Saturday, February 11, 2012

OUT - A day out practicing winterskills...

5 februari 2012

Especially the firemaking one!

Got out again yesterday in order to practice some winterskills and to jsu enjoy the glorious Scandinavian winter!! When I left the thermometer showed a -21C, so a bit nippy. A good opportunity to see how my Swedish wool uniform would perform.
Apart from that I wore an old model Dutch army longsleeved shirt and woolen pullover. No longjohns. I did have my M43-cal with me and my Swiss army woolmittens and gaiters. I added an old model Dutch army cotton/wool tubular collar.
I chose to give the older Dutch army leather boots another go, allthough I know they are not really good winterboots, but it's all I have at the moment. Apart from the standard insole I added another winter one and wore 2 pairs of thicker semi-woolen socks.
With me I carried a foldable set of coloured goggles, emergency blanket, fixed blade knife and wood handle pocket knife, camera, cellphone, firetin, German army thin gloves (cotton with leather innerhands) + knitted gloves.
As for the gear, I took my Swedish M39 backpack to give it a second chance and in it were a German OG poncho and bungees for a (emergency) windscreen, Swedish messtinset, stackable aluminiumtins with food, tinderbox, axe and foldable (pruning)saw, large tarp and a spare set of clothing (milsurp UG Dutch combat pants & jacket + a set uf long underwear and extra socks), firstaidkit. I completed the ensemble with an WW2 model British canteen and my breadbag.
As a bonus I strapped my old woolen army longcoat to the pack. I figured a wearable woolen blanket might come in handy..

The sun is rising and lights up the ground between the trees;

After half an hour I opened up the first 2 buttons of the jacket and switched from mittens to gloves. I just took the German ones. That was enough for the moment. Appearantly I lost my knitted gloves at this stage..... damn...
I had to lower my speed of movement as I started to sweat. This did give me the opportunity to stop more often and to look around me. I was amazed at the amount of wildlifetracks I saw; fox, deer, hare and all kinds of small rodents.... dozens of them...

A frozen stream. I still could hear running water well below the ice

The cold creeping up;

For the gearfans;

A mayor drawback of the Swedish is that it is no fun to handle without gloves in these temperatures. Gets quite uncomfortable fast. Fiddling about with mittens is not the most effecient way and takes some getting used to.
After a bit more than an hour I ended up on the spot I wanted to check out. As soon as I stopped walking the low temperatures and lack of sun made themselves noted! Buttoning up the jacket and switched back to mittens again!
First I scouted the terrain and I found a nice size dead standing spruce. I took it down and cut it up into sizeable pieces. These were than split. I did all this in a slow pace, but still my hands and lower arms got tired of working with gloves. I found the hatchet to be too short. I will need a longer handled one. In the final stage I split the wood with my leather handled knife and that performed great! The broad back split the wood quite effeciently and the flat part gave a good aiming point for battoning. I usually don't do that, but fiddling with mittens and a twig to hold the piece of wood up and than swinging a hatchet....proved to be not the most pleasant mix...

My "new" tinderbox. I found it outside an abandoned cabin I thought it was a real shame to just let it rot away there. It is a halfround box, made out of birchbark with a sliding backside. The rope will be replaced with natural cordage some time.

Inside the box are a number of dry and thinly split pieces of birch, some dry birchbark, some pieces of resinous pine wood, a spent shellcase as match box and a small satchet with pineresinblocks.

Yes! I did it! Fire in the winter!!
I did not need the matches, because it was quite easy with the firesteel. This one is a standard part of my breadbag by the way.

The water in the canteen started to freeze up already, but now comes the main advantage of the canteen. You just pull it out of its webbing carrier and set it next to the fire! All easily done, even with mittens!

An international military gearmeeting; A Dutch issue steel mug with homemade lid, an English steel canteen and A Swedish frying pan/lid;

Bacon in the pan, water in the mug for coffee...
The bacon, the eggs and the homemade bread were all frozen, just as the little jar of jam in one of the tins.

Defrosting the bread;
On top of the warming bacon & eggs. The resinous wood in the fire flavoured it even more...

Hmmmm....... coffee cowboystyle, lots of bacon with some eggs, my wife's homemade breadkamp, a thick layer of spruceboughs.... Can winterlife be any better??

After an hour or three I really had to be on the move again! Despite the layering I had really cold toes! The top of the boots is not high enough to allow free movement and circulation.....
I broke camp, spread all the coals and charred wood and burried them in the snow around. I scattered all remaining firewood and boughs around.

On my way home the weather changed a little. There was wind now and I could see moist air moving in. That had an immediate negative effect on the way the cold felt in the face and on the ears!

But with this around you.......

The way back was different in more ways.
Now the jacket stayed buttoned up and the gloves were kept on my hands. The ears and face were kept covered, too.De terugweg was anders dan de heenweg.
I did come across a set of tracks that weren't there on the way in. Moosetracks and they were smaller than the ones I came across the last time. Mss Moose, perhaps?
The way home was mostly downhill and the army boots offered little hold. In loose snow it was ok, but as soon as the underlaying surface was hard or icy it got very treacherous. Allmost home the enevitable happenend. I slipper and went down hard. I landed on my left wrist and the blow got extended into my shoulder. These are still stiff and sore now, but I was lucky. I'd hate to think of what would happen if you did break these, out there under these conditions. You'd have a serious problem!

In hindsight I will definitively go for a pulk or a tobbogan as soon as I can. A backpack turns even a small slip-up into a crashdive! It just pulls you down and the landing is at least twice as hard as with out it.
I also figured out the practical purpose of so-called Nordic walking. Apart from the exercise you get much more stability on slippery surfaces! The snow had the consistency of loose sand and had the sound of walking on styropor. It was very dry and would not even stick to wool. What would be the best solution for these conditions; snowshoes or skis?
As far as my gear goes; the backpack is comfortable to wear and use. Just took some getting used to the frame. The boots are out... Just too dangerous in cold and icy conditions.
The uniform performed brilliantly! I never felt the need to use my longcoat. I was comfortably warm all the time. Same goes for the mittens. The M43-cap does well, too, but it is quite thin and as soon as there is wind involved in the temps. an extra layer really is needed. Knife did good,too. Now all I need to do, is finally learn how to sharpen it properly!

1 comment:

  1. Beautiful winter pics. Looks like a great winter outing!