Monday, 27 December 2010

Unboxing: Kifaru Long Hunter G2 Review

I’ve needed a new pack in the 70+ litre class for a while now, the last one, a Berghaus,  having lasted well over twenty years, was looking a bit tired and it’s adjusters had succumbed to plastic fatigue and I was being mocked by The Northern Monkey (jealousy init).

In pack design there are two schools of thought; light but flimsy for ultralight hiking and tough-as-old-boots but heavy for hauling. At both extremes there are a couple of manufactures that really have it going on and a host of ‘me too’ outfits some good, some good-ish and loads where you’d have more fun burning the cash and roasting marshmallows over the flames. The fit of your rucksack is so important and no off the shelf pack can fit all people, so adjustability is the difference that makes the difference, but all that adjustability comes at a premium. One that personally I think is worth paying for. After ‘boots and bed’ the pack is the most important thing you’ll buy, for most bushcrafters not as covetousness inducing as another new knife, but a huge influence on your comfort levels and when actually afield a bigger influence on morale than that (now scratched) custom knife.

For the kind of the money the really good ones cost these days, a new pack has to be one that’ll last a long, long time.  I wanted a big-ish pack that would do double duty as a pack frame for manoeuvring heavy loads: be that carrying tanks of butane and water to the hut in the woods, collecting wood, lugging a dead deer across the fields (or even that as yet elusive bow-hunted Elk), or if history were to repeat itself in Italy it would be a lot more use than a stretcher getting someone off the hillside. When buying that last pack as a teenager I'd had a choice between tall and thin or squat and square-er with an extra five litres and if I've learned anything from carrying the same pack all those years it's a pack that's long and narrow not only gets in the way less but it also lets you keep the load closer to your spine making for a much less fatiguing carry.

Which gave me this list of criteria:
Very fit-able
Super long-lasting
Frame and pack separate-able
Tall-Narrow load

Kifaru have an amazing reputation and from what I'd read a credible design philosophy. Handmade in Colorado, Kifaru are the brain child of Patrick Smith (who founded Mountainsmith in the 70's), developing packs made to a standard not a price in very small production runs. My kind of company and the closest thing to a 'bespoke' handmade pack.

Kifaru now do three ranges of pack: lightweight, military and hunting; with the military being the coolest and most expensive, I've never seen lightweight, and hunting being the best value. Be warned, set against a backdrop of cheap Chinese manufacturing, anything handmade will look expensive - with Kifaru that means anything bigger than a day pack and you're at famous-maker custom knife money. I’ve bid on a few second hand Kifaru military packs on ebay but they seem to go for most of (or even more than) the new price.  I had been seriously considered buying just a frame from another maker and cutting the straps off my old pack and lashing it to the new frame. Then the LongHunter came along - I told myself; it was my birthday soon, crimbo too, I could live without food if I really had to, and if it lasted as well as the last pack I’d be nearly seventy by the time it would be due for replacement. The second hand price clinched it.

The last time I bought a big pack, soft packs with semi-frames were the new thing, and while they are lighter, they don’t support the big loads like the framed packs do. The idea is to carry all the weight on your hips, with the shoulder straps just stopping the pack falling over backwards. Kifaru’s aim is to achieve this by darts, and adjustable straps sewn into the pack, shaping it to your spine and directing the weight onto your hips. At 85 litres (5,200 cubic in) the G2 Long Hunter was a bit bigger than I'd been looking for but I've tried travelling with a full pack and it's neither convenient nor comfortable. Briefly transported to a dream world where I find a horde of treasure in the woods or on the beach and am delighted by the extra carrying capacity I pressed 'send' and the new-to-me LongHunter was on it's way.

The LongHunter makes the base of a custom set up you get:
The 5200 c3 pack frame
The sack in 500D Cordura (a lighter grade than the military packs)
The belt with 'power pulls'
The compressible wedged-shaped hood that removes to become a shoulder bag or lumber pouch.

I've also got a couple of extras coming in the post so I'll show you my customisation as and when they arrive.

Stuff that comes with the LongHunter that I didn't get:
Camo/Blaze orange cover - supposed to make the pack quieter
Internal pouch - I would upgrade this to the lined pouch
Gun Bearer - an excellent idea puts the weight of your rifle on your hips not your shoulder
Shoulder strap for the hood/lumber pouch - I'm using one off an old tool bag

In summation:
Very clever design
Handmade in the USA
Lifetime guarantee
Bombproof construction
The cognoscenti’s choice

More to come in part 2
Your pal

Saturday, 25 December 2010

Appy Crimbo Peeps

So another year almost done,the rug rats are tearing round full of suger and me and the Ex have had a row.Just gotta fight our way through a mound of turkey an trimmings and it'll be time for the Xmas Dr Who!

