Quick Tip #2

A straw can be used for so much more than just a straw. You want to use a brand new unused straw. Crimp one end of the straw and melt it with a lighter.  Now either fill the straw full of antibiotic ointment, a cotton ball soaked in either Vaseline or antibiotic ointment, an emergency fishing kit, a sewing kit, spices or anything else you can think of. Now just crimp the other end where you want the straw cut, then cut and melt it. To make the kit reusable, just cut the second end of the piece of straw extra long and fold it over. Cut another piece of the straw and slide it over the folded end. Having it reusable is perfect for spices. You can make these as small or as large as you want and they will fit in any size survival kit.

Ripstop Nylon

Ripstop nylon is an awesome material. It does have some limitations though. It will melt if it comes in contact with flames, sparks or intense heat. Sunlight (UV) will over time wear on the fabric. Even with these limitations ripstop nylon is well worth looking at using for your many needs as an avid outdoors person. There are many different types of nylon fabric for sale. You can buy plain nylon fabric but it will be more susceptible to tares and holes. I prefer ripstop because if the fabric gets a hole or slight tare in it the ripstop sewing pattern helps to limit the hole or tare from getting bigger. That is a huge advantage.

There are many different weights available as well. I generally like to use 1.1 or 1.3 oz ripstop nylon for my projects. You can get ripstop nylon that is uncoated, coated with silicone, silicone impregnated or urethane coated. I like to buy the uncoated ripstop nylon and spray it with a waterproofer myself when I’m done. If you use the uncoated ripstop nylon it’s easier to find in your local fabric store.  For making a tarp for camping I would recommend using either one of the silicon coated ripstop nylons. I’m not sure how the uncoated nylon with waterproofer sprayed on it will hold up to an all out down poor. I have used the uncoated for tarps but have yet to be out in a down poor. Feel free to test it out though. Here is a site where you can buy any materials you might need for your project, if you are not able to find what you need in your local fabric store.

http://www.bearpawwd.com/fabrics_misc/fabrics_misc.html#rip1

They have a lot of good information on their site and if you don’t want to make something yourself you can just buy one of their products. I am in no way affiliated with the website and do not receive any money for recommending them. I have just found them very useful over the years. You will need small sharp needles for your sewing machine and Gutermann polyester thread works the best. I like to use “hot scissors” or a soldering iron to cut the fabric. This way your edges are sealed as you cut them. I cut on top of a piece of glass for safety purposes. I also like to use shock cord or 550 cord for my projects.

Here are some ideas for what you can make out of ripstop nylon. This list is by no means complete. It is just a list to get you started thinking about what piece of gear you could make instead of buying.

Ditty Bags (easiest thing to start with)              Lightweight Backpack or Day pack

Tarp                                                                 Sleeping Bag Cover

Tent                                                                  Hammock

Lightweight Shirt                                               Pants

Sleeping Bag (with added insulation)                Gaiters

Jackets (add insulation)                                     Backpack Cover

 

As you can see this is just a small list to get you started on your way to making some of your own gear. If you are not familiar with sewing I’m sure that there are plenty of YouTube videos out there that can show you how to use a sewing machine. Do your research first and learn how to use the sewing machine you have. If you don’t have a machine, check garage sales for a used one, craigslist or ask anybody you know if they have one you can borrow or buy. Many people have one but don’t use them, so you might be able to get a free machine or at least borrow one. If you want to buy a new one and have the money don’t let me stop you, but research the machines first and ask questions about the machine you are about to buy. Let the sales people know what you are planning on using it for.

Enjoy the journey to making your own gear and good luck! Always remember that it doesn’t have to look perfect, and it won’t at first, but you will get better with practice and time. As long as whatever you make is functional and works the way you want it to, who cares if it’s not perfect. It will have character and you’ll have a sense of accomplishment. Feel free to ask me any questions you might have and have fun. What gear do you intend on making over the next year?

