Adventure: Wye not forage for dinner?

As I stood where the path should be looking up at the stinging nettles above me, I started to question my navigational choices. We were on this path because the path we wanted to take was hidden under an impassible jungle of Brambles, nettles and other spiky vegetation. Batting Triffid like nettles out the way with my poles as I walked, I wasn’t sure this path was any better.

The path I was on is somewhere in east Kent, and unusually for my trips, I’d managed to persuade 3 others to join me for this hike. Ahead disappearing into the undergrowth were Jesper, Jim and Jules. But this was a hike with extra purpose, this time, we hiked for science.

A Hypothesis.

Every year someone (usually a young bloke in their late teens) asks on one of the Bushcraft forums that we all use a question along the lines of:

My mates and I want to do a hike, foraging and living off the land as we go, can anyone give us suggestions on where to go and what to forage for?

And every year the regulars on the forum give patient well worded replies along the lines of:

You can hike, or you can forage, but not both

It’s a simple enough equation. The adult human needs 2000-2500 kcalories a day to cover their needs, more if they are expending any great effort. Whilst the modern human has access to refined sugar, copious mass produced carbs and endless fats, in nature it’s not so easy. If you grab a book on wild food, you’ll find a whole catalogue of things you can eat without killing you, but to cover your 2000 calories, how many of these would you need? Unfortunately the standard indexes of calories in foods don’t tend to include things like Goosegrass, Bog Myrtle, or Nettles. But looking at the crop wild relatives of some foods that calorie numbers are available for, you can get a rough idea. Assuming that cabbage and sea kale leaves aren’t too dissimilar, how much would you need to eat in a day to cover your 2000kcal? Roll some dice, crunch some numbers, and you get a figure around 6kg. Yes, SIX kilograms of sea kale. I’ll buy a pint for anyone who can prove they’ve eaten that in a single day… Not exactly ideal. What about apples? An apple is about 50 kcalories. So you’re looking at 80 apples. So the numbers are pretty damning. You’re not going to be able to forage for enough food to meet your energy requirements let alone hike any distance at the same time. But this is just a theory, it’s just numbers. What we really needed to do, was put this to the test.

Method

Our basic plan was 4 people with varying levels of knowledge of wild food, and varying fitness would meet up somewhere in Kent, and do a 2 day hike with an overnight bivvi, trying to forage for our dinner as we went. So as to not try to bite off more than we could chew, the route we settled on was a simple 25km loop starting and finishing at Wye station. This would take in varying habitats including woodland, hedgerows, field margins, access land, and a section of the North Downs Way. Giving a good representation for a hike in Southern Britain.

UK law would limit our foraging to the four F’s – Fungi, Foliage, Fruit and Flowers. This gives us a vegetarian diet, but in theory should give us access to all sorts of interesting food stuffs. Assuming we could find them, identify them with certainty, and in some cases reach them.

We left the station in good spirits. Jules, Jesper and myself. Jim would join us a bit later. We decided we’d let ourselves get out of the village before we started to forage, other wise we could easily end up getting nowhere. We made it 100 yards up the North Downs Way towards the Wye Crown before coming across a really good patch of black berries that were too good to miss. We foraged for 5 mins, trying to find as many as we could in that time – a few handfuls. We could have spent an hour there and picked the area clean. But if we did that, our average speed would make the whole trip untenable. But it was a start, we had something, even if it wasn’t much. A bit further a long I spotted a squashed plumb on the floor. I’ve long realised that often the easiest way to find fruit trees is to look on the ground for their windfalls. We now knew there was a plum somewhere near by, we just had to find it. A search of the nearby hedgerow located the tree, as well as it’s crop of a plum. One solitary plum, about 8 feet off the ground. Just out of reach. Bah. Ah well. Onwards.

We progressed up the hill to the Wye crown were we stopped to drink in the view, and drink some of our water. It was blowing quite a hooley up there. As we crossed the ridge we wandered along the edge of a recently harvested wheat field. In various places unharvested seed heads lay on the ground and in a few places stalks that the combine had missed stood dancing in the wind. We grabbed a few handfuls, it wouldn’t be enough to bake a loaf, but it would be a welcome addition to what ever stew we could come up with for dinner.

With the strong wind we were grateful to drop down the other side of the ridge into a valley, where we passed along well maintained (read threshed to bits) beech hedging. A linear monoculture. Beech leaves are technically edible, I used to infuriate my Arboriculture lecturer in ID classes by eating the samples to tell the difference between beech, hornbeam, elm and birch leaves (apparently this isn’t the approved method…), but this late in the season (late August) they don’t taste very good, nowhere near as tasty as first thing in the spring. There may have been a few edible weeds around the base of the hedge, but there were prime dog pee height and none of us wanted to spend much time checking them.

Continuing on we entered woodland. I stopped to look at the map, checking were were going the right way when I heard.

“Is that a chicken?”

“Where?”

“There.” I looked up from the map to see where Jules was pointing. Yep, that was chicken of the woods(Laetiporus sulphureus). Five metres up in the crotch of a mature oak was a large chicken of the woods mushroom. We stood staring, trying to work out if there was anyway we could reach it. None of us had brought any climbing equipment, nor ropes, and the 3m or so to the lowest branch didn’t seem like something we could safely reach. Tauntingly, we left it behind us and continued on. As we walked we found a fallen ash tree that provided some cramp balls (Daldinia concentrica), and fallen birch tree yielded copious quantities of bark. We could at least forage forage for our fire lighting materials if nothing else.

Lots of flowers, some of them are edible. But which?

Exiting the woodland we found ourselves on a hillside that had been seeded with wild flowers as food for pheasants and other wild birds. We tried to identify various edibles among the grass, but none of us could be certain about a lot of them.

We decided that it was a good time to start thinking about coffee. Crundale church was a couple of kilometres away and the bench there would make a great place to have a break. I had a small wood gas stove in my pack that I picked up on ebay. In theory it would burn twigs very efficiently and save us the need to carry fuel. But this meant we now needed to add fire wood to our foraging. We walked, eyes everywhere trying to spot things that might be edible, as well as any dead standing twigs that would burn.

Arriving at Crundale church we set out our harvest so far. Blackberries, Hazel nuts, wheat, some leaves, a couple of cramp balls, birch bark and some twigs. Not exactly inspiring.