I'd just like to wish you all a very happy Crimbo and thank you for reading and commenting on your humble scribes ramblings. Next year I'll be growing the business and throwing more cash at blogworthy activities, so stay tuned for some hunting stories, many of which will just be the usual record of mishaps, misjudgments and good old incompetence - you never know I may even break the mold and actually end up inviting some of the wildlife to dinner - but on past form I wouldn't hold yer breath. I've been buying and trading for kit over the last few weeks so I'll be doing lots more kit reviews, I've seen a new 'camp' sized knife that I'll be ordering, I'll be catching up with the regular characters that you've already met, some of the regular co-conspirators and I will be returning to Italy  to increase the range of our scouting and maybe, just maybe bow hunt some hawgz and some commenters may even be in danger of a visit.

Thanks again for your input, help and encouragement, the comments and the emails. Through-out the trials and tribulations of this suburban life, it's your  involvement that keeps my dream alive.

All the best
Your pal

Sunday, 19 December 2010

Framed: Old School Pack Design

While we're on the subject of packs, I saw this recreation of the pack frames worn by climbers on the early alpine expeditions in a shop window display. It can't have been too comfortable but it did allow one clever innovation (not included here) where the addition of a drain valve and a fill point (available from any plumbing store) meant that the tubes served double duty as a tank for the liquid fuel of a cooking stove.

More soon

Saturday, 11 December 2010

UnBoxing: The Duluth Pack Pathfinder Review

A short while back the lovely Molly of the Duluth Pack Co. must have been feverish as she came into her office one morning and thought "I need a plumber - to review one of our packs" the winds of fate and the mighty power of Google led her to my door. Ever a fan of free swag I waited all of a tenth of a second before biting her arm off and accepting her generous offer of a review pack. Hoping against hope that she wouldn't come to her senses and say 'sorry I was trying to email a proper outdoor writer'.

I knew the sum total of not-a-lot about the Duluth Pack Co, but as you may have noticed I have questions about everything. All I knew was that they are a heritage brand (not just marketing BS - they've been trading for over a hundred years - 99 of them from the same premises) and their packs are much favoured by the ‘trad’ bushcrafters.

It turns out that when the company started proofed leather and waxed cotton were the cutting edge of outdoor technology and to be fair, while neither of them is going to win any prizes for lightness, they are still about as good as it gets functionally, and have a user experience and smell that Cordura and Goretex will never match.

A French-Canadian named Camille Poirer, made his way west to Duluth in 1870 with his "little stock of leather and tools", he set up a shoe store and as living in a booming frontier town is hard on the feet, found favour as one of the towns shoemakers

Records show that by December 12, 1882, Camille was sufficiently well-heeled himself [ber-bom] to file a patent for a new type of pack. A canvas sack, closed with a buckled flap, with new-fangled shoulder straps, and the first known use of a then revolutionary sternum strap. Wisely he included an umbrella holder (if you need to ask why - best not stray too far from the car).

In 1911, Camille sold his pack business to the new Duluth Tent and Awning Company. Who opened for business on 1610 West Superior Street. 99 years later that's still where you find the company. The company’s facility with heavy weight canvas made them the natural choice of awning maker for the areas stores. If it could be made from canvas they were making and selling them. In the 20's the company made the 'auto pack' a forerunner of today's rooftop boxes, so gear could be stowed on the outside of the a car and a clip-on tent giving birth to car camping. Companies only get to become heritage brands by making what the punters want for good times and what they need for the hard times, the same stout waxed canvas and leather was deployed to make working clothes and packs for the people who made their living outdoors and needed affordable kit that would stand up to hard use.

Pathfinder Pack
I chose The Pathfinder, a pack designed by TV bushcrafter and survival dude Dave Canterbury of the Pathfinder School.  I wanted a pack that would cart a fair bit of kit around, but not one big enough for The Littlest Bushwacker to ride in. For reasons that will be obvious to any parent of lazy offspring young children

Although the design is new the pack screams old school:

Tough 15-ounce canvas construction.
Very tough, you can have any of nine colours, but I went for the waxed natural canvass edition which is actually a far nicer colour than in my pictures or as depicted on the website. I’m thinking the pack will be ideal for fishing trips to the pebble beaches of the south of England where although not soaking everything that sits on the ground ends up getting damp.

Riveted premium leather flap straps.
Which seem like they’ll out live the first couple of owners, although the sturdy metal buckles do make a bit of noise while walking. It should be pretty easy to make some quieters.  

Two side pockets with buckling flaps.
The pockets are a little over ‘nalgene’ sized,  take a hammock and tarp.

The left side pocket has a slide pocket behind it to slide a knife behind the pocket.
I like the idea of a handy yet unobtrusive way to carry another knife when out in public places.

The right pocket has a slide pocket to hold an axe, which secures with the leather cinch strap above the pocket.
This is actually a great idea, as nothing says ‘dangerous axe-wielding maniac’ to the public like an axe on the outside of your pack, but where else would you want your axe to be? I would have put the cinch strap at an angle so it holds the head of the axe rather than the shaft, but only dirt-time will tell if I’m right about this.
Zippered pocket on the front of pack and underneath pack flap.
Maps, Licences, and bars of chocolate all need to be kept to hand.

Leather drawstring attached to the left side of the pack, as well as on the bottom with D-rings to hold extra gear.
Leather looks totally fitting for the pack, but isn’t really as good for this role as elastic.

