Wednesday, 11 June 2014

The Ideal Frying Pan For Any Amdro Camper Conversion Cooker Or Motorhome

For any campervan/motorhome owners, campers, or in my case Amdro Boot Jump enthusiast, you will no doubt be cooking your early morning bacon butties on a cooker similar to the ones shown in the photos opposite. And like myself you were probably using a traditional round frying pan.

This of course is fine, we have all done it for years, but it has always provided a few little problems, that you may not even be aware of or just doesn't bother you.

But when you see the alternative that is available, you may want to change the way you normally cook your breakfast on future camping trips.

Let me start by highlighting a few issues that the traditional round frying pan has...

  • When sat on your cooker, heat is lost from the corners (loss of fuel economy)
  • Reduced cooking area, due to the wasted areas around the frying pan
  • Wasted storage space when storing your pan in a "square" cupboard or crate
So what is the alternative ? Well, if you haven't already guessed, its really obvious and makes you wonder why we haven't changed our frying pan of choice sooner. It is of course, a square (or rectangular) frying pan and the one I recently purchased was the Boaties Square Frying Pan. Now that I have had chance to put it to good use, here are some benefits...
  • Due to the square design, more of the cooker ring is covered improving fuel economy
  • As the whole area above the cooker ring is covered, you get more cooking space in your pan
  • No more curving your bacon to the contours of a round pan, to get more rashers in, just lay them out straight
  • When your finished cooking, the square pan fits neatly into your cupboard or crate, without any wasted storage space
Here are some features of the Boaties Square Frying Pan...

  • Stainless steel, non stick coating
  • 25cm x 20cm x 4.5cm vertical sides, creating a pan with a greater cooking area compared to a 25.5 cm round pan
  • Designed to fit compact recreational stoves which normally have a limited cooking area
  • Rectangular shape gives maximum cooking area for minimum stove area.
And for all you Amdro Camper Conversion owners, this particular frying pan is the perfect accompaniment for the Origo 3000 alcohol stove , allowing 2 Boaties pans to fit perfectly alongside each other (Bacon in one, eggs in the other). The square design of the pan also allows easier storage in the area below the cooker (or just in a crate).

I will probably be purchasing a second pan and may opt for the Boaties Frying Pan Square with Lid version, giving me more cooking options, not to mention keeping the bacon warm once cooked.

Tuesday, 3 June 2014

Yamba UK, A Family Run Outdoor Pursuits Company With A Passion For What They Do... My Recent Visit & First Impressions

YAMBA UK are a family run company based in Lancashire, with an obvious passion for what they are involved in, paired with a great deal of knowledge and experience in what they have to offer, whether it be outdoor pursuit training programmes or quality kayaking and canoeing equipment.

They are a relatively new company, but have clearly been involved with the activities they offer for some considerable time, highlighted in the advice and knowledge they demonstrate when talking to the staff at Yamba UK.

Having recently purchased a Stearns Outback inflatable canoe, I was on the lookout for a suitable buoyancy aid and preferred to purchase new, rather than second hand (When it comes to safety, you need the reassurance of equipment that is going work when you need it to).
And so I began my research on the internet. I had a good idea as to what I was looking for and completely by chance landed on a site that was very local to me, in Lancashire.
I have always gauged the credibility and professionalism of a company by the quality of their website and Yamba UK ranks very highly in my book, so wasted no time in driving over to their retail outlet in Lostock Hall, near Preston for a visit.

I was greeted by a lovely lady called Diane who turned out to be one of the owners of Yamba UK and we soon started to have a good chat about kayaking, bushcraft and outdoor pursuits in general. They are clearly passionate about their outdoor life and this was also evident by the quality of their retail outlet and the media literature they had on show in the shop, everything oozed quality.

Not only do they sell a good selection of canoeing, kayaking and other outdoor related equipment, they also run specific training courses such as canoeing, sea kayaking, ghyll scrambling, rock climbing and bushcraft, but to name a few.

I already have my eyes set on a one day sea kayaking course that they are running, which includes full coaching, equipment and insurance for just £75.00
They have various courses tailored to whatever standard you may be comfortable with.

