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, March 31, 2008

Camp Cooking Practice

Practice makes perfect.

I like to use my camp cooksets to prepare lunch from time to time just to keep current on the quirks of each piece of gear. Some of my billy cans have hot spots, some don't have a good seal between the lid and the pot, and some are harder to clean after years of use than others.

In today's case, I'm preparing some rice using my 12cm Zebra Billy, a mug/measuring cup from GSI, and my Light My Fire spork.

1c of rice to 1.5c of water is a good ratio and makes quite a bit of cooked rice. I like to tone it down just a bit but for a basic recipe this is a good formula. I might, if rationing my rice, go to .5c of rice to 1c of water.

Bring to a boil, reduce the heat, cover, and wait about 15 minutes. Then remove the billy can from the heat and wait another 5-10 minutes before fluffing up the rice and eating.

If I salt the rice at all I'll do it right before eating. Other seasonings can go in earlier but I like to just make my rice as simple as possible.

As it's an easy staple to prepare, seems to last indefinitely in dry storage, and is easy on the digestive system, rice is almost always found in my pack. I carry it in a 1L Nalgene bottle with a stainless mug. Rationing it to .5c I can get 8 meals out of the bottle and that's more than enough to take the edge off my hunger. Supplemented with edible plants I can make it last even longer and/or eat better.

Practicing a skill like camp cooking in a more controlled environment prevents potentially costly mistakes like burned rice. When your food is rationed like this you don't want to waste a meal because of a simple mistake.

Tomorrow I think I'll do some work with potatoes--another staple that packs well for a trip to the field.

Thanks for reading,


Sunday, March 30, 2008

Happy Birthday Roger!

Happy Birthday!

The big 36 huh?

Thanks for stopping by the blog.



Saturday, March 29, 2008

My New Bed

Sleeping on the ground is quite a change from sleeping on a thick cushy mattress. You find the hard spots both on the ground and inside your body and it takes a day or two to adjust to the change. That'll be the plan for the middle to end of this coming week. That way I can get some decent rest at PWYP instead of taking the better part of the event getting used to the ground.

The layers are as follows (top down) surplus wool blanket doubled over lengthwise, Wiggy's Overbag, Thermarest Ridge Rest Short, space blanket.

You can see that the wool blanket is plenty long and covers the entire sleeping bag/mat/ground pad to protect everything from sparks should I choose to sleep close to a fire. It also offers extra insulation doubled over like it is even though that is not the blanket's primary role.

Then, of course, the most important piece of my ground sleeping package--the Beans72 pillow. (Hmm...just noticed the pillow covers. I need one of those.) I have one of the King Size buckwheat pillows for my bed at home and the small travel pillow for camping and, well, travel.

I used to just use rolled up clothes, jackets, etc. for my pillow but would find myself without a pillow on cold nights when I needed the extra clothes to stay warm. The travel pillow doesn't weigh much and is well worth the extra effort to tote it to my campsite if I'm going to get that little bit of extra sleep that gives me that little bit of extra energy the next day and down the road.

I get fatigue-induced migraines so sleep is now a primary concern and I will do what I can to make sure I sleep comfortably each night in the field.

In the morning I "make" the bed by aligning everything and then folding it head-end down and foot-end up. This'll keep critters out.

The whole setup will work on the ground or in my hammock so this doesn't really nail down the shelter option yet. I am, however, leaning toward the A-frame lean-to I wrote about last October. This gives me good protection from the elements, allows me plenty of great views, is lightweight and inexpensive, and easy to pitch. Plus I can wrap the tarp around the rest of the bed components like a giant bedroll and have my entire shelter component in one handy, easy-to-transport package.

I'm off to read about tumplines.

Thanks for reading,


Happy Birthday Grandma!!!

Wow! 90 today! That's absolutely FANTASTIC!!!

Happy Birthday to my favorite reader. ;)



Friday, March 28, 2008

Two Weeks!

In just two weeks I'll be on the hill in North Carolina getting a chance to see folks that I haven't seen in a couple of years and talk to folks that I only "chat" with online.

I'm in the process of gearing up and think I'm going to go very light this time. The last time I made the trip we filled the back of a conversion van with gear for three days. We were equipped for about three months.

Shelter is always one of those things I hem and haw about until I throw something together at the last minute so this trip I think I'm going to take a poncho to set up as a lean-to, my Wiggy's overbag, and a wool blanket. I'll throw one of those space blankets down on the ground to keep my bag/blanket clean but that should do it. I will, of course, take my Beans72 buckwheat pillow as it's worth its weight in gold.

EDIT:I've already had some questions about bringing the wool blanket and the sleeping bag. The wool blanket doesn't just provide me with extra insulation against the cold but it covers up the more flammable synthetic materials in the space blanket and sleeping bag and allows me the option of sleeping near a campfire. I'll have some pictures of this setup in the next day or two as I'm planning on setting up outside tonight to make sure I'll sleep warm enough.

