Della & I (combined age then 120) heading
off from Freney Lagoon on the second day of our walk
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:
11/8/2018: The Compleat Survival Guide: Over the years I have written lots of posts about this. To summarise, if you have no air, you have only about a minute to live. The absence of shelter and warmth may kill you in a few hours, lack of water in a few days, lack of food in weeks. Therefore it is clear where your priorities should lie, yet every year many folks perish/suffer mostly for the want of some elementary survival knowledge.
I guess death from lack of air is most likely to happen in the wilderness by drowning, but avalanches and other forms of asphyxiation can catch people out – injudiciously entering caves and mines for example. Mostly though, it is folks’ approach to river and lake crossings that gets them into trouble.
If you are crossing a lake, traverse the margins no more than 20 metres from shore even though it will take much longer. Do not cut across. Lakes frequently have a warm layer floating on an icy layer. They are also prey to unexpected (and unexplained) large standing waves which can overset whatever craft you are using. If you find yourself suddenly pitched into deep water far offshore you will need to keep horizontal near the surface and head for the quickest route to shore as you can quickly die from hypothermia. Better still do not cross lakes.
As for rivers the advice here might help: http://www.theultralighthiker.com/river-crossings/, http://www.theultralighthiker.com/river-crossings-2/ and http://www.theultralighthiker.com/why-you-should-get-your-feet-wet-when-hiking/ To summarise, undo your shest and waist belts on your backpack. Your backpack is more use as a flotation device than strapped to your back to drag you down. Don’t cross on (slippet) logs. Don’t’t try to use rocks as stepping stones. Don’t jump. If in doubt don’t cross. Find a slow wide section which will give you plenty of time to cross. Better to swim across a wide slow section using your pack strapped to your inflated mat as a kickboard than to attempt to wade a fast-moving stream whewre you can’t even see arounfd the next corner…and etc.
Fire and shelter are the next two important survival needs, but especially shelter. Somehow you need to stay as warm and dry as possible. A raincoat will not necessarily keep you dry and warm. Water carries away body heat around 20 times as quickly as dry air, so that icy rain running over the outside of your raincoat can kill you if you don’t get out from under direct contact with it. You need some shelter. It might be as simple as a hollow tree or log (or under a log) or the lee of a large rock or cliff face. Just getting behind a large tree will help. If you can use your raincoat for shelter or construct a debris hut that will be even better: http://www.theultralighthiker.com/raincoat-shelter/
If you can do so it is really good to be able to light a fire. These two posts are vital in this regard: http://www.theultralighthiker.com/carry-a-knife/ and http://www.theultralighthiker.com/how-to-light-a-fire-in-the-wet/
. You may nee to know how to light a fire in the snow: http://www.theultralighthiker.com/fire-on-the-snow/
Before you get into difficulty begin your preparations for spending the night outside in the wet. For example, hurrying to a camp/hut you are unlikely to make until after dark may not be the wisest decision. Stopping when you first have doubts that you will make it especially when you are passing some desirable sheltered spot with plenty of time still to add to its advantages (eg by gathering fire lighting, insulation and waterproofing (roofing) materials, would be a better, perhaps a life-saving decision. Every day you read about someone who is dead basically because they did not value their own life enough and had though something else to be more important. Don’s make that decision – unless your life is worthless!
Many people carry an umbrella for just such an eventuality and for those days when it ‘rains’ inside your raincoat because of the humidity. If you spend enough time outdoors, eventually you will encounter this phenomenon. If the weather is cold when this happens the consequences can be truly unpleasant, or even catastrophic: http://www.theultralighthiker.com/the-importance-of-a-roof/ & http://www.theultralighthiker.com/how-to-avoid-being-wet-cold-while-camping/ & http://www.theultralighthiker.com/hiking-in-the-rain/ I have several other posts about umbrellas eg: http://www.theultralighthiker.com/a-hands-free-umbrella/
Lack of water is unlikely to be a problem (unless you are somewhere very hot and dry) for several days. Lack of food is only a major problem after weeks! Most people die on the first night out. Most do not thirst or starve to death. Keeping warm and dry are your most important considerations. In my post Hatchet I pointed out some ways of obtaining water, and why carrying a titanium trowel might be a very good idea.
You can eat practically anything, but eating stuff which might be poisonous or at least make you sick might make your situation worse, so if in doubt, don’t. You are unlikely to be many days by foot from help anyway, so that missing a few meals should not matter. That being said however, there is not much that is flesh which is not edible (save some toads and non-scaley fish for example). Similarly the fresh growth of most plants, particularly grasses is quite edible and will stave off the unpleasantness of hunger even if it does not provide enough to fatten! There are many plants which are much more nutritious but of course you need to now what they are. Look for a future post about wild food.
I am imagining you will find yourself in this situation because you have
misjudged how long it will take to reach your destination, because the way
ahead is blocked (eg the river has risen) or because
you have lost the path ahead. Of course there are many other disasters which
can befall you. One chap was driving through the
If you can avoid getting stuck in the wilds it might be preferable. Learning to find your way with just the tools you were born with is a good idea. Some of these posts might help: http://www.theultralighthiker.com/finding-your-way/, http://www.theultralighthiker.com/the-lie-of-the-land/, http://www.theultralighthiker.com/walking-the-line/. Each of these posts has a number of others linked to it. It is also a good idea to be prepared. You might for example consider the advisability of carrying 'The Poor Man's Satellite Phone' for instance.
10/8/2018: Nothing new under the sun: 1922 Mobile Phone: http://www.messynessychic.com/2016/05/05/calling-on-her-cell-phone-in-1922/
06/08/2018: Hope for me yet: A record number of folks age 85 and older are working. Here's what they're doing. https://www.lmtonline.com/business/article/A-record-number-of-folks-age-85-and-older-are-13051373.php
06/08/2018: Half a billion to six guys who never asked for it (none of them farmers). This is Turnbull’s latest ‘Captain’s Call’. Turnbull has got to go! 05/08/2018: Thermarest Vesper Quilt: Thermarest have a new down quilt, the Vesper, available soon. It comes in 32F at 15 oz (0C & 428 grams) and 20F at 19 oz (-7C & 542 grams) and insulated with Nikwax treated down. I would pair one with either their new Uber mat at 8.8 oz (250 grams) for summer or with a Neoair X-Lite Womens (340 grams at R=3.9 & 5’6”/168 cm) or an X-Therm (430 grams at R = 5.7 & 6’0” /183 cm – 394 grams at 5’6”) for cooler weather.
04/08/2018: Poacher’s Moon: The poachers of yore endowed us with so many gems of wisdom such as, ‘Stolen fruit taste best,’ ‘Little fish are sweet,’ ‘Putting meat on the table’, ‘Feeding the family’, etc. Traditionally the ‘poacher’s moon’ in the UK is the first full moon after the autumn equinox, when poachers could get out and harvest wounded deer left over from the massed autumn hunt. The bright moonlight would enable them to see their quarry and find their way undetected in the dark.
The days are cool enough that you can walk all day without getting up a sweat and the nights are just so a fire is a delight without the biting chill we sometimes find in late winter. Mind you I have usually found that you rarely see a deer during the day if the night is to be a full moon. To crepuscular animals moonlight is twilight. It is very difficult (apart from being illegal) to shoot a deer by moonlight.
Poaching and game management ought properly be antithetical notions, but the explosion of various ‘wildlife reserves’ such as National and State Parks, ‘land for wildlife’ and etc means that exactly the opposite is the case. Here ‘game’ and vermin breed up in an uncontrolled manner alike with no attempt at management at all, and in most cases any idea of a sustainable harvest of animals or other food is banned – save that in some areas of the Alpine National Park in Victoria limited hunting of sambar deer by stalking is permitted.
Such rules are just a ‘red rag’ to poachers to get out their kit and begin their harvest. Who can really blame them, especially if the ‘meat’ so obtained is destined for the family table? This used even to be the ‘traditional’ motive of spotlighters, much as I deplore their unethical behaviour – though I suspect that nowadays their main motive is commercial, ie supplying illicit venison to the restaurant trade.
You will have noticed perhaps (in my recent post) that the 1966 party who walked the Westies Hut to Cromarty section of the South Coast Track, New Zealand (Ah, what a trip to look forward to!) took with them fishing tackle and rifles so that they could supply much of the food they needed on the trail. This used to be the normal behaviour of ‘hikers’ or wilderness folks in general in the past.
One only has to read that early book Woodcraft to learn that. Do. Too many today are ‘environmentalists’ without any understanding about how the natural systems (such as game) might best be managed. Everything has to be managed. There is no land which does not require work. Reading the works of Aldo Leopold, such as ‘A Sand County Almanac’ might help. You can download it for free here: https://archive.org/details/ASandCountyAlmanacTheAldoLeopoldFoundation It is a gem of true wildlife conservation - such as that ever practiced by hunters and fisherfolk.
In any case, I think it is a good idea to be able to supplement your hiking rations with things hunted, fished for, or otherwise collected on the trail, both animal and vegetable – and don’t forget the tinder! You may call this ‘poaching’ – which it will be in most places, but mostly it is making good use of things which would otherwise go to waste or be consumed only by vermin. It also makes your pack even more 'ultralight'.
I have elsewhere suggested a range of different firearms (such as this one or this) which might suit the ultralight lifestyle. If carrying a firearm is either too heavy or not an option, you might consider a shanghaiof some sort (This one is a beauty) or a sling. They are light, concealable - and there is plenty of free ammunition!
I think the fishing kit shown in my post The Ultralight Fisherman at less than 30 grams will reward you with many times its weight in fish or crayfish. It has me. You can easily cast it accurately thirty yards! In any case always carry a piece of cordage. It has many uses including to construct shelters or traps and snares.
A fixed blade knife which you should carry anyway for firelighting, is also necessary for safely opening many kinds of shellfish – or prying them off the rocks. (All kinds of shellfish are edible, by the way – indeed pretty much all flesh and fish are - with few exceptions), and of course it is much better and safer for ‘dressing’ game or filleting a fish than a folder.
I recommend the Ka-Bar Johnson Adventure Piggyback at 23 grams myself. I always carry one. The Gerber knife sharpener at 17 grams is just the trick for keeping an edge on it. (You need the fixed blade knife for splitting wood to get at the dry stuff which you shave to create ‘excelcior’, the acme of firelighting ‘stuff’).
I have spent many, many moonlit nights hunting or fishing. A very fortunate life indeed it has been. When I was a lad it was (still) legal to take and sell the skins of many (native) animals – so not just rabbits, as today. If it was not legal, we might not have known (or cared) anyway. Somehow we eluded gaol anyway.
The skin of the water rat was I recall the most prized. What a fine sleek pelt they have. With the near total dominance of the fox over almost every small beast it would be hard indeed to get enough of them today to make a beautiful handkerchief with, yet when I was young, before Myxomatosis conferred such dominance on the fox, the streams were alive with them. Glorious creatures they were too. So like an otter. We used to take them with a floating rat trap baited as I think with pumpkin seeds – which seems unlikely! I would not do so now. I doubt I see more than one a year!
I remember as a lad shooting possums out of trees with .22 shorts (they are the quietest – and cheapest). The technique we used was to so walk along beneath the tree as to run the full moon along the branches until we spotted one, then it was a simple matter to plink it down. You skin them just like a rabbit, the work of a minute. Good eating they were too. I wonder that folks don’t add a few more brushtails to the pot here (they are in plague proportions in our cities) – as they do in NZ! Some places there 'Possum Pie' is on the menu - 'Straight from the roadside to you' the sign says!
The .22 Long Rifle round was the most common used in
I doubt there is any game in
As a youth I killed hundreds of grey kangaroos and thousands of rabbits with
mine which otherwise would have devastated the wheat fields. I got so I could
head shoot a rabbit on the run or even (still shoot one) out at 200 yards. (And
you wonder why I still don't use a telescopic sight?) I have shot wild goats
scrambling around precipitous cliffs of the
Seasonally ‘Poddy’ mullet used to swarm in the backwater
creek behind our house in Fassifern (
You held it at the very tip between thumb and forefinger. You had to rid yourself of it in a twinkling or it would explode in your hand and hurt like hell! If you held it in any other way it would blow fingers off! Young people today are not allowed any risk taking at all – so there is a plague of them taken by drug overdoses. The risk of losing the tip of a finger seems like a better idea to me. And the ‘forbidden fruit’ of an illicitly taken mullet is safer and better for them than heroin or crack cocaine.
He has been gone now (when I was but 13) these 55 years this week, yet I miss him dearly still. Fortunately I have these many recollections eg of him sitting by a moonlit fire, yarning, his face aglow with the hot coals, grabbing a handful of prawns from the 4 gallon drum bubbling over the fire and shelling them as quickly as he could devour them. Perhaps finishing off his meal with a cup of billy tea and a song accompanied by the harmonica – both brothers played ‘by ear’. I wish I had inherited that ability. Ken never bothered to shell his prawns: he ate them whole. You can do this with small greasybacks, much as you can eat sardines whole.
Sometimes when we were dragging the net through the lukewarm waters (of Lake Eraring perhaps) a ‘Fisheries’ boat would come put-putting by, attracted no doubt by the light of our ‘Tilley’ lantern on shore (quickly extinguished). On such occasions we would have to just submerge ourselves in the water and hold our breath until he was far enough away – you could still see his riding lights from underwater. An old poacher’s trick no doubt. In any case we were never caught, and those undersized prawns certainly did taste sweet. We would also take small flatfish by the light of the lantern on a nail fastened to the end of another tomato stake. They made a pleasant accompaniment.
On days off (there weren’t that many in my father’s short life) he loved to go hunting with his hound, Felix. I have written about him before. No doubt most of what we hunted (save foxes and hares) was and is illegal. Wallabies for example. On such hard-scrabble farms as ours they were a pest which would devour whatever meagre crops my parents managed to grow (with immense effort) for our dairy cows (milked by hand).
The hounds enjoyed the chasing and the eating of them both anyway. We enjoyed the ‘sport’. I notice our old property (between Martin’s Creek and Paterson) is still called ‘The Chase’ on topographic maps, few knowing now that this was in memorial of my father’s passion of hunting – or ‘poaching’ as many would rather call it.
My father, Lawrence Jones died horribly from brain cancer 55 years ago this
week when he was only 48 and I was 13. Nonetheless despite the passage of time,
that event remains poignant and pivotal for me. If I seem a little more somber
than usual today, I’m sure you will understand. I have no good photographs of
him, indeed less than half a dozen in total. I remember this one was taken at
PS: I guess long before that day I came to understand all should, and since that day (I) needs must shift for myself, stand on my own two feet, blame no-one or nothing, but make of the world what I might. So, for example I completed High School at 15 with the aid of scholarships which I earned from just that, then I completed a number of full-time degrees at university whilst also working full-time, the first four years seven day roster shift work in a heavy metal refinery.
I have worked from that day to this (well over 50 yearsnow) probably hardly ever earning today's 'minimum wage', but we have been able to provide for ourselves and our family and set aside savings which we can continue to live on, and never take a cent from the Government – or our fellow men, as we understand it.
I am wholly against the 'entitlement' society. I also think it is tantamount to a crime against humanity that so many today are growing up without a father - or with the State as their family. At least I had one, if only for a short, precious time.
People have been posting on Facebook recently about what is the most important thing in life. Wealth, success, love?
Character is all!
PS: When I began this post I was thinking that the title was the same as one of Peter Capstick’s wonderful hunting books. Not so, I’m afraid. Nonetheless it is a good title. However, you should read some of his books eg ‘Death in the Long Grass’ one of my personal favourites. You may find a copy here: https://archive.org/details/deathinlonggrass00caps
03/08/2018: Packable Rifle: A packable .22 Winchester Magnum rifle at under 1 pound has to be a useful thing to own, surely?
'PRK is short for Pack Rifle Kit. The PRK converts your Crickett or Chipmunk youth rifle into a light weight, take down pack rifle. The PRK replaces the barrel and stock of of your Crickett or Chipmunk rifle with light weight alternatives, shaving 1 pound 10 ounces out of the OEM version. The barrel is constructed of a carbon fiber outer, with aluminum components joining the carbon fiber outer to the Cro-Moly steel, button rifled barrel liner.
The carbon fiber tube stock is simple and functional, it is made of carbon fiber and aluminum tube. The stock is hollow, with an ID of .875 Inches by 11 Inches deep for storage. The PRK has 13-5/8 Inch length of pull for adult frames. We recommend having a gunsmith install the PRK, but for those of you that are mechanically inclined, it is relatively simple. This is a Kit that consists of a barrel and a stock, it is not a complete rifle. You have to provide a Crickett or Chipmunk rifle to put this kit on.
.22LR Kits require a .22LR Cricket, Magnums require that you start with a magnum Crickett’
I'm sure ingenious DIY Gunsmiths could think of a couple of ways to either cut the weight down a bit more (eg shorten the barrel, hollow out the bolt) or to increase its hitting power a mite eg by moving it up to .22 magnum. I notice that Rotalocura (aka The Titanium Goat - he has lots of wonderful stuff) supply a carbon fibre 4.25 oz (121 grams) barrel for US$200 (Aug 2018) as well as the kit.
02/08/2018: Count Dracula Had It Right: Hanging upside down is the best thing you can do for a herniated disc. I bought this machine to get some relief from the agonies I suffered for years when I had bony arthritic spurs growing into my spinal cord and I had to wait for farms to sell before I could have an operation to rid myself of them. I also slept each night in a hammock stretched across the living room. That helped a lot too.
A tip: If you need a back operation, see a neurosurgeon, not an orthopedic one. You will be up and running pretty much the next day!
Lately I have had a herniated disc. Core exercises have helped, but since my knee problems I have been limping and have put a lot more weight on one side of my body than the other (especially whilst building the new vermin proof fences on our steep hillsides - the sheep are also lambing) such that the disc had popped out and was giving me exquisite pain.
I had tried everything including the chiropractor when I remembered I still had the Inversion Table in the shed. Yesterday lunchtime we dragged it out and set it up in the living room. Instant relief. What bliss. I no longer feel quite such a twisted wreck of a man - no matter what others may think!
This is a great contraption. It cost me less than A$150 on eBay. It folds up out of the way against a wall when you are not using it. You need to hang there for a while until you feel things in your back popping back into place. 2-3 times a day brings immense relief.
It's a great way to relax!
One of the two eye-bolts I attached to the roof posts to swing my hammock from.
My knee is also recovering. I may yet get to continue my adventures. For example I may manage to use my wilderness cache before the end of this winter. Time will tell. I also hope to get back to Fiordland early next year, perhaps to walk the Dusky Track again, perhaps this continuation of the South Coast Track (now complete with instructions).
29/07/2018: NZ's South Coast Track: Westies Hut to Cromarty: After you have completed the wonderful journey on the South Coast Track from the Rarakau Car Park to the magical Westies Hut it is possible to continue the journey all the way to Puysegur Point Lighthouse, the Te Oneroa shelter and the ruins of the old mining town of Cromarty way out at Preservation Inlet - as well as the 'fabulous' Kisbee Wilderness Resort which you will no doubt not be able to afford to stay at! At least I wouldn't.
Conversely you might do better to get dropped out there by float plane or chopper and make your way back. The advantage of a helicopter would be that you could leave supplies at Westies (for example) so you didn't have to carry them all the ay back. Then you could spend a few days resting and enjoying yourself at that incredible spot. I wish we had. I would /will walk back there sometime so we can do just that!
I have found only two accounts of this incredible adventure.
This account in NZ Geographic: https://www.nzgeo.com/stories/walking-the-line/ by Kennedy Warne is almost encyclopedic. There is lots of interesting history of what used to be the "telegraph track' built to create and maintain a line out to the lighthouse at Puysegur Point. You come across sections of this wire here and there and see old insulators nailed to tree trunks on the way out from the Wairaurahiri. The detail in Kennedy's account should provide an excellent guide for anyone young and adventurous enough to try this track. There is not much detail in Moir's. I will not spoil your reading of it by saying more - only do read it. It was clearly a wonderful trip.
The other one is by Tristan Riley (https://web.archive.org/web/20170406113730/http://www.tristanriley.co.nz/blog/archives/149) Tristan's website seems to be broken so I have copied the contents from the internet archive's version of it. I hope he doesn't mind. What it is to be young and fit. I would dearly like to do this trip, but at just shy of 70 (and having taken 4 long days to get to Westies in 2016 - which took Tristan two! - I doubt my ability). Still I am (maybe) getting fitter every day, so maybe I will yet.
Tramping the Telegraph – a trip to Puysegur Point
Puysegur Point at last! Thunder rolls, lightning
strikes the ocean and waterfalls fly upward in the wind. Titi
wheel out to sea as Tasman rollers pound the point. A
dramatic arrival at one of
We had arrived at Puysegur following the 1908
telegraph line route along the coast from
Day 3 – Westy’s Cave to Andrew’s Cave
After two-day’s walk along the South Coast track we arrived at Westy’s Cave, a character hut tucked into a sea cave. With wild seas and few visitors, Westy’s is a great place to hide out. An hour on,
Big River provides the main obstacle to Puysegur. The 50m wide, deep crossing is affected by the tide and could easily flood and block an exit. On our return trip we found the lake had dropped by 50cm. Wading along the shore among beds of freshwater mussels is fun. The biggest climb of the trip is the 300m scramble up and over to
The most difficult section of the trip was the descent of Andrew Burn to the sea. Foolishly ignoring deer trails, we sidle the steep sides of the gorge until eventually emerging on the coast.
Day 4 – Around the Coast to
After a night in a sea-cave, we wandered around the coast to Green Islets. A fur seal colony provides comedy in the posturing of the beach master bull. Crossing the peninsula to the west, the force of the wind hits and a truly wild coast appears. Orange pingao dunes are covered in rare Euphorbia glauca. Cooks Turban, catseye and massive paua shells lie among the kelp, polished to mother-of-pearl.
A compass bearing carries us west, through orange Halocarpus
scrub to a crossing of Kiwi Burn at the mouth. More beach, gravel and boulder
to Long Reef, then easy travel (and a brief swim in
the sea for Matt) to a pleasant camp at the head of
Day 5 –
Open coastal forest became flatter and easier, cut in by steep sided creeks. Kaka and kakariki cackle and big rata impress, though the undergrowth is sadly depleted by deer. Despite the carnage we bless the deer as we walk, following trails around obstacles. Rain floods the bush creeks, but the bigger crossings are fine at the river mouth. A karearea calls our arrival at Sealers Creek, the river cutting between three impressive islets. From here a track leads to Puysegur.