Located on top of a ridge just outside of the village of it gets it’s name from, Crundale Church affords a beautiful view that  more than made up for our poor harvest. As we admitted that our hypothesis was looking proven, we dug into the emergency backup Mars bar supply. The downside of being on the ridge was the wind. Trying to light the stove by the bench wasn’t going to be an option, so we sheltered behind a yew tree, adding out backpacks and bodies as extra protection. Thus followed an hour of trying to get the stove to boil a pot of water. The wind provided cooling to the pot, as well as made keeping the fire going really hard. Feed it too fast and it would choke and go out, Feed too slow, and it would starve. Eventually we decided that this was never going to boil and transferred the water to a gas stove and had coffee ready a couple of minutes later. With impeccable timing this was the point Jim turned up. Drinking the coffee we winnowed the wheat we’d found, here the wind was useful.

Fed and watered, we set off down the road. After our game of “how many bushcrafters does it take to boil the kettle.” We now began a game of “how many bushcrafters does it take to find the right path”. Eventually we found the path we wanted and headed towards Eggringe wood. We had some fun navigating the forest tracks and pathways, but as we were approaching the way out of the woods we hit pay dirt. Burdocks! (Arctium lappa). Using a potty trowel, and a hastily carved digging stick, Jim and Jules dug around the base of a large plant to extract the root. After much digging they proudly raised their treasure for all to behold. Six inches long and barely thicker than a thumb, we had a dock root. We had starch. We discussed the merits of our new bounty. Given the effort of digging it up, we concluded that it wasn’t exactly an efficient use of energy or time. Growing nearby we found some mint plants and raided a few sprigs that we could perhaps use to make mint tea with.

Continuing on towards Chilham Down Jules introduced us to the culinary hit of the trip. Nettle seeds. Available in large quantities, and tasty, they provided a food we could graze as we wandered, as long as you were ok to put up with the occasional sting.

The path from Down wood to Chilham down proved to be interesting, with nettles and brambles towering over our heads. Several times I questioned which idiot had chosen this route (that would be me). Finding one route over grown we opted to detour down towards the cycle route at the bottom of the hill, this was hardly any better, but eventually it did end and we found ourselves on the cycle route next to a railway line and the A28.

Map check revealed we were nearly a kilometre further south than intended. This did present us a new option tho. At the cost of a short section of road walk, we could cross the river and continue on the other side which should be prettier. We also concluded that having largely failed to find enough food to feed 4 people, it might be best if we diverted to Chilham to take on fuel at the pub.

It was a good theory, and having navigated the most optimistic kissing gate design I’ve ever seen (none of us fit through and had to climb over), we wandered along the edge of a field by the river. Alas the route marked on the map seemed to disappear into the under growth and provide no useful way forward. We ended up skirting all the way round the edge of the field before eventually finding a gap in the hedge that allowed us out onto Mountain Street half a km south of where we intended.

With the gravitational pull of a pub exerting it’s influence upon us, we picked up the speed along the road to the Woolpack inn for a well earned dinner.

After dinner Jesper had to head off, leaving Jim, Jules and myself to continue on in search of somewhere to sleep.

Our camp…(What is the collective noun for tarp shelters?)

Exhausted and in the dark the three of us hunted out a suitable spot to sleep in nearby woods. Tarps up, bivvi bags deployed, we hit the hay for a well earned sleep.

Morning revealed that perhaps our choice of bivvi spot wasn’t as good as we had thought in the dark the previous night. Out attempt to get out of site of 2 paths had put us in rather obvious view of another. Fortunately noone seemed to have noticed us (or been bothered enough to react to us at least). We broke camp and back tracked to the North Downs Way which we would now follow all the way back to Wye.

In light of our poor foraging yield the day before we decided that we would be better off seeking out a pub lunch in Wye, leaving us more time to concentrate on the scenery and just walking.

Leaving the Kings wood we descended into a landscape of golden fields in various states of harvest. Down hollow ways and field edges we arrived at Boughton Lees. This is where the North Downs Way splits on it’s route towards the sea, with one route going via Canterbury and one route via Wye.

In one of the hedge rows we found a tree from the Prunus family with plump fruit. We couldn’t work out if it was a large slow, or damson, or a bullace, or diminutive plum. Jules seemed to find them tasty enough tho.

Prunus of some kind…

A group of three? or a trio of solo hikers in loose formation?

Crossing the A28 we found ourselves at Perry Court Farm. Here we found the important trio of clean loos, tea, and cake. The idea of which was too much, and so 1km earlier than planned, we decided to stop for lunch here. Jim got a call from his other half who was in the area and wondered if we wanted a lift. With sore feet and having achieved what we set out to, we decided to accept the lift and end the hike here.

Results

So what of our experiment?

Despite being one of the more bountiful times of year, we hadn’t been able to find enough wild food to feed the 4 of us, and in trying we’d ended up hiking well beyond dark, pitching camp at gone 2300. We discussed the experiment over tea and concluded that had we gone to one location, set up camp, and then done forage parties round that area we probably could have foraged enough to make meals that didn’t leave us too hungry. Tho still short on energy requirements for the day. If we could add fish or fowl, then hitting it becomes more achievable. We also felt that you need a much greater knowledge of wild edibles than collectively we had. If we had carried a few staples like rice, flour, instant mash, and some stock cubes. Then we could easily have added foraged ingredients to liven up what could be otherwise bland fare.

Our harvest.

Conclusion

In conclusion, our hypothesis seems to be about right. You can walk or you can forage. You can’t reasonably expect to do both to any substantial degree. This shouldn’t preclude the inclusion of foraged ingredients in ones diet when travelling, but perhaps to supplement ones dehydrated meals. Maybe a dessert of blackberries, or a wild leaves salad starter. Rather than the core of your diet.

A Brompton’s winter boots.

Winter seems to be well on it’s way, the hard frosts are predicted, and the gritters are heading out onto the roads in a bid to keep them ice free.

Just the thought of falling over on an icy bend is enough to drive most cyclists towards taking the bus to work until conditions improve. But it doesn’t have to be the case. For years Schwalbe (and others, notably Nokian), have produced studded winter tyres in various sizes that allow you to keep cycling throughout the winter months. But there has always been a gap in their range at the smaller size bracket. After all, what sort of crazy idiot would want to put studded tyres on a bike with 16″ wheels. Hello.

For the first 7 years of Brompton ownership, when ever I spoke to someone at Brompton, be it a designer, sales rep, or even the CEO (via twitter), I would mention that it would be great if there were studded tyres for the Brompton. Finally after all that nagging, Schwalbe announced a couple of years ago they would make 30×349 (that’s 16″ x 1.2″ in old money) studded tyres that would fit the Brompton. WOO!

