However, aside from climbing, the prusik knot is also very handy for bushcraft and outdoor purposes.
One of the most common bushcraft/survival uses is for stringing out and tensioning a tarp whilst using a ridgeline.
How to tie a prusik knot:
Create a loop, known as a prusik loop, by tying two of the paracord ends together. You can use a double fisherman’s knot for this or similar.
Next, take the opposite end to the knots and form a bite.
Assuming your chosen pole/branch/rope (that you want to tie onto) is laying horizontally, take your bite end and place over the top of this and then back underneath, so that your bite end and knot and are on the same side and pointing towards you.
Take the knot end and place through the bite end.
Dress towards the pole/branch/rope.
Take the loop that is on top (that was the bite) and take it back over and around again, mimicking the first step.
Again, take the knotted end and place through the loop.
Dress this down to create the prusik knot. You should be able to count four wraps in total.
How it works:
When loaded, the knot tightens securely around its subject. It does this as it is a friction knot.
This allows the user to tighten and secure against this knot, allowing them a fixed point to secure to.
When the knot is unloaded and the tension released, the prusik should loosen, allowing the knot to slide along the rope and re-grip at the next intended point.
This allows the user to move the knot along the rope, to the next required point and then load again.
This allows for a very useful knot, that can be secured and quickly moved as required.
The Clove Hitch
The clove hitch is used to tie onto a pole or branch and is a handy knot to start a lashing or binding with.
It’s not the best of knots if used on its own, as it slips quite easily and needs to be combined with another knot or lashing to be properly secure – but it is a handy knot to know nonetheless.
How to tie:
Take the end of your cord and place over the top of the pole of or branch that you want to secure to.
Take underneath and back around, so that the working end crosses over the first wrap of cord.
Go around once more and feed the end underneath the ‘cross over’ loop that you just formed, so that the cord runs parallel with the tail end.
Dress together and you will have a clove hitch. This can be confirmed by checking that you have a cross formation, as shown in the above image.
The Bowline Knot
If you want to tie a fixed loop at the end of your paracord, the bowline knot is a solid choice.
This knot is great as it locks the loop in place and stops it slipping.
How to tie a bowline knot:
Take the working end of your cord and form a loop in it, where you want the knot to form – the loop should follow an anti-clockwise direction, with the working end should sit on top, and should now be facing downwards, towards you.
Take the working end and thread back through this loop, on the right-hand side, passing it behind the standing end and bringing it back around through the loop again.
Pull tight to form your fixed loop.
You now have a bowline.
The Alpine Butterfly
If you want to create a loop in a length of paracord, without having to get the ends involved, then the alpine butterfly knot is a good choice.
It enables you to tie a strong loop that you can tie onto, whilst maintaining the strength of the main line.
This provides a variety of possible uses, one example would be to provide the loops for a trotline, to tie your mono-filament hook-lengths onto.
All in all, a very handy knot to know.
How to tie the alpine butterfly:
Take some slack and wrap the cord around the palm of your hand 3 times.
Take the middle section and tuck it underneath the right-hand section.
Bring it around the front, to the left, and over the original left-hand section.
Take it underneath the other two sections, and bring out on the right-hand side.
Grip the loop on the right and pull the two rope ends to form the fixed loop.
You now have the alpine butterfly.
And now the video run-through of the above…
I hope you find the above article useful for learning and tying your paracord knots. Please let us know how you get on in the comments below.
Bushcraft backpacks are essential for carrying all your gear, in a comfortable and safe manner.
If you want a large pack, then there are also good options for you as mentioned below, but for this article, we are going to focus on a standard size daypack that is ideal for everyday bushcraft purposes.
So, what is the best bushcraft backpack for your needs? Here’s our favourite 3…
5.11 Tactical Rush 24
The Tactical Rush backpack from 5.11 is a good all-round pack for activities such as hunting, fishing, camping and the like.
It can also be used as a grab bag if necessary, ensuring all your essentials are ready to go and in one place.
5.11 kit is known for being tough and this pack doesn’t disappoint.
The bag features a MOLLE system, that you can attach kit to as necessary.
It also incorporates the Rush Tier System, which lets you add an extra bag if required.
If you want something that’s going to stand up to a beating and will last for years to come – then this is the pack for you!
When all 3 elements of the fire triangle combine what can occur?
Well, if you have the correct proportion of heat, fuel and oxygen present and you have a source of ignition, such as a spark, or flame – then you have a good chance that a fire will start, as it has all the required elements.
This could be a good thing if you are looking to start a fire…It could also be a very bad thing if you are not.
Always be mindful of potential ignition sources and keep things such as tinder and stored wood well away from anything that could ignite it.
What are the Three Parts of the Fire Triangle?
The three parts of the fire triangle are heat, fuel and oxygen.
Most of us will be aware of the fire triangle from those school science lessons.
However, it is worth briefly going over again though, to reinforce its importance when lighting a fire in the field.
Let’s take a look at each of the 3 components.
The fuel needs heat in order for it to release its combustible vapours, which in turn, ignite from a flame or spark.
This heat also dries out the surrounding material, causing that to release combustible vapours also and is how a fire spreads and takes hold.
This is why a wood fire will start slowly at first but start to blaze, once the correct conditions for it to do so are met.
A fire needs fuel to burn. This is pretty obvious, but the type of fuel needs to be considered.
The most common fuel that we use in bushcraft is wood, as it is freely available and for the most part, sustainable.
You can’t usually just set fire to a large log though, as you need to build the fire up in stages.
To light an all-wood fire, we generally need 3 grades of wood fuel:
Tinder: This takes your ignition source and transforms it into a flame or ember.
Kindling: These are small pieces of wood that have either been collected in that state, ie small twigs or that have been chopped down to size from a larger log.
Main fuel: Anything larger than kindling – usually large branches and logs that are dry and form the main fuel source.
A fire requires 16% oxygen to burn.
Oxygen acts as the oxidising agent for the chemical reaction that produces the flame.
A flame will not form without it.
Therefore, oxygen is vital to the success of a fire.
Fresh air contains approximately 21% oxygen, depending on your altitude.
Therefore, as long as you maintain a good supply of fresh air to the fire, it should continue to burn, as long as the other conditions are met.
Elements to create fire
Without all 3 parts of the triangle present, you will not achieve a sustained fire.
If you have fuel and fresh air for example, but not enough heat to ignite and sustain it, your fire will go out.
