Back to my roots and my first seatrout

January 2nd I paid my hometown a visit going on a 2 day fishing trip.

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I called up my mom asking her if she would let me stay at her house a couple of days. “I’m going to hunt for sea trout” I told her. Even though I grew up in this small fishing town, I never really payed much attention to seatrout fishing. But the past few years I have really upped my fishing game and I couldn’t live with the fact that I never caught a sea trout yet. So this was my goal for the trip. I had made my studies and found the spot where I was going to try my luck. Although winter is not the time to fish for seatrout on the outer coasts of Denmark, I knew this was normally a recognized seatrout spot. It is located on the mouth of Roskilde Fjord and has a “leopard bottom”. At this time of year the seatrout normally seeks towards the warmer fjords. But I was determined that I would not let this get in my way.

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Day 1

It was two extremely cold days that I had picked for my trip. Temperatures were subzero, the wind was near gale and so far this was coldest day of the winter and the first Ice Day of the year. The first day I started fishing at about 2 PM. Nature along the coast is amazing and the light on the north coast of Zealand is particularly amazing. The best comparison I can think of is the light you see depicted by the old Skagen painters P.S. Krøyer and in particular Michael Ancher in “a stroll on the beach”. It can be difficult to not to loose yourself in the scenery and loose focus. But this time I was determined to keep my Mørasilda lure in the water and stick to my plan. I was fairly methodical as I worked my way through the coast. For a couple of hours I just kept throwing and pulling back in. Never loosing faith. Then suddenly as I was about to pull the lure out of the water, right next to the groyne I was standing on, I felt it. A tempered tug on the line followed by a bright silver coloured trout jumping out of the water. I was so happy and afraid to lose it at the same time. I jumped from one rock to the next as I tried to get closer to land. I was talking to the fish telling it how beautiful it was and begging it to stay on the hook.

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When I finally landed it I was both happy and relieved that my mission had succeeded. I think I threw a few more times but I had lost focus now. So I decided to call it a day and head back to my mom’s.

She prepared dinner for us as I filleted my fish. It was really great spending some time alone with my mom. Unfortunately it’s something I rarely get to do. Normally when we see each other there are other family members around including my kids. That’s great too but this time we had some time to sit down and talk one on one.

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Day 2

The next morning I got up while it was still dark outside. I got dressed, grabbed my gear and headed for the coast which is only about a ten minute walk from my mom’s house. The wind direction had changed to onshore wind and it was even colder than the day before. It was low tide too. Not at all ideal conditions but I was still high on yesterday’s success so I just kept going. I fished the whole morning without any luck. It was freezing cold. Some hours later I decided I wanted to forage some seaweed to bring home as well. I found a nice big bundle of bladder wrack (Fucus vesiculosus) that I wrapped up and put in my bag. I was so happy to be out on the coast and feel the wind on my face. I didn’t want to quit just yet. I had a better idea.

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When I was young there was a small kiosk by the harbour where you could buy sand worms. Since I had brought a few snoods I thought I would go and see if they still sold them and hopefully end the day with a few flatfish. It took me no more than 10 minutes to cross the small beach between me and the harbour and reach the kiosk. It turned out that they did in fact still sell sand worms but since it was right after Christmas and New Years they didn’t have any in stock. So I had to give up on that idea. It is funny how some places change so little though. It was like time had stood still for 25 years in that place. It was a really great feeling actually. I don’t know why but there’s just something comforting in knowing that in this world of fast pace change there are still places like this where time doesn’t matter.

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I took a small stroll on the pier before I headed home. It didn’t matter too much that I didn’t get the worms I think. It was very windy and I doubt that I would have been able to do any proper fishing out there anyway. And after all I still brought home a sea trout. //

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A few thoughts on the rule of 3

posted in: Bushcraft, Knowledge, Survival | 0

For people who are accustomed to spending time in the wilderness the Rule Of 3 is common knowledge. A rule of thumb helping you prioritize correctly in a survival situation or before ending up in one. But how often do you reflect over this rule?

 

Here is an infographic I made to show you the importance of getting your priorities right when in the wild (Feel free use it in it’s original form):

Undepend.com

Have you ever considered how long you can in fact survive without food or water though? And did you consider the rule not always being relevant in all environments? Say during summer in temperate climates where shelter could be secondary to water or maybe even food?

I’m thinking it would be nice to know, for motivational reasons, how long people have survived. Let’s say you end up in survival situation where you have to extend the time frames of the rule of 3. Wouldn’t it be motivating to know that someone had made it for even longer?

You only have to look at some of the more recent survival reports to realize that your mental attitude outweighs any other principle or rule in survival. Take for example an incident from Umeå, Sweden in 2012 where a 45 year old man got snowbound in his car for 8 weeks with no food at all and survived. An even more recent incident is from Australia less than three weeks ago where a 62 old hunter survived for 6 days without water. He survived by staying in the shade and eating ants. Something he had learned from watching survival TV.