November 2015 with a need to get to college what ever the weather, I bit the bullet and invested in a pair of Schwalbe Winter tyres.

Spiked tyre

Fitting these tyres to the Brompton is not the easiest task, they come somewhere between a Marathon and a Marathon Plus in terms of difficulty, but nothing that a bead jack doesn’t solve. You just have to be aware that they fight back more than non studded tyres and fitting them can require a blood sacrifice…

The main gotcha to be aware of is that because of the way the Brompton folds, the studs will chip the paintwork on the frame when the bike is folded. Wanting to protect the paintwork as much as possible, I fashioned a couple of leather guards that I laced onto the frame. They are 2.6mm leather held on with bungee cord.

Leather frame protectors.

Leather frame protectors

They win no awards for their beauty, they were a proof of concept that I made from scraps of leather I had laying around. Now I’ve proved the concept works, I’m pondering a mark 2 version that looks a bit better.

Once you’ve got the tyres fitted along with the optional frame protection, you need to run the tyres in on normal roads before you set off on the ice. The recommendation from Schwalbe is 40km without heavy braking or acceleration. You only need to do this the first time you fit them, in future years they should be good to go on the ice straight away.

The tyres have two recommended operating pressures, ~7 bar for roads that are mostly clear or fully clear of ice, and if you are expecting lots of ice, deflate them down to ~4.5bar. This lead to an interesting question about what pressure you should run them in at. I opted for 4.5bar. I’m not sure what pressure Schwalbe recommend. (note you can pump these right upto 8bar, but at that point the ride becomes rather painful)

Running them for the first time what becomes immediately apparent is the noise. Ye gods these things are noisy. On normal tarmac they make a hell of a racket. This can be a good thing, pedestrians certainly hear you coming. I tend to listen to music or podcasts when cycling which certainly helps cover the clatter.

Once you get used to the clatter, and the slight increase in rolling resistance compared to say Marathons, then they feel just like any normal tyre.

The tyres feel grippy in all the conditions that I’ve used them in. (Un)fortunately fitting studded tyres to a bike seems to act to ward off the snow/ice, and winter 2015/2016 was pretty mild so I didn’t get to test these to their fullest, I’m kinda hoping that 2016 brings proper snow and ice so I can get some sub zero miles in.

Over time the studs can and do fall out, over something like 600+km I lost 3 studs (2 from 1 tyre, 1 from the other). Schwalbe have anticipated this and produce a pack of 50 studs and the tool necessary to fit them. I got this for just over a tenner on amazon. They also sell a pack of 50 studs without the tool.

Tool, Studs and tyre. The shiny stud has just been installed, the other one has seen a season's use.

Tool, Studs and tyre. The shiny stud has just been installed, the other one has seen a season’s use.

In terms of puncture protection, the tyres come with Schwalbe’s “K-guard”. This provides some protection, but nowhere near as good as on Marathon or Marathon Plus. I had 2 punctures over the winter, both in the same tyre (rear). Fixing a puncture when it’s 0°C is a bit of an interesting experience, balancing dexterity with keeping your hands warm, so this is something to bear in mind. (For larger bikes, the Marathon Winter has better puncture protection and more spikes, but only goes down to 42×406).

All in all with affordable Spiked tyres and appropriate clothing, there’s very little excuse not to keep riding through the winter, even on a Brompton.

Post script: When cycling across ice it’s easy to forget that it’s slippery, and the moment you stop and put your foot down, you fall over. The solution to this is studs for your shoes. I have a pair of Kahtoola nanospikes for slippery pavements which work well for this.

 

KIT: What’s in the backpack?

I’ve had a number of people asking me if I really fit everything for a weekend hike in my 30L pack. So I thought I’d right a post with a details what’s in the pack for a typical summer weekend hike. The photo was taken at the end of a trip so there’s no food in the pack.

Pack contents

Pack contents

  • A – Sea-to-Summit Outhouse & Coughlans trowel
  • B – Clothing – a few pairs of underwear, spare socks, spare baselayer (Rab MeCo 120 SS)
  • C – RAB Siltarp 1 + 6 x Alpkit Y beam pegs in Treadlightly bag
  • D – Evernew 1.5L water pouch
  • E – Mountain Equipment Lamina 35 sleeping bag
  • F – Osprey Tempest 30 Backpack
  • G – Exped Synmat 7 UL, Schnozzel pump bag, Exped Pillow UL, RAB silk sleeping bag liner, Mossie headnet
  • H – Alpkit Hunka XL bivvi bag.
  • I – Sawyer Mini, 2L bag, gravity conversion kit.
  • J – Powertraveller powermonkey Extreme + cable
  • K – Evernew Appalachian set + Evernew 400ml mug
  • L – Paramo Bentu fleece
  • M – Svord Peasant Mini + EDC Fire Kit (both in right pocket)
  • N – Meths
  • O – Paramo Fuera Ascent Jacket
  • P – Brewkit.

Not labelled is the silver foil coated bubble wrap insulation that I use as a ground pad under the Exped Synmat.

Brewkit contents

Brewkit contents

In the brew kit I have teabags, hot chocolate, soup, knife, fork, spoon, salt, pepper, oil, pot gripper, and the BPL universal trivet. The tub doesn’t weigh much more than a similar size stuff sack, and protects the contents.

When packing I try to make sure everything goes into the pack in the reverse order that I need it, so the sleeping bag goes in the bottom, then the bivvi bag, then sleep mat, then tarp etc…

The powermonkey pack goes in the zip pocket on the underside of the lid, the sawyer goes in the stash pocket on the front of the pack, the trowel and fuel in a side pocket, and the water pouch in the other side pocket.

Contents of the pack pockets

Contents of the pack pockets

In the hip pockets I have a few odds and sods, the first aid kit (large dressing, pouch of plasters, tube of pills) goes in the left pocket, the right pocket has sunblock, insect repellent, small saw, and the Zelph Starlyte stove. I keep my inReach Explorer on my left shoulder strap, and my Petzl Zipka 2+ on the right strap, so I don’t have to rummage about in a pack to try and find it in the dark.

With everything in the pack there is room for food on the top, and in the stash pocket. The lid pocket is also empty and I usually fill it with food. Dry weight, it’s 6.6kg.

Packed and ready to go

Packed and ready to go

Everything I need for a few nights hiking, all carried in a 30L pack, with room for food.

