Thursday, 31 October 2013

Zombie Apocalypse

Zombie Apocalypse

(This one is just for fun to celebrate Halloween, please note, the guns you see in the pictures are air soft guns and therefore not real, except the air rifle....which is a real air rifle and under the UK legal limit of 12lb foot of air pressure and registered to me)

          Its finally happened, well something happened anyway and now the undead are walking the earth and feeding on those of us that can`t escape them or fight them off, we don't know what attracts them, sound, smell or vision.
          I`m one of the lucky ones I`ve managed to survive but it hasn`t be easy and now I want to pass some of this advise onto you.

          The first thing needed in this situation is to stay positive, even if you end up on your own, there is always something to be positive about, trust me on this. even if its only the fact that you`ve found somewhere secure to stay for a few days.

          The second thing to remember is the four priorities of survival,


          This means protection from everything, including protecting yourself from those...things, the weather and other humans, of these the undead is the main priority, there are at the moment at least four different types of zombies that we have identified and each needs a different strategy to cope with.

  • Undead, most numerous zombie type, these can be easily avoided as they move slowly and usually in packs, they are also easily put down
  • Fatboys, easily identified by bloated stomachs, these move even slower than undeads but have a deadly sting, they tend to explode when hit, spreading infected entrails everywhere, even easier to avoid, if you have to put them down make sure you are at a far enough distance to avoid the explosion.
  • Crawlers, as the name suggests this types crawls across the ground usually as the result of an undead falling over and not having the sense or strength to pick themselves up, this type is more dangerous as they are quieter than undead and being closer to the ground a little harder to spot. A kick to the head usually sorts this type out
  • Berserker, this is the most dangerous type, fast and agile, springing from nowhere and usually with little to no warning, they are the very devil to put down, not because they are any stronger but because they are so damn fast its hard to target them, the only people I`ve seen put Berserker`s down at any distance is the armed forces or armed police, the best tactic is to avoid, which is hard.      

  The easiest way to avoid all of the above is to simply stay away from them even if you have to go miles out of your original route but the best way is of course to arm yourself...

          What I have here is a Beretta 92, a Smith and Wesson .38 revolver, a .22 rifle a machete and a knife...that of course is a lie, at least the 2 handguns are seeing that they are illegal in the UK, unless you`re in the armed forces, armed response unit of the police or a farmer it is highly unlikely you`ll come across any form of firearm and good luck trying to persuade any of them to loan you one, believe me I`ve tried. it isn`t all bad news though, with some bolt action rifles and shotguns still being legal, it is possible to get hold of some of these and if you are one of those people that are lucky enough to have one can I be your friend...please?
          So what can you do to protect yourselves from the undead? well at long range not an awful lot it really boils down to two things, bows and crossbows, I prefer bows simply because I grew up using them, they do of course have downsides they are slow, they can be unwieldy  and they do take a lot of practise to use properly and to be accurate with, on the plus side they are silent and its fairly easy to make more arrows, crossbows are easier to use and quicker to become accurate with but the bolts are harder to make. if you do manage to get hold of something like this LEARN HOW TO USE THEM EFFECTIVELY nothing worse than seeing someone who can`t use a weapon. 

          Thankfully close range weapons are easier to source and easier to improvise but it does mean letting them get close which has its own problems, remember one bite is all it takes, the list of things that you could use is almost endless from cricket bats and iron pipes through to knives and axes, of these try and use something that will keep at least a small amount of distance between yourself and them it`ll help believe me, I`ve even seen people improvise pikes and spears for this reason and remember whatever you use aim for the head.


          At some point you will have to move from place to place and this will more than likely mean that you will need to walk which inevitably means encountering different weather, dressing in layers will help with the differing situations, try to avoid cotton wherever you can as it holds onto water and and makes you colder, high collar or neck gaiters not only helps stop the wind coming in but can help stop them from biting you, especially if you stitch some metal plates into the collar... boots are better than shoes even if they are heavier, they are generally waterproof, you can use them for kicking and they give better protection from crawlers biting your ankles, for waterproofing use soft shell, if you can get hold of it, because although they are shorter and often not fully waterproof, they do not rustle and therefore decrease the chance of attracting them, you`ll also need to find some way of protecting your equipment, at one time plastic dry bags would have been the way forward and whilst these still are the best I have my doubts, they make a lot of noise when being opened and closed which could attract the undead, which is why I have bartered for heavy duty canoe dry bags, they do the same thing but make less noise, the downside to these is they are heavy.