I could also take the hammock and sleep up off the ground...or the GoLite Hex3...or the new Sportsman's Guide you see my dilemma?

I'm going to take one knife, a folding saw, and my Gransfors Bruks Wildlife Hatchet for cutting tools.

I'll bring along my Swedish Army Trangia and Guyot stainless bottle for cooking/coffee/water purification. My firestarting kit travels inside the Trangia pots but I'll probably just share someone else's campfire and help supply firewood.

I will have my folding Titanium spork from REI.

Food is always available up there and several great cooks will be present but I'll bring along some basics like rice, parched corn, jerky, bacon, and coffee.

I've got my clothing sorted out (not much work required there) and have my meds/hygiene kit ready to go.

Once I get my shelter option firmed up I should be ready to roll.

Thanks for reading,


Thursday, March 27, 2008

Getting in Shape

I've got a three-day trip coming up in April and then class/camp/hike season really kicks off for me so it's time to lose some of this winter weight (which I've managed to keep on for three years now) and get some aerobic fitness so I can go climb those hills in North Carolina.

I'm walking a bit but find myself doing more body-weight exercises right now as time is hard to come by and a trip to the gym just isn't in the cards. Plus, Jim Bridger never went to the local health club did he?

I start my morning by crawling out of bed (still hurting a bit from those falls on the ice,) listening to all the cracks and pops my body now makes that it didn't used to, and then to the floor for a set of sit-ups (crunches really,) push-ups, jumping jacks, and then free squats before heading downstairs for coffee.

I don't know if it's done me any good so far but after Jake jumped on my midsection yesterday I did feel some abdominal muscles firm up that I haven't felt in a long time.

It'll probably be several more days before I notice any physiological change (a smaller waistline would be nice) but it'll come soon enough.

A modest lifestyle change like morning calisthenics will net modest results but it's a step in the right direction...

Thanks for reading,


Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Survival Sheath Systems Thigh Rig

I got this rig in on Friday from Rob Humelbaugh of Survival Sheath Systems while loading up the car for a weekend trip and gave it a bit of a test while we were at the lake. Everything pictured except the Trangia Cookset fits in the sheath.

The Trangia comes in another carrier but, with just the cookset, I've got plenty of bases covered for an unplanned night in the woods.

Let's see if I can give you a rundown of what's in my sheath.

  • Victorinox SwissTool and Surefire L4 in side pouches

  • Suunto sighting compass

  • DMT Duofold Fine/Coarse stone

  • K&M Matchcase with REI matches

  • Victorinox Outrider

  • Mini prybar from CountyComm

  • Orange Windmill lighter

  • Light My Fire Army firesteel with whistle and Photon microlight

  • Giant Steve Spangler test tube filled with fatwood shavings and wrapped with Gorilla tape and electrical tape

  • Two lightsticks

  • Handkerchief

  • Small hank (12' maybe) of 550 cord

Plus the big honkin' Busse ASH-1 with a Concealex sheath mounted inside the thigh rig.

Everything is mounted to a basic web belt so I can take it off and put it on without having to thread it through my belt loops.

It's heavy when it's loaded. It is also fully adjustable so you can carry the load where it's most comfortable.

I liked having the pommel of the knife right where my left hand would fall naturally (like a gunfighter) and it was easy to draw and put away.

Having all of my gear right there where my cargo pocket would be was very, very handy. I regularly reached into that center pocket with frozen fingers to get some firestarting materials and, when I moved to a knife in another sheath, found myself struggling to find the big center pocket and two smaller side pouches...'cause they weren't on my other sheaths.

Great stuff Rob.

Thanks for reading,


Monday, March 24, 2008

TOPS Armageddon

Here's the surprise of the trip. The Trace Rinaldi designed Armageddon by TOPS Knives.

I bought this knife because I also have a full custom from Trace and wanted to compare the blades but, once in-hand, this knife just felt unwieldy and it looked like the handle would cause some trauma to the hand if used for hard chopping as other bird's beak pommels have really sent the shock straight to the bones in my pinky while chopping. TOPS knives are also notorious for shipping with rather obtuse edges that need quite a bit of work to really do the job. That was not the case with this particular knife.

The blades come coated with a black, crinkly epoxy coating which I promptly removed as coatings aid in rust prevention but hinder cutting performance. I used an epoxy stripper readily available at the local home improvement store and in about 10 minutes I had a dull-looking blade that looked ripe for rusting without some treatment. Then I satin finished the flats with a Scotchbrite belt on my grinder and left the bevels as they were when the coating was removed. I didn't sharpen the knife as the 2" wide belt wouldn't work with the recurve on this blade.

Then I stuffed it back into the sheath and didn't give it a second thought until we were loading the car for a trip to the lake.

Once at my parents' lake house I set about pulling all the knives from my duffle bag and took the Armageddon out to the wood pile to see just how the big blade would handle some nice seasoned wood. The first chops felt like someone was hitting me on the outside edge of my hand with a stick. The 1/4" thick steel smacked me right between the second and third knuckle on every chop. After a dozen or so chops I had to pack it in and thought the knife was a waste of perfectly good 1095. Fortunately I'm fairly stubborn...

