48OE Blog  
Sep 12

Written by: 48OE Admin
12/09/2014 16:54  RssIcon

One of the reasons I find it easy to visit the USA is that in the main English is their spoken language. The language however does cover up significant differences. One such contrast was brought home to me in the last few weeks.

Our business sells a variety of items to quite a spectrum of customers. We started in the Land Rover and  Expeditions market but now sell to Adventure Travel and those with a love of the great outdoors. One of my favourite customer groups and certainly the best shows are the Bushcraft fraternity.

I recently visited Salt Lake City in Utah for the Outdoor Retail Trade show. This is a fantastic event with the best manufacturers and brands selling to retailers like us. As the USA is so vast and has so many opportunities for outdoor pursuits their industry is second to none. Big brands like Columbia and Mountain Hardwear sit alongside small family business units who make walking sticks.

We always find gems and 2015 will herald some great new items in the web shop. My trip is generally always quick and. like many travellers, I wake up at odd hours of the night and resort to TV channel hopping. For my sins I ended up watching three programmes all about “Preppers”.

For the uninitiated these are individuals or family groups who go to extraordinary lengths of “Preparedness” for all eventualities. This, in extreme, generally means building bunkers and compounds to sustain life come what may. Stockpiling food and water plus having sustainable sources of both to start society again come doomsday. Security, including arming themselves to the teeth with automatic weapons and in some instances ancient weapons such as spears, axes and bows, seems to go hand in hand.

In one of the shows I watched around 20 family members across three generations live underground for a weekend to test out their bunker. They also train in rifle and bow shooting. Rapid fire machine guns seem to be an item of choice to ensure their defence is good and US Law allows the whole family to fire these at will on their own land. There is no question that some US Preppers take Bushcraft to a whole new meaning. They are generally very vocal about their rights and can tell you how soon their personal doomsday scenario might happen. It would also be accurate to suggest that their perception of other countries' cultures is often misguided. (This misguided opinion extends to New Yorkers and all City folk).

As one of those divided by a common language I also got the distinct impression a small minority also believe that Zombies really do exist and arm themselves accordingly from a website called BUDK.com where all manner of high-tech versions of medieval weapons can be bought. I find this a curious position as a 12 gauge shotgun would be my choice but I am no expert on Zombies. I have yet to purchase or offer for sale Zombie knives but I have to accept that if I am wrong and the living dead do start to rampage across the country, the Preppers will be saying I told you so and not letting me in their bunker.

Now contrast this with the recently held Wilderness Gathering in wildest but Zombie free Wiltshire. This has to have been one of the best shows of the year with generally good weather and a fantastic bunch of people. I watched wonderful teachers showing knife craft to children, wild bread making, basket making, demonstration of tracking and not a laptop in sight. Kids really do prefer to be outside doing crazy things and they learn so much more than sitting on a console for hours on end. The adults did quite well with knife sharpening, axe throwing and a myriad of countryside skills on offer.

There are both family camping areas and for the real enthusiasts rough camping in the woods. Although this is only for hardy types as they have to carry all their kit into the woods and find a suitable spot. From briefly inspecting the woodlands during daylight hours (remember Zombies do exist!) there were not only true Bushcrafters surviving with just a hammock or a Bivvy Bag but also large frame tents where whole families were getting back to nature.

The comparison with the USA was summed up by a conversation overheard between two Bushcrafters or dare I say UK Preppers at the Gathering. It went something like this: -

Man 1 - “You all right, did you have a good night”
Man 2 - “No I didn’t.”
Man 1 – “What happened mate?”
Man 2 – “ Well it was the middle of the night and I could feel someone moving around in the wood in my space”
Man 1 – “Bloody hell that’s not on”
Man 2 – “Too bloody right but a bit later on it was pitch black and someone came walking through the wood with a bloody head torch on. Can you believe it? If had my catapult with me I would have shot it out.”

I can only imagine the firepower that might have been unleashed on the unsuspecting torch carrier had this been in the USA. Here in the UK it just shows testament to the influence the Beano has had on our adult population.

Now where is my catapult?