Friday, July 31, 2009

Adventure beckons

previous expeditions Lake Eyre
In late August I will be heading outback with a few friends on a motorcycle trip. We plan to ride to South Australia and make our way to Arkaroola via Yunta onto Strezleki track to Coward Springs up the Oodnadatta track, then to the Painted desert, Cober Pedy, William Creek and back to the Flinders Ranges and home.

At this point it's all about preparation, fitting out our bikes with the necessary components so that they can cope with the 1000's of km of corrugated dirt roads. A trip of this nature on a motorcycle requires a minimalist approach, as too much weight compromises the handling of the bike. Considering that it will be necessary to carry ten liters of additional fuel plus adequate water supplies for venturing into the desert it makes the whole propsition an interesting logistical challenge. So all my gear is spread out around the house, as I go through a trial pack and then discard items.

I intend to take along a few new gadgets to test with the aim of writing up a review. Hopefully the one item I do not have an opportunity to review is the first aid kit. My firewood processing combo will be a Bacho folding saw and the Becker BK2 knife. I also have a new Mountain Hardware Sprite 1 tent and CaribeeCosmic 1600 compact synthetic sleeping bag. The Caribee bag only cost $89 and even though it has a rating to -5 I'm a bit nervous about it's ability to cope with the cool desert nights. My understanding is that Australia unlike Europe does not have an official rating standard for testing sleeping bags, so one is at the mercy of the manufacturers in-house rating scheme. As a precaution I will be packing a Coleman emergency blanket which I will place beneath the sleeping mat in order to provide some insulation. A silk sleeping bag liner will also be thrown in for good measure.
I actually have a great Macpac down sleeping bag that is tried and trusted in these conditions however; I have never owned a synthetic bag and I am curious to see how it performs. By the way I purchased the Macpac bag in 1994 and it is still as good as new! It cost a lot in it's day, but quality often comes at a price. That fact does make me a little nervous about the Caribee.....oh well!
Anyway it's time to get back to the packing.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Bushcraft by Ray Mears

Whilst Ray Mears is obviously an iconic figure in the UK with numerous BBC shows aired over the years; in Australia I think it fair to say that he is a relative unknown. Which is a pity as his bushcraft shows have obviously helped create a vibrant bushcraft community in the UK. Alas there is no such movement in Australia. The equivalent in Australia would be Les Hiddins who came to prominence with his Bush Tucker Man shows in the early 90's.

I stumbled across the Bushcraft book in my local library, at first I dismissed it as I was after a more hands on approach to describing techniques. Whilst the book has ample photos it is not a manual rather a travel book describing a diverse range of cultures still practicing traditional bushcraft. After randomly selecting a page (best way to gauge a books readability) I decided to devote some time to reading this work.

Ray Mears writes in a down to earth informative style. He has a knack for creating a vivid image of the characters encountered and an empathy for their world. Each chapter is devoted to a specific culture ranging from the Amazon Yekuana; African Masai, "Mountain Men of Wyoming and the Artic Sami people.

If you are interested in Bushcraft and traditional/indigenous culture I can highly recommend this book. I have since ordered the TV series by the same name on the basis of this book.