Later I took it out again to start clearing a path to the lake and it did an admirable job on the saplings and vines that had grown up out back but it was still smashing through them more than it was cutting--easily identified by the heavy splitting of the wood versus clean cuts. I made three or four passes on an EZE-Lap rod sharpener and went back to work.

What a difference a minor effort makes. I think the knife must have had a burr on it that I finally knocked off with the rod because now the knife was cutting like a champ. I could clear 1.5" saplings with a single swing but the weight of the knife had me wishing for a machete after just a few minutes.

Next I took the knife back to the woodpile to split some rounds into tinder and kindling for a fire and to carve some fuzz sticks. It did great with the splitting as would be expected of such a stout knife and it did a surprisingly good job of carving tight little curls for my fuzz sticks. I think the recurve aids this process and the handle allowed me to really choke up on the blade for maximum control.

Firestarting was hard work with the frozen ground as it would thaw just enough to be wet and that would put out my fire just as it was starting. After three or four attempts it finally leapt to life and we had a nice fire burning for a couple of hours. I had to carve a whole mess of fuzz sticks to attempt to start the fire four different times though.

Since it seemed to do an acceptable job at the basic chores I had to go back and see just how to get it to do what it was designed to do--chop (without breaking my hand.) The grip has a sort of sub-hilt and allows you to grab it back at the bird's beak, in a normal forehand grip behind the sub-hilt, index finger in the sub-hilt, and then index finger in the choil with the middle finger in the sub-hilt. A loose grip worked much better at preventing the shock of chopping and, after a few minutes of experimentation, I could regularly send large chips flying from whatever wood I was working. The blade would sink right up to the flat and then stick a bit. This is something I can remedy with a bit more satin finishing I suspect.

To expect so much from a knife, be so horribly disappointed, and then so pleasantly surprised in a two-day window is quite a twist from my normal experience. I like to think I can judge a knife's effectiveness through my experience and my "eye." This knife challenged that perception and then finally showed that it can perform at a high level. Phew!

I attempted to sell this knife not that long ago. I dropped the price and dropped the price until it was listed at about half of what I have in it and still nobody wanted it. That's when I made the decision to just strip it, satin finish it, and use it. It looks like I might've gotten lucky with this one.

Thanks for reading,


Sunday, March 23, 2008

Happy Easter!

We're back from a hectic two-day trip to my parents' lake house and boy oh boy do I have lots to write about.

I tested the heck out of some knives and a custom thigh rig sheath from Robert Humelbaugh of Survival Sheath Systems, built a few fires in the fire ring using those knives, and then cleared a path into some thick scrub so my dad can get his boat to the water's edge in another month or two.

I left the camera at home but can take some pictures of the aftermath (at least the beat up steel) in the next couple of days as I tell the tales.

One knife, a known winner, did everything that was asked of it as it always has. Another, an unknown, showed some major design weakness the first day and then came out of its shell the second day and was truly shocking just how good it was.

See you tomorrow,


Friday, March 21, 2008

Custom Fallknivens at JRE

Unbelievable! I get enough knives in the mail to outfit a major expedition, my bank calls me to let me know that they've upped my credit limit because I'm such a great customer, and I'm running out of space in my house to store all these blades and the boys at JRE have to go and put up some custom Fallkniven Knives today. At last count there were five F1s and an S1 with probably more coming in...

F1 with Tulipwood Handles

Another Tulipwood F1

F1 with Black Palm handles--my personal favorite of the bunch.

Bocote F1

Cocobolo F1

A gorgeous Desert Ironwood S1

Compare these to my production F1 above. The Thermorun handle is absolutely sufficient (dare I say it's good?) but it sort of pales in comparison to these beautiful natural materials.

You can see them all from multiple angles here at the JRE Industries website. Actually, it looks like they've sold a couple of them while I was here formatting the pictures...

Custom and production leather, sharpening equipment and supplies, private collector sales, and now custom and production Fallknivens...these guys are on track to take over the universe. :)

I wonder what's next for the JRE boys...

Thanks for reading,


Thursday, March 20, 2008

Camp Coffee

Ah, a subject near and dear to my caffeine-addicted

My last trip to REI to return the second pair of Merino wool gloves resulted in the purchase of a GSI H2jO! which fits the threads on a wide mouth Nalgene or Guyot Designs bottle and allows you to enjoy cowboy coffee without the crunchy bits that invariably get into your cup.

Take ground coffee, add to the filter, pour boiling water through the filter, screw on the bottle lid--it'll screw right onto the H2jO, invert your bottle for a few minutes, and then turn it right side up, remove the filter, and enjoy your freshly brewed coffee.

The Guyot bottles get really, really hot when filled with boiling water so be careful.

Sure, you could make your cowboy coffee the old way using an empty can but this adds little weight, can be used for loose leaf tea, and can also strain the gnarly bits from locally available water as a sort of pre-filter.

