Sunday, July 10, 2016

Firestarting Kit

Camping is just sleeping in a tent without a fire. Ever since the first caveman figured out how to create a fire it has been considered an essential outdoor skill. Whether you prefer to be ultra minimalist and start a fire with two branches or prefer the more reliable method of a can of gas and a box of matches fire is essential. We can cook with it, purify water, maintain our body temperature, keep critters at bay, and provide a general sense of security. Now, while a can of gas is a quick and dirty way to set a blaze there are much safer and more compact options.

Bic Lighter- There are only two kinds of disposable lighters the cheap ones that don't work and the reliable Bic. Spend the extra money and get a real bic. I prefer blaze orange because if I drop it I can easily find it. The average number of lights from a bic is 3000. That's a lot of fires.

Stormproof Matches- Stormproof matches are truly waterproof and windproof, so much so that you can actually light the match and dip it in water without losing the flame. I have carried these in my kit for years but have yet to actually need to use them. This is my last ditch effort to get a fire going firestarter. A small container of UCO stormproof matches is a cheap, compact piece of mind.

Ferrocerium Rod- Also known as a firesteel this handy little rod creates a shower of sparks that burn around 5500 degrees f. This is my preferred method to start fires. There are no moving parts to break, no fuel to run out, and the elements are of no concern. When coupled with Vaseline soaked cotton balls there is no fire you cant start.

Steel tin full of Vaseline cotton balls- Any metal tin will do as long as it has a lid that closes securely. In the event you ran out of cottonballs the tin can be used to make char cloth provided you have a fire already made. Rub Vaseline into cotton balls for the absolute best and most reliable tinder ever thought up.

This whole kit weighs virtually nothing and could even be doubled if you are the type of person who follows the one is none rule. I have chosen not to include a magnifying glass, strike anywhere matches, a firepiston, a zippo, or any other potentially unreliable fire starting methods. Typically I will use my ferro rod and cotton balls first, if this is giving me trouble or my hands are frozen I'll move on to the bic and cottonballs, with my final attempt being the stormproof matches along with a bunch of tinder of any kind.  This kit alone is not enough to build a fire you also need to practice your firecraft skills to become proficient at staying warm no matter the conditions.

Monday, April 4, 2016

Build an emergency tarp shelter

 There may come a time when you find yourself without shelter for one reason or another. There are several options but the two easiest forms of shelter are tarps and tents. This is not going to be a debate on whether a tent or tarp is better. This article will teach you a few easy to pitch tarp shelters and how to make a great survival tarp on the cheap.

Thursday, March 31, 2016

A beginners guide to survival fishing

***Most of the survival fishing techniques covered in this article are illegal. Always check your local laws if you are unsure. In a true survival situation self preservation should trump fishing laws.***

"You can give a man a fish and feed him for a day, or you can teach a man to fish and feed him for life." Fishing is an ancient and proven form of food procurement that has turned to more of a past time in our modern society. Fishing is a truly important survival skill to learn. It can be practiced easily anywhere you see water. You don't need a whole lot of money to get started. All you really need to start is bait, hooks, sinkers, bobbers, and a pole. Fish are a perfect survival food because they are abundant in most areas and full of nutrients. In this article you will learn the basics of freshwater fishing, survival fishing, how to make lures, find bait, find fish, assemble a survival fishing kit, and how to cook your catch among other things.
Start your persuit of fish by finding some bait. Bait can be found under rocks and logs, floating in the water, under rocks in the water, or trapped. Take a look in the water to see what bait is naturally there. If you see crayfish use them, if you see minnows trap and use them. In the event you need to use lures or make them try to match the bait that is in the area. By matching what is naturally in the area you will be more successful at catching fish. Here are some things to consider as bait

2 liter bottle minnow trap baited with bread
  • worms
  • grasshoppers
  • crickets
  • leeches
  • frogs
  • lizards
  • salamanders
  • small snakes
  • moths
  • minnows
  • crayfish
  • larvae
  • dragonflies
  • virtually any bug can be used for bait
  • cheese
  • peanut butter
  • meat
  • entrails from previously caught fish
After you have caught your first fish be sure to clean it right away and check the stomach to see what they have been eating, then try to match the bait if you can.