Day 6 – Te Oneroa shelter
Our rest day, a return to the lighthouse in fine sunny weather revealed an impressive vista of
Day 7 – Plateau between The Knob and
Popping in to visit the caretaker at Kisbee Lodge, the only people for miles around, we found a pretty flash setup. Carrying on up the wooden-railed bush tramway, munching our bag of crayfish legs, we soon passed The Knob.
A wide manuka covered plateau, dissected with
squiggling creeks, offers fantastic views of the ocean,
Day 8 – Hill E and return to
Ignoring the route described in Moirs Guide, we bypassed
Day 9-11 Hitch-hike a Jetboat ride up
Matt had met a team of adventurers from South Coast Jet at Waitutu Hut. Hearing about our trip they kindly offered a ride out on their jetboats. The trip along the coast in 2m swell was white knuckle stuff, fantastic! Blasting up the Wairaurahiri into the mighty
PS: Another account from 1966 here: https://issuu.com/cleangreen/docs/southcoasttrip
This trip was undertaken before ever there was a South
Coast Track. The team went on past Puysegur Point to
For more detailed information about some sections of the track see also:
ThermaRest NeoAir Uberlite: Thermarest has
taken up the challenge of Big Agnes 270
gram AXL Air Pad and presented their new offering a 250 gram Uberlite pad at the Outdoor retailer Summer
27/07/2018: Maybe I am losing my memory – I find it hard to remember these mornings when I last got up without any aches and pains.
Great Scot: Interesting
things we saw on our
Many delightful burns. This one was in the lovely
little town of
The (back) roads are exceedingly narrow. This one was nearby the Fortingall Standing Stones and Yew tree. They are single lane, then there is a stone wall. Believe it or not between the road and this wall there is a 3' deep drain only about 1' wide. You have to be paying very careful attention to your driving particularly if folks behind you are wanting to push you to go faster (all too common) - which is a pity as you miss some pretty scenery which there is almost nowhere to pull over to admire. Private property gateways mostly. An ever-present grouse in the field beyond the wall.
This is the ancient yew tree reputed to be the 'oldest tree in
These crows were at
As was this charming cemetery - almost worth being dead.
Somewhere along Loch Tay there was this wonderful shop selling a bewildering variety of home-made horn and antler ornaments where we maxed out our credit cards with souvenir gifts for the kids, sock knives, fancy spoons and such.
These amazing slugs were ubiquitous. This one was up one of those small
white roads which I highly recommend at Loch Bad a' Bhathaich
above Alness. It was thriving on a large dog dropping
left behind perhaps by one of the Baskerville hounds - at least the dog had
killed and eaten a
This was the Glen Orchy valley above Dalmally, one of the prettiest spots we saw.
Canoeing at Glencoe. I often do this sort of thing!
There is an 'entertaining' three metre drop just like
this on the Thomson (Gippsland) above the
A delightful stone bridge on a quiet back road near
Around Camster I was impressed by this roof
And the amazing brocks
And some of the ubiquitous red deer.
A jackdaw amid the interesting C19th industrial ruins at Castletown - some good campsites here. No-one in
Cliffs at Dunnet Head aswarm with sea birds, mainly kittiwakes (seagulls to us!).
There are lots of campsites which are easy to miss. This tiny national Trust
park and walk called Heathsfield
at Dunnet Head is a case in point, as is the
It was a gift from a deceased couple who had made it their life's work to restore bothies (huts) for hill walkers. You have to do something with your life I suppose.
A astonishing stone dog house at Mary Anne's Cottage, Dunnet.
Where the rhubarb grows amazingly well!
The Red Priest's Stone on the Strathnaver Trail (near Tongue) has links to St Columba. Only the sheep are interested in this bit of 'holy' reliquary now - as a scratching post for their behinds. May all such nonsense pass away just so. In times past folks were killed on account of this stone. Weird stuff!
One of the crofts which was 'cleared'; on the Strathnaver trail at Grumbeg.
Its only use now is as a rubbish tip. There was an interesting old motor car
decaying into the pasture behind it too. Adjacent was the ruin of a brock 6,000 years old. Such a desolate
and depressing place where 300 people had lived on 50 acres (for endless
centuries) only to be evicted by their 'laird' c1820 (for sheep - which are
still there). No doubt they lamented for a time - until they saw how
much better NZ, Oz and
A very strange old car - a 'Centaur' perhaps. Someone will know.
Harvesting peat just out of Durness amid an absolutely awful desolation. God what a depressing place! Near there an old woman drowned harvesting peat in just such a gully (the compulsory informational sign opined). I imagined she drowned herself. I would.
As was the entire West Coast. Godawful scenery. What a splendidly slimy loch.
There were places there you could see the ruins of one wee keep through the ruins of yet another. Mad kilted savages murdered each other for centuries over this dismal scenery. How awful.
The River Spean made one piece of pleasant relief as we fled South towards Della's dad's hometown of Hawick on the borders.
But the Cairngorms were simply appalling.
Here is my wee Scottish lassie enjoying a glass of wine in the Bourtree Hotel Hawick. Great food and very cheap!
A cheerful robin greeted us in the gardens there.
And this delight.
And they certainly were lovely gardens (along the Teviot river). This was her dad's back yard where he must have played as a boy.
He used to work in the woollen mills there (before
the War). Most of those are long ago closed, their businesses moved to
'Life will find a way' - on a Hawick chimney.
The Wellogate cemetery where Della's ancestors remain in hiding despite two days spent searching for them!
These dandelions were at the front gate of Della's dad's old house (near the Motte) in Hawick. They were utterly huge, perhaps 2" across. He loved dandelions - I can understand why now!
It is very easy to find suitable car camping spots in
There is no need to pay for accommodation, though you may need to pay for washing - yourself or your clothes. A Sea to Suummit camp shower can take care of the former, and a simple canoe drum the latter. You could also consider this interesting hiking washbag, the Scrubba.
Mostly you can camp alone (particularly on the back roads) but Scotland (like everywhere else) suffers from that peculiar 'disease' where as soon as you pull over (even to 'go' behind a tree - well, there are not as many trees as I would like actually), some idiot pulls over right behind you 'thinking' perhaps there is something interesting to photograph! Perhaps there is! The 'B' and most minor white 2WD roads are most worth exploring even though they will almost all be dead ends leading to hunting/fishing lodges perhaps or just forestry blocks. The forestry blocks merited much greater exploration instead of the touristy things. Another time perhaps.
25/07/2018: Hands Free Hammock Media Viewer: The Hangtime Hook: This is a neat little gadget for watching a movie when you are lying back in the wilderness somewhere in your hammock. I can’t say I am so addicted to TV that I do this often, but I have done so a couple of times. It requires a ridgeline, which is a good idea anyway if you want your hammock to hang a little ‘flatter’. I also makes for a handy place to hang various bits and pieces.: https://ridgelinemediasystems.com/ I suspect it will soon be available from Tassie hammock manufacturer Tier Gear.
24/07/2018: What Tree Won't Sheep Eat? For years I have been planting trees in expensive guards to prevent the sheep from eating them. More recently I have started planting large cuttings in cheaper plastic guards which seems to work quite well. But I should really have been going round with my eyes open as there was a kind of tree I have planted a number of now which the sheep just simply won't eat. I had always assiduously planted them in the expensive guards, but I realised about three weeks ago that they probably didn't need a guard at all (as they had hardly troubled the guards, so I planted one out just to see. Next day there was a tiny bit of exploratory nibbling, then nothing. This tree is going to grow tall in the middle of a sheep paddock without any guard at all. This is wonderful!
After 25 years this tree is over 10 metres (30') tall, but there is foliage within 2' of the ground!
The tree is the Bunya Bunya Pine (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Araucaria_bidwillii) which once covered most of Eastern of Australia (before human burning almost made them extinct over the last few thousand years). They grow to be a large tree to 50 metres tall and produce huge cones up to a foot in diameter and 18 kilograms in weight - quite dangerous if they fall on you - full of tasty and nutritious nuts about the size of the first knuckle of your thumb. Underneath them is really great dry shelter for sheep. Their prickly nature (and abundant food source) also makes them a great wildlife habitat tree. Birds and possums nesting/roosting in them are pretty much safe from hawks and other predators. Our largest (nearly thirty years old now has been home to many creatures for many years. They can live for 500 years!
I suspect their relative, the Monkey Puzzle Tree (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Araucaria_araucana)
would perform the same service. They too are very prickly (as well as
interesting) yield highly nutritious nuts & etc. Both are remnants of when
After three weeks, just a bit of nibbling to taste.
PS: I have also noticed that some of the solanums are not eaten by sheep (They are poisonous too), but they are also a dreadful weed and do not produce very good shelter except as a hedge.
24/07/2018: Self Control: The Overlooked Key to Wealth and Health: (And dare I say, happiness): https://www.intellectualtakeout.org/article/self-control-overlooked-key-wealth-and-health
Delightful: The Secret Life of Sea Birds: eg: ‘An
Arctic tern that my friend John Walton ringed on the
21/07/2018: Ultralight Multi-Tool: ‘Do you need a knife you barely notice it’s in your pocket because it is so unbelievable light and thin? German steel and Swiss precision work makes it to a great tool.’ https://www.swiss-advance.com/product/swiss-pocket-knife/
Weight: 28 g
Measures: 9.5 x 1.5 x 0.4 cm
Features: Bottle opener, fish scaler, wire stripper, cm-scale, hexagon (4x), wing nut opener, blade, screwdriver
Weight: 41 g
Measures: 9.5 x 1.6 x 0.6 cm
Features: Bottle opener, fish scaler, wire stripper, cm-scale, hexagon (4x), wing nut opener, cheese knife blade, bradawl and sewing, square (2x), fork, screwdriver
These folk have some other amazing gear: https://www.swiss-advance.com/
The two Crono models are available today (21 July 2018) on Massdrop from US$29.99:
21/07/2018: The Thermal Conductivity of Gases: It appears you can nearly double the R-rating of hiking mats or other gear by filling them with eg CO2 which is cheap and readily available instead of eg air or nitrogen. I can see how this can easily be done eg with closed cell foams, but for an inflatable mat you would either need to carry a (heavy) canister) or have some way of re-compressing the CO2 into an acceptably small enough space. Still, an interesting idea.
We have finally done that and now returned, having driven around most of the country and avoided most of the cities. We have seen beautiful countryside, barren and forbidding highland landscapes and countless picturesque ruins of generations past: My camera has recorded amazing panoramas of it all! But the tourism thing, while interesting, had little impact on us. So much driving ( almost all of it generously undertaken by Steve)!
For me, what mattered above all else was the time spent in the small town that was home to my father and his people for at least as long as records have been kept. I have always told people that my father was Scottish, but until now, I have had no real sense of what that statement meant. Now, after spending some time in Hawick, I have gained a stronger sense of family and, more strangely, a sense of belonging to a place that I have not experienced as a first generation Australian. To stand on the same soil and see the same hills as my forebears saw every day - now that is really something: A life-changing shift in the perspective of who I am!
Della at Glen Orchy:
And so it is a different me who has returned to our relatively new home of Australia: To the children ( and grandchild!) who have worked hard to care for our farm and beloved dogs, sheep and birds in our absence, and for whom it has ever been important for me to create a home in this wonderful new country to which we all now belong!
I will share some pics over the next few days as time permits!
Some photos of Hawick, the town in the Scottish border country which has been home to my father and his people for innumerable generations: A solid town with beautiful vistas of the fertile sheep country that encircles it. It is now falling on hard times as many of the woollen mills that made it a prosperous centre for centuries have closed. So many of my forebears worked in these mills as knitting frame workers, who were artisans skilled in the production of knitted stockings, underwear and outerwear for much of Britain. More recently (and still) the town is renowned for its cashmere and lambswool luxury items and my father also worked in one of the major mills before heading off to serve during WW2.
Hawick and the hills beyond.
Some lovely parkland in the centre of town and an abundant water supply from 2 streams that have ensured the viability of the many woollen mills.
Butcher in the High Street who was also displaying his haggis as well as black and white pudding.
So many of my forebears buried here, but despite hours of walking up and down we were unable to locate any family headstones. I suspect my family ghosts were happier to have me wander in their presence for longer, and I confess that it was a very congenial occupation in the warm spring sunshine.
"Beneath those rugged elms, that yew-tree’s shade,
Where heaves the turf in many a mouldering heap,
Each in his narrow cell for ever laid,
The rude forefathers of the hamlet sleep."
From "Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard", by Thomas Gray.
This is the older part of Hawick, the west end, and the censuses reveal that all my recorded forebears lived here for generations within a stone's throw of each other. Of course, the houses have all been demolished and rebuilt since then, but the streets remain the same and this is the view of the town that would have been a part of their daily lives.
I had planned to post some of our
View from our bedroom in the small town Glenrothes,
Our second night camped by the Glen Orchy river, below Glencoe.
Car window snap of a typical roadway near
Another windscreen shot while driving: Nowhere to stop here either - just
the norm in
Into the Scottish highlands: The northeast coast. This was a delightful
section of the trip. The Camster cairns were amazing,
5000 year old dwellings, one large complex of which has been reconstructed and
into which it is necessary to crawl to inspect the large inner chambers. We
also climbed the Whaligoe Steps (all 365 of them) at Lybster to access the tiny fishing harbour
which had a long history of herring fishing. We camped overnight at Dunnet Head, which is the most northerly point in
Steve: We found the West Coast rather bleak and forbidding. No doubt it's OK of you like treeless hills covered with weeds (heather, gorse, fern) but having been farmers most of our lives we felt that they needed to spend some money on 'Brushoff, and plant a few trees.Of course it is hard for trees to grow when even the forestry blocks have to be deer fenced else they too would be barren wastelands.
We stopped to take a pic of a depressing small castle on a dismal lake - somewhere it was hard to imagine anyone would ever have wanted to fight over, and there was a brace of mangy stags sitting on a crag by the roadside watching us.
We camped for the night on Skye next the best stream we could find. Again this island was bare neglected and barren but utterly overrun by tourists. We had intended to visit Harris and Lewis, but the barrenness and the innumerable tourists put us off. At the point we turned around(with some difficulty) we could see the road ahead for many miles wending its way across bare hills and dotted all the way with a double string of vehicles.
We do like to get away from folks more than that. Besides, Steve had fallen and dislocated his hip, which remained very painful, so we decided to foreshorten our trip and flee home via Hawick, Della's father's birthplace. It is a bit ironic when he goes to all sorts of truly wild places and comes back whole, yet falls on a virtual lawn in a paddock near the ruined keep above and hurts himself badly...We had planned to be away too long anyway. We should stick to a maximum of ten days, I think. Three weeks is just too long. I worry about the sheep - and the dogs.
On the way, there was one place which was deserving of further exploration along the River Spean:
The Cairngorms though seemed to us to be just a repetition of the West Coast and Skye. Dreadful (Steve Ends)
'I love old traditions and pride! Hawick, the little Scottish border town of my forebears, is currently holding its annual Common Riding, a festival dating back centuries that celebrates the annual tradition of riding out to check the security of the town borders as well as a famous historical victory when a group of youths overcame an English raiding party and seized their standard whilst the men of the town were all off at war. The celebratory events are spread over several weeks, reaching a peak this weekend. I just love this little video of yesterday's pomp and splendour, compiled by the local newspaper. What a wonderfully joyous town to be part of!
20/07/2018: How Warm a Bag or Quilt Do I Need? I was asked this by a friend of mine who was planning his first overnight hunt (in winter) years ago in an area I often visit too. I have never needed a bag warmer than -1 to -3 C (and weighing just over half a kilo) even though I often sleep out in winter - indeed I prefer winter camping. The weather is usually drier and more stable, the night sky clear and brilliant with a billion stars, birdsong and the wild dingo's call carry so much farther on the frosty air - and you can have a cheery toasty fire with perfect safety. Once you are away from vehicle tracks there is no shortage of firewood, so you can build your fire as large as you wish. You can always put a few more clothes on if it gets a bit colder, or get up and put another log on the fire!
In my hand is my trusty old -1C Montbell Ultralight Spiral Stretch #3 down bag compressed down to 2 litres in one of these: http://www.theultralighthiker.com/a-tardis-folding-space/
He bought the biggest warmest sleeping bag available. probably something like -15 or 20C and weighing several kilos - and he froze. He was so unhappy about it, he threw the bag, the tent and the back pack in his breakfast fire and never went winter camping again! He is like that: pig-headed. Some people have an aversion to learning from their mistakes.
I had told him also what mat I normally used - back then it was a Big Agnes Insulated Air Core which they claimed (correctly) was good for around 15F, so I had always been warm enough with it. Back then they only cost about US$50! And what did my friend take? You guessed it. A blue foamy! He had spent literally hundreds of dollars on the warmest sleeping bag he could find, and went away with a $5 mat which had practically no insulative quality at all!
Winters here in
The human body makes something like 150 watts of heat which is quickly dispersed unless it is covered by some kind of insulation. Insulation just slows this heat loss by a certain number of watts per square metre per unit of time. The higher the 'R' or 'Clo' rating the more that heat loss is slowed. Thinking only about the rating of your bag ignores where your body is losing heat. It is possible (even likely) that the ground is colder than the air and/or that conduction of heat may mean that you lose more heat to the ground to the air (radiation and convection). Further your body weight compresses the insulation in your bag and reduces its insulative ability so that it may approach zero where you are heaviest - and that is just where you will lose the most heat, and be coldest.
So, the most important thing to have is not the warmest bag, but the warmest mat! Obviously you are going to lose at least half your heat downwards, probably more. If you can substantially stop or slow this, you will not need such a warm bag or quilt. A brush or fern bed will help enormously at little cost or effort. Further, as you can wear some clothes to supplement the bag, clothes which you would need anyway, you can reduce the weight of the bag in this way.
I usually carry a down vest and coat, and of course wool longsleeve top and longjohns (in winter). I also own down trousers, though it would have to be very cold indeed for me to need them. However, as they only weigh around 200 grams they are a better (weight-wise) investment than the same (increased) weight of sleeping bag would be, particularly as clothes keep you warm too when you are not in bed. When it gets colder, I usually put on the down coat and slip my legs into the down vest. I also have a pair of down socks, which I heartily recommend. This strategy allows me to be comfortable down to probably -15C.
If I were to use a warmer mat than my normal Thermarest Neoair Xlite Womens, I would be comfy down to a much lower temperature, say -20C. That is one of the reasons why I am investigating the Thermarest X-Therm and some other cold weather pads - not to mention that I have a birthday coming up! With only half the heat loss, your bag will feel at least 5C warmer - and a warmer mat adds much less weight than a warmer bag or quilt. For example. a 5'6" Womens weighs 340 grams (R=3.9) . An X-therm (R= 5.7) cut down to the same length will weigh 394 grams. Only 54 grams for probably a 10-15C increase in warmth! That 5.7 r-rating equates to comfort at around -24C or -20F. Warm enough for you? Another way to think about it is that if you are not losing heat to the ground you can 'afford' to lose twice as much heat to the air - and it is harder to lose heat to the air. Air is itself a good insulator. That is, if you have been cold outdoors (like my friend was), there's a very good chance it was your mat's fault, not your bag's.
Of course it is also true that the insulation in the bottom of your bag doesn't do much good (being compressed) so that you might be better off with a bag which has no insulation there at all (eg the Zpacks bag - but more in the top) or even a quilt - same principle. Some bags also have more insulation at the leg end on the theory that you can put a warm coat on the top half of your body.
In either case down is still warmer weight for weight than any synthetic insulation available. it pays to keep your sleeping bag dry anyway (eg by not breathing or sweating in it) as it will both become heavier and lose some of its insulative ability - though the myth that down has no insulation effect when wet is simply not true.
I encountered a girl on the Dusky Track in 2009 (when I pack rafted the Seaforth River) traveling with someone with the remarkable name 'Caspar' who simply could not be broken of the habit of having her head inside her sleeping bag and breathing in it to warm it up. During one afternoon and evening I loaned her all my warm clothes and sleeping bag whilst her partner tried to dry her bag out before a very measly fire at the Lake Roe Hut where there is just about zero firewood. I even let her use my coat and vest overnight, but she was still not convinced that she was causing the problem by breathing inside her bag. She was having a very miserable trip of it and I much doubt she has gone hiking often again.
PS2: Of course it also pays to keep your nose warm: http://www.theultralighthiker.com/are-you-beautiful-in-the-buff/
Just a reflection: My sleeping bag, mat and (poncho) tent (including groundsheet) take up about 3 litres of space in my pack and weigh less than a kilo altogether. I am almost without a doubt warmer, drier and more comfortable in them than someone with one of those giant canvas swags you see piled up on the back of every SUV ute heading 'up the bush' on weekends. Here I was set up on the upper Wonnangatta which I pack rafted back in November. (Plenty of firewood and no-one else there!)
Those guys with their swags usually have a 'comfortable' 2" open cell mattress. How bad is that? What sort of R-rating do you suppose? Nowhere near the X-Lite Women's even. Then, if it rains, that cold water (a much better conductor than air - as much as twenty times better), is stripping their body's warmth away as quick as thought. A swag is just the most dreadful device and an awful encumbrance to boot. I made one once in my early years of hound hunting. After an awful cold night in a puddle on a mountaintop waiting for dogs, I went back to my K-Mart $20 dome tent. Much warmer, more spacious, drier and cheerier. But the set-up above (including the Cyclone Chair), is superior by far.
19/07/2018: Fox Airlite 100 Series Air Chamber Pad: This pad is on sale right now for US$0.00 (18 July 2018 - you will have to pay freight) which has to be pretty much an unbeatable price! Because of its integrated foot pump it may be an excellent candidate to add some down to (as I posted about here) if you want to make yourself a cheap cold season pad: https://www.foxoutfitters.com/airlite-100-series-air-chamber-pad/ As you can see it comes in a 24" width (and 3 1/2" thickness) and could easily be cut down to length.
