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

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

More Cool Toys from JRE Industries

While I was down at JRE Industries this weekend I asked Dan if there were any new products coming in that he could talk about and he showed me a handful of really great new items that I couldn't leave without. First is the Willett Firesteel Belt Loop (shown here.)

I've had the Willett on my belt since Sunday and have had no problems with firesteel retention even while wrestling with Jake and Laura. As a matter of fact, the only problem I've had since putting it on my belt is forgetting that my firesteel is no longer in my pocket. Having lost a number of firesteels over the past few years I get a little stressed when I pat my pocket to find my number one means of firestarting missing.

What really makes this product great in my mind is the simplicity and uniqueness of it. "Why didn't I think of that?" was the very first thing that came to mind when Dan put the prototype in my hand.

The other really neat item they're carrying now is also fire-related. Fire Fixins is a clever, inexpensive package with a bundle of jute twine dipped in paraffin and a chunk of fatwood with simple instructions:
Fluff It! Scrape It! & Spark It!

Easy enough.

Today is the perfect day to give these new products a try and I'm going to build and start a fire today using nothing but the products I've picked up at JRE Industries over the past month (i.e. Fire Fixins, Light My Fire Army Firesteel, Victorinox Lumberjack as a striker, and the Willett to carry my firesteel to the site.)

Best of all, these two items are inexpensive. The Willett was just $7.95 and the Fire Fixins is/are $3.75. So for $20 you've got a great way to carry your new firesteel and for less than $25 you've got your tinder too. I think they've got a couple of Red Lumberjacks on the shelf too if you're interested in that sort of thing.

If I were to pile up all of the sheaths and gear I've gotten from the boys at JRE it'd take a satellite photo to shoot the picture. It's both a blessing (for the gear junky) and a curse (for the wallet) to have them within driving distance.

Thanks for reading,


Monday, September 29, 2008

The Mosquito Patch

I saw the Mosquito Patch on sale at Cabela's yesterday while the kids and I wandered the aisles. It's main/active ingredient is Vitamin B1 and it is supposed to do the same thing my ingestion of Vitamin B1 does--make you unappealing to female mosquitoes.

I wish I'd had the patch last week at soccer practice or that I'd taken regular doses of B1 this summer. The mosquitoes were thick and they were hungry.

These late-season mosquitoes have been really vicious this summer and leave welts that are larger and itch more than "regular" mosquito bites.

I really haven't found any hard evidence on the Internet pertaining to the use of Vitamin B1 to prevent mosquito bites but my own personal experience says that it either prevents bites or it so minimizes the swelling and itching of bite sites that it makes it seem like you're not getting bitten.

I still take Vitamin B1 after getting bitten to reduce the itching (I'm a scratcher) for a couple of days while the worst of the bites go down.

Thanks for reading,


Sunday, September 28, 2008

Busse NMFBM Sheath from JRE Industries

The kids and I spent the afternoon down at JRE Industries with Dan and Spen and their kids while Spen whipped up this gorgeous sheath for my new NMFBM from Busse Combat. The knife and sheath are both something to behold separately and, together, are truly magnificent.

Out of the sheath the NMFBM dwarfs the Victorinox Farmer and Firesteel dropped behind it. In the sheath it's as sleek as a sports car and you can sense that it's desperate to get out and tear up whatever you lay in front of it. Practical? Nope. But neither is a Maserati or, perhaps more appropriately, a Hummer--one that doesn't run on gas.

You can see the firesteel loop Spen has incorporated into the belt loop at the top of the sheath. This allows the firesteel to ride horizontally out of the way of snags in the field while still being readily available when needed. I will be fitting my firesteel into the loop before bedtime tonight. EDIT: This is NOT a firesteel loop per the original design. It fits a firesteel perfectly but that feature was unintended. I plan to carry one this way to see if it works as well in practice as it seems it would in theory.

The Mahogany leather is absolutely stunning in person and is even more beautiful than the Walnut color I am so fond of--another non-typical JRE color.

This sheath is both unique and comfortingly familiar at the same time. The lines are pure utility with just a flash of pizzazz.

Spen claims it took him three attempts to come up with this. If this sheath comes after two failed designs, I think those designs were worth the effort. This is pure art in my opinion. It's simple, utilitarian, and sexy (can I say that about a sheath?) all at the same time.