I sit here sipping my fresh brewed coffee and I think I could easily pound 32 ounces of hot, black coffee after a long night of swatting bugs while sleeping under my tarp lean-to.

Thanks for reading,


Wednesday, March 19, 2008

This Just In!

If you're in the market for a Bark River knife you should check with the boys at JRE Industries.

They've just listed a bunch of knives from a private collection and the prices are unreal. I managed to snag three already and you all know I've gotten more knives in the past two weeks than any small tribe could hope for. :)

Check them out HERE.


Edit:Just talked to Dan and it sounds like there are more knives going up so make sure to check back frequently if you don't yet see something that strikes your fancy. There just might be something coming up soon.

Newest Nessmuk Trio

Here it is. Combining my Koster Nessmuk with a Vintage Knives Moose and a Ragweed Forge double-bit Nessmuk axe I've got a modern interpretation of Nessmuk's often-replicated trio of woods tools.

The idea to shoot a picture of all three items has been rattling around inside my head since I picked up the Koster Nessmuk a couple of weeks ago but I just got around to it this morning.

I hope you enjoy the photo.

Thanks for reading,


Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Happy Birthday!

Today is my wife Christine's birthday. It's also my friend Chris's birthday.

Happy Birthday to you both!


Monday, March 17, 2008

Guide Gear Teepee Tent

Just got a new tent/tipi from Sportsman's Guide and pitched it in the basement to make sure everything was there, that the seams were sufficiently sealed, and just to see how easily it went up.

The tent has 10 guy-out points and the floor probably also has 10. Since it was in the basement we had to set it up the hard way which involved attaching the lines to heavy items in the basement and then raising the center pole. I had Jake hold the pole for a bit while I pulled the lines taut and the tent has been standing strong ever since.

The tent has three ground pads, two sleeping bags, and my bedroll inside set up in a triangle around the center pole and there's room for more gear or another person if you're really comfortable with one another. Staking out the tent and floor would give more room as nothing is really pulled as taut as it'd be outdoors. The walls have "flaps" at the bottom that will fold out for a bit more coverage or under for more protection as the floor/wall juncture is open.

The tent has four clear plastic windows and two doors. It also has a number of vents around the bottom that can be left open or zipped up to provide rain protection. The covers are still open at the bottom to allow plenty of airflow to prevent condensation issues when it's buttoned up. The top of the tent is mesh with a reinforced grommet at the peak. This is covered by a thicker piece of material outside which again promotes ventilation and prevents rain from getting in.

The tent really seems to open up with both doors unzipped and the flaps folded over. In clear weather this is more than likely how I'd set it up as I've moved away from tents to poncho/tarp or hammock setups for my shelter arrangements. Laura told me that she's prefer a floor for her camping so I had to go looking for something that would suit us both and I think this tent may be our answer.

I'll certainly know more about this tent and its ability to shed the weather once I get it set up outside.

If you're interested in checking out this tent for yourself you can find it here at Sportsman's Guide.

Thanks for reading,


Thursday, March 13, 2008

Nick Allen Bladeforums Knife

I haven't had this knife for long but it came right in the same stretch that I received my first two Koster Knives, another Busse, and probably a few others so it didn't get much attention right off the bat. Now it's in my sights and I'm going to put it through its paces for the next several days. I've already had an opportunity to use it a little but it hasn't even broken a sweat with the work I've thrown at it.

Here are the specs:
3/16" O-1 HT'd to 59-60 RC with a visible hamon
5" Blade
OAL 10"
green Canvas Micarta Scales with stainless hardware
Sheath will be a pouch sheath treated in bees wax

These knives came about after much discussion on Bladeforums about having an "official forum knife" for the Wilderness and Survival Skills sub-forum. It is stamped with Nick's initials "NWA" on one side and "BFSK2007" (BladeForums Survival Knife) on the other.

The handle is nicely contoured and provides perhaps the most comfortable grip I've used. It does wonderfully in a strong forehand grip and allows maximum control for power cuts without creating hot spots or discomfort.

Overall, my initial impression has been very positive. Communication with Nick has been easy and he's quick to reply to inquiries. We're actually talking about getting another one with natural canvas micarta and, perhaps, some minor changes if any are needed. That part I won't know until I've done more extensive testing however.

I can't wait to get this one really, really dirty and to put some patina on it.

Thanks for reading,


Monday, March 10, 2008

Koster Bush Master

I had an opportunity to participate in a pass-around on the new Koster Knives Bush Master.

Some statistics of the two knives before I get started with some testing, pictures, and final analysis.


  • Natural Canvas Micarta Handles

  • Full tang

  • 221 g / 7.8 oz.

  • 9 7/8" OAL

  • 5" Handle

  • 4 7/8" Front of scale to tip

  • 188" thick at front of scale

  • .727" thick at butt end

Bushmaster T(apered):

  • Desert Ironwood Handles

  • Tapered Tang

  • 199 g / 7 oz.

