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, June 30, 2007

The Hammock and the Structural Ridgeline

This thread on Hammock Forums got me thinking about trying to build a structural ridgeline for my hammock.

I took the kids over to Erehwon yesterday and picked up 15' (4.6m) of 7mm line and two 4' (1.2m) hanks of 4mm cord.

The idea is to tie a bowline in each end of the 7mm rope and use the 4mm cord to tie prussiks, klemheists, or bachmanns--all three being constrictor knots. These are used to tension the hammock and offer the user the ability to "set the sag" so that the hammock lays (more or less) the same every time.

I found a new pair of trees in the back yard for testing as the two large sugar maples I often use are a bit too close together for my new structural ridgeline. The tied length of the 7mm rope is approximately 13' (4m) and the hammock is just over 12' long. I threw out the ENO slap straps and attached the 7mm rope with carabiners tensioning by hand. This is not the ideal method for me as the ridgeline is only marginally tight. I would normally use a trucker's hitch on one end and really crank down on the rope providing me a strong, taut line.

I clipped the hammock to the two constrictor knots (I went with the klemheist,) tensioned it up, and gingerly crawled in. It didn't fall. It did stretch nearly to the ground but it didn't fall. The knots held, the rope and cordage held, and the idea seemed sound.

I got up, retensioned the hammock tighter to the ridgeline, and got back in. Ah, success. The hammock hangs nicely, the ridgeline and slap straps are nice and tight at the ends, and the ridgeline over the hammock has some sag to it as the hammock pulls the ends toward the middle when loaded down. It gives me a place to hang my UCO candle lantern, my tarp, a hanger for airing out the shirt I've worn all day, and whatever else I decide to load up. I can also use the ridgeline over the hammock as a pull strap to get myself up and out should I need it.

Still, I'm not married to this concept. It's going to take some more tweaking. Is this better than just tying a ridgeline between two trees and hanging the hammock from that line? It's certainly a bit lighter as I'm only using about half the 7mm rope I would otherwise be using.

I'm going to continue to play around with it until I'm satisfied that I've exhausted all the possibilities or until I find some better method.

Thanks for reading,


Friday, June 29, 2007

Another one from ML Knives

I've done it again. I just picked up the Fallkniven F1 and, before it even arrives, I find a knife on Matt's site that I just had to have. I even sent out an email pleading for someone else to pick it up before the urge became too strong. Nobody helped me out.

I'm a real sucker for pieces that look old but this one actually uses an antique file for the blade. The deer leg bone is also aged quite a bit judging by the color. This is a knife with history.

(From ML Knives website)

A Great Full Tang Woods Knife .Great for many uses...
... Forged from a antique file, original pattern left on upper portion on blade...
Blade is about 1” inches wide at widest point....
Tang is a tad thicker than 1/8 thick after handle tapering to tip..
Very nice antiqued Deer leg bone handle with tight stitched rawhide wrapped ferule... with 3 solid copper pins. (2 Copper Pins under custom leather wrap)
Handstitched Sheath Will fit a belt up to 3” inches wide. ,
Total Knife Size about: 10 1/4” Handle about : 4 5/8” Blade about : 5 1/2” Very sharp.

I talked with Matt at length last night about varied topics until both of our phones were nearly out of battery power.

I should have this one in hand sometime next week and will take more pictures and give you my initial impressions.

Did I mention that I already had my next ML Knife on order?!

Thanks for reading,


Thursday, June 28, 2007


I'm going to be trying a new knife (to me.)

I've ordered a Fallkniven F1 with a leather sheath. It's a core of VG-10 laminated between layers of 420J2 with a thermorun (rubber) handle.

The edge is convexed like the Bark River knives so edge maintenance should be no problem.

I've read lots of positive reviews of this knife both on the discussion forums and around the Internet. I have handled one briefly and didn't find it disagreeable. I didn't really hold it long enough to form any sort of opinion.

It should be here next week. Once it comes in I can get some pictures, put it through some initial tests, and report back.

Thanks for reading,


Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Getting back into the routine

It's been a hard week or so to come up with time to write.

Ever since the campout I've been fighting with massive fatigue.

I spent the morning yesterday processing all the fish filets. They're now separated, bagged, vacuumed, sealed, and frozen.

So, this morning I write just to knock the rust off.

I've got plenty to say just little time to actually say it. Looks like I'll have to start setting my alarm clock just a bit earlier.

Thanks for reading,


Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Interesting Observation

Looking into my freezer I am a bit astounded to realize that more than 80% of the items in there I have personally harvested.

