18 March 2017

Bushcraft Skills 1 Course Next Weekend

This coming weekend (Sat 25th & Sun 26th Mar) we have a Bushcraft Skills 1 Course, with a couple of places left available for it. More details here: http://www.outdoorsireland.com/bushcraftsurvival.php

To book a place please contact info@outdoorsireland.com or 086 860 45 63. Thanks, Nathan

7 March 2017

Guide Training Last Sat - Wild Food Creation

Gorse Flower Cordial : Wood Sorrel + Bramble Leaf Pesto

Bog Myrtle + Gorse Flower Bacardi : Blackberry Gin
Guide training last Saturday for the awesome Ireland Walk Hike Bike, based in Tralee. Here are some foraged foods and drinks we put together...

3 March 2017

Softshell Jackets From Portwest's New Leisurewear Range

Erris Softshell Jacket

Larry Softshell Jacket
I have just entered into a pretty exciting relationship with Portwest; who are launching a really awesome, beautifully designed, range of outdoor leisure wear. It is designed for Irish conditions and I love the fact it is an Irish company, with Irish names for most of their gear!

Last week they sent down two excellent softshell jackets, for our Forest Skills Course. One for myself and one for a journalist - Lenny Antonelli.

Both softshell jackets stood up to wet and cold conditions beautifully, plus being hard wearing as we battled through dense undergrowth and breathable when the sun shone on the second day!

Portwest are on Twitter @PortwestIreland

2 March 2017

Two Videos From Our Weekend In The Woods!

Setting up a smoking camp fire in prep for our Forest Skills 1 students to take a compass sighting on it from a 1km away vantage point; then zone in on it. Part of what we call 'escape navigation'.

Here students on last weekend's course are blindfolded and use their sense of smell and sense of hearing to zone in on a camp fire. The blindfolds replicate zero visibility, which is actually pretty rare - even at night. You may notice some of the students are in what we call 'defensive position' for moving through vegetation in zero visibility. One hand protecting the stomach/groin area and one hand protecting the face. The face hand continually waves back and forth to cover the entire face/neck area.

28 February 2017

Smoke & Fire Exercise - Forest Skills 1 Course

Using rhododendron to create a heavily smoking fire; which students took a compass sighting on from the hillside, then tracked their compass through the woods to reach the fire.
Part of last weekend's Forest Navigation Skills.

14 February 2017

Cardinal Navigation - Using Smoke

Bushcraft Navigation

If you are lost, with no map and no compass, but know you need to head north west (for example) to safety - we call this Cardinal Navigation.

If you know what the wind direction is that day, from a general forecast before you head outdoors, then you can figure your direction.

Here we knew the wind direction was to be east and the smoke acted as a great flag. Turn so the direction the smoke is blowing from is on your right side. Your right side is now east; your left side is now west; and straight ahead is now north.

Trace these simple cardinal directions on the ground with two sticks and from there figure your north west direction to hit safety.

Once you begin walking you should expect to lose sight of the smoke, so use your arm as a directional pointer to move from waypoint to waypoint.

A waypoint is anything that lines up with your direction of travel (and is less then 50 meters away each time); so a stone, a tree, a bush, a grass clump...

This is one of the things we will be covering in two weeks on our Forest & Jungle Navigation Skills 1.

7 February 2017

Foraged Lunch

Put this foraged meal together recently.

Brown river trout caught on an emergency hand line, stuffed with wood sorrell and moss roasted on a fire.

Bracken fiddleheads cooked carefully (as toxic otherwise). Salad of dandelion leaves, bramble leaves, nettle leaves and gorse flowers.

31 January 2017

26 January 2017

Journalist Lenny Antonelli Spends Two Days Learning Bushcraft


Journalist Lenny Antonelli spends two days learning bushcraft in the mountains of Kerry with Outdoors Ireland

Ever wonder how comfortably you could survive in the wilds of Ireland if you were dropped deep in some remote mountain glen?

