Tag Archives: Army Cadet Force

SIGG Wide Mouth Sport bottle review: A Canadian Adventure.

Regular followers of my blog will know that I am a volunteer with the Army Cadet Force and that this hobby sometimes ends up with me doing some pretty cool stuff. This summer was no exception and I found myself leading a group of twelve 14/15 year old cadets on a 6 week long Royal Canadian Army Cadet Corp (RCAC) Expedition Instructor’s Course in New Brunswick, Canada. On the kit list for the trip was the word ‘water bottle’ and I decided that this would be a perfect time to test out the SIGG Wide Mouth Sport bottle.

The bottle has a capacity of 0.75ltrs, a 3-stage-sports-top and had a narrower bit in the middle to make it easier to hold.  It comes with a wide mouth top enabling standard SIGG tops to fit the bottle. This ultimately meant that there were two places you could drink from – the standard lid or take both parts off and drink straight from the wide mouth.

 

This bottle went everywhere with me during the 6 weeks I spent in Canada – it was hot, hot, hot over there!! New Brunswick had an unseasonably hot summer with temperatures reaching 30 degrees celcius most days and there was a very real risk of heat injuries.

When you’re on an 18-day expedition in a hot and dry training area, staying hydrated is not optional, the consequences of not drinking enough are fatal. The mandate was to drink water and LOTS of it…

The wide mouth top made the bottle super easy to fill, I was able to fill my bottle directly from the main water source at a camp on the training area – quite novel as it was very similar to a fireman’s hose! I quite quickly removed the sport top and replaced it with a standard one as I found that I could get water into me quicker that way. We’re I to be out jogging/cycling in standard weather the sports top would be ideal but when drinking litres of water, the wider opening made the process easier.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Putting a standard top on the wide mouth top meant that I could attach some paracord to it, whack a karabiner though the lot and securely attach the bottle to the thwart of my canoe. Whilst on a 5 day canoe phase of the expedition, we used water filters to make the river water clean (if you’ve ever been to the St John River in New Brunswick you’d want to make sure the water was clean!) and this was pumped straight into my SIGG wide mouth bottle.

 

When drinking 2-3 litres of water an hour ALL day, everyday – water can get a tad dull and you also need to start replacing your salts (pretty sure I’ve never sweated as much as I did in Canada…) so I sourced some powdered Gatorade. This small act made such a difference and amazingly. after a quick rinse, fresh water put into the SIGG bottle still tasted fresh – no nasty, sickly residue left behind! I’ve now learnt that this is due to the internal coating on the bottle.

 

I saw a few other SIGG bottles whilst in Canada and was pleasantly surprised to see a whole display unit in the Canex featuring bottles in their camouflage design - Cadpat - and the very same bottle that had been by my side every stage of the way.

This bottle was also instrumental in a first aid emergency – I found myself having to deal with a young adult suffering from a heat injury. I had my SIGG bottle, a jerry can of water, my Cadet Safety Training Precautions and a notebook & pen with me. Combining these three things enabled me to look after her until help arrived. How? Dumping the contents of my bottle on her to cool her down, monitoring her heart rate and giving her my bottle to drink from as often as she could. So there you have it, SIGG is a real life safer!!

I love my wide mouth sports bottle and it is now my bottle of choice when I’m out and about.

I was sent this product for the purpose of the review. Opinions are my own and unbiased. 

Oh Canada!

The first week of Argonaut 2012 has been pretty low-key in all fairness, lots of training etc in preparation for the Big One – Bravo Company Senior Expedition Leader’s Course 18 day expedition… This will see about 400km being covered over that time split between canoeing, mountain biking and hiking. With that in mind Wednesday saw 7 platoon head to the water site for a day of canoe training, all good fun – I like being on the water. After some dry training, and a demonstration of  a T rescue we were on the water (St John’s River) and paddling in pairs to Cow Island for our box lunches. I volunteered to demonstrate the t-rescue and was prepared for the water to be freezing but I was pleasantly surprised by how warm it was – quite a refreshing change from the UK.  I spotted a few mosquitos on my bare legs whilst eating lunch but thought I’d swatted them away in pretty good time… how wrong I was. I was in the rear of my canoe with my staff cadet up front, it was very windy and it was hard work to keep the canoe from being blown back to shore but we managed it. I’ve never canoed in weather like that before, so it was a good experience.

