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intothestickslife

Part-time forest dwelling, hammock hanging, map reading, beard bearing wild man.

Ending the day on a high

You can visit and follow Hollie Ivy here:

Instagram: @Holliecination

YouTube: Hollie Ivy

Facebook: The Hollie Ivy

Website: Holls & Valleys

Before you start…Hollie also features in one of our podcasts ‘In Conversation With… Hollie Ivy‘ which is a perfect accompaniment to the below article from Hollie. You can listen to or watch it right here:

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For some reason, James has kindly asked me to ramble here at this Community Campfire. As anyone who follows me on social media will know, I do love a ramble and laughing at my own crappy jokes (condolences), so here I am, happily obliging ….quelle surprise!

So hi, my name is Hollie Ivy and I am addicted to mountains. We’re all addicted to something right?

From my base here in the capital of the Scottish Highlands, Inverness, I run a tour company (alongside my equally adventurous Wolfdog Chinook and tiny human Juno) offering guided treks into remote parts of this beautiful country. I am also a trainee member of the Kintail Mountain Rescue Team – because mountains, walkie talkies, Landrovers and helicopters ya’ll!

Born (at home, because my dad didn’t believe mom was in labour) and raised in Alaska, I suppose it was inevitable that rugged wilderness and high altitudes would forever be a big part of my life, but I’ve been asked this really simple, yet difficult to answer, question:

What inspired you to get outside and explore?

Hmmmm ….everything and nothing, I guess. I spent most of my life in the mountains, I don’t really function at peak level indoors (yes pun intended / no I am not sorry). I remember in March 2020, when we were all ordered to ‘STAY AT HOME’ and all I could think was, ‘Outside is my home. It always has been.’

I spent the majority of my childhood travelling in a van with my parents, brother and sister. Around Alaska initially, then driving through Canada and across The States to Florida and back. And I don’t mean campervan, just a standard van with seats and a steering wheel. No toilet, no bed, no showers, no cooker. But my dad did have a suitcase full of Led Zeppelin, Boston and Beatles cassettes, so the essentials were covered.

When you’ve got five people in close quarters like that, you tend to spend a lot of time outside. So maybe it’s not even really inspiration that took me into the wild, but rather self-preservation?

A more poignant question is why do I keep gravitating towards nature when it’s no longer ‘essential’ to do so? It’s really hard to explain to someone who’s never climbed a mountain why we do it. It seems awful. Just walking uphill for hours, only to turn around and walk back down again. What’s the point?

I can’t answer that. I don’t know what the point of anything is.

What I do know, is that when I am climbing a mountain, I am comforted by the ancient landscape highlighting how insignificant and fleeting both me, and all of my perceived problems, are in comparison. I find stillness in the movement – focusing only on putting one foot in front of the other. Every so often, I look back and see how far I’ve come. I am constantly reminded how fragile, yet incredibly strong I am, either by the terrain, the weather, or both. I love how many wonderful metaphors mountains make for all the challenges and opportunities we encounter in life. For instance, currently I feel like I’ve just arrived at a false summit and am looking up towards the true summit enshrouded in low cloud cover, so I cannot see how much further I need to go (thanks Covid).

Mostly, I appreciate how climbing a mountain forces me to face my deepest fears and find creative ways of navigating them, it proves that I can keep going long after I think I can’t and shows me how to see things from a new perspective.

We live in a world that glorifies being busy and overscheduled. In addition, we are all constantly connected to technology that demands our attention 24/7. The periods of solitude and stillness that we all crave has been slowly stripped away from us, YouTube video by YouTube video, social media post by social media post, text by text …and what’s left? A bunch of people terrified, not just of being physically alone, but alone with their own thoughts.

Yet, there’s a difference between being alone and being lonely. I never feel alone when I am sitting on a summit all by myself. I often feel alone scrolling through my social media feeds.

So, I think I’ll stick to the mountains and suggest maybe you consider climbing one too, if you haven’t already?

After all, who doesn’t love ending the day on a high?

If you loved that and need a bit more Hollie in your life, please make sure you head to those links at the top of the page!

You won’t regret it!

On the Heart of Wales Line Trail

You can visit and follow Dave Outdoors here:

Instagram: Dave_Outdoors123

YouTube: Dave Outdoors

Facebook: Dave Outdoors

Hello, my name is Dave.

I am a keen hiker, wild camper and general outdoors enthusiast.

I started my venture into the outdoors world in 2016. The idea behind me venturing into the outdoors came from a good friend of mine. His dad passed away suddenly and was a serving scout leader in the local community. In his memory, and to raise money for the scouts, we hiked up Scafell Pike in the Lake District and wild camped by Sprinkling Tarn. The landscape, views, vistas and natural beauty left me gobsmacked. From this point on, I ventured into the wildness, learnt to map read and found some amazing trails situated very close to my hometown.


It wasn’t until January 2019 that I started a YouTube channel. Something to document the amazing places I’ve visited and share with likeminded people like you. This journey I’m on, along with several others has inspired many people to venture outdoors, improving their mental wellbeing and overall making that first initial step out the front door.