Cotton web shoulder straps that are comfortable from day one.
They’re wide, they’re cotton, they’re comfy. Yep.

Made with the Pathfinder Leather Logo and a Duluth Pack tag sewn on the front pocket.
Will be removed as soon as I get round to it – No Logo – it’s the way I roll. Other kit-tarts will already know it’s a Duluth and like most snobs I just don’t care what the uninitiated think :-)
In the interests of a proper test how’s this? 11 litres (2.9 US gallons) per minute, even if only for two minutes or so, is quite some downpour……

I left it on the wet bathroom floor and went to get dry and changed.It did pretty well at keeping stuff dry

 With only a slight bit of wetness on the paper stored in the outside pocket.

Interestingly the only water to get in came through the seem at the bottom, where the pack had sat on the soaking wet floor. Pretty good. If you like 'Trad' style gear you'll like it.

So that's the unboxing, let the dirt time commence.
More soon
Your Pal

Unboxing: Hestra's Lars Falt Guide Gloves Review

Inside the package was a pair of the legendary Lars Falt Guide Gloves from Hestra. I've wanted a pair for ages as they are widely used by those who 'do' rather than just rated by the armchair heroes of the internet. Hestra started out making gloves for Swedish lumberjacks and progressed by way of military supply to skiers. Lars Falt (aka Lars Svält) is an absolute legend himself, having taught survival skills to the scandawegen special forces for the last 40+ years, and several of the current generation of survival teachers (Gary Wale, Ray Mears, ect.) learned their chops around his campfire. As for the gloves themselves; think of a pair of unlined motorcycle/work gloves, with removable woollen liners. During our recent cold snap I've warn them every day and yep they are as promised the warmest toughest gloves I've ever seen.

It's worth a mention that if you (like me) fancy making the trek to his campfire, Gary from Nordmarken Canoe is the organiser for the WIESS course (The Wilderness Experience International Survival School, est. 1963) where Lars Falt still teaches. This one isn't for the faint hearted, it's in two parts, ten students at a time, one in the summer and one in the winter. As a clue to what's expected of you, no kit list is provided. Men in one pile, boys in another.

More soon

Wednesday, 8 December 2010

For Me!

I had a birthday the other day, and a lovely package arrived. Thanks guys.


'View from my room in India. Big mountain is Kanchen Junga'

Sorry about the dearth of posts the last few days, work is on-top for a crimbo finish.
This morning I received an email from G who is about to go into retreat for six months. Yep that's six months sitting in a room on his own. A very different kind of adventure!

More very soon 

Tuesday, 30 November 2010

Snow Shoe Shuffle

It's snowing here, and the gasps of wonder are already giving way to tales of impassable roads, and it's yet to actually settle. My son's school closed early. Anyone would think England was in northern Europe! Like so many of my fellow countrymen I love the idea of snow, well at least visiting somewhere with snow. Like I love the idea of Biathlon; skis and rifles! Sounds good, but then again I'm sure I'd look terrible in one of those Lycra suits they all seem to wear. So I was delighted when I learned that there's a special biathlon for old gits where I'd be able to pass myself off as a young person and wouldn't have to dress like a member of Aerosmith!
Smugglers Notch? Wear The Fox Hat?

In Smugglers Notch preparations are under way for the annual Primitive Biathlon.
How cool is this? Dress up in fur hats and old time gear, arm yourself with a smoke-pole, and go for an invigorating jog. Although I am yet to distinguish myself either with a muzzle loader or at jogging, and I've never even worn a pair of snow shoes I'm totally up for it. The rules sound fair:

Overall prize eligibility is limited to entrants who observe the following restrictions:

  • Single-barrel traditional style muzzleloaders(excludes in-line firing mechanisms). 
  • No optical sights. 
  • Traditional wood-framed snowshoes. 

Along the wooded route will be three target shooting areas. At each target stage, participants will load and fire two shots at designated targets. At the finish will be a fourth, open shooting range at which participants will take three additional shots. All nine shots, including the finish line stage, will be 'on-the-clock'. All shooting will be from a standing position, unaided by 'shooting sticks' or other external aids. As in the past, we will be using steel 'gong'-type targets - either a hit or a miss. A misfire will be considered a miss. 

This event will be held regardless of the weather - Remember the concept of Primitive!!! In the event that there is insufficient snow for snowshoes, please bring good walking boots. 

Did you hear that? Will be held regardless of the weather! Unlike England.
More soon
your pal

Unboxing: Kupilka Kuksa Review

 Outdoor kit comes from two schools trad and tech; the earthy charm of wood and leather versus the inert robustness of carbon and thermoplastics. Both have their appeal and advantages. I tried Axes and knife handles, boots, rucksacks and now Kuksa

Lighter, cheaper, and more hygienic than the traditional hand carved wooden Kuksas, but with a smaller carbon footprint than solid plastic, my new friends at Kupilka have developed this interesting hybrid of natural fibres and plastic for their range of outdoor tableware (or should that be log-ware?).

Although they’ll never have the bushcrafty appeal of the hand carved Kuksa, I’ve been pleasantly surprised with how nice they are to drink from. They make a credible, and cost conscious, alternative to the machined wooden Kuksa and are way nicer than the pure plastic versions. Nice.

