Della & I (combined age then 120) heading
off from Freney Lagoon on the second day of our walk across
All about light weight, ultra light hiking, backpacking, bushwalking, hunting, tracks, trails, adventures, gear, reviews…
I have been hiking/hunting now for over sixty years, a little more
slowly than I once did, walking in the Victorian
This is a ‘work in progress’. I will be adding to it on a regular basis adding new photos, adventures, product/ideas, suggestions, etc. You should also look at HIKING ADVICE also a section of gear advice for my son written in 2011 WORLD TRAVEL KIT FOR SON. You can also see my older posts above, eg Hiking 2017. Hope you find something interesting.
PS: UPPER YARRA TRACK: I have recently created this site The Upper Yarra Walking Track Australia’s oldest (& best), an approx. 10-14 day walk with numerous resupply points, plentiful water and camping spots now extending from Moe railway Station @ 150 kilometres up the Latrobe, Tyers & Thomson River valleys, via Yallourn North, Erica & Walhalla, across the Baw Baw Plateau, along the Upper Thomson River, past the Yarra Falls & Mt Horsefall, along the Little Ada, Ada and Yarra valleys via Warburton to Lilydale Railway Station. Now, complete with Track Instructions
ULTRALIGHT HIKING BLOG:
31/12/2020: The Perfect Thistle Weapon: Or brush cutter - also excellent for track clearing. As you may know we have been pretty much self-sufficient farmers most of our lives. If I can avoid it I would rather not use herbicides though this is not always possible. I doubt though there is a more effective way of eliminating blackberries from one's property for example.
Some years are 'the year of the thistle' and they just keep coming up. This year they were away in autumn and no matter how many times one tried to get around the wretched things there were still more of them.
Once you have them down to a manageable number it is easier on the back to carry around a hand tool than a backpack full of herbicide. For some years I have used an ultralight mattock I made - which I still recommend.
My spinal fusion operation makes the bent-over position needed to wield it pretty uncomfortable after a bit so I was looking for something I could use in a more upright position. I found an old fern-hook in the shed which I figured I could make a lighter handle for out of some 1 1/4" aluminium tubing.
This worked so well I went looking to see whether I could find anything better - well, to tell the truth I was looking for another one so Della could help out on this job! I found these folk Tramontina who make a range of brush cutter (sickle) heads. I bought their heavy duty (710 gram) one from eBay and attached an aluminium shaft to it. Read More: https://www.theultralighthiker.com/2020/12/30/the-perfect-thistle-weapon/
30/12/2020: DIY 10 Gram Pillow: You can cut down the Graham Flexair pillow (which you can buy lots of places for about $2 using your home vacuum bag sealer to make a 10 gram hiking pillow (as shown). My sealer will only handle a seal of a little over 11″ so my pillow (sealed area) is approx 11″ x 7″ which I personally find quite comfortable enough for a neck pillow – which also fits inside the hood of my sleeping bag incidentally.
Place the pillow in the sealer, close the lid, press the ‘Bag seal’ button. You have to wait for the pump timer to progress to the seal timer mode. It is automatic. When sealing here is a slightly different sound which stops when the process is done. carefully remove the sealed pillow. Read More: https://www.theultralighthiker.com/2020/12/30/diy-10-gram-pillow/
28/12/2020: Sad really:
26/12/2020: Xmas is different here in the bush: The Fire at Ross’s Farm
The squatter saw his pastures wide
Decrease, as one by one
The farmers moving to the west
Selected on his run;
Selectors took the water up
And all the black soil round;
The best grass-land the squatter had
Was spoilt by Ross’s Ground.
Now many schemes to shift old Ross
Had racked the squatter’s brains,
But Sandy had the stubborn blood
Of Scotland in his veins;
He held the land and fenced it in,
He cleared and ploughed the soil,
And year by year a richer crop
Repaid him for his toil.
Between the homes for many years
The devil left his tracks:
The squatter pounded Ross’s stock,
And Sandy pounded Black’s.
A well upon the lower run
Was filled with earth and logs,
And Black laid baits about the farm
To poison Ross’s dogs.
It was, indeed, a deadly feud
Of class and creed and race;
But, yet, there was a Romeo
And a Juliet in the case;
And more than once across the flats,
Beneath the Southern Cross,
Young Robert Black was seen to ride
With pretty Jenny Ross.
One Christmas time, when months of drought
Had parched the western creeks,
The bush-fires started in the north
And travelled south for weeks.
At night along the river-side
The scene was grand and strange —
The hill-fires looked like lighted streets
Of cities in the range.
The cattle-tracks between the trees
Were like long dusky aisles,
And on a sudden breeze the fire
Would sweep along for miles;
Like sounds of distant musketry
It crackled through the brakes,
And o’er the flat of silver grass
It hissed like angry snakes.
It leapt across the flowing streams
And raced o’er pastures broad;
It climbed the trees and lit the boughs
And through the scrubs it roared.
The bees fell stifled in the smoke
Or perished in their hives,
And with the stock the kangaroos
Went flying for their lives.
The sun had set on Christmas Eve,
When, through the scrub-lands wide,
Young Robert Black came riding home
As only natives ride.
He galloped to the homestead door
And gave the first alarm:
`The fire is past the granite spur,
`And close to Ross’s farm.’
`Now, father, send the men at once,
They won’t be wanted here;
Poor Ross’s wheat is all he has
To pull him through the year.’
`Then let it burn,’ the squatter said;
`I’d like to see it done —
I’d bless the fire if it would clear
Selectors from the run.
`Go if you will,’ the squatter said,
`You shall not take the men —
Go out and join your precious friends,
And don’t come here again.’
`I won’t come back,’ young Robert cried,
And, reckless in his ire,
He sharply turned his horse’s head
And galloped towards the fire.
And there, for three long weary hours,
Half-blind with smoke and heat,
Old Ross and Robert fought the flames
That neared the ripened wheat.
The farmer’s hand was nerved by fears
Of danger and of loss;
And Robert fought the stubborn foe
For the love of Jenny Ross.
But serpent-like the curves and lines
Slipped past them, and between,
Until they reached the bound’ry where
The old coach-road had been.
`The track is now our only hope,
There we must stand,’ cried Ross,
`For nought on earth can stop the fire
If once it gets across.’
Then came a cruel gust of wind,
And, with a fiendish rush,
The flames leapt o’er the narrow path
And lit the fence of brush.
`The crop must burn!’ the farmer cried,
`We cannot save it now,’
And down upon the blackened ground
He dashed the ragged bough.
But wildly, in a rush of hope,
His heart began to beat,
For o’er the crackling fire he heard
The sound of horses’ feet.
`Here’s help at last,’ young Robert cried,
And even as he spoke
The squatter with a dozen men
Came racing through the smoke.
Down on the ground the stockmen jumped
And bared each brawny arm,
They tore green branches from the trees
And fought for Ross’s farm;
And when before the gallant band
The beaten flames gave way,
Two grimy hands in friendship joined —
And it was Christmas Day.
— Henry Lawson (1895)
26/12/2020: A Very Big Bang 1600 Light Years Long: https://wattsupwiththat.com/2020/12/24/a-blazar-in-the-early-universe/
26/12/2020: More Pack Mods: You should not be afraid to ‘have a go’. No manufacturer ever made the perfect pack (for you) but there is some chance you can do so yourself – at least it is worth a try. I have hauled this old pack around now for a number of years since Joe Valesko (at Zpacks) first made it for me over a decade ago. Back then he called it his ‘Blast’ pack, and it certainly has been for me.
Back then it was half cuben fibre but that wore through fairly quickly. I should not have been surprised really as it replaced an identical totally cuben fibre one I trashed pretty darned quickly which he replaced free of charge! The parts of the pack Joe made in 4.8 oz Dyneema have worn pretty well and we have replaced other bits with pretty much the same material. Della replaced the side and back pockets long ago which had been in a kind of mesh material quite unsuitable for blackberries and the like.
Again some time back I deleted the pad holder pockets and the ‘waist’ belt as you perhaps saw in this post. This made a substantial improvement but I still had the suspension wrong, and the shoulder straps had always been too narrow I felt.
Anyway it is Xmas and no-one is here (as usual). We always have Xmas on a different day as the kids have commitments elsewhere (work, other parents in law, etc), so I decided I would make new straps for it. I also changed their position again and the position of the waist belt. Read More: https://www.theultralighthiker.com/2020/12/25/more-pack-mods/
25/12/2020: Camp and Trail By Stewart Edward White (1907). What a gem this Project Gutenberg ebook is. Though you may be ‘ultralight’ in your hiking/hunting methodology now there is much you owe to strategies outlined here so long ago, or which you may have forgotten, and should re-learn. Anyway it will make an excellent Xmas holiday read if you download it to your phone for free. The contents and list of illustrations may give some hint of the joys within. Read More: https://www.theultralighthiker.com/2020/12/25/camp-and-trail/
23/12/2020: Unknown Bird Update: Nature Finds a Way. The Horsfield Bronze Cuckoo (which is what it turned out to be – first mentioned in this post) in our garden has at last attracted a mate with the calling which we were unable to identify for some weeks (al la Edward Thomas’ poem) – and here they both are:
11/12/2020: Toothbrush Spoon: The patent for this idea was filed in 1934 so it is not my idea, but it is my take on it – and at 3.3 grams it works and saves you weight on your toothbrush. Just cut the toothbrush down then add a couple of small o-rings and voila! BTW: The handle I cut off weighed 13.6 grams! Read More: https://www.theultralighthiker.com/2020/12/10/the-toothbrush-spoon/
07/12/2020: The Deer Hunter’s Phone: Imagine a phone that allows you to communicate with someone else several kilometres away without being connected to the phone network. Unihertz’s Atom XL is a very rugged fully waterproof dual Sim mobile phone which also takes a micro SD card with a 48 mp camera which also contains a DMR UHF walky-talky at a very handy package size of 134.5 x 65 x17.5mm (5.29″ x 2.55″ x .69″) and 243 grams. Read More: https://www.theultralighthiker.com/2020/12/07/the-deer-hunters-phone/
06/12/2020: Mastering the Hiking Energy Budget: I guess ‘everyone’ understands about calories per gram in choosing their hiking food requirements – if you want to save weight, and have realised that does not mean eating nothing but peanut butter – 6 calories per gram or 7 for real butter, no matter how weight-desirable that might be (I have many food tips here) – but there are many other similar considerations.
For example the post FuelFollies (and others) explains how you can save weight by carrying less fuel, alternative fuel or lighter stoves of various sorts. This line of reasoning culminates in a 20 gram titanium roll up wood burning stove which you can make for yourself for less than $4 in the post Mastery of Fire – amongst other things. Read More: https://www.theultralighthiker.com/2020/12/06/mastering-the-hiking-energy-budget/
05/12/2020: What a neat idea – The Nomad Legless Awning: https://newatlas.com/outdoors/fast-nomad-car-camping-awning/
30/11/2020: One Cicada Doesn’t make a Summer: I was just doing some work clearing our new walking path in the bush up the creek behind our house yesterday (and again today) when this big guy suddenly turned up on my arm. I had been lopping some small branches with the machete and he must have been on one. Gave me quite a start I can tell you! He (or she) must be around3″ (75mm) long – and what a delightful green colour! Read More: https://www.theultralighthiker.com/2020/11/30/one-cicada-doesnt-make-a-summer/
30/11/2020: We are going back to the moon – and soon: https://wattsupwiththat.com/2020/11/27/artemis-i-stacks-up/
29/11/2020: Another unexplained High Country death. What is happening up there? https://www.heraldsun.com.au/truecrimeaustralia/police-courts/sam-wilsons-high-country-murder-still-an-unsolved-mystery/news-story/7578f25f6eba05d03c7401dcd41f998c
29/11/2020: The Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence and the Wow Signal: https://wattsupwiththat.com/2020/11/26/an-approximation-to-determine-the-source-of-the-wow-signal/ Extra reading Carl Sagan’s ‘Contact’ and the movie of the same name based on it.
19/11/2020: Nano Chair #2: Another version of an ultralight chair. I think this is the one I will go with – once I have refined it a little further. As you can see it weighs only two ounces (56 grams). It is slightly more comfy than my trusty Cyclone Chair i have used for many years but may not be quite so durable. I will be able to make t so. This is definitely my first prototype – made last night. It gets me about 6″ (15 cm off the ground and has reasonable and comfortable back support.
I made this entirely out of 1.25 oz/yd2 silnylon. I started with a piece of 25″ x 37″ which I hemmed all around – like so. The other strips (4 of) are 7″ wide also hemmed all round. In future versions I will refine the pieces more. Read More: https://www.theultralighthiker.com/2020/11/18/nano-chair-2/
19/11/2020: The Nano Chair: I first made a prototype of this chair half way through 2017, but it has waited on some fancy fasteners to come to fruition. This is #1 (of two) of my Nano Chair, a hiking chair which weighs less than 2 ounces approx 50 grams. No-one needs be without a comfy seat in the wilderness ever again. I have made it in three colours so you can remember how it goes together: Red = Rear. This is the bit nearest your bum which wraps around the inflatable mat; Black = Back, the two bits which hold the back (the rolled up mat together; and Yellow = Y, the piece which keeps the back of the chair from falling over. Read More: https://www.theultralighthiker.com/2020/11/18/the-nano-chair/
16/11/2020: Ultralight DIY Bushcraft Chair: I have posted about this chair before but I have to admit I had never made one myself. Well now I have – and I’m sold. I made this chair out of a scrap of (approx) 2 oz/yd2 ripstop nylon from Spotlight I had left over from another project. It took less than half an hour to sew and about two minutes to construct with four sticks. Yes they are tomato stakes, not the best material as the edges tend to cut into the cord.
Round poles would be better. Cutting straight green hardwood saplings would be the surest way of getting a strong chair but if you don’t want to do that you can collect and carefully test dry dead branches found on the forest floor. The little 41 gram Sierra saw is all you need to cut them to size. The two side poles are OK at 6-7′ but the rear one would be better a bit longer. (All these are 6′ tomato stakes). I have used a piece of 1″ dowel at the front of the seat. It is about 4′ long.
The chair will be more comfortable if this is also lashed to the two side poles (about 2″ higher than you see it here). That will allow you to sink into the chair more. It will also make it a bit harder to get in and out – a factor if you are my age. If the three poles (particularity the rear one) are a bit longer you will be able to lie back and relax a little more.
I suspect you could use a piece of stout cord instead of the front crossbar. This would make the chair more hammock-like and perhaps more comfortable. You could put your inflated mat in it too if you wanted ultimate luxury. It is quite comfortable enough as it is really. Read More: https://www.theultralighthiker.com/2020/11/15/ultralight-diy-bushcraft-chair/
14/11/2020: DIY Tripod Stool Hack: You can dismantle a cheap $20) tripod stool which you can buy just about anywhere to scavenge the top cover (which in this case weighs less than 100 grams) to make an ultralight hiking stool – with the aid of your new Pocket Serra saw I wrote about here: Ultralight Tent Poles If you are handy with a sewing machine you can make your own cover which will weigh less than 2 ounces (say 50 grams). This is a great way to get yourself from ultralight hiking furniture. Read More: https://www.theultralighthiker.com/2020/11/14/diy-tripod-stool-hack/
13/11/2020: Ultralight Tent Poles: Tent poles can’t get any lighter than if you don’t carry any – which is what I do/don’t. This is particularly weight-saving if you are young and don’t need to carry hiking poles, something which I simply did not need until I was nearly 65! Perhaps when I finally get my new knees I will no longer need them either!
Instead of carrying poles I simply cut what I need from fallen timber on the
forest floor. In
I made my own one ounce (28 gram) for this purpose. See How to Carry a Saw
If you don’t have the tools/confidence to do this yourself, Coghlans have come to your aid with this 41 gram folding ‘Sierra Saw‘ which has a 4″ (10 cm) blade. It is a lock blade folder which like all pruning saws cuts on the pull stroke so you should not break the blade.
I picked up a couple from Aussie Disposals in Traralgon (Vic) this morning for A$22.99 each (Nov 2020). Like all their products it is well made and good value. There is a lighter pocket pruning saww (34 grams) which i wrote about here, but it is very hard to source one. Read More: https://www.theultralighthiker.com/2020/11/13/ultralight-tent-poles/
07/11/2020: DIY Ultralight Chimney Rings: This is an update to my posts about a DIY Tent Stove and Ultralight Chimney. When you roll up the (eg .1 mm) stainless steel of titanium foil to make a chimney (which will otherwise fit in your billy - when it is rolled the other way) you need rings to hold the chimney shape.
I made my first set out of strips of foil which I joined with a pop rivet. This works, and they can be trimmed so that they don't cut your fingers (so much), but i suggested at the time this alternative: making them out of stainless steel (or titanium) wire joined with swages/ferrules/crimps.
You can source double-barrel (fishing) crimps. The ones I found at Amazon were single barrel, and in the photo I have only crimped once in the middle, though two crimps would be more secure. This method has certainly reduced the weight of the rings, made them so they will not cut your fingers and easier to fit in your billy.
This method has also brought the weight of the bands down from around 2 grams each to (as you can see) .59 grams). This is for a 40 mm diameter ring. I will be making my rings/chimney 35 mm (so that rolled up it will fit in my 5" high billy) so they will be slightly lighter than that - probably around .54 grams each. I need around 20 of then - so around 11 grams for the rings. Read More: https://www.theultralighthiker.com/2020/11/07/diy-ultralight-chimney-rings/
05/11/2020: Mastery of Fire: For a million years (or more) this has been a defining ‘element’ of human life, indeed so much so that certain ancients considered it as one of four primordials: earth, water, air, fire. Indeed this classification has a resonance to it still.
Early man learned that fire not only provided essential warmth (and protection from predators) it reduced food energy dependence and improved health, but that it added (energy and flavour) value to that food as well. Of course this is still the case.
For the ultralight hiker the problem is how to get fire’s many advantages at the lightest possible weight – hence this post. The 20 gram titanium roll-up stove can be used as a windscreen with an alcohol burner or as a twig stove – if you want to save fuel or have run out of fuel. This is so much better than a gas stove which might easily run out of fuel or block up and be useless See Fuel Follies. The empty gas canister alone weighs probably seven times this!
