How To Get Kids Your Outdoors This Winter

Getting kids outdoors can sometimes be harder than expected. When you’re all inside your home, in the warm, it’s often hard to encourage reluctant members of the family to come outside and go exploring. But now more than ever, with most children spending most of their week stuck in a classroom with limited time outside, and darker evenings restricting outdoor time after school too, we have to make the most of school holidays and weekends to get them outside and exploring. But why, and how?

As many of us know, and science is now recognising too, being out in nature is essential for our health and wellbeing. Not only does time outdoors help us to maintain better mental health, which is essential for children and adults alike, but it also has countless physical benefits too so getting kids outdoors is essential. 

kids outdoors

Sunlight is our main source of Vitamin D, which obviously is more limited at this time of the year, so we need to grab opportunities to get outside during daylight hours. Vitamin D is essential for our immune system and ensuring good bone health too. Also, getting out amongst woodland or out along the coast where the air is cleaner and fresh is a great way to boost your respiratory health as well. 

Time outside naturally aids good restful sleep, which is essential for us all, but especially children who are growing and developing at a fast rate. They are also constantly learning, so need good quality sleep to help them process the new information. By getting children out doors, especially being active outside, will help to calm and settle them into a better sleep pattern. This is also very true of adults too, nothing resets your sleep and wellness like time out in nature.

So we now know why we, and our children, should be outside more, but how do we encourage them out when they are a little reluctant!? 

Spotting Wildlife

deer Sparking an interest in wildlife really helps children to connect with nature. By finding out more about each animal it will encouraging their nurturing side and give a greater respect for wildlife in years to come. With younger children, start with the basic identifications, such as deer, squirrels etc but with older children try getting them to identify a species of deer or whether the animal is young or old for example. This will help with their observation skills which will help them in other ares of life too. So why not get them a notepad to draw or write about what creatures they can see and head out there to explore.

Climbing Trees

This often causes alarm in many parents, but learning to climb trees safely is not only great fun but teaches them about risk while improving their balance and co-ordination. Obviously choose a suitable tree and ensure you are able to reach them if they have a problem, especially with younger children. Trees are like nature’s climbing frames, as long as they concentrate, they can have great fun while being active and learning a new skill.

climbing trees

Balancing

A recent study found that a lot of our play parks don’t have enough variety of equipment to allow our children to develop their balance and co-ordination in a way that they need to. By getting kids outside and exploring in nature, allowing them to jump ditches, balance on logs and climb trees we are doing them a huge favour for years to come. Exploring the environment in this way, at any age, helps to improve body awareness, known as proprioception, which increases agility and reduces the likelihood of injury and falls as they get older. 

Colours & Shapes

autumn leavesThis is a greart activity for kids outdoors, especially the younger ones. Get them to look for as many different colours and shapes while out exploring. A great place to start with this is by looking at the leaves, there are obviously many different shapes and even in winter there are still a variety of colours. This will help them to start to connect with the changing of the seasons, as well as seeing which trees and plants change dramatically in the winter, and which appear to remain the same. 

Puddles

Who doesn’t love jumping in puddles?! Kids of all ages seem to be attracted to puddles, often the muddier the better, so dress them appropriately and let them get fully involved! 

Jumping is an important skill, one that some children at certain ages seem to struggle with, so what better way to practice than into a puddle. Also encourage them to hop into the puddles too, this also helps their balance and co-ordination whilst being nicely distracted by the mud. puddles

Getting kids outdoors and allowing them to get muddy like this helps them to connect with nature and natural materials allowing little ones to explore different textures giving them a sensory learning experience.

Map Reading

Whether you start with a basic map or just follow signs with little ones, or give older children a map and compass, navigation is a great skill to learn and great fun too. It encourages the little ones to take note of their surroundings, to start to learn different methods of finding their way around whilst having fun. map reading

With older children, learning to read maps and use a compass will help them in many situations but also gives them a little responsibility if they are in charge of navigating your adventure. Just keep it fun and light hearted, don’t be hard on them if they get you lost, non of us were born knowing how to read a map. Just ensure that you are able to help them back on track.

The key to having fun outdoors is wearing the right clothing and having the right kit with you. This is even more essential when taking children out as they can’t regulate their temperature as well as adults can and often don’t realise they are starting to get cold until they are very cold. So wrapping them up in layers that you can take on and off when needed, wearing a water proof outer layer along with comfortable, warm, waterproof footwear is essential. 

Also be aware that they will tire quicker than you so be prepared to carry younger ones for a bit, or even better, stop and take regular breaks. This will teach children about what considerations they need to make when out exploring. Teach them about staying warm, being hydrated and keeping fuelled with regular snacks. A great excuse to pack a nice flask of hot chocolate and some marshmallows if you ask me!

 

So get out there and have fun, you are doing your kids a favour, even if they don’t realise it yet. You are helping their physical and mental health and encouraging healthy habits for the future. So get your kids outdoors this winter, teach them some new skills and enjoy!!

kids outdoors

 

Identifying Trees In Winter- A Beginner’s Guide

The most common way to identify trees is by looking at their leaves. We do it without even realizing it, after all, it’s hard to miss the tree’s beautiful green coverage and changing colours into autumn. But how do we identify deciduous trees once their leaves have dropped? Let’s look at how to identify trees in winter, focusing on 10 trees found here in the UK.

Trees In Winter

 

1. Ash

The common Ash grows throughout the UK and is mainly found in deciduous woodland and established hedgerows. When left untouched a fully grown Ash will reach between 35-40m in height. 

Ash leaves fall early in autumn and develop late in spring allowing extra light through to the forest floor which enables other plant species to thrive around them, therefore, providing great habitats for a mixture of wildlife.

Ash has distinctive black buds and upturned grey shoots of new growth, making these great identification features. As you look at each twig you will see a black bud at the end as well as buds growing in opposing pairs. The buds are hairless and have a black shine to them.

Looking at the tree’s bark is also another great way to identify trees in winter, as on closer inspection each species bark does vary more then you might first imagine. The bark of a younger Ash is relatively smooth, yet as the tree matures it develops distinct ridges in a diamond-shaped pattern. Its bark is pale brown-grey in colour darkening with maturity.

2. Oak

Oaks are long-lived trees, often reaching 500 years in age. The English Oak is widely regarded as part of our heritage and is a much loved tree here in the UK. This native tree supports more wildlife species than any other native tree so is essential to support biodiversity. 

An Oak can reach between 30-40m tall, then after reaching its maximum height it actually then shortens a little to increase its lifespan, it is one of the few trees known to do this. Oak Bark

When identifying an Oak in winter look for the rounded buds, they have a series of overlapping bud scales and can be either smooth or slightly hairy at the tip, these bud scales protect the buds during the winter months. The buds are sharply pointed and clustered at the end of each twig, these are known as the terminal buds.

The bark of the younger oak tree is smoother and grey with a hint of green, but as the tree ages the bark darkens and develops deeper furrows often in hexagonal and rectangular patterns.