Find the fish
To find a fish you have to think like a fish. As a general rule fish like cover and structure (grass, weeds, lily pads, rocks, trees)because it provides them with shelter, camouflage, and food. Normally the most productive times of day to fish will be sunrise and sunset. Also remember fish like areas of the water that are different like river bends and drop-offs. Now lets look at the specifics for some easy to catch fish.

Bluegill and other pan fish
  • Small schooling fish so if you catch one continue to fish that area for more
  • Live in weed beds and rock formations
  • Travel to deep water during summer and stick to the shallows in spring and fall
  • Bluegill have excellent vision so use small hooks and light line
  • They like slow moving bait. Rip it fast to catch their attention and then slowly twitch the bait after they take notice
  • You can try slowly chugging a popper or twitch a curly tail
  • The easiest way to catch them is with live bait and a bobber rig.
  • Bass can get very big but the easy ones to catch will be around 12"-14"
  • Bass are normally found in lily pads, weeds, under trees, and occasionally in open water
  • They eat nightcrawlers, minnows, small fish, and crayfish
  • Bass like fast moving baits and lures. They investigate commotion in the water and will usually strike on a pause while the lure is falling.
Catfish and bullhead
  • Nocturnal bottom feeders
  • Range in size from around 8" to over 2' depending on the species
  • Bullhead are everywhere and at sunset they tend to eat your bait every cast to a point of annoyance when you are only fishing as a past time
  • Catfish like entrails, roadkill, cheese, rotten meat, worms, and minnows. A good rule for catfish bait is the more it stinks the better it will work.
  • Use caution when handling bullhead they have sharp barbs behind their head. If you get stuck it is extremely painful and could quickly become infected in a survival situation.
  • A typical catfish rig is a heavy sinker two feet above the hook and no float. The sinker will rest on the bottom allowing the bait to stay towards the bottom where catfish are.
Suckers and carp
  • Decent sized bottom feeders
  • Easy to catch
  • Night crawlers, corn, marshmallows, and bread are good bait choices
  • They can be found all over but I mostly see them in sandy bottom streams and rivers with grass
  • If you can see them they are easy to snag. This is illegal but using a big hook cast right by them the forcefully rip the hook. You are trying to hook the fish in its body to drag it out of the water.
  • You can also spear carp and suckers easily when you can see them
There are numerous other fish species like walleye, pike, muskies, and gar but I chose to only include the easiest fish to catch. When it comes to survival, trophy sized fish taste the same as small ones so take anything you can and use both passive and active fishing methods to be sure you will get to eat.

Assemble a survival fishing kit
Depending on the space you have available you can create a simple or complex kit that is functional and light weight. A simple kit will fit in  a match container or pill bottle and only needs to include a few hooks, some sinkers, and a few paperclips. I prefer a little bit more complex kit. The kit packs nicely inside of a metal tin that can double as a pot to cook your fish. Here's my kit
  • 4x6x2 metal tin
  • 1 pack ea small, medium, and large hooks
  • 1 pack of split shot sinkers
  • 1 package of treble hooks
  • 1 pack each of medium and large snap swivels
  • 2 bobbers
  • small spool of braided 12lb  fishing line
  • Nail clippers
  • small daredevil spoon in red and white
  • 2" chartuese curly tail grubs with a 1/16th oz jig
  • 1" white curly tail grubs with 1/32nd oz jig
  • white rooster tail
  • black and yellow Johnson beetle spin
  • 2 Bluegill popper bugs
  • Foam spider
  • rebel crickhopper
  • berkly gulp alive fry
  • small hair jigs in yellow and white
  • Powerbait trout dough
  • 1 bic lighter
  • 6 each small and large paper clips
  • 50' hank of paracord
Quite a bit of stuff to pack into such a small tin but it fits. I wrapped the container in duct tape for extra cordage. You can never have too much duct tape. While you are buying fishing lures or making them remember that fish are attracted to light, color, pulsing, and commotion in the water. The colors that have worked best for me are chartuese, white, pumpkinseed, black, and yellow. I have a small icefishing rod that fits in the pack. It won't land a ten pound largemouth but it will work fine for panfish. By having a more complex kit there are more species you can target and you won't have to make lures. If you choose to assemble a basic terminal tackle kit the next section will teach you to improvise lures and hooks.

