Posts filed under Classic Kit

The Scottish Mountain Heritage Collection

Everyone please form an orderly queue and proceed immediately to the Scottish Heritage Collection website. Since 2006 The Scottish Heritage Collection has been archiving and cataloguing an ever growing collection of vintage mountaineering gear and memorabilia.

The charity was created by The Nevis Partnership - an amalgam of Ben Nevis friends and supporters. They received sponsorship from the Heritage Lottery fund and now use the money to maintain the Ben Nevis path system and the Mountain Heritage Collection.

The collection boasts some fascinating pieces, everything from RAF Mountain Rescue boots to Burmos Stoves, from the original sketches for Davie Glen's badges to Arctic Survival Manuals each with their own tale and legacy, it is well worth an afternoon exploring and a lifetime following.

A huge thank you to legendary guide Mick Tighe who has has been heavily involved in the collection, donating most of his own pieces as its backbone, he was kind enough to allow me to post pictures and share the good stuff that they are doing.

Al the images here are copyright of the Scottish Mountain Heritage Collection, please respect their ownership and ask permission if you would like to use them.

British Pathé Archive

Hiking Hints by John E. Walsh in 1933

Newsreel archive British Pathé have uploaded and made public their entire collection of 85,000 historic films. The archive features footage from around the world dating between 1896 and 1976. Obviously the first thing I searched for was hiking; oh what a wonderful collections of gems surfaced. Above we see "Hiking Hints" from 1933 by John E. Walsh he details the best gear for the 1930's British hiker.

Gear advice from John Carbeth Wells in 1932

Some sage advice from  John Carbeth Wells the "Super Hiker" who in 1932 at the age of 21 had hiked across Britain, China, Africa, Japan, Malaya and U.S.A. You can browse or search the whole Pathé Archive here.

Posted on May 2, 2014 and filed under Classic Kit, History.

Okanui Shorts My Sad Farewell

  My Okanui Classics in the outback somewhere

My Okanui Classics in the outback somewhere

Elastic? Gone. Waistband? Gone. Drawcord? Long gone. Colour? Faded. Loved? Most definitely. Missed? Most certainly. Farewell to my Okis.

It was nearly eight years ago that I bought a pair of Okinui shorts from their store in Noosa, Australia. Since then they have been around the world with me many times and have rarely been out of arms reach. Their cotton has been worn to blissful softness and their shape is perfectly tuned to me. I love these shorts but I feel they have run their course and it is time to let go.

  Okanui Classics

Okanui Classics

Okanui board shorts were fathered by Sydney surfer Dick Ash. He was brought up in Avalon on the Northern Beaches of Sydney, Australia in the 1950s and made his first pair of board shorts when he was about fifteen. Using mail bags scrounged from the local post office he sewed them together using his mums sewing machine and, as the legend goes, he cut out the letters S.A. Aust. from the mail bags and told his friends it stood for 'Surfing Association of Australia'. Ash began making board shorts for his surfing friends and the Okanui legend began.

  My new Okis

My new Okis

The Okanui 'Classic' board short as we know it has been around for over 30 years, it has become a part Australian surf lore and the company is still owned and run by Dick Ash from Byron Bay, NSW. The 'Classic' is still available in a range of bright, hibiscus patterns from 100% cotton, is manufactured in Fiji and made to last. These fantastic shorts can be bought online at Okanui.com

Before Christmas last year I finally came to terms with the fact my shorts weren't going to last forever; I think eight years is a good run for any piece of clothing nowadays and I hope my new pair is up for the challenge.

Posted on March 25, 2013 and filed under Classic Kit.

Buddy Burner

  Buddy Burner

Buddy Burner

I haven't made a buddy burner in a long time. In-fact the last time I made one I didn't even realize it had a proper name. The principle is extremely simple, it is a paraffin wax fueled burner with a large cardboard wick. I used to make mine in an old Kiwi Shoe Polish tin but any small metal can will do. I recently picked up a copy of "Roughing It Easy" by Dian Thomas, which jogged my memory about these great burners. She has excellent instructions for making your own.