3. Silver Birch 

The Silver Birch is a distinctive deciduous tree. Deemed to be a medium size tree, the Silver Birch can reach 30m in height at full maturity, forming a light canopy with its drooping branches. These are said to be pioneer trees, meaning they are usually one of the first trees to colonize newly cleared land.Silver Birch

When identifying trees in winter, the bark is a great identication tool, especially in the distinctive Silver Birch. The bark of a Sliver Birch is a distinctive white-silver colour, hence its name, and sheds in paper-like tissue layers. At the base of the tree the bark is darker and more rugged in texture with deepening fissures as the tree ages. Even through the winter months the bark remains light silver in colour so it is a useful identification feature all year round. 

Buds on the Silver Birch are slender and pointed growing up to 4mm in length. They are light brown in colour at their base but area glossy green colour at their tip.

4. Beech

At maturity a common beech tree can reach up to 40m in height with a wide spreading domed shaped canopy. Beech trees can be found amongst woodland or growing as an individual stand alone tree next to a country road. Beech prefer drier well drained soil such as chalk and limestone. 

To help you identify Beech during winter take a careful look at the bark, it is smooth and grey-brown in colour on younger trees, then as the tree ages horizontal etchings appear on the bark that then deepen as the tree matures. 

Through the winter months the beech tree, as with some species of oak trees, actually retains some of their dead leaves. It is thought that this happens to protect the buds and new growth as passing herbivores find the dead leaves unpalatable so leave the tree alone. Beech Nuts

Beech buds are a distinctive sharp pointed shape, usually 1-2cm in length. They grow at even intervals on alternative sides of the twigs and through winter remain coppery-brown color before turning green in spring. 

Another way to help with identifying the beech is to look around the base of the tree, during autumn they provide an abundance of beech nuts that are contained in distinctive casings. They are green when they fall but in the winter these casing will be brown, spiky, slightly triangular in shape and probably empty as they are a firm favourite with the local wildlife and great for foraging too.

5. Hazel 

The Hazel is an important understory tree, providing nuts for wildlife and supporting many forms of lichen. Left un-coppiced Hazel can grow to 12m and last for 80 years, but when coppiced Hazel is said to last for several hundred years. 

During autumn and winter the hazel will have male and female flowers on the same shrub. The male is a long yellow catkin like flower, while the female is much smaller and red in colour. The flowers open in early January before any new growth or shoots appear. The Hazel flowers are wind pollinated with the pollen being blown from the male to the female flowers which then develop into a hazelnut later in the year.

Hazel Buds

Another distinguishing feature of the Hazel is its bark. The Hazel’s bark is smooth and light brown in colour with vibrant yellow pores, these become more distinctive as the tree ages.

6. Sweet Chestnut

The Sweet Chestnut is a deciduous tree which can reach up to 35m in height at full maturity. They are from the same family as the Oak and Beech trees and can live up to an amazing 700 Years.

Sweet Chestnut is said to be one of the easiest trees to identify with its distinctive bark, buds and shoots, and even more distinctive and iconic nuts in autumn. 

Its bark is a grey-purple that becomes darker as the tree ages. As the tree matures the bark fissures deepen and appear to spiral the tree vertically making a distinctive pattern. The twigs are a deeper brown-purple colour with the buds being oval in shape and a deeper plum colour. 

Another aid for identification would be to look under the Sweet Chestnut tree for the remains of the nuts themselves or for the distinctive nut casings. When the nuts first fall they are spherical, have a lot of small slender spikes and a vibrant green. Though not to be mistaken with the Horse Chestnut’s conkers (which are definitely NOT edible) and have fewer but larger spikes. 

Some Chestnuts may remain amongst the casings but these are a very popular nut to forage and are even more popular with the local wildlife. 

sweet chestnuts

7. Sycamore

The broadleaf sycamore can grow up to 35m in height and live for up to 400 years. It provides an ideal habitat and food source for a variety of wildlife, especially aphids. The sycamore is thought to have been introduced to the UK by the Romans and is now established as a common sight in the UK. These trees can thrive on a range of sites and soil types but grow in similar locations to the Ash though they are a little more hardy to frost.

When identifying trees in winter, take a look at the Sycamore’s bark, it is a distinctive pink-grey colour and smooth on the younger tree. As the tree ages the bark becomes darker and cracked producing peeling layers that shed. 

sycamore bark

The tree’s buds are egg shaped and green in colour, growing to 0.5-1cm in size. The buds on the Sycamore grow opposite each other in opposing pairs.

8.Crack Willow

The Crack Willow is one of the larger species of Willow, but a relatively smaller deciduous tree compared to other native species reaching just 20m at maturity. It has a short thick trunk and develops a rounded crown canopy. 

This Willow is often described as scruffy and loud due to its ability to split and crack on a regular basis. The Crack Willow gets its name from the loud cracking sound it makes as its branches break, it is a distinctive and louder noise compared to other trees. Willow Buds

As the tree ages its bark, which is a lighter brown in a younger tree, becomes a darker brown and has many distinctive fissures that deepen with age. The twigs are a shiny yellow-brown and are slender in shape but these also make a distinctive crack sound when snapped. The buds grow tight into the twigs and are a similar yellow brown colour to the twigs.

9. Hornbeam

The lesser-known, yet surprisingly common Hornbeam is said to be a tough and mighty tree. This deciduous broadleaf can live up to 300 years old and reach up to 30m at maturity. 

HornbeamSimilar to some Beech trees, the younger Hornbeam trees hold on to some dead leaf coverage in the winter months, it is thought that this helps to protect new growth from grazing herbivores as they find the dead leaves inedible. Hornbeam

The Hornbeam’s bark is pale grey in colour with a slight silvery sheen, darkening slightly with age. Its vertical fissures become more distinctive as the tree ages. The twigs are a more brown-grey colour with a covering of fine hairs. Buds on the Hornbeam are very similar to that of a Beech but are slightly more slender and remain close to the stem.

10. Elm

The English Elm is usually found in hedgerows or amongst deciduous woodland. It is thought that this tree was introduced here by our ancestors from the Bronze Age. 

In the woodland environment, this tree can reach 35m in height and can live up to 100 years. The Elm used to be one of the most common trees here in England, but back in the 1960’s the English Elm was hit by the Dutch Elm Disease which has led to a drastic decline in numbers, so you may just have to look a little harder these days but they are still out there. 

As with other deciduous trees, during the winter months when the Elm has dropped its leaves you can identify the tree by taking a closer look at the bark and buds. Its bark is dark brown in colour with a hint of grey and very rough in texture with distinctive fissures that deepen with age. The Elm’s twigs are slender with fine hairs to help protect the new growth. These hairs give reddish-brown colour to the twigs and buds which grow above each leaf scar.

Buds In Winter

So this winter as you head out into the woods, or exploring across fields and parklands stop and take note of the trees that you find. Take a look and compare the differences in their bark and buds, note their differences and see which trees you can identify this winter. 

Our Favourite Expedition Snacks

Whether you are on a canoe expedition, on bike or on foot, if you are exerting yourself for longer periods, particularly if in extreme weather conditions, then your body will require extra nutritional support to keep you fuelled so lets look at some tasty expedition snacks.. 