If you would like to join an ever-growing community, then come join me on YouTube, under the name Dave Outdoors and share the adventures with me. Below are a couple of video from July 2020, tackling another section of the Heart of Wales line trail – epic countryside views in 28-degree heat. It also shows the importance of going equipped with the correct gear.

Part One

Part Two


As you can see, this trip was not solo, fellow YouTuber and good friend ‘A Shropshire Lad’ who I reached out to on YouTube a few years ago joined me. He’s my partner in crime and we face these adventures together. The laughter is definitely never too far away.


Hope to see you all over at Dave Outdoors.
Take care and stay safe

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If you loved that and want some more Dave in your life, make sure you follow him using the links at the top of the page!

Suunto Traverse Outdoor Watch

My Overall Rating

Rating: 4 out of 5.

For some time I had been toying with the idea of purchasing a smartwatch as a useful tool for adventuring. All I really wanted from a watch was:

  • The time (obviously)
  • Mapping with tracking and grid referencing capabilities
  • Altimeter
  • GPS
  • Good battery life

After spending a ridiculous amount of time looking at ridiculous amounts of different watches, I discovered the Suunto Traverse and it ticked every one of my requirements plus a little extra.

Before I go straight into the review, let’s start with the basic specifications:

Measurements50 x 50 x 16.5 mm
Weight80g 
Bezel MaterialStainless steel & Mineral crystal glass
Case MaterialComposite
Strap MaterialSilicone
In The BoxSuunto Traverse Graphite, USB cable, quick guide, warranty booklet
PriceApprox. £175.00 (at time of purchase)
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Suunto

As mentioned already, I was after a fairly decent, mid range smart watch with mapping and GPS etc. to use as a useful backup tool for my usual navigation tools (map and compass) to avoid using various mapping software on my phone and the Suunto Traverse is just that.

This is the first time I’ve ever owned a smart watch, and I wouldn’t necessarily call it a smartwatch as it doesn’t do what I’ve seen others do like call people or send messages, but I’ve got a phone for doing that so it doesn’t bother me. The Traverse is described as an Outdoor Watch by Suunto, and I would say that makes sense. You can, of course, use it everywhere for whatever reason, but I would definitely say it’s suited best for the great outdoors as the name suggests, it’s brilliant to use whilst ‘traversing’.

I think it’ll be easier to break this review down into sections, based on what the watch can do and what I’ve used it for so far:

Initial Set-Up

As you open up the box, you’ll find those things listed above inside. The quick user guide is just that, don’t expect anything very in depth and particularly useful – it’s really only any good for your intial set-up.

Set-up is ridiculously easy. Turn it on, follow the instructions, plug it in, job done! You can get it set up in no more than 5 minutes.

You can change the formatting to metric or imperial. Mine is set to meters and kilometers and degrees Celsius.

Intial set-up – DONE

Telling the time

Does this watch tell the time? It sure does.

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Suunto

As far as I can tell, it’s digital only and it’s set by GPS so it’s more accurate than setting it by the clock on the cooker which was set by the clock on your wall which was set by the clock in the car which you set about 5 years ago and never changed to meet daylight saving, so it’s either an hour fast or slow, so who knows?

It also tells you the time for sunrise and sunset that day.

Telling the time – DONE

Mapping & GPS

The mapping is powered by the accompanying software used by Suunto called Movescount. Movescount is a whole other story and probably deserves a review for itself. Essentially, you create your route on Movescount then plug your phone into your laptop or desktop (whatever), and sync it up. The map moves across to your watch straight away.

There are two flaws to the mapping I have discovered so far.

  1. You cannot sync the Traverse in any other way. You must plug it into your laptop or desktop. It will not do this ‘wirelessly’.
  2. If you are used to all the very helpful features and symbols, contours etc. etc. on your OS Map, then forget it, you only get the line of your route and absolutely nothing else.

Despite these flaws, following the route is remarkably accurate thanks to the GPS. You can view your route in whole, so you can see where you are along the route, or you can have it zoomed into your current position allowing you to see the direction changes in more detail.

I would not rely on this as a main source of navigation (I would always use map and compass) but it is a very very handy back up tool and that’s exactly what I wanted.

Along the route you can add various POIs (Points of Interest) which you can then sync back up to Movescount when you next plug in. You can also add these POIs whilst creating your route in the first place, and depending on what the POI is, it has a different symbol – in that case you could add your useful symbols from an OS Map manually should you want to, but they aren’t the same. You can then set up alerts to make your watch beep when you are approaching each POI. As you move along the route, your own path is marked with a dotted line so you can see where you have been in comparison to your planned route. Your position is marked with a big triangle which points in the direction the watch is facing.

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Suunto

If, like me, you use Viewranger to plan all of your routes, you can upload your GPX file route into Movescount and it’ll map it out for you straight away, so you don’t have to use Movescount to plan your route. This will obviously work with any other mapping software where you can download routes as GPX files.

You do not have to use the route planning though. You can record your own route and add POIs as you go along then upload that to Movescount when you plug in next.

