Tents as Tiny Houses

Up until a week ago, I’d never heard the term, Tiny House.

Ah, now it's fit for MY purpose at <750grams.

My tent – My ultimate Tiny House

That was until I read this blog post by Wild and Scruffy, who writes one of my favourite blogs. On the surface, she doesn’t seem to have anything in common with me. For one, she is married with kids, but that doesn’t make her a Mummy Blogger; She takes nice photos, but that doesn’t make her a photographic blogger; she writes about the bush and outdoors only occasionally, so she’s no hiking blogger. Essentially, she is a good writer with a great way of bringing me back to the simple things in life. She reminds me to reflect on what’s truly important, sometimes through the mundane of day to day life.

My tiny home tent on the Huayhuash Circuit, Peru

My tiny home tent on the Huayhuash Circuit, Peru

As I was watching the documentary by Kirsten Dirksen I was inspired to think differently about home and what constitutes it.

We’ve all thought about it at one time or another… When is enough, enough? When does the hunting-gathering drive of stuff, overtake the need that the stuff was originally fulfilling?

Home for the night in 100 Man Cave, Kanangra-Boyd NP.

Home for the night in 100 Man Cave, Kanangra-Boyd NP.

Wild & Scruffy’s post and the doco got me thinking about my own tiny house (which only met the bank’s criteria for granting a mortgage whereby it had to be >50m2, because it has a parking space and a storeroom) and my even tinier house, my tent, fly and other shelters that I sleep under in wild places.

Various shelters on the Colo River, NSW. Walrus optional for floating down river!

Various shelters on the Colo River, NSW. Blue walrus optional for floating down river!

I’ve been living in the same place for over 10 years now, and over the past few years I’ve been tossing around the concept of stepping up in size. From one bedroom to two and a balcony would be nice. There seems to be this cultural drive, a momentum to be continually seeking ‘the next thing’, which invariably means, the next ‘bigger’ thing. Where improvement is measured by a change of status, perceived from your home, which apparently… is meant to bring happiness.

Having watched the doco and done some thinking, all that the endless striving seems to bring is debt. Debt which means your life is controlled by the necessity to earn a certain income, work a certain job and debt that brings incalculable fear and anxiety if you lose that job.

Sunset on the Huayhuash Circuit, Peru.

Sunset on the Huayhuash Circuit, Peru.

Are we designed to live in that cycle of control and fear?

One of the very basic things that draws me to wild places, especially overnight and extended walks, is the ability to be self sufficient. To know that when I leave the carpark, I have everything I need to eat, sleep, drink and be happy for x number of days. This isn’t about chest-beating, hunter-gatherer, knife-carrying, beast-killing, Bear Grylls urine-drinking survival style techniques. My friends and I don’t belong to that style of wilderness living, sorry.

Sleeping in an overhang

Sleeping in an overhang

But the comfort that the few items I carry comfortably on my back all have a purpose and that everything will be used – although hopefully not the first aid kit or PLB!

Essentially, our shelters that we build for ourselves, whether they be tents, fly-only, hammocks or even under an over-hang or cave, are tiny houses in the extreme. How can you describe the feeling you get when you look around your shelter by head torch and realise that you have everything you need?

Turtle like, we carry what we need and live simply for those few days that we venture out. The challenge to myself (maybe to you to?) is how can we bring this philosophy into our everyday lives?

This rethink stopped me in my tracks. I’ve discovered a new joy for my existing tiny house and rather than looking to the unknown of the bigger and better, (more debt, more control, more fear), I’m excited and refreshed about living in the now, living deliberately with what I have and continuing a practice I started in 2013, which was the ‘Urge to Purge’… but more on that another time!

Q:  What tips do you have for finding and maintaining simplicity in your life?

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Six Foot Track Project Launch!

Ok, so you know how they always say, ‘Never start with an apology – it’s too negative.’?

Well, here I am breaking with tradition because for the last couple of weeks, I’ve taken leave of my blogging senses to concentrate on a very exciting new project that is launching this week!

For the past year, I’ve been working with the fabulous Matt McClelland (www.wildwalks.com and bushwalk.com) and Geoff Mallinson (geoffmallinson.com and Dad of danmallo.com) on a new approach to multi-day hike websites. We’re getting down to the pointy end of the work these last two weeks and we’re racing to get it all ready in time!

We all share the same aims of wanting to encourage people to get out into (and enjoy) the bush in a safe and fun way, so we pooled our collective skills into this project.

Geoff goes for a slide at Norths Lookout

Geoff goes for a slide at Norths Lookout

The Six Foot Track is one of Australia’s best known multi-day hikes and although the 45kms is usually done as a 3 day trip, it is also run during the annual Six Foot Marathon in around 5.5hrs.

