Showing posts with label review. Show all posts
Showing posts with label review. Show all posts

Friday, 4 April 2014

A-Salt Weapon For Fly Hunting

Ohh yes! I first saw the Bug-A-Salt on Indigogo, a crowdsourcing site, but they weren't shipping outside the US of A so I didn't order one. Months later the inventor wrote to me and asked if I'd like to review one, Hell yes!!

As regular readers all know I'm a complete retard with a shotgun, really the moment they breed a pigeon the size of a barn door I'm going to be lethal, until then if it wasn't for rifles and the fact that pigeons can't feed and fly at the same time, I'd be vegetarian.

Like all dad's everywhere I am beset by a nagging fear that my children will not surpass me, I've set the bar pretty low but I suspect they're from a pretty lacklustre generation of couch potatoes [evidence here].
Start 'em young and keep it fun. Anyone can learn anything as long as they don't know they're being taught. The London Poacher told me how his dad had set him on the road to the sniper skills he later developed by having him hunt snails in the back garden with a spring air rifle. Could Bug-A-Salt be that teaching aid?

Last weekend Bushwacker Jnr and I tried some patterning with tin-foil [aloominum foil in the US]. The salt is certainly coming out fast enough, but in a cloud. We searched his mum's cupboards but the only salt she had in the armory proved a mis-match between the force of propulsion and the weight of the projectiles. We need coarser salt.

More in part 2
Your pal

Monday, 31 March 2014

Review: Vargo Titanium Grill

here in the 'burbs spring is springing, buds are budding and your pal SBW is taking the season as the reason to overhaul his camping kit. After my recent round-up of titanium camping gear it seemed like I should do some field testing. Stuck in town all weekend The Littlest Bushwacker and I set ourselves up in her back garden. My childhood bushcrafting began in suburban back gardens, building camps and observing whatever fauna happened to be passing. I'm still enthralled by the wonder of the natural world poking its head up from between the stones people lay to keep it out
Chad from Vargo has been releasing cool titanium ultralight backpacking gear for the last few years, I first became aware of his company when looking for an alcohol stove less crushable than a 'pepsi' and lighter than a Trangia burner. Since then Vargo has grown its offering, and brought out some very cool stuff. like this portable fire-basket and grill. Perfect for nimble bushcrafting, suburban garden popcorn making, and Vagabond-style fishing.
In the past I've always used an old food storage pot with some holes drilled in it as my fire-pot, wonderfully cheap, but bulky to pack. Vargo's grill packs better and opens up a few more cooking options. Just the thing for the traditional hunter's meal of a deer's liver fresh from the Gralloch. Eating them pulled from the fire covered in charcoal had worn a bit thin.
While we were breaking a few twigs off the dead apple tree we discovered some Turkey-Tail fungus in bloom. Boiled for an age it makes a strong liquor, rumoured to have various health benefits, but the flesh is proper chewy. Chewy like boiled boot leather. Not really a 'starter' foraged food. So I didn't brew any up for my daughter. She's had fun picking Blackberries, tried Nettles and said they're OK, so I'm thinking Mussels, which I already know she likes, gathered from rock pools to break the monotony [to her and peace to me] of a fishing trip.

The percussive delights of the lightweight popcorn rig!
More soon

Wednesday, 19 February 2014

Nomad UK Hill Smock Review

Quiet, warm, waterproof, durable, cheap. 4/5 isn't too shabby.

Back in the mists of time, when this blog was young and it actually looked like I might one day bowhunt an Elk, James Marchington wrote a post about buying a fleece jacket made from material so waterproof the company made waders from it. Later James still seemed very happy with it, another blogger of my acquaintance The Bambi Basher called Nomad 'perfect clothes for the hill'. He's worn his set on every trip to Scotland and wouldn't be without them "Tracky for the house and Nomad for the hill, it's all you need to bring".

Nomad UK are one of those companies from a bygone era, they make some very cool products, that not many people have ever heard of.
While every chump with a facebook account and a misplaced belief in their own innate design skill has launched some kind of outdoor crap. Nomad have been making weather-beating clothes for the outdoorsman and keeping the news to themselves. They have a website that can perhaps best be described as 'obscure'. They don't even publish a list of stockists, clear pictures of the clothes, or any but the most cursory details about their fly rods. I know my own photography isn't up to much, but to be fair I don't put a lot of effort into it and I'm not selling clothes.

The jackets Nomad are famous for are cut in the smock style, the front panel coming well below the waist and the back being longer still, available either hooded and openable only to the waist or hoodless and zippered all the way down. A scottish Shalwar Kameez if you like.
The material is a thick fleece with taped seams, non meeting seams are edged in synthetic leather, by reputation they are 100% water and windproof. They are disconcertingly lightweight. It's a bit like you've accidentally gone out in your pajamas, they are really lightweight. The material is thick for fleece, but its still only fleece.
I've worn the Plus4's and smock beating in a thunder storm that got the shoot called off, at the end of the long trudge to the barn I was the only person who was still dry. I still couldn't quite believe it and put off writing this review. A few days ago I pressure-washed a patio in the pissing rain, and still bone dry at the end of the day, turned the pressure-washer on myself. Still dry. The other thing that's great about this 'outdoor jammy's' thing is, they are the quietest clothes this side of cashmere. Even wool hunting coats rustle, and ventile scratches in comparison

When my box arrived in the post I put the coat on. Before I could get to the mirror, or ask for it, Elfa gave me her appraisal  "Whoever made that for you is no taylor, is it even your size?" I've tried to explain to her that the deer don't care, I just want to be dry or at least warm and wet but it seems her dad always cut a dash while slaying partridges in the semi-desert of Spain. All I could think was 'Thank god she isn't Austrian, she'd want me to wear a cape'.

With their obscure website and strangely cut clothes it would be easy to imagine Nomad being seen as deeply unfashionable, but wait. All that is to change!
Last week, 'Hunter' another brand from the hinterland where practicality once ruled over style made their debut at London Fashion week. This would have passed me by but fortunately the keen-eyed Elfa was on hand to offer her incisive commentary.
"Look at disbeach, Joder, she's got your coat on, ess awful! Joder!"
So aside from the reassuring knowledge that, even afield, you are mysteriously at the very cutting edge of fashion, what else do you get for your money?

Very roomy and soft, outdoor pajamas. Andy Kirkpatrick once wrote an interesting piece about the psychological comfort we seek in very solid heavy outdoor clothes. I'd put Nomad in the same class as Kifaru's Packlock Parka - there's something vaguely disturbing about being in the cold, feeling warm, yet strangely underdressed.
 The bum-warmer pocket is a good idea for keeping a foam mat in place while hunting from highseats/treestands, but it would have been more versatile if the zip was horizontal and the pocket a bit bigger.
 The main zip seems fine but the smaller zips aren't really up to the job, this one has broken already.
The binocular pocket on the right is a stroke of genius, so simple and so effective, the document pocket suffers from the same flaws as the bum-warmer pocket and is unfortunately stitched in vertically so its not really useable if you're wearing a pack or harness.
The Binocular pocket is easily big enough as you can see from these super bargain 8x40's from Eden, there's easily enough room for glass in the 50mm class.
The panel under the sleeve is excellent, this smock is a bowhunter's dream so quiet and such good maneuverability, it'd be great for beachcasting too. Personally I'd have given the smock pit-zips as its very warm and not very breathable. They'd have the added advantage that it would be much more comfortable to wear with a pack's waistbelt worn inside the smock.

