Category Archives: WW1

Food for Thought

So far, since I decided to actually do this walk,  a lot of work has been done, fun work as I would call it

  • Trying gear, swapping gear, re-trying gear, testing gear ideas ..and failing.. rince repeat
  • Taking every opportunity to walk with my backpack(s)..even if this means an hour around the block at 10 PM at night
  • Making decissions on what to take with me and what not (that probably wont be done till the day I actually leave for the Belgian coast 😉
  • Looking at food stuff, deciding what meals can be created from stuff your average supermarket could have, that won’t spoil easily (I can’t take hiking food for 4 months with me, and since an average christmascard can take up to 3 months to arrive at my friends in Normandy I’m not going to trust poste restante)

But there is of course a lot of non-fun stuff that will have to be dealt with: Insurances (standard travel insurance doesn’t cover a 4 month trip abroad), what route to take in detail (though I have GPS tracks), making sure bills keep being paid, financing the trip, where to stay in the evenings…

It’s one thing planning a one or two week trip, things seem to get a litle more complex when you start thinking about “months” …

Even though I’ve now been preparing for this for quite a few months, I still have moments at night where I lie awake, wondering what the hell I’ve gotten myself into, and the next day? I feel like I’m 100 meters tall..floating on air, ready to conquer the world, ready to just say sod it!, grab my kit and just go.. It’s a true rollercoaster sometimes, and no doubt it will be till the end :), luckily lately it’s more ups than downs.

The funny thing is, I’m not doing this with somekind of to-do list or planning software, I do have an extensive gearlist which helps to focus my thoughts (Thanks Johan!), but that’s about it. The rest of it is all buzzing inside my head like some giant 3-D puzzle, chaotic at times, extremely focussed the next time.

And when I’m working on that puzzle, there is always that little voice in the back of my head telling me its allright, it will all come together. It makes me think of an article I read not to long ago on the bbc.com website, about Jamie McDonald, who actually ran across Canada (so what am I worried about??)  and about an interview he gave:

Q: “I was asked how I’d prepare for the more than 5,000 miles that lay ahead of me”
A: “I answered truthfully and said that I wouldn’t – no amount of training or planning could have prepared me for this journey”

I guess that is the next hill I need to climb..letting go of trying to prepare for every little detail that I can think of and enjoy the journey, because in the end that is what it is all about … who knows maybe I’m further up that hill than I realise I am.

grts

Hans

PS: Since a few days there is also a Facebook page up about the 14-18 walk, but you will find various other WW1 related articles there , as well. You can find it at : https://www.facebook.com/WW1Walk

 

 

 

 

Advertisements

A trip down memory lane aka Just some pics of various other WW1 excursions

Even though this blog is about my hike along the western front in 2015 and the preparation for it, I have spent already quite a few days walking around the Westen Front. Of course like any “tourist” I shot 100’s and 100’s of pics. I’ve been on wellknown sites but also several less wellknown and quite a few that are rarely seen by anyone and where time seems frozen.

It was visiting those out of the way places that kindled my interest in bushcraft (at first because i was venturing into places where help is not 1 phonecall away and I realised  I wasn’t equiped for it) and what tought me that camping without a ton of stuff to pack and unpack is infinitely more comfortable than going “luxury” camping.  In the end it provided a perfect combination of two hobbies for me..So just for you, some impressions.

A side note on the ammunition you see on 2 of the pictures, for those who happen to wander into the frontline (and most of you will have without knowing, if you have travelled to France or the south east of Belgium), it is still abundant everywhere, if you go off the beaten path you trip over the damn stuff, but just passing a freshly plowed field in flanders or north France, can be enough to see it lying around

…Please! if you ever come across it do not touch, after 100 years it is still as dangerous as it was back than and even something small (like the fuse in the 1st of the 2 pictures  containing amo) will take of your hand (and probably more) off. This stuff can still explode and it will, it actually still injures people to this day and still destroys (farmers) equipment…btw lets not mention what happens to you if you happen to pick a corroded through gas of phosphourous shell 😉

Image

Image

Image

Image

Image

Image

Image

 

 

Image

DSC03563

DSC02657

US begraafpl romagne

 

Last but not least: Don’t ask me where some of these locations are, I wont tell you, unless I know you well, and if you happen to be truly interested in the more remote, non-tourist locations, you can probably hazard a guess of the general area anyway 😉

Cooking Equipment (and some gear in general)

Last weekend I spend a night outdoors, with 2 good friends, it was just a “hangabout” but since I’ve been swapping so much gear around, for me it was also a gear test.

