Saturday, 21 February 2015

Fly tying for the Wilderness.

So fly tying as a wilderness skill is not the first thing that comes to people's minds. Normally you think about old men with a lot of time and money spending hours at purpose made benches, with expensive vices and the entire endangered species list in little bags around them. Well no, I'm  thinking about greatly increasing your chances to catch dinner with materials you will find lying around. 

Firstly you need some basic tools and you may already carry these with you. I'd start with the most essential things that do 90% of the tying work. These are:
- Scissors
- A needle
- A vice of sorts 
- A cake of coblers wax
- A bobbin holder (not essential but earns its keep)

Apart from the Vice these are items I carry in my sewing kit. I'd use hemostats as a vice, these are cheap and weigh very little. The benefit of having hemostats is that they are extremely useful in their own right.

So setting up first you will need to prepare your thread by rubbing wax on to it, simple enough, I find I can tie a size 12 hook with about 2.5' waxed. The wax makes it last longer. Then put your hook into the hemostats and lash it tightly to a log with whatever cordage you choose or have available. All pretty easy so far. Now comes the hard bit, learning to tie, and this requires a bit of practice and patience...... Infact I think it is a post in its own right.

Sunday, 18 January 2015

Been a while.......

WLife can be a bit hectic in all honesty, part and parcel to having to have a job, pay bills and all the rest of that fun stuff. However I do promise to start posting again.

Well now the boring bit is over lets get down to some wilderness skills. The skill I will share with you is the art of Fly tying, whereby you use fur and feathers (natural things) to create an imitation of a fishes natural dinner....... Yummy.

It's true we all seem to have this addiction to carrying gear and or making it, fishing gear is no exception to this rule.
Here's a few pictures as to what is possible and I will make a mini series based on using only materials you can find and use in the wild..... IE no exotic or dyed stuff, although I might use some materials we all carry anyway.

Friday, 16 May 2014

As much as it pains me to admit lol .......

I've got to the point now where I've realised somthing..... Nobody makes clothing that either fits my needs or simply fits me. Don't get me wrong I'm not huge, only 6'4" and I wear a large, but nobody has realised that every generation is getting bigger. I am also a very stereotyped Scot, tighter than a ducks bum in water, simply I don't want to pay over the odds to get what I want.

So to remedy this fact I'm going to have to learn to make my own. Yay needle craft, if I'm honest not my strongest talent. I was in the camp of:

Me: Mam!!, split my breeks again.
Mam: where?
Me: Popped the crotch in them again, could you sew them up for me?
Mam: (Mutters). Aye I suppose so.

Anyway you get the point. I'm going to have to learn, I can do anything else but sewing just isn't my strongest point.

So how do I learn to sew, I'm now brandishing my auto-awl, and I'm going to make what will work for me. So to start I'm going to make tool rolls, pouches and slips ect. Then after I get used to tensions (whatever that is) start to make some clothing, maybey a canvas bushshirt (waxed possibly). My ultimate goal is the Aussie bedroll, I'm starting to hate hammocks with a vengeance now, as flexibility isn't their forté.

I've moved jobs lately and time isn't on my side, so posts are becoming a bit sporadic of late. I'll persevere though, hopefully you'll enjoy some of my posts in  the coming months.

ATB, Shug

Friday, 11 April 2014

Bushcraft, the reality for the common man

Unless you have long arms and very shallow pockets, you'll know where this is headed.

The reality for the common man is bushcraft can be expensive. I'm not talking about top end gear, I'm talking about trying to fit your needs. We all have to inevitably buy things as much as this clashes with my scottish stereotype. The problem is finding kit that fits your needs.

Being a big lad, I always have had problems getting clothes to fit. I struggle with getting trousers and sleeves to fit my longer than average limbs, and virtually nowhere stocks my size. I wish it was the case I could go into an army surplus shop and buy cheap issue light weights but it's not the case. I know that I will end up getting the £100 trekking trousers that  come with an unstitched leg so I can make them fit. It may not be a height issue it could be that you are of a round figure and nobody stocks your waist size.

It's unfortunate too that we have to go through the trial and error method too. I have a cupboard full of stuff that I may not use regularly or at all.Now I know  there are cheaper ways to do things but materials cost money too.

When we buy tools we are unable to make, that costs us money. Then we have to invest in the kit to repair the kit we already have, again money.

The truth is bushcraft isn't cheap, it's all relative. You buy the best you can sensibly afford, but that boils down to the funds available. 

There's many sources saying, you can do it cheap. There is one bit that isn't mentioned though, you will break/ wear out/ out grow it. I've managed to make a kit up for less than £100 but I wouldn't say it would last under heavy use. I'm not the titanium spork guy, just a regular guy. I try and be frugal about bushcraft, but it doesn't always work.

I've decided though, I need space, and what is going to definitely be surplus to requirements I will gift to the beginners I know. It's possibly the best thing I can do to help.

If you have any ideas on how to save cash please leave them, or even your thoughts on the subject in general.

Cheers Shug

Friday, 21 March 2014

The Swiss Army knife, context is everything.

I've recently been looking a lot at Swiss Army knife (SAK) reviews online. There is one thing that has me a little confused though, how few reviewers get the context of the tools in it, then complain about them being used.