  • 9 7/8" OAL

  • 4 7/8" Handle

  • 5" Front of scale to tip

  • .184" thick at front of scale

  • .822" thick at butt end

First impression:
These knives are totally awesome. Not just an upsized Bushcraft knife but a whole new animal.

The balance point on the Bushmaster T is right at the forward lanyard hole and on the Bushmaster is at the forward pin about .5" further back.

Both knives have the forged finish on the flats and polished bevels with nicely etched logos on one side and the word "PROTOTYPE" on the other.

I'll try to get a few in-hand pictures taken and posted still tonight and tomorrow I hope to get out for a bit of testing. I'll also make sure to get a few pictures next to the Bushcraft so you can have a better idea of the scale on this knife.

Final first thought:
I'd order one of the natural canvas micarta full-tang versions right now if Dan were to offer it. That's without using it.

See you in a bit,


Sunday, March 09, 2008

Simple is Best

Is there anywhere that this adage doesn't hold true?

I spent some time last night thinking about the bungee cord versus tied ridgeline issue. In a true survival situation you'll have a rush of adrenaline that could cloud your judgment and ability to do things like tie a few simple knots but wrapping a bungee cord around a tree is something my four year old can easily do.

Perhaps that is the bar to which I should try to learn/teach.

I've always tried to simplify processes for my daughter to keep things easily remembered and easily accomplished. Her survival kit consists of only a couple of pieces and her instructions, in case of getting lost, were kept brief and simple. Just one situation where she needed to rely on that gear and those skills could make the difference between her making future trips to the woods and her becoming a couch potato--not even accounting for the potential life and death aspect.

I can see the risks that bungee cords present with their metal or plastic hooks under tension but the speed with which I had a shelter pitched yesterday will probably remain unbeaten for some time. Sure I could have done it with paracord and just a couple of tied knots pretty easily but the bungee cords would even work when fine motor skills have abandoned you because of frozen hands, shock, or other trauma associated with the "situation."

This is definitely a topic I'm going to try and explore more fully going forward. I'm sure there are things I do in the woods that could easily be simplified to a lower level.

Thanks for reading,


Saturday, March 08, 2008

Went out for Ten Minutes...

...stayed out for hours.

I went out to play in the snow with Jake and promptly slipped on the ice three times and went down hard each time. For some reason I fell on my right side every time (maybe because I'm left-handed?) and my right kneecap immediately turned black. It's going to feel so good tomorrow I'm sure.

I hobbled back to the garage, pulled out a few pieces from my winter car kit, and headed back into the yard to throw out a poncho shelter, build a small warming fire, and just hang out in the yard to enjoy the day.

It was in the low 20's but felt like the low teens with the wind chill and I was wearing a synthetic t-shirt, a wool vest, and an unlined Carhartt jacket--not exactly all-day cold weather gear. I had my Fallkniven F1 on my belt, a Swiss Army Soldier, firesteel, DMT sharpener, and some keys in my pocket, and a SwissTool on my belt.

I used a trick from Dave Canterbury and used bungee cords to hang the poncho. Normally I'd use some paracord and tie knots but I found a couple of trees just inches further apart than the width of the poncho so the bungees worked just fine and went up fast. I staked out the back grommets with two aluminum tent stakes and called it good.

The ice storm from a couple of weeks ago brought down lots and lots of branches and smaller trees so the kids and I started cleaning up the yard and turning that wood into firewood, kindling, and tinder. A piece of fatwood, the Swiss Army Knife, and a firesteel later we had a fire. That fire then burned for several hours as we fed it piece after piece of frozen and wet wood. Peeling the bark helped to minimize the smoking.

As we worked we got thirsty. I brought out a bottle of water but wanted to show the kids (again) how to make water by melting snow and ice. The trick? Add some water to the pan first. Otherwise you'll scorch your pan before the ice ever melts.

Once we had melted enough snow and ice to fill the pan of my Swedish Army Trangia we let it come up to a rolling boil for a few minutes before straining it through a handkerchief. This gets out the chunks, bark, charcoal, and ash that invariably get into the water when boiling over a live fire. The boiling kills all the nasties and makes the water safe to drink but all the minerals in the dirt/mud remain behind to give the water a lovely color and flavor. Laura and I drank from the pan once we'd strained out the crud. It sure doesn't taste like tap water but it doesn't taste bad either.

After several hours of laying on the ground in front of the fire my body had had enough from the earlier falls and it was time to head inside. I'll be a little stiff tomorrow but will work the kinks out while testing a new knife from Dan Koster called the Bush Master.

I can hardly wait...

Thanks for reading,


Thursday, March 06, 2008

New Links

I got an email last night from Phil Thornton of Survival Review. Phil has started up a new website dedicated to one of my favorite subjects, gear reviews.