The main thing I’m always fooling around with is cooking gear, most importantly “burners” (pots and pans are easy. I’m moving to titanium nowadays, but aluminium is easy to get to and all you need to do is figure out what size pot(s) you need)

I do strugle with the combo burner>>windshield>>potstand though. Years ago I started with the wellknown Trangia, it’s a great alcohol stove, cheap as chips, and works consistantly everytime, but it’s quite heavy. Also it needs a separate windshield and potstand, which adds weight and packing volume. I started out with the UL 27 set and o be honest there isnt anything wrong wih it but I want it lighter and a LOT smaller.

So for some years I have been experimenting..penny stoves, cutting two aluminium strips to create a potstand, using big nails as a potstand….combining a honeystove with a trangia (good combo actualy but finicky putting it together) etc etc etc.

It all kinda worked, some worked better than others, but it wasnt the “next great thing” and common sense told me..trangia won again.

On my quest for the next cookkit I bought the Evernew Apelachian trail set. It’s a nice compact light titanium set, which is multifuel (alcohol, wood, esbit) and it all pakcs away in the 500 ml pot…great!!! It comes with it’s own alcohol burner ( a trangia type model) and a base/windscreen which doubles and a hobo stove and esbit burner (I never tried the esbit bit, because cooking on esbit for me is kind of a last resort thing)..so how did it perform?

Well the actual hobostove/windscreen bit I really like, it’s small not to hard to assemble, it seems sturdy enough and does what it needs to do…kinda. How about the alcohol burner you probably ask? The evernew titanium stove works..no doubt about it, and at 35 grams compared to the 100 grams trangia, we’re in bussines you’d think. It lights quick, it blooms like a monster and pours out heat..aaaaand that were it looses from the trangia…big flames everywhere lots of nice warmth, but that also means it takes over 30 ml of “spiritus” to heat a simple pot of 450 ml of water, add to that the fact you cannot use a simmerring, or the fact there is no decent way to blow it out (no you cant trust me) and poor the leftover alcohol back into your fuel bottle and even the most diehard gear freak (like me) once again has to admit…the good old 1960’s trangia wins again!! ( to the guys of Evernew..redesign you titanium burner with a screwlid top so I can save on fuel I’m  not using and can pack the thing topped off in my pack..add a simmerring if you like, but there are ways around that..please..pretty please)..so the evernew titanium alcohol burner was out, sadly..

Bummer..now what..google, google, browse browse, youtube youtube and hey! up popped the vargo triad!. Tiny , has its own potstand, lightweight at 26 grams, alcohol you don’t use just poor back into your bottle (yeh right!..see where this is going?)..so H hit that “buy now” button, paying was easy enough, as it always is 🙂 and two weeks later everything arrived (2 weeks because in that order was also my ULA Ohm 2 which wasn’t in stock..great backpack)

Happy happy happy, it all arrived about 45 minutes before i was scheduled to leave the house for the “hangabout”, about as perfect as can be. Initial tests on a picknick table were promissing during lunch , though I way overfilled it, but it bloomed, it cooked..it flaired.. it spit..it growled and spewed (did i mention some people warned me about this damned thing?). Pooring fuel back was like hit and miss but hey! 50% saved is 50% right (I still blamed myself for over filling it..JOHAN STOP LAUGHING!!!). Later that night I filled it more carefully, remembering the instructions and the youtube vids, and the result was? YUP, 30 minutes to cook 400 ml of water, it took 15 minutes to bloom pooring back was still a b*&ch..but at least it didnt spit, growl and spew at me. Back home I did some carefull tests, basically to cook on this thing you have to balance intricatly between filling and overfilling, results may vary, but when it blooms like it is supposed to, it works and works well, and don’t bother with the “pooring back”, just toss it. The manufacturer talks about 44ml to fill and prime, forget it, its like 70ml to fill and prime! Shame on you vargo!