Our body is capable of amazing things if our mind doesn’t give up on us. And if you can think straight in a survival situation you have a far better chance of making it. Your mind allows you to be creative and inventive. So if you’re in an environment with no or only little risk of hypothermia you may want to start looking for water straight away. Because staying hydrated keeps your mind healthy as well as your body. And although you may be able to survive for three days without water. You may not be able to stay focused without it for more than 24 hours.

I ran a course this summer challenging a few of my fellow bushcraft/survivalist friends to spend 24 hours in the wild with a minimal amount of gear. With 2 liters of water plus 4 items of your own choice it wasn’t a survival test. But what we learned was really interesting: Although everything except long pants, shoes and a shirt counted as extra items the hardest part of the 24 hours wasn’t settling with the small amount of gear, water and food. It was boredom and a certain amount of apathy. Sure I was hungry after 18 hours of being physically active and getting only a little food. But waking up the next morning with all the basics taken care of (shelter, fire, water and food) I was just plain bored and waiting for time to run out so I could get a proper meal instead of what I had been able to forage. 4 hours before the challenge was over we even talked about breaking up earlier because we had basically “made it”. Which in fact would have meant that we had failed our mission.

So getting you priorities right doesn’t necessarily mean you are going to make it in a survival situation. And also not getting them right doesn’t mean you are doomed for failure either of course. But the Rule Of 3 is a great rule and I suggest you use it to get your priorities right. Just remember to stay active and keep a positive mind.

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Links:

Missing hunter ‘survived on ants’ and didn’t drink
http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-3270216/Missing-hunter-survived-ants-didn-t-drink-water-SIX-days-going-missing-Outback-hunting-camel.html

Sweden snow: Man ‘survives two months trapped in car’
http://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-17088173
How did Swedish man survive in this frozen car at -30C for TWO MONTHS?
http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2103339/Swedish-man-Peter-Skyllberg-survives-frozen-car-months-eating-handfuls-snow.html
Sixty days under the snow:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FWloyZwSu-I

 

Mushroom hunting with my son and a nice little surprise

September is perfect for mushroom hunting so last weekend I went camping bushcraft style with my 8 year old son in order to hunt for some delicacies. But I also had a little surprise.

I didn’t check the weather forecast before leaving. When you live in Denmark you’re used to a little bit of everything weatherwise. Most times the weather is so changeable that you can’t count on the forecast from one day to another anyway.

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The perfect day
This Saturday morning the weather was perfect. The sun was shining and it was quite hot for a late September day. My son and I were both wearing just a shirt. Our destination was a few hours away by train and we hit the forest at about noon. It was a beautiful hike through the autumn beech forest and along some open plains. I really enjoy being alone with my sons. You get to talk together in a different way than you normally do. We passed a lot of blackberries on our way so we made a few short stops too. About an hour later we reached our destination, a public tent site in the forest right next to Lake Esrum, and I immediately started building our shelter. It takes a little longer than putting up a tent but I prefer sleeping in a shelter because you’re much closer to nature. Also it is more convenient since you can sit under it and still be outside if it rains.

I asked my son to go and find some firewood in the meantime. He was playing around more than he was collecting firewood though. When it was time to build the fire I asked him if he wanted to have a go with the fire steel. I had brought some dry cattail to use as tinder as well as some dry grass. If you have ever used cattail as tinder you know that it catches a spark really easy but only holds a flame shortly. And then it happened: After only two attempts my son had a fire going. I was amazed and proud of course. But also surprised that he did it that easily. I guess we’re moving on to fire by friction next time.

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After that we headed out to do what we came for. Hunting mushrooms. For this purpose I use a mosquito head net instead of a basket. It’s much more convenient when you’re camping out. It takes up no space in your backpack when you fold it in. You can wear it over your shoulder as a bag which is really easy to access and it keeps the mushrooms protected and ventilated.

At first we couldn’t find any edible mushrooms. But then it was like they popped out everywhere. Mainly penny buns (Boletus Edulis) but also a few puffballs (Lycoperdon perlatum) and one dotted stem bolete (Boletus luridiformis).

After an hour or so both our nets were full and we had more penny buns than we had expected. In the end we stopped collecting them all together. You shouldn’t take more from nature than you need.

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We had brought some pasta for dinner that we cooked over the campfire along with some sausages. It was really cosy sitting there enjoying dinner with my son who had not only started his first fire using a fire steel this day but he had also found most of the mushrooms we collected. We had a great time fooling around, singing and laughing.

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After dinner we took an evening stroll in the forest along the shore of the lake. It didn’t take long before darkness took over and it was getting difficult to see what we were doing. We headed back to our camp to hit our sacks and end a beautiful day. As we lay there looking out from our shelter we could see a lot of bats flying around. They had come out to feast on all the insects.

