Wilderness Survival. What can you learn from failure?

posted in: Bushcraft, Gear, Knowledge, skills, Survival, Wild food | 0

Welcome to Undepend 72 Hour Challenge.

This years Undepend Challenge started out in pouring rain. We went from ten participants to two in just two weeks prior to departure. I received the last three cancellations the day before departure. I suppose someone had seen the weather forecast.

As my friend Casper and I drove the 300 km to the pre-challenge base it was already raining heavily. And it didn’t stop until the next morning. When we woke up and packed our things to leave for the wild it was dry for a short while.

The rules
The rules were similar to previous challenges: Spend 72 hours in the wild with 4 items only. Your total gear was limited to: Underwear, socks, pants, footwear, a shirt, a belt, 2 liters of water and 4 items of your own choice. So no shell layer and no sleeping bag unless you chose them as one of your 4 items. My 4 items were a hatchet, a pot, a fire steel and a knife. I know that the hatchet and the knife are outweighing each other a bit but I just like having my knife with me as well.

The concept
The idea behind Undepend 72 Hour Challenge is to challenge the participants and teach them how to thrive in the wild with less gear than they are used to. Once you learn that everything you need can be found in nature you will feel more comfortable and confident if you end up in a survival situation.

Chances are that if you end up in a survival situation you don’t have acces to a sleeping bag or even your rain jacket anyway. Because you don’t normally plan for accidents. You don’t always bring a jacket in your car and you don’t bring your sleeping bag on a plane. Even on short hikes people usually don’t plan for getting lost. They don’t expect their short day hike to turn into a survival situation. However it is often people like that who get lost in the wild. And they are often found exhausted or disoriented close to civilization.

Challenge start
We drove our car as far into the forest as we could before the trail became to rough to continue. We parked the car and got out. The challenge was on.

It was raining just a little bit as we headed into the forest. But the night before it had been poring down so everything was extremely wet and slippery. I think we walked for no more than ten minutes before both my socks and shoes were soaking wet. My pants were wet up to my knees. I had expected this so it wasn’t a problem at all. My plan was to push through, build a shelter and get a fire going later on. The bigger challenge was to find some dry tinder since we couldn’t bring anything with us at all. Everything around us was wet. I found a few semi dry pine branches as well as a piece of fairly dry birch bark that I brought along in my pot.

Walking in circles.
We soon passed a small stream and we talked about camping in that spot since we would have easy access to a safe water supply. We wanted to go deeper into the forest however and figured it would be easy to find water in this weather. After walking for about an hour or so we suddenly realized we had returned to a place we had passed half an hour earlier. With no compass, dense vegetation and heavy clouds, navigation was difficult. We had to try again. We set a tree behind us as a marker and used a tree further ahead of us as another marker. We were trying to avoid walking in circles again. But the terrain was also very rocky with a many differences in height. It wasn’t easy and I think it was down to luck rather than skills that we didn’t end up walking in circles again. Instead we walked straight out of the area and suddenly we stood by a paved road. We had to turn around again and try the opposite direction. At this point we had spent a couple of hours walking around and we decided that we should find a place to camp within the next hour. It had been raining on and off ever since we left the car so we were very wet at this point.

Imperfect spot
About four hours into the challenge we finally found a spot to camp in. It wasn’t the perfect spot but we were under pressure to make a camp before sundown. Casper had brought a tarp as one of his items, so he was fairly quick to set up his shelter. I was still walking around a bit restless trying to find some leveled ground and a spot with some natural materials to use for my shelter. I decided to build an A-frame lean-to in order to get as much protection from the wind as possible. It’s a classical wilderness survival shelter. Since I didn’t have a jacket or anything else to protect me from the elements, I figured this was a the right thing to do. I made it tall enough for me to be able to sit up straight under it if I wanted to. This is a good thing to do if you have to spend a lot of time inside it. If it’s raining you want to have a fair amount of indoor space to stay in.

A race against time
Unfortunately there wasn’t a lot of materials around. We were allowed to stay in the area but we didn’t want to cut down trees unnecessarily. So I spent a lot of time walking back and fourth scavenging for materials. It took me about 4 hours before my shelter was finished. I made it just before sundown. We had spent much of the day hiking so I was desperately trying to gather some spruce branches from the bottom of the trees at the same time as I was collecting branches to use as bedding for my shelter. There was no way I would be able to sleep directly on the ground since it was extremely wet and cold. When I was done with the bedding it was already getting dark. I had only managed to collect a few spruce branches to use as kindling. And they were still a bit wet. During our hike through the terrain, I had dropped the tinder I collected earlier, so I had to look for suitable tinder as well. I found some birch bark but it was soaked. I thought it might dry out so I brought it with me anyway. It was a race against time and I was loosing it. I found a fallen tree where I was able to collect some semi dry wood from the inside of it but now it was so dark that walking around in the forest was becoming too risky. I settled with the thought that I would have to spend the night in my shelter without getting a fire going.

Spending the night
Knowing that the coldest time of the night is usually around 4 to 6 in the morning right before the sun rises, I decided to get some sleep right away while the air was still somewhat warm. Without a fire this was going to be a cold night. On top of that I was wet from my thighs down. And I mean soaking wet. Luckily I was wearing wool socks, a wool t-shirt and a long-sleeved wool shirt on top of that. But my pants were made of cotton.

