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, September 30, 2006

Woods Time

I got to spend most of my day in the woods yesterday. Actually, I explored some familiar ground in the morning and new ground in the afternoon.

The trailhead is covered in raspberry bushes and, earlier in the summer, one can stop there and gather enough fruit to feed oneself for the day. Not so this time of year. Whatever berries were there have been picked by the deer, birds, and squirrels.
It wasn't the best time of year to harvest berries but the mushrooms are out in large numbers this time of year. If I knew more about which were edible and which were not I could have harvested armloads yesterday.
Approaching the Des Plaines River I found a low spot that had seen not only deer traffic but, it appears, a raccoon (immediately left of the hoof print) too.
This mushroom, growing on a cut down stump, appears to be a shaggy parasol. If my ID is correct, it's edible. However, I'm not confident enough to pick it OR take a bite.
My EDC pocket knife--a Case Sodbuster Jr. in CV Steel. This knife has been used, abused, sharpened, beaten, and loved. The blade takes a keen edge and holds it reasonably well. It sharpens easily and takes a great patina. The best of all? It's only about $20 anywhere you'll find it.
This nice stream feeds into the Des Plaines River and the trickle of water through the rocks enticed me to stick around and read Graves' "Bushcraft" while enjoying the music.
Slightly downstream I found another low spot which appears to have been a high-traffic watering hole for the local deer population. This would be a good spot to be come dusk when the deer start moving again.
The path over much of the area has grown over due to lack of maintenance. I actually prefer it this way to the well-manicured look of some other areas. This is more "natural."
Finally, the Des Plaines River. Here the stream's trickle becomes a nice waterfall. The Des Plaines is known for a rancid stench in many areas but this fast moving water bears none of that stigma. Here the air is clear and crisp, the river roars, and the water gives off a nice clean smell. Perhaps efforts to clean up the river are finally paying off.

I left the camera plugged into the computer at home when I left for the second hike so there are no pictures this time. I will be back in those woods soon however. I can't see myself not spending immense amounts of time in there.

I had such a great time yesterday that I'm getting antsy trying to figure out when I can next get into the woods. Maybe today? Maybe tomorrow? It might be sometime next week but I will be back out there soon and this time I'll bring the camera.

Thanks for reading,


Friday, September 29, 2006

Sam Chapman's Birthday

Sam Chapman, Woodcraft in Poland, turns 24 today. Happy Birthday Sam.

For his birthday I think I'll take a short walk in the woods today. I'm curious to know what the local whitetail population is doing in the weeks leading up to the rut.

It's a cool 44 degrees here so I'll be pulling on the Swannie Ranger before heading out. I'll also have to dig out the camera and hope it's still got enough charge in the batteries to last a couple of hours.

I think I'll throw the Crusader/V8 burner in the bag and see how it works outdoors. I suppose some time with my friend Earl Grey will help take off the chill.

Thanks for reading,


Thursday, September 28, 2006

I made a stove for my Crusader Cooker out of a small V8 can (5.5 oz.) that will burn denatured alcohol. Similar stoves can be found here:
Zen Backpacking Stoves

I actually end up using two cans to assemble the stove I most like which is pressurized. The whole process takes just minutes to complete and the stove works like a champ.

This smaller stove does take a while to get up to temperature but once properly jetted it works great at boiling water and only uses 1-1.5 oz. of fuel at a time.

I build all of my alcohol stoves with side jets so I can skip the use of a pot support. The loss of fuel capacity is so minimal as to make the difference irrelevant.

I'll see if I can't pull together a tutorial on building one of these stoves in the near future.

Thanks for reading,


PS.Note that I've added a couple of new links to the Right.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Bark River Mini Axe

Here's one you may not have heard much about. Last year (2005) Bark River Knife and Tool introduced a Mini Axe that outperformed anything in its weight class and many others in heavier classes.

This little wonder is made of 1080 steel, weighs 10 ounces, and comes in around 10.5" long. I've drilled out the handle on mine to accept a lanyard which is missing from the photo as I'd just used it for cordage.

