American Bushman

"If you would not be forgotten as soon as you are dead, either write things worth reading or do things worth writing." —Benjamin Franklin

Saturday, April 29, 2006

New Hilleberg 5 XP Tarp

Got a Hilleberg 5 XP in yesterday's mail. From reading the specs on Moontrail's website it looked to be the perfect size for the style of shelter I would be most likely to pitch on a regular basis. The Hilleberg XP tarps use Sil-Polyester and the UL tarps use Sil-Nylon. For the extra 6 oz. of the XP I'll take the extra UV resistance and tear strength.

Having been to the fabric store and shopping for ripstop nylon to make my own tarp I know that I would have spent nearly as much for material as the Hilleberg cost and I wouldn't have had the stitching, the sil-polyester material, OR the lifetime warranty Hilleberg offers.

  • Packs down SMALL and compresses even further
  • Green color easier to blend in to surroundings
  • Comes with guylines already attached
  • 18 oz. for almost 5 feet X 11.5 feet (1.45m X 3.5m)
  • Sil-polyester feels nice and sturdy
  • Tie-outs have metal/hard plastic rings for durability


  • Guylines were a rat's nest when I pulled the tarp out of the stuff sack and had to be unknotted and retied
  • A bit smaller (narrower) than anticipated

Overall I'm pleased with my purchase. Once I get it outdoors and pitched a time or two I may be able to come back here and revisit my pros/cons list and revise. For $50 though I'd say you'll be hard-pressed to beat the apparent value as long as you're comfortable with a minimalist shelter.

Thanks for reading,


Friday, April 28, 2006

Found it

The blog magic is still working. I finally found the Salish after two days of looking.

I had narrowed down the list of places I hadn't looked to a small handful and it was, of course, in one of those places.

My plans for the coming weekend may have gotten a bit screwed up today.

I was putting an elastic band in my daughter's hair when it broke and flew straight into my left eye scratching my cornea. This is the third time my left cornea has been scratched and, while painful, is more of an inconvenience down the road while the cornea is healing and the vision becomes blurry due to the scar tissue.

Oh yeah, I'm left-eye dominant so my depth perception is completely out of whack and driving is quite a challenge.

I've just GOT to get outdoors soon or I'll bust.

Again, I apologize for the complete lack of outdoorsy thoughts/information over the past several days. I will do my best to get something interesting up here in the next couple.

Thanks for reading,


Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Missing:One Simonich Mid-Tech Salish

Hmm...I remember having the knife when I pitched the basha in the snow and then...?
Now it's gone.

It MUST be floating around here somewhere but after tearing apart the garage and the gear room I've come up empty handed.

When I lost my Firesteel I wrote it up and then found it within about an hour. I hope this works again.

Thanks for reading,


Tuesday, April 25, 2006


Still working on projects around the house. Somehow they're self-generating after a while.

Today I'm clearing out the "gear room" and reorganizing all of my stuff. For a guy who espouses "do more with less" I sure have an embarassing amount of gear. That I acquired it over the past 15 months is, perhaps, even more embarassing.

Once I have pulled everything from the bins and boxes I'll try and get a group shot so you can see just how bad gear addiction can be.

I have separate piles for sleeping bags and ground pads because there are so many of each...

Thanks for bearing with me during the recent inactivity. I'll try to get outdoors soon to have some adventures.

Thanks again,


Sunday, April 23, 2006

Dropping the ball

Okay, so life has gotten a bit in the way of my getting out. I've been working around the house instead of playing in the woods. The work needed to be done and the woods aren't going away anytime soon.

I managed to get out just long enough yesterday to cut myself. I had been using a machete to shave fuzz from a log to see if I couldn't get the fuzz to light. Then I used my OMF knife and my firesteel to throw some sparks into the mass of fuzz. I was paying a bit more attention to the knife's spine in relation to the firesteel and a little too little attention to the knife's edge in relation to my index finger.

