Initial impressions of the Skrama bush knife

Earlier this autumn, I brought your attention to a new knife designed by Varusteleka, a Finnish outdoor/military surplus supplier. The Skrama, which is made in Finland and available only from Varusteleka, is designed to be an all-around wilderness blade for campers, bushcrafters, woodsmen etc. After reading my short blog post, the company offered to send me a free sample of the knife in exchange for a review here at the blog. I accepted their offer and told them that I’d give the knife a good shakedown and a fair and honest review.

The Skrama came with a rugged plastic blade guard, but the company is also working on a leather sheath available separately.

Considering the interesting handle shape of this knife, I was curious to see how it felt in different grips. It felt very natural and comfortable however I held it. Incidentally, I think hard, non-sticky rubber was a good choice for the handle material. I also think the long handle will contribute to this knife’s versatility in use.

While I was trying out different grips, I noticed that the balance point lies right where the handle starts. This makes it easier to do finer cutting tasks, despite the large overall size of the knife.

Since one of the tasks I use a camp knife for is food preparation, I took the Skrama to the kitchen and tried it out on a tomato. After just a few cuts, I felt I had seen enough. 🙂

After cutting the tomato, I “decimated” a piece of printer paper with ease.

One popular, and practical, use of a good camp knife is throwing sparks off a ferrocerium rod for fire lighting. I found the best way to do this with the Skrama was to scrape the rod with the spine of the blade near the tip, since the section of spine near the handle would not throw sparks (this is easily remedied with a file). I used the ferro rod as a pointer in the picture below to show the part of the blade I used to scrape it.

So far, I’m impressed by the very rugged construction, good balance and out-of-the-box sharpness of the Skrama. Next weekend I’ll take the knife out to the forest to do some real testing. Stay tuned!

A meal in the late-autumn forest with my woodsman-in-training

In the Finnish language, November is “Marraskuu”, which literally means “death month”. I think it’s an appropriate name for this dreary time of year. I usually like to wait the month out because of the wet, cool and dark days and then resume outdooring when the bright winter snow has come for good, but I decided this year to stop that silliness! Looking at the month from a different perspective, I realized that it has advantages all its own. The cool weather means there are no mosquitoes, black flies, midges, horse flies or deer keds like in the summer, and since it’s not full-on winter yet, I don’t need the extra clothing, snowshoes/skis, etc. Besides, if you are lucky enough to be able to spend time out with people who are important to you, the weather doesn’t really matter that much in the end.

This winter, the Woodsboy (WB) will turn 5, the age at which sons “move from the sphere of women to the sphere of men” in some traditional cultures. I can understand why they picked this age. Eager to learn and having a sharp mind like a sponge, not to mention a greater level of maturity, I feel that the Woodsboy is ready to spend more time with me doing “real” outdoor activities. Fortunately, he has shown great interest in coming along and learning all he can. Besides being a chance to spend quality time together, our trips will allow him to pick up wilderness skills and knowledge, as well as an understanding of outdoor safety and good practice, from a young age so that they will be second nature to him later in life.

The first Sunday this November, the boy and I drove out to the old farmhouse woods for a meal and to explore the property some more. The first order of business was to set up the Holden tent for him, complete with wool blanket-insulated floor, his gear-filled backpack and plenty of outside toys. 🙂

As you can see, he elected to wear the blaze orange baseball cap (his “safety hat” as he called it), which left me with the orange vest. Instead of looking for standing dead wood for our fire, we decided to speed up the process and get some wood from the chaotic wood shed behind the barn and carry it back to the campsite.

Before splitting the wood with my axe, I had WB stand clear of the area and explained to him the potential dangers of sharp tools, flying wood chips etc. He stayed put at a safe distance and practiced some “splitting” of his own.

Once the wood was ready, I laid down two larger fuel wood pieces and put some shavings between them. WB helped me to put small fuel wood on top in a grid fashion, and we lit up the fire.

All throughout the process, I made it very clear that the fire was potentially very dangerous and that he was never to get too close to it, put anything on it or run around nearby it. Just like with sharp tools, I want the Woodsboy to have a solid understanding of the potential dangers of fire years before he is even allowed to work with it himself.

It was high time for some grub, so I gave WB a sandwich and some water and then set up a little rig for roasting mini-sausages over the fire. I prepped a stick to hold the sausages and laid it on the forked stick from my last trip. To keep the stick level, I put the other end through a knot-hole in one of the pieces of firewood.

While we were eating, WB said his sandwich was getting cold, so I stuck it on the same rig. 🙂

When the temperature started to drop and he felt cold, I set him up near the fire on his little folding-chair backpack with food on one side and water on the other. He had worked up quite an appetite and ate a banana and peanuts in addition to two sausages and a sandwich. 🙂

I also let him “roast” his sandwich by himself a little. 🙂

We packed up our stuff, let the fire burn down to coals and I then poured plenty of water on the remnants of the fire and told WB about why it’s so important to make sure it’s out completely before leaving.

By the way, I used the Swedish LK-70 pack for this outing because of its large capacity. It really comes in handy for day trips when you have to lug around extra stuff!

WB’s focus, eagerness to learn and good behavior during this trip were encouraging to me, so I’m really looking forward to our next trip out!

The Holden tent

Over the past few years, I’ve experimented with a bunch of different camping shelters, from tipi-like kota tents to modern dome tents to a DIY convertible A-frame poncho tent to various tarp shelter configurations. My current favorite open shelter is the “Holden tent”, a very simple but ingenious tarp tent which uses a basic rectangular or square tarp (or rain poncho etc.).

Holden tent made with a cheap 2 m x 3 m (6.5′ x 9.75′) tarp

Small Holden tent made from a rain poncho

Setup is very easy. Here’s how I like to do it:

  • Place the tarp on the ground and then stake down one of the long sides* from end to end. This will be the back of the tent.
  • Find the center point of the opposite long side and raise it to the desired height using a tent pole or stick (or tie it to a tree branch above).
  • Stake down the front corners of the tent, making sure all three walls are taught. If necessary, run a guy line from the pole/stick to a stake in front of the tent (as seen in the poncho picture above).

*Alternate setup: If you want the shelter to be deeper, rather than wider, use the short sides as the front and back instead of the long sides. This will lower the height of the tent, but it provides sleeping room for more people.

I really like this shelter configuration for a lot of reasons:

  • Very quick and easy to set up and take down.
  • At a maximum, uses only five tent stakes, one guy line and one pole (pole not required if suspended from tree branch; guy line not required if you can attach pole/stick directly to tarp).
  • Even a small tarp provides enough room for sleeping and gear storage.
  • Good protection from sun, rain and snow (multi-season shelter).
  • Ideal for use with a heating fire outside.
  • Allows for good ventilation.

If you’re interested in open tarp shelters, I highly recommend this simple setup. It’s not perfect, but it has a lot going for it. For more tarp shelter configurations, check this out.