Trail Recipes: Breakfast

These are the two main breakfast recipes I use when backpacking. My go to breakfast of choice is a mix of granola, powdered milk and dehydrated fruit. I place enough powdered milk to make 12 oz of milk, into a Ziploc bag. Then I add 1 ½ cups of granola on top of the powdered milk. Lastly I add in 1/4 -1/2 cup of any type of dehydrated or dried fruit that I like. Blueberries, mango and pineapple are some of my favorites. Just add cold water (dependant on the amount of powdered milk you use) and your good to go. Here is the granola recipe my wife uses:

6    c rolled oats

1/2 c maple syrup

1/2 c honey

1/3 c oil (coconut is good)

4    Tbsp butter, melted

1    Tbsp vanilla extract

8    oz nuts, chopped

1    c pumpkin OR sunflower seeds

1/2 c wheat germ

1/2 c flax OR sesame seeds

Cinnamon, to taste

Mix oats, nuts, wheat germ, seeds, and cinnamon in a large bowl. Combine wet ingredients (if using coconut oil, be sure to melt it with the butter) in a small bowl and mix thoroughly. Add wet ingredients to dry ingredients and stir until everything is coated. Divide evenly between two cookie sheets. Bake at 250 degrees Fahrenheit for 1 hour, stirring every 15 minutes. Rotate cookie sheets half-way through baking.

Add dried fruit as desired.

*NOTE: My wife often substitutes molasses for the maple syrup, almond extract for the vanilla, or add nutmeg, cloves, or ginger to the cinnamon. This is a very flexible recipe!

My second mainly used breakfast recipe is basically a homemade oatmeal recipe. If I want some powdered milk in it I place it in the Ziploc bag first, usually enough for an 8 oz serving. Then I add two servings worth of old fashioned oats into the baggy. Lastly I add in any dehydrated or dried fruit and any nuts or seeds that I might like. I find that raisins, golden raisins and crasins to be the best. I like to add walnuts and flaxseeds as well. I like to place the fruits and nuts on a piece of saran wrap and wrap them up and then place them in the baggy. That way I can cook the oatmeal and then add the fruit and nut mix in after all the cooking is done. This makes a great breakfast for chilly mornings. I just place the oatmeal and powdered milk in 2 cups of water and cook until done. When cooking is done let it cool a bit and then just add the fruit and nut mix and enjoy. You can add things like cinnamon and sugar or other seasonings as well. I just like to keep it simple. These are just a couple easy homemade recipes I use when backpacking. I hope you find them useful and feel free to change them according to your taste.

Here is a quick tip for when you are sealing your Ziploc bag. When you have all the contents in the baggy zip it closed except the last ¼ inch. Insert a straw and suck the air out of the baggy carefully without sucking any of the ingredients out (this is why you want the powdered milk on the bottom of the baggy). Now pull the straw out well zipping the last bit of the baggy closed. This will make it much easier for packing later. Let me know if you found these recipes helpful and let me know how you may have changed them up for your own taste. What do you do for breakfast when out on the trail?

SOG Powerlock EOD 2.0 V-cutter Review

Let me start out by saying this is the best multi tool that I have ever used. The SOG Powerlock EOD 2.0 with V-cutter far surpassed my expectations. The plier has gearing which makes it much easier to cut thicker gauge wire. If you find yourself needing to cut fencing this is the multi tool you’ll want. Trying to cut wire with other multi tools is beyond a pain and a workout for your hand.

I love that each feature in the handle locks into place when in use. Not all multi tools for sale these days have locking accessories. I also like that the accessories have a cover to keep them securely in the handle until needed. No more having to deal with accessory items wanting to fall out well using the pliers.  I have used just about every accessory on it and they all work great. The knife blade is very sharp. It is half serrated so some people might not like that but I do. The serration comes in very handy at times. The saw works amazingly well. It is a much better design than most saws you find on multi tools. The philips and flat head screwdriver tips are actually usable. I have the ballistic sheath which I really like. It easily clips on a thick leather belt. I’m not sure of the quality of the leather sheath but I have to believe it is made as well as anything else SOG makes.

