Hiking in Finland

Climbing, bikepacking, skiing & packrafting in the north

Wilderness Guide School - Month One

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After my initial article about my first week at the International Wilderness Guide school, some more time has passed and as there was quite some interest in the first article I will follow up on what happened since.

The Trapper tent sans oven I slept in for three nights.

Week two was the forest week. We packed our gear Monday morning and were off to the school forest, an over 1000 ha playground, where we pitched our shelters and got comfy. We learned to make fire, chop wood in a safe way, did orienteering with map and compass, went fishing, learned about ultra heavy gear and the flora & fauna around us. It was a busy but fun week.

I took my Hennessy Hyperlight hammock along and pitched it the first day, but due to a good breeze and me not having the SuperShelter insulation or an under quilt with me, I retired to the Loue shelter (imagine a tipi kind of shelter, but cut in half) I helped pitch during the day. The rest of the nights I went to sleep in a Trapper tent, including a tent oven - which was awesome. Now I am seriously looking at titanium ovens for winter camping, and a suitable tent.

For orienteering the teacher said my tiny Suunto compass was not enough and that we need a baseplate compass. Fact of the matter was, that on the second group orienteering exercise and the solo exercise I didn't even touch my compass, orienteering by the features of the landscape, the map and some common sense. I believe that a compass, while useful, should be used only if you're lost or can't use common sense or the landscape to navigate.

Lamb jerky, dried over the fire.

Week three was great fun. Monday morning started with skinning and butchering two lambs, and then preparing them in different ways - fried heart, kidneys and liver, lamb stew, lamb jerky, lamb on a spit - you name it. Delicious as well. We also made fish, bread from pine bark and normal breads, cheese, and sphagnum moss eggs. Our teacher was truly awesome, a well of knowledge & wisdom with a great sense of humour.

Happy vegetarian - who eats meat he butchered himself! Photo courtesy of Ed Russell.

Week four was the BCU canoe & kayak week. After our spring canoe expedition we will get our BCU two (or three) stars awards, this was the introduction week. If you're into paddling, this week alone will make IWG worth your while.

Our BCU teacher showing us the tricks of the trade.

Our teacher was a former student of the course, class of '98 if I remember correctly. Really good teacher who knows his trade with the eyes closed, and also a great personality. Regarding paddling, canoeing is great if you have a good partner, if your partner ain't the same level then I rather paddle alone in a kayak, which is sweet as you can go significantly faster and are independent. That said, a good canoe, a good partner and I choose the canoe over the kayak.

I also had my packraft out on the lake, and both my teachers tried them out; they found it interesting but very different from canoe & kayak, but could see the use. The BCU instructor asked me to take it along on the spring expedition, so it will be interesting to paddle next to the others in my Alpaca.

All the time we are now preparing for our trip to Russia next week Monday. It starts to frustrate me slightly that lightweight and UL gear is still looked at with a raised brow, as I am being used to backpack and communicate with like-minded folks; this is quite a change. Shoes, rubber boots to be precise, and my unwillingness to buy and use a pair, seem to be the biggest concern of some classmates and teachers. And being surrounded by the UH folks all the time makes me question some stuff, like if it really is a good idea to walk with my VFFs or Inov-8s through bogs. But then I remember that I did walk with trailrunners through bogs in Sweden, and am confident again that I will be fine - as I said previously, wet feet should be expected and cherished instead of feared (because fear leads to the dark side; fear leads to rubber boots; rubber boots lead to suffering).

Blazed salmon. Delicious!

That said, I knew that it will be like this, and I keep the UL flag raised high and am confident that I will be able to have a sub five kilogram baseweight for the trip to Russia. Possibly after the trip I might hold a short lecture about lightweight and UL backpacking for the class, at least my teacher asked if I could. I reckon they first want to see if I am able to cope with my gear in Russia, before I "brainwash" the other students =)

Weeks five and six then next week, when we will depart for our two week expedition to Russia. I imagine that there might be quite some interest in my gear for that trip, and as it will be quite a mix of UL and traditional gear (we need to carry an axe and saw) I think it will be interesting to post it and see what my dear readers think about it!