They also host regular demo days, where you can spend a couple of hours in the lakes, trying out their sea kayaks, under their experienced supervision. All equipment is provided, along with tuition and all for a tenner. Pretty good I reckon, if you are looking to by a sea kayak, or just want to try something different.
There is so much more I could say about Yamba UK, but everything you need to know is available on their brilliant website www.yamba.org.uk, so why not take a look for yourself. You can also find them on Facebook.
Its always nice to find a company that has a clear passion for what they do and the guys at Yamba if not helping others to enjoy the outdoors are enjoying the outdoors themselves. I myself wish them all the success in the world in their new venture and hope to book on a few courses very soon.
Oh and one last thing, Diane found me the perfect buoyancy aid and it is now on order awaiting my collection...thanks guys !

Friday, 25 April 2014

Amdro Boot Jump Camper Conversion For Citroen Berlingo MPV

Imagine you are driving through the open countryside in your little MPV and you come across a beautiful spot, with amazing scenery overlooking a lake. If only you could park up and spend the day there, possibly spend the night, knowing you have everything you need for a comfortable nights sleep and a hearty breakfast in the morning, all tucked away in the boot of your vehicle...

Well, as luck would have it, a company based in Wales, called Amdro Alternative Camper Conversions, have come up with an ingenious solution to allow you to do just that. They will build, supply and ship camper conversion kits for a variety of MPV vehicles, including Citroen Berlingo, Peugeot Partner, Fiat Doblo and Renault Kangoo as well as VW Transporters. They are also currently developing other conversion kits for other vehicles.

The kits are delivered to your door on a wooden pallet, complete with everything you require to convert your vehicle into a versatile camper in a matter of minutes. Simply lift the unit, which requires 2 people, into the boot of your car, clamp in place and that's it, you're ready to go.

However, I did manage to lift our unit into a Citroen Berlingo, with the help of my 7 year old lad and 9 year old daughter.

It really is that simple

The cost of a campervan or small motorhome can be quite expensive, but Amdro have made an affordable solution, that not only is very clever, but very easy to use. The system is so simple to setup, even my young kids can do it and only takes minutes to convert your camper from a "daytime" seating arrangement, complete with table and cooker, to the "nightime" sleeping area, which provides a good sized double bed.

Combine that with acres of storage, provided by 2 good sized crates and voids behind the unit itself and the seats, pumped water carrier and a double burner meths stove, you have everything you need for a comfortable camper van experience, that could be an overnight stop, weekend away or weeks expedition across the South of France.

And it has been done... Check out the Amdro website to watch a video of a couple who have done just that, with two bikes as well !

Myself and my two young children enjoy camping trips away, but as a single parent, the hassle and stress of setting up a large family tent in high winds and rain can test the patience of a saint. But with the Boot Jump, you can park up and setup up a comfortable living area in a matter of minutes. And for some added living space, you can include a tailgate awning, which could be setup once the wind and rain has died down. In the meantime, just sit in your little camper, laughing at all the other people struggling with their tents, whilst enjoying your brew.
There are going to be people who say "Oh, it's not the same as a proper campervan or motorhome" and my answer to that is "Yes, you're right" But the beauty of this type of system, means I have a multipurpose utility vehicle, that can be used for everyday driving, taking the kids to school, taking stuff to the tip etc.

But then in a matter of minutes, I can lift the Amdro Boot Jump into my vehicle and I have a snazzy little campervan perfect for couples or young families. For me and my young family, it suits us perfectly and the kids love their little "Treehouse on wheels". There are many other benefits of the Amdro/MPV combination, such as cheaper fuel economy, reduced pitch fees and cheaper toll fees when traveling abroad.

But my advice would be, if you are looking for an affordable, no hassle campervan setup to enjoy the great outdoors, give Iwan a call at Amdro. The staff there are very friendly and helpfull and will answer any questions you may have about their ingenious, well designed camper conversion kits.

Sunday, 19 January 2014

Polish Army Lavvu Poncho Shelter - An Overview

One of the most popular army surplus items of kit, has recently been the Polish army lavvu, which consists of two canvas poncho's, buttoned together. Plus 2 aluminum sectional pole kits to create a tepee style shelter. I was on the lookout myself for a more substantial shelter, to protect me from the elements in the winter months.

