A front from the far north was coming with several inches of snow. The camp-fire’s glow felt good under the parachute-shelter as afternoon temperatures started to sink here in Alberta, Canada. I was a happy man, the guest of my good friends, Randy and Lori Breeuwsma. Another good friend, Joe Flowers, and several of the Karamat Wilderness Ways instructors, both past and present, were there too to share stories, skills and more stories. Needless to say there were many laughs and even some survival beer! More on that later.
At one point, some aspen was brought out and feathersticks practiced. With Mors Kochanski sitting right next to me, I couldn’t help putting a little extra effort into the quality of my work. With many, many curls near the top of my completed featherstick, I knew from experience it would work quite well when lit. Holding it up slightly to admire my accomplishment, Mors glanced over and said with no inflection, “looks good, very photogenic…“
That sly ole fox! In just a few words, he reminded me of a valuable lesson. Having spent the week with him, I know he is that good of an outdoor educator. With so many years of experience and accumulated knowledge, Mors just knows what guidance is needed and then moves on to the next lesson.
My little extra attention to detail took away what can be one of the most valuable commodities in the outdoors, time. While I know the importance of speed, Mors’ subtle reminder resonated with me like never before.
Campers sometimes overlook how fast they can do a skill in a quality manner. A skill done quickly, and with ease, matters as it:
- demonstrates proficiency
- allows for continuing self-evaluation (by timing oneself); and,
- for some skills, makes a significant difference in outcome…
In this example, the faster you can make a quality feather stick for fire in the wet/cold of a temperate or boreal forest, the sooner you can have a fire in which your life may depend. It’s one thing to make a feather stick that works great. It’s another to make one very fast that also works great. So when you see amazing feather stick pictures, keep in mind, you didn’t see how long it took them to make!
Can you tie a halter hitch, tautline hitch, and other useful knots when setting up camp with the speed and ease as you do tying your shoes? How about making a pot hanger, tongs, or cooking fire? This is not just for survival, your woods loafing time increases when camp chores are done quickly! 🙂
But don’t do a task quickly at the expense of quality, or the thing you are trying to accomplish in the end will take longer, be sub par, or both. Balance your goals with the old adage, “slow is smooth, smooth is fast.” You get smoother with practice, therefore you get faster.
Those from the Golden Age of Camping (ca. 1880 – 1930) knew this importance as timed skills can be seen in several of the Woodcraft Degrees and Games for Camp in Ernest Thompson Seton’s (1912) Book of Woodcraft. The water-boil event, of which I have written about previously, is still held as a competition with the Camp-Fire Club of America as it was 100+ years ago. It also remains a part of many logging (timbersports) competitions. And you better believe that our military knows the importance of speed drills.
When it comes to Wilderness Living Skills there is a need to both educate oneself and obtain experience (practice). Therefore, to say you ‘own’ a skill:
- You must acquire the knowledge, which also means you really want it.
- Practice the skill until you are proficient. A skill is not mastered until you can teach it, with context, to someone else considerably faster than they can learn it on their own.
- And finally, you must become fast (speed) without compromise.
And Now… My First Gear Review!
As we are not known for gear reviews here at Master Woodsman, I would like to take this opportunity to correct. So here goes not only my first gear review, but my second one too!
So…what about the survival beer tested at Karamat Wilderness Ways? Well, we had a lot fun with the Survival Pack and the dozen survival tips and tricks on the box. For that reason alone (because the beer wasn’t all that), I have to give it a thumbs up. Gotta say though, this is one place you definitely want to pace yourself, especially with knives and axes! Speed Matters here too, only you want to be slower!
My next gear review was going to be on the bottle of Buffalo Trace Tim Smith and I killed (among other things) at his place this week. Alas, I can only report that it must work well as I was warm with just a t-shirt out in the snow and I didn’t feel like, ‘dude, your screwed,’ when I woke early the next morning having work to do. So, we’ll review it anyway, 5 out of 5 stars on the Buffalo Trace! I believe I have Tim on the docket to review some Wild Turkey next visit, or was that this last one ;-). Nonetheless, you can expect more gear reviews from Master Woodsman moving forward!