REVIEW: AMK SOL Escape Bivvi Bag.

AMK SOL Escape Bivvi in use in December 2015.

On paper it looks too good to be true. An 8.6oz (243g) breathable bivvi bag that also reflects back your own body heat. The name, Adventure Medical Kits Survive Outdoors Longer Escape Bivvi is quite a mouthful. When I first came across it on the AMK website I thought it had to be worth testing out. If the claims are true here’s a 250g piece of kit that can replace my bivvi bag and sleeping bag in the warmer months of the year. A massive saving on weight.

AMK make the Escape bivvi both in ORANGE and in an Olive drab. Unfortunately the UK importer only imports the ORANGE version and not the green. Fortunately the green version can be had on Amazon.com, including delivery to the UK. Even better it worked out half the price of buying the orange version in the UK. Win.

AMK SOL Escape Bivvi with 1L Nalgene bottle for scale

As it comes the bivvi bag is packed into it’s stuff sack, which is made out of the same fabric as the bivvi bag itself. When it arrives is the only time it will ever be that size, after using and repacking it a few times it sort of settles at about the size of a Nalgene bottle. Not quite as small as originally packaged.

The fabric is sold as breathable and heat reflective bivvi bag that can even replace a sleeping bag down to 50°F. Pah! No chance.

The bag reflects back most of your body heat, which is great, but because it’s next to your body it’s not able to prevent conductive and convection loses. I’ve tried various permutations of fully clothed, just a base layer, with a sleeping bag liner. Even testing it inside when the temperature was about 18°C, it just wasn’t warm enough to use on it’s own.

So what about with a sleeping bag? This is where you come up against the other major issue with the bag, the size. In order to keep the weight down they have made the bag quite small. Whilst I fit in it length wise, it’s a tight fit round the torso. I can fit in with my summer sleeping bag, but with my winter bag it compresses the insulation so much that you don’t get the benefit and end up with cold spots. With a summer sleeping bag inside, this bag does provide extra warmth and can give a few extra degrees performance from your sleeping bag. But, if it’s too warm, and you start to sweat, you hit the next issue.

Breath-ability. This is an interesting one. AMK claim that the bag is breathable. And I’m sure it is, to a point. AMK do not list a Moisture Vapour Transmission Rate, the measure by of how well a fabric breathes. So whilst I’m sure that some moisture escapes, it certainly doesn’t seem to be all of it. I have had a few dry nights sleep with the Escape Bivvi, these have been nights where the ambient temp has balanced well with the combo of sleeping bag and bivvi bag. In summer where I’ve ended up slightly too warm and thus sweated, you get a damp bag.

So it’s not particularly warm, and it doesn’t seem too great at letting the water out. Does it at least not let the water in? In a word: No. If used under a tarp, or on a dry night, it’ll keep the dew off your sleeping bag, and it’ll be OK with the odd spray that may come in the side of the tarp. But used in a rain storm, you’re gonna get wet.

So is it all bad news? Not entirely. As an emergency survival bag it’s light enough to drop in your pack and should keep you alive until Mountain Rescue can find you, and on nights where you want to keep the dew off your sleeping bag and the temperature is just right, it does work. If AMK made a slightly larger version so you could get a winter sleeping bag to fully loft inside, the extra warmth the reflective fabric gives would be useful. But for a bag that has so much promise, so much potential, AMK seem to have ended up well short of the mark.

KIT: Stayling Alive Cold Kit

Inspired by Susanne’s Williams thread on making a Staying alive cold kit, I decided to make one of my own. Not wanting to faff about cutting up space blankets, I decided to throw a tiny amount of cash at the problem.

Adventure Medical Kits make a couple of useful items that make a SAC kit really simple. My kit is made up of:

  • AMK Survive Outdoors Longer Survival Poncho
  • AMK SOL Emergency Blanket
  • Storm matches
  • 3 x tea lights
  • NATO Aviators fire kit
  • Alpkit dry bag to store it all.

Staying alive cold kit contents.

I won’t duplicate the content of Suzanne’s thread on how to use a SAC kit, but for those who haven’t read it, the basic idea is something that fits in a pocket when out in winter, whilst providing enough basic shelter and warmth to survive the night. The whole lot was largely used to hit the free postage threshold on amazon.com, and comes in under 20 quid. The only downside, is that the poncho + blanket seem to be of the kind that once unfolded, you will never get them as small and well folded up ever again…

Postscript:

Since I put this kit together I’ve had to use parts of it in anger once. Cycling to the station after college I got too hot, perspired too much, and soaked my base layer. Sitting at the station for 35 minutes in -3°C, I started to chill, so resorted to using the space blanket from my SAC kit to keep myself warm until the train arrived.

Kit: Everyday fire

I’ve mentioned in a couple of recent posts lighting fires with the stuff I have in my pockets, on one occasion because I hadn’t planned on a fire, and another because I wanted to double check that I could. With this in mind I thought I’d write a short post on what I carry with me so I can produce fire when needed.

EDC Fire kit

EDC Fire kit

The first item I carry with me started life as an Every Day Carry Fire Kit by Polymath Products. The first version of the EDC fire kit came with a little thermometer on the top, I didn’t expect this to be all that useful to me, so I did a special order with a compass instead. In this respect externally it closer resembles their Ultra Compact Survival Kit.

Inside the EDC Fire kit, showing Ferro rod, and Tinder quik tinder.

Inside the EDC Fire kit, showing Ferro rod, and Tinder quik tinder.

Inside the shotgun shell container, there is a ferrocerium rod (aka ferro rod, fire steel etc…), and some tinder. The kit also came with waxed Jute tinder, some pyro powder, and a glow stick. I took these out and replaced them with Tinderquik fire tabs. These are piece of compressed cotton that is treated to make it very flammable, you fluff the end up and they take a spark really easily. I fit 8 of them in the EDC fire kit.

To use the kit you remove the split ring from the hole on the ferro rod, insert the ferro rod into the hole in the shell (the shell then becomes the handle), fluff up a bit of tinder quik, and strike a spark. I really like this kit, the compass has proven very useful even in the urban environment, particularly to orientate myself when exiting tube stations. I’ve even used it to light a BBQ at a friends place.

