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

Monday, December 31, 2007

Basic Bushcraft & Survival DVDs

I just received a package from Peter Gawleta of Birchtree Productions containing six volumes of his "Basic Bushcraft and Survival" DVDs and immediately popped one into the DVD player.

Now I'm prepping for a New Year's Eve party tonight so I'm not able to give it my undivided attention but I have to say there are some darned good tips in the first volume.

Production quality is very good, the instructor (Peter I suspect) speaks clearly and concisely, and the video is well laid out to cover a wide range of topics in an efficient manner.

Once this party's under my belt and I can spend some time in front of the television I will watch these straight through so I can give you a more in-depth analysis and review.

So far, I'm extremely impressed with what I'm seeing.

I'm glad to add these to my collection of DVDs from Ron Hood, Mark Baker, Bruce "Buckshot" Hemming, Tom Elpel, Ray Mears, and the rest.

Thanks for reading and Happy New Year!!!


Friday, December 28, 2007

MSR Miox

While killing time yesterday between the dentist and a trip to McDonald's for the kids (I know...) we stopped at Dick's Sporting Goods just to wander a bit.

I found a table of discounted merchandise which included the MSR Miox Purifier at a substantial discount.

Having sold off my water filter last year I was in need of a new option and I'd always been interested in playing with this technology which is in use on a much grander scale in some municipal water treatment facilities. I just couldn't resist and had to have it.

Once I got home I pulled the contents of the box out onto the counter and examined the instructions. Impressive, the instructions are printed in about 10 different languages. Good to know that I can reduce the overall size of the package immediately. There is the Miox purifier, a container of test strips, and a bag of rock salt stuffed into a mesh MSR bag.

The whole kit must only weigh half a pound. Pretty impressive considering the volume of water it will purify.

Operation of this unit couldn't be much easier. You add salt to the "salt chamber," an aptly named piece, and then wet it with some of the water you're going to purify. Unscrew the salt chamber and add water to the base of the unit. It only takes a few drops. Screw on the cap and give the whole unit a shake or three. Remove the cap again and press the button--once for 1/2L up to 4 times for 2L of water. Keep the unit clear of your face and eyes as the Miox process creates a chemical that is bad for your eyes. Once the unit is done processing you simply pour the liquid into your water, give it a shake, and wait the appropriate amount of time.

You can use the test strips to determine whether or not you need an additional dose of Miox also.

I can't wait to get this out into the woods for a more thorough test. We'll see how it does on that stream water.

Thanks for reading,


Thursday, December 27, 2007

More Christmas Day Thoughts

On a more gear-related stream of thought, I need to carry some aluminum foil for my Trangia to use both blocking holes in the windscreen and as a temporary lid for the smaller of the two mess kit components. The "lid" fits into the "pot" but not vice versa and on a cool day with wind blowing you need a lid to speed up boiling time.

The question of the day as the sun went down, the temperature dropped, and the wind picked up:

Can a Swedish Army Trangia (stainless) boil up water for tea and still burn long enough to purify some of that stream water which is still frozen in spots?

This was about as unscientific a test as I could possibly have done as I didn't know the air temperature, the water temperature, the burn time to get water hot for tea, or the amount of fuel I had put in the stove.

I scooped up a pot-full of icy cold water from the stream while waiting for my tea water to boil and set it on the ground in front of my stove. Once I dropped the tea bags into the hot water, I set up the pans in a double-boiler configuration with the tea steeping on top and the pot of stream-water below. Now, would it come to a boil for five minutes?

Part of the selection criteria for my mess kit since the Primitive Skills class involves the ability to boil a useful amount of water. Previously it was simply the ability to boil water. However, boiling six ounces of water at a time would become a full-day project to get enough water to remain hydrated. Boiling up a quart (or more) at a time is more efficient and more useful (especially if you've only got the one container.)

The minutes leading up to a boil were filled with excitement and anticipation. I, of course, kept checking to see the progress of the water which slowed down the whole process. In the end, it did boil the water for a full three minutes before sputtering out. A slight bit of fuel back into the stove and I had boiled it for a full five minutes with fuel to spare.

So, on a single fill, the burner can make your tea and provide you with a useable amount of purified water for later use. I dumped mine into my Nalgene bottle and determined that I'd brought 23 oz. of water up to a rolling boil for a little more than five minutes rendering it inert.