Other people

          It may seem strange to have to protect yourself from other people after all we are all survivors...while this is indeed the case there are some that have become...not exactly the nicest around, the vast majority of survivors have chosen to stay in and around towns and cities behind walls and gates others have chosen to move around trying to make the best of what they can find, I fall into the later category, both of course have there issues, if you`ve chosen to stay in towns make sure you know all the exits are because when...sorry if the walls are breached you will need to bail out quickly whether that be through undead attack, bandit attack or something else, which leads me on to the next thing if you choose to stay in towns, have a bail out bag ready to go at all times something you can grab that contains a few days worth of kit to survive with including some kind of weapon, the good thing about staying in towns is that you have a lot of resources to go around and others to defend you, you`ll probably have to spend some time on the walls yourself in defence of the town but its not too much of a hardship, the downside to having these resources and defences is everyone knows where you are and they will inevitably want to take some of those resources for themselves usually without bartering or consent. 
           If like me you choose to go it alone you still have to be aware of certain things number one is the random undead, thankfully these are few and far between as they tend to congregate together in packs but there is always one, deal with these as you come across them, number two perhaps more importantly is bandits, these people are more dangerous, they only have one rule and that's to look after themselves, there is usually no bargaining with these people, they ambush, take what they want and leave you to your fate, if you`re on your own there is no defence other than being prepared and being suspicious of everything, this isn`t so much of a problem if you`re in a group.
          You may be lucky enough to come across a group of friendly survivors, if this happens you may be able to barter for things that you need, if you are really lucky you may even be invited to join the group that of course is your choice.         

           Its safe to say that most of you will be thinking that its best to stay in your houses and while this may be true for some of you, you have to think if you can defend it not only from the undead but from other people after all you`re going to have things that others want, stay there and help other survivors if they come along...if you can trust them, if you are forced out or decide to leave then use buildings as much as possible they have strong walls and are easily defensible but make sure there are two exits, needless to say what will happen if you get trapped inside. Also make sure that the building has good all round vision from all floors especially the upper floors, if you can, board up the ground floor windows regardless of whether they have glass or not it may buy you a few precious seconds, something I have found really desirable is a fireplace, its meant I`ve managed to light a fire in relative safety as the sound and light is hidden by the fireplace and the smoke has drifted above everything else, unfortunately thanks to a lot of modern buildings fireplaces no longer exist so this is becoming a rare luxury. If you do manage to find a fire place block all the windows into that room so that no light can spill out and gather all the combustible materials you can before night fall so that you don't have to venture outside after dark but also be aware of the downside to this you`ll have no idea about attack before it happens
          I can`t count the times I`ve been forced to sleep under canvas since this all started and I`ve learnt a few things, the first one of which is unless you are in a group don`t sleep in a tent, if you are attacked by a group of the fast ones (berserkers) you may not get out in time, I`ve seen it happen countless times so just don`t. Second try and have all round vision even if it means compromising your shelter slightly you will not regret it, third don't do your sleeping bag up all the way, this is for the same reason as the tent, forth keep all your weapons inside your sleeping bag , this will keep them dry, stop rusting if you`re lucky enough to have a firearm and in the case of my bow it will stop the string deteriorating, if you have a gun, unload it, remove any round from the breach and safety it, sounds obvious but better than shooting yourself. If you end up on your own don`t leave a fire burning overnight, this may attract them, but also attract anybody else in the area some of which will releave you of everything...

          You still need to know if something is coming your way, human or otherwise and its best to set up a perimeter, this doesn't have to be elaborate just a simple trip wire will do but it does need to make some sort of noise.
          I use some old tin cans with something inside to make it rattle.

         Again this is not needed if you are in a group but you will need to set up sentries to guard you while you sleep.

          Although I have listed both protection and shelter as more important priorities, both water and food are the things that people fight over and its pretty obvious why, having a clean water supply and an ample supply of food makes surviving this a lot easier.
          It stands to reason that you cannot create water but you can collect it, rainwater being the best for this, try avoiding plastic bags for this, the drumming may attract them and the rain will dull your sense of hearing, don`t collect more than you think you`ll need each litre of water weighs one kilo and the more weight you are carrying the slower you are going to be, I`ve found the best amount is 3 litres, 2 to drink and one as spare.
          As we still don`t know what caused the dead to walk the earth, avoid water from rivers or streams, the wildlife in them may spread or even be the cause of this disaster and may spread this to you, of course I understand that you may have no other choice but please only use this as a last resort,
          If you are near the sea you can use desalination methods to obtain fresh drinking water but beware they can be slow and might not yield much water, the method I`ve used for this are "can within can" this is where you have a smaller can inside a bigger can, boil seawater in the bigger can, steam rises hits a lid, condenses back into fresh water and is collected in the smaller can. The other method is to wrap leaves of trees in preferably plastic bags to collect water vapour overnight, although this does mean using plastic bags, some older buildings farms in particular may also have wells which is probably the best and safest way of collecting water although inevitably these will be guarded and if they`re not be suspicious, a reliable fresh source of water is getting harder to come by so think to yourself why is this well not guarded. whatever method you use make sure you boil the water for at least five minutes before drinking.