Contents of the Spark-Lite™ kit

Contents of the Spark-Lite™ kit

Whilst the EDC fire kit lives in my pocket, I also carry in my backpack something called the Spark-Lite™ emergency fire starter. This is a small green box containing 8 tinder quik fire tabs (spotting a theme here?) and a sparker. There exist 2 basic models of the Spark-Lite™, one has a metal sparker and one a plastic. Of each of these there is a Green and an Orange version. I own both the plastic and the metal version. It’s the metal one that lives in my pack. Aside from the material, the main functional difference between the metal and plastic versions is that the metal version comes with an allen key and a spare piece of ferro rod. The allen key undoes the nut that holds the piece of ferro rod in place.

To use the Spark-Lite™ kit you fluff up one end of the tinder-quik, then using the sparker just like you would a cigarette lighter, strike a spark onto the tinder. The first time I used this the tinder-quik lit off the first spark, which took me by surprised and I dropped it. It’s a really effective tool. As with most kit I use, I have modified it. I suspect that the metal will not be nice to touch in very cold conditions, so have put a piece of heatshrink on the handle to protect my hands. I’m really pleased with how well this set works, and considering that it cost me less than a fiver on ebay, it’s hard to go wrong.

EDC Fire kit and Spark-Lite™ Emergency Fire Starter.

EDC Fire kit and Spark-Lite™ Emergency Fire Starter.

REVIEW: DeLorme inReach Explorer

“I’m off for a hike, back at 5”

It’s a phrase I’ve uttered a variant of many times, be it to my house mate, or via text to another friend. Each time it’s a clear message. If you haven’t heard from me by 6, call 999 and ask for search and rescue. I usually accompany it with a brief explanation of my plan “I’m going to walk in the Kings wood” or on bigger walks I may leave a GPX of the route with them.

The reason for this procedure is that often in the areas I hike in, there is no phone signal. Even in somewhere as densely populated as Kent phone signal is not a given. Alas as a procedure, it’s not perfect. If my walk started at noon, and I fell over and broke my leg at 1, it’s going to be 5 hours before the call is made, and another hour or 2 before rescue will get to me. That’s a long time to lay in pain on a hill side. In such situations a broken leg can easily become complicated by things like hypothermia.

I experimented with the Buddy beacon on the Viewranger app, which provided some tracking of my position while hiking, but it was always let down by a poor mobile phone coverage and even poorer battery life. There had to be a better way.

Enter the DeLorme inReach range of devices. These devices work not off the mobile phone network, but off the Iridium satellite network. Iridium was launched in the closing years of the 20th century as a satellite mobile network for global use. The history of the bust and bailout of Iridium could fill an article in it’s own right, so I won’t go into that, you can have a look on wikipedia, it’s an interesting story that’s worth a read.

The original inReach provided SOS and 2-way messaging functions, but relied on pairing with a mobile phone to provide full messaging functionality. But the leap forward comes with the Explorer and the SE devices.

The inReach SE and the inReach Explorer have the same basic form factor, a bit like a ruggedised older style mobile phone, with the antenna sticking up on it. Both devices share the SOS, two way messaging, social media messaging (send only) and position tracking. To this the explorer adds traditional GPSr functionality, with way points, positioning, Barometric altimeter, electronic compass, route management etc… The price difference between the two units is about £50. Or the same as a very low end GPS like the Garmin eTrex 10.

I’ve wanted a device like this since I first followed the launch of Iridium back in the last century, but when I saw the price of both the devices and the connectivity contracts I concluded that it would be forever beyond my reach. Fast forward by 17 years, and things have changed a bit. Iridium devices are still much the same price, and usage is much the same cost. Only inflation means that relatively speaking the price has come down a lot. But along with the improvements in cost effectiveness, so have come improvements in devices that can use the network. I was amazed to discover that you can buy a device like the inReach Explorer for less than the price of a middle of the range smart phone. But more importantly the usage prices have come down dramatically. I’ll go into this in more detail shortly.

In July I treated myself to an inReach Explorer, and signed up to the Recreation plan on a 1 year contract. The device arrived by FEDEX less than 24 hours after I placed the order. It comes in a box with a charger (US socket), USB cable, lanyard, and manual. I also bought the case to go with it. The device itself is waterproof to 1M, but does not float. I want to be able to use it while Kayaking/Canoing and so bought the extra case. In High Visibility Orange, it both floats, and should be pretty obvious if I do drop it in the drink.

When you get the device you first have to charge it up, then activate it. In order to activate it you need to decide what usage plan you want to use. DeLorme offer 4 levels of usage plan for individuals, and you can choose an annual or monthly contract. If you opt for a monthly contract, you can choose to not pay anything for the months of the year you don’t need it. So if you only tend to hike in the summer months, or only want to use the device on certain trips, you only pay for the months you need. Conversely, if you expect to use the device regularly, then the annual contract works out cheaper per month. The four plans range from the “Safety Plan” at $14.95 per month ($11.95 per month if you have an annual contract) to the “Extreme Plan” at $99.95 ($79.95 per month with an annual contract). At $11.95, you get unlimited SOS, 10 text messages, unlimited preset messages, and a minimum tracking interval of 10 minutes. Tracking points and location pings are $0.10 each, and if you go over your 10 messages they are $0.50 each. The next plan up, the “Recreation Plan” is $24.95/$34.95 per month, and perhaps the most useful of the plans. Here you get 40 text messages, unlimited tracking and location pings. Above this plan the price jumps significantly and gives you unlimited messaging. Then for the top level plan, it increase the tracking frequency to 2 minutes.

What are preset messages? These are upto 3 messages you pre-program into the device. You have to decide both the recipient and the message content. I’ve got these programmed to “I’m OK” “Made camp” “Breaking Camp”, and they go to a couple of friends. You can send preset messages either from the preset menu in the device, or by holding down X button until it gives you the menu. Each preset message when it is delivered to the recipient includes your position as both a link to a map with a “they are here” indicator, and as a lat/long position. Being included with all plans these are a really useful way of keeping friends and family up to date with your status.

What are tracking points and location pings? If you go into the tracking menu you can activate the inReach device to relay your position via satellite every x minutes, where x is the interval you choose. This is limited to a max frequency of 10 minutes or 2 minutes depending on plan, but you can also set it to be less frequent, once an hour say. These tracking points are sent to DeLorme and can be shown on the mapshare system. Mapshare is DeLormes platform for sharing your position. You can share this with friends/family so they can track your progress, they can also use this to message/ping you. This is where location pings come in. Someone with access to your Mapshare page can ping your device to see where you are. It’s like a tracking point, but pulled, rather than pushed…

When a message arrives via text, it looks something like this (Note link doesn’t work, and position is made up, just here for example purposes)

“I’m OK. http://dlor.me/ABCDEFGH 51.12345 0.9876”

This allows the recipient to look on the website and see where you are. Those you give Mapshare access to can also send you text messages. The receiving of these messages come out of your allowance, or cost you $0.50 if you have used all your included messages.