After so pretty wet and windy real world testing, and being 'pressure tested' with a pressure-washer here are my findings:

Warmth: Excellent can't fault it.

Waterproofness: Wow really really good.

Quietness: Superb. best yet tested.

Design: Functionally perfect, I couldn't help but feel that the Hill Smock is made up of missed chances to design something really fantastic. The money and time that went into the stupid belt loops could have been better deployed on the pockets and 'pit-zips' which could do double duty, making the smock a joy to wear with a pack rather than unnecessarily annoying.

Build Quality: The material is excellent, the seam tape is well bonded, the main zip is ok, the pocket zips are crap.

Style: I'm told I'm not qualified to make a judgement about that, but I have it on good authority that the deer don't care and 9/10 rabbits didn't respond to the survey.

Would I buy another one?
Absolutely. In a heartbeat. Annoyingly imperfect, but really really good.

More soon

PS Nomad also make a very highly regarded wading jacket - but more of that later.

Thursday, 6 February 2014

Unboxing Review Spyderco's South Fork By Phil Wilson

South Fork: home of TV's Ewings, an area in Utah, Phil Wilson's collaboration with Spyderco, or the place where the idea moves in another direction.

Phil Wilson made his name with a back-to-the-future design philosophy, while most makers favor a full-tang hunting/survival ethos Phil Wilson's is more hidden-tang fishing/hunting. All over the world people cut up fish with long thin flexible blades, all over the world butchers use long thin blades.  Yet all over the world knife makers sell short, thick, rigid blades as 'hunting' 'outdoor' and 'skinning' knives.

As ever, my interest was piqued by the idea of outlying performance coming from outlying thinking. Having owned a few 'sharpened pry-bars' over the years I was curious to try out his potentially 'foodie-afield' concept. So when Phil Wilson's Spyderco collaboration turned up at a price I could almost justify, in yet another moment of weakness I bought one.

Spyderco have always been one of my favorite companies, not just for their wonderful sharpeners and lazer-like folding knives, but the way Sal and Gail Glasser run their enterprise.
Spyderco have a way of speaking to their customers, 'speaking to' is wrong, they have a discourse with their customers that melds bespoken with small-to-medium production runs. You get a tool closely designed to a users brief, from a production run that's big enough that you can actually buy one, but small enough that there's a lively secondhand market for most of the designs.

I've seen 'business guru's' and 'marketing thought-leaders' waffle on about engaging with the customer, every time I've put my hand up and said "like Spyderco?" I've been greeted with blank incomprehension. Look and learn people. Spyderco have made a good thing out of offering: generalist and niche tools, in limited edition colours and specifications, feeding their customers interest not only in the designs but the materials. partnering with designers, makers, and groups of fans. Using the internet's knife forums as focus groups, and achieving that holy grail - offering the customer what they didn't know they wanted. Look and learn people. Look and learn.

 "The South Fork has evolved over about 20 years of my own use and from feedback from those who have used my custom knives. It is named after a mountain and valley area in Utah where I have hunted for Mule Deer and Elk. I guess you could call it a general purpose Sportsman, Working/ Utility knife. The edge sweep and trailing point make for an easy cutting geometry. The sharp point comes in handy for fine work like caping or removing a splinter or cactus spine. The belly sweep and slightly dropped handle position the blade in the hand for skinning big game. Some prefer a drop point or semi skinner for field dressing and skinning chores, but the trailing point has worked very well for me as well. Some will also prefer a shorter blade but again my preference is for a little more reach for boning out an elk quarter or removing the back strap. Some blade shapes are more efficient for specific field tasks but it is my humble opinion that the trailing point can cover a wide range of tasks easily."
Phil Wilson. 
You can read his articles on sharpening, steel performance and knife making HERE

The numbers:
Blade Steel: CPM-S90V
Handle Material: Green G-10
Sheath material: Bolatron ™
Weight: 5.3oz (151 g)
Overall Length:  9.57'' (243 mm)
Blade Length: 4.82" (122 mm)
Blade Thickness 0.118" (3mm)
Most fishing knives are a bit longer in the blade than this, most hunting knives a fair bit shorter. Will this be best of both worlds?

The is the first time I've seen Boltaron used as an alternative sheath material to Kydex, I don't know what its like to work with, but it's very nice stuff in the hand. The grade Spyderco have used here is a tad thinner than the kydex I've used to make sheaths, and the surface just a little smoother. It would seem to have exceptional shape hugging properties. One to watch.

Would I buy one for 'list price'? It's a very nice knife, made of the best materials, to a really high standard of fit and finish, but there are other knives that would get my $429.95. There are other Spyderco's that I'd buy before I'd saved up the money!
Would I buy one for 'street price'? Hell yes. I very nearly did. the South Fork has been a serious contender on my wish list for a while. On the day I had a window open and was about to press 'order now' at a more reasonable $230 on Amazon, when I found this example secondhand. I'm only going to use/scratch mine, I don't have any drawer queens, so I was happy to save more than a few bucks by going pre-loved.

More soon
PS I have a meat related project in mind, stay tuned for some real world testing in part two.

Tuesday, 4 February 2014

Unboxing Review: 5.11 Tactical RUSH 12

 I was looking for a daypack that I could use; piggybacked on my larger packs, day-to-day around town, or as carry-on when traveling on the very cheapest of european airlines. The 5.11 Tactical brand has a growing following online so when the chance to test one of the packs came my way I jumped at it. I've chosen the Rush 12 which is 5.11's 22l day pack. This model is very popular with the EDC crowd, lots of pockets and attachment points for all your Every Day Carry needs, tactical and indeed practical.

Let's get this puppy out the box!

Made in China was once a synonym for crappy, not any more, this pack is well stitched together and the materials used are as good or better than the camping store brands. The body is in a grade 5.11 call 1050D cordura. Which seems pretty tough and has been given a waterproof coating. We'll test that in part 2.

There is another name for the EDC crowd - knick-knack collectors - so its popularity is no surprise with it's grand total of 16 pockets, compartments and slots. If you look on the EDC forums or British Blades you'll see people showing their minimalist day packs - Kifaru's E&E for example - which have been fitted with side pods, organisers and all kinds of pouches. Great fun to choose and collect, but buying a pack that you then spec-out with pouches to carry the EDCer or Mall Ninja's; three torches, compasses, survival capsules, assorted electronica, multi tool[s], multiple knives and, that most essential of items, a tin foil hat, will quickly double both the sticker price and weight. Another downside is that the uncompressed load will be increased; all those pouches shaking and wobbling about as you walk decreases stability which is uncomfortable then fatiguing. The other [main] downside is that if your choice had been from the Kifaru or Maxpedition ranges; you'd now have spent the price of one of their bigger packs which would have been able to take a wider variety of weights, and be a far nicer carry than a minimalist pack with loads of extras grafted on to it.

My criteria for a pack in this size is different to the bigger packs: its not for hunting and fishing trips, its more of a mobile desk or portable office organiser. It needs to; hold a laptop securely, some paper files, have slots for pens and pencils, assorted measuring tools, a place to keep laptop and phone chargers where the prongs of the plugs don't scratch other things in the pack, I also need it to carry a packed lunch and some water. If it can stow all that and carry a sweater or rain jacket its meeting my needs size wise, and if I don't have to spend an age rummaging for every little thing, all the better.

A very nice touch is the integral fleece-lined pocket for your glasses - its the sort of thing you'll use every day and its in the right place - accessed from the unopened pack. With other packs I've always had to add one as an accessory.