          Unfortunately most peoples minds have immediately turned to food and they horde what they can, good in some ways as it makes sure they have enough to eat but how long do you think fresh food is going to last with out refrigerators to keep food cool? and more importantly how long do you think you would be able to keep the fact that you have food from other people? the first thing I will say is this, you may have to give up on moral objections when it comes to food, I highlight may because if you choose to stay in towns or stay in a wood that has enough diversity to provide fruit and nut options you wont have eat meat or anything else you dont agree with.
          Firstly as with water don`t eat any meat you are unsure of, which should be everything, just like fish and such we don`t know what caused this but we do know fruit, veg and reared animals are not affected.
          Obviously the main food producers are the farms, the problem is everyone knows and so do the farmers and they`ve taken measures to prevent people helping themselves...usually in the form of shotguns. they are however often open to trading for food just make sure your intention to trade is clear as you approach the farmhouse and expect to come away with less than you were hoping for.
          The real issue with food is preservation, with no way to chill food and no fast transportation options people have had to resort to older methods, namely having live food, fresh food, salting and drying. out of all of these dried food is the best, its the lightest and easiest to pack, can be eaten straight away, has no smell (unless you cook it) and it can also be traded. having live food means that you not only have to feed yourself but also whatever else you have with you, it also means killing and butchering with its associated smell so unless you have a group of people with you don`t take live food.
          Wild foods are always available but you need to know where to find them and at what time of year, the best source of information for you is a book of wild foods and you need to ask yourself if its worth the risk collecting them particularly if it means concentrating on something long enough to be attacked.
          Some of you are probably asking why I haven`t mentioned canned foods yet, this is simple, they have become increasingly rare and more "expensive" if that`s the right term, most of the traders have what`s left and are asking for more in exchange, I only use them if I have to as they are also heavy and take some effort to open, on the plus side empty cans as you`ve already seen are useful as alarms but they can also cut up and formed into crude arrow heads.

Other tips   

          What other tips can I give you? if you do need to start travelling around, pick the right size bag, if you go too big you`ll be tempted to fill it with stuff, weighing you down and slowing you down, use an alpine style rucksack, these have less straps on them to snag and don`t stick out from your body, I use a 47 litre bag which is a little bit too big but as I don`t have too much stuff its never been a problem, I customised it by adding a couple of straps on the bottom to hold my quiver of arrows whilst I`m walking, my only issue is the colour being bright red I`m always concerned that I`ve been spotted by one of them, or a group of bandits.

          I said before but I`ll say it again, if you do come across any weapon spend time learning how to use it you wont regret it.

          If you`re going near towns hide some of your equipment somewhere outside the walls, if the people inside "borrow" your stuff you wont be completely helpless when you leave.
          some more clothing tips, don't use capes or ponchos, they are easy to grab when in a hurry and they snag, try and use natural fibres where you can, boots can sometimes be...adapted, always have a couple of hats and a couple of pairs of gloves and a couple of pairs of socks.
          You may have noticed the word barter mentioned a couple of times and this is because money has no value any more, although its still funny watching people try to use it, you will need to work on your bartering skills and be careful of what your bartering for check it over first, most traders will let you if they have nothing to hide.
          There are some groups that will let you stay with them provided you pull your weight, do so, nobody gets a free ride any more.
          Don`t assume you know better than someone else, especially if your away from towns if they`ve managed to survive this long without help, they are obviously doing something right.
          Some people will be willing to teach you new skills, let them, knowledge is a powerful thing and the only truly trade-able commodity any more, you may not need the knowledge straight away but you will at some time and you can always pass it on.  
          If you kill one of the undead don`t burn the corpse, it seems to attract others, just walk away.
          A strange occurrence has been noticed recently and has sparked some rumours in the towns, some researchers collected samples of truly dead zombies and whilst they were transporting them back none of the still animated ones bothered them...this has given hope to some sort of defence against them it isn`t anything concrete just yet but keep an ear out in case this changes.
We may never meet but if we do I will be friendly as long as you are 
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Sunday, 20 October 2013