To understand the context of the SAK, you have to understand Switzerland. Switzerland is a neutral country, therefore unless it's defensive, they are non-combatant. Their army spends most of the time in barracks, unless on exercise. Most of the tool choices were made not to be a combat knife but an EDC for a barracks based soldier. 

Let's take a look at some examples to make sense of this. The hook for example in my eyes is a lace hook. This is an aid to help you get correct tension on your boot laces. It also is handy for twisting off materials like wire ect. 

Another good example, is the scissors. Now I've used scissors for usually light tasks such as nipping off threads and cutting plasters. These are everyday jobs, in the context of a soldier. 

Finally we come to the bottle opener. It is what it is, but in the context of a soldier it's important. As a soldier, you also have to be a gentleman. I've seen bottle openers on many military knives, including Sgian Dubhs. In the barracks at dinners ect, a soldier, usually an officer was expected to open wine bottles.

So the inclusion of these tools makes utter sense to me. Now how these are handy to us bushcrafters goes without mention, we've all used the SAK and found uses for the tools, but reviewers need to realise that this is a very certain type of military knife, and never to be used overseas as a survival knife.

Thursday, 20 March 2014

Coastal bushcraft, relearning everything.

As mentioned I live in SW Scotland, it's a great place to live for a bushcrafter. I can litterally experience every type of environment (apart from dessert), not too far away from my doorstep. I have coniferous and broadleaf woods, open moorland, mountains and coastline all within 12 miles. Recently I've been thinking though, I've not done much on the coast, a little fishing and foraging, camped a night or two aswell. This made me think though why not attain more coastal skills. 

The solway coast is basically a very large estuary, a few miles across that separates my region of Scotland from Cumbria and the lakes. However the tide is viciously fast and in some areas the seawater disappears all together at low tide. There is also a risk of quicksand to contend with too. As well as the occasional WW2 mine that was installed to prevent U boats attacking the munitions factories in the area.

Now kit wise I need to pack for pretty terrible conditions, and leave my carbon knives at home. It's imperative I take more care here than anywhere else as the risks are so high. I will also have to buy a copy of the tide times from my local pub (they also deal with the permits for fishing the annan river). For anyone who is interested, in my opinion a £2 printed book on the tide times may well save your life. For this coast it's imperative you know them many people have been swept out on this coast. These can often be bought at chandlers and tackle shops too. 

So once the weather improves a bit, don't fancy the risk ATM, I hope to get out and learn a lot more about Coastalcrafting. 

All the best,

Tuesday, 18 March 2014

The importance of being fit and healthy........ And eating right.

This topic means a lot to how well we perform in the outdoors, how well we cope with stress and fundamentally whether or not our body gives out to the elements.

We all hear the old,1.5 hours of exercise a day, and the healthy balanced diet equations we get told by medical professionals and dietary experts all the time. How relevant is it to us as outdoorsy types....... The answers is more important to us than anyone else realy. We depend on being fit and healthy.

Ok so it has been said by Napoleon, that an army marches in it's stomach. He had a very good point, we need energy and plenty if it. What outdoors people deal with is harsh weather, strenuous tasks and often having a suppressed diet as we only can carry what will fit. This means what we put in to feed our bodies is critical to how well we perform. I personally like to take a good multi vit supliment, this is to subsidise the quality of the food and the nutrients I will burn up. 

There have been recorded cases though of starvation, not because people haven't eaten, quite the opposite, they were eating all the wrong stuff. The Hudsons bay company recorded countless deaths due to rabbit fever or as it's sometimes called mal de caribou. This disease is a form of protein poisoning and costs vital nutrients, thus killing you from malnutrition and dehydration. Lean meats lack nutrients, not an over night thing but over weeks this can be fatal. So eating a balanced diet will help, fact is you will stave off the problem far longer. 

On the topic of exercise, I am fit, not marathon runner fit but fit enough to hike 30miles in a day with 45lb of gear. I have to say that in the last couple of years I've stepped up my fitness regime. When your not in the wilderness it's vital you stay in top shape as it will help you in the long run. It's pretty easy to condition yourself though. You need to look at what will help you.

Firstly is Cardio work, your stamina is so important as this is what keeps you going. I like to make sure I've done 1.5 hours of this per day. Now I'm not talking blast training but enough so I feel a bit tired an out of breath. Over time you will be able to go far longer and take far less time to recover. Also your circulatory system will do a fine job at keeping you warm which is an added bonus.

The next thing I like to work on is strength. Believe it or not the best weight in the world is gravity, stuff the gym membership. Your own body weight is all you need. I like to do the usual press ups, chins, and plenty of core work. It is free too so there is no excuse. Also try carrying a weighted pack. This will tone up the muscles and condition them to load bearing.

I've also recently taken up yoga. Stop sniggering at the back, seriously it's been very beneficial to me. I've sustained a fair few serious injuries, thanks contact sport, and I get problems with my joints because of this. Yoga has allowed me to stop taking pain killers and to be infinitely more flexible. I've also noticed I'm a lot more relaxed aswell. Great thing is nature is the best place to do it as the setting is relaxing. Imagine the sound of a river and the birds, now think how relaxing that is.

Now it doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure how all this will help you, but try and spend 2 months doing this. Your body will thank you and you'll notice the difference. Keep it up permanently and you will be by far and away a much happier person who continuously will out perform yourself in the bush.