So now what? Well the apalachian set but with the old trangia burner is a good combo! So if you want to spend the money by all means spend the money on the DX set as they call it, don’t bother with the burner, but what aboout the Hobo stove bit of it? To be honest it’s tiny and that worried me and I was right, but I dont want to burn that litle set down (pun intented). The smaller the stove the harder it is to get a hobo stove to work and the the DX stand is no exeception. It does it’s job and has enough air for it’s size judging by the ammount of soot on my pot, but it trully cannot handle anything above 2x pencil size (and that’s pushing it), it cooked my 400ml of water, it took 20 minutes, but it worked as you should expect from something that small (but to be honest do we really need a hobo stove?).

So the end result is? DX stand, with a trangia combo, yep that works. with the rest don’t bother and save yourself some money.

Is there any light on the horizon for us diehard alcohol cookers? wel actually there is, yesterday I finally got around to building a “Fancy feast wick stove” and this looks promising, about 15 ml of alcohol to cook 450 ml of water in about 10 minutes, it has it’s own postand and it’s light! Slap a cheap ass windscreeen around it and you are good to go. It’s simple, not sure if it would last 4 months on the trail, but initial tests (see pic below) does seem to indicate it works..I will be testing this one some more!

Image

 

So that’s where we are at cooking wise 🙂 but what about the rest of the gear test? Well that was about shelter.

My dd Hammock has double layer that could fit a insulation mat, but i was “hangabout ” with my ticket to the moon. Why you want to know? well because it’s smaller and lighter and a mat in the hammock is the same as a mat in between two layers right? ..no it bloddy well isnt! Within 5 minutes my hammock tossed me out with my sleeping bag, and neolite mat and I landed on the (soft) forest floor..it was vey gentle landing I must admit 😉

Luckily Alex handed me a thin light radiator foil type insulation to try out earlier and yes it worked, but it wasnt quite enough for an early march night, the night was doable but cold (definitely a lil very much cold..JOHAN STOP LAUGHING!) 

And that ladies and gentlemen was weekend “hangabout” with quite a lot of failure and therefore succesfull..better find out now that next year right ? 😉

Cheers

H

 

 

 

 

Packlists

When going on an extended hike, it all boils down to packlists, here is mine for now, still designed around 1 small week solo without support (with water for 1 to 2 days depending on conditions, and food for a week), it still needs some work since it totals at 21,5 kilograms and a bit which is quite a lot!

The food is just a random selection of what one could have around, the redlines are areas where i’ve just made guestimates for weights (so im probably a little below 21,5 kilo’s, but it will do for now.

Areas where there can be improvements are Tool/ict,packing and shelter (I have some ideas for that). Also I can loose some weight in the cooking category by swapping out all nalgene’s by platypus’s

