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A Finn in the Forest, Part I

№250 ~16 minutes

In which I manage to get ready to live out in the woods for a weekend in what is probably the longest entry to date. Reviewing oh so many different products I also reach a new low when I review a spoon.

Right.

It’s been 15 years or so since I last went camping or slept in anything that looked like the great outdoors.

15 years is a long time. Long enough so that I don’t own anything any more.

Not a thing.

I don’t even own shoes that are appropriate for walking on anything that isn’t asphalt.

But I used to be a scout, so I imagine some of those primal survival instincts must be hidden in there, deep in my subconscious.

A Finn in fetal position

Faced with the prospects of my endeavour I naturally did what any self-respecting 21st century man would have done; I lied down in a fetal position in a corner of our home and cried a little—and then I went to the Internet!

Improvised camping using sticks and plastic bags in North Madagascar.
Some people are better than me at dealing with harsh situations. Original photo by David Darricau.

Researching online, as always, lead to millions of hilarious results ranging from Dave’s crazy instructions on how to set traps and hunt with bow and arrow to “12 Outdoor Survival Skills Every Guy Should Master” according to Men’s Fitness, which were either pointless or obvious—or both.

Hours of research go by as I compare different models of tents and sleeping bags and learn all about the different ways of packing a rucksack.

In the end I’m quite happy with the equipment I brought but at the same time, I see a lot of room for improvements.

The gear

In my research I discovered that many people who go camping divide their equipment into different systems, which is why I’ve done the same.

I also thought it wouldn’t be me, if I didn’t rate everything and today’s rating system, 1-5 axes, is inspired by Crazy Dave himself.

Improvised camping using sticks and plastic bags in North Madagascar.
1. Ventura 40L Rucksack, 2. Festival Dome 2 Man Tent, 3. Microlite 500 Sleeping Bag, 4. Yellowstone Aluminium 5 Piece Cook Set, 5. Tatonka Stainless Steel Plate, 6. Yellowstone Stainless Steel Cutlery Set, 7. Plastic Water Bottle, 8. Helikon Folding Cup, 9. LE® Adjustable Focus CREE LED Flashlight, 10. Leatherman Multi-Tool Wingman, 11. 550 Paracord Military Spec Type III 7, 12. Lifesystems Adventurer First Aid Kit, 13, Multi Functional Skull Bandana, 14. Packable Cagoule, 15. Web in the Woods wristband and t-shirt, 16. Rockie Hi GTX Boots, 17. Impress Coffee Brewer.

The packing system

The packing system essentially boils down to this; Lighter packs have less zippers, less compartments, less straps, less to figure out and, maybe most importantly, less to worry about.

The downside is that they also offer less structure and support. Cutting down on weight inevitable leads you to a point, where your rucksack really is just a plastic bag.

Ventura 40L Rucksack

“A 40 liter rucksack is plenty,” I thought to myself as the sales woman showed me differently sized bags and I rejected them all in favour of this tiny rucksack.

In hindsight, a 65 liter rucksack might have been a better choice for longer treks but at least this will always force me to question any additional equipment as space is limited.

Having said that, I’m quite happy with the rucksack and hope to get more use of it.

Rated 4 out of 5 Crazy Dave’s axes.

The shelter system

The shelter system, at its most basic, is the thing that keeps you shielded from all those awful elements Mother Nature wants to throw in your face. Sometimes it’s a light drizzle, sometimes it’s frozen hail that rips fist-sized holes in your tent roof. Sometimes it’s some fucking Jay birds screaming in the middle of the god damn night, waking you up in a state of panic because you completely forgot that you were in the woods.

Either way, the shelter system is what’s intended to keep you safe from all of these things. Except for the last one.

Festival Dome 2 Man Tent

After agonizing over lots of different tents, from the ultralight Kinetic Carbon 3P by Easton to sleeping under a tarp suspended across some trees, I finally settled on a cheap festival tent for two.

Whoever decided it was, “for two,” was being overly optimistic as the only way I can imagine two people could ever fit into this tent is if both of them are sawed in half. And one of them slept outside the tent.

Spacious enough for me but if I go camping with Lucien—and he would really like to—then I’ll have to get a new tent anyway. Unless he would be happy to sleep under a suspended tarp, close to nature. At least I don’t have to worry about wolfs or bears here.