I was knackered as I lay down on the branches I had used as bedding. so I didn’t pay any attention to the rain outside. I just closed my eyes and fell asleep. When I woke up the next morning I was so well rested that all the struggle I had been through the day before was forgotten … I’m kidding of course. I woke up a few hours later from a drop of water hitting me right between my eyes. I was shivering heavily and I had severe muscle cramps in my left leg. It was really cold and it was only 11.30 PM. I sat up for a while trying to get rid of my muscle cramps before I lay down on my other side and fell asleep again. Throughout the night my body was shivering to stay warm and I remember two dreams reappearing throughout the night. Hugging my wife and eating a burger. Basic needs covered in my dreams I guess.

The next morning
The night continued like this. Me waking up, trying to get rid of my muscle cramps and turning to the other side to get some sleep again. At 4 o’clock in the morning I got up. It was till dark but the cold prevented me from getting any more sleep. I waited another hour or so before I could see a bit of light appearing in the sky. And yet another hour later it was finally becoming light enough for me to see what I was doing.

I immediately started searching for dry firewood. The weather was actually fine right now but it had been raining all night and everything was wet. Even the mushrooms couldn’t hold more water. At the same time I was exhausted from the cold night, the physical activity and a lack of food. Last year we had plenty of berries to eat but this year it was as if we had come later in the season. There were only very few berries to be found and the ones we did find were either tasteless or not ripe. We found loads of mushrooms however but they don’t provide the same amount of energy as berries do. And some mushrooms you have to cook before you can eat them so the lack of fire was an issue again.

At this time Casper woke up. Or at least I thought he did. You see he had been awake for an hour or so without being able to move or speak he told me. Since he was also soaked when he fell asleep it seems his tarp had worked more like a greenhouse keeping all the moist inside instead of protecting him against the rain. He had also suffered from muscle cramps during the night and since he had slept directly on the wet ground with only the tarp as protection he was probably even more cooled down than I was.

We agreed that we would not spend another night out there unless we got a fire going. Since we were both extremely wet it would be too risky and not worth it unless we were able dry up.

The last battle for fire
I managed to find a bit more kindling but not much. However the tinder was still wet so I still wasn’t able to get a fire going. But now the sun was actually shining so I was hoping that it would dry things up during the next couple of hours. Often however if the sun is shining early in the morning the weather becomes cloudy later. This morning was no different. Soon clouds began to fill the sky again. We were a bit low on water now and since we had moved away from the stream earlier we had to locate some safe drinking water soon. We were very close to a lake this time however so we walked down there to fill our bottles. On the way I collected some Broadleaf plantain that I thought would give me some energy later. I was still hoping to get a fire going so I kept them for later.

When we got back from the lake we sat down to make a plan. Casper told me that he had heard me walk around looking for firewood this morning, but unable to talk to me he thought I had woken up well rested and fit for fight. But when our eyes met he was relieved to see that he wasn’t the only one who had suffered. At this point we both realized that we didn’t have any more in us left to give. We looked at each other and ended the challenge right there. About 25 hours after start. It immediately felt like the right thing to do. At this point I wasn’t thinking clearly. My energy and my motivation was gone.

The interesting thing is even before we decided to end the challenge you could tell by our conversation that we had already given up mentally. We discussed how impossible everything was, how little energy we had left and so on. It was a looser’s talk.

So what mistakes did we make and what can we learn from them?

We didn’t S.T.O.P.
It was my own suggestion to keep pushing through in the rain because I was looking to get a bit further into the wild. This was probably the biggest mistake we made and the mistake that prevented us from succeeding. If we had stopped by the small stream in the beginning of the challenge we would have had plenty of time and energy left to build a shelter and possibly even a fire. We would have had easy access to water and we wouldn’t have become as wet as we did from hiking through the wilderness for hours. So even without a fire we probably wouldn’t have ended up on the border of hypothermia. During the hike I also lost some of the dry tinder I had found so the chance of us getting a fire going would have been much bigger.

Walking in circles.
Even if the terrain was hard to navigate in without a compass we could have done more to check our direction. Despite the rain clouds we could still sense the direction of the sun and we could also have used the trees to set a direction. But because we were too eager to get going we didn’t do any of it. And we ended up wasting energy unnecessarily.

We picked the wrong spot to camp in.
Because of time pressure and fatigue we picked a spot without sufficient supplies in the vicinity. This meant we had to work harder to build our shelters and we didn’t have easy access to food and firewood.

We gave up.
It is very likely that we would have made it if we hadn’t lost our motivation. After all it wasn’t raining when we ended the challenge. It was wet but not raining. Possibly we might even have gotten a fire going within a few hours if things had dried up a bit. But we lost the will to try. This is probably the hardest thing to acknowledge but also the biggest lesson we learned from our trip. Never give up and keep a positive mental attitude because mood affects your abilit to act.

 

 

From Mozambique to South Africa

A day hike that turned into an illegal border crossing

Usually my blog posts are about my latest trips. Here is a story that happened four years ago in Mozambique.

About four years ago I was in Mozambique working with an NGO. My friend Thomas and I worked on a project in Maputo which took us deep into the townships of Maputo and to some interesting meetings with local entrepreneurs. After about a week in Maputo, we headed for the coast in order to spend a few days in a beach house in Ponta d’Ouro. It was Thomas, his brother Troels, a friend of ours called Anders, his son Henrik and me. Anders and Troels both lived in Mozambique at the time so they had borrowed the house from a friend.

We were all full of expectations as we sat in Troels’s turquoise blue 4×4 on our way to the ferry. We were going to cross the Umbeluzi River from Maputo to Catembe. But on our way through Maputo, right before we reached the ferry, the car breaks jammed and we had to take our car to a mechanic. It was a setback for about an hour. It was a good thing it didn’t happen during our 4 hour long ride through KwaZulu-Natal however. A trip you can only make in a 4×4.

