Pro Tips #3 Volunteer for the unpopular jobs

Volunteer for the unpopular camp chores, if it’s a shit job then it might as well be you that does it.  Take one for the team and do it so that they don’t have to.

Volunteer to go and collect more firewood, Volunteer to pack up the tent in the morning, Volunteer to dig or fill in the latrine, Volunteer to do the washing up after cooking, Volunteer to stay up and keep the fire going when it is cold or to get up early and check the traps.

Let the less experienced people light the fires while you collect the wood.

Never let the same person do all of the Navigating, let the less confident to it sometimes too (whilst keeping an encouraging presence).

Be nice and do things to help others around camp.  Being nice is infectious and so is volunteering for unpopular jobs and in time, everybody will be doing their share.

Out in the open during expeditions, there are few of the usual distractions and coping mechanisms available that people would usually resort to if they feel under pressure.  Personal difficulties arise from a range of directions not usually encountered in day-to-day life in the city.

I have seen grown men spend 2 hours collecting firewood that is wet, green and unsuitable for firewood.  The others in camp took one look at it and derided him for such a basic error.  There was a lot of huffing and puffing and passive aggressiveness going on that evening at that moment.

The guy might have wasted a lot of time, energy and left the group still needing more firewood but he had gone out in the rain and the dark to help the group, he did not do it because he wanted to but because he wanted to do his part and his share of the hardship.

The man reacted himself got upset and told them to go and get fresh wood themselves then ¨if your so f´ing good at it, you do it¨.

You could almost see the division in the group dynamic forming before your eyes.

This is a fairly normal reaction, man makes mistake, man is derided for mistake, man lashes out in retaliation.  In an urban setting, people would disperse, cool off and try again later.

Out in the wilderness, you can´t do that, there is no way out of the situation other than to confront is head on.

Drawing attention to his failure and then having him feel responsible for the entire groups lack of firewood and all that this entails.  Things like that can quickly escalate to a man feeling as though his ¨manhood¨ is in doubt, at risk or non-existent.  This is less of a problem with women as they are not burdened with the expectation that they should be good at all of this stuff no matter what.

Women tend to stop and ask when they are not sure about something where men tend to engage maximum power when they are not sure.

Here is a better way to handle this common scenario (which happens to experienced people from time to time too).

<Man dumps pile of wet wood down>  – ¨OK great, we can use that for something later, I saw a great area with some top-notch seasoned Oak and dry pine, let me show you and i´ll help you get some more.¨

You have to be more careful and considerate around people´s feelings when out on expeditions but be too considerate or too careful and it can have the opposite effect.

Banter is the key to diffusing most tension.

¨Nice one knob head, come on i´ll help you get some more dry stuff¨  Could be just as useful.

Leave a comment, I am genuinely interested in what your views are on this.

Are you planning a trip away or an expedition and need some help?, I offer a range of Expedition skill´s training options, Online Consultancy, Infield Consultancy, Logistics and Planning services.

Get in touch to find to discuss what we can work together on.

 

 

Pro Tips #1

The first in a series of Pro Tips gleaned by me from my lifetime of Bushcraft and Survival training, Wilderness Expeditions, Teaching and Instructing.  I work with some amazing people with some amazing experience behind them and I make a point of making sure that I learn from them so that I can benefit from their experience too.  I want to pass this on to you too so that you can get access to this hard to come by information that can only be learned from the best.

Before making camp, stop, sit, listen, look, breathe and take ten minutes to tune into the place and take in the details. You will be amazed at the extra things that you will become aware of, the ants nest by the sleeping spot, the firewood availability, the proximity to other wanted or unwanted things that are important may not be obvious at first glance.

I was on an expedition in the Arctic at the end of summer and we were finding it difficult to find a good campsite that head everything we needed.  It was cold and it was raining.  We all just wanted to get the camp set up, warm up, dry out and have dinner.  We settled on an area by a river but it looked like firewood was going to be scarce.