And so I drove down to my local army surplus dealer in Lancashire, called MilitaryMart and handed over my £17.99

Very pleased with my purchase I walked out of the shop with my new shelter under my arm and straight away I was aware of the difference in weight, compared to my British army basha and walking pole setup. My current Basha setup, which consisted of the Basha itself, walking pole, pegs etc. came in at about 2.3Kg, whereas the Polish Lavvu was 3.7Kg. I did manage to reduce that a little by swapping the metal pegs for heavy duty plastic ones, but still quite a bit heavier.
So, what are my reasons for chosing this particular shelter and why do I like it so much ?
Obviously this form of protection from the adverse UK weather isn't designed or meant to be used for backpacking purposes or traveling light. I enjoy walking up hills and mountains, setting up a portable CB radio station (Or Activation) and making contact with like minded people up and down the country. And if I'm lucky and the conditions are favorable, overseas. Whilst on these activations I can be sat for hours at a time in high winds, rain, hail stone and even snow. So it is important for my own safety to be protected from these conditions. The basha is great for the warmer, drier months and is without doubt much lighter to carry in your rucksack. But for the added protection the Lavvu gives me, I am prepared to carry that extra weight.
Good Points

1. Strong & durable - Made from canvas, will withstand anything that is thrown at it and will last a lifetime if looked after. Ensure that you thoroughly dry the Lavvu after ever outing and re-proof the poncho's with Fabsil Plus UV Paint on Proofer once a year.

2. Quick and easy to erect - Due to its central pole and shape the shelter requires no guy ropes. Simply peg out on the floor then insert the pole and lift up. A quick re-adjustment of the pegs to make the shelter taught.

3. Excellent protection - Once setup, the shelter will cope with high winds from any direction and if properly waterproofed will keep out even the heaviest rain. Due to the heavy canvas, inside the shelter is also a lot quieter, which is an advantage when trying to sleep at night.

4. Great for cooking in - You can safely cook inside the Polish poncho tent, without the worry of setting fire to highly flamable materials. I have even seen people use a wood burning stove inside a Lavvu like this, using the arm hole to vent the chimney. Plus it even raises the temperature inside the shelter, when using a simple cook set, such as a Trangia or BCB Crusader cooker.

5. Price - At under £20.00 from your local army surplus dealer, you just can't complain.

6. Visibility - Due the the dark canvas, it can get quite dark inside, which is great if you are sleeping in your Lavvu. No worries about being woken early by the rising sun.

Bad Points

1. Weight - There's no getting away from this. It's canvas and weighs a lot more than modern fabrics. Something you should always bare in mind that this will feel heavy in your rucksack, but will feel even heavier if it gets wet. So make sure you account for this when planning your pack weight.

2. Size - Although not too bad (depending on what your used to), it can be on the bulky side. I like to carry mine in a British army arctic sleeping bag compression sac, which allows me to stuff it all in and compress down to a smaller size. Again be aware of the difference in weight and pack size when wet...

3. Visibility - Due the the dark canvas, it can get quite dark inside, even during the daytime. A decent head torch or tea light style lantern, such as a UCO Micro lantern works great.

I have made a couple of additions to my setup, to improve the rigidity and ease of setup. I added paracord loops to each pegging eyelet, which enables me to use heavy duty plastic pegs. Plus I included an old plastic pole support from an old tent. This just stops the pole from sinking into soft ground, which in turn would make the tent sides sag a little. You could quite easily use a jam jar lid or similar to produce the same effect.

In conclusion, this is a very affordable shelter option, that has been tried and tested by the military. If looked after it will no doubt last you a lifetime and will protect you from all forms of weather, especially in the winter months. It is on the heavy side, but for the protection the Polish army lavvu provides, I believe is well worth carrying the extra weight. I have already used this shelter on several occasions in pretty nasty conditions and it has served me well...