Here is SOG’s description for the Powerlock EOD 2.0 with V-cutter:

“Using the proven PowerLock chassis, SOG is the only company to apply Compound Leverage™ technology to EOD(Explosive Ordnance Disposal). This makes it a breeze to crimp blasting caps and demolition cord with less hand pressure. Another unique SOG feature is the positioning of the crimper device within the confines of the handle…not in the plier jaw, like all other designs. This serves to minimize collateral damage to the crimper and allows the operator to have full use of the uninterrupted plier surface. Additionally there is no weakening of the pliers that often causes breakage of the plier tips. The crimper produces non-flaring, high pull out strength crimps that meet government fuse well specifications. It is also GSA approved. The multi tool includes the V-Cutter, which can be used to cut seat belts, paracord, fishing line, electrical cable sheathing and much more!”

Here are the specs:

Overall Length 7″ 17.78 cm Closed Length 4.60″ 11.68 cm
Product Weight 9.60 oz 272.16 g Product Type Multi-Tool
Country of Origin Assembled in
the USA
Engravable Yes
Finish Black Oxide Tool Count 22
Lanyard Hole Yes Packaging Unibox – Display Ready
Sheath Included Yes Sheath Color Dark Brown
Sheath Details Ballistic Nylon (Material), Secure Clip (Attachment), Hook & Loop (Closure), Leather (Material), Belt Through Loop (Attachment), Snap (Closure) Blade Steel Type 420
Handle Material 420 Stainless Steel Hardness Rc. 51-53
Lock Blades Yes Lock Tools Yes
1/2 Serrated Blade Yes 1/4″ Drive Yes
3-Sided File Yes Awl Yes
Blasting Cap Crimper Yes Bolt Grip Channel Yes
Bottle Opener Yes Can Opener Yes
Hard Wire Cutter Yes Large Flat Screwdriver Yes
Medium Flat Screwdriver Yes Needle Nose Pliers Yes
Philips Screwdriver Yes Ruler Yes
Small Flat Screwdriver Yes Wire Crimper Yes
Wood Saw Yes

If you are looking for, or in need of a good multi tool then I highly recommend this one. It would be a great addition to your EDC, bug out bag, 72 hour emergency bag, vehicle glove box, tool box or anywhere else you think that a good multi tool would come in handy. I always have mine on me, even when I’m lightweight backpacking. It’s worth its weight. I just leave the sheath at home and stick it in a pocket that snaps. It’s too valuable to lose it because I didn’t have it secured. So go ahead and buy one! You can thank me later. If you already have one, what are your likes or dislikes about this multi tool?

Cheap Healthy Trail Meals

Like most hikers/backpackers I’ve tried using expensive freeze dried food (Mountain House is the best I’ve ever tasted) or cheap prepackaged foods like ramen noodles or some form of pasta and cheese dish. Neither of these are a very healthy option so I decided to make my own prepackaged meals without all the preservatives and without tons of sodium.  If you have a vacuum sealer you can seal each of your meals individually. I usually just put my meals together a few days in advance so I don’t have to bother vacuum sealing each of them. I just place each individual meal in a sandwich size Ziploc bag and then place all the meals in a larger size Ziploc bag. If it’s a longer trip you will have to use a couple larger Ziploc bags. I place all my meals in order so that my next meal is at the top of the larger bag. I also place my prepackaged snacks in with the meals as well. Everything is in order so that I won’t have to unload the larger bag every time I want to eat. I like everything to be in order and this makes it a much quicker process at meal time.

For breakfast I generally fill a small Ziploc bag with homemade granola, fruit that I dehydrated and some powdered milk. That’s it! Just add cold water when you’re ready to eat. It tastes great and you know what’s actually in what you’re eating as well as saving a ton of money making your own dried food. If it’s colder I like to make up a bag with oatmeal and some of my dehydrated fruit. Sometimes I will add a little powdered milk as well. By making your own bag of oatmeal instead of using the prepackaged bags you’ll save a ton of money, be able to give yourself a bigger portion size and be able to add whatever you want, like fruits and nuts.