Superglue fixed it right up.

This is the first time I've cut myself with a knife since my accident back in October which left me with 14 stitches, two ruptured tendons, and about $10,000 in medical bills. Believe it or not this is a good thing. It means I'm finally back on the horse.

Off to paint my son's room. If I get finished while the sun's still up maybe I'll get outside. I've got until Wednesday evening to get my list of chores completed so hopefully I'll find some time to relax and enjoy the beautiful weather we're having.

Thanks for reading,


Friday, April 21, 2006

Planning for the weekend

Let's see, this weekend I'm home alone so I've got plenty of time to get out in the woods...or the back yard.

I'm going to play around with various natural tinders to see what I can start with the spine of my knife and a firesteel.

I've found the tripod so I can (hopefully) take some pictures of the materials in their natural state and in various configurations (fluffed, shredded, etc.) We'll see if I can't identify some of them also.

I'd also like to take apart my Doug Ritter Personal Survival Kit (PSK) and play with the components. Doug suggests getting into the components of a bought kit just to familiarize yourself with them and I think that's an excellent idea.

I don't yet know what the weather forecast is going to be for the weekend but there may be an overnight outdoors in my near future.

Thanks for reading,


Blogs I'm reading


Thursday, April 20, 2006

On Fire

Using fatwood as the source of your scraped "fuzz" and shaved curls generates a fast-igniting long-burning fire. The resin in the wood will accelerate the fire even if your fuzz gets a little bit wet.

To prove this I attempted the firesteel starting yesterday with my Dozier Delta Traveller, my Scout firesteel, and a single piece of fatwood. Scraping the fuzz is a bit of a process on fatwood as the resin that helps it to burn also helps the fuzz to stick right to the knife. I scraped a pile approximately 3" in diameter and 1/4" high. To that I added as many curls as I could shave/carve off the stick.

One strike of the firesteel and the whole mess went up. Poof!

I used the remaining bit of fatwood to spread the fire out and had several tiny fires buring all at the same time.

A few spritzes from a spray bottle did little to deter the burning. I suspect in a downpour you'd still be in trouble but in light mist you should be able to get your fire going without excessive worry.


Reading List

My list of the most important Bushcraft/Woodcraft books (in no particular order:)
  1. Kephart's Camping and Woodcraft
  2. Jaeger's Wildwood Wisdom
  3. Mears' Bushcraft
  4. Kochanski's Bushcraft
  5. Graves' Bushcraft
  6. Nessmuk's Woodcraft and Camping

I once posted my list on BushcraftUK but hadn't, at that point, had any exposure to Ray Mears' books. Now I've seen several of them and feel they are worthy of this list. He puts the final "a-ha!" into some of the things I've been trying to figure out.

There are, of course, many other authors worthy of consideration but I feel these six books best represent the skills and attitude I'm attempting to replicate.

Thanks for reading,


Wednesday, April 19, 2006


Learned the Trucker's Hitch and Timber Hitch yesterday. Using both hitches I can now pitch a ridgeline so taut that I can play it like a bass string.

It seems like only a few months ago I was so inept at tying knots that I climbed into my hammock only to find myself butt-first on the ground. Now I can pitch a tarp, hang a hammock, and guy out my shelter with a handful of knots that work in several situations.

Here's what I use and where I use it:
  1. Sheet Bend--Attach line to guyout points on my tarp
  2. Klemheist--locking knot tied to ends of tarp to keep ridgeline taut
  3. Clove(r) hitch--Tent stakes
  4. Tautline Hitch--Guylines
  5. Timber Hitch--Attach line under tension to tree
  6. Trucker's Hitch--Put tension on ridgeline
  7. Half Hitch--Finishing knot for lots of other knots

A few months ago I couldn't have told you what these knots were let alone what they'd be used for and now I can tie them without hesitation.