Improvised lures and tackle
If you don't have a fishing kit the first thing you should try is bait. Live bait almost always catches more fish than artificial. While you are looking for bait keep your eyes peeled for items you can scavenge to make hooks and lures.
a few improvised hooks
  • bone
  • paperclips
  • nails
  • thorns
  • bird's wish bone
  • soda can tab
  • safety pins
  • needles
  • hardwood sticks
  • Hair from dead animals
  • mylar
  • shiny wrappers
  • soda cans
  • paper clips
  • feathers
  • colored cloth
  • beer bottle caps
  • nails
  • Styrofoam
  • flip flops
  • discarded line and bobbers
You can improvise all kinds of lures. A fly can be made with a hook and 6" of pacacord. Spinners can be made from pieces of soda cans, bottle caps, or the tab from a can. A bottle cap bent in half with a hook in the center can work as a lure. Shiny wrappers and mylar can be cut into thin strips to add flash to jigs or can be made into complete skirts for lures. A piece of flip flop can be used for a bobber or if you cut it into a plug shape and put a hook through the center you have a popper. Being creative can be the difference of procuring a meal or going hungry. Just use your knowledge of bait in the area and try to mimic the look and presentation. As I stated before look for bait first, then if you don't find any worry about making lures.

Make a gorge hook
A gorge hook was one of the first hooks used to catch fish. Once made, both ends are baited, the fish swallows it, and you pull the hook. The idea is the hook will get lodged in the fish's throat.
  1. Find a piece of hardwood that is 1-2" long. The measurement will be based on the fish in the area and the strength of your line.
  2. Sharpen both ends
  3. Cut a shallow groove in the center of the hook. This is where you tie your line.
  4. Bait both ends and wait.
Soda can reel
You can make a simple fishing reel from a soda can. Attach the line to the can and wrap it around. Cast by throwing the lure out in the water. Reel in by wrapping the line back around the can like you are flying a kite. This can also be accomplished with a stick as well.

Make a paracord fly
You can make a very nice looking fly from a short length of paracord and a hook. It only takes a few minutes and a little creativity.
  1. Cut a 6" piece of paracord
  2. Pull the inner strands out about 1 1/2"
  3. Insert a hook and cut the paracord where the eye of the hook sits.
  4. Melt the paracord around the eye of the hook
  5. Fluff the inner strands in the back of the lure by rolling them with your thumb nail.
  6. If you need more flash you can add thin strands of mylar or a granola bar wrapper. Another option is to make a spinner with a piece of soda can and a paper clip.
Passive fishing techniques

If you want to ensure you will have a fish for dinner then active fishing shouldn't be your only approach. The following is a list of passive fishing methods. Most are time consuming to make but once assembled they will do the work for you while you tend to more important things.

Multiple fishing lines
If one hook will catch one fish then twenty hooks should catch a few more. By setting up multiple lines that are in different locations you increase the chance of catching a fish. Pretty simple but this can be risky because you may end up loosing a few hooks. Use overhanging tree branches or bobby poles stuck in the shore.