Everything was wet, we couldn’t see anything suitable to get the fire going.  To dial up the urgency of the situation, it was getting dark so we knew that we had to get a move on and get enough dry wood to last us the night.

We frantically scoured and search the area, nothing.  We ended up several hundred meters from the campsite, chopping, sawing, lifting and carrying only to find that what we had collected was damp and no good.

Tired from the days exertion and the past 45 minutes of frantic effort, we decided to take a break.  We rested at our chosen camp site, I let my mind wander as i looked around and took in the view.  A massive river was by my side, several hundred meters across and the far bank gave way to a series of mountains with snow on the summits.

I watched as some bird flew around nearby, a Robin was switching between branches around us and angrily chirping away trying to scare us off.  I like it when they do this, I find it endearing.  As my mind drifted back to our predicament, I noticed a very old fallen pine tree a few meters away.  The stump of this was bone dry and saturated with pine resin.  The stump was splintered into perfect sized kindling, i did not even need a saw to collect it.  next to that was a fallen branch that once cut up, would be good for a few hours of firewood.

My team mate had a similar experience of his own and found several standing dead pine right there next to our camp, once cut, these would fulfill our firewood needs for the night.

The moral of the story, if i need to point it out, is that everything that we needed was right there in front of us but we were so rushed that we failed to notice this.  By sitting for ten minutes, slowing down and finding the rhythm of nature again, we were able to see things that we had not seen before and everything suddenly got a lot easier.

 

Making kindling for your Woodstove with a knife

Making good kindling from larger firewood for your woodstove at home or even while camping is easy, you just need some firewood, a knife and a heavy stick.

We use kindling in the early stages of making our fires, first we light some Tinder, then we use Kindling to get the fire going and then we add bigger fuel and then bigger fuel and so on.

Rather than spend hours walking around the woods collecting small branches for kindling, here i’ll show you how to make kindling for the wood stove using the bigger bit of firewood that you already have.

I prefer not to use an axe inside my cabin, I have found that I have more “close calls” or minor injuries when I use an axe inside because I am not able to move around as much to put my body into the optimum position for safe axe usage.  I also do not have a decent backstop inside at the moment, if i did, I probably would.

However, a knife and a baton (a heavy’ish stick) work very, very well and you can have a pile of kindling built up in no time.

All that need be done is for you to find a decent sized, heavy, preferably rounded stick so that it does not hurt your hand and use that to baton (hit) your knife into a piece of firewood that has a diameter no more than 3/4 the length of your blade.

Place the knife inline with the grain of the wood and tap it in with the baton, use the weight of the baton to do the work and the wood will eventually split.  Keep splitting it down until you reach the desired size.

It is, for some reason, incredibly pleasing to split wood this way, I can’t really explain why but it is so satisfying, you will have to experience it for yourself.

Occasionally, you will get a piece of wood that has a knot in it.  These can be very stubborn and your knife may well become stuck in the work piece.  When this happens, simply drive a wedge into the crack at the top, this will force the wood to split and release your knife at the same time.

For the wedge, one of you already split bits of kindling will likely be enough, if not then you will have to carve one or split one.  It does not have to be perfect or neat, just roughly wedge shaped and strong enough to be pounded into the crack.

Sometimes, your knife might pivot downward.  You have to use your body weight on the hand holding the knife to keep it level but if you cant (see above), gently tapping it down with the baton will help but do not pound the handle, this could damage the knife.

This method does not blunt the blade on your knife.

In this video, you can watch me doing it should there be any doubt.

This method is much safer than using an axe and is the preferred option in low light or when a bit tired, working indoors or in some other confined space where axe use is not a sensible idea.

Remember, this is important, keep every part of your body well clear of the knife.  When that wood splits, the knife will very quickly slice downward and there will be no stopping it so always make sure that no part of your body is in the path of that knife as it moves downward.

A kneeling position lends itself to safe splitting as your legs are behind you.

As you are working with a sharp tool, you should have a first aid or trauma kit close by should the unexpected happen.