I really, really like this rig.

Spen, thanks for letting me breathe down your neck while you pulled this together. I am extremely satisfied with the final result and the turn-around time is absolutely unbeatable. Plus the kids had a blast playing while you worked and I watched. :)

Thanks for reading,


Saturday, September 27, 2008

We Won!

Laura's soccer team won their first game today 5-3.

As the coach I feel like it's okay to include that news here.

They played tough for 7-8 year old girls and really kept the pressure on their opponents (specifically the goalie) until the final whistle.



Friday, September 26, 2008

Busse Combat NMFBM

I've mentioned in the past that I'm a big-knife kind of guy and this is certainly a big knife. This one arrived in the mail this morning and I've been shooting pictures of it ever since.

The knife is .25" thick and the spine has been nicely rounded making the stock look closer to 3/16" than .25". The blade is convex from spine to edge and, with a little work, will be nice and sharp. I'll wait to sharpen it up to *WOW!* until I've got a sheath from the boys at JRE Industries to protect me from the edge. I don't know what they're going to come up with yet as I've given Spen complete creative freedom with this one but I'm so excited to see what he comes up with that I may just insist me whip something up while I pace back and forth outside the shop like an anxious father-to-be. :)

When I'm in the woods I carry a smaller knife (Fallkniven F1, Diving Sparrow Boreal or Sparrow Special, etc.) and an axe so I don't have a real use for a big blade. There is, however, something to be said for the heft and length of a monster knife that really speaks to me. Maybe I was a sword-carrying warrior in some prior life. I don't know. I just know that I really, really like the big pieces of steel.

This one really reminds me of my Newt Livesay RTAK when I first got it. It's got a very long blade but isn't overly thick nor overly heavy and the handle is comparably comfortable and should be good for extended use as all the high spots have been rounded and smoothed to prevent blisters and hot spots.

Overall I'm favorably impressed. I hope that holds true after I've used it for a while.

Thanks for reading,


Thursday, September 25, 2008

I Saw Them!

I saw the monster last night and his "apprentice" as they ate acorns in my front yard.

From the road I saw the big buck had at least 10 points on an impressive rack and the smaller buck had a nice 6-point rack but he was clearly younger and smaller than the "boss."

There is also a nice rub on one of the trees next door which, I suspect, was left there by one of the two larger bucks I saw last night.

I think this weekend might be a good time to get out with the tracking stick and the camera to see if I can't find where "the herd" is holed up prior to the rut. They're often habituated and allow me to get fairly close before running and I got close enough for pictures last night but it was too dark and all I have are glowing eye shots.

Exciting times around here (for me anyway...)

Thanks for reading,


Wednesday, September 24, 2008

High Traffic Area

Every night now I see and hear several deer moving through the neighborhood and between our house and the neighbors' house.

We see the does about a quarter-mile from here but the young bucks seem to like spending time right behind the house.

Last night it was a big male that went blowing through here as I sat on the screened porch. I didn't get to see how big his rack was as it was dark and Jake flipped on the light just as I was moving to the screen but he must have had 100 pounds on the youngsters I saw playing out back recently.

He's too far from Ryerson Woods to be the same monster I photographed a year ago so that means another beast roams the woods up here.

I think I might try and set up a game camera out back just to see if I can get a picture of him...

Thanks for reading,


Tuesday, September 23, 2008

The Van Kit

I've talked from time to time about the gear I carry in the van on a regular basis and thought I'd put together a quick picture of the "van survival kit" and a few other items that I always have on board.

I'm using a watertight box from Bass Pro Shops for the container and have enough first aid and survival items in there to make a forced stay somewhere a little more comfortable. Inside the box I have the following:

Matches, firesteel, WetFire Tinder, Windmill Butane Lighter, and a file striker in case I find some flint
Fox Micro Whistle and StarFlash Signal Mirror
Food and Water
Coffee candies and MicroPur MP-1 Tablets (30) plus a 1L Nalgene (BPA Free) bottle, 1 Quart zip top bag, and 10cm Billy Can
Repair and Tools
Multi-Tool (this one's an old Leatherman Wave,) Victorinox Outrider, zip ties, duct tape, Fallkniven DC4 sharpener, and a mini pry bar PLUS the Fallkniven F1
First Aid
Band-Aids, Neosporin, hand sanitizer, Aspirin, Immodium, Benedryl, and Tylenol

Shelter would be the van and I've got my bedroll and axe in there should I need to abandon the van for some reason and build a shelter.

