Home Article Reviews Maddag Adventures – Intermediate Expedition Skills Course

Maddag Adventures – Intermediate Expedition Skills Course

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Introduction:

Available here: https://maddogadventures.co.uk/survival-expedition-skills-courses/

This course ran on the weekend of 12/13 June at Tangier Wood on the Kent East Sussex border.

Course Description from Provider:

Following on from our basic course we look at more advanced skills such as:

 Wet weather fire lighting skills,

  • Different Fire Lays and using a fire to cook
  • Improvised shelter,
  • Water acquisition,
  • Safe use of an axe,
  • Basic theory of trapping,
  • Small game prep and more

To attend this course, you should have attended our Basic course or at least have a basic level of outdoor knowledge – for example how to use a knife safely, set a tarp shelter, administer yourself in the field etc.

 About the Provider

Maddog Adventures consists of owners Mike, Marc and Chris, plus Chief Instructor Phil.

Marc, Mike and Phil are the main instructors on the course.  Chris’ expertise lies in the realm of planning and executing overseas expeditions.  If you want to go to Everest Basecamp, he’s your man.  He’ll be at the centre of next year’s Jungle Expedition.

The company was started as a means for the lads to put their skills into practice and to pay for their own trips and equipment.  As such there is no “commercial drive” you see in other providers which can detract from the course experience.

What you get is a group of guys who are passionate about the outdoors sharing that enthusiasm with you.

Course Description:

The first thing to note about this course is that it isn’t a bushcraft course.  You won’t be carving spoons or learning 64 different ways to put up a tarp.

This is a practical course aimed at giving you a skill set that will let you get yourself out of trouble on an expedition.  What happens if you’re in a remote area and your bergen takes a tumble off a cliff? Or, you’re somewhere with no mobile signal and someone gets hurt?  How do you look after yourself until rescue?

That’s where this course comes in.  You need to have a basic skill set in order to do this course.  Much to the boys’ credit, they will not assume you know what you are talking about when you claim you’re ready for the course.  You either have to have completed their Basic Course, or, be able to satisfy one of the instructors that you are ready for it.  This means that the people you get on the course are the right people to be there.

The course itself is held in Tangier Wood near Tonbridge in Kent.  As a course venue it’s fantastic.  The owners (Veteran owned) are in the process of thinning it and returning it to a native woodland.  This means that we were able to practice skills like felling trees, something that can only normally be discussed in theory.  It also means a good supply of long staves for building projects, and plenty of seasoned firewood.

The Maddog Team have set up a central skills area which has a fire pit and is covered by a parachute.  The fire pit is surrounded by benches and is a focal point for the course.  Formal instruction takes place here, as does meal preparation, and social time in the evening.

Now for the meat of the course…

The Syllabus is based on the PLAN-M survival paradigm.  This is a tried and tested methodology and gives a good backbone to the course content.

Don’t come on this course expecting to just sit back and be talked at.  This is a VERY hands-on course.  After the initial “hello I am” and Elf n Safety chats we were straight into shelter building.  This was not the adult den building seen on most courses.  No debris shelters here.  This was a team effort to build an Arctic Shelter.

There was also a poo pit to be dug and a thunder box to be moved, as well as everyone needing to have lunch.  The onus was put onto the students to work as a team and to manage our time.  This was a very effective icebreaker and got us working as a team straight away.

We made an epic shelter, which was tested overnight by one of the lads who forgot to pack his sleeping bag…

After the shelter build, we had some admin time to set up our tarps or hammocks and sort out our kit for the night.

The rest of the afternoon was spent on fire lighting and different types of fire lays.  We covered the use of artificial and natural tinders.  As well as gaining an understanding of why the cheap ferro rods are so cheap!  You get what you pay for folks.   We were shown how to get the best out of our own fire kits as well as being shown ways to improve them.

The Maddog boys have some good contacts.  This was evidenced by the rabbits they acquired for us to learn how to prepare.  We were taught how to skin and clean the rabbits then given hands on.

This neatly led into cooking dinner.  The final fire layout we had learned was the one we needed for cooking on, and the meal was prepared by us.  We had a Smoked Elk Sausage & Potato Casserole (courtesy of yours truly) as well as Venison Burgers, and of course the rabbit.  There was plenty of food with everyone being able to go back for seconds, which was well needed after a day of hard graft.

Once we had eaten dinner and washed up it was downtime around the fire.  The Maddog team are great hosts and have a wealth of funny and interesting stories from their many expeditions and personal lives.  Many a tale was told to loads of laughter… some of them were even true!

