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Hiking the Bruce Trail – Outline & Preparations

Setting off on the Bruce Trail.

Later this month, I will be hiking the Southern half of the Bruce Trail (Queenston to Collingwood) covering ~450km in about 2 weeks.

To that end, I have been making lists, assembling gear, organizing and planning things through to ensure the fewest amount of screw-ups on the trail.

Proper Previous Planning Prevents Piss-Poor Performance.  The 7 Ps.

Planning in this context is simply Risk Management.  The basic principles of risk management are the identification of things that are possible (hazards), how devastating they would be if they happened (impact) and the probability of those things happening.  The combination of those two (what is possible to happen, combined with their likelihood of happening) equals the level of RISK.  When you have looked at your situation through risk-coloured glasses, you will be better equipped to gauge your level of RISK to a certain situation and plan accordingly.

Im my planning process for this particular adventure I have taken several things into account for my planning process:

  • Distance
  • Terrain
  • Access to re-supply (food & water)
  • Logistics
  • Navigation
  • Communications
  • Shelter & sleeping
  • Access to coffee (VERY important!)
  • Weather & environmental factors
  • Possible hazards on trail during hike
  • Likelihood of encountering said hazards
  • Possible impact of hazards if encountered
  • Volume of gear
  • Weight of gear
  • Emergency considerations and procedures (personal safety & survival -gear and immediate actions)

Now, the premise of this hike wasn’t mine initially.  My darling wife wanted to cross-off “Hiking the Bruce Trail, End-to-End” off her bucket list for her upcoming birthday.  The first half this year, the second, next Fall.  Who wouldn’t jump at that?

If you complete all ~900km of the Bruce Trail, you can get this cool patch. I want. I will have.

For me, I am not only looking forward to the hike itself with my wife, but also of taking the opportunity to field-test some of my newer gear and review some things recently acquired.  I’m also keen to tighten up my lightweight backpacking game and sharpen my level of fitness too.  The one thing we will be taking out of the hiking equation is camping.  As we traverse the Southern half of the Bruce Trail, our accommodations plan will be Bed & Breakfasts and Air BnB along the way.

Hike-in to some luxury.

This does two things: keeps me alive and married, and, allows for a level of serendipity every day.  This is meant to be a fun time, not overly gruelling.  She likes to hike in style, and who am I to argue on her birthday?

The peace of a hike in the woods. Like the Infantry, but without the weapons.

So aside from the up-scale hike camping we will be doing, we are still aiming for a pace of 32-45km per day.  I have assembled the following set-up for the trip.  I will be breaking it all down over the coming weeks and months, as I can, to discuss it all in further detail.

All my stuff ready to go (minus a full water bladder and water bottle).

As we make our way along, I will post reviews of gear and trip reports  when I can and when I have connectivity.

Stay tuned for more posts leading up to my departure.

In the meantime, stay safe and stay crafty.

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The Importance of Building Skills Over Relying on Gear

Knowing the principles allows you to improvise.

When it comes to new gear, we all feel the burn in our wallets to get our hands on the latest and greatest.  And of course, if it’s improved over the previous version, it must be better, right?

So tacticool, and new. It MUST be better. With all this stuff, I’ll be unstoppable.

Not always.

Though a newer version of something may come out, it’s not so much the gear itself that makes you better, it’s the skill you have using it that makes all the difference.  If you have a strong grasp of the fundamentals, practice regularly and have reliable equipment, then you’ll be good in spite of the quality of gear.  If, however, you have no training and rely exclusively on your equipment to get you through, you’ll be in a world of hurt as soon as something doesn’t go perfectly.

Kevin Reeve from On Point Tactical.

This is why Training Trumps Gear!  When I attended the Urban Escape & Evasion course with Kevin Reeve from OnPoint Tactical, he hammered that saying into our heads several times an hour ad nauseum.  But he had a point.  If your marksmanship principles are weak, the shiniest new gun isn’t going to make you a better shot.  If you don’t understand the principles of lock picking, you won’t be able to improvise a rake from a paperclip when your fancy one breaks.

For the record, if you were to attend our offering of Covert Entry Concepts, you would learn the principles and improvisation.

The same applies to a survival situation in both urban and wilderness environments.  Also in martial arts.  Body mechanics and physics don’t change.  The principles remain constant, only the application of those principles change to address the situation.  Knowing the principles of a wrist lock is key as it can be adapted to countless applications, rather than a particular technique.

Wrist locks, for example, are all a variation on a theme. If you know the basic principle, you can apply it in so many ways.

Though if you’re investing in gear, it’s always a wise investment to buy the highest quality that you can afford.  It’s an investment in reliability.  But all things being equal, invest in solid training.  The more you know, the less you carry.  And that’s because Training Trumps Gear!  In almost every episode of MacGyver, Burn Notice or The A Team, the protagonists get through the tough times because they’re well trained and can improvise and adapt to changing conditions.  Yes, I know they’re TV and not real, but they illustrate the point well.

MacGyver, the ultimate fictitious improviser.

Well-trained individuals are more “literate” in the field, able to draw on various experiences and tricks, if you will, and be more “conversant” in a difficult situation.  Just as if you are in an unknown social situation, being better read or travelled gives you a wider spectrum of social currency than only knowing about one thing.

Understanding the principles and basics is the foundation of excellence in more advanced skills.

To that point, being trainable, humble, curious and committed to lifelong and learning are important predispositions to embrace towards building skills and knowledge that will enable you to not only use gear to it’s maximum potential, but also to improvise in adverse times because you’re fluent in the basic principles.

Know a little about a lot.

Invest in quality training, keep an open mind and always keep learning.  If there is something you want to get better at or learn to do, invest in learning it.  Anyone can buy the next newest shiny toy that promises to solve all your problems, but you can develop skills that will make your mind the equipment and the “tool” just that – an extension of you.

Stay focused, stay motivated and don’t give up.  You can do it.

Stay Crafty,