Paracord trot line
Trot lines are very effective if you can set them across a narrow stream or creek. Fish won't be able to swim past the baited hooks without noticing them. Paracord makes a very strong trot line. The outer sheath has a breaking strength of around 250 pounds and each inner strand is about 35 pounds.
  1. Cut a five foot length of paracord
  2. Pull the inner strands out
  3. Singe the ends of all the lines and the outer sheath
  4. Tie the ends of each inner strand together with an overhand knot
  5. Attach a swivel to each line
  6. Tie to the outer sheath every foot or so
  7. Add hooks to the swivels and bait the hooks
  8. Attach another length of paracord to the trot line to reach across the stream.
  9. If you wont be able to get across the stream you can also tie a rock to one end of the trot line and tie the other end to a tree.
Natural poisons
I have not tried this method but have read that you can stun or kill fish by puting natural poisons into a small shallow pool of water.
  • Green walnut husks
  • Lime  from burning seashells and crushing them
  • Certain plants. You will have to do some research to see what is in you area. Also check a field guide to be sure you are using the right plant.
Fish screen or fish wall
By weaving green springy sapling in between three 2" diameter sticks you can make
a fish screen. Make enough of these to go across the river. A good spot to set up the screen is after a river bend. The fish will swim into the fence and not be able to get through it, then you can corral them into a corner and build a fence to create a live well. A similar idea is to build a fish wall. A fish wall is just a dam made from rocks and debris.

All you need to make a spear is a nice straight green branch or sapling. Sharpen one end and
carve rear facing teeth under the point. Another option is to split the end of the sapling in half then in quarters, insert a wedge in both splits, sharpen all four points and lash the wedges in place. If you have time and patience you can make a spring loaded jawed spear. Split the sapling 6-8" down, carve sharp rear facing teeth into both flat sides, and sharpen the tips to a point. Bind the split so it doesn't get bigger. Prop the jaws open a few inches with a strong twig. When you spear a fish the small stick will fall out causing the jaws to clamp shut. Spearfishing can be productive but it also wastes a lot of energy so it should be saved for last. Try to spear bottom feeders like carp and suckers as they usually move slower than other fish.

Cook your catch
All freshwater fish should be cooked as soon as possible. They contain parasites and can make you sick if you don't cook them well. Keep your dinner alive until you're ready to cook it. Before cooking the fish they have to be cleaned. Slice them from the anus up to the gills. Don't cut too deep or you will puncture the innards. After cutting scoop out the entrails and save them for bait then rinse the fish. For survival that's about all the cleaning needed. Now you can cook. There are several ways to cook the fish
  • Impale the fish on a stick and roast it like a hotdog
  • Cut into chunks and boil into a soup
  • Wrap it in big green leaves and cook on the coals
  • Wrap it in tinfoil and cook on the coals 
  • Use a flat rock like a griddle
  • Dry the fish with the sun or your fire to make fish jerky
  • Pack the fish in a 1" layer of clay and leave it on the fire until the clay is dry. Once the clay is dry remove it from the fire and crack it open. The scales and fins will stick to the clay and you can eat the fish.
Keep a fishing kit in your pack and you will always have a way to procure food. Fishing is easy and once you do it enough you will be able to find fish anywhere. Practice now when your life doesn't depend on it. Not only is this a valuable survival skill, it is also a great way to get your family outdoors.

More helpful reading and how to's
Paracord trot line
Paracord fly

Saturday, March 26, 2016

The 10 c's of survivability

Just ten items. Ten items that will keep you alive as long as you have the knowledge to use them. While the idea of going out for a weekend with just this minimal kit may seem absurd to some of you the weight savings make it well worth having to be a bit ingeniutive. So here's the 10 main pieces of gear you need to make it.

Cutting- A nice solid fixed blade from a reputable manufacture. My two favorite knives are the Kabar Becker BK2 and the mora companion. Depending on your plans for the trip you can get away with just one belt knife and one folder. Generally I bring three knives. A folder, the mora for small tasks and carving and the BK2 for any real heavy duty chopping or batoning. If you are just starting out the mora is a great bushcraft blade. At under 20 bucks on amazon you can't go wrong with a mora.