It was a long and beautiful but bumpy ride. And before we reached Ponta d’Ouro it was dark long ago.  My friend Thomas and his brother Troels are both keen surfers, so they had already set their minds on hitting the waves the next morning. Knowing that this was one of the most shark infested waters in the world I made other plans.

The next morning I packed my backpack, told my friends that I would take a hike down the coast and that they should start looking for me if I wasn’t back before sundown. The weather was nice and it was quite warm although this was winter in Mozambique. The weather forecast said that there was a bit of rain coming in from the east but otherwise it would be fair weather. And so my trip started.


I went down to the beach from where the surfers took off. The right side of it was cut off by a cliff extending into the ocean. As I walked towards the cliff this black labrador came towards me as if it knew me. I said hello to it and pushed it away gently. I continued to walk towards the cliff but the dog kept following me. As I reached the cliff, I started climbing onto it to see if it would be possible to get around it. Hiking on the coast can be very dangerous if you’re cut off by the tide with nowhere to escape. So I was careful not to go too far without having an escape route. This was completely unknown territory to me so I was being extra careful. I managed to get on top of the cliff to a place where I could walk more easily. It was razor sharp with small holes in it everywhere. – It was almost like touching broken glass. Definitely not a place you would want to get stuck in.

The dog was still following me like we were playing some kind of a game. I made an effort to ignore it and I tried pushing it away more aggressively several times. Little did it help. I thought it might give up once we got further away from it’s known territory.

As I made my way around the cliff I was met by the most amazing view. A desolate sand beach stretching as far as my eyes could see. There was no sign of civilization or human activity whatsoever. Not even foot prints or other tracks. It was like I had just entered a completely different world.

In the horizon I could see a mountain. I decided that to be my destination. Not knowing how far away it was or if I would be able to reach it at all. By now the dog had been following me for quite a while so I thought to myself that I would let him come along with me. Like I had a choice anyway. I thought it might be a good idea to have a dog for protection if I was to meet some dangerous animals on my way. I realized now that I was heading into an untouched wilderness like I had never seen it before. Little did I know at the time that the area I was entering is called Kosi Bay – also known as “Predator Bay”. The home of both crocodiles, hippos, sharks, pythons and more. As I stood there alone with the waves of the Indian Ocean on my left, an endless and completely untouched sandy beach ahead of me and dense vegetation on my right I had this indescribable feeling of total freedom. Something I had never felt before in my life. I hadn’t planned this trip remember. I didn’t bring a map and I didn’t do any research about the area in advance. I had just told my friends was where I was heading and that they should start looking for me if I wasn’t back before sundown.

As I walked towards the cloud covered mountain in the distance I could see thousands of ghost crabs scurrying in and out of the water with the waves. I remember thinking that they would make excellent survival food. I found a cuttle bone in the sand that I brought as a primitive weapon in case I should need one. The cuttle bone is the internal shell of the cuttlefish. It has a sharp edge and is very point in one end. The only gear I had brought was my Haglöffs day-pack with a couple of liters of water in two plastic bottles, a fire steel, my “Victorinox Mountaineer” Swiss knife, a Silva compass and a small back-up compass.

The dog was chasing the ghost crabs around the beach before they disappeared into small holes in the sand. I thought it would be interesting to see if I could actually catch one myself. They appear to be right in front when you see them but once you get closer, they’re gone as quickly as they show up. I tried figuring out their pattern of behavior and realized that if I could cut them off before they reached their small holes I might be able get a hold of one. After a few attempts I finally managed to catch one. I quickly released it again, caught another one and then left them alone. That’s when I looked up and saw a big black silhouette moving over my head. It was an African Fish Eagle (Haliaeetus vocifer) I tried to take a photo of it but by the the time I had gotten my pocket camera out, it had moved too far in over land to get a good picture of it. It was amazing to see it in real life though.

I was walking close to the water. It’s much easier to walk on the wet sand closer to the water than it is in the dry sand. And it’s more fun. Of course I was surprised by a wave leaving me with both my shoes and socks wet. I took off my shoes and socks and tied them to my backpack and then continued bare footed. After all I was just walking on a sand beach.

I had been walking for more than an hour by now – maybe two – and the mountain in the horizon didn’t seem to be getting closer at all. I was beginning to doubt whether it would be possible for me to reach it at all. And now I could see heavy clouds coming in from the east. It was going to rain and I didn’t bring any rain gear or extra clothing. The climate was very warm and I had not expected to go hiking when I left Denmark. I took off my shirt and put it in my back pack. I would rather walk half naked in the rain and have some dry clothes to put on afterwards.

After another hour or so I was finally making progress. Suddenly the mountain was getting bigger. I was getting closer to my destination. I was excited to see what was ahead and it wasn’t long until I was finally there. As I walked closer the first thing I noticed was a river mouth. Another thing I noticed was animal tracks. I had no idea what kind of animals I could expect to see here so it was both exciting and a little bit worrying at the same time. After all this was Africa.