For lunches and dinners I’ll make either some form of pasta dish, rice dish or soup with rice or pasta in it. That way I’m getting some carbs for energy. I place all the dry ingredients as well as any spices in the bag and seal it up. This way when it comes time to eat all I have to do is add water and heat it up. For meat I either add dehydrated chicken, venison or a pouch of tuna fish. Tuna fish is the one thing I do buy prepackaged. It is easy to carry and they have a lot of flavors available now. I like to have some form of protein at every meal for sustained energy. You can also take homemade bread products that were just made fresh. You would be surprised how long they will last on the trail, if you don’t eat them first. I like to take homemade tortilla shells. They are awesome!  Just add a package of peanut butter and a package of honey or jelly and you’ve got a sandwich.

Obviously nuts and raisins make a great snack but I also like to take homemade granola bars and homemade graham crackers. Once you have homemade graham crackers you’ll never want another prepackaged one again. I also make my own jerky, which is great for snacking on well on the trail and easy to carry as well.

I hope this gets you thinking about having more control over what you’re eating on the trail as well as enjoying what you’re eating. You can actually enjoy your food, well saving money and being imaginative with what you’re eating. What things do you like to eat on the trail?

Quick Tip #1

When using any type of fire starting rod, make sure to place the tip of the rod on or into the tinder that you are trying to start. Then run your striker down the rod, while keeping the rod still, instead of pulling back on the rod. This will keep the hottest sparks close to the tinder and give you a much better chance at getting the tinder lit. Hope this helps and go out and test your fire starting skills. As always do everything in a safe manner and at your own risk.

Natural Soap and Lotion Bars

These days a lot of people are trying to go back to making a lot of their own household products instead of relying on companies that fill their products with all kinds of extra things they don’t need and that might be harmful to our health. My family and I are no different. We try to make as much as we can on our own. Most of our food is made from scratch and if I might add, tastes so much better and is not filled with preservatives and dyes. Yes we do eat things once in awhile that we know are not the best but we try to keep that in moderation.

With all that said here are a couple recipes, one for soap and one for a lotion bar that we like and use. They are simple but they work great and we know they are safe to even use on our 1 ½ year old son. We did buy ph test strips so that we could test the soap to make sure it had sat long enough and was now safe to use.

Here is where we found our soap recipe;  http://frugallysustainable.com/2013/05/how-to-make-old-fashioned-lye-soap-for-use-in-homemade-laundry-detergent-general-household-cleaning-recipes-and-as-a-poison-ivy-treatment/ . This is a great site that my wife uses often. I highly recommend that you check this site out. We do not add any essential oils to our soap for a few reasons. First, we wanted to keep it simple and fairly inexpensive.  Second, we have small children and didn’t want to worry about skin reactions to essential oils. Third, by not adding any scent, I can now use this soap during hunting season and have no need to buy special, expensive soaps geared toward hunters. What a savings! We also noticed that our skin does not dry out like it did using store bought soaps. There is a drastic difference that I can’t state enough. We use coconut oil, olive oil and shea butter for the fat content instead of the other recommended fats. It works for us but you’ll have to find what works for you.

Here is the lotion bar recipe we use:

1 part coconut oil
1 part Shea, cocoa, or mango butter
1 part beeswax

Optional:
vitamin E oil (1 tsp/ 1 part other ingredients)
50 drops essential oils

Melt oil, butter (pick 1 or use a combination), and beeswax together over low heat. When completely melted remove from heat and add vitamin E oil and essential oils if using. Pour into molds and let cool.

* if 1 part = 1 cup, recipe makes ~12 bars
* silicone baking molds work well

This lotion bar works great. Our kids love it and it’s safe for them to handle. We use it on our 1 ½ year olds face when it gets chapped and dried out. He likes holding onto the bar and rubbing it on his cheeks by himself. By morning his cheeks look great. It’s so nice to know what is in the products that we are using and putting on our kids’ bodies as well as our own.