Equally, if you have heat and fresh air, with wet fuel, such as very damp wood – your fire will not start.
The fuel element has not been satisfied and the triangle implodes.
An example of not meeting the oxygen requirement would be that you load too much fuel onto the fire, too quickly, in which case you smother the flames and kill off the airflow.
To be successful, you need to keep all 3 elements in balance, ensuring a sustained and controlled fire for you to warm yourself and cook with.
Keeping all 3 parts in mind will ensure greater success.
The video below from Coalcracker Bushcraft explains this visually:
What are the 3 stages of a fire?
Generally speaking, a fire has 3 stages:
Growth stage: when the fire is building and gathering heat and voracity. In this stage, the fire is very much dependent on the oxygen and fuel supply that it has.
Fully developed: this is the stage when the fire has reached its peak and is now giving out a good amount of heat.
You should also have a good bed of embers now to keep the fire sustained.
Decay: once you stop feeding the fire with fuel, the fire will enter the decay stage and start to burn down.
The embers are still extremely hot at this stage though and will likely ignite any fresh fuel that you put on.
If left alone, however, the fire will die out on its own.
The fire triangle is a very simple concept, but quite often forgotten about when trying to get a fire lit.
Next time you do light a fire, try and bear all the elements in mind and you should have more success
Want more??? We have loads more articles for you to read in our fire section here.
They are usually spotted at low tide clamped to rocks and should you try and pick one up, will nearly always clamp down and become immovable. They are seriously impressive in this regard.
In this clamped state, they don’t really do a lot, but once the tide returns, and they have submerged once again, they ‘spring to life’ and start going about their business of feeding on their chosen home.
There are two main types to be found in Britain, the common limpet and the slipper limpet.
Today we will focus on the common limpet.
What do limpets eat?
At high tide, the limpet feeds by slowly moving around its chosen rock, feeding on algae and similar vegetative marine life.
Although classed as herbivores, they are also thought to eat small creatures like young barnacles etc.
What is the scientific name for limpets?
The scientific name for the common limpet is patella vulgata.
Patella vulgata are the European common limpets and as the name suggests – are of the Patella genus
Can you eat common limpets? Are common limpets edible?
Yes, you can eat common limpets providing you follow the advice below.
Although I can say with confidence that there are certainly tastier wild treats to be had, the limpet is certainly worth knowing about from a wild food perspective, even if that said food does sometimes resemble the texture of pencil rubbers.
Are limpets healthy to eat?
Yes, as long as they were a healthy limpet when you collected them and you have stored and prepared them correctly, limpets are a high protein snack, with many many other vitamins and minerals to boot.
Do limpets have eyes?
Yes, the common limpet has a left and a right ‘eye‘, but there is little research on what they can actually view with these.
They also have two antennae for feeling their way around and sensing. The combination of the two helps them build up a picture of what is around them when hunting for food.
Can limpets swim?
Juvenile limpets spend the first part of their lives as free-swimming planktonic creatures and therefore do technically swim.
Once they mature though, they find a home that they like and stay put.
Fully grown limpets do not swim. They use their foot to travel across surfaces.
Where are limpet shells found?
The common limpet can be found in coastal areas all over the British Isles
They are not usually hard to find and are generally located in shallow water, on rocks or cliffs that are within the intertidal zone.
What is unique about the intertidal coastline?
The intertidal coastline or intertidal zone is unique in the fact that it is submerged by seawater around 2 times a day.
It is essentially the section of shoreline that is between the high and low watermark.
This area is fully submerged at high tide and then dry again at low tide.
Creatures and plants must therefore be able to survive in both of these states.
This makes for a special environment that supports many different creatures including limpets, starfish, sea anemones, sea stars, mussels, winkles, crabs and many more.
How do you identify a limpet?
What does a limpet look like?
The common limpet is cone-shaped and easy to identify. There will often be many limpets attached to one rock, in varying sizes.
Their shape and ability to tightly attach themselves to rocks allows them to remain in place – even whilst getting pounded by strong waves.
Do limpets bite?
No, well they wont bite you anyway.
Limpets have a super tongue which they use to feed with. This is known as a radula.
The radula is similar to a tongue, but has rows of tiny ‘teeth’ attached.
As you can probably imagine, this radula is extremely tough, as it needs to be able to scrape food off rocks when feeding.
Limpets will generally stay in a localised area and not stray too far from their home, which they will always come back to when the tide goes back out.
Over time, this can cause an indentation on the rock which is known as a ‘home scar’.
The limpet clamps down on this section of rock, using its powerful ‘foot’ and remains there until the tide comes back in and it’s ready to move and feed again.
How do you forage for limpets?
Common Limpets can be collected all year round.
Ensure that the area you intend to forage from has a regular and strong tide to ensure that the limpets are regularly submerged.
Also, check that the local area has good water quality and is free from pollutants.
The common limpet is an important part of the ecosystem, keeping the rock’s algal growth in check.
It is vital therefore that you do not gather too many from one area, as an imbalance can occur.
Good practice would be to take only one from each rock or immediate area, leaving the others to carry on their good work.
If there is only one on a rock, then leave it be. Do not over-collect in one area.
Fill your bucket or collecting vessel with fresh seawater and place some carefully collected seaweed in as well if available.
This will help to keep your limpets fresh.
How do you remove limpets from rocks?
A variety of tools can be used to prize the limpet away, including an old chisel or sharp implement such as a knife etc, but a rock will usually do and is usually readily available.
One thing to know when collecting limpets is that you only really get one good chance at them.
Although they will be stuck to the rock when you approach them, they are not usually ‘fully clamped’.
A sharp whack from one side will usually dislodge them.
If you do not manage to dislodge them on the first whack, or they sense you coming, they will fully clamp down on the rock and you will have a hard time getting them off the rock, no matter how hard you try.
They are unbelievably strong.
You can follow up with a second strike very shortly after the first one, but if this fails, leave them alone or you risk damaging them, as they will now have fully clamped down.
Your best bet is to go and find another to work on.
When collecting them myself, I generally have one hand holding the dislodging rock and my other hand is placed on the opposite side of the limpet, ready to catch the dislodged morsel before it disappears into the brine below.
In a good area, it is not hard to quickly collect a bucketful. Remember, do not take more than you need.
If your camp is based nearby, you can always return if necessary, or visit another spot.