The less perfect day
The next morning we woke up to rain. I had already heard the drumming on our tarp during the night. So the first thing I did when I woke up was to go and check on our fire. I had put a big log over the embers the night before. There was still a dry spot under it and I could even feel a tiny bit of heat from the bottom of the ashes, but I couldn’t find any embers. So when the weather cleared up a bit I went to find some dry firewood to build the fire again.

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Meanwhile my son was walking around in the shallows of the lake. That’s when I heard a distant thunder. I went to tell him to leave the water if it was to come closer. And then I saw the horizon. It was very dark and you could see a weather front on the opposite side of the lake moving towards us. I went back out to look for some firewood and found a deadfall where the rain hadn’t reached the wood underneath. I chopped off some big pieces that I later carved into smaller twig size pieces. I then collected some birch bark and after a bit of work I had a fire going. And then it started raining heavily again! The thunderstorm had reached us sooner than expected and all we could do was to wait it out under our shelter.

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After about half an hour or so the sky had cleared up and I started over again. This time I still had an ember going so it wasn’t that big a deal although a lot of the firewood was wet, so I wasn’t getting a lot of heat out of it. And then it started raining again! I was getting really frustrated because we still hadn’t had any breakfast. And I had even prepared to fry some eggs on a stone for us. My youngest son had given me an egg holder for my birthday that I had brought thinking it would be a great chance to use it.

The sky cleared up for the third time. I had managed to cover up the fire with some rocks and a big log this time so even though it had been pouring down I still had some sort of fire going now. Or at least some more powerful embers. I rebuild the fire – again – to a point where I was able to get a lot of embers. I used them to cover a flat rock that I had found, before cleaning them off again and use the stone as a frying pan. My son had been eating all sorts of nuts and biscuits while we were waiting for the rain to stop. So he wasn’t hungry anymore. But at least my little project finally succeeded before we packed up and headed home. The weather had cleared up for good now of course.

Back home we made a delicious stew out of the mushrooms we had collected and served them on a toast.

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24 Hours in the forest with no food.

The biggest challenge came as a surprise though.

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How little gear do you need to live in the wild?
I set out to challenge a few of my fellow survivalists / bushcrafters encouraging them to bring less gear than they normally would. 4 things only to be specific.

The challenge started on Saturday 22. of August at 13.00 and ended 24 hours later. 
You could choose to sleep in a tent, you could bring a rain coat or you could challenge yourself and go more primitive like I did. The choice was yours. The only rule was: EVERY item counted as one of your 4 items. Even your backpack if you chose to bring one. This was the Undepend 24 Hour Challenge:

The idea was not to test whether you could survive or not. Everyone can survive 24 hours in the wild during summer in Denmark. Even without food and water. The idea was to encourage the participants to challenge themselves. To get them used to get by with less gear than normal and learn from it.

It’s all about priorities.
24 hours isn’t a long time. It is long enough for you to start feeling the effects of no or only a little food however. And it’s long enough to feel miserable during the night without a fire. Or to catch a cold without a shelter. Every participant was allowed to bring 2 liters water.

At 13.00 we all met up in Gribskov in Denmark on the specified location which was right next to Lake Esrum. After a short chit chat and exchange of thoughts and strategies we went straight to work. My approach was to follow the priorities of the rule of 3: Shelter first. Water was already taken care of so after I had built my shelter I went out to forage the area.

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Building my shelter and a fire.
It took me about three hours to finish my shelter. And I didn’t even bother to make it completely waterproof all over. The weather forecast had said it was going to be a clear sky all weekend and there wasn’t any signs that it was going to change. My main concern was insulating myself from the ground as well as getting out of the wind really. It always takes a while to find the right materials and I think it’s a valuable routine to know by heart. You don’t want to get caught by darkness before you’re done with your shelter. I built a classic lean-to using a young tree as one of the poles. For cover I used fern leaves. They’re easy to harvest and they effectively cover large areas. The advantage of this kind of shelter as opposed to an A-frame is that you can use it both as place to sit as well as a bed for the night.

Before heading out to forage I went to collect some birch bark to use as tinder. I would rather get a fire going first and risk not having any dinner than to have to sit in darkness all night. It turned out I had plenty of time for both however. When building my shelter I cleaned the branches in the vicinity of my camp. So I had plenty of small twigs at hand for building my fire. Mind you I didn’t cut down fresh branches. It is also easy to find small twigs with no bark on in the forest. You just want to make sure they’re completely dry when using them to start your fire. If conditions are wet you may want to look at the bottom of spruce trees instead of picking twigs straight off the ground. These were dry conditions though and I had brought my fire steel as one of my items. So getting a fire going wasn’t a big deal. I built it to a level where I was sure to have at least a coal burning when I returned from foraging.

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Foraging for food.
It’s funny how you’re able to set aside your body’s needs when your mind is focused on other things. I wasn’t particularly hungry after building my shelter even though I spent a lot of energy doing so. I had also just been without food for about 3 hours so far. But I figured it wouldn’t be long before my inner clock would strike dinner. So I went to look for whatever edible plants I could find. In a real survival situation I would probably have dug out som spruce roots to use as snares as well. That would be both illegal and unnecessary in my present situation of course.

