Tag: hiking

6 Campfire Problems & What To Do

You have packed up and headed off for an outdoor adventure that includes lots of fresh air and nature.  You have also decided the best and most cosy way to cook your food would be on a campfire…..a person after my own heart!!  Who doesn’t like a warming campfire and making memories around them?  However, you hit a problem with it.  Let’s face it, building, lighting, and keeping campfires going is an eternal learning curve, but a fun one.  This post is designed to take you through some of the more commonly occurring campfire problems, and what to do about them, so you can (armed with a bit of helpful knowledge) get on and enjoy a successful campfire 🙂

  1. Too smokey:  A smokey campfire is one of the more common campfire problems, and as you can tell from the photo, it can take even the most prepared bush crafter by surprise – the cause, wet wood (I was convinced mine was dry here…obviously not!!)  Wet wood will be hard to light, and will produce a lot of smoke.  I’m not talking about wood that has previously dried out and has now been exposed to a little rain…yes, that will smoke a bit, but on the inside it will still be dry.  Some types of wood also cause smoking.  Generally if you stick with harder woods you should be fine.  Light with smaller softer wood initially to get it going (they light easier), then swap to harder woods as they burn hotter and for longer.
  2. Lighting the campfire in the rain:  Look for naturally protected areas to light your fire.  For example under tree canopies, or cliff overhangs.  But don’t, whatever you do, light it in the protection of your tent!  Start with very small and very dry kindling and tinder (refer to my building a campfire blog post).  I usually carry some of this just to ensure we have a successful lighting, but if you need more, look for it under things where it has been protected from the elements.  Also, if you have a knife or axe you can split the wood, as the inside may be dry and then it will light better with that exposed rather than the damp exterior.  You could even shave some off with the knife as extra kindling, or feather a stick for even better chances of lighting the fire.
  3. Reigniting embers when the flames die down:  If your campfire dies down and you still need flames (if like me you got distracted with children and forgot to add new fuel to the fire), then you can direct a gentle blow into the base of the hot embers, and after a few attempts you should see the flames spring back into life (just make sure you aren’t blowing hot embers all over the countryside as you’ll start a fire!  You need to make sure they stay in your fire pit).  
  4. Keep the fire burning:  Before your flames die down, add another log to them, but make sure air can still get into the fire to fan the flames, don’t suffocate it.
  5. Wood burning too fast:  This usually means that it is too windy and your campfire needs some protection from the wind.  For example, above we have built a wall from rocks, preventing the wind from burning through our wood fuel so fast.  You could also dig a hole into the ground if the area/ground is suitable.  If you do use rocks, don’t forget to cool them down afterwards, and also replace them to where you found them.
  6. Food is not cooking or warming up:  This usually means, for some reason, the heat is not reaching your food.  For example, a very windy day will make your fuel burn rapidly and have huge flames, but the heat will be blown away before it has much impact on your cooking.  On those kind of days, the food needs to sit right on top of the heat source.  If you have foil wrapped food that isn’t so hard, but if in a billy can or balanced on a grill you need to get a little more inventive.  Usually things can be solved with some well positioned wood to balance a pot, or some foil to wrap things up in so they can go straight onto the fire….just remember to check them more often as they will now cook fast!

I hope these hints about campfire problems will give you a helping hand in having a successful campfire or two.  They are such fun to do and we love making one on our outdoor adventures.  Be sure to read my post on campfire basics and tips as well, which covers how to build one and safety amongst other things, and go and enjoy your campfire!!6 Campfire Problems & What To Do, Campfire problems, campfires, fire pits, bush craft, survival, www.mammasschool.co.uk

Apple and Cinnamon Porridge – A Warming Breakfast

This apple and cinnamon porridge breakfast is quick and easy (a big plus point when you are outdoors), tasty, and very filling.  It’s perfect for starting the day in the great outdoors, or as a snack to make when out hiking for the day as it will give you lots of energy.

Ingredients For Apple And Cinnamon Porridge 

(This is for one portion)

1 cup of oats.

1 cup of milk of your choice (we’ve made it with both cows’ and plant based milks).

Half an apple.

Teaspoon of raisins.

Teaspoon of cinnamon powder.

Teaspoon of vanilla essence.

How To Make Apple And Cinnamon Porridge

  1. Dice the apple, leaving the skin on is down to what you prefer.
  2. Then put all the ingredients into you pan and warm through
  3. Beware with cooking porridge on a campfire that it can quickly stick to the bottom and burn, so stir regularly.
  4. If getting a little dry just as some more milk.  For example, when I am using oat milk I seem to need more than when I use cows’ milk.
  5. Then serve and enjoy!!

