Monday, February 2, 2015

Winter reading 1 - Outdoorlife or camping in winter

February has come and with it a lot of snow, 40-50cm so far.... And while the snow continues to fall, as does the temperature, I though it might be fun to do some bookreviews, which might help get you through the remaining winterweeks or help you through winters to come.
The subject of this first part is; Outdoorlife or camping in winter.
In this first part I want to show you some books of people who know what they are talking about, because they are doing it themselves on levels we mere furnacebound mortals can only dream of. I am talking about people like Garett and Alexandra Conover, Calvin Rutstrum, Nicolas Vanier and, dare I say, Ray Mears and their knowledge, expertise and stories on wintercamping.

The first one is the "Snow walker's companion" by the Conovers.
Paperback, 244p. b/w & colour illustrations and pictures.
In the middle there is a section in colour, giving an account of a long trip they made, showing the strains and foodissues they suffered from, but also the way they made it through.
The only thing I have a few doubts about is their food philosophy, meaning they put a bit too much emphasis on carbs for my liking, knowing what I (think I) know now. Mind you, the original book is from 1996 and I very much doubt they had heard of paleodiets or LCHF in those days.
This is a book that seems to be the nr.1 on every wintercamper's list and I can understand why. It is packed full of knowledge and information on gear, food, travelling and, very importantly, mental fitness. All is written is a very understandable and digestible English. Through the book there are also a good number of personal experiences and tales, making it even more readable.The contents range from knots and tents, through food and repairs, to clothing and toboggans/sleds, whilst also dealing with first aid and mental attitude/fitness. It really covers all the bases. It shows in easy to understand steps how to use it or even make it yourself! That's right. You even get patterns for making mittens, mukluks or complete, stoveheated tents! The emphasis is on traditional skills and materials, which may not be to every one's liking.
This book was long out of print and often was sold at ridiculously high prices. Luckily it is back in print, so it will be available to a larger group of readers. My recommendation: Get it while you can! If you are interested in this sort of thing, that is...

The second one is "Paradise below zero" by Calvin Rutstrum.
Paperback, 244p. Line drawings and b/w pictures. The original book first appears in 1968!

Much of what the Conovers say or do, is also in this book and more, but what I enjoyed too was the additional stories and background information, like history or indigenous people. It is less tradition-focussed and has a bit more of a.... how shall I describe it... academic feel to it. No, not academic... More scholarly? Nah... but you (might) get what I mean..
Combined with "A snowwalker's companion" it makes a great set, but it stands very well on its own as well.

I very highly recommend this book as well!!

Mr.Rutstrum has written many more books, but this one is the only one I have (read). I hope to be able to add more to the list someday.

The third one is Nicolas Vanier (the link is a wikipedia site in French), a name I do not often see when books are mentioned about living out in the cold and I wonder why. He deserves to be right among the others, although he is not in the same league as the Conovers or Rutstrum. This book is a different category all together, yet his skills are on par with the other two! The other two books have a more educational tone. This one is more storybased.
It was his book "North: adventures in the frozen wild" that got me into winter outdoorlife. Mr.Vanier is French, so many of his books are as well, but most of them, if not all, are translated into English and a good deal of other languages such as German and Dutch. It takes some searching for them, but what I have read is very much worth it.
This one is a hefty book, a good 30x25cm hardcover and more than 320 pages thick. Most of that space is taken by colourpictures, both small and pagecovering. The last chapter mentions his adventure, taking his wife and daughter on an endeavour into the yukon. The small book, called snowchild in English, is a full account on that and I devoured that book! What a story!!
Anyway, the large book is an overview of Vanier's trips around the arctic, ranging from Canada all around the globe to northern Russia, showing various locations, both land and water, as well as a good handfull on tip, tricks and DIY's, including a pattern for mocassins. That one I used to make mine! The ones I showed somewhere in the beginning of this blog. Still have'm today. It doesn't solely deal with winterconditions, but with summer as well, so the title is a bit misleading.
This book goes not as deep as the others into the subject, but it is more of a picturebook and brings across the feeling of the northern wilderness. This book is less for the mind, but more for the heart. I have had it for years and I still go back to it every once in a while.

If you come across a copy of either one, do not hesitate to take them!

1 comment:

  1. Have you ever heard of Gretel Ehrlich? She's written a lot of good books but I especially liked one called "This Cold Heaven: Seven Seasons in Greenland". I was fascinated by her description of "kiviok". I never could eat that. I don't know how anyone could!

    I will certainly check out these books!