Buying a gift for somebody who loves nature, muddy trails and The Great Outdoors is always tricky. Chances are that they already have the equipment and clothing they need for doing what they want to do – what the bl**dy hell do you buy that you know that they will LOVE and remember for years to come? Continue readingRead more... →
This blog post is primarily aimed at those who have just attended one of our Level 2 (Mountain) Navigation courses, either on a public course or as a private client. That doesn’t mean that the information below is ONLY of relevance to those who have just visited us in North Wales, but that is the intended audience. Continue readingRead more... →
Shoulder bags are often the unloved stepchild of tactical and utilitarian outdoor gear. They have to function well in that narrow range between “just put it in your pocket” and “you’ll need a rucksack”. I do use them, but they have to work hard to earn their place in my kit loadout. Continue readingRead more... →
A few weeks ago I was asked a very pertinent question:
“Do you really need another sodding torch?”
Open on my browser was the page on the TRC Outdoors website for the Polymath Products OmniTorch – a cube-shaped LED cliplight with multiple attachment options. I have enough LED lighting scattered around the office and my truck to light up the Western Hemisphere. Do I need to spend £12.99 on another lighting source? Continue readingRead more... →
I’ve been aware of UK veteran-owned brand TRC Outdoors for a while, so when Brian from surveillance and fieldcraft specialists Kamouflage Ltd offered to send me the TRC Outdoors Cierzo shirt and Timmy hat to try out over the summer I was happy to help out.
I had the opportunity to try them both out over the last few weeks on some of our Outdoor Professional courses and a few mountain trips. This review is based on that use in the mountains and forests of North and Mid Wales and a few Scottish excursions. Continue readingRead more... →
We took a call from a producer working with international music video and film production company Great Guns to help out with finding locations for their new production – the music video for James Blunt’s new song “Cold”. We launched straight into recommending, shortlisting and then recce-ing locations for them along the coastline of North Wales on Anglesey and the Llyn Peninsula. Continue readingRead more... →
Axes are great. I use them every week, and have been swinging them around for at least 20 years. They are versatile tools, and as important as a crafting item as an outdoor safety/survival tool. I couldn’t do my job without one. Continue readingRead more... →
If you have visited the mountains of Snowdonia, in particular the area around Snowdon itself, you will probably have come across one of these small, blue circular plaques pinned to a gatepost or stile. Their purpose is fairly self-explanatory, with “CYFEIRNOD GRID/GRID REFERENCE” printed around the edge. Continue readingRead more... →
Our foraging course has been by far our most popular public skills course for a decade now. Alongside those public course dates we have been training chefs, outdoor instructors and group leaders in the basic skills of foraging – plant and fungi identification, use of guidebooks, how to use and process plants and the laws that cover foraging and the picking of wild plants in the UK. We have also covered the acquisition of wild protein – both inland and on the coast, including shooting, fishing and how to cook and prepare what you gather. Continue readingRead more... →
This is a common question from clients who are heading out for their first ‘wild’ camping trips in the mountains and forests of the UK – what am I going to eat?
We have normally gone through the laws of wild camping and taken a good look at the other parts of the equipment list, but food can sometimes be a bit of an afterthought. Wet or dry, bought or made – and just how much do I need to bring? Continue readingRead more... →
I reviewed the 2019 Mountain Equipment Firefly down sleeping bag for UK outdoor news and discussion site UKHillwalking.com. It’s small, light and cleverly designed – but is it warm enough for a Welsh spring? Continue readingRead more... →
In this blog post I will do my best to explain it, pick out the relevant parts of the legislation and steer a forager, bushcrafter or ethnobotanist in what is (hopefully) the right direction.
At the bottom of this blog post is the shortened explanation (a tl;dr), but for those who want to know exactly where that came from here are some blocks of legal text:
There are two mapping scales that tend to be used for walking, mountaineering and other human-powered travels across the landscape in the UK – 1:25,000 and 1:50,000 scales. The main producer of topographical maps for outdoor activities (and everything else) is the Ordnance Survey (OS), and the 1:25,000 (Explorer) and 1:50,000 (Landranger) scales are readily available at outdoor shops, online and local retailers. They also produce various digital mapping products, as well as an online mapping service and smartphone app. Continue readingRead more... →
We have added new dates to the 2019 course calendar to cope with demand for our Foraging and Wild Foods day course, plus launched brand new Level 1 and Level foraging training courses for professionals and those who want to take their foraging seriously. Continue readingRead more... →
After reviewing their Raptor waistcoat I was contacted by UK brand Country Innovation to take an early look at their brand new waterproof smock design – the Woodlark. It’s listed on the Country Innovation website as being “made from a tough cotton outer fabric, which, when combined with the waterproof/breathable lining, offers great protection from wind and rain“.
With the wet and windy months of December and January coming up I accepted the offer and did my very best to try and kill, or at least maim, this waterproof outer layer. I was mildly surprised with how good the Raptor waistcoat was, so would I be as impressed with a sub-£300 waterproof from a smaller British brand?Read more... →
Back in November 2018 I spent a couple of days working on two articles for VICE – one was taking renowned sandwich chef Max Halley foraging for edibles on a North Wales beach, and for the other I wandered around a damp forest with writer Angela Hui and photographer Elijah Thomas. Each piece was part of a wider project promoting the idea of ‘microgapping’ in the UK. Continue readingRead more... →
Water filters are becoming increasingly popular in the Uk hiking and outdoors market, and what was once seen as a niche item for overseas travel and expeditions are now starting to be habitually carried in the UK by adventurers of all types.
The Grayl Ultralight purifier bottle is a bit of a hybrid between a filtration bottle and something that can be used to transfer that cleaned water to another container – something that dedicated water filter/purifier bottles often struggle with.