Combustion- The ability to create fire under any condition. Man has relied on fire for warmth, cooking, protection, illumination, and as a tool for thousands of years. Bringing only a bic would be fine or you can get a ferro rod. I typically leave matches at home and bring a Swedish fire steel, a container of tinder, and a bic. The tinder is Vaseline soaked cotton balls. They ignite with the smallest spark, burn forever, and are fairly wind and moisture resistant. I use the ferro rod every trip and have not needed my bic yet. The cotton balls coupled with a fair amount of matchstick sized dry pine twigs is usually enough to get a fire going even in the rain.

Cover- A person could easily get by with nothing more than a wool or fleece blanket and a tarp for most of the year. I prefer to bring a small 3 man tent, a sleeping pad, an emergency blanket, a cheap disposable poncho or a trash bag, and a sleeping bag. Not getting a good nights sleep can ruin a trip in a hurry. Tents have they're own set of downfalls such as not being able to use a fire for warmth and they weigh more than a tarp but they keep you dry and the bugs won't bother you as much either. If you are new to the woods bringing a tent can also help give you a sense of security. I have slept in shelters I made myself and I can honestly say I prefer the tent. Cover also includes your seasonal clothing like jackets and gloves. For longer trips bringing a few extra changes of clothes is wise. Always take good care of your feet. Sturdy hiking boots such as timberland white ledge are waterproof, tough, and comfortable to wear.Don't forget about your socks too. I bring at least 2 pairs for each day but no more than six pairs total because I can wash and dry the socks as I use them. As far a the saying "cotton kills" yes and no. Most of us are not going to be in a dire life and death situation on a bushcraft trip. I have heard good things about lightweight canvas pants or cargo pants but being a blue jeans kinda guy that's all I wear. Dress for the season and always bring at least a hoody, a beanie hat, and a thermal long sleeve. These three are even in my pack in the summer.

Container- For cooking and water storage. A good choice is a solid single wall (non insulated) stainless steel 32 oz container because you can boil water with it. I have a 32 oz Nalgene canteen along with a 20 oz steel canteen cup. It all sits very nicely with several tea bags and coffee bags inside my canteen cover.  Depending on the plans for the trip I also like to bring a cast iron skillet. They will never break and once they are heated up they retain the heat and cook evenly. The lodge skillet I have will probably get passed down for several generations.

Cordage- rope of all kinds. You could make cordage but it is very time consuming and it is way easier to bring cordage along. I have one pound of #36 tarred twine which has a tensile strength of around 300 pounds. I have carried regular jute twine in the past as well because it is a great flash tinder but lacks the strength of tarred twine. Paracord is another option or addition to the cordage I bring. Paracord is great for ridge lines, guy lines, and for practicing your knot tying skills by the fire at night. The breaking strength for true paracord is 550 pounds. Paracord planet seems to have good paracord so this is what I usually buy. Remember to learn some basic knots and practice them until you can tie them with your eyes closed and behind your back. Again cordage could be made in the bush but it is very time consuming and will definitely not have the strength of manufactured rope.

Cotton Materials- The age old cotton bandana. People have come up with a million uses for bandanas. Possible uses could be filtering water (will not purify), help keep dust out of your nose and mouth, tinder, signaling device, sling, bandage, wash rag, the uses are endless. I have two in my pack. I think they cost about a buck a piece. Vaseline soaked cotton balls could probably be in this category as well but I generally include them in my fire starting category.

Cargo Tape- Duct tape or Gorilla tape. I carry a full roll of duct tape, and wrap my bic and tinder container with about two feet each of gorilla tape. Again the uses are endless. Cordage, waterproofing, patch kit, bandages, hell you could make a canoe out of it if you had the time and a massive amount of duct tape.

Candling devices- I also refer to this as Illumination. If you want to be all rustic an oil lantern, beeswax candles, and a candle lantern would fit the bill. For the rest of us a small flashlight and a headlamp with spare batteries is more practical and safer. Generally the light of the fire is enough to accomplish most camp tasks but the extra light from a good headlamp increases safety and precision. Headlamps are great because they keep your hands free and nowadays they weigh next to nothing. I carry one by black diamond and a streamlight microstream flashlight along with 4 aaa batteries.

