Archive for the 'Fire and Camplife' Category

Jan 01 2008

The Rock Shelter

Published by under Fire and Camplife

As shown in a earlier post, there is a rockshelter close by the farm where I come from. We expanded on it a couple of years ago and built a chimney. During the course I ran in December I slept almost exclusively there.

I threw in a lot of spruce branches and a moose/elk skin to sleep on. The fire was just used to keep warm on dressing and undressing as I was slightly afraid of cracking the rock above. I can really recommend this type of shelter, pretty smokeless and totally waterproof. Make sure that the direction of the slate goes pretty much horizontally if you are going to use a fire in there though. And that there are no major cracks in the rock.

I’ll borrow the photos from you again Steve, thanks.

One response so far

Nov 17 2007

Terrain Types of The Boreal Forest

Published by under Fire and Camplife

Telemark rests in the very most south-western corner of the great Siberian taiga, our terrain, animals and vegetation is somewhat different compared to the eastern part, but it’s still what can be called a “spruce-moose” forest. In Telemark, and Norway in general, there are generally three types of different terrains. The heather moors and fields, which are not natural, are not described. And the coastal rainforest I haven’t much experience with. The far north is classified as tundra and the far south as belonging to the nemoral zone.

Pine moors, being very dry because of well drained soils, scotch pine dominate this terrain, with occational occurence of birch and spruce. Wildlife is relatively scarce here, red squirrel and pine marten are two of the most common mammals, but caribou/reindeer and moose/elk often have their winter habitat there. Capercaillie are the most common game birds. I don’t know of many examples of virgin forest of this kind. Probably because it’s a very easily accessible terrain for logging excellent timber.


Hillsides are usually fertile, especially the ones that face to the south and are slighly moist. There is often a large variety of plants there. These hillsides have willow, spruce, birch, juniper, aspen, bird cherry and a number of other trees. The north facing sides are usually covered in predominately spruce, but with some birch. Right below the mountains, where the very warmest places in all of the territories are, you’ll find elm, hazel and linden. Wildlife is very diverse, hares probably being the most common specie. Roe and red deer often stay only here, since they require foods of higher quality. Beaver can often log quite far up these slopes. I have seen them log several hundred metres up, though then with additional dams up a nearby stream. These slopes are difficult to log, and are often left to “rewild” today.


Bogs are often relatively barren, but if combined with lakes or on rich ground they can harbour important sites for waterfowl and important grazing zones for moose. Wet ground, but overgrown with alder is the primary habitat of the hazel grouse.


Mountains are in summer quite fertile in the lower portions. Sometimes covered in birch or willow. The moose and caribou often go there to graze during that time. The snow patches on the higher elevation provides an escape from the moskitos and flies. In winter the higher elevations provide habitat for the caribou and lower for the grouse.


Edge zones are the most productive places in a habitat, either where a terrain meets a lake or two types meets eachother. The reason why my part of Telemark is particulary productive, is because an abundance of such zones. Many of them created by lakes. Along these lakes

There are several hybrids of these habitats, like deltas, which can be exceptionally rich, but they are rare. Especially today, since many have been drained.

And remember to have a look in the chatroom.

9 responses so far

Oct 30 2007

Long Term Storage

Published by under Fire and Camplife

Thank you for your great donation Survival Acres!

In a camp you are planning on staying for an extended period of time or return to later, you might want to store some food. Even if you don’t expect to return, store any surplus food so you have something to turn to if famine strikes. In addition, all equipment you make and need can usually not be carried with you at any given time.

Equipment, like fishing traps, nets, empty containers, sledges and similar, don’t need to be stored particulary protected. A overhanging rock, to keep it dry is enough. The indicator to look for is no vegetation whatsoever. Make sure there is enough space, so that no snow comes in. Things of hide, raw or tanned, can be left, but not indefinitely. Keep it as elevated as possible. A common way of storing things away from mice, is to keep it suspended from the roof. This will at least reduce the amount of chewing on winter garnments, hides or whatever you should be storing. Bigger animals will come in and can destroy the hides, so if you are going to store animal matters, close the rockshelter with a wall. If there is no fat or meat on the hides, during the snowfree season you can store hides and similar without any damage to it. During the winter, when things are at a pinch for the animals, nothing is safe. Photo: I left a fishing trap, some knapping rock and a few containers in a natural cache on the site, for later use.


Any foods must be protected. Rodents and moisture are your worst enemies in this regard. You can’t store any food on the ground, where both of these factors are too great. The exception seems to be this particular type of storing fat for later consumption. Marrow will go bad when stored in bone, but within a year’s time frame or so, the fat will not be leached out. When you have shot a great animal, you have consumed and/or dried the meat and want to move on, take the remaining bones that you have not cracked open. Every bone, even if there is tissue on it, make a pile of them and pile rocks on top. The rocks will keep the larger scavengers at bay and the smaller ones can’t get through the bones. When you need the fat (usually in winter time), you go to the location, crush the bones and render off the fat. This method of piling food down can also be used for short time storage of meat, if you are coming back in a day or two only. I have not tried this method, but it makes perfect sense. It was appearantly used by Paleo-Indian hunters in America.