The Mapshare interface

The Mapshare interface – Locate (ping the device), Message (send a message to the device), Send (send a position to the device), Centre (centre the map view on the device’s position)

You’ve charged the device, you’ve entered your card details and started the activation process. At some point you’ll be told to go outside and give the inReach a clear view of the sky so that activation messages can be sent. This also gives you an early indication of the limitations of the device. You need a clear view of the sky. You can’t send messages from indoors, and even a thick tree cover can stump it. Vehicle use seems to be variable. In a car I’ve not had issue, but when I’ve tried on a train, it’s been temperamental, that said the message was sent eventually…

Device activated it’s time to use it. If you’re using the tracking functionality or want to be able to receive messages, you need to make sure the device is somewhere it can “see” the satellites. This means not in a trouser pocket… I carry the device on the left shoulder strap of my pack. It comes with a belt clip that allows attachment of the device. This clip has a rather aggressive barb on the end which makes it a pain to get on and off, but at the same time does reassure you that it’s going nowhere. I back up the clip with the lanyard, which I have carabinered to my pack strap as well.

The Delorme Inreach Explorer mounted on the shoulder strap of my backpack.

The DeLorme inReach Explorer mounted on the shoulder strap of my backpack.

The difference between the inReach Explorer and the inReach SE, is that with the explorer you get normal GPSr functionality included. This means that when tracking, as well as just sending your position, it also allows you to log the position locally. This local logging has the advantage that it doesn’t use tracking points (if your plan doesn’t have these for included), and can be done at a higher frequency than you can transmit. If you opt for a logging frequency of higher than once per minute you will get a message telling you that this will result in the GPS receiver being always on and will increase battery usage. For this reason I have my logging interval set to 1 minute, and my tracking interval set to 10 minutes. You can download the GPX trace to your computer when you sync the device (more on that shortly).

This GPSr functionality includes a Barometric altimeter and an electronic compass. Due to the peculiarities of how the GPS system is designed, accuracy of altitude position (z axis) is lower than your position on the x and y axis. This means that you can’t normally rely on having a GPS for altitude positioning. Having an altimeter is a really nice touch to the Explorer, it’s useful when you want to follow a set contour round a hill for example. The electronic compass is not a replacement for a normal compass when used with a map, the shape of the device means you can’t easily use it as a baseplate compass to get a bearing from a map, where it does come in useful is when you know that the next way point is on a bearing of 097°, you can hold the device in front of you and rotate until you are pointing the right way.

In compass mode on a map.

Device in compass mode to align the map.

Messaging on the inReach is it’s key feature, and one it does well. Typing messages is not the easiest interface ever used. Text entry when you don’t have a full keyboard is never going to be great. If you’ve used a normal GPS before you’ll be familiar with the cludgyness of their text input. DeLorme try to simplify this via a predictive text mechanism. This isn’t perfect, but it’s better than nothing, the main limitation is that the dictionary is American English and perhaps favours words more suited to an American hunter than a British hiker, I’ve also not worked out how to add words to it’s dictionary. There are mechanisms within the device to make things a bit simpler. You can pre program some messages that are common ones to type. “Yes” “No” “I’m running late” “It’s all uphill” “Weathers here, wish you were nice” etc… These don’t count as preset messages so they are charged either out of out allowance or at $0.50, but it does make it a bit easier to type. The other option you have is to pair the device with your phone and use the keyboard functionality that provides to type the messages.

Functions available via the Earthmate app

Functions available via the Earthmate app

Pairing the inReach with the Earthmate app on your phone gives you the ability to use all the inReach’s functions with the additional ability to download maps to your phone and use those with device’s GPSr functionality. I’ve not really used the app much, I tried it on a trip to Monserrat, and upon closing the app, it kept my phone from sleeping, and drained the battery. With the latest version of the firmware for the inReach explorer DeLorme introduced what they call “wireless sync”. This upgrade is advertised as allowing you to use your phone to sync your inReach’s messages and contacts. In the process of writing this review, I synced my inReach via the Earthmate app, and was surprised to find that it had also uploaded the logged track info to the website, meaning I could log in to the DeLorme website, view the detailed trace, and download it. This was a surprise to me, and the first draft of this review had a rant about how you can’t get a GPX out of the device without using the Windows or Mac based sync. Perhaps it would be better instead to grumble about poor communication of the additional features in the upgrade by DeLorme… You still can’t sync the firmware via the Earthmate app, for that you do still need either a Windows PC or a Mac, but seeing as firmware upgrades are something you only have to do rarely, it’s not a show stopper. I have enough friends that do have Windows or Mac laptops that will let me borrow them to update the firmware, that I can manage.

When I read the email announcing that wireless sync was now supported in the Earthmate app, I got my hopes up that perhaps I could download the GPX from the inReach to my phone. Alas, no such luck. It would be nice to be able to download the logged track info out of the device without relying on Internet connectivity to do so. Earthmate might be able to upload the track to DeLorme for you to view via the website, but you can’t just download it to your phone, to back it up. This is a major failing of the app. Given the limited space in the device for logging your track, the ability to download it to your phone periodically would be great a really useful feature.

Earthmate app showing the route trace.

Earthmate app showing the route trace.

The other significant messaging feature of the inReach is under the menu item “Social”. This allows you to post messages via satellite to Facebook, Twitter, and Mapshare. You have to configure access for DeLorme to do this via the same website you configure the rest of the inReach’s functionality and payment info, but once setup, you can use the social menu to post to these Social networks. I don’t have a Facebook account so haven’t tested that, but I’ve used it to tweet frequently. There is something rather amusing about laying in a bivvi bag on a mountain side in Spain and using a multi billion dollar satellite network to tweet about what it is I had for breakfast… One of the settings when you configure social media connectivity is position info. You can set it to include your position info, or a link to your mapshare page in your tweets or facebook posts, the same as it does in your texts. I have this disabled, I don’t want twitter knowing where exactly I am laying in a bivvi bag in the woods.