Expedition SnacksIf you are not fully hydrated and fuelled when on expedition you can become a liability to your team and to yourself. This is when mistakes are likely to happen , injuries are more likely to occur and illness is more likely to strike, so stay hydrated and fuelled.

Though you also don’t want to be carrying a full supermarket with you! So as well as your planned meals, whether you opt for dehydrated ration packs or boil in the bag options let’s also take a look at ideal snacks to take too.

 

Due to your increased energy expenditure you’ll need to increase the calorie content of your food, so energy dense foods are best. Opting for nutritious energy dense foods should provide the extra calories and nutrients you need without taking up too much of your kit space or increasing the weight you need to carry too much. 


  1. Nuts

Expedition NutritionHigh in protein and healthy fats nuts provide a great lightweight, palatable snack that are easy to eat on the move and a popular choice with some of our team and a favourite expedition snack here at Wildway. With such a variety of nuts available you can find ones that meet your personal taste (unless you have a nut allergy of course, in which case, skip to snack 2!). Each type of nut varies in nutritional value but most are high in energy providing B Vitamins and immune boosting Zinc.


  1. Dried Fruit

Expedition SnacksLow energy dense foods are high in water so it makes sense that high energy dense foods are low in water. Dried fruit is a good example of this, fresh fruit is obviously packed with nutrients but a lower calorific content, by opting for a dried fruit option you will have a higher energy snack but still with a good vitamin content. Find a dried fruit that you enjoy, they are usually light to carry and don’t take up much room.


  1. Jerky

Jerky is lean trimmed meat, dehydrated and often with the addition of salt to prevent bacterial growth and spoiling of the meat. If you are a meat eater this is another light weight snack that will provide you a lean snack high in protein. Easy to carry, with a range of flavours this is often a popular choice as a protein source on the go, especially amongst the team.


  1. Flapjacks

Flapjacks, whether homemade or shop bought, provide a great easy to carry energy dense expedition snack. Obviously when making your own you can tailor make them to your taste and nutritional needs. By adding in dried fruit you can increase the palatability and carbohydrate content and adding in nuts and seeds will give a slower release energy as well as much needed protein. 

Flapjacks


  1. Chocolate

Usually as part of a healthy balanced diet chocolate is a food that should be limited due to its high level of refined sugar and saturated fat, but lets face it, when away on expedition battling the elements nothing lifts the spirits like a hot drink and a bar of chocolate. This tasty and portable snack will give you a high calorie hit and a fast boost of quick release carbohydrate. High Calorie Expedition Snack

Dark chocolate is also known for its mood boosting and cardiovascular benefiting nutrients so the healthier option is dark chocolate but don’t over look the tasty milk chocolate kick to lift your spirits when away exploring.


  1. Cheese

Nutritionally speaking, a good source of calorie dense food are full fat dairy products, such as cheese. Many people opt for this high fat savoury snack as a source of calories on expedition but just a word of warning, it’s not as portable as other snacks and careful how you pack it, especially in warm weather! Cheese not only provides you a good source of fats but protein too along with energy boosting Vitamin B12 and immune boosting Zinc. So this humble dairy product might not be for everyone when on expedition but it certainly deserves a place on our list.  

So when you’re heading out on your next adventure don’t overlook this humble snacks to boost your calorie intake. Adventure

Top 5 Edible Autumn Nuts

As well as a large selection of fruits growing in our woodlands at this time of year, we also shouln’t over look the amount of edile nuts avaliable for autumn foraging.

Nuts are a great source of protein and high in valuable nutrients, so if we can forage them straight from the source we’d be crazy not to indulge.

Obviously as with any foraging we need to ensure we have the landowner’s permission to be there, even if it is only for your personal consumption. Be sure you are confident of your tree identification too before foraging for nuts and if unsure, don’t risk it. 

 Be careful not to trample and destroy essential habitats for the local wildlife and be sure not to take all of the nuts for yourself, they are a valuable food source for the local wildlife. Being high in energy these are invaluable for animals heading in to winter.

Sweet Chestnuts- sweet chestnuts

Sweet Chestnut trees have been here in the UK since they were introduced by the Romans. The sweet chestnuts, not to be mistaken with the NON edible horse chestnuts, are encased in small spikes green globes that fall from the trees when ripe in October. 

Chestnuts can be eaten raw from the tree in small amounts, but it is found that larger amounts will cause gastrointestinal distress due to their high levels of tannic acid. So it is advised to cook these before eating.

Unlike many other nuts, chestnuts are actually low in healthy fats but are high in Vitamin C and some B Vitamins. 

Once removed from the spiky outer green shell chestnuts can be cooked by either boiling or cooking in the microwave, but are by far at their best when toasted on the fire. 

First rinse under water to remove any insects or dirt, then with the tip of your knife score a cross in to the brown shell. Now place the nuts on to the upturned lid of a dutch oven or an iron pan placing the flat side of the nut face down to ensure good heat transfer into the chestnut. Then roast over the fire for approximately 5 minutes before turning the nuts over to roast on the other side. Once roasted, remove the pan from the fire and leave for 2-3 minutes to cool a little before removing the brown shell to reveal the light brown roasted chestnuts, and enjoy!

Beech Nuts- edible nuts

Underneath beech trees in autumn you will find small spiky pods containing triangular brown nuts, these are the edible beech nuts and a great nut to farage in autumn. In very small amount beech nuts can be eaten raw but this can lead to digestive upsets if too many are eaten, this is due to the nuts containing the toxin saponin glycoside. Determining whether you have had too many can be very personal to you, it seems everyone can tolerate different amounts, so if you are eating them raw proceed with caution. By roasting the beech nuts not only do you improve their flavour but the heat also breaks down the toxin enabling you to eat more, safely. 

Beech nuts contain 20% protein and 50% monounsaturated fat, so a great source of energy and protein while on expedition in the autumn months or for foraging to take home.

Roasting beech nuts is very similar to roasting chestnuts, apart from removing the outer casing is easier as it is far less spiky than the sweet chestnut. These nuts are also smaller than the chestnuts so can be roasted in minutes. Simply score the brown shell of the triangular shaped nut then roast over the heat moving the beech nuts around in the pan regularly. Once roasted, leave to cool for a few minutes before peeling to remove the papery skin. It is said the best way to enjoy these is to toss them in melted butter, add a little salt and enjoy warm. 

Pine Nuts- 

roasted pine nutsAll types of pine trees produce pine nuts but some species produce larger nuts than others. Trees over the age of 15 start to produce pine nuts with their yield increasing as they age. 

The pine nuts are found within the pine cones and can often be removed by simply shaking the cone if they have opened naturally, as long as you’ve got there before the squirrels that is! Or if the cones you’ve found are still closed then they will slowly open if you leave them next to the fire for a day or two, then they will open enough for the pine nuts to be shaken out. 

Pine nuts can be eaten raw but are also great toasted over the fire or added to other dishes, such as pesto. 

