Author Archives: Neil

Lowa Uplander Boots

Lowa Uplander boots

I have owned my uplanders for about five months now and feel that I have used them enough to review them. Before I start I have copied Lowa’s description of the boot;

They are 10″ high and made from premium leather and lined with Gore-Tex for complete protection. Stable Vibram Vialta rubber outsole combined with bi-injection special performance PU midsole developed by Lowa, in partnership with world leader in sole design Vibram. Full-length plastic stabilisers between the midsole and the outsole provide excellent ankle support and torsion control over rocky terrain.

After some extensive searching for new footwear I eventually decided to try the Lowa Uplander. I have owned Lowa boots before and after reading many on-line reviews, they were the only brand with an unblemished record for the type of boot I wanted. With the exception of my ice climbing scarpa’s these are the most expensive boots I have owned to date. My nearest stockist was the Bushcraft Store, and they retail there at £169.95p. I personally found the Bushcraft Store a pleasure to deal with, they ordered in a size 10 ½ for me just in case a 10 didn’t fit and their e-mail responses were prompt and helpful. I felt the hours drive was worth while as I like to try on my footwear, I have learnt to my cost when you send boots back, it is a lot more than the original postage.

I wanted a boot for hunting, bushcraft, and general countryside use. I have a preference for military style boots, I feel more comfortable with the support that comes with the higher boot. When combined with a Gore-Tex lining it is also useful for shallow wading and boggy ground. Most of the boots I looked at were far too rigid and clumsy for my liking. The uplander offers good support combined with a soft flexible feel, which I wanted for sneaking up on people and wildlife. For those who have worn various military boots they are like a desert boot designed for rough ground with a Gore-Tex lining. Through out the winter I have worn the boots in the woods and fields of Kent and Sussex, and on three trips to Exmoor. They have performed well in various ground and weather conditions. From steep rocky ascents and descents, peat bog, muddy paths, open moorland, rough pathways, rain, ice, rocks, sleet, sand, and mud so far nothing seems to phase them. I have slipped on wet rock but I feel that is not the end of the world, as from my climbing days I know this is a hazard even with mountaineering boots.

I waded many rivers and streams in Exmoor to test the Gore-Tex lining, I went up to approx. 8” depth, in fast flowing shallow water. I also stood in one stream for about 10 minutes to give them a good soaking, so far dry feet. I have had cold feet on occasion whilst deer stalking, however I was not producing much heat due to the static / slow movement associated with this type of hunting. Whilst distance walking on Exmoor my feet were like toast, even though the boots were soaked and muddy. To date I am pleased with my choice, which is good if you remember the cost! I intend to use the boots all year round, some might not get on with Gore-Tex in the summer but it doesn’t bother me personally.

Staying on the right side of the Law!!

When teaching I use a couple of different knives, both fixed blades (a mora & homemade stick tang) carried in a neck sheath. They get used for carving, campcraft & food preparation and cover pretty much all of my needs in a bushcraft environment.

That is fine when in camp, but what about the rest of the time?

There are always times when you need a something to cut with, opening packages, cutting string, foraging fruits, leaves or fungi and sometimes just to whittle something to pass the time. These are to time when you need an “everyday carry” (or EDC for short). A small folding blade that you have with you at all times.

For more years than I care to remember, I have always carried a small belt pouch containing a Leatherman Wave, a Ferro rod & small torch. This would go everywhere with me and would provide me with a range of tools for use in all manner of scenarios.

Then someone questioned whether or not a Leatherman is legal to carry? The blades are locking (and the law does not see that as a “legal-carry”). So I started looking around for a more “traditional” pocket knife that would be legal to have in my pocket virtually everywhere. To meet these requirements my chosen knife would need to have a non-locking blade that is less than three inches in length.

Over the last 18 months I have been trying out several knives that fit these requirements. Each have there own merits and drawbacks but all are excellent EDC’s.



A very traditional looking pocket knife that is made in China from 440 Stainless Steel and is a bargain at less than £10! It has three blades (two small whittling type blades & a larger main blade), brass type bolsters with plastic tortoiseshell inlays. The factory bevels & blade profiles do leave a lot to be desired and take quite a lot of work to sort out, but it is worth the effort. What you end up with is a superb little “gentleman’s pocket knife”, that is great for peeling fruit, cutting string and, of course, whittling! The size does limit its usefulness at times and the narrow handle can be a little uncomfortable – but for the money it is brilliant.

Next on the list – the BOKER XS.