I enjoy tying knots. I've tied sinnets/sennits as lanyards on keys, knives, flashlights, etc. I've made a few monkey's fist necklaces. It's something that can challenge the dexterity as well as the mind. It passes the time. It's FUN!

After my hand surgery (ruptured tendon in my right hand) I find tying knots and making cordage to be very therapeutic and good for hand strength and dexterity. Frankly, I wish my therapist had recommended it to me long before I came upon it by accident.

I'll go into some of these knots in the coming days because I feel it's important to know how to tie a few knots in the outdoors for various reasons.

Maybe I'll even get the camera and tripod out to shoot it tutorial style.

Thanks for reading,



Just want to say Thank You to those of you who have left comments on the blog.

I'm getting more and more traffic every day which (I hope) means you're enjoying what I'm writing and you're helping to spread the word.

I'll do my best to keep it interesting.

Thanks again,


Tuesday, April 18, 2006

The Mucket

Got mine yesterday from Ron and Donna Hamilton of Hamilton Dry Goods on eBay.

I'd seen these (also called corn boilers) at a couple of Civil War reenactments last summer and later found them available at some online shops but they were always tin or tin-lined copper and expensive.

The Hamiltons had one in stainless steel for a much better price so I had to give it a look. This isn't the ultralight thin-walled stainless so many hikers are looking for but rather the sturdy stainless that'll hold up well to the kind of use I plan to put it through. Good bye Titanium cookware...hello mucket.

As you can see from the picture it is a combination of a mug and a bucket hence "mucket." <--just hazarding a guess. I see one piece of gear capable of brewing tea and coffee, making soup, purifying water, and handling the job of eating dish on top of it all. Carve a spoon and you'll have your lightweight cookset that should be as capable of doing camp cooking as any expensive non-stick cookware.

I gave it a good washing last night just to get it ready to go and then set it on the cooktop to boil some water just to make sure it's up to the job and it did a fine job. Today I'll start using it to prepare some of my usual campsite fare and then I'll have a better idea what cleanup will be like and whether or not I can use it with my Trangia and MSR stoves as well as over a campfire and on the cooktop.

I'm really excited to have this bit of kit and once it gets some wear and tear it should fit right in with the rest of my load.

Thanks for reading,


Monday, April 17, 2006

Didja' ever?

You ever heard of a mucket?

I got one today in the mail and plan on doing a write-up tomorrow.

My gear just got a bit more interesting.

See you here tomorrow,


Execution of the plan

My theory TOTALLY worked.

What I didn't do yesterday was give the fuzz time to dry out. It had been wet (weather-wise) and the outside wood was a little damp. My plan was to tuck that fuzz inside my shirt at the beginning of the hike to allow my body heat to dry it out. I forgot to do that until we were already set up in camp.

Today I tried the same thing but remembered to allow the fuzz a little time to dry out. It took maybe a dozen strikes with the Delta Traveller but once I got a spark into the tinder it took off. There was no smouldering ember but it jumped immediately to a flame. It actually went fast enough that I now have slightly charred fingers.

This method is beneficial because it will work with any type of wood. I just picked up a dead branch yesterday and today and both would light. The scraping creates light airy pieces which more readily accept the spark and allows enough oxygen to get into the tinder to get the flame established.

I wish I'd brought the camera.

I'll get some more fuzz and lay out a "tutorial" later this week. Watch this space for updates.

Thanks for reading,


Did it...sort of. With the wind blowing I managed to get some wood scrapings glowing and smoking but I never got it into a full-blown fire. It's good to know, however, that my theory was at least partly correct.

Found a tree just covered in tinder fungus too. I harvested some for later use. After trying to catch a spark it seemed to be a bit wet and putting it in a zip-top bag proved that it was still holding some water as the bag quickly filled with condensation. I opened the top so the water vapor would escape and the fungus will probably be more willing to smoulder today.

The planer board line worked just fine for guylines on a shelter. The bright orange color made it very easy to spot them. I've got the 200-pound test line from Bass Pro and it does a good job of holding a knot. It will be going on the permanent gear list.