I managed to find quite a few blackberries, wild raspberries as well as some other edible plants such as wood sorrel and some nettles. I had expected to find a lot more mushrooms than I did though. I know that mushrooms are not recommended as survival food in general. However if you can positively ID them they are a very nutritious and can provide you with both moist and vitamins.

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I had planned on giving ants a chance on this trip but I just didn’t get around to it really. It is still something I’m keen to try however. I’m not picky when it comes to food in general and I’m not appalled by the though of eating insects.

I can’t exactly say I was satisfied when I lay myself to sleep later that night. But I wasn’t starving either. I had managed to collect quite a few berries. And even though they didn’t fill my stomach they kept my spirit up.

The night.
Everything was good when I decided to go to sleep. I still had a fair amount of wood left from when I built my shelter that I could use as firewood. On top of that I had collected enough big logs to keep my fire going through out the night.

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At about one o’clock I woke up however. My fire had died out and the night was much colder than I had expected. Being restricted to only four items I hadn’t brought an extra jacket or a blanket. So I had to build my fire again. This time I moved it closer to my shelter to make sure I would get more heat from it. I hadn’t built a reflector so I wasn’t getting the maximum heat return from the fire. It was sufficient to feel comfortable though. The rest of the night went on like that. Me waking up every hour freezing because the fire had died out. Rebuilding the fire then going back to sleep. Until about 5 o’clock where I decided to get up. I wanted to go out and get myself some breakfast as well as some more firewood.

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Foraging some more and watching the sunrise.
I was away for an hour or so. It was a really beautiful morning. The sun was coming up in the horizon as the mist was still hanging over the lake. At this point I was getting hungry. It had been 18 hours since I had my last proper meal. I found a fair amount of berries as well as a couple of small penny buns (Boletus edulis). The berries kept me going but I was missing some protein. I went back to my camp and fried the penny buns. Or rather cooked them. I had no fat or butter to roast them in so I added a tiny bit of water to avoid them sticking to the pot which decreased their culinary qualities. Since food was scarce I found myself drinking more water than I normally would. I wasn’t running out of water but I had to ration it a bit. In spite of the other participants bringing food, I was still the one with the least amount of water left. I think I consume a bit more water than the average person actually.

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Hungry and facing a surprising challenge.
As we entered the 22nd hour everyone was running out of pastime activities and I was really feeling hungry now. I guess it’s a psychological thing. You’re hungry and you know feeding time is getting closer so you start focusing on getting a proper meal. There was nothing else to do. I had nothing to pack basically, my camp didn’t need any attention, I had no food to prepare and I didn’t bother collecting more berries. Everyone was just waiting it out really. But two hours is still a long time so we decided to take another walk. We basically just walked around. It’s really interesting how boredom gets to you. We even talked about breaking up earlier because we had already “made it”. This would have meant failure in fact, but I guess it’s the same thing that happens when lost people die after they have been rescued or found. It is common knowledge among SAR Officers that many people give up mentally when they think they have been rescued. They simply stop fighting too early.

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We walked back to our camp and had a little talk about what we learned from this trip and what we would have done differently. It was an interesting talk that made us forget about time for a while. But the last hour of this challenge was a long one. Everyone just hung out. We were ready to leave. As the clock hit 13.00 we were on our way and I was looking forward to get some proper food.

Undepend 24 Hour Challenge
My four items were a hatchet, a knife, a fire striker and  a pot. The other participants didn’t go quite as primitive. One brought: A tarp, a lighter, a blanket and some meat. Another one brought: A poncho, a sleeping bag, a knife, a lighter and a can of food.

 

 

Morning hike in Gran Canaria – avoiding the summer heat

Right off the west coast of Africa, about 100 km from Morocco is an underrated nature experience waiting for you if you like hiking. When most people think of the Canary Islands they think of the hotel resorts I guess. But these Islands have so much more to offer in terms of wildlife experiences.

Gran_Canaria_3D_version1The Canary Islands are of volcanic origin. 80% of the volume of Gran Canaria was formed between 14 to 9 million years ago. And the last 20% was formed between 4.5 to 3.4 million years ago. The climate is subtropical.

My first experience with hiking Gran Canaria was in 2010 when I hiked to Pico de Las Nieves (1949 meters) – the highest point of Gran Canaria with Rocky Adventure. This year we came back to the island for our holidays and I didn’t want to miss hiking there. Unfortunately August is the hottest month of the year and no guides take people into the mountains at this time of year because of the heat.

I tried hooking up with a local hiker who I was told went up into the mountains every morning, but without any luck. She was on vacation just like me. So I figured I had to plan my own hike.

Somewhat concerned about the heat being a light skinned norse, I decided to get up early the next morning and aim for the nearest top. My 8 year old son asked me if he could come with me which was great. So we went to check out the direction in which to walk the next morning. We had to cross two highways before seeing any terrain. The first one had a pedestrian bridge over it and the second one had a tunnel under it as far as we could see. That was as much planning as we did except pointing out our destination and telling my wife when we planned to be back.