Here's a quote from his "About" page:
Welcome to survival review. We hope to become your online destination for unbiased reviews on outdoor and survival gear. We put all of the products we review through the POT (”Painfully Obsessive Testing”) procedure to insure that the info you are getting is legit. We will not provide “paid reviews” from vendors or manufacturers. We will strive to have the best photos and videos supporting the evidence we put out there. Hopefully we can build an aware community of survival and outdoor gear lovers. As always if you ever have a product you’ve been thinking about investing in or knowing more about shoot us an email and let us know what it is. We will do our best to put it through the POT. Happy Reading!

I have also seen several comments from Ron over at Survival Topics and have enjoyed spending some time digging through the articles at his site. Ron has covered a wide breadth of survival-related topics and also welcomes reader submissions. I suspect if you're looking for it you may well find an article on it at Survival Topics.

From Ron's "About" page:
The survival techniques and ideas on these pages provide real world examples of how to survive in a wide variety of situations and environments. Chock full of tips, tricks, and methods, Survival Topics provides anyone from novice to expert with valuable survival information that they can put to good use

And, lastly, Dave Canterbury's site Wilderness Outfitters Archery has tons of great stuff on it. He's not only given us the article on what to pack but also the videos on the Versa Shelter and many, many more videos on YouTube. He runs an Outfitter's Store online too.

Here's a quote from Dave regarding the gear he sells on his site:
As an Ex Army Ranger,Survival Instructor,and Extreme Hunter I expect alot from my gear. It is for that reason that the gear advertised for sale on this site has all been tested by myself and my son in a variety of extreme conditions. When your life depends on what little you carry-Buy from Wilderness Outfitters. We appreciate your business.

Dave also appears to be a primitive archer--something I'm going to try to explore more fully this year. I expect I'll be bugging Dave for some more assistance in the near future. :)

I've added all three of these sites to my links section. Give them a look. I think you'll find them to be both entertaining and informative. I hope you find them as useful as I do.

Thanks for reading,


Wednesday, March 05, 2008

"What to Carry" by Dave Canterbury

I had the pleasure of corresponding with Dave Canterbury of Wilderness Outfitters Archery today. He's the guy you just saw two days ago with the Versa Shelter videos below.

I asked him if he'd care to write an article and he had this one ready to go so I'm putting it up for you in its entirety. It's a very good read and I look forward to hearing more from Dave going forward.

I spent a while today surfing around his website and think it, plus the videos Dave does, a valuable resource for those of us who like to get out there. I'd encourage you to give his site a look and drop a quick note into his guest book.

What to carry when into the woods-Scouting, Trekking, and Wondering

By Dave Canterbury

This article is meant to give you a list of the basics that should be carried on any scout even for a day, call it a basic survival kit of sorts, and extend to 2-3 days for treks. I will describe each item as well as multiple uses for these items. I have found that any item you cannot use for more than one thing generally isn’t worth carrying in the first place. The one item I would say is the exception would be a Fire Steel, and we will talk about that later. You will want a small utility bag or fanny pack to carry your KIT in but remember it should be heavy duty as it will take a lot of abuse during times afield. For me a former Military issue Butt Pack with shoulder strap fits the bill, it has a Drain hole in the bottom in case it gets totally submerged in water and also has a semi water proof bag liner that extends with a drawstring sack above the actual top of the bag. It also has several attachment points on the outside.

First let’s discuss items that should be on your body, not necessarily in your Kit.

I always carry 2 things above all else, with these 2 items and good bush crafting skills you can spend a lot of comfortable time in the woods. The first item is a good knife. What is a good knife? Well it needs to be heavy enough to cut and chop small saplings and kindling, (If you cannot afford the weight of an Axe) it should be versatile enough yet to use for skinning game and processing meat. It should also be something you can attach to a long cut pole as a spear if needed. For this reason a Folding style knife is out of the question. There are many articles on the Web about what knives you should buy for hunting and survival, I will only say that most of them are not practical in real situations. With that being said some Bush Crafters and Survival experts believe in the theory the bigger the knife the bigger the fool, I would agree with this if I were carrying an Axe as well but, if I only had one tool I would choose a large knife. There are only 2 knives I think are worth owning for this purpose and it depends on your personal budget and preferences. In some things you can spend a lot of money and not really improve you state, and in others you get what you pay for. With that said you can get a whole lot of Knife for around $60.00 or get a better one for $300.00. The $60.00 version I recommend is the US Military KaBar Fighting Knife, in all honesty you cannot go wrong here. KaBar Military knives are made in the US and Guaranteed against breakage for life, they hold a good edge and come with a quality leather sheath that will last for years. For the higher end budget I would have to recommend the Tom Brown Tracker1. The sheath is less than desirable for the Hunter or Woodsman in my opinion but the Knife itself more than makes up for that. Quality sheaths of leather can be purchased separately on the Web or made personally as mine is. The Tracker is 1095 High Carbon steel has a very thick heavy chopping blade and draw knife area as well as a thick tough saw on the back for notching etc. The Tracker is now available on our site in the Outfitters Store Knife Section. Tops will regrind and refinish for life even for other than original owners. Usually I will carry a 2nd smaller knife (or only this if I choose to carry an Axe) in my pack or as a neck knife for more delicate camp tasks, again only 2 grab my attention the Randall Adventure Training Knife about $90.00 or the Mini Army Kabar for about $60.00. They are both High quality and complete all small tasks like skinning game and carving with ease. The RAT knife has a kydex sheath that can also be worn neck knife style. Before we Move on to the next item lets look back and talk about the Axe. If you don’t mind a small trade for weight a good high carbon steel hand forged axe can be the best overall tool for most heavy bush crafting needs. It doesn’t need to be huge a 15” handle is more than adequate. The SA Wetterlings is the axe I would personally recommend they are hand forged Swedish blades of superior quality and durability and the price of about $60.00 is more than reasonable.

