In preparation for Wild Night Out on 31 July 2017 we invited some guests to share key outdoor skills for the staff and visitors at the OS HQ.
Max and Daniel of Bushcraft UK came along to showcase fire lighting skills and some of their recommendations for gear suitable for outdoor adventures.
They demonstrated a variety of ways to safely light a fire, including a bow drill (which is much harder than it looks, even for an expert), traditional flint and steel, the more modern steel and ferrocerium rods and a fire piston that uses compression to ignite a small piece of tinder.
For many of the traditional fire lighting techniques, especially starting by rubbing sticks together, the choice of wood is critical, with some woods making it much easier to successfully start a fire than others.
Even using more modern techniques, getting a useful fire from a spark or a single match can be tricky. Bushcraft UK demonstrated several types of natural tinder that can be found in Britain, including King Alfred’s Cakes (or crampballs), a type of fungus commonly found on dead ash trees, and scrapings from Silver Birch bark.
We also took a quick look at equipment that can be used for a comfortable nights’ sleep outdoors. This included showing how to rig a simple tarpaulin shelter, using a hammock to keep off the wet and cold ground and the effectiveness of natural insulation like deer skins.
James from the OS Field Sales team showed traditional map reading skills using a map and a compass, demonstrating how to take a bearing from a map, and then use the compass and a distant feature to walk on that bearing.
Some of the OS staff work in areas quite removed from the leisure mapping most are familiar with, such as complex data sets, so getting the chance to try their hand at traditional navigation skills made a pleasant change.
Lee and Jonathan from the OS Consumer Team showed off the latest developments to the online mapping and route planning tool, OS Maps. As well as demonstrating how you could discover route ideas or plan your own routes, they showed how the new 3D aerial images could be used to get a better idea of the difficulty of a route before heading out.
Lastly Belinda Kirk, the founder of Wild Night Out, discussed how important it was for everyone to enjoy the outdoors as much as possible, and how both adults and children could look for ways to make the most of their time.