I also always carry a battery jumper which can recharge batteries in electronic devices as well as jump dead automotive batteries. It's got a USB port to charge your phone, iPod, etc.

I am frequently criticized for carrying so much "junk" in my car and I have actually removed a 4.5 gallon water jug to slim down the amount of gear I'm toting around every day. If I throw my day pack in the back though I'm ready to hike anywhere and any time and adventure sometimes comes from simply seizing the opportunity presented.

Thanks for reading,


Monday, September 22, 2008

Sawtooth Sunflower

The Sawtooth Sunflower (Helianthus grosseserratus) is a member of the sunflower family, blooms late in the season, and is a wildflower native to this region of Illinois. I found these in direct sunlight along the sides of the path during yesterday's hike.

The plant is neither edible nor medicinal but it can be an excellent indicator of an area that receives plenty of direct sunlight and has excellent drainage (think dry, sunny campsite.)

These plants were tall (maybe 4') but can grow up to 12' and the bright yellow flower was maybe 3-4" in diameter. I had originally identified the flowers as Maximilian's Sunflower (Helianthus maximilianii) but, upon further inspection of other pictures I had taken, determined that the plants I shot yesterday have the distinctive woody red stem of the Sawtooth Sunflower.

HERE is a page on Illinois Wildflowers that has more information on the Sawtooth Sunflower if you're interested in further reading.

Thanks for reading,


Sunday, September 21, 2008

What a Fun Day!

We went apple picking this morning ('tis the season) and had a picnic after at one of the local forest preserves. We found an orchard much closer than the one we visited two years ago called Heinz Orchard and I had a nice discussion with one of the owners about picking up some of his dropped apple wood branches for spoon carving. If I'm lucky he'll allow me to shadow him as he prunes the trees so I can figure out just how to manage my own fruit trees in the future.

Macintosh, Empire, and Jonathan apples are currently in season and next week Golden Delicious will be ready for picking.

Two years ago (has it been that long already?) we picked a bushel of apples (or at least two pecks) and I made apple sauce, apple crisp, and Christine made so many delicious apple deserts that we must've all put on a couple of pounds.

Today we discussed putting in some fruit trees so all this time outdoors is paying off. We won't have an orchard by any means but a couple of producing apple and pear trees would be a wonderful treat late summer/early fall. I'm going to have to do some work to figure out just where to put them but that's a minor issue to tackle now that the opportunity has presented itself.

I'll talk a bit about the picnic/hike tomorrow. After a weekend of soccer, soccer, and more soccer, plus apple picking, picnicking, and hiking, I'm plum wore out. :)

Thanks for reading,


Saturday, September 20, 2008

Scent Memories

Sights, sounds, and smells can trigger old memories in all of us and last night I had a scent that took me back to an unknown place and time. It was more of a feeling and a memory that it was, somehow, related to a new knife.

As I was making my rounds through the house before bed I caught a whiff of something outside that caused my brain to run at 100 miles per hour. "I've smelled that before," I thought. It was kind of a musky, sour smell that I knew meant an animal was running around just outside the open window.

But what could it be?

I tried to remember why the smell reminded me of a new knife but just couldn't place it.

Finally, as I slept, the answer came to me. The smell was that of a raccoon. It was such a deeply ingrained scent in my memory because it was partly, if not wholly, responsible for my progression down the path of hunting and trapping. After having a large family of raccoons move in under my house I made several phone calls for help but all the animal control people wanted so much money and the Village told me that I needed a licensed trapper to remove the animals.

Then I called the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) and asked them how I could go about becoming a trapper. "Send in an application and $9," was the response. I made sure there wasn't a class requirement (like Hunter Safety for new hunters) and they assured me that was all the more complicated the process was.

I sent off my application plus $9 and, in a few weeks, I was a fully licensed trapper in the state of Illinois.

Then I had to remove 10 raccoons from under the house and that smell will stick with me forever--even if not in the front of my mind.