The Week in Review

Time, what is time?

If you're on the edge about a Backpacking Light subscription and if it is worth it, check out "The Beautiful Cup" article (free - no subscription required!) by one of my favourite authors, Mike Clelland! If you drink coffee, this is required reading!

Torjus went Reindeer hunting, great post of a beautiful, "sustainably grown" and delicious animal.

If you got problems with cleaning your pot after cooking, visit Pig Monkey's "Vagabond Spatula" article and learn a trick or two!

Mungo had a look around Google Books and fond quite a few old camping and tents books there. As they're for free and old books have a lot of wisdom in them, I recommend you go and check them out.

Northern Pies has a Winter competition going on and there is still time to participate.

Ray Mears, Bushcraft expert extraordinaire, is coming to Belfast in November.

Knilch is quickly becoming MYOG man extraordinaire. He put two guides up this week, the first is how to make a quilt out of a sleeping bag and the second is the KISS (Keep It Simple, Stupid!) bivy from a DriDucks Poncho. Both excellent guides for all those who want to make their own UL gear.

If you're looking for a new backpack, a sleeping mat and other stuff, check out Dave's kit sale where UL gear from the likes of MLD, Gossamer Gear, Bozeman Mountain Works, Therm-A-Rest and others are up for grabs!

Robin reflects on some gear this week, namely tents and sleeping bags.

Dondo also thinks about the gear used on his last trip.

Jörgen talks about his MYOG Cuben Shelter which he used on his trip in Virihaure.

Phil did a great video on the POE Ether Elite 6.

PTC thinks already about winter, and has a first look at the Berghaus Extreme Down Duvet.

Mark has a Katabatic Gear Bristlecone bivy which he reviewed.

More Katabatic Gear is reviewed by Minimalgear, this time the Windom Down Hood.

Have a Smart (or dumb ;) phone and want to keep it dry in the rain? Check out Mark's review of the Haglöfs Watatait phone case.

Time, what is time? That is also what Die Beuteltiere somtimes ask themselves, and hence have a Suunto Vector with them on their trips.

Jason Klass reviews the Mora Clipper 840 in a good video.

Thomas and Caro went for a backpack in the Kebnekaise mountains, gorgeous photos which make me smile with happiness as I will be in the Russian fjells in less than ten days!

Alberto De Giuli climbed up Odlo.

Robin was in the Lake District.

Maria went to walk on heaps of rubbish and reflects on how we should treat our environment.

Royal Wulff went cycling the Monarch Crest.

Comet completed his PCT walk and reached Canada, in awesome 115 days. Congrats to him!

The Pennine Ranger went for a walk in Macclesfield Forest and Shutlingsloe.

terrybnd posted a new video called A Walk In The Park, another masterpiece.

Steven went for a walk with Phil in Arran.

Roger walked Kinnekullen-leden.

sbrt went for another Peak Practice and brought back some stunning, yet wet, photos.

Cedar & Sand took his daughter Zoe on her first backpacking trip - what a lucky girl who gets to see the beautiful landscape in Utah!

Mark did a group hike to Disappointment Mountain, and shares gorgeous photos with us.

Panasonic Lumix DMC-TZ10 Review

I'm a DSLR kind-of-guy. The options available in shooting with a DSLR, as the ability to compose a photo with a real viewfinder, different lenses and a bunch of settings usually make me take my Canon 50D on trips. But then there is the weight, and seeing to what effects some point-and-shots are used, which made me reconsider. This is the story of how I found a compact camera which I feel comfortable taking into the outdoors, knowing that I can bring superb photos and HD videos back home.

Earlier this year I started to leave my Canon 50D at home in favour of the Panasonic Lumix GF1, a small size DSLR but with big skills. After returning the GF1 I got so used to the light weight around my neck, that using the 50D again seemed odd. Was I thus ready to step on step further down and try point-and-shots? As a dedicated UL backpacker and traveller, the answer was yes. A suitable camera was quickly found, as the likes of Joe Newton, Peter MacFarlane and Martin Rye have used a Lumix compact camera to great lengths on their trips, taking superb photos with a camera which is both compact and light. An email was written, a business trip to Helsinki was combined with a visit, and I took home a Panasonic Lumix DMC-TZ10.