More soon
Your pal

Monday, 29 November 2010

Unboxing: Agion Base Layer Review

I received an email the other day offering me the a free shirt and as buying stuff to review takes up a large part [a ‘large part’ called ‘all’] of the blog budget and I wear a shirt most days I of course accepted.

The company claims the shirt has innate odour reducing properties, not being currently engaged in any adventure sports, I tested it with a couple of days on a building site carrying sanitary ware and plasterboard (dry lining) up many many flights of stairs. Which amounts to the same thing. Just without the fresh air and photo opportunities.

Did it work?
I really don’t know for sure, but it probably smells less than a cotton shirt
Was it warm?
Yes it was. So much so that I’m wearing it as I write.
Would I buy one?
Only if was available without the hideous promotional message.
What would make buying one a no-brainer?
Being able to choose the hideous promotional message myself.

What can we learn from all this?
The slogans on outdoor-wear are crap.
The ‘add your own slogan’ companies don’t offer base-layer shirts.
SBW loves free stuff even more than he loves cheap stuff.

More soon
Your pal

PS the lovely Traci has just written in to ask me to tell you that the shirts are currently just to demonstrate the efficacy of the anti odour treatment and will soon be branded with the name of a well-know hunting apparel manufacturer. Go on Traci. Seeing as its you. Normally I'd just have laughed and moved on to the next email but as coincidence would have it - It actually works. Really I've been wearing it for days and it doesn't smell as bad as my other work clothes.

Saturday, 27 November 2010

Pack It In: Well-Travelled Becomes Clapped-Out

You know how it is: an old friend, been around a long time, starred in more than a few tales, been a faithful companion, I thought we’d roll on forever. But there comes a day when the gap between old's-cool and clapped-out suddenly closes. When even The Northern Monkey laughs at your kit you know you’ve sunk to a new low.

TNM: That’s your rucksack! Sheesh I thought you’d have a better one than that!
SBW: What do you mean? [Indignantly] It was state of the art when I got it
TNM: When exactly was that?
SBW: When I was fourteen
TNM: [begrudgingly] I suppose that’s not bad value
SBW: Hell yes! I’ve dated women younger than my rucksack
TNM: I bet you’ve been looking for another one.
SBW: I was but….
TNM: A rucksack
SBW: That would be Kifaru


More soon
Your pal

Friday, 26 November 2010

Mr Sling Shot

We've looked at Trebuchet , Old School Catapults, Mini Cannon (and part two), and Repeating Crossbows but surely there's more?

A while back during one of my periods of 'research' I found the Slingshot Channel and it's creator Jörg who very kindly agreed to be bombarded with daft questions on your behalf. Enjoy.

SBW: How did you get so interested in catapults?

Well, I loved them as a boy already. My father taught me how make a slingshot with car tyre inner tubing and natural forks, and soon afterwards I started to sell them in school - until the headmaster stopped my little business...

When I grew up, my interests shifted to motorcycles and then cars, so I forgot about slingshots for the most part. A few years ago, I read a few threads about slingshots in a German gun forum, and had the basic idea for my "V" design. I decided to make a prototype, and it worked. People loved it, and although by now I have far more effective models, the "V" is still popular - maybe because it looks so cool.

I made my first videos for youtube, to show my invention to others. Soon my channel became quite popular, and now I think I am totally addicted to slingshots! It is a great hobby, you can make them easily at home and shooting is possible anywhere. Slingshots are one of the few weapon types that aren't heavily regulated, unlike firearms. That is a great advantage, and probably one reason why they have gained so much popularity over the last years.

SBW: Do you hunt with them?

I don't. That would be illegal (= poaching) in Germany. But anyway, I grew too soft for killing cute animals. As a kid, I killed lots of birds, rats and even a rabbit with the puny slingshots I had back then - but now, I just shoot at dead things.

SBW: Do you sell the catapults you make?

No. I have a great job, and my contract prevents me from any sort of side business. That is not so bad, as I have no deadlines, taxes or insurance issues to worry about! Also, I think my credibility in the forums would decrease much if I would have commercial interests. But I have given away many slingshots for free and I traded a few of them against other home made gadgets. Also, I have given a design to a Chinese slingshot manufacturer, and they plan to bring out that model soon. here's the link

SBW: You've made quite a few videos, which is your favourite ?

I like "Slingshot vs. Ballistical Gelatine" the 1200 pictures per second super slomos in the sun are nice and the AC/DC song is very appropriate!

SBW: What is your idea of the perfect catapult?

One that also solves the world starvation problem? No, seriously, there is no such thing as the perfect slingshot. There are just too many trade-offs. Fast, super thin flat bands are incredibly powerful, but they don't last nearly as long as thick, sturdy tubes - which are much slower. It's the same with cars - there is no "best car in the world", there are just good compromises, that's all. Every shooter has to find the best individual compromise. From all my designs, the fourth generation "W" slingshot with the rotating grip, equipped with ball bearings, is my favorite model. Powerful, precise, foolproof - and nice to handle. Beautiful, too!

