We were cold, we were wet and huddled around the fire. When we weren't, we were hot and sweaty and jumping into the (poison-ivy bordered) river in an attempt to cool off. No one ever said back-country camping would be a comfortable thing, especially for beginners and there was a brief adjustment period (aided by whiskey) before we embraced the dirt and crawlies and breathing in smoke.
For three days, we camped out in the back-country of the Sandilands, learning from our instructor extraordinaire Jon and his knowledgeable assistant Cam. Jon has been teaching bushcraft skills for quite some time, both as an individual and as part of his and Roland's (who was unfortunately working away from the city - we'll get him next time!) company Borealis Bushcraft. His experience shows easily in his patient explanations, demonstrations and planning. We went over some of the basic bushcrafting that will be useful for us to know on our trip, in both everyday and survival situations.
A camp fire was our near-constant companion, for cooking, warmth and providing smoke to ward off bugs. As such, fire making was an important part of our weekend. Between wood processing, building a fire and fire-related camp etiquette, not to mention actually starting the fire. More than that though, we got a sneak peak of just what you can do in the bush, not to mention just how simple it can be if you have the knowledge and understanding of your environment, tools and abilities.
Once we'd built a fire, Jon and Cam guided us through the basics of cooking over fire, something that Claire took to like a duck to water. While the rest of us were boiling water for oatmeal, she was making a chai tea breakfast cake of all things.
( Roll over image for description, click to enlarge.)
We learned that tents aren't actually a firm requirement of sleeping outdoors - in fact we were forbidden to bring one at all! Instead, we set up some rather luxurious accommodations using paracord, bug netting and tarps. Some of the incredible versatility of these materials is pictured below, illustrating how we changed our shelter depending on the weather. While some critters do tend to crawl in for a visit, the flying bloodsuckers are generally kept out.
Shelter and cooking can get pretty complicated, but generally speaking they're some of the basics of backcountry living. There are endless little things that can be done to make things a little easier and a little more pleasant if you have a little time. A few are pictured here:
Camping out in the bush isn't always easy. You have to embrace the dirt, sweat, creepy crawlies and the lack of cell reception. It definitely wouldn't be everyone's cup of tea; good news for our expedition though: it is ours.