Survival is all about a good cup of tea

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No new news Stuart. I've been in the army for 6 years. Everyone knows a brew is good. I think you;ve based this (very commendable) narrative on soldiers experience. Nothing to write home about. Good on you for putting it down in writing.
You are undoubtedly a knowldgeable bloke on certain subjects.
Everyone has their 'niche'............... I've got mine'
Do you fancy a Japanese spelling competition?.. Can you write Kanji?............. Do I fancy a Borneo language competition?.............ich don't think so............ Fancy a German language spelling test? I don't want to come across as rude but I think that this is purely normal and any squaddie will know that a brew will help. It seems to have been elevated to some kind of incredible insight!

Feel free to berate me if I'm wrong, and to be honest I havn't read all the posts.
Take it easy Stuart.........I totally respect your knowledge. I think that for certain folks your wisdom will be good. No biggie though on this occasion. Not for me anyhow.

The tea post is a good one and I fail to see your problem. This is not about one-up-manship. I found this post very interesting and personally I think you are out of line.

falling rain

Oct 17, 2003
Woodbury Devon
The tea post is a good one and I fail to see your problem. This is not about one-up-manship. I found this post very interesting and personally I think you are out of line.

That's a fair comment Le Loup. I wasn't intending for some one-upmanship.
I did go a bit overboard I agree. Maybe too much beer last night. My apologies.....all round :eek: :(
This is an interesting development of this thread...

First, let me state that this article must be the best way to get non-survivalist people to bring kit and act sensibly that I have EVER seen - and I've read a lot, despite the post count :)

Let me try and explain why I feel this way:

First and foremost, people don't want to think about things going wrong, let alone prepare for it. Just pondering the possibility of things developing differently than expected is considered a "negative attitude" by many. It spoils their joyful anticipation of a perfect day in the outdoors. The subject of "emergency kit" is far beyond mental preparation, so it's definitely not on the agenda and hard to get across: "Discuss your paranoid disaster scenarios with your bush friends, not with us, we are just going out for a walk in the hills". Most people don't get a chance to reject the subject however, as it's never brought up.

Only "adventurer types" and John J. Rambo carry knives and survival kit, not ordinary people. Nobody wants to be the weird one in the group or be held responsible for its safety, and being the only one with the Shiny Emergency Kit will single you out, I'm afraid...

Tea however, brings it right back home. All of a sudden, we're in familiar territory and the suggestion of a hot cup of tea on a cold evening is a positive one, heartwarming indeed. Something to look forward to. Who wouldn't want a cup of tea? The survival kit is smuggled in, without a hint of negativity and without people even realizing what's going on. Excellent mind trick! :)

Of course it's nothing new if you already know, been there, or been close to it. Most people however, can't recognize when they're entering into different territory and the rules have changed.

People getting lost during a summer mountain walk don't think about survival. They think about missing dinner, angry parents, or being made fun of afterwards. The dark and cold are just a nuisance, nothing more, because they're almost there anyway. When reality kicks in, they are way behind on the facts and in a situation they've never made plans for. At this point, every single bit of useful information that has ever made it into their memory can be life saving and Stuarts advice has all the qualifications to be just that bit. Because it is so easy to communicate, has a familiar and positive ring to it, and is easy to remember for everyone. And most importantly, because there's a good chance that people will actually bring the stuff, even when it's "just a walk in the hills". And when they do, they'll probably be making tea whatever happens :)

Please remember: just the fact that you're reading BCUK sets you miles apart from the crowd. Consider it an accomplishment that you haven't read anything new here, because it means you've internalized what most people haven't even had the slighest thought about. No offense meant, of course.

Sorry for the rusty English - not my native language.

Best, Hans (NL)
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Full Member
Nov 6, 2008
As an old friend of mine used to say: sleep is the thinking man's sleep. Just think how many spoons and kuksas you could shakilly whittle while awaiting resue and blinking rapidly.

Matt , Do you want to re-check that sentence? Sounds kind wrong to me.
Should it not be ;- COFFEE is the thinking mans Sleep....

If it is , maybe you should lay off the little brown beans and get some shut-eye?:)
Your post is a worthy addition to this thread and explains the merit of the original post.
Thanks BOD. I only hope that Stuart isn't too surprised reading my interpretation of his work :)

Whenever safety or risk is brought up in group conversations on a particular outdoor endeavour someone is going to undertake, it's always a bit awkward. Chiming in with something like: "You know, it's actually all about tea", relieves the topic of its weight and people become interested at the same time. Wonderful, really.


