Quick Tip #18

Take whatever knife you regularly carry in the wilderness and check the spine on it. If it is rounded over or doesn’t have a good 90 degree edge on it, modify it. Of course this is only if you are willing to make adjustments to your knife. Well wearing proper eye and hand protection you can either use a file, belt sander or grinder to put I nice 90 degree angle on the spine of your knife. With the adjustment to your knife done, you’ll now be able to use a ferocerium rod more efficiently and you can now use the spine of your knife to make fuss by running the spine of your modified knife down certain types of wood. The fuss will just make it that much easier to start a fire. Hope this was informational and someone finds this helpful. Thanks for reading! What modifications have you made to your knife and why?

The Science and Art of Tracking by Tom Brown Jr.

I’m reading through Tom Brown Jr.’s book “The Science and Art of Tracking” again. If you are not familiar with this book or with Tom I highly recommend this book as well as many of his other books. This book is about so much more than just tracking. This book is great for anybody that spends time in the wilderness. It will even help you become more aware of your surroundings in everyday life. It is more about being aware of your surroundings and the impact or signs left behind by humans, animals or even the elements. It’s a change in mindset. You become more aware of the story of what happened prior to you entering the current place you find yourself standing in. You learn that there is so much more to the story of that animal track you found. Was that fox running frantically to get away from something? Was it wounded? Was it hunting? Was it strolling through the woods without a care? Was it female or male? You get the point. There’s more that can be gleaned from a track than most people will ever see if they even notice the track at all.

Why is that limb on the tree broken? Why are there no limbs on one side of this tree? How was this hill formed? Is this path man maid (cut in) or worn in? How did that trash end up there? There are clues to the answers if you look close enough and learn to observe all that goes on around you. Watch the people around you as they go about life. Be aware of how a man might affect the environment differently than how a woman does. Children will have a different affect as well. Now notice how someone stronger affects things differently than someone weaker. It all tells a story. By noticing these things in everyday life you’ll begin to notice things in the wilderness you never noticed before. You’ll notice where that fox bedded down last night, that deer that was chased through the woods by a pack of coyotes, the squirrel that was sitting on the tree branch through the rain and how that tin can ended up on the side of the trail.

There is so much more to see in the wilderness than to just “suffer” the trail to get to some gorgeous view. Take the time to really enjoy the time you spend in the wild whether it is to hunt, backpack, hike, camp or for whatever other reason you may find yourself in the wilderness. There is so much more to see and there’s a story there waiting to be reed. Do you or have you ever taken the time to really read your environment? Have you taken the time to learn how to track? If you’ve read this book, what are your thoughts about it?

Inexpensive Quality Knives

You don’t have to spend a ton of money for a decent bushcraft or survival knife. Now I do agree in most cases that you get what you pay for but there are some exceptions to the rule. I own some expensive knives but this year I have mostly just carried my Mora companion, with attached fire kit, and an Esee Avispa folder. Both of which are fairly inexpensive, not overly heavy but are very well made knives. I also usually take a small hatchet for cutting up firewood so I’m not using my knife to baton wood (I just prefer to save my knives from this abuse if I can).

Mora makes great quality products that can take abuse but at an expense that you wont mind if you loose or damage it. I have added a fire kit to the outside of mine. The fire kit consists of a ferocerium rod, 1 piece of quik tinder (burns for 2 minutes) and is attacked with a 1 1/2″ ranger band. The Mora knife I carry is made of high carbon steel. This is a great quality for bushcraft or survival but also means the knife blade needs more care and cleaning. It is highly worth it in my mind.

The Esee Avispa is a great addition to the Mora. I carry a pocket knife on me daily because I find I use it and need it a lot. So it’s only natural for me to be carrying a folder. The blade on the Avispa is made of Aus-8 stainless steel. I like to have a stainless steel folding knife as a companion to any high carbon steel fixed blade I would be carrying because it saves me from pulling out my fixed blade knife every time I need to cut something and the stainless blade needs less care and upkeep than the high carbon steel blade needs. Also I like the fact that if I loose one knife I’ll still have one available to me instead of loosing my only knife and having nothing else to use.

These two knives together weigh less than one more expensive bushcraft or survival knife by themselves. For about $50-$70 you could have a great set up for your wilderness adventures. Before anyone complains, what about this knife or that knife, I know there are many great and expensive bushcraft and survival knives out there as well as better folders but these just happen to be what I’m carrying a lot these days and I think this is a great setup for those that can’t afford much or don’t want to spend a lot on one or two knives. These are fairly inexpensive knives but are better quality than their price portrays.

