#AskPaulKirtley Episode 20: Ember Extenders, Natural Soaps, Safe Combinations Of Wild Edibles, Tapping For Sap, My Woodlore Instructor Knife & Waterproofs On A Budget

by Paul Kirtley

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In this episode of #AskPaulKirtley I answer questions about cramp balls as ember extenders, natural soaps, tapping trees for sap (other than birch), have I still got my Woodlore instructor knife, are combinations of wild edibles always safe and waterproof jackets on a budget.

What Is #AskPaulKirtley?

#AskPaulKirtley is my Q&A video and podcast series that aims to answer your questions about bushcraft, survival skills and outdoor life.

The idea here is partly to take the strain off my email inbox and get answers out to people in a more timely fashion.

Rather than send an answer to just that one person, I’d like others to benefit from the answers too. So, just in the same way I’d previously write an email answer, here I’m going to speak the answer (which is much quicker than me typing out an answer, so I’ll get more questions answered as well as benefiting more people).

Click here to find out the different ways you can ask me a question.

Watch #AskPaulKirtley

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#AskPaulKirtley videos are also available to view on my YouTube channel.

Listen To #AskPaulKirtley

Use the following Soundcloud controls to listen to the audio podcast right here or download the .mp3 to your device…

Links For This Episode of #AskPaulKirtley

Camp Shaky’s 102 Mile Fundraising Walk Giving Page
Winter Woodland Wildcamping: 21 Tips & Tricks
Coprinus on Wikipedia
Elis James and John Robins Podcast
John Robins on Twitter: @nomadicrevery
Tapping Maple vs Walnut (short video)
Frontier Bushcraft Courses
Snowsled Ltd (NB jackets now only available second hand)
Snugpak Ventile
Buffalo Systems
Paramo Clothing
Tree & Plant Identification Masterclass

Natural Soaps Mentioned In This Episode:

Horse chestnut, Aesculus hippocastanum
Common chickweed, Stellaria media
Silver birch, Betula pendula
Paper birch, Betula papyrifera
Sweet Chestnut, Castanea sativa
Soapwort, Saponaria officinalis
Red Campion, Silene dioica

How To Watch #AskPaulKirtley On Other Platforms

The videos will be uploaded to my YouTube channel and embedded in the Facebook Page associated with this blog as well as embedded here on my blog.

How To Listen To #AskPaulKirtley On Other Platforms

Podcast RSS Feed: You can subscribe via the #AskPaulKirtley Podcast RSS Feed

iTunes: You can subscribe to #AskPaulKirtley via iTunes

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Leave A Comment…

Leave me a comment below. Let me know what you think of this episode. I read every one.

But remember if you want to ask a question for a future episode, don’t do this in the comments below, do it in one of the ways explained HERE.

Related Material On Paul Kirtley’s Blog:

Know Your Ash From Your Elbow: How To Identify An Ash Tree

How to Light a Campfire with One Match

Hypothermia and How To Avoid It


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Paul Kirtley is an award-winning professional bushcraft instructor. He is passionate about nature and wilderness travel. In addition to writing this blog Paul owns and runs Frontier Bushcraft, a wilderness bushcraft school, offering bushcraft courses and wilderness expeditions.


{ 16 comments… read them below or add one }


Haha Paul. Thank you very much. I will keep the questions coming.


Paul Kirtley

Great Isa! 🙂 We’ll get through them all eventually…



Another informative episode (two thumbs up)!

I get a weird kick out of cleaning my hands with ash. Seems somehow subversive to use something ‘dirty’ to make me clean. On a side note ash is a great abrasive to clean the glass window on a log burner.

I didn’t know chickweed could be used as a soap so that is something I will have to try at some point (if I remember).


Paul Kirtley

Hi Luke,

Thanks for your feedback on this episode 🙂

I always appreciate everyone’s comments here but especially when I learn something too. In this case it was using ash to clean glass… a piece of knowledge which has passed me by until this point.

Thanks and go well.



Wil Chambers

Hi Paul, another great podcast as usual, thank you for sharing you knowledge with us again. In the one answer you were talking about the possible toxicity of willow with other plants. The link here doesn’t pertain to plants so much as to medications people may be taking that could cause reactions.


Michael Mercer

Another great episode – thanks. I have a ridgeline grizzly jacket, not totally waterproof but pretty good, it is a really nice jacket for most of the time and less than £100. Just to add to the debate!
Nice to see you push your courses, just a point to help (not moan or complain). I sent an email enquiry a few weeks ago for some information about a course and have had no reply, maybe there is a snag with the system. Sorry to use this to say this but email might not work?