The St John River is pretty large, one of the biggest in Canada, and I was lucky enough to get a spin the in safety speedboat whilst the cadets were changing – much fun indeed. When we got back to camp following the 45 minute walk back on a trail, I noticed my bites were starting to look rather unattractive – nice and swollen and blistered.

 

I popped them all (yes, with clean hands) maybe I shouldn’t but hell, they were ridiculous. The one that looks the worst in the picture really was pretty bad, so I got some friendly advice from the guy who’d run our first aid training – he said to go get it checked out, so I did. The med centre, cleaned them all and covered me in plasters

They’ve gotten a bit better but are still not fixed, I popped back in today and was told to see the nurse practitioner for some anti-biotics tomorrow.It’s so dramatic. I know I would react badly to insect bites, I always do.

I had presumed that the camp was dry but I have been pleasantly surprised to discover a very active mess life here – I’ve popped in a few times and sampled some local beer. My favourite is called ‘Moosehead’ and I already have a glass to add to my collection from places I’ve visited. Friday night was karaoke night and I couldn’t resist…. I sang Hakuna Matata with an officer cadet before progressing onto Meredith Brooks ‘Bitch’ to a packed officer’s mess – hey, I like to get involved with the social side of life! I had a few of the officers from my platoon come and join me as backing vocals, it was really good fun but I still managed to get to bed by 1130.

Am impressed  with myself, though I did give the bar a miss on saturday for the ‘hawaiian night’ – turns out they were all up dancing til 4am. Sunday was a rest day but nevertheless, I can’t handle that: Hula skirts and bra tops are not my style.

So to summarize week one, I’d say it’s been good – the cadets haven’t really been a problem and they are doing well (for the most part). The Canadians are great and have made us all feel very welcome, I don’t have a bad word to say about them. There are obviously some differences in their ethos and training but nothing too massive and they’re certainly not divisive.

Canada eh?

I’ve been in New Brunswick, Canada, for just over a week now and so far, so good. The flight from London to Toronto was great – TV screens in the back of the seats that had a big selection of things to watch. Over the course of the 8 hour flight I watched ‘Horrible Bosses’, ‘The Sound of Music’ and a few episodes of ‘The Big Bang Theory – the food was good and the frequent coffee refills were extremely welcome. I’m not good at sleeping when travelling so I was awake for pretty much the entire journey. After not getting to bed til gone midnight the day before departure, I was up at 3am for a light breakfast before heading off to Heathrow at 4am. The flight was scheduled to leave at 0830…

No problems negotiating immigration at Toronto and all the cadets took it in their stride, including the ones who’d never done it before. The transfer flight to Fredericton was very different – much smaller plane, no TVs and no food but they still kept me supplied with coffee. When going through security at Toronto I got selected for a full body scan, all very technological and exciting.

We eventually got to Fredericton at 1700 local time which was 2100 back in the UK. After sorting out the cadets and accommodation etc I finally got to bed at 2230 local time 0230 UK time- almost a full 24 hours of being awake after a rubbish night’s sleep. Don’t think I’ve ever been that tired.

We were the first group of cadets to arrive at Argonaut Cadet Summer Training Centre (ACSTC) with the main body of cadets arriving the day after. To get us out of their hair (and to entertain us) the Canadians took us to ‘Kings Landing’ a living history museum documenting the lives of the early settlers to New Brunswick.