Acorn Coffee

Acorn Coffee

          Yep thats right coffee made from acorns and this time of year is the perfect time to make this, at first to make acorn coffee seems like quite an involved process but it is actually relatively simple but it does take some effort if, like me, you only use manual methods, after all there`s not much electricity in the field. The methods I describe here aren`t original.  
          To start with you need to do is collect some acorns, obviously, but there are some things that you need to be careful of, 
          First of all ONLY collect acorns that have fallen from the tree, whilst collecting you need to check for for a number of things,
splits in the bottom of the acorn 

a small hole in the acorn (this usually means a grub is living inside)

a split in the shell 

          If these occur or you are just suspicious leave the acorn out of your bag, its better than becoming ill,  
once you have collected enough you need to move on to the next stage which is the float test (from this point on all the photos are taken at home but can be done just as easily in the field), this is a quick simple test that sounds like exactly what it is, putting all the acorns in a bowl of water, those that float need to be removed and discarded. I tend to leave this a few minutes just to be sure.
 floating acorns towards the top

once this has been done the acorns need to laid out to dry, this can be assisted by using the oven (set on the lowest temperature at home or with a warm dutch oven in the field.

for the next part you will need either a light hammer or more preferably a pair of nut crackers (safer) you then need to start cracking and de-shelling the acorns, discard the shells.

again at this stage any acorn that is rotting or you even have slight doubts about discard,

obviously this didnt make the grade

had doubts about this one so I left it out

          The next stage is perhaps the most laborious and if you do plan on making acorn coffee alot I really would recommend getting a grinder preferably hand cranked as there aren`t many power sockets in the field, you now need to grind and sift the acorns, this does take some time so be patient.

          Until you get something resembling flour in the bowl.

           next comes the roasting, for this I have a pan dedicated to tasks like this and it may be wise to have something along the same lines, when you roast the acorn "flour" its best done in a dry pan over a medium heat, the crucial thing here is that you DO NOT STOP STIRRING to prevent sticking, the flour needs to be fully roasted and slightly smoking before taking off the heat, as you will appreciate I didn`t take any photos during the roasting stage just a before and after shot.


          from here the next stage, (although this is my preference), is to brew the coffee in a percolator as you would with normal coffee.

          Acorn coffee is naturally caffeine free and can be taken with milk and sugar as normal but I would suggest you try it on its own to begin with to gauge its flavour.

          It stands to reason that their are certain species of oak around the world that are not suitable for doing this so best to check before making this. I am also aware that many bushcraft companies will stick to the method of boiling acorns and changing the water constantly to eliminate the tannins within the acorn shells, this was the method that I first used but as I said at the beginning this method is not original and I am actually pleased with the results and have suffered no ill effects from using this method.

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Sunday, 13 October 2013

Scotland blog (part 3)

Scotland blog (part 3)

          As I mentioned last week this will be the last of my blogs on Scotland and it is about the tent that I used, namely the Wild Country Zepheros 1, it will be a shorter blog than usual as it is a short review.
          I`ve used the Zepheros a few times now but only really overnight, the week in Scotland was the first time I had used it for consecutive nights and whilst I still praise the weight the ease of pitching and the price, there are a couple of things that have disappointed me, don`t get me wrong this is still a good tent and well worthy of purchase but there are things that you would need to be aware of.
          The first issue to be aware of is the headroom within the tent is fairly low and whilst lying down both my feet and head were touching the inner tent which became slightly irritating after a while and may have had something to do with the sleeping mat a had chosen, this wasn`t too much a problem however as at no point did I touch the outer tent so no rain came through.
          The second issue to be aware of relates directly to the first, of course after the irritations of the inner tent I did try to tighten the inner tent both with the straps and buckles designed for the job and by using the pegs on the outside to this as well but unfortunately no matter how much I tried I was still touching the inner tent whilst lying down, I`m sure there`s a way to rectify this and will attempt to do so in the future.
          The third issue is less of an irritation and more of an inconvenience, the zips of the inner tent are a semi circle meaning that to reach out and take hold of something or putting something back from the porch area such as a "waste water bottle" means opening up almost half the tent and letting in cold air, not so much of a problem given the volume of air needed to heat up afterwards but damn inconvenient none the less. this is in comparison to the Hilleberg which has a zip that runs along the level of the ground sheet and doesn`t let any cold air in.
          On the plus side however the issues I flagged up in the blog after I purchased the tent have not happened, althougth the groundsheet is flat it hasn`t so far let any water in, the buckles have not broken and the inner tent is long enough for me.
          I still stand by my purchase of this tent and would still recommend it to anyone if they didn`t have the money for the Hilleberg as long as you are aware of the slight issues with it, I am going to keep mine and I will find a way to keep the inner tent from touching me during the night.

Follow the link below to go to the Lone Wolf Mobile Bushcraft website.