To get the best flavour it is best to toast the nuts while still in their brown shell. Once toasted leave to cool for a few minutes to avoid burning your fingers while removing the shells. To do this simply roll the toasted pine nuts with a rolling pin/jar/water bottle with increasing pressure until the shells split. They can be removed to reveal the toasted pine nuts. Start with a light pressure to avoid just squashing them all. 

Pine nuts have great nutritional value when eaten raw or cooked. They aid cardiovascular health due to their high levels of monounsaturated fatty acids and fat soluble vitamins. So although they are lower in protein than the beech nut they still pack a nutritional punch and can be enjoyed at home or away in the woods.

Hazelnuts- 

foraged hazelnutsEarly autumn is the best time for foraging nuts but especially hazelnuts, though be mindful not to take them all as they are valuable food for wildlife going into winter.

You won’t have to look far for Hazel trees as they grow commonly through out the UK. They can often be found growing in hedgerows but areas of deciduous woodland are where they are commonly found.     

The hazelnuts can easily be identified by the green leaf cups that encase each individual nut. The nuts usually grow in small clusters of 2-3 nuts and are a pale milky colour when they are still on the tree or have only just fallen. The nuts will fall to the ground in abundance, so foraging after a strong wind will increase your chances of finding a good amount. You’ll have to move quickly though as they are a firm favourite for the local squirrel population! 

The humble hazelnut can be eaten raw or roasted. Simply remove the green leaf casing along with the brown outer shell, then enjoy. 

If you prefer them roasted, simply spread your peeled hazelnuts on to an iron pan over the fire. Move them around the pan regularly to help them roast evenly. Length of roasting time will depend on the size, freshness and moisture content of the hazelnuts. Once roasted enjoy them as they are or add some seasoning of your choice, we found honey works well.

Hazelnuts are high in dietary fibre, protein and a good source of Vitamin E. They are said to benefit cardiovascular health too as well as aiding muscle recovery, so get foraging!

Walnuts

raw walnutsThe best places to look for walnut trees here in the UK are areas of waste ground, hedgerows and areas of untouched woodland. Smaller trees may be present in the hedge line but left feral the trees can grow up to 50 metres in height. 

Walnuts can be found on the trees from mid September but are said to be at their best in October when the nuts start to fall. The outer casing of a walnut is bright green in colour and spherical. The bright green globes can be up to 4cm in diameter and look like the outer casing of a conker without its spikes, so be sure you don’t get them confused. 

When foraged, remove the outer green casing, it is advised you wear gloves for this part as this stage can cause staining to your skin. Inside you will find the familiar brown shell of the walnut. At this stage it is best to leave them to dry for a few days at air temperature, or to speed up the process put them next to the fire. 

The tough brown shell can then be cracked to reveal the actual walnut itself. Fresh from the shell they are soft and light brown in colour and will look like two halves of a brain. They can then be toasted or left to dry until they are darker in colour and the crunchy nut you may be more familiar with.

Walnuts, like most other nuts, are high in monounsaturated fats which are found to support cardiovascular health. These nuts are also high in protein as well as a good source of Selenium, Zinc and energy boosting B Vitamins. 

With all of these accessible wild nuts to choose from, all of them packing a nutritional punch it’s no wonder the squirrels love them so much! Be considerate to the wildlife, but get out there and enjoy autumn’s bounty. 

edible autumn nuts

 Top 10 Fruit to Forage This Autumn

As the summer draws to a close the early autumn brings some exciting fruit to forage. Obviously before helping yourself to nature’s bounty you need to ensure you have the landowner’s permission and remember to forage responsibly, after all, fruits, berries and nuts are essential food for our local wildlife too as well as an exciting find for us. Also be sure you are confident in your tree and plant identification, take an identification book with you for back up if you are not an experienced forager. It’s always best to double check, even the most hardened forager will refer back to their books sometimes too.

Which fruits can be foraged in Autumn?

1. Blackberries

 Blackberries

Blackberries

The humble blackberry is an iconic fruit here in the UK and can be eaten fresh from the plant or added to many puddings or jams. These berries are probably the easiest to find out of all foraged fruits as the bramble bushes can grow and survive almost anywhere. Blackberries are usually found in  hedgerows and woodland areas, but even local parks and wasteland will be home to many bramble bushes too. These juicy little gems are a perfect introduction when foraging for fruit but as well as being tasty and easy to find they also pack a nutritional punch. These popular foraged fruits are high in many essential nutrients such as Vitamins A,C and E as well as potassium, magnesium and calcium so definitely worth indulging in. 

2. Hawthorn Berries

Hawthorn Berries

Hawthorn Berries

The vivid red haw berries of the hawthorn tree ripen in September here in the UK. This robust plant is often used to line boundaries of farmland but also grows deep in the British woodland too. The young leaves, flower buds and  berries are all edible, but only their red berries with yellow flesh will be found at this time of year. 

The hawthorn has been used for centuries for its health benefits, traditionally believed to be a potent heart tonic said to balance blood pressure. These berries are also loaded with antioxidants which in recent lab studies have been found to have strong anti inflammatory properties.

Eaten raw the haws have a tart sweetness but can be cooked up into jams and sauces or dried into fruit leather or tea. 

3. Rosehips

Fruits to forage

Rosehips

Rosehips are the edible fruit from the wild rose, or dog rose as its often called. These foraged fruits have long been used for their medicinal benefits  and in Greek history it stated the dog rose got its name because its fruit, the rosehip, could cure the wound from a rabid dog bite. 

Following the distinctive flower of summer rosehips are usually ripe for foraging from mid September to December, depending on our weather. Many hardened foragers recommend waiting until after the first frost to forage these fruit. It is said that the frost breaks down the cellulose cell wall of the fruit to give you a juicier tender fruit. If we have a late frost this can be replicated by leaving them in the freezer for 24 hours before cooking.

It is not advised to eat the whole forged fruit straight from the plant due to the protective hairs that surround the seeds, they are found to be an irritant if ingested. 

To eat the fruit it is advised to split the fruit in half, clean out the seeds and surrounding pith and then the flesh and juice can then be consumed. Rosehips are commonly made into syrup which has been used for generations to treat coughs and colds due to the high levels of antioxidants. Rosehips were widely gathered and consumed during the second world war and encouraged to be people’s main source of vitamin C due to the shortage of other vitamin C rich food such as citrus fruits and the high levels found in the  rosehips. These foraged fruits can also be made into jams and sauces as well as dried to make tea, but its syrup form is deemed to have the most health benefits.

4. Elderberries

Elderberries

Elderberries

After the flourish of edible creamy white flowers through the summer the Elder Tree then produces bunches of small dark purple berries. These little  powerhouse berries pack a huge punch packed full of immune boosting Vitamin C and energy providing Vitamin B’s. These juicy berries are commonly consumed in the form of syrup or supplement form to help conquer colds, coughs and flu as well as to relieve minor headaches. 

Eaten raw these berries can cause nausea and gut irritation so it is highly recommended to cook these little gems before consuming. As well as in syrup form these dark purple gems can be made into berry based jams, puddings or cooked and strained to make juice.

