Cordage #1.

One of the most useful and multi-purpose items that I carry in my Bushcraft kit is cordage (string, rope, line, cord, twine……..call it what you will, it’s all cordage). Probably the most useful, and definitely the most popular, type of cordage to carry is “military spec 550 paracord”. Paul Kirtley wrote an interesting and informative blog about paracord, and some good ideas on how to carry it, on the Frontier Bushcraft website which you can read here.

Whilst I do use paracord for a lot of things, and always carry some with me, there’s lots of jobs where paracord is either very much overkill or simply not that well suited to purpose. Whilst paracord has lots of advantages in terms of strength, abrasion resistance, and versatility it has (to my mind at least) one big disadvantage; it’s really expensive. Whilst it might not sound a lot of money at first the average price of around £3 for 15 metres soon starts to add up, and it’s definitely not the kind of money I want to be spending on throw away items (yes, I really am that tight!).

My solution to this problem is to carry some cheaper thinner cordage as well as a few good lengths of paracord in my kit, that way I can use the thinner cheaper stuff where it’ll suffice and save the paracord for when it’s needed. The thin cordage that I carry is braided synthetic (it’s sometimes nylon, sometimes polyester, there’s very little difference between the two) “brick line”, it’s the stuff that you see stretched out all over building sites that tradesmen use for marking out levels. Brick line usually comes in 125 metre lengths and you can often pick it up in discount type stores for 50p – £1, a fraction of the price of paracord. Whilst brick line is nowhere near as strong as paracord it’s still plenty strong enough for many purposes. I use it a lot for things like camp gadgets where the relative lack of strength doesn’t matter or can be compensated for simply by wrapping the cord a few more times around whatever it is that needs lashing.

Baby pink brick line

Another plus point for brick line is that, like the much more expensive paracord, it comes in a great range of garish colours. Why is that a good thing you might be wondering, well the way that I use brick line and the jobs that I use it for it has a tendancy to end up in little bits all over my camp site, the wonderfully “hi-vis” colours make it a lot easier for me to tidy away without leaving any rubbish behind, the “leave no trace” ethos is important to me. Another advantage of the “hi-vis” is that I can use lengths of brick line to help to make things around camp easier to spot, clothes lines for example; in drab coloured paracord a washing line quickly becomes a garrote for the unwary, nice bright cordage is a lot easier to spot and therefore much easier on the throat.

Brick line also takes and holds conventional knots pretty well, and, unless they’ve been under lots of tension and/or got soaking wet, it’s pretty easy to untie those knots again too.

One extra little bonus with the kind brick line that I use is that it comes on a cardboard tube, which gives me a perfect little storage space for some fishing kit, but more on that later.

It’s been said many times before and no doubt it’ll be said many times again but string really is a wonderful thing, and in my mind you really can never have too much.

Bye for now,

Stuart.

 

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Mobile phones for the outdoors

The argument about mobile phones and their use in the outdoors has been raging since mobiles became common, and I imagine that it’ll continue for some time to come. I don’t want to get involved in that discussion here, I simply want to talk about the solution that I’ve come up for my own needs.

So, what do I need from a phone?

  • Good battery life
  • The ability to make and receive calls
  • The ability to send and receive text messages
  • Good battery life
  • Lightweight/compact, as unobtrusive as possible
  • Good battery life
  • Buttons rather than a touch screen, buttons work just as well in the cold/wet, touch screens don’t
  • An alarm clock that works when the phone is switched off (to save battery, which reminds me)
  • Good battery life
  • Either: robust enough that I can’t easily break it, or cheap enough that I don’t mind if I do break it

What don’t I need from a phone?

  • Games
  • Internet access
  • A camera
  • MP3 player/radio
  • Apps
  • GPS
  • Wi-fi

I should point out here that I’ve got nothing at all against smart phones, I use an android based phone as my everyday mobile and use and enjoy all the added bells and whistles, they’re just not what I need in the outdoors.

So what did I come up with that ticks all the boxes for me? A nokia 100:

I wanted something that was fairly hi-viz so I went for the baby pink one. At 70g the phone’s really lightweight and at approximately 110 X 45 X 15mm it’s fairly compact too. It has buttons rather than a touchscreen so I can easily use it with gloves on, and I can also wrap it in plastic to keep it dry and still be able to use it through the plastic.  The alarm works when the phone is turned off. The battery life is a pretty impressive 25 days on standby, and about 7 hrs of talktime (that’s about 25 times more standby than my HTC). And although the phone probably isn’t nearly as robust as some that are available at about £15 it is cheap enough to replace should I break it.

There’s even a few added extras, it’s got an FM radio so I can listen to the news (although I have no idea why I’d want to), and a torch (you can never have too many torches in the outdoors). It’s also got the usual basic gadgets like a calculator and a stop watch, both of which can be very useful on occasion.

The only real downside to this phone is that it’s not waterproof (although it has survived at least one good soaking so far with no obvious ill effects). Not a problem though, I simply put the phone inside a zip-lock bag, a bit of tape to keep the plastic bag nice and neat and all’s good. The bit of tape even gives me somewhere to write my number down so I don’t have to remember it.

All in all the nokia 100 is pretty much an ideal phone for me, I’ve been using one now for about 6 months or so and couldn’t be happier with it.

Here’s a link to the spec sheet from nokia

And here’s a link to a retailer

Bye for now,

Stuart.

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