I had reached my destination and my plan from here was to go inland and find the main road back to Ponta d’Ouro. I soon realized that this was easier said than done though. The vegetation here was reaching beyond the shore and the only way for me to get off the coast was to cross the river. I started walking into it head on to see how deep it was but I soon realized that it was too deep and the current also seemed stronger than I had anticipated. I didn’t want to take any chances so I went back and found a place further up the river where it broke into a few more shallow streams. Here I could see the bottom and I managed to find my way towards the bush. I was just about to enter the bush when I heard a loud roar from an animal inside the bush right next to the shore. I didn’t know what it was but my guess was that it might be a monkey that didn’t approve of the dog’s and my presence. It was a deep and loud roar so I wasn’t sure if it came from a monkey or not. I changed direction a bit and managed to find a place where I could get on dry ground. The roars silenced and I made a stop to offer the dog some water. He wasn’t thirsty but we had become good friends by now. This was also the first time I saw signs of civilization since I left the cliff in Ponta d’Ouro. I was on a path now with plenty of human footprints.

As I started to walk inland along the path there were more roars coming from the trees above us. I looked up and saw a group of monkeys moving around. This time time they weren’t as agressive as before though. The path crossed a road now and then. Sometimes I would follow the road. Sometimes the path. I was heading for the top of a mountain. As I continued I passed an amazing thing. A big lake with ancient style fish traps set out by locals. I love to see these kind of techniques applied by indeginous people in present time. As a bushcrafter you can learn so much from these people.

After another half hour or so I finally reached the the top of the mountain and it gave me a chance to look back at the distance I had travelled from the coastline. I finally reached what I expected to be the main road back to where I came from. It was getting a bit late by now so it was a good thing for me to head back as well. I passed a lot of small huts and even a School. I was surprised to see that it had a South African Flag though. After all I was supposed to be in Mozambique.

As I continued I met some local kids and a few cars were passing me by on the way. The road had turned west for a long time which didn’t fit my compass bearings. It was off the direction in which I was supposed to go. After a while I passed a local bar. In this part of Africa it means a small hut full of guys. Outside it 8 men were trying to push a car free from the sand dunes. I went over to help them push and we quickly managed to get the car free. I asked them for directions to Ponta d’Ouro and they said something I was not happy to hear. They told me that all I had to do was to cross the border a few hundred meters in front of us. I realized now that I had accidentally crossed the border to South Africa without bringing my passport.

I considered my options for a second. I could turn around and go back the way I came from. But I wouldn’t be able to make it back before sundown. This meant that I would have to spend the night in the bush. I was unfamiliar with the area and I had told my friends to start looking for me if I wasn’t back before sundown. So this was not a great idea. The other option I had was to try my luck at the border. But you don’t just cross a border without any papers so this was also not an ideal situation. I went for the latter option however thinking I would be able to talk my way out of this.

As I approached the border I was met by two young men in full combat uniforms, bordeaux berets and machine guns. They represented the South African side of the border. I explained my situation to them and they smiled at me almost with indulgence and told me that they could let me through to the Mozambican side of the border. But they also made it clear to me that they would not let me in without a passport. I was happy to get this far however and I thought to myself that I had made it halfway through the border. When I entered the Mozambican side there were a few people here and there. No one seemed to notice me so I just kept walking. I thought to myself that I might be able to make it through without my passport. That’s when I heard a deep voice shout at me. “Hey you! Come here please!”. It was a female border patrol officer in a black uniform. A big black woman.

I explained my situation to her as I had just done it to the border patrol officers on the South African side. She looked at me with disbelief so I pulled out my iPhone and showed her the pictures I had taken along my trip. She then asked me about the dog. She was laughing now. When I told her that the dog had just followed me and that I was unable to get rid of it she was laughing so loud that one of the other officers came out to ask what was going on. She told him the story in Portuguese and now I had two people laughing at me. Another officer came along and soon he was laughing at me too. I laughed with them thinking that I would up my odds if we all became friends. She said something about letting me pass the border so I thought to my self that this was going well. That’s when her boss came along. He was not in the same kind of good mood and he told me that there was no way I would get into Mozambique without my passport and papers. He even added that if I failed to provide it before the border closed he would send me back to South Africa where they would put me in jail. My phone had no connection so he let me borrow his old Nokia to try and contact my friends. I only had my friend Thomas’ number and he didn’t answer his phone. He also had a Danish service provider so I didn’t even know if he had a connection. Further more he was probably still out surfing. It was about 4 o’clock now and the border was closing at sundown which was at 5. I tried calling him several times with no luck. Then one of the border patrol officers suddenly pointed his gun at the dog and told me to look. I didn’t understand what he wanted at first but then I saw it: A big telephone number written in black marker around its collar. “Yes, of course!” I said.

I immediately called the number and this English lady answered the phone. I told her about my situation as well as how her dog had followed me from the beach. She asked me if we just arrived the night before. It turned out that she had seen us when we visited one of local bars. She begged me to hold on to her dog and asked me where we lived so she could make her driver find my friends. I didn’t have the address but I told her that our house was located at the top of the hill and that my friends were probably out surfing. We hung up and I sat down to wait. After about half an hour I still hadn’t heard anything from her, so I called her up again. She told me that her driver had been unable to locate my friends but she was trying find out more. By now I only had half an hour left until I was going to prison in South Africa. When there were 15 minutes left the Chief of the border patrol pulled me aside. He took me to a room next to his office where he opened an approximately 40×50 cm big book almost 10 cm thick. He scrolled through the pages until he found a passage that was supposedly about illegal border crossing. Next to it was written an obscene amount of Metical – the Mozambican currency. I don’t remember the exact number but apparently this was the fine for crossing the border illegally. He then brought me to his office. He sat down and told me that my friends would not come. But he was willing to make a deal with me. Now I knew that I was in Africa. The deal was that I payed a tank full of gasoline for his truck and he would then accompany me to Ponta d’Ouro where I was to show him my passport. If I had my passport there we would be even, if not he would take me “back” to South Africa. I thought it was a fair deal so I agreed. We waited about ten minutes for the police truck to return from another assignment and a minute later I was in the back of it on my way to Ponta d’Ouro. With the dog between my feet of course.