A very different looking knife to the Rough-Rider. All black with a pocket clip, G10 type handle and a “thumb-stud”, this looks far more “tactical” and nothing like a gentleman’s pocket knife. The blade is a little over 3inches, but the cutting edge is less (and that is what the law is interested in). The blade is fairly broad and has a “hollow-grind” , the thumb stud allows it to be opened with one hand, which is excellent in some circumstances. The blade clicks into place with a good solid feel. It is a very utilitarian knife, not particularly well suited to any one task. It can be used for food prep and even to make reasonable feather sticks. The handle is not very comfortable in prolonged use however.

It also looks very “tactical” which can be a disadvantage at times (especially with the great british public being so “phobic” when it comes to knives).

Finally is the BOAR EDC from the Bushcraft Store.


This knife comes with a choice of handle materials, either black Micarta or Curly Birch. The non-locking blade is made  from 12C27 stainless steel and has a “scandi-grind” and is a spear-point design. Essentially this is a folding bushcraft knife that has been well designed. It doesn’t have a nail groove on the blade which is a little disappointing and makes it slightly tricky to open if it is wet, but that is the only real fault I can find with it. The handle is comfortable to use and a good size, being oval shaped it is fairly secure to hold too. The blade geometry works well, not too broad or too narrow its suited to most tasks. The steel type is excellent and it holds a very good, while also resisting staining & corrosion. The scandi-grind makes it easy to sharpen and is very well suited to working with wood. The slip-joint feels good & solid when you open the knife out too.

I have used this little knife a lot, its made pot hangers & feather sticks, skinned game, carved various trinkets, etc, etc, and it never disappoints. Of the three knives this is the one I reach for most often. It also looks fairly non-threatening, so I’m happy to carry it in most situations.

I hope anyone looking to get a new Every Day Carry will find the above in some way useful.




Tracking is a vast subject and is not all about following the footprints in the sand.  I am not a tracker, I class myself as track aware.  The following is true and the ground conditions were 60% easy / 40% moderate, there was no ground I considered hard to track over.

In the summer of 1992 whilst working with my battalions reconnaissance platoon, we took part in a three week exercise acting as an enemy force for D Squadron 22 SAS.  The training was in Scotland, and was predominately forestry with some small areas of open heathland.  Our mission was to protect a RAF operational radar site and communications mast.  D Squadrons mission was to observe us for a minimum of ten days, then destroy the radar and mast sites.  Eight men were based at the mast site with the remaining twenty-two at the radar site.


We used to send out four-man clearance patrols both day and night at random times.  We worked on a rough time scale of one hour for every five hundred metres we wanted to cover.  When you are looking for sign of your enemy whilst moving tactically, you don’t want to be in a hurry.  Sometimes we would patrol slower, the ground and situation dictates your speed.  In my four-man team I was lead scout, on two separate occasions I found discarded kit that had been misplaced by the enemy.  With out going into great detail, both items were cleared for VOIED’s ( booby traps)  The first item was a used foil boil in the bag, it had been rolled up and taped together.   My deduction was that it came out of the soldier’s kit by accident, as there were areas of flattened grass where four men and their kit had been. Lesson one: always clear your areas, BUT, maybe it was dark and torches are generally not an option.  The second item was a right angle torch, this was found in a drainage ditch on the approach road to the radar site.  The proximity of the find led me to deduct that an enemy soldier had crawled up the ditch in order to close target recce our gate defences, in order to see if a “David Stirling raid” was an option. Lesson two: secure your kit, BUT, **** happens.


Whilst on another clearance patrol I came across ground sign of a four man patrol.  We tracked them for approximately two kilometres down grass rides and through conifer plantations.  As I worked my way through a spruce plantation I spotted them laid up thirty metres ahead of me.  We shook out into a well rehearsed formation and “bumped” them, they did not return fire.  We then bugged out pretty sharpish, we rallied, then put in a snap ambush in case of supporting patrols in the area trying to follow up and hit back.  Nothing happened so we patrolled back to the radar site.  On all three of these occasions I / we were debriefed by the D Squadron Sgt Major.  We were congratulated for our “training kill” and he confirmed my deductions for the items of kit I found.  He promised that both soldiers would pay a heavy bar bill for there misdemeanours, along with a quite word in the ear.


The reason I wrote this is not to big up myself or my three mates, I wrote it to make a point.  Most people have heard of 22 SAS, so, even when your reputation proceeds you.  Even when you are highly trained and experienced.  Even when you go to great lengths to hide you’re passing. WE ALL LEAVE SIGN.


P.S.  They killed us with an air strike.

If Only……

IMG_0883IMG_0904IMG_0870We could get more blankets. Sadly we can’t and therefore we have stopped making our Blanket Smocks, which is a great shame as,a few weeks ago, we recieved this article that a satisfied user sent us.