The knife of choice today was a Dozier Delta Traveller made exclusively for Billy Cochrane of and was an excellent choice as it threw more and larger sparks from my firesteel than any other knife I've tried. Of course that meant my firesteel took more abuse than usual yesterday. We're probably down to 10 years now.

Cooler temps, threats of rain, and the Easter holiday put a crimp on visitors to the woods and it was remarkably peaceful out there. I wouldn't mind spending an extended period in similar circumstances.

A few more pics for you:

I think the plant might be wild strawberry but need to review my plant books before committing to that.

We've got an ember but can we get it from here to a flame?

Thanks for reading,


Saturday, April 15, 2006

Planning for tomorrow

Yes, tomorrow is Easter Sunday. I know. I'm still going out into the woods.

I've been working on a plan all day and think I've got an outline for a fun time. I have set myself a series of tasks in attempt to further pare down my normal load. Hopefully I'll get some pictures to go with tomorrow's narrative.

Here's the plan:
  1. Carve deadwood "fuzz" tinder and, if necessary, dry inside shirt
  2. Using ONLY a firesteel and knife get a fire started
  3. Build a lean-to (or other shelter) using only a space blanket and planer board line (200 pound test)

Once I've completed the list I'll fire up my Trangia and have some lunch and, maybe, something to drink.

The forecast for tomorrow looks warm and wet with thunderstorms rolling through most of the day. Might make firestarting more challenging...

Wish me luck.

Thanks for reading,


Friday, April 14, 2006

Swanndri (Part Two)

Got a note yesterday that my Swanndri stuff is in at the Post Office. Woo-Hoo!

It said that I owed $75.67 for Customs. Say What?! states clearly on their website that they cannot be held responsible for Customs fees (duties?) on packages once shipped. I knew it going in and do not hold them responsible at all. Frankly, I'm still looking forward to getting the gear and trying it on to make sure it all fits.

Here's a question for you though. What does Customs DO that merits a charge of $75.67? Did they unpack and repack the gear more carefully? Did they inspect the merchandise to make sure I got the absolute best product from New Zealand? Or did they just arbitrarily tag my package with a fee to help finance the Christmas Party?

Off to Google "Customs fees" to see if I can't figure out a)why I got charged and b)why it was so much (relative to the price of the package.)

Wish me luck,


Thursday, April 13, 2006

My Every Day Carry (EDC)

Sunday I had this knife with me and used it to carve a flat into my hiking stick (the broom handle--as it's been called) and a notch at the mid-point in case I choose to use the stick when pitching a shelter.

The knife is a Bark River Knife & Tool (link at right) OMF with a "modified" tip. the tip while carving in the woods one day. It used to be a wharncliffe with a nice pointy tip but using that pointy tip to pry a piece of well-seasoned (read hard and dry) wood was a mistake. That pointy tip is still in that piece of wood somewhere.

I had to come home with my broken knife and hit it on the belt sander a few times to get the sheepsfoot blade you see now. Then I used a Scotchbrite belt to blend in the grind lines and used the heck out of the blade to get the patina you see.

I LOVE user knives.

To carry on with the firesteel theme the week seems to be taking, this knife throws wicked big sparks when using the spine up near the curve.

I have heard rumors that a larger version of this knife is coming out. I wonder how it'll look as a sheepsfoot...

Thanks for reading,


Missing: One Firesteel (Update)

Never mind.

While typing the last post I remembered where it might be and, lo and behold, there it was.

The memory isn't quite as shot as I thought it was. (The mind...well, that's another story.)



Missing: One Firesteel

Yes, I CAN see the humor in the timing. That doesn't mean I'm too terribly happy about it.

Somewhere in the past 24 hours I've lost my firesteel. Whether I put it somewhere and forgot it or it fell out of my pocket it's gone.