We were driving through the terrain with maybe ten different tracks all leading to Ponta d’Ouro but there was no real road. So when we saw some cars driving in the opposite direction we had to pull to the side. That’s when I noticed that the one in front had a turquoise blue colour. Not the most common choice for a 4×4 here. I knew it was my friends so I told the officer to stop them. It turned out that the English lady had finally found my friends. Anders who was a diplomate at the Danish embassy to Mozambique got out of the car and started talking to the officer. And then they started arguing! Anders looked at me and asked if the officer had taken money from me. I told him that we had made a deal and asked him if there was a chance he could get me out of the police car before he started arguing with the officer. I was finally allowed to go and as I opened the door the dog jumped out and into the car behind which was the English lady’s driver who had come along to pick it up. Safe inside our own vehicle I was officially handed over my passport by Anders. I never got to thank the dog for following me that morning but we had a great trip together and I will always remember him as both my saviour and a great travel buddy.

 

 

 

Canoeing Denmark’s longest river with my kids

posted in: Equipment, Fishing, Gear, Nature | 0

– and some action packed fishing

In the morning of July 25th there were three fully packed Fjällräven Kajka backpacks standing in the middle of our livingroom. Two Kajka Juniors for my boys aged 7 and 9. And one 65L pack for me with an Abu Garcia fishing rod bag further attached to it.

My boys and I were ready to leave for a canoe trip down Denmarks longest river. The 176 kilometer long Gudenå running through the middle of Jutland from Vejle to Randers Fjord. Our plan was to go from Tørring to Silkeborg which is about a 68 km trip.

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Gudenå is known to inhabit a large variety of fish from Salmon, Seatrout, River trout, Rainbow trout, Pike, Perch, Walleye, eel and many more. Our trip was planned to take place on the higher end of the river where there are no salmon and only trout on a rare occasion however.

The journey
We left Copenhagen Central Station at 11.25 A.M. After about 4 hours by train we hit Vejle Station in heavy rain. We sat down and grabbed some lunch before boarding the bus that was to take us to Tørring, the starting point of our canoe trip.  As we drove off we were surprised to see that big parts of the town was flooded. The roads had been turned into streams and I was a little unsure whether we had actually hit Vejle or Venice in Italy.

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The first sight of Gudenå
The bus driver was kind enough to drop us off right next to the campsite were we would spend the night before heading out on Gudenå the next day. We finally stood by the banks of Gudenå. It looked more like a small stream than a river from here really. It was great to see it though. My kids put up our tent as I went to gather some birch bark to start a fire with. We had brought some frozen chicken that had slowly thawed during the time of our trip. It was well timed. We cooked it over the fire and I cooked some rice to go with it on our Trangia.  It had been a long day of traveling and the next day we were going to pick up our rented canoe right next to our camp. So after dinner we basically went straight to bed.

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Canoeing
The first part of the trip felt a bit like a funpark ride. Gudenå is a popular destination and Tørring is probably where most people start their trip on this part of Gudenå. The first 5 kilometres of our trip we ran into a lot of other canoes. And Gudenå is very narrow to begin with so it felt a little crowded.

I was surprised to see how well my boys did at paddling though. I had expected only little help from them on the long trip. But they did a great job. After our lunch break we started to see fewer canoes. The river became wider and nature was becoming more wild. The weather was perfect and we had great fun on our way down the river. We spent the first two days like this. Paddling during the day then setting up our camp for the night, cooking dinner on our Trangia and hanging out a bit and then going to sleep. But then we reached Vestbirk.

Vestbirk
At this point Gudenå turned into three smaller connected lakes. Bredvad Sø, Naldal Sø og Vestbirk Sø. These lakes are the result of a damming made in 1924 to lead water to the then newly created Vestbirk Power plant. The power plant was made after WW1 were supplies of coal and oil were cut off. So after that there was a big interest in creating electricity. The lakes were all created in only 5 days. And right in the middle of them you find Vestbirk Elite Camping. A dedicated campsite with playgrounds, swimmingpools, kiosks and much more. When planning our trip we had agreed to stay here for two nights so the kids could have a break and jump in the pool one day.

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When we first arrived at Vestbirk it looked like nothing more than a great place to camp for the night. You couldn’t see the actual campsite which was hidden behind a small forest on a big hill. It was practically a small peninsula with a lake on each side and a canal connecting the two on the northern side. That day we had only paddled a short distance so we were some of the first people to arrive there. The weather forecast said it was going to rain so we immediately set up our camp. After putting up our small tent I also made a shelter for us to sit under during the rainfall. Nothing beats having an outdoor space to sit under when it rains. Meanwhile my kids were foraging some wild raspberries. We normally use wild berries that we find as ingredients when baking buns. We bake them on hot stones placed in the middle of our camp fire. This time my kids had eaten all the berries before we got around to bake the buns though.