Thanks for reading,


Friday, September 19, 2008

The Venerable F1

I've got it bad. I've mentioned it before. I flat out like the Fallkniven F1.

While investigating a new burrowing guest I decided to grab the camera and snap a few pictures of my ever-growing F1 collection with the more refined cousin the NL5 (also from Fallkniven.)

You can see my hard user second from left, my two customs from JRE Industries, and a brand new production model.

There's nothing I've asked of this knife that it couldn't perform. It's a great size and weight. The sheaths I use range from the factory plastic to custom leather from JRE and custom Concealex from Rob Humelbaugh at Survival Sheath Systems.

Combining the factory blade blank from Fallkniven with custom handle/liner combinations and custom sheathing options offers the best from both worlds in a fully customized knife with easily-replicated geometry, heat treat, and quality. In other words, I can have a one of a kind knife today that I can have made again sometime down the road if I choose.

I'm breaking in the green canvas micarta F1 with red liners but the production model with kydex from MBHanzo (on eBay) is the one that gets the call most often and it shows. I'm curious to see just what this knife will look like a year from now when compared to the unused factory version. Will I sharpen away enough steel to notice? Will the handle start to wear away from repeated insertion and extraction from the sheath?

Only time will tell but I suspect this knife will keep on ticking no matter what I throw at it...

Thanks for reading,


Thursday, September 18, 2008

Wilderness Outfailurz--An Homage

Dave Canterbury has some hard-core fans out there on YouTube and the Internet but these two guys have taken it up a notch. Clem and Willard have a series of funny outdoors videos on YouTube that are clearly a nod to Dave and his many excellent videos. I hope you find them as funny as I have:

You'll have to search for the other two videos as embedding is disabled. Here are direct links:

Golok and Introduction

Great work guys!

Thanks for reading,


Wednesday, September 17, 2008


I am having a devil of a time finding a British Army Basha or Aussie Hootch for late-season camping.

These are heavyweight versions of a tarp usually made of poly instead of nylon, weighing a bit more, and feeling much more robust.

The one source I knew of here in the US was Brigade Quartermasters but they seem to no longer carry the Basha and getting an Aussie Hootch off of eBay is going to cost me as much in shipping as it will to just buy the hootch.

Does anybody have a line on one? An alternative you'd recommend for possible snow tarping? (That's why I like these more as they'll withstand the weight of some overnight snow if necessary.)



Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Matt Caldwell Knives

Pup at Vintage Knives contacted me the other day to let me know that he was getting in some prototypes from Matt Caldwell of Caldwell Knives and I asked him for more information on them.

It turns out Matt has sent him 1-7s and 1-9s (7" and 9" blades respectively) with sheaths by Rob Humelbaugh of Survival Sheath Systems--a very good thing in my opinion.

The knives are made of 154CM and Matt is offering them in various colors of micarta. You can see all of the new knives here while they last.

I hadn't heard of Matt Caldwell until I saw his knives (1-4 and 1-6) on Pup's website and hesitated long enough that they were all sold by the time I got around to trying to pull the trigger.

Fit and finish looks great. They're some robust stock (.235" thick) and the 1-9 at the same thickness ought to be a beat of a chopper.

Matt says, "Production will be limited to 120 Model 1-7's and 60 Model 1-9's. Chances are I'll never build knives of this size ever again." So if you're inclined to buy a knife of this size and/or style I'd encourage you to take a look at these. I missed my shot at the 1-4s and 1-6s.

Pup convinced Bob Dozier to make my modded Pro Guide Knife several years ago, he steered me toward the Delta Traveller, hooked me on the Vintage Knives Moose, and has been my go-to guy on Carbon Steel slipjoints for years. When he gets excited about a knife model or knifemaker I tend to listen closely. He hasn't steered me wrong yet. :)

Just some of my history with Pup--includes pictures of the knives mentioned above.

Thanks for reading,


Monday, September 15, 2008

Getting Out

After the football game I shook off my malaise and grabbed my Fallkniven F1, 12cm Billy Can, Army firesteel, and a bottle of water and headed for the woods.

I didn't get far. I decided to build a fire in the rain instead of hiking through the mud and muck and I'm glad I did.

I got the fire going easily after plenty of prep work and noticed some movement in the woods while I was laying the fire and realized that three deer were just over the split rail fence and heading in my direction. I whistled and they didn't bat an ear so I went back to my work.