Not bad for a spur of the moment experiment.

Thanks for reading,


Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Just Me and My Thoughts

The hike on Christmas Day was something I've needed for quite some time and I brought along a small notepad and a pen to record my thoughts as they occurred to me so that I could more completely record them.

Walking through the woods I noticed a massive amount of musclewood. Lots of it was small saplings but still good to know such a dense wood was growing just behind the house.

There was enough snow left to clearly identify tracks of deer, quail, opossum, and raccoon. It's hard to age these tracks with the recent wild weather of extreme cold followed by temperatures in the 40s (F) followed by more extreme cold. That snow was frozen like ice in spots and slushy on the edges.

I set up just off the expressway on the second of three berms next to a small stream. A fallen tree provided my seat and camp kitchen.

More tomorrow...

Thanks for reading,


Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Merry Christmas

Merry Christmas and happy holidays!

After a morning of opening presents and eating I spent some time today in the woods (FINALLY!!!) and it was a much-enjoyed trip.

I've got a new piece of paradise right behind the house.

I'll write a bit tomorrow and hopefully I'll get out there with Laura and/or Jake sometime in the next couple of days to get some pictures.

What a great day!

Thanks for reading,


Friday, December 21, 2007

The Hobo Stove

Several months ago I mentioned buying a cutlery caddy from Ikea and yesterday I finally took my Dremel Tool to it to open up a fuel door and then ran a test burn and boil.

It was probably in the 30s (F) here with little wind and the stove worked a treat. It took longer to grind down the burrs from the cutting than it did to put in the door. I used the many holes as a guide and just cut from one to the next until I had an opening large enough to feed in sticks and pinecones. I suppose I could still open it up a bit more as the caddy is made of some nice sturdy stainless and could still withstand additional material removal.

I used my drop point knife from ML Knives for all the splitting and carving of larger pieces of firewood to reduce them to a useable size. Can you believe the patina on that beauty? Matt can really make a heck of a knife and this is truly one of my most treasured pieces of gear. I've gone on and on about it in the past so I won't do so here.

This was such an easy project that I'm not toying with the idea of cutting a hole through the bottom of a caddy to use it with a Trangia burner. I could also cut around the caddy to make a shorter stand that would support a pot and lift everything off of the Trangia burner while still nesting around a 10cm or 12cm billy can. I don't know which will fit the easiest so it'll take a bit of experimentation.

Stay tuned as this project unfolds.

Thanks for reading,


Thursday, December 20, 2007

Outdoor Life Article: Car Survival Kit

Read about it here.

Looks like they've got a fairly comprehensive kit.


Hammocking Tip

When hanging a hammock inside you will still need to insulate underneath if it gets cold.

I had a chilly night because I didn't prepare the hammock well.

Blankets on top kept me warm but a cool draft under the hammock, even inside, kept my back pretty cool and right on the verge of uncomfortable.

Tonight I'll throw a Wiggy's Poncho Liner under the hammock for added insulation.

Thanks for reading,


Wednesday, December 19, 2007


Quinoa (pronounced Keen-Wa) is advertised as "The Supergrain Ancient Food for Today" by Bob's Red Mill and it is, until such time as we run out, the new breakfast of choice around this household.

One cup of Quinoa added to two cups of water provided enough cereal for the whole family this morning and I've got a little left over. I added raisins and cinnamon while cooking and topped it off with a bit of honey and milk just prior to eating. Yum.

Apparently this is the "supergrain" used by the Incas of South America who called it the mother grain and, along with potatoes and corn, was a staple of the Inca diet. It's "high in fiber, a good source of iron, and has all eight essential amino acids" according to the label. It is, I believe, also very high in protein having 24g per cup of dried grain.

It's light, has a pleasant nutty flavor, and is easily digested.

It takes about 15 minutes to simmer and then another 15 minutes to sit before fluffing but I suppose whipping up a batch in the Trangia would be easy enough.

If I can stand it long enough to eat 26 ounces of it at home then I'll give it a try in my mess kit. I don't know just how long the shelf life of a package is but it should provide me with enough nutrition to make it worth the additional weight in my pack and cutting it down to a 1/4 cup serving size as suggested on the label should get me seventeen meals with nothing added but water.