Can you eat a limpet raw?
The common limpet is edible and can be eaten raw, but you’re probably going to want to cook it.
Check that the limpet is still alive, especially if it has been a while since collection.
You will see it moving, so it’s not hard to check this.
Are limpets tasty?
I’m going to get straight to the point here and say that limpets probably aren’t going to on your top 10 list of bushcraft cuisine.
The fact is that they are usually chewy, really chewy – no matter what you do to them!
The flavour isn’t bad, it’s like a chewy mussle, but the texture isn’t always great – well never great actually!
Some say not to cook them for too long, but they seem to be chewy whatever you do to them, so just expect that to be the case.
One way to combat the chewiness is to finely chop them and add them to other dishes so that they are more easily consumed.
This can be done after they are cooked and then added to a curry or stew etc.
They will certainly add a new dimension to the dish!
Caveats aside, they are definitely worth a try and can form a great addition to other foods if prepared in a certain way.
If you want to cook them on their own, try cooking them upside down, straight on the embers of your fire.
If you have the luxury, try adding some olive oil and some garlic to add some flavour and cook until the oil starts to bubble.
Remove from the shell, remove the black part if you wish and enjoy.
I can guarantee you will remember the experience.
What do limpets taste like?
Limpets have a taste of their own, but to give you a rough idea – they taste a bit like a chewier version of a mussle and are equally sweet in taste.
Can you fry limpets?
Yes. You can fry them in their shells, or for a more direct method, you can remove them from their shells, tenderise them with a meat hammer or similar and then fry.
You can fry them as is, or coat them in a flour mixture first, depending on your preference.
Safety whilst common limpet foraging
As with all foraging, there is a degree of risk involved.
Coastal foraging brings additional dangers.
Apart from the food safety side that is mentioned above, the actual collection part can be risky in itself.
You are usually stepping on or wading through rocky areas when foraging, contending with slippy, jagged surfaces and possibly waves.
Common sense goes a long way here.
Take great care with your foot placement and move slowly and deliberately.
A wading stick may prove useful.
Wear appropriate footwear, something that will protect your feet from the sharp rocks and provide you with some grip.
Avoid standing on rocks with a slimy green surface. The last thing you want is a fall in this environment.
Be aware of the tides. It’s all too easy to get caught up in the moment, only to realise that the tide is a lot higher than you thought, with your access back to dry land now cut off.
Using a bivvy bag is a great idea if you are sleeping out. They provide you with some extra protection from the elements, increasing your chances of a good night’s sleep.
They can, of course, be used on their own, with your sleeping bag inside, using the bivvy as your sole outer protection.
This is great for sleeping out under the stars, in good conditions.
They are also great when used in conjunction with a tarp or basha – which is the preferred method if you are expecting rain or snow.
This can be done straight on the ground, or in a hammock setup.
You may even want to use one inside a tent, affording you a bit extra warmth when needed.
Most are breathable and waterproof, but the quality does vary.
British Army Bivvy Bag
One of our favourites is the no-nonsense, British Army Gore-tex bivvy bag that is pictured above.
As with most equipment designed for the military, these are solidly made with fully taped seams and a drawstring hood section.
They are heavy compared to others, but this is made up for by the excellent, bomb-proof quality that they afford.
They will last you for years.
There is no zip on these, so you have to slide in and out, but on a plus point, this means there is less to go wrong.
As they are made with Gore-tex, they are relatively breathable, while still providing a good degree of all round water protection.
They are designed to be used underneath a tarp as the hood does not completely cover you, but you can sleep out in them on their own if the weather is dry.
If it does start to rain though, you can always roll over and sleep on your front if necessary.
The only problem is that these bags are not easy to come across these days, especially new.
If you can get one though, we would recommend them for a heavy-duty bag.
Due to the sourcing problem, we will recommend another which is more widely available, this being the Snugpak Special Forces Bivvi Bag.
These are not Gore-tex, but do incorporate Snugpak’s Paratex Dry Fabric, which is designed to do a similar thing, in that it allows moisture from your body to escape, while not letting any outside moisture in.
They feature a central zip, which helps with getting in and out of them, as well as being very lightweight and packable.
Some users find that they get a condensation build-up in these bags, but this will depend on the conditions and sleeping bag used etc.
They are ultimately, a well-made bivvy bag for a reasonable price – that you can actually get hold of!
Yes, gorse flower is edible. You need to make sure that you only use them in small quantities though, as they contain alkaloids, which are mildly toxic.
You would have to eat quite a few for them to have any effects, but it’s worth being aware of that.
Gorse (Ulex Europaeus) starts to flower around late Autumn, continuing through Winter, with the flowers reaching full bloom around Spring.
These edible flowers have a pleasant, almost coconut aroma and can be picked and used for many purposes, including adding to a salad or brewed into a tea.
One of the more popular ways to use these is to ferment them into wine, which if successful, produces a very nice drop indeed and is well worth the effort.
What can you use gorse flowers for?
You can use gorse flowers for a variety of recipes, but the most simple way to consume them is to simply eat them straight from the bush.
Some other ways to consume them include:
Can you make tea from gorse flowers? How do you make gorse flower tea?
Yes. You can make tea from gorse flowers.
Pick a small handful of fresh gorse flowers, place in a teapot and cover with a cup’s worth of freshly boiled water.
Leave for around 8-10 minutes to brew and then serve. A tea strainer will help with this.
Gorse flower tea benefits
Gorse flower tea has been used for its medicinal benefits for years.
This includes ailments such as:
Heartburn and many more
What do gorse flowers smell like?
Gorse flowers have a coconut smell with some citrus notes.
They smell wonderful and are slightly surprising considering the menacing look of the gorse bush itself, which has some pretty hefty spines on it.
When it comes to flowers, the gorse bush wants to be inviting!
Is gorse good for bees?
Yes, gorse is good for bees. The flowers produce nectar and bees love it.
There is also a very small amount of nectar within the flower, which helps attract the bees in the first place and gives them some food in return for their pollination efforts.
Is gorse flower poisonous to humans?
No, gorse is not poisonous to humans (as such!).
You can eat the flowers as mentioned above, or make them into a tea or wine, but don’t overdo it, as the flowers contain small amounts of alkaloids and can be mildly toxic.
Are gorse thorns poisonous?
No, gorse thorns are not poisonous to humans either, but they certainly can cause you a lot of pain!