Article for Jacket Green –Craft

Sometime ago while hanging out with my Bush Craft buddy Jed Yarnold in England I was given a Green-Craft blanket Smock to bring back to my home in Canada.
“Here take this back to Canada and tell me what you think of it,” he said as he generously handed me his jacket.
And so the jacket started its journey to the wilds of western Canada to start a journey of adventure, that I would expect its maker could not have forecasted, for this thick woollen garment.
I am an outdoor pursuits instructor in the Canadian Rockies I teach a lot of different outdoor skills from skiing to snowshoeing and hiking to mountain biking and more!
I specialize in Bushcraft and traditional living skills so I was anxious to try this jacket out within this area of my outdoor expertise.

The smocks first Journey was on snowshoes into the bush where I was conducting a lesson on setting snares to trap various fur bearing animals. The cold day of -25°C did not seem to phase this smocks thermal properties as it kept me remarkably warm. Its spacious kangaroo style pouch pocket and hand-warming pocket were perfect for temporarily placing my snares and tools, while weaving my way around the bush to place traps.

Hunting season rolled in so yet again here was the perfect opportunity to see what this jacket can do for my comfort level. It proved to be the perfect garment for sitting in a Tree stand (high chair in the UK) or nestling in the bush awaiting deer or elk. Although not exemplifying the now traditional disruptive camouflage pattern of different shades of green, and brown, it blended into the bush enough to confuse the various deer who came in extremely to my location.

To me one of the ultimate tests for an allegedly warm jacket is a day out Ice Fishing.
So off we went to “Spray Lakes” in the mountains a beautiful yet at times an in hospital place, this 21km long body of water is exposed to gale force winds that bring in bone chilling temperatures.
After drilling my holes in one meter thick ice I settled into my seat with a cup of tea and marmite sandwich (yes I am English). The wind drove itself into my back buffeting all the equipment I had placed around me, threatening to blow some of it away.
My Green-Craft kept me warm in its woollen cocoon creating a microclimate that maintained my core temperature at a very comfortable level, the day I was out temperatures dropped to -30°C. The hood I found offers the perfect cut that allows the wind to blow past my head and does not create a Ventura like negative effect that sucks it back onto your face. My smock has a generous cut that allows me to layer up underneath, and once again the hand warming pocket were excellent to stuff my gloved hands into the jackets glowing interior.
After 4 hours my friend who was me declared that he could not take the cold anymore and had to head back to the truck and home, he was dressed in modern Gore tex and various modern fibre insulative layers. I was chilly but still quite willing to stay out another hour or so.
This jacket was also used on several dog sled trips where I found that it was the perfect garment when standing on the back of a sled, travelling through cold inhospitable terrain.

If you want a smock to help you through those chilly Bushcraft days sat around a fire in a cold -35°C, snowy dry climate, learning or crafting this is the one.
I am one of the few Wilderness Living Skill Instructors mentored and endorsed by Mors Kochanski.
Every year I attend a meet (the Rat Root Rendezvous) here in northern Alberta where many Canadian, and some US, Bush type dudes meet up and compare skills and challenge each other to a Black Powder rifle shoot off. Many of these experts, including Mors Kochanski, ask to try on my jacket and end up drooling over it offering me many things in trade for it; needless to say I still have it.

In summary I have found this smock to be perfect on cold days when one is involved in Country Style or Bushcraft type pursuits. It is a heavy jacket so not one that I would backpack around with me. Though of course when supported by a larger vehicle it is the perfect companion. I have stuffed it in my canoe, dog sled, truck or pulk which I take on ski trips or to carry gear when ice fishing or trapping. My main problem with this jacket is that my wife has claimed it and refuses to give it back!

Axminster Detail Carving Tools

XM 006 (Medium)

XM 007 (Medium)Detail Carving Tools.

Another Christmas present that I have been using over the last couple of months. What you see is what you get, a good value starter kit for fine detail. All 8 tools came razor sharp and ready to use in a basic, but fairly robust plastic case. The tools sit in the case well, and the cutting edges do not touch each other. All the tools are easy to use in both the left and right hand, and perform well in soft / hard, seasoned / unseasoned wood.

8 Piece Axminster Detail Carving Tool Set £11.30p

A low cost no frills good quality tool kit, you can’t go wrong.

Flexcut Slipstrop.

A basic shaped strop for small gouges and vee tools. I have honed all 8 of the detail carving tools on this strop, it works well when used in conjunction with the polishing compound supplied with it. Axminster Tools sell this product.