5. Bullace

Bullace

Bullace

A sub species of the wild plum, the Bullace looks like an overgrown sloe, spherical and deep purple in colour, not to be mistaken for the closely related oval shaped Damson. 

Bullace have become rare but can still be found in UK hedgerows and in some woodlands where they grow into small trees rather than remaining a  small shrub.    

These increasingly rare fruits are usually ripe around October and have a distinct plum like flavour, though slightly more acidic. These fruit can be eaten straight from the tree but also go well in pies, tarts and jams. The Bullace, just like its plum relative, has been found to aid digestion due to their high levels of dietary fibre as well as containing immune boosting vitamin C.

6. Sloes

Fruits to forage - sloes

Sloes

Sloes are the fabulous fruit from the mighty blackthorn and are commonly found in woodland and hedgerows across the UK. This hardy plant can spread quickly and often large thickets can be found intertwined with other hedgerow plants. 

Due to the early flowering of this plant, our weather between early March to  late April will determine the abundance of this crop. If we have a mild spring with a little rain and plenty of sun then it’s expected that you can forage a bumper crop from August into November. 

Sloes are traditionally used to make Sloe Gin, Vodka or wine though many sloe jam recipes can also be found. 

Though the fruit is high in Vitamin C & E it isn’t clear if the nutritional value remains so high having been steeped in gin for the winter, sadly.

7. Rowan Berries

Rowan berries are the small acidic fruits of the Rowan Tree/Mountain Ash. It is not definitively known whether the berries are toxic when eaten raw in small quantities though it is said that consuming more than a few can lead to gut irritation so the advice would be to freeze or cook them first as the toxicity is then reduced from extreme cold or heat. 

These bright red berries are most commonly eaten in jams, marmalades and sauces to accompany rich meat such as game. The vibrant little berries are found to be high in Vitamin C, sorbic acid and dietary fibre. Higher levels of sorbic acid mean that these foraged fruits have higher antibacterial properties compared to may other wild berries. 

Rowan trees can be seen in woodland, parkland and commonly on roadsides. These berries ripen from late summer and can be harvested into autumn, though as with all foraged fruits, don’t take them all as the local wildlife need them as a food source too.

8. Crab Apples

fruit to forage crab apples

Crab Apples

The crab apple tree is a common tree in England and dates back to the Neolithic Era here in the UK. Sadly it doesn’t grow as well in Scotland and Wales but some trees can still be found there.  

The small apple shaped fruit are usually no bigger than 3cm in diameter and are either yellow, green or red in colour. The crab apples can be foraged from mid August well into October, depending on the summer weather. 

These wild fruits still have a distinct apple flavour though are often too tart to eat raw but are amazing once cooked. Just like many foraged fruits at this time of year they are a great addition to puddings and sauces. Also due to their naturally high pectin levels they are excellent for jam making. These mighty fruits also pack high levels of tannins and acids necessary for fermenting the fruit into cider, extra sweetness will be needed due to their tart flavour but it will be worth the extra sugar to produce crab apple cider. 

Crab apples have also been found to have a high nutritional value containing good levels of Vitamin C and B12 along with calcium and magnesium so keep your eyes peeled for these often overlooked fruits when foraging. 

9. Whitebeam Berries

A close relative to the Rowan the Whitebeam is a broadleaf deciduous tree mainly found in Southern England. The small bright orangey-red Whitebeam berries are sometimes known as chess apples and strangely are deemed to be at their best when they are wrinkly and nearly rotten, though its advised to eat them cooked rather than fresh from the tree. 

These trees are said to be a rare find in true woodland these days but can be found in parkland and when you find one the berries can be picked at their wrinkly best in early Autumn. Be mindful not to harvest the whole crop as these berries are valuable food for the local wildlife, and you might not be the only person foraging in that area.

As with many foraged fruits these berries are at their best added to hedgerow jams or as sauces to accompany meat. 

10. Wild Raspberries

When foraging fruit in late summer into early autumn you might be lucky enough to find a patch of wild raspberries. These can be found in mixed woodland, hedgerows and wasteland. The unripe fruit are often mistaken for unripe blackberries but by simply studying the difference in leaf shapes and noticing the larger thorns on the bramble bush then the difference should be clear.

The berries ripen in late summer lasting into early autumn, depending on the weather and these can be enjoyed at their best, straight from the plant at their freshest. Eating just one cup of fresh raspberries provides you with 50% of your daily Vitamin C requirements, along with 12% Vitamin K, 6% of your folate, 5% of your Vitamin E as well as being high in iron and potassium. These berries can be cooked into many dishes too, but personally I think these are definitely at their best fresh from the plant

As with all foraged edibles be respectful not to take the whole crop for yourself so you can share your find with the local wildlife who rely on it for their survival.  Also be mindful to not trample their habitats too. 

So head on out and explore to see what you can forage at this time of year in your local area. Then you pick, cook and brew, but most of all, enjoy! 

  

No doubt you have heard the phrase “leave no trace” and such like. The aim of such sayings, of course, is to leave a place in the same state as you found it.  Normally people apply this to their campsite, clearing up their fire scar and taking home all the litter they brought in.

An impossible task

This, and I am sure you will agree is the least you should do. However the more I think about this little phrase “leave no trace’ the more it seems an impossible task. As soon as my saw cuts a sapling to make a peg for a tarp, I have left my mark. Leave no trace also seems, to me at least, to fly in the face of the other well-known phrase of “The more you know the less you carry”. A phase often spouted at people with huge backpacks new to Bushcraft carrying more kit then they will ever need. By applying these phrases without thinking about the bigger impact on the natural environment leads people into the trap. 

For example; I know how to make a tent peg in the woods with my knife and saw, so I won’t carry tent pegs – This fits perfectly with the know more carry less. So when I head to the woods put up my tarp and make my peg, I have left my trace.

Wider impacts

The same with stoves. You might think that by having a metal stove which raises your fire off the ground is better for the natural environment and helps you leave no trace. Surely though it is far better to have that fire on the ground, well managed and cleared away than to buy something that has been made overseas shipped halfway across the world. I’d argue that the stove has far more on an impact on our planet then your little fire will ever do.

True ethos of leave no trace

Which leads me nicely onto my next point. To truly appreciate, understand and respect something you must participate fully with it. We’re not talking about a quick stroll round the woods here folks. We’re talking about Bushcraft, Wilderness Living. What we’re talking about the world we inhabit and its wild places and our connection to them. The notion that one can somehow spend a week, a weekend, a night in the woods or any wild place without leaving a trace is not only wrong but extremely misguided. Leave a trace, leave your mark. We all do. But make yours a single coppice shoot from that hazel stool, a handful of cobnuts, a few pine needles. If you’re there for a week,  make a stool so you have a comfortable place to sit. You might find that by gathering, making, and using things from your surrounding environment you not only gain immense satisfaction, but also a new understanding of what is necessary and the true value of things. That camping stool made from polluting plastic polymers doesn’t seem so comfortable after a while.

Too idealistic?