The performance comes from the "Speed Grind" put on by the guys at BRK&T that makes this Mini Axe much like the competition choppers you'd see on ESPN's Lumberjack Challenge. The edge will shave hair and, choking up on the axe's head, you can use it much as you'd use an ulu or similar knife.

Yesterday I pulled the Mini Axe off of my possibles bag and made a fatwood fuzzy stick which I then lit with my firesteel. Choked up on the head, the axe was easily controlled and handled the fatwood with ease.

Something so lightweight and easily carried should become part of my everyday kit. Somehow I've forgotten about the strengths of the Mini Axe as a tool in the woods. It only took a few minutes in-hand yesterday to bring back memories of all the adventures I've had with this Mini Axe in tow.

Unfortunately, I've called several dealers and am finding the Mini Axe to be rarer than hens' teeth. They're still out there but there are only a few (I found 2) to go around. If you don't have one, and you'd like one, you should call your dealer sooner rather than later to try and get one.

Thanks for reading,


Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Freezer Bag Cooking

Found the site last night for Freezer Bag Cooking.

The site is loaded with tips and tricks as well as recipes for making your own dehydrated trail food from GORP (Good Old Raisins and Peanuts) to fancy breakfasts, lunches, and dinners.

There's even a blog with frequent updates.

Check it out. I'm off to see what kind of recipes they've got for Shepherd's Pie.


Monday, September 25, 2006

Back to the grind

Spent the weekend out of town visiting my brother and his family. Another long weekend that should have been a few days longer and yet was maybe just a bit too long for the kids by the time all was said and done.

Putting a family of four in a hotel room for three days and two nights might be a better idea once the kids are a bit older. Mine tend to vie for bed space, stay up late, and get up early. On the final night they both insisted that I sleep with them in their double bed so I dutifully curled up at the foot of the bed and "slept" sideways on a bed that supported me from my head to my waist.

Not much time was spent outdoors with the wet weather but we did manage to get enough resources together once we got home to light a fire and brew up a cup or two of tea.

My wife and I prepared dinner at my brother's house on Friday night and I used my Bark River Sperati for most of the prep. We made a wonderful Shepherd's Pie (and made it in a hurry) and he was left with enough to feed him at lunchtime for the rest of this coming week. This is, in my opinion, one of the ultimate comfort foods. I'm going to work up a recipe to make this in the woods sometime. I don't know just how I'll "bake" it once I've got the potatoes on top but I'll figure something out.

Now we're back and the regularly scheduled programming should resume post haste.

Thanks for reading,


Friday, September 22, 2006

Some Links

Making curls with a Fallkniven A1 for tinder:
Google Video

Michel Blomgren's Bushcraft Videos:

Pablo's Nature, Wildlife and Bushcraft Blog:
Great reading

Richard Graves' "Bushcraft" published online:
The original Australian Bushcraft book

Bushcraft UK Discussion Forums:
Been visiting frequently of late
A phenomenal online resource for knives and tools without all the posturing and attitude found at other online discussion forums.
Description of the program found here

That'll be a good start to your day.

Thanks for reading,


Thursday, September 21, 2006

This is my time of year

Cold mornings (40-degrees) cool days (65-degrees) and rain. The crisp morning air makes it hard to roll out of bed (or the sleeping bag) but, once out, activity begins briskly in an attempt to stay warm.

Get the fire going again, get the water on to boil, prepare the coffee, and begin the day in style.

Squirrels are running around gathering up nuts and berries for the winter, the chipmunks are doing the same, the geese are seen more on the ground than in the air or in the water...

Trees are starting to lose their leaves. The grass doesn't grow as quickly as it did just a month ago.

Great times are coming...

Thanks for reading,


Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Swanndri FINALLY!

Some of you remember back when I got my big box full of Swanndri gear straight from New Zealand. It was the beginning of summer and the temps that day were in the 80s.