The 32 grams for this set up (the cosy weighs 12 grams) is so much lighter than any gas set-up with nothing to go wrong. I just use a couple of spare tent pegs – 5.5 grams each – (for the pot stand) I carry anyway in case I need them for tent anchor side tie-outs on particularly windy nights. It also produces a substantial warmth at the door of your tent on a cold morning when you have your first cuppa of the day. Read More: https://www.theultralighthiker.com/2020/11/05/mastery-of-fire/
01/11/2020: 9 Days Trekking the EBC: (A
Year Ago Today) Della: ‘And so we are back! 9 days trekking along the Everest
Base Camp trail, Lukla to Dingboche. Our final climb above Dingboche was as
high aa Everest Base Camp, but I never wanted to
experience the cold and privation of the last 2 days of the trail, so we were
happy to call Dingboche our goal. And it was beyond amazing: I never expected
it to be the journey of a lifetime, but it was… The soaring
beauty? The time, whilst walking, to contemplate my life…? I only know
that I felt more energy and happiness than one small, imperfect heart can hold,
and each day that heart swelled further with gratitude for all the people whose
loving support put me there: my husband and lifelong guide, my family
support-crew back home who kept our home base running amidst their already busy
lives, my friends who cheer me from these Facebook pages daily, and my
outstanding cardiologist who saved me just moments from death exactly a year
ago and then solved (though not quite “cured”) my heart problem. So many people
– giving so much: No wonder my heart soared. The cynic that usually inhabits my
soul might suggest that all this emotion was a side-effect of the steroids that
I was prescribed to help prevent altitude sickness..
01/11/2020: Ghost Shrimp and Other Small Fry: This post is an accompaniment to my recent post Small Game. It is not so hard to supplement your hiking rations with some tasty protein after all. A couple of hundred grams of protein will meet your daily requirements, whilst 500+ grams will be nearly enough for your total daily food needs. This is just not that hard to get. A good place to look is in the water
Of course if you are traveling along the seashore there will be shellfish
aplenty on every rocky promontory, and at least in
There are pretty much no shellfish anywhere which are actually poisonous (if fresh) though few are as delicious as pipis (which only need to be lightly steamed open), so shellfish represent a ready food source – testified to by the huge ‘middens’ of such scattered all along our coasts left by earlier denizens. Often these are 5-10 metres high! Read More: https://www.theultralighthiker.com/2020/11/01/ghost-shrimp-and-other-small-fry/
30/10/2020: Must not let Della see this or I will have to be out hunting every day: Antlers in Jackson Wyoming.
21/10/2020: Even plants have rudimentary intelligence and memory: https://www.sciencenews.org/article/how-venus-flytraps-store-short-term-memories-prey/amp?__twitter_impression=true
20/10/2020: Tent Stove Progress: I took a break from tree planting this morning to have a play with this prototype stove (and to try out my chimney). I have made this one out of two (6" dia 2' high - 15 x 5 cm) stainless steel bird feeding bowls from the local $2 store. They weighed 78 grams each.
I have joined them together with the simple expedient of drilling three holes around the rims and pushing a piece of wire through the holes and into the ground. Tent pegs would work better and would secure the stove very safely in the vestibule of the tent. The collar thing I am using for a fuel guide tube is just a $2 plumbing fitting from Bunnings. I will come up with something better/lighter.
The chimney is just sitting in the hole I drilled with the Lenox hole saw at the moment. The twigs you see in it are 1/2" to 3/4" (12-19 mm). These are easily broken over your knee and can be split (carefully by pushing a fixed blade knife through them to get at the dry heartwood. Read More: https://www.theultralighthiker.com/2020/10/20/tent-stove-progress/
18/10/2020: My First Ultralight Chimney: I am slowly working my way through the many issues involved in constructing ultralight wood burning stoves for tent heating, cooking and electricity generation. This will take some time. The most important first step however involved whether I could construct an ultralight roll-up chimney without having to be able to weld such lighteweight metal foil materials. This is my fist attempt and though it was a success I am not completely unwounded (neither is Della) and we have learned much. Read More: https://www.theultralighthiker.com/2020/10/18/my-first-ultralight-chimney/
11/10/2020: New Tent Pegs: I tend to buy a lot of tent pegs because I am always making new tents/tarps and I like to have them all complete against need. I have found Aliexpress to be a good source (if you can wait for delivery). The 'Tito' brand there is quite satisfactory, for example.
I favour a Shepherd's hook shape for most of my tent pegs in titanium (for lightness) and around 6" long for most uses. The plain ones are usually the cheapest/lightest but a bit of colour on them does help to prevent their loss. Of curse you can always dip the heads in some paint and wait for them to dry.
It is a good idea to always put pegs in the ground and take them out in the same order (placing them immediately in a pocket/bag) and to always count them as you do. Always go over the last night's camp-site with a fine toothed comb before you quit it as there is often some small item you missed/forgot - such as a tent peg.
There is a right (and many wrong) way/s to 'plant' tent stakes. Read More: https://www.theultralighthiker.com/2020/10/11/new-tent-pegs/
11/10/2020: Today's garden highlights: Leeks are now into the harvest phase and tonight's asparagus pick was ample. We did justice to both in tonight's tea of an omelette with leek, garlic, asparagus, ham and cheese. The lilac is a special triumph for me. I planted it about 7? years ago and have been disappointed by it's refusal to flower. Last spring I decided that it must need more light, and so persuaded Steve to do a bit of chain-sawing in the canopy behind it. No flowers that spring, but autumn saw a few experimental first flowers which blew me away as it was totally unseasonal. Obviously it was a trial run, because...voila!!!! The only downside? Lilacs have the most delicious scent, but somewhere between this shrub's planting and flowering I have lost most of my sense of smell (not Covid-related) - so that little pleasure is one that I will never enjoy. Not complaining though, as their visual beauty is quite enough!
02/10/2020: Interesting Review of the new play, ‘Wonnangatta’ about the 1916 murders there: https://theconversation.com/wonnangatta-review-australian-theatre-writing-at-its-provocative-and-powerful-best-147184
01/10/2020: Khayyam’s Table: Omar Khayyam of Naishapur (I prefer the old spelling) was a tent -maker, as I have observed before. In the past the truly great seminal thinkers were all tradesmen of one sort or another, that is they did not expect their thinking to pay their wages, but earned their living with their hands – as you ought. It would be better by far if we had remained with this system instead of being burdened with a horde of useless quarrelsome university parasites – of enormously lesser intellectual worth too.
Socrates was a stonemason (sculptor, if you like). Jesus a carpenter – and Nasrudin – well there was never someone else quite like Nasrudin. ‘The Exploits of the Incomparable Nasrudin’ by Idries Shah is the best book you have never read. You can read it for free here I promise you it will have you rolling in the aisles laughing! And if you have never read the Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam as you should, I have reprinted it all here: Oh Come With Old Khayyam I think it was the most important book I read as a teenager. I am so grateful that an ancient lady next door (Mrs Sewell) gifted me her copy of it – which I still treasure.
I wonder whether Khayyam had a table he worked on or whether he laid out his tents on the ground as I have done until now, but my knees do no want me to continue to do so, so I have made myself a large folding table for the purpose. Read More: https://www.theultralighthiker.com/2020/10/01/khayyams-table/
29/09/2020: High Flying: Into Vic's high country with The Grey Flyer. At last our draconian Covid restrictions have been eased a bit and we are able to get away hunting/hiking for a few days by ourselves. It is almost too late for this year's deer hunting season though, as soon it will be too hot. Next week looks good to start canoeing (though truth to be told, I have already been out)!
I had been yearning to get away all winter. I would like to have had better weather. It rained a lot - and even snowed. Also, unfortunately it was close to a full moon which always makes hunting less productive - or at least harder, as you have to go higher, harder for me these days with these old knees which had become sore again because of all the ploughing through mud the last month with the lambing. Because of it I have not been able to walk on my toes (as I recommended) which really helps, but I will be back to it now as the ground dries up a bit.
After a 4 1/2 hour's drive and a three hour walk, we are set up for the night. Read More: https://www.theultralighthiker.com/2020/09/29/high-flying/
29/09/2020: FYI: I am alive. I have been walking 80 km through the trackless Gippsland bush for a few days with Honey. More info soon.
22/09/2020: The Grey Flyer: I have just finished making and erecting my new tent (‘the Grey Flyer0 – it is a very windy day!) in the garden, as you can see ahead of a trip I am planning soon. I just couldn’t resist finishing it so that I could take advantage of the 150 grams of savings compared with my Deerhunter’s Tent #2 which this is a slightly ‘shrunk’ version of (using 5′ wide material at 1.1 oz’yd2 instead of 5′ 6″ material at 1.25 oz/yd2).
I have used the ultralight groundsheet I made for the $30 Aricxi Tent but it is a little small for this tent. Its dimensions are 7′ x 4′ x 2’6″ (210 x 120 x 75 cm). I will make a larger one to fit this tent. It is going to be big enough for Della, the two dogs and myself, and still large enough to swing 1-2 hammocks underneath as well.
As you can see it weighs 476 grams including ten shepherd’s hook tent pegs (416 without). In the .93 oz/yd2 which i made the Siligloo out of it will weigh349 grams -= that’s including the groundsheet by the way, plus 62 grams for the ten pegs = 411 grams! Read more: https://www.theultralighthiker.com/2020/09/22/the-grey-flyer/
22/09/2020: Moke: We had one in the mid 70’s, bought second-hand for $1300 (they cost about $2200 new in c1975). I think they will be a bit over-priced at $35,000 though: https://www.heraldsun.com.au/motoring/motoring-news/aussie-favourite-mini-moke-makes-surprise-return/news-story/a8d8c2e5708a3c2c97ccde63b520a82a
22/09/2020: Another Spring: (Della:)"I enjoy the spring more than the autumn now. One does, I think, as one gets older" - (Virginia Woolf). Spring in my garden today: Even 10 minutes gazing at the plants or pulling some weeds lifts my spirits. The brooding skies this afternoon created the right light and the perfect backdrop for the delicately coloured spring blossoms, and after very mixed results from the winter veggie patch this year (slugs, rabbits and early-bolting cauliflowers), I was also delighted to see the sugar-snap peas starting to produce pods and the garlic looking solid enough to rival the leeks...
..."The lark's on the wing;/ The snail's on the thorn;/God's in his heaven-/All's right with the world!" (Robert Browning, "Pippa's Song").
21/09/2020: Yet Another Use for Toilet Trowels: I have recommended that you always carry a metal trowel particularly as an aid to procuring survival water. A hatchet or machete is also vital for this if you ever travel in dry country – as who does not? Such a trowel is also a powerful tent anchor in sand or snow or other loose material.
If you have bought ultralight shoes such as my new Topos which have a tendency to fold inwards as you put them on – at least when new(ish) and if your old fingers are kind of arthritic as mine are and you have trouble fishing the bits out, then you will already know a shoe-horn presents itself as one of mankind’s greatest inventions – but who wants to carry one just for that purpose when a trowel will serve just as well – and you already have one? Read More: https://www.theultralighthiker.com/2020/09/20/yet-another-use-for-toilet-trowels/
21/09/2020: Alternative Fire Lighters: You will already know that I always carry a couple of Mini Bics for fire lighting. They are hard, if not impossible to beat at approximately 10 grams each. I recently added a 1.5 gram rubber Thimblette to prevent my burning my thumb especially when you need to hold the flame on for a protracted burn.
Much as I love them they do have drawbacks. They could explode for example though this is very unlikely and would probably require a welding splash or the like to cause it. They can fail (but anything can – one reason why I always carry more than one. You can probably think of others) and they are difficult to light after they become very wet eg by being submerged in a river, so that if you need to get a fire going quickly eg after you have just fallen through ice (or for some other reason you want an alternative lighter) I thought I would look into that ‘problem’. This is not an extensive survey, but just a few ideas. Read More: https://www.theultralighthiker.com/2020/09/20/alternative-fire-lighters/
21/09/2020: Sketchers: Yet another lightweight shoe. This one the Sketcher Go walk claims to be only 206 grams in Mens US Size 9! Only A$99 (September 2020) so maybe worth giving them a try even just as ‘river crossing’ or camp shoes. Read More: https://www.theultralighthiker.com/2020/09/20/sketchers/
20/09/2020: Simple Ultralight
Groundsheet: I just made this simple groundsheet for my Aricxi
tent (and for a new tent I am working on ahead of a trip I am planning next
week). It is made from some 1.1oz fabric I sourced from
The fabric has silicone on one side and polyester on the other. I really like the handle of it (and the dull polyester surface. It is (finished size) exactly 7′ by 4′ at one end and 2’6″ at the other (210 x 120 x 75cm) with just a reinforcing patch and tie-out at each corner (which will tension to one of the existing tent pegs).
You really don’t need sides on a groundsheet. If water is running across the ground you can lay some sticks under the uphill side to prevent its running onto the sheet. In the 1.107 per square yard (37 grams/m2) fabric it weighs 95 grams finished. It cost me less than A$10 (September 2020. Read More: https://www.theultralighthiker.com/2020/09/20/simple-ultralight-groundsheet/
things that prevent you getting work done in
18/09/2020: Can You Keep a Secret: I know I can so if this had been one you would not be reading this! When we were at the coast the other day I found a mysterious small oblong block of what we both took to be marble at the time but it was surprisingly heavy. We popped it into the superlight daypack to have as a keepsake as you do – even though it is no doubt like practically everything else probably illegal to do so. Read more: https://www.theultralighthiker.com/2020/09/17/can-you-keep-a-secret/
18/09/2020: Wonnangatta Murders #16: ‘A new theory (August) has emerged in the case of missing campers Russell Hill and Carol Clay…with speculation the pair were attacked inside their tent now mounting’. At this glacial rate they will start looking for the bodies along the Zeka Track where I suggested they look at the outset in early 2021! https://www.heraldsun.com.au/truecrimeaustralia/police-courts/police-suspect-missing-high-country-campers-attacked-in-tent/news-story/e6ba88d14ab1dd1134ae135dd917afcb
But detectives have now (September) turned to ‘overseas sources’, so at least they have some lead/evidence which might solve this most puzzling case: https://www.heraldsun.com.au/truecrimeaustralia/police-courts/overseas-experts-called-in-to-help-solve-missing-campers-mystery/news-story/8f874aec4bacbf04dc808270f598363d
13/09/2020: Carpe Diem. ‘Seize the Day’. There are only a certain number of them. No-one knows how many or ever will. ‘Some days are diamonds‘ as the song says – and in my (fortunate) experience, most are. Anyway one where you keep on breathing in and out has to be a good one.
It was a beautiful spring day, 23C at Licola, wind at 9 kph NNW and river
height of 1.87, absolutely perfect conditions for canoeing my beloved
09/11/2020: Ultralight Tyvek Wallet: Given my predilection for this wonderful material it will probably not surprise you that I have carried a Tyvek wallet for many years. I have probably worn out half a dozen over the years. I guess they usually last me 2-3 years before they look so shabby I feel I must replace them – as I have done today, as my new ones have arrived, at last. the post is so slow at the moment.
The ones I am using work purchased from Dynomighty and cost me US$ 16.95 each plus some delivery, so perhaps A$25 each in my hands – something like that. I think this is reasonable value. You may find them elsewhere more conveniently.
The wallets weigh between 13-14 grams empty and are wonderfully thin and well-sized. I find most wallets far too big for jeans pockets pretty much in every direction. Already i have too many cards in this one and need to cull them again. Some can go onto my phone using an App such as Stocard – which I use. I notice there are no notes at all for the two billfold sections, a tribute to the virus! Read More: https://www.theultralighthiker.com/2020/09/09/ultralight-tyvek-wallet/
07/09/2020: Fathers’ Day at Seal Cove: Due to the Covid lock down none of our children could visit us but Della and I could still go for a drive together. Such freedom. That’s what we all fought for!
We headed down to a secret place along the Gippsland coast where we thought we might be able to scramble down the cliffs to a private cove. I won’t say whether it is legal or not to go there. There are many things (simple pleasures) I will never live long enough to enjoy legally – likewise my tiny dogs who though they are good Australians who pay all their taxes on their dog food (and will never take a dollar of tax in return) are yet forbidden from so many parts of our beautiful country – though they are devoted ‘leave no trace’ believers!
Anyway we are always off-track walkers and really only want to go where we will find no other people anyway so what odds? It turned out we could (even in my seventies – women as is well known, do not age) though it is pretty steep and thick in places. It turned out to be a really beautiful little cove about a kilometre long. Some great fishing to be had off the rocks I would say, and with hog deer walking right down onto the beach of a night! We saw many of their tracks. A paradise all our own! Read on: https://www.theultralighthiker.com/2020/09/06/fathers-day-at-seal-cove/
I didn’t know - Pine Cone Preserves -
Soft young cones make a sweet jam believed to have health benefits in
19/08/2020: The Secret of Fire: Fire lighting is a profound 'secret' which if you do not master, you might come to a time when you do not survive at all because of your ignorance. Take the time and patience to learn to be its master: https://www.theultralighthiker.com/2020/08/19/the-secret-of-fire/
19/08/2020: DIY Unbreakable Shoe Laces: Make your own unbreakable shoe laces. That way you don’t need to carry a spare. You can buy Aglets (ie ends) cheaply enough A$3.88 per 100 plus 50 ft 2.3 mm black Kevlar line A$24.92 (pictured) to make your own unbreakable shoe laces. You just need to measure the cord accurately, to cut the Kevlar with a hot iron to seal it, crimp the aglets on – and away you go! https://www.theultralighthiker.com/2020/08/19/diy-unbreakable-shoe-laces/
15/08/2020: Fuel Follies: Of course you know what this is; it’s a very silly empty fuel container which weighs 5.1 oz or 147 grams. Lots of unwise hikers lug these stupid things around!
Let’s look at it another way. A lightweight bottle to carry alcohol (meths) in might weigh 10-20 grams. My lightest burner weighs 7 grams. (but I usually use one of Tinny’s Gnomes) Perhaps I need a windscreen? That might add 7 grams too – but you will use twice as much fuel whatever you use if you don’t have a windscreen, so let’s ignore it for the sake of the exercise:
17 grams from 147 leaves 130 grams of fuel. A ml of alcohol weighs 0.7893 grams so this 130 grams represents 164 mls I use about 7 mls to boil a cup of water, (4-5 with a cosy -but that would add weight too) so that 164 mls represents 23 cups of coffee. A meal represents 2-3 cups of coffee.