Although the flowers are a sweet treat to eat, you wouldn’t want to be getting stuck in one of these things, as the thorns are extremely nasty indeed.
When picking flowers (or just being near them in general) watch out, or you may get a good spiking!
Does gorse have pollen?
Yes, gorse does have pollen.
It gets attached to bees when the bee flies into the flower, as well as the flower formed in such a way that it extracts some pollen off the bee that it may have on it from visiting other flowers, therefore allowing for pollination.
Is gorse good for firewood?
Yes, gorse is good for firewood – certainly for getting things started anyway.
Gorse is easy to light burns hot and fast, so be prepared for that.
Keep the fire away from other bushes, as they will easily catch in the right conditions!
Due to its fast burning nature, you may want to add on some slower burning wood in order to have a more sustained fire.
Why is gorse flammable?
Gorse contains a small amount of flammable oils (around 2-4%).
These, along with the dry wood that gorse consists of means it burns easily – and it burns hot!
Is gorse a hardwood?
No. gorse is not a hardwood in the traditional sense of what a hardwood is, like oak etc, however, the branches it produces are very sturdy in construction.
Goats, sheep, cattle and horses are also known to eat it.
If you do decide to get your own animals for this purpose, do check out some breeds that prefer it more than others.
Is gorse native to the UK?
Yes, gorse is native to the UK.
There are 3 types of gorse species in the UK.
Common Gorse (Ulex Europaeus) – This, as the name suggests is the most common species in the UK and what you will typically find when you come across a gorse bush. This is also the only type that will grow to around 2.5-3 metres tall, so if it’s up at this height it will most certainly be Common Gorse.
Western Gorse (Ulex Gallii) – Low growing and found in the West side of Britain, along the Atlantic Coast.
Dwarf Gorse (Ulex Minor) – Another low growing gorse variety, that generally grows to around 30cm in height and is generally found South of the River Thames in Kent and on the South Coast in Sussex and Dorset.
So, Is Gorse Flower Edible? Yes indeed!
Although extremely thorny, its coconut-scented flowers can be used for a variety of things including tea, wine and simply just snacking on them.
Keep the amount you consume to a sensible quantity though, as they do contain alkaloids, which are mildly toxic.
Looking for more foraging? Take a look at our Common Limpet post here.
Being familiar with a map and compass is fundamental to good navigation.
From a safety perspective, you should not be in the outdoors without having at least the basics covered.
GPS units are fast becoming the favoured option for navigation these days, whether it be in a vehicle, on our mobile phone, or a standalone unit.
However, it’s far too easy to solely rely on them.
GPS is a fantastic thing – and when it works, it’s an easy way to navigate, doing all the hard work for you.
It’s always easier being told where to go!
However, you are relying on a lot of things to get that position or next bearing.
Will the batteries last? Can you pick up enough satellites? Are there trees blocking the sky?
It’s not always a straightforward and guaranteed process.
Added to that, electronics can fail – that’s a fact. And if that’s your only navigational tool, what now?
Objective of this article
The aim of this post is to take a complete novice through the basic elements of map and compass, and clearly explain how they are used in the real world, whether it be for bushcraft, survival or adventure purposes.
This will also be handy for the more experienced among you who may need a refresher – which let’s face it, we all do from time to time!
The low-tech option
A map and compass are low-tech – time tested navigational tools.
They don’t require electronics, batteries or satellites to work and therefore, have very little to go wrong.
If you’re going off the beaten track, make sure you learn some basic map and compass skills at a minimum and be sure to carry them both with you – even if it’s just as a backup.
There’s nothing wrong with using GPS if you want to – just don’t solely rely on it.
There is a lot of information on a map, which can seem a little overwhelming when you first pick one up.
In this section, we will run through the fundamentals and get you up to speed.
Map symbols and what they mean
The symbols, diagrams and all other information that are on your map, correspond to an actual feature or landmark on the ground.
These markings – and what they mean, can be found in the area known as the map key or legend.
It is worth familiarising yourself with these symbols as it will make your map reading more efficient.
You do not need to know them all, as you have the legend on the map close by – and some are self-explanatory – but the more you know, the easier your life will be, as you will not have to constantly cross-reference.
To assist you further, the Ordnance Survey has put together a set of educational flashcards. You can use these to help memorise the symbols and meanings.
Your map will usually arrive pre-folded, so this part is done for you. The problem arises when you need to get it back that way!
To refold it to its original state, follow the steps below:
1 – With the map laid out flat in front of you, fold the bottom half underneath the top half.
2 – Concertina back in on itself, following the direction of the preformed creases.
3 – Fold in half again – Done!
What does map scale mean?
The scale of a map depicts its direct relationship between a distance measured on the map and the distance that this measurement relates to on the actual ground.
For example on a 1:50,000 map, this means that for every measurement you take on a map, everything is 50,000 times bigger in the real world, hence the scale of 1:50,000.
OS maps are generally produced in one of two different scales – 1:25,000 & 1:50,000.
What does 1 2500 mean on a map?
It means that 1cm on the map, equals 25,000cm in the real world. This is known as 1:25,000 scale.
Using the 1:25,000 scale as an example, a 1cm measurement on the map = 25,000 times that distance on the actual ground.
So if you convert the real-world figure to meters – a 1cm on the map would become 250 metres in the real world (1cm:25,000cm).
4cm on the map would become 1km (100,000cm) in the real world – and so on.
How big is a grid square on a 1 25000 map?
At 25,000 scale, a map’s grid square is 4cm x 4cm and equals a 1km x 1km square on the actual ground.
What does a 1 50000 map mean?
It means that 1cm on the map, equals 50,000cm in the real world. This is known as 1:50,000 scale.
Using the 1:50,000 scale, 1cm = 50,000cm in the field, is equal to 500 metres.
This equates to 2cm = 1km.
How big is a grid square on a 1 50000 map?
So a grid square on the 1:50,000 scale, is 2cm x 2cm in size, as opposed to the 4cm x 4cm for the 1:25,000 scale.
So, although the size on the map is different, the grid squares represent a 1km x 1km square on the actual ground for both scales. Hopefully, that’s not confusing.
As you can see, the 1:50k map’s 1km grids are smaller (2cm). This means that the map can cover larger areas, which at times has its advantages.