The book, website and associated YouTube channel are full of information, photos, track notes, videos and an exciting new development called, ‘EmuView’ which adds a 360VR experience to the interactive maps on the site.

Guess who on the bridge?

Guess who on the bridge?

We’re launching this Thursday night with a shindig at the Hornsby RSL, so once that’s out of the way, I hope to return you to your regular weekly blog programming!

Hope you enjoy it!

Carrier Carry-on to avoid being Carrion

Quote

Wikipedia states that Wilderness is:

“… a natural environment on Earth that has not been significantly modified by human activity. It may also be defined as: “The most intact, undisturbed wild natural areas left on our planet—those last truly wild places that humans do not control and have not developed with roads, pipelines or other industrial infrastructure.”

Farewell Kanangra... until next time.

Looking down Kanangra Gorge towards Mt Cloudmaker (Favours Telstra)

One of the wonderful things about our wild places, is that they are just that, wild. That’s one of the reasons that we’re drawn to them, to feel, live amongst and experience a place that has remained as it is for thousands of years.

So, although these places entice and delight us with their sense of being off the grid, (excellent article BTW), as with any outdoor adventure, there is always some risk of mis-adventure.

So, being the super-safety-chick that I am (kinda embarrassing if someone involved in Search and Rescue doesn’t take precautions for when things go pear shaped), I took heed when my good mate, Roysta [he of many Kanangra NP adventures], mentioned that he has got a ‘backup-SIM’.

You see, in Australia, there are two main mobile phone (cell) carriers; Telstra and Optus.

Now, I’m not going to get into a discussion here about how some people believe we should have our phones switched off in the bush (that’s fodder for another blog!), but there’s been many times when out on a walk someone will have ‘full bars’ with Optus, but nada with Telstra or vice-versa. Oh and as expected, Vodafail is not included in comparison … for obvious reasons.

As it turns out, both Roysta and I are with Optus, but due to a number of trips out to Kanangra – we can vouch that only Telstra will give you any joy from Seymour or Maxwell Tops.

Optus and Telstra - Hedge your bets!

Optus and Telstra – Hedge your bets!

There are a couple of things to keep in mind if you decide to go down this track:

  1. Before you do anything, backup your contacts and phone data.
  2. You’ll need to Network Unlock your phone from its existing carrier. As an example, here’s the instructions from Optus.
  3. Do your research on the different plans (why are there always so many?) for the pre-paid SIM cards. The best deal I could find was $30 for 6 months validity.
  4. Put a note in your diary to remind you when the valid time is nearly up… you’ll need to buy new credit.
  5. Don’t forget to test your new SIM with both calls and SMS.

Sure, I carry a PLB for when things get particularly dodgy and there’s no phone coverage, but I can tell you, it’s a lot easier, quicker and cheaper to make a 000 or 112 (aka 911) call (or SMS a trusted friend) from a mobile, than to set off your PLB. The Cops and AMSA will appreciate it too!

So, thanks to Roysta, I’m now the proud owner of a ‘backup SIM’ with Telstra…

… Now, if only I could remember the number.

How To Light a Camp Fire

If you’ve been reading my blog for a while now, you’ll know that I’m a fan of the saying, ‘there’s many ways to skin a cat.’ This couldn’t be more true than when it comes to lighting a campfire and I’ve seen many different methods used over the years.

When choosing your particular skinning method however, the two important things to bear in mind are going to be:

  1. Safety
  2. Environment

To Fire or Not to Fire:  There are several schools of thought (and also laws) that guide an approach to making a campfire in the bush. In some national parks and other sensitive locations (such as above the snowline), all types of fires are banned, so you’ll need to carry and cook on a camp stove. It’s also important to check the bushfire rating level for days of your trip, which could mean a total fire ban. In some areas of Australia, this includes gas stoves… so be prepared for a no-cook dinner option!

Some clubs and hikers are more comfortable with not having cooking fires as they feel that the environmental impact is not appropriate. Again, many cats… many skins.

The approach I take is one that ensures you leave the campfire area in the same, or better, condition to when you found it. For example, if you are in an off-track area, where there’s been no campfire before, when you leave the campsite there should be no trace of there having been a fire. Although I personally consider this leave no trace, it is important to note that if you were to strictly adhere to the 7 Principles of Leave No Trace then you would not have a fire.