This wasn't the 11-year firesteel but one of the smaller Scout models.

It had a blue-ish handle, a shiny streak down one side of the steel, and a horrendously ugly orange braided fob.

Have you seen it?


Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Firesteel math

A Swedish Army firesteel (the larger model on the Left) generates sparks at 3,000° Celsius and lasts approximately 12,000 strikes.

Using charcloth with the firesteel greatly improves my chances of starting a fire within the first two or three strikes.

Assuming it takes me three strikes to get a fire going that means I'll get approximately 4,000 fires from one firesteel.

If I lived outdoors and started a fire every day using the firesteel it would last me 10.9589 years. Yeah, almost 11 YEARS!

Of course I neither live outdoors nor do I use the firesteel to start every fire. That means I'll get more than 11 years out of the firesteel unless it corrodes to dust through neglect. <--this is the biggest shortcoming of the firesteel. Fortunately a coat of fingernail polish takes care of the best part of the corrosion problem.

A few years back I was buying these two at a time from a friend that was selling them to support the Boy Scouts in the Netherlands. I think I have six left.

I don't think I'm going to live long enough to use them all...

Thanks for reading,


Tuesday, April 11, 2006


Worked today with some fatwood (resin-rich pine) and had forgotten just how effective and long-burning it was. Home Depot sells it in 4 pound bags for a couple of bucks and has been known to blow it out come Spring for as little as $1 a bag. I, of course, pick up two or three bags then because I might use eight or ten sticks over the course of a winter.

I like to shave down the sticks to create lots of curls or "fuzz." These fuzz-sticks really catch quickly as there's plenty of Oxygen and the resin acts not only as fuel but accelerant.

Once the stick has been shaved pretty thin I break it in half and lean the two halves against each other tipi style. A single match is usually more than enough to get a fire going. If I was really feeling adventurous I could use the striker from my metal match to create fatwood "dust" which would take a spark.

Maybe it's time to add some fatwood back into the pack...

Thanks for reading,


Monday, April 10, 2006

Skills Versus Gear

There is an awful lot of emphasis today put on gear selection with little thought for skill development.

I am every bit as guilty as the next person of carrying far too much gear with me on a daily basis. Is it preparedness? Paranoia? An innate desire to see just how much my pants can weigh and my belt can hold? Perhaps it is all of the above.

Fortunately I'm finding myself with less and less gear as my skill development progresses. Some of that is directly related to proper gear selection and some to my growing confidence in the woods.

October 2004 found me in the woods for my first hike in a very long time. I arrived with a bottle of water, some emergency gear (firestarting kit, first aid kit, cordage, garbage bags,) and a fleece pullover and baseball cap. The weather was cool but not cold, it was sunny, and the sky was clear so there was little chance of a surprise shower.

Within a few months I was carrying a rucksack full of gear for day hikes. Overkill? Yeah, but that's what everyone in the group was doing. We were doing more with more rather than doing more with less. Cody Lundin says, "The more you know, the less you have to carry." Our running joke was, "The more you carry, the less you have to know." At the time it was funny.

Bigger packs have given way to smaller and smaller packs have now given way to small bags. The "required" gear for an outing has been dramatically reduced with the acquisition of the skills. For example, I used to carry a firestarting kit which consisted of fatwood, a magnesium firestarting tool (Doan,) vaseline soaked cotton balls, steel wool, flint and steel, a metal match, matches, wax paper, tinder card, trioxane bars, and two lighters. Now I carry a metal match and my flint and steel kit.

The belt and pants still need some work though.

Thanks for reading,


Friday, April 07, 2006

Happy Birthday!

Happy Birthday Mary!

I hope it's a good one.


Thursday, April 06, 2006

Bummed Out

Should have been on the hill in North Carolina by now.

Didn't happen. Bad logistics.

Working on some new adventures for later in the year.

I'm pushing for a week-long class with Cody Lundin in October out West.

If not maybe some solo adventure with little or no gear.