After a while they wandered off and I thought they were gone for the day.

Once the fire was burning nice and hot I saw one of them come back. This time I slowly moved toward the fence to get a better, closer view. I noticed the deer had a small rack of antlers and he was moving, more or less, in my direction again. Then I saw two more deer with small racks of antlers.

Three bucks, maybe two or three years old, were meeting up just over the fence and they started to circle one another and then the butting of heads and the crash of antlers broke the silence. There was grunting and barking and a loud *CLACK* then more grunting.

This all took place not 20 feet from me.

The loser wandered off and the second challenger approached the winner and the conflict resumed.

The winner of the first round also won the second round so he may be in line to be the dominant buck one of these days.

He then headed right at me and I got a little nervous as rutting bucks can get a little testy and getting mauled and stomped by a small buck was NOT on my agenda for the day. I clapped my hands twice and shouted at him and he just kept coming.

Then, for some reason, he turned and bolted toward his buddies and they slowly wandred back into the woods.

It was surreal...

Thanks for reading,


Sunday, September 14, 2008

Rainy Days Malaise

Ho's raining again...still...

I've tossed around the idea of putting together a new car kit. I've toyed with doing some land navigation work and study. I've thought about sharpening some of my knives.

The dreary day and the constant ticking of rain falling, slower at first and then harder, really has me in a mood to just sit on the couch and watch football.

I actually woke this morning thinking about heading up to Home Depot to pick up enough landscaping bamboo to put up a tipi in the yard. Since the longest pieces available are about 6' long that makes for a short tipi but it'd be a good size for the kids and a good exercise in survival shelter building.

Maybe I'll find some motivation to work on this...later...after football...and if it stops raining.

Thanks for reading,


Saturday, September 13, 2008

Wiggy's Sale -- 20% Off

I just checked over at Wiggys and he's having a sale on all sleeping bags.

These are the only sleeping bags we use and I've gotten one for my son and one for my daughter.

He's also still closing out the poncho liners which were a fantastic deal at their original $25 price. A poncho liner paired with a space blanket and ground pad have been my sleep system several times during the warmer months and have kept me warm down into the 50s a time or two.

Lamilite is fantastic stuff. It works when it's wet, unlike down, and won't lose loft if compressed in a stuff sack for long periods of time. If it does, Wiggy's fantastic warranty will take care of the problem for you.

The only Wiggy's bag I ever sold I regretted immediately and replaced immediately. That must say something about my feelings about this piece of kit.

Thanks for reading,


Friday, September 12, 2008

Black Eyed Susan

I got this picture on my hike yesterday. It was a day when the yellow flowers really seemed to pop against the green backdrop. This is a Black Eyed Susan, Rudbeckia hirta, a member of the sunflower family. It can be found growing in full sun and is one of the most-common wildflowers in the United States.

It is the state flower of Maryland.

Thanks for reading,


Thursday, September 11, 2008

Hoo Boy!

I woke up this morning feeling terrible.

I'm going for a hike.

See you later,

The hike did me some good and I feel slightly better now.

The air was warm and the sun made the bees more active today than they've been in several days. This guy was waiting near the trailhead and stuck around long enough for me to snap a picture (or ten) before heading back for home.

I've got a few more pictures to get uploaded of some interesting flora and fauna but for now I'm heading back to bed. :)

Thanks for reading,


Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Distress Signals

The universal distress signal is a pattern of three no matter if it's three blasts from a shotgun or rifle, three beats on a hollow log, or three whistle blasts.

S (...) O (---) S (...) is also a pattern of threes.

Having the ability to signal is essential to helping yourself out of a dangerous situation. Sometimes cell phones lose the signal, radios break up when you're out of range, signal mirrors only work if you can see the sky and the sun is out, flashlight bulbs break and batteries die, but whistles can keep tooting as long as you have breath.

I regularly bring at least three methods of signaling with me including a signal mirror, whistle, and LED flashlight with extra batteries.

All three items have their weaknesses but the coverage they provide gives me opportunity to succeed even if one fails.

I can also blow the whistle to signal audibly while using the flashlight or mirror to signal visually.