It was a really good trip made even better by lunch. Where the British Army have horror bags, the Canadian forces have box lunches. Due to a storm the day we arrived, the power was out so the kitchen staff had to get our box lunches made by the kitchen at the main base (CFB Gagetown). They were awesome.

Week one has consisted of mostly training for the rest of the course, the UK cadets have been split into two platoons and the other escort officer and I have assigned ourselves to a platoon. I am with 7 platoon, Bravo Company and Ann is with  6 platoon. The UK group are on the 6 week Expedition Instructors course at Argonaut, if you want to keep up to date with everything that is going on here there is an excellent Facebook group for the camp ‘Argonaut Cadets’ – well worth a like. My platoon headed off to Blue Mountain on Tuesday for two days of first aid training, this is an hour’s drive away from camp but still in the training area – CFB Gagetown is one of the biggest training areas in the Commonwealth. Blue Mountain is a former correctional facility, has a two buildings and some land around it. The cadets camped in tents and I was given the privilege of sleeping in the building on a camp bed. Big mistake. So many insects, the noise was crazy and I got bitten loads on my face by midges even though I had a mossie net on my sleeping bag. Ah well.

We were on rations for these two days and we got to try IMPs ‘Individual Meal Packs’, 1300 calories per pack and had some interesting contents. I got actual bread in mine along with chilli and beans, potato hash and bacon, jam, soldier fuel (an energy bar) and the usual additional condiments.They come with salt, pepper, coffee, napkin and a spoon. It was so hot that I didn’t bother with a stove and I cooked my food on the bonnet of the truck that was acting as a support vehicle.

This post only takes us up to Wednesday of this week but it’s already quite long so I think it’s time to draw this one to a close. I will post more tomorrow and Tuesday – til then, stay safe :-)

The waiting is over: Argonaut 2012

I found out in February that I had been selected as the Senior Escort Officer for the UK Exchange group to Argonaut Cadet Training Centre, New Brunswick and July seemed so far away. Now it’s time: our flight leaves in 24 hours and we will spend the next 6 weeks living and working together. Everyone in the group, both adult and cadet, will learn a lot about themselves and each other and this will be an experience to treasure.

Yesterday I met my fellow escort officer for the first time,and we seemed to get on fine – she was younger than I expected. For some reason I had presumed she would be older than me – but no, I’m 3 years older than her. The tone was set for me when I arrived at Frimley Park and was greeted by a member of staff with the words “Are you a cadet?”… “No”, I replied “I’m an adult”. There followed the usual conversation as to whether I get asked for ID a lot (I do) and then it was time to meet and greet the cadets and parents.

From that point on, it’s been non-stop and I am sure the next six weeks will continue like that. I know that we will be on expedition for 18 days, a little daunting but I am sure that it will be fine… There’s been the inevitable last minute rushing around to sort out cadet’s lost/forgotten kit but all in all, it’s not been too bad.

The clothing I designed and ordered from DCS Embroidery has gone down a storm and the cadets look really smart in it. I’m having the group all travel in the polo shirt and fleece – should make it really easy to find them if they go missing.

I’m not going to have much internet access while I’m away so it may well be that this is my last post for a few weeks. I will write and share my photos and experiences when I can, but for now – stay safe, enjoy the Olympics, Cricket Week and the summer as a whole and I’ll see you all after August 19th.

 

 

School based cadet units: What’s the best approach?

The MOD and Department for Education have announced that they are to put £10.85 million towards opening 100 new cadet units across state-funded schools in England by 2015. As many of you know, I am the Combined Cadet Force (CCF) Administrator at a school in Manchester and have been an Officer in the CCF for the last 6 years.

I’m well aware that during my career as a CCF Officer I have flown up the ranks and achieved things that I just couldn’t have done had I stayed in the Army Cadet Force (ACF) way back in 2006. I started my cadetting career with Lancashire ACF but moved to the CCF when I got a teaching post in a school that had a CCF. I thought that combining my job with my hobby would be a good move. I was wrong. In many ways I wish that I had remained with the ACF from the start.