The Rush 12 has a dedicated pocket for either a bladder or laptop which is positioned just right to keep the weight as near to your spine as possible.

These tabs conceal ports, for both normal people and southpaws, for the tube from a water bladder, a nice touch with the spare port the perfect pathway for a lead to or from a solar charger.

A little extra thought for the lifting loop's design is a nice touch too.

A good sternum strap helps a lot with stability, I find this one rides a bit too high for me and will be modded with a couple of snap rings.

The two compression straps aren't doing a whole lot of compressing but seem up to the job of protecting the zip. I really like the strap-tidies, 5.11's are similar to ones Mystery Ranch sell as an extra, and way, way better than ITW Nexus Web Dominators which always seem to go missing.

The full opening panel is a worthwhile touch if the bag is to do duty as a mobile office.

These little panels work like Kiraru' Amor-grip an idea so good I can't see why more pack makers haven't copied it.

Here's where the magic happens:
By putting the laptop/tablet pocket as close to your spine as possible 5.11 have given the pack the best chance possible of it being a pleasant carry, an interesting knock-on effect is that the shoulder straps are mounted behind the weight which seems to have a cantilever effect holding the pack to your back and allowing far less vertical movement. Makes a big difference.

The Verdict:
If there's a spectrum of packs, from Walmart/Lidl at the cheap and nasty end to Kifaru at the heirloom quality and spendy end. 5.11 are over the centreline for quality and quite a way under it for price.
For those of you who suck a lemon at the thought of spending $300-$600 [+ import taxes] on a daysack made in a western oligarchy by people paid a living wage, 5.11's chinese made offerings, at around the $100 mark are worth a look.
A well thought out design, well made, out of suitable materials. Comes with many of the tweaks other brands sell as extras. At around $100 excellent value for money. Definitely a keeper.

The lovely people at Ready To Go Survival have the full range, either empty or pre-loaded with some very well thought out bug-out and medical kits. Good guys to deal with.

More Soon
Your pal

Saturday, 18 January 2014

Deer Hunting In Paris: Book Review

Gotta flash this one up to you. A while back another former vegetarian Paula Lee got in touch saying 'we have some mutual friends and you might like my book'. I do, a lot. She is very very funny.

Deer Hunting in Paris: A Memoir of God, Guns, and Game Meat

Paula grew up in Maine, which has it's own Paris [who knew?] and lives in Paris [actual Paris], She lives the life of a european academic, she's got all the enthusiasm's of the ex-pat, knows where to eat, and all the cultural sights. The book really captures what its like to live in a foreign city, seeing all the things that are invisible in our home town's. One afternoon, sitting in the sunshine she's surfing a dating site 'for a friend' and sees a guy who piqued her curiosity, and happened to be from a few towns away from where she grew up.

Having moved an ocean away to take up the life of a european intellectual, the book is a record of her adventure rediscovering rural american life with her new boyfriend, who isn't above teasing his 'city-fied blue state girlfriend' . Some very funny scenes follow.

Paula leaps off the page, with her stories of a childhood being a minister's daughter as her korean family make their version of the american dream in rural Maine. Being a bit 'bookish' [to say the least] Paula also peppers the pages with snippets from some very obscure old books on hunting and eating. Through the accident of love she revisits her childhood through the eyes of a more worldly traveler. And its fucking hilarious.

Here are a few snippets from one of our emails conversations.

SBW: What's the best piece of 'woodsman's lore you've picked up?

PL: ...The part I liked best about that outing was Patrick smelling the snow to determine how old the rabbit tracks were. I am still not sure that technique works. He and his brother, my boyfriend John, love to try and convince me that certain "woodsman lore" is for real when it's actually just them making sh*t up.

SBW: In your book I get a sense of a very busy childhood - lessons, chores, work, the church etc Did you always have a wanderlust for travel? And why Paris - probably the second most 'up itself' city europe has to offer?

PL: Every girl wants to go Paris. It's just a question of "which" Paris: foodie Paris, fashion Paris, arty Paris, romantic Paris? I ended up with ratty Paris, which was just fine with me but I don't think it's good for tourism.

SBW: There's a great moment where you seem to see your own anthropomorphism; Homer the dog is either 'got' by coyotes or kidnapped - your new family don't seem that concerned by the fate of a working dog and not very good one at that - but you're still ' but its Homer!' imbuing him with personality, how did that change?

PL: Until I'd met Patrick's pack, I'd never experienced hunting dogs that actually hunt. They're like furry space aliens with wagging tails. Who knew that beagles thrill with doggy joy when there are real rabbits to chase instead of tennis balls?

SBW: In my experience the french are a lot more 'whole animal' than the English, with some americans in between and lots of your fellow countryman even more squeamish than the english, how long did it take you to adapt?

PL: Never understood the squeamish thing. I'll put it this way: for Christmas, John bought me muck boots to wear when shoveling manure, a new skinning knife, and a meat grinder to make venison sausage. I was very happy.

SBW: Why do you hide 'Guns and Ammo' on a church day?
PL: Can't hide the actual guns.

SBW: Looking from the outside the 'culture wars' between americans who can read and americans who watch Fox seem laughable how would you describe them to an overseas observer?

PL: Well, I argue with the Fox News people and John reminds me that they can't hear me, being on television and all. So I guess that it's in a nutshell: a liberal trying to debate with talking heads who don't care what I say, and a conservative reminding a liberal that you can't change reality by yelling more loudly.

SBW: The "sighting my rifle' story is very good, you capture the moment very well, have you thought about buying him a laser bore-sight?

PL: What he really wants is a tank. You can get them on the internet.

SBW: My GF calls internet dating 'shopping for men' I loved the idea of you browsing on behalf of a friend and finding john - have you ever found anyone for anyone? I ask as a GBF found me for my GF.

PL: See: "Tank." You can find just about anything on Amazon. Including frozen whole rabbits.

SBW: Does john ever come to paris to visit you, and does he hunt in france?

PL: John came to France. And to England. He didn't come to Korea. Poor guy finally got so exasperated by my month-long disappearances that we broke up. Then I came back; we had a huge row, and after a Bonobo-monkey-like negotiation session we resumed our relationship. It would be a thrill to hunt in France but have no idea how to arrange that. It's difficult enough to arrange in Massachusetts (a blue state made up of "readers," very anti-hunting).

SBW: When we were emailing about these questions you were skinning a 6 point buck with one hand and texting me with the other, and in the book you express an unfulfilled interest in tanning, have you learned to brain tan?

PL: "Have you learned to brain tan?" Trying saying that in an elevator! So far, it's coyote bait and a bit of suet for the chickadees.

SBW: I used to see a blogger from Massachusetts and she characterised / mocked the bostonians for including the word[s] 'wicked-awesome' in every sentence, was she being unfair?

PL: It is a wicked awesome place except for the Massholes who live here.

You can find her book on Amazon HERE

This post was brought to you, by me and the lovely people at Grammarly, I use Grammarly's free plagiarism checker because encouraging people to do their own writing instead of plagiarizing will make them better writers, I think of it as an act of kindness. It's also 'wicked-awesome' for confirming citations, which can come in very handy.
More soon

Thursday, 27 June 2013

Review: Lifeproof iPhone 4s Case

Lifeproof - even when life is Plumbing and Fishing

After the near miss of last summer's surprise swimming while fly-fishing the Usk I resolved to get a waterproof case for my phone. The choice available was hardy inspiring, so like so many projects it ended up on the back burner, with the phone traveling around in an old sock, keeps the rubble out but hardly waterproof. As chance would have it the case got a real life test on the first day, when I dumped a couple of litres of water onto my lap. No problem.