6 o’clock the next morning I was awaken by my phone. I woke up my son, got dressed and packed my backpack with the lunch pack we had made the night before as well as some water. My son got dressed and we were on our way. It was pitch black outside as we left our hotel. I was quite alert walking with my son near a highway in a strange place this time in the morning. So when a car pulled in right next to us I told my son to keep walking away with me. It was just a guy dropping off some workers but at that time of the day you’re always prepared for the worst I guess. We had passed the first highway as well as a small barren area before looking into a long dark tunnel under the next highway. I was a bit worried that it might serve as a shelter for homeless people or the like. So I told my son to stay put as I went to check it out. I turned on my iPhone’s flashlight and went in there. It looked completely safe so I went back to get my son.

The only thing ahead of us now was the mountains. So we started walking towards them, still in darkness. Our eyes had gotten a bit more used to it now however so we dived in to the terrain with excitement. Walking in barren rocky terrain like that is a bit difficult when you can’t properly see where you step, but we just took it one step at the time.

As we had climbed the first hill we were met by a small surprise. On a small hill above us there were about 500 goats looking down at us. We walked past them noticing that the sky had brightened up a bit. And when we reached the next top we had our first panoramic view. Out there in the horizon we could see the coast of Western Sahara in Africa and clouds forming over the Atlantic Ocean. Sunrise was near. If it wasn’t for the cloud cover the sun would have probably already shed it’s light on us. We stood there for a moment in the quiet of the morning looking at it all. We could also see the highways we had crossed.

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As we continued we could see that we had to either walk around a mountain top or jump a small fence similar to the one used to keep the goats in place. We decided to jump the fence anticipating that we might end up in the middle of a big goat herd, which we didn’t though. From here the terrain became more interesting. We now began moving into real mountain terrain. The whole place was rather barren but the rock is reddish and really beautiful. The interesting thing about Gran Canaria is that there are no real trees until you get to an altitude of about 1000 m. This is because the Canary Island Pine (Pinus canariensis) which is a special species of pine with very long needles gets its moisture from the air humidity from the fog and clouds that roll in over the island. The humidity that these long needles pick up then drops to the grown and is picked up by the tree.

We didn’t see any of these trees though but we quickly became familiar with another of Gran Canaria’s specialties. Caves. The first one we saw was just a small hole in a beautiful rock. It was big enough to easily fit the both of us had it been a survival situation however. In Gran Canaria there are still a lot of people who live in caves. We’re not talking about cavemen in the original meaning however. There are some very luxuries homes built into the mountains.

As we walked on we stumbled across quite a lot of goat remains. My son brought back a horn from one. But we also saw craniums and even a leg lying around. I’m not sure whether they were from goats who had strayed off and died or whether they were killed by some kind of predator, a dog or maybe hunters? I’m not aware of any predator that could kill a goat on Gran Canaria though.

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We had our first break right after hitting the first top on our route. As we sat there we watched the sun come up through the clouds in the horizon. It was magical to sit in the quiet mountains and watch it.

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Seeing the rocks turn bright red as the sunlight hit them was a beautiful sight but also a reminder that it would soon get warm. So after a sip of water we moved on.

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Not knowing what had killed the goats we soon encountered a real predator however. The first sign of it was flocks of pigeons flying frantically over our heads. They were flying so low over the mountain that sometimes they had to make evasive maneuvers to avoid flying into us. The next sign was a scream surrounding the mountain. The scream of a hawk. I never heard it in real life before actually. I only recognised it from an outro to a song. I probably couldn’t have identified which bird of prey we saw had I not recognised its scream. Being out there in the middle of it all and watch it happen right in front of you makes you feel so tied to nature though.

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The sun had really started to come up now and we aimed for the top we had set out to reach. We passed some more caves on our way that were bigger than the first one we had seen. It looked like someone had stayed there for hunting. At least we found quite a few shotgun shells lying around.

When we finally reached the top we had set as our destination we realized that a few hundred meters away there was another top which was a bit higher. So we decided that we wanted to go there too. It was a short and stress free walk and after 10 minutes we were finally happy with our achievement. We sat down in the shade for some food and water before heading back down the mountain.

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My son suggested that we took a different route back down the mountain which meant we could walk on the shade side of the mountain most of the way. We were starting to really feel the heat of the sun now so I thought it was a brilliant idea. Also because it would give us a chance to experience some more of the area.

Even though it wasn’t a steep descend it was fairly difficult to walk downwards since most of the surface consisted of loose rocks. Further down it looked like someone had prepared the mountain side with a snow groomer. When we came closer I realised that the striped structure was in fact goat tracks though.

A bit further down we came across a strange looking green rock which we would probably have brought along had it been smaller. It looked like it consisted of copper but it’s structure was more like chalk.