I don’t like to regret anything, for without the actions we do we would not be the people we are. You will never hear me saying that I regret jumping ship to the CCF, for had it not been for that move I would not have achieved half of what I have. There are some outstanding CCF units and they are to be applauded but in my experience, many of them are badly run and are potentially a liability. Understaffed and far too autonomous, they often struggle to meet the demands of Army Policy. In my opinion this could be improved by following a model broadly based on the ACF in that several CCF contingents are grouped together under the central command of a HQ. This would enable pooling of resources, both of manpower and equipment. No man is an island, yet CCFs operate in isolation struggling with too few qualified staff to enable training. It often seems that one Officer will hold all of the toys (qualifications) and obviously one person cannot be everywhere at once. A more collaborative approach to training can only be a good thing and one that is long overdue.

Greater Manchester ACF rolled out some school based detachments back in 2009 and they appear to have been a great success. This is another way of offering cadets within a school environment – CCFs are not the only way to bring cadets inside the school yard. My concern is that this latest initiative from the MOD and DfE will see them desperate to open new CCFs when actually the ACF may be a better organisation to sponsor these new units. Fingers crossed they get it right.

SIGG Alu Maxi

Hungry? SIGG Alu box Review


Given my ridiculous hobby and my unwillingness to buy food from the staff cafe,I spend rather a lot of time carrying my lunch around with me. Despite owning a myriad of outdoor gear I’d never purchased a specialist lunch box. Sure I’d seen them reviewed in magazines but somehow there was always something else I found to spend my cash on. Having now spent a few months using the SIGG Maxi Metallic Alu I can firmly say that I wish i’d owned one years ago!

The box itself was lightweight, cool to the touch and looked good – I wasn’t going to suffer the embarrassment of  carrying my lunch in something that looked like it belonged to a five year old! The box is well designed with a strong clip to keep the lid firmly attached to the box and a rubber lining on the part where the lid contacts the box.

 

Clip to close the lid

Rubber seal around the edge of the lid. This all has the effect of keeping the lid on nice and snug with no rattling (the last thing you want is your bag to be rattling with every step you take)

I am an adult volunteer in the Army Cadet Force and as such spend rather a lot of time away doing ‘this and that’. The MOD provides plenty of food to eat during the day but the packed lunches always arrive in a brown paper bag (hence the phrase ‘horror bag’ as slang for ‘packed lunch’). Before heading out into the hills for they day I transferred the contents of the Army issue lunch box to the SIGG Alu and was pleasantly surprised to see that all my food fitted inside. Another benefit was that the box was re-usable and didn’t fall to pieces as soon as it got the slightest bit damp…

SIGG Alu lunch box vs Army lunch box (bag)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I have taken the SIGG Alu with me whenever I have needed to carry my lunch and found that the lid doubles up as a plate when needed – pretty handy when you want to put your butty down if you need to go do something else! The SIGG Alu really does look the part – a colleague at work asked me about it and was very keen to go buy one himself. A big tick for the lunch box!

The lid doubles as a plate when needed

 

 

 

 

 

 

It’s all very well looking the part but how did it fare when used in anger? Well I dropped the box a fair few times and it survived with no visible damage. It seemed pretty water tight, keeping my lunch dry during a very rainy expedition. However, I did a submerge test at home on the SIGG Alu and I can confidently say that it is not a water tight box. For this reason I would not recommend it to take with you when paddling UNLESS it was inside a dry bag.

Overall I am extremely pleased with this product, the only draw back is that it isn’t water tight but that is a minor issue for what is other wise an excellent addition to my kit.

Would I recommend this to other people? Without a moment’s hesitation. Go buy one – it’s money well spent.

I was sent this product for the purpose of the review. Opinions are my own and unbiased. 