I hope this was helpful to some and an encouragement that you don’t need to spend a ton of money on gear to go out and enjoy the wilderness. Feel free to let me know what your favorite knife or knives are to carry on your wilderness adventures. As always get out there and enjoy the wilderness and maybe even relax and unwind a bit.

Survival and Bushcraft Knives

As a seller of outdoor survival gear I setup at a lot of outdoor shows and gun shows as a vendor. It never fails; most people will buy cheaply made gear over quality made gear, even if their life may depend on it, when it comes to cost. I see this at every show I‘m at. I sell good quality survival and bushcraft knives and then I have to carry cheap china made knockoffs that I wouldn’t trust my life with, but at least ¾ of my knife sales come from the cheap knives. I understand people want to save money somewhere but a knife is a very important tool for survival and you don’t want one that is going to fail you when you need it most. I carry multiple pocket knives and a couple of them are cheap pocket knives but I always have one good quality knife with me at all times if possible.

Before you just go to the store or knife show and find yourself staring at knives trying to pick one out to buy without even knowing what you want in the knife or what your intentions are for it, figure out ahead of time what your purpose is for this knife and what characteristics you want this knife to have. It’s never a good idea to buy survival or bushcraft tools spontaneously. You will most likely regret it and you’ll probably end up with a tool or item that doesn’t quite fit your needs. Below are a few examples of some things you should answer before purchasing a survival or bushcraft knife.

Answer These before Going to Buy a Knife

• What is your intended use for the knife?
• How much use will it get?
• Is it a backup knife or your main survival or bushcraft knife?
• Do you want a high carbon steel or stainless steel blade?
• How long do you want the blade and handle to be?
• How thick would you like the steel to be?
• What material would you prefer the handle be made out of?
• Do you want a good hefty knife?
• What kind of grind do you prefer the knife have?
• Do you want serrations on the knife?

Questions to Ask Well Looking at Knives

• Is it comfortable in your hand?
• Is the knife to long or to short?
• Will the knife slip out of your hand if the handle gets wet?
• Is it full tang?
• Where was the knife made?
• Does the knife look and feel durable?
• Does the knife have a good quality and durable sheath?
• Will the knife easily fall out of the sheath or does it lock in?
• Is the sheath to bulky that you won’t wear or use it?

These are just some sample questions that you should ask yourself before and well you are buying a knife. There are a lot of good quality custom knife makers out there, so you can custom make a knife to fit what you want. You can have a custom knife made at a very reasonable price if you look around online. There are also some quality knife companies that have decently priced survival and bushcraft knives available. Tops, Mora, Condor, Bushcraft Northwest, Blind Horse Knives, Esee, Falkniven and Gerber (only the U.S. made knives) all make great survival and bushcraft knives and some of them are very reasonably priced. Mora is a great entry knife into bushcraft and they are very inexpensive. They are made in Sweden.

Personally I try to buy knives that range from $30-$200, maybe even up to $300. I’m afraid that if I spend much more than that, I’ll be afraid to actually use the knife for its intended purpose. You can also, if you have the equipment, toy around with making your own knives. There are a lot of YouTube videos available to help you make your own knife.
My point in all this is to say that when it comes to a knife or any other survival tool that is going to take a lot of abuse and that your life may at some point depend on, it is not worth saving a little bit of money well sacrificing quality and durability. A better quality knife will last you much longer in the end. What knife do you carry for survival or bushcraft purposes? How much did you pay for your knife or are willing to pay for a quality made survival or bushcraft knife?

How to Poop in the Woods

So it’s a nice sunny day and you’ve been out on the trail hiking since 6 am. You had a nice breakfast on the trail well enjoying all the scenery and noises of the wilderness. It’s now 10 am and your bowels are telling you that you had better find a toilet somewhere because things are about to get ugly. What do you do? There’s no bathroom, no toilet, nothing to hold your toilet paper and no doors for privacy, what are you going to do? Somebody might see you, and that would be beyond embarrassing. You become paranoid and look all around as if there are people lurking in the woods behind every tree and bush just waiting to catch you pooping in the woods. It’s amazing the games our own minds play on us.

First off you don’t have to be paranoid; nobody wants any part of catching you in the act. Really! If you learn a few simple rules about pooping in the wilderness you won’t have to have any worries about being on display. This is another one of those skills that you should learn ahead of time. I’m not telling you to go poop outside your home, although if you have close bothersome neighbors I’m sure they will leave you alone after seeing you practicing this skill! What I am saying is to learn proper rules and techniques ahead of time. You should know what you have to do and how before you actually need to do it. Learn local laws for disposal of toilet paper. In some areas you are not allowed to bury toilet paper in the ground and will have to burn it or pack it out. Here are some basic rules for pooping in the woods.