This morning I finally had an opportunity to give one of the Ranger shirts a run. It is currently 45 degrees (F) and I've been outside since approximately 6am when the temp was colder still.

Under the Ranger Shirt I'm wearing a short-sleeve T-shirt and I found my time outdoors to be quite comfortable. The slight breeze never seemed to penetrate the tightly woven fibers and the wool never caused me any problems. Some folks just cannot wear wool. Fortunately, I'm not one of those people.

Losing those 10 pounds has gone a long way to making this shirt fit better. Another 10 and it'll be ready for layering.

The shirt is a pullover style with a long brass zipper and the pockets are the top flap style with a button closure. This means repairs of the pockets are fairly simple and straight-forward. If the zipper were to wear out it could be a problematic repair in the field but the shirt will continue to function even with a broken zipper.

The Ranger Shirt gets a 9 for style, a 9 for functionality, and a 10 for the simple fact that I probably won't encounter another one in the woods all winter.

I can finally put the Customs nightmare behind me and rest comfortably knowing that I've got a darned good piece of gear (based on my few hours of testing thus far) that should last me the rest of my days.

Thanks for reading,


Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Turkey Yelper

Did you know that you could make an effective turkey yelper from a Capri Sun straw?

It works.

Just use the straw as it comes from the package, insert the flat end into your mouth, and make the kissing sounds you'd do with any commercially available yelper.

I cup my hands over the end to produce a variety of tones.

Laura had the neighbor in his back yard last night looking for birds...


Got the Clikstand

Got the Clikstand in yesterday's mail. I must say it's very well put together.

The first thing I did upon receipt was to assemble the unit following the included step-by-step instructions. Easy. Then I grabbed a wire hanger, some wire cutters, and a pair of needle-nose pliers and made myself some small pot adapters in case I wanted to use something like my 10cm Billy Can instead of the 12cm that will rest right on the built-in pot supports.

The windscreen and four-piece clikstand nest inside my 12cm Zebra Billy easily along with my commercial Trangia burner (smaller in diameter than the Military version.) I've also tossed in a 2oz. bottle of denatured alcohol (meths) to run the burner.

This setup is, at present, the one I'll tote around with me on a daily basis. The ability to heat up water or soup regardless of location is something that could come in handy now that the weather has cooled off. Soccer practice, a trip to the zoo, a walk in the park, or set up in a parking lot, I'll be able to brew up a cup of tea or coffee, warm up some soup, fry up a couple of sausages, or even prepare a full freeze-dried meal. Handy.

Of course, the Crusader does have one thing this setup does not--the ability to carry the water within the unit. That's a handy thing and something I'll be looking at in more depth down the road...

Thanks for reading,


Monday, September 18, 2006


Over the weekend I began playing with some of the various cookers I've got around the house. I also received a complete Crusader set in the mail.

I used soda can stoves, Trangia burners, trioxane, Esbit tabs, canned gel alcohol (Sterno,) and a couple of different paraffin-based barbecue starting sachets in a variety of configurations.

So far, my favorite is the Trangia burner with the Mini-Trangia windscreen/potstand for ease of use, familiarity, and reliability. It also doesn't soot up the pans so badly as some of the others.

The paraffin-based firestarters neither burned hot enough nor long enough to do much more than dirty the bottoms of the pans. The larger version did burn for 10 minutes but the heat wasn't intense enough to bring a pint of water to a boil. It got quite warm but never a nice rolling boil.

More to come...


Friday, September 15, 2006


I found another interesting item last night while researching cooksets. It's the Clikstand and it works with the commercial Trangia burner and nests inside the 12cm Zebra Billy Can.

Looks like a promising solution to the day-hiking brew up.


Thursday, September 14, 2006

Some good news

Several weeks ago I talked about physical fitness and the outdoors and, I'm happy to announce, I've lost my first ten pounds.

Yeah, I'm still heavier than I'd really like, and taking it off has never been as problematic as keeping it off, but this is a milestone on the road to greater fitness, better health, and better fitting outdoor gear.