The 2nd key item is a good military style fire steel. A good woodsman should be able to start fires in multiple ways without this aid (Bow and Drill, Hand Drill, Fire Plow etc ;) but even the accomplished bush crafter will struggle when the weather is extremely wet, or in areas of heavy snow. Most survival experts will tell you that fire is one of the most important elements for both physical and mental comfort. As I stated earlier this really isn’t a multi-purpose item but the fire you produce certainly is. What I have done is purchased one that is similar to a Key with a hole for attaching cord and used some 550 Para cord as a necklace; to this I attached a small wrist watch style compass. I can use the cordage for my bow drill fire kit, or emergency binding. Make sure the cordage is at least 18-20” long and use prussic style knots to shorten the necklace. The compass is just convenient but comes in handy when I have left my bag at camp or if I were to loose it somehow.

Now lets move on to the other items carried on scout. In my bag I will first place 1 Large Lawn Garbage bag it does not take a lot of room but can be used as a rain poncho, water gathering device, impromptu shelter if split at the seems. It can also be used to carry meat out of the woods. 20’ of good quality 550 Para Cord, the uses for this are endless but I will give you a few as food for thought. Lashing your knife to a pole creating a spear, Bindings for shelter building, Heavy string for a quickie self bow, Drop Line for fishing, Game Snares, Bow drill fire starting. Enough said about that definitely multi purpose. 1 set of Sling shot bands (found at Wal-mart for around 3 bucks). The fact of the matter is that a Slingshot is a very very effective method of taking small game at close range and the ammo is pretty much endless and effortless to find. A nice “Y” branch from a live hardwood and you’re ready to hunt. They can also be used to make a very effective Hawaiian Sling for fishing. They can also be used as drinking straws for puddles in an emergency and tourniquets if needs be. A 1 Gallon Heavy Freezer Bag can be used to gather water, store wild edibles, cover arrow fletching in the rain, as well as store items like you wallet during deep water crossings. A regular large (3’x3’) Cotton Bandanna is handy for the obvious as well as water filtration or a sling. We now have items for Shelter, Fire, Water Gathering, and Food Gathering.

To complete our Kit we will need to add some basic First aid items, most of these should be multi purpose as well. Assorted small bandages, I prefer dark colored cotton Squares/Strips for this not (Band-Aids) as they can be used for patches and Char Cloth if needed (Flint and Steel Fire Starting) for bandage binding I carry a small roll of ½” Duct tape, this is obviously multi purpose for repair as well. Add to the First aid kit a couple Small Fish-hooks, yes fish hooks, straightened some what they will work for emergency needles, as well as the original intent. For thread and sutures carry a small roll of Artificial Sinew (Available On-line) it can be split for fine thread as well as used for repairs, arrow fletch bindings, and many other things it has a single strand breaking strength of about 20 lbs. 1 small tin of petroleum grease/salve (Bag Balm recommended, avail at Farm stores used for cow utters). Helps stop Bleeding and Protects cuts, used for chapped hands and lips, relieves discomfort from chaffing, and its good fire fuel in an emergency. A Small plastic pill bottle with several Aspirin and Iodine Tabs and 2 chicken bouillon cubes (Pain Killers, Water Purification, and Seasoning) To round out this Portion a good quality Multi-tool, Gerber’s and Leatherman’s usually have needle nose pliers, scissors, a good file, small saw, and a sharp knife.

Last minute essentials would include for me a small diamond stone for all sharpening needs, a Rite in the Rain notepad and wood Carpenters pencil, a Compass of choice, and 2) 6 hour glow sticks, an Acme Tornado Whistle, and Military style Signal Mirror.

When scouting or wondering I usually carry a Military style canteen, with cup and cover. I take the ALICE clips out of the canteen cover and replace them with about 6’ of heavy rappelling grade rope for a shoulder strap (rope is always good to have). In mine I also have a Titanium Spork tucked into the back of the cover between the cover and cup. There is a small side pouch on the covers once used for iodine tabs. I put an old 35mm film canister filled with instant chocolate in mine just for special occasions. Anything you can’t cook in the cup you can cook on a stick.

This list may sound fairly small and without content but, you must remember that the size of your kit reflects your level of woodsman ship. As you add things to the kit always look for multiple purposes and practice with them. If you go on outings several times without needing and item remove it, you can always put it back in later.