These are just two simple recipes that we use in our home that work great for us. I hope that maybe they will help you too or get you inspired to make some of your very own soaps and lotions as well as many other products. As always, do everything at your own risk, follow directions, take precautions and be safe when dealing with any chemicals (the lye in the soap recipe). What products do you make in your home that you absolutely love? Thanks for reading and enjoy making your very own soap and lotion bars.

Fire Starter Tips

Not all of us want to spend our life savings on cool expensive gear, so here are some simple tips for making your own fire starters.

To start with here are some simple ideas for tinder (a very important part in being able to start a fire). Get a few cotton balls and some Vaseline or triple antibiotic ointment.  Thin out the cotton ball and then begin working in some of the ointment. Mix the two together until the cotton ball is coated well. Now just compact it and put it in a baggy or some other container until you’re ready to use it. When you’re ready to use the cotton ball fire starter just fluff it up and either light it with a match, lighter or fire steel. The cotton ball will burn much longer with the ointment on it than without. If you used triple antibiotic ointment then it can double as a first aid item as well. I love multi -purpose items!

Lint from your dryer makes a great fire starter. Even better would be to take the cardboard roll from a roll of toilet paper and stuff it full of dryer lint. Now just tape off both ends of the roll and you’re good to go. You now have a perfect lightweight fire starter log. You could also store a striker and fire steel rod inside the tube with the dryer lint. This would give you a complete fire starting kit that you could just keep in your backpack until you’re ready to use it.

Some other cheap, lightweight and simple items that you could carry are a crayon, chapstick, saw dust, candle and any piece of wax left from used candles. All of these will aid in trying to get a fire started and you can even use the crayon as a small candle. The chapstick can also be used to lubricate zippers.

You can easily make your very own fire steel rod and striker set. Fire steel rods can be purchased on eBay very easily and much cheaper than buying a pre-made kit. Order whatever size fire steel you would like, then either cut a small piece of deer antler, find a small piece of wood or wooden dowel big enough to hold onto and big enough to drill out for the fire steel rod to be glued into. Next, drill halfway into whatever material you are using for the handle using a drill bit that is the same size as your fire steel. A drill press would work easier but I have done it with a simple cordless screw gun. Now test fit the rod into the hole. If it fits perfectly you are set to glue it up. If it is to tight just ream the hole out a little bit. Not too much though. You are all set to glue the two pieces together now. You can use superglue, wood glue, gorilla glue or epoxy. Whatever you have should work fine. Put some adhesive in the hole and some on the rod and then insert the fire steel into the drilled out hole. Let it dry and now you have your very own inexpensive fire steel.

I also like to drill a small hole at the top of the handle so that I can run a 27” piece of 550 Paracord threw the hole and wear it around my neck. I also add a plastic breakaway clasp and a P-51 can opener. That way I have a striker, can opener and small blade.

These are just a few simple ideas when it comes to fire starters. Feel free to try any of these things at your own risk and let me know how you made out. Let me know if you have any questions or any of your own ideas for cheap simple fire starting material. I hope you like some of these ideas and that they get your mind thinking about what other items you may be able to repurpose or even make yourself.

Tyvek

If you are not familiar with Tyvek you need to get your hands on some. Growing up in the construction industry I’ve always had some at my disposal. It was designed and is used today as a vapor barrier for homes. If you drive by a newly constructed home that has not been sided yet, you will most likely see Tyvek wrapped around the outside of the plywood or chipboard. Tyvek is generally white and is stamped with the manufacturers’ logo. You can buy a roll of it at your local hardware store and it will last you a while. Before you go buying some, check with anybody you know that works on a construction site. They may have some they are throwing away that they may gladly give you for free. Contractors throw this stuff away all the time. I highly recommend you get your hands on some.