I take about 500 mls of alcohol for all my cooking for a ten day trip, so this 164 mls is more enough for a normal long weekend’s cooking. If you consider the gas stove that I am not carrying (another 85 grams of fuel or 107 mls) you can see that switching to alcohol would equate to this one empty container representing cooked meals for about five days! If you consider the 227 grams (287 mls) of gas you would have had enough fuel (with alcohol (164 + 107 + 287 = 558) for a ten day trip!
Now do you see why I do not use a gas stove. There is also this to consider: it has happened to me (car camping): What if the jet on the gas stove should block up? Unless you are carrying a spare jet 9and a small spanner for replacing it (are you?) the you will be doing no cooking at all!
There is just no similar problem with an alcohol stove. And have you thought about how explosive a gas canister is? You could easily blow up a truck with one. Just an exploding Bic lighter will pretty much blow your hand off! I know I think of replacing mine with flint and spirit lighters (such as the peanut).
Gas just makes no sense – and when you consider its environmental impact: the fact that it is normally extracted from undersea wells miles offshore, fracking, transport, the risks of environmental disaster etc it surprises me that all the ‘leave no trace’ brigade (of which I am not one) pretty much all use it!
Of course I am getting lazier and lazier (as well as older and older) so I have decided just to carry this 20 gram stove and no fuel at all (most trips).
PS: You can make your own alcohol stove too. I have several posts about this. Try a search in the bottom left hand corner for ‘stove’
14/08/2020: Asparagus Dreaming: Della: Today’s job was the asparagus bed: This is a perennial crop, and having planted the crowns about 30 years ago, we have little to do each year other than cut off the dead fronds each winter.
Gardening guides say that you can do this once the fronds turn yellow in autumn, but that is hard work, I found, as each thick frond has to be cut by hand with secateurs. So over the years I have put the job off later and later until I discovered that August is the perfect time. By then the stems are dead enough to come away with the gentlest tug, and so the work is minimised.
So here are today’s before and after pics, along with the first taste of asparagus for the season. Another reward in leaving the bed looking untidy all through the cooler months is the early shoots that are waiting to surprise me beneath the bleak canopy. Tonight’s dinner accompaniment!
Most impressive. I wish I could do a ‘show and tell’ for my day’s work on the fence, but at the end it still just looks like a fence even though I am exhausted! An asparagus bed (like a good fence) will pretty much last a lifetime. I will not have to build either again anyway.
13/08/2020: The Best Hiking/Hunting Shoe Ever: I received my new Topo Hydraventure 2 shoes from Injinji about a month ago. The new model is even better than the old one.
Look at that tread.
310 grams in US size 9.5: https://www.theultralighthiker.com/2020/08/13/the-best-hiking-hunting-shoe-ever/
12/08/2020: Prometheus has a lot to answer for– but Boy, have we ever been sitiing around the campfire for a long while: https://www.livescience.com/when-did-humans-discover-fire.html
11/08/2020: Aricxi $30 Tent Review: It took quite a while to get here what with Covid 19, but it came a couple of days ago. I am as pleased with it as I thought I would be when I mentioned it in this post back in April. The tent is very well made and well thought out. For most people it will be big enough for two people and will certainly be a palace for one. It really does only weigh 320 grams including the guys!
I will make a few improvements to mine. they are all things you could do with a little bit of competent hand sewing which will make the tent even better. I use the word ‘tent’. this has been the normal word for a folding ‘roof’ you sleep under for thousands of years. I do not understand the absurd distinction between tent/tarp some wish to draw insisting that if it does not have a floor or bug protection it is somehow not a ‘tent’. You can always simply add these features, or dispense with them… https://www.theultralighthiker.com/2020/08/11/aricxi-30-tent-review/
06/08/2020: DIY 33 Gram Roll Up SS Hobo Stove: I am over carrying heavy stoves – and fuel. This one will do me. I will produce a version in titanium which will weigh about half what this one does in stainless steel, so under 20 grams! And no fuel to carry. Good enough? https://www.theultralighthiker.com/2020/08/06/diy-33-gram-roll-up-ss-hobo-stove/
05/08/2020: They keep ‘discovering’ the world’s tallest trees - and ignoring the even taller ones which used to exist in Victoria: https://www.nationalgeographic.com/environment/2019/04/worlds-tallest-tropical-tree-discovered-climbed-borneo/?cmpid=org=ngp::mc=crm-email::src=ngp::cmp=editorial::add=Compass_20200801&rid=401F76E6763B0B094694A8EC247EC256 & https://www.theultralighthiker.com/2015/01/20/our-largest-trees/
02/08/2020: A Moondarra Maelstrom:
We took a break from building the fox-proof fence this afternoon to have a
stroll on the Wirilda Track which snakes along the beautiful little Tyers River
North of Morwell. For many years it has been the
Swallows: Yesterday Steve saw some of our swallows return for the season.
Sadly, one small member of the flock made it bravely across the world to our
verandah home and lay down to die of exhaustion. It was small, very young and
so light - no doubt not quite old and strong enough for the journey. I gently
buried it next to one of my roses, to no doubt feed a host of insects that will
in turn feed her family flock.
And so my mind turned to A.D.Hope's "The Death of the Bird"... and to that morning's news of the death of one of our daughter's childhood friends, and then to other recent deaths that have touched us, and so to all the suffering of those dealing with death during this pandemic.
"The Death of the Bird" has some very poignant lines: Not comforting, no sugar-coating, just some raw insight into the way things are.
It was not happy contemplation, but necessary sorting of my thoughts.
Hopefully some time in the paddock fencing with Steve today will lift my small bout of melancholy.
I recommend the poem, especially the 2nd half.
For every bird there is this last migration:
Once more the cooling year kindles her heart;
With a warm passage to the summer station
Love pricks the course in lights across the chart.
Year after year a speck on the map, divided
By a whole hemisphere, summons her to come;
Season after season, sure and safely guided,
Going away she is also coming home.
And being home, memory becomes a passion
With which she feeds her brood and straws her nest,
Aware of ghosts that haunt the heart’s possession
And exiled love mourning within the breast.
The sands are green with a mirage of valleys;
The palm-tree casts a shadow not its own;
Down the long architrave of temple or palace
Blows a cool air from moorland scarps of stone.
And day by day the whisper of love grows stronger;
That delicate voice, more urgent with despair,
Custom and fear constraining her no longer,
Drives her at last on the waste leagues of air.
A vanishing speck in those inane dominions,
Single and frail, uncertain of her place,
Alone in the bright host of her companions,
Lost in the blue unfriendliness of space,
She feels it close now, the appointed season:
The invisible thread is broken as she flies;
Suddenly, without warning, without reason,
The guiding spark of instinct winks and dies.
Try as she will, the trackless world delivers
No way, the wilderness of light no sign,
The immense and complex map of hills and rivers
Mocks her small wisdom with its vast design.
And darkness rises from the eastern valleys,
And the winds buffet her with their hungry breath,
And the great earth, with neither grief nor malice,
Receives the tiny burden of her death.
01/08/2020: How long do butterflies and moths live? Longer than I thought anyway: https://www.butterfliesandmoths.org/faq/how-long-do-butterflies-and-moths-live
01/08/2020: A Phone in Your Fob: If you work outdoors doing physical work as I have done most of my life you will realise that most smart phones are quite unsuitable. It is just about impossible to carry them in such a way that they will not break. I used to carry my small (4″) Samsung Galaxy S4 Mini in a padded pouch suspended from my belt but I still broke screens/phones.
The fob pocket was invented just for the purpose of protecting a pocket watch in these circumstances – so you need a phone which will fit in your fob. Fortunately there are a few such.
This is my Atom in a pair of very worn farm jeans. As you can see from the attached mud in the lanyard hole it has done some pretty hard work around the farm helping build fences , deliver lambs, rebuild vehicles & etc. There is a wonderful new model. Read More: https://www.theultralighthiker.com/2020/07/31/a-phone-in-your-fob/
27/07/2020: Just take a look at this lightning: https://www.drroyspencer.com/2020/07/lightning-strike-video-close-up/ BTW Did you realize that the longest lightning bolt yet seen was over 700 miles?
24/07/2020: Unihertz Jelly 2: I have had their Atom phone which I am delighted with for a couple of years now. It is just great to have a phone in your fob pocket. This new one has a slightly bigger screen which will be appreciated, more ROM, is still dual SIM but now expandable with a microSD card. To me this is the ultimate phone! https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/jellyphone/jelly-2-worlds-smallest-android-10-4g-smartphone?ref=thanks-share&fbclid=IwAR0nS9JJXF6xhPBAIXZeVjAQNKugXUbtQIPUc0X7DCs_9SAlfbsiFsFHxYs
21/07/2020: DIY Roll Up Hobo Stove or Windscreen: I made this last night out of some aluminium flashing. The aluminium will most likely not stand up to the intense heat of a fire for long, but as a prototype/proof of concept I am happy with it. Some .5mm (soft) stainless steel foil has arrived this morning in the mail so I will be able to try that soon instead.
I may even need a harder stainless steel or even titanium. It took me less than an hour to make on (a piece of plywood so as not to damage) the kitchen table after dinner.
I have made this (exactly) just wider than my 1100 ml pot so that as little heat as possible escapes and so that I can make a carbon fibre cosy to conserve heat when I am burning alcohol in it (such as with one of Tinny’s Gnomes). Preliminary results show a saving of at least a third in fuel usage! I have ordered some fire-resistant thread (aramid) to sew the cosy up with.
Because it is a cylinder it will press up against the inside of the pot (it fits completely inside) so that it takes up next to no space. It doubles as a wood stove and windscreen. This prototype weighs exactly 40 grams. I can see that the .5mm stainless steel one will weigh considerable less, probably less than an ounce (~30 grams)!
It would be easy to include a further piece of the same material in the pot to protect the ground and create a dry fire-lighting floor as the height of the is stove is greater than its diameter: https://www.theultralighthiker.com/2020/07/20/diy-roll-up-hobo-stove-or-windscreen/
20/07/2020: Finnsheep: If you have read this blog regularly you will realise that I have been a farmer for many years. For the last few decades a sheep farmer. And more specifically Finnsheep, but not just any Finnsheep. These sheep are the result of forty years of very careful, very practical sheep breeding. I believe they are the best Finnsheep, and possibly the best sheep anywhere in the world: https://www.theultralighthiker.com/2020/07/18/finnsheep/
Our aim has been to produce a sheep which will successfully raise 3-4 good lambs every lambing on pasture alone and in every kind of weather – and we have succeeded! At the same time we selected the sheep to produce 4 kilograms or more of soft long fine wool per shearing. This has never been done before. You can find out (much) more about our sheep on my main sheep page here: finnsheep.com
20/07/2020: Wonnangatta Murders #15: An interesting item on the ABC - Russell's reported earlier 'altercation' a year earlier with the 'Button Man' is a revelation - as is the statement that he had also camped at the button man’s camp on the trip previous to their disappearance): https://mobile.abc.net.au/news/2020-07-19/how-four-people-disappeared-without-trace-in-victorian-mountains/12455124?nw=0&pfmredir=sm&fbclid=IwAR0xXWGgMKtgUixrO8VQoDgWnfiay7Hww35o-i12Dz_pk6gq-3KoAzmhLik
09/07/2020: Meanwhile, A Beautiful flight over an icy crater on Mars: https://www.sciencealert.com/new-mars-footage-let-s-you-take-a-flight-over-the-korolev-crater-on-mars/amp?fbclid=IwAR23Qtl8YwjV2w3jc5T7x5uzymrfSmCMTd2r84ndLEQIk-8lgqH1ytGZxW0
07/07/2020: Why ‘culture’ is important: https://www.gizmodo.com.au/2020/07/a-viral-new-bird-song-in-canada-is-causing-sparrows-to-change-their-tune/
4/07/2020: The Tiniest of Knives: Just as a follow-up to my recent utility knife post I have recently become aware of these two wonderful little knives, one of which must just about qualify as being the tiniest of knives at .169 oz (4.8 grams) – less than a credit card, they say in their ad! The other is a cheaper, slightly heavier version of the Dragonfly knife: https://www.theultralighthiker.com/2020/07/03/the-tiniest-of-knives/
02/07/2020: The Carry-on Knife Problem Solved: It is such a nuisance arriving at your destination and not having your favourite knife available for those simple tasks like peeling an apple, opening a box, cutting a rope etc. It is also awkward to have to post your knife ahead for pick-up or buy one then throw it away or post it back - but there is a better way, as they say: the folding utility knife: https://www.theultralighthiker.com/2020/07/02/the-carry-on-knife-problem-solved/
30/06/2020: What it’s like to live in a city full of moose: https://weather.com/safety/news/2020-06-12-living-in-a-city-full-of-moose
27/06/2020: Wonnangatta #14: A few more clues in today’s Herald Sun ‘interview’ with a close friend of Russell Hill: Mr Ashlin says, ‘Russell would never, ever leave his vehicle’. (So they really did not go for a walk and get lost. We can definitely discount that). He also says that during their final conversation (of Russell) ‘He was sparkling like normal, he never had a worry in the world. The way he was behaving was like he had done any other time up in the bush. He was upbeat during our last chat’.) So there was no indication (to his friend) that there was anything about what happened to Russell that he had any apprehension about). “During their final conversation Mr Hill announced he was at Wonnangatta station and soon planned to drive to Dargo, about 70km away. He had not been there before and asked for directions’. (This is a surprise to me). ‘Something that puzzles Mr Ashlin about the mystery is why Mr Hill went camping alone in the area of the King Billy and Bluff Track between March 11 and 13 before the pair’s trip. “He never said boo about it, it was a surprise,” he said… “I don’t know why he went on that trip, it was only an overnight stay, and a six-hour drive each way. There is something strange about it. Robyn can’t work it out either.”’ – Perhaps he met his murderer/s on that occasion? Did he have (unknown) business with him/them?
There is also this photo of Russell camping (on a sunny day):
You will remember that Russell’s hat was on the dash of his car and that the car was locked and the keys missing. Russell clearly took precautions against sun exposure. This pretty clearly shows that what happened to them happened on the night of the 19th March as he would clearly have taken his hat if he went for a walk on the 20th.
Mr Ashlin also said: ‘He’s been attacked, I believe there is more than one person involved.’ He does not explain why he thinks this. Perhaps it means nothing – but it is quite difficult for one person to lift (two) bodies into a 4WD (even moreso if it was a tray/ute) by themselves. (Two people are also more likely to be caught than one acting alone). The more people who know the more likely the truth will leak out. https://www.heraldsun.com.au/news/victoria/friends-last-conversation-with-missing-high-country-camper-russell-hill-revealed/news-story/3ab69d511adaa85926918fa8f92ab088
25/06/2020: The Ultralight Hairdresser: Of course you could just go about with your hair looking like an untidy birds' nest but few girls especially would want to. I have carried the same old comb below (3 grams) for twenty years. I own that I could probably have found a slightly shorter, lighter one but there is some sentimental attachment.
The broken tooth was courtesy of my daughter Irralee when Canoeing the Seaforth on the Dusky Track (2009) as she had forgotten to bring something for her hair! Memories. https://www.theultralighthiker.com/2020/06/25/the-ultralight-hairdresser/
24/06/2020: Just what you need, a Pocket Sized Bottle Rope Maker: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/grimworkshop/pocket-sized-plastic-bottle-rope-maker-turn-trash-into-rope?fbclid=IwAR1NueTgoIm6DLEh34Ov5uOovDdqK6Qkf32iL9W9UsFrp2z9DmMXn0OLlOY&ref=6teva8 When one thinks about the many wonderful uses to which used drink bottles can be put (eg bottle rockets) one wonders that any are thrown away ever.
22/06/2020: A Hobo in a Roller: If you are a really up-market hobo you can buy this ready-made Tomshoo Brand titanium (of course) hobo stove from Aliexpress for US$14.94 (June 2020). It weighs 55 grams (1.9 oz). Dimensions are : 80 mm (high) x 91 mm (dia) / 3.15 x 3.58 in – so a little smaller than mine 1250mm x 100 mm / 5″ x 4″ (height/dia) and 92 grams (but free). https://www.theultralighthiker.com/2020/06/22/a-hobo-in-a-roller/
21/06/2020: A Caldera Cosy: You will have seen the Jetboil and similar devices supposed to save fuel. I suppose they do but there is something wrong with the whole concept of carrying canister stoves. This ‘device’ saves fuel on an alcohol stove.
I have made one for my caldera cone which is an important component of my Cookset but soon to be upgraded my myself to an improved model. My ‘cosy’ will still fit however as I won’t be changing my pot.
I have made this truncated cone ‘cosy’ from a piece of carbon felt (because it is insulating but doesn’t burn) to see how much fuel would be saved if all the waste heat that escapes out the top of the cone and along the sides of the pot had to be directed into the water in the pot. https://www.theultralighthiker.com/2020/06/20/a-caldera-cosy/
19/06/2020: A Hobo’s Breakfast: It costs nothing at all (and only a couple of minutes) to create your own safe wood burning hiking stove which will cook you up a wonderful breakfast (below) in just a few minutes without having to carry any fuel at all (or any other stove) with you into the wilderness. A big saving.
You only need a few simple hand tools such as those pictured (or similar) which I’m sure you have in your kitchen or workshop. A can opener which will cut out the side of the can (not the top). A ‘church key’ such as used to be used for opening beer cans (Remember?) and a pair of super-tough scissors (or tin snips) for completing the stove ‘door’ opening: https://www.theultralighthiker.com/2020/06/18/a-hobos-breakfast/
18/06/2020: Mostly Perspiration: According to Thomas Edison that’s what genius is – and he should have known, with his 2,000 patents. Each took countless experiments, lots of trials and error before he got it right. Tim Tinker is the Thomas Edison of the ultralight tent stove. For years he has been working away at his miniature radiative beauties in his eternal quest for the perfect stove. I would like to showcase just two of his many creations: https://www.theultralighthiker.com/2020/06/17/mostly-perspiration/
18/06/2020: A Lava Bomb Map. Fascinating: http://www.thehistoryblog.com/archives/58893
17/06/2020: Small Game: Was once the bushman’s standy-by. It is usually abundant, enormously varied, relatively easily to take, involves little waste or preparation and is varied and nutritious. Of course much of it is also illegal. You will notice that in my post about the journey to Cromarty not so long ago everyone used to take a rifle to obtain extra food on the journey
It is a bizarre contradiction really that the folks (who require such bans and who mandate such poor management of public lands through ‘conservation’ strategies such as National Parks) should also be responsible thereby for the episodic vastly destructive wildfires which are so destructive of such wildlife – whilst the larger animals (deemed pests by the same folk) such as deer and brumbies survive better.