You can also use your firesteel or lighter to signal. Three fires signifies distress to aerial rescuers. Build them in a triangle several feet apart so they'll look like three smaller fires to a helicopter rather than a larger fire that is out of control. I don't advise you to use this method during a drought though or you may end up in the middle of a wildfire.

Thanks for reading,


Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Is it Fall already?

The temperature seems to have fallen through the floor overnight.

We got up to mid-40s this morning. Woo-Hoo!

I'm really more a Fall kind of guy than I am a Summer guy so this is good news for me.

Football is on the television, hunting and trapping season is opening up, and I now have the opportunity to pull out my Filson and Swanndri gear (at least early in the morning and late at night.)

This, of course, means I can carry more gear with me every day because the jacket adds pockets and my Filson vests are usually overloaded because an empty pocket is simply an opportunity missed. :)

I am starting another blog as of this morning but it will be a few days before I'm ready to roll it out. Posts will be less frequent but each one will be skill or gear related and more "How To" type articles than reviews. This will, hopefully, be the final kick in the pants I need to get this book written.

I did wonder just what I was going to do with the time the kids were both in school other than work out and now I think I've nailed it down.

Thanks for reading,


Monday, September 08, 2008

Getting Fit

Now that the kids are back in school I am finally able to do that which I have threatened for the past several years--get back into shape.

I've been hitting the gym every day since the kids went back and hitting it pretty hard.

This is the start of my third week and I've missed only one day. I'm already down a notch on my belt even though my weight has remained the same (re-distribution of mass from flab to muscle I hope.)

I notice a massive increase in my energy during the day and I don't know if that's because my fitness is improving or because I cannot stay awake past 10pm any more or both.

I think about how the hours in the gym will improve my overall health, increase my life expectancy, and make life in general just a little bit easier and it keeps me motivated and focused.

This all has a very practical application for my time in the woods. Additional fitness and strength will allow me to handle day to day chores in the woods faster and easier than before. It should also help me to prevent some injuries by strengthing the core and connective tissues.

All in all it's a change for the better.

Thanks for reading,


Sunday, September 07, 2008

Diving Sparrow Knife Works

Abe Elias of Diving Sparrow Knife Works has written articles for the knife magazines and is also quite a woodworker and canoeist. He's been a knife enthusiast since childhood and has turned that enthusiasm into a part-time avocation as a knifemaker.

The knife pictured is his Sparrow Special, a knife not listed (yet) on his website. It sports a 4" blade and 4.5" of the comfiest handle I've had the pleasure to use. The Sparrow Special is 3/16" thick 1095 and weighs 5.95 oz.

Abe informs me that he's got several 1/8" thick blanks ready to work up and, as well as my 3/16" thick model cuts, I suspect the thinner stock would make this knife a nearly unbeatable cutter/slicer.

I've been using the knife quite a bit lately and the 1095 has taken on a nice patina. It has done everything from splitting kindling and making fuzz sticks for the fire to peeling and slicing apples for a snack. I plan to use it even more in the coming weeks and months due to the extremely well thought out handle design and the overall feel of the knife.

For those of you who visit Bladeforums here are a list of knives Abe's posted for sale in the past several months:
Sparrow 3 Box Elder
GB Minis
7" Walkabout
Large Bushcraft
Sparrow Special

Abe's pictures give you some idea as to his design and his descriptions tell you what sort of materials he uses. Using the knives gives you a great idea as to his geometry and heat treat.

I don't think I've used this knife enough to really push the limits of either yet but it has done everything I've asked of it so far.

Looking at these posts again it appears that some of these knives are still available. I'd encourage you to give him a look and drop him an email if anything strikes your fancy.

Thanks for reading,


Friday, September 05, 2008

Use Those Kits

Many of us build one Personal Survival Kit (PSK) after another each time trying to cram more essentials into less space and/or with less weight.

It is important to take those kits out and use the components you've packed to make sure that they work as advertised and make you comfortable knowing that they've going to work to make the difference between surviving or not.

I am in the process, once again, of loading and reloading my PSK and this came to mind. I've reduced the size of the firesteel, increased the size of the signal mirror, and changed out the Victorinox Huntsman for the new Red Alox Lumberjack. Most of the remaining kit will stay the same (for now.)

I need to get out there to see if these new components are as effective as the old ones before I actually need to use them and it gives me a perfectly good excuse to run into the woods for a bit.