I have been trying it out since late summer, using it on wild camping trips and expeditions with clients in Snowdonia, the Lake District and Scotland. Continue reading
So there I was, wandering through the woods with the dog. This is one of several woodland sites that we occasionally rent to run some of our bushcraft, survival and other wilderness skills courses in North Wales. I am far from any of the footpaths, both the public ones and the ones made by locals through the trees. It’s about 15 minutes after sunset and the light is poor – nearly time for the head torch. Continue readingRead more... →
On our navigation courses we always end up coming around to the subject of distance. Indeed, it’s one of the ‘D’s of navigation and unless you intend to just stand still and survey the surrounding countryside you’ll need to deal with the problem of measuring distance both on the map and on foot at some point or another.
There are three ways that we cover in depth on the EST Framework navigation courses – ‘pacing‘, ‘timing‘ and the enigmatically named ‘ticking off‘. They each have their merits, but also a few drawbacks. Like pretty much every other navigational technique – they are just a tool in the toolkit, and it is up to you to select the right one for the right task Continue readingRead more... →
Can I Wild Camp in the U.K?
Good question. I suppose it depends on what you mean by ‘can’.
If you mean ‘is it physically possible to find somewhere to camp?‘ then of course the answer is ‘yes’. I wild camp somewhere in the UK about once per month and have a decent success rate. I have been camping in the mountains and forests and on the coastline of the UK since I was about 18 Continue readingRead more... →
This fire lay requires six bundles of dry, straight dead wood and a good ignition source. It relies on good airflow at the beginning, and the fire lay ‘collapsing’ in on itself in the later stages to ensure a good bed of coals and ash to cook over.
It is also a good option for making a ‘One Match Fire’. Continue readingRead more... →
It won’t take long to run through the features of this bag – but that is, I suppose, a feature in itself; the Helikon-Tex Bushcraft Satchel is pretty simple.
There’s an unpadded adjustable shoulder strap running between two clips, and slightly curved ‘ends’ where these clips attach. There is no padding anywhere on the bag, and it hangs symettrically – it isn’t contoured or ‘handed’ to fit on one side of the body or other. Continue readingRead more... →
Extreme Low Tide foraging is becoming popular and one of the increasingly common requests we get for a private coastal foraging course over here in North Wales. It’s easy to understand why – when all of the most interesting and edible parts of the beach are under the water for part of every day then there’s a lot more to see when the water has retreated to its lowest point.
The UK is home to one of the biggest tidal ranges in the world – the Severn Estuary can have a difference of as much as 15m (49ft). The tidal range of one particular spot can be dependent on several factors, ranging from the shape of the bay, inlet or estuary where the range is being measured to the underwater geology and topography, and even the direction it is facing relative to the prevailing winds. Continue reading
As you have probably guessed – what Lonely Planet wanted was somebody to write some unique content for them (for free) and then for them to make money from selling that content as one of the ‘expert voices’ in the book. Apparently they “never pay interviewees (they benefit in terms of exposure)“. Well, quite. Exposure can be a dangerous thing – too much of it and it can kill you. That’s why our survival courses always include some training in awareness and prevention of hypothermia.
However, it prompted me to write this post – are there any generic survival tips I can give for people travelling the globe? Something quick and easy to read and as applicable to someone travelling to Mongolia as it would be to Mali? Tips that would work in Belgium or Belize?
It turns out I can. So here are some of those top travelling survival tips – given away to you for free – but I like you, so it’s OK. Continue readingRead more... →
Photography waistcoats like this are basically load-carrying vests and systems for a very civilian market, and the Raptor waistcoat from Country Innovation seems to be pitched straight at that market of photographers, birdwatchers and anybody who regularly points optics at wildlife.
I admit from the start that Country Innovation was a new brand for me, but a quick look through their website shows that their kit is trusted by the outdoor and wildlife photographers that I admire – so if it’s good enough for the likes of Simon King and Bill Oddie then it might be good enough for a scruffy outdoor instructor in North Wales? Continue reading
Head torch technology has come on a long way since I started working in the outdoors. My first ‘proper’ head torch was a Petzl Zoom. It had a massive alkaline battery and came with a spare bulb – it was also like a candle in a jam jar.
LED head torches started to creep in soon after, with the early ones being fairly disappointing affairs – and quite expensive. Now it seems we can’t move for fear of tripping over inexpensive and fairly powerful LED headlights – is the new Xplor range from pocket-power supplier GP Batteries worth a look, and does their 300 lumen Xplor PHR15 rise above the competition? Continue readingRead more... →
The two Wunderbird items I have been trialling are the Gyrfalcon Hoodie and the Kestrel Short-Sleeve Tee. Both garments have some interesting design features, including slightly padded shoulder areas and zipped pouches on the chest and similar pouches on the front of the stomach area. The Kestrel is a technical base layer and the Gyrfalcon is more of a thermal mid-layer shirt.
The idea with this range of garments is to provide the user with technical outdoor-appropriate clothing that also supports (literally) the use of binoculars. The chest and stomach pouches both support the weight of binoculars when worn from a neck strap or chest harness (what some of our instructors call a ‘Binocular Bra’) and stop them from bouncing around too much when walking over rough ground or uphill. The padded shoulders give some relief from tripods and similar long, heavy items being carried across the shoulder. Continue reading
We cover knife and axe sharpening at different levels on our bushcraft and campcraft courses, and it’s one of those subjects where the course participants ‘lean in’ to the topic – most of those who attend the course have tried to sharpen their own equipment and had, shall we say, a variety of results? Continue readingRead more... →