Thursday, April 24, 2014

Marooned – New Survival Series on the Discovery Channel

Last night at 10pm, after the premier of the new season of Dual Survival on the Discovery Channel, a new show aired, called Marooned. It is a series featuring Ed Stafford. You may remember him as the guy who walked the length of the Amazon river, or more likely from his show Naked and Marooned, or Naked Castaway as it was aired in the US. Just like on that show, this new one, Marooned, focuses on Ed Stafford being dropped off in a remote location with absolutely nothing (including no clothing), and leaving him there to survive for 10 days. There is no camera crew. Ed has to film himself in a manner similar to Survivorman.

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Last night’s episode saw Ed stranded on a small island in the Okavango Delta in Botswana. In many respects, the show was very interesting. In the 10 days he was able to make a fire, build a shelter from the rain, make shoes, and even set a few traps. I like watching Ed Stafford, and he reminds me of the early days of Survivorman, when Les was still excited to do the shows.

The downside of the show, at least for me, is that it is filled with comments about how he is setting himself up to “thrive” long term in that environment. Instead of focusing on the very admirable task of successfully making it through the 10 days with no tools, he has to end the show with grandiose statements about how he has made it a long way towards thriving long term in that environment, as he had set out to do from the beginning. I don’t know what it is with the obsession Brits have with “thriving” in the wilderness; perhaps they have all grown up watching too much Ray Mears, who likes to toss around the phrase. The result is unfortunate, naively optimistic, and quite misleading.

Why do I say that? Well…

First, Ed was intentionally dropped off in that area at the back end of the dry season. When he tried and succeeded in making a hand drill fire on the first day there, the materials he was using had not seen any moisture in many months. I would be interested to see the task completed two months into the rainy season, or him repeating the task if he had remained there during the rainy season and his fire had gone out.

Second, his conclusion that he had come a long way to long term “thriving” was largely based on him finding a handful of nuts and stealing a corner of old honeycomb from a bee hive on the last day of the show. Oh, and he spent a day making three traps that didn’t catch anything. Understandably, his clams about thriving are rather perplexing, considering that all of the food that he found probably adds up to about a third of a day’s worth of calories, spread out over a 10 day period. His starvation was evident as he was very lethargic by the last day…and that’s not the result of all of the thriving.

Third, during the entire time he was there, Ed was drinking unpurified water from the marsh surrounding the island, which was densely inhabited by hippopotamus. It is an absolute certainly that there is hippo dung in that water and that it contains a whole range of pathogens, not the lest of which is Giardia. If he had stayed on the island for another week or two, he would have been dropped by one of those pathogens, and would have spend the rest of his time there with severe diarrhea and vomiting, preventing him from doing absolutely anything.

So, the claims about him being able to thrive there long term are quite ridiculous based on what actually happened on the show, and detract from the actual value of the show, which demonstrates quite realistic and good quality survival over a 10 day period.

If you can get past the “thriving” delusions on the show, it is quite good, and worth a look. It looks like it will be airing on the Discovery Channel on Wednesdays at 10pm.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Under $350 Ultralight Backpacking Kit

There is a concern often expressed by people that if they want to reduce the weight of their gear, they must spend huge amounts of money. Those concerns are certainly justified, as many of the ultralight gear lists obtain maximum performance through very expensive, top of the line gear.

It doesn’t have to be that way however. The current state of the market is such that by removing unnecessary gear, and making some smart choices, one can easily create a very light weight kit on a budget.

You may have seen my Beginners Guide to Affordable Bushcraft and Camping Gear, where I was focusing more on low cost than low weight, but the resulting kit was under 13 lb, including a hatchet and saw, and cost a bit over $400 with all of the small accessories.

Well, Lightweight Backpacking has put together another gear list, titled Under $350 Ultralight Backpacking Kit, which I think is well worth a look.

You can follow the above link to the full article. I probably wouldn’t have made all of the same choices. For example, I would prefer a DIY alcohol stove over an Esbit one, and I would rather have a tarp than a one person tent, but overall, the gear choices are solid both in terms of weight and cost.

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I think the choices for backpack, sleeping bag and sleeping pad are excellent, and surprisingly cost effective. Of course, this is not the and all and be all gear list, but it goes to show that with some careful gear selection, and by leaving behind a lot of unnecessary equipment, the weight of your pack can be brought down significantly without braking the bank.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Dual Survival Clarification by Cody Lundin and New Host Announcement

Many of you have seen the previews for the new season of Dual Survival which is scheduled to premier April 23, 2014, and have undoubtedly noticed that Cody Lundin is in the previews despite his earlier announcement that he has been fired from the show. The previews have also made it seem that Cody left because of irresolvable conflict with co-host Joe Teti. Well, Cody just released another statement to clarify the issue. In summary, he specifies that he only filmed four episodes for the fourth season of the show. He confirms that he was fired because conflicts with Discovery over health and safety issue, and that he will be replaced by another host for the remainder of the season. He announced the new host as being Matt Graham from the show Dude, You’re Screwed.