That’s what I went to Kerry to find out on a cold and windy autumn weekend. I had come down for a two-day bushcraft skills course with Outdoors Ireland, and must admit, I was skeptical. It’s one thing to watch Ray Mears live comfortably in the boreal forests of Canada — or see reality survival shows set in tropical jungles — but the Irish mountains are barren, rugged, and wet. What on earth is there to eat or build a shelter from?

Our small group — myself, a Dutch woman and two Polish ladies — met on Saturday morning in the Muckross Park Hotel for our briefing. Our instructor Nathan handed us each one tin of spaghetti hoops and one tin of baked beans. “Now, over the next 36 hours I want you to try to get by on eating just these, and whatever wild food we can find,” he said.

He later added: “After extreme cold, cold and wet climates like Ireland are the next hardest to survive in, if you’re lost in the wild.”

We drove out of Killarney, down ever rougher boreens, deeper and deeper into the mountains. Finally we parked on sheep-grazed pasture by a remote mountain lake. By the water’s edge we rubbed charcoal on our faces (it’s a natural sunblock), and Nathan showed us how to correctly eat rosehips (it’s all about cutting the hairy seeds out). Then we followed a track through old farmsteads, along the course of a rushing river.

Along the river, Nathan showed us how to collect nettles (for soup) without getting stung, and we also gathered thistle-roots, and gorged on the delicious nuts inside the heads of the thistle flower. Then we collected rowan berries and crab apples, and followed the river through pastures full with flowering gorse, deep into a craggy mountain glen. We crossed another stream in a small birch wood, and gathered birch bark to use as tinder for our campfire later.

Not long later, we left the river behind and headed for a small oakwood sheltered by a steep crag, deep in this wild valley. This is where we would make fire and build our shelters for the night. “You can sometimes hear the red deer bellowing here at night, and see their eyes glowing up on the hillside,” Nathan said.

Soon he was showing us how to make our simple debris shelters, using an A-frame made of deadfall sticks propped up against a tree, with a thick layer of bracken on top, to keep the wind and rain out. “And if it was raining, you’d need about twice as much bracken,” he said.

In the mean time Nathan had built the campfire (we’d be working on our fire-making skills the next morning), by digging a pit and carefully removing the mat of soil (which he’d put back the next day, to hide any trace of the fire). We gathered twigs for kindling and bigger deadfall too, while Nathan built a tripod to hang pots over the fire.

Then we sat around the campfire as night fell and the valley darkened, taking turns to hike down to the river to gather water every so often (we kept a pot boiling at all times, to make sure there was always plenty of clean drinking water). We had our warming nettle and thistle root soup, then spaghetti, then a crab apple and rowan berry stew. But apart from Nathan, we’d all been scoffing sandwiches and chocolate on the sly, too. (When I came back to this valley with Nathan again the following spring, we cooked a big wild feast in this same wood from ingredients we’d gathered or caught  — nettle soup, spruce needle tea, wild river trout fresh from the river and stuffed with sorrel, with dandelion root coffee to finish).

Then we sipped some hot whiskey by the campfire before returning to our cosy shelters, as the wind whipped down through the valley, shaking the trees. I slept deeply, and woke the next morning for a breakfast of baked beans and coffee (Nathan says it’s one of the few luxuries he brings with him when practicing bushcraft).

Then we got down to practicing our fire-making skills, using our flint strikers to light the birch bark we’d collected the day before. I struck furiously onto the birch bark for about twenty minutes, generating plenty of sparks, but no fire, and eventually gave up. The cotton wool, by contrast, lit instantly. “You can see how hard it is to light a fire with just flint and birch bark,” Nathan said.

We dissembled our shelters, covered up our fire, packed up, and left as little trace of our camp behind as possible.  Hiking out of the valley, Nathan showed us some basic animal tracking skills, examining different footprints and scat, and pointed out a spot by the river where two stags had recently done battle, leaving a wide muddy slick behind them.

As we arrived back to our start point, I was feeling tired but satisfied. I had spent two days in the wilds of Kerry and had slept well, ate well (with a little cheating) and survived comfortably with just a few basic tools. I’d been wrong about how comfortably you can survive in the Irish wild — and I was only just starting to scratch the surface of bushcraft in Ireland.