On the other hand, the 1:25k map’s grids are larger, with the total map covering an overall smaller area, but because the grids are larger, the map is ‘zoomed in’ and therefore shows more detail.
The video below is a Royal Marines training aid and helps explain this visually.
Which os map is best for walking
In simple terms, if you want more detail, go for 1:25k scale.
If you want less detail and more ground distance covered on the map – go for 1:50k.
The way I remember this quickly is ‘Less is more’, i.e., the lower number (1:25k) gives more detail than 1: 50k.
Your selection should be based on the situation and preference.
Conversely, in some situations, a 1:25k can actually show too much detail and in doing so, cause the location’s features to become over detailed and less clear.
A 1:50k version of exactly the same section, showing the same feature, although less detailed, can actually be clearer to read – as it is less convoluted.
If you are covering larger areas, such as in a vehicle, then the 1:50k version is probably more appropriate and also means you can take fewer maps with you.
Personally, I like the 1:25k version for outdoor navigation on foot here in the UK.
One of the most popular here in the UK is the Ordnance Survey Explorer range of maps. These come in either the standard version or the Active version, which features a waterproof coating – allowing it to be used in all weathers.
I tend to opt for the standard version and keep it in a map case if the weather is bad.
How to set a map
Setting a map simply means aligning the map’s North, with actual North in the real world.
Do this visually by aligning landmarks on the map, with landmarks on the ground. Your location must be known to do this though.
You can also do this by using your compass. More on this in the compass section later.
How to find a grid square
In order to identify a location on a map, you need to accurately pinpoint its location.
This is done in the form of a grid reference.
On a larger scale, for mapping purposes, the UK is broken up into 100 x 100km squares, or grids.
This is known as the National Grid.
These grids are assigned a pair of letters to identify them as per the diagram below.
Note: The USA, Canada, and many other countries have a very similar system. For this article, we will use the UK system – but the same principles apply – just adapt to your area.
When you purchase a map, you will no doubt have noticed that the map has two letters stamped on it in certain places.
These two letters correspond to one of the areas in the image above that your map is covering.
Your map will likely cover a few different sections of these squares and will, therefore, mention multiple letters in places.
What comes first in a grid reference?
Whichever of these sections you are working off on your map forms the first part of your grid reference. e.g. NH
This way, if you are trying to communicate this grid reference to someone else, they will know which section of the country you are referring to when you state the two letters.
Now that we have established the 100 x 100 km mapping area you are working from, we now need to narrow this down considerably, in order to pinpoint the specific location.
How grid squares are broken down
Now, this 100 x 100km NH section mentioned above, is broken down further into 10 x 10 km squares as below.
You will see these on your map, as the thicker blue lines that intersect at every 10th digit on the map, ie 10, 20, 30…
This has now given us a 10 x 10km (100 square km) area to work in, as shown by the yellow box above.
This is progress, but we still need to get this area down further to achieve any sort of accuracy.
Next, each of the 10x10km squares are broken down further into 1km x 1km grid squares.
How to find grid square
We are now down to the actual grid squares that you see on the map.
These are 1km x 1km wide and of course, give us a total area per grid square one square kilometer.
The red square in the image above signifies one of these squares.
We can now get a reasonable amount of accuracy by simply making reference to this square.
It is still a fairly big area but gives a good high-level indication of where something is located on the map.
We state this by giving a 4 figure grid reference.
How to take a 4 figure grid reference
What are eastings and northings on a map?
Eastings are the numbers that run along the bottom of a map, from left to right.
Northings are the numbers that run up the side of the map, from bottom to top.
How to read eastings and northings
Always start by referencing the numbers that run along the bottom first.
These are known as Eastings, as their numbers increase as they travel East.
To help with the correct sequence, remember the adage:
“Go along the corridor, then up the stairs”
So along the corridor = Eastings.
For the red square above, this would give us a number of 97.
Notice how we reference the number at the start of the square (97), not at the end.
Now we go “up the stairs” by stating the Northing figure.
This equals 18.
We now need to put these two together to obtain a 4 figure grid reference.
This gives us 97, 18.
We are not finished yet though!
As mentioned earlier, there will be multiple 97, 18 grid squares across the country, so we need to signify which mapping area we are referring to.
We do this by adding the area code at the start of the grid reference.
In this example, we are working off map section NH, which gives us a complete 4 figure grid reference of NH 97,18.
By communicating the above, everyone will know exactly what 1km x 1km section of the country you are referring to.
This is how you give a 4 figure grid reference.
How to take a 6 figure grid reference
Knowing where we are within a 1km square is helpful, but for a more precise measurement, we really want to drill down further and get that location within 100 metres of the actual location on the ground.
To do this we take a 6 figure grid reference.
This is done by breaking that 1km grid square down further, into 10 sections, from left to right and bottom to top.
We have our 4 figure grid reference from before of NH 97,18.
This represents the whole of the red square above, but we want to pinpoint the Boat House, so we need to go further still.
As you can see, we need to divide the grid square up further into sections of 10.
You will need to do this mentally, as the grid squares do not go any smaller on a map.
Your compass romer will assist you if this helps. Use the correct romer for the scale of the map you are using. In this case 1:25,000.
We can now locate the boathouse by counting along the bottom first – “along the corridor”.
Count upwards (“climb the stairs”) to reach the correct square.
In this case, it is 3,3
We now need to add this to the grid squares 4 figure grid ref of NH 97,18 to give us NH 973, 183
This is a six-figure grid reference and is the most common format used for navigation purposes.
Why do we use 6 figure grid references?
A six-figure grid reference is usually the most commonly used type of grid reference, as it gives a decent amount of accuracy for a location.
As above, it gives you an area of 1000m squared, which on the ground is a fairly ‘tight’ area to work with.
However, if you want to get more accurate, you need to break things down further…
How to take a 8 figure grid reference
As mentioned above, a six-figure grid reference is usually as far as you need to go for a good indication of location.
However, there may be times when you need to drill down even further still and provide an 8 figure grid reference.
How accurate is a 8 figure grid reference?
An 8 figure grid reference will give you an area accuracy of 100 x 100 metres – which gives us a total 1000m square area of accuracy.
This tightens things up considerably!
To do this, as you have probably guessed, the square from the 6 fig example above, is further divided into ten each way, to give us another figure to add to our grid reference.
You will again need to do this mentally, and it is a bit tricky to exactly pinpoint it sometimes.