Sure, there are some chicken nuggets in the door and a small tub of Ben and Jerry's ice cream but all the walleye, bass, pheasant, quail, and chukar are there because I put them there.

If I get a deer or two this year I'm going to need a bigger freezer.


Monday, June 25, 2007

Back in the Saddle Again

I'm back.

I know I was back in between trips but things were pretty hectic and writing every day just didn't happen.

Over the weekend I fished for walleye on Lake Erie and found great success. There were six fisherman and one captain and we caught a day's limit for each man for each day. That works out to 84 fish.

My portion of the filets fills two gallon Ziplock bags. These bags are STUFFED.

I'm going to have to have a big fish fry because freezer space is limited.

Wanna' come?

Thanks for reading,


Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Home Early

I didn't survive the survival class.

I woke up on Sunday morning with a terrible migraine and upset stomach and, six hours later, felt little better and decided to pack it in. Had the survival class been the last part of this trip I would have probably stuck it out but I also have another long drive and a fishing trip at the end of the week.

I got some pictures of the campout, the people, and some of the projects I completed while I was there.

I met lots of nice people with similar interests and look forward to seeing them again in the near future.

Marty is doing a plant intensive class next month and the month after George is doing his primitive skills class. I'd like to try and do both if I can swing airfare to Marty's and get someone to watch the kids during the day.

I learned some lessons in the two days I was there. Even if I'd stayed for the full 10 days I would have had way too much gear and I packed pretty light this time.

More later,


Friday, June 15, 2007

This is it.

In about 5 hours I'll be on the road.

My bags are packed and I'm ready to go.

See you in 10 days.

Thanks for reading,


Thursday, June 14, 2007


Well, here it is. The food.

I've got more than enough food for the meals on this trip but I'll go through the list for you to let you know what I plan on eating over the course of the next week or so. These meals will, of course, be supplemented by the folks at Briar Patch Outdoors during the survival class portion of the trip.

  • Dried ground beef
  • Dehydrated carrots
  • Dehydrated sweet corn
  • Potato flakes
  • Rice
  • Coffee
  • Powdered milk
  • Spices, salt, and sugar
  • Honey
  • Tea
  • Drink packets
  • Bannock
  • Bulgur wheat
  • One Mainstay 3600 survival ration
  • One Clif Bar
  • Parched corn and muscovado

I also have in the bag my 12cm Zebra billy can with the Clikstand and Trangia burner, a Trangia tea kettle, a GSI Lexan measuring cup/mug, and an extra bottle of fuel.

I have pre-mixed some of the beef with the carrots, corn, and potato flakes and will just add to that an appropriate measure of hot water and it'll make some nice hearty stew. I have also left the components separate because anyone that has eaten the same thing day after day after day will tell you that it can get pretty darned old after a while.

You may have noticed a lack of green leafy veggies on that list. That's because I'm going to rely on Marty and George's expertise in wild plant identification and I hope to eat from the land as much as possible.

One more full day here and then I'm off for 10 days of adventure. Normally this would be the time you'd find me stressed out and grumpy. Not so today. The more time I spend packing my gear for the trip the more relaxed and excited I become.

I can hardly wait!!!

Thanks for reading,


Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Folding a Bedroll

In preparation for the trip I'm packing all of my gear to get it loaded up and ready to roll. My shelter component will consist of the Tom Claytor Jungle Hammock, a black closed cell foam pad, my Wiggy's poncho liner, and a space blanket. I'll use my fleece for a pillow and should be plenty warm even when the temperature drops in the evening.

I carry the foam pad, poncho liner, and space blanket in a bedroll strapped to the bottom of my pack. The seam on the roll should be toward the ground to prevent rain, should it fall on me, from leaking into the liner. The space blanket provides a waterproof barrier for the contents.

Here is how I create my bedroll:

The space blanket is laid on the floor reflective side up. On top of that goes the Wiggy's poncho liner. Notice how close in size they are. In an emergency I can make an expedient waterproof sleeping bag with just these two components.
Here you can see I've chosen a bright red space blanket. This choice aids in discovery should I require rescue. It also happens to be the blanket I could most easily locate. (Nalgene bottle for scale.)
Get the foam pad as close to center as possible. Eyeballing is fine for this project. I believe this to be the 3/4 length pad from the local outdoor store.
Fold the ends up to the length of the pad.
Fold the sides in to the width of the pad. You now have a water resistant "burrito" which you simply roll up.
I like to kneel on one end of the "burrito" while rolling toward myself. This prevents the roll from skewing one way or the other. It also allows me to get some pressure on the roll to squeeze out air that gets trapped inside. When I'm finished I like to wrap the bedroll with a loop of paracord just to keep things tight.

