Kit Notes for woodlore course
Suitable outdoor clothing
The instructors all indicated a preference for wool. It is warm when wet, does not burn or melt from sparks, which is an important consideration when using campfires, and, they say, smells better than synthetics after you have been in the same clothes for several weeks! GoreTex was mentioned for rain shells and wet weather boots. Waterproof socks were praised for keeping feet warm in a number of situations. In warm, dry weather they wore cotton. Trousers were to dry fast, be tough when sitting and kneeling, and not be too expensive, because whatever you are using will wear out in the long run.
There wasn't a lot of walking involved in the course, maybe 1.5 miles was the furthest we went in one go. However, good walking socks are still needed. Again, wool was recommended as smelling better than synthetics after being worn for a long time.
The most important thing is to make sure your bag is warm enough for use without a tent, for the given time of year.
We were issued bivi bags on the second day, for use under a tarp and in the leaf shelter. They were simple ex-army ones and though they had a tendency to trap water vapour they did make the sleeping bags much warmer and had it rained they would have kept things much dryer.
Tent or tarp
Those who brought tents only got to use them for two nights, Sunday night and Friday night. The rest of the time they just stored all the gear people didn't want to be carting around! Two days were spent under Woodlore tarp shelters (a.k.a. hootchie or basha), and two more in a shelter that was thatched with leaf litter.
Thermarests are great. They are warm, and they cushion roots and pine cones better than closed cell mats. If I were to do the course again I would be sure to work out some way of keeping my feet off the ground since they were the only part that got cold on the ĺ length mat.
Knife, fork, spoon, mug, bowl, plate
On the first day we were all issued a stainless billy-can with a dish nested in it. This was good enough for eating out of for much of the trip. I didn't use the plate I brought all that much, didn't use the knife at all, and the fork only once. The steel spoon was invaluable.
Clean water on tap is something people tend to take for granted. When you either have to carry, or worse, purify all your water for drinking, cooking, and washing you begin to appreciate its true value. One litre really wasn't enough to carry, especially if you took the instructor's advice to heart about drinking three litres a day. I economised and carried 2 one litre soft drink bottles, which were adequate for the week. But they took a beating and something tougher and easier to carry would have been good.
Ray's book mentions that he carries three lights - a tiny LED key ring light, an LED head lamp and a halogen torch for emergency use only. I carried a Surefire halogen and a couple of PhotonII key rings. The Surefire ran out of batteries even though it wasn't used for more than a bit of gear shuffling and navigating at night. The red Photon wasn't bright enough, but the blue was okay for near range navigating around camp and finding some gear. An LED head lamp is practically a "must have" item. For instance, we did a lot of cooking and crafts after dark and trying to keep a fire burning brightly enough to see by is a time consuming and thankless task.
Travel soap that could be used for washing up was great, you might find you are sharing it!
Washing in the woods is difficult, you are going to have to put up with being dirtier and possibly hairier than usual. This isn't as bad as it sounds since everyone else is in the same boat, so you won't stand out! When you get a chance to wash you want stuff that will get you clean with the minimum fuss, not just make you smell like roses for 10 minutes!
You will be using this for bow drill work, so make sure it is sturdy and abrasion resistant, 4-5mm accessory cord might be better than parachute cord, or a good addition to it.
Bugs chomped on most people during our September course. These weren't just mosquitoes and midges, but tiny orange mites that were picked up from the vegetation and seemed to like boring into hair follicles, under socks and waste bands. They were practically too small to see with the naked eye. In warm weather I'd make sure that ALL clothes are treated with 0.5% Permethrin, ticks and bugs can get into clothes and since you will be in the same set for several days this can be a bad thing. I only treated trousers and a long shirt. I should also have treated t-shirts and socks. After treating my socks I didn't get any bites below the waist but my untreated t-shirt left me with 50 bites on my chest, back and upper arms.
First aid kit
No one cut off a hand, or got burned and I only saw one bleeding cut. However there were LOTS of small nicks and cracks from handling leaves, nettles, soil and firewood on hands that are more used to office environments. It was easy for small cuts to get infected. Plasters got dirty and fell off fast.
Change of clothes
I think that most people brought more clothes than they needed. Two or three shirts were enough. I took four and had one left at the end of the week. Had I not been bug ridden I probably wouldn't have changed shirt as often. Lawrence stored his in a mini dry bag but said that bin liners were almost as good. Had it rained this could have been an important consideration.
The two 10 litre side pockets from a military style Rocket Pac did a great job as a daypack. We carried a folding saw, cordage, wood (either work in progress or raw materials), tinder, billy (sometimes), mug and water bottles. A couple of people didn't bring big rucksacks with them. They had sports bags and their day sacks. This wasn't ideal when we had to cart gear a mile plus to and from the bivouac area, but it did suffice.