I hope you enjoy eating this simple but yummy apple and cinnamon porridge recipe as much as we do, and let me know in the comments below how you found it.

Apple and cinnamon porridge, campfire breakfast, campfire porridge, hiking food, camping food, bush craft, www.mammasschool.co.uk

Outdoor Play For Teenagers – 11 Ideas

Outdoor play for children is so important for all ages (read here to find out why), and in this mini series of posts I will run through some varying outdoor play ideas for different age groups of children.  This post is all about outdoor play for teenagers.  This age group is such fun as you extend their boundaries, give them more independence, and more challenges.  Outdoor play for teenagers is still very important, and also in continuing to foster their love of nature and the outdoors, so when they are ready (very soon) they will want to continue out of their own initiative.  These outdoor play ideas for teenagers are supposed to do all of that…be fun, challenging, and help connect them to nature.  I hope your teenagers enjoy trying them.

Outdoor Play For Teenagers

  1. Climb a mountain, large peak, or hill together:  This will allow them to take a little responsibility for packing, looking after themselves, and some basic map reading but on a grander scale.  The time together will allow for some lovely bonding time as well.  They will like the sense of adventure too.
  2. Cook on a campfire:  We cook on a campfire regularly and my three smaller children are up to speed on fire safety, and hopefully are learning skills they can then use in the future.  With a teenager, take it that step further, and allow them (supervised) to cook the meal on the campfire.
  3. Take a hike at night time with them.  There is a good collection on the website for the National Trust if you fancy trying one of theirs.  For an extra challenge they also do night runs
  4. Let your teenager lead you for a wild camp.  Let them plan with you where to go, lead in the pitching, and any activities/organisation while you are there.
  5. Learn to surf….you might find this another fun one to do with them for something new to try!
  6. Swim in the sea (make sure they are safe and supervised!!).
  7. Go on an off road cycling adventure.
  8. Make colourful nature textiles using sun dye paints.  Mine have just done simple fabrics, but you can make cushion covers, t-shirts, the list is endless.  The effect is beautiful.
  9. Build a raft and try to sail it (again make sure any activity around water is safe and supervised).
  10. Build a mini pond.  This is a great activity for them to add a feature to your own outdoor space, however small.
  11. Learn to use (supervised) some other bush craft equipment.  My three love the Kelly Kettle.  It is fun and easy, and gives them a good start to fire making skills on a smaller scale.

I hope you have enjoyed these ideas for outdoor play for teenagers, and let me know how you get on!!Outdoor Play For Teenagers, teenagers, teenager outdoor activities, outdoor activities for older children, teenagers outdoors, www.mammasschool.co.uk

Bastasjö Friluftsområde – An Outdoor Family Haven

Bastasjö is a lake that is the centre piece of the Bastasjö friluftsområde, outdoor area.  It is very convenient being only about a 15 minute drive from the centre of the city of Karlskrona in the south of Sweden.  It is a huge area of hiking trails around the surrounding woods.  What makes this place so good for families are several things.  There are a lot of marked trails in a variety of distances, so you can pick what you think you can manage.  There are also good fire pits, surrounding the lake on all sides, allowing for you to build a campfire safely and cook in the great outdoors.  At the side of the lake where the main car park is, there is also a building, which houses toilets.  You can rent this out as well if you are running an activity in this location.  

We arrived at Bastasjö in the depths of winter during the Swedish sportlov holiday, and although we were doing our own thing, it was interesting to see they had a “drop in” campfire with sausages cooking, everyday this holiday week from 10am until 1pm.  They also had other activities, for example a night run and orienteering.  There are illuminated trails, as well as ones you can use for cross country skiing when there is enough snow on the ground.  We chose our trail, the blue one that skirted round the lake, spotting a fire pit that looked good at the half way point, and we set off.

We had travelled inland for about 20 minutes to reach Bastasjö, so there was still a fair amount of snow on the ground compared to what we had at home on the coast, so it made for a scenic walk.  The lake was truly frozen over, and there were even some intrepid people having a mini ice hockey game on it…..but keeping very close to the edge still.  They obviously did not trust the ice thickness that much.  My trio were keen to use their binoculars to watch them (see my other tips for hiking with children).  They have never known sea or lake ice so thick you can run, walk, or play on it.  They were memorised.  It all helped to take their minds off the fact they were hiking with backpacks, and were surprisingly perky!  They were even surprised to find themselves at our chosen fire pit thinking the first part of the walk had gone fast, and I was quite surprised to find us there without any whinges of “I’m hungry”!

