Tuesday, 25 October 2005

it's raining it's pouring


Woke up early and thought that I would go for a bit of a walk and have an explore of the local area. Got a bit carried away.


Woke up in the woods walked into the closest habitation to find out where I was. As far as I know I have never been to Hertfordshire before; very pretty it is too.

I got back to Chez Monkey quite late in the day and realised that I had a lot to sort out and not a lot of light left to do it in. I decide to light a fire and empty my pockets of assorted bits of dry kindling I have found on my walk and soon get a blaze going. Well I soon get a lot of smoke going as everything is wet and it takes about an hour before the fire is burning hot enough not to be smoking anymore. I have a Swedish Army mess tin and I dangle this from a stick across the fire and start to make a stew, there is nothing like a stew on an autumn day after a long walk. The problem I quickly realise is that I don’t have a suitable implement to stir it with so I have to quickly fashion a stirrer from a piece of Yew. Then I have to turn my attentions to the challenges I have been set, make some cordage out of nettles and carve a spoon.

Part of the process of making cord from nettles is soaking them in water for a day, by Sunday afternoon I only had two litres of water left and no suitable container for soaking nettles in. On to the spoon carving then, I had found a suitable piece of wood on my walk and started to whittle it as I sat by the fire. I will show it to Yolanda on Friday and get her to write an assessment of my progress – if she is amenable that is – I am sure she will be suitably scathing of my efforts.

The stew was great; I was going to eat a few Rose Hip seeds afterwards as they are full of vitamin C. They are also fiddly and tasteless so I had a Mars Bar instead. I might make some Rose Hip Syrup next weekend.


I mentioned the other day that I had bought a bivi bag, I did not read the instructions as in my experience they are fairly straight forward to use. For those of you who don’t know the principal of a bivi bag goes like this; put sleeping bag in bivi bag, put self in bivi bag, stay dry. Simple. I should have gone to an army surplus store and bought one there rather than go to a shop and buy one, quite frankly it is the worst bit of kit I have ever bought and unfortunately I lost the receipt so now I’m £75 down. It works fine in the dry; it works ok in a light shower. On Monday I thought I would give it a proper test run and not put the tarp up over me and find out how well the thing works in a proper down pour. It would, I imagined be brilliant, you see unlike traditional bivi bags which are no more than glorified sacks this one has been redesigned and is all funky and looks great in the shop. It only comes up to neck height on the top but it has a hood that you can pull down over your head and zip across the neck fantastic, completely enclosed in Gore Tex! Oh no wait a minute, it’s nylon! Why would anyone make a bivi bag out of nylon rather than Gore Tex? Gore Tex is breathable whereas nylon, well nylon just isn’t breathable. I foresaw a problem with condensation, what I did not realise was that there are two settings for this bivi bad in a heavy down pour; suffocated or drowned.

The rain came down so I diligently, and perhaps a little smugly, pulled the hood over and zipped it in place a few minutes later I found myself short of breath so opened the zip to let some air in, having let plenty of air and water in I zipped it back up to try again. Sure enough short of breath again. Whoever designed the bivi bag had neglected to put in sufficient breathing holes! This is, if you think about it, a very serious error. Most people carry their bivi bag for emergency use only and really you don’t want to be in the middle of an emergency and then be finding out about kit defects. Two scenarios spring to mind.


An unconscious person is put into a bivi bag to keep them warm and dry and the zip is closed on them. This is very bad, if someone is unconscious one of the most important things to do is to ensure they have enough oxygen – suffocating them would probably spoil your day.


You are lost cold and miserable and you have to resort to staying out in the wilds in your bivi bag, at least you can look forward to being warm and dry. When you find out that you are not going to be warm and dry because you have to leave the zip open and thus water is pouring in (it does pour in believe me) you are then faced with two problems. One, your going to have to put up with a cold wet sleeping bag – pretty miserable and, two, it’s going to come as a blow to your morale. I have not been in a survival situation but from what I read it is morale that is the key to staying alive, having your hopes of a dry place to sleep dashed on top of everything else could conceivably be the last straw.

Ultimately though I’m no expert and I could be doing it all wrong so I’m not going to name the product in case I’m talking out of turn and I end up getting sued or something. What I will do though is give it another go some time and see if I have better luck with it, it probably works fine in laboratory conditions. I have a feeling that the problem with the rain coming in was in part due to my sleeping on a slope and this was pulling the lower part of the bivi bag away from the higher, even if this is the case though surely kit designed for use out side must factor in the fact that the countryside is mostly anything but flat.

Seeing as my sleeping bag was already wet I slept without the bivi bag last night and I have to say that for all it’s faults it’s a 1000 times better than nothing. I could have thrown my sleeping bag in a bath this morning and it would have probably come out drier.

I sneezed a few times today

Other news

My gore tex jacket has mildew and smells really bad

My rucksack is soaked through and smells of a combination of mud, acrid wood smoke, and spilt yoghurt. Greek Yoghurt is neither delicious nor nutritious when it has been forgotten about in a side pouch for three days during which time the pot has burst and it has then been placed next to a radiator everyday. Fortunately I have no running water and no scrubbing brush.

This, I believe is where it gets interesting, will my resolve last? Will I come to love getting up in the dark to a cold wet world, putting on cold wet clothes and trudging to work?

Not long till April


Bob Ryskamp said...

Wow, just when I thought everything was free and clear from here on out. I actually considered writing to say the blog was less interesting since you weren't making mistakes anymore. But it seems that there's always something new to tackle.

Keep the faith, you're an inspiration!

bushled said...

BTW, Yew is toxic, so using it to stir your food with it is probably not a great idea. Sycamore is ideal as it doesn't taint at all.

swisslet said...

you should email the makers of said bivi and send them a link to this post, and see what they can do for you. You may not want any more of their kit, but what harm can it do, eh?

(and I find a spoon taints even less than a sycamore branch, but I suppose a house is also drier and better venitilated than a bivvy bag, so I'll get my coat, eh?)


SameOld said...

now is the time to dig deep, Dear Monkey, dig deep...