Some will argue that all this is very idealistic and lovely, but with such an overpopulated nation if we all went out and took a few cob nuts, pine needles, and that hazel branch there wouldn’t be much left for anyone to enjoy afterward. While I appreciate fully that there are places so sensitive and important that they need very strict protection; I am not talking about those places. What I am talking about is the in-between places. The hidden stream amongst the willows on Dartmoor. The perfect camp between the gnarled pines in the Cairngorms. The vast secluded coppices of Sussex. All we need is more respect and understanding of these places. I don’t want to live in a world where the wild is a place we observe whilst sticking to the way-marked path. The only way we can truly protect wild places is by them meaning something to us.  Without direct participation in those places, without its dirt under our fingernails, its fruits in our stomach, its deadwood keeping us warm and its leaves keeping us dry, I fail to see how we will ever really care or understand enough to protect them.

To wrap it up

What I am trying to get at is to follow these sayings without thinking about the larger scale or bigger picture is the wrong way to go. We should be thinking more about balancing these two opposing phases, maybe a better phrase would be – just because we can, does not mean we should! I carry tent pegs so I don’t cut trees when wild camping, I have my fires on the ground which I then clean up. I’ve learned a little about trees and woodlands and how they grow, so my understanding of what I can take and what I should not is improved. I source my carving wood from fallen trees, snapped limbs or even the local tree surgeons. Tapping birch can be done by just a small pruning cut on a branch rather than boring in to the tree with a drill!

Source you’re kit from people in the UK who make things by hand in small batches. Yes, you may pay more, but I can assure you it will last so much longer and be more of a joy to use than any cheap mass produced equipment will ever be. Even better, make it yourself, or at least have a go. Then you might just appreciate why these things cost what they do.  This is where “Leave no trace should be changed to leave as little trace as possible. Go out enjoy the wild places, that’s what they are there for and next time you head to the woods think about the bigger environmental impact and now because you know more maybe you will carry that little extra!

Summer is well and truly here and with it comes an increase in popularity of the humble bivvy bag. While an option in winter many, perhaps understandably prefer to stick to tents. When it comes to summer, however, there’s not a lot that can beat the experience of sleeping out in a bivvy bag.

In this blog, we’re going to look at the benefits of the bivvy, run through a few options of bivvy bags and then provide you with a description of the bivvy experience that you can have on one of our weekend bushcraft courses.

As always, please feel to read the whole blog or skip to the section that interests you the most.

Benefits of the bivvy

In this section, we’re going to take a look at the benefits of the bivvy. Keep in mind though that these are just our opinions, everyone experiences the outdoors in different ways.  

Sleep anywhere in a bivvy bag
Sleep anywhere

A bivvy bag gives you the ability to sleep in places where you just couldn’t pitch a tent. Tuck up behind the rocks close to the summit of the mountain or relax, on your inflatable mat, and in your bivvy bag on a stretch of beach.

 

A word on sleeping anywhere

A word on sleeping anywhere, wild camping is illegal in England and Wales outside of Dartmoor, although it may be unofficially tolerated elsewhere. If you do choose to go bivvying on Dartmoor, elsewhere in England/Wales or in Scotland then make sure that you have the skills to leave absolutely no trace. Your presence should not impact on the environment in any way, leave your campsite as you found it and carry out all rubbish – even if it isn’t yours.

 

Experience the outside

As great as tents are, and they certainly have their place, they do place a barrier between you and the environment. With a bivvy bag though, no such barrier exists. You can remain warm, and most importantly dry, inside your sleeping bag, inside your bivvy bag, while totally immersed in nature, watching the stars as you fall asleep.


Lightweight

We will look at the weight of bivvy bags in the next section but generally speaking they are lighter than a tent. What is certain is that at the lower end of the market a bivvy bag will weigh in much, much lighter than a tent. What this means is that your overall kit weight is lower, helping you to make up more miles during the day.  

 

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Sleep anywhere bushcraft bivvy


Which bivvy bag is for you?

Ah outdoors kit, always a topic that generates a lot of discussions. The opinions in this blog are just that, opinions. Each person will have their own preferences when it comes to kit and decisions can really only be made with experience. Also, no one piece of kit will do for all situations, the demands on your kit in a summer in the UK are going to be very different from the demands of a Canadian winter. One final point of note,  Wildway Bushcraft do not benefit from any of these companies or products – we don’t make any money if you chose to buy one!

  • Snugpak
    Snugpak have a, deservedly, good reputation in the outdoors world. Their bivvy bag is great from the UK weather. It weighs in at 300 grams, is fully waterproof and breathable. The standard version measures 228 cm long though an extra large version is available. It retails for around £70.
    https://www.snugpak.com/outdoor/bivvi-bag
  • Alpkit
    Alpkit’s Hunka and Hunka XL are fully waterproof and breathable bivvy bags weighing in at 330 grams and 490 grams respectively. The XL measures 235 cm in length while the standard measures 215 cm. The Hunka retails for around £48 while the XL goes for £65.
    https://www.alpkit.com/products/hunka-xl
  • Rab Survival Zone Bivvy
    The Survival Zone bivvy bag from Rab weighs in at a very light 422 grams and measures 240cm in length. Fully waterproof and breathable with a very small pack size the Rab Survival Zone retails from near enough £95 making it one of the most expensive on this list.
    https://rab.equipment/uk/survival-zone-bivi
  • Ex-Army
    Army surplus bivvy bags, British and Dutch seem to be popular, are a very cost-effective way to start your bivvying adventures.  Hooped bivvys, that is bivvy bags with one short pole forming a half-hoop over the head in order to create more space in the bag, are popular design styles in this genre. There is a huge range of army surplus bivvy bags out there and price, weight, and quality vary hugely. Go and visit your nearest army surplus store for a better understanding of what would suit you.

LEARN HOW TO USE AN AXE, BUILD SHELTERS, LIGHT FIRES AND MORE ON OUR IOL ACCREDITED WEEKEND BUSHCRAFT COURSE.

Canoe the river Spey bivvy on its banks on our bushcraft course


Bivvying on our weekend course

The first thing to note is that our weekend bushcraft course is not a survival exercise. If there is anything that you’re uncomfortable with just let one of our instructors know, likewise you are free to bring a tent to sleep in to help you get accustomed to the woods or to go the whole hog and sleep out under the stars. So, what can you expect, it terms of bivvying, on our weekend bushcraft course?

Our first evening in the woods

On the first evening of our weekend bushcraft course, you will be given the chance to sleep, in your bivvy bag, under a tarp. This will not only get you accustomed to our woods but it will also give you a chance to learn about and practice your camp set-up. Most importantly though, it will give you a night out under the stars (visibility of stars not guaranteed.)

Building your own shelter

The second evening of our weekend bushcraft course will, among many, many other things, give you a chance to sleep out in a shelter that you have built yourself. This is a great opportunity to sleep out without a tarp, close to a fire, truly in amongst nature.