Yes most of it is in ductch, but where it’s not obvious…google is your friend 😉

Kooking
1 firesteel
2 aansteker
1 schuursponsje
1 trangia brandstoffles vol
1 waterfilter inc boek+hoes
1 titanium 500ml pot
1 Ultralight Titanium DX Stand (EBY-257
1 microfgripper
1 trangia brander
1 folding cup
1 folding fork
1 folding spoon
1 platypus
1 Nalgene standaard
1 nalgene folding bottle 1L
1 zelfbouw snijplankje
1 opvouwbord
1 grote zakdoek KL
1 trangia koekenpan + greep van de set hierboven
Shelter
1 hammock
1 treehuggers
1 hoes van tarp
1 Tarp groen
1 slaapzak
1 slaapmat
1 Zak + patch van matje
8 tentharing alu
1 plastic voor op de grond
1 kussen
1 zitmatje
Clothing
1 Reflectiv hesje
1 sea2summit poncho
1 haglof tshirt
1 haglof tshirt
1 overhemd lange mouwen
2 onderboek odlo
1 onderboek odlo
1 outdoorbroek
1 outdoorbroek
1 wandelsokken
2 wandelsokken
1 Wandelschoenen
1 paar slippers
1 zonnebril
1 tropenhoed
1 buff col
1 microfleece
regenjas
Tools/ICT
1 rugged phone
4 aa batterijen
1 trekking poles per paar
1 hoofdlamp
1 Fenix e1
1 roll ducktape
1 ipad mini
1 goal zero leeg
1 Nomad 7
1 usb kabel
1 stekker USB uitgangs spanning
1 Mora compagnion
1 Victorinox
2 10m paracord
1 GPS + hoes
landkaarten
1 iphone
1 DC4
1 Rugzak
1 8L sea2summit drybag
1 35L sea2summit drybag
1 20l sea2summit drybag
1 casio PRW-5000T-7ER
1 kompas
1 schepje
Hygiene/ehbo
1 Tandenborstel
1 microfiber handdoek
1 Scheermes
1 rol wc papier
1 blok zeep
1 potje vaseline
1 EHBO Klein
1 Kneebrace
1 rescue blanket
1 talkpoeder
camfor spray
1 antimug
Various
1 bankpas
1 randomreader
1 creditcard
1 plastic fluitje
1 Velden van weleer
1 zorgverzekeringspas
1 reisverzekeringspas/info
Food
1 Pak zilvervlies rijst
1 blik ravioli
1 pak gedroogde tortelini
3 water per liter
10 Hero n between
8 hardkeks
1 unox hamburgers

 

Gearlist

So thats it… last few months its been all about gear , gear, and then some gear. No no no not about swapping gear with knowledge, its been about grams, grams, and less grams.

The goal is to be able to hike 5 to 7 days with less then 20 kilograms, I’m not there yet, but I will be…kinda..maybe..*cough*

So it begins….

The title says it all..it begins…

It started quite a few years ago, just one of those idea’s that pops in your head and just wont go away…”you know what lets do a hike..a realy significant hike … lets walk ..walk from the belgian coast to the swiss border, along a battlefield that is perhaps the most significant battlefield in the history of Europe”. Can you guess which one…of course you can, I’m talking about the western front, a scar in the landscape and in the history of europe.

The idea was shelved as just plain silly, picked up again..and tossed away … only to be mulled over again, until end of 2013 (and I really dont know why) there was a moment, a moment perhaps of clarity, bravery, or just plain sillyness, that I decided, it has to happen now or it will never happen ever again…So it began! The first course of action was to post on my favorite bushcraft forum http://www.thecave.eu  announcing what I was planning, asking for any tips on a 1000+ kilometer hike (yes how broad and unfocussed can you be :) ), the responses,  support and offers to hike parts of the route with me only strengthened my belief that it was indeed possible and that I wasn’t mad (or an idiot as someone mentioned rather briefly ;))

What has happened since?

The last few months a lot of work has been done, mainly on selecting gear, weighing absolutely everything, talking to other people, studying maps and books, determining a route etc etc etc (fitting it all in a slighty busy fulltime job…but hey everyone needs another hobby right?!).

The final gearlist is comming into focus now and the route is showing itself in the distance, its a matter of testing, changing, testing and changing again .. rince repeat..and than?

Than? Well there is a a lot of “than” still to do, some stuff minor, some stuff very major and there are still one or two showstoppers on my path, but with common sense an reason I’m sure they will be conquered one way or the other (I guess that’s one of the advantages of being into customer care for about 15 years now, you tend to get flexible like grain in the wind).

I haven”t even announced my trip on http://www.forumeerstewereldoorlog.nl/ which is really bad!, because I’ve had few trips with their members and they have shown me some great sites, I’m sorry for that guys and girls, it’s all been a bit hectic, though some of you may have seen some hints on facebook of what was to come (though you may not have realised it )

Walkabouts 14-18 will start in may 2015, it will be an trip that will last 4 months, where it will end I honestly dont know, but I know where it will start and I know it will be great!!

A cliche makes sense now “It’s not about the destination, it’s about the voyage” …I can honestly say I’ve changed, just because I made a descision..

Stay tuned!

H