As some of you may know, the first Bushcraft Finland winter meetup was held last weekend. I drove over 4 hours to get there, and I wasn’t even there for 24 hours altogether, but it was still very much worth it. I got to see “old” friends, meet some online personalities face to face for the first time and meet a new guy as well. I received some very nice gifts and also traded for some gear. It was a good opportunity to talk about gear and skills, see some real Finnish bushcraft in action and, of course, drool over knives and axes. 😉
I arrived to the general area of the meetup, but since I didn’t have detailed directions with me, missed a turn and had to turn around. Then after finding the right place and parking the car, I started hiking in the wrong direction! I guess I misunderstood Perkunas’ instructions. After realizing that I was going the wrong way, I quickly turned around and headed back to the car. When I got there, I wanted to call Perkunas to confirm that I was now going the right way. That’s when I realized I had dropped my phone…somewhere. So I had to hike back the wrong way again to look for my phone! Luckily, I didn’t have to go far, and I picked it up (it had literally almost landed in horse manure when it fell out of my pocket, so I considered myself “lucky” at this point). As I got on the right trail and headed toward the meetup, I was hoping to heck that it was going to be worth it. Of course, I knew it would be.
When I reached the camp, I proudly announced that I had arrived and was ready to start teaching the course on navigation and that everyone should get out their compasses. 🙂 The other guys had already done all the work to set up camp (including setting up the traditional Finnish loue shelter (last shelter picture) that I would have the pleasure of sleeping in Saturday night). I felt bad that I wasn’t there to help with this work, but I was happy I made it and could join the group.
Some members had carved out snow caves.
The meetup was held inside and outside of a cabin-like shelter with a fireplace in the center. There were benches around the perimeter, a few tables, an axe for splitting and the other standard Finnish shelter accoutrements.
I plopped down a pile of bushcraft-related books on one of the tables, and Perkunas took a liking to one of them right away, “Bushcraft” by Mors Kochanski. I told him he was welcome to borrow it, and it turns out he will be borrowing it permanently, as I ended up giving it to him in a trade. 🙂
I was starving by this point, so I grilled a sausage and heated up a Finnish meat pie called a “liha piirakka” and some tea over the fire in the shelter. That hit the spot!
Two traditional Finnish firelays were built in the camping area, a “raappanan tuli” (original version of the Finnish candle with some important differences to the one commonly seen today and mistakenly called “Swedish candle”) and a “rakovalkea” (or gap fire, a form of long log fire). For an explanation of how these fires are built, check out Perkunas’ meetup report at Perkele’s Blog.
At about the same time, forum member rautasarvi, also known as Ilkka Seikku, gave out firesteels as gifts. I’m not talking about modern ferrocerium rod “firesteels” here, I mean actual forged steel “flint and steel” type flint strikers like the type used to make fire for hundreds of years in Europe, the Americas and elsewhere. I thought this was fantastic, because I had never tried using a flint and steel before and could now take one home with me. Thanks again to you, Ilkka. I can’t wait to make some charcloth and gather other tinder for use with this set. You can be sure I’ll tell you guys about it soon. By the way, I’ve decided to add the flint and steel to the tinder bag in my shoulder bag because they are fun to use and don’t make a difference in terms of space and weight.
After the day’s activities, we gathered around the fire to shoot the breeze. By this point, I was already feeling drowsy because of the long drive and “accidental” hike, plus the general doings of the day. I crashed on my bedroll in the loue and listened to the conversation and crackling fire. Overnight the temperature had dropped to between -5*C (23*F) and -10*C (14*F), but for the most part I was warm in my bedroll and many pairs of socks.
The next day, we had breakfast and slowly started to clean up and break camp. At the same time, those who had items to trade or sell laid them out on the table and commenced trading. As I mentioned before, I traded my “Bushcraft” book to Perkunas, and in exchange he gave me a Swiss M32 canteen and cup, a package of emergency rations, a Silva compass and a belt pouch he made many years ago. I’ve already replaced the canteen and small pot in my shoulder bag with this setup, which leaves a lot more room than before, though the canteen is smaller (I found that I often don’t drink all the water in my other canteen on a day trip anyway). The Silva compass has replaced the cheap-o backup compass in my belt pouch, and the rations will be saved until needed. The belt pouch is already out of my hands. It is now the property of my three-year-old, who informed me that it is his electric razor. Kids grow up so fast these days. 😉
Finnman gave me a pair of Swiss military surplus gaiters which he had bought for me previously. They will come in extremely handy in the woods. In return, I gave him a very special blade made in a far-off land. 😉
When it was time to go, we donned our packs, snowshoes, skis, gear sleds etc. and headed back to the cars. We were lucky enough to have beautiful sunny weather that Sunday morning. We chatted a bit at the parking area and already started planting the seeds for our next meetup, which I’m really looking forward to.
Thanks for a thoroughly enjoyable meetup, fellows!