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

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,



At 3:32 AM, Anonymous said...

Good article. I agree with Dave's emphasis on having cord and / or rope, which is so often left out of an otherwise good kit.

Cord has helped me many times. For example, recently one of my snowshoes popped two rivets while out in deep snow - and a temporary snowshoe repair was made using cord. In some situations, being able to make repairs in the field can save your life or at least make life a whole lot easier!

As with all kits, weight is a major problem when on foot. If I brought everything I would like to, even on just a day hike, it might possibly weight about 35-lbs in total. So there are trade-offs that only experience can teach you.

At 1:05 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey great article...I love Dave.. been following him on Youtube fir some time now, cant wait to see him on Discovery Channel. I love backpacking and therefore love to carry less while hiking. using the basic items and items that have multi uses have really helped me cut down the weight of my pck... thanks again Dave

At 6:30 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Just met Dave through research we are doing for training and feel he really has a vast knowledge as a true woodsman. The part about less is important only if your level of skill has been proven.

There is nothing harder then being put into a situation not being prepared. Study , train and always be ready for what can come at you.

Thirst, cold and hunrey are tough to handle.

Good Job Dave!


At 9:29 AM, Anonymous Bob Band said...

You need a lot less in your bag when you have a lot more knowledge in your head.


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