Where (and when) game is plentiful though (and only being reserved for the next apocalyptic inferno anyway) and considering 90+% of every season’s annual production would normally only perish over the lean seasons of winter/summer through starvation also, I see no rational reason why one’s larder ought not be supplemented with it – as it always used to be… https://www.theultralighthiker.com/2020/06/17/small-game/
15/06/2020: Plumbing the Depths: You can repurpose many humble plumbing fittings into wonderful ultralight hiking tools. Take this cheap 19mm (3/4″) irrigation tee from Bunnings for A$1.54 (June 2020) .
I have carried one to sit the sharp end of my hiking pole in so it doesn’t pierce the floor of my tent. An end joiner works well for that purpose too – and is lighter. You can set it up to start with using your cook pot, then switch after you have your tent pegs in.
They are also just excellent for driving a tent stake into hard ground without damaging the stake – or your hand! This one weighs 14 grams. https://www.theultralighthiker.com/2020/06/14/plumbing-the-depths/
13/06/2020: All Thumbs: Sick of burning your thumb when lighting the fire or the stove with your Mini Bic? I know I am. Here’s the ultralight (1.5 gram) solution. J. Burrows’ Thimblettes from office supplies for just 64 cents each. You can store one on the end of the lighter (as shown) so it is easy to find. One has already gone into my cookset: https://www.theultralighthiker.com/2020/06/13/all-thumbs/
13/06/2020: The wonders of modern technology: an entire Roman city mapped without any digging at all: http://www.thehistoryblog.com/archives/58829
12/06/2020: Good news for those struggling with home ownership: You Can Buy Land on Mars Only US$35/acre. Great value.
11/06/2020: The Last Straw: You can bend over the end of a drinking straw then if you fold it in along the middle slightly you can slip a cut off piece (say about 1" onto it to lock it in place. It will hold liquids such as iodine or sunscreen perfectly well, as well as powders such as salt, pepper and spices, or safety equipment such as matches, strikers, fore starters etc. I'm sure many other uses could be imagined. https://www.theultralighthiker.com/2020/06/11/the-last-straw/
11/06/2020: Mt Disappointment and the Wonnangatta ‘Murders’: I as stunned as you were that a two day ‘search’ by 400 people (obviously including the very same sort of ‘specialist’ police used in the Wonnangatta search) failed to find this 11 year old boy within less than 30 metres of clear going along the creek or adjacent to the Road 1. First the Herald Sun Photo. Then one taken from Google maps Satellite view, the third is also from Google maps showing the type of vegetation there.
Google Maps shows the distance from Road I to the creek to be approx 150 metres. You can’t imagine deer hunters taking more than 15 minutes to find a deer they had shot in that situation. Yet the searchers never found the boy even though he was not much more then 100 metres from his last seen location (not even the 300 metres the Herald Sun reports), barely out of sight, and you would definitely think a search would circle out from this location with the ‘known’ that lost children do not travel far and seek to hide in thick patches. Unsurprisingly he was found by a lone bushman who was not part of the official search. Well done Ben Gibbs.
This leads me to reprise Vicpol’s statement that the Wonnagatta ‘couple’ cannot be in the search area. Now while I think it is vanishingly unlikely that two older (experienced) people could both get lost and die close to a familiar camp, I can also see that Viocpol’s search protocols are absolutely hopeless. Vicpol is obviously largely headed up by and manned by complete idiots! I still think the most likely situation is that Russell and Carol were murdered and their bodies dumped, but after the finding of this child (if the gates were not now locked) I would be going up to the Wonnangatta myself for a few days to check out all the hollow trees and logs & etc in the vicinity of their campsite.
It just keeps happening, ie someone else finding the person (usually their body, alas) pretty much within sight of where they went missing - there have been several examples of this just in the last year alone. Vicpol's training and procedures need a serious shake up. I think clearly when someone goes missing Vicpol need immediately have procedures in place to to call on volunteers eg from Deer Hunting groups to search for them ie people who are used to actually being in the bush (without getting lost) and who are skilled at looking for things. Arrangements could be made for them to be paid for their loss of wages in just the same way as for volunteer fire fighters: https://www.heraldsun.com.au/news/victoria/bushman-hailed-a-hero-as-william-callaghan-found-on-mt-disappointment/news-story/831d6a10e6664bb954bb9f3dfbf5113c
10/06/2020: Skara Brae – What a wonder! https://archaeology-world.com/scottish-farmer-discovers-5000-year-old-lost-city/
09/06/2020: Ultralight Pot Lifter: I
found this enchanting post on a chat forum this morning: ‘For the last
5 years I’ve been needlessly carrying this extra 0.40 Oz with my Evernew
titanium pot. Now I can manage just fine with one handle’. – thank you Wayne Adelkopf. I do admire the lateral
thinking here. It is just such genius which made
And .4 of an ounce is 11.5 grams (which, if you have been following A Lazy Man’s Guide to Hiking and Hunting works out like this: ‘A saving of 10 grams now doesn’t seem so silly does it when you see that it is the same as shifting 100 kg (200 lbs) one metre (yard)!’ In this case 115 kg – try lifting that! (or just over 250 pounds) – a not inconsiderable amount!
08/06/2020: A Cure for Knee Pain? (Preliminary observations)‘Always listen to the experts – and then do something else’, as the old saying goes. I thought I had about tried just about everything with my knee/s (as with my back (in retrospect) and had about bitten the bullet that there was nothing for it but once again the dreaded knife – though I know that too is a solution replete with unsatisfactory outcomes, except for the surgeon’s new Porsche! The cold laser seemed to bring some relief, and an exercise cycle which I have not been as religious with using as I should (I’m sure an unsurprising revelation) had not been the ultimate panacea either, but a couple of scraps of information/wisdom niggled at the back of my mind. The orthopedic surgeon commented (aside) that they had no explanation why some folks were ‘bone on bone’ and yet free of pain (and disfunction) yet others not.. The same has been noticed about backs, and on autopsy of many other things besides. The body (and even more the mind) remains a great mystery still. Another person (referring to the benefits to be obtained from the cold laser device) said that I would (probably) have to learn to walk all over again. Like many simple truths such as ‘Give it time to heal’ one tends to ignore - when you begin to see some sort of benefit from something (such as the cold laser), and ‘less is more’ ie don’t overdo something which seems to have benefit. That is not necessarily how things work. Anyway I decided to have a go at learning to walk again. This is something (strangely enough) which I have emphasized again and again in my hunting advice – but one tends not always to listen to one’s own advice, or anyone else’s! Strange! About ten days ago I decided to try it out though. Now, particularly my left knee has hurt for the last seven years every time I put it down, so I thought, ‘What if I am putting it down wrongly?’ & ‘Can I walk without pain?’ So I decided to experiment. Like the hunting walking I always advocate, ‘Softly, softly’ is the way to go. Can I just glide ahead with as little impact as possible, taking small steps and walking on my‘toes’ (at least the balls of my feet) instead of clumping down with my heels as people are wont to do – with no pain. The answer is that I can. It may be (is) slower, and it may look strange. I have never been over-much concerned about what odd ideas others may have anyway. I long ago eschewed the common throng anyway – as Horace advised long ago (‘Odi profanum vulgus et arceo’). I have now switched to my Topo walking shoes (because they have no heels and so facilitate this odd method of locomotion), but…So far I have walked completely without pain for ten days! This is good! Try it! PS: Something I failed to mention: Never straighten your knee, or 'lock' it backwards. People often do this when they are standing. Always maintain the bent shape of the knee. Stand on your muscles, ligaments etc, not on your joints. They were never 'designed' to stand this sort of mistreatment. So too back. I have learned (now) that the chief cause of back pain is poor stance and weakening of core body muscles. PPS: Read also my previous ‘report about cold lasers here: I Kneed You Knee arthritis is ‘associated’ with inflamation. Evidently ‘no-one knows’ whether the inflamation is the cause of the arthritis or vice-versa or whether they just occur together. The pain however in my experience does not seem to be doing me ‘any good’. I endure it because I either value the aciviuty that brings it on (hiking, hunting etc) or need to do the thing that seems to bring it on eg work, for some other reason. But if I can go about my business whatever it is without the pain I would choose to do it. I only did not know that I could avoid the pain whilst remaining active. (Too much sitting has its negatives too). But this ‘creeping about’ I am doing at present allows me to do things I want or need to do without endureing the pain so to me it is a win-win – whether it is actually ‘doing me any good’ – whaterer that may mean I leave to the philosophers and the shamans.
07/06/2020: Ultralight Ultracheap Deer Hunting & Some Ripping Yarns: I am often approached by prospective deer hunters for advice, particularly about what they need to acquire before beginning hunting. How little both in weight and dollars do you need to spend (supposing you already actually own nothing – unlikely)? I have put together here some suggestions (with links to previous posts).
Here is a photo from many years ago (c1990) of me with a young stag taken off my foxhounds at the bottom of Deep Creek near Walhalla, Gippsland. Note ex-army boots, woolen trousers (patched), Aussie Disposals shirt & hat. The deer would have been shot with my old SMLE. One shot. Thirty yards. It is dead right where it was running. (More about this at bottom of page). Lesson: You don’t need to spend a fortune to (successfully) hunt deer: https://www.theultralighthiker.com/2020/06/06/ultralight-ultracheap-deer-hunting/
06/06/2020: A Hiking Food Compendium: Folks are always asking me, ‘What do you eat on the trail?’ I have posted about this again and again, but I just thought I would bring all my posts about this together as one compendium. When you get tired of eating all these you could just quit life or hiking I guess. These are mostly our own recipes (tried and true). I have freshened this post up a lot (04/06/2020)
A couple of these are to enjoy at home, but most are from dry ingredients which make the meal as light as possible (calories per gram is all!) and use supermarket bought rather than specialty hiking meals as they are both cheaper and tastier in my opinion: https://www.theultralighthiker.com/2020/06/05/a-hiking-food-compendium/
04/06/2020: The Genius of Mathematics: Just hard to believe how brilliant some people are: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Srinivasa_Ramanujan & https://www.popularmechanics.com/…/conway-knot-problem-sol…/ See (Stephen Fry) film: The Man Who Knew Infinity: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hlXHwMgS06c Something to watch tonight when there is nothing worthwhile on TV!
01/06/2020: A Lazy Man’s Guide to Hiking and Hunting: Work equals force by distance, where a single newton of force represents the amount of force needed to move one kilogram one meter. The equivalent imperial unit is the foot-pound which is self-explanatory.
Image: Sisyphus: ‘In Greek mythology Sisyphus or Sisyphos was the king of Ephyra. He was punished for his self-aggrandizing craftiness and deceitfulness by being forced to roll an immense boulder up a hill only for it to roll down every time it neared the top, repeating this action for eternity.’ Wikipedia
An example, if you chose a pair of shoes which each weighs 100 grams (1/10th of a kilogram) more (than another shoe) and you walk 20,000 half metre steps in a day, you have moved the equivalent of an extra tonne (1,000kg) during the course of the day (.1 x .5 x 20,000) a distance of one metre.
That is a lot of extra effort. If I asked you to shovel a tonne of manure from this pile here to that one a metre away there you would think it was a lot of work, and maybe wouldn’t want to do much else for the rest of the day! (It would be a pile approximately a cubic metre/yard say 3′ x3′ x 3′). But that’s just what 100 grams in each of a pair of shoes adds up to, yet you are likely carrying several kilogramss extra somewhere in your kit! How many tonnes of s—t is that? https://www.theultralighthiker.com/2020/05/31/a-lazy-mans-guide-to-hiking-and-hunting/
01/06/2020: Mars Here We Come. Go Dragon. (thirty seconds in): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IZolorqY2AM
01/06/2020: ‘New’ Games With Irving Finkel: http://www.thehistoryblog.com/archives/58766
31/05/2020: 1400 Posts: My daughter Merrin started this blog for me four years ago on 26 May 2016 so I am surprised I/we have been so busy, but today this is my 1400th post! Just thought I would take a few lines to highlight the last 100 posts which have occurred over the last six months or so: I guess the highlight in our memories of the last 100 was our walk on the Everest Base Camp Trail back in November 2019. Now read on: https://www.theultralighthiker.com/2020/05/30/1400-posts/
31/05/2020: Wonnagatta Murders (cont): A tiny bit of new information in the Herald-Sun this morning: https://www.heraldsun.com.au/truecrimeaustralia/police-courts/missing-campers-time-frame-narrowed-to-18hour-window/news-story/f14372ce134482e3ae4c265c01284d82
Police have narrowed the time frame a little. ‘Mr Hill talked via his radio with a friend at about 6.30pm on March 20…He spoke only briefly because darkness was descending and he wanted to set up the camp site. The next day, other High Country visitors came across their camp at about 2pm. They saw fire had destroyed a tent and camp furniture and had also scorched the side of Mr Hill’s Toyota LandCruiser. Those passers-by believe it had been out long enough to have gone cold. It was not smoking at that point... search and rescue squad officers, who have run major operations in the surrounding area, were convinced they would have found some trace of the friends if they were still there… it was possible something had gone wrong while the pair were out exploring the bush. But both getting into the kind of trouble which led to death was less likely… Investigators are now trying to track every person who was in the area.. there were a lot of people in the High Country that weekend… Mr Hill had been in the King Billy and Bluff Track area from March 13 to 16 on a separate solo visit with his new drone. He also took the drone on the trip with Ms Clay the next week… Anyone with any other information on the disappearance or who has any CCTV or dashcam footage can call Crime Stoppers.’
Sunset occurred on March 20 at Mt Hotham Vic at 7:22pm Twilight at 7:48pm https://www.timeanddate.com/sun/australia/melbourne?month=3&year=2020 Deep in the Wonnangatta Valley (which runs roughly North-South) and close up against the Western side in the narrow Dry Creek Valley, sunset/twilight would occur much earlier, at least an hour. When Russell said it was ‘getting dark’ so he could not talk for long that was right. After setting up camp there was definitely no time to fly, lose and search for a drone. If he had lost it before he would have mentioned that fact in his radio call and that he was about to go look for it (as well as setting up camp – impossible). If he had done so early in the morning they would never have been ‘lost’. They were not ‘lost. They were murdered and dumped.
‘The fire was cold…it was not smoking.’ The people who found the camp would have seen or smelled smoke/burning plastic (at the campsite) if the fire had occurred soon before 2pm, say since 10-11am. There is usually very little wind in the Wonnangatta valley The wind almost always blows from the West (when it does) but it reverses direction for a brief time around about dawn. A morning fire (quite a lot of black smoke from burning poly, vinyl canvas, sleeping bags etc) would hang low in the air all morning. (It takes quite while for the fog to lift (not until after 10 am usually) so even a fire at 8-9 should still have smoke hanging around at 1 pm as the people who found the camp were driving up or down the valley on their way in. I think it unlikely the fire occurred in the morning.
‘Search and rescue squad officers…were convinced they would have found some trace of the friends if they were still there’ exactly. They have been removed from the scene.
I suspect the murder and the fire occurred the night before
in the tent probably after they had gone to bed and that their bodies were
removed that night probably back up the Zeka Spur (the most likely place to dump
them). Lots of people (almost all) arrive in the Wonnangatta on Saturday
morning. Most people come up the
You had followed them in from where they had camped on the
night of the 19th probably the King Billy ‘Crossroads’ as Russell had camped
there only a week before when he was planning this trip – Where they camped,
moved (ie the couple’s movements on the 19th and 20th) is a crucial bit of
information which there may be evidence for. The couple drove down the Zeka
Spur in daylight with this person following (at a distance) behind them.
Someone camped on the tops (eg at Howitt or Guy’s Hut) might have seen these two
vehicles (or even have dashcam footage’ – which the police are seeking). They
were either followed down the
Once it was dark you could be sure of that no other campers were about ie no lights) and make your move. Approach on foot using the red light on your head torch. It would be easy to hit two elderly people over the heads with eg the back of an axe when they were lying in their swags. Easy enough to bring your ute up, drag them into the back, smooth over your tracks with a branch, set fire to the tent, make sure every trace was burned away (five minutes) - and be off up the Zeka Spur having already selected somewhere you could safely dump the bodies ie somewhere you can safely stop – there are lots of steep pinches where this would not be easy. You would also want to be able to see lights approaching, so not near a ‘blind’ bend. Possibly there is even a spot where you can get a vehicle off the road? Safer. I haven’t paid that much attention when I have driven up/down it (only a couple of times). I almost always drive in from Eaglevale (canoeing) or I walk in from the Moroka.
You could not afford to take the bodies downriver (too much chance of running into other campers) or out onto the Howitt Rd - ditto, clear country and a chance of a police/DELWP roadblock checking cars and hunting licences. So, the Zeka Spur almost certainly.
Clearly though (then) their bodies were also dumped (probably) on the Zeka Spur in the dark possibly using infra red lights (again) for concealment, as to do so in the early morning would invite discovery – as this is when ‘everyone’ arrives. (This is a fairly ‘professional’ job. Planned). It would be a tricky thing to conceal two bodies fairly quickly and well in the dark. If they are buried they will not have been buried deeply – and wild dogs may have scattered the site, somewhat making it easier to find now A careful search along the sides of that track may pay big dividends. The murderer should really go back and move them or check that they are well concealed, as when they are found lots of new evidence will be available to police.
PS: Russell's (though patchy) phone records and the drone footage on his home computer should confirm where he camped. From there it is an easy step to forensically examine the campsite for DNA traces (eg buried faeces) to confirm the spot - and whether anyone else's DNA is there too! Then police can recontruct the events precisely and the likely timing. I find it surprising that they did not arrive at Dry Creek until nearly dark on the 20th given that they left Pakenham at 7:30 am on the 19th - and presumably passed through Licola that day. (Talking t someone?)