Monday, 15 April 2013

An Interview With Patrick From Terra Firma Films As He Embarks On His Scottish Adventure

I have been uploading videos to Youtube for quite some time now, mostly relating to bushcraft and the outdoors. And during that time you come across some great channels, with similar interests.
But I have to say not all of them have captured my attention, as much as a channel I was recently introduced to.
The channel I am talking about (As are a number of people on the Youtube Bushcraft Community) is Terra Firma Films and is hosted by a great guy called Patrick.
Patrick contacted me a few months ago to introduce himself and his new channel. Turns out he has been watching my channel, along with several other channels for over a year now, to build up his knowledge of the outdoors and how to cope with situations when out on the trail .
As Patrick quite freely admits, he is no expert in camping, survival, bushcraft etc. But as he embarks on his new filming project, has decided he should brush up on some vital skills, before venturing into the rugged and unforgiving Scottish wilderness.
Patrick, plans to spend 12 months or so, venturing into the Scottish hills and rugged landscapes to capture his findings, in what will be a short film at the end of his journey.
Watching Patrick's Youtube videos, that he has already uploaded, really captured my attention and I found myself glued to the screen, just listening to what he has planned, what he needs to learn and kit he may need for his journey.
And it was this interested in his proposed project, that I decided to ask Patrick if I could interview him and find out a little bit more about the guy behind Terra Firma Films and his journey ahead.
And this is how the interview panned out...

Tell us a little bit about your background I.e where you are from, where you are now living and what you do for a living...
I was born in West London but have been living on the east coast of Scotland since the age of about 12. I studied photography and digital imaging and recently left an IT job in London to start a small landscaping business and pursue an outdoor lifestyle.
 
Your Youtube channel is called Terra Firma and the logo mentions Terra Firma Films. Explain a bit more about Terra Firma Films and how it came about...
My YouTube channel name is Terra Firma Films. Terra Firma is Latin for Solid Earth which will be the subject of my films, hence the name choice.
 
Where do you see Terra Firma Films going in the next 2 years and what do you hope to achieve ?
I have no expectations for Terra Firma Films. It is purely a hobby and I will allow it to go in whatever direction it naturally takes. All I hope to achieve is a more simple way of life and happiness in the great outdoors.
 
What can your viewers expect to see in this short film ?
My viewers can expect to see epic vistas of the natural Scottish landscape and wilderness captured using a variety of imaging techniques such as time lapse and slow motion movement. Probably with music and possibly narration although it is too early to say for sure.
 
You have chosen to learn more about living outdoors (camping, backpacking, bushcraft etc.) to assist you on your travels around Scotland. What experience do you currently have with this ?
I have absolutely no experience in the great outdoors except a bit of sea fishing. I am a complete beginner which is why I have asked for the support of my YouTube viewers. I have been watching bush craft, prepping and survival channels for over a year so have some good theory knowledge but am yet to put it in to practice.
 
Youtube has been a good source of knowledge to help you prepare for your adventures in the Scottish wilderness. Explain why you think Youtube is such a valuable resource for anyone seeking to learn new skills or colate information on a chosen topic.
I have always used YouTube as a learning application. I find it to be an excellent source for tuition, particularly when people are talking directly to me in video. It is a much more personal way of absorbing information despite the technology involved. Perhaps this is because I respond well to human emotion which you don’t get from static text.
 
You are a relatively “New Kid On The Block” in the “Youtube Outdoor/Bushcraft” community. How do you think you and your proposed venture has been received by the community ?
I wouldn’t like to say how I have been received. I wouldn’t like to get ahead of myself but I can tell you how the YouTube community has been received by me – I have had nothing but support and generosity from bush crafters, preppers and survivalists on YouTube. I hope one day I will cross paths with some of you in the real world and thank you in person.
 
How do you see your Terra Firma Youtube channel progessing ? What type of videos do you hope to be uploading to your channel ?
Throughout 2013 I will be uploading video diaries of my outdoor adventures on a weekly/fortnightly basis. My viewers will see me wild camping, hiking and also snippets of my film as it is captured along the way. After this project is finished I may delete all evidence of it, leaving only memories to a few. But we shall see.
 
Will you be taking on this project alone or do you have a team behind you. Both in front of the camera and behind.
I have no team. I am completely on my own. It is simply me, my camera and my YouTube audience.
 
