Sunday, April 29, 2012

OUT - Fieldtesting my Finnbagmods on an eveningwalk

Last night I took the modded bag for a walk.
I fully loaded it, which meant the poncho inside, the axe through the loops under the flap and a filled canteen to the front. Because of the weight I used the webbingbelt instead of the standard strap.
I have to say that I was surprised on how well it handled. It was kind of heavy on one side offcourse, but that didn't cause much difficulty. What did was the strain on the opposite shoulder, where the shoulderstrap ran across. After an hour or so running through the woods, this became quit noticeable and a bit painfull.
I than took the canteen off and hung it on the belt itself, changing sides. This leveled the load considerably and after I attached the poncho to the rear of the shoulderstrap, as I had befor, the whole loadout was quit balanced and hardly noticeable weightwise.

The knife was in easy reach and this setup worked quit well, too.
As for the closingstrap, this one worked very well! All the time the bag was fully loaded the strap kept the strain off of the studs and they remained closed, even while crawling through dense pineforrest. The funny thing is that the modifications actually worked best when the bag was completely filled up! After I had taken out the poncho the top of the bag folded in on itself and opening and closing of the webbingstrap became a bit troublesome. On the other hand I did not bring any food or other things with me, which would have filled up the bag, instead of the poncho.
In hindsight I will not be using the wastestrap attached to the bag. Carrying it on the webbingbelt is much more comfortable and more versatile, too! I will leave the standard strap attached to the bag, though. You just never know....
Enough of the talk, I'll show you some pictures taken last night. The forrest around the house and on the hill were filled with blue and white forrestanemones which were all in some stage of coming out and/or blooming. This feast will last a little while!


On the path right behind the house I spotted some foxdroppings (I guess)

Birchbarktinder readily available! I filled on of my jacketpockets with this and noticed that they gave of a white powder. Never noticed that befor.

 My kind of terrain!

I found some shed deerantlers (my first ever), but someone beat me to them! They were badly chewed up. Well, not actually chewed up, but more like chisseled off. It really looked like someone had been using a woodcuttingtool on them, so some rodent appearantly ate this antler! Anyone any idea on which one and why!!!

The sun low in the sky, lots of birds singing and calling everywhere... and for the rest absolute silence. This was heaven!

Bag and me....

The sun gloriously setting over the hills of southern Dalarna, casting a glow of gold and red copper over the trees. I just had to sit down, watch and soak it all in. The smell of damp forrestsoil in the evening triggered some fond memories and propelled me back to the days, when I was in the military. I truely enjoyed those days in the field..... Has it really been that long since I last did this?? Man, how much have I missed in those inbetween years! This truely is medicin for the soul. The eveningchoir of birds complemented this idyllic scene and suddenly I heard a strange other noice. There were some red deer barking in the patch of forrest next to the one I was in and their echoes rolled down the hill, distorting the sound.

I could not decide which picture I liked best, so I just added both of them.....

There was another sound up there, too. One I did not welcome so much; buzzing mosquitos! And I was an obvious target! So out came the tin of Nordic Summer and the little bloodsuckers left me alone after a smear or two on the exposed skin. The Mss. wasn't to pleased with this, though. She called me "smoked meat", when I returned home.....

Some however were appearantly desperate for an avening snack and tried to pierce the cotton clothing I was wearing! This puppy was at least 10-15mm large! The biggest mosquito I ever saw!
And quite determined, too!

As darkness approached I had to head home. I had forgotten my headlamp.... What dumbass forgets his lights, when he goeas for an eveningwalk in the forrest??? I had one light with me, but that was far to small. Here's the "build-in baglight" I mentioned in one of my previous posts. Works great!

Friday, April 27, 2012

GEAR - Finnbag upgraded!

Lately these Finnish army gasmaskbags have become very popular in the Bushcraft/outdoorworld - and forums. The Weekend Woodsman, my Finnish "neighbour" was so kind to provide me with one and I have taken it with me on several occassions. They are mostly used as daypacks or manpurses. I call mine the "Finnbag"...
I did notice some shortcomings in this role. First of all I was quit tempted to overload this bag, making carrying it uncomfortable. It became to bulky and having the narrow crossbelt pressing down into your shoulder with every step is not my idea of comfortable either. Another problem was that the snaps tended to pop open all the time, highly increasing the risk of loosing stuff. A third issue I had with the bags was that the sides tended to bulge outward, leaving two gaps on either side, again increasing the risk of loosing gear, but also opening up opportunities for unwanted things to fall into the bag. Stuff like pineneedles, debris, small branches etc. I personally do not like that. The last issue I had (Yes, I know I have issues....) was that the narrow wastestrap got caught up in gear, when wearing a belt onto which that gear was attached. gear like canteens, knives, pouches.... This reduced carryingcomfort even more..... So..... Time to get to work!