Stay tuned,


Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Water Treatment

For those times when it's not possible to purify your water through boiling there are some readily available chemicals you can use to do the job. While chemical means will NOT get out all the nasties that boiling will your water will still be potable and the chances of infection are significantly reduced.

Bleach (from

Emergency Disinfection: When boiling water is not practical, water can be made potable by using Clorox® Regular-Bleach. Before the addition of the disinfectant, remove all suspended material by filtration or by allowing it to settle to the bottom. Decant the clarified contaminated water to a clean container and add 8 drops of Clorox® Regular-Bleach to one gallon of water (2 drops to 1 quart). Allow the treated water to stand for 30 minutes. Properly treated water should have a slight chlorine odor. If not, repeat dosage and allow water to stand an additional 15 minutes. The treated water can then be made palatable by pouring it between clean containers for several times. For cloudy water, use 16 drops of Clorox® Regular-Bleach per gallon of water (4 drops to 1 quart). If no chlorine odor is apparent after 30 minutes, repeat dosage and wait an additional 15 minutes. Do not use scented or Splash-less Clorox® Bleaches for this purpose.

Iodine (from

Tincture of Iodine - measure out your dose to water.

If using tincture of iodine 2% solution, add 5 drops to a Liter or Quart of clear water. If the water is cloudy, add 10 drops per Liter or Quart. (Note: 20 drops=1 ml.)
Allow the water to stand for 30 minutes before drinking when the water temperature is at least 25°C (77°F). Increase the standing time for colder water: (e.g., for each 10° less than 25°C (77°F), allow the water to stand for double the time before drinking it.

Actually the CDC document on water treatment (found here) is an excellent resource and I would encourage you to read the whole article.

Thanks for reading,


Tuesday, April 04, 2006


Just got the word that my order with has shipped. Seven to ten days from New Zealand and I should have it.

I mentioned in an earlier post that I was torn between the high-tech gear our soldiers are wearing in hostile environments all over the world and the traditional gear that has been effective for such a long time.

As much as I like my fleece jacket and my Gore-Tex outerwear it just won't hold up around a campfire as well as wool. Now that I am a successful flint and steel fire starter I might just want to build more small campfires.

I have read lots of positive comments on the Swanndri gear and had honestly never even heard of the company prior to a month or two ago. After some sizing questions were answered (they have not subjected themselves to the American size-inflation) I decided to go with the Large in both a Ranger (right) and Original Bushshirt (left.) I sure hope I chose wisely as sending a package back to New Zealand for a size exchange could, I imagine, take quite some time.

I look forward to doing a full review soon.

Thanks for reading,


Saturday, April 01, 2006

Swedish Army Trangia

Here's a great page on the basic use of a Swedish Army Trangia.

I have used a number of stoves and keep coming back to the Swedish Army Trangia as the one that offers the greatest degree of flexibility combined with ease of use. Add to that the fact that all necessary components (burner, fuel bottle, pans, and wind screen) fit into a single unit. When they can be had online they are also unusually cheap.

I once saw them on an Army Surplus site at 3/$10. I should have snagged a few more just to give to friends. Of course all my friends already have Swedish Army Trangias. I suspect most have more (MANY more) than I.

The pans are Aluminum on all the 5-piece sets I've seen but stainless steel pans CAN be found on the Internet (again for little money.) I picked up a set that was heavily used but still in decent condition for about $4. The pans both needed some time with a Scotchbrite pad but are now ready for work.

The larger pan has a bail and a hook on it. This can be used to pick up the pan or, when used with a hooked stick, to suspend the pot over the fire. The smaller pan can also be used with a campfire but it is advised to use a stick inserted into the handle to prevent burns as the whole thing will effectively transfer heat from the pot straight into your hand if you choose to pick it up by the metal.

I have never used the Trangia for cooking over a campfire but with my new-found firemaking skills I suspect that will soon change.

Stay tuned,