GPS is great. The Traverse also works with GLONASS which I understand to be the Russian version of GPS or something like that. It’s pretty quick to pick up a GPS signal (takes seconds) but, like all GPS devices, can be effected by the weather or built up surroundings.

When you complete your walk following the route on the Traverse, hit STOP and it will give you loads of stats like:

  • Time taken
  • Distance
  • Altitude differences
  • Steps taken
  • Plus more

There is also a built in compass which obviously points north and gives you your heading degrees.

The Traverse also provides grid references for, as far as I can tell, pretty much all over the world. Mine is obviously set to BNG (British National Grid) but you change it for wherever you are.

There is so much more yet to discover I think, but I hope that’s given you a good insight into the mapping capabilities etc. so far.

Mapping & GPS – DONE

Altimeter, Barometer, Thermometer

Does this watch tell you your current altitude above sea level? YES

I am sure it does more than that, and I am sure you can set alarms to go off when you hit a certain altitude too.

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Suunto

The barometer alludes me, I’m not going to lie. It tells you if the air pressure is going up or down but I’m not sure what that means for me. I haven’t played around with that bit so much yet, so I can’t comment on much more.

The thermometer does it’s job – it tells you the temperature. One issue, though, is the sensor is under the watch so it will detect your body heat too, so you will not get a 100% accurate temperature by a long way. You need to take the watch off and leave it for some time to measure the temperature accurately.

Altimeter, Barometer, Thermometer – DONE

Battery Life

The battery life isn’t terrible, as long as you are just on normal ‘telling the time’ mode. As I’ve said, this is my first smartwatch/outdoor watch so I don’t have anything to compare it with.

On normal sitting on the sofa mode, the battery will last well over a week.

Get GPS and maps, following routes etc. running and the battery will possibly last a couple of days at best.

It comes with a USB charger, so it’s not difficult to charge on the go if you have a power pack or a car or a house with electricity to go to.

Battery Life – DONE

So… why only 4 stars?

For somebody like me, who just wants some navigational aids and doesn’t necessarily need to read messages or answer phones on my watch like a spy, I can’t recommend the Suunto Traverse enough. It feels incredibly robust and I understand the glass is some special near indestructible stuff and that’s perfect for me as somebody who isn’t known for being particularly careful or gentle with things.

It can also go underwater as far as 100m, which I think is pretty far, I don’t know… It can handle the deep end in your local swimming pool and you can take it for a paddle in the sea for sure. I’m not too sure what happens to it when it hits 101m either, does it just dissolve? Explode?

For me the only thing letting this watch down is the detailed mapping, or lack of it. I would prefer to be able to see a proper OS style map on the watch or something close to it – but it is in no way a deal breaker. It’s still very handy.

It’s also quite pretty.

Review of the Suunto Traverse Outdoor Watch – DONE

For more info and probably a slightly better write up about it, head over to Suunto for more!

This is me wearing the Suunto Traverse, being lost in a field in the fog
This is me opening the box and going ‘oooh’

Brecon Beacons: ‘Going it alone’

Trip dates: 11th – 13th September 2020

Location: Brecon Beacons, Wales

“Adventure is worthwhile in itself.” – Amelia Earhart

Earlier this year I took a little solo trip to the Brecon Beacons in Wales for a long weekend of walking about and climbing some big hills. I didn’t intend to write anything about it, but have been thinking about the experience ever since and thought it would actually be good to do something about it, especially for those individuals who may want to take solo trips themselves but can’t quite pluck up the courage to do so. So here we go… this shouldn’t take long.

Our return to Sweden, for our usual annual wild camping trip, was cancelled thanks to COVID, and due to trying to stick to lockdown measures and social distancing rules etc. etc. we couldn’t all meet up for a bit of adventuring together. So, after the first lockdown I thought it was a pretty good opportunity to get out and do some solo exploring and the Beacons were beckoning.

For months before I had a circular route planned out which would incorporate Corn Du, Pen y Fan, Cribyn and Fan y Big – starting and finishing at Garwnant on the beautiful Llyn-onn Reservoir. It was a route of about 33km (20 miles). I would have a big trek, tick off those peaks, camp nearby and then return to the car the next day then drive to the Black Mountains for a little bit more exploring.  Things didn’t exactly go to plan and that’s why I thought it would be good to share this little trip with you.

It was an early start, leaving home at about 05.30am on a Friday morning to make the long drive over to the Llyn-onn Reservoir. I arrived early enough to fit in a quick bit of breakfast before getting my pack sorted and leaving the car looking lonely in the vast, empty car park. Not far along the track (going north), emerging from the pine trees are the Cantrel and Beacons Reservoirs, two beautiful stretches of water completely dwarfed by the huge mass of Cefn Crew leading up to Corn Du above it and gradually becoming more and more veiled in cloud. On a side note, I haven’t yet been fortunate to see the spectacular views from Snowdon’s summit on a clear day, so I was really hoping the cloud would clear by the time I made it to the summit of Pen y Fan, just short of 1km above me, giving me something other than the usual view of a thick grey screen – but it already wasn’t looking likely.