My main concern, the popping open of the snaps, could only be solved by removing and/or replacing the existing snaps, which would enevitably leave to large holes in the closingflap. Fixing those would prove to be a challenge and I would have to add some other way of closing the bag.
I was planning on using small leather straps, but somehow that didn't look right. Than I remembered that I had the old homemade straps from my backpack still sitting in my "sparesbox". Hmmm.... could I use those?? I turned out I could! Instead of bypassing or eliminating the existing snaps I kept them, but added an extra belt to reduce strain on the snaps and adding an extra way of preventing the bag to pop open.
The old WW2-vintage webbingbelts are a bitch to stitch! Excuse the language, but there is no other way of putting it! Using standard needles and thread?? Forget it! Bring out some leatherstitchingequipment (nice scrabbleword...)! A very pointy, sturdy needle, some pliers, a thimble and a cuttingmat were essential.

The very first thing I did, was add "padding" to the shoulderstrap. Nothing fancy, just a wider piece of webbing stitched to the strap, but in such a way that the clasp was covered, but I still could adjust the length of the strap.

I tried to keep the look of those belts as good as possible, but the previous owner was "smart" enough to rivet the narrower of the two onto the broader one and he (must have been a "he" given the solution used) popped the rivets thrue the small eyelets of the first, through the webbing of the latter, just above the copper end, hence the funny shape of the opening. While I was at it, I added an extra loop on the end of the small strap. Always comes in handy and made finishing off the end look good!

The opening in the strap has been cut out, using a new scalpelblade, after which I used two rows of blanketstitches to keep the threads in place. As a finishing touch I used superglue to cement the threads to the fabric, creating a stiff edge, which makes handling a lot easier. The loop is a part of the smaller strap, stitched round and fastened to the bagfront.

Like I previously said The wastebelt got caught up in stuff on my belt, including the knife. So I figured out a way to get around that problem. My solution? Adding loops to the front of the bag onto which I can clip my Mora. The straps are, again, leftovers from the webbingstraps and are therefor thick and sturdy. Ideal for holding knife and sheath! The top loop actually is double looped. There is a small loop at the back.

 I stick the tip of the sheath in the bottomloop, clip the top over both straps and the thing sits real tight. No dangling and tapping against your leg, while moving and within easy reach for me as a righthander. And when the bag is not being used I just pop the knife of and hang it on my belt again.

 Here's the reason for the double loop. I measured it in such a way that I can hang a US canteenpouch over the knife. This pouch has a double Aliceclip.
 As you can see; easy access to both knife and canteen.

An extra feature is the wide beltloop at the back. The webbing strap extends all the way down, giving me the oppotunity to include this loop. This way I can use it to hang it from an older standard (Dutch) NATO webbingbelt, which makes it easier to add more stuff should I need it. Adding an extra canteen, pouches and such makes for a nice modular system. I can also take gear from the Finnbag, such as my FAK, my compaspouch, firesteelpouch, camerapouch, reducing the contents from the bag by another 50%, leaving more room for food and anything else I think I need.

I rearranged the loadout and reduced it, too. This way I have more than enough room to even put the poncho in the bag. I found out that by using this loadout I have another nifty gadget; the multitool on the left bottom has one have squeezed into a narrowpouch, allowing the other half to fold open and reveal the small slashlight built in. I can fold in open, while it still remains attached to the bag and light it. This way I have a bag with built-in lightsource... leaving both hands free to search through the bag, in darkness.

When all is packed I use another extra I added; 2 closing flaps.
These flaps serve a double purpose; they keep the shape of the bag, even when fully loaded, so that strain on the snaps is reduced and by keeping the shape they pull in the sides and keeping those under the flap, so no mess falls into the bag and no gear falls out. These flaps are made from shelterhalf leftovers. That's where the buttons and matching holes come from.

You can stick an axe or hatchet through the loops where the receiving end of the snaps are attached and it will hold.... sort of. So when my hatchetrestauration is done I will add yet one more strap to secure the hatchethead and sheath to the bag itself.

Now all I need to do is fieldtest these additions and find some nice badges to adorn the bag. A moose's head is an absolute must for me....