I got mine by chancing my arm and asking a PR company for one, BoB (Brother of Bushwacker) bought his for cash before leaving New Zealand, he was gutted to see that 'Ah that's where it is! Orange' was a colour choice, he has subtler grey edition. For people who like looking for things put down not five minutes ago there are a couple of 'tactical' colour schemes too. They look pretty cool but I've lost enough stuff already so its 'Ah ha! Orange' for me every time.

The design is well thought out, that lump at the top of the picture is a spare screw-in seal for the headphone port - sort of thing I'd lose on the first day so much appreciated.

Proper cases for smart phones are defiantly an idea whose time has come, everywhere I've taken it the case has started conversations about its design and practicality, The Littlest Bushwacker and I met a fella on the train who was pretty dissatisfied with his case, it had survived a few drops, and a nerve-wracking dip in a swimming pool, but only by the grace of god.

I was heartened to see that Lifeproof pass that most important of 'proper company' tests - they sell spare parts! And a rather cool floating case too.

More Soon
Your pal

Thursday, 13 June 2013

Fathers Day Hunting And Fishing Book

A Sportsman's Library: 100 Essential, Engaging, Offbeat, and Occasionally Odd Fishing and Hunting Books for the Adventurous Reader 
Stephen J. Bodio

If you just found this post from its title and you need a book for dad, for a dad who likes Hunting, or Fishing, or Dogs or Birds of Prey you're done, Steve B's book will remind the old man of a few favorites, and leave him wanting to order a few of Steve's favorites. It's a witty book, and as the recommendations of each of the 100 books have amusing and insightful anecdotes about the authors,  he's bound to like it. I did.

For the rest of you.

I've never met Steve Bodio but I avidly read the blog posts he writes from his Querencia in the high country of New Mexico. Hunter and naturalist, a-firearms aficionado, and the author of some very very well written books. He's the kind of guy you would ask for a book recommendation, he's read most of the cannon of outdoor literature and knew quite a few of its writers too. So the idea of asking him to put together a list of favorites was a good one.   

I imagine visiting him in his study, seeking a book recommendation with the background reading to put the recommendation into context, Steve's eyes light up and he turns to his groaning book shelves levers out a couple of volumes and wittily invokes their authors and environments. Done. His 'A Sportsman's Library' is that in a box.

But enough of books, I'm off to flick some lures at the Pike in the canal. 

more soon

Monday, 20 May 2013

Kelly Kettle Review

I've always heated water in a billy balanced on two sticks or rocks, but the method does have its drawbacks. So when the chance to get a mini Kelly Kettle came up I bought one. Handy thing it is too.
As you can see its hard to imagine a method for having a greater surface area to heat-exchange with, and as a side benefit the fire is effectively wind-proofed.

E of SN tells me they originated in Ireland as the preferred brew making apparatus of profesional seaweed gatherers, and with the design's ability to be carried full of water and stay alight in wind and rain, its a highly plausible origin story.
A big advantage of the Stormkettle F1 is 
the neoprene cover which both retains heat and protects fingers.

I've seen and used quite a few Kelly's over the years, the Aluminium models are obviously slightly superior in their ability to transfer heat, and the stainless steel editions slightly better in their ability to resist dents. A lad on Kickstarter was claiming to have invented the idea and was making his out of Titanium. While there are very few titanium things I havent bought over the years, the model from is I hope the best of both worlds. Ti is light, strong, corrosion and stain-proof, but its a pretty crappy transmitter of heat and ofcourse carry's a price premium that I'm not able to stretch to this week.
This puppy is Aluminium with an anodised finish and so far it seems very good. The other thing I liked about the F1 Storm kettle is it's a brew-kit, just enough water for two cups and not going to take up too much real estate in my fishing bag. I would have bought one years ago, but I've never seen one this petite before: Capacity: 0.5 litres Diameter: 12.5 cm Height - with fire bowl in: 20 cm Weight - empty: 450 g. Most of the companies around the world making Kelly Kettles will sell you gadgets to balance a frying pan on top. Forgive my cynasism but I reckon I'm just too clumsy to cook my bacon and eggs on such a device. The whole kit and kaboodle would be on the ground before the water was boiled.

More Soon
Your pal
PS yes I'm embarrassed to admit I drank instant so-called coffee

Thursday, 8 November 2012

Unboxing Review: Muck Boots FIELDBLAZER

The lovely people at Muck Boots have sent me a pair of their new FIELDBLAZER boots for testing and first impressions are they've made some improvements from the older, smellier, pair I've already got. Muck Boots have had Quiet, Warm, and Dry nailed since the first pair they made. Where theses look like an improvement is they've beefed-up the reinforcement for added support around the ankle and protection for your toes, which I thought was pretty much the only way to improve on the concept.
The new soles are a bit better too, horizontal strakes might not look as grippy, but are far better at self-cleaning than most studded patterns.

I paid cash for the last pair and would happily recommend them for woodland stalking, and especially for any kind of hunting where you have to sit in a chilly Highseat/Treestand.

Thanks again guys

Sunday, 21 October 2012

Book Review: Steve Bodio's An Eternity of Eagles

A while back I reviewed Stephen Bodio's haunting eulogy to Betsy Huntingdon and pion to New Mexico 'Querencia'. HERE. So I was delighted when a very nice lady wrote to me to say that I was on the review list for Steve's latest work 'An Eternity of Eagles' .

I first came across SB a few years ago when he started to comment on some other blogs, I started to read his blog, and in conversation another blogger (who I had just complemented on his writing) said
"but we all wish we could write like Steve B". As Steve's blog was largely notes to friends and in-jokes I searched for some more of his writing, found this piece about a trip to the Steppes to hunt with Egales and Kazakh tribesmen, and was hooked. Steve's other works have included highly rated studies of fine shotguns, Pigeons and Long Dogs.

The 'An Eternity of Eagles' is quite different to the works I've read so far, it could be thought of as a tour not of some far-flung lands but of a library collected during many many years as a student of Falconry.  It lands pretty squarely between scholarly tome and coffe table book, and is none the worse for doing so. For the casual reader there is a touch more detail than they might be expecting and for the budding Raptor obsessive a tantalising glimpse of where future reading could take you.

“There is so much brute wisdom, sophisticated science, blood magic, and flat out terrific prose in Stephen Bodio’s writing that he makes me think of Merlin, educating Arthur by turning him into other animals for a while. An Eternity of Eagles is worthy of its great subject, which is not only eagles but the earthbound mortals who marvel at them.”
—Jonathan Rosen, author of The Life of the Skies: Birding at the End of Nature

I was going to type up a few choice examples from the book; or try to give you a compressed version of the chronology of our ancient relationship with these fascinating birds, the evolution of the practices of training and hunting with them, and their roles as totems in so many disparate cultures. But instead I'll make you this offer. Buy the book, if you've read it and dont like it, I'll buy your copy off you and give it to someone who will appreciate it.

More Soon

Wednesday, 17 October 2012

Review: Fallkniven F1 v's Fallkniven TK6

I've had an F1 for a long time, as you can see I've used it, abused it and anticipate continuing to use it in the style to which its become accustomed for many years. The TK6 hit the door mat a few months back [read the unboxing review HERE] and I thought you might like to hear a bit about the differences.