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Rain and angling
We had only just finished our camp before it started to rain. We put on our rain gear and I unpacked my fishing rod. My kids were playing in our camp as I left them to go fishing. I wasn’t going too far away and they had their own phone in case they needed to call me. I love to fish when it’s raining. It’s like the water comes more to life and you feel more camouflaged when it’s pouring down. I had a tip from a local about a spot on the other side of the campsite in lake Naldal. I crossed the small peninsula and found my way through another small forest to find the lake. There was a lot of trees growing on the bank of it so casting was a little difficult. I decided to take a walk along the bank and see if I could find some better spots. I though it would be a good idea to start on the northern corner of the peninsula where the canal ran into the lake. When I got there I found a small clearing between the branches, just big enough for me to cast my spinner.

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I was fishing my way around the water, as much as I could without getting tangled up in the branches. I tried both along the edges as well the middle of the water without any luck. On my way out there I had seen a few other spots that seemed suitable, so after 10 to 15 mintues I moved on. I walked back down along the bank of the lake until I reached another spot. There were a few small islands of trees growing in the water here. It felt like good pike spot. I casted my Mepps Black Fury a few times but quickly hit the weeds. That wasn’t going to stop me though so I kept going still hitting the weeds every other time I casted. Again without any luck. So I moved on again going further back down the bank until I came to a bigger clearing. The lake seemed deeper here, there was a bit more current in the water and also the spot was a bit more windy.

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I casted twice before I felt the first bite. There was no doubt that this was a lively fish. It was a great fight with a lot of action. It didn’t take long before I could see it in the surface though. It was a small pike about 35-40 cm long. I quickly released it and felt confident now that I was in the right spot. With my new gained confidence I casted again. To be honest I’m not sure if I did so once or twice before I felt the next bite. But this time it was a much heavier tug. I kept the pressure on the line as I tightened the break just a little bit. The fish took off to the side heading for the bank. A classical pike move. I tightened the break even further and fought back, trying to prevent the line from getting tangled up in debris or weeds along the bank. I felt some heavy tugs on the line as it went back out a bit. I started pulling it in a bit more and it didn’t take long before I could see it right under the surface. It was big pike. As I battled with it I was trying to unfold my landing nets. I had forgotten to do so beforehand and I knew I wouldn’t be able to just pull this one out of the water with the line. The pike was fighting back heavily though and I had to give up on the landing nets. I decided to land it by hand instead and by now it was really close to the bank. I raised my rod as high as I could as I reached out to land it. I couldn’t see where I hooked it though so I was a little careful not to stick my fingers in it’s geels. I managed to land it though and suddenly it was lying there in the wet grass in front of me. Originally my idea was to realease it although I’m not much of a trophee hunter. But it had completely swallowed my hook so I had to take it with me. Afterwards I saw that it had not only swallowed my hook, it had also broken my pike leader. What a fish. I was grateful that I had caught it and I wanted to make sure it had a meaningful death by making  a particular nice dinner out of it. So when I returned to the camp I carefully filleted it and wrapped it up for the next day. We already had dinner that day. It was a little difficult to fillet it with my Enzo Trapper knife though. Although it’s really sharp and handy it’s just not a fillet knife, but I managed to make some very fine fillets after all.

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I had brought some flour for baking the buns I mentioned earlier so I used some of it as breading for the fillets the next day. I cooked some rice to eat on the side. Then I fried the fillets in butter on our Trangia. I had brought some dried oregano that I added along with some salt and pepper. It was simple and delicious.

Moving on
After spending two nights at Vestbirk it was time to move on. We were now heading for the harder part of the trip. First of all we had a few portages ahead of us and also we were going to canoe some bigger lakes. What we didn’t know was how challenging the trip would end up becoming.

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We took off quite early because we knew we had some kilometres to catch up after our prolonged stay at Vestbirk. Some hours and two short portages later we left a place called Klostermølle – an old watermill. We now headed into the lake of Mossø. A big lake where we needed to locate the place where the Gudenå river continued north. We had been given quite specific directions on where to find it but somehow I misinterpreted the size of our map and we ended up paddling way too far down the lake. It was raining on and off that day and our map was getting totally ruined by water. We hadn’t really needed it before so we didn’t have a plastic pocket for it. Not only did we paddle way to far in the wrong direction, it was also getting late now and the wind direction had changed. So we ended up paddling upwind both ways. The kids were becoming both disillusioned, tired and hungry now. This left a mark on me as well of course. Not a pleasant situation. Had we not decided that we wanted to make it to Ry to deliver our canoe, we would have probably just spent the night in some random place. But we didn’t want to give up and it took us another hour before we finally found our way back to the river. We still had a long way ahead of us if we were going to stick to our plan, but finding the river gave us back some of our good mood. We made a short stop to eat before paddling on through some more windy lakes. Now we even had time and energy to stop and follow a Grass snake (Natrix natrix.) swimming across a smaller lake. It was trying to outswim our canoe to the bank but we kept up with it until we decided to go back to our mission and head on.

The time was 8 p.m. when we passed some locals in a small fishing boat who told us that there was a campsite not far ahead. And finally half an hour later we found it. We were so tired that we didn’t even bother to make dinner. We just put up our tent, had some chocolate and went straight to sleep.

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The last day of canoeing – and some more fishing
The next morning we were met by fine sunny weather. This was such a blessing since we were now able to dry all our wet clothes and gear. We also had a proper breakfast and our mood was back on top. Further more we only had to paddle a short distance before reaching our final destination. We took it real easy and it felt great to get the pressure off our backs. An hour of paddling later we hit land for the last time. We pulled the canoe out of the water, called the canoe rental company to tell them where it was and moved on to setting up our last camp of the trip. We had found a really nice but windy place for it on a small headland right next to the lake. To make it more comfortable we built a shelter to block off the wind. We had brough some of the spruce poles that we used for our previous shelter, so setting it up was easy.