Your compass romer may help, although the numbers are meant for 6 fig references, not 8, so you will need to mentally divide this up.
Example of an 8 figure grid reference
For the location of the Boat House above, we look at where its location is in relation to the smaller square that it sits in.
If we divide this up again – this sits at 4 across and 3 up of the square.
We now add this to our six-figure grid reference to give us NH 9734, 1833
This is how you obtain an eight-figure grid reference.
It’s just a question ofdrilling down further.
Grid reference quiz
Using the above principles, work out the following (answers at the end):
What is the 4 figure grid reference for the waterfall above, highlighted in blue?
Now, turn this into a 6 figure grid reference by dividing up the above blue grid square mentally.
We know the waterfall sits inside grid square NN 91,97.
We now need to determine where it sits within this grid square.
What two coordinates do we need to add to make this the correct six-figure ref?
The above grid square is an entirely fictional HL 15,76 (there shouldn’t be any churches in this region)
Turn this into a 6-figure grid reference, to give the church’s location.
You now should have a good understanding of how grid references work and how to obtain one.
I would suggest you now practice this with an actual map to hone these skills further.
Question 1 = NN 91,97
Question 2 = 3 & 2, which gives us the total 6 figure grid ref of NN 913,972
Question 3 = HL 157, 766
We now move on to the compass and how it relates to navigating with a map.
What makes a compass work?
So, what makes a compass work? Well, the short answer is that the compass has a freely moving and rotating magnetically charged needle, that points to Magnetic North.
This function can then be used to give you a North direction, as well as the others, such as South, East, West and everything in between.
The compass can be used on its own – as well as being able to working conjunction with a map.
As you will see, when M&C are combined, they become highly effective navigational tools.
Let’s explore further…
What are the parts of a compass?
Let’s start with the parts of a standard baseplate compass and what the purpose of each part is.
Note: I am using a plate compass for this article, chiefly a Silva Expedition 4, which is a time tested and an incredibly functional unit, used by NATO and many other organisations worldwide.
Your compass may vary slightly, but will not differ much.
I am also basing this article on the Northern Hemisphere. If you are in the South, you will need to adjust accordingly.
Compass Baseplate Section
What is the baseplate on a compass?
This baseplate is the main ‘plate’ section, that the compass is based on.
On here you will find:
The direction of travel arrow
This is the arrow that points to the direction of travel. There is also an illuminated line just past this arrow, which shows the arrow’s position at night.
Used to help measure distance on a map and provide a straight edge to draw and take bearings with.
What is a compass Romer?
These are sets of right-angled lines that will be marked out in different scales. These being 1:25,000, 1:40,000 and 1;50,000.
These are used to help obtain a grid reference depending on the scale of the map you are using – by dividing up the map’s grid square into 10.
This gives you a more accurate way of obtaining a 6 figure grid reference.
See the map (grid reference) section above for more info.
What is the magnifying glass on a compass for?
The magnifying lens is used to enlarge sections of the map to help you read it.
It also has the added benefit of being able to help you start a fire if needed.
This is the term given to the difference between Grid North and Magnetic North.
In simple terms:
Your compass needle will point towards Magnetic North.
Your map’s vertical grid lines point towards Grid North.
True North is different again and generally ignored for M&C purposes.
As you can see – they are not the same and are located at different points of the globe.
What is the difference between magnetic north and true north?
Ok, so let’s get this multiple North business out of the way!
As above, there are variations between Grid North, Magnetic North as well as True North.
To be successful in navigation, you need to understand the difference between the three.
Let’s run through them.
What is Grid North used for?
Grid North is what the vertical lines on a map point to.
The reason for the difference between Grid North and True North is the fact that the vertical lines placed on a flat map, do not perfectly replicate the physical ones that are present on the round Earth.
There is a variation – even though it’s hard to get your head around how this can be the case.
In practice, this variation is very minimal and for most navigational tasks, it can be ignored.
However, just know that there is a difference between Grid N and True N.
What is Magnetic North used for?
Magnetic North or MN is what a compass needle will point to – which is the Magnetic North Pole.
It differs from True North above, as the magnetic pole field sits slightly off centre to True North.
This magnetic pole also shifts ever so slightly over time.
Due to this, when comparing MN against GN on a map, an offset is manually added in to allow for this.
This is known as magnetic declination or magnetic variation.
How much of an offset depends on how far away the two Norths are between each other, at that point in time.
The magnetic pole is constantly moving and varies from year to year.
Therefore, when you need to transfer a bearing between a map and compass – or vice versa, you need to manually add in (or subtract) the difference.
The current offset is usually displayed on your map and is known as the declination diagram.
On this diagram, there will be a date mentioned and the offset figure in degrees.
It will state the difference between True North, Grid North, and Magnetic North.
It will also tell you what the variation is each year and in what direction the variation is moving.
What is the definition of True North
True North is the point at the very centre of the top part of Earth, otherwise known as the North Pole.
It is the Earth’s top axis point.
This is also what the North Star’s position relates to – when its position is transferred down to the Earth’s horizon.
For map and compass purposes, you do not need to worry about True North too much – just to have an understanding of what it is.
And now for the video explanation of the above:
Using a compass to navigate (How to use a compass to find direction)
So you have your compass, you have your map – let’s get moving!
Orientation of the map
What is map orientation?
Firstly, it is helpful to orientate your map, so that it is facing the same way as the land in front of you, i.e., North on the map is facing North in the field.
You don’t have to do this, but I find it simplifies things, especially when you are learning.
To align your map, you can use features on the ground, to give you a good idea.
A good video showing the fire piston in use can be viewed below:
A bow drill set is a great tool to use in the Northern Hemisphere and can create a good ember even with slightly damp wood.
You will need the following parts to create one:
Bow section: the main part that is drawn back and forward to create the drilling action. This is a formed from a carefully selected tree branch.
Cord: this attaches to the bow and is what grips and spins the drill. 550 paracord is usually used for this.
Drill section: this is what spins and ‘drills’ into the hearth below to create an ember.
Bearing block: used to create a low friction ‘cup’ that sits on top of the drill section and is held in place with your non-dominant hand.
Hearth: the base section of wood that stays fixed in place and is ‘drilled’ into, to create an ember.
Ray Mears demonstrates the process in the video below:
For an even more detailed look, MCQBushcraft has an excellent video on this also.
