The Woodland Shelter

January 22, 2018  •  2 Comments

"Sleeping in the woods on a Saturday night!" - There are no rock songs that I know of containing these lyrics...

I have known my friend Andy since our early teens. I remember even back then, Andy was into his outdoor pursuits and it has taken me about 30 years to catch up with his hobby. We had recently decided to spend a night in a local forest, where we would erect a tarpaulin for shelter then sleep below it. Any teenager looking at us would see a couple of old men who should know better (our partners think that also!), but for us, apart from it being simply fun, it's also useful practice for when we do go on long walks. There is no point on walking 15 miles into the countryside only to discover that you are unable to set up camp for the night. That would be stupid.

So, for the purposes of research and practice, we packed our things and headed off to Devilla Forest where we could hopefully find a secluded corner where nobody could see us. We had important things to test out, The tarpaulin and bivvy bags that Andy had brought and the wood-burning stoves that we had both brought.

After a 30 minute walk into the forest, we decided on a spot that we thought was relatively secluded and it was time to set up. Andy unpacked the gear whilst I unpacked a can of lager! Andy set up the tarpaulin whilst I provided the support of taking pictures and drinking from the aforementioned can...

Andy sorts out the tarpAndy sorts out the tarpWhilst I take pictures!

After a short time the tarpaulin was strung from two trees and pegged down, It was then time to put the ground sheets down, blow up the airbeds and put the sleeping bags within the waterproof bivvy bags. It was raining, light drizzle and the weather forecast that morning had forecast light rain at 3 pm and then only 10% of rain after 4 pm.

Bed for the nightBed for the nightIt was not forecast for wind or rain...

Settling into my corner of the shelter, I was able to see my view for the night, it was a fine view. The rain continued past four o'clock and continued as it got dark. It was not windy at least so the rain was falling vertically and our shelter was keeping us dry. I have consistently found that if there is a small percentage chance of rain in a Scottish forecast, it is going to rain! 

The view from our shelterThe view from our shelter

In the twilight, it was time to test our wood burning gasification stoves. The idea is that you put a few twigs in them and they will produce enough heat to cook your food. As they are self-contained metal stoves, they do not blacken or heat the ground where a campfire leaves an ugly scar. We selectively searched for fallen twigs that had not been in direct contact with the ground, but they were still wet from the rain. Andy gave me one of his magic home-made firelighters and the twigs caught fire easily.

It quickly became apparent that the stoves were like smoke machines. The smoke they gave off was incredible for the few twigs that were being burnt. There was only a slight breeze and the forest downwind was filled with an amazing volume of smoke. This concerned me as if a resident on the outskirts of the forest were to see this, they might call the fire brigade and our stealth forest-camp would end in farce!

Luckily though, once I stopped adding twigs (these stoves are greedy) then the smoke abated and the remaining twigs quickly became charcoal. At this stage, the gasification and cooking could begin. I managed to cook my super noodles and chilli using this remaining wood and I realised that like the full-size stoves I've used in the past, these stoves need to be used a few times so that you can understand how they work. More practice is needed before I can deliver a verdict, but the stove has potential as it is light and would be a useful back-up to a gas stove on multi-day trips.

Once the food was eaten, it was time for a few drinks and to chat about life in general. Mid-evening we did see a few head torches going through the woods and a couple of people actually passed quite close by, we were sitting without lights on as our eyes had adjusted to the low-level light. The people passing by were twenty metres away so we probably blended in quite well as they carried on their way.

Eventually, it was time to sleep and I had a warm night in my bag. The intermittent patter of rain on the tarpaulin made it feel even cosier as I looked out into the forest from my bed. Around 7 am we got up, made breakfast and packed up, leaving no trace of our stay except for some flattened ground. It was an enjoyable night, a bit different certainly from a usual Saturday night...

The one thing that I have learnt is that forest ponds stain your skin. I had used the water from a nearby pond to wash out my cooking pot and had dipped my hand in it when scooping out the water. The pond was brown coloured from the dead pine needles and leaves in it. When I got home, no matter how much I scrubbed, my fingers on my left hand remained a funny shade of yellow, I had to go to work like that and I may have inadvertently discovered a free way to get a fake suntan - just go into a forest and roll in a pond...  

New Fake Tan discoveryNew Fake Tan discoveryIf you dip your hand in a forest pond, it comes out a different colour!





FRank Bowness(non-registered)
Great tale and interesting to hear all the accoutrements you now have to go camping. Very brave to sleep like that but perhaps you had sussed the wind and put the tarpaulin in exactly the right place for greatest shelter.
Another good night away mate, when we going again. Can't believe you couldn't get your hand clean but get a patent in for that fake tan. This time next year bruv we could be millionaires.
No comments posted.

January (1) February March (1) April May June July August September October (1) November (1) December
January February March April May June July August September October November December
January February March April May June July August September October November December (1)
January February March April May June July August September October November December
January February March April May June July August September October November December