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We had dinner and afterwards the kids sat down by the fire and roasted some marshmallows. I wanted to do my last bit of fishing so I went to stand by the water 3 meters away. A local angler had come by when we were cooking our food. He told me that you could catch perch and eel here. But with no luck he had given up after half an hour or so. I casted a few times and then I felt the first bite. It was a small perch. I casted again. I could see quite a lot of activity in the water with fish regularly jumping in the water. After quite some time with no action I felt the next bite though. This time it was a bigger perch. In my head I had planned on collecting a few more but it was getting dark now. I called it a day happy about the result. We all went to sleep for the last time before heading back home the next morning. It had been a great trip with plenty of beautiful nature sights and more importantly lot’s of quality time spent together.

 

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. It wasn’t until after more than an hour of foraging before I found a small cluster of puffballs (Lycoperdon caelatum). 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.

 

 

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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Bushcraft gear list: 3 days of winter camping in Denmark

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

UPDATED:

I often thought about how little gear you can bring and still stay comfortable in Scandinavia during winter. I’m not talking -30° C here but maybe temperatures between freezing point and -10° C. After all I’m in the southern part of Scandinavia.

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This winter I have decided to do some testing. My friend and I are going winter camping and we have access to a private forest where we can chop down trees if needed, so my plan is to build a natural shelter with a fire and a reflector next to it to stay warm. The question is how much – or little – gear will I need to stay comfortable?

My aim is to do with as little gear as possible while still staying safe and somewhat comfortable. I’m planning on bringing nothing but a wool blanket to sleep on/in, so I will need to wear some really warm clothes and I will definitely need to get a fire going.

Despite going for the minimal amount of gear I am planning on bringing a head lamp and a cooking pot since this is not a survival trip after all – I hope. If you followed me here at undepend.com or on twitter you will know that I have prepared some beef jerky to bring for food as well. And I will also bring some water unless it is going to be snow.

If you comment, also please have in mind that this is not my ideal list. I love natural materials such as wool, skin, fur and leather. I will replace the synthetic parts of my garments over time but for now this is what I have. If I could choose I would wear wadmal pants instead of my BDU pants,  wool underwear instead of my synthetic Helly Hansen underwear and fur or wool mittens instead of ski mittens. (This guy has got it right in my opinion)

Anyway here is my bushcraft winter gear list. Please let me hear your thoughts and improvement ideas.

Clothes (From the inside out):
(1) Short underpants
(2) Helly Hansen long sleeve baselayer top
(3) Helly Hansen long baselayer pants
(4) Long woolen underpants
(5) 2 pairs of wool socks
(6) Green Fisherman Waffle knit wool sweater
(7) Marlboro wool shirt
(8) North Face thermal vest
(9) Norwegian wool sweater – maybe just as an extra
(10) BDU pants
(11) Austrian Mountain M65 jacket – My review here.
(12) Wool scarf
(13) Bucket hat to wear over my Lowe Alpine Mountain Cap.
(14) Lowe Alpine Mountain cap
(15) La Crosse Ridgetop Pac boots
(16) Black gloves
(17) Ski mittens
(18) Leather belt
(19) Enzo Trapper knife
(20) Gränsfors Bruks wildlife Hatchet

In my backpack:
(21) Water container – 5 liter
(22) Paracord
(23) Climbing rope – 5 mm
(24) 2 pack straps
(25) Firesteel
(26) Matches
(27) Head lamp
(28) Metal cup
(29) I left out the cooking pot and added some dry tinder instead
(30) First aid kit
(31) Swedish Officer’s 100% Wool blanket (Not the one shown here)
Money
Mobile phone
(32) Toothbrush/paste
(33) Small piece of soap
Toilet paper

Food supplies:
Water – 5 liter
Beef Jerky – 350 g.
2 snickers bars

My new jacket for winter bushcraft:

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

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The Austrian Mountain M65 jacket. Here’s why I chose it.

When it comes to bushcraft activities, you can forget about down. First of all you need a jacket that is sturdy. It should be able to withstand embers from the fireplace hitting you, it should be able to withstand you walking into or lying on top of branches and it should maintain it’s function even if it get’s dirty.

The Austrian Mountain Jacket M65 was used by the Austrian mountain troops in the Alps where, most of the time, the weather is cold, wet and windy. Just like here in Denmark.

Cotton kills.
The Austrian Mountain Jacket M65 is made from a cotton polyester blend. Yes cotton. Why did I choose a cotton jacket? “Cotton kills” you say. That is true if all you’re wearing is cotton and it hasn’t been treated in any way. Then cotton will leave you with hypothermia. This jacket will work as an outer layer to protect against the wind and rain and has already been surface treated to be highly water and wind resistant. I’m curious to test how well it works though. Otherwise I will have to wax it I guess. The reason why I chose cotton is that it is heavy duty regarding the functions I mentioned above, it is wind and water resistant and it is easy to fix if needed.

There is no such thing as waterproof clothing.
Let’s face it. If you’re in the rain for a longer period of time, you’re going to get wet no matter what. Whether from the outside or from the inside. The trick is to layer up in wool to stay warm and enjoy the water coming at you.

Modern materials such as Gore-Tex will loose it’s capablities if it gets dirty and leave you wet and cold. If you accidentally rip a hole in it, it is hard to fix. With this jacket you can just stitch it back together.