A very grey start (looking across Cantrel Reservoir)

I spent the whole first section of the walk totally alone, not seeing anybody until I made it to Pont ar Daf car park which seems to be one of the most popular starting places to make the ascent. It was still early and the car park was packed and overflowing onto the verges already. Anyway, I weaved through the various people walking up in sandals and flip flips and as I got higher, the views surrounding me became more and more impressive until I eventually hit the clouds and was plunged into that all too familiar grey abyss. The long line of people seemed to stop and turn around at the cairn I could only presume marked the first little summit of Bwlch Duwynt, just below Corn Du and for good reason. The wind had picked up and seemed to be trying to blow everybody off the top of the ridge. With a fully packed rucksack on my back acting like a sail, it made the ascent to the summits of Corn Du and Pen y Fan that much more interesting, but no less enjoyable. Reaching Pen y Fan I wasn’t surprised to be surrounded by cloud, so I didn’t hang about and celebrate making it, but as soon as I took my first step down towards Cribyn, the cloud vanished completely and I was greeted with unbelievable views all around, including that of the incredibly picturesque Horseshoe Path and the Upper Neuadd Reservoir below.

Possibly the most challenging section of the route is actually the steep climb up to Cribyn but, personally, I think the view is far more rewarding looking back towards Pen y Fan. I was fortunate to be the only person on the small summit of Cribyn so I took the opportunity to have a bit of a rest and take some pictures before being joined by a young couple. I felt I was possibly interrupting something that could have been quite special, so hit the path once more and let them have the summit to themselves.

Horseshoe Path

Because I’m sure there is nothing worse than being woken up and told to ‘jog on’ by a disgruntled farmer or the police at 2am, I always try to do a lot of research into areas to wild camp before I start planning any route. Being a popular route for hikers and campers alike,  I knew there must have been some good camping spots that people often took advantage of in the area. I had previously watched a video by the excellent Outdoor Intrigue (love their stuff and Ben and Megan seem like super nice people) of when they hammock camped at the Upper Neuadd Reservoir – an old dried up reservoir bordered entirely by woodland with a little island of trees in the middle.

I decided to skip Fan y Big and instead followed the route all the way down to the entrance of the reservoir to claim my camping spot for the night. It was still fairly early, about 16:30, but I figured it was best to use the last remaining light for making camp. As I made my way through the trees, I came across a couple of other campers who had already settled in for the night but, fortunately, the spot I had my eye on whilst planning the route was still available – the island would be mine! Traversing across the reservoir, I discovered it wasn’t quite as dried up as I thought, jumping across streams and unintentionally walking through a number of bogs was worth it to have my own “island” for the night – I’m not sure if it’s technically an island if there’s no substantial body of water, but still…it was mine.

The island is mine

The strong winds returned and were blowing straight up the length of the reservoir, so I set up my tarp against it to make some shelter for my hammock then got some dinner on the go (sitting in a hammock surrounded by mountains is possibly the only way to make packet rice enjoyable). I changed out of my wet and cold clothes and climbed into the hammock to get cosy. It was the first time I had used an underquilt on my hammock, something I was quite sceptical about at first but would now absolutely recommend to anybody who enjoys sleeping in their hammock all year round as it kept the wind and the cold off all night. As soon as I settled in for the night, the wind completely changed direction and started blowing straight down the length of my tarp and over the top of me. Then it turned into a bit of storm. But thanks to the underquilt (and a cheeky bit of whisky) doing its job I was too cosy to do anything about it and slept right through.

The view from my hammock of Pen y Fan in the clouds

Whether it was because of the beautifully clear weather the next day or not, I found the second half of the walk far more impressive than the first. The route back to the car took me south through Taf Fechan Forest, along the incredibly scenic Pentywn Reservoir and up onto the southern hills of the Brecon Beacons with views stretching over Vaynor to the south and Pen y Fan to the north. A huge wide-open area of nothing but little rivers, rolling hills and sheep. I felt relaxed, rested and peaceful as I descended back down to Garwnant, my car and some homemade apple cake I had left especially for my return.

Grabbing a coffee from the café at Garwnant and sitting on the ground next to the car, I starting to make plans for what I needed to do next. As I mentioned earlier, I needed to get across to the Black Mountains for another route I had planned for the day, then camp again and head home the next day. But returning to the car after such a great day and a half of walking, I didn’t fancy doing it again straight away. I was still feeling relaxed and the effort I put into getting up and over those hills that morning left me feeling pretty lifted. I had achieved what I wanted to do. So…I made new plans.

South Wales is home to one of the most beautiful stretches of coastline in the UK, in particular, the Gower Peninsular, home to Rhossili Bay. It was turning into quite a beautiful day, blue skies and warm sun – the beach was calling. Instead of making the 2 hour drive from Garwnant to the Black Mountains (in the direction of home) I made the 2 hour drive from Garwnant to Rhossili instead (away from home). This turned out to be a brilliant decision.

You don’t have to put yourself through hell to experience the great outdoors

I arrived at about lunchtime and somehow had the beach to myself with the exception of a handful of surfers. I emptied my rucksack of all the camping and hiking kit and replaced it with a blanket and a warm jacket, then made the beach my home for the day, staying until the sun had dropped below the horizon in front of me.