True, False Road Sign

Here is his full statement:

Dear Campers,

Unfortunately, flurries of season four press releases by Discovery Channel have caused unnecessary confusion. Initial press releases implied that I was returning for the entire fourth season of Dual Survival. Not true. Later releases featured quotes from a new Discovery executive producer implying that I quit the show. Not true. Further releases implied that I couldn’t “hack” the show anymore and that I was unable to handle the survival scenarios. Not only are these implications completely false, they question my professional experience, expertise and integrity in a manner that I will not tolerate.

Given the promotional approach chosen by Discovery, I am left with no choice but to speak out to defend my reputation and career as a professional survival instructor with 25 years of experience. To be clear, the implications of my involvement in, and departure from, season four of Dual Survival in the network’s public statements have been inaccurate, uncalled for, unacceptable and untrue. It’s shocking to me that Discovery would treat anyone in this manner, and I am disappointed that this media organization would put its own reputation at risk by choosing sensationalism over facts.

Discovery is well aware of the actual circumstances that led to my firing from the show – circumstances that in no way resemble the message that the network has chosen to present so far. While I have not yet felt the need to address our differences in a much larger public forum, I won’t hesitate to do so if that is what is required to protect my integrity and my career. If the network continues to put forth a narrative regarding my departure, I expect it to do so in a respectful, fact-based way that allows us to part in a professional manner that will not harm either of our future interests.

The network should be aware that programming of this nature must be produced and marketed in a responsible manner with the highest level of regard for the safety and health of the hosts, production personnel, and members of the viewing public. I have shared this message with them many times. Failure to observe this standard could have tragic consequences that, with proper precaution, can be avoided. There can be no compromise when dealing with people’s lives.

It is true that I was scheduled to shoot all episodes for season four, but as I was fired due to differences over safety and health concerns, I filmed only four shows. The shows I participated in were filmed in Sri Lanka, Oman, and Norway. Matt Graham, one of the people from “Dude, you’re screwed” was hired to replace me. As Discovery moves forward with launching the new season of Dual Survival, I hope the network will choose a different tactic for the presentation and marketing of the show that is not at my expense.

On a brighter note, my farewell post was shared more than 720,000 times on Facebook alone with thousands of supportive comments from fans. I very much appreciate the continued support and hope this letter clears up any confusion.

Stay true and never waiver.
Sincerely, Cody Lundin

I find it sad that Discovery keeps taking the low road when it comes to its hosts. They keep trying to cover things up and manufacture drama. I suppose that is what sells to the larger public, but it is disappointing for those of us who watch the shows for the information they provide rather than the stunts they show.

On the other hand, I am very happy that Matt Graham will be taking over. I like the guy, although I am sad that he will be entering the same drama factory as some of the now gone presenters.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

My Cook Kit

I’ve been asked a few questions about my complete cook kit, so I figured I would put together a short post about it.

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Over the years I have tried to simplify my cook kit and carry just the items that I need. My cooking is not complex. I usually just boil water and mix it with dry stuff like stuffing or mashed potatoes.

I wanted a cook system that was light and compact, but could also be used on an open fire rather than with a stove when the opportunity presents itself, and I needed it to be able to melt snow for water during winter, requiring a stove that can function in cold weather, and a pot large enough to melt enough water to fill my Nalgene bottle. The result was the cook system you see above.

My main pot is a SnowPeak 1L titanium pot. They don’t make this exact model any more. I’ve had it for at least five years now. The pot did not come with a lid handle because the lid was intended to be used as a plate, but I tapped it and put a handle because it is more important to me to have a good lid than a plate. I prefer a simple pot like this one when compared to ones with thermal exchangers like those you see on integrated pot/stove designs like JetBoil because I can use the pot directly on a fire without melting anything or having to clean sooth out of the heat exchanger. The pot weighs 4.7oz.

As you can also see from the picture, I have a cup as well. It is the 700ml Stoic Ti Kettle. It comes with a lid and some other accessories which I don’t use. It nest together with my Nalgene bottle. I use it to mix drinks, but I also keep it as a back up pot in case I damage my main pot. The cup weighs 3.1oz.

The next item is the stove. I use the Kovea Spider, which is a remote canister stove. It allows for inverted canister use, so I can use the fuel in liquid feed mode when the temperature is low. The stove is also very stable and relatively light weight. It weighs 5.9oz. I use it with the smaller 4oz canisters because they allow me to fit everything within the pot. An empty canister weighs 3.5oz.

The above are the main components of my cook kit. In addition to that I have a few smaller item. I have a bandana which holds everything together in the pot. It weighs 1.1oz. I also have a mini BIC lighter which weighs 0.4oz and an aluminum foil windscreen which weighs 0.4oz, although I am thinking of getting a slightly thicker windscreen. 

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Everything together weighs 19.1oz and allows me to take care of all my cooking needs in the woods. If this type of stuff interests you, you may want to check out my minimalist cook kit.