“An infinite number of monkeys, typing on an infinite number of keyboards, could produce the complete works of Shakespeare; now, thanks to the internet, we know that isn’t true” (Robert Wilensky)

palm_roof_weavingI doubt it would take an infinite number of monkeys all that long to work out how to weave palm fronds, certainly not an infinite amount of time.  However, like many junglecraft techniques, palm weaving looks easier to do than it actually is….that’s not to say it’s difficult, but a bit of ‘hands on’ practice goes a long, long way.

There are roughly 80 different types of palms here in Malaysia and a similar number of rattans and each has fronds that weave slightly differently and have their own individual characteristics.

There is a big difference between weaving coconut palm leaves (probably the easiest) and weaving thin rattan fronds but, as you experiment more and more (and improve your weaving skills) you quickly learn to adjust to different types of palm leaves and, very importantly, you get faster at weaving.  This last point is important as, if it’s taking you half an hour to weave just one roof slat and you need, say, 20 of them for your shelter, well, that’s your whole day gone!  If I remember correctly it took Ed Stafford something like 4 days to finish the lean-to roof (with woven palm leaves) in his survival programme ‘Naked and Marooned‘ (a series that is, by the way, well worth watching and will, if nothing else, convince you to carry a PSK with you!)

So, in this video I show the very basic techniques (not the most fancy, nor the most elegant) – the ones that I think are worth knowing and produce results fast – need a hat? a cup? a basket? mat to sleep on? roof to protect you from the rain? some quick cordage? flights for your arrows?…..palm leaves can provide the answer and, if you’re in the jungle, palms are all around you and thus easy to find.

The roof I make for the temple fire probably took me somewhere in the region of 2 hours (including collecting materials) and it’s a small roof!   Was it worth it?  palm_basket_weaveThe answer to that depends on a number of factors but the key one is how long-term a camp you are setting up.  For example, here the rains come down hard and fast but usually stop within an hour or so – so, if you were only camping in a spot for one night, it would make more sense to collect a lot of firewood and, when the rains come down, simply build the fire up until it’s roaring and it will survive the soaking.  I have been amazed at fires that have survived a truly torrential downpour (as long as they were well established and sufficiently built up).  However, for a longer term/base camp  the availability of firewood becomes more of an issue and you would only want to keep a small fire going and preserve your stock of firewood… and a small fire needs a good roof to protect it from the rain.

When it comes to building anything in the jungle, trying for yourself is vital – there are two things you learn:  1) is how to do it faster and 2) it gives you knowledge of how long it’s going to take to do something.  This applies equally to simple tasks like collecting firewood – which takes longer than most people imagine – and it’s best to know this beforehand.

The truth is that a monkey with an infinite amount of time might be able to recreate the works of Shakespeare, the problem for us mere mortals is that we really don’t have an infinite amount of time and need to use what little time we do have to the maximum effect.