Sunday, 6 October 2013

Scotland Blog (part 2)

Scotland Blog (part 2)

          With my new equipment bought and packed and my birthday celebrations out of the way my full attention now turned to to the week I had planned, I had already planned to set off at 5.30 on Monday morning and expected the journey to take between 10 and 12 hours with breaks but as the saying goes "the best laid plans of mice and men" and for some reason that I still cant figure out it took me 11 hours to just get to the border with Scotland, needless to say at this point I was extremely tired, something that became obvious when I nearly ran into the back of truck while using cruise control. an unplanned overnight stop resulted in a surprising result in the campsite at Hoddom Castle just outside Ecclefechan and my first encounter with micro bothy, these self contained huts provide a variety of things and come in 2 and 4 births, unfortunately I didn`t have enough cash on me to stay in one of these and so pitched my tent for the night.

          The next morning I set off and headed further north, once north of Glasgow I started driving along one of the most amazing roads in Britain, the A82, this road winds its way past Loch Lomand and up into the Highlands, my destination was Kinlochleven and I reached it mid afternoon this is where I was going to be camping for the next few nights and is handily situated behind the ice climbing wall. This campsite also had micro bothy`s but they were all booked  

          Once I`d set my tent up I went for a quick pint at the local pub and went for a short walk around the village, I had planned on a walk up to a reservoir but with the light fading I decided against this, there was afterall another day...after my ice climbing session.
          Wednesday was when I had booked my ice climbing session and as it started at 10.30 I had time for a late breakfast.
           As I didn`t want to waste any time when I got to the wall I had already dressed appropriately and had been given some strange looks on the way in after filling in the usual paperwork I made my way to the ice wall where I met the person I would be climbing with, after brief introductions the instructor came to meet us and it was time for me to become a student once again.

          As I expected the majority of the lesson consisted of getting confident on the crampons and correct use of the ice axes, compared to rock climbing there is a lot more to remember such as keeping your feet at 90 degrees to the ice face so that both front points of the crampons are driven into the ice, having your feet wide apart when resting and only bringing them together when moving up, looking for ledges to put feet on, learning that massive swing aren`t always necessary when using axes and just as in rock climbing you need to push through your legs rather than pulling on your arms, hard when you`re conscience of the 2 tools in your hands, I did fall off a couple of times I will admit but this was to be expected seeing that I had only been ice climbing once before back in the early 2000s.
          I did find a couple of things surprising during the session, the first being how difficult belaying is, because of the cold in the room the ropes had frozen (obviously) and I was surprised at the amount of effort required to pass the rope through the belay devise and one point the person I was climbing with took a break and weighted the rope, climbing ropes are designed to stretch slightly to absorb impact but even with the rope locked off it stretched at least 18 inches. 
          Something else I found surprising was how hot I got at one point I had to take my glove off and within seconds my hand was steaming, I would have liked to have left my gloves off but knew better than to do this, which had a further impact on my belaying, as most people will testify to belaying with gloves is more difficult as you cant feel the rope and cant feel what its doing and you subconsciously find yourself gripping the rope until muscles start hurting.

          2 and half hours went by very quickly and before I knew it time was up, after a short lunch it was time to decide what to do with my afternoon, I had planned on a couple of small walks, one along part of the West Highland way as it did conveniently run past the bottom of the campsite and one to a local waterfall called grey mares tail, I decided on walking to the grey mare tail waterfall which with a slow walk didn`t take too long to reach, by the time I got back to the campsite once again the light was starting to fade.
          Morning dawned on my last day in Scotland and I spent the early part of the morning packing up my equipment but I was detirmined to go for one last walk even if it was only a couple of hours along the West Highland Way, this well trodden and well maintained footpath runs from Glasgow to Fort William and takes in part of the spectacular Loch Lomand National park, obviously I wasn`t going to be able to do all of it as I had to have left the campsite by 12 noon, but I figure if I started at 9 in the morning and walked south for an hour and then turned around I would at least get a feel for the path and I was right all too soon 10 am came around and I found myself struggling to turn round and head back but I had to, I reached the car just after 11 and pulled my new boots off put my trainers on and said goodbye to the campsite, the run back home seemed to take no time at all and even with a diversion through the Lake District and Penrith I still found myself near York by 7pm, as I still had the rest of Friday to get home I decided as one last splurge on my holiday to treat myself to a motel bed and a trip into York city centre, which it has to be said is one of my favourite cities.

          so that was my week in Scotland, there will be one more short blog next week on using the zepheros tent in Scotland but that will be the last of them, Ice climbing was definitely a highlight as was some of the views from the area, I dont how long it will be before I can get back to Scotland but I hope its not too long 

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