The final major feature of the inReach Explorer, and perhaps for many the main reason you buy the device, is the SOS functionality. You can activate this three ways, via the Eearthmate app, the SOS menu option, or by sliding the switch on the face of the device then holding the SOS button for 5 seconds. For obvious reasons, I’ve not actually tested this feature, and I hope I never have to. I’m assured by DeLorme, that as long as I slide the switch and press the SOS button for 5 seconds someone will come to help me. Even if I then lose consciousness. I have to go on trust that this will happen. It’s a leap of faith. Press button receive-helicopter. In theory if you are still conscious, having activated the SOS call, you can then communicate with the rescuers with info such as what injuries you have, number of casualties etc… I’ve not tested this… Tho I wouldn’t like to have to type out details of a thoracic spinal injury under stressful conditions using the standard text input mechanism.

One of the questions that I have been asked by a lot of people who have first asked “What’s that device on your shoulder?” is “Who pays for that?”. Again it’s not something I’ve managed to get a clear answer to. In the UK, last I checked a Mountain Rescue callout isn’t followed up by an invoice. Nor do the local HART team request your card before evacuating you to hospital. But this isn’t the case everywhere. For many activities travel insurance covers some of these costs. But if you are at all worried, DeLorme offer a $17.95 a year policy covering you for upto $100000 of SAR costs. I’ve not opted for this while I’m wandering around in western Europe, but if I venture further afield I will seriously consider it.

So far I’ve used the DeLorme inReach Explorer in Britain, Spain, France, Germany, Luxembourg, Belgium and The Netherlands. It’s worked great for messaging friends, tracking my position, posting to twitter, and GPSr functionality. The $24.95 a month comes out at about £16 with the exchange rate, which is less than many pay on mobile phone coverage. I’ve yet to exceed the 40 messages per month, and have transmitted over 260 tracking points. I love the inReach Explorer and it’s become a permanent fixture to the left shoulder strap of my pack.

Postscript.

If you have found this article of use and are considering buying a DeLorme inReach, be it the Explorer or the SE, please do so by clicking on these links – DeLorme inReach Explorer, DeLorme inReach SE. It helps pay for the running of this site and the adventures that it is based upon.

REVIEW: Páramo Bentu update

Just days after I posted the review of the Páramo Bentu windproof and fleece, I noticed that the zip on the windproof had become separated from the body of the jacket about ⅓rd of the way up. I phoned the Wadhurst store at 0900 on Saturday morning, and explained the situation. As the Jacket was so new they agreed to replace it rather than repair. I posted the jacket by Royal Mail secure delivery first thing Monday morning, they received it just after 1000 on Tuesday morning. The brand new replacement arrived by Royal Mail 48 hour delivery this morning (Thursday). I’m guessing Páramo will repair the jacket and it’ll appear in the Páramo seconds shop on ebay in due course

Páramo didn’t quibble, and did a really fast turn around. Great customer service.

REVIEW: Páramo Zonda and Bentu Jackets.

I’ve used my Páramo Quito jacket for all of last autumn, winter and spring as my main jacket, be it cycling to college, hiking the Downs, or just wandering to the shops. It has worked pretty well, breathing better than any membrane based jacket I’ve owned, but like much of the Páramo range, it has one major draw back. It’s warm.

In the middle of winter the fact I can hike in just a jacket and base layer has been useful, I can leave the fleece at home. If I was warm, I could use the pit zips to vent. But as summer approached, no amount of ventilation was able to counter the laws of physics. Páramo is warm.

With this in mind I did some research into alternatives that might be more suitable to summer use, particularly when a cool breeze takes otherwise T-shirt weather, and makes it chilly. My research led me to the Páramo Zonda windproof and fleece combo.

For those not familiar with the way Páramo works, rather than having a moisture permeable membrane (like goretex), they use multiple layers of polyester fabric, treated with wash-in black magic from Nikwax to create a waterproof garment with what Páramo call “directionality”, and what users call “great moisture management”.

This multi layer fabric combo is comprised of a inner most “pump liner” which is a very fine micro fleece, and a water resistant outer which is a tightly woven polyester fabric. With this combination of micro fleece and tightly woven polyester, you can see why Páramo garments are well known for being too warm for summer use. Especially if you’re only after the wind proof feature.

What the Zonda windproof and fleece does, is take these two layers and split them into two garments. A thin lightweight wind proof, and a thin light weight windproof fleece. Wear them together and they perform the same as any other waterproof made from Páramo’s “Analogy Light” fabric. Great, sounds perfect.

I wandered along to the Páramo store in Covent garden with cash in my pocket ready to buy a Zonda windproof and fleece combo.

Which is when things kinda didn’t goto plan…

First thing that struck me was the colour choice, neither the neon blue or the pink clover are particularly muted, they both screamed “GIRLIE!” In a loud way. Maybe the I could live with the blue… it’ll mostly be under a backpack anyway. Let’s try it on…

I picked the largest size off the rack put it on, went to do the zip up, and failed. I could do the first inch or so over my stomach, but as it approached my upper chest there was no chance of being able to zip it closed over my breasts… ladies fit… made for women… women have boobs… well not those Páramo is targeting their women’s range at obviously. I had a lengthy discussion with the very helpful staff and tried on various items from the women’s range. Nothing fitted. I’m not exactly massive, most of my clothes are 16-18 depending on where I buy things1.

There is a men’s version of the Zonda combo, called the Bora, but this is a smock format, not a jacket format, so while I could find something to fit, I really wanted a jacket rather than a smock.

Having been shut out of any of the women’s range due to having breasts, I turned my eye too the men’s range.

Where the ladies range covers various sizes of pixie, the men’s range is much wider, covering sizes large enough I could fit my back pack inside the jacket2. Maybe something here will fit…

Following the same principal of splitting the classic Páramo layers into two garments, there are a few options in the men’s range. As well as the previously mentioned Bora smock, there is the Enduro jacket (ladies version: Ventura) and the Bentu jacket (ladies version: Zefira).  There is also the Fuera ascent jacket, and Fuera smock, tho there two don’t have matching fleeces3 to go with them unlike the Bora, Enduro and Bentu. The fleece that pairs with the Enduro is a smock, not a jacket, so I discounted that. This just left the Bentu windproof jacket and fleece.

The Bentu is available in two colours, a blue, and a green. Tempted tho I was by the green for not standing out when on the hill, the shade of blue used is sufficiently dark as to be acceptable.