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After we had come all the way down to the valley we walked along a dried out riverbed. There were some big cactuses growing there (Opuntia dillenii). Their fruits are edible and turn maroon-purple when ripe. These were still green. Be careful if you ever plan on eating their fruits though. They have some areoles on them with tiny barbed spikes that you don’t want to touch.

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The last part of the trip we walked along a small dirt road and as we came out of the mountains right before we hit the tunnel back under the highway we were overflown by another bird of prey. Most likely a common buzzard. By then it was getting really warm too so it was a perfect time to get back to our hotel and take dip in pool. My son had done so well and I was really proud of him. And happy that I was lucky enough to share this experience with him.

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Upgrading my kids’ wilderness survival skills

posted in: Bushcraft, Knowledge, skills, Survival | 0

3 days of practicing knots, shelter building, axe handling and more.

May is supposed to be fairly warm in Denmark. But the last few years the climate has been really messed up. This year May felt more like autumn than late spring. But that doesn’t mean you can’t go camping bushcraft style of course.

The trip wasn’t well planned. I had thought about going with my two sons aged 6 and 8 but it wasn’t until the day before I decided to actually do it. So I went to a local Silvan (a Danish DIY store) to buy two tarps measuring 2×3 meters. They sell them for only DKK 13,95 (about $2). A few days earlier I had taken both of my kids to a surplus store where we bought a pack of paracord for each of them. I let them choose their own colour which resulted in us walking out of the store with one neon green and one triple coloured blue paracord. Not exactly my favourites but whatever motivates them I guess.

You see I had a little plan in store for the two who are more than used to primitive camping. This time I wanted them to build their own shelter. The younger one just learned how to tie his shoe laces recently, so I wasn’t expecting him to be able to make everything himself. I felt quite confident that the older one could do it though. I wanted to give them an understanding of how simple it is to make a shelter and at the same time boost their self confidence. I wanted them to be able to build a simple structure that would get them out of the wind and the rain.

At about 12 o’clock we got off the bus and after a short hike we arrived at the camp site which was right next to a lake. My kids were more concerned about playing around. I normally let them run free in the forest. They know the rules: Their knife must be in its sheath and they must wear their whistle around their neck. It’s amazing how fast kids become responsible when you show them that you trust them.

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I went straight to work though. I unpacked my knife and my hatchet, put both in my belt and headed out to find some suited material for building my own shelter. After a short while I asked my kids to come and help me. I told them that we needed to collect some branches for our shelters and that they would need to carry their own. They had no objections about that although they did argue a bit about who was to carry the heavier branch of two. I told the older one to take it. After a while we had plenty of material and I was well underway with my shelter which I also wanted to work as a place where we could all sit if it was to rain. My kids were still playing around.

Had it been a little warmer I would have left it to their own sense to get going with their shelters or I would have let them sleep on the ground. But with only 7° C at night, windy conditions and possible rain I wanted to make sure they were safe during the night. So I asked them to get going with their shelters as I started to clear an area for our campfire. I showed them the principles of a standard A frame lean-to and how to lash the branches together. Amazingly what they did afterwards was to work together and help each other build their shelters. The younger one lashed his tarp to the frame using the same knots he just learned to tie his shoelaces with. To me however the most important thing is that now they have an understanding of how to make a basic shelter for themselves should they ever need to. Even if we didn’t make the shelters with all natural materials, we talked about how to do it during the process.

While they were finishing their shelters, I had build a small fire. So now our camp was ready.

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The next day we took a stroll in the forest and on the shore of the lake a few hundred meters away from our camp we found a natural shelter that someone else had built. So again we had a talk about how it was made with no cord, no tarp or anything. All adding to their understanding of how to make it themselves. The big difference is that even though they have seen me build a shelter a thousand times, it is not until you try doing it yourself that you start to learn properly. And with kids the key thing about learning is that it has to be fun at the same time.

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All in all it was a great trip where we also got the chance to do both some foraging, some fishing as well as some hatchet practice. The weather forecast said the last day would be rainy. And although the kids loved sleeping in there own shelters they missed the cosiness of us sleeping together. So I rearranged my shelter to fit all three of us. I then used one of the kids’ shelter for storing some dry firewood.

The next day when I woke up the weather was still dry so I made myself a cup of coffee and enjoyed the silent morning. While I was still finishing my coffee the rain started dripping though. I then moved the shelter I had used to keep the firewood dry with over the campfire to protect it a little from the rain. Often when it rains in Denmark it is just sporadic showers of rain. It was the same this day. After a while the rain paused, and when the kids woke up we roasted a final sausage over the fire before packing up. The only real downside of the rain of course was that we had to pack all our gear in wet conditions. But everything went well and we finally hiked back out as the rain quietly fell.

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Bushcraft weekend in Sweden – Part 2: Spending the night

posted in: Bushcraft, Knowledge | 0

Spending the night in a natural shelter with no sleeping bag at temperatures between 0° and 1° C.