Compasses- a good compass can save your life as long as you know how to read it. I have a cheap UST engineer compass that suits the bill in my pack. I also don't have many deep woods trails in my area so I don't use a compass much. When I head out it is on family owned property that I grew up on so I know every square inch of land pretty well not literally but you know what I'm saying. If your trip will bring you to an unfamiliar location be sure you have a good compass.

Canvas Repair Needle- These are very thick needles that will sew most any common materials. I'm not much for sewing so the main use for me is to get slivers out. If magnetized a needle can be carefully placed on a leaf or piece of paper then set on the surface of water to find a north south line.

Additional things to have in your pack
  • First aid should always be considered. I have a small first aid kit with everything needed for common ailments while afield. It also contains a pair of tweezers, safety pins, a whistle, a signal mirror, chapstick, an extra bic, and a  few handwarmers. The whole kit fits neatly inside a sandwhich bag. For any serious injury I carry a trauma pack which I hope to never use.
  • A hatchet and a folding saw such as the Bahco Laplander greatly increase the type of shelters you can build. They are both great additions to a fixed blade and with the combination of these three tools you are only limited by your imagination.
  • Leather work gloves will protect your hands and make getting hot pots and pans out of the fire a hell of a lot easier.
  • Food is the fuel that keeps ya moving. If laws and seasons allow fishing, hunting, and trapping are all viable option but if you want life to be easier and probably tastier bring some steak and stir fry veggies, bacon and eggs, whatever you enjoy eating and cook it up on the fire. I know some would consider this camping instead of bushcraft but whatever I don't like being hungry. Also the dehydrated meals by mountainhouse don't taste horrible but for the price you can get real food that tastes better even if it weighs a bit more. Don't take this to mean dehydrated meals don't have a place I just prefer real food. Gorp is great to munch on between meals and it'll keep ya moving.
  • A water filter like the sawyer mini or a life straw can make gathering water a much easier task. They won't remove water born viruses(which aren't very common in the US anyway) or chemicals, but in general they will make water safe to drink. Boiling is the only surefire way to kill everything in the water.
  • Fork and spoon makes eating a hell of a lot more pleasant
  • Coffee is a great comfort food for me. I drink a lot of coffee and would be miserable if I had to go without.
  • A firearm. I bring a pistol on every trip. If I'll be hunting small game or plinking around camp I bring my SA .22 six shooter.

What are some extra pieces of gear you like to carry to make life easier?