Thanks for reading,


Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Stephen Renico of The Panday's Gazette has been working on a project that's a little outside his normal scope and he's produced a beautiful belt axe with a beautifully grained piece of tiger maple for the handle.

I love that he took something common like a Vaughan roofer's hatchet and turned it into a thing of functional beauty.

Great work Stephen!

Thanks for reading,


Thursday, December 13, 2007

Wintertime Cooksets

I've been reading the new Snowpeak Catalog since I got it from my buddy Steve over at Erehwon the other day and it's gotten me thinking again about my cookset/mess kits and how I can maximize both space and content without increasing the size of the container.

I have three "usual suspects" that I go to when headed for the woods and each has served me well at one time or another. This is why they all are still in rotation and each addresses a slightly different need.

First up, the old Swedish Army Trangia. This is the very first cookset/mess kit I purchased and it is still probably my favorite for durability, price, flexibility, and reliability. It just plain works. It's a bit ugly and a bit heavy but function trumps form in the woods in my book.
Next is a 1L cook pot of thin-walled Aluminum. This one is made by Open Country and I got it at REI for less than $10. It's got a heavy-duty bail that allows me to cook over a campfire and the larger capacity allows me to stuff more gear inside.
Third is my Snowpeak Titanium cookset. This is my ultra-light solution and what I used last year at the Briar Patch Primitive Skills Course.

All three kits have the ability to be used over a campfire or camp stove, all three can boil water in quantities large enough to matter, and all three contain at least one method of firestarting, one eating utensil (the folding Titanium Spork is my go-to utensil right now,) and water purification tablets (I like the MicroPur MP-1s.) Adding the Snowpeak GigaPower stove and fuel canister to my kit would give me additional flexibility with the Snowpeak set and the 1L pot but at the cost of inside storage.

For the moment, the Trangia rides in my winter car kit, the Snowpeak set rides in my pack, and the 1L pot stays at home. The larger capacity is useful but I find it to be a bit too big for regular carry/use.

Building a survival kit to fit inside one of these would be very easy and the addition of your bedroll, a knife, and an axe would provide you with a very light option when headed into the woods. Once my schedule slows a bit (January '08 can't come soon enough) I may just try an overnight with one of these three cooksets and the gear I've just listed above. Should prove to be quite an adventure.

Thanks for reading,


Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Socked In

Whew! There's not really much to report from here.

In between my hectic schedule (coming to an end with the passing of '07 thank goodness) and the weather there just isn't much going on here that'd be of much interest.

We've gone from one winter storm warning to the next with little reprieve and today we're going to get hit with the ice storm that put more than two inches of ice on Oklahoma. The rain started just about two hours ago and we're at 30 degrees (F) with the rain expected to keep falling throughout the day.

I haven't been out in months with the exception of a two-day bird hunt and I'm getting a bit of cabin fever already.

I can see animal tracks in the snow behind the house and know they're out there just a stone's throw away and soon I'll be able to get out there to find them in their homes much like they've found me in mine.

Thanks for reading,


Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Car Kit Revisited

It's that time of year once again to renew and replace items in your car kit to prepare for both cold weather and unplanned stays in the car.

I've pulled the wool blankets from the basement and have switched around the summer kit which included a large jug of water and replaced it with extra warm clothes, extra socks, blankets, food and water, lighting, hand and foot warmers, a shovel, a snow brush, and a couple of carpet remnants in case I get stuck on a patch of ice.

I'm very fortunate to have a minivan with massive amounts of storage space in the back so I can and do carry more than most but I am also preparing for an extended stay in the car with a four and six year old should the need arise.

We've got another big storm forecast for later today so we're going to just hunker down and wait it out.

Thanks for reading,


Saturday, December 01, 2007

First Snow

Today's the first snow of the year and it's supposed to be a whopper.

We're getting our part of the system that is supposed to dump 3 feet on the Rocky Mountains.

It's only snowed about 2 inches so far but now we're getting freezing rain and high winds. I got a fire built to keep us warm as the kids played in the snow and the wind helped it jump to life but it also made the fire burn sideways--quite a strange sight.

I was wearing the wrong kind of hat and now have some mild frostbite on the tops of my ears but nothing to really concern myself with.

The new neighborhood has power lines above ground so we may be offline for a while if the wind and rain come in as predicted.

Could be an exciting night around here.

Thanks for reading,