You briefly mentioned about airing your completed film on your website. Is this website currently live and can we visit to learn more about you and Terra Firma Films ?
I don’t currently have a website but do have a facebook page: http://www.facebook.com/terrafirmafilms
 
When do you expect to begin filming ? And will we be able to follow your progress ?
I will begin filming in the coming days. Just waiting for this horrid weather to pass. We’ve had nothing but high winds, rain and hail for two weeks now. I am prepared for most weather condition but want to start in slightly easier ones.
 
Do you have a planned route of which locations in Scotland you will be visiting. If so, which areas do you plan to visit ?
I don’t have a planned route. It is going to be more spontaneous. But Scotland is a small country and I have a car so there is no where I can’t go. I will go anywhere that my film dictates me to in the search of epic landscapes and scenery. I will however at some point camp in the Cairngorm Mountains, the Trossachs, Loch Lomand, Loch Ness and travel to the North West which has been described as the last real wilderness of Great Britain.
 
Do you have backing for this project or is it completely self funded ?
I don’t have any backing or sponsorship. It is entirely self funded but if anyone wishes to collaborate with me or donate any equipment I am more than happy to talk to them about sponsorship.


Final Statement :

I would just like to say a thank you to all the bushcraft, preppers and survivalist for the support they have given me. I hope more of you will join me on my journey which you can do via my YouTube channel. Perhaps I will bump into some of you along the way. If there is anything I will take out of this adventure it is that we must do everything we can to prolong the health of the planet. It is the only one we have and if we do not take responsibility for it ourselves, even our own existence will be in jeopardy.
 

So there you go, that was my interview with Patrick (Who is pictured to the left, during his first overnight camp, testing new kit for the filming project).

I for one am really keen to hear and watch how Patrick gets on with his filming project. And I think it will be interesting to see how he copes with whatever the Scottish landscape has to throw at him. And no doubt we will witness a change in Patrick's outdoor skills over the next 12 months, as Im sure he will learn a lot about the outdoors, bushcraft, survival and most importantly, himself.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank Patrick for his time, allowing me to throw these questions at him and I wish you well my friend. I look forward to the up and coming months, the Youtube videos you will be uploading along the way and the short film at the end of your Scottish adventure.
If you haven't already checked Patrick's channel out, I recommend you pay him a visit. He will welcome you with open arms, as he has done with us all.

Friday, 15 March 2013

eGear Survival Essentials - Outdoor Survival Kit From Whitby&Co

Earlier this year I was kindly sent an assortment of outdoor gadgets, gizmos and kit items, by Outdoor Accessory Distributor Whitby And Co. The first of which was the Nite-Ize CamJam Cord Tighteners, that I reviewed in January.

And so we move onto the second item, that came in my box of goodies, The eGear Survival Essentials Ready Kit 200.

Whitby&Co are based in Kendal, Cumbria. Which is known as the gateway to the Lake District and is just a short drive up the M6 Motorway for me. They are suppliers to a wide range of markets and industries, from outdoor and camping, hunting and fishing, gift, DIY and agricultural.
Any sensible outdoors person, who likes to enjoy pursuits such as Bushcraft, Climbing, Backpacking, Camping etc. is likely to have a first aid kit, somewhere on their person or in a rucksack. Its just common sense !

But how many of us are prepared for other such emergencies, that may not require first aid or medical attention.

You may have gone out for a days hike in the hills, only to realise that you have left your coat in the car and it is starting to rain.

You may have accidentally dropped your compass and smashed it on some rocks.

Or on a more serious note, you may have injured your ankle, when falling down a small ravine. You are unable to walk and you may now find yourself having to spend longer than you expected in challenging circumstances.

Do you have the necessary items with you to be able to last for long periods of time, in these conditions ?

This is where the Outdoor Survival Kit from eGear Survival Essentials, could be a great asset to your kit bag. Hopefully, you will never need to ever open the kit up, but if the circumstances ever arise, you know that your chances of survival or coping with challenging scenarios, will have increased.

The pouch itself and all its contents (That are supplied as part of the Ready Kit 200) weigh just 502g and measures approx 18cm x 5cm.

The durable pouch is brightly colored orange, so you're not likely to miss it and also has a reflective side, which could be used for signaling. The pouch also comes with a small carabiner to enable you to attach it to a loop on your rucksack.