As well, the patchy phone records should show a 'handshake with Russell - and Carol's phone simultaneously. Likely the very next phone is the murderer, providing he had a phone. (When I had my CDMA phone it used to say what tower you were connected to - up there it would likely be the Hotham one). So, unless the police are exceedingly dim-witted (not impossible) they should know who the murderer is. His phone will also have 'shaken hands' with the transmitter sometime perhaps around midnight on the way out (when no-one else would be moving about)! The phone record is not enough (as we saw in the Ristevski case even when the murderer was the husband) but once they have the bodies and some other DNA evidence, he will be sprung - and we can all take to going back to the Wonnangatta camping safely!
30/05/2020: Keweisi USB Amp Tester: This is a really handy piece of gear (18 grams). After you have bought it/them you are going to be throwing out a heap of other things! It measures the voltage and amperage through itself when plugged into a USB outlet and can time and add the total so that you can see how long it took to attain a certain number of milliamp hours of storage. https://www.theultralighthiker.com/2020/05/30/keweisi-usb-amp-tester/
29/05/2020: Cookset Solutions: Today I am using the Gnomatic alcohol simmer stove below. It is available for US$25 (May 2020) plus freight and weighs 19 grams with the simmer ring. It is just about the best alcohol stove and simmer stove I have ever owned, and you do not have to worry about accidents because it is virtually spill-proof (because of the carbon felt inside) and wonderfully easy to light from the top (first time every time) without burning your fingers. Just make a flat level space on the ground with your thumb.
I have is set up inside a Trail Designs Caldera Cone (31 grams in this size). It fits either of my two pots the Evernew deep pot with frypan lid 900 ml at 123 grams (for one) or the Toaks Titanium 1100 ml at 156 grams (for two – big enough for us anyway. Both weights are including the lid. BTW If you need a second plate these are the cheapest and lightest I have found).
You also need two eg titanium shepherd’s hook tent pegs (total about 11 grams). https://www.theultralighthiker.com/2020/05/29/cookset-solutions/
28/05/2020: Astonishing: A Loon With the Heart of an Eagle: https://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-52779727
28/05/2020: Wonnangatta again: Vicpol
seems to believe in fairies, alien abductions and such. Evidently they are
seeking to eliminate the possibility that Russell and Carol won several million
in the lottery, decided to run off together yet instead of simply doing just
that, changed their bank accounts and identities, Russell planted another 4WD
(by himself?) somewhere in the Wonnangatta then they drove out via Eaglevale
and Black Snake Creek. Just possibly this was quite another ‘elderly couple’
who (like us) do not consider themselves particularly ‘elderly’ and so would
not necessarily come forward even in the (likely) scenario that they had taken
a quiet drive up the Wonnangatta Rd on March 22nd. Apparently
(unsurprisingly) they were not seen in the
27/05/2020: Neat Ultralight USB Light: These are an interesting emergency light at just a couple of grams each . They plug straight in to your ultralight power bank. Some of them have a touch switch. They are not as energy efficient as these 11 gram rechargeables but would make a good spare. You can buy them from Jaycar for A$9.95 for three: https://www.theultralighthiker.com/2020/05/26/neat-ultralight-usb-light/
27/05/2020: Wonnangatta Murders: The Plot thickens: ‘Detectives have been able to confirm Mr Hill was camping alone in the area of the King Billy and Bluff Track between March 11 and 13. He was in his white Toyota LandCruiser and had his DJI Mavic drone with him on that trip.’ https://www.heraldsun.com.au/news/victoria/fresh-clues-in-missing-camper-search/news-story/32245606102ef8be1505315f434bb8b9 This is indeed ‘The Crossroads’ the Button Man’s haunt mentioned in the earlier Age article where he was the last person to see missing lone hiker Niels Becker . What did Russell discover with that drone (or possibly discover) that led someone to stalk and kill them both? A marijuana plantation perhaps? (on top of a mountain?) Seems unlikely. Illegal wildlife trapping/trafficking? Something more sinister? I hope police are having a good look around that area. And looking for the dumped bodies adjacent to the tracks leading to/from the Wonnangatta where deer hunters or others are unlikely/forbidden to venture. PS: I have probably mentioned this before, but the only place they could be (and not be found) is in a hollow tree. It is vaguely possible that if they were sitting up (dead) inside a such a tree the wild dogs would not have approached them and scattered their bodies/clothing. However surely professional search teams are told to particularly check (look back when passing) such trees. I still think the chance of this being innocent is less than in a million. I wonder where they camped on he way up there? Did Russell go back to the Crossroads? NB: Button Man clearly has a 'thing' about people taking pictures. remember the story in the original Age story about his taking photographs of the photographer with his own camera while he slept.
Thanks for the link to your photos. (https://www.facebook.com/gerard.white.7/media_set?set=a.828773063845809&type=3&hc_location=ufi). I do intend to do posts about your trip in the future (and indeed have made a beginning - it is an enormous task!) The photos give something of an idea of the type of country where the Button Man has his camp and why someone might fly a drone there - just great scenic footage - nothing illegal needs to have been discovered. Just that the photography (twice perhaps) irrationally annoyed him - of course the murderer could also be a third person. I think the post March 20th 'sightings' are certainly of someone else - unless she 'hitched' out of there to Black Snake - but then she would have turned up at home! A murder/suicide is indeed possible, but you have to think of the unlikelihood of neither of their bodies being found in a search. it is one thing to hide someone else's body; much harder to hide your own.
I certainly think the fire was deliberate. However, the scenarios you envisage of she and Russell separating up there are very unlikely for elderly people who are good friends. If she 'wandered off' she would surely have followed a track and would have been picked up on the 20th. Either Russell has done this - but no bodies - or someone else. The link to the 'Crossroads' is very suspicious at the moment. I would like to know whether when the campsite was found burned out (2pm on the 20th it seems) whether people saw smoke in the sky ('Plastic' smoke hangs around quite a while - as does the smell) or if it was still warm/smouldering etc. Knowing whether the fire occurred that day or the night before is so crucial. Also was the drone controller at the campsite? Anything else interesting missing/present? One of Oz's great mysteries...
There's a weather station somewhere to the right apparently that's where Button Man camps. The AAWT heads up just to the right of Bluff Track. This is at the base of King Billy No.2 straight ahead.
Crime Writer Andrew Rule Gives Some Details On The Mystery “Button Man” In The Victorian High Country On the Hot Breakfast: https://www.triplem.com.au/story/crime-writer-andrew-rule-gives-some-details-on-the-mystery-button-man-in-the-victorian-high-country-161688?fbclid=IwAR1WjxgbCVlctkaZWSZNR8VKVKFrftye2w7D03ZVgm4LxM8cvgmLtnbL47c
26/05/2020: Better Seam Sealing: You have probably used Silnett and similar products to DIY seal the seams in your tents, tarps etc. You can mix up this mixture which is also good for increasing the waterproofness of your floors too but both these methods are fairly messy. Or you can buy some PU seam sealing tape which just irons on. Use a piece of baking paper between the tape and the iron so it doesn’t stick to your iron, and be careful not to have the temperature too high (‘Woolens’ is a good setting), be careful and patient and you will get a professional result. The tape weighs .77grams/foot or 2.5 grams per metre. I doubt whether you cold seam seal any lighter than that anyway and this will give a much neater job on a new tarp: https://www.theultralighthiker.com/2020/05/25/better-seam-sealing/
25/05/2020: Hard to believe Bob Dylan is 79 today: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OeP4FFr88SQ (At Newport 1964: introduced by Pete Seeger).
24/05/2020: Real Coffee Never Got Lighter: The Montbell 4 gram coffee dripper (US$19 May 2020):
‘Lightweight, packable, portable, washable, economical, and ecological! This convenient coffee filter utilizes a 60 micrometer mesh to let you enjoy the “true” aroma and flavor of your favorite bean in the backcountry: https://www.theultralighthiker.com/2020/05/24/real-coffee-never-got-lighter/
23/05/2020: Wonnangatta Murders (cont): Human remains are being investigated at Moondarra (between Moe and Thomson Dam). If this turns out to be Russell & Carol then ‘Button Man’ is probably not involved but likely someone who knew them – and where they would be – as I said weeks ago. However I also said weeks ago (10/5) that whoever took them from their camp site would likely dump them where they would never be found: https://www.theage.com.au/national/victoria/missing-persons-squad-combs-bushland-in-victoria-s-high-country-20200523-p54vsi.html
Timeline: ‘March 19: Russell Hill leaves his home in Drouin with plans to visit various campsites along the
March 20: Mr Hill was last heard from via HF radio where he told a friend in the amateur radio community he was at Wonnangatta Station in the Victorian Alps setting up camp before dark.
March 21: Campers find Mr Hill's white Toyota Landcruiser with signs of minor fire damage, and their tent and some belongings torched near the Dry River Creek Track in the
‘Local cattleman Bruce McCormack, who has assisted in many searches over the years, said the valley they were camping in was up to 1000 acres of "clear country".
"It's sort of a great open area in the middle of the Alpine National Park."
He said around one kilometre away from the campsite, the area turned into dense bushland where you would "never find them". https://9now.nine.com.au/a-current-affair/new-evidence-including-drone-linked-to-victorian-missing-persons-carol-clay-and-russell-hill/4ea2f0a8-07da-4978-8b01-d23abacecf03
Clearly they camped somewhere along the way if Russell was ‘’setting up camp before dark’ on the night of the 20th. Clearly they did not go looking for a drone that night and would not have taken (both) their phones with them if they had. We do not know whether those who found their camp saw smoke or observed smouldering, however the couple were unlikely to have gone for a walk and failed to return during the day as they would have seen the smoke known it was their camp and had it to guide them. The area where they were camped is largely in a huge area of clear country with bush beginning about a kilometer away. They would have been unlikely in the extreme to have gone for a walk in the dark in the bush at night off track or looking for a lost drone. Besides a lady of that age almost invariably carries her mobile phone (which would not work there) in her handbag which would have been left at camp for a short walk as was the phone charger. Someone who was looking for them (and knew the general area they would be in) or someone who was following them or their tracks would have spotted them at a considerable distance in daylight. We can surely add several more layers of improbability to their disappearance being natural considering this additional evidence. For example, both phones taken: 1/5?, went for a walk in daylight and failed to return to burning camp: 1/10+? Or went for a walk at night in distant bush: 1/100,000.
No. They were stalked, murdered and their bodies taken away within hours of their arriving there probably under cover of darkness. Clearly intent and someone who knew they would be there. So many false leads in the reporting of this. It cannot have helped the police and it certainly did not help me understand what was going on. The standard of journalism in
PS: Turns out the body was another hapless ‘victim’ from Moe.
PS: Turns out the body was another hapless ‘victim’ from Moe.
23/05/2020: Wonnagatta Mystery again: ‘What has not been revealed is that Hill was in the area a week before, flying his drone near the Button-Man’s campsite.’ https://www.theage.com.au/national/victoria/the-button-man-could-be-key-to-mounting-mountain-mystery-20200521-p54v4p.html & https://www.heraldsun.com.au/news/opinion/andrew-rule/oddball-loner-talk-of-victorian-alps-amid-string-of-disappearances/news-story/c44a9ca93b98936a4742e0161892e39a Of course this 'Button Man' is a good enough bushman he wil have made the bodies unfindable (unlike the yokel spotlighters I speculated about). This (and his extreme vigilance and cleverness) may make him well-nigh uncatchable. PS: I also missed this piece of crucial evidence: ‘Police have not found either of their mobile phones’: https://www.theage.com.au/national/victoria/grandmother-missing-with-man-bought-new-home-days-before-camping-trip-20200422-p54m7y.html NB. When I speculated about spotlighters accidentally shooting them I was thinking they were camped in bushland, but apparently the area is in the middle of a large cleared area so the spotlighters would have had to be particularly inept (not impossible). Surely we do come back down to someone who knew them or a (strong) lone murderer.
22/05/2020: I’ve never understood why a bird would want to lose the ability to fly, but this one extinct for 100,000 years is back from extinction. Now that’s something: https://www.esquireme.com/content/46133-an-extinct-bird-just-evolved-itself-back-into-existence
20/05/2020: Fun in the Mud
There was an old man who bogged a tractor.
What a quacker he bogged a tractor!
He bogged the tractor trying to rescue the truck.
How’s that for luck to bog a truck?
He bogged the truck trying to save the ute.
What an old coot, he bogged the ute……..
What a story.
To be continued… https://www.theultralighthiker.com/2020/05/20/fun-in-the-mud/
Nevertheless yesterday on the first day restrictions were eased took a drive
to check out whether they had finished clearing the Mitchell Creek Track. We
would have checked out the marble Quarry Track too but they were still working
nearby, so we went around to the other side and drove up the
The good news is the Mitchell Creek Track has been cleared pretty much all the way to the river. The last half a kilometre of very steep going is really only suitable for $WDs (probably equipped with a winch – be warned). However you could drive along with a normal SUV as far as the drop-off pictured then walk from there. At the moment there is a deep puddle about 100 metres further back where you should probably stop.
The last 300 metres is suicidally steep.
14/05/2020: Teddy Roosevelt: We will probably not see his like again: https://time.com/5259995/theodore-roosevelt-portrait-conservation-hunting/
10/05/2020: Wonnangatta Mystery
Continues: I suspect police will be looking for another Wonnangatta
murderer. (You will remember that the original 1912 murders
were never solved). Today’s ‘new’ information is that the missing man’s
friends say it is most unlikely he would have walked far from his campsite. To me
this is crucial: if he had been a hunter, canoeist etc it might have been
otherwise. Now we have these ‘probabilities’ which can be multiplied together.
Chance of he being far from his campsite: Alone 1/5? In company 1/10? – probably much
less. Chance of a fire starting (in the absence of a campfire) in a temporarily
deserted campsite (in the late autumn): 1/100? Chance of an
experienced bushman becoming lost and never found (1/20?) Chance of two people becoming lost together and not being found
(1/100?) Chance of a thorough search of the immediate
vicinity turning up no sign at all 1/10? – probably
more like 1/100. As I say these chances are cumulative: 1/10 x 1/100 x 1/100 x
1/10 = ie less than 1/1,000,000. Therefore, it is more than 99.99% certain someone
else was involved, killed them in the tent, took the bodies away in their ute
to be disposed of where they would not be found and set fire to the tent to
remove DNA, fingerprints, blood-stains, etc. The person (almost certainly a man
– I have seen very few women in there and never alone) was very likely familiar
(at least) with the male deceased and certainly with the area – eg knew where
he would camp! May not have realised the woman would be with him (his wife
claims not to have known, etc), but unlikely. She may have been killed because
she would otherwise have been a witness. More likely: the person knew both of them., but also is very familiar with the area and knows to
dump the bodies where deer hunters etc are unlikely to find them (eg a
Reference Area like
PS: Some other thoughts: I said the perpetrator almost certainly used a ‘ute’ to take the bodies away (or possibly a station wagon) indicating that it was unlikely to have been a tray – as if he were alone it would be practically impossible to load two bodies onto a tray. A station wagon would also be very difficult as it is quite a dead-lift. You could use eg a dual cab ute’s tail-gate to facilitate dragging the bodies up the incline formed when you drop it down onto the tow-bar for example, or propped against a piece of wood maybe. It would require quite a lot of strength. I know I have had to move dead sheep from the paddock, and a person would be a longer more difficult object to move than a sheep. (In the same way people who try to display their ‘hunting prowess’ by posting photos of stags on the backs of their tray vehicles obviously give themselves away as poachers in this way. You cannot drag a dead deer far, nor get it up onto the tray by yourself without throwing the winch rope over an overhanging tree – ie it was obviously shot on the road under the lights. Not much of a trophy!) It is extremely unlikely that a woman or a diminutive man could have done this. Then when ‘he’ was dumping the bodies he would have had to drag them off into the bush. This implies bush that is not too thick for walking more or less upright, and it is really unlikely you would/could drag two bodies more than 50 metres, if even that far. The police drones have not found the bodies where they are not, but they might find them where they are by searching along the (main three) tracks in and out of the Wonnangatta either on foot or using their drones - as the bodies clearly have to be dumped before you return to ‘civilisation’. If they find the bodies there might be some ballistic evidence still if they were shot – though if they were shot (clearly with a hunting round – otherwise the bullets would have passed through them and be found by police metal detectors) surely you would hack the bullets out of them where you dumped them. Either a single perpetrator (some lone, crazed opportunistic killer – so unlikely) is involved or someone who knew at least one of the victims, or spotlighters killed them – in which case there were likely two, as it is difficult to drive and hold a spotlight at the same time, and if you had to stop to take a shot you would have most likely noticed you weren’t shooting a deer! Police should be able to get one of the two spotlighters to dob the other in for a sufficient enticement. If it was someone known to them, then it would most likely be some other paramour of the woman, as the man’s wife is clearly elderly too and unlikely to be able to drag an lift the bodies etc. There should be very few suspects and the police ought to have apprehended one by now.