  Roughing It Easy

Roughing It Easy

Thomas suggests a tuna tin, her instructions are:

Cut a long strip of corrugated cardboard (across the corrugation so that its holes show) into strips which are the same width as the height of the tuna can. Roll the cardboard and place it in the can, then pour melted wax over the cardboard. Heat the wax in a double boiler because if it is overheated, it will burst into flames. The cardboard in the buddy burner serves as a wick, and the wax serves as a candle to provide the heat for the stove. A small wick can be in the corrugated cardboard for fast and easy lighting. It is also helpful to turn the can on its side so that the flame can spread along the cardboard more easily. Filled with wax it will burn for 1½-2 hours. To lengthen the time of the buddy burners use, place a chunk of wax on top of the corrugation while it is burning.
— Dian Thomas - Roughing It Easy, 1974

Thomas also constructs a stove from an upturned number-ten can; she places the burner inside it, punches smoke holes around the top edge and a door in the side to control the burner. The bottom of the can (now the upturned top) can then be used as a cooking surface. She also advises making a damper from the lid of the can attached to a coat hanger.

  Buddy Burner

Buddy Burner

I made my stove as per her tuna tin instructions and used it with a Snow Peak titanium mug. The burner lit very easily and boiled 2 cups of water in about 15 minutes. I propped the mug on rocks and used aluminium foil as a wind shield. The burner worked well and it was cheap and easy to make. I have to admit it smelt odd and it sooted my cup to all hell, if I had the choice I would probably choose an alcohol or haxamine (ezbit) stove, but for a cheap, reliable alternative the buddy burner does fine.

If you come across "Roughing It Easy" pick it up. It's not too hard to come by and there is a lot of good stuff inside.

Posted on November 4, 2012 and filed under Classic Kit.

Belstaff Dalesman

  Belstaff Dalesman

Belstaff Dalesman

After several years of looking I have finally found a Belstaff Dalesman. This is quite a sentimental piece for me; it was the top my father used to wear when I was growing up and is one of my favorite pieces of vintage outdoor gear. The Dalesman is a smock style, pullover jacket made of super heavyweight cotton; it has an awesome colour pallet, a huge map pocket across the front and an amazing vintage vibe.

Although originally famed for their motorbike jackets (and now their filmstar leather jackets) Belstaff did make a line of outdoor gear in the 1980's. This included the Dalesman, the Derwent and  Sir Chris Bonnington's signature jacket. I have found scant information about the Belstaff outdoor range and have tried to get in touch with them a few times, but as yet I have not got a response. If anyone has any information about this gear I would love to get the story straight.

  Ol rocking the Dalesman

Ol rocking the Dalesman

I found the jacket on eBay and probably payed far too much for it but some sometimes you just have to.

Posted on September 24, 2012 and filed under Classic Kit.

Clyde Ormond - Clothespin Bass Plug

  Homemade fishing gear

Homemade fishing gear

Is there anything more satisfying than catching a fish? How about catching a fish on a homemade lure. I've never really ventured into the world of homemade fishing gear but, as with a lot of my posts, I came across a great article in an outdoor book and had to give it a try. In Clyde Ormond's fantastic "Complete Book of Outdoor Lore" he devotes a whole chapter to makeshift lures. The most intriguing and coolest looking being the clothespin bass plug.

  Clothespin Bass Plug

Clothespin Bass Plug

(1) Start with an old fashioned clothespin. (2) Flatten the top of the knob and burn a small dent at partition center with hot wire to keep hook from slipping. Tie hook between prongs with monofilament, bringing it from top and bottom and knotting it along the side. Then loop it around the neck. (3) and tie on top of plug. Burn eyes into the head. Plug should be charred along top to simulate shading, and “scales” can be added by chipping lightly with a knife blade (4).
— Clyde Ormond - Complete Book of Outdoor Lore, 1969

Ormond is one of my favorite outdoor authors, I find myself re-visiting his books time and time again. His instructions are a little vague but I managed to fashion something that looked pretty similar. I burnt the top and the eyes, tried to get as much contrast my scrapping the pin to reveal new wood. I also spent a long time fashioning the scales and did a little nimble knot work. It could be tidier but I am rather proud of it.