A very basic but effective method is to start a fire from a lense, usually a magnifying glass.
If you carry a standard plate compass, such as the Silva Expedition 4, then you will have a magnifying lens built into the compass.
You do need bright sunlight for this to work, but assuming the sun is strong enough, you can move the lens closer to the tinder until you have a small concentrated spot of light, that is laser focussed on your tinder.
If the beam of light is intense enough, the tinder will start to smoke and with a little help – eventually, ignite.
This is a great method to use, as it enables your compass to have a dual purpose.
Not much use if it’s cloudy though!
As you can see, there are many different ways to get a fire going. I would encourage you to try and master as many methods as you can.
Not only is it fun, it could save your bacon one day and is certainly not wasted effort.
We positively encourage you to leave a comment below or contact us to let us know what you think, good or bad.
Dutch ovens provide a fantastic way to cook outdoors.
This article guides you through everything you need to know about camp dutch oven cooking, from selection to care and maintenance.
There are also some tasty recipes to try out!
Let’s jump in!
What is a camp Dutch oven?
A dutch oven that is designed for outdoor use, is commonly known as a camp dutch oven.
Put simply they are a cooking vessel, constructed of heavy, cast iron material, that allows you to cook efficiently over an open fire.
These ovens enable you to cook a wide variety of foods, from bread to more exotic main meals and will serve you well for your camp cooking needs.
This article explains what they do and how you can use them within bushcraft and other outdoor activities.
History of the Dutch oven
The dutch ovens of today owe their original design to Englishman, Abraham Darcy after he travelled to Holland to look for a better way to mould metals.
At the time, the Dutch were experts in casting brass pots using sand, which was a different method to that of loam and clay, which the Brits used.
He returned to England and decided to use cast iron instead of brass to make the pot, and the first incarnation of the cast-iron ‘dutch oven’ was born.
During the American colonial era, legs and a lid flange were added.
This version of Dutch ovens (legs or without) is what we know these days as a campDutch oven and were the cooking vessels favoured by the early American pioneers.
Often mentioned in peoples wills, as to who they should go to upon the owner’s death, they were an item of great importance and value.
They were the oven of choice for the famous Lewis and Clark Expedition of 1804 – 1806, as they travelled and mapped the waterways from Pittsburgh in the East, to the Pacific coast out West.
These days, dutch oven cooking is very much alive and well, with a multitude of organisations around the world, such as the International Dutch Oven Society, still practising this fun, tasty and authentic way of cooking.
Design and features
Most ovens are made of cast iron and black in colour (unless rusty) – and have a pot and lid section.
There are some aluminium dutch oven designs out there, such as the GSI version, but these are not so common.
Most designs usually have a large carrying handle, which also allows the oven to be suspended over a fire, using a purpose-made tripod or pot hanger.
As above, most camp-style ovens also have 3 legs on the bottom, which are designed to let the oven sit directly in the fire’s embers, whilst providing stability and keeping the main pot raised above the coals.
Some users prefer not to have these legs though, which we will get into later.
As a large part of the camp Dutch oven cooking process comes from the heat above it, they all include a lid that is designed to have embers placed on top of them.
This allows heat to come from above and below.
This lid features a lip around its edge that stops the embers from falling into the pot when the lid is lifted – and into your food!
Due to their cast iron construction, they are heavy, so are not really suited to any hiking activities!
However, if you have a vehicle to transport it in, such as a car, 4wd or canoe, they are an excellent option for your campfire cooking, especially if you are staying put for a while.
Why do some Dutch ovens have legs?
As above, you can buy a camp-style dutch oven with legs, or without legs.
The rest of the oven is generally identical.
What you go for will depend on how you intend to use the oven and your needs.
Indeed Ray Mears comments in the video below that he prefers a dutch oven without legs, due to the possibility of them breaking when being stored and transported in vehicles.
Take a look at Ray baking some bread below to see what I mean – it’s also a good recipe!
As you can see, he’s opting for no legs, due to the portability factor.
We would argue that the legs are very robust, and do not get damaged with normal use and transportation.
You should be storing your oven in a better manner if that’s a problem, but everyone has their views, and they do indeed have the potential to catch on things.
If you are solely going to cook on a tripod with your oven, above a fire, then the legs may not be necessary for you and it may be best to go for a simple legless pot.
If however, you are only going to buy one oven, and want to be able to use it straight on top of embers, with the added functionality of still being able to use it on a tripod, we would opt for the legged variety, as it allows you to comfortably do both.
Of course, the best thing is to have two ovens, one with legs, one without and you can then choose which one is best suited to your trip – or take both.
How to season a cast iron Dutch oven
As with all cast iron cookware, a dutch oven will need to be seasoned before it can be used.
Many ovens now come pre-seasoned, so you can technically cook on them straight away.
However, this factory seasoning can almost always be improved on, so it would be wise to season the oven yourself before use regardless.
This is an essential process to get your oven off to a good start.
Does a Dutch oven need to be seasoned?
Cast iron in its raw state, will rust and is not non-stick.
In order to make it non-stick, we must first correctly season the iron.
This seasoning process applies a very thin layer of oil to the metal surface of the oven, which is then placed inside a larger oven or stovetop and heated to a very high temperature.
This process ‘bakes’ the fat onto the metal, to form a hard and protective layer on the oven surface, known as seasoning.
You ideally want a ‘drying oil’, that hardens as it heats and doesn’t leave an oily residue.
I keep it simple and use standard vegetable oil.
In the UK is usually either rapeseed oil or sunflower oil.
This currently works well for me.
You now need to get the dutch oven very hot in order to seal it.
You will need to use your kitchen oven if your camp oven will fit inside.
Alternatively, you can use a kettle type BBQ so that the lid creates an oven in itself.
As the dutch oven now has a thin layer of oil on it, this process can cause some smoke, as the oil heats up.
Therefore, this process is best done outside if you can, but if you have to do this inside, prepare accordingly by ensuring good ventilation.
As with most things like this, it’s best to follow the manufacturer’s guidelines for your particular dutch oven.
As a general guideline, you will want to get your oven up to around 205 ℃ / 400 F for the seasoning process to work correctly.
Once complete, this process seals the oven, protecting it from rust and giving the oven its natural non-stick coating.
If you are looking for a perfect finish, this process may need to be repeated a few times (4-6) to get the desired result.
With careful use, cleaning and storage, the oven should not need seasoning again and the seasoned layer will actually improve over time.