Another 10 and my Swanndri stuff should fit great.

Thanks for reading,



The weather has taken a turn here and we're seeing colder evening temperatures and cooler days. This means it'll soon be time to adjust the gear in my pack to accomodate some extra clothing, more shelter, and a method to heat water and cook food.

I'm taking a look at my current cookset (Swedish Army Trangia) and comparing it to some of the other options available including the Crusader Cooker, Billy Can, Hobo Stove, etc.

Weighing cost versus weight versus ease of use versus portability...there are many reasons to choose a particular cookset and sometimes it can be the intangible that makes the final decision.

My Trangia is heavy, bulky, and familiar. It has worked in some of the worst weather and, although challenged to actually boil water, has been capable of bringing snow up to a temperature that would be considered hot.

I'm taking a look at the Crusader Cooker on BCUK right now and looking for opinions from those who've used them. They're not readily available here in the States (as far as I can tell) so gathering useful information is essential prior to a purchase.

Those of you unfamiliar with the Crusader, it's a set complete with canteen, cup, and burner and it all fits into a standard 1L canteen pouch. It burns sachets of gel fuel (alcohol based?) and/or sticks and twigs.

I've also recently acquired a couple of Zebra Billy Cans from eBay. These slick stainless pots come with a sturdy bail, a steamer insert, and some plastic tabs that help lock the contents inside when the bail is in the upright position. Some of you may remember my miscalculation when I ordered the 10cm pot. I've found the 12cm to be ideal for my purposes and that is the size I intend to carry.

Anyway, these are just some initial thoughts on this process I will go through before making a final decision on which cookset I will rely on this winter. Maybe along the way I'll uncover some bit of information you were looking for on the subject of billy cans, cooksets, etc.

Thanks for reading,


Monday, September 11, 2006

Go with what you've got.

I was talking to my good friend Pup (Billy Cochrane) the other night about nothing in particular and he mentioned that Mississippi is having its worst drought in years and I mentioned how we are getting rain, rain, and more rain.

Their farmers are screaming for it and we're screaming for it to stop.

It would have been a lousy weekend to be camping in either location.

Here you'd be faced with the challenge of keeping your gear and yourself dry (feet especially seem to suffer during wet conditions) and there you'd be looking for water sources and ways to keep yourself cool and hydrated.

Whatever weather you face when you're outdoors you'd better be prepared to simply avoid it or endure it.

My opinion? Better to be rained on outdoors than dry indoors.

Thanks for reading,


Friday, September 08, 2006

I know, I know!

It's been kind of a rough week for updates. First I get chilly, then I get sick, and now? busy as a bee.

School started for both kids last week and my mornings consist of:
Breakfast for kids
Dress kids
Laura on the bus
Jake to school
Me to gym
Jake from school
Laura from bus
Nap (some days)
Afternoon activities
Kids to bed
Quiet time???

Not really much room, it seems, for outdoor time, gear shopping, knife testing, or any of the fun stuff I've been able to do so much of all summer.

I've got to fit the updates AND the experiences back into the schedule. As I mentioned, it's been only a week so this is all kind of a new experience for me. Drinking from the fire hose is NOT an understatement.

We left the house this morning at 8:30am and returned home shortly after 5:30pm for the first time all day. THAT'S LIKE A REAL JOB!!!

We'll see if I can't pull something off this weekend. Fingers crossed...

Thanks for reading,


Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Getting better

Apparently I'm getting older...

I can't handle the late nights and early mornings like I once could.

This is important to know before heading out for a multi-day event in the woods like PWYP.

I'm going to have to establish a bedtime and stick to it if I hope to fully enjoy the experience.


Tuesday, September 05, 2006


I was going to be writing about firestarting equipment in the PSK today but something happened to me last night that was far more exciting, far more educational, and far more dangerous.

I developed the first signs of hypothermia. It was approximately 55-degrees and rainy and I didn't have a raincoat. This is the PERFECT weather to get hit with a life-threatening condition because it doesn't seem so terribly dangerous.