Specs & Features
24" X 78" X3.5"
13" X 5" X 5"
20" X 72" X 3.5"
12" X 5" X 5"
firearms success in the
16/07/2018: White Moose: Just as the ‘polar bear’ is only a ‘sport’ of the grizzly bear, so every now and then nature throws up another white creature better adapted to an environment of snow and ice: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0JoHGwSdRak In a similar vein, over the years I have seen both a striped fox and a dingo. (With thanks to Marg Tustin for the video)
I doubt I will see one in Fiordland though - mind you it would stand out!
15/07/2018: The Mountain Gnomad: This young Kiwi chap
Arash Tahan contacted me recently about his plan to spend a couple of years tramping
and hunting the South Island of
Here is what he proposes to do:
'18 months of solo hunting on public land; for either red
deer, chamois, or Tahr. All the while embracing the
spirit of adventure, the dirt-bag lifestyle, and the utterly refreshing
freedoms which accompany them - such as being broke, growing unruly, lice-infested
facial hair, eating road-kill whenever my efforts in the bush aren’t rewarded,
and wearing the same pair of underwear for months on end…mum will be proud.
I’ll live on the road between hunting trips and work odd jobs for farmers and other rural folk, in return for brief accommodation or petrol/food...'
There is going to be some spectacular photography:
Some great stories...This one begins well: 'Broken logs. Frosty, serrated tussocks. Soggy ground. I clawed and flinched my way along the edge of a swampy clearing; all the while fastened on my destination - a North facing spur, roughly two kilometers away. A likely spot for deer to bathe themselves in the warmth of the morning sun...'
Even some interesting poetry:
'I yearn for a change of scenery.
An opportunity to escape.
A reason to greet each morning
with a smile upon my face.
To hell with conventional living!
‘Tis never done me any good.
A heavy pack is all I need,
and a rifle, with walnut wood.
I will set off on a big adventure
The horizon - my guiding star
I will explore the entire
traversing mountains, near or far.
Weathered and wily deer I’ll seek
Perhaps a chamois or two
I’ll drink from the deepest alpine tarns,
and pen experiences I shall never rue
And during the final hours of my journey
As the sun sinks through the sky
I will hope that my handful of learnings,
will serve me ‘til the day I die.'
Already really more or less at the very beginning of his adventures, there are some wondrous things. It is going to be a great year. Anyway a great read for we voyeurs at home who can only dream of trampming the mountains of Fiordland with just a pack and a rifle. Check out his web site and blog here: http://www.themountaingnomad.com/blog/the-game-plan
And good luck to you Arash, and happy hunting!
PS: This seems to be a bit of a NZ thing. See eg my earlier post: http://www.theultralighthiker.com/thrilling-tales-6-new-zealands-remotest-family/
See Also, eg:
14/07/2018: Magic Places: Traralgon Railway Reserve:
So many magical places hiding just around the corner! PS: Isn't it great to have a grandson with the same love of the great outdoors?
14/07/2018: The oldest Odyssey: http://www.thehistoryblog.com/archives/51974
14/07/2018: Don’t throw those old blurry snaps away. Have a look at how the syncroton brings them to life: http://www.thehistoryblog.com/archives/51980
13/07/2018: Pine Down Blanket: Ultralight on a
budget. Over at Massdrop they have this interesting 3 season down
quilt for just US$99.99 (July 2018). It can be used as a blanket or a quilt
due to some interesting innovative features. If you pair it with their Massdrop Klymit Ultralight V Sleeping Pad at only US$59.99 you have a
very cheap warm weather sleep system. Reader Muzza
has this to say about his: ‘The Klymit Massdrop pad with a 4.4 R rating,light (is) way comfy. I’m playing with it and the Massdrop Pine Down Quilt (US99 Jul
2018). Slept in 3C the other night in
Shell material: 20d 1.1oz downproof nylon
Insulation: 850-fill Allied HyperDry down (RDS certified and bluesign approved)
Temperature rating: 40º F (4.4º C)
Loft: 2 in (5.1 cm)
Baffle width: 4.25 in (10.8 cm)
Cord channels along each side
Hidden stretchy cords and cord locks along short sides
3 pairs of snaps along the side
4 hang loops
Open dimensions, W x L: 54 x 86 in (137 x 218 cm)
Stuffed dimensions: 8 x 11 in (20 x 28 cm)
Blanket total weight: 19.2 oz (544 g)
Insulation weight: 10.5 oz (298 g)
Stuff sack weight: 0.4 oz (12 g)
If you are abit more 'cashed up' you might consider the Enlightened Equipment Quilt: http://www.theultralighthiker.com/a-quilt-for-all-seasons/
11/07/2018: Pack Raft Saves The Day: Della and I had a
foreshortened trip on the
We saw nine deer in the four hours walking in, mostly just honking at us and running away. During the night when we were sitting on our Cyclone Chairs in front of a cheery fire a whole troupe of sambar came by and gave us an entertaining chorus for ten minutes or so from not more than twenty metres away. You could actually see their eyes shining in the fire light, Delightful. We were only half way through our hike, so we will be back.
I'm afraid it is impossible to get 'good' photos when two of you are squeezed into a raft that is only 4' 6" long inside. Bad angles, difficulty focusssing & etc. They now call this raft the 'Mule'.
I was told never to publish this photo of Della because she thought she looked and felt terrible. Well she did feel terrible, but she always looks good to me!
She heroically had to struggle along boulder-hopping during portages whilst I carried the boat and the packs.
It is a lovely river as you can see in the background of the shots. If you really want to have a good look at it, try these two posts:
It is not yet time to trade her in though. We'll try again. I have this really lovely campsite about six hours walk (for me) from my car which I really want her to spend a few days at (thought it would be this trip) - followed by a relaxing raft drift down the river on the way out. It didn’t quite work out that way though…
PS: We have been back a number of times. Next summer (2018-9) I plan to spend several days with Della pack rafting down from the Humffray Confluence to Eaglevale. It is one of the loveliest trips I know of anywhere.
She looked a lot happier in this post from 2017:
In case you are thinking Della is a chapter of accidents, this was her only other disaster: http://www.theultralighthiker.com/10-days-in-fiordland/ dislocating her shoulder on the Dusky Track and having to be helicoptered out to Invercargill.
However, these two illustrate perhaps what I said in my 'About' post: 'I have camped out a lot, more than two years plus of my life in total. I have seen the failure of just about every type of gear, and experienced just about every disaster which can befall you in the wilderness, and survived.' See also: http://www.theultralighthiker.com/trapped-by-flood-waters/
Published on: Nov 19, 2011 Updated with pics etc July 2018.
10/07/2018: Trapped by Flood Waters: 'I got away up the bush for a few days recently. Lots of rain came in. The rivers were in flood, went up over 2 metres and home was on the wrong side. Also discovered that the seam sealer tape on ultrasil dry bags deteriorates - my sleeping bag and all my gear was saturated wading through chest high water. Spent a rather uncomfortable night getting dry. (NB: Body warmth will dry everything out eventually - as was pointed out here, it is just not true that wet down has no insulative properties: http://www.theultralighthiker.com/andrew-skurka-on-down-versus-synthetic/)'.
Just look at the amount of debris the river brought down with it - acres and acres of fallen timber.
I wrote this back in 2010 when the rainfall forecast had me failed and I found myself for a few days on the wrong side of a very swollen river. Nowadays I usually have supplies stowed in a drum for such an eventuality. You could easily have to wait it out for a week or so until the flood subsides!
This was back when, though I owned a digital camera I still had not somehow got my head around the fact that photos are now virtually free. Growing up with film cameras where every snap cost say a dollar or more, you become quite stingy of taking 'trivial' photos, so I don't have actual photos of the flood, roaring water, etc. Next time...I went on:
'I saw lots of deer though no good stags and had a good time really. An interesting test of myself and various gear. Learned a lot. Many things I can improve. Finally swam out (using my inflatable mat and pack tied together as a raft/kick board – as I have done many times before) and am home safe'.
A nice sunny day followed anyway for drying out the camp. You would not think on that slight slope that your groundsheet would soak through, but during the night I guess 1-2 cm of water was flowing through the tent. The pressure of my bum was enough to increase the water pressure so that the waterproofness of the Tyvek was exceeded. A lesson there.
'I had a Tyvek tent floor and Sea to Summit Ultrasil drybags leak through (also a wet sleeping bag is not much fun!) and Tyvek is twice as waterproof as silnylon. I think this guy has the solution to increasing waterproofness. (Also his Supercat stove is excellent): http://jwbasecamp.com/Articles/Silnylon1/index.html'
I tried this waterproofing method out on the floor of a Mountain Laurel Designs Supermid we carried on our cross Tasmania hike in 2011 and it worked a real treat. The ground was very sodden in some places we had to camp in Tassie but all our stuff stayed nice and dry - as well it needed to since we were nearly 8 days on the trail without resupply or any other shelter.
About the Sea to
I have even swum rivers with them, and used them in canoes and pack rafts where gear can get pretty wet (eg here and here) - but they have never failed me again. I am also most impressed by the company's after-sales service. I have experienced it also with a Black Diamond torch (from them) on which a part broke - and they sent me the new part by express post same day. No questions asked!
I spent a couple of days trying to find a (safe) way across the raging floodwaters. I walked upstream for about ten hours for example, but there was no safe place to cross. A couple of times I found a spot where a large log spanned the torrent but with the water lapping up to its underside. Downstream there was always some huge tangle of debris or ruinous rapids such that if you slipped in you would be swept to your death. You must cross where the river is widest and the current least - but best to wait it out!
You have to be very careful with river crossings if you don't want to end up dead earlier than you would like. The corollary of this is folks who fanny about overmuch trying not to get their feet wet. Hazards will occur in the back country. Be prepared for them, and be careful. Be especially able to light a fire in the wet.
However, this post and this illustrate perhaps what I said in my 'About' post: 'I have camped out a lot, more than two years plus of my life in total. I have seen the failure of just about every type of gear, and experienced just about every disaster which can befall you in the wilderness, and survived.'
Published Nov 30, 2010
This was by no means the only time I have been 'trapped by flood waters'. I
can remember the farm I grew up on being isolated for many days during the 1955
floods in the
09/07/2018: Have you tried the new Pulse Pasta? Made only from beans and peas instead of grains – and so much better for you. Especially if you have a blood sugar problem. Also gluten free. We have and found it delicious. It has more of a nutty flavour than normal wheat pasta: https://sanremo.com.au/products/pulse-pasta-spaghetti/
Of course you will need a sauce to go with it. We have successfully
Another idea which we quite like are the Gravox dehydrated flavored gravies eg French Onion, Mushroom Sauce & etc. The addition of some salami to them will make quite an acceptable meal. They go fine with this pasta – or with some Continental Deb Mashed Potato. They also go well with Chinese sausage (which you should save the from so that you can have falafels for breakfast.
08/07/2018: Ultralight Pack Raft: Supai Adventure Gear say, ‘At just 14 ounces, our pack raft paddle is the lightest on the market…When combined, our pack raft (24 ounces) and paddle (14 ounces)…weighs an astonishingly light 38 ounces (2 lbs, 6 ounces).’
If you want ‘light’ these guys are the place to go! https://www.supaiadventuregear.com/ Their pack rafts range from US$299-349 and weigh 24-28 ounces (685-798 grams) making them just about the lightest on the market.
Naturally you cannot ruggedise something this
light, so they deem them suitable for mainly flat water – but there are many
such opportunities out there, and particularly if you are carrying a boat just
to get yourself across water obstacles on your route, they might be a great
choice (or for emergencies). That being said, these folks who make them have
even taken them down the
Probably their nearest competitor is the Klymit Lite Water Dinghy raft I wrote about here: http://www.theultralighthiker.com/klymit-packraft/ It weighs 35 ounces (998 grams)
or Try a search for 'pack raft' in the Search box at the top. Many pack rafting adventures, including: http://www.theultralighthiker.com/pack-rafting-the-remote-wonnangatta/
07/07/2018: Wildlife Proof Fencing: There are many kinds of theft. For farmers (such as us) one of the worst thefts (after rules against clearing our own native vegetation on our ‘freehold’ property) is government (and others) stealing our livelihood by allowing their livestock to stray onto our land. That is what wildlife and vermin are, ie someone else’s stock. For example 1 kangaroo = .625 DSE (1 dry sheep equivalent = eg one Merino wether/dry ewe).
Every day I see a mob of over 50-70 grey kangaroos on the property next door across our valley in just one 10 acre paddock where once we used to run 30-40 breeding ewes when we leased it. (There are probably many many more of a night, plus innumerable wombats judging from all the giant holes on the hillside). There is no feed at all there now, and the roos are in poor condition, such that I would invite prosecution if my sheep were so neglected – and of course they are also heavily parasitised & etc.
Wombats, by the way, in this Parish and many others are 'unprotected'. A farmer may legally if s/he so desires shoot one any time at all, though I rarely do (only when they are suffering terribly from mange, fly-blown and moaning etc - as they often are because there are far too many of them). I prefer to fence them out, if I can. There they can be someone else's problem to neglect as they see fit. There is a veritable plague of wombats in the Strzeleckis. You should see the damage they do in the forest where there is no vegetation - or soil at all because of their ceaseless digging. They just have no predators any more except cars. They are just giant rabbits.
The only practical solution (though it is often not economic) is to fence the ‘wildlife’ out. Killing them will either earn you odium (or a penalty). Besides, more will just move in until they reach the point where they are starving to death again (apparently the chosen strategy of animal libbers and other ‘kindly’ souls). If you fence them out they can at least starve to death on someone else’s land ie on those who are responsible for their existence in the first place, so often the government. The ‘rub’ is that the government will not contribute their half to the construction or maintenance of the fence, as any other neighbouring property owner must!
We successfully built this type of fence on our last couple of properties and are working our way around to doing so on our home property right now. The results are quite astonishing – especially the build-up of small native herbivores, carnivores and birds (things which are much more ‘endangered’) which are either starved out by the large native herbivores or eaten by the foxes – the infinite increase of which all seems to be the chosen management aim of those who would have such things as eg ‘Land for Wildlife’ or ‘Trust for Nature’ and the like! http://www.theultralighthiker.com/vermin-proof-fence/
A picture is worth a million words: (after just one month).
I’m sure you can work out which side the native wildlife is on. Public land mismanaged thus is just neglect - and animal cruelty. It is not something which should generate a warm inner glow!
It is equally absurd that whilst a landowner can easily obtain a permit to ‘cull’ an insignificant number of the troublesome wildlife (say a max of 10% - including eg up to five eagles, Really!) you are not allowed to make use of the carcasses in Victoria – you may not eat them or feed them to your dog, even compost them. They must be buried deeply. Who would comply with such absurd rules? Yet kangaroos taste quite good. I was brought up on them actually.
07/07/2018: Why do people with any fat stores ever feel hungry? It is a very good question, and there are some very good (brief) answers: ‘Our attitude is that, if you have spare lard, feeling hunger is the happy sign that you are burning fat rather than a signal that nutrition is needed. To burn lard, embrace that feeling.’ http://maggiesfarm.anotherdotcom.com/archives/31895-Why-do-overweight-people-ever-feel-hunger.html
04/07/2018: How Many of These Needed to Make a Pack Raft? I recently bought one of these for $A20 (July 2018) from K-Mart to play with. I wanted to practice some seam heat-sealing with something available and cheap before I began modifying an expensive hiking pad: http://www.theultralighthiker.com/axl-air-down-pad/ . I had in mind that I would probably be able to make an inflatable pack frame with one of them (You can make at least two as it turns out – more if you buy some extra valves: https://www.diypackraft.com/shop/merchandise/valves/pressure-fit-inflationdeflation-valves/ ). The material is quite heavy, so I wondered whether it would be suitable for a DIY pack raft.
It looks very similar to this one from Aliexpres for US$14.28 (July 2018) or this one from Amazon for US$24.11. Walmart etc no doubt have them too - a double one might give more material at a lower per square foot cost - and with more options.
Some of you have no doubt noticed my post about this back in 2011 where I reinforced a cheap Intex brand raft with a blue poly tarp. (I have since seen these sold for <$A30). We canoed 2 Grade 2-3 rapids with one all day with no problems at all – only a very slight delamination of the cheap tarp was happening – but it is easily and cheaply replaced (and you can carry a spare).
If you attach it with tarp clips, this will be the work of a minute, and you can even use the tarp for an overnight shelter! http://www.theultralighthiker.com/home-made-pack-raft/ It held up to 4 years stored in a drum in the bush quite well, such that I was able to get it out for a trip in 2015: http://www.theultralighthiker.com/not-quite-alone-in-the-wilderness/ and put it back in the drum again against future need.
After perusing some pack raft making instructions eg here: https://www.diypackraft.com/construction/how-to/v2/ and here: http://blog.hillmap.com/search/label/Homemade%20Packraft and looking at some simplified pack rafts which are available to be purchased eg http://www.theultralighthiker.com/klymit-packraft/ and : https://www.supaiadventuregear.com/ I am definitely of the opinion that the DIY pack raft is a worthwhile project, and that there are simplified designs out there which will work quite well. (PS: I also rather liked this guy’s DIY pack raft catamaran: https://www.diypackraft.com/2018/06/13/tims-pontoon-kayak-version-2/ )
The K-Mart pad is comprised of two sections: an approx 5’ x 2’ pad and a 1’ x 2’ pillow. Both have valves, so you get approx 24 square feet of quite tough fabric for A$20 (July 2018), which compares favorably to the ‘genuine’ heat sealable materials at perhaps US$14 plus delivery per yard (ie 15 square feet).
I admit the ‘exercise’ is mostly about ‘Can you do it?’ rather than ‘What’s the best way to make a pack raft?’ but still, I think you should get a serviceable raft out of perhaps four of these pads which you can pick up today for A$80 total. Geniuses will no doubt make something out of three (or even two!)
You will also need a heat sealing iron (which you would anyway) such as those readily available for aircraft modeling and other hobby activities, eg: https://www.diypackraft.com/construction/tools/ These cost around $20.
Another DIY Pack Raft supplier: https://iron-raft.co.uk/
A couple of cheap pack rafts for these who can’t be bothered making their own:
https://www.supaiadventuregear.com/ eg https://www.supaiadventuregear.com/products/canyon-flatwater-boat-manufacturing-seconds at 24 oz 685 grams
03/07/2018: Several Winter's Fires: I have been busy building a new wood shed and stocking it with rather more than my favourite poet Edward Thomas' 'recommended' 'Fifty Faggots'. I can get the wood to this one no matter how wet the paddocks are, and simply throw it straight off the tray and into the shed. It has plenty of height for block splitting, and a dry place to stand when I am doing so. This is luxury. I am also lining the shed with corrugated iron so that when I throw the wood in it does not shake the cladding off. I have also equipped the walls with several built-in possum nests and don't doubt it won't be long before the possums find them and move in.
There will be 16 possum platforms in the walls of the shed when I have finished cladding it. I plan to build similar boxes for possums, parrots, kookaburras etc on every strainer post (and elsewhere) over time. It is a delight to share your home with these wild creatures too.
The frame up
Of course I am not quite finished yet. I have to suspend operations at this point to get the sheep and fences ready for lambing. I have at least a week's hard work on the latter project so that we can minimise losses to foxes. I am finding all this particularly heavy going this year as I seem to have torn the cartilage in my left knee - pretty much just standing in the paddock playing with a new drone which I hope will simplify getting the sheep into a fox-proof area every night during lambing. You can see how well that will work here: http://www.theultralighthiker.com/drone-hunting/
Ant ten tonnes of wood in - this was hard going yesterday with this agonising knee.
This is the belated beginning of the replacement of the old Buggy Shed (1924) hopefully with something which will last just as long (or longer). Later on in the year I will be building a workshop in its place complete with hoist for working on our many old cars - after nearly half a century of lying underneath them! Interestingly, I am lining the new wood shed with iron off the old one. Lysaghts Newcastle - where I worked briefly during the 1960s sure made good galvanised iron back then. if the new iron on our house roof lasts as well, it won't need replacing for a very long time!
There are six metres of bedding sand underneath that ten tonnes of firewood. (Other people think 'work' is having meetings. They should look up the scientific definition!) The wood should last us through to next summer. We have enough old trees dying, and enough new ones coming along to be largely self-sufficient in wood - besides, we own a wood lot at the Eastern edge of the property, a patch of bush I fenced last year much to the surprise of many local residents who had long believed it was a public space. When they started riding motorbikes in it though we had to act. We could not have the risk of such noisy idiots injuring or killing themselves when trespassing on our land.
Here we usually light our first fire around Easter and our last around
Melbourne Cup Day (Guy Fawkes Day if you are
It is a lovely little warm sheltered valley here at Jeeralang Junction: we can have all the cold season type of fruit (such as cherries - if the birds will leave us any), but also we grow guavas, (sugar) bananas, mountain and American paw paws, sapote - many things which you would expect to have only much further North. I guess we have over a hundred different types of fruiting things growing in our garden, and are adding to them every year. We are legends with all the local parrots and currawongs - not to mention the possums!
We 'chose' such a serendipitous spot to live (because it was at the time very cheap) thirty years ago: in the winter we are just above the fog and just below the cloud. The winter sunlight wakes us every morning streaming in our living room windows brightly. Mid-morning we always witness the fog rising and wafting by us quickly up the valley.
Our back fence marks the beginning of a continuous band of forest which stretches all along the South Gippsland Coast to Foster/Wilsons Prom so that we are often visited by koalas, kangaroos, wallabies, deer etc - and of course by a myriad of different bird species, including very rare creatures such as this one (http://www.theultralighthiker.com/white-headed-pigeon/) and this (http://www.theultralighthiker.com/water-babies/) We often take a walk further up the valley where there are enchanting fern gullies and waterfalls. Just pottering around our (ever expanding) garden any day you will be able to see (at any given time) a couple of dozen different species of birds from any single vantage.
For more such views (and video) see http://www.theultralighthiker.com/drone-hunting/
PS: We have the first and most genetically diverse flock of Finnsheep in
02/07/2018: Exped Synmat HL Winter M: My thanks to reader (Belle) for alerting me to the Exped Synmat HL Winter M (I had overlooked) which weighs 430 grams and has an R-rating of 5.0 at 183 cm long 52 wide (35 cm at the foot) and 9 thick. You do need a 60 gram bag to blow it up, but this also doubles as a pillow. This is an awesome pad. I only need a mat to be 5'6' long, so I could cut this down to approx 394 grams.This is serious competition for the Thermarest X-Therm that's for sure! (Same weight, slightly lower R-rating ie 5/5.7, but over 1" thicker)
It also comes in a wider configuration the SynMat HL Winter MW 65 cm at the chest and 42 at the foot and 545 grams. This would come down to approx 500 grams at 5'6".