195 g TZ-10 body
022 g TZ-10 battery
001 g SDHC 8 gb memory card
218 g Total

If I compare that with the weight of the Canon 50D or even the GF1, it is so much lighter, and way more compact = Win. But can it take excellent photos? Lets see:

The amount of detail the TZ10 can capture is fabulous, check the printing on this flyer.

It also can handle fire shots like these just perfectly.

Misty mornings by the lake: Full marks.

Close-ups: Check.

Occasional holiday photos: Superb.

So far, so good. So what is special about it? Well, for one it geo-tags your photos with the GPS coordinates they were taken, and in case they were taken at a special location, like the National Opera in Oslo, for example, it will even be able to name the structure. Sweet, I hear you say, and I concur. Never again arguments with the significant other/ backpacking buddy where exactly the photo was taken - a look at the coordinates, for example in Picasa, and the mystery is solved. Some people think the GPS function drains the battery, which is, hmm, "true". I can go on a weekend backpacking trip without a second battery and come home with the camera still working, but more than that and it gets critical and a second battery is advisable.

In this screenshot from a photo uploaded on Picasa, you can see on the right the geo-tag. It is very accurate!

Back of the TZ10. Display mode in raster is the most useful, as it helps you to compose photos very well.

But that ain't all - as if superb, geo-tagged photos from afar and close-up wouldn't be enough, no, Panasonic decided to throw in a 720p HD video recording with stereo function. Pretty much all the videos I took during the last weeks were taken with the TZ10, and let me tell you that it does take superb videos, as the example underneath shows:

The layout of the camera is good, all buttons are easily reached, with exception of the video record button, which, while sitting a tad deeper, still got pushed the occasional time, but apart from that, a solid layout. The screen has gathered a couple of "Ohhhs!" and "Ahhhhs!", so sharp are the pictures on it. Panasonic also allows you to put the flash off forever, full marks for that. Deleting photos, single or multiple, goes quick and easy. The TZ10 has 12x Optical Zoom, but I honestly can't have used it more than half a dozen times, the 25 mm wide angle lens is perfect for my needs (landscape, macro, mostly).

The TZ10 has a manual exposure control, with aperture priority, shutter priority and full manual exposure. I played around with these - you'll need them for night shots - but I also think the "Intelligent Auto" does a decent job if you can't be bothered. Some of the above photos were shot with iA, and in my opinion they look as good as those shot on Manual. It doesn't do RAW, only JPEG, that's a little trouble if you like to edit in Lightroom 3, but not a dealbreaker (you can edit other formats than RAW in Lightroom 3!).

The two apps I use to edit and share photos.

Before I sum it up, a few quick words on editing. I use Photogene on the iPad, as the intuitive and easy to use interface is superb. After editing I could upload directly from the app to Flickr, though as I am a Picasa user I use Photo Share to upload the edited photos. If you're an iPad user (and trust me, the iPad rocks - I replaced my MacBook with it) and do any photo editing at all, consider investing the less than 4€ for those two apps.

Editing in Photogene.

Sharing with Photo Share.

Well, how to round this up? I need to return, with much sadness, I have to admit, the TZ10 again, as it was only a loan. Yesterday I took product shots for my significant other - she's a graphic designer - and as I wasn't able to get the 50D to cooperate, I took the TZ10 out and started taking photos. The small camera had no problems and did what I wanted it to do, resulting in such good photos that I was immediately entrusted with more work! I guess that means that if the TZ 10 is able to reach the high standards of a graphic designer, and at the same time is able to satisfy the heart of a UL backpacker who likes to take good photos, then the TZ10 can't be a bad deal. It is a great package, taking excellent photos, HD videos, geo-tagging both and does always cooperate, without grumbling. If you're in the market for a new camera, click the link underneath and give yourself an early present! To conclude, I reckon it means that I am not that much of an DSLR kind-of-guy after all =)

Disclosure: I have a Amazon Affiliate account and might earn something if you click and buy from above.