09/05/2020: times (and weighs approx 28 grams). Tyvek reflectivity is just about as good as it gets: 97% eg as compared with white titanium dioxide paint at 95.5% so it is perfectly suitable for this application.The wonders of Tyvek once again! This device boosts the electrical output of my solar panels by approximately X+
The reflector has approx 6 times the surface area of the panel, so I am hopeful I will get a significant boost. I may not get such a good result out of this prototype because the output of the panel may be amperage limited – so too the batteries I am trying to charge. If I get significant improvement I will be trying a larger version whose solar panel has two outlets, and I will move on from there: https://www.theultralighthiker.com/2020/05/09/tyvek-solar-reflector/
03/05/2020: The Creek #1: We have a lovely unnamed creek here at Jeeralang Junction (I like to call it ‘Sawyer’s Gully’ after the original selectors here) which rises high in the forest valley behind and winds through the bottom of our farm. Not long after we came here nearly thirty years ago I hacked a path through the blackberries along the roadside from our front gate down to where the road crosses it. Slowly I gnawed away at the brambles and rubbish till I reached our rear boundary. Each day’s work was a revelation. There has been a lot of clearing, dam maintenance and tree planting since then. Years ago I made a 3 km loop trail through the fern gullies behind our house. Over the years it has been neglected but I recently thought I would use some of the enforced time of the the corona lock-down to re-establish it.: https://www.theultralighthiker.com/2020/05/03/the-creek-1/
01/05/2020: Superlight Hunting Pack,
193 Grams: You don’t have to spend a fortune or carry around a tonne of
bricks to secure a wonderful hunting/hiking backpack. I recently bought three
of these Clever
Lees 35 Litre Backpacks from Aliexpress. They cost me around US$14 each (April
2020) about twice what I would have paid had I lived in the
30/04/2020: Do You Need a Bug Net or a Tent Floor: If you have been following this blog and particularly my DIY tent/shelters etc you will realise I don’t think you do. I have slept under the stars collectively for several years of my life – more than enough for a dozens of ‘through-hikes’ which are things I would probably never do, as I dislike tracks and crowds. https://www.theultralighthiker.com/2020/04/30/do-you-need-a-bug-net-or-a-tent-floor/
29/04/2020: Ultralight Ultracheap Rain Fly: Can’t make your own? How about this one? 310 grams US$30.25. You couldn’t make it for this. Of course you can’t use it as a hammock tarp as well like mine but it is the beginning of a good cheap hiking kit. You can pair it with a bathtub floor and mosquito net set-up very cheaply too, but I think you can get by with a 50 gram space blanket for a groundsheet, and they cost around $2 each (on eBay etc). https://www.theultralighthiker.com/2020/04/26/ultralight-ultracheap-rain-fly/
29/04/2020: 250 Years (Tomorrow)
since Captain Cook landed at Botany nay. 50 years ago (in 1970) even the
Queen was here to celebrate this momentous event in
28/04/2020: Cheap Ultralight Bathtub Floor: I was thinking of making one of these for my new Deer Hunter’s Tent but at US$27 and a quite reasonable weight of 180 grams single ( 31 1/2″ x 7′ ie 80 x 210 cm) or 227 grams double (7′ x 4′ ie 210 x 120 cm) I might not bother. https://www.theultralighthiker.com/2020/04/26/cheap-ultralight-bathtub-floor/
25/04/2020: Deer Hunter’s Tent #2: A tent that is also a tarp and a hammock shelter. This tent has been evolving in my head for a number of years and I realise that some of you are impatient that you have not been able to buy one or other of its iterations. However your wait might soon be over. Be that as it may here is my latest and I believe best version of it: https://www.theultralighthiker.com/2020/04/25/deer-hunters-tent-2/
25/04/2020: Two reasons I may never
23/04/2020: Te Araroa: The Longest (NZ) Walk. When the crisis is over you might spend a few months less enjoyably than this: https://www.nzgeo.com/stories/the-longest-walk/
21/04/2020: An C18th .50 calibre air rifle which could punch 30 rounds through a target over 100 yards away: https://www.theultralighthiker.com/2020/04/20/merewether-lewiss-air-rifle/
19/04/2020: Vale Westie, a Real
Fiordland Legend: You have probably seen my posts about Westies Hut
and about that section
of the South Coast Track. We have stayed in the remarkable hut in a sea
cave at Price’s harbour – and hope to do so again, next time for a slightly
longer period, despite the sandflies. I doubt we will be staying for 8 years
though, as Owen West its eponymous ‘creator’ who has recently died did. Though
the hut was begun by Southland fisherman ‘Slack’
Once the lockdown ends and we can go to NZ again we will be heading for the South Coast Track again or the Dusky, moose hunting.
Some Westie’s Hut eye candy:
18/04/2020: A Folding Plastic Kayak at around US$300 and 13 kg. Just great if you are short of storage space: https://www.theultralighthiker.com/2020/04/18/tucktek-folding-kayak/
14/04/2020: The new Deer Hunter's Tent. Just about finished. See post: https://www.theultralighthiker.com/2020/04/11/miniature-whelen-hammock-tent/
Day one was totally passive, involving a jet boat ride over the beautiful
13/04/2020: Wild Dogs in the Wonnangatta: I agree with Andrew Rule that sooner or later the lost campers would have been eaten by wild dogs: https://www.heraldsun.com.au/news/opinion/andrew-rule/andrew-rule-missing-high-country-campers-revive-centuryold-tragedy/news-story/22c177ddb2f89cfe558e8e87e621715e I have been hunted by packs of them in there myself – and would never camp in the Victorian mountains without a gun! They were much worse before last year’s fires which seemed to have thinned them down a but. I expect to encounter several packs of them in there every trip, like this one back in 2013 with my old dog Tiny: https://www.theultralighthiker.com/2013/09/29/hunting-the-wonnangatta-moroka/ More about Tiny here: https://www.theultralighthiker.com/2018/02/23/a-tiny-life/ For many weeks this was my most popular post. People love dogs. I know I do. But not wild dogs.
12/04/2020: I am spending my Easter lock down making a new Whelen tent. Stay tuned here: https://www.theultralighthiker.com/2020/04/11/miniature-whelen-hammock-tent/
11/04/2020: I have come up with a seam which is easier to make than a flat-felled seam when you are making a tarp or tent: https://www.theultralighthiker.com/2016/09/04/hammock-hunting-till-dark/
09/04/2020: Another Wonnangatta
Mystery. I have been there so often - up to half a dozen trips a year for
the last nearly twenty years. I know the area well where these two have
disappeared. The torched tent is the worst distraction. It may mean nothing,
just an odd co-incidence. One hopes there is not another murderer on the loose
there (as in 1912 – I always suspected Harry Smith myself, but we are unlikely
to ever know). I suspect a sequence of unfortunate accidents this time: a fall
perhaps followed by the inability to return to camp, then exposure, but the
fire is weird and may indicate foul play I suppose. It is also astonishing that
the police search failed to find anything – how far would an elderly couple
have travelled on foot from their camp? They could not have canoed from where
they were. It is unlikely to be the same murderer as in 1912 in any case.
Normally the area would be alive with campers and deer hunters at Easter but it
would have been very quiet there over the last month and will remain so. It is
the most remote spot in
29/03/2020: Instructions for making an ultralight stuff sack: https://www.theultralighthiker.com/2020/03/29/diy-stuff-sacks/
27/03/2020: My new DIY tent. Something to keep your mind off things. It is the silnylon version of my recent 10 x 10 tarp. It can be used (two ways) as a tent and two ways as a hammock tarp as well - and weighs under 600 grams. It cost me less than $20: https://www.theultralighthiker.com/2020/03/27/silnylon-hammock-tent/
26/03/2020: I wish. My post from this day in 2014: ‘Expect a break from me: tomorrow I am off for ten days’ hiking in Fiordland. In the unlikely event that I capture a photo of a live moose, I will come back $100,000 richer as there is a prize offered. I HAVE seen one, and have seen much sign over the years: tracks, browse, fewmets…so I am in with a chance. Wish me luck. In any case, be assured I WILL enjoy myself in that vast wilderness.’ See my posts about it here: https://www.theultralighthiker.com/2018/03/05/from-dawn-to-dusky/ It will be a welcome relief even if we can’t be there at thre moment, perhaps ever again.
17/03/2020: How to Make a Tent Pole: I made a sub one ounce hand saw for this purpose, but this is even easier than sawing a branch to length: You can cut approx 10″ (25 cm) of 1″ (25mm) poly pipe to join two hiking poles like this. I used standard ‘rural C’ grade poly pipe https://www.theultralighthiker.com/2020/03/16/how-to-make-a-tent-pole/
16/03/2020: Lighting a Fire in the Wet #2: It is no trouble to light a fire with a large magnifying glass when the sun is shining in a clear sky, but it is a different matter if the lens is small or if only brief, occasional gleams of sun come through gaps in the clouds. It can be done quite easily, however, by taking into account elementary physics. White or light-coloured surfaces reflect heat, so with a very small lens or under poor conditions it is useless to try to light a piece of paper, a leaf, or dry grass. But black absorbs heat and therein lies the whole secret of success.
This can be demonstrated in a striking way by using a prospector's lens, no larger than a 2-cent piece, or the almost as small eyepiece from .a pocket telescope or pair of binoculars. Wait until the lower rim of the sun is just touching the horizon—the time when least heat is received from it—and then focus the rays on a piece of black tinder made from cotton cloth. Within 2 or 3 seconds the tinder will start to glow. The same thing happens when the sun gleams for a second or two through a gap in driving clouds.
If no tinder is available, use a tiny ball of cotton thread taken from the clothing, or some very fine threads of grass leaf or inner fibrous bark, bone dry and blackened by thorough rubbing between the finger and thumb with a scrap of old, soft charcoal.
Lighting a "fire in wet weather is another art which must be mastered.
The worst conditions are those under which so many of our troops lived, ate,
slept, fought, and died in the jungles of
In the rain forests of
A slab is split off the trunk of a ghittoe—a tough job, for it is one of the hardest timbers in the world and it cannot be done without an axe. Some of the saffron-yellow heartwood must be included. Little splinters of this heartwood are stuck in the ground in a circle with their tops touching, like the framework of an Indian tepee. Larger splinters are added, then pieces of wood the size of a pencil. The match is applied to the fine inner splinters through a gap left for the purpose.
It should be laid in a sheltered spot among the root buttresses of a big
tree, as a little puff of wind will extinguish it when first lit. It is also
necessary to stick the splinters firmly into the ground, because it will not
burn if laid flat in the ordinary way. Although ghittoe wood is the best of
them, there are other woods in the rain forests of
They can be identified by asking natives to point them out, or by experimenting with splinters of the heartwood.
Another method in the
In the rain forests of other tropical countries, members of the pine family of trees will be found which yield inflammable gum in the same way.
In the forests of southern
In very wet weather, little can be done with dead sticks gathered from the
ground, as they are usually sodden. Break dead sticks off she-oaks or other
casuarinas, from some of the wattles, particularly the blackwood,
Acacia melanoxylon, or almost any of the gumtrees. If they are very wet, split
them down the centre. The gidgee (Acacia cambagei) of the northwest of
Fire-lighting under adverse conditions is one of the most important of all things to the bushcraft student.
To bank up a fire in wet weather, so as to have hot coals for the morning,
obtain some big banksia cones if possible. These were known as mangait
(mahn-gah-eet) to the Aborigines of the south-west of
The same thing can be done with the chunky ends of hardwood logs. If gidgee wood is obtainable, it is merely necessary to put one end of a small log in the fire. It will smoulder away through the rest of the night without bursting into flame, burning only on the underside if it is raining heavily.
To carry fire from one spot to another some distance away, it is useless to try to do it with a single stick, unless it is a dry water-root from a gumtree or a stick of gidgee. Use two sticks with the burning ends together, as shown in the sketch. This is the Aboriginal method. It also helps to keep one warm when walking on a bitterly cold day. The sticks should be waved to and fro by swinging the arm while walking, to fan the burning ends. The drawback to it is the way in which the flying sparks burn holes in the clothing.
I have seen Aborigines in central
15/03/2020: Backpack Tips and Tricks. Most everyone's backpack is hopeless as well as too heavy. There is a better way: https://www.theultralighthiker.com/2020/03/15/backpack-tips-and-tricks/
14/03/2020: Lay Flat Kettle and Pudding Bowl Stove: Some more great ideas from 'Tim the Tinker'. 'Winter is coming' as they say, so it is time to sharpen up your winter tent and tipis designs and complete your experiments in how to heat them effectively: https://www.theultralighthiker.com/2020/03/11/lay-flat-kettle-and-pudding-bowl-stove/
14/03/2020: Lay Flat Kettle and Pudding Bowl Stove: Some more great ideas from ‘Tim the Tinker‘. ‘Winter is coming’ as they say, so it is time to sharpen up your winter tent and tipis designs and complete your experiments in how to heat them effectively.
It is a pure delight to be out and about in our wonderful Victorian fastnesses, (for example) chasing the wily sambar in the clear cold days of winter, but it is even more delightful at the end of the day to be able to dry off clothes and self, to have a hot meal and any number of hot drinks and gather around a toasty fire out of the wind to yarn about the day’s adventures, times past, absent friends – and sort out all the problems of the world! First though you must perfect the art of lighting a fire in the wet and making tinder.
I was already mightily impressed by Tim’s wonderful ‘lay-flat’ kettle which weighs a mere 31 grams for a 700 ml capacity. It is an ingenious idea which I have known would work since I saw the astonishing Prof Sumner-Miller on TV when I was a lad demonstrating that you could boil water in a paper cup, but I had not thought to actually make one for myself. Tim has – well done Tim. Here is how he made it out of copper foil, silylon and silicone: https://timtinker.com/lay-flat-kettle/ and here it is boiling 2-3 cups of water:
Della and I used to see and talk to Prof Sumner-Miller practically every day when we were students at Sydney Uni back in the early 70s. What an enchanting man he was. His TV show ‘Why Is It So?’ has never been bettered. You can still catch some of the episodes on Youtube.
Here is the kettle lying flat:
Here is a delightful little video of water boiling in the lay-flat kettle over the pudding bowl stove:
Tim also has his Instagram page (above) with lots of illustrations of his DIY ideas. You should check it out: https://www.instagram.com/telemarktim/
In his post linked above he considers the various features of the Pudding Bowl Stove and his new Miniature Dome Stove. Like his stove I described before (see links below) all these stoves are very light. He is concentrating on stoves which will weigh .5-1.0 kg such that the whole thing including chimney can easily be carried on or in your backpack for winter (snow) camping.
The stoves are intended for both cooking and providing enough warmth for convivial evenings in the tent/tipi. They output around 1,000 watts of heat which is surprising for such a small stove using only 400 grams of twigs an hour.
They certainly convince me to have a DIY attempt at a small stainless steel stove which can maybe stoked and shut down enough to only need refueling every 3-4 hours. Stay posted.
Here is his Miniature Dome Stove hard at work:
The Instagram video (below) https://www.instagram.com/p/B8nkT_AhlQn/ shows how it can be used as a tent stove, blower stove or alcohol; stove all in the one little package:
These stoves are made from easily purchased stainless steel cookware or lunch tins etc. The chimneys he makes himself from Titanium foil. They are ingenious and extremely light.
He will make one for you for a fee, so you should contact him if your are interested. The chimney would be especially attractive as it is difficult to obtain the titanium foil to make it anyway.
The temperature of the stove can be higher than 350C but the temperature at the top of the short chimney is only around 100C so that a DIY Peltier electric generator would work there with one side in the near freezing air. This would be good for providing illumination and charging your various devices just as a by-product of eating and staying warm. More about that later…
See how hot they get here:
He also has instructions for making a ‘Tent Flue Gland‘ to prevent the tent from being melted by the chimney, and many other wonderful things such as Lay-Flat Handles, for example. You can spend many hours of enchantment exploring his site.
Lay flat handle laid flat in backpacking position.
You should remember that this man has journeyed (likely for longer than you have been alive) easily on skis in winter and camped out safely and comfortably for many days in the snows on our mountain tops, something which would be the death of less experienced or foolish folk – so there is much to learn from him, particularly perhaps if you think about harvesting a sambar stag above the snowline one beautiful winter’s day in the future…
Here you can see one of his winter camps in one of his DIY tents. Note the chimney:
I don’t usually camp in the snow so I find it safer and easier to have an open fire outside my tent. I have been fiddling with my tarps https://www.theultralighthiker.com/2019/09/06/two-great-poly-tarp-configurations/ & especially https://www.theultralighthiker.com/2019/09/24/10-by-10-tarp-update/over the last few days in preparation for a trip to Mt Darling (we hope), but I will get back to a tent stove as I develop my tipis (https://www.theultralighthiker.com/2019/05/25/seamless-tyvek-tipi/) I have added some additional tie-outs and am now up to the point of making the 10 x 10 out of silnylon which will save me 200 grams.
I should have a very roomy tent for two (with a floor), the ability to have a fire out the front and to fasten it down completely if rain comes from all directions which will weigh all up (ie guys and pegs too) under 500 grams. It can also be a much larger shelter (if pitched diagonally) and a fully enclosed hammock tarp for one or an open hammock tarp for two.
You must certainly avoid this:
09/03/2020: Enchanting tricks you can use weather radar for: https://cliffmass.blogspot.com/2020/03/weather-radar-shows-spring-bird.html
07/03/2020: A stupendous photo but not exactly the ‘green hills of earth’ is it: https://photojournal.jpl.nasa.gov/figures/PIA23623_fig1.jpg
06/03/2020: New Evidence of Fiordland Moose: New Sighting Below:
Some time back I was contacted by a young journalist, Charlie Mitchell from
Les Murrrell’s two bulls in the
There have been two authentic DNA confirmations of the NZ moose this century. Only last year (May 2017) I encountered fresh browse and fresh moose scent in the Hauroko Burn.
Eventually someone’s hard work will pay off with authenticated footage of
one of these ‘gentle giants’. Of course everyone involved hopes it will be
their photos which reveal this strange carry-over from an ancient era lurking
in the primeval forests of
Meanwhile you can find Charlie’s two fine articles here:
See also my posts, eg here:
PS: Here is the link to the 2020 sighting Alex Gale (below comments) refers to today (05 March 2020). It sounds pretty genuine to me too:.
04/03/2020: DIY Ultralight Pillow: 27 grams as pictured. I have been using this pillow every night now for months. It has been the most comfortable pillow I have ever used.
It started its life like this:
You should have a go at cutting down a pillow or mat to size yourself. Unfortunately the valve on this cheap pillow was not very satisfactory. It had a bad habit of separating into three (easily lost) pieces, so I have been casting around for an alternative.
Della had busted the insides of her Exped ultralight pillow (since replaced with a new one) by sitting on it in the canoe for days on end. Not made for that! Although up to now it has been the best hiking pillow I have ever owned.
Her trashing hers gave me the raw materials to try something else. So I cut it down to a very similar shape, as you can see, and sealed it up with a very hot iron.
It now looks like this. It has a much better valve:
You only need a very small amount of air in it:
It weighs a mere 27 grams now (down from its exorbitant 45!) There’s another 19 grams off my pack weight. As I said recently it will be carrying me soon. The way I’m going it will probably have to!
And is as comfy as anything. Though it may not look so on the floor. A better model might also help! I always thought I needed a bigger pillow too. I was wrong. So are you.
I have found one or two cheaper pillows with more satisfactory valves on Amazon though (for around US$17 – Mar 2020). They won’t be anywhere near as light as this one. They will give you something to play with though. Give it a try!