I wasn’t going to write about this trip because, as you can tell, it wasn’t particularly exciting or adventurous but for that reason, I thought I probably should. Reading through lots of different blogs, watching various videos on YouTube etc. there seems to be a lot of pressure to go fairly ‘hardcore’ when it comes to having a bit of an adventure and wild camping. Yes, usually I would just go out with a tarp and hammock and spend days on end camping and walking about, but that isn’t the only way to do these things. You don’t have to expose yourself to the elements, get cold, muddy and miserable to have adventures. I left home with a list of things in mind for what I wanted to achieve: a big trek,  some of the main peaks in the Beacons and an overnight camp on a little island. With everything on the list achieved, I didn’t need to go and spend another day and a half walking about the mountains and camping. Instead, I hit the beach, relaxed, took some quiet time to myself and ate a massive pizza for dinner. Reflecting back, having that time alone to go where I wanted, to go at my own pace and to be quiet and stress free, it was one of my favourite experiences of 2020 – granted that’s not saying much for 2020, but I would say that’s pretty good…wouldn’t you?

Intothesticks.life: The Origin Story

Here at intothesticks.life our mission is to encourage everybody to get outside and engage with the wild world around them…but we can’t do it alone and that’s where you come in.

That’s not the whole story though and certainly not where this all began…

Intothesticks.life was set up during an extremely tough time in my life as just a medium for me to record my adventures, thoughts and experiences about the wild world; something for me to read back in years to come – like a journal. But it soon became so much more than that.

I originally shared on social media an article I wrote after a surreal ‘camping’ trip in Scotland (featured in The Blog) as I thought it was quite amusing and I thought the guys who were also on the trip with me would also appreciate it.

Very quickly it became apparent that many other people appreciated too it and wanted to hear more…

Read about our Scotland trip here

Intothesticks.life combines the two main passions in my life. The great outdoors and writing. My earliest memories as a small child are of great walks in the countryside and 30 years later I’m still out there, exploring, learning and engaging with the wild world around me.

Since I was able to hold a pencil I’ve loved putting words together to tell a story, whether creatively or informatively, so being able to write about the great outdoors and those little adventures is one of the greatest things I could do.

My love for adventure and the outdoors led me to eventually join Lowland Rescue as part of Search Dogs Buckinghamshire where I am also the lead navigation instructor as well as being a National Navigation Award Scheme (NNAS) course director, running my own navigation courses – helping others access the world of adventure safely and well informed.

You’re not necessarily going to find stories of somebody courageously climbing the tallest mountain in the world, fighting off tigers in the jungle and abseiling into some snake-filled abyss, I like to think my articles are a little more down to earth and relatable. You’re more likely to find stories about eating flapjack in the freezing rain, drying my underpants over a campfire or getting a bit sunburnt in the mountains.

From such a simple, personal, journal idea, intothesticks.life has become a space to connect other like minded people through The Community Campfire.

The Community Campfire is still a remarkably simple concept but now one of my most favourite parts of the site. It acts as an area everybody can come to share their outdoor passions. It’s the digital version of sitting around a campfire and having a chat. The main goal is to bring together a great collection of people with different skills, stories and experiences to help persuade, inspire or ‘influence’ people to get their boots on and take a walk in the wild. From the Community Campfire we’ve also introduced The intothesticks.life Podcast where get the opportunity to talk to these inspirational people about their lives in the great outdoors.

If just one person finds this site, reads an article and thinks ‘you know what? I’m going for a walk,’ then my job is done.

What else could I want?

Squirrel Cooker by Kestrel Bushcraft

What a fantastic piece of kit!

I discovered the squirrel cooker on one of Joe Robinet’s Bushcraft videos on youtube (link below) and immediately needed one. I had a trip to Sweden lined up and I knew that it would be the best opportunity to give it a proper baptism.

I contacted Kestrel Bushcraft straight away and got a seriously rapid response from them and we were game on. They were more than happy to make one for me and get it sent out in time for my trip, which they did. I can’t fault them at all. Very friendly, fast responding and incredibly quick postage for a great price too. Brilliant.

So the squirrel cooker is hand crafted and looks awesome. It’s comprised of two separate iron rods, one that you stick into the ground and another that is fed through it and balances perfectly in place over the fire. At one end of the balancing rod are two very sharp prongs, like a pitch fork, which is ideal for sticking some meat, marshmallows or whatever takes your fancy on, and at the other end is a slight angled curve which makes hanging your billy cans on a doddle. Sadly, due to the ridiculous prices in Sweden for steak, we opted to go without on this trip, but we did pack some Wayfayrer meals, so the billy can would be put to use.

It worked an absolute treat, I couldn’t find a flaw in it. It held together perfectly when holding the billy can full of water boiling and bubbling away and then when it came to removing the can, it was just a case of swiveling the cooker on its axis and it was out of the heat and much easier to deal with instead of having to keep your hands over the fire and fiddling around trying not to drop the can. It’s those little things that just makes the cooking experience that much more enjoyable and simple.