Rules for Pooping In the Woods

• Find a spot that is AT LEAST 200 feet from any water source, trail or campsite. (further away would be better for privacy and water sources)
• Dig a hole that is about 6”s around and 6-8”s deep.
• If using toilet paper, buy some that is made for decomposing quickly in the wilderness. (buy at any sporting goods store)
• Find a good tree to lean against or a large downed tree that you can sit on the edge of. (this will make it much easier than just squatting over a hole since most people are used to sitting on a toilet)
• Fill in the hole when you are done and place either some sticks or stones on top. (This will warn others not to dig in this area and will help discourage animals from digging it up as well)
• Wash your hands with a trail soap or natural soap and rinse over bare sand or soil that can easily dissipate the water. (Soap is better than just using a hand sanitizer)

There are many natural options to use instead of toilet paper. You can use leaves, pine cones (sounds fun), stones, large twigs and shells. Whatever you use make sure it is not poisons or will irritate your skin.

You want to have good hygiene when in the wilderness. Good Hygiene doesn’t mean that you have to bath or shower every day, but it does mean that you are washing your hands after you poop in the woods, Every Time. A lot of campers and hikers get stomach illnesses because of fecal contamination and not because of contaminated water. By just washing your hands more often, with a natural soap or liquid trail soap, you will save yourself a lot of pain and discomfort. Do not dispose of soapy water in a water source and do not use a fresh water source to wash your hands in. Carry whatever water you are using to wash with at least 200 ft away from any water source. Wash and rinse with the water and dispose of it over soil or sandy ground, not on rocks or vegetation.

If done properly you can go away proud of your new learned skill satisfied in a “job” well done. You can walk proudly down the trail knowing that you have good hygiene, nobody spotted you in “the act” and with happy bowels. If you spend any good amount of time in the wilderness, before long you will become a pro and even come up with your very own techniques for pooping in the wilderness. Do you become anxious or embarrassed when you have to “go” in the wilderness? What special tricks do you use or have learned that might help others?

Survival: What skills to learn before you need them

Many people read or watch videos about survival or bushcraft skills but few actually practice these skills. Too many people rely on tools or gear that they carry on their physical body or in a pack, but what if they get stranded without any of that gear that they have put all their trust in for survival? Will they remember what that book said, or what that video was teaching them to do, if they are caught in a true survival situation? Chances are that they won’t remember, unless they physically practiced what they were being taught. In a true survival situation or emergency your mind and body will be under a lot of stress and you will not be likely to remember things that were not practiced.

It is very important to practice any survival or bushcraft skills that you learn, on a regular basis. This way you will be more prepared if you are caught in a life threatening survival situation. By practicing these skills in a safe environment ahead of time, you’ll be able to see what really works and what doesn’t. You can fail without putting your life in danger. Try to get to the point where you can survive without any purchased man made tools or supplies. It is best to start practicing in warmer weather and then work your way up to learning to survive in colder weather and colder environments. Here is a list of survival skills that you should learn over time as you can.

Survival/Bushcraft Skills

• Primitive Shelters
• Hunting Skills (How to build traps and snares as well as fishing)
• Making Primitive Tools and weapons (for hunting and self protection)
• Primitive Fire (Using only items found in the wild)
• Foraging (what plants are edible and prevalent in the wild)
• Learning to cook, preserve and store any game you may catch.
• Learn some basic herbal medicines that you can make out of local plants.
• Learn basic first aid skills
• Be able to identify different species of trees and there good and bad qualities for different uses.
• Learn how to adapt and problem solve

Just by learning how to build a decent shelter, with nothing more than what can be found in the wild, will give you a huge advantage of surviving whatever survival situation you may find yourself in. Add to that, learning how to make primitive tools, primitive fire and hunting/catching wild game, and you’ll be at a much higher advantage than most in a true survival situation.

Learning to problem solve and adapt is one of the most important things that you can do to train your mind and body. To many people these days can’t do either of these things. To be able to look at what supplies you may have, and be able to imagine what other things that they can be used for or repurposed for could mean the difference between life and death.