 

 

 

Tough enough? SIGG UK water bottle review

I have been obsessed with kit since I was a teenager. It all started when I joined the Air Cadets, spent time in the great outdoors and saw the ‘stuff’ that the staff and senior cadets had. I became intrigued by all things shiny and new: browsing Blacks in Cardiff became a genuine guilty pleasure. This obsession with kit followed me into adulthood where a foray into outdoor retailing kept me off the streets for two years and I became an expert in advising people on the ‘right kit for the job’. Being an Officer in the Army Cadet Force means I spend a significant chunk of my time outside where having the right kit is imperative.

When I saw that SIGG were looking for outdoorsy people to review their products I jumped at the chance. I’ve been around SIGG products for many years now but have never actually owned a bottle. As soon as I opened the parcel from SIGG UK and saw the 0.6 litre Classic bottle in black, I knew I was in love.

 

 

 

It was smooth, it was shiny, it was light and felt cool to the touch. Aesthetics aside, how was it going to fit  into my life? Shortly after receiving the Classic bottle I was off to North Wales with cadets for an Adventurous Training weekend – a perfect chance to see what the Classic bottle could do.

 

 

 

The first plus point occurred shortly after breakfast when I was issued with my horror bag (Army slang for packed lunch) and removed the small bottle of water provided. Plastic waste is a real problem for the environment with over 60 billion tons of it being produced every year but SIGG bottles are reusable and last a life time. Last year one young cadet I was working with had borrowed his Dad’s twenty year old SIGG bottle for a three day expedition – sure, it was battered and dented but it worked! Imagine how many plastic bottles have been saved from going to landfill in that twenty years.

 

No contest here! Resuable, tough SIGG bottle versus small, disposable plastic bottle…

 

 

 

SIGG were kind enough to send me a neoprene pouch for the bottle – as you can see it fits snugly around it. I found that when in temperatures around 0 degrees, the bottle, because it’s metal, became very cold and difficult to hold when not wearing gloves. The pouch enabled me to use the bottle without gloves and is a good addition to your kit if you think you may be taking the bottle somewhere cold.

The next plus point came when I took the cadets to a climbing wall for the day. I often find that when instructing I don’t drink enough to stay hydrated – it’s thirsty work making sure that the cadets are safe and having fun! Initially I thought that the clip on the neoprene pouch would attach to my climbing harness but I found that the clip wasn’t wide enough. A quick rummage in my kit bag later and my bottle was attached to my harness via a karabiner through the hole in the lid of the bottle. Having the bottle to hand meant that I could keep a watchful eye on the cadets and still have a drink, bonus!

 

 

 

 

 

 

The bottle is made from a single piece of Aluminium and has an EcoCare Liner, all rather technical but basically ensures a fresh, clean taste with no metallic after-taste. No matter what drink I put inside the SIGG bottle, it did indeed taste clean with no metallic nasty-ness – I tried milk (for coffee while at cadets), Ribena, water and fizzy pop. The fizzy pop was an interesting one, the SIGG website said it was fine to use the bottle for fizzy drinks so  I gave it a whirl. Carrying a can of grape soda isn’t really a good idea while in uniform but disguising it in a smart, black SIGG water bottle seemed like a good way to smuggle it in. And it worked reasonably well. The drink was still fizzy for about three hours and the bottle fitted perfectly in my combat jacket pocket.

 

 A perfect fit!

 

 

 

 

Whilst I found the bottle to be an excellent addition to my kit I was unable to use it in ‘the field’. Disappointingly it didn’t fit in my webbing and in all honesty when it comes to doing hardcore Army things with guns, I will stick to the issue water bottle. But as a bottle to take climbing, to the office, on the hills and to stuff in my daysack when doing less intense cadet things – it’s a definite win.

Would I recommend this to other people? Of course I would, I’ve not left mine at home since I got it!

I was sent this product for the purpose of the review. Opinions are my own and unbiased.