 

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My goal for this trip was to test a few different bushcraft skills. One being my ability to build a natural shelter in time before darkness. Another was to test how well I was able to stay warm and dry without rain gear. The third was to see how I would make it through the night with only my Swedish Officer’s wool blanket in temperatures around 0° C.

I was actually hoping for snow. I love how everything looks when covered in snow. The weather forecast said rain with the possibility of snow though.

It took me three hours to finish my natural shelter. During the whole time it had been raining almost non stop. So I was fairly wet when I finally sat down to enjoy my work. At that time the rain had stopped of course.

 

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Although I now had shelter from the rain and the wind, it was also a great opportunity for me to dry up a bit in front of the fire. My pants were literally steaming and I’m surprised how effectively I managed to get rid of the water which had reached my inner wool pants at the time.

I was wearing nothing but cotton BDU pants as my outer layer, so I was relying on my other two layers to keep me warm. Please see my complete gear list for what I was wearing exactly.

When darkness began to fall I had already dried up and my motivation was high. My friend and I were getting ready to make dinner. A roe deer venison. I had actually counted on living from nothing but my home made beef jerky that I brought and maybe a Snickers chocolate bar. But my friend who is a hunter shot a roebuck the week before and he surprised with this great meal. Pure luxury. Nothing beats the taste of wild game meat prepared over a bonfire in the wild.

 

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After dinner all that was left to do was to sit back and enjoy the view over “Store Damm” which translates into “Big Lake”. The location we had chosen for our shelter was on the brink of this lake. It was raining a bit as night began to fall. The temperature had started to drop and it was getting a bit more windy. I had gradually moved the fire a little closer to my shelter and I had built a reflector in order to benefit more from heat.

As the clock struck bedtime I unpacked my wool blanket and got ready to lie down. At this time the rain had turned into sleet at first and then into snow. I took off my outer boots and turned the wool blanket diagonally so my feet and head pointed towards the two opposite corners. Then I wrapped first the bottom corner over my feet and then the two sides around me. I was really comfortable although I hadn’t prepared any extra bedding except for the logs that the bed was made out of. And so I went to sleep confident that my mission was a success.

 

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It was about 3 in the morning when I was awakened by snow flakes drifting on my face. My feet were cold as ice and it was pitch black. My fire had died out. I got out of my otherwise comfortable bed, turned on my night vision head lamp (glad I brought it after all) and started rebuilding the fire. It took me quite a while since everything was wet and there wasn’t much ember left in the ashes. After half an hour or so I was finally warm and comfortable again and I went back to sleep with my boots on.

An hour later I woke up with ease. I had made it through the night fairly well except for the interruption towards the end. The weather had cleared up and it was a beautiful morning. This truly marked the end of winter.

 

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Bushcraft weekend in Sweden: Building a natural shelter

posted in: Bushcraft, Knowledge, skills, Survival | 0

Last weekend I went to Sweden to test a few of my bushcraft skills.

Weather forecast said rain and snow with temperatures near the freezing point. I didn’t bring any sleeping bag, tarp, tent or rain gear.

Inside my backpack I had my Swedish Officer’s Wool Blanket along with my axe, my knife and a few other items such as a headlamp, some paracord, and some dry tinder. See my complete gear and clothing list here. For food supplies I brought some water and my homemade beef jerky as well as two small Snickers bars.

After leaving Denmark and Kronborg Castle behind, my friend and I headed towards the small town of Perstorp in Scania. Or rather the lakes on the outskirts of Perstorp.

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It was already raining when we left the car and started heading into the forest. Everything was wet and on top of that we had to be really careful not to get our feet wet in the numerous waterholes and small streams we had to pass. It wasn’t really a hike. More like a short walk before we found a suitable spot to build our camp: A mix between young birch forest and spruce forest. Right next to the lake “Store Damm” which translates from Swedish into “Big lake”.

I immediately started building my lean-to as I was depending on some shelter from the rain. Underneath my M-65 Austrian Mountain Jacket I was wearing a lot of wool layers so even though I got very wet, I was still keeping warm. If not from the wool I guess from my level of activity.

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Making the shelter:

I picked a spot between two trees with a deadfall lying right next to one of them. I decided to use the deadfall as support for my elevated bed in one end. The other end I supported by tying three thinner logs together.

After that I started collecting logs for my bedding. bringing them back to camp and cleaning them there so I could later use the left over material for sealing off my roof.

I put up the crossbar that was going to hold my roof up. Had I been completely true to my natural shelter I should have used spruce roots for lashing I guess. But being wet and with only little gear I used my paracord for this. At first I rested the crossbar on a branch to one side but I had to raise it further up in order to get a steeper angle on my roof.

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The rest of the work was more simple. Not much thinking needed. Just hard work. I went back and forth in the rain so many times in order to find enough branches for weaving my roof together.