Flexcut Slipstrop with Compound £13.20p

These boots are made for…..Bushcraft

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The kit we use in the woods is a very personal matter and no item more so than the footwear we choose. And it’s not just in the woods – work shoes (when I was a chef) and, of course, running shoes when I was pounding pavements and running marathons.

Over the years I have tried a lot of clothing and footwear, everything from army surplus boots, to traditional walking boots and everything in-between. Like most people I have researched my purchases, looked at what other people use and looked at what the outdoor “celebs” and guru’s use. I have used boots from all sorts of manufacturers: Lowa, Miendhl, Lundhags, Merrel, Nike, Zamberlan, etc,etc. Hunting boots, walking boots, approach shoes, cross trainers – you name them, I have probably tried them – even Crocs!!!
When I was working for Bison Bushcraft, Roger and I designed a boot especially for bushcraft. We were looking for something light that allowed you to feel the world around you, the idea was for an “enclosed flip-flop”, a simple shoe with no raised heel (this simplistic idea seems to have taken off with the advent of “bare-foot”& “minimalist” shoes). While very good, they were not the “ideal” for year round use and had a slight flaw in the design.
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One thing that become apparent is that no one pair of boots can be suitable for all conditions in our world of bushcraft.
So what is the answer?
I looked at the clothing I use in the woods (more specifically – what covers my legs!) and there was the answer!
Most of the year, I wear an old pair of British Army Lightweights (cheap, robust, fast drying, not too many pockets). If the weather is hot and I decide to get my legs out – a cut-off pair of German Army Moleskins (baggy, made of cotton & super comfy). When the mercury drops and the weather gets cold & damp, I want something that offers more protection. I have a pair of Tuff-Stuff “Bushman” trousers that are made of polycotton canvas, have cordura pockets for knee pads and have a few sensible pockets.
So all I needed was three pairs of boots!
The boot that I have chosen for use most of the year (and I am still testing eight months on!) is the Vivobarefoot Mens Off Road Hi M Leather Trekking and Hiking Boots
, a water-proof lined leather minimalist boot, that is amazingly lightweight, grips superbly and lets you feel the world under your feet. I have used them in the woods, on the Cornish coast path and as a general purpose boot while teaching. These boots need care, don’t use them for everything! Like plumbing, going to the pub, going to Tesco’s, etc,etc – because they are not made for that sort of use – the clue is in the name “off-road”, use them for that purpose and the sole will last!
In the heat of the summer woods – you want something very light, very soft (so you can feel the forest floor), grips well and dries fast. Again I looked to Vivo-Barefoot and I use their “Vivobarefoot Mens Neo M Trail Running Shoes

” shoe. This was the first shoe I got from this company and I have been using them for over a year and they are superb. Incredibly light, very “grippy” and the sole allows you to feel everything that lies beneath your feet. They also make excellent “camp-shoes” to change into at the end of a hard days hike, weighing nothing and packing down very small.
My one word of caution with “bare-foot” or “minimalist” footwear is, that the properties that allows you to feel everything – does just that! If the ground is cold, so will your feet be!
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So what to wear when it’s wet and the ground is cold?
For the answer I looked to countries where the winter months mean snow, cold & wet for the duration. In countries where it remains cold & dry – Muk-luks are favoured, however in places where wet is also added into the equation, the “Pac” type boots seem to be favoured. These boots have a rubber foot section (like a wellie) and then have a leather top that, laces up. The inner is usually made of felted wool (or similar), keeping your feet warm & dry.
I purchased a pair of Seeland Pac Boots (£42) at the beginning of the winter. Last winter I used a Gore-Tex & Thinsulate lined “cold/wet” boot and in prolonged use had cold feet most of the time. This winter with my “old-school” Pac Boots, my feet have stayed warm and dry. The dry part was severely tested while teaching scout-leaders in Gloucester in November when we had 14 hours of torrential rain and wide-spread local flooding.
While feeling “big & clumpy” compared to my other “minimalist” footwear, they have become a firm winter favourite.
So there you have it – my thoughts on footwear for use in our woods, the whole year round. And as far as cost goes – the three set of footwear, suitable for use the whole year round – was £180….which for a “year-round” set of footwear – I think is quiet reasonable.
Til, next time.
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Praise where praise is due…