Anyway, there I was, getting wet and cold, having just been exposed to hours of second-hand smoke in an air-conditioned restaurant and suddenly I was complaining of muscle cramps all up and down my torso and shivering uncontrollably. I just thought it was because it had cooled off outside.

I drove home with the window cracked to get some of the smokey smell out of the car and the wind continued to rob my body of heat.

By the time I got home I could barely walk, breathing was incredibly difficult, and thinking was out of the question. I hopped out of my smokey clothes and into a hot shower. Not hot enough...turn the heat up...still not hot enough...oh, all the way up? I jumped out of the shower, dried off, found some warm clothes, put on a stocking cap, and crawled into my Wiggy's overbag.

I'm convinced, this morning, that that bag may have saved my life. How hypothermia struck me so fast and so hard is beyond my comprehension. Fortunately I knew the signs and knew what to do about it. I knew falling asleep in that bag would be safe as it would warm me effectively even if I did nothing else but fall asleep.

This morning I'm feeling much better, I can breathe easier, and I am thinking much clearer. Last night was about getting warm and today is about figuring out just what I did so wrong last night that caused this situation in the first place.

Lessons learned:
  1. If it's cool and rainy and you don't have a raincoat, STAY INSIDE.

  2. If it's cool and rainy and you don't have a fleece, STAY INSIDE.

  3. Know the signs.

  4. Be prepared to bring your core temperature back up either through the consumption of warm liquids and foods or through the use of blankets, sleeping bags, extra clothing, etc.

  5. As they say, "Cotton Kills" and I was dressed in a whole lot of lightweight cotton. It gets cold and stays cold.

I'm sort of glad to have experienced the early stages of hypothermia so now I'm more intimately familiar with how it feels. However, I really would have been happy to go the rest of my life without having to experience it and really, really happy to avoid experiencing it again.

Just be prepared for the weather. Don't consider a trip to the store as different from a trip to the woods. Cold and wet is the same in the city, in the country, and in the wilderness.

Thanks for reading,

Chilly B

Monday, September 04, 2006


I've been a bit errant today on posting. I've got quite a knife blowout going over on Knifeforums and it's taken quite a bit of my time answering emails and PTs.

Anyway, on to the subject at hand--PSKs.

Let's talk about some of the other contents of the PSK including, but not limited to, signalling, water, and fire. Others throw fishing kits or other food-acquisition devices into their kits but I feel they are unnecessary.

For hiking anywhere but the remotest regions these days a 72-hour to 1-week kit should be more than adequate and knowing the human body can go up to 3 weeks without food (mine slightly longer due to excess...fuel) adding the weight of a fishing kit and/or snares and losing the limited space available does not, in my opinion, equal an advantage.

Of course, the cordage and safety pins I include in my kit could be used as a fishing kit should the need arise.

My kit will contain elements to purify water, start fires, and signal for rescue. After those essential needs are met I can erect a shelter and huddle inside to stave off hypothermia if necessary. A simple debris hut can be made without a cutting tool so if I've become lost with my PSK and without my knife (hardly a possibility) I am confident that I can still make myself a place to keep warm and dry.

Tomorrow, more on FIRE! Heh heh heh...

Thanks for reading,


Friday, September 01, 2006

Aluminum Foil

Another way to secure those small parts in your PSK is to wrap them all up in a piece of Aluminum Foil. This does two things for you.

1.It keeps all of the small items in a single package nice and secure.
2.It gives you a valuable addition to your PSK--the foil.

Aluminum Foil can be used for many things in a survival situation but the most important may be as a container for water. You can shape the foil into a bowl, fill it with water, and place it next to the fire. Bring the water to a boil and allow it to cool and you'll have potable water.

As long as you're gentle with the foil it should last in this role for quite some time. I don't have an actual figure as I normally carry a metal container in my bag.

Perhaps I'll do some work with a foil container this weekend.

Thanks for reading,