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

A new field of interest in the outdoors - watching birds

First of all, the pictures shown is this entry are not mine. I found them on the internet and use them only to illustrate what I want to tell and show you. Where possible I mentioned the source of the pictures and all credits go to those people!

Recently I obtained a new field of interest, while enjoying the outdoorlife; watching birds. Over the last weeks and months this interest has grown and I must say I am enjoying it more and more. I always liked seeing birds in the backyard, feeding them in winter and just watching them as they lived in and around my backyard in Holland the year round. Other than that I did not pay much attention to them.
Since I moved here, to Sweden, my outdoorhobby has increased and I spent a lot more time in the woods and because I had no job, I had time to sit still and watch birds more closely. Scandinavian winters are longer than I am used to and to get through the much longer evenings I ordered several of BBC's wildlifedocumentaries, all with Sir David Attenborough, one of my largest inspirators ever. One of these documentaries is "The life of birds". This documentary really sparked my interest is this form of wildlife and it was a true eyeopener. I found a whole new world to explore, right around me!

With the coming of spring I started to see and notice birds and their behaviour. I noticed new species of birds arriving on an almost dayly basis as they returned from the winteringgrounds. During the wintermonths I loaned some books on birds from the local library and I was able to name a few birds I saw and identify others with the help of these books. I was as thrilled as a child!

One thing I noticed, and I would have been a sorry case if I didn't, where the very large groups of gulls in the fields in our area. We have a large river in the direct vicinity, which explains their presence, I think. These groups mixed with equally large groups of grey crows, making for great displays of black and white in the fields. Today those groups have largely vanished. I think the birds moved on, up north, or the groups have disbanded with each bird looking for a place of its own.

Last week, mondaymorning I woke up and was greeted by a very noisy morningchoir of birds. Large amounts of small birds had settled in a few trees next to our backyard and their calls were quite loud. It was not a single species, but we saw at least three, all mixed up. As daylight grew stronger these birds left the trees en masse and landed in the fields to forage, from time to time rising from the ground as waves.....

I was able to identify these birds;
Buskskvätta, (Saxicola rubetra)
Rödvingetrast (Turdus iliacus)
Sädesärla (Motacilla alba)
Later that day I found one of our cats feasting on yet another species; Gulärla, (Motacilla flava)
While searching and googling to determine the birds I saw, I came across a great site with beautiful pictures of birds found in Sweden; Lars Lundmark's birdpictureblog

16 april; I was waiting for my kids at school and was watching large groups of small birds, swarming the fields. Suddenly I saw them all shooting away, like little bullets, heading for the nearest trees and shrubs, appearantly to seek shelter, giving of loud, shrilling calls. As I turned and look to the sky I saw the reason for their panic; a Pilgrimfalcon floating through the sky. He was circling and hovering, giving me the chance to have a good look at him!

On the 19th of april I was treated to yet anthor few birdspecials; While driving to school to pick up the kids I saw the first swallow of the season! I think this brave little aeronaut has seriously misjudged himself, thinking winter was over... Judging by its brown colour, short stubby body and zigzagging flightpattern it was a backsvala (Riparia riparia), that I saw whizzing by, crossing the road right in front of my car... The backswept wings and forked tail were the main giveaways, though...

Later on that day, after i dropped of my oldest daughter at her very first scoutingmeet, I toured around a little and passed a field. Right next to the road there was a couple of cranes, behaving very oddly, jumping up and down, sometimes throwing chunks of moss and grass, flapping their wings and swaying and bobbing their heads. I could witness this display for about 10 minutes, but than something disturbed them and they flew off, but in a perfectly synchonised way. One just above the other, beating their wings as if one..... It was an awesome sight.

source; wikimedia


During the last week the number of different birds has increased very much. The birds of summer are returning in large numbers.
Last night I heard a sound I hadn't heard befor; the hooting of an owl, right next to our yard! Unfortunately it was dark, so I could not see him.

Monday, April 16, 2012

OUT - Day out with the kids....

well, at least half a day.....
We had planned a little fieldtrip yesterday, trying to see if we could find signs of spring and for some outdoor "cooking"; making some soup and grilling a saucage.
I checked the weather and forecast weather was some sun, some clouds, maybe some rain and about +8C. So I figured I would travel "light", meaning no backpack. A good reason to try out my Finnbag's new layout, too. Just to be on safe side I brought my German poncho.... We were all dressed in cotton pants, hiking shoes and boots, t-shirt, wool sweater and the kids wore their raincoats, whilst I wore my army cotton fieldjacket.
Logistics required a different way of thinking on my behalf. What to take on a hike such as this one and how to distribute it (the weight and volume). We all had 1 filled up canteen, there was food for 3 and I brought my standardstuff, too. We all had a fixed bladeknife, a foldable one and a set of binoculairs, too.
The first signs of spring we found were in the wooded area, right behing the house.
this little flower is about 5-6cm high
Further on the way we found the first (for us) white forestanemones

And some horseshoefungus, the biggest we ever saw! 

