courses and expeditions.  It takes your bushcraft into a different league and you will understand the skills within a realistic context.

During wilderness travel there are often compromises, concessions to logistics, and discomfort. The fortitude that these experiences bring about is an important part of the wilderness mindset.  While none of us likes to be uncomfortable, being able to put up with things and accept them as they are is liberating. A passage from The Last of the Mohicans comes to mind,

“As Hawk-eye and the Mohicans had, however, often traversed the mountains and valleys of this vast wilderness, they did not hesitate to plunge into its depths, with the freedom of men accustomed to its privations and difficulties.”

A wilderness mentality makes you resourceful and resilient. It will see you through the tough times in life and enable the best times. Keep wilderness firmly in mind when learning and practicing your skills; they will serve you well when you need them to work, for real.