For example; say that you are stuck in a survival situation and the only water source is stagnant and you know it is a breeding ground for all kinds of bacteria which means you are going to need to boil the water. You have a fire but you have no container to hold the water so that you can boil it. You do have a small flat sheet of metal though (a piece of a downed plane, metal sign etc.). What do you do? Well you take that piece of metal and two rocks and begin to hammer it into a bowl shape so that when you’re done you will have a container that will hold water for boiling. You would want to use the cleaner side to house the water and remove any paint before boiling. This is just one example to get you thinking outside of your normal thought process.

Start small and simple. Try to learn one new skill each month and learn it well. Continue to practice over time. As you learn new skills go out into the wilderness for the weekend and try to survive using that new skill. If you learned how to build primitive shelters, go camping for the weekend without a tent and build your own shelter. If you learned how to start primitive fire, then leave the lighters and firesteel at home. It’s all about training yourself to become comfortable with having to survive. You want it to become second nature.

If you are building your shelter and are planning on doing any cutting down of trees, make sure it is on your own land or somebody else’s land where you have permission to practice bushcraft skills. You should not be practicing some of these skills on government and protected lands. In these areas you should practice the leave no trace method of camping and hiking.

As always practice all survival/bushcraft skills at your own risk and enjoy all of your new found knowledge. Learn to enjoy the challenge of surviving in the wilderness instead of looking at it as a chore or something to contend with. What new survival/bushcraft skills have you learned in the past month or months? Would you be able to survive without that expensive survival knife or pocket knife you always carry? We all need to continue to learn new skills and to practice what we have learned. Get out and enjoy learning to survive in the wild.

A simple shelter

The fallen tree or debris shelter is one of the simplest survival shelters to make. If you find yourself stuck out in the wilderness with no man made form of shelter like a tarp or tent and there are no other natural forms of shelter, then knowing how to build this shelter could be very helpful and lifesaving.

First survey your surroundings. You can either use a fallen tree where the tree is still attached, about 3-4 feet off the ground, to the trunk. It should look like a triangle on its side. If you do use the fallen tree method, make sure the tree is secure and you are not in danger of the tree coming loose and crushing you. The method I recommend and use is first find a generally good level spot where you would like to make camp. Next, look for a good sturdy tree with some good branches that will be low enough for the entrance of your shelter. Now go find a log for the ridge of your shelter. Make sure it is long enough so that you will be able to lie down in the shelter when you are done building. I am 6 feet tall so I generally try to find a thick log or fallen tree that is about 9-10 feet long. If you cannot find a good log or already fallen tree then you will have to cut a small tree to fit your needs. Try to find everything you use on your shelter from already fallen trees if at all possible.

Now lean the log on the tree so that one end of the log is still on the ground and the other is resting on top of a thick branch where it ties into the main part of the tree. Lay the log in the notch of the branch and trunk. If you have some sort of cordage it wouldn’t hurt to tie the log off for safety sake. You will now want to go find sticks or branches that are about as thick as your forearm and lean those out along the log you have leaning against the tree. Make sure you have a good steep angle to help run water off in case of rain. If you weave some thinner branches or vines trough the branches it will help make it sturdy.

If you are in an area with evergreen trees you can begin thatching the roof with evergreen branches. Keep the butt end of the branch up and start along the ground and keep piling them on until you reach the ridge log. Place a layer of evergreen branches along the ridge so that they overlap each sidewall and close the ridge up.  Now just fill the inside with leaves or evergreen branches and move in for the night. You can also close in the front door with branches and leaves after you are inside. Make sure that you do have some vitalization though.

If you are not in an area with evergreens then you can supplement by building up piles of leaves and debris against the walls you built out of sticks.  Place some small branches on top of the leaves and debris to help hold everything together and then place more leaves and debris on top of those branches. Completely cover the two walls and ridge. The more layers of leaves and debris that you have the warmer the shelter will be and you will be less likely to get wet in a rain storm. Place a thick layer of leaves inside the shelter for bedding. Climb in and enjoy all your work.

In the winter you can also place snow on the outside walls and ridge for insulation and to cut out any wind that might be blowing. I recommend that you test out building one of these shelters in your own yard or wherever you might be able to. It is easier to learn from any mistakes you make now than when your life might depend on it. There are also many modifications that you can make to this shelter as well. You can thatch the walls with birch bark, add a tarp or Tyvek underneath the thatching to make the shelter more water resistant and you can also thatch the roof with moss. Have you ever built one of these shelters and what modifications if any did you use? As always build at your own risk and never stop learning and fine tuning your survival skills. You are only guaranteed to have your knowledge and skills in a true survival situation. You may not have any man made tools or supplies when you most need them. So go out and enjoy the wonderful place we call the great outdoors and test your survival skills.