Sunday, February 28, 2016

Got back from another overnighter

Once again I arrived later than I wanted to. This time with about an hour and a half of daylight left. So I hurried down to the site and started gathering deadfall to assemble a lean to and elevated sleep platform. Deadfall was easy to gather for the platform but the two bottom runners would have taken way to long to cut. I ended up using a few un split logs to get above the snow. After I assembled my bed it was time to pitch the tarp. I made a half assed frame for the shelter since it was getting dark. Unfortunately staking out didn't work well in the deep snow. The solution was to bury the back of the tarp with snow then run my guy lines out front. Alright shelter made except the insulation I cut some nice green pine boughs to make my mattress then it was time to get a fire going. Easy enough, one Vaseline cottonball, my firesteel, and some nice dry dead wood. I had planned to get water from the pond this time around but ended up using snow again. I hacked about a foot into the ice of the pond and didn't get to water plus the ice smelled horrible so yeah snow was a safer bet. A nice hot cup of coffee and a chicken teriyaki meal from mountain house was my reward for getting camp set up. After a few hours by the fire my best friend from childhood stopped by with his wife and we had a few brews. Back to camp. I fell asleep in my sleeping bag on the platform, that's not where I woke up. In the morning my bag was soaking wet as were my clothes. Seems the platform wasn't quite wide enough and I rolled off in the middle of the night. Lesson learned for next time. The platform was actually quite comfy up until I rolled off. Next trip out I'll make it a bit wider but will definitely sleep under a tarp again. By around 2 in the afternoon it was time to head home so I broke down camp and headed home to see the wife and kid.
What did I learn
  • An elevated sleep platform is very comfortable but I need to make it about a foot wider so I don't roll off
  • Always have a fall back plan for water and keep a few gallons in the truck just in case I need to head back up. If the snow would have melted I don't think that pond water would've tasted the best. I do carry a sawyer mini but already having a few gallons of water in the truck makes life that much easier.
  • A small pack tends to get messy and unorganized quickly so next trip I'm going to bring my bigger pack. It is a bit "tacticool" but I feel the extra room will help me stay a bit more organized at camp. 
  • The Bahco Laplander does a great job but I need to upgrade my big bow saw to a bahco as well.
  • My little camp hatchet does a good job getting through logs up to around 6"
  • Cedar bark is an awesome flash tinder if you strip it, dry it, and then pull and fluff it
  • My next lean to should use tripods for the ridgepole if there are no trees around.
  • Even though it was in the thirties all night my feet would have still been quite cold without the hand warmers. After I get a new sleeping bag and a sleeping pad this shouldn't be as much of an issue.
  • Mountain House chicken teriyaki and pasta primavera are both pretty damn tasty
Any changes in my loadout
  • Start bringing a bigger ss pot. The small Stanley cookware is fine for a cup of coffee but to actually cook food life is much easier thanks to stealing one of the wife's pans.
  • Swap the small canvas pack for my 3 day pack
  • Leave the big bowsaw at home until I replace it with another bahco
  • I picked up some insulated leather work gloves for this trip they were perfect for the task.
  • I also picked up a new holster for my revolver. Much easier than toting it in my hand or trying to fit a 6" barrel in my pocket.
  • I can probably leave the 30/30 at home next time. The wolves were quiet even if the coyotes weren't and the revolver should be more than enough noise to scare them off.

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Heading back out

My vacation isn't quite up yet and my trip a few days ago left me less than satisfied. I got there way to late in the evening and broke camp pretty much as soon as I woke up. Not this time around. I'll be heading out much earlier this time around so I don't have to set camp in the dark. I have a tent in the truck as a back up but the plan is to just set up a tarp lean to. This weekend should be somewhat warm for Wisconsin so well see how that goes. I made a few changes to my loadout.
  • I'm bringing a few more trail meals and more coffee
  • I plan to be able to get water from the pond this time around because quite frankly stale snow tastes, well, like stale snow with a smoky additive. I have a sawyer mini so filtering shouldn't be an issue. pond water isn't much better but at least its spring fed and not just a stagnant sitting pool.
  • I modded my cookware so there is no longer any plastic handle to melt and I also added a handle to hang it from a tripod
  • I'm bringing a holster for my revolver.
  • My Marlin 336 will also be coming with now that I know we have wolves in that area. Say what you will about wolves/coyotes leaving you be but I'd rather have it and not need it than need it and not have it. Just a nice piece of mind to keep in camp. The revolver is still my go to for late night hikes for firewood or to hike back to the truck if I forget to lock it or something.
  • You either have time or money and right now I have time. What I'm getting at is I have not gotten a new sleeping bag or camp pillow. The solution- I lined my bag with a thick fleece blanket and stole a throw pillow from our bed.
  • I still don't have a sleeping pad either so I'm figuring on setting up a sleep platform under the lean to and piling lots of pine boughs under my bag. Anything is better than waking up on an ice hole under the tent.
Last outing I started roughing out a kuksa from a beautiful piece of cedar heartwood. I plan to work on burning the bowl out while sitting by the fire. I'll update when I get back. Hopefully I've got the gear situation taken care of and can get myself out of the house at a decent time. Wish me luck.

