Monday, 28 March 2016

Gallt yr Ogot and Storm Katie

Gallt yor Ogof

I know, I know, it has been a while and I apologise .......... life that niggly little bugger just got in the way as I moved home, started a new job and generally tried to find my feet in a new town ......... The drift south west from Essex to Cornwall has hopefully stopped for a while at least giving me time to start doing the things I enjoy once again.

So this Easter weekend we decided to saddle up and weather be damned we'd head for the Welsh mountains and wild camp .......... oh ya and take along our 2 year old Labrador, a rescue dog who'd never been in the mountains before ............. untried dog, storm Katie and a night time assent on the north wales mountains ....... what could go wrong??

My basha looking across the snow capped peaks

Actually, not a lot!!

Boring I know but there it is. We scrambled and climbed into the hills by head torch -- the pooch had a head torch around his neck too, so we could see where he was (just in case) - a night assault on a welsh mountain, we must be mad ..................

By 2330 hrs we had reached the top arriving at the car park behind Joe Brown's Pinnacle café at 2130, so not bad going!! the weather was closing in and the temperature dropping.

Setting up camp proved interesting as the ground was sodden, after a search we did however find a small ridge just wide enough to erect a MSR Hubba for the ma'am Sab and a few feet away a second flat is section for me to stretch a Poncho over ......... yep that was my home for the night!!

Tracy's Hubba - me behind it with the basha as I brew up
 In the dark our camp was made, and after a quick brew we soon hit the sack, crawling under my basha which had about 2 inches of head room I struggled out of my wet clothes and into my sleeping bag and bivi .......... to my delight the ground was contoured to my back and laying there on my kip mat with my head cushioned on a small heather I was more comfortable than a man really has a right to be in such conditions. Sleep soon wrapped me in her loving arms and I was snoring soon after.

How long I slept I don't know but what I do know is I was rudely awoke by a slapped face ........... one corner of my tarp had been torn loose by the gale for winds that assaulted us and was now, icy and wet, slapping me in the face ...... I tried to ignore it as you do but then the hail started and I knew I was in trouble.

So question is do I dress or hope to repair the fault quickly enough that I wouldn't freeze to death .............. answer the later ........... crawling out my warm snug bag in long johns and a t shirt I struggled in the dark to locate my guy lines and re-secure the tarp ..........

Job done and not yet shivering uncontrollably I needed a wee ........ turning my back on the wind I let the little fella out and started to go ........... to late did I realise the wind was not only all around me but blowing up and down .......... Geezzz

I crawled back in my sack ................and was back to sleep in seconds.

One man and his dog - note the LK35
 The night passed, rain fell and storm Katie howled around us. My simple basha as basic as you can get would have turned the stomach of many a seasoned mountain man and yet I worked very well and I slept well ............ the MSR hubba on the other hand wasn't living up to expectation (MSR or mountain safety research) the porch was acting as a sail and the wind was driving the rain under the fly and into the inner ............ so while I lay there snoring under a £9.99 grade2 Austrian army poncho Tracy lay in a £200 tent with a snugpak extreme fur season bag and freezing cold didn't sleep a wink.

As I write this and as we descended the next morning I pondered this - all sense and most gear hounds would have said my simple primitive basic kit was a liability on the hill - I had a 3 season bag (not a four season like the snugpak) - I had a army foam kit mat and a poncho for my shelter yet I was comfortable enough to sleep the night away. How was it my kit did so well when a tent like the MSR hubba (which has served me well on so many other occasions) seemed to fail? I don't have an answer yet but on thing is for sure basic kit if used well and coupled with common sense and experience can be equal to the best or more expensive modern high tech ......

Rupert watches as shelter is collapsed and the new day starts.

Dawn was well underway when we finally awoke and broke camp - and what a morning that was - initially the views were fantastic but we could see the second wave of weather clawing its way towards us over the snowy peaks to our right .......... we broke camp amid a hail storm and winds so vicious that we had to huddle together in the lee of a rock shelf to break its sudden violence.

The storm came in waves and between waves we broke camp and packed - we were both cold and wet so I brewed up and fed the dog while I could.

Our descent was quicker than our climb, we only had one night out thanks to work commitments but before we left the mountains we struggled, but found time, to visit the pinnacle café and enjoy a hearty breakfast and stemming mug of coffee.

Smiling we listened to a handsome tall American chap telling a dis interested shop girl how he had decided to go home because the weather was so back, impressing upon her the fact he had enough gear to climb, hike or cycle ............. breakfast finished we had a quick mooch around the shop and looking a little grubby and weather beaten said lady asked what we had been up to, smiling I explained we had over knighted on top of the mountain before coming down for breakfast her reply was thus, "Really, these kids today go home with a bit of weather. Like Joe says only the old timers are real hard core these days ............."

Well smiling and with ego boosted this hard core old timer and his better half bid the lady far well and looking one last time at the storm lashed peak jumped in our car and headed for home!

Sunday, 30 August 2015

Night Nav Ex and a little lay in

Sometimes the simplest of things can bring us the most pleasure and such was the case of a recent little trip. The trip itself was a night nav ex with the aim to reach a night camp by about 0300 and then to get some sleep, however much darkness was left at the time on day two followed by a nice bimble back.

The hike itself was aimed at being a refresher for night hiking and map reading - the route across some of Dartmoor's more varied and challenging terrain.
And the reason I wasn't tucked up in bed like a sane individual, our first aid instructor is soon to be doing her Mountain Leader Course and needed to get some dirt time in.

For the hike itself I took my trusty old LK70 and a 50m length of climbing rope as well as my usual gear so my pack weighed in at approximately 24/26 kg while my companions pack was of a similar weight containing all the bits and pieces recommended for the ML course and her own luxury items.