But personally I would just leave the kit somewhere in the bottom of my rucksack. On the inside cover of the pouch is an area to write any personal details, such as contact details, emergency contacts (next of kin), medical conditions, medication and allergies etc. all useful information, should you ever be found by the rescue services.
The Ready Kit 200 includes a varied selection of items, which are listed below. But you could always add (or remove) any items you think may enhance the kit, more to your specific requirements :
  • 125ml of emergency drinking water
  • 2 emergency food ration bars
  • Ultra lightweight poncho
  • Foil survival blanket
  • Green light stick
  • Survival towel
  • Signalling mirror
  • Button compass
  • Whistle
  • Tea light candle
  • Magnesium block, ferro rod and striker
  • Pocket survival guide
All in all a nice selection of items, that would cater for most of your basic survival requirements.

  • Water
  • Food
  • Protection
  • Navigation
  • Rescue
Two of the items in the kit that caught my eye were the emergency drinking water and the pocket survival guide. All of the other items, you would expect to see in such a kit. But the sealed pack of emergency drinking water, is something I have never come across before and I thought it was a nice item to include.

The same goes for the pocket survival guide. This highlights some great survival points and lists them in a straight forward but highly informative way. The small 6 page (double sided) guide covers:

  • Food & Water - Treating, Consumer Guidelines etc.
  • Trails & Travel - Hazards, Best Practices etc.
  • S.T.O.P - Stop, Think, Orientate, Plan
  • HIS/HERS - Hazard, Injury, shelter, Heat, Energy, Rescue
  • Survival Chant - To keep spirits up
  • Shelter - Basic guidelines
  • Fire - Fire lighting basics
  • Signals - Different signal methods
  • First Aid - Hypothermia & Heat exhaustion basics
  • Winter - Winter survival basics
This type of kit, doesn't just have to be for emergency situations. It may just be the fact you have left your lighter at home and have no means to ignite your camping stove.

What you decide to keep in your emergency Survival Kit, is personal preference, but as a starting point this handy little kit from eGear is as good as anything I have come across.

I am very thankful to Whitby&Co for sending me this kit to try out and it will now be a regular addition to my rucksack, whenever I venture out into the woods or hills. You never know what could happen when venturing into the outdoors.But if you have this type of kit in your bag, it could save your life or someone elses life.

Sunday, 3 March 2013

Trialing The Blogger App On A Morning Woodland Walk

On a gorgeous Sunday morning, myself and the kids decided to go for a walk through a small local woodland. And I thought it would be a great opportunity to post an article using just my iTouch and the Blogger app, to see how easy it is to use.

The woodland is just a stone's throw away from our house and so it wasn't long before the kids found the start of the footpath and a chance for the first photo.

This walk is renowned for being on the muddy side and the kids are always on the lookout for animal tracks. Being popular with dog walkers, it was no surprise that this was the first track to be identified.

The kids are slowly being "Programmed" to be on high alert for any fungi, when out on country walks. But due to the lack of species in these woods (and the time of year), we resorted to other things like catkins and gooseberry bushes.

We ventured on along the stream and into the meadow, where I have previously spotted fox scatt.

Back in the woods and close to a bridle way I spotted some different animal tracks, which initially I thought were deer prints. But the chance of deer in these woods are pretty slim. And on further inspection realised they were more likely to be from the sheep that graze in adjacent fields.

It was now time to head back home, collecting some firewood on the way back followed by the write up of this article using the Blogger app on my iTouch.

Before leaving the wood, my son was quick to spot a bear climbing a tree. But living in the UK didn't cause any concern for alarm.

And so, back home in my comfy armchair I sit writing this article using the onscreen keyboard of my iTouch, adding photos as I write. Not knowing if the photos will appear as I added them or in a bunch at the foot of the article.

I have no idea how this article will look when published to my blog and I have no intention of amending it, using the full Blogger software on my main computer.

The Blogger app would allow you to write articles on the go, taking photos from within the app and then saving as draft for editing at a later date.

But to enable you to see how the basic published article would look I have left it unedited.

Ok, so there we are... My first article using the Blogger app on my iTouch. If you have any experience using this app please leave a comment... Good or Bad.