Here’s one of them
29/02/2020: About (that plague) of cute koalas. We live hard up against the Strzelecki forest outlined in the article. There really are plagues of koalas (wombats, swamp wallabies and foxes) here: https://quadrant.org.au/opinion/doomed-planet/2020/02/bushfires-and-koalas-its-not-that-simple/
29/02/2020: Listen: The Sound Of The Hagia Sophia, More Than 500 Years Ago – you can really understand why some folks go to church: https://www.npr.org/2020/02/22/808404928/listen-the-sound-of-the-hagia-sophia-more-than-500-years-ago
28/02/2020: Tinder: This is a gem from yesteryear. So much useful survival knowledge is all-but lost: ‘Fire Without Matches: More nonsense has been said and written on the subject of lighting fires without matches than on any other—except, of course, the birth of the kangaroo. How can one tell, by reading what a man has written about it, that he couldn’t make it work if challenged to give a demonstration? Quite easily, and it can be summed up in six words.- ‘The age of miracles is past”.
It would be nothing short of a miracle if a fire could be lit by some of the
methods described. This is an example: ‘
Further, no matter how many of these sparks are rained on to dry grass, cotton, bark, and similar stuff, they will never ignite it. Apart from gunpowder, never used nowadays in the Army, and highly inflammable vapours such as those from petrol and alcohol, those sparks will ignite nothing except tinder.
When bushcraft training began in the Army, we were faced with the problem of making tinder from a substance which a serviceman would have with him, or could find in the bush. This ruled out the use of chemicals such as saltpetre or chlorate of potash. A round was made of technical schools and the university; old text-books from public library vaults were consulted without success. Tinder-making without chemicals seemed to be a lost art. Then a senior officer, who held an arts and not a science degree, hit upon a simple solution.
‘No use going to orthodox schools and universities,’ he said, smiling. ‘Try a different kind of educational establishment— the jail.’
‘We’ve got the man you want locked up now,” said the jail superintendent. ‘No matter how thoroughly we search him, he can always light a smoke in his cell. Mandrake’s got nothing on him. I’ll get him for you.’
Old Bob was suspicious at first but when told why the information was required he took me out of sight and hearing of the warders and parted with all his secrets. He did more than talk about it; he demonstrated everything as he went along. That old man had been in custody for most of his life, but he did more for the troops than many of those who have never seen the inside of a jail. Thousands of soldiers had reason to bless him when the matches gave out.
If flint is unobtainable, any hard rock will do; quartz, chert, chalcedony, etc. For the striker, carbon steel must be used, such as the back of a knife, a safety razor blade, or a piece of a file. Alloy steels such as a hacksaw blade will not do, neither will soft iron. The only substitute which occurs naturally is iron pyrites, the hard and brassy ore sometimes mistaken for gold by amateur prospectors. Best results in this case are achieved by striking one piece of pyrites against another, but even so the sparks are dull red instead of at white heat and it is often necessary to do a great deal of hammering before the tinder catches.
An airtight, waterproof container is necessary for the tinder. The ordinary
boot polish tin is the easiest to obtain, but if cut off from all the resources
of civilisation a substitute must be found. Prehistoric man in
The best tinder is made from a piece of cotton cloth, washed to remove dirt, sweat, and grease, then dried thoroughly. First scour the tin with sand, dry earth, or ashes to remove any traces of polish. Place it on the ground with the lid beside it. Light a small fire, take a piece of the cotton cloth about the size of a handkerchief, place it across a couple of sticks and hold it over the fire, out of contact with the flames. This makes sure that it is dry.
As soon as it starts to scorch, let it take fire. It will flare up. As the last of the flame is dying out, lower it into the tin, pack it down with two sticks and at once put on the lid. When it has cooled, remove the lid and the tinder is revealed as black, fragile flakes. If cotton cloth is not available, substitutes can be found in wild cotton, taken from the ripe pods, thistledown, the silky threads from the fruits of the kapok tree, or the brown fluff from the base of the leaves of the palm-like Macrozamia, but this last-named substance must be first boiled to remove the gum and then dried.
Tease any of these substances into a large ball, light it, and at once pack into the tin and put the lid on, as they burn very rapidly. Another substitute is the large, white, bread-like fungus (punk) found growing on trees, or the pith found inside some species of reeds. Break both into little chips, then heat on a piece of tin held over a fire or on a hot stone. As soon as they are glowing, rake into the tinderbox and put on the lid.
All these forms of tinder ignite at the touch of a spark because the cellulose in them has been reduced to a mass of carbon filaments, through excluding the air at the critical point in the initial combustion.
To light a fire with tinderbox, flint, and steel, have ready what the bushman calls ‘bull’s wool’—dry grass or bark rubbed to fluff, coconut fibre, or anything else of the kind, as well as a heap of kindling sticks. Place the tinder-box on the ground with the lid off, hold the piece of stone between the thumb and finger of the left hand and about 8 centimetres above the tinder. Take the steel between the thumb and forefinger of the right hand and strike a light, quick blow with the edge of the steel across a sharp angle of the stone. Move the steel parallel to the ground; do not strike downward, as this is likely to hit the tin and scatter the contents, with unfortunate results if the ground is wet and the tinder becomes damp.
A shower of sparks will fly off if the blow is struck in the right way and the tinder will glow where any touch it. Pick out a burning piece of tinder and put the lid on the tin at once, for otherwise the rest of the tinder will burn to ash within half a minute. Put the burning tinder in the middle of a small bunch of bull’s wool, blow on it gently until it takes fire, and poke it under the heap of sticks.
In passing: I first introduced these boot polish tin, piece of quartz, and
safety razor blade outfits in
From, ‘The Bushman’s Handbook’ by H.A. Lindsay. Harold Lindsay was a survival instructor with the Australian and American troops during World war 2.
PS: I always carry something to help start a fire: a couple of esbits and a scrap of bicycle inner tube and of course I use a metho stove so I always have a bit of that too. You should read the post How to Light a Fire in the Wet.
PPS These lightweight aluminium cans would be excellent for your tinder.
23/02/2020: Another Cheap Hiking Mat: The Vertex Mattress (which includes a pillow) at 450 grams, generously sized 74.8” x 22.8” with a reasonable R-rating for warmer weather of R 4.2 and an excellent price of US$39.99 (Feb 2020) would have to be good value. If you are shorter like Della and I are you could easily cut this down to 5’6″ (397 grams) or even 5′ (360 grams) to save some weight – yet you still have that generous extra 2.8″ of width. This would be good practice for other DIY heat sealing projects such as pillows and pack rafts. You even get a free fire starter! I cannot spot the height – looks to be about 2″. If you are on a budget this could be for you. In the colder months you could pair it with a cheap closed cell foam mat to add a couple of R-points. Lots of folks at the bottom of Vertex’s page seem happy with it. You might pair it with these cheap down sleeping bags and coats.
PS: You may be eligible for a 10% discount right now (Feb 2020).
This post continues a series about budget hiking. Here are some of the others:
PS: The pillow I made has become my favourite. I have slept on it every night since i made it around a year ago.
21/02/2020: Amps are Everything: It’s hard to find a solar panel which fits on top of a backpack nd can reliably charge eg an 18650 battery/powerbank. This one from Aliexpress looks pretty good.
It is 275 x 150 mm (10 ¾” x 6”) and weighs:141 grams. so it should just fit on top of your pack. It puts out 2 amps at 5 volts (10 watts) so it should technically just about charge a single 18650 in an hour supposing you can find a 2 amp charger and cord to go with it. It might be safer to charge two 18650s together at 1 amp through a 2-3 amp charging cord but if hooked up to a 1 amp charger it should do the job safely in just over two hours.
Even on the top of your backpack you should get the
equivalent of two hours of bright sunshine dut=ring the course eg of an eight
hour hiking day. The 3700 milliamp hours available from a single 1860 battery
ought to be enough to charge a small phone, camera battery and torch each day.
Given that most of these will only need charging at mst
every second day that should be quite enough to keep them topped up and any
other electrical gadgets such as an emergency sat phone/communicator and
emergency radio text messager such as the Go
The diameter of the charging cord is vital to successful charging. Wires are measured in AWG (gauges) the lwer the number being the thicker, as seen below
https://www.engineeringtoolbox.com/wire-gauges-d_419.html Here are some cheap 3 amp charging cables (pictured above 5 for US 6.99).
You need to check what amperage your (eg 18650) batteries
can handle and how many amps your charger
Such a charger should charge the two batteries,
approximately 12 watts each
(at 5 watts times 1.5 amps each = 7.5 watts per hour) in a bit
over an hour and a half. It is quite difficult to find a power bank/charger
18/02/2020: The Sleeping Bag Re-Imagined: The wild idea races far ahead of the imagined object. For many years (for me) I tossed up between hammock and tent camping using a 7' x 7' and a 169 gram (including suspension rope) Nano hammock tarp for hammocking, then I started rigging my 8' X 8' cuben tarp for either purpose, but it was only really good for one person as a ground shelter - sometimes the only choice because of the absence of suitable trees - though I attached 'wings' to it so we could use it for either in a pinch.
You can see here how we used to use it here - and it only weighs 200 grams! I am swinging back to silnylon and silpoly instead of cuben fibre though for various reasons, cost (!) for one, but durability also. Now that Tenacious Tape can be used for repairs and waterproof sinylon fabrics are available in 1 oz/yd2 and even .77 oz/yd2 and are much more durable I just don't see the point. I am sick and tired of my cuben fibre stuff sacks shredding just as I tired of my cuben fibre packs doing the same a few years back and am making new silnylon ones.
It is much nicer to have my lovely wife Della's company but sometimes we are forced to take to the trees as the ground is so wet, so how to do this in the lightest way possible? Lightweight hammocks and suspensions for one thing. My new tent/tarp coupled with my double bunking hammock swing solves all these problems - and I daresay we can also use the tarp as the skin of an emergency boat to get ourselves across swollen rivers in our path if the need arises. Multiple use is what it's all about.
I chose my current sleeping bag (that's it above) because it shape-shifts to fit and has plenty of room for my shoulders and arms - and of course it's light, around 550 grams for -2C. I am quite fond of it but it does not thermo -regulate as I imagine future materials might (and be just as comfy from minus to plus 40C) though we have added down to one of mine to make it suitable for trips to Everest. Nor (I think) can it be used to catch fish (as I think future sleeping bags might) or fit in your breast pocket (as they did in Heinlein's 'Tunnel in the Sky' What a great book - download it here).
What other wonders might future sleeping bags have? Could they be waterproof enough so that you could lie in a pool in the rain yet breathable enough so they were bone-dry inside? Could they catch your perspiration, and re-purify it as drinking water like the stillsuits in Frank Herbert's 'Dune'? Could you use one as a parachute? Could they double as clothing? There are already some interesting make-overs to have this happen. I know it is a no-brainer that you can wrap yourself in it of a cold evening before bed. It would be excellent if they were fire-proof so that you did not either melt holes in them around the campfire or when cooking and you could roll yourself in one to save yourself during a wildfire.
In the meantime I am surprised that 1000 fill power down bags are not available yet. This is an obvious weight saving. You should be able to get a zipperless bag made of lightweight materials suitable for around 0C at a weight under 400 grams I would have thought.
13/02/2020: Paper Maps App: This is a great App I have just discovered. It opens Pdf Maps and many other types.
If you are tired of Avenza’s version of Pdf Maps only allowing you to open three maps before you hand over cash to them every year – and taking forever to open every map into the bargain (I am). I have a new phone and the trick I used before didn’t want to work, so I went hunting for another App to open Vicmaps Topographical maps in Geopdf format. I found this wonderful App.
This is Della’s favourite place (Hawick Scotland – where her ancestors resided). She won’t get lost there now. I will have to take her there again soon.
Here she is enjoying every minute of it:
It opens a map much more quickly. I guess in less than 30 seconds. Avenza maps used to take minutes, but was much faster if they were already open. It will open: GeoPDF, Geospatial PDF, GeoTIFF, JPEG, KML, KMZ and Shapefile.
You can record GPS tracks, add placemarks and photos, add data
layers with schemas, Import your own maps or from Dropbox,
Have your own map? Just use it!
Need a map for your journey? Just use one of 600,000 maps available in Paper Maps App! Add placemarks and photos. One map? Or 1,000 maps? Load and use all of them. You can also Organize data in layers or add schemas and styles.
It takes only seconds to get the hang of it. I am sold on this App: https://www.paper-maps.com/
You can download Geoscience Australia’s maps for your particular area and never get lost.
10/02/2020: Della: 47 years married to this wonderful man, and still relishing the great adventure of our lives shared. Happy wedding anniversary, Steve Jones!
Della: 47th Wedding Anniversary dinner: I tried doing a selfie shot with both of us in it, but my smart-phone-selfie savvy is well below par, so we had to settle with recording the event in a quick shuffle of turns in the seat without the light washout. The menu was immensely exciting, but all the dishes were sadly eclipsed by the salt-shaker. Fortunately the company and the prosecco were reliably top-notch, as always!
10/02/2020: Light, Lighter, Lightest: If things keep going on like this my backpack will have negative mass and will be carrying me! ‘Lead balloons’ will soon actually exist! In fact they were first imagined ‘in 1670 by the Jesuit Father Francesco Lana de Terzi, sometimes referred to as the “Father of Aeronautics“, who published a description of an “Aerial Ship” supported by four copper spheres from which the air was evacuated’. Neat idea: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Airship
Of course in reality the spheres would collapse, but we are almost ready to make spheres using graphene scaffolding which is strong enough that they can be evacuated (and refilled) to control lift – so the same may well occur with backpacks, ie backpacks with lift! It’s a wonder you cannot buy a helium lift-assist kit for heavy backpacks already. Of course they might be a bit bulky!
PS: It is somewhat of a surprise that helium actually exists anywhere on
earth in that it is light and energetic enough to escape earth’s gravity – and
so what does exist should be conserved for more serious purposes than party
balloons! The truth is that it is created by radioactive processes deep in the
earth and is trapped in certain structures in the crust (such as a few
Gossammer Gear have long been pioneers in ways to reduce your pack weight. I have posted about various of their products over the years including their carbon fibre hiking poles, backpacks, Airflow Sitlight Seats Polycro Ground Sheets and so forth.
Here are some really nice lightweight ideas I found there today in their Accessories section:
These micro dripper bottles are even smaller and lighter than their earlier ones. These little guys only weigh 1.95 grams each and hold 3 mls so they are ideal for eg a small quantity of iodine or insect repellent. You should add them to your collection of small is beautiful ideas such as this and this.
This ultralight (3.5 grams) toothbrush for only a dollar deserves to join your war on weight: https://www.gossamergear.com/collections/accessories/products/toothbrush
Some natural silk floss sachets at US3.99 have to be a ‘must’ – and you could use them for fishing.
10/02/2020: Do you tell your children wild camping
is illegal? I think this is such a good title for a
post. It is up there with my post title Nuts to Leave No Trace. The
The author has some tips about encouraging children in the worthy civil disobedience of ‘free or stealth camping’. I couldn’t agree more.
One of my all-time favourite books is Thoreau’s Walden and On the Duty of Civil Disobedience which you can download and read for free from the link. The alternative title might be more evocative for you: ‘Life in the Woods’.
Thoreau retired (c1820) to a tiny remote cabin in the woods (near
Tom Smallwood discusses the delicate chore of telling your children that what you are doing ie camping on someone else’s land is illegal, but alright to do nonetheless. The idea of raising a tribe of such young anarchists strikes a chord with me. Here in Victoria much of our camping (eg in National Parks, & even perhaps on waterways may be technically illegal, but should be encouraged nonetheless – so long as you don’t leave a mess or spook the sheep!
10/02/2020: 1000 FP Down Vest: Just 150 grams and US$49.92 this little guy would make the perfect partner to its big brother the Naturehike 1000 FP Down Jacket which was on sale last week, sold out (at $60!) but is back again this week for US$ 67.43 – just in case you missed out!
It has both hand warmer pockets outside and generous storage pockets inside.
These two garments with a combined weight of 324 grams will allow you to get out in really cold sub-zero weather. Get one now at Aliexpress.
10/02/2019: 2,000 years: Seeds can last a long time: http://www.thehistoryblog.com/archives/57817
28/01/2019: Australia Day 2019: Latrobe River near Rosedale:
25/01/2019: Della: ‘
23/01/2019: Nitecore 550 Lumen Head Torch: What a great new head torch I managed to pick up from Deal Extreme for under US$30! Equipped with a CREE XP-G3 S3 LED, the NU32 emits a bright 550 lumens extending out to 125 metres/408 feet. In addition to this primary LED, which offers four different brightness modes, the NU32 also features high-CRI auxiliary LEDs that can be activated for close-range tasks, like reading and repairs. It weighs just 98 gram/3.5 ounces including its comfortable headband. Engineered with a 1800mAh/50-hour rechargeable battery, it won’t stop during critical tasks either.
Looks good with a ripe Plumcot from or garden too doesn't it? I've modelled it below:
That beard needs a trim!
They seem to have sold out at dx.com but they are incorrectly listed. They still have 10,000 of them! They also have the Nitecore HC60 Cree XM - L2 U2 1000LM LED Headlamp for US$47.95. I also picked up the new Nitecore Concept 1 1800 lumen single 18650 battery (61.9 gram) torch for US$54 - more about that later! They also have the Tube, Tiny Thumb and Tip mini rechargeable torches I wrote about before at a very reasonable price.
I use the Tube all the time when I am hiking:
22/01/2019: Fourteen Days of White
Water: The Wonnangatta-Mitchell is
This weekend there will be enough water to canoe it. You need to keep a ‘weather eye’ on the rainfall patterns and river heights. This post Canoeing the Wonnangatta, Catching the Wave will help you decide.
We have canoed most sections of it many times and I have previously posted about all of the white water sections. These posts begin with a pack rafting trip from the Humffray confluence to Eaglevale. We have also been down this section in Canadian canoes a number of times. That trip mostly through a serene remote forest far from tracks, roads, habitations etc takes at least two days but would be better enjoyed over three (or more). Here are my two posts about it:
We have had other adventures in there such as:
You can easily spend three days on the section from eaglevale to the
We have canoed the section downstream from the Kingwill Bridge to Black Snake Creek, thence to Hut Creek (Scorpion Track), and thence to the Rock of Gibraltar and Waterford numerous times beginning when our children were tiny tots over thirty years ago – and we are still enjoying it.