SBW: What's the perfect size of lead ball?

Depends. I don't like lead balls smaller than .44, because they are too hard to grip through a leather pouch. .44 and .45 lead balls are very good for hunting, they fly fast even when a medium strength band set is used. I personally prefer the .75 musket balls, they deliver an incredible amount of energy (80 Joules), many times the power of a good air rifle.

SBW: I'd like to embed a video in the piece, which do you think are your best?

I like this one: Three interesting slingshots in one video, and I like the snow outside.

Fun huh?

Wednesday, 17 November 2010

Bushcraft? That's So last Year Darling!

This one needs to be read in the voice of Elisabeth Hurley

Well darlings what can I say?  Dear SBW has finally seen a glimpse of the error of his ways and sent a long overdue request for some fashion advice from yours truly. The poor foolish man has committed some terrible fashion faux-pas; the silly boy really does have the fashion sense of a cockney builder. That terrible hat, shocking!

I mean culottes! Really! And after dear Hubert pleaded with him to dress in a more appropriate way, one just never knows whom one may meet on Hackney Marshes.

It’s not as though he is without the improving influence of AIR. Here seen stylishly foraging in a charming linen suit. Quite the artist-afield.

But enough of others failed attempts to sartorialise SBW: I thought if I were to spell out the horrible truth in words even a chubby plumber could understand I simply must start with the basics:

BUSHCRAFT is just SO last year, darling! 
This year it’s all about Tactical!

Fortunately I do have certain contacts in the world of men’s haberdashery, so my first call was to that complete darling Alber[t], the visionary behind that well-known emporium of manly style Albertus Afganus.

Always the hero of the hour he’s currently embarked on a daring fashion rescue in Afghanistan – wonderfully sense of colour those people, but the women’s wear! Dreadful! Just dreadful, the poor dears look like they’re wearing tents! The men! Dont get me started, Kyber Pass AK47's [tsk] I ask you? Not an accessory rail in sight, dont they read `Vogue or Guns and Ammo?

Being a card carrying sweetie Albert dropped everything and rushed to my aid. We asked poor SBW what size he takes and he replied,  “I’m so fat the only thing that still fits me is the sofa”.
Sofa King Tacti-cool

Fortunately he is now in the hands of the professionals and Albert was of course able to size accordingly; kiting SBW out with a technical rain jacket, shirt and pants, all perfectly colour co-ordinated for whatever it is SBW does in that field or by that dreary canal. Now that we've modernised him I must drop a few hints about accessories. This season I suggest accessorising with that perennial classic (the Little Black Dress of Tacticool) an AR15, or if the event is 'dress-to-impress' the Stealth Recon Scout in .308 is this season's 'must have'.

Albert immediately popped an aid parcel in the post, and due to the wonders of a modern international postal service SBW was soon kitted out in the latest trends, and to be fair, looking rather dashing.

Now if only we could only do something about that dreadful hat.........

Cheerio dah-lings

Tuesday, 16 November 2010

Eels And Chicken Tika - London Food And Fishing

Old london town, home to the world's oldest continuous city archive, and easily the most cosmopolitan city on earth ( I know many of you believe that title belongs to NYC, but yer just showing yer ignorance). Here in old blighty the national dish is Chicken Tikka Masala, sounds Indian right? Invented for serving to people with a skin-full of 'wife beater' [not the vest a strong Belgian larger] the national drink. 

While we are guilty of all the things we happily project on to the French - rude and standoffish, and the stereotypes we hold true about the New Yorkers - pushy, aggressive, greedy are far far truer about us. Every so often a random meeting with a member of the GBP (great british public) reminds me why I still live here despite the many excellent reasons to swim, rat-like, from the sinking ship that is Albion.
I was on the south bank of the Thames the other afternoon visiting what was in Shakespeare's time the theatre district. In those day the theatre was a rowdy, boisterous night out, with plenty of talk of sedition on and off stage. So the theatres were set up on the southern bank of the river where they were outside the jurisdiction of the city fathers, but near enough to draw a crowd.

By chance I happened on a chap fishing, and we spent an enjoyable few minutes shooting the breeze about all things Eel fishing. An education ensued. 

I, it turns out, am way way behind the times with my 'bacon bait' strategy, apparently Eels have long been turning their noses up at bacon. But the good news is, much like myself after a skin full, they are unable to turn up a chicken Tikka Massala. Ledgered baits on a hook no bigger than 8 (although 6 has many proponents). Our man recommends ASDA as the best source of such bait, but as so many of you live a long walk from the nearest branch I thought a recipe would help.