As a side note, it was also extremely helpful when it came to drying my wet socks over the fire.

Then when you’re done and it’s cooled, which takes no time at all, it just slips back inside your rucksack (or strapped to the side) taking up very little space. I did make a little cover for the sharp prongs just from some cardboard when it was in my rucksack to save making holes in it and also to prevent baggage handlers moaning at me in case they were silly enough to poke themselves.

There is little else to mention about this kit, other than the fact that I would highly recommend getting hold of one, plus as they are handmade by Kestrel Bushcraft, with their logo embossed on the side of it, you know you will actually have a unique piece which had some true care and attention put into it during the creation process.

Get in touch with Kestrel Bushcraft and get your hands on one. You will not regret it at all.

DD Travel Hammock and DD Tarp

DD Travel Hammock

Travel Hammock price: £52.00 (at time of purchase)

Colour: Green

DD Travel Hammock rating: 5/5

Why?

Honestly, I don’t know where to start with these other than proudly admitting that my hammock is my second home.

I absolutely love everything about my hammock, the size, the weight, materials, functions, everything. When I received my hammock and took it out of the stuff sack that is included, it was all perfectly folded and fitted wonderfully. If you’re anything like me, you’ll find that trying to put these perfectly folded parcels back into the bags is an absolute bloody nightmare and bordering the most stressful and frustrating thing in the world. Well fear not! With no disrespect to the boys and girls at DD Hammocks who are incredibly helpful, it is very easy to do an even better job at packing your hammock away and making the whole thing so much smaller, saving that all important precious space in your pack. In fairness it doesn’t look as good, but every little helps.

Once packed away, the hammock weighs about 860g which isn’t super super light but is far from cumbersome and heavy and once you have your rucksack or day pack filled, you hardly notice it.

So, details, this isn’t instructional so just bare with me and use your imagination where I haven’t got specific things in photographs. The DD Travel has a built in mosquito net which is absolutely fantastic, with zips on both sides so you’re not restricted with getting in and out of the hammock from one side only. I would, however, say that, from my own laziness and lack of flexibility, the zips can be a bugger to do up when you’re laying down and a bit far and fiddly to reach when you leave them by your feet! So I just attached a little bit of paracord to each one so I can pull them up when they are down at my feet. Again, no criticism whatsoever to the hammock, just me being lazy. A fantastic feature inside the hammock is, at both ends, there are built in pockets. This may sound basic but you have no idea how helpful they are, especially in the middle of the night when you need to find a torch or your phone and they have vanished into the middle of the hammock somewhere. Very very useful! The mosquito net is held right up and away from your face with two poles (included) that slide into two compartments at each end and then tie up on the tree as well. What I tend to do though, to save a bit of space, is find a nice narrow stick from the ground and use that instead of the poles, works just as well, and you aren’t going to be short of sticks in the woods are you?

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Dan Kemp Photography

Hammocks may seem to be something you’d use just in the summer when it’s nice and warm at night still as they seem fairly open to the elements and are typically seen hanging on a beach or between palm trees somewhere. Well, no. I have camped in all weathers and seasons in my hammock now and I haven’t suffered whatsoever with the cold. This is due to a few very simple but helpful features. Firstly, as soon as you lay in your hammock, the ‘walls’ come up above your whole body, immediately protecting you from the wind coming in contact with you directly. Then there is the double layer feature. The hammock is kind of like two slices of bread, but sewn together down one edge and fixed with Velcro on the other, allowing you to slide your sleeping mat or blankets, spare clothes and insulation inside. Not only does this help protect you getting cold underneath, it also makes it even more comfortable. Along with that, I have a second extremely basic hammock that I hang underneath my DD Travel, just to keep all of my kit and extras off the wet ground, but this almost acts as a thermal protection as well if I hang it at the right height below the DD. Although not quite as good as the DD Underblanket that I’m saving for to add to my kit in the future.  So that’s the DD Travel Hammock in a basic nutshell really, just an absolutely fantastic piece of kit, that I make sure I carry with me even on an afternoon stroll with my dog through the woods, giving me the option to throw it up quickly and get a brew on.


Hammock and tarp
Dan Kemp Photography

The DD Tarp

Size: 3m x 3m

DD Tarp price: £49.00 (at time of purchase

Colour: Green

DD 3m x 3m Tarp rating: 5/5

Why?

Another wonderful bit of kit in my rucksack. Clearly a bit more basic than the Travel Hammock but nonetheless vital and brilliant.

The tarp is extremely tough and versatile with endless ways to set up thanks to the 16 loops that line the edges and across the middle. I have even seen this tarp used as a raft on a river, boat sails and a tent with nothing but tent pegs (included) and walking poles (not included obviously), but of course, with all these hundreds of different uses, I generally go for the same set up every time, as pictured above. A basic open faced shelter for my hammock.