01/07/2018: AXL Air Down Pad: I am thinking of modifying one of Big Agnes' AXL Air Pads (by cutting it down say to 5'4") and adding in approximately 4 ounces of Hyper Dry Down. This should give me a pad which weighs approx 360 grams is 4" thick yet has an R-rating of around 6.0 - so suitable for say -20C. The Hyper-Dry down should be water resistant enough it should not matter if I blow it up directly by mouth.so long as I hang it up to dry from time to time with the valve pinned open in some arm sunlight eg next to my study window.
The down can be purchased eg from eg Ripstop By The Roll for US$25 (800 fill) to $38 (850 fill) per three ounces (plus delivery). The AXL Air pad starts at US$139.95 (July 2018). Note it also comes in a 25" width configuration. In this dimension you could have a down filled pad that you can really luxuriate on at under 480 grams.
I do love my AXL Air pad - it is the most comfortable night's sleep i have ever had in the back country - but it is not quite warm enough for winter. I figure this mod will 'winterise' it.
PS: If I can wait for it I may be better using this new Climasmart insulation from Downlite (as they seem to have 'solved' the moisture retention problem: http://www.textileworld.com/textile-world/knitting-apparel/2018/06/downlite-introduces-new-climasmart-temperature-regulating-performance-fills/
PPS: As you can see (below) a reader (Belle) has alerted me to an Exped Synmat HL Winter M (http://www.exped.com/australia/en/product-category/mats/synmat-hl-winter-m which weighs 430 grams and has an R-rating of 5.0 at 183 cm long 52 wide (35 cm at the foot) and 9 thick. You do need a 60 gram bag to blow it up, but this also doubles as a pillow. This is an awesome pad.
She also has a point that some down would escape the AXL valve when you deflate it. I was wondering how to attach some mesh on the inside of the valve (possible, though a bit messy). Also technically I would only need 3 ounces of down to fill it (85 grams) and I could cut the pad down with a taper (such as the Synmat has) probably making the whole thing considerably lighter, possibly even less than 315 grams if you are short like me and can fit on a 5' mat. I still think this might be an interesting option especially for a dedicated gram counter who already owns the AXL Air pad.
The Synmat is available from Summit Gear for A$ 219 (July 2018):
01/07/2018: What a wave: https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=130&v=bjKzJIu56oU
30/06/2018: No Cold Shoulder Spreader Hammock: I like the spreader bar on this new hammock from Rei. This would stop that annoying thing where the hammock fabric compresses the insulation of your sleeping bag at shoulder-to-elbow and creates a cold spot.
There are several other ways around this eg a wider mat, a pad extender, etc, but I feel that this is genius and could also be done very lightly as a mod (by sewing in two reinforcing patches and attachment points eg some webbing formed into tubes) to any hammock and that the spreader could be as simple as a bent stick which would go up above your head (towards the end of thr hammock so that it did not interfere with getting into the hammock.
Only I am resting a torn meniscus in my left knee today (and that it is raining) stops me from getting out a hammock and the sewing machine and getting to work on it. (You could probably even do it using a couple of tarp clips). I figure I could do this without adding any more than 20 or so grams to the hammock. This rivals that other wonderful spreader idea which allows two people to hang side by side from just one pair of trees under a single tarp. Anyway, watch this space - my knee cannot be stuffed forever (MRI Monday)!
The Rei Flash Air Hammock system
Detail of their spreader bar
Rei Flash Air Hammock System (including mosquito net, fly, etc) available here: https://www.rei.com/product/127400/rei-co-op-flash-air-hammock?cm_mmc=aff_AL-_-5889-_-7185-_-NA&avad=7185_e1262cadd US$199.95 (July 2018) Weight:2lb 12 oz complete
Some other hammock ideas:
29/06/2018: The DIY Gunsmith: In the US this is a popular (and legal) pursuit
though quite properly it is an offence to misuse any firearm. In
I knew of a chap who custom made 12 gauge shotgun-based shark killing guns for example. He supplied a ready market. I have known quite a number of other people over the years who have manufactured their own guns. Some even went on to patent them and attempt to sell them on to the armed forces!
The famous gun buybacks and gun registration laws only account for about 20%
of the total number of firearms definitely known to exist in
There are so many desirable designs: I particularly like this guy’s DIY air machine gun: http://thehomegunsmith.com/ This site introduces you to the DIY AR-15: https://survivalblog.com/building-your-own-no-ffl-ar-from-an-80-complete-receiver-by-jag/
There are lots of sites eg https://www.pewpewtactical.com/diy-gunsmithing/ & https://www.gungods.net/5-beginner-diy-gunsmithing-projects/ & http://www.shootingtimes.com/gunsmithing/10-must-have-tools-for-the-diy-gunsmith/ . A simple Google search for ‘DIY gun’ or 'firearm' will be most instructive.
It may now be illegal even to publish (or own) such instructions in
Picture yourself (with Churchill) and one of these:
PS: A helpful and thoughtful comment from Scott: 'Checkout Clinton Westwood on Youtube https://youtu.be/WfvJtjbY9TM He has several interesting builds including rifling your own barrels. Our ridiculous laws only stop the law-abiding from making them, such a shame as it would be such an interesting project'.
26/06/2018: Massdrop In Stock: Massdrop now have some of their great specials in stock - so you don't have to wait for a drop. For example, they have the Enlightened Equipment Quilt I recently posted about for US $219.99 (Jun 2018).
They also have the Massdrop Pine Down Blanket (which would make a real good summer quilt for US$99 (Jun 2018).
The Massdrop Klymit Ultralight V Sleeping Pad is only US$59.99 (add $5 for a longer one). This is not quite the same pad I wrote about here (it is not the 23" wide one, (which is US94.95 ) and has an extra valve which increases its weight by around 14 grams, but it is very like it. It still has that amazing for the price R- rating of 4.4. That is a super cheap cold season pad.
You could afford to play around with it and shorten it to just the length you need. Here is a 20 second video from John Abela from https://hikelighter.com/ showing just how easy that is to do:
If you need that in more detail and step by step, Danny Milks has them here: https://www.massdrop.com/talk/2026/how-to-shorten-your-massdrop-x-klymit-sleeping-pad
Danny manages to cut down the Klymit version of the pad down to 398 grams at 5' 8" for example.
Check all the in stock items out here: https://www.massdrop.com/all-communities/drops/stock
The Other Kingdom: This
autumn we were in
Some of these guys are edible but the ones below are definitely not!
I particularly like these ones cause they explode in a cloud of yellow powder when they are ripe.
Fungi are not a good survival or forage food actually. You need too much expertise to identify them. Fruit and roots are a better choice - as indeed are beetle larvae! The one below - one of the many kinds of bracket fungi though are excellent (when dried) as tinder. Even straight off the log like this many will smoulder for many minutes.
Below, Della's collage. The dogs get into the act:
You can see what Spot thinks of Amanita (Fly Agaric), the 'Santa Claus' mushroom so called they say because it can give you the hallucination of flying - and death!
Of course I could not resist snapping this lovely little fallow hind out for her evening browse - until the dogs startled her!
24/06/2018: Rich Beyond Telling: Most evenings if we go for a walk at the back of Yinnar a huge flock of yellow-tailed black cockatoos comes in to roost after spending the day dispersed sowing destruction on innumerable hapless plants all about (as is their wont). I guess there has to be at least a thousand of them. Their raucous calls ( a language in its own right I daresay) is well-nigh deafening when you are close by and they are all around you - as they were last night.
I tried to get some shots of them silhouetted against the sky - as Della would like to use them as patterns for some crafty textile thing she has in mind. I also tried to get this one adjacent to the waning moon, but was not wholly successful.
In some sad pet shop elsewhere I doubt not a pair would be worth $10,000 - or more. This noisy crowd which surrounded me or drank from a roadside puddle at my feet must therefore be worth several million dollars - yet for a time each evening, they are all mine. How rich am I?
The new camera takes a passing decent hand-held snap of the moon, don't you think? If only I could have captured it and the cockie together with this sort of clarity.
You have to take a lot of snaps before you get a really great one, don't you?
Like this one:
22/06/2018: DIY Stun Gun: Personal Defense: How to make a stun gun with a disposable camera. This is the guide to make a device which runs on a battery and produces sparks at tens of thousands of volts very rapidly. No doubt illegal in Victoria and many other ‘nanny state’ places, but very useful anyway.
22/06/2018: Deer O'Clock: Three years ago we started to see the odd deer print on our evening walks.
Then one day a fallow stag kindly donated me this nice antler.
21/06/2018: More Power to You: These ‘new’ lithium powered jump starters are amazing. I had been thinking of installing a dual battery system in the (’95) Discovery but it is difficult though not impossible to fit one in, as well as vey fiddly. Anyway I realized that the main reason I would need one would be if the battery went flat when I left it parked up the bush which I often do for a week or more in very cold weather. Of course I always try to leave it on a bit of a slope so that I can roll start it if the need arises (and it has) – but sometimes ther just isn’t any convenient appreciable slope to use. I have’t been stuck yet, but eventually I would be.
There have ben jump starters for some time usually utilizing a fairly bulky sealed lead acid battery, but the range now includes picket sized models which will noinetheless start larghe diesel engines. The one I bought is an 18 mAh one which also includes a very bright torch (which would clearly run for weeks!) and a couple of USB outlets for charging other things. It is probably a bit of overkill as a supplementary battery for charging your electronics whilst hiking, but the smaller 10,000 mAh ones would do such dual service admirably even on a long trip. These things will jump start your car up to a dozen times – which is pretyy amazing for something you can fit in your back pocket!
Antigravity Batteries were apparently one of the first cabs of the rank with this type of product, and reputedly are still one of the best eg http://themicrostart.com/xp-10/ Their 18,000 mAh jump starter weighs 510 grams. This is not such a bad weight that it could not see double use as a hiking (oe everyday) power supply. Of course most people will not need that many amp hours. Small 2.5 .litre diesels will only need 10-12,000 mAh which would be a considerable weight saving –probably over 100 grams, and of course smaller petrol engines might get by with much less.
I bought an 18,000 mAh unit from Total Tools for around A$240. This one has an amazing 1200 cranking amps! They had a smaller unit available of less than A$200 but were out of stock on the day. Anyway this will be more than adequate to start either of my two Landrovers should I leave them up the bush for a couple of weeks in the middle of winter whilst I am off hunting – and supposing their batteries go flat.
You can just charge them at home or with the cigarette lighter socket when driving. They remain charged for eg a year, so they are just great to have in the car glove box in case something goes wrong. They come with all the leads, etc in a neat little box.
18/06/2018: Garmin Inreach Mini: At last a fully functional GPS, satellite communicator and epirb which weighs 100 grams (3.5 oz!) I already own the earlier model (190 grams) which I love, and can’t imagine spending perhaps A$499 (Jun 2018) on its replacement in order to save carrying 90 grams. Too bad. Maybe Garmin will offer me one to review! But if you haven’t already got one (or something like it), it really is time you went out and bought one. https://buy.garmin.com/en-AU/AU/p/592606
It includes many other features such as, ‘Wireless unit-to-unit connectivity lets you remotely control inReach Mini to send and receive messages using compatible Garmin handhelds, wearables or other mobile devices. GPS-based location tracking lets you share your whereabouts with those at home or out in the field.’
The Iridium Extreme (268 grams) remains the gold standard for off-grid communication and epirb functionality, but it will set you back nearly three times as much. I think it is worth carrying both though – how much is your life (or your wife’s life) worth after all?
PS: I notice Spot also have a new model two-way Messenger/Epirb which weighs 7 oz (200 grams) but is very much cheaper (US 250 Jun 2018) than the Garmin (though with many fewer features): https://www.findmespot.com/spotx/lander.php
17/06/2018: A Quilt for all Seasons: There is no doubt though that a quilt can be lighter, more comfortable, and a lot less inconvenient to enter and exit than a bag. A down quilt can weigh under 500 grams for something which will rate around -10C (providing you have a warm mat), so you can see that you can definitely make one an integral part of your ultralight ‘system’. Over ten years ago I often used to use a sleeping quilt before I had a bad back, but now I toss and turn too much because of it, so I have gone back to my sleeping bag.
I had two different quilts I used. One was made up from bits and pieces of a Mountain Designs down bag plus some extras. The other Della made for me from a kit purchased from Ray & Jenny Jardine (from US$109.95 Jun 2018). I could have slept on a Greenland Glacier in it. I found both excellent (at different seasons) for hammock camping (because they are much easier to ‘get in to’ in a hammock than a sleeping bag is). I used the former (hanging in our lounge room from two eye bolts screwed through the wall!) for over a year when my back was really bad whilst I waited for an op to fix it.
Tier Gear is an Australian quilt manufacturer who you can rely on for excellent products and service. For example they have this -1C model for the Quenda which weighs 566 grams for A$395 (Jun 2018): https://www.tiergear.com.au/shop/sleeping-systems/ultralight-top-quilts/quenda-quilt-1
Of course Della's Zpacks sleeping bag is very like a quilt (and they make quilts too - approx US$359 Jun 2018). In her size (and -7C) Hers weighs 499 grams in its stuff sack: http://www.theultralighthiker.com/new-zpacks-sleeping-bag/
However, on Massdrop this morning they have an Enlightened Equipment quilt which looks very nice (for US$219.99 Jun 2018) This must be nearly half-price for an excellent product. If you miss out on this ‘drop’ they will have another one. Just keep watching.
It has many interesting innovative features too. ‘On those three-dog nights, tuck it snugly around your body with the included elastic straps and leave the footbox closed. When it’s warmer out, let it hang looser to allow air to circulate. And when it’s really balmy, unzip the footbox and let your quilt lay open like a blanket. When it’s fully open, you can also drape it over your shoulders while sitting around the campfire. Please note that because this quilt doesn’t have a hood, you’ll want to wear a hat to stay warm at night.
Along with creating more room around the knees, Enlightened Equipment’s signature quilt shape is wide up top for wiggle room and tapered at the foot for increased warmth and reduced weight. It also lines up the baffles to keep the down where you need it. Vertical baffles around the torso prevent the down from shifting from side to side, while horizontal baffles in the foot area ensure it stays at your feet, rather than shifting up toward the torso.’ Check it out.
15/06/2018: The Deer Hunter’s Apprentice #2: To continue. Where is the deer? So, let’s say you have mastered walking quietly, that you can reason out where a deer has walked, and that you can see through the bush, so that if a deer is there it will be visible to you. Still and all, you need to also be looking in the right place. For example some places may be too thick, and though there may be lots of deer there, you may never see them. Such areas are better suited to hound hunting. The Upper Thomson springs to mind as an example.
You need to pay attention to the topography, rainfall etc. Say for example a river runs East-West (here in Victoria). The sun will heat the West facing slopes of the ridges more than the east. The gullies which run from South to North will be drier than those that run from North to South but they will also likely be more open and grassier. The heads of the latter gullies will likely be too thick for shooting. Deer will often prefer to bed on the North facing ridges on the South side of the river but out of the cold wind, in some dogwood or wattle for example where there is a bit of warm sunshine on a cold day. You should be able to see how the system of tracks leads to such spots by looking at where they begin and which way they trend.
When you do see a deer (or any quarry) do not look at it when it looks at you. And do not move. A single muscle. Unless you are going to shoot straightaway - maybe the best option in many cases, and one reason why I prefer iron sights. Mammals have the magnificent visual acuity they have for very good reason. The eye and brain are hard-wired to sound alarm bells whenever movement is detected, and the nervous system is brilliant at detecting it. Movement is always (potentially) dangerous.
Watch a cat stalking its prey: a mouse or a bird. In the presence of prey it will hold still for a very long while. When it does move the movement will be slow and smooth. Jerky, sudden movements always generate alarm. The only sudden movement is the final pounce.
Sometimes I have demonstrated to folk how to catch a wild wallaby by the tail. Whenever you see a wallaby, if you approach it very slowly and methodically, averting your eyes when it looks at you or looking away completely, remaining in a bent position as if you were another wallaby, even lowering your head right down to the ground, as if eating…you can walk right up to one and catch it by the tail. Try it for yourself. It is a useful exercise in stalking. A black wallaby is surprisingly hard to hold on to by the tail though. Do not try this with a grey kangaroo (I have). Let us just say that it is unwise, and that Spot learned straightaway from my demonstration not to approach the beasts at all!
It is possible to do this with a sambar deer. Of course it is most appealing to try it out on a mature stag. Again, make like a wallaby. A deer will have seen lots of them. It is the most common biped in its experience – and no threat at all to it. Indeed, it will flush them away if it feels like it. It is a matter of pattern recognition. Herbivores do not generally have the cognitive sophistication of primates. Mind you there are plenty of folks though who nonetheless have walked blithely into veritable lions’ dens!
Bow hunters become particularly good at getting up close to deer – because they must. Even without camo a skilled bow hunter gets to within 20 metres of the quarry regularly - probably almost every time they go out. Practice and experience. They don't happen overnight. It might be a useful exercise for you to go out in just such a way sometimes, armed only with a bow - or a camera.
Once you get right up next to the sambar stag, you may overwhelmed by a wild temptation to simultaneously leap upon its back and seize it by its horns, perhaps thinking to cut its throat with your blade knife after some ‘slight’ tussle. This would be unwise in the extreme. Sometimes it is just very sensible to resist temptation! My late old friend Arthur Meyers found himself on a mature stag’s back in just such a circumstance many years ago. We were all victims of youthful exuberance once. He did live to tell the tale (and many others besides) and lived quite a long time, even more than me, but he also regretted it considerably for some time!
I have also wrestled a stag to the ground by its antlers and cut its throat when I was younger. It was a seriously wounded stag, and I was out of ammo, so there was no other choice really – but I hope I never have to do the same again. I would not recommend this approach to anyone. Of course, if you had hold-down dogs it would be a different matter, Sir Samuel Baker dispatched 400 of the beasts in this way with just a bayonet.
Anyone who has wandered around the bush in pursuit of deer for many years will have had many such close encounters. I once found myself astraddle a doe in the Flourbag, and bucked suddenly into the air and down again to a heavy, awkward landing on my shoulder. Attempting to step over a sleeping deer you have mistaken for a log will get you into this sort of situation mighty quickly. So watching out over there for a deer instead of looking where you are putting your feet isn’t always the right advice!
I guess I have been bowled over (or nearly so) by a running deer over half a dozen times and have only just managed to avoid their antlers on a couple of occasions too. They take fright pretty quickly and without much care as to direction when they bolt being only mad keen to be gone from danger. I have even been in the midst of a stampede of probably 30-40 deer on the side of a valley off the Mitchell a few years ago. That was a minute’s heart-starting action, let me tell you! I guess it was my scent provoked the rush as there didn’t seem to be anyone else about. But they behaved exactly as if when danger threatens, it threatens all alike. And off they went. In a veritable thunder of hooves. Pretty much right over the top of me. Frightened me silly.
I have also been bowled over by roos and wombats which I think much more dangerous in some ways because of heir immense teeth. I reckon they could just about take a leg off if they set their mind to it. One of them tried to take a swipe at me once. I was nimble enough to avoid him, but what a maw he had!
Some people are immensely better at finding them than others. I once met a chap years ago on the Lazarini Spur. He used to just shoot the deer and take the tails as proof of his tally. On this day he had nine fresh cut tails! As I said, this was thirty years, ago long before the deer population ‘exploded’. Whilst I do not condone such wanton destructiveness, I include the story to illustrate that it is possible to see (and shoot) a lot more deer than you are now.
This guy was able to do this just walking through the bush (and with iron sights). No camo. No trail cams. No telescopic sights. Just his own unaided eyes and ears. His living proof that it was possible inspired me to give much more thought about how to do so.
Clearly seasons, time of day, the moon, changing feed (and water) conditions, the presence (or absence) of other hunters, oestrus, breeding & etc all create separate conditions which determine the deer’s whereabouts. Nonetheless there are always some good places to look, eg: feeding areas, bedding areas, nursery areas, scent marking, wallows, crossings…
A BTW: Drinking spots: mostly the deer using them will be does. The demands of lactation and pregnancy require more water. Most of the year most deer (especially stags) can get all the water they need from the food they eat (as do sheep). Sometimes the deer will be up high (when birthing and when the fauns are very young for example where there is often no water source, though sometimes (I'm sure you have noticed a tiny stream will be flowing high up which dries up or goes underground lower down. There are sometimes spring scrapes too deep under tree ferns where it appears no water exists. Often a group of does will have a stag with them, but most often it is just a spikey or an immature stag. The master stag does not need to hang with the does save in the rut. He won't be far away though down wind. Bachelor stags (the most numerous kind) often hang together high in valleys together and never go near the does. Quite often they are the most handsome and largest - just like Rock Hudson I guess.
All these areas have game trails leading to and away from them. The trails converge and diverge. Clearly where they converge is a highly desirable spot for deer, for whatever reason - usually feeding, bedding, scent marking (think wallows). These are the areas where the cowboys place their trail cams and their ambuscades.
Deer are just as lazy as you (unlike wombats who seem to like to climb vertically). Their paths take an easy line up teh ridges and gullies. For that alone they are worth following, but get to know the angle of that line so you can anticipate where they will be (in the genera;l topography) and where consequently the deer will be. You should be able to spot the really likely hot spots from the river bottom kilometres away.
I know you will likely shoot more deer just waiting quietly (until dusk probably, or after) in such spots, but it would not be fair. You should go seek out the quarry where he has the opportunity to use all his senses to avoid you and escape - else there will be no sense that taking him makes a trophy representing something difficult and well done. It will be not much better than having shot him on the road in the light of your car's head lamps really, and that is too easy to do - as I notice from the evidence on the side of the road practically every time I go up the bush.
The game trails are not unlike a human road system; they branch and branch: there are freeways, then highways, then back roads, and finally driveways. You may remember my photo of Della on the post http://www.theultralighthiker.com/pack-rafting-the-wonnangatta-mitchell/, along with the comment: 'This, believe it or not, is a deer path on public land! This would be a good place to be at dusk with a .308 – if you were hungry!'