Day two was devoted to improvised traps, fishing and the final “test”

The day started with us getting a fire going and cooking breakfast.  Another decent meal, this time a good old fry up!  Plenty of grub was available as well so we were nicely set up for the day.  As for dinner we got the fire going and cooked it ourselves.  NB, when it came to meal times the instructors all ate last to make sure that the students got enough.  But, as said before, there was plenty of grub to go around.

While we’re on the subject of food, there was brew kit available whenever we wanted it for hot drinks.  However, the hot water had to come from an open fire.  This is actually a really good idea as it reinforces you needing to be self-sufficient for everything, as you are supposed to be able to look after yourself in order to come on the course.

There’s an awful lot said in survival and bushcraft books about living off of the land, most of it really not very practical.  When you’re in a survival situation calories are there to be conserved.  Walking 15 miles to forage roots and berries isn’t an efficient use of calories, as it’s likely you’ll use up more than you manage to forage.  The best option that was given to us was fishing.  This is best ratio of effort to calories gained.  Especially as it can be done remotely, more on that later.  We were introduced to hand lines and basic fishing gear that can be put into a survival kit and which doesn’t take up any room as all.  Part of this instruction was an understanding of the law on fishing in the UK, should we wish to “practice”.

Onto the traps.  We made two traps.   The good old figure 4 deadfall trap that you find in every book since Lofty’s SAS Survival Guide, and a spring snare.  The figure 4 is arguably the least useful practically, but it was a great example to use for practicing knife work.  The specific shaping needed for each piece means you have to be on your game to get it right!  We all managed to get it right first attempt which was both gratifying and a testament to the instruction.

The spring snare was much more useful.  Partly because it is more efficient than a deadfall, and partly because it can be used other than for a snare.  This was good fun to make.  A springy, green pole, a couple of whittled pegs, and some bank line and you’re good to go.  Clearly you need some knowledge of small animal behaviour to use it effectively.  We were again told how the use of snares works in UK law.  The spring snare can also be used for fishing.  A few poles set with the pegs in the river or stream bottom, using hooks instead of snares is a low effort way to gather food.  More, good, practical knowledge to be filed away…

The last teaching session was on making a fire when it’s wet.  We were taught the “one stick” fire technique for this.  It’s a great technique to practice and also good fun.  It makes a good party trick too, if you’re out with some mates!  I used it to impress my sons during a bit of Dad time on Fathers’ Day…

The final part of the day was the “test”.  More accurately it was a learning consolidation.  We were given a group task to erect a tarp shelter, light a fire, and get a signal fire going.  The fire and signal fire had to be completed using the tools we had with us.  By this time, we were a well-oiled unit and set to with a will, achieving the task very rapidly.

It is to be noted, that even though the instructors were needing to head off to another course some distance away, there was no feeling that anything was being rushed to get it done so everyone could go home.  It was very obvious that it took as long as it needed to get things done the right way.

Throughout the day there was always at least one of the team on hand to lend advice or suggest another way of doing something.  Frequently they would spend extra time 1 on 1 with a student to make sure they understood it and were getting it right.  As a dyslexic, I found this very helpful and quite definitely got more out of the instruction than I have on other courses.

They also don’t want you to spend you whole time scribbling notes over getting your hands dirty practicing the skills.  They have provided a full set of documentation that covers everything from the course so you can refer back whenever you need.

On this course you are treated as an adult.  This doesn’t sound like it should be highlighted, but you really notice the difference.  There is no condescension in any of the instruction.  You feel more like you’re with some more knowledgeable friends rather than the instructor who talks at and down to you.  It even says you are welcome to a couple of beers around the campfire in the evening in the joining instructions.  They just caveat that with leave your knife in your bag and don’t get pissed!

Pricing

The pricing is very reasonable for the quality of the course, venue, and instruction.

The course is £150.  However, Maddog Adventures are a very family-oriented bunch.  To that end, any child under 14, with a full paying adult is free!  I haven’t seen any other training company make an offer like that.

They also offer very decent group rates for Scouts, Cadets or other bespoke groups.

Summary

This is a great course! I thoroughly enjoyed myself, learned plenty of new skills and felt like I had got value for my money.

I would HIGHLY recommend this course if you are looking to up your skills, and, if the quality of instruction is anything to go by, I would recommend the Basic Course to anyone looking to start their outdoor journey.

I will definitely be thinking about jumping onto their advanced course in due time, well as taking my sons on the Basic Course!

This Kit Pest Review was written by Ben O’Toole. Hopefully you enjoyed it and if you have any thoughts or comments related to this article then leave a comment!