If I am going somewhere for more than a planned day scout and I am sure to spend the night I will only add a few things but then I will move to a Pack or Bedroll. As for Packs they are as many as there are stars but only a few are truly worthy. Again I will say you don’t always get what you pay for, if you want to have a spendy pack the brands to look for are North Face or Kelty, I have a North Face that has seen 10 years of hard use. For the consumer again the old US Army ALICE pack is perfect, tough, durable, water resistant, and good enough for our troops so? Anyway you don’t want a pack with all kinds of pockets inside and out. One large compartment and maybe 3 smaller exterior pockets will work best. Just remember the bigger the pack the more you will be tempted to fill it up. Shoulder straps are the one of the most important features to look at because these can be miserable on long treks if they are not well padded and a waist strap will help distribute the weight. Also pay close attention to the clips and cinching devices, heavy plastic is good and light, but metal will last almost forever.

With all that said lets talk about a few additions. Obviously you will need something to cover you on cool nights. I personally carry a light guide style sleeping bag rated for 50 degrees (Mainly because of compression size)and or for expected cooler weather I will add an Italian Military wool blanket. These is a little sacrifice for weight but if you are well versed in One Blanket Tricks, a separate article, they can be used for many purposes and provide a lot of comfort. The other advantage to wool is it holds in warmth even when wet. To round out sleeping comfort I carry a Wilderness Handy Shelter (See Handy Shelter Article). Other additions to my pack for treks are 1 extra pair of wool socks, 1 fleece pullover, 1 pr Under Armor Shorts, and 1 MRE (US Meals Ready to Eat) purchase On-line or at surplus stores. If the trek will be extended to 2-3 days I add another pair of UA Shorts, 1 MRE, and 1) 8 ounce NAGLENE bottle of Cream of Wheat (Instant). Sometimes I will add a Multi Fuel Stove in dry areas or fire restricted zones.

This material cannot be reproduced or posted on any other web site without expressed permission from Wilderness Outfitters or Dave Canterbury

Thanks for reading,


Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Estimating Angles by Hand

When in the wilderness you sometimes need to take measurements and may not have the necessary tools in your pockets or pack. Fortunately we're equipped with tools for estimation--our hands.

Taking some time to measure the length of your finger, the distance from thumb to index finger, etc. can pay off when you need to estimate the size of a peak, a tree, or a distant object.

Today we're going to look at angles and their use in estimating available sunlight.

Holding your hand parallel to the horizon you can get a fairly accurate estimate of how much daylight is left by working your way from the horizon to the sun. Each four-finger width is approximately one hour which makes each finger approximately 15 minutes. This is an important skill to have when you are going to be prioritizing shelter building, firewood collection, fire building, etc.

2 degrees or 15 minutes
4 degrees or 30 minutes
6 degrees or 45 minutes
15 degrees
20 degrees
8 degrees or an hour

Using these estimates and a bit of math you can also calculate distance. A finger held at arm's length covers approximately 2 degrees, two fingers approximately 4 degrees, and so on. To estimate your distance from an object of known width or distance use this formula:

width or distance in feet / 100 X angle = approximate distance in miles.

As an example:

You know a particular tree to be four feet in width and, from your current position, with a hand held at arm's length, you can cover that tree with a single finger (2 degrees.)

Using the formula, 4 (feet in width of the tree) / (100 X 2) = .02

or 2/10 of a mile to the tree.

A "handy" (yes, pun intended) method of calculating distance and hours of remaining daylight don't you think?

Thanks for reading,


Monday, March 03, 2008

What a Change

With temperatures in the mid-50s yesterday we're possibly seeing the end of a very snowy, very cold winter. Today's rain is finishing off what little snow remained.

Our snow shelter/igloo is long gone and the green grass is poking out of the once foot-deep snow.

Is this the end of winter? I doubt it.

It seems like every year we get a warm-up like this, people think winter is over, and then we get hit with another brutally cold and/or snowy spell. Mother Nature is like that.

We actually pulled out the grill yesterday and did some outdoor cooking. Of course I'd be tempted to grill in a snowstorm if I could get the grill up to temperature...

If this is the end of winter we should start to see more animal activity and I'll have a better idea of just what we've got living in the woods behind the house.

Either way there are plenty of adventures ahead.

Thanks for reading,


Sunday, March 02, 2008

Wilderness Outfitters Versa Shelter

Many of you know that I spend some time each week looking at new bushcraft videos on YouTube. This past week I found a series of videos from Wilderness Outfitters Archery detailing the various components, construction, and setup options for the Versa Shelter.

I think this is a very clever setup and, being a guy who carries a bedroll with similar components, find the recommended components to be welcome additions. I plan on running out to Home Depot to pick up one of the heavy duty tarps to replace my space blanket and a couple of bungie cords to complement my cordage.

Part 1:

Part 2:

Part 3:

Part 4:

Give these videos a look.

Thanks for reading,