  My Finished Clothespin Bass Plug

My Finished Clothespin Bass Plug

It swam very well, I was casting from a canoe and it bobbed along beautifully. I also trawled it behind for a time. I feel the bass where I fish in Maine are a little whiley and the further afield I get the better success I might have. It was still a real pleasure fishing with homemade gear, especially one so whacky looking. Rest assured there will be pictures if I have any success with it.

Posted on September 7, 2012 and filed under Classic Kit.

Rice's Half Shelter Tent

 Rice's Half Shelter Tent

Rice's Half Shelter Tent

Packing multi use items is one of the corner stones of the ultralight backpacking philosophy, but this is by no means a new phenomena. One of my favorite historic examples of this idea is Rice's Half Shelter Tent designed by Lieutenant-Colonel Edmund Rice, a U.S. Army officer and Civil War veteran, in 1896. His shelter was carried by two soldiers;  who had one identical half each.

  Rice's Half Shelter Tent Assembled

Rice's Half Shelter Tent Assembled

When put together it formed a two person tent and when dismantled it could be worn as a cape by each soldier, or in fair weather it could be rolled into a knapsack for the soldiers blanket using the new 'guy line strap'. Genius. I love it for its simplicity, functionality and robustness. All the things that good kit should be.

Rice was quite the inventor also developing his Trowel Bayonet, another great multi use item.

You can still lookup Rice's original patent.

Posted on July 30, 2012 and filed under Classic Kit, History.

Ordnance Survey Maps

  Ordnance Survey Maps

Ordnance Survey Maps

The greatest pleasure in life is opening an Ordnance Survey map
— Bill Bryson

It was only when I started hiking outside of the UK that I realized how fortunate I was having grown up with Ordnance Survey maps. I always loved the beautiful design, the colours and the impeccable detail but I never appreciated what amazing maps they are.

Ordnance Survey is the official map making body of the United Kingdom. Interestingly enough its roots began in 1747 when Lieutenant-Colonel David Watson proposed to King George II a survey of the Highlands, as a means of controlling the Scottish clans after the Jacobite risings in 1745. Watson was assisted by William Roy, Paul Sandby, and John Manson, and their labours culminated in 'The Duke of Cumberland's Map' (I have also seen this referred to as 'The Roy Military Survey of Scotland' or 'The Great Map') which is now held the British Library. Roy in particular had an incredible affinity for surveying, he commissioned the Ramsden Theodolite and  instigated the Principal Triangulation of Great Britain (1783 – 1853) this led to the creation of the Ordnance Survey and in turn the ongoing mapping of the United Kingdom.

  The Great Map

The Great Map

What I love most about these maps is the details they hold. The potential for adventure told through their contour lines, village plans and coastal trails. Opening an OS map is like opening a story book; this village has three pubs, a church with a spire and a park bench; I can take this trail over this field, cross these three streams and after the slog up this hill I know I'll get to look across this valley. Its magic.

  Overland Track

Overland Track

I really struggled in Australia with some of their maps, I was never in danger of getting lost but they just lacked the detail I was used to. I understand Australia is on a bigger scale than most countries, it has fewer people and less funding for mapping, but I was a little upset when the best map I could find of the Overland Track in Tasmania was 1:100,000 scale. Perhaps I have become a map snob. Lets see what America has to offer. So far the maps have been great, but I'm not sure they will ever have the same place in my heart as the Ordnance Survey maps.

I owe a big thanks to Neil F. King. He tipped me off to the National Library of Scotland who have published a great collection of old Ordnance Survey maps available to view (free) online, they are well worth checking out.

Posted on May 12, 2012 and filed under Classic Kit.

VHD Poster Pt. 1

  VHD Poster#1 - Storm Lantern

VHD Poster#1 - Storm Lantern

The first VHD poster idea. My intent is to produce a range featuring my absolute all time favorite pieces of hiking gear. Look out for Trangia burner and Swiss Army Knife  among others.

Would love any feedback; loving, hating, not interested? Please feel free to share and pass on, I'd love to get peoples reactions.

Update: The posters have arrived and are available for purchase here

Posted on April 29, 2012 and filed under Classic Kit, VHD.