For the last month I have been field testing some new items of kit. This is the first of several reviews I will be posting over the coming weeks. This Silky pocket boy saw sheath made by Lois Orford was given to me by Jennie at Christmas. As I expected it is a first rate product. The saw fit is perfect giving you confidence that it is safe and secure, whether it is on your belt or in your coat pocket. A snug fit is what I was looking for as I often carry the saw in my ventile pocket, and pocket boys only have a lock option when the blade is open. The leather quality and workmanship is excellent, and the colour is an exact match to that shown on the website. Jennie had to confirm the order over the phone, and said they were very helpful and a pleasure to deal with. Available from Ben Orford.
Standard belt case for Silky Pocket Boy saw 170mm £25.00

I’m very happy with it and personally rate it as 10/10



The first of my winter projects (this one ready for next years season) is ready to be revealed.
These little carvings are designed to be an easy item to craft, that gives a quick “result” that almost anyone could do.
The little fox is in Sycamore (but I think Alder would be a better colour), it proved not so easy and not a project for a beginner.
The owls are carved from Sycamore and a peice of seasoned Spruce. These are very easy and an ideal item for anyone with a few, basic, knife skills.
The idea for the branch for little the owl to sit on was not mine – I have someone special to thank for that inspiration.

Autumn is here…winter will not be far behind

The last few weeks have seen us moving around through various patrs of southern England. As the time has passed so has the seasons and the weather that comes with them.

Lasts years summer was later than this years….if it happened at all. That said our autumn has been a classic so far…the colours, the temperatures…are all amazing
All the usual bounty is there – the nuts, the incredible fungi and the colours of the season. The nights are getting longer too and its a time to look for new campfire projects.
In the last few years my evenings around the fire have been spent carving my little “wood spirits”. They are lots of fun and make nice gifts for some of the really cool people I meet. I have also spent evenings sat around the fire showing friends how to carve them up.

Last week I was in the Cotswolds with Leon and some clients. In the evenings they would retire to their bell tents, sitting around their wood-burners, playing guitars, talking and eating in the warmth & light.
I prefer to sit outside (under the parachute) using the warmth & light of the campfire, but still being part of what I enjoy – the outdoors.
It was while sitting around the fire one evening I came up a couple of other campfire projects, something new & different. I’m really excited by these and have already started “tinkering & tweeking” with the basic idea.
This weekend I’m spending with someone special and we hope to get some time in the woods. I’m also hoping to get a chance to carve up my two new projects…….so watch this space

Green Cooking on the Trail

Wild Stoves Woodgas Stove

I had been thinking about how we impact on the world around us while practising our outdoor skills. We go into the outdoors to enjoy the natural world and it makes sense for us to minimise our impact on our surroundings while we are there. At the same time we still want to enjoy the certain things – crafting items from the materials we find around us and enjoying the wonders of the open fire and all that goes with it (the smell of the woodsmoke, the flickering flames, the moral boosting warmth and its versatility for cooking).
Our fire however, consumes large amounts of wood and can scar the ground. I’m sure we are all very careful to cover the traces of our fires and to only use the dead wood lying around on the woodland floor.
If we use a site on a regular basis then our woodlands resources can quickly dwindle without careful management, at Forgewood we use a fire-pan made from an old gas cylinder (fuelled by off-cuts from spoons and locally produced, sustainable charcoal) to keep our “brew-fire” going.
But what about when we are on the trail? We often visit the wilder areas of the UK, where these resources are at a premium and don’t want to leave any trace of our passing in these places of great beauty. Most people resort more conventional gas, multi-fuel or meths type stoves when travelling in wilderness areas. But even this has an impact in the form extra erosion because of the added weight that we are carrying.
I had often looked at some of the portable woodstoves on the market and thought what a great idea, the likes of the Bush-Buddy stoves and the one with a small electric fan in the base really appealed as I only had to carry my stove – the fuel could be gathered on the trail. The problem I found with these were they are expensive and not that easy to obtain.
A client of mine on a trip to Scotland, brought a Honey Stove along, which I was very impressed with. For our week in north-west Highlands virtually all his cooking was done on the stove and he fuelled with pine cones he picked up as he went along. This was the answer!
Then earlier this year I saw a new UK based company – Wildstoves ( based in Devon. This little company sells a range of woodburning stoves and related items.
One item that caught my eye was the Wild Woodgass Stove Mk2. This stove is aimed at the backpacking/bushcraft market, costs less than £50 and weighs in at 280gms. I purchased one and have used it throughout the summer, so its had a fairly good test ( I know it works well in the wet!). It is easy to use, very efficient (with the right fuel) and leaves nothing more than a small pile of very fine white ash no bigger than the palm of your hand.
Certainly for the £50 I think it was money well spent, and while not quite as fast as its more high-tec counterparts – it has a nice simplicity, and its nice to smell the woodsmoke and watch the flames flicker.