I bought my F1 both in the states; and a while back, so it was a serious bargain - the knife I chose it against was a Gerber LMF which has also gone up in price over the last few years and now looks like very poor value for money. Whereas the F1 is still at least two or three lifetimes worth of knife.

The TK6 on the other hand is pretty much the same price as it was when it first came out. Not cheap, but with a few notable exceptions, quality seldom is. By staying the same price while other knives have gotten more expensive, in real terms the TK6 has actually gotten cheaper [you can tell yourself].

The F1 is a survival knife: so its for making firewood and shelters

The TK6 is a hunting knife: so its for dismembering beasts and cutting up snack foods.

Both knives are designed in Sweden by Fallkniven and made in Seki City Japan. When the F1 came out VG10 was a rare 'super steel' it's still super [and it's still steel - ber boom] but now you can buy a VG10 knife for $40, and there are other makers also offering laminated VG10 blades, so the rarity has died off a bit. VG10 is a fantastic steel for edge retention - I once gutted, skinned, and butchered a Fallow doe with a Spyderco Urban without needing to refresh the edge, that's a steel that holds an edge. At 59 HRC its a hard blade, the edge is more resistant to folding over, but obviously hardness is often accompanied by brittleness - I've chipped the tip of my F1 more than once, the first time splitting a stick and the second time dropped point first onto a granite worktop - although here the F1 beats any non laminated blade as the lamination takes care of any concerns about cracking or bending; I've prised floor boards up with mine and hit it with a brick hammer, it's still rocking on. You can see Fallkniven's testing HERE. And my reviews of the F1 HERE and of Fallkniven's sharpening service HERE. After a few years of using the F1 I wouldn't hesitate to recommend one.

The TK6 is a different beast; a shorter blade in the drop point style, made with a blade of '3G' (which is  Fallkniven's proprietary name for a lamination of  VG2-SGPS-VG2 steels) that is first hard to blunt and then hard to sharpen. At 62 HRC, SGPS is a very hard steel. So much so, that for me at least, Diamond Stones are a must. I've long wanted the TK6 as the next step in the search for my 'little-big-knife' a sort of field-scalpel on steroids. I love it, the blade shape works, there is just-enough handle, and the edge holding is other worldly.

Fat blades are not 'slicers' and never will be, so I wouldn't class either as being a very good kitchen knife, the TK6 being much better as the blade feels narrower. The F1's massive strength comes at the cost of always feeling a bit 'fat in the cut' whereas the TK6 feels a lot thinner. With the absence of any nearby Deer Stalking opportunities, when The Lighthouse Keeper and myself Fished the Usk, I prepared two Squirrels and skinned a road kill Pine Marten, here the TK6 really found its niche, its the most convient skinning knife/field scalpel I've found yet: Superb!

Enough blade length to prise away hide, but still short enough for a tip-protected cut when first opening the animal up. So no need for one of those silly "look at me I'm a hunter" gut-hooks.

I know I'm a Fallkniven fanboy so in the interests of fairness I have to have a bit of a moan about the fit of the TK6's handle, neither design has the casting quite right but somehow I'm more inclined to give the rough and ready F1 a pass and say that as part of the premium Tripple Krona range the fit on the TK6 is a bit of a let down. This isn't such a big deal for me as it's always been my intention to customise a TK6, it has the steel and blade shape I want, and some of the other features I'm going for aren't available off the shelf. If you were set on keeping the factory handle a bit of work with a scalpel and some sandpaper would sort it out, but you should bear that in mind before you order one. That being said, I seriously love mine, it's a lot of that perfect knife I've been looking for.

"There is no 'perfect' knife but you'll have fun looking for it" SBW

"There's no bore like a knife bore" Raymond Mears

The custom project, some huntin' with raptors, and air rifles, some stalking, and of course more kit reviews on the way.
Your pal

Monday, 21 May 2012

Unboxing Review: Fallkniven TK6

[Drum Roll] For the first time in the history of the SBW blog, ladies and gentleman, bushcrafters, hunters, foodies, boys and girls: something from the 'I Want One' series has actually dropped on to the doormat! I know! I can't quite believe it myself! My friends at Eden Webshops have been kind enough to let me have a Tripple Krona 6 to play with.

The Totally Objective, Scrupulously Fair and Unbiased bit 
The TK6 is one of the lesser-spotted Fallkniven's. I know a few people who want one, but no one who's seen or handled one, and I'm guessing that's because of where they fit into the Fallkniven range. Most of us started by buying an F1 and then looked at the range and either went for something bigger as a camp knife (S1) or the WM1 as a neck knife. The now 'hens teeth' 'posh F1' with the Micarta handle is highly regarded, the TK2 is a bit more 'Bushcrafty' so the TK 5 and 6 haven't found as much traction with the knife buying public in the UK.

I've always wanted a little-big-knife; something smallish but very strong, I tried the Bark River Mikro Canadian II - loved the blade shape but loathed the fit and finish, and found the blade just a bit too small. There are lots of nice folders out there, not many of the nice ones currently within budget, and the hassle of taking them apart to clean them after beast-processing duty kind of puts me off.
Truthfully, despite what I might say from time to time, I'm not done accumulating fixed blades!

In the hand - first impressions
Petite. Petite yet muscular. The TK6 feels quite heavy for it's size, and is sharp enough to pop hairs off my arm going with the lie of the hair! Very Sharp!! There's a noticeable palm swell that I'd not picked up looking at the pictures. The bolster-to-blade fit is seamless. The fit between the Thermorun and steel could be better although it wouldn't be a big job to sand it out.

Total length: 6.9" (175 mm)
Blade length: 3.15" (80 mm)
Blade thickness: 0.18" (4,5 mm)
Weight: 120 g (4.2) oz
Steel: 3G which is  Fallkniven's proprietary name for a lamination of  VG2-SGPS-VG2.
Hardness (edge): 62 HRC - yep sixty effin' two!!
Handle material: Thermorun AKA Grippy Black Plastic
Sheath(s): Fold-over black leather or Zytel (a cast plastic)

The TK or Tripple Krona [three crowns] series are a celebration of Swedish knife design and are somewhere between Fallkniven's more utilitarian knives [F1-S1 ect.] and the ultra high-end Northern Lights series. The Fallkniven design philosophy is immediately present; super trick steel, and a thick laminated blade, with a convex grind.

The 3G knives have a reputation of being slow to blunt and then equally slow to sharpen. Being a lamination of three pieces of steel they are incredibly strong allowing the use of very hard steel in the ore without the risk of cracking. The centre section of the lamination obviously forms the cutting edge and is Super Gold Powder Steel, a super trick steel from Japan that can be hardened to 62 HRC. Which is A LOT harder than most knife blades so its not going to lend itself to easy field maintenance. But on the upside it should still be sharp by the time you get home.

The TK5 comes with Cocobolo scales, personally I'm not a believer in Cocobolo as a material for knife scales, some people are allergic to it, and in comparison to other timber it's just not that good looking. I want my knives for field use, not as drawer queens that are just for looking at and occasionally fondling.  I've always wanted to pimp one so a TK6 with its Thermorun handle seemed like a better bet.

You can have a choice of Fold-Over leather or Zytel sheaths. I know the fold-over sheaths have both their fans and detractors, I'm not that fussed either way myself. The Zytel sheaths are truly spectacular in their fuglyness proving that even utilitarianism can be taken too far. There is a whole cottage industry devoted to making sheaths for Fallkniven knives, with some of the guys, like Martin Swinkels, making really nice work. My plan for the TK6 has always been to pimp it out and give it a matching sheath.