Rated 1 out of 5 Crazy Dave’s axes.

The sleeping system

Sleep. If only I could take a pill to never have to sleep again, without any of the consequences of not sleeping, I would. Sadly that’s not the case and I become quite murderous without my solid 7-8 hours.

When it comes to your sleeping bag you only really have two choices and that’s what filling you want for your sleeping bag, down or synthetic?

Down is more efficient, which means it’s lighter and takes less space than an equivalent synthetic fill. But if it gets wet you’re fucked in a hard and crispy way.

Synthetic fill is cheaper and doesn’t suffer as many down-sides when wet but it’s always heavier and has an overall shorter shelf-life.

#Microlite 500 Sleeping Bag, season 2/3

“You get what you pay for,” was the first thing that came to mind as I hung the sleeping bag on a carabiner, swung my rucksack around to put it on and watched the sleeping bag’s hooks rip apart as it flung itself across room.

Improvised camping using sticks and plastic bags in North Madagascar.
Ripped but still functional.

I toss and turn a lot when I sleep—so much so that I woke up with the zipper underneath my right shoulder as opposed to its initial starting point of next to my left arm. And I found myself trying to turn in this thing but ended up mostly tangling myself tighter into my Sleeping Cocoon of Death instead.

In the end, the sleeping bag did keep me alive, so there’s always that. But I was colder than I expected and couldn’t move as freely as I would have liked to.

Rated 3 out of 5 Crazy Dave’s axes.

Single Airbed (not pictured)

What to have underneath myself was another thing I agonised over for days. The minimalist survivor in me wanted to take a pad—foam or otherwise—and the voices of reason—which in this case was Rebecka and Kris—both said I should bring an airbed so that I could get a good night’s sleep and be well rested in preparation for my talk.

The voices of reason won in the end and I packed a pump and the single airbed we have for our guests.

And I’m grateful because I’m sure I slept more comfortably than I would have on a simple foam mattress. But at the same time they all take up more space than I would like them to and also I’m not a big fan of sleeping on an airbed as they tend to be softer than I would like them to be.

Rated 2 out of 5 Crazy Dave’s axes.

The cooking system

Moving on, now that we’ve covered the Big 3: keeping all your equipment somewhere when you’re walking, something to keep you dry and something to keep you nocturnally warm, we arrive at the final system; The cooking system. The system to keep me from starving to death as I lie in my tiny claustrophobic tent trying to find the zipper to my sleeping cocoon. Of death.

I knew we were going to have firewood and water available which meant I could pack a lot lighter than I would have otherwise.

Improvised camping using sticks and plastic bags in North Madagascar.
1. Yellowstone Aluminium 5 Piece Cook Set, 2. Tatonka Stainless Steel Plate, 3. Yellowstone Stainless Steel Cutlery Set, 4. Plastic Water Bottle, 5. Helikon Folding Cup, 6. Impress Coffee Brewer.

Yellowstone Aluminium 5 Piece Cook Set

A small cooking set that packs into itself and straps together makes for a neat way to make food.

I only used the smaller pot as it was sufficient for my needs but I can see the larger pot being used for meals for two.

The only real disappointment is that I wish it came with a bag to cover it with because after the first use it gets covered in soot which you’ll never get clean again.

Rated 4 out of 5 Crazy Dave’s axes.

Tatonka Stainless Steel Plate

Instead of getting a bowl and a plate, I decide to get the best of both worlds. Perhaps you could call it a plowl? blate? bote?

Or just, “plate,” and be done with it.

The right size so that I can strap it together with the cooking set makes this for an excellent plate.

Rated 5 out of 5 Crazy Dave’s axes.

Yellowstone Stainless Steel Cutlery Set

What’s there to say, it’s a cutlery set as good as any other.

I think I could get away with only carrying the spoon with me. And if I sawed of the handle a little bit I think I could fit it into the Yellowstone cooking set—which would be awesome.

It performed as expected, I would put food on it and lift it to my face and as expected the food would make its journey to my eating hole quite safely. Most of the time anyway.

I want you take a step back and really experience this moment we’re having together as I… review… a fucking spoon.

But not only that, I review a spoon which doesn’t even get 5 out of 5.