Tyvek can be used for many things. The nice thing about having a big roll of it is that you can cut it to fit your different or changing needs. One thing I use Tyvek for is a custom size ground cloth. It works perfectly. No more wasting money on expensive or heavy ground cloths that are going to get ruined with use. Tyvek can also be used as a temporary shelter. It does keep water out to an extent but is not completely water proof. I want to test spraying water proofing on it and see how it holds up in a down poor. I will let you know how that goes. Add some grommets and you can make a custom sized tarp. I know of one guy that made a sleeping bag bivy that looked and worked great.

Tyvek is noisy when working with it so if you are making something that you will be using in the woods, and you want it quiet, you will want to wash it first. Just run it through a cold rinse cycle once and then let it air dry. It will be much quieter and nicer to work with. I know of some people that have tried to die it after washing it once but I’m not sure how well that will work.

A Tyvek ground cloth in combination with a lightweight nylon impregnated ripstop tarp make the perfect shelter for your bug out bag or for those that like lightweight backpacking. This option is much cheaper and lighter.  It’s one I use frequently. So go buy yourself a big roll of Tyvek and make as many things as you can come up with. Have fun saving yourself a ton of money well making your own gear. Some ideas of what to make are a ground cloth, a custom size tarp, a sleeping bag bivy, a simple backpack, diddy bags and whatever else you can come up with. Enjoy and have fun. Thanks for reading and let me know what you made or came up with.

Every Day Carry

E.D.C. is short for every day carry. A lot of people in the prepper, bushcraft, survivalist and outdoor communities are familiar with this phrase. If you have never come across this phrase you should familiarize yourself with it. On a daily basis many people will take a look at what they are carrying on their body that can be used for a survival or emergency situation. Many people even make daily posts online showing what they are carrying for that day and why. Seeing what other people carry is a great way to get ideas about what you might want to carry, what not to carry, how to lighten the load and ways of hiding small survival items out of sight.

It is way too easy to become burdened down by carrying way too much. Try not to be a gear junky, unless you really like carrying all kinds of stuff that weighs a lot. A basis to start with is by simply carrying a pocket knife, possibly a multi tool, a lighter, some paracord and any medications you might need. I like to carry a pocket knife and a multi tool because I use my pocket knife all the time and I don’t want to have to open up my multi tool every time I need a knife. Plus this way I have two knives on me at all times.

Today I am carrying a watch, a paracord bracelet, a bic lighter, a tube of Burt’s bees lip balm, a Gerber Paraframe knife, a SOG powerlock multi tool and an I Phone. Every day may or may not be different for you. Some days I carry more things and other days I carry less. Sometimes you are not able to carry certain items that you would like to, because of where you find yourself. You are limited to what you can carry onto a plane, into a government building and even into a stadium. This will cause you to have to pare down your everyday kit and rethink about what you will be able to carry on your body without getting into trouble.

I do have a small survival kit that I usually have with me. It is incased in a Maxpedition mini pocket organizer. This way I can carry a lot more but also have it all organized in a nice case that easily fits into my cargo pocket. I will review this kit at a later date so that you can see what I have chosen to carry and why. I try to always have on me a way to start fire, purify water, some form of shelter (space blanket) and at least two cutting tools.

Take a look at what you have on you right now that might be able to be used in a survival or emergency situation. Spread it all out on a table and see what is worth keeping, what may be worth getting rid of and what you might want to add to make it a more, well rounded kit. In any emergency or survival situation you’re going to have to survive with whatever you happen to have on you or with you at that moment. Don’t be stuck wishing you had carried that one thing you thought you didn’t need.

Always reevaluate your every day carry kit. Test everything that you think is worth carrying. That way you know it is worth its weight and you’ll know how to use it when it comes time. The last thing you need is something failing you when you need it most.

I highly recommend that you carry some form of an EDC and that you get familiar with each integral part of your kit. Now is the time to prepare. Don’t be caught off guard. Thanks for reading and let me know what you have in your kit and why.