Value for money
Sure Fallkniven are asking quite a lot of money for what is basically a mass produced knife, the F1 isn't the crazy bargain its once was, but is still a lifetimes worth of knife for around a days pay.
The TK6? Yes you could buy a very nice knife from one of the less well known makers for the same money, but you wouldn't get the laminated super steel. The TK5's price puts you within reach of a true custom knife bespoken to your requirements. But as the knife I most wanted to commission would be a TK5 clone anyway and G3 is only available from Fallkniven I'm using the TK6 as my starting point.

As regular readers will know I don't really care about the initial purchase price: I've been cash rich and [as now] I've been cash poor.  When I've had the money I've been pleased to be able to afford good kit, when I've been broke I've been pleased that I have good kit.
Some of the good kit that I bought a while back is now two and even three times what I paid for it. My pal The Northern Monkey said no to an F1 at forty quid back in the day, and now they're a hundred and twenty, expensive is relative, quality isn't.

I'm planning on the TK6 being 'another lifetimes worth of knife'. So having used up the other 'value is what you get' mantras in previous posts I guess I'll just have to repeat the words of a man wiser than I

'I spent most of my money wining and dining northern tarts, [and buying boutique outdoor gear]. The rest of it I just frittered away.'

Edenwebshops sell all the cool brands of knives, and somehow are quite a lot cheaper than most suppliers, very nice guys to deal with, warmly recommended.

Better go and put that first heart-wrenching scratch on it.

More soon

Thursday, 19 April 2012

Book Review: Karamojo Safari by WDM Bell

I first learned about Bell through shooting the .275 Rigby, the tweaked Mauser Rifle he's synonymous with. Rigby bought the workings from Mauser in Germany, smoothed away the tool marks, added his own stylish woodwork, the best barrels available and money no object gunsmithing to set them up. By using a different system of measurement the military (and continental) 7x57[mm] Mauser became the (British) .275 Rigby sporting rifle. A name forever linked to WDM Bell.

Written some years after the fact Karamojo Safari is Bell's second book, widely held to be the best of the Elephant hunting genre, and a glimpse into the Africa of a hundred or so years ago.  This adventuring is a risky business: day in day out, for years on the trot. In a world before antibiotics; where every few seasons whole african nations would be swept by disease, where lurgy carrying bugs patrol the air, land and water, inter-tribal wars flare up, slavers prey on the smaller settlements, brigands kill whole trading caravans, and any number of mishaps can befall a gentleman on a shooting trip. Life has the potential to be full of vigour, and equally the potential to be short. Very short.

Having started young Bell is only in his early twenties when he sets out to make his fortune as an ivory hunter. He'd had already tried his hand at being a professional meat hunter in the Klondike and Lion culler during the expansion of the railways across Uganda where the Government had offered a reward for every lion killed within a mile on either side of the railway. Boyhood dreams of adventure not yet sated, and a young mans dreams of hard cash drew him to try his hand providing ivory for the london trade. Risking all during sixteen and a half years of long safari's off the edge of the map, in the very last days of Africa before the Europeans.

In Africa, in the old days, in what's now known as Kenya and Uganda on the map and Karamoja on the ground, there was ivory, basically just lying around all over the place. It was gathered and traded. Elephants were always killed by the locals for food, hides, ivory and to protect crops. Usually with snares, pit-falls, and falling spear traps, just not in very large numbers. Elephants live a long time before they die of natural causes so with the growing trade route to europe supply of found ivory was outstripped by demand and the price started to rise.

Intermediate technology:
Muzzle loading rifles struggled to generate the stopping power or accuracy required to ensure a clean kill. Unless of course the shooter was almost at spitting distance, and made an 'engine room' shot to the heart and lungs. The trouble with an engine room shot at very close range is it leaves the nervous system intact with the animal still animated for a few very long seconds. Pretty much the only thing more dangerous than an Elephant at close quarters, is a mortally wounded Elephant at close quarters. With such a prospect for loss of life Elephant hunting was more organised than opportunistic. A potentate or king could dispatch troops to hunt Elephant for him, but a village was unlikely to often risk its workforce on such a venture however much food, crop damage, and trade were at stake.

The Nitro Revolution:
Bell is famous for using the .275 Rigby, but the way Bell tells it his adventure was made possible by the evolution of ammunition, both the .303 British and the .275 Rigby he used for Elephants were the latest kit, gone were the days of having to hunt with blackpowder rifles that fired 0.1lb to 0.5lb [!] bullets pushed (slowly) by gunpowder. Bell was shooting at the dawn of the modern Nitrocellulose ammunition with its much higher velocities, and much tougher bullets that can penetrate thick skulls and mud-encrusted hide. With these quieter, lighter, more powerful and more reliable rifles Bell could hunt with less equipment, and not being disorientated by the blast could take quicker follow on shots at second and third animals who were merely puzzled by the crack of its report rather than panicked at the boom of the big bore rifles.

Placement, Placement, Projectile:
For Elephant hunting Bell favoured a solid bullet that wouldn't break up, so he could shoot elephants through the brain leading to instant death. Shooting an elephant through the brain is not as easy as it sounds, the skull is basically a large armoured box for a brain the size of a loaf of bread, so there are a limited number of angles from which the shot can be taken. Most of the time you'd have to be well within 50 yards and sometimes within 50 feet. Both distances an Elephant can cross, faster than you can run, while its still at a jog. Most important that the animals fell where they stood. The story is usually told that Bell used Rigby's proprietary 140gr rounds, or the lower velocity Steel jacketed military ammunition, in 'Wanderings' [his first book] he mentions using Copper Solids of 200grains. About half the weight of bullet that would be fired from an 'express rifle' or dangerous game gun

Local Knowledge:
Hunting in territory well outside the influence of the colonial powers Bell had to be diplomat, trader, and ace negotiator.  Where he could he acted as pest controller - adding to his reputation as a benevolent passer-by, culling elephants that were eating and trampling a settlements crops. In wilder places he set out to gain the consent of the local head man favouring the tactic of walking, preferably unarmed, into the village and asking permission of the headman to hunt his lands. By not acting as though he owed the place he set himself apart from the colonial powers and became an accepted part of the landscape. Word that "Red Man" was in the area with his little rifle that dropped big animals would go before him, his well known offer of cattle for whomever found him Elephants meant the local lads were always keen to help him out. In tribal societies the ownership of cattle was everything. For the local lads this would have been a literally life changing deal, one that would mean they could afford to marry, and have a wife/slave of their own. With a wife to grow stuff, weave baskets and mats, brew beer, and preserve foods the low born male would have a source of income, and the potential to be able to afford a second wife/slave. Helping Bell was literally a way to get on the ladder. Bell took the Ivory and the locals got the meat. Tons of it, Bell was a popular fellow.

Karamojo Safari is quite the tale, but I'm very glad I read The Wanderings of an Elephant Hunter first. Karamojo Safari would have benefited from the guiding hand of an editor, that said its a fascinating tale in 279 pages, just I couldn't help but feel that it would have been a really riveting tale in 179 pages.

Instead of the tribal intrigues and anthropological musings of Wanderings he takes us to the moment of the shot so many times that, this reader at least, became inured to it. As the book entered the home straight I found myself thinking 'If he climbs up on to the body of the first Elephant to shoot the second one more time I'll jump into the path of the bullet to spare myself the tedium.' . The days he describes are long gone, and his style of adventure will never be seen again, so Karamojo Safari is what it is. A fascinating if flawed tale from the last days of pre-colonial Africa.