For regular storage of food, conserved in whatever method appropriate, needs to be stored in a raised cache built in a tree or between several trees. The Native Americans often took off all of the bark and branches of these trees, to make it more difficult for the bear to enter the cache. Food should be stored in relatively air tight containers (raw hide or birch bark for instance) regardlessly though, since any moisture from the air can destroy the food. Hazelnuts and other nuts are exceptions, since they have their own air-tight containers. Any containers will become wet and loose their protecting properties (rawhide in particular) if not protected from rain or snow. You will need a perfectly waterproof roof, of for instance bark, fully enclosed to the floor of the cache to prevent any birds or squirrels from entering. I have yet not had the need for making and utilising such caches, but the principle is the same as with the traditional storage houses in Norway (bur or stabbur).

5 responses so far

Oct 29 2007


Published by under Fire and Camplife

While most people don’t believe this is safe, I have never filtered or boiled the water I have been drinking at ant point in my life. And I have drunk a lot of stream water. There are a few factors which I believe make this safe in some parts of Norway, that may not be present everywhere else:

  • Few people in the mountains, few people to leave litter and pollution.
  • No cattle and little livestock in general. Animals can pollute the water if they are kept in an area in high concentrations.
  • Large rainfall and fast flowing water. The water doesn’t usually have time to gather pathogens.

There are a few guidelines though, which I always follow:

  • I don’t ever drink water that is miscoloured, foul tasting or smelling. Some bog taste can live with.
  • I rarely drink from wide rivers, since chances are that human interference above will pollute the water. If I know there is no such interference, I do drink it and prefer it. This is because a potential carcass upstream will have the washed out bacteria dilluted in a greater river than in a larger stream.
  • For lakes, the rule is as for rivers.
  • Take the water where it flows with the greatest speed (within very reasonable walking distance of course) to avoid buildups of pathogens. Water with some air in will also taste fresher.
  • Do not drink from lakes with very large beaver influence or immediately beneath them.

There will always be bacteria in the water, but when in low concentrations, your immune system will take care of it. I know a very few incidents of giardia in Norway, keep in mind that the European variety of giardia is less than 5% lethal if infected. Below: Streams such as these are usually safe.


3 responses so far

Oct 24 2007


Published by under Fire and Camplife

First of all thanks to David for his kind donation and to Sam for his input on the e-book.

A key element in any survival is fire. A fire is needed to cook food on, brings a lot of “free” warmth to your body and light when it’s otherwise pitch black. Different materials burn in different ways and this will affect the usefulness to the different tasks. The process of getting a fire going I will demonstrate in a later article, when I have taken enough photos to accompany it. Please excuse the metal can below, this photo isn’t from the last trip.


There are six factors that I rate firewood by:

  • Direct heat
  • Coals
  • Burning time
  • Ease of procuring
  • Smokeyness
  • Light


By softwoods I generally mean conifers. Direct heat in softwoods is usually great, excellent for getting warmth in the body quickly and for warming up a cold tent. On the downside, coals are practically non-existant and they tend to burn up rather quickly. It has a good lighting quality, especially the resinous species, like scotch pine. Particulary resinous pieces, like old stumps and the base of dead twigs not only burns bright, but also keep it going for a pretty long time. The dead twigs are easy to gather, even rather large branches are often so dry and brittle that they can be broken without too much trouble. Truly large, standing and dry trees are usually out of the question for the primitive though. It is possible to chop them down, but it’s so much work without a metal axe that I wouldn’t do it if there are easier options available. Photo is of a dead pine trunk of which you can very easily rip of resinous branches.


And yes, the smokeyness of resinous wood is horrible. Norway spruce isn’t so bad though.

Hardwoods generally means decidious trees. A long burning time, very tolerable smoke (if not wet) and excellent coals are the main advantages of the hardwoods. They don’t burn very bright and direct heat is often so poor that you can almost sit freezing next to the fire. As I told you yesterday, beaver sticks provides an excellent and easy firewood opportunity. Birch normally rots standing because the bark keeps the moisture inside of it. Other species can be found dry in a “natural” state, but I often prefer beaver sticks, since they are of handy length and of bigger diametre than you can usually expect to be able to cut with stone tools. The truely huge dimensions, up to half a metre in diametre, are usually not barked, but they are often sectioned. So if it has been laying elevated for some years, a few chops with the axe can free a log that is massive enough to last for almost the entire night. Perfect winterwood. And if it is too long, just let it stick out of the door.

General advice:

Rotted wood is no good for burning, except for smoking skins. On regular firewood, sizes of the pieces dictates burning time and intensity. Smaller diametre burns quicker and hotter, but for cooking fires or to keep the lodge warm through many hours, use bigger diametres. If you want several qualities on your fire at once; like good coals, but also some light, use a mixture of hard and soft woods. Birch bark, fatwood (resinous wood) or resin lumps can give the flames a boost that can allow you to perform tasks that require good lighting. In the long winter of the north you will have very little time to do your chores if you don’t know how to adjust the lighting of the micro-environment in the tent. Photo is of pitch lumps on some dead spruces.


I have unfortunately not looked into fat/blubber lamps yet.

5 responses so far

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