The Bentu has two chest pockets, both big enough to take an ordnance survey active map, and two hand warmer pockets. The fleece has two hand warmer pockets and a Napoleon pocket, just the right size for a compass or small wallet. The main zip is two way to aid in ventilation. But unlike the Quito, Enduro or Fuera ascent, it doesn’t have pit zips4.

The windproof has a pump liner layer on the shoulders and hood, which makes it more rain resistant than it would otherwise be. The sleeves are a loose cut with a Velcro adjuster on the cuff, this allows you to roll your sleeves up for venting.

The cut of fleece is quite loose, and it reminds me of a cardigan in it’s fit. There is no hood, and no adjustment on the loose fitting sleeves. Again you can push them up for ventilation, but without the Velcro, there’s nothing to stop them falling down.

But what about the important part, how well does it perform?

Both the windproof and the fleece have proved to be windproof, if it’s not raining, which of the two layers you wear for wind protection comes down to temperature. Warmer, wear the windproof. Cooler, wear the fleece. In a light shower both keep most of the wet out, tho the fleece seems slightly better in drizzle or a short light shower. I had wet forearms wearing just the windproof in the rain, but the rest of me was dry.

The cycle ride to college today was your typical early autumn rain, not hard enough to make you think you need a jacket, but enough to soak you if you didn’t wear one. I wore the Bentu fleece for the ride and arrived at class nice and dry, with lots of droplets of water beading on the outside. A success.

By the time I left college for the ride back to the station, the rain had picked up, so I chose to wear both layers. Alas the fleece hadn’t completely dried during class and the forearms were still a little damp. A good chance to test the moisture management me thinks…

I set off into the Kentish night, hood up against the rain, and peddled my way the half hour to the station. As I rode the warmth of my body drove moisture from the fleece. Even with the additional liquid water falling out the sky. By the time I had spent 20 minutes on the platform waiting for my train, the inside of the sleeves of the fleece were no longer wet, but somewhere between damp and moist. By the time I got home, they were almost dry. The rest of me stayed dry throughout.

I can’t fault the performance, together the fleece and the windproof work just as well as my Quito, yet at the same time providing me greater flexibility for when it’s dry, warm, yet windy. So what are the downsides of this performance? The main down side is the weight. Neither item is particularly light. My size large fleece measures 420g, and the Windproof 458g. By contrast my size Large Quito is 545g, a weight similar to what I would expect a Zonda combo to weigh, if it had fitted me. Other than that the only other niggle is the absence of a hanging loop on the fleece, making it so I can’t hang it up on the hook as easily.

In summary:

Páramo Zonda Windproof and Fleece combo:

  • Pros: Unknown
  • Cons: Women’s XL is too small for me.

Páramo Bentu Windproof and Fleece combo:

  • Pros: Great performance, great breathability
  • Cons: Weight.
  1. I wear a size 16 RAB MeCo Baselayer
  2. S, M, L, XL, XXL in mens, vs XS, S, M, L, XL, in womens. Mens L is larger than Womens’s XL…
  3. The Fuera ascent was designed to go with the Summit hoodie, but this is no longer listed on the Páramo website
  4. Interestingly while the men’s Enduro has pit zips for venting, the ladies Ventura doesn’t… do women not get warm?

KIT: Firecord

I saw Firecord on The Bushcraft Store website and was kinda curious about how good it was. I was ordering from them anyway, so ordered a 25ft hank of it thinking that it might be worth making some zip pulls and the like, so I could carry tinder, and cord, and have an actual useful item.

Normally I’m not one for paracord, I find it too heavy, and too stretchy for most of my uses. My tarps use 2mm Dyneema (more on that in another post at a later date), or 1.12mm micro-paracord on my siltarp 1. But the idea that this had multiple uses piqued my interest.

The stuff arrived in a hank of 25′ (that’s 7.625m in real money). It certainly felt like the genuine quality paracord, unlike a lot of the cheap stuff that is sold as paracord. You can tie knots in it, and play with Macramé1, as you would expect. But that’s not the important bit, that’s not why you buy Firecord.

Paracord is a nylon outer with 7 inner braids, that together gives you a rated strength of 550lb2. Firecord however is slightly different, it has an 8th core. It’s this 8th core that marks Firecord out.

Innards of Firecord.

The innards of firecord

Lop off a short length of Firecord, pull it apart, and you have at your disposal a useful piece of tinder.

While you can light the tinder from inside Firecord with a lighter, to get best performance, you want to attack it with a knife and fluff it up a bit.

Fluffing up the tinder braid of Firecord

Fluffing up the tinder braid of Firecord

Once you’ve fluffed it up with a knife, the Firecord takes a spark with relative ease.

Lighting Firecord with a ferro rod.

Lighting Firecord with a ferro rod.

Lit Firecord

Lit Firecord

Well it works. Now to make it more useful. It’s too heavy to replace all my tarp guys with, also a bit too expensive and gratuitous for that… No needs something smaller… Zip pulls. A Firecord zip pull for my PFD3. Now you can buy ready made Firecord zip pulls, but they don’t really give you much by way of actual cord, and they are rather expensive… There has to be a better way.

Enter the Square Sinnet Knot 4. Using 2 x 600mm lengths of Firecord & a split ring, I put together a chunky Zipper pull, to put on my PFD. Giving me some useful cordage, and some useful tinder if I happen to fall out, and lose my boat. All in a 10.3g package.

Firecord Zipper pull + Leatherman Juice CS4 for scale.

Firecord Zipper Pull – Leatherman Juice CS4 for scale

I posted about this on the BCUK Forum, and one of the questions I got back was how well does it work once it’s wet. Well in theory it works well… But lets try it just to be sure…

Firecord in water.

Soaking the Firecord…

I took the trimmed ends from my Zipper pull, and soaked them in water. Content they were nicely wet, I pulled one out and gutted it.

Gutted soaked Firecord

So now all I have to do is fluff the cord up a bit, and attack it with a ferro rod.

Lighting wet Firecord

Lighting the wet Firecord

It took more effort to light than the unsoaked cord. Tho using a bigger piece might have been easier. But after a few showers of sparks, it lit. It burned just as well as the non soaked bit.

Lit firecord

Lit firecord.

I think it’s fair to say it works. I’m now looking at the rest of my kit and wondering where I could make use of cord with integral tinder…

  1. The fancy name for the stuff people do with paracord when making bracelets and the like
  2. Which is where the name 550 cord comes from
  3. Personal Flotation Device aka life jacket aka buoyancy aid
  4. Ashley Book of Knots # 2912 and # 2915