Category Archives: army

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 :-)

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.