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

My first cold weather bushcraft trip

My plans to wake up early in the morning fell through. I woke up late and didn't arrive until 5:00 pm. Upon arriving I had to shovel a massive snowbank out of the way so I could pull the truck off the road. It was already getting dark by the time I got done shoveling a parking spot so the first priority was gather firewood and get a fire started. After a bit of a hike through deep snow I dropped my gear by camp and started gathering wood. The fire got going easily thanks to all the dead standing trees in the area. It ended up taking three cotton balls to get everything going but this was my fault. I was busy pitching the tent and gathering more wood while I waited for the fire to take off. My idea to build a primitive shelter will be delayed until spring when I get out there again. I'm happy that I decided to bring a tent because it was COLD! 15 degrees Fahrenheit isn't bad during the day when the sun is out but come nightfall that 15 is cold. I sat by the fire all night carving and burning out a spoon and chopping fire wood.  The chills didn't get to me until bedtime. I made a few mistakes with my sleeping arrangements the biggest ones I noticed where as follows
  • No sleeping pad
  • My body kind of formed a crevice under the tent as I sank into the snow.
  • My sleeping bag is a cheap menards summer bag
  • I left my hand warmers up at the truck
I was able to remedy some of these issues with a hike back to the truck. I put foot warmers in my socks and grabbed the emergency fleece blankets I keep in the truck just in case. My jacket ended up being my pillow which wasn't terrible but someday it might be nice to get an ultralight camp pillow or maybe bring a throw pillow next time.
I worked outdoors for years so I am well aware of layering. I was thankful to have layers because I was too hot while I was gathering wood then too cold around 10:30 but no big deal I just took off or added layers and it was all good.
Oh yea coffee in the morning on an open fire
For dinner I had Mountain House beef stroganoff and I have to say it was delicious for being dehydrated trail food. For those who don't know all you do is boil 2 cups of water, dump it in the mylar package reseal for a bit, then eat it right out of the pouch. No dishes to deal with aside from washing my spoon. I will be bringing these meals on every outing now. So easy and tasty. I also brought jerky and GORP to munch on as needed. Oh and coffee lots of coffee.
I fell asleep to coyotes having a fit along with geese honking( odd that they where flying at midnight  in February) and critters rustling around in the brush. I woke up this morning to numerous different bird calls and squirrels arguing. After I got up I started a small fire to get some coffee brewed, ate some gorp, put in a dip, and broke down camp, then headed home to see my family.

So what did I learn this outing
  1. I need to get a better sleep system. I've been eyeing up the military sleep system/ bivvy that's rated down to like -40
  2. Having my trusty revolver is always a comforting feeling especially when I have to hike through unfamiliar woods at night
  3. My Stanley mini pot needed some mods. The plastic tab on the lid burned off so I replaced it with some 12 gauge copper wire. The handle that's on there is ok if you are cooking on a stove but sucks for cooking over a fire so I drilled two holes and added a length of 12 gauge copper wire for a handle and a spot to hang it from a tripod. Now I believe the pot will be perfect.
  4. I missed my wife, my kid, and my dogs even though I was only away for one day and night, fortunately I was still able to give them a call and keep in touch.
  5. Having my big axe would have been nice for some of the bigger logs but I don't feel it would be worth the weight
  6. A Bahco Laplander is a mean little saw that is worth its weight in gold.
  7. Having a Becker BK2 and a Mora is an excellent combination for carving and most camp tasks.
What gear did I actually use aside from a small tent and my sleep kit
The only gear I really needed
Mods to my cookware compared to the original
  • My pack
  • Mora
  • BK2
  • Bahco Laplander
  • Estwing hatchet (I can leave this home next trip and just bring the BK2)
  • Firesteel
  • Vaseline cotton balls and a bit of  jute twine fluffed up
  • Headlamp (a godsend compared to trying to hold a flashlight)
  • Extra batteries
  • Nalgene bottle
  • Stanley pot
  • Extra socks
  • thin gloves
  • My revolver
  • coffee
  • trail food
  • Hand warmers
  • My bushcraft journal and a pencil
  • Camera
  • Cell phone

    Camp in the morning
    My spoon that I carved from oak and then burned the bowl out