This is a deer freeway, nearly a chain wide! Clearly they must have some compelling reason to cross the river in such numbers at this point. Such numbers as this is always down to feed, and when I say 'feed' I mean pasture, just as if they were sheep or cattle, as pasture is their chief food whatever else they might eat (and they eat many things).
That is why I have said before that you will always find deer bedded behind a farmer's paddock, no matter how much effort he has made to reduce their numbers - and I know one who has shot over 400 of them in a the last year! If you are a farmer (as I have been for over forty years and want to preserve your livelihood, you are going to either have to fence out whatever critters prey on your income or seriously reduce their numbers - whether it is legal to or not!
I had a client who lost over 800 Merino ewes in a single night to dingoes, for example. Once I went out with an old friend one night and counted over 3,000 roos in his wheat paddock. We built a huge pen in the corner, rounded them up and seriously depleted their numbers, else there would have been no crop that year!
With a bit of practice you will get a map in your head of where any system of game trails goes to and comes from. Right at the top (the driveway) is where you will find the biggest stags, save in breeding season - and they do have a season, though many young are born out of season. You can sometimes see a huge increase in competitive stag behaviour for example: thrashing, rubbing, preaching, push-and-shove grounds, howling and clashing etc. This is clearly the mating season. At other times (in the bedding areas) the ferns are packed with piles of tiny droppings and you will often trip over a fawn sleeping next to a tree.
The stags can smell the does are in oestrus from at least a kilometre away. They do not need to move until they are so lured. That is why they will invariably be camped uphill and downwind of the does. When they are in rut they are just as silly as any other bunch of young blokes out for a night on the town, drunk as lords and hoping (usually against hope) to get their legs over. They are as mad as March hares.
And reek - rather like the young fellows with their excesses of deodorant. If you shoot a stag in rut you will have trouble eating the meat. I know I can't. It's just too gamey for me. It can have been in the freezer for six months and will still stink terribly when thawed out. If you have any sort of nose at all you can follow this rut scent up the wind right to the stag who is making it!
You should practice walking without making any sound at all. If you buy yourself a pair of cheap hearing aids such as Walkers Game Ears and you turn them up fairly loud they will alert you to just how much noise you are making. If you can hear yourself, obviously a critter with ears ten times as big as yours will be able to easily too. Such devices are good too if you are a bit hard of hearing (my own is too far gone for the best aids to make enough difference).
It seems like only yesterday that I could hear the bats hunting of a night, and at the other end of the spectrum I could hear the hum of the power station chimneys four kilometres away. I have completely lost those high frequencies. I need 85 decibels of amplification to hear any of them. The low frequencies are not quite so bad. I can usually hear a roo crashing off, but I can no longer make out a doe stamping - which should be a dead giveaway if your ears are still OK.
Before i was quite deaf I had the fact I was losing my hearing underlined for me one day years ago. I was walking quietly down a track with a friend., wending our way down to a valley to what I though might be a good spot. Suddenly he whispered, 'Listen' - which I did, but to my ears, there was nothing. I was utterly astonished when he quietly stepped off the track and took a (successful) shot at a nice fat hind! His superior hearing had been able to pick up her faint movements in the bush. A pair of these 'Game Ears' might get your hearing back to that level! I have to rely on my ears and my nose.
Hearing aids are good for protecting your hearing too as they Doppler down to a maximum volume when you take a shot. These 'Game Ears' are also some of the cheapest hearing aids on the market. If you think you might need hearing aids you most certainly do! Try some. If you put off getting them you are causing your hearing to worsen more than it otherwise would have. Act now.
Birds can be your greatest enemies. They have such a predisposition to fly up when alarmed. If you can avoid alarming them you should. Flying is such an energy demanding pursuit that birds only take flight at need. You have surely noticed how many birds starve to death each winter as compared with other sorts of creatures? As I said, the demands of flight are huge.
Mind you it must be a marvelous thing to be able to do. It is hard to imagine how once having mastered it anything could possibly give up its obvious pleasures and practicalities, as the dodo and the moa to name a couple clearly did. Oh well. Of course their startle response to something large moving near them can also be put to your advantage. You must have noticed how various birds, particularly pigeons, kookaburras and the various magpies give a clear warning that a deer is passing by where they are – somewhere up front of you?
It will be moving away from you. As it is passing them, this gives you a line of its travel. It is not much troubled yet and will quickly settle again. You could note the line it is taking, estimate where it will stop, wait a little while till you are sure it would have settled, then begin a circuitous approach. it will definitely be watching its back trail so you must approach from some other downwind direction which offers good cover.
I like to get up above the stream to about the height I reckon deer will be bedded at that time of day and year, and just gradually work my way (into the wind) crossing from gully to gully. I enjoy walking all day anyway and would be bored (as well as cold) just sitting around waiting. Besides you see lots of interesting things moving along.
I guess you only get a shot at perhaps 20% of deer you put up in this way, and they are often up and off in a hurry if you are not particularly careful about how quiet you are being, which I am usually not any more - as I really just enjoy the walk these days, and usually have a Jack Russell or two for company, so that there's not much point in being quiet anyway.
In such circumstances it is usually snap-shooting through bush where the first shot is the only one that counts, so the rifle probably goes up at least half a dozen times between shots. I like to do a complete circuit of a large valley in this way during the day and finish up somewhere near where I began - to camp on the flats at the bottom with a nice warm fire and just the stars and the dogs for company. Something like this or this.
What to do when you see a deer. Maybe I can best illustrate this with this series of photos taken on my afternoon walk with the dogs yesterday (I know this is a small fallow stag; the same points apply to other species). The snaps are a little grainy due to the failing light:
If you come around the corner or over a rise and you see a deer in this position you must freeze. This one is about 250 yards away. Deer (likely) have better visual acuity sideways (unless you too have been hunted a lot). He will therefore likely notice any movement straightaway and react. He is quite relaxed, ears down. He is also too small to take except for the table where he should taste just about as good as lamb!
If you don't move he will go about his business - in this case feeding on some lush pasture. You can creep up quietly while his back is turned trying to keep as much cover as you can between him and you so that when he turns this way you can freeze but he will not be able to make you out as your outline will be broken up.
He is just going to continue to go about his cervine business. You could creep closer (as above) or creep along in cover out of sight then slowly pop your head up for a closer look. Of course I realise that right at the start he was close enough for a sure shot with a telescopic sight. I do not use them as they reduce the deer's ability to use its senses so are unfair. Now I will want to get to say within fifty yards for a sure shot with iron sights. Of course (when I was younger certainly) I could have shot him at 300 yards with iron sights without a rest - but we all get old! Hope you enjoy it as much as I do!
Now you see his head has come up (and his ears). He has noticed something (probably the two dogs who are romping in plain sight). If you saw him begin to do this you could slowly crouch over (reducing your threat level) and freeze. Don't look straight at him! Likely he will just remain attentive for a minute and go back to grazing - in which case you can resume your stalk.
Now he is watching (the dogs) and listening intently. His muscles have tensed up ready for flight. If you are frozen (preferably in a bent over position), and you don't have two dogs running around, he will still most likely quieten down again and resume feeding. Wait. If you had not alerted him to this level, you could likely have crept up to inside 20 yards of him (using cover), being dead quiet and being very patient (and so long as you are downwind). He stood like this for over a minute watching the dogs fool about, then decided to slowly sneak off into the trees. BTW: For some bizarre reason fallow stags seem always to have their pizzle hanging out like this.
PS: Another of my 'apprentices' recently took his first sambar stag, a small spikey. This is a significant achievement and no doubt will be the first of many, as he has learned a lot. As he is also a qualified chef, I think the family will be delighted with this addition to their larder:
PPS: Amerindians had a custom of 'counting coup' eg on their enemies (instead of killing them), so that they would show their bravery and skill by coming close enough to touch them. This might be a good idea to practice on deer as in this video kindly sent to me by a young friend:
I think this poor young stag has been blinded in a fight - damaged optic nerve probably; maybe hearing impaired too. We had a ram which this happened to a few years ago (always your best ram, dammit). The ram did not recover or survive. I think you would have a bit more difficulty having a stag stand for this kind of treatment, but why not give it a try?
Stags can also get tangled when fighting, though I think this is much less likely with sambar due to their fewer points than might be the case with red or fallows. I was trying to find an example of this when I found this interesting footage from somewhere in Fiordland:
14/06/2018: Boastful food shots: Della: 'I have generally eschewed these on FB, but this one is a little different from the norm, I think. Nothing flash, not the good china, not the expensive restaurant, just what I dished up for Steve and myself for tonight's tea after a latish walk with the dogs. As a somewhat hit-and-miss vegie gardener, I often do a mental stocktake of the origin of what is on my plate. Tonight's result was a pleasing one (though not untypical): lamb backstrap from our paddocks (marinated in our home-grown rosemary, garlic and lemon juice - olive oil and salt as ring-ins), home- grown beetroot, parsnips and silverbeet with purchased fresh corn and canned beans. I could have selected all home-grown vegies to prove a point, but this is just a random, typical meal, and I had no prior intention of doing anything other than eating it. I take more pride in this humble home-cooked meal (is that an accidental oxymoron?) than in the fanciest of restaurant offerings.'
PS: We have been mostly self-sufficient at least since we bought our first little farm back in 1976. We have also done all our own car repairs (and most other repairs), made many of our own clothes, even our furniture. In fact we built the house we live in with or own hands, even making the mud-bricks it is constructed from ourselves. Every saw cut, every nail driven was done with one or other of these two pairs of hands. We may not have made much money over the nearly fifty years we have been together, but we have saved a lot by such economies and can afford to live modestly on our own means, a virtue which we think is to be encouraged!
13/06/2018: What to include in a wilderness cache: I have a number of favourite spots I visit every now and then sprinkled around the Gippsland bush mainly far from roads. Many are on the other side of large rivers which sometimes rise unpredictably and can cut you off for many days from ‘civilisation’ – whatever that is.
Here I was two days ago just finishing a visit to two of them in the Wonnangatta Station before the gates are closed till November. This is last crossing (of seven) before you begin the truly terrible climb up the Hernes Spur.
And here I was in the same spot (just behind the car) putting the pack raft in back on 17 Dec 2017. What a lovely trip that was: http://www.theultralighthiker.com/wilderness-siligloo/ See also: http://www.theultralighthiker.com/pack-rafting-the-remote-wonnangatta/
Frankly I feel much more ‘civilised’ when I am alone in the bush than when I am thrown together in some urban crowd, but each to his own I guess. In the event I do find myself isolated by floodwaters for example when I may rather be at home, something which has happened to me on more than one occasion, it is comforting to know that I have a stash of necessities which will see me through such a situation safely and in some degree of comfort.
Because I often hunt/camp many days from my car there are many other mischances where I may find such a stash a great solace. If I should lose my pack for example several days from my vehicle, I would be most distressed. The closest I came to this was having lunch high up. My pack nearly rolled down a slope where it would have lodged high in a tree well out of my reach. One can imagine your pack disappearing off the edge of a cliff into the sea (this nearly happened to us on the South Coast Track, Tasmania (http://www.theultralighthiker.com/south-west-track-tasmania/ & http://www.theultralighthiker.com/tasmanias-south-coast-track-hells-holiday/ or being swept away by a raging river, falling down a (mine) shaft, &etc.
I have also had the misfortune of having other people interfering with my gear over the years. Someone stole a paddle for example I had left underneath my canoe on a multi-day hunting/canoeing trip. Once I had my front hub locks stolen from my locked vehicle on a very long steep slippery $WD track. Twice folks stole my radio tracking collars from my hounds (which i noticed when i was putting the dogs back in the truck). I had then to go and hunt for the collar with my tracking antenna. Of course it was moving In each case and I needed to holler out something like, 'If you don't put the collar down I will shoot' or I would not have got it back. Lots of folks have had similar experiences, I’m sure.
This is why I like to go as far away from where there will be other people as I can. Even though you hope to leave such perils of ‘civilisation’ behind, the barbarians are ever ‘at the gate’. I am also always mindful that I might come back to my camp to find it ransacked by wild dogs, or (unlikely) that my smouldering fire has managed to creep along the ground and burn my tent down! In all such circumstances having a cache is a handy back up.
Another reason to have such a stash is if you plan to winter hunt beyond a seasonal road closure such as applies in many Alpine areas of Victoria. This can be the best time to be there, not only because you will be more likely to have the place to yourself, and the animals settled down into a tamer state, but because winter camping is just so much better than summer camping (but you need a warm mat).
A winter fire serves so much more of a useful purpose without endangering the bush to the risk of wild fire. Because the winter air is cold and dry (and winter is the driest season), the skies are most often shot by the most brilliant display of stars you ever saw lighting up the frigid nights. A veritable Aladdin’s Cave entertains your every night.
For that reason I leave a canoe drum or more in strategic spots where I can easily find them again, but where they are unlikely to be stumbled on by even the keenest-eyed hunter. Some folks say they bury their stashes but I do not. I doubt they do either. I usually tie the drum up under a pile of logs somewhere so that wombats etc will not roll them away. Obviously I place them well above the highest point to which floods in the past have come in that particular locale.
I find you can fit 8-10 days food in each drum, plus a shelter (such as Brawny's or mine), fire lighting materials, small billy, a couple of cups, plates and spoons and a metho burner (plus a litre of meths). A small cheap blade is always a good idea (as is something to whet it with. Enough tissues and wet ones for a fortnight is a great idea. When I drank I used to decant some overproof rum into a 500 ml bottle. A tipple of rum on a chilly night warms the cockles. I think a couple of survival blankets or bags is good too - or a Blizzard Bag if you can afford it. A fishing line and a small frypan may come in handy (or some heavy weight Alfoil such as barbecue dishes available in the supermarket are made from) - for cooking fish or venison. A jack saw blade with two attached large key rings will fit around the inside of the lid. Such an impromptu saw can come in handy. When I get round to making some up, I think a 'fire umbrella' would also be good in case you are stuck there with rain for ages.
Of course the food I leave is all dried or canned with long 'use-by' dates. The canned food is usually tuna/sardines to add a bit of protein to a dehydrated meal. The Hormel Bacon is good for this too. Everything is in sealed plastic or Alfoil packages which will not absorb water (you might be putting the tarp away wet sometime). I may not after all get round to eating it this year, though I plan to. I would want it to be safe in a few years time.
Snap lock bags are not impervious to water. Dehydrated contents will absorb water through them if it is there to be absorbed. Oven bags are better. Just twist the ends around tightly a number of items and seal with a wire bag tie or similar. A pack of dry biscuits such as Vita Weats will keep well in them (and a jar of peanut butter goes well with them as do many spreads). Grains and pulses (such as McKenzies) will remain edible for centuries - so do not get too carried away about those 'use by' dates, but do make yourself aware of the causes of food poisoning.
I choose Carmen's Porridges for breakfast (with canned powedered milk). The former will not spoil in their foil wrappers, and the milk will be fine until it is opened and can be decanted into snap locks.
Some places I have two or even three drums so I have many more 'luxuries' there. You have no doubt seen photos of some of my larger fire shelters which half a dozen could enjoy together. For example, a hammock is great for a relaxing lie in the sun on a warm day. Even an emergency pack raft can be left here and there eg for getting the meat out in the winter time. Some spare ammo can also come in handy - but you'd better not leave your name on the drum!
On this trip I left two drums containing 8 days food each approximately four days walk apart and around three days walk in from where my car will be in the winter time. I expect I will go in there later on in the season for 2-3 weeks by myself, or for half that time with a companion - if someone foolish enough turns up!
13/06/2018: Blizzard Bag: A cheap lightweight reusable waterproof sleeping bag/shelter which will save your life in an emergency. I have had one of these in the bottom of my day pack for over ten years. To date (fortunately) I have never had to use it, though I have come pretty close a number of times. By the same token I had an elastic bandage, a sling, painkillers and anti-inflammatories in my bag for thirty years before they were needed (when Della dislocated her shoulder on the Dusky Track, but when I did they certainly were needed (as well as a helicopter, and a couple of ambos). It does not hurt to be prepared as Baden Powell used to say. If you had been at Mafeking you might have thought the same!
I have their original one https://www.blizzardsurvival.com/product.php/100/blizzard-survival-bag which weighs 385 grams and has a TOG (a thermal rating somewhat like the R-rating) of over 8. This is akin to a pretty warm duvet or doona. I don't say that you will be comfy and cosy in midwinter in the Gippsland bush or if you become lost on the snow fields but you will very likely survive a cold night - which is surely a lot better than being dead. Costs UKL33.25. I know this may be more than your life is worth! Perhaps you should consider buying one of these before you eat out at that expensive restaurant or buy that new 4WD!
They also have a number of lighter weight options. This one which has the same TOG rating (8): https://www.blizzardsurvival.com/product.php/111/blizzard-survival-blanket-small It weighs 320 grams and costs UKL22.50. Probably a better option. Why not buy two?
And this interesting poncho shelter which weighs 480 grams and costs UKL48.25: https://www.blizzardsurvival.com/product.php/104/blizzard-rescue-jacket I have one of these which I really must shrink back into a usable size with my vacuum cleaner!
The idea of Reflexcell™ was conceived 15 years ago when the founder and managing director of Blizzard Survival, Derek Ryden, realized that outdoor enthusiasts and professionals needed something more effective than plastic bivvy bags and lighter than conventional sleeping bags.
As a rough guide, if you are wearing the type of clothes appropriate for the season and you make some effort to find a sheltered spot and put some insulation underneath you, then in spring, summer and autumn you should be warm and comfortable. In winter you may not be so comfortable, but you should be able to survive for several days in all but the most extreme conditions.
Surprisingly strong. Single layer reflective blankets are very fragile because they are easily punctured, and once a tear has started to develop, it rips right across the material. This doesn’t happen to Reflexcell™ material because:
11/06/2018: Everyone Loves a Good Fire: Certainly Della and the two dogs, Spot and Honey do. It’s been such a dry autumn that burning off has been postponed into early winter to prevent the risk of fire. This pile used to be a large cypress that needed to come down in my daughter’s front yard in Traralgon. Nearly 60 metres in all the loads on the Defender to get it her where it could be safely disposed of today.
How time flies for dogs. Honey will be 6 months old next week and looks like she might be going to be bigger than Spot. A little bit of Corgi in with that Jack Russell looks like too, but maybe just a type variation. She also looks like becoming the boss, poor Spot. Already 4 months since Tiny left us.
The quality of the shots is not great as they were taken on my old Samsung Galaxy S4 Mini (and the lens needed a bit of a clean too, by the looks). Maybe soon I will have a new phone such as the Atom.
09/06/2018: How many miles can you paddle in a pumpkin: This guy made 8.5 which is pretty awesome. What a wonderful addition to DIY watercraft this hobby is: https://www.ripleys.com/weird-news/aboard-a-gourd/
05/06/2018: Cold Season Pads: I have used the Thermarest Neoair Womens for years. It has an (insulation) R-rating of 3.9. I was quite warm enough in it at around zero Celsius with just a Columbia Silver Ridge shirt and trousers and a pair of thin (Holeproof Heroes) wool socks in my - 1C Montbell bag. If it got a little colder I might put on my down jacket as well.
My new Big Agnes AXL has a lower R rating (perhaps 3). Anyway at approx 4C a couple of nights ago I was still freezing with three layers of wool plus my down coat (upper) and a pair of long johns (as well as my Columbia trousers, a thicker pair of Wigwam wool socks together with down socks plus a neck warmer and an insulated hat. Though the mat is definitely more comfy than the Thermarest it just does not 'cut it' when it is cold. Della always claims to not be warm enough too. One R rating in a mat makes an awful lot of difference; I would not have believed how much.
I am now investigating an even warmer mat. There are very few (compact) mats which have an R rating over 5. The obvious 'go to' is Thermarest's X-Therm series at R 5.7. They roll up to almost exactly the same dimensions as the Womens but are about 100 grams heavier (430 grams). Mind you, weight wise this 90 grams 'investment' in warmth is a much better choice than trying to add more insulation and weight to go over you. To add 5C extra warmth on top will be more like 500 grams, but the two points of R rating will be more than 10 degrees Celsius.
As Jack Stephenson said, 'It’s good to minimize weight, but you can carry much more if you get a good comfortable night’s sleep...We often hear of people using short or narrow pads to save weight. When sleeping you need more insulation at your feet since you are no longer producing lots of excess heat in your legs and feet as you do when hiking. If your pad isn’t wide enough to support your arms when on your back you won’t be able to stay comfortable and won’t sleep well.' That first sentence is a gem. You should etch it into your brain.
Stephensons offer the only other real (compact) choice in cold weather mats, their Down-Filled Air Mat (DAM). You should really read their FAQ page: https://www.warmlite.com/product/down-filled-air-mattress/ A 5'6" DAM (their smallest) will weigh 18-20 oz (say 530-590 grams; there is a mis-print on their site) but it is 22" wide (your arms will thank you for that extra 2") and it is 4" thick compared to the X-Therm's 2 1/2". That gets back to that comfortable night's sleep which will see you with much more energy for hiking/hunting the next day! The R rating of the DAM is somewhere 5.5-15.5!
These photos 'borrowed' from Trailspace's excellent site (see below) show the 6'4" dam compared to the X-Therm Regular (20"x 72"). The 5'6" DAM which is all Della or I would need would be very much the same size as the X-Therm, but would add about another 100 grams (for comfort), and would be warmer. Of course the DAM would have to be stored inflated (as with other down things to preserve loft), and you need to inflate it with a bag or a 2 1/2 oz (inc battery) electric Microburst pump which is maybe a little less convenient.
PS: While you are over at Stephensons you should check out their bag 'system' and particularly their Vapor Barrier concept which prevents your sleeping bag from becoming heavier (and colder) from sweat.
Another pad to consider ( I own one and find it very comfy) but really much more suitable for car camping is Exped's Downmat 7 which has an R rating of 5.9. The packed size though is 24 cm x 15 cm so it is going to take up a lot of space in your pack.and it weighs 870 grams.