As mentioned, it comes with the pegs and also guy lines included in the stuff sack, and much like the hammock, can also be packed down far smaller than you originally get it. I found the pegs to be a little bit rubbish however and at this moment I am fairly certain all of them have bent, broken and been replaced, but this is no enormous problem because, after all, they are only tent pegs. Plus you can make your own from sticks too, saving space again. The guy lines are a great length, brilliant quality and haven’t disappointed me at all. I did also discover recently, through my own stupidity and nothing to do with DD at all, that neither the hammock or tarp are fire/ember proof, as I have found a few holes where sparks have come off my campfire and landed on them. But that’s just inevitable really if you’re silly enough to have your set up so close to the fire.

I have one of those rucksacks that have a separate lower compartment to it that you can zip off from the rest, and what is great is that, when I have the hammock and tarp folded away into their individual stuff bags, they both fit perfectly into the lower compartment, allowing easy access to them without routing through the bag and dropping everything all over the floor. Little things like that please me.

So to summarise, if you want a great camping hammock and a tarp to go with it, go to DD Hammocks. You will not be disappointed. Even my friends went and bought themselves their own DD Hammocks and Tarps after seeing mine. The quality of goods, the fantastic service and incredibly quick delivery times are all just bonuses and cherries on the top of the big hammock cake.

You will not be disappointed!

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The Hultafors HVK Craftman’s Knife

Hultafors HVK Craftman’s Knife

Price: £8.00 (approx)

Colour: Orange and black

Blade Length: 93mm (3.6 inches)

Material: Carbon Steel blade, super-durable PP plastic handle with rubber friction grip.

Holster: Super-durable PP plastic with belt clip.

Out of 5: 4

Why?

Every single time I walk into the forest I will always have a knife with me, and my current knife of choice is the Hultafors Craftman’s Knife.

Knives are an essential and an expensive piece of kit often costing up to and beyond £100 for a really great blade. However I was just after an affordable knife that could take some abuse but still be a contender in performance and wouldn’t mean a huge loss of money if it broke. This one definitely ticks all those boxes. I have had this knife for just 3 months now but it has been used almost everyday since without sharpening it and still holds a razor sharp edge.

This knife has been used to dig up roots and bulbs, make holes in trees to collect sap, split wood with a mallet, make feather sticks and also with a firesteel to make fire. On top of that I also use it to cook, cut and eat food. I haven’t yet come across a hurdle with the performance whilst undertaking all of these jobs and the blade still remains sharp.Sap_extraction.jpg

The holster is also excellent. It’s very solid and can really take a scraping and beating through everyday exploring. I particularly like how it has been designed with a small drainage hole in the bottom which saves the knife sitting in water and becoming ruined. It also makes the cleaning of the holster much easier too. Where the whole package loses a star is with the design of the belt clip. It’s a design that I haven’t seen before and is made to either lock onto a button or clipped over the top of a belt. There is a small ridge on the rear side of the clip which needs to be cut away to fit a belt of normal thickness, but this is also part of the design.DSCF9698 - Edited (1).jpg

A small design fault can be seen in the hinge of the clip and the two small ‘locking pins’. The hinge itself is very thin plastic and I worry that with a lot of use this will eventually break as the plastic is already whitening after so much usage. The pins are also held on the clip with the same very thin plastic and the very first time I attached it to my belt, one of the pins bent and could have broken very easily. I have to be very careful and make sure each pin is securely in its housing every time I use the clip which can be a nuisance at times if I want to clip it on with any speed.

If you are also after a knife that can be easily and inexpensively replaced if broken, then I highly recommend this Hultafors HVK Craftman’s Knife. It’s almost a sibling of the Morakniv which is about the same price and more or less identical. I can’t see mine being replaced any time soon and with a little more care and sharpening, this piece could last a very long time. You can see from the pictures that it’s had a lot of abuse over the time I’ve owned it, but I can guarantee its performance has not diminished and shows no sign of failing any time soon.

Well worth the purchase – have a look over here

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Hultafors OK4 Outdoor knife

I was absolutely delighted to discover an email from Hultafors asking if they could send the OK4 Outdoor Knife to me for a bit of a review, how could I possibly say no to that? So here it is…

They’ve done it again, what a beauty. Hultafors still remain my go to brand for reliable knives.

You’ll probably realise it already, but just be warned that I am definitely not a knife expert, but that might make this review a bit more realistic if you also have little knife knowledge too.

But first off, compared to my HVK Craftman’s Knife, the OK4 is better in pretty much every way. So let’s break it down..

Price: £13.00 – £15.00 (approx)

Colour: Green handle/black blade

Blade length: 3.6 inches

Blade material: Japanese knife steel, 3.0 mm carbon steel hardened to 58–60 HRC

Handle: Super-durable PP plastic and rubber

Holster: Super durable PP plastic

Out of 5: (but a high 4)

Why?

Immediately it looks so much better than the HVK Craftman’s knife, but it would obviously look different anyway. They’re designed for different jobs. However, when a knife comes out with me into the forest, it’s used for all the jobs a knife could possibly handle from cutting and shaping wood to skinning animals and eating with. It may or may not be cleaned between jobs.