If you like hunting and adventure stories you'll not be disappointed, personally I wouldn't bother with the massively over priced facsimile edition when for a few bucks more you can get an old edition that'll keep (and possibly gain) value, and has that awesome old book smell.

Stay Tuned for my reviews of Bell Of Africa and some of Bell's journalism

For the Locavore Hunter's excellent review of Karamojo Safari click HERE

More Soon
Your pal

Photo credit Ann Kovek

Sunday, 1 April 2012

Unboxing Torch Review: NiteCore D10SP

There are lots of really cool torches available, and most of them run on CR-123A wonder batteries. Making them very bright but less than ideal for Bug-Out or just travel.

They're called 'wonder batteries' because while in the back of beyond you'll be wondering how long it'll take to have some shipped to you in a one horse town where no one sells wonder batteries before you can use your 'super torch' to see in the dark. An activity I'd class as mission critical. Reliability and Availability the watchwords of outdoor equipment. Whatever it is, it must work when you need it to, and the stuff it eats must be available everywhere.

The  NiteCore D10SP runs on 'AA' which while not having the output of wonder batteries win out by being the most commonly available battery on earth, and a lot cheaper too.

Let the Unboxing commence:
One of the clever things in the design is the contact-less switching (Smart PD System) where instead of the contact switches found in most electronic products Nitecore are using magnets to make the connection; meaning there can never be a spark between the switches parts (reassuring while looking for gas leaks) and with no moving part to fail reliability should be excellent.

Once the light is switched on, pressing and holding the tail button cycles through three brightness settings: 130 lumens [1 hour], 35 lumens [6 hours] and 2 lumens [100 hours]. If you double click the tail cap it also has a very neat strobe function which would be very clearly visible, and run for a very long time in a survival situation.

Takes One AA battery - yep the ones you can buy everywhere that power the rest of your kit!
Military grade aluminium with a Mil-Spec Type III Hard Anodized finish
Resistance to impact by dropping according to US MIL-STD-810F
Waterproof to IPX-8 standard
Broad-voltage fully-regulated circuit - Li-ion compatible
Textured orange peel reflector [smoothes out the beam]
Impact-resistant optical lens with a dual-coating
Length = 89mm
Diameter = 19mm
Weight = 40 grams
As you might hope it comes with a lanyard

I got the black one but it's available in camo if you're the kind of person who likes to lose things.

More soon

Wednesday, 21 March 2012

Kifaru Regulator Sleeping Bag Review

"Lightweight, Durable, Inexpensive. Your choice of two." - Truism

Many years ago my cousin and I were camping out in Galloway on the savagely beautiful west coast of Scotland.  We would have been about ten years old, the tent we had was one my own father had used to hike around Europe one summer in the late 50's so it would have been about 25ish years old. The weather was, what I believe in the local argot is called, 'blowing up a whoolie', or as we'd say down south 'proper lashing it down'. The tent didn't have a sewn in ground sheet and was (50's style ultra light) treated cotton.

Cousin T woke me by shouting "I'm cold" then he woke himself up by shouting it again a bit louder. The reason for his discomfort was water had made it's way into the tent and pooled on the ground sheet, then been soaked up by his down sleeping bag. I know you're wondering why the grown ups hadn't made sure we'd put the tent up properly - we'd been camping out together since we were six, and it was the late 70's kids were supposed to learn by their mistakes. Also we were both wilful, self-possessed, little turds who thought they knew it all already, mouthy too, so we'd been left to our own devices.

The leash may have been long but the safety rope was short, one of the camp grown-ups came and rescued him. In the morning someone gave us a lesson that I've never forgotten. My sleeping bag had soaked up a bit of water too but I hadn't noticed. Synthetics init.

One of the grown ups explained; down is a fantastic insulator until it gets damp (even a little bit - through condensation) when it loses 80% of it's thermal efficiency. I've slept in a lot of down filled bags, they are very comfortable, I've envied the small spaces they pack into, and their light weight, but I've never bought one.
Down but only in town.
I love my down filled Northface puffa jacket (19 years old and still good) but I only wear it in the city. It's not reliable enough to wear afield, the potential to suddenly lose 80% of its insulation, and the attendant hassles of trying to dry it out, mean I'd rather not have it with me.

As observant readers will have noticed I'm a big fan of boutique gear makers, any fool can have stuff run up in China, I'd rather my money went to the people who designed the stuff and paid a living wage to the people who made it. I'm fat enough as it is missing the odd meal isn't going to hurt. 

Let's call it what it is: Kifaru kit is Distant Monarch [distant in 3 / male monarch in 4 :-) ] expensive, and not a lot cheaper second hand. I took a deep breath and repeating the mantra
'Boots and Bed - if you're not in one you're in the other'
bit the bullet and dropped the cash on a Kifaru Regulator Sleeping Bag in the Three Season class. Basically this bag is at least 25% more than many equivalents (making it about four times the price of something more basic). Worth it? Let's find out.

Reliability and comfort are EVERYTHING. Nothing takes off condition like a night being cold and wet, any day can be tolerated if at its end is a warm night's sleep. Kifaru's Patrick Smith is certainly a very clever chap, with the knack of starting his designs with a clean sheet paper and this bag is no exception, it's the sleeping bag re-imagined.

Patrick Smith did away with the full length zip, which has left me wondering about the orthodoxy that a sleeping bag 'must' have one, if its a rectangular bag then sure, but when the bag's 'mummy' shaped what good does it do? He's set the hood up to close with a pull cord just like most other bags but he's also put in a neck baffle to keep the heat in. Works very well and is so floppy you dont notice its there.

Inner Skin
I dont know what this material is called but its very very thin and soft to the touch

Outer Skin
It's so thin you can see through it, its translucent to the point where I thought there was mark on the outer skin but I realised it was on the filler. I'm not about to test it to destruction, but if [when] I do knacker it you'll be the first to know

This stuff is amazing, its almost as light and floppy ( or if you wanted to be nerdy about it, it has 'high drape value') as a goose down bag and yet there's hardly any of it, it's amazing as the bag is rated to 20F which is about -6C yet feels decidedly flimsy in the hands.

I had great plans for all kinds of tests during the recent cold snap, but sadly camera, thermometer, sleeping bag and your pal the bushwacker were never in the same place at the same time.  I did manage to do a bit of testing one night, it was minus four centigrade so i opened the bedroom window in the late afternoon to cool the room thoroughly, and it was fiar chilly by the time I bedded down. Slept like a log but was woken by dreams of  being in the desert with Tintin and Captain Haddock [The Crab With The Golden Claws], I'd left the radiator turned on so when the heating fired at six am the sudden raise in temperature woke me. Not the most empirical of tests I will concede, but all in all a very good sleeping bag and plenty warm enough for most adventures.

Stay tuned for more reviews: all unerringly accurate, and the only truly objective writing on the web.
Your pal

Thursday, 15 March 2012

Book Review - Glock: The Rise of America's Gun

Not really a handgun kind of guy myself [air pistols aside I've only ever fired an S&W 1911] but I do enjoy a bit of riflery and know a few enthusiasts, as Glock is such a touchstone of the culture I was interested in the story behind the icon. I wasn't disappointed, I would defiantly put this one in the upper tier of business books/corporate histories. It's a really interesting tale.