You can see in my video that there are several key points to consider:

  1. Size: Keep the fire small, manageable and containable. Always clear the leaf litter around to ensure it doesn’t catch and keep water on hand for any stray embers.
  2. Choose appropriate timber: By choosing fallen eucalyptus wood, you are choosing a timber that is high in natural oils that burn hot and for a longer time. One environmental concern of fires is using too much timber. Another way of looking at it is that by choosing wisely, you’re also helping natural fire management by getting ride of undergrowth of dead/fallen timber.
  3. Little Soldiers all in a row: Looking at my video, you’ll see an approach to placement of the timber that means you’re creating stable platforms to place billy’s and cooking pots. If you build a fire in a tee-pee/pyramid style, you need to wait for the fire to burn down and create ashes to place pots in for cooking. If you’re working with wet timber however, a tee-pee style is good for drying out the wood.
  4. Return to the Wild: After you’ve finished with the fire, ensure it is completely out by dousing with several litres of water if necessary. Be careful, as heat can still be retained in the ashes and in the ground. Using a stick, remove and scatter the (now cold) ashes and coals around a flat surface (if you’ve kept your fire small, there should be too many!) and cover with the original leaf litter that you removed to create the fire in the first place. Can you still tell that there used to be a fire?

Wilderness Camping Etiquette or How to win friends in the bush! (The Official List)

I remember when I went on my first trip with the Sydney Bushwalkers Club, (an adventure down the full length of Ettrema Creek from Bullfrog Creek to Coolendel in 4 days… um,

Setting up a Campsite

Think of your fellow campers when setting up your tent (Snowy Mts NP, NSW)

make that 5) I was so exhausted upon reaching camp on the first night, that my only thought was being horizontal. If someone had mentioned ‘jobs’ or ‘chores’ to me, I would’ve used a few choice four letter words in their direction before promptly falling asleep.

It was only after I settled into the routine of the first couple of days that I realised there’s a bit to do at camp when you arrive and it’s so much easier and quicker if everyone pitches in. (Remember: I was still pretty clueless – think “cauliflower” episode).

So here’s the top 5 things I discovered that need to be done (in order) when you get to camp: [or here’s 5 reasons for your fellow campers to get pissed off with you if you simply put up your own tent and disappear inside.]

  1. View from my tent

    Don’t pitch your tent too close (it can be creepy!)

    Selecting your spot: Depending on your shelter of choice, your needs will be different. For Tent-ers, all you want is that perfectly flat spot with soft grass, the Fly-ers have got their eyes out for the same flat spot but also want the magic two trees in perfect proximity, whereas the Hammock-ers couldn’t care less what the ground looks like, as long as the trees are solid. So when choosing your spot, just spare a thought for your fellow campers. If you don’t have a fly or hammock, don’t nab the flat spot between the two perfect trees! Oh, and now isn’t the time to put up your shelter (unless it’s raining or about to). Just drop your pack and start the other jobs. TIP: Spread out across the area. It’s kinda creepy if someone sets up real close when there’s lots of space! And if you know you’re a snorer, please set up on the outer extremes of the site.

  2. Collecting Firewood: If you’re going to be having a cooking fire (after checking there’s no Fire Ban in place and they’re allowed in the area) now is the time to get some firewood. (Watch out for an upcoming video on lighting a cooking fire). This is the hardest task to do in the dark, so do it first before the sun goes down. You can even start gathering it on your way into camp. This is especially helpful if you know you’re staying in an area where firewood is scarce. If there’s enough people, get one person to be the fire lighter/timber sorter, whilst the others are still bringing the timber in. TIP: Don’t forget to stash a small amount of kindling and small sticks inside your shelter at night, to protect from dew/rain if you want a breakfast fire.

    Warming up – Dexs Creek (Kanangra to Katoomba)… just before it snowed.

  3. Gather water: Generally speaking, you’ll always be aiming to set up camp near to a water source. If the sun has gone down, it’s an easier task to do by head-torch as opposed to gathering firewood, dependent on the terrain. Also, if you’re going to be having a bit of an APC** splash n’ dash down near the creek or river, you might appreciate the cover of darkness! If there’s enough people in the party, split the jobs so those getting firewood give their water bottles/bladders/wine bags to those getting water. TIP: Take an empty backpack with you to carry back all the water bottles and take a cup with you in case the water level isn’t deep enough to get the bottles in.
  4. Put up your shelter: OK, so now all the group jobs are done, it’s time to look to creating your own home for the night (unless it’s raining and then this is the first thing you do). If you’re not sure if your spot is exactly flat, lie down on the ground and give it a test drive. If you wake up in the night with a headache and blocked nose, you can pretty much be sure that you’re sleeping with your head below your body. If that happens to you, just spin around inside your tent for the rest of the night. Ah – home sweet home.
  5. Bring something to share: If you thought Happy Hour at your local was a treat, then just wait for Happy Hour around the fire. Bring some nibbles to share with the party as an entree for dinner. Quite often this means that there’s no room for dinner!

Think before you drink… or wash… or pee (Sassafras Creek, Blue Mts NSW)

So that’s the ‘official’ tips on etiquette during setup at camp, checkout the ‘unofficial’ list (coming soon!).

** Arm pits and crotch