So already this knife has had an absolute thrashing, hammering and all kinds of abusing you couldn’t imagine. The blade is relatively soft, but extremely durable. After my initial thrashing, the blade became slightly blunt, but after a very short sharpening session, it was straight back up to razor sharp, shaving hairs with no hassle whatsoever and still looks absolutely superb. I’m sure there is a limit to how many times I can sharpen it and blunt it and sharpen it again, but until that day, it’s going to live on my belt.

Another brilliant use for the blade is lighting fires. The rigid top edge of the blade is designed perfectly to be used with a fire steel and creates a wonderful cluster of sparks to light your fire. With the belt loop having a small pocket built into it for sliding a fire steel into, what more could you need?

This brings me to the next point; the holster. The holster is more or less the same as the HVK’s. I still worry that the clip will break after a couple of uses, it’s still a worryingly thin plastic hinge that if twisted slightly, could snap. However, along with the holster, came a fabric belt loop that, with a metal clasp, slides perfectly into the button hole on the holster. This won me over completely. I use thicker leather belts, so the clip on the holster actually doesn’t fit it, with this belt loop however, I have absolutely zero concerns. It’s a brilliant piece of kit. Even better is that the holster can actually come out of the belt loop, leaving, as tried and tested by your’s truly, the perfect holder for an axe handle too. No complaints.

The knife has a wonderful, thick and well weighted handle which grips perfectly when carrying out any job and with a slip guard at the pointy end, definitely reduces the risk of sliding down the handle and cutting yourself. The only problem with it would be cleaning. As mentioned previously, this knife can be used for skinning small animals (rabbits etc.), even though it’s not designed as a skinning knife, it can do the job just fine. The problem comes when you end up with, excuse the gory details, a bit of blood and guts on the handle. If the handle was entirely plastic, it would be as easy as wiping it off with a bit of cloth but being rubber, it naturally wants to grip onto those little bits of dirt as much as it can. It can obviously be cleaned, but just not as easily. The holster is ideal for this, however as it is entirely plastic and with a drainage hole in the bottom, it doesn’t trap a lot of dirt at all.

So if you want a fantastic knife to take on your trips into the wild, a knife that would stand up against any job you throw at it and still take pride of place on your belt, the ‘Hultafors OK4 outdoors knife’ is the tool for you. As much as I still love my HVK, which remains in my rucksack on trips, the OK4 is always on my belt. I love it, my friends love it, you’ll love it.

I still haven’t quite figured out why you’ll need a small ruler type measuring line on it, but it looks great nonetheless!

For more information from Hultafors themselves, head over here.

NNAS Bronze Award: Dates & Booking

On this page you will find a list of course dates as well as the course timetable and the cancellation policy

To book your space, please select ‘book’ next to the course you wish to join. This will open an email for you to send us a message. Alternatively, get in touch via the form below.

Please ensure you reference the course date you wish to join.

DateLocationSpacesBook
13th & 14th November 2021Stockgrove Country Park, Bedfordshire, LU7 0BBYesBook
19th & 20th February 2022Brill Windmill, Buckinghamshire, HP18 9TQ Yes Book
5th & 6th March 2022Whiteleaf Hill, Buckinghamshire, HP27 0LH Yes Book
16th & 17th April 2022Wendover Woods, Buckinghamshire, HP22 5NQ YesBook
18th & 19th June 2022Ashridge Estate, Hertfordshire. HP4 1LT Yes Book
2nd & 3rd July 2022North Marston, Buckinghamshire, MK18 3PP Yes Book
6th & 7th August 2022Brill Windmill, Buckinghamshire, HP18 9TQ Yes Book
If these dates do not suit your availability, get in touch and we can try and arrange something!

Course Timetable

DAY ONE

9:30am: Meet at the prior agreed car park / meeting point

9:30am – 12:00pm: Group introductions, administration and briefing followed by map theory and skills introduction.

12:00pm – 12:45pm: Lunch break and preparation for afternoon walking

12:45pm – 16:30pm: Start on planned circular route, each person taking it in turns to guide the group and practice their navigation skills with assistance from instructor, plenty of rest stops and time to ask questions.

16:30pm – 17:00pm: Arrive back at the meeting point for skills recap and debrief.

 
DAY TWO

9:30am: Meet at the prior agreed car park / meeting point

09:30am – 10:00am: Time to refresh skills learnt from previous day, ask questions and prepare for a full days walking.

10:00am – 16:30pm: Assessment begins, each person navigating a leg of a different circular route from previous day. Lunch break included as well as plenty of rest stops and further learning and development opportunities. The assessment is entirely practical and NOT written.

16:30pm –17:00pm: Arrive back at meeting point for course feedback and results.

Booking Process & Cancellation Policy

What happens when I book a place?

After getting in touch above, you will receive a booking form for the course you have chosen. After you complete and return the booking form we will arrange payment. Once payment is received you will be officially booked on the course and you will receive your booking confirmation and more useful information about your chosen course.

What happens if I cancel my booking after paying?

Depending on the notice you provide, we will arrange a refund for you. Please be aware that the percentage of the refund depends on the notice we receive.

3 weeks before course: 100% refund

2 weeks before course: 50% refund

1 week or less before course: 0% refund

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