And that's that. Easy.

This roll will get strapped to the bottom of my pack and the hammock will be stuffed inside. I can have my shelter pitched and ready to go in just minutes with this easy setup.

Thanks for reading,


Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Summer Vacation

School's out and it's time for Summer Vacation!!!

We're going to be so busy...

Swimming, tennis, karate, dance, trips to the park and the pool, museums, aquariums, the lake house, and more are on our plate.



Monday, June 11, 2007

Gear, gear, and more gear

I've got new gear coming out of my ears!

New boots, new tarp for the hammock, new sheath and mini firesteel from JRE, new pants from, and the knives...oh, don't get me started on the knives...

Somehow a trip always brings out the gear hound in me and I've got to get some new (unproven) stuff before I leave.

I'll try to do some reviews of the new stuff once I get back.

Thanks for reading,


Saturday, June 09, 2007

I'm getting spoiled

I've said it before and I'll say it again, JRE Industries makes some of the best darned leather gear I've ever had the pleasure of owning and using.

I still remember seeing some of the first stuff to come out of "the basement" (Spen's original shop) and thinking that it was darned good for a hobby maker. Comparing it to the current production and custom stuff however it is a bit primitive.

I've learned to look for straight, even stitching. The edges should be smooth. Rivets should be in the right way (yes, there's a right and a wrong way to put in rivets.) If the sheath is to be "finished" with dye or some other treatment (i.e. beeswax, Sno Seal, mink oil, etc.) it should be applied evenly and finished to a uniform luster and color.

Yes, I'm becoming quite a leather snob.

I cut one of my sheaths a few weeks ago while twisting and pounding on my Aurora. Dan and Spen covered it under the JRE warranty and told me they'd replace it the next time I stopped in. Today I stopped by the shop and not only did they give me a brand new replacement but Spen went so far as to wet form it before giving it back. This sheath looks absolutely phenomenal.

Every sheath that comes out of the shop is an improvement over the prior one and this new sheath is no exception.

It's only a matter of time before these boys get noticed by the magazines and the BIG production companies. Just you watch.

Thanks for reading,


Friday, June 08, 2007

Tarp setup

It takes 8 pegs, two poles or sticks, and one tree but it makes a roomy low-profile shelter that'd be more than adequate for most weather situations.

It'd sleep two if you didn't mind being really cozy but more than likely it's a one-man shelter.

At approximately 9' deep it's more than enough for most folks and should keep all but horizontal rain from coming in far enough to soak a sleeping bag and pad.

While this isn't quite what was constructed in yesterday's video, it is the tarp shelter I've become most familiar with pitching. I tried the Etowah tarp pitch but just can't seem to get the crisp lines and tension I can with this pitch. I'll keep trying. I think I need some longer sticks for the front to make the video pitch work for this tarp.

Thanks for reading,


Thursday, June 07, 2007

SunDogOutfitters Tarp Setup

Sun Dog Outfitter has provided me with many pieces of gear over the years. They carry the Zebra billy cans on eBay and have lots of other hiking gear and cookware that I've found useful.

While surfing YouTube for bushcraft videos I found this:

It's an interesting approach to pitching a tarp and one I hope to try out today with my Sportsman's Guide 9'X9' tarp in a slightly different configuration. I believe I've posted my current tarp setup here once before and also posted a picture of Don Ladigin's "Bombshelter" (which I never did get around to trying.)

Thanks for reading,


Wednesday, June 06, 2007

ML Knives Drop Point

I received this knife several days ago and mentioned that I'd get around to writing it up. Strep throat kind of got in the way of a timely writeup so now I present to you my new ML Knives Drop Point.

This knife measures approximately 8.5" overall and the blade is 4.25" from the front of the dark maple handle slab to the point. The blade is approximately 1/8" (.125") thick and made of 1095. The dark maple handle slabs are held on with four nickle pins and, I suspect, some epoxy--they're not going anywhere. The sheath is made of some extremely thick leather and is hand stitched using what looks like a saddle stitch. Without the sheath the knife weighs 4.85 oz. (137 grams.)

The blade sports some forging scale and now a bit of patina from use. I've used it both in the kitchen and in the woods. I did sharpen it immediately upon receipt. That has nothing to do with Matt's ability to sharpen. It has to do with my "out of the box" routine which always includes a sharpening. This knife is amazingly sharp and I have not had to do more than strop the blade since I put the initial edge on it.