The section downstream from
Ther are plenty of lovely spots to camp.
Again the section downstream from Angusvale is quite committing. You can
take two days to the Den of Nargun (if you are pack rafting) but it would be a
long way to carry canoes out. It is better to continue on for the third day and
exit gracefully at the
three whole weeks on a crystal clear river wholly
21/01/2019: Impact of Bushfires on Wildlife. This is a very distressing video showing how a handful of deer have survived the fire (though far from unscathed) in a tiny area of Vic’s High Country. Just remember there are literally millions of hectares burned just like this. I have witnessed this time and time again, sometimes finding a deep pool in a stream with a dozen dead deer crowded into it by the relentless inferno. There is so little other life which has survived the fire. Even these few deer have a traumatic and difficult time ahead. They have to heal (if they can) and find enough to eat until the bush vegetation springs back into life. Being so big and so tall they have a better chance than most of the native wildlife if it survived this calamity. In the future their greater numbers will cause them to be blamed for the situation the bush will be in instead of forest ‘managers’ who failed to protect it with fire breaks and routine fuel reduction eg by cool burning, logging and cattle grazing, hunting etc: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DegZjlzjYww&feature=youtu.be&fbclid=IwAR2GgHs7hgsEXv-sXlwRhq0sX8ylsEsmuSpfqAx1Auu5j5kD92YiL5FfVZY
21/01/2019: Just Wow! Crossing the
Atlantic from Greenland to
21/01/2019: Mark Twain – ‘A Dog’s Tale’. I always thought Jack London’s ‘White Fang’ and ‘Call of the Wild’ were the ‘be all and end all’ of dog books but Twain blows them away. This is the saddest animal story I have ever read. What a writer he was! If you do not burst into tears at least four times in the few minutes needed to read it you have a heart of stone! https://www.gutenberg.org/files/3174/3174-h/3174-h.htm
20/01/2019: Beam me up Scotty: https://www.sciencealert.com/scientists-manage-quantum-teleportation-between-computer-chips-for-the-first-time
20/01/2019: Platypuses are on the 'brink of extinction' - and experts say they'll be almost gone in just 50 years: This could be a little like the 'experts' who 'predicted' that Bumble bees can't fly! I took these photos of a very happy platy during a long walk far up the Wonnangatta-Mitchell River last winter: https://www.theultralighthiker.com/2019/07/30/the-seventieth-birthday-platypus/ This was despite the awful fires there in 2009 which I thought had killed practically everything, and the fires last autumn (2019) which again burned right down to the water's edge (and wiped out four of my camps there) but which seemed to be much less destructive of wildlife (less to burn perhaps). The next fires will oddly have more to burn as last autumn's fires have felled most of the fire-killed trees from 2009 but not been able to burn them as the forest floor fuel had already burned by the time they fell. My thinking is that a 'cool' fire there soonish eg next autumn might rid the forest floor of these logs and make it safer for the surviving wildlife. Birdlife has been coming back (from a low of 6 birds seen in 40 km in 2009). I even saw possums at night last winter near two spots I camped. I haunt this river on which you can have three weeks of wonderful canoeing (a la Huck Finn) beginning at the Humffray confluence: https://www.theultralighthiker.com/2017/11/20/pack-rafting-the-remote-wonnangatta/ My latest foray there was just as these awful Gippsland fires were beginning (before Xmas) and so was a bit of a smoky affair: https://www.theultralighthiker.com/2019/12/23/marvelous-mitchell-river-day-1/ PS: I often see platypodes: https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-7904763/UNSW-researchers-say-platypuses-brink-extinction.html?fbclid=IwAR32ViL7qTIUIOPx7NovUJYCBGfCeMhOmq2_cg908Cs7O6kJWnffh5syh0c BTW: Despite the fires a visit to Gippsland is extremely worthwhile!
Upper Yarra Track Adventures: Warburton to Bairnsdale Ride
courtesy of Gerard White. There are many adventures you can have starting in
He has ridden along the Upper Yarra Track from Warburton all the way to
Myrrhee then looped around the North side of the Baw Baw Plateau utilising the
An allternative would have been to utilise my Upper Yarra Track Winter Route
(search for posts in the search box below) via Tanjil Bren and the Western
Tyers to Collins Siding, and
Just after Myrrhee (on Gerard’s route) you pass the Block 10 Rd. A km or so
down it is the junction with
Day 1 – Warburton to
Day 2 –
NB The photos that follow for quite a while of
This is Mt Horsefall (around 1300 metres) with a five acre clearing on top and 360 degree views of some of Gippsland’s finest forests.
The photos have jumped here from the
Day 3 – Stronach’s Camp to Heyfield
There used to be a hut at Little Boys Creek up the side track but it may have been removed.
Day 4 – Heyfield to Bairnsdale
PS: With his kind permission I have already brought you Gerard’s account of
his Warburton-Walhalla walk along the Upper
Yarra Track. (You can find my instructions here
and a map
here). I will soon be posting sections of his and his friend’s walk along
the Alps Walk from Mt Baw Baw to
Some other adventures you can have in Gippsland:
19/01/2019: Ultralight Titanium Cards: These little guys are only US$13.95 each from CountyComm (or sometimes available from Drop for US$26 per pair. They weigh only 8 grams each. It is easy to think of a circumstance that you might need one of these. All you would need would be some line (eg from your repair kit) and you will soon have fresh fish for breakfast! Usually I use my own DIY fishing kit which weighs just one ounce (30 grams).
Then again you might have locked yourself out of your house and need a handy set of lock picks!
15/01/2019: "For real people, if something works in theory, but not in practice, it doesn't work. For academics, if something works in practice, but not in theory, it doesn't exist." Nassim Nicholas Taleb
15/01/2019: Wrote this on this day
back in 2013 in response to the fires we were having then – have had all this
century. Once we used to have (short) holidays on the river over summer,
but we are always on ‘fire-watch’ now – and the fires have stolen all the water
from the rivers. I would not change a single word of it still, but the
15/01/2019: The rain predicted nearly
a fortnight ago (by the GFS) is finally beginning today. Here is another
interesting long-range service which seems to have a pretty good track record (Weatherbell). We willl be
hearing more about the MJO
in future I suspect. It looks like 1-2” all along the East
14/01/2019: Sleeping Pad News: New pads, new valves from Thermares and a new R-value standard. If It Works, Don’t Fix It – Thermarest’s WingLock™ and TwinLock™ Valve: https://www.thermarest.com/blog/crafting-a-better-valve/ Time to buy a mat while you can still opt for the ‘Classic’ valve perhaps . Extra weight and extra complexity for what? Who found it so difficult to pinch the material behind the valve during inflation to create a one-way valve. Who had difficulty letting a little air out of their mat in the past? The Classic valve is simple and pretty much bullet-proof (though replaceable anyway). Why would you seek to improve perfection?
A few days ago when Thermarest updated the valves across their entire range of of mattress, at the same time they have also increased the R-values for the entire NeoAir range. The new value for our old favourite the Neoair X-Lite Womens at 5.4 is a bit of a surprise . There is now not so much of a jump to the X-Therm (at 6.9) as there was, but it is still almost 2 warmer.
My new Exped SynMat HL Winter M (Now 5.2 rather than 5) doesn't look so good as it did when I bought it - but it is mighty comfortable! If I needed more warmth I should try Exped Ul Downmat Winter M at 480 grams and R = 7.1. You should also look at thickness, width and 'feel' before you make a final choice. Klymit hasn't yet listed their pads' values.
Some Pads and R-values The first figure is the
Pre-2020: R-Value the second figure is the new 2020 'ASTM F3340 Standard'
Big Agnes Insulated Q-Core SLX N/A 3.5
Big Agnes Insulated Q Core Deluxe N/A 4.2
Big Agnes Insulated AXL Air N/A 3.4
Big Agnes Insulated AXL Trail Boss N/A 5
Big Agnes Insulated Air Core Ultra N/A 3.3
Big Agnes Air Core Ultra N/A 1
Big Agnes Hinman N/A N/A
Big Agnes Two Track N/A N/A.
Exped FlexMat New 1.5
Exped FlexMat Plus New Pad 2.2
Exped Sit Pad Flex New Pad 1.5
Exped DownMat XP 9 (all sizes) 8 7.8
Exped DownMat UL Winter (all sizes) 7 7.1
Exped SynMat UL Winter 5 5.2
Exped SynMat HL Duo Winter 5 5.2
Exped SynMat UL 3.3 2.9
Exped SynMat HL 3.3 2.9
Exped SynMat HL Duo 3.3 2.9
Exped SynMat UL Lite 2.5 2.3
Exped AirMat UL Lite 1.7 1.3
Exped AirMat HL 1.9 1.3
Exped SIM UL 3.8 3.2 3.1
Exped SIM UL 5 New Pad 4
Exped DownMat 7 5.9 5.8
Exped DownMat XP 7 5.9 5.8
Exped SynMat 9 6 5.2
Exped SynMat XP 9 6 5.2
Exped MegaMat Lite 12 5.3 5.2
Exped SynMat 7 4.9 4.8
Exped SynMat XP 7 4.9 4.8
Exped SynMat 3-D 7 4.9 4.8
Exped SynMat Duo 4.9 4.8
Exped DownMat Lite 5 4.1 3.8
Exped SynMat Lite 5 2.5 3.4
Exped AirMat Lite 5 1.7 1.3
Exped AirMat Lite Plus 5 1.7 1.3
Exped SIM 2.5 New Pad 2.8
Exped SIM 3.8 4 4.6
Exped SIM 5 4.6 6.1
Exped SIM Lite 3.8 3.2 3.1
Exped SIM Comfort 5 4.6 4.3
Exped SIM Comfort Duo 5 4.6 4.3
Exped SIM Comfort 7.5 6.4 Incomplete
Exped SIM Comfort Duo 7.5 6.4 Incomplete
Exped SIM Comfort 10 9.5 8.1
Exped MegaMat 10 9.5 8.1
Exped MegaMat Max 15 New Pad 10.6
Exped MegaMat Max Duo 15 New Pad 10.6
Exped MegaMat Duo 10 9.5 8.1
Exped DeepSleep Mat 7.5 New Pad 8.5
Exped DeepSleep Mat Duo 7.5 New Pad 8.5
Exped MultiMat 1.4 1.4
NEMO Switchback UL N/A 2
NEMO Tensor Alpine UL N/A 4.8
NEMO Tensor Insulated N/A 3.5
NEMO Cosmo 3D N/A 3.3
NEMO Roamer SI NA 6
NEMO Nomad Camping N/A N/A
NEMO Vector UL N/A 3.5
NEMO Astro NA 2.6
NEMO Astro Lite N/A 2.6Sea-to-Summit Ether Light XT Insulated Air 3.8 3.2
Sea-to-Summit Ether Light XT Insulated Air Women's 4.2 3.5
Sea-to-Summit Ultralight Insulated Air Women's 3.8 3.5
Sea-to-Summit Ultralight Insulated Air N/A 3.1
Sea-to-Summit Comfort Light Insulated Women's N/A 3.8
Sea-to-Summit Comfort Light Insulated Air 4.2 3.7
Therm-a-Rest NeoAir XLite 3.2 4.2
Therm-a-Rest NeoAir XLite Women's 3.9 5.4
Therm-a-Rest NeoAir XTherm 5.7 6.9
Therm-a-Rest NeoAir XTherm Max 5.7 6.9
Therm-a-Rest NeoAir UberLite 2 2.3
Therm-a-Rest Basecamp 5.8 6
Therm-a-Rest LuxuryMap 6.8 6
Therm-a-Rest MondoKing 3D 11.4 7
Therm-a-Rest NeoAir Camper Duo 2.2 2.5
Therm-a-Rest NeoAir Venture 1.9 2.2
Therm-a-Rest Original Z Lite N/A 2
Therm-a-Rest ProLite 2.4 2.4
Therm-a-Rest ProLite Apex 4 3.8
Therm-a-Rest ProLite Plus 3.4 3.2
Therm-a-Rest ProLite Plus Women's 4.2 3.9
Therm-a-Rest ProLite Women's 3 2.7
Therm-a-Rest Ridegrest Classic 2.6 2
Therm-a-Rest RidgeRest SOLite 2.8 2.1
Therm-a-Rest Trail Lite 3.4 3.2
Therm-a-Rest Trail Lite Women's 4 4.5
Therm-a-Rest Trail Pro 4 4.4
Therm-a-Rest Trail Scout 4.8 3.1
Therm-a-Rest Z Lite Sol 2.6 2
14/01/2019: The Beauty of Volcanoes -
13/01/2019: Henry Lawson: ‘The Bushfire’ – a true master of words; if it does not have you in tears before the end I will be surprised: https://quadrant.org.au/opinion/doomed-planet/2020/01/henry-lawson-the-bushfire/
13/01/2019: Automatic Chicken Door Opener: What a great idea this is - and only A$34.99 on eBay. I will certainly be getting and installing one. Of course foxes can strike during the day too - but so often it is because you are late home or have forgotten to lock the chooks up. I will be teaming this up with my fox-proof fences to try and ensure that we can have a few hens again in a soon-to-be-restored poultry facility.
There is some debate about what type of chooks we should get. the traditional chooks on this farm (for the century before we owned it were White Sussex, do that is tempting. then there are Australorps, the only authentic Australian breed. Araucanas with their coloured eggs are a temptation too, but we have had Rhode Island Reds before and would like to have them again. They are a charming breed with lovely brown eggs. I think we already have names for them. My grandson is going to really enjoy going up to the chook house to collect the eggs. I can hardly wait either - but back to the door opener...
‘Automatic Chicken Coop Door Opener - Light Sensitive or
Never forget to lock the chooks up again and losing your flock to foxes!
Easy to install and set and forget.
Has four modes for you to choose from:
1/ Set time to open and Set time to close.
2/ Set time to open and Automatically close at Sunset
3/ Automatically open with the morning light and set time to close
4/ Open Automatically at sunrise and Automatically close at sunset
Flexibility to suit every need.
Operates on light sensitivity or Timer
Will lift a door .03kg to 1kg
Runs up to 1 year on 4AA Batteries (included)
Comes with Aluminium Door and Rails
Four operating modes
Comes with instructions
Comes with a 30-day satisfaction guarantee, just return it within 30 days if you are not completely satisfied’
I will probably try to include a solar charger to the battery set-up so that they never run flat - and I will afford some quality batteries to run it - like these Enerloops.
I will also probably add another idea to my new chook house, a 'fox-proof ladder' just as a further safeguard. I am so over having my beloved hens (and other critters - especially lambs!) destroyed by Brer Fox.
I will have the chickens entering and leaving their house higher up than a fox can reach. The chooks will have to hop up a wobbly 'ladder' made of a single length of 2" plastic pipe with 1" plastic pipe rungs pushed through it about every foot. A hen will easily learn to hop along up it, but a fox ought not be able to climb it! Photo to follow.
Door Opener available on Ebay here.
A PS: The Ring-Tailed Possum have moved into the Macadamia trees with a much larger nest - boy how they will boom when I get that vermin-proof fence finished this summer!
PPS: I have borrowed the pics. I hope the seller doesn't mind. I hope to help them sell a few more openers after all!
12/01/2019: Naturehike 1000fp down 174 gram jacket with 70 grams of down fill, only US$65: https://www.theultralighthiker.com/2020/01/12/how-good-is-this/
08/01/2019: Hundreds of Millions of Animals Have been Killed by the Fires So Far: This is the result of the sort of ‘conservation’ which promotes locking land up and creating ‘national parks’ etc. It is a dismal failure as I have explained again and again. ‘All flesh is grass’ is an old adage. What it means is that a given area of vegetation can sustain a certain mass of animal flesh. It doesn’t matter whether the animals are elephants or mice, the total mass is about the same. Of course adding phosphorus and other nutrients increases the land’s carrying capacity, so that for eg the dry ridges can carry less than the lush river valleys. If animals have nowhere else to go and unless fuel is reduced ahead of the summer fire danger season vast numbers will be wiped out. I have been observing this for many years in the Australian bush where I have spent most of my life. For example, along my beloved Wonnangatta Valley when I used to hunt/canoe/walk eg there in the 90s and 00s my secluded camps were overwhelmed by the almost deafening morning and evening chorus which rang way up every side gully. After the fires in 2009 there were about six birds along a 30 kilometre stretch of this wonderful valley. Most other native animals (kangaroos, possums etc) were wiped out. Animals which could shelter underground (like the surviving birds which were all bank nesters: kingfishers, wood swallows etc) such as wombats and echidnas (and of course rabbits) hung on, as did some larger animals such as sambar deer which were strong enough to flee ahead of the fire to deep pools and which could take advantage of every scrap of surviving or emerging vegetation up to 6’ above ground also survived – but it was an enormously reduced biota. Yet the same folks who brought us this disaster and now calling for the remaining forest to be locked up: https://www.news.com.au/technology/science/animals/half-a-billion-animals-perish-in-bushfires/news-story/b316adb4f3af7b1c8464cf186ab9f52c I was in the Wonnangatta checking out the 2018 fire damage over winter. This time because of reduced fuel the fires burned a lot cooler and more slowly so that a larger percentage of the remaining animals survived. There are spots along the river where there are fair numbers of birds (though it will be many years before the marvelous dawn and dusk chorus returns). There were even some possums. However, the 2018 fires have felled most of the fire-killed trees from the 2009 fire but have not burned their wood (as they fell on burned ground). There is a huge amount of ground wood and no doubt many plants will spring up from the ashes which will struggle for water over the summer and die. Another cool burn sooner rather than later would help, eg 2021. There is a better way. Read my post Nuts to Leave No Trace.
Before 2018 fire
After 2018 fire:
If you needed a bit more warmth you could easily add some more yourself, as we did here: Adding Down to a Sleeping Bag
You can buy the down quite cheaply from eg Aliexpress Just be sure to buy eg 800 ‘fill power’ down. The fill power means eg the amount 1 ounce of down will expand to fill (in this case 800 cubic inches). So around four ounces (or around $20 worth of such down added to a bag will make it OK to say -10C. $100 is pretty cheap for a sub zero bag which weighs around 600 grams.Think about partnering it with one of these cheap backpacks and some other budget items