Darren Hale

Hi Paul
I could be wrong but I think snowsled have stopped producing clothing, beat port of call would be Snugpak a great English company as well.


Paul Kirtley

Yes, they have Darren. I bought some custom clothing from them relatively recently too 🙁


Darren Hale

Scrap my above comment Snugpak are not producing either……



Given that Sycamore may be regarded as an “invasive” species in some parts in the UK, it would be useful to hear about any bushcraft uses for this tree – including tapping, if anyone has tried it.


Paul Kirtley

Hi Bob,

Sycamore is a very useful species, particularly given its success in becoming common and widespread in many areas over the past several centuries.

Sycamore wood is non-toxic, odourless and carves nicely, resulting in light yet durable utensils such as spoons, spatulas, ladles, etc.

It is also a good source of dead, dry standing wood for friction firelighting. In fact it was the first species with which I had bow-drill success, many years ago.

Hope this helps 🙂

Warm regards,




Hi paul,
in response to the question regarding willow bark allergy; surprisingly, there is quite a body of information on the interweb on the issue, some of which surprised me (and I am a former pharmaceutical chemist at the main producer of Aspirin!). One interesting point is that taking willow bark at the same time as Aspirin will increase the dosage of the Aspirin, which can have side-effects, especially if you have a heart condition. One shouldn’t forget that salicylic acid, the active ingredient in the bark, is a pharmaceutical substance, however low the dose. I have added just a couple of the links available below.
Thanks for another interesting show.





Marieke van Ham

Hi Paul,

Loved the episode as usual and also enjoyed the links of Kevin. I just searched the medical journals. The one below seems interesting.

Best wishes!

Phytother Res. 2011 Jul;25(7):1102-4. doi: 10.1002/ptr.3386.
Willow species and aspirin: different mechanism of actions.
Vlachojannis J, Magora F, Chrubasik S.
Many believe that willow is the natural source of aspirin. However, willow species contain only a low quantity of the prodrug salicin which is metabolized during absorption into various salicylate derivatives. If calculated as salicylic acid, the daily salicin dose is insufficient to produce analgesia. Salicylic acid concentrations following an analgesic dose of aspirin are an order of magnitude higher. Flavonoids and polyphenols contribute to the potent willow bark analgesic and anti-inflammatory effect. The multi-component active principle of willow bark provides a broader mechanism of action than aspirin and is devoid of serious adverse events. In contrast to synthetic aspirin, willow bark does not damage the gastrointestinal mucosa. An extract dose with 240 mg salicin had no major impact on blood clotting. In patients with known aspirin allergy willow bark products are contraindicated.
Copyright © 2011 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.


Austin Lill

Hi Paul and thanks for another episode. I’ve never got round to trying chickweed as a soap and it’s a plant that I think is wonderful to eat. I take it that the saponin content is so small as to not cause a problem consuming it?

Just on sycamore being used for friction fire lighting it’s actually one wood that I have problems with so I need to put some work in on it. Funny how people have different experiences…



Hi Paul
I enjoyed listening to this episode very much, but the bushcraft type jackets you talk about are expensive.
When I desperately wanted a ventile one a few years back I couldn’t afford, so I bought some ventile online and used a sweatshirt pattern to knock one up. It wasn’t that difficult and I was able to customise it a bit.
Why not suggest this as an option to your listeners – it really wasn’t that hard.
PS Seems like an age since you ran that course in the woods … with the drums …



Hi Paul

I sent you an email on 8th Feb, but, so far, have not received a reply, so here it is again –

I have recently subscribed to you videos and blogs, which have mainly been involved with ‘challenges’ in temperate areas, such as the UK

Whilst I have found them all very interesting, I have limited chance to put your advice into action as I’m a Brit who now lives in SE Spain (Almeria Province) some 40km due west of Aguilas. This area is recognised as the only desert in Europe, so we do not see mud, let alone running water. Temperatures can be up to, and over 30°C

I am a member of two walking groups; one doing 14-18km, the other 8-10km – obviously neither involves an overnight camp and we always back to our cars before it gets dark

The walks rarely require packs of more than 30 litres, often less than 10, or a bum bag. During the 7 years I’ve lived here I’ve not come across obstacles such as gates, stiles and fences, although tracks can be steep and loose under foot. The area is quite tree-less, with little or no shade

We each carry our own food & drink, as we don’t get to a ‘watering hole’ until the end of the walk :-), so my questions are:-
1. In an emergency, how does one obtain water in such conditions?
2. What kit would you recommend taking?

I hope you can help



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