1 pint of live natural yogurt
1 Tablespoon Cumin powder
1 Tablespoon Garam Massala
1 Teaspoon Coriander powder
1 Teaspoon Turmeric powder
1 Teaspoon Chilli Powder
Juice 1 lemon
8 cloves garlic - crushed
1 inch grated ginger
Red food colouring
4 Chicken Breasts Cubed
1 Lemon

Marinade long, Cook slow. Eat well, Save scraps for bait.
Just to prove that no good deed (or shared fishing tip) goes un-rewarded. One tourist was so taken with his bonhomie and advice - describing it as 'wikkid awesome', that she gave him a lesson in 'Massachusetts tongue kung-fu'. Lucky lucky boy.

the rules and regs
A london eel fishing post
More Soon
Your pal

Sunday, 14 November 2010

Remembrance Sunday - The Greatest Generation

While I was at the Natural History Museum in London I saw this plaque commemorating the buildings use during the war as a training centre for SOE - the Special Operations Executive. Founded on Churchill's order 'to set Europe ablaze'.  The organisation of previously unremarkable people who did remarkable things. There many stories of the courage shown by people from all walks of life, many of whom melted back into civilian life after the war, but for me Gabcik and Kubis exemplify the sacrifice made.

SOE operations in occupied Czechoslovakia came to a head in 1942 with the assassination of Reinhard Heydrich, deputy to SS leader Heinrich Himmler and the governor of Bohemia and Moravia. 

Two Czech SOE agents who had trained in Britain, Jan Kubis and Josef Gabcik, ambushed Heydrich as he drove through Prague in an open car. When Gabcik’s weapon failed to fire, Kubis threw a grenade which wounded Heydrich who climbed from the car to chase his would-be assassins on foot before collapsing from shock. Heydrich died from scepticemia a week later. 

In investigation ordered by Himmler incorrectly linked the SOE mission to the villages of Lidice and Lezaky. All adult male occupants were murdered and the villages burnt to the ground. Around 13,000 Czechoslovakians were imprisoned, deported or murdered as part of the Nazis’ revenge. MORE HERE

This action was later made into the amazing, and heartbreaking film Operation Daybreak 

In the face of all that assails us, spare a thought for those who did what they had to, purely because they had to. So that we too could have our chance to mould the world in our image. Today, if you have a moment, have a drink with me, the toast is Gabcik and Kubis.

"May you live in interesting times, and choose to be a part of them"

More soon
PS the wikipedia page has some interesting detail

Friday, 5 November 2010

In The Woods Pt3 - Stalking Squirrels

The day was still warm, but in the wood the canopy keeps the world in shadow. The constant changeable breeze rattled the coppice and the whooshing of the trees hid the elephantine sound of our footsteps. A footpath runs along one boundary of the wood and, being mostly clear, meant we could if not properly creep, it at least reduced the noise of our ‘stalking’. 

A flicker of movement ahead and to the right revealed our quarry, munching on a nut at the base of an Oak. I twisted so my body would obscure my hand signal to TNM. The squirrel froze, and did a very good job of disappearing into the leaf litter. I shouldered the air rifle and realized just in time that the scope was set on too higher level of magnification. Finding a grey camouflaged thing against a backdrop of leaf and shadow wasn’t that easy. The cross hairs danced over his shoulder and as I should have been at my stillest my squeeze of the trigger must have pulled the muzzle to the right. The squirrel jumped four of five feet to the left; I worked the bolt back and forward and sent a perfectly aimed puff of air towards him. Sadly the puff of air wasn’t pushing a pellet.

The Air Arms S400 is a single shot rifle; I have an aftermarket ‘pellet feeder’ that must be clicked forward by hand each time. Right hand - Pull bolt back, Left hand - index pellet into place, Right hand - slide bolt forward. Ready to shoot. Supposedly. I’d missed the middle step and worked the bolt over an empty chamber. The squirrel gave me a withering look but stayed still. The next pellet jammed on loading. The squirrel sighed and bounded up a beech tree to wait patently to be shot. Now frantically fiddling I managed to free the now deformed pellet from the feeder. Through gritted teeth I start again. Bolt back, finger on the pellet feeder…No feckin’ pellets!! The Northern Monkey bounded off toward the hut to get more pellets and the squirrel and I kept each other under observation.  TNM is back in a flash and I feed a pellet into the chamber. The squirrel was now further up the tree and had disappeared from sight.  

As my heart rate slows, the terrible sinking feeling begins: had I shot him? Had I made a clean miss? The only way we could know would be to keep him treed until another shot opportunity presents itself.
I made that sound easy didn’t I? Several glimpses later a Holly bow lashes me across the eye and half blinded I give TNM the rifle. Due to the dense undergrowth and the fence line it’s not possible to get to the far side of the tree that the squirrel is now hiding up, I leave the wood to get a better view from the footpath. Twenty feet up the tree is the classic rotted hole at the intersection of two boughs.  A hidey-hole with a bushy tail poking out. Dead, dying or hiding?

Several attempts to climb the tree prove fruitless so we cut a long pole from the coppice and rig up a lasso loop to grab the tail with. By the time we get back to the footpath armed with our retrieval-rig the tail is no longer poking out of the hole.

I’d love it if this blog were a long and triumphant record of hunting success’s and delicious meals, I’d settle for an amusing record of failures and frustrations. This time I’m just gutted, I just don’t know if I hit him, earlier in the day I was putting pellet after pellet through a hole smaller than our smallest coin. Did I fluff the shot completely? Did I allow a wounded squirrel to get away? I’m just not sure and worst of all I doubt I’ll ever know. The following day my eye swells up and I’m sofa-bound for a day feeling very sorry of myself.