The children dropped their backpacks, and although the little lady announced she was doing the Kelly Kettle, all three raced off and suddenly starting constructing a den in the woods behind the fire pit.  I was happy at my work in the peace and quiet sorting out a lunch of hot dogs and campfire toffee apples.  Whilst I was busy, a lady who had seen us light the fire from the other side of the lake where the building is, had walked round and started taking photos….apparently she needed photos of people out enjoying the area with their children during sportlov!  Once cooked, three hungry little den builders appeared and gobbled their food up.  There was a lovely wooden shelter at this fire pit, and although it was not windy today and not such a painful experience to eat outdoors, it was lovely to be a little sheltered while we ate.  I had not planned to stay at the fire pit for the whole 2 hours that we did, but the children were so happy climbing trees and den building, that I left them to it until they were ready to leave.  Instead, I amused myself by trying to keep the fire going by using twigs from the ground, and although they were covered in snow I somehow managed, so was feeling quite pleased with myself!  

Eventually the trio felt it was time to pack up and move off, and we set off to complete the trail and the loop around Bastasjö.  They tested the limits of the ice on the lake intermittently and tried to break it with large rocks……no luck in breaking it though, it was really solid ice.  

I would definitely recommend visiting this lovely outdoor area beside Bastasjö if you are in the area, and for us it will be fun to return in the summer and see a totally different looking place to the one we had experienced today.  There are also geocaches in the area, but due to the cold, my phone battery dies very fast, so we never got to look for them today, so we will save those for the warmer months as well.  Something to look forward to coming back for, as well as maybe different organised activities we could try next time.

Bastasjö Friluftsområde, Bastasjö, Outdoors, Sweden, Hiking, www.mammasschool.co.uk

Country Kids
 

The Kelly Kettle – A User Guide

My Kelly Kettle and I are inseparable on our outdoor adventures.  We take it everywhere with us.  We enjoy it so much I thought I would give you a basic guide as to how you use it and then you can see if this is something you would like to give a go when out and about in the great outdoors.  The Kelly Kettle heats water very fast using what you find on the ground around you as fuel.  You can also get accessories that can turn it into a stove as well.  Plus, you can use the fire in the base for things such as toasting marshmallows without the stove accessory.  They are simple and fun to use, and a great way of introducing children into bush craft and the skill of lighting and being responsible for fires, as they are small and contained.  It is a great way for them to start learning their bush craft skills for the great outdoors.

Step By Step Guide To Using the Kelly Kettle:

  1. Fill your Kelly Kettle up with water, then set it to one side. 
  2. In the Kelly Kettle base add a small amount of newspaper, and some cotton wool with a little Vaseline on.  This helps ignite the fire a little easier. We carry a little fire starting kit of essentials with us, subscribe to the blog and see what is in our fire starting kit over on the  freebies tab. 
  3. Next add a little kindling.  We tend to collect this as we go along on our hike.  Our preference is small pieces of silver birch bark as they are highly flammable.  Just make sure you are picking it up from the ground (not pulled off the trees), and that it is dry.  Very small, thin, dry twigs work too. 
  4. Then light the cotton wool.  We use a fire steel.  This is 2 pieces of metal, which when struck together produce a spark which will nicely ignite the cotton wool.  We use this as it is generally functioning in most weather conditions, particularly wind and rain!  You can use matches or other lighting contraptions of your choice.
  5. Place the Kelly Kettle on top once the fire is lit.
  6. Continue to slowly feed tinder into the kettle down the chimney (watching for the fire coming up!).  We use leaves, twigs, bark, fir cones, etc.  You get the idea, most things found on the ground are good as long as they are dry.  By far our favourite is the silver birch bark though as it catches so easily, is very thin, so burns well.  The idea is not to swamp the fire in the base though but add slowly to keep it burning. You can also blow through the side holes, if needed, to gently get any embers to catch fresh tinder too. 

The great thing about the Kelly Kettle is it also comes with accessories which can convert it into a stove (they don’t take up any more packing room as they store inside the kettle).  I was really lucky to get the hobo stove for Christmas, and although we love our fire pits, it means that if there isn’t one available en route, I can light our hobo stove and cook safely with it.  It is a great back up to have in the back pack.  I am much happier doing that than making my own fire on the ground.

The Kelly Kettles come in different sizes.  We have the trekker size Kelly Kettle, one of the smaller ones.  I boil it twice when the 5 of us go out, but it doesn’t take too long so I don’t mind.

Have you got a favourite piece of outdoor kit?  Let me know in the comments below and maybe I’ll need to add it to my wish list!!  Don’t forget to subscribe  to the blog and get access to freebies (eBook, recipes, top tips, and our fire starter kit contents).

The Kelly Kettle, A User Guide, Kelly Kettle, Hobo Stove, Bush craft, camping, hiking, outdoors, kettle, www.mammasschool.co.uk

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