Mar 26, 2008
Exeter, Devon
Matt , Do you want to re-check that sentence? Sounds kind wrong to me.
Should it not be ;- COFFEE is the thinking mans Sleep....

If it is , maybe you should lay off the little brown beans and get some shut-eye?:)

Well spotted. Obviously I needed one or the other...


Feb 10, 2009
Stuart, I found your article to be good common sense. We can become complacent towards the value of our own hard won knowledge and experience, and lose sight of the fact that what we carry easily as habit can be an epiphany to others.

I don't see myself as a survivalist but rather as a Hill-man, although I have come quickly to realise that almost everyone reading or posting here have common goals... to make the best, or the good, of a potentially undesirable situation. Perhaps to kick-back and enjoy a dram at the fire as opposed to the many miserable or even grizzly alternatives.

I wrote the following some years ago and your article brought it to mind. I have to say that I hadn’t previously realised this particular implication.

An earlier post mentioned One-Upmanship, or words to that effect, and I sincerely hope this isn’t seen as such, but rather as saying the same thing in a different way.

I have made some adjustments to cater for non-Scots readers, but make no apology for using my native tongue.

A braw cuppie tea!

If a casual acquaintance were asked for a single word to describe The Neebs (Neighbour=close friend), that word would probably be "Embarrassment". From the tips of his steel toe-capped and Spar polly-bag gaitered feet to his bright yellow oilskin jacket with NCB printed on the back, the man knew no decency!

He liked Little Chefs. He could buy a cuppie tea, then nick all the condiment sachets, salt and pepper, sugar and the wee milk tubs.

Sitting in a pub was always an experience. Any table where the occupants left half a glass of drink was invariably swooped on as soon as they were gone. Half smoked fags in ashtrays were always pocketed, and after Last Orders, and when the bar staff were at their most annoying, yelling "That's it lads. Drink up! That's time now, away tae yer beds!", he had a knack of judging the right moment to neck the last of his drink and make his way to the door... while tanning the contents of every abandoned glass without a fag-end in it. He could also spot a Dope Head in a crowd and would unashamedly sidle up to him and whisper, 'Eh... Got any blaw?'

But although his was a drink and drug fuelled existence, where a First Aid kit more often than not contained amphetamine sulphate, even at that it was not to be sniffed at!

Generator sheds are not uncommon in the Scottish Highlands, even hotels had them. They were not only a source of residual warmth for the night but also of petrol to fill a fuel-bottle if the need arose. He could pick the locks of bog-roll dispensers and seemed to know every public convenience in Scotland with hot, running water. Most of us know the bogs at Glencoe Village but there were quite a few others. He had an uncanny knack of sniffing out howffs and dosses where and when least expected, often most needed. No incongruous looking track, underside of a bridge, or derelict croft or house went un-investigated. They could lead to potential bolt-holes which might just save his life some day!

In short, he was an instinctive opportunist and a good man to be with in a tight spot.

But he did have a certain panache. He was intelligent and funny, and could converse on almost any subject. Folk just seemed to like him immediately and he drew women like a magnet - another source of free beer. On the other hand, Neill Munro's anti-hero, Para Handy would've had a term for him, "Wan o' Brutain's Hardy Sons.". He was the toughest man I've ever known and he was feart o' naethin!

If The Neebs had a weakness, it involved tea!

'An nane o' that sweepins aff the flair tea-bag Pish!' Where tea was concerned, he practiced Zero Tolerance.

I once substituted some of my usual tea ration with a bag of ground coffee, complete with filters and funnel-thingy. The Neebs disapproval was palpable and I was an object of derision for the rest of the trip, with him muttering like Dick Dastardly's Dug every time I produced the stuff. This evidently poised a question mark over my sexual orientation. A similar situation arose in Sourlies, when a lad turned up and had the audacity to refuse a cuppie tea but from time to time would produce a can of Coke from his rucksac... and this in the company of lads who drilled holes in knives and shortened the handles of spoons so we could carry more whisky...
'There's summing far f*ckn wrang wi that laddie!'

Any survival manual will tell you that in an emergency situation, your first priorities have to be shelter, warmth and water, and that you can survive for weeks without food but only a matter of days at most (depending on the environment) without water.