More soon
Your pal

Thursday, 4 November 2010

I Want One - A Not So Occasional Series Pt18

Just a quick one to tell you that contrary to appearances I've not disappeared, just been very busy and the camera is knackered (3rd replacement) so none of the posts I've been writing can go up yet.

In the meantime here's the very best in UK air rifles, hand made by Ben Taylor at Milbro - designer of the TheoBen (he's the Ben) Rapid 7 and many of it's later iterations.

This is a bolt action, magazine fed rifle, based on a Theoben. The 500 version relates to the 500cc bottle that is mostly used on the FAC rifle. The action is overhauled for better efficiency but it retains the Buddy bottle supply, with a modified Theoben regulator. This will give about 20% more shots per charge of air with much improved consistency and accuracy. It is fitted with a UK Custom Stock. It is supplied with a London made Milbro Huggett standard moderator. The rifle is only available with a scope sight rail built in. Overall weight will vary from 7.5 lbs to 8.5lbs depending on barrel length and stock density. It is built to sub 12ft/lb specifications. The rifle is available in .177″, .20″, .22″ or .25″ calibres.

Totally awesome, just the thing for hunting "Tree Rabbits'  but £1350. AKA $ 2,197.26. Ouch.

More soon

Thursday, 21 October 2010

Bear Grylls - Omnivore

bear grylls - born shit eater from on Vimeo.
NSFW - unless work is plumbing I guess
Silly, yet somehow, silly.

More soon

In The Woods Pt2 The AccuCover Review

In the morning we breakfasted on noodles and eggs before pumping the rifle up and sighting-in. The Northern Monkey is very well practised at laying out ground works and has a pace pretty much bang on a meter. So forgetting the tape measure wasn't a big deal.  We used James Marchington's free air gun targets, which are conveniently scaled so one square equals one click of the scopes adjustment at 25 yards. Handy.

Friend of the blog Nick Matthews has designed this neat accuracy accessory that he was kind enough to send me for testing. Like all the cleverest designs he’s taken one thing and got it to do more than one job.

Apart from the obvious role in protecting the lens of your scope from harm, the Acuccover’s big bright markings promote eye-to-scope alignment, first: by starting the process of adjusting your focal length before you’re close enough to see the cross hairs, giving speedier target acquisition. Then the outsized bright markings help to eliminate parallax error by exaggerating your perception of level and plumb so you look dead straight through the scope. Nick explained to me that the Accucover also helps in reducing 'cant error' AKA rifle tilt which is particularly important with lower velocity rifles. A nice bit of kit and available to fit most sizes of scope.

More to come
Your pal

Wednesday, 20 October 2010

In The Woods Pt1 Escape Velocity

'First thing you learn is you always gotta wait' Lou Reed

I was to be snaring Rabbits with another blogger over the weekend. But as is so often the lot of the self employed, one thing leads to another, a client sets a meeting back and a Friday departure disappears over the horizon. 

Seeing as I already had the weekend booked, I roused The Northern Monkey and we resolved to visit the permission in the forest. 

Saturday: one thing leads to another and we finally leave at the end of the afternoon. The drive out of town is uneventful, and we're making good pace, too good to be true. We spend an hour or so sitting in the car, gridlocked, with the engine off. By the time we're finally back on the move it's getting dark. 

Then follows a hilarious [you had to be there] interlude where we drive round a village trying to find an unmarked turning before we get to the wood. Then, for shits & giggles, we repeated the process on foot in the wood itself.

SBW [on phone]: So we're in the wood, where's the hut?
R [on phone, losing patience with SBW]: If you're in the wood, you're standing next to it
R [talking to E] They're in the wood they can't find the hut
The sound of splashing bath water and laughter
R [on phone, laughing]: Good luck, call me in the morning. CLICK

Now we'd scared off any inhabitants the wood may have had, we spend a relaxing evening in the hut eating our bean stew and bickering.

SBW: the deal was I cook and you pump up the rifle
TNM: I'll do it in the morning
SBW: I bet you if you don't do it they'll be Squirrels outside first thing
TNM: What! After a night of us two snoring like a pair of chain-saws they'll be long gone

I don't remember the highlights of the next argument, which was about who sleeps where on the sleeping platform, but I remember that it revolved around who was more likely to want to go for a piss in the night. TNM's getting on a bit so I let him have the easier route to the door.

Sunday-first light

SBW: Are you awake?
TNM: Yeah man
SBW [fighting his way out of a hooj duvet and now straddling TNM on his way to the door]:
Good, I just wanted you to know I'm not trying to mount you

Of course there was a Squirrel perfectly poised on a tree not ten yards away.

More Soon
Your Pal


Tuesday, 19 October 2010

A Ferreter Of The Old School

I saw this video by Will Halfacree on James Marchington's blog. It reminded me of our day ferreting, only Frank, 90, is a lot fitter!

Frank, a legend from East Budleigh, still continues to use the traditional method of Ferrets to catch rabbits in the Devon hedgerows.