Yet another pad to consider - R Rating of 4.4 and weight of just over half a kilo (and costing only around A$100!) is this one: http://www.theultralighthiker.com/klymit-insulated-static-v-lite-sleeping-pad/
03/06/2018: Mattresses I have Known: I doubt anything else about camping has changed so much as sleeping. When I was a lad I always just slept on the bare ground. As a bit of a sissy, my only concession to comfort was to dig the traditional hip hole (which was derided by tougher-minded types) then maybe lean my head on something, a bag perhaps – or just my arm.
When I was very young my parents were itinerant beekeepers so we ‘followed the flow’ of honey all over the Western slopes and plains of NSW in an old ten-ton Chev truck, and sometimes a Willey’s Overland. Sometimes we towed a caravan but that was filled with beekeeping equipment (extractors and such). At night we camped in a duck tent usually on folding canvas army cots my mother set up for us. They could very cold if you didn’t have enough blankets under you.
My mother had a trick of folding blankets to make a bed, but I have forgotten it now; nor can I find any reference article explaining how it worked – but it did work very well, and the blankets never came untucked. There were never any sheets, I remember that. We slept in our clothes and those blankets could be quite scratchy.
This was all before I started school. I can remember three very vivid events from that era. Once we were camped out on the Dimbey Downs near Quirindi. During the night a large willy willy (a sort of mini-cyclone) came and lifted all the empty sixty pound honey tins off the back of the truck and scattered them for miles all over the blacksoild plains. We were days chasing them up, and never accounted for all of them. We all had to get out of bed and hang onto bts and pieces of the tent for dear life so it would not blow away too.
I remember the old black and tan hound Felix used to ride on the running board of the truck. It took a long while to climb over the steep twisting road up from Murrurundi to the pass at the top, and just about as long to creep down into Willow Tree. Old Felix used to take this opportunity to slope off, have a hunt then join us on the other side.
I can also remember once my grandfather was in the car with us. The roads used to go through a lot of properties then and there were usually gates which had to be opened and closed before stock grids were put in. Grandfather alighted to open a gate. Dad drove on to the next gate, then said to him, ‘George, are you going to get out and open the gate’. He usually rode in the back with us kids. Of course there was no replay as dad had forgetfully left him at the last gate!
Of course I grew up North of Sydney, so much of the year (along the coast) nights are quite balmy. You can often get by quite comfortably just sleeping on the ground in your clothes, perhaps zipping up your jacket. If you were sleeping on the beach as I often used to do perhaps after a night spent prawning or spearing flathead, warm dry sand made an excellent insulator.
Further inland, west of the Divide out on the black soil plains for example nights often get a bit more chilly. I spent many months out there at a time as a teenager droving sheep over a thousand miles at a time along NSW’s ‘Great Stock Routes’.
You would spend some time making up a ‘bough bed’ under a canvas tarp or the dray if it rained (the smell of fresh eucalyptus is most refreshing), or gather dry grass and ferns till you had a pile 6” to a foot deep as the nights can come in pretty close out there rolled in your blanket with the other end of the tarp thrown over you against the morning dew.
It was quite delicious to slumber under cloudless skies lit by a billion brilliant stars with only the curlew and mopoke for company – and a few thousand ‘jumbuks’. Usually there was a sheep dog to warm your back, one of the many unimaginatively named ‘Ring’ or ‘Ginger,’ ‘Nugget’ or ‘Blackie’. All are but memories now - along with the mates I went droving with.
Still the introduction of the cheap blue foam mat was a godsend. For one thing it wasn’t itchy! Laid on a 2” bed of grass or fern it created a level of comfort and luxury undreamed of hitherto, and it wasn’t itchy. It took me a long while before I was ready to carry one though, as they were so cumbersome when previously all you had to lug around was a pocket knife, blanket, tarp, billy, spoon and tucker bag – and obviously some tucker.
I often used to head off into the bush by myself for a night or two when I was at school. I can remember being rolled in my blanket camped under a rock ledge high on the Watagan mnountains near Newcastle on my bough bed when I first saw this: http://www.theultralighthiker.com/bright-sky-at-night/
About then I was just about to buy a ‘blue foamie’ when I noticed they were now selling inflatables which rolled up much smaller, though they were a tad heavier – well over 500 grams for an uninsulated pad - so I chose one of them.
Compared to today’s mats the ones I had weren’t exactly the acme of comfort. None of them was insulated. The first ones were just tube construction and were much like sleeping on a rail fence. The later ‘box’ construction ones were much better, but I never owned one of them until after I was married.
You can hardly take your new bride on a honeymoon sleeping on the bare ground. Being a city girl though Della had never seen the Milky Way (and was frankly astonished by it) or woken in the morning covered in dew! Nearly half a century later she is a country girl through and through, and still enjoys a night or a dozen under the stars – we have just spent a fortnight camping out around the Scottish Highlands.
The first insulated inflatable was made by the Stephensons: http://www.theultralighthiker.com/unsung-genius/ I never had one. Thermarest commecialised the idea (in open cell foam) and as they say, ‘the rest is history’. I had a range of Thermarests over the years.
Before I had a ‘bad back’ I could manage with a ¾ length mat, so for years my go-to mat was a 350 gram model of theirs which I even used in a hammock where it left a few bits and pieces a little chilly on a cold night. Now I find that having my legs drop down that inch or two just gives me a nasty lumbar pain so I choose a longer mat.
For car camping we had their longer models and even their ‘luxury’ 2” thick self inflating model (which took up a fair amount of the car)! You do get so used to these luxuries. Nowadays I am apt to think I will die if I just had to lie down for a night wrapped in only a coat or blanket straight on the cold ground as I did a thousand times when I was a youth, mostly too with no shelter overhead, just looking round for a bit of shelter if rain threatened: a rock overhang, a hollow log or tree, or a bolt of canvas draped over me.
It takes a bit more than that to kill a man though, so I would not. I have slept sitting up in front a of a fire on a snowy night well below freezing wrapped only in one of those ubiquitous 50 gram aluminium backed plastic space blankets, which I recommend you carry in your day pack if you wish to survive. It may not have been the most comfortable nights I have spent but all in all no worse than a long aeroplane flight such as that from Melbourne to Edinburgh which we just survived (both ways).
I really can’t imagine how people become ‘travel junkies’. I would not go (or have gone) if Della had not wanted to visit the land of her ancestors. And I would not go again. How people can tolerate so many other people everywhere they go is beyond me. I was not even tempted to travel down into England (where most of my ancestors originated). Just too many people everywhere.
My first insulated inflatable mat was a Big Agnes, the predecessor of their Air Core model with its ‘I-Beam’ construction. It was way ahead of the old tube type mattresses in comfort, plus you did not get a cold back on even the most freezing nights. My first one weighed over 600 grams but I was utterly rapt in its level of comfort. We found that we could fit on their ‘Petite’ (5’ long) models so this reduced our carry to nearer 500 grams which I thought would never be bettered. You did have to have them ‘right side up’ though, or they did not work – this may still be the case. To Americans, ‘right side up’ means ‘face up’ ie the product’s name should be on top.
Then Thermarest came along and revolutionized the field for years with their ‘NeoAir’ line of which the best representative (for me) was their Women’s model at 340 grams! I must have slept on mine nigh on a thousand times over the last ten years. It has a few pieces of sticky tape here and there where a thistle or a dog poked/chewed a hole in it, but it is still quite serviceable and has done double service most trips as a chair, and as a raft as well.
I also have their ¾ length model at 270 grams but as I said my back won’t let me really enjoy it otherwise it would always be in my hunting day pack along with my Montbell sleeping bag (500 grams), a Cuben tarp (150 grams), a puffer jacket, an ultralight billy and some tucker just in case I decided I was going to spend the night somewhere remote and promising.
Now I have Big Agnes’ new AXL pad which beats everything I have ever owned for comfort hands down. Their regular 6’ model weighs in at 300 grams yet is just under 4” thick, so you can really sink down into it. I somehow doubt anyone will better that, but I’m sure Thermarest (for one) are working hard on it. In the meantime, if you are in the market for a pad, try one of these.
PS: The illustration of a swagman's bag bed is just one of many similar types of bed which could be made simply with a few boughs and a couple of hessian bags. I particularly like the ingenuity of this one which makes use of another bushman's favourite: some fencing wire. You always used to find such beds in shearers' quarters and stockmen's huts. They should be on the National Trust as priceless relics of a bygone era. Jute or hessian bags were much more comfortable and serviceable (and recyclable) than today's ubiquitous poly bags. They were reused like this endlessly until they were no use save as tinder. A wet one was also excellent for helping put out a fire. Without them many more lives would have been lost during the 1939 bushfire, for example.
I was astonished that (such a) short stay only about one-third of the way up even a tall post such as used on deer fencing nonetheless maintained the wire at a much tauter strain than I normally apply worked so perfectly – but it does. The ‘poms’ have a thing or two to teach us yet.
30/05/2018: Verney Carron 'Stop&Go®': Considerable angst is being generated this morning about this ‘new’ action shotgun just as was present not so long ago about the Adler’s ‘new’ 150 year old action, and overlooking the fact that it is already available in shops as a ‘Speedline’ rifle.
The firearm in question ejects the spent shell ‘automatically’ using the firearm’s recoil (like a semi-automatic) but it does not reload itself (watch the video below). There is a bolt stop which you have to press to complete the reload before another shot is available at the trigger. This two-step process makes it pretty much the same as other manual loading firearms such as bolt, lever or pump action https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EMOABUq3FmQ
As a lever action hunting rifle devotee (because of its safety and speed at getting off the first and subsequent shots) I would buy an Adler- type shotgun for hunting (if I was in the market for a new gun – and when is this no the case; only when there is not enough money!) but I probably wouldn’t buy this ‘Stop&Go action type firearm because it is less safe to walk around with unloaded than a lever action.
However, as many shooters walk around most of the time with a round in the breech (and there is no legislation preventing this) relying only on the safety catch, I can’t see any additional problem with this ‘new’ action – indeed it is inherently safer than the previous strategy.
Of course there is also the point that it would only be sold to licenced shooters anyway, folks who already have controlled access to a whole range of potentially lethal equipment without there being much evidence that any of them ever abuse that access. On the other hand the public has uncontrolled access to a bewildering range of kitchen and gardening equipment which is regularly used to kill and injure people without anyone vociferously advocating bans on such things as knives and axes that I am aware of. Mostly I would much rather face a firearm in a public place than such a bladed weapon in a confined space, though I would rather face neither.
People are shot every now and then due to a failure of firearm’s safety (such as over-reliance on safety catches). This is tragic, but I doubt that many shooters would want further legislation to protect themselves from the occasional very isolated accident. Life is fraught with all sorts of dangers.
We once bought a farm cheaply as a deceased estate because the previous owner had choked to death on a boiled lolly. Obviously as I benefited I would not be advocating banning boiled lollies, but I doubt whether I could offer up a compelling argument for their prohibition even if I had not.
The photo is from one of my takes on tarp tents, try this $10 tent: https://www.theultralighthiker.com/poly-tent-by-the-ultralight-hiker-on-the-cheap/ I have been sleeping under tarps of various sorts for around sixty years - and i am still here, so why not try one?
28/05/2018: Corrugated Heat Diffuser, 3 grams. Sick of having to clean the burned bottom of your pot, particularly after a long simmer. Zelph has the answer. Place this underneath your pot above the burner. I’m afraid he doesn’t give any other clues to how it was made, but I’m sure if you have any experience in sheet metal work you will work something out. I imagine you could fairly easily make one out of a piece of aluminium flashing, or some titanium sheet. I hope he doesn’t mind my reposting his photo here: http://www.bplite.com/viewtopic.php?f=2&t=6449
28/05/2018: Freedom and the DIY Gunsmith: http://americandigest.org/wp/long-read-of-the-week-the-mathematics-of-countering-tyranny-by-james-wesley-rawles/ & https://survivalblog.com/building-your-own-no-ffl-ar-from-an-80-complete-receiver-by-jag/
26/05/2018: Happy Birthday Ultralight Hiker: Who would have thought three years ago today that this blog would have over 1100 posts, probably a million words plus of content, over 15,000 images, and so many followers - often more than one a minute!
My daughter Merrin launched it with this Facebook post back in 2015. She said, ‘Lately I have been working on a new website and Facebook page for my dad Steve's incredible Hiking Blog "The Ultralight Hiker". If you or someone you know is interested in hiking, canoeing, camping, hunting etc in Gippsland, Australia and New Zealand you might like to take a look or spread the word. The content has been years in the making so you will find hundreds of posts on everything from places to go, the best light weight equipment, inspiring explorers, wildlife and more. Visit: www.theultralighthiker.com for more! Thank you.’
Facebook also reminds me this morning that this was also the day three years ago when I published this story on Facebook and my old hiking blog: http://www.theultralighthiker.com/dusky-track-canoeing-the-seaforth/ What an adventure that was, but one I will probably not repeat if I want to continue breathing!
26/05/2018: Mighty Tiny Phone: Following the success of their ‘Jelly’ the smallest 4G smartphone, which is still available for US124.99 (May 2018) Uniherrtz have developed this little beauty the 'Atom' which comes with many other features (including now a really serious 16 meg camera).
If you remember the Jelly weighs only 60 grams and fits in the fob pocket of your jeans. The new model is even waterproof. There is a special 47% discount offer available now: https://www.ogadget.com/x1/atom#Join This could be the perfect phone for hunting or hiking when weight really counts.
I t worked just as well with a couple of 'O-rings' such as I usually use in my own head torch mod, but this has the advantage of preventing the reflection on your glasses you get from mine, so it is better in some ways.
25/05/2018: New Evidence of Fiordland Moose: Some time back I was contacted by a young journalist, Charlie Mitchell from Stuff, New Zealand. I helped him out as much as I could from my experiences. Over the last two days I have been thrilled to read and see what he has put together of the continued existence of this wonderful herd. There are other moose hunters out there as well. That is good news.
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 New Zealand. I will be having another crack at finding them myself if my fitness and finances hold up. I will keep you posted.
24/05/2018: A Cure for Slippery Mats: I have just spent a couple of weeks sleeping on my new Big Agnes AXL Air mat in Scotland. It is indubitably the most comfortable mat I have ever slept on, but it does suffer from being a tad slippery. I will be taking some of my own advice below.
Before you begin on anything more complex remember the problem can just be caused by an over inflated pad. For best comfort and stability the pad should be inflated just enough to keep your bum from touching the ground. That way your body sinks into the mat, making it comform to your shape. That is the secret of a comfy night’s sleep anyway.
The second secret to a perfect mat is to have it just about the length (and width) of your body. Any part of the mat which sticks out from your body will just fill with air which is not doing anything at all. In fact it is making the mat less comfortable as you will have to inflate it more so that your bum doesn't touch the ground. I recommend shortening your mat to exactly fit your needs. You will also save a couple of ounces doing so.
I would be a bit careful using such spray ons. Check them out on some cheap fabric first. Ideally you will want one which just makes the material of your pad slightly tacky (without increasing weight) and without attracting dirt! You will also want one which does not harm the pad.
23/05/2018: Lentil and Bacon Soup: Here is a simple tasty lentil soup (for those who don't like curry) made entirely from dry ingredients. I made some up for my lunch today and found it pleasant but perhaps a bit strong tasting. Next time i will go easier on some of the stronger ingredients such as the onion and garlic powder and the tomato puree. Still, it makes a meals big enough for two for just a few cents and is very light to carry.
17/05/2018: Car-Camper Conversion: $50: We have recently been on a car camping holiday in Scotland where we wanted to stay away from people as much as possible on such a crowded island, and save on accommodation costs by sleeping in the rental car wherever we could find a pleasant spot. The car we hired turned out to be a VW Golf which you might think would be a tad small for this purpose, but when the front seats are all the way forward and flipped over there is over 6' of room. All that was needed was to create a platform to fill up the well in front of the rear seats once they were folded down into the stowage position.
A 4' x 2' x 1/2" sheet of plywood from the local hardware and a few short lengths of 3" x 2" were all that was needed to create a platform with two legs which would support our weight. I had my trusty Fiskars pruning saw for this purpose and a $10 hammer. Then it was only a matter of rolling out the hiking mats and sleeping bags - and Voila! Our bedroom for the night. I just used some 3" flat head nails to assemble this but you could use the nail holes as guide holes for screws if you wanted a more secure permanent structure
And there we are, as cosy as. There was plenty of room too stow all our gear while we slept. We quickly got into a routine of knowing where everything went, and could be quickly in/out of bed and making a cuppa in the front seat with the car heater on those frosty mornings. We did not have to worry about rain/wind carrying off our small hiking tent or being bothered by strangers.
Then we were able to find some lovely private spots - complete with: 'A Flask of Wine, a Book of Verse — and Thou Beside me singing in the Wilderness — And Wilderness is Paradise enow'. — from The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam
This is where the other 'free campers' stop (on the island of Skye). You can find better places than this if you get off the main roads. It is quite lawful to car camp pretty much anywhere in Scotland at least. We more or less circumnavigated it - the best bits were definitely on the Borders.
We also carried a Sakura peltier-type cooler bag which kept our food and drinks adequately cool and we have a couple of gas burners for cooking and warming water for a Sea to Summit portable shower. I also cut down a 6' x 4' poly tarp into two pieces for standing on when we are getting changed and two strips to keep the rain out of the windows when we have them open about an inch of a night. All of this works very well. It is astonishingly easy to find free, private spots to spend the nights even in an island as crowded as the UK!
06/05/2018: Hello Possums: As Dame Edna would say...just installed some security cameras. This one shows our front gate. Pretty much as soon as it got dark our wild critters got very busy: one fox, two ringtails, two brushtails, two rabbits. Who know what will turn up as time goes by: https://youtu.be/BDcQRD4e-_s/
04/05/2018: These Jeans Will Outlive You: These jeans are 52% Dyneema which as everyone knows is stronger than steel. It is envisaged that you will never wear them out so that their high price of US$275 may well be justified: https://gearjunkie.com/outlier-dyneem-denim-jeans-review & https://shop.outlier.nyc/shop/retail/end-of-worlds.html
02/05/2018: The Littlest Hiker: My grandson Milo ‘intent’! I have raised or helped raise a tiny army of little hikers. Some advice: always move at the pace of the slowest ‘little hiker’. This is best achieved by having him/her out the front. Little hikers’ prefer to skip, dance or run than walk. (You also will benefit from changing your gait).
They are also particularly susceptible to ‘I Spy,’ ‘pick up sticks’ and ‘skipping stones’. Games of all sorts make life more fun no matter your age. Never forget the ‘little hiker’ in yourself! They will want to stop and look more than you usually do. The world is a newer place for them. It is a worthwhile trick for you to relearn too. There really is no reason to hurry. The journey is everything!
A jolly song will raise the spirits and keep them tramping happily along the trail. Here are some of Milo’s favourites: www.theultralighthiker.com/i-love-to-go-awandering-hiking-songs/ . If they begin to flag, grandad’s (any adult’s) shoulders are the best place to be, and a better view can be had up there.
Lightweight gear is specially important for tiny hikers. They can carry their own stuff, but keep it light and make it fun! For example, they will particularly enjoy lighting a fire. Knowing how to do so may save their lives one day, so do not stint on this game. A pack of marshmallows to roast on a stick might be a good thing to have in your pocket, apart from a cigarette lighter. PS: Always carry an umbrella. Rain is much more fun from under a roof!
Della: 'This week Steve has been putting the finishing touches to one of the ultralight tents he has been designing and making. Here is little Milo enjoying its aesthetic splendour in our garden while we were measuring and fitting its bathtub floor. (Thanks Merrin for the lovely pic!) Just some seam-sealing to finish today before it is packed into its bag weighing only about 650 grams including stakes and guys. Made from waterproof silpoly and silnylon it will keep us dry in the roughest of weather: Looking forward to enjoying this delightfully backpackable home-away-from-home! Sadly the Milo-accessory is not included, but we have some far-flung destinations in mind! '
02/05/2018: You have a lot to look forward to! I am certainly happier at 60+: NB To really enjoy these years you need to ramp up your physical activity: particularly leg work, strength and endurance – use it or lose it: https://nypost.com/2018/04/28/science-proves-that-happiness-begins-at-50/
01/05/2018: Ultralight Rain Gear: Our new Montbell raincoats and umbrellas have arrived just in time for testing on an upcoming trip. The two shown are Dellla's (modelled by our daughter, Merrin) in front of our Siligloo tent which we have been making a bathtub floor for. The coat is the Versalite Women's Medium (colour Mallard) which weighs 160 grams (on our scales). It s claimed waterproofness is 30,000 and breathability 43,000. Della is very pleased with it. It will save her a couple of hundred grams off her pack weight. Some of that saving will be taken up (on some trips) by her Ultralight Trekking Umbrella at 128 grams.
I have a matching jacket (Burgundy Mens XL = 200 grams) and an 'emergency' umbrella, their Travel Umbrella at 86 gram. Unbelievable. Yet durable too! It is a magical piece of gear which as to be seen to be believed - but a real life saver if you are ever stuck outside for a protracted period in freezing rain - something which can happen at any time of the year given the right (wrong) circumstances.
These items come highly recommendedby lots of other folk. We have heaps of other Montbell gear including their Ultralight Super Super Stretch Spiral Down Hugger #3 sleeping bags, Superior Down vests and coats,and Thermawrap vests and coats for example. Their gear has always been just about the lightest, best priced, and best gear we have found. The items are available in Australia from Larry Adler here.
28/04/2018: Ultralight Bathtub Floor: I have made an ultralight bathtub floor for my Siligloo tent in preparation for a trip we are soon taking. It replaces the piece of spinnaker fabric we have been using, adding less than 50 grams. You will remember that the Siligloo Tent weighed 385 grams when I made it. I have added some extra guys against really inclement weather which add less than 20 grams. This floor weighs less than 150 grams, so the total for the tent including stakes is less than 600 grams, but as you can see it is really huge! When I am bush camping I usually just use a couple of bush poles for tent poles.
You can see how much room there is with the two pads inside. The one on the right is the Thermarest Neoair Womens.The one on the left is my new Big Agnes Insulated AXL Air Pad (300 grams) and 3 3/4" thick! This is the most comfortable hiking pad i have ever owned. I could still cut it down by 6" to save 30 grams.
You can easily reduce the height of both poles if it comes in to rain. This will make sure you stay dry no matter how much rain thee is. I see no reason for doors - just something to go wrong. or insect netting. A head net and some insect repellent is all you need.