The night hike was hard work in places especially where little used foot paths had been allowed to grow over or disappear all toward but we soldiered on and eventually reached our nights rest .... and what a cracking little place we found!
Hard to tell in the dark but we basha'd up and were soon blissfully in the land of nod. 1000hrs saw our camp finally come alive - we both agreed we slept very well indeed. Day light also confirmed what a beautiful location we had found.
Time however didn't allow for the poetic appreciation of our camp as we were soon saddled up and on the trail again.
Many more dusty miles and we reached the car at Widecombe on the Moor and a well earned bottle of fizzy drink to boot!

Sunday, 16 August 2015

Austrian Army Goretex Jacket

Austrian Army Goretex Jacket .... review
Austrian Army Goretex Jacket
The biggest enemy of the outdoorsman, or woman, is the cold and wet and as such a good waterproof jacket is key.
In my lifetime I can remember the arrival of the Goretex jacket. These jackets are common place today both on the hill and high street and the price range of these jackets reflects this.
Most armies now also issue their troops with Goretex jackets and trousers and as such while a brand name jacket in all the rainbow colours might cost you several hundred pounds a good robust surplus one will cost a quarter of the price ......... provided you only want the more sympathetic shades that are found in nature.

The Austrian army's Goretex jacket is one I particularly like and one I have been using for many years ..... now bear in mind I have owned a lot of Goretex jackets, including brand name ones from Berghaus and Jack Wolfskin, yet the Austrian army one is still my favourite.

Apart from being a forest friendly colour and reasonably well priced (£45) its a top spec jacket - mostly these are found in a surplus graded condition so I recommend first washing and reproofing.

So what are the features?

Waist and hem elasticated drawstrings.

Large Velcro hip pockets with a generous storm flap.

Deep zipped chest pockets ...... with flap (my only criticism of this jacket is the storm flap here isn't Velcro sealed and strong wind can blow rain in here ........)

Zip and Velcro main zip.

Fully adjustable peaked (wire) hood, which is easily large enough to take a helmet - be that climbing or military.

Hood adjuster, which can be tightened and adjusted to sit on the head allowing the hood to move with the head, rather than the face disappearing into the hood.

In summary - there isn't much that can be said about a Goretex jacket - no matter how much the makers blow their own trumpets about how great they are - because at the end of the day all we really want is a jacket that is wind and waterproof ..... right? Oh yeah and a few usefully thought pockets are a bonus ....

Well dear reader in this jacket you get all those features and more for a very good price!!

Two things you don't get ..... underarm zips and pretty red or yellow versions ............

Monday, 27 July 2015

Historical British Army Clasp Knife - a review

 The British Army clasp knife is a icon in its own right.
Copied and issued to other allied armies around the end of the Second World War, the knife and its simple yet effective design has lasted the test of time. It is still as robust and useful today as it was back then when our forebears fought to free the capitulated peoples of Europe from Nazi rule.

There are two basic models imaginatively described as the 2 piece and the 3 piece models. In the above pictures are two three piece models (the two bottom knives - one circa 1950s with Bakerlite scales and one circa 1960s onwards) and one two piece model with safety lock (top knife).

All the knives have a small 2-3 inch sheepsfoot blade, a can/bottle opener and in the case of the three piece, a marlin spike.

The marlin spike is more of a nautical item and in seamanship is used for ;-
  • As levers to open strands of laid rope when forming eyes or inserting items into the lay.
  • To untie knots that have tightened under tension.
  • As a lever or handle to tension marlin or rope using a marlin spike hitch, much tighter than by gripping the line with the hand alone.
  • As an improvised weapon against pirates (ooooh arrrrr me heartees).
However, it is also a pertinent tool for the soldier. During both wars it was used to remove pebbles from horses hooves for example. It was also used to punch holes in explosives for the insertion of detonators and back in the days of composite rations, the spike was ideal for making pouring holes in the old squaddy favourite .... cans of condensed milk!

The modern tool is stainless steel and a very surgical clean piece of kit, which once sharpened takes(and holds) a good edge.

The older model (here a Belgian army three piece) is made of carbon steel and throws a good spark when struck with flint ........ a great advantage in a survival situation if you know how to capture said spark. Its disadvantage is the blade will rust if not looked after.

The two piece knife comes in both a locking and non-locking model. The non-locking model being the more authentic British army one and the UK LEGAL version too.

Pictured above is a two piece model with lock in a leather sheath. This is a ideal way to carry this small unobtrusive knife on the belt. All these knives come with a shank onto which a lanyard can be tied, this is ideal if the risk of losing your knife is great.
The above sheath, with knife, will soon be available from the BaSS website. Alternatively you can order them directly from the maker at

In use the knife is a great little work horse and will do all the tasks required of a tool of its size. Be mindful of the lack of lock!
It is a good utility tool and ideal for food prep but the blade is also a excellent carving tool in its own right and will even produce a passable feather for fire lighting.

Both knife and sheath available soon - watch this space for further details..

Thursday, 25 June 2015

Military Rehab

BaSS recently had the honour of being asked to run a short course for the Royal Engineers at Gibraltar Barracks as part of their rehabilitation of injured soldiers programme.

Our course was designed to encompass four basic bushcraft and survival skill sets,

1. Cutting tools
2. Fire
3. Shelter
4. Food

And was run by two of our own Ex-military instructors supported by two NCO's from the Royal Engineers.

17 young soldiers attended the course and, from feed back we have received, thoroughly enjoyed it saying, amongst other things that they thought it was good for moral, good for team building and pushed their comfort zones. They listed the event as a good learning experience.

Our team were proud to work with these guys and as an opening post to this new blog we could not be more pleased with it.

More information about BaSS and the courses we run will be available soon - in the mean time please contact us at :-

Thank you.