Sunday, 17 October 2010

Skull Pix 2

Just got back from a trip to the forest. Where I found this beauty.

Chances are you already know what it is. As usual, the challenge of being the first to comment with a correct identification wins FIVE SOLID GOLD BUSHWACKER POINTS.

Additional points may also be awarded for, style, scientific interest, flair, wit and misanthropy.

More of our adventure as and when I get the time to write them up

As ever
Your pal
The bushwacker

Sunday, 3 October 2010

Weekend reading: Rasch of Kandahar

On the 13th of January, just seven days after the retreat commenced, one man, bloody and torn, mounted on a miserable pony, and pursued by horsemen, was seen riding furiously across the plains to Jellalabad. That was Dr. Brydon, the sole person to tell the tale of the passage of Khourd Caboul.
More than 16,000 people had set out on the retreat from Kabul, and in the end only one man, Dr. William Brydon, a British Army surgeon, had made it alive to Jalalabad. The garrison there lit signal fires and sounded bugles to guide other British survivors to safety, but after several days they realized that Brydon would be the only one. It was believed the Afghans let him live so he could tell the grisly story.
The English in Afghanistan” from North American Review July 1842

The blogosphere's best armed apiarist, has taken a few moments out from his busy schedule, keeping the world safe for democracy, to share his ponderings with us. This missive takes us from the graveyard of empire via apiary to the potential for permaculture to rebuild damaged lands, and back again.
This one is a MUST READ, Rasch of Kandahar at his best!

More soon
Your pal

Friday, 1 October 2010

Unboxing: Boker SubCom F Knife Review

Boker Subcom F [unit of scale .270]

Ahh Subcom. I've been a fan of theses ‘discrete folders’ [AKA ‘small penknives’] for what seems like an age now, but due to the ill thought out BS of UK knife law, locking folders tend to stay in the drawer, so there are always other things to spend the money on.

I needed a dry-bag for a forthcoming trip so I was foraging a forum I frequent for bargains when I noticed I was able to pick this one up, in decent condition, for roughly what I'd have paid in the US of A. Before I knew what was happening it was in the post to me. Opps!

Let the Unboxing commence:
First things first, minimum bid: Any locking folder is judged first on the tolerance of its lock-up. Any play in the blade’s locked position is unacceptable. The Subcom’s lock-up is 100%. Flawless.

Chad Los Banos, the Subcom’s designer, has pulled off the difficult trick of making the ‘littlest big knife’; pocket-able and compact whilst feeling full-sized in the hand. He’s not followed much of the orthodoxy of knife design and as is so often the case the ‘clean sheet’ approach has paid off. The blade is comparatively short, but the cutting edge is comparatively long. The handle is slim but deep, giving the feeling of holding a much bigger shape. Clever stuff.

"either too small or too big, too skinny a blade, and not enough handle to fill the hand." The Subcom series of folders and fixed blades were designed to fill the hand, while remaining small enough to "stay out of your way,"

The Subcom’s blade is AUS8; not the best of the best, but some way up the performance curve from the generic tool steels and lower cost than the super steels. For the price you pay, very good value.

Of all the ways to lock a folding knife, frame-lock is my preferred choice, you get a really solid feeling and the absence of moving parts such as rings or pivots means there is little to wear out or fatigue. Part of the frame is sprung so it locks the blade in the open position. The steel is thinned and heat-treated so it’s flexible enough to be bent out the way letting the blade be folded into the handle. As the blade is opened the sprung section snaps back into the locked position. One of the things that attracted me to the Subcom’s design was the moveable element of the frame is full sized. Quite a few of the production folders use a section of thinner steel as the catch and as a result always seem less satisfying in the hand than the customs, and higher priced production offerings.

Where Boker, the manufacturer, has made a production saving is with the use of Fiber Reinforced Nylon for the ‘scale’ side of the handle, less rigid than G10 or Micarta, it’s had to be stiffened with a thin steel plate, from a manufacturing-to-a-price point of view it’s an intelligent choice and probably a lot of the reason the knife can be such a reasonable price.

In summation: you get about 110% of the design, and about 70% of the build and finish you’d get from a custom folder, for about 10% of the price. Highly recommended. Highly pimpable too… TBC

More soon
Your pal
SBW PS There are more knife reviews in the 'kit' tab at the top of the page, or click HERE for my knife buying guide, you might like it.

Thursday, 16 September 2010

Forage Hackney

Time was running wild, ticking by with the exhilarating inevitability of a James Bond style doomsday device; a very special guest is expected imminently. My room looks like what it is – a place for a plumber to keep his tools with a bed shoehorned into the corner. I’ve tidied for hours; the end is almost in sight. So we went foraging. Priorities init?
AIR (Artist In Residence) and your pal the Bushwacker set out to forage the neighbourhood. The apple tree, that was to be the basis for our planned crumble had been stripped so we crossed the bridge onto Hackney Marshes. Where it turned out a bounty had been laid on for us.
Blackberries seemed a bit past their best, but Elderberries had just come on-song.

Some serious boiling-down later

Looks like jam

Tastes like jam

More soon
Your pal