Thursday, February 2, 2012


October 2010

Living in the part of Holland were we did, proved to be quite challenging for going outdoors.
We lived in a city, which made it hard to enjoy the outdoors in a relaxed manor. Allthough surrounded by some green areas, finding a quite place was a problem. The green areas were usually swarmed with people, both local and tourists, and heavily patrolled by park- and forrestrangers. Getting caught doing something illegal, like camping, making fire or even leaving the paths in some areas, would cost you... Some would say that that was part of the game, but if you are living on the bottomside of the incomeladder, that would impose a very serious problem. It also meant that for me there was litlle time to relax as I felt the need to go tactical all the time, hence the camouflagegear. A woodfire would give away your location at an instant and driving your car for an hour and a half, just to reach the Ardennes for example, took considerable amounts of planning, with 2 jobs and 3 schoolgoing kids, and indeed, finances.
This also meant that a lot of time had to be spent at home or in the backyard. This and the fact that we did not have cash to burn, caused me to become a tinkerer.... Looking and finding solutions to problems or challenges became a part of the hobby, too. And I do like a challenge....

For instance I did not have a cold weather sleepingbag.... Well, actually I had, but that was huge, a Dutch M90, and far too warm for the Dutch climate. The cash I made selling it kept my family fed for a week....
So I had to look elsewhere. I looked here, bought there (surplus offcourse) and added a selfmade touch. My multilayered cold weather sleepingbag was born;

You take a old Bundeswehr sleepingbag €5

make your own flanel liner.... 2 hrs.

you add a surplus Czech outershell €7,50

zipp it all together

and you're comfy....

I also experimented a little with various fuelsources;
One of them were some military alcoholgeltins. Just pop off the lid and light them. When done put the lid back on and let them cool, befor you press the lid and close it firmly. There was no sooting at the bottom of the lid afterwards.
Disadvantages were the toxic/poisoneous nature of the gel, the practically invisible flame, when lit and the low heat given off, resulting in a long heatingtime.

In addition I tried Esbit, but that failed to heat the stove long enough to get the cup of water to boil. Besides Esbit is just as toxic and poisoneous, so for me a no-go too, except in an emergency. It gives of quite a loot of soot, too, which is a pain in the lower rear end to get rid off...
Then I tried a method used by the British in the desert during WW2. I read they used fuel, mixed it with sand untill a porridgelike substance. So did I.... with scary results!!

A huge, uncontrollable flame roared, covering everything in a black, sticky soot... And if there was a little wind.....

Later I learned that no gasoline was used, as I had, but probably diesel.
Finally, after cleaning up, I went for my favorite way of making coffee of tea, by just using small sticks of wood.


Another aspect of the outdoors involves animals. Getting close to them is getting close to nature and oneself. There was one animal I was terrified of, after having some unpleasant experiences with one of them in my childhood and, left unattended, started getting a life of it's own. Almost turned into something fobic... But since my oldest daughter loved to ride them, and as it turned out later, so did my son, and I wanted to be able to share that joy with them I needed to get rid of that fear.
I had to learn how to approach, trust and ride a horse!!!
Through school we knew a couple who had horses and did the horseriding-teachingthing, yet in a slightly different manor. They thought that having a saddle, a bit and stuff like that got in the way between animal and rider. That it was difficult to get connected to the horse and feel it.
Befor I was allowed to ride, I had to feed and brush the animals. Gain their trust and trust them myself... and after that... I was given one of their largest, and more willfull, animals they had. Riding was just with a blanket and reigns.... and it was allways done in the open air!

observe the relaxed stance and facial expression....
of the horse

Shoot!! It did that on it's own!

A huge hurdle taken and able to get close(r) to even the larger animals....


  1. Hey Ron, great modular sleeping system! I like it a lot.

    Also interesting to see your fuel testing. I think I'll give gasoline a miss. ;)


  2. Hi Matt,
    I gave up the sleepingbagcombo.
    Unfortunately I had to let go of this setup in order to generate finances. The good thing about the Czech cover is that you can zip it open and create a tarp. The bad thing is it isn't goretex or anything similar so tends to hold condensation.
    The BW sleepingbag is quite heavy and large, but not all that warm. It does not have a good reputation with German servivemembers who used them in the field, if I understood correctly.