I wanted a long jacket.
This jacket is quite long. The disadvantage being that it can be difficult to access the pockets in your pants and your knife. But since it is so long, you can just wear your belt on the outside of it, giving you very easy access to your knife and axe. Also it has four big front pockets for other things you might need to access easily.

The advantage of it being so long however is that it gives you more protection against the wind. And you also get extra protection from any cold surface you may be sitting on. This jacket also has two strings that you can tighten to prevent air from entering from below. One at the bottom and one right above the two bottom pockets.

The zipper is very sturdy and since it starts higher up the jacket is easy to move around in. Furthermore the jacket is very roomy, leaving plenty of space for layering up underneath it. and it has a light hood stoved away in the collar.

 

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My favourite bushcraft knife – and why.

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

Just starting out with this blog, what would be more essential than to talk about the ultimate survival tool – the knife?

 

I have heard as many views on this subject as I have talked to people about it. I guess your knife says a lot about your philosophy and approach to the outdoor life. So here are my thoughts:

Before I get into the knife talk, let me say that I’m beyond the “strong fixed blad” and “full tang” subject. My guess is that everyone practicing bushcraft or wilderness survival knows these are the basic demands for a knife.

I purposely wrote “bushcraft knife” not “survival knife”. There’s a big difference between the two in my opinion. A survival knife is supposed to solve all tasks you might encounter as you try to find you way OUT of the wild, or while on a military operation. It should be able to function both as a weapon, a chopping tool, a carving tool, a skinning tool for game and so on. It must also be extremely reliable, as your life may depend on it. You might say the same goes for a bushcraft knife. The main difference lies in it’s purpose however.

 

Let’s take a look at the survival knife.
The need for solving many different tasks with one knife makes the survival knife mediocre at each of these tasks in my opinion. Remember most knives are designed to perform a specific task. So having one knife for everything means you have to make compromises. The first compromise is weight. If you need to use your knife as a chopping tool you want it to be somewhat heavy – and longer. The next compromise is it’s handling. If you want to use your knife for carving, you want a knife that is easy to grip in different ways. Survival knives often have finger guards on the handle, that makes it very impractical to carve with. Because you can basically only hold it one way. It’s a great idea if you are going to stab someone with it, because (obviously) you don’t risk injuring yourself. Precision is also an issue. Most survival type knives come with a convex grind, which makes them very sturdy,  but it also makes them less suitable for carving. The convex grind gives you less precision. This brings me to the bushcraft knife.

 

My definition of the bushcraft knife
The bushcraft knife is primarily a carving and skinning tool. It is not made for war. It is made for living IN the wild. Your life may still depend on it, so you want it to be sturdy. I wouldn’t normally use it as a chopping tool though, so I wouldn’t choose a convex grind (I always bring a hatchet for coarse work). I wouldn’t choose a long or heavy knife either. For carving I prefer a fairly short sturdy scandi grind. It is very precise and it’s also safer, because the knife doesn’t slip as easy as a convex grind does. A downside of the scandi grind however, is that it chips much easier than the convex grind. For carving, I want to avoid finger guards. If you’re going to carve holding your knife backwards, when carving a notch for instance (see different techniques here), finger guards are in the way. Now for the compromise. As I said, most knives are designed to perform a specific task. So for field dressing, gutting and skinning an animal, it would be desirable to use a hunting knife. Hunting knives often have a hollow grind, because it creates less friction when cutting the hide. Hunting knives vary a lot, but for field dressing a thin, short, sharp and point knife tends to be the choice. The compromise here is possibly the scandi grind, but it comes much closer to the hollow grind than the convex does, and many people use hunting knives with scandi grind as well. The bushcraft knife blade tends to be a bit thicker than the hunting knives too.

 

So to the point. My favourite bushcraft knife is this one:

Enzo Trapper. Full tang, scandi grind with micro bevel and dangler sheath. Wild Olive handle. Finnish made in D2 steel:

Enzo Trapper 2

 

The Enzo Trapper has a great balance. It looks simple and it is a great carving tool. The drop point blade also makes it ideal for field dressing game, because it gives you better control over the knife. I think it balances well between a great carving tool and a hunting knife. It has a 3,6 mm thick blade, making it very sturdy. And it has all the qualities that I mentioned in the section above about the bushcraft knife. Another detail that I have come love is the dangler sheath that it comes with. It really comes in handy when you’re outside, because it gives you greater freedom of movement. The knife is out of the way no matter where you sit. So you avoid getting poked in your ribs by it’s handle. It is also really easy to access your knife even if it’s raining because you can just swing the sheath outside your rain pants. I realised the other day that the stitches on mine had loosened though, so I guess I will have to write Brisa one of these days to have it fixed or to get e new one.

As the description says, my knife has a micro bevel. If you look really close at the first photo, you can actual tell. It’s really a compromise, because I had chip in it after using it the first time. So I wrote Brisa (the maker of these knives) and they offered me the possibility to send the knife back to them and have a micro bevel put on it. It works really well and I haven’t had a chip since, although some of the scandi feeling is gone. I could also have chosen to have my money back, but it was a great solution. On top of that they treated me with an extra product for my inconvenience AND payed for shipping both ways. Great service from Brisa.

I have read that some people find the handle a bit short for their hands, but it fits me very well. If I had to change one thing about it though, I would probably grind it a bit more round. It can be a little rough on your hands when carving for longer periods of time or when doing hard work with it. But you could always do that yourself. Actually you can buy this knife as a kit that you can build from scratch. I didn’t though. I trust the knife makers at Brisa more than I trust my own skills in this regard.