26/04/2018: Della’s New Camera: ‘Trying out my new camera today in the gloriously warm autumn light. Thank you Steve Jones for the great Mother's Day gift, and for allowing me to play with it ahead of time! The first pic was snapped on auto through the maple branches in our garden. No filter, only the warm glow of the autumn sun. Nice job, Panasonic TZ90! The second one does allow a little tweak with a Google filter to heighten the contrast and looks a little more special, I think. So, having tried auto mode, tomorrow I will play with the camera's 30x optical zoom...no privacy for the Jeeralang bird-life now!’ (Della) We can look forward to a veritable visual feast now!
26/04/2018: Fuyu: ‘Our Fuyu persimmon tree is loaded this year. The birds have started feasting on them so we picked the ripest and will finish them off inside. The tree is a young one so we haven't had enough of them to beat the birds before. They are firm but still edible at this stage, so hoping that they will ripen satisfactorily inside despite being picked earlier than optimal!’ (Della) We are going to try putting them in the fridge to keep them from spoiling and just taking out a couple each day to ripen on the window ledge.
26/04/2018: Why do I love my garden? Well, one of
the many reasons is that it is full of memories of wonderful fellow gardeners.
Today's pumpkin harvest is a perfect example! These are called "Greg's
pumpkins", a variety developed by Greg Roberts and given to me by Claire
Roberts 2 autumns ago to make a batch of pumpkin soup. They were so delicious
that I kept some seeds with the intention of planting my own. The seeds are
(typically) still in a jar but the excess seed waste must have survived in the compost bin and struck after I spread
compost on the asparagus bed last spring. So here they are today, ripe
pumpkins, a reminder of the late Greg's daily pleasure and industry in his own
beautiful garden! And whilst picking them and thinking of Greg, my thoughts
wandered amongst other keen gardeners who are also sadly missed but whose
memories are a constant presence in the garden plants they have given to me:
Mrs Sawyer who owned our farm from around 1900 to the late 1960s and planted
our treasured plum trees, our "helicopter tree" and our "naked
lady" and snowflake bulbs; Marg Davies from Tarwin Lower whose potato vine
has been a dominant feature of the garden for over 25 years; John Snell, whose
flowering dogwood, mock orange and violets are beautiful reminders of his joy
in gardens. A garden, you see, does not belong to just one person: It is a sum
of all its parts, and carries in its life force the memories and spirits of all
who contributed to its abundance and beauty.
Thanks, Greg Roberts, for the pumpkins and the memories!
22/04/2018: Trees and Tree Guards: This is a genius idea of Rowan Reid’s for cheaply planting trees in sheep paddocks. It will also protect them from wallabies. You can plant cuttings of willow/poplar for example in situ and clearly you will have a pretty decent sized tree in twelve months time particularly if you start with a large cutting in autumn.
The idea is simply a plastic tube (which comes in a roll) supported by a length of ¾” PVC electrical conduit and a couple of cable ties. Apparently stapling the guard to a short stake on the opposite side (bottom) to the conduit will improve air flow and prevent fungal damage from high humidity.
Because the guard is flexible sheep will not rub on it or stand on their hind legs to eat the tree which quickly grows out the top. Per tree this method initially costs only a couple of dollars – but the conduit can be used numerous times. I am off tomorrow to get some evergreen willow cuttings to plant my first 100 trees with using this method. This time next year I will show you how well they went.
20/04/2018: More Bird Brained Things: I have been making Della a non-fouling pigeon waterer. Given the huge number of people who are pigeon fanciers you would think such a thing would be widely available from pigeon suppliers but we have never been able to find one. I have made up two here out of some PVC guttering, a float valve and some hinges. I have used the metal gutter supports to sit them on. The bottoms are easy enough (just glue and drill) , but the lid needs you to cut down the guttering slip the cut off piece inside and rejoin it with pop rivets. You also have to cut down the end caps. An angle grinder makes this easy. You can just lift it out for cleaning every now and then I have spaced the drinking holes 3" apart which seems to work well..
I made the perch up from a piece of 3" x 1" treated pine and a length of 1/2" dowel. Invisible here are the 2" strip of aluminium flat bar (Bunnings) and galvanised gutter hanger it is sitting on. The hangers are screwed through the aluminium flat bar to the perch so that they fit tightly against the wire. Then you go inside and snip out the wire where the drinking holes are with a pair of side cutters. The perch is sitting out 3" in the centre of the piece of wood. Next one I will place the perch nearer the bottom of the wood for greater comfort. The birds took to it right away - which is unusual for pigeons who are usually desperately wary of novel things.
20/04/2018: Self Cleaning Pet Water Bowl: I posted this back in 2013 but somehow it did not make it to theultralighthiker It is a self-cleaning pet water bowl. It is a modification of a small animal watering 'trough' which you can buy at many rural supplies stores in Australia. As you can see a timer empties the bowl (as often as desired) and it refills with a float valve (you could add a tap or another timer here to better regulate it).
I have used a ¾” ‘Yorkshire’ copper elbow, some ¾” rubber hose and some ¼” micro irrigation outlets to help ‘flush’ the bowl. You could make the anti-drowning feature out of stainless mesh - standard galvanised 1 cm bird mesh shown. It turned out not to be needed by lorikeets who enjoy a swim without it and have no problem getting in and out when wet.
This has worked well for messy birds (such as Della’s Dusky Lorikeets) and would also be good as a dog waterer on the verandah. We have had it installed in Della's lorikeet cage for five years now. Obviously the timer is on the outside of the cage so the birds don't interfere with it, so there is a bit of pipework (both in and out) not shown in the photo.
It has worked flawlessly to keep these exceedingly messy birds' water pristine. I set it to flush 4-6 times a day for a couple of minutes each time. These 'cheap' timers have needed to be replaced a couple of times - mostly because lorikeets keep tossing all sorts of objects into their water bowls!
What you see here is a short section of rubber tube to join the Yorkshire elbow to the length of poly pipe, three hose clamps, and six microjets. All this fits neatly under the metal plate which protects the float valve. This drinker comes with a 3/4" threaded outlet at the bottom.
16/04/2018: ‘Hunting Desperadoes’: I have been a deer hunter for nearly 40 years. Spotlighting deer was outlawed in 1975 yet there are still drongos endangering the public and breaking the law in this fashion but these evil scum knocking a man down on a country road and leaving him to die are too vile to contemplate. There would likely have been at least two of them in the car. One of these evil cowards should long ago have come forward to take his punishment. They should lock these guys up and throw away the keys. Not only do they bring the hunting community into disrepute, they shame the entire human race: http://www.news.com.au/lifestyle/real-life/news-life/cryptic-last-words-of-man-killed-in-hit-and-run-lead-police-to-illegal-deer-hunters/news-story/1035d4177cf39c15523d33bd39a12ce2
15/04/2018: The Deer Hunter’s Apprentice #1: I’ll probably never stop taking in stray kittens even though I tell myself I will, and know that all the love and care you lavish on them is only preparation for the day they meet their ultimate roadside, still…
Over the years I have taken dozens and dozens of aspiring youngsters deer-hunting, and practically every day I receive a message seeking advice, or asking me to recommend a spot or to take someone somewhere. Mostly I don’t, (‘No company is better than bad company’ – as I’ve said before) but sometimes I weaken. So, I have been up the bush for a week with a young fellow keen to learn a thing or two about hunting deer.
I frequently get messages like this, for example, ‘I've gotten into going after sambar. I found tons of fresh deer tracks, droppings and beds. Followed tracks for hours, searched east facing slopes in mornings and near creeks in the arvo but couldn't find any deer. I was just wondering if you could give me a tip or two about what you look for once you know a deer is in the area/you've found fresh sign? Also what do you think I should look for in terms of environment deer would be in?’
I own that I used to be a better teacher (before I gave it up - is it really nearly thirty years ago?). I no longer have/had so much patience or good humour I guess - and now I have become over-fond of my own company. Mine and a Jack Russell or two (or my wife, Della) at most I guess, and maybe one or two of the truly great story-tellers on the e-reader on my phone: Dickens or Conrad perhaps?
So, I let someone tag along with me, then forget to talk. Having been alone most of the last thirty years it's no surprise My eyes are used to taking in every clue, my ears every sound (well, nowadays they have to be much louder ones), and my nose drinks in every odour of the bush. Decades ago I developed the ability to track and locate a deer (stags particularly) just by smell, though I usually only do so out of curiosity. I am in an instant transfixed when I catch the pungent scent of stag upwind as has happened so many, many times. I cannot resist the urge to drift up that scent to where he lurks. You should always follow your nose.
So many tips I could have been passing on, but I found myself just silently sliding along through the bush with the young fellow tagging, failing to point out a thousand things he should know. Oh well, I hope he enjoyed the week anyway.
At the outset I just forgot to point out all the browse for example, something that I have long since just taken in ‘on automatic’ so to speak. You know the sort of ‘invisible’ things perhaps. No, not the blackberry browse. Sambar really only browse that when they are relatively short of feed. They have many more favourite things. They suck the fruit from coprosma for example, so it is their absence which stands out. You can see all the fruit missing from just their height.
They love fruit just like most of us, and they adore lush pasture plants such as clover as much as any jumbuk ever birthed. Coprosma branches they run through their mouths, rolling the ruby pea-sized fruits to the back of their tongue as they go. If you are following closely you will sometimes see how the foliage and the prickles even are still damp with their saliva, and how they have dribbled a trail of spilled berries out - like Hansel and Gretel. If you collect a small handful yourself sometime you will soon appreciate why they do so. There are not so many delicious treats in the Victorian bush! 'Prickly' are good. 'Sweet' even better. Coprosma I mean.
But, first things first. I honestly don’t know how to re-train someone to walk quietly. So many folks have spent good money at their local shyster outfitter and have a tonne of expensive gear and a huge hole in their bank balance. (Why I wrote this post recently: http://www.theultralighthiker.com/ultralight-hiking-on-a-budget/). The trouble with that tonne of gear is it makes you a clod-hopper even if you had learned to walk quietly.
You know, starting with those $500 ‘must-have’ ‘bulletproof’ 1 kg ea waterproof (unbelievably - how does anyone come to believe they are going to maintain dry feet deer hunting?) hunting boots for example - which almost certainly will not grip on wet rock, twigs or bark. It’s probably just about impossible to walk quietly in such boots. Please, try not to buy them. If you have a light pair of (non-waterproof) sneakers already, try them out first.
There are almost certainly better ones for the purpose than the ones you already own – but maybe not. At least you are used to them, and know they will not rub! Or fall apart or perhaps tip you on the back of your neck in a twinkling. Probably you also know that they will not weigh like lead when they are a bit wet. I know they will not protect your feet as well, but you should not be hurrying anyway, and you should be paying attention to where you put your feet in the first place.
I suppose you have all seen John Clease’s ‘Silly Walks’ skit from the Monty Python show. Nothing will prepare you better for the knowledge that there really are lots of ways to walk. I am an elderly man now, but unlike other old men I do not totter, shuffle or walk on my heels. You have to some significant spend time at squats, lunges, balancing etc if you are to preserve the strength and flexibility of your legs. Most do not, and it is incredibly apparent.
Do, before it is too late! A couple of hours at day at very least. The saying 'bend your knee to no man' is a falsehood. You should keep your knees bent. indeed never straighten your legs at all. That is what leads to all the problems with knees, hips, back. The infernal jarring of bone on bone because of such a silly habit. Maintain the spring in your step with a knee like a bow!
You should resist the temptation to ‘kick back’ and ‘take things easy’. Whether that leads to an earlier grave is moot, but it will certainly soon limit how interesting and varied your life is. If you want to stay home and bore yourself silly watching TV, go for it! I forsook asking my contemporaries to come hunting or go for long walks, canoe trips etc with me twenty years ago, when they could no longer do so anyway.
(I have to apologise to him for leading this young fellow on several days' walk of 25 km or more each with loaded packs through the trackless bush. I was just not thinking it would tire anyone!) Myself, I would rather my ancient bones glinted in the dappled sunlight under some tree fern in a distant gully than that I died blubbering and drooling back home in bed.
If you have soft light shoes and not too much weight on your back you really should not find it too hard to learn to walk quietly. Well, silently. The main two secrets are: eschew those macho giant strides. Mince. I know short steps might make you feel effeminate. Get over it. Surely you know already what your gender choice is, and do not care a hoot what others might think.
You could also (if you choose) let go that affected baritone voice that has given you a hoarse throat the last thirty years. If anyone thinks you are not ‘manly’ because you are a natural tenor (or higher), that is their problem. Your voice might even become less a monotone if you follow this advice.And you might sing somewhat prettily around the campfire at day's end - if that is your wont!
So, shorter steps lads. Second, and give up that stiff-legged ‘habit’ of walking on your heels. It is why you have sore knees, hips and back anyway – if you are old enough to have ruined them. You have been wearing out your joints by standing on your bones rather than on your muscles. You must learn to creep along on the balls of your feet. 'Dig' your toes in. After a time it will become ‘second nature’.
Spend a little more time paying attention to where you are placing your feet. So much easier if you lead with your toes. You really don’t want to be letting off rifle-shot sounds every other stride by breaking every single branch which lies on your route. If possible, break none! Thinner shoes will help with this. The Topos for example. If you do loudly snap a twig. Stop. Stand totally still for two minutes. Every eye (and ear) is turned in your direction.
Vary your pace. Pause a lot. There is nothing attracts attention to a sound (save its loudness or its juxtaposition, ie its ‘out-of-place-ness’) than its regularity. You must all have heard something crash off in the shrubbery. Didn’t you pay careful attention to that ‘Thump…thump…thump’ to ascertain whether that invisible fleeing creature was a macropod – ie a wallaby or a roo?
And make use of cover. If you haven't noticed the deer doing it yet, you haven't observed many - you know how hard it is to see the deer which just honked at you. Almost to the last whisker s/he is standing stock still behind a tree or bush. So, as you 'scan' a new field of view (emerge from a thicket, come around a corner or over a rise for example) do so slowly so that your eye can take it all in - which takes longer than you think, rather like the 'Where's Wally' children's books!
President Teddy Roosevelt (a truly great hunter – read some of his books) once said ‘speak softly, and carry a big stick.’ If he had been giving advice about hunting rather than foreign policy, he would have said ‘walk softly and carry a big gun’. He gave a speech for over an hour by the way after he was shot once in the chest himself - and survived. Quite a guy. I love the film 'about' him (amongst other things eg Barbary Pirates), 'The Wind and the Lion'. You will too. Watch it. Candice Bergman was delicious! Or Sean Connery too!
BTW: About that gun: It only really needs to be a single shot. One well-placed shot is enough. A single shot rifle will teach you care and patience. Certainly though, you should ‘walk softly’. I use a lever action so that my gun is never loaded, but I can get a shot off very quickly, albeit noisily at need. It will take practice.
Incidentally, the less weight you put on your feet as you set them down, (ie the more you 'glide') the less effort walking is. You will find that you can effortlessly walk twice as far! Emulate that cat. It is a matter of balance which so many folk ignore. The better your balance the fewer falls you will have too.
Hiking poles play merry hell with one's balance. Walking sticks are a geriatric's tool really though they certainly make walking easier and prevent falls. Give a pair to your Nan! Or better still ballet of karate lessons. I carry a shortened pair (which fit in my pack) for walk-outs. If you are carrying a very heavy load they are a blessing.
Next, just as there are lots of ‘Silly Walks’, there are lots of ways of seeing. Most are just one kind of blindness or another. Some ways of seeing become semi-automatic after a time, so it is hard to explain. For example, in the beginning you will no doubt be paying lots of attention to deer tracks – and other tracks.
An aside: You know how lots of creatures love the same water-hole. It has ever been a predator’s strategy to lie in wait by the waterhole (by ‘the great, grey green greasy Limpopo’ - Kipling, ‘The Jungle Book’, or elsewhere) and wait for dinner to perambulate towards him. Personally I haven’t the patience for that. I love to be about seeing and doing, and have long since shot more creatures than I want to anyway.
You must have sometime followed a game trail to a watering spot by a lake, creek or river. There you will have found many different sorts of tracks: deer, roos, wombat, birds, goannas, wild dogs etc. I’m sure you have looked carefully at all those wild dog tracks and ascertained that they all have claws. Not one large pad was ever made by a large ‘dog’ with retractable claws – yet folks who rarely venture into the bush are forever seeing ‘black panthers’ – and Yowies! Astonishing!
To continue: An almost irresistible early ‘habit’ is to pay attention to deer tracks, which is natural. Mind you, no-one ever saw a deer by following its tracks. It is just too hard to look in two places at once. It will not be standing in the tracks you are looking at. To see the deer you need to look up! However, you also need to pay attention to which way it went in order to be looking in the right direction. It is a bit of a conundrum!
You will develop the habit of seeing ‘the line’ the deer has taken. It too has its own ‘silly walk. Its stride has a metronomic regularity. You can better tell just how big it is by the length of its stride than the size of its feet. Just like people, the same sized deer have different sized feet, but a deer with a longer stride is obviously a bigger deer. I have followed a deer for several kilometers (because I could not believe it!) whose stride was longer than I could pace – so close to a metre! What a monster!
So, you don’t need to ‘see’ every footprint to perceive the line the deer has taken, and be able to ‘project it forward…so that it either angled this way or that. Oh, up ahead there is a scuff just in the right place there, so look out that way. After a time you will be able to follow the line of tracks without looking down. You have to train your eyes (and yourself) to do this.
A similar sight-training exercise: It should be no surprise that deer (usually) see you first. That’s why the first thing you often ‘notice’ is the deer honking at you (happily) or simply crashing off in the distance (alas). Of course they live in the bush (which you don’t) and have (lots of) predators which you also don’t – else you would have better manners! Deer have the ability to look right through the bush which is largely invisible to them.
You can develop this ability. For example, if you live in a town (poor thing) and have acquired the habit (you should) of every day taking an evening walk, then you are probably walking past a lot of picket fences. Discretely develop the habit of becoming a ‘Peeping Tom’. Yes, seriously. When you are standing still, focus through the cracks or gaps in the fence between the pickets into the people’s yards. Keep looking into the yard and slowly begin walking. You will notice that you can still see into the yard and that the fence has effectively disappeared.
You can do the same thing when you are driving (certainly when you are a passenger) by focusing through the fringe of trees and vegetation which makes up the roadside verge into the paddocks beyond (or through a hedge if you are in the city). After a while you will be able to see the entire contents of the paddock without paying any attention at all to the intervening vegetation. That is what a deer is doing all the time. It is ever looking through the bush.
Once you have quite mastered this knack. It takes some conscious effort. And will confound your friends who will think you have developed X-ray vision like Clark Kent’s alter ego. You will begin to see lots of deer (and other creatures) which were invisible before. It has the added advantage that you will also be able to much more clearly see the ‘lie’ (or ‘fall’) of the land so that you can plan your route more intelligently to consume less effort and encounter fewer obstacles. Finding your way, and your way back will also be enhanced. (These links are just some of the woodlore you should try to master).
Oh, and this particular 'deer hunter's apprentice' should understand that the remarks herein were not addressed to him. He is instead the origin of the idea for the article. And, he was good company, and will get to come again!
- Written on a wet afternoon when I had a sore ankle - else I would be out doing. Still, it is clearly now the autumn break, so time to clean up that rifle, break out the kit and plan the next hunting expedition!
I borrowed my son-in-law Matts’s Zpacks Arc Zip just so I could try it out. I loaded it up with about 10kg of stuff I would usually carry for a trip of about a week I guess and went for a five mile (8 km) walk in a local pine forest. Just the other day on our walk there was a beautiful sambar deer and her youngster just standing at the other end of the dam behind me – and do you think I had a camera? Sure. They really are water deer. They love water plants, cumbungi and such. On this occasion I did have my camera.
I guess this is about the lightest frame pack you can get. 595 grams (and 55 litres) in this hybrid cuben fabric which seems plenty tough enough to me, and is a good colour for deer hunting as that orange really stands out to other hunters, but you might chose their larger (62 litre) model one in Dyneems which would weigh 680 grams if you were going on a very long trip or had a lot of meat to carry out for instance.
The 50 litre (539 gram) Arc Scout model would suit Della as it is especially designed for smaller folk. She is just on 5 foot, but their Nero pack at 38 litres and 309 grams might actually suit her better for most trips where she does not need to carry much gear. It would also suit me as an overnight or a day pack.
I’m not sure you can see how the mesh panel holds the pack away from your back, so there is some ventilation and you don’t get that dreadful wet hiker’s back. This suspension system also makes the pack very comfortable too. I found the pack tucked right into the small of my back perfectly. I really didn’t need to cinch the waist belt up at all (or the chest strap) to get that weight transfer downwards, which is a truly remarkable piece of design. Congratulations Joe!
I guess you have figured that this is the ‘Zip’ model. I’m sure Joe has chosen nothing but the very best zips, but I am terribly hard on equipment, and chary of zips. I have managed to destroy a number of packs over the years, so I don’t think I would go for a Zip model myself even though no doubt it would be more convenient to load/unload perhaps, especially if you were using it mostly for travel. I am pretty organized with where everything goes in my pack, so that I never need something from the bottom anytime during the day.
This particular version would be extremely waterproof (from rain) though, so that you might not need a pack liner bag – though I always use one anyway against those occasions when you have to swim. Such things happen to me anyway. There is a point of ingress for water where the hydration tube is meant to exit the body of the pack. I never use one, so I might order mine to not have this feature, if possible – or I would tape it over.
You can certainly see the mesh panel here. The panel can be tensioned more or less giving you just the ‘Arc’ your back needs (probably more than I have here). The length can also be adjusted up or down somewhat. Still, your lower back is pressing up against the waterproof back of the pack so that you are going to get damp just there. To prevent this if I was making the pack I would have included a pad pocket such as Gossamer Gear packs have so that I could use their new airflow sit pad to help with the dry back problem.
I think this Zpacks Arc Blast pack design would be just excellent for a deer hunting pack particularly the Dyneema model if you plan to carry a lot of gear – or deer! You can order the ‘Haul’ in orange or green for example – either one would be suitable.
I am personally sorry he has stopped making the original ‘Blast’ pack (which I still have in grey dyneema. With all the ‘bells and whistles’ on it weighs just under 400 grams and totes 54 litres. I have used it on 10 day+ trips where I carried all my own food and gear, finding it more than ample.
Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. Zpacks could have done something like what you see on the pack below (which is a Montane UltraTour 55) – just to ‘dehydrate’ the bits which touch your back.
As you can see the triangle of mesh is enclosed by some kind of super-wicking mesh and is both ridged and impregnated with holes so that the sweat has somewhere else to go. I don’t actually know how well it works. Della has ordered a Montane pack in her size from Backpacking Light which is taking a long time to come from England, so when it does, we shall see.
Nonetheless, I think my son-in-law Matt’s Arc Zip will give him many years of faithful service in the sambar deer forests of Gippsland – and elsewhere. It is certainly very difficult, if not impossible, to find such a well-designed and solidly made pack which weighs in at under 600 grams, will last for years putting up with substantial abuse, is comfortable to carry and capacious. Highly recommended. For myself, well, I don’t need a new pack. Joe’s old ‘Blast’ pack is still going strong after tens of thousands of trail miles. I do, however ‘need’ a new hunting day pack. My old one is looking pretty trashed. This Della, is a hint!
14/04/2018: Wow! Hubble Finds An ‘Einstein Ring’: https://wattsupwiththat.com/2018/04/13/the-hubble-space-telescope-finds-an-einstein-ring/ How long before they find a Dyson Sphere: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dyson_sphere
14/04/2018: Della: 'A lovely welcome at our front gate tonight after a counter meal at the local. Poor photo quality due to only having my phone to hand. Tawny Frogmouth? If so, I have heard it on the edge of my sleep for years too numerous to mention, but have never suffered from insomnia, so wandering abroad for the purpose of identification/location never seemed relevant. I love these brief insights into the lives of the creatures who also call our valley home!'
Another snap sent (by phone) from friends Ian & Debbie Holmes who just dropped in for a wonderful visit (from North East Vic). Taken on their way home on the Jamieson-Licola Rd. You have to love Victoria. is there any other place in the world like it?
11/04/2018: Urban evolution: ‘Two Czech scientists counted the species of plants in the city of Plzen compared with a similar area of surrounding countryside. In the city the number of species had risen from 478 in the late 19th century to 773 today. In the countryside it had fallen from 1,112 to 745.’ Always fascinating: http://www.rationaloptimist.com/blog/the-wealth-of-urban-biodiversity/
10/04/2018: The South Coast Track, Fiordland NZ: Posted this day in 2014. Oh, I wish I were there again this year. I am going to miss Fiordland this year. Hopefully I enjoy Scotland as much! ‘The Fiordland South Coast Track is so much better than the similarly named South Coast Track in Tasmania. You can have a number of different trips there.
What will best suit most is a jet boat ride down the Wairaurahiri River staying either at the Wairaurahiri Hut or at the Waitutu Lodge ($30/night + hot showers). From the Lodge you can spend a few days exploring the bush and the sea, perhaps venturing on to the Waitutu or Big Rivers. Then you can walk back staying perhaps at the Percy Burn Hut (where there is an enormous timber viaduct built from Australian hardwood c1920!) or at the Port Craig Hut, or the (new) Port Craig Village - where you can enjoy hot showers and BOOZE for twin share $100/night.
It is 6 ½ hours walk back to the Rarakau carpark just out of Tuatapere (you can arrange with the jet boat people to be picked up from the car park). It is 5 ½ hours walk along the beach only if the tide is low with some scrambling over rocks. You can break your walk with a camp on the grassy edge of Blowholes Beach (approximately half way).
You can (if you are very intrepid) push on along the beach or through the bush after Westies Hut (in a sea cave after Big River) all the way to Puysegur Point lighthouse on Preservation inlet. There is a hut there at Te Oneroa from which you can explore the C19th ruins of the gold mining town of Cromarty. You can fly out by float plane from here (or stay at a luxury resort there – if you are exceptionally well-heeled!)
After the Waitutu River you can push on up the Waitutu River to the hut on the Slaughter Burn and onwards to Lake Poteriteri, thence to Teal Bay on Lake Hauroko and on to the lake Hauroko car park where again you can be picked up by the jet boat operators.
10/04/2018: Somewear a 3 Ounce Satellite Messenger: These clever folk have rethought the Epirb and Sat communicator with this lightweight device. It functions as a PLB with the touch of an SOS button but it can also send and receive SMS/email messages (up to 160 characters each). Each message also sends your precise geolocation.
It is available on Kickstarter for US299 so it is about $100 dearer say than the Spot PLB (and lighter) and at that price cheaper by about $100 than a Satellite Messenger (and about 100 grams lighter).
You can just wear it attached to your pack (as shown) because it is waterproof (IP7) and shockproof. It has a rechargeable battery which can handle up to 1,000 messages. How long that will last in practice I don't know. I do know that when my Inreach is searching for a signal (in the thick vegetation and mountains I usually inhabit), it really chews through the battery - so that I turn it off and on again when I stop for a spell if I want the battery to last for days. By the same token you can recharge in various ways. I do not know what the capacity of the battery si. For some details we may have to wait for the product release.
The cheapest plan is $12 per month for 10 messages, so cheaper than Inreach but I have my Iridium sat phone on a $10 per month plan, believe it or not! I pay more only when I use it - seldom. You pair Somewear to your phone with an App. There are a number of other interesting features including mapping and emergency information.
I already have the Inreach Messenger which I bought as a backup to my sat phone when I had it fail once – the Service provider had phased out the Sim card without telling me! On that occasion I had to ring the police to assure Della I was OK. Because this device is 100 grams lighter than the Inreach I would probably have chosen it as my fail-safe, if it had existed then. Other gram conscious folk will probably do the same.
One thing I like about the Inreach (in comparison) is that it is a stand alone communicator if you drop and break your phone, whereas this one has no keyboard – but then there is also less to learn! If you broke your phone you would just have the SOS button. Mind you, as it is called a 'Hotspot' I would assume that you could pair it with another phone, so if you were traveling in company you might even share one between two of you (at half the cost!) I think this would be fine if you are hiking popular trails, not so much if you are completely in the wilderness as i usually am.
Naturally you would not press that button if you weren’t in any danger but whoever you normally communicate with wouldn’t know that, so they would worry. That’s why I carry both a sat phone and a communicator, or when Della and I are traveling together each of us carries one of them so we both have a way of communicating with the outside world – or with each other if we become separated, which we do not, but anything can happen. I always venture where there are no trails, or at very least where there are no people so it pays to have secure communication.
I would like to trial this gadget, and would even consider the saving of the 100 grams weight, but as we are retirees and already have the Inreach, I think this is unlikely. As you can see from some of my recent posts, I am always working on cheap ways to save a few grams.
People on a strict budget might consider an emergency CB radio for less than $50. Of course there is no certainty you will get a message out, but some of these devices are multi-band, and there are in many countries repeaters and emergency channels people are listening on. Check before you go.
I definitely think there is a place in the market for this product (particularly for safety conscious couples and gram counters) at the Kickstarter price and that it should do well, but if it should be offered at the suggested price of $450 I am not so sure that folks would not prefer either the Spot or the Inreach. Of course its ruggedness will count.
https://gearjunkie.com/somewear-smallest-two-way-satellite-communications-device-global-hotpsot & https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/124657937/somewear-limitless-communication-built-for-adventu/description
09/04/2018: Waratah Bay: You can walk practically the entire Gippsland Coast from Phillip Island to NSW. After you have walked along Venus Bay Beach, (there is a path inland) past the Arch Rocks and rounded Cape Liptrap, if you have managed to make your way down to Maitland Beach, you will soon come to Bear Gully (or you might have walked along the very pleasant quiet road from the lighthouse to Bear Gully) where you will have seen numerous wallabies and kangaroos and perhaps some koalas in the roadside trees - keep an eye out.
Obviously there is water at Venus Bay No 1 Beach - the township is less than 1 km inland from the beach. There are various shops. There are also shops at Tarwin Lower about 5 km away. A walking track joins the two towns.
There is usually permanent water at the Ten Mile Creek before you get to the Arch Rocks. It is often possible to camp amongst the sand dunes inland from the beach. There is plenty of driftwood for a camp fire - though camping may not be 'permitted' so far from any authority.
As I mentioned the very small stream at the Five Mile is likely to be dry in the summer, though you might walk up it and dig for water where there is a patch of cumbungi (rushes) about 100 meres upstream (if you are desperate). There is likely to be water at Morgans Creek between the Arch Rocks and Cape Liptrap. If you are walking along Maitland Beach there might be water in 1-2 very small streams you cross, but there will be water at Bear Gully, where you have to book with Parks Vic for (vehicle) camping. After that there is water at Walkerville, Waratah Bay Sandy Point, in streams near Hourigans camp & etc.
Bear Gully is a beautiful but popular camping area. If you are walking you will find somewhere to put up your tent at the west end before you get to the vehicle camps. You may want to filter your water along the Gippsland Coast as there are livestock upstream. This is Bear Gully looking back towards Liptrap the way you will have come.
I have walked back to Cape Liptrap in the past. There is some rock scrambling but quite a lot of easy going on Maitland Beach. You sometimes see tiny beautiful Hog Deer like this miniature stag in velvet particularly at dusk and dawn and if you are quiet. Hunting in the Marine Park is not permitted even in season (April).
By the same token the Government used to poison thousands of them every year, probably still does. Astonishing that such can be deemed less cruel and more socially acceptable than harvesting one occasionally for the family table. They are delicious, much like lamb.
You can continue along the coast from Bear Gully to Walkerville South. There are some pretty little isolated beaches and a little easy rock scrambling - and as you can see some interesting islands. There are oysters aplenty, rock lobsters and fish to be caught.
This is the sort of rock hopping I am talking about. The two dogs, Spot and Honey (if you came in late) are enjoying it. Tiny would have too, She had many similar adventures during her eighteen years.
And onwards to the Prom. You can walk right along this beach to the Darby River (once you get across Shallow Inlet) and then on to Tongue Point - and the lighthouse. A pack raft such as this might be a good idea for this trip.
This is the boat launching spot on Shallow Inlet looking West. You can drive along the shore here. At low tide it is only a paddle of about 100 metres across to Hourigans camp on the other side. From there you walk all the way to Darby River. There are some streams with fresh water as I mentioned here.
09/04/2018: Something to celebrate: ‘This August is the 250th anniversary of the sailing of HM Bark Endeavour, captained by Lieutenant James Cook, from Plymouth on August 25, 1768.’ https://quadrant.org.au/magazine/2018/04/banksia-men-transit-venus/
06/04/2018: Eradicate European Wasps: It is possible to bait European wasps (with readily available products eg Permethrin, Finitrol) in such a way that it does not harm anything else (bees, birds). The wasps take the poison (from converted milk bottle traps) back to their nests and kill the nests. Every wasp for 200 metres will be eliminated. My view is that this should have been done by Government 30 years ago. Astonishingly in Victoria it is illegal to post instructions on how to do it on pain of a fine of $7500 though the Tasmanian Government has instructions on how to do it! You can try a Google search (eg bait European wasps) There is a useful Facebook Group. Below are a couple of useful links
05/04/2018: Powerfilm Lightsaver: I am looking to upgrade my solar charging ability. I have the Powerfilm USB + AA Charger at 1.5 watts which I have found adequate for myself. But we now have more rechargeable devices some having larg(er) wattage capacities so that I find it struggling. Ideally I think I would prefer a rollable panel which does not have its own battery backup (as I would prefer to configure this myself).
It also makes it harder to compare the performance of the various units as the 'rate of charge' you get on your device (eg 1% per minute on your smart phone say) is likely to be more a factor of the size and performance of the solar charger's own internal battery than the output of the panels themselves.
For example, 5 watts should give you 1 amp (1,000 ma/h) at 5 volts (standard USB current - Watts = amps x volts). An approx 3,000 mah battery such as your phone or an 18650 battery should charge in 3-4 hours of bright sunshine therefore. There are two of us, so such a setup should charge both our phones in one day and two 18650s the next day. This is quite enough to charge other devices we might carry such as Nightcore torches, our cameras, satellite messengers and GoTennas. We usually use our phones for mapping/GPS functions.
Clearly you need a flexible solar panel (such as this one) as you will want to 'wear' the panel on your back pack, or store it safely in your pack without fear of its breaking. You also need one which can be pegged out or tied out so it does not flap in the wind - something which will surely break small electrical wires. The voice of experience here!
https://www.amazon.com/LightSaver-USB-Roll-up-Solar-Charger/dp/B016N2NMBC & https://www.powerfilmlightsaver.com 3200mah battery 1 amp 5 volts 3 watts panel 4.9 oz (139 grams - you can probably save 10 grams by cutting off the 'tail'). 7.8" x 18.5" US98.97 (April 2018) Certainly good enough for one person.
There do exist other stand alone rollable panels such as this one at 269 grams. It is 7 watts but is 368 x 584 (14" x 23") so would be a bit big to fit over your pack. Still 7 whole watts would get your devices charged pronto in the middle of the day. Unfortunately as you would not get any use out of it while walking you would have to make do with the last couple of hours of the day which would probably mean in a hiking situation you would not get much more out of it than the one pictured. I will be conducting a bit of a survey of them before I commit to buy.
I may even have to do some modification to them to get just what I want. For example cut this one down to just the panel/charger and make it charge my own 18650 batteries. It has 4.5 watts and the panel alone appears to weigh only 50 grams. 200 x 550 (8" x 22") would fit your pack better than many options. And 4.5 watts - much closer to what we might need as a couple.
You can buy a 5 volt output circuit with USB for less than $5. If you are up to a bit of soldering you could discard most of the mass and have a pretty handy solar panel to attach one of your 18650 chargers to eg this one or this.
NB:A word about high altitude: I took the USB + AA on my Everest Base Camp Trek. At that altitude (above 3,000 metres it failed to keep up with my phone batteries' charging needs even though it was bright sunshine all the time! By the same token the spare charged batteries themselves were rapidly going flat even when just stored in my pack. This applied to both Eneloops and Lithiums. It was not a temperature thing as it was nowhere near as cold as it normally is camping out in the Gippsland mountains in the winter. It was clearly an altitude/pressure effect. It may be possible to store the batteries in an inflated/pressurised bag to prevent this. Worth a try.
BTW: It is very difficult to keep your phone batteries charged on this trek even though all the accommodation places offer phone charging (at around $5 a charge - compared to $1-2 for the night's accommodation itself!) If you have a large battery (my friend had some around 10 mah) the solar systems they have in Nepal will be unable to charge them. I recommend you stick to your phone battery and maybe 1-2 of the rechargeable 18650 batteries and one of the two chargers recommended (below) for them. A hot(ish) shower also costs around $5 - far more than a meal! Watch out for the dread Khumbu Cough. I did not. Have fun.
30/03/2018: Ultralight Cups: It's surprising how much weight you can save in small ways. For example, my improved Fancy Feast Stove created a simmer stove which weighs under 15 grams. This shaved 30 grams off my stove weight. Using small aluminum containers to store the various ointments etc you carry has cut nearly 100 grams from my pack weight. A lighter cup such as the one shown cut 21 grams. Somewhere during this process, I culled through my pack and discarded a total of around a quarter of a kilogram (1/2 a pound) of quite unnecessary weight. I am currently modifying my Pocket Poncho Tent so it will take two people (and weigh less than 300 grams including pegs and guys). And so it goes on...
Here are a few 'cups' for comparison. The blue $2 shop cup (top centre) weighs 29 grams. I have carried it for over 20 years, and weighed many cups before I settled on it as the lightest. I still think it is probably the solidest. However, here are some other options. The yellow 250 ml cup weighs 16 grams. The 240 ml jar weighs 16 grams (lid 7). The empty Simmenthal 214 gram 220 ml can weighs 12 grams. The red cups weigh 3-4 grams each bare. With the blue plastic handle (bottom cut out) from Aliexpress (pack of 5 for $1.95) it weighed 13 grams. The one with the (unwieldy) felt handle was 8 grams, which I cut down to 7 grams with the sewn felt ring on the scales. This is just polyester felt from Spotlight left over from this propagation project.
The strip of felt quite adequately insulates the hot cup from your hand. You have to wrap an approx 2" (50 mm) strip around the cup, mark it on both sides with a felt pen, sew (twice) then trim to get a neat conical 'grip'. It occurs to me I could have made it the full length of the cup if I wanted my coffee to stay warm longer. Usually though on the trail I am impatient to get it inside me!
29/03/2018: Broken: At least two of my old sites have been broken or seriously glitched for ages. I have been working on fixing them over the last few days. There is still quite a lot of work to do on some of other these old pages. It will get done. In the meantime, if you would prefer a format where the page just loads and you are able to just scroll down through all its content (as I do), why not check out (for example) http://www.finnsheep.com/Ultralight%20Hiking.htm I think it and all its sub-pages work again now.
28/03/2018: Liptrap: Cape Liptrap at the Western end of Venus Bay beach in South Gippsland is a scenic extravaganza as you walk the Victorian coastline perhaps beginning at Phillip Island and ending in Eden NSW, a journey which will no doubt take you several delightful weeks. Where else in the world could you have such an adventure?
We happened to see a rare 'water sprite' one of very few I have seen and the first I have ever managed to snap. They are such an evanescent emergent phenomenon they are well nigh impossible to photograph. Strong Westerly winds whipping around the point here can create such vortices. Be on the lookout for them on windy days.
You will then have to cross this gully. Watch out for the path as there is only one. You have to be particularly careful on the way back up, as so many people have obviously missed it and wandered for hours searching for a way back out onto the road.
This is the view back up (if you are walking along from Venus Bay. You have to watch for this gully as it is your last safe point of exit. The path travels up the West side of the gully then crosses over to the ridge on the East side.
Except at high tide the Government reckons you can walk all the way along here (from the Arch Rocks (nearer the Ten Mile) to Walkerville. I think they should say it is 'possible' at low tide myself. A couple of the points (Cape Liptrap itself, for example) could be quite dangerous even then. This is the view that greets you after you scramble around the first point heading West. You may be better to exit here then walk along the road to Bear Gully - but there is a way down to Maitland Bay on the other side of Cape Liptrap through the bush.
The tide has been coming in quite quickly. You need to watch out for that. Check the tide heights here: Waratah Bay would be the closest station. For the dogs especially (Well, the puppy, Honey anyway) getting around here is becoming a challenge. And, it is time for dinner. MaCartins Hotel in Leongatha is one of our favourites.
25/03/2018: Budget Pack Mods: Recently I bought a couple of cheap approx 40 litre packs from Amazon for less than US20 each. I thought these would be a good recommendation to someone who wanted to begin hiking on a small budget. The first thing you need after all is something to comfortably and reliably carry your stuff in. I bought this one for US$ 17.99 and this one for US$19.99. Straight out of the bag the packs weighed 335 grams and 382 grams on my scales.
The Vidong Polo was lighter than the G4Free and claimed to be 2 litres bigger; otherwise they are pretty well identical. Both of them look to me to be made of a quite robust material which should take quite a lot of use, and are generally well made (as well as $250 back packs anyway!) I could fit all my gear for a trip of 4-5 days in either. For a trip of more than a week, there is plenty of room to stow an extra compression sack underneath the lid. Notice the 'spare' length in the compression straps.
First I stripped the Polo down to 315 grams. After my modifications the Polo weighed pretty much 350 grams. I could cut away another possibly 50 grams if I wanted eg to sacrifice a couple of pockets, lid, tie-out loops etc. This is a pretty great weight!
I think it is a good idea to start on your DIY backpack 'career' by doing some 'mods' to a cheap existing pack like this as you learn so much. For example, I learned that the hip/waist belt on every pack I own is in the wrong place! I first sewed it on pretty much in the manner that such things are 'always' attached (ie on the 'flap' where the bottom 'anchors' of the back straps are), and it just didn't work especially for Della, which surprised me as these are quite 'short' backpacks which ought to be eminently suitable for her. She is a very neat 5 foot and around 40 kilos.
This led me to the other major thing I learned which is that practically every back pack I own is too long for me, (I am am approx 5'7") which is why I have often found them uncomfortable - and Della has found them well-nigh impossible.With the belt sewn on at the bottom of the pack there is 16" from the point of attachment of the shoulder straps to the top of the belt. This is so much better than the usual 'minimum' of 18" that you probably need to buy one of these packs just to try that out, if nothing else.
Also, because the belts are 'normally' sewn in the wrong place (and all the way to the sides) they are also much wider than they need to be which nonetheless does not make them work better. The converse is the case. I have sewn the belt on (just in the middle six inches) so that when you cinch it up it tightens around your entire torso instead of 'jutting out' at the sides. This provides so much better grip at a lower tension that the pack has no inclination to slip down and take your trous with it! But it also transfers the load so much better that these unpadded straps are not a problem at all. They are just holding the pack from falling off your shoulders, which is as it should be.
I have already noted that back packs are normally constructed too straight. They need to curve so they naturally swing into the 'small' of your back and stick there, just as this one does, and these are reputed to do (You will note that the 'Exodus' weighs 454 grams). This would involve cutting a curve into the side panels if you were making your own. This pack is short enough that it does that naturally.
I first of all got rid off the elastic straps at the top. There is nothing I want to attach here, but if there is later on I will construct lighter ones out of 1mm dyneema and a micro cord lock (approx 1 gram each). I also similarly replaced the cinch cord at the top of the pack. 20 grams was saved here.
I wanted to attach a sit pad to the back and try to do something to reduce the wet back phenomenon. I sewed four gross grain ribbon loops, then used the above arrangement of dyneema and a micro cord lock. I have found this works very well and weighs very little. i don't like elastic. it is heavy, absorbent, perishes and breaks too easily. Dyneema is bullet proof!
I also reinforced the back pack straps with a piece of 1" webbing and sewed them through a couple of times.You can see this stitching at the top of the previous photo. You will also notice that I have constructed two cloth 'tubes' by hemming the internal pocket, then sewing on a piece of tape above to extend the tube the full length of the pack. Those two carbon fibre tubes are only 3mmm but are enough to create some solidity and load transfer. They weigh less than 3 grams together.
I sewed a couple of side straps (with buckles above the pockets which I thought a but short. i sewed them 100 mm (4") above the pockets which was a bit much. 65mm would have been better. You see you can just use a 'normal drink bottle to carry your water. One will last for thousands of miles.