Most Scottish hill-men will place shelter and warmth as their first priorities. Water has never been a problem for them as most of the time you just need to look up and open your mouth. The stuff fa's oot the sky! Of course, shelter and warmth are paramount but it was tea that dictated how long we could stay out in the hills. We could run out of drink, or even short of food (there are always trout, the occasional rabbit, sea-food and road-kill) but when the tea started running out was time to consider how and where to get some. It was find, beg, steal, borrow or buy - or go home!

I don't know how many miles we must have covered in search of tea, pouring over maps to find out where the nearest bothy was in the hope of finding some, or days trudging to towns and villages from Braemar to Broadford. Jimmy Morgan's at Corrour Halt was always a good bet, turning up at 6 in the morning or chappin his door after midnight. He might have been a crabbit auld bugger but he was a good man in a bind, and he'd never turn you away. I for one can say that it was good to know he was there.
£1 a night wi a' the tea ye could drink and a' the coal ye could burn!

Tramping along Jock's Road, heading for Braemar to buy tea, a couple of miles still to go, we came across a family sitting having a picnic. I nodded and commented on what a braw day it was on the way past, and was mortified to hear The Neebs asking if they had any used tea bags we could have (to hell with tea principles). They didn't, but offered a cup of tea from their vacuum which, I have to admit, was too good an offer to walk away from. Had I kept going though, I'm certain he would have stopped to enjoy their hospitality without me.

Having said that, he would always be the first on his feet to get the pot on the boil for any newcomers to a bothy or a camping place. And it wasn't really a question... ‘Ye'll hae a brew, eh?"‘

Running out of tea was unavoidable and we'd deal with it. Forgetting to bring any was tragic! It's not that it happened that often, but on such few occasions, it went unsaid that it was one of the worst of all possible scenarios.

Having walked from Tulloch station to Moy, on Laggan-side, and up into the Bealach Leamhain on our way to Culra, we stopped at the lochan in the coire for a brew... nae tea! There was only one thing to be done and that was turn back and get to the nearest shop at Roybridge.

We had left Spean one rainy morning heading into the Lairig Leacach, stopping for a brew at the bothy, not yet having decided whether to stay the night there or head down to Staoineag. I dug out the stove and got a pot of water on to boil. I put out my mug and hunted for the bag I kept tea and sugar in, only to discover it missing. It was about then that I heard The Neebs cursing as he reached the bottom of his rucksac. We hunted the bothy but there was no tea to be had.

It was one of those moments when the looks said everything. It was 2 pm. The walk up had taken us 4 hours. The shop in Spean would close at 4.30, maybe 5.

I was the first to speak, "Ah'll see if Ah can find some wood tae get a fire gawn!"

It had faired up a bit when The Neebs left the bothy at a jog, reckoning he could catch the shop before it closed. I finished my fag and made my way over to follow the gully to see if I could find some wood and a couple of hours later was heading back with my second rucksac-full, enough to give us a bit blaze to accompany our dram that night. I'd just got back into the bothy when the sky opened and down it came, the kind of deluge that reduces visibility to 20 yards. I'm glad no-one turned up at the bothy just then, 'cos I was laughing like to pish masell!

I swept and tidied out the bothy, got The Neeb's and my sleeping bags out of the wet rucksacs, chapped the wood to size and piled it at the sides of the fireplace... Ye ken when yer potterin about an yer head's just tickin over... mind wanderin fae one thing tae the nither?... Ah had a watterproof bag in ma rucksac wi a spare compass, a whistle, spare batteries, lighter, a pen-knife, pen and notepad, etc... and half a dozen tea bags!

My heart went out to The Neebs, as I sat contentedly just inside the door o' the bothy with ma brew and a fag, watchin the rain bouncin aff the ground.

I guessed that he'd get to the shop in time and be back at the bothy in 6 or 7 hours. 9 o'clock, or so! I'd light the fire at 8 pm, then start getting some food ready for him getting back in. At 9 o'clock, I thought I'd give him another hour. At 10 I realised the ***** hadn't made it past the pub.

Opening my bottle, I had a couple of drams at my braw fire, getting into my pit after midnight, still no sign of The Neebs. I was rudely awakened at some point in the night when packets of tea started bouncing off my head. He made me get up, stoke the fire and make a brew for him and then insisted on celebrating 'The Bells'. I'm sure it was September.