I've also changed the container from time to time and had never considered testing them until Pablo tested the NRA Survival Kit and had the case fail. Now I do a similar test with my containers. After all, if it doesn't hold together after impact it's far better to learn that before you need it.

I have one PSK in my three-day pack with components I've tested over and over and it only comes out once a year to replace meds and other perishable items. The rest of the kits are always in-process so I can continue with my new gear obsession. :)

Thanks for reading,


Thursday, September 04, 2008

Woodcraft and Camping -- Nessmuk

I'm re-reading Nessmuk's Woodcraft and Camping and read this quote last night
Never any more
Can it be
Unto me (or anybody else)
As before.

at the end of Chapter VI and found it to be so true and so fitting.

He's talking about how the world of his day was so different from the world of his childhood and, by extension, how our world is so different from Nessmuk's world.

The "wilderness" is mostly gone now here in the US and the rules of Nessmuk's day have been replaced by more and more rules on where and how we can enjoy the remaining "wilderness." Pollution and urban sprawl have destroyed streams and woodland where once we could fish and camp and hunt.

It's not all been a step backward however. We now have game laws in place to encourage the improved health of deer herds, animals that were once on the brink of extinction through over-fishing and over-hunting are making strong comebacks, and we better understand the impact of industry on our air, water, and soil.

Then I spent some time wondering if Nessmuk would find some of our everyday hiking gear like firesteels and silnylon tarps useful. His ultralight pack could be even lighter with today's materials and construction. His tin cookware could be replaced by stainless, aluminum, or even Titanium.

I may take some time to work up a list of Nessmuk's gear and see where he could, today, reduce weight even further just for fun.

Thanks for reading,


Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Victorinox LumberJack

I made a trip down to JRE Industries today after seeing the very limited edition red alox Victorinox Lumberjack on their site.

Each blade is individually numbered and bears the name of the guy responsible for convincing Victorinox to bring back this model, SwissBianco.

The knife is slightly smaller than the Farmer which I carry every day and it is also a layer thinner. This makes a very lightweight package that would fit well into a PSK or even a daily carry blade. It's got the large blade, a saw, and the multi-lifter tool (the new style cap lifter.)

I was hoping to hand-pick a winner but these, being assembled in Switzerland, are all fantastic. The first one I picked up was every bit as good as the next three or four so I took the first one I laid hands on.

I think this one is going to see plenty of pocket time going forward.

Thanks for reading,


Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Fatwood Bundles

As the days get shorter and the nights get colder it's time to start thinking about firestarting equipment and skills again. This is something that's always near the front of the mind (after all, smoke deters the mosquitoes during the summer) but as the temperatures drop in the next couple of months it should move right back up there.

I started bundling my fatwood and jute twine sometime last year to streamline my firestarting gear and to insure I had enough tinder to get a fire started in any situation.

Four or five fatwood sticks wrapped with a couple of feet of jute twine give you tinder (fluffed up jute,) kindling (split pieces and fuzz sticks of fatwood,) and small fuel sticks if you still need them.

I suppose you could also wrap a few pieces of charcloth in the middle of the bundle and strike a light right into the bundle and blow it into a flame. Think of it as a primitive/natural match. It may be more trouble to manufacture something like this than it is to just bring matches but it might make a nice show for the kids or folks you camp with.

Often I'll scrape a piece of fatwood for my tinder, split the remainder for my kindling, and pile one or two pieces to feed the fire as it gets going.

These bundles are easy to toss into a pack and I'll usually carry a few in my bedroll for emergency firestarting use should I need it.

Thanks for reading,


Monday, September 01, 2008

Storing Cordage

I was daisy-chaining some cordage this morning to store it in my pack and it reminded me of this fantastic video I saw on YouTube:

This is only slightly different from how I do it and I suspect that has something to do with the diameter of the rope and the acceptable size of his loops versus the stuff I use.

The benefit to storing cordage in this manner is the ease of deployment. Just untie the half hitch in the end and give the free end a pull. The whole thing unties in a matter of seconds.

It also minimizes tangles and takes only a short time to tie up. I often do this while waiting for the kids' bus in the afternoon while sitting on the rocking chair on the front porch.

Thanks for reading,