Bushcraft course build your own shelter

Bushcraft, not survival

At Wildway Bushcraft, we teach bushcraft, not survival. We’re all about living in harmony with nature not about overcoming it.  That’s why our weekend bushcraft courses focus on your learning if there is anything that you’re uncomfortable with, let our instructors know and they will do their best to help you. So, if you would rather sleep in a tent than under a tarp, that’s okay with us.

LEARN HOW TO USE AN AXE, BUILD SHELTERS, LIGHT FIRES AND MORE ON OUR IOL ACCREDITED WEEKEND BUSHCRAFT COURSE.

 

Kit

We’ve already mentioned quite a few bivvy bags that might suit your needs, what follows here is a list of other kit that you might find useful when bivvying out in the woods.

  • Fallkniven DC4
    Fallkniven DC4
    This diamond/ceramic whetstone is perfect for use in the field.  

    https://www.fallkniven.com/en/knife/dc4/ 
  • Knife 
    Bushcraft knife Bear BladesWildway Bushcraft uses Bear Blades.
    “Constructed from superb quality D2 steel this knife is ideal for bushcraft and wood crafting. Our most popular knife due to its versatility and functionality, suited to tough daily use in the woods.”
    http://bearblades.co.uk/   
  • Gransfors Bruk Small Forest Axe

    Bushcraft axe

    Copyright Gransfors Bruk
    https://www.gransforsbruk.com/en/product/gransfors-small-forest-axe/

     

    Wildway Bushcraft use a small forest axe from Gransfors Bruk. You can find out more information about Gransfors Bruk via the link below.
    https://www.gransforsbruk.com/en/product/gransfors-small-forest-axe/ 

 

Further reading

Use the directional arrows to navigate other posts that might be of interest.

 

 

LEARN HOW TO USE AN AXE, BUILD SHELTERS, LIGHT FIRES AND MORE ON OUR IOL ACCREDITED WEEKEND BUSHCRAFT COURSE.

Foraging for All the Family

Bushcraft is something that is open to all the family, and foraging is a great place to introduce bushcraft skills to younger children. Remember the golden rule of foraging though – NEVER EAT ANYTHING UNLESS YOU’VE POSITIVELY IDENTIFIED IT AS SAFE. This rule needs to be stressed even more if you’re introducing children to foraging, driving home the importance not to eat anything unless they’ve shown it to an adult first.

As always, feel free to read the whole blog or skip to the section that interests you the most.

Read on to learn more about foraging for all the family.

family bushcraft course from Wildway Bushcraft course

Legalities of foraging in the UK 

First, we’re going to take a look at the legalities and ethics behind foraging in the United Kingdom.

Foraging in England, Wales, and Northern Ireland

Foraging in England, Wales and Northern Ireland is governed by a set of laws and also ethics. Provided that the food you are foraging is not on private land and therefore you’re not trespassing, then you can forage food provided that it is not for commercial purposes.  The Theft Act of 1968 states, “A person who picks mushrooms growing wild on any land, or who picks flowers, fruit or foliage from a plant growing wild on any land, does not (although not in possession of the land) steal what he picks, unless he does it for reward or for sale or other commercial purposes.”

However, the Wildlife and Countryside Act of 1981 states that it is illegal to uproot plants without the land owner’s permission.  It is also illegal to forage and uproot plants in areas of special scientific interest.

Foraging in Scotland

The legalities around foraging in Scotland are covered by the outdoor access code. Like England, Wales and Ireland though it is illegal to forage on sites of special scientific interest. For more information please see the Scottish outdoor access code, this is also a great resource for understanding the legalities surrounding wild camping.

That’s the legalities out of the way. 


Learn how to make natural cordage, light a fire, build a shelter and much more on our weekend bushcraft course.
Click here to learn more.

Bushcraft course from Wildway Bushcraft

Foraging as a family

Foraging as a family is not only a fantastic activity, getting you outside and into the fresh air. Like many bushcraft skills, it can give you and your family a wider understanding of, and a deeper connection to, nature.  Foraging as a family begins with…

Understanding the foods available to forage

The ability to forage for food as a family (even on a minor scale) is based upon the foods available. This, of course, is dictated by the area in which you live. To begin understanding the foods available for you to forage in the UK it is worth asking around, looking for foraging groups that might be available or purchasing a guidebook. The Woodland Trust also has an excellent online section about foraging – find out more here. We will look at the types of food available to forage later but first…

A word of warning on children and foraging

It’s great to get children involved in foraging but, it goes without saying, that you make it absolutely clear that they are not to eat anything that has not been identified as edible by an adult.

Choosing a spot to forage

The spot that you choose to forage in will largely be dictated by two factors – what land is available for your use and what type of food are you hoping to find? The latter will, of course, be largely driven by the season.

In terms of land, some of the best places to forage in the UK are in hedgerows and woodland, luckily enough most of us are not too far away from either.

Commonly available UK food for foraging 

At this time of year in the UK, the earth is starting to shake off winter and the first signs of spring are emerging. What follows is obviously not an exhaustive list of foragables in the UK at this time of year but rather a highlight of some of the most commonly found spring plants.

Dandelion (Taraxacum officinale) 

Dandelions are very commonly found throughout the UK. What most people don’t realise is that they are edible. The plant (all of it) can be eaten raw or cooked and make an excellent addition to salads.

Nettles (Urtica dioica)

Stinging nettles might be one of the UK’s most prevalent plants. While they are well known for stinging the unaware they also make good tea. Make sure that you wear gloves when picking them and aim to pick the tips, these are the tastiest bits.

Children and foraging 

Here are a few top tips on how to get children involved in foraging. Remember though that children must understand not to eat anything that has not been identified as safe by an adult. With that in mind here are our tips…

Build an understanding of where food comes from

At the basis of foraging is a close connection with where our food comes from. It’s important for children to understand this harmony with the wild and the fact that salad doesn’t naturally come pre-washed and bagged.
This understanding will not only help children overcome any worries that they might have about eating food, identified as safe, but it will also teach a respect of nature. After all, bushcraft at its heart is about being in harmony with nature. 

Get the books out

Like most things in life, foraging is best learned with a mixture of theory and practical knowledge. Get the books out with your children and run through the pictures together of edible plants that you are likely to encounter out in the wild. Run through the key features of these plants, what distinguishes them from surrounding plants and any similarities that they may share with inedible plants that you might also find.

Incorporate wild foods into everyday life

Foraging doesn’t have to be about being totally self-sufficient, it’s highly debatable whether that is even possible in the UK. Rather, it can be about incorporating wild foods into everyday foods. Go out and see what you can find that can be incorporated into a salad or stir-fry at home. By adding in wild foods to those that you are eating at home you help to break down the barrier between foods that children might consider ‘wild’ and those they consider ‘normal’.

Further information 

Here’s some more information for people that are looking to get into foraging as a family.

Our recommended book

Written by Wildway Bushcraft founder and director John Boe along with Owen Senior, Bushcraft – A Family Guide and Adventure in the Great Outdoors  is a great resource for families looking to get, not only into foraging but also into bushcraft.

Other blogs that you might like

To learn more about foraging check out:


Learn how to make natural cordage, light a fire, build a shelter and much more on our
weekend bushcraft course.
Click here to learn more.