An outsider who'd never even owned firearms, and whose shooting experience made even mine seem comprehensive, starts with a clean sheet of paper and re-invents the pistol. An ingenious salesman sees the wind change for American law enforcement - wheel guns are out: it's not 'is it going to be an automatic pistol?' its 'which automatic pistol is it going to be?' - and seizes the day.
Ably assisted by lap dancers, with press and promotion by anti-gun pressure groups, and added profits generated by the assault weapons ban, team Glock turn an obscure Austrian radiator manufacturer into a major industrialist, his invention into a design icon and cultural phenomenon.

If you're hoping for pages of technical detail about the differences between Gaston Glock's design and that of his competitors you'll be better off reading or perhaps The Gun Digest Book of the Glock.  If you find stories of corporate opportunism and intrigue are to your taste you'll not be disappointed. I've always loved stories of the little team no one has ever heard of, rocking up and changing the game, Glock certainly did that. Well worth a read.

One from the 'ya couldn't make it up files'

Shaven-headed bearded muslim chap, my age, sitting next to me on the train.
"You're reading that and no one's even looking, if I was reading it they'd be pulling the emergency cord". Yep we laughed out loud.

On the blogging front
Not been out and about much lately, but I have been reading some great books, so more book reviews to come, some local history with suburban hunters and, funds permitting, a very special trip to meet another blogger or two. Before the chalk streams dry up completely I'm hoping this season is 'the season' I'll fulfil that longstanding ambition of catching a wild trout within the city limits

More Soon
Your pal

Tuesday, 17 January 2012

Stephen Bodio's Querencia: A Book review

I know an amazing carpenter, he has the relaxed air of a man who has it just right for him. Secure in his own skill, comfortable in his life. He has the good fortune to be married to a financial genius, not for him the stresses and stains of billing and tax payments. They have a porsche, and about five houses. If you want to hire him he just tells you his day rate and after that you deal with her, email only, she bills you for his time, gives him pocket money and ensures they live well. Very very well. The rest of us live like street dogs. He works for me and I live like a dog. As MCP said "I wish someone loved me that much"

'Querencia' describes a place where we feel safe, the well from which our strength of character is drawn, that little bit of real estate (in our heads or our environment) where we are truly at home. I'm told It comes from the verb 'quere', to desire, to want. Great name for a book. Or a home.

Back in the days before the rise of the bleached shivering whippet, back when smart was still cool and you could earn living writing long-form journalism Steve finds himself at something of a loose end

I had expensive tastes in belongings , adventure, and alcohol.... I had two fifty year old LC. Smith shotguns, one engraved, 500 books, a master-falconers licence and a captive bred Lanner [falcon]
with ancestors from South Africa and Ethiopia. I liked my life but I had nobody to talk to

Steve hooks up with Betsy Huntington and after a while they pack their worldly goods into a yellow Datsun and trade new england for new mexico. There begins a tale of seven years exploring a remarkable landscape with a remarkable woman.

'If there was a breeze you could inhale the incense of burning Pinon and Juniper from the town a mile up wind, strong and sweet, evocative and nostalgic. My sister from back east thought it was "the scent of Mexican cooking spices" Kit Carson said that if you ever smelled it you would return to the high villages of New Mexico as long as you lived.'

' "sounds good to me" this from Chubby firmly. His hand was extended. I took it, and although I could not know it, started living in Magdalena'.

As naturalists of the old school - red of tooth and claw - Steve and Betsy are the perennial students of their own interest. This is a story of an absorption into the landscape, where every rock and fold in the land is a track, a story left behind in a very very slowly evolving landscape. Giant skys, arroyos that flash from dust to full before your eyes, all in the clear harsh light of altitude.

The area is not short on local colour; Steve paints a backdrop so vivid that the found-words jump off the page into that space of the remembered imagination where all the great books make their home.

The middle of route 60 which just seconds before had contained only a few wandering bodies now held a brawl as thick as a snarl of ants on a summer sidewalk. Above the thwhack of fists against bodies rose a cry I will never forget "That horse never fucked nobody!"

Betsy too leaps from the page; a woman who has seen such a variety of different lives that she must have been an amazing co-conspirator, able to explore without judgement, and to summon up both the wisdom of the well travelled and the childlike enthusiasm Ursula Le Guin summed up as "The creative adult is the child who has survived."

Now Betsy would join us, in her own way. She had always been a leisurely climber, and claimed her smoke breaks revealed more wildlife than I ever saw. Now with her bad leg, she might drop and hour or more behind me. If I waited at all obviously she would be furious. She'd walk up slowly, taking pains to stroll rather than labour, only her reddening face betraying her effort. She's stop and eye me angrily from under her bangs as she lit a camel. "Do not wait for me. I am not an invalid. If you insist on seeing me as a burden I shall not come". I was reminded of the time she had told me about some boyfriend who said he "needed" her . "I told him I didn't want to be a necessity or a responsibility. I'd prefer to be an indispensable luxury"

After my first reading of Querencia I lent the book to MOB (my mum) she loved it too

MOB: 'wonderful writing and an amazing eulogy to Betsy"

SBW: I wish someone loved me that much

More soon
Your pal

Here's the Link to Steve's page on Amazon
His blog of the same name 
And a link to some of his journalism 

Tuesday, 13 December 2011

Girl Hunter: Book Review

I was made-up when I got sent a pre-release copy of Georgia Pellegrini's second book 'Girl Hunter' to read and review. Unknown on this side of the pond she's built her media profile as the champion of 'retro-locavore'; recipes that develop from meals with people, seasonal local ingredients, and seek to evoke those moments again.

I hunt and gather myself, and hone my pioneer skills. I seek ingredients that are anchored to the seasons and a definite place. It is the kind of food once served in simple restaurants and in homes by housewives, now, by grandmothers, by families for generations, and today by people – culinary artisans – choosing to do the hard work required to live off the best their hands can produce.

The good news is she's an engaging storyteller with the 'get stuck in' sensibility of the true adventurer. The bad other news is you'd need to spend a year hunting to get all the ingredients for the mouthwatering recipes at the end of each chapter.

'G' travels from across the US (with a stop-over in england) from the pay-to-play luxury lodge of the Berretta Trident directory where multi-million deals are done as investment bankers follow the dogs, to multi-generation gatherings where families enact their rituals over grandma's recipes. 'The Commish' a former fish and wildlife commissioner takes her on a variety of hunts and to learn the ways of the hunter.

I really enjoyed it and am giving it for a Crimbo prezzie to a couple of people

More Soon

The link to the Amazon page is HERE

Tuesday, 6 December 2011

Hunting Deer For Food: Book Review

'The nuts and bolts of putting meat on the plate'

I've read a fair few hunting magazines in the last few years, I've seen lots of websites that also claim to show you 'how to hunt TROPHY BUCKS!' but if your reading this you'll probably have noticed that that's not really the way I roll, I would love to have a wall hanger but I'd happily settle for one most trophy hunters would walk past, and I'm not the only one. The greatest trophy of all is a full freezer.

Jackson Landers who blogs as The Locavore Hunter has brought out 'Hunting Deer For Food' a book for newbie hunters who don't eat antlers. Unlike the hunts in the magazines where 'just regular guys' drop four and five figures to be flown into the wilderness Locavore Hunting takes place, ideally, footsteps from your house and costs as little as possible.

Where HDFF wins out is it covers everything you need to know in just enough detail to get you asking the right questions when you take those first steps away from the supermarkets and their Factory-Pharm beef. I wish he'd written it years ago.

If you've become interested in having a more honest relationship with your dinner, reading Hunting Deer For Food would be just about the best place to start. Or you could buy it for someone foodie for Christmas?

More soon

On Amazon

Here it is on Amazon in the UK