In hand, the knife balances right at the index finger. The handle is nicely shaped and the carving in the wood presents no irritation through extended use. I've found no hot spots to date.

I haven't yet had an opportunity to use it for skinning but choking up on the blade like this is extremely comfortable and allows some phenomenal control of the tip for fine work.

Overall, I'm extremely impressed with Matt's work and his responsiveness. If the look and style of the blades appeals to you I'd strongly encourage you to drop by his site, have a look around, and drop him an email if you've got any questions. I like this knife so much that he's going to be getting another order from me within the next couple of days.

Thanks for reading,


Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Michigan Gathering

Click Here

Marty Simon and George Hedgepeth will be hosting a campout/rendezvous on June 15 and 16 in Clare, Michigan followed by a Basic Survival class. I've mentioned the campout and the class before.

This event is coming up in less than two weeks and, if you're going to be in the area, I'd encourage you to contact Marty and George for more information.

I'm extremely excited about both events--especially after missing PEACE due to illness.

Thanks for reading,


Monday, June 04, 2007

Firelighting in the wet

Whether rain, snow, sleet, or hail, each form of precipitation presents its own set of challenges to firestarting.

The recent rains (which are continuing today, of course,) have thoroughly soaked everything and finding dry wood is now a matter of splitting pieces of standing deadwood to get to the dry interior. Getting to the dry wood and keeping the wood dry are two entirely different things.

I like to keep split wood up off the ground by stacking it on two or three pieces of wood. This both encourages airflow around the bottom of the wood pile and keeps the mud and moisture in the ground from soaking into wood I may need to burn later.

If it's possible to stack the wood under a tarp so much the better. The less moisture on and in the wood the easier it will be to light later.

When splitting and stacking your wood it makes the most sense to put the largest pieces on the bottom and work toward smaller pieces on the way up. This way you've got your tinder and kindling on top within easy reach.

Spark based firestarting has given me fits over the years when there is snow on the ground or rain in the air. You really need to work on your tinder preparation if you're going to use a firesteel or flint and steel in these conditions. Keep the tinder dry inside your coat and don't bring it out until you're absolutely ready to start the fire. The humidity in the air can render most light fluffy tinders useless.

Thanks for reading,


Sunday, June 03, 2007

Wet, wet, wet...

We've had rain off and on for the last several days. This isn't your light Spring shower we're talking about but hard, driving thunderstorms.

My hammock's getting wet on a pretty regular basis. The tarp supplied seems to be long enough but it tapers too severely to offer complete coverage as I've got it pitched currently. That's something I've got to get worked out very soon.

I'm still working out the kinks with the current shelter setup and picked up some thick shock cord yesterday at the store to try with the tarp. I'm not exactly sure how I'm going to use the shock cord but having some on hand seemed a good idea.

The sewn runners have been great. I liked them so much that I decided to pick up a couple more as they're useful and quite inexpensive. I hope to make some of my own at custom lengths (they're only available in 30cm and 60cm) and maybe add a couple of loops. I'm using one of the 60cm runners with a carabiner attached to my sheath for carrying my knife baldric style for now.

The trip is in less than two weeks. I'm packing extremely light. I'm so excited.

Thanks for reading,


Friday, June 01, 2007

Hammock Update

I went to the local outdoor store today and picked up two 60cm runners (a sewn loop of 3/4" webbing) and have replaced the webbing that came with the hammock. I pulled the loop through the end of the hammock, attached a carabiner, and am now using the Eagle's Nest Slap Straps instead of the original webbing.

There are now no knots holding up the hammock which means the webbing retains 100% of its tensile strength. It also means it's darned easy to put up and take down.

We'll give it another go tonight.


What worked & what didn't

I didn't make it the whole night. The hammock was tied using some unproven knots and, throughout the night, the head end slid groundward while the foot end remained firmly attached to the tree. That meant that every move from side to back to other side resulted in my head getting lower and my feet getting higher until I must have been ready to rest my head right in the dirt.

Two things learned last night however included that night vision does dramatically improve after about 20 minutes and those noises in the dark do have a natural rhythm to them and represent nothing more than the trees moving, resting, settling, or doing whatever it may be that trees do in the middle of the night.

I had no visiting raccoons or coyotes but plenty of mossies and cicadas made their way in between my tarp and my bugnet. Thank goodness none of them made it through the netting.

  • Blue foam ground pad
  • tarp
  • headlamp

  • Knots as tied

Thanks for reading,