Then I started working on the roofing. I didn’t have enough fresh branches, so once again I had to go back into the forest and find some more materials. I supplemented with some dead spruce branches until I wasn’t able to see the sky through the roof. (Please note that you need to add a very thick layer of branches to your roof in order to properly seal it off.)

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That was it. My lean-to was done and I was able to get out of the rain and allow myself to relax a bit. At that point it stopped raining of course.

It was still a good thing though. Being all wet it gave me a chance to dry up a bit by the fire. My pants were steaming.

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Look out for part 2

 

My backpack: http://www.fjallraven.com/kajka-65

How to make a tinder pouch for bushcraft

posted in: Bushcraft, Equipment, Gear, Knowledge | 0

Last night I decided to make tinder pouch for the fun of it. It is really easy to do. The whole process took me a about an hour to finish. Here’s how you do it.

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First of all you need the following:

Material:
– A piece of hide. I used suede but any kind will do. I would probably recommend leather but you can actually use any material if you want to (plastic will give you a waterproof pouch).

– A string of some kind. Could be leather, paracord, or twine as I used in this example.

Tools:
– A pencil, pen or something to mark the hide with.
– Something round to use as a template. Preferably about 40 cm in diameter. I used a wok lid.
– A folding rule or measuring tape of som kind.
– A small screwdriver or Multi-tool with a reamer, screwdriver or the like.
– A pair of scissors or a sharp knife.

Process:

– First you place the hide on a flat surface.
– Then place your round template over it and draw a line along it. Preferably it should be about 40 cm in diameter. (If you want to extend the diameter of your template, simple add the amount of cm all the way around it that you want to add and mark it with your pencil).
– Using the scissors you cut out the hide along your marks. This will give you a perfectly round shape of hide.
– Next you have to decide how far from the edge you want you string to be. I measured 4 cm from the edge as I like to have a little bit more hide in the top when you close your pouch. I’ve seen other people recommend about 2,5 cm (1 inch).
– Now you mark where you want your holes to be all around the edge. The way I did this was to simply fold the hide down the middle and make a mark in the fold 4 cm from the edge. Then I did the same in the diagonal direction. And after that I folded the hide half way between the four marks I already had. If you did this correctly you will have 8 holes marked.
– Next you mark where  the rest of the holes go. The way you do this is by measuring the distance between the marks you already have. Then divide it into something close to 2,5 cm, but no less than that. In my case the distance was 12 cm, so I made 3 marks with 3 cm between them. That left me with 32 holes.
– Now all you have to do is puncture your marks with your screwdriver (I pre-drilled mine with a point knife to avoid using to much force and accidentally destroying the hide).
Make sure your holes a big enough to allow your string to slide easily.
– Put the string in the holes and tie the ends together.
That’s it.

You can just tie the extend twine around your pouch or use it to fasten it to your belt. You could also make a cord lock if your prefer that.

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Made in America

posted in: Equipment, Gear, Prepping, SHTF, Survival, Uncategorized | 0

Test shooting the Ruger American rifle 30-06.

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On Sunday I was lucky to be invited to the local shooting range by my friend Martin. He was going to zero his rifle for some big game hunting ammo. The Springfield 12.0 g / 185 gr MEGA. But before he did I got the chance to test his rifle. The Ruger American 30-06 with a 22” barrel and a 4 round rotary magazine.

I had seen a photo of this rifle before but when I saw it in real life it looked even better. Simplistic and to the point. No unnecessary details and with a matte black finish both on the barrel and the stock this rifle looks like one that gets the job done.

Let me start by saying I’m far from a gun expert and this is not a scientific test in any way. These are just my thoughts on this rifle. I value having the best tools for any job. Like with my knife and my axe. I’m not a collector. I expect my tools to work and I buy them to use them. Sometimes you pay a lot to get the best tool for a specific job and it will last you a lifetime. Other times you pay a lot and it just doesn’t work for you. Other times again you pay very little and get a great tool that over delivers. This gun I guess is one of those tools. The best comparison I can think of is one of the Mora knives you can buy for as little as $16. You don’t get any knife that will serve you better than one of these unless you pay unproportionally much money to get that extra performance or the security of a full tang. And don’t worry the Mora won’t break by the way.

Now tell me how much rifle do you get for $635 / €536? And yes this is the price for it in Denmark. You can probably get it way cheaper in the US. Well you get quite a lot if you buy this rifle I think.

I was really surprised by how light weight and easy this rifle is to handle. And everything just works. From the bolt with a 70° throw that ensures an easy cocking to the trigger which has a perfect release in my opinion. And if you don’t like it, it is adjustable between 3 and 5 pounds by the way.

I was testing the rifle with pointed FMJs and it was really easy to shoot. It has quite a heavy recoil I think but I guess it is because the gun is so light weight in it self. It wasn’t something that bothered me  in any way though.

I understand that it’s called American because it is made 100% in America. But they might as well have called it American because it was made for the people. It’s like the Volkswagen of guns; Tough, simple and great value for the money. And I think it looks great too.

Website: http://www.ruger.com

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