To return to the subject of survival though, I couldn't even guess how many times I've huddled from wind, rain, sleet and snow in the lee of a dry stane dyke, boulder or rocky outcrop to drum up a well needed brew, and it wasn't just for refreshment either! A brew is more than just a warming drink. It has the properties of lifting the spirits and clearing the head and can be the difference between a good decision and one with tragic consequences. If you ever get into a situation where you're unsure of your position, then stop and drum up. Very often the penny will drop during the 20 minutes it takes to boil the water and drink it. Even if it prevents you from going for 20 minutes in the wrong direction, then you've had your pay-off. But it can be a lifesaver.

We were on Creag Meagaidh one winter when the weather turned on us. Predictably, as we were only a short way from the summit when the alarm bells started ringing... we kept going, The Tap of "Maggie" was mingin, total white-out conditions with the wind finding ways through our clothing. The Neebs was in his element! The only way being down, we agreed to follow our tracks to the South West for a short way, turning North to lose height as we made our way back to the coire West of Beinn Chaorainn and join the track we had come in on from Tulloch. We were roped up and going right into the teeth of it though and the conditions were hellish. Visibility didn't come into it! The snow was coming straight at us at a good lick and coating our glasses as quick as we could wipe it off, and taking them off wasn't an option. It was downright dangerous, the light was failing, and Creag Meagaidh certainly wasn't the place to be. (We'd had our moments, The Neebs and I, and were too long in the tooth to stand up to our waists in snow punchin lumps oot each other, as had happened once in the past. We had developed a mutual, healthy respect, and a keen sense of self-preservation.) I remember turning and with my hands on his shoulders, shouting 'Coire Ardair!' I can also remember the momentary flash of doubt that passed over his face. Turning our backs on the weather brought instant relief, even though we still couldn't see a bloody thing.

Finding "The Window" was easier said than done though. We knew where we were, but I have no idea how long we spent zig-zagging and walking into rock-walls or boulders. As you'd expect, we were on the point of losing our bearings and strange things were starting to happen. My compass was telling me I was heading East, but we were starting to go downhill. Something was very wrong!

I turned myself South and found that the ground was rising, just as it should have done. That was when we called a halt, saying that we had to stop to get our heads straight. I rolled a fag, then crouched over the map for quite a while, hoping for enlightenment. I'd been aware of The Neeb’s head-torch at my side and moving behind me but when I turned to him he wasn't there. When I tugged on the rope, I got more rope. I tried shouting but it just fell dead in the wind and snow, so with a sinking heart I got my rucksac off and rummaged for my wee bag with the whistle in and stood blowing for all I was worth.

Eventually, a head-torch lit up the swirling snow and the Arsehole appeared in front of me. “Going Mental” was not the term! The atmosphere turned blue as I cursed him head and heels in my best native Scots. ‘But...But... But...’, his answer knocked the wind right oot my sails, 'But Ah wiz makkin a cuppie tea!', as he held a steaming pot out to me. However dire the situation, all I could do was laugh... and even luke warm, it was a braw cuppie tea!

Miraculously, the problem was solved within minutes. If we were heading East and going downhill, we could only have come through The Window. We started making our way down Coire Ardair and eventually stepped onto the Laggan road just as a snow-plough came along heading in our direction, just like magic. He dropped us at the car and even waited to make sure we got onto the road behind him.

At 10 pm we were sitting in the hotel at Roybridge with a pint and eating hot stovies while listening to live music (I'm fairly sure it was Blackeyed Biddy) and more than ready for it.

However, none of this detracts from the fact that The Neebs was really just a big Tea Jenny. A purist who turned his nose up at tea-bags. The leaves had to go into boiling water, stirred, then left to 'mask' for 3 minutes before pouring, or 'Ye've ruined it!'... and if we had milk, it had to go in the cup first.
Oh aye, and his tammy doubled up as a tea-cosy.

But I do have to admit that he made a braw cuppie tea!
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Bushcrafter (boy, I've got a lot to say!)
Aug 6, 2008
South Queensferry

Excellent, I could just picture that as I read it. :)

Very good story, it made I laaarrf..

You mention Neil Munro (I'm reading Parahandy - Complete Edition, when not on here) but I think you have a flair for the written word yourself.

Well, no bad for a Fifer... :D

aw the best neebor


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