shelter, tripod, fire and tea

A short journey through the forest today ended at one of my favourite oak groves (the place I took my oak ring from).

There was a fine drizzle, everywhere was damp. So Eddie and I set about to rig my poncho, which I had been using as my waterproof, as a diamond-wedge shelter with room enough for two.

We lashed some hazel wands together for a cooking tripod and with a bit of effort with the bow drill got ourselves a fire for a cup of nettle tea.

A lovely way to spend 20 minutes before we ‘left no trace’ and continued our journey through the forest. The two minute video is below.

Please click on the image for video.

(click on image)


Although this looks like a simple, short set of tasks – behind them are a handful of key skills that we might take for granted.

  • Siting the shelter in a way that the wind and rain does not enter it but does not create a vortex for the smoke from the fire to suck it into the shelter.
  • Two useful knots: adjustable loop for the two guylines on the shelter and a tripod lashing for the cooking rig. If you want to see a close up of the tripod lashing used then please look here (for a larger version for cooking with many pots then click here)
  • It is tempting to bring a steel tripod – they look good and are durable. But they are heavy. Carry the knowledge to make one from your surroundings  – in this case green hazel – and it weighs nothing and takes up no space in your backpack.
  • A sit-mat: important insulation from the ground. A fact often neglected and a contributor to hypothermia – or very cold back-side!
  • Preparation of the site for the fire – clearing it of leaves to minimise spread of fire, not siting it to close to the roots of the tree which may damage them, creating a platform of wood for the fire off the wet ground and of course extinguishing the fire and leaving no trace (as at the end of this video clip).
  • Tinder and kindling selection – even more important on a damp day as this – mainly dry molinia grass for the tinder and larch twigs for the kindling – both very reliable and locally foraged. Careful grading of the size of the wood is important.
  • Safe axe use: hatchets are notoriously dangerous – the shorter the handle, the nearer the cutting edge can get to you! Note that I kneel on the ground so if I missed the wood I would hit the ground and not my shin. I also use a small log to cut on that lies between the axe and my body to halt the swing of the axe.
  • Fire by friction: in this case the bow-drill, and something that is harder to achieve on a cold, damp day.
  • Bringing water to the boil  –  a rolling boil for at least one minute – to make it safe to drink.

Kit used:


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