Friday, 14 March 2008

Kit husbandry.

Our kit is generally our first line of defence against the elements when we go bush ..........regardless of wether were weekending it in sunny sussex or on a course in the frozen north. It therefore seems obvious to me we should look after it!!

Good care and maint of kit will see it giving you years of service - some times even becoming like trusted friends.

Yet all that common sense above is so found lacking in the individual - more than once I have been told I should design a course about how to be efficient in the field.

For example on a trip to the snowy world the group we lead had to tow Pulka's with their gear in - arriving at the car park everyone quickly packed and harnessed up, well all except one team. Due, in part, to misinformation this pair found themselves packing and unpack their pulka while the whole rest of the group stood around getting cold - having not gone anywhere that wasnt a problem but had we been hauling and been warmed up maybe even a little sweaty - that delay would have chilled us and in extreme bad weather could even have killed!!

More so in the snow Maja maja disou (a mishceivious sprite who hides people gear in the snow until the spring thaw) would have a field day with a disorganised shrafter.

The principle of ruthless efficiency is simple - we use a item and then we put it back.

Study the three pictures below - all are experienced outdoors mens gear - all the kit needed for a week in the mountains at temperatures down to - 25 - see if you can see whose kit Maja maja disou would have the most fun with??

Question - a kero lamp is knocked over - the curtains go up - its midnight and mihus 17 outside - who of the above people is most likely to be able to grab all their kit and flee the building, survivng both the fire and the killer weather outside??

The idea also extends to your personal kit - that which you carry on your body. A possibles pouch for example might contain first aid and survival items but is no good if you unpack it and leave the items all over the table when you go out - as a rule I always carry a small cuts (and a FFD) first aid kit on my person if its not in a pocket its on my belt. The same applies to a cutting tool - which is always clean and kept sharp - a blunt knife is a screwdriver!

Once accused of carrying a load of s**te in my pockets by a fellow we'll call Johnny I challenged this deep and meaningful remark. The kit I carry in my pockets (a old army habit) is plentiful but all of it useful - as was proven when I magically conjured up items needed for a first aid lecture, or on other occasions when I magically produce the contents of a fire lighting lecture from my personal gear - so this isnt a load of s**te quite the reverse its all practical gear which I know how to use and which has won its place there from hard earned experience!! But its also not an item more than I need carry - ruthless effeciancy again!

Last thought on ruthless effeciency - be wary of arrogance, I am the expert I know everything I dont need this, or you have to much of that ect ect sound familiar??

We hear it all the time - but heres the thing, their level of skill and yours might be different, the expert who brings all his kit up in a landrover can afford to carry loads of gear - the expert who works predominently in a cold enviroment or a desert will have a finely tuned kit but will also have all his creature comforts - while you have to carry in your gear - maybe even get it in via customs ect - maybe the enviroments new to you too so you have a few 'just in case' items.

Thats cool as long as you treat the "we live here" or the "we know best" gang with a pinch of salt learn from them thats the whole point but evaluate what your learning - many is the time Ive been with so called experts or natives who've shown major gaps in their skills, their personal hygiene and their ability to function without kit!

So to summarize - carry less by knowing more is our aim - thus lightening our load and proving we have the skills to move through nature at one with her - but where we do need kit we need to show good skills - for kit husbandry is a skill and an important one probably more important than bow drill for example - so its a skill we must master. Be selctive of what you carry and how and where - have safety items to hand always - but most importantly if its not being used its packed - that way if the world turns to a pound of pooh in the night you can grab all your gear in a heart beat and escape the problem - maybe ruthless effiecence is a skill above all others that will be most likely to save your life!!

Bearclaw Winter WEISS 2008

The Weiss course was designed and established 40 years ago and the programme hasnt changed much since then.
Essentially the idea is you do a summer or temperate course to test your everyday skills - (skills which are much of a much ness the world over, by this I mean fire lighting in Swedish summer is not much different to fire lighting in scotland or Africa or Australia .............but fire lighting in the frozen north when the woods appears dead but is really just frozen is a different matter!) then you progress to a winter course which teaches you the skills needed to preserve life either above the tree line or in a snowy wonderland!!

Ideally all those attending the Winter WEISS are there by either invite or by the fact they have proven themselves good enough to pass the Temperate course. In many ways they are the elite, showing courage, fortitude and great personal inner strength as well as the highest level of personal skill.

The course itself is more relaxed than the Summer WEISS as learning is key - at minus 12 with a wind chill of minus 25 you can not afford to make mistakes!! The subject range is wide and varied as you would expect but the skills required to preserve life are paramount and as such much time was dedicated to them - especially such things as teaching the students (by trial and error) the difference in snow types and the types of shelters you can and cant build easy it is in a survival manual when you read "build a snow trench or a quince"!!
The Winter WEISS students now the reality of it! Half a day was spent making Quince and digging out snow blocks - in the wrong type of snow ...............the school of hard knocks maybe but the lesson was well learned!!

As was the fact of how warm the interior of a well made snow hole can be - indeed so much so that several people chose to sleep outside as the shealters were too warm!!

After life preseveration comes Life saving .........and here our Swedish instructor Kim (author of medical/first aid manuals and ski patrol leader) did a great job teaching the course practical skills for the winter enviroment including a avalanche casualty evacuation with a real casualty (we a live one anyway.

Ultimately the winter enviroment is a beautiful place - but a world not to be taken lightly!! As Robert Service says in the poem "spell of the Yukon - send me you strong and your sane!" for the winter WEISS, like the winter world of the north, is not a course for the fair weather crafter - it is a course design by and lead by expereinced winter outdoorsmen and it is a course aimed at teaching those who have reached or are reaching the peak of their bushcraft skills and training so congratulations to all those who attended this highly educational learning experience!!

Tuesday, 11 March 2008

Winter WEISS 2008

Playing catch up with all things means I havent had time to put virtual pen to paper but having just returned from a excellent week in the Swedish mountains on the winter weiss course I thought I'd link Johans Blog to this post so you can all get a taste for the fun we had - at least until I get a chance to compile my own thoughts.

Brilliant piece Johan mate!!