If it does need doing again, and your pan starts to rust, or the seasoned layer is just not up to standard anymore, simply follow the steps above to restore it back to its full glory.
The short Lodge video below also goes through a similar process.
Fuel for Dutch ovens
You can use a variety of fuels with your oven.
If out in the woods, you may have some decent dry firewood available to you.
If using this, you want a type that produces a good bed of embers when it burns down, as these are what provides the majority of heat for your oven.
Go for hardwoods like Oak and Ash if you can, as these will produce a good bed of embers.
Softwoods will burn quickly and will work, but will not produce as good a bed of embers like the above hardwoods will.
How to use a Dutch oven with charcoal
You can also use charcoal, which is a popular choice, which you can bring with you.
This generally comes in either lump wood or briquette form.
Either is good, but the briquettes seem to hold the heat for the longest time and give a good steady burn.
Tip – If using charcoal, an easy way to get your coals going is to use a chimney starter, such as the Weber version pictured below.
How many coals do I need for a camp oven?
If using wood, it’s a bit more of a guess as to the number of embers that you need.
It depends on the wood used and oven size.
Experience will help you get a good idea of cooking times and temperature for your oven, so get cooking and find out what works.
If using charcoal, the rough rule of thumb is to use twice the amount of coals as to your oven size.
So, if you have a 12″ oven, then you need 24 coals.
This is quite simplistic but is a good rough guide.
For a more exact heat and coal number, including the amount that should be placed above and below – the table below shows the suggested amount.
Dutch oven coal temperature chart
Cleaning a camp oven
A good cleaning and maintenance regime will keep your oven in tip-top condition.
Clean your oven as below:
Scrape all food residues to loosen them from the surface and remove.
Pour in some hot water and scrub with a brush until all food residue is removed. Use some washing up liquid if necessary.
Rinse out with fresh water and dry with a lint-free tea towel or similar and leave to air dry.
Now place a small amount of vegetable oil in the pan, and wipe this around both sides of the pot and lid, so that all the surfaces are coated with a very thin layer of oil.
Your oven is now clean and ready for its next use.
Can you use soap to clean a dutch oven?
The short answer is yes. There is no issue using a mild detergent, such as washing up liquid to clean a dutch oven.
There is a common misconception that the soap will remove the seasoned layer, as soap breaks down fat and it is this fat that forms the seasoning.
However, the fat has gone through a chemical process when the oven was seasoned and is chemically bonded to the metal through this heat process.
It will therefore not be removed with soap, so feel free to use it if required.
How to store your cast iron Dutch oven
Store your oven in a clean, dry, well-ventilated area.
Your oven should have a very thin layer of oil on all of its surfaces to protect it during storage.
Do not use lard or similar, as this can go rancid if left for a long period.
Use vegetable oil and wipe off any excess.
If storing the pot and lid together, leave a small gap by placing a folded up tea towel or similar between the pot and the lid.
This will allow fresh air to circulate inside the oven, allowing any moisture to escape and help prevent any rust from forming.
What utensils do you use with a Dutch oven?
You can use all normal cooking utensils in your oven, both wood and metal, without them damaging the seasoned layer.
Just use them with care though and don’t be too rough.
How long will a camp dutch oven last for?
Properly cared for, your oven should easily outlast you and can be handed down to the next generation.
They should easily last 100 years or more and there is no reason why they can’t last for a few hundred years.
There is something deeply satisfying about owning and using something that you know will still be able to be used by your family, long after you have gone.
Not the dying bit though!!!
Purchasing one should definitely be considered an investment and is why I would recommend purchasing a good quality one from the outset – and looking after it.
What size dutch oven should I buy for camping?
The 8-quart (12 inch) is a good size for cooking larger meals, for multiple persons, but is also fine for smaller meals too.
We have this size, as it is a good all-rounder, whatever you decide to cook.
We’re also gluttons when it comes to food like this, so having some extra available is no bad thing in our opinion – it will all disappear 🙂
There are different sizes available to suit your needs, so go with what you feel is best for you.
A smaller size will do if you generally only cook for 1-2 people.
What is the best camp oven to buy?
As with most things in life, you get what you pay for.
There are multiple brands of camp dutch ovens on the market, with the cheaper ovens often being made in China.
These areoften of a much lower quality than the USA or European brands – that’s just a fact.
If that’s all you can afford, or just want to dip your toe in and try dutch oven cooking, then these will certainly have their uses – you may end up disappointed though.
We always strongly recommend going for the best kit you can afford – it usually works out cheaper in the long run.
If you go for one of the decent makes, and your dutch oven ends up lasting you 100 years or more, that initial investment will seem quite insignificant, given the years of use and enjoyment that you and your family get out of it.
With that in mind, we would recommend either Lodge or Petromax dutch ovens.
Is Lodge a good Dutch oven brand?
Yes. They are considered the best brand out there.
We personally own and currently use the Lodge 8-quart 12 inch – deep camp dutch oven.
We went for this as Lodge, in our opinion, make the best ovens and have a great pedigree.
They are made in Lodge’s USA factory, to a very high standard.
They are pricey, especially in Europe, but as above, we view it as an investment and see it as great value considering what you are getting in return.
No-nonsense and great looking, these will last you and your family a very long time indeed.
When you receive your dutch oven, new or otherwise, take a few moments to check its build quality.
Place the lid on the oven and make sure that it’s a tight fit all around.
Make sure that the lid does not rock and sits flat on all sides.
Spin the lid to make sure that it easily rotates and is circular.
Check the oven sidewalls to make sure they are of equal thickness all around.
Inspect all surfaces, inside and out, for any notable cracks or blemishes on the metal’s surface.
Ensure that the bail arm is secured to each side of the oven, at opposite sides to each other. These alternate fixing points prevent the handle falling off if the oven tips to one side when carrying the oven.
Camp dutch oven accessories
You don’t necessarily need any special accessories to use your oven, you can use what you have in the kitchen – even a stick to lift the lid if necessary.
If you want the correct kit, however, you may want to take a look at the below.
Camp Dutch Oven Lid lifter
One item that you will need when cooking with these ovens is some form of lid-lifter.
You can use a claw hammer or a strong stick, but a proper tool for the job is a purpose-made device such as the one made by Petromax below.
This has the added advantage of being able to be used as a poker for the embers of your fire.