Weekend bushcraft course

There is little better than getting away from it all and paddling the rivers of beautiful Scotland. However, knowing what to pack for a long canoe trip (and keeping your kit dry) can be a difficult undertaking. In this latest blog, we’re going to show you how to decide what to pack and how to keep it dry.


Fancy canoeing the wilds of Scotland? Then our River Spey  expedition is for you.
Click here for more details and to book your place on this once in a lifetime trip.


Please feel free to read the whole blog or click on the links below to take you to the relevant section.

Packing for a long distance canoe trip – clothing

Packing clothing long distance canoe trip
Correct clothing is essential for any outdoor trip. You need to balance warmth with comfort, and wear materials that dry quickly – so no cotton on the river. For an introduction to the layering system read our blog on reading the weather in the UK. Here’s our essential guide to clothing for long distance canoe trips.

  • Base-layers:

    Go for thin, wicking, base layers made of a material such as Merino wool.

  • Warm second layer:

    Go for a thin yet warm second layer, such as a light-weight fleece.

  • Additional layer:

    On top of your second layer, you will need a fleece jacket or something similar to help keep the warm air in.

  • Water/windproof layer:

    Finally, for your top, you will need a thoroughly waterproof (not water resistant) jacket that will also act as a windbreaker when out on the river.

  • Trousers:

    In addition to your thermal base-layers, you will need waterproof trousers, these can be swapped out for your normal walking trousers when you’re off the river. Alternatively, you can invest in dry trousers.

  • Hats and gloves:

    A warm pair of gloves and a hat are essential on the river. Your hat not only needs to keep you warm but also needs to keep the sun off your neck, remember it’s possible to get sunburned even if it’s’not summer.

  • And just in case…

    You will need a spare of all of the above, this is known as your ‘ditch kit’. The idea being that, should you fall in, you should be able to get dry and warm and then continue your journey.

 

Our River Spey canoe expedition is a trip of a lifetime through the wilds of Scotland.
For more details and to book your place on this trip click here.

 

Packing for a long distance canoe trip – other essentials

Packing for a long distance canoe trip other essentials
It is not just about the clothes. When
packing for a long distance canoe trip you also need to consider where you will sleep; personal hygiene, how you will cook and lots more. With that in mind, here are a few other essentials that you should take with you…

  • First aid kit:

    Your personal first aid kit should include any personal medication, painkillers, a standard ‘cuts kit’, blister kit and any other equipment that you might need, taking into account, of course, your proximity to civilisation.

  • Tent/Tarp:

    This one should really go without saying, but just in case it doesn’t – be sure to take with you a complete sleeping system, whatever that might look like, including sleeping bag and Thermarest/Karrimat or equivalent.

  • Stove/cooking equipment:

    We’ll touch on cooking in more detail later in this blog, but when going on a long distance canoe trip you need to consider your cooking options. Small gas or meth stoves are ideal for evening meals and coffee in the morning, but if you’re going to be around open fires and in a large group then a Dutch oven or two can be the way to go.

  • Wash kit:

    A personal wash kit is an essential when out in the wilds for any amount of time. Include, at a minimum, toothpaste, toothbrush, biodegradable shampoo and soaps and a small towel. Sunscreen can also be a good idea.

  • Canoe equipment:  

    A buoyancy aid is a must, choose one that has pockets in that can be used for storing your personal survival kit. A helmet is also a must, particularly when rapids are involved. Also be sure to pack knee pads, or an old karrimat to kneel on and (of course) your paddle!

  • Other stuff:

    Of course, like a long hiking trip, a long canoe trip has an extensive and changing kit list that alters based on the season and location of your activity. A few other things that we suggest include dry bags, mosquito spray, and a bug head net.


Wild camp along the banks of the river Spey.
To find out more details and to book your place on this trip click here.

 

Packing for a long distance canoe trip – meal planning

Planning for a long distance canoe trip - meal planning

For this section of the blog, we’ll be looking at meal planning on our River Spey canoe trip. Each night of our trip we will be wild camping along the route, the trip is self-catered – so you will need to bring your own food.

  • Go for dried foods:

    Obviously, any fresh food that you decide to bring will need to eaten first – before it spoils. Longer trips will need dried and/or dehydrated foods (just add water), dry foods – such as lentils, pasta, etc. , and smoked/dried meats such as salami/chorizo.

  • Make lunch easy:

    The last thing that you want to be doing when you’re out on the river is to have to stop and spend hours making lunch in the middle of the day.  When it comes to lunch, pack high-energy foods that can be easily assembled and consumed without the need to stop on the shore.

  • Measure out the portions

    Measure out the portions of meals such as bannock bread, biscuits or loaves of bread and store these mixed measures in zip lock bags. This means that all you need to do when it comes to cooking is add a bit of water.

 

No matter your level of ability our experienced and trained course leaders will provide expert tuition while you canoe the river Spey.
For more details and to book your place on this trip click here.

 

How to keep your kit dry on a long distance canoe trip

Keeping your kit dry o

Let’s look at what you need to keep your kit dry across the length of your canoe trip. Wet kit can not only ruin a trip but could also quickly turn it into a survival situation.

  • Dry Bags

    PVC tarpaulin dry bags are an essential part of any paddlers kit. Available from a number of manufacturers in a variety of sizes dry bags can be used to store all sorts of kit on your journey.

  • Dry Barrels

    Dry barrels or dry drums are fantastic ways of keeping your kit safe when out on the river. It’s worth separating your kit in these barrels out and wrapping it in plastic bags or the like in case anything wet is placed in the barrel (wet clothes for example). These waterproof barrels can be picked up on sites such as eBay for not too much money, just make sure that the lid is ‘locked’ on with a lockable metal strap.

 

How to pack your kit in your canoe

When it comes to packing for a long distance canoe expedition it is important to get it spot on as everything you will need for the trip will be in the boat. Here are a few key considerations when packing your boat.

  • Stability:

    Pack your kit low and along the centre of your boat, if possible always try to pack your boat while it is in the water, this will help you see the impact of the weight of your kit.

     

  • Security:

    If the water that your paddling is going to be calm then you can get away with just throwing your bag in the bottom of the boat. However, if you’re expecting it to be a little choppy then leashing it to the seats or any part of the boat can be a good idea. Lashing your kit to your canoe also enables you to move it around and change the way the weight is distributed across the canoe. For really rough going then you’re going to need to lash your kit to the bottom of your boat. Remember, keep a knife handy in case you need to cut the rope.

  • Access:

    Store your kit in a logical manner. Keep elements that you are likely to need, (such as lunch or a first aid kit) within easy reach. Navigation equipment, signaling devices and the like need to be kept near to hand.

 

Canoe the spectacular Scottish Highlands, join us on our river Spey expedition.

Click here for more information. 

Canoe the River Spey

Cooking for several people while at camp can be difficult task whether you’re cooking over a fire or a stove. In this blog, we talk about how to make cooking at camp easier;  show ways to improve the efficiency of your stove and show you some bushcraft techniques. 

Read more