They were going good! The pace we kept meant that we were still able to talk and we did not break into a sweat. My son opted for the old Dutch army canvas pack, carried as a shoulderbag. He had his canteen on the wastebelt, all ex-army and of the same vintage, too.

As I said, I brought my poncho along, too. Rolled up in it there's a small sack, containing 4x1meter bungees, 2 guylines and 3 metal groundpins..... This allows me to put up a rainshelter in very little time..... just in case.

We ended up on the lakeside again, the one we often visit. We just love that place! Weather was still fair, but here we were exposed to the wind, which did not bother us, while we were still between the trees, and that started to become noticable quit fast!
We saw and heard  many birds and we used our binos to stufy them and we were pointing out all kinds of things to one another. After a while we sat down for lunch and I lit a fire. Out came the saucages, the bread and the soup. I made my kids lunch first, but in the meantime my son started to complain about being cold. I myself did not notice it actually and he does have a tendency of complaining about that quit fast, so I did not pay much attention to it at first. I told my kids to close up their jackets and pull up the hoods, to keep the wind out of their necks. they were running around and exploring the place, so everything seemed ok. The wind kept increasing in strength, growing from a gentle and chilly breeze into a stiff and bonechilling wind. I still wasn't cold, but they were practically begging me to hand over the hot soup and saucages. While they were eating their lunch and I was preparing mine, I noticed my daughter had fallen silent, which never is a good sign, and my son started to shiver. It was obvious they were really starting to suffer from the icy wind and that's when I decided to pack up. We had to get out of the wind and needed to start moving again. I skipped lunch, extinguished the fire and packed up. Unfortunately the place did not allow the poncho to be used as a windshelter. Apart from the tree on the picture, there are no trees within easy reach.

On our way home I noticed that my fellow woodswalkers moved less well-coordinated than on the way in. They were quit tired. I guess that, besides the 5km walk in, the cold had drawn on their reserves pretty heavily. I spared them the long walk home and called my wife to come pick us up.
While we were waiting, we had some time to scout the area. We noticed some very tall anthills some 15 meters apart. One was at least 1 meter high and the other was even higher!
I do not know who has stuck his head into this one, but there must have been some nasty surprises for him/her waiting!

Can you guess what the darkbrown stuff is???

yep.... These babies were up to 1cm each!

We heard a car coming....

yours truely.
From now on, hiking with kids is no longer hiking light. Next time I will at least bring a shelterhalf and an extra layer of clothing for them. This means a backpack at all times. I did not bring an axe with me either and I was able to take care of business without, but it sure would have been handy.

One of the things my son was carrying, was a toiletpaperdispenser. I have shamelessly copied this idea from Johan Forsberg's blog HERE . My daughter had the pleasure of fieldtesting this idea and she was more than happy with it! Especially when travelling with kids I can really recommend this idea!!

Here's a shot of the contents of my Finnbag. Apart from the filled canteen with pouch and metal cup, the poncho and the large firstaid-kit, is was packing the following items;
Small compartments from left to right;
- DC4 + firesteel in pouch. The latter can be attached to the belt,
- multitool with small flashlight build in,
- notebook and pencil in ziplock, binoculairs and lenseatic compass
- sewingset, fabric handkerchief, foldable sunglasses/snowgoggles, foldable cup and spork, large sturdy plastic bag and a tin Wilma's Nordic Summer.
Larger compartment;
- large firstaid-kit and reflective emergencyvest
Main compartment;
- German army gloves, foraging bag/net, ziplock with 10 meters paracord, fieldlibrary with Collins gem Food for free and SAS survivalmanual, ziplocked to keep dry and a compasspouch with my camera.
With the Mora clipped to the front, the whole thing weighed a total of 6kg, but as said, that was with the filled canteen and poncho, adding 2,5kg. It was not uncomfortable to carry, but I will have to find another way of carrying the canteen, I guess.
The pack was still bulky and the snaps kept popping open. I have some alteraltions in mind for the pack, like adding loops to secure the Moraknife. Carrying it like that was quite handy. I need to add some padding for the shoulderstrap, though. I will also need to modify the closingsnaps in some way, too, because I was constantly worrying about losing gear.