Rated 3 out of 5 Crazy Dave’s axes.

Plastic Water Bottle

This is a plastic water bottle. It holds water. And apparently it’s—as the large all capitals text imprinted into the plastic says.

For water only. Do not apply canteen to open flame or burner plates.

Because let’s face it, if it wasn’t for the warning I might have put this plastic canister into the fire, hoping to boil water in it.

It came with some stupid belt clip as well but it didn’t seem to work at all I ended up throwing it away and hanging it of a carabiner instead but it would be nice to be able to hang it of my belt or something, which is why I’ve deduced 1 point.

Rated 4 out of 5 Crazy Dave’s axes.

Helikon Folding Cup

I got this mostly for nostalgic reasons, as I had a cup exactly like this one back when I was scout. It’s a cup, that folds in to take less space when camping but again, I mostly got it because of fond childhood memories.

Rated 5 out of 5 Crazy Dave’s axes.

The “everything else” system

Because let’s face it, after all these organised “systems” you’re still going to be left with an assortment of stuff that doesn’t fit into any system, but you still need to take with them you.

LE® Adjustable Focus CREE LED Flashlight

A good and bright flashlight made even better by its adjustable focus. But if I need both hands to do anything I have to hold it in my mouth, which isn’t ideal.

Rated 4 out of 5 Crazy Dave’s axes.

Leatherman Multi-Tool Wingman

I feel like I spent way too much time comparing two different models of Leatherman, thinking about whether I need a serrated blade or not, “Who knows when I might need to saw my arm of—like James Franco in the film 127 Hours,” before I settled on the Wingman.

It’s more of handy tool to have but if I ever went camping without having firewood readily available I might need an axe as well.

And by no means is this the best one out there but it was in the more affordable end.

Rated 3 out of 5 Crazy Dave’s axes.

Untested equipment

I didn’t get around to testing or using the following equipment: 550 Paracord Military Spec Type III 7, Lifesystems Adventurer First Aid Kit and the Multi Functional Skull Bandana but I’m sure there still pretty awesome.

Packable Cagoule

If there’s one thing one can rely on living in the UK it’s the rain. It might not be raining right now, but it’s probably going to be pissing down in a few minutes.

With that in mind, I figured it was important I got something to keep me dry

Web in the Woods wristband & t-shirt

As an attendee and team member—meaning I also had to help—I had the honour to getting a wristband and a t-shirt.

Rockie Hi GTX Boots

Of all these things that I’ve gotten, the shoes were the first ones that came to mind.

Not only did I know that I would need some decent camping boots, I also refused to settle for ugly boots. Call me vain but I wanted boots stylish enough to suit walking into the office a rainy winter morning.

After trying many different pairs I finally found a pair that suited both my needs, the aesthetic as well as the practical.

Rated 5 out of 5 Crazy Dave’s axes.

Impress Coffee Brewer

And finally, we come to my weakness, the one area where I refuse to compromise at all.

Coffee.

Whilst I wasn’t about to take a cafetière with me I knew I needed something capable of making a good cup of coffee.

As far as I’m concerned the Coleman Camping Coffee Pot is taking it a bit too far though. Then again, who am I to judge? Maybe it appeals to people who enjoy glamping instead camping.

Looking around, I finally settled on an Impress Coffee Brewer, originally funded via Kickstarter, this one-cup-at-a-time brewer had been receiving glowing reviews everywhere.

And it’s pretty amazing. Thought not as tight as a thermos should ideally be—it spills a little easier than I would like—its capability to keep coffee hot, is like nothing I’ve ever seen.

It’s easier to clean than a cafetière and brews a cleaner cup and might well become my go-to brewer of choice when at home, that’s how good it is.

Rated 5 out of 5 Crazy Dave’s axes.

Kris had already ridiculed me for being, “too prepared,” to which I had scoffed in return because as a former scout the idea of being too prepared simply doesn’t exist in my vocabulary.

You’re either prepared or you end up cutting your arm of.

And I plan on being ready.

description.
Urban Carlos vs. Outdoors Carlos, who will win?

If I don’t return alive, let it be known; Carlos grew a fairly decent beard.


Come back on Thursday for Part II and read about my weekend in the woods.

A Finn in the Forest, Part II

Oh Shit, Camping!

Web in the Woods

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