Camping With My Dad

A few weeks ago I went on an overnighter with my dad. We both had new Deepwoods Rucks from The Hidden Woodsman that we wanted to test out and it had been many years since my dad has been able to get out and camp. He had gotten seriously hurt on a construction site when I was younger and it really took a toll on his body, which meant backpacking and camping and any of the outdoors stuff he loved doing were out of the question for a long time. It’s only been in recent years that hes been able to slowly try to get back into some of the outdoor activities that he loves. Since other plans I had that weekend fell through and instead of doing some side work, I texted him and said lets get out for an overnighter and cook some steaks over the fire. He replied with YES! LETS GO! So the planning ensued.

I knew the night time temps would be in the low 30’s with windchill around the low 20’s and since it was his first time back out in the woods in years, I decided to go to one of my favorite spots to camp that was maybe a 20-30 minute hike in so my truck would be close in case we needed any extra supplies for warmth. I gave him my 0 degree Hammock Gear over quilt to use and I used my 20 degree over quilt. We used foam pads with  Klymit insulated static V blow up pads over top so that based on the R-value I new we’d be good down to 0 degrees and we’d be comfortable since we both have back issues. I set up my Warbonnet Outdoors Superfly tarp since it has “doors” and I knew it was going to be very windy. We used reusable heavy weight emergency blankets as our ground sheets.

We camped near a large pond with a great view. It rained a bit after we got camp set up and stopped just as we started to cook our steaks over the fire. The steaks (Venison backstraps cut into steaks) and potatoes came out perfect and tasted amazing after being cooked over the fire. We enjoyed some time around the fire and headed to bed. We slept pretty decent all night. The wind gusts got going pretty high which concerned us because the trees creaked like crazy all night and we could hear some trees and limbs falling in the distance. The wind was constantly changing direction all night. Otherwise it was a pretty good night. We both got up around 4 am to go to the bathroom and I loaded up the makeshift fire pit with wood so that we’d have coals to get a fire going later that morning. After I got the fire going again and warmed my hands up, I headed back to bed for a few hours.

I think we ended up getting up around 8-8:30 am. There was a little bit of snow on the ground, on our tarp and on our packs that were hung on the trees. The low that night was 32 degrees with a windchill of 18 degrees. It was so windy when we got up that we both decided we’d just pack up and have breakfast when we got home instead of getting a fire going and trying to cook over it in the wind. Plus I didn’t want to have to worry about the fire being reignited after we left because of the high winds.

We enjoyed our hike out and had a great time. It was nice seeing my dad be able to camp again and enjoy the things he use to be able to. We had a fun successful trip. We ate great food, had a great time and slept pretty well. We only needed our rain gear for a few hours the night before. We both love our new packs. My dad will eventually upgrade his pack frame to the same one that I have because mine has much more padding and is very comfortable. My dad’s already looking forward to our next trip, and to me that always means your trip was successful when anyone you took out enjoys themselves so much that they look forward to the next trip.

Thanks for reading and enjoy the attached photos of our trip. What extra little things do you do to ensure you have a great trip? Heres a link to the video of our trip http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7rbbY5vnuW0

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Gear I’ve Recently Acquired

I’ve recently acquired three pieces of gear that I’m excited about using and testing. The first one is a Casstrom Knives Lars Falt Bushcraft knife. I can’t speak to its durability over time but out of the box this knife is a beauty. I love the curly birch handle and the knife comes razor sharp out of the box. The knife also comes with a nice simple leather sheath. I also ordered a dangler to add to it because I just prefer my knives to be on a dangler for ease of movement. I’m really looking forward to testing this knife out over the next year and then I’ll post an update of how it holds up to use over the long hall. Based on my first impressions I don’t anticipate any issues with this knife.

 

Lars Falt Bushcraft Knife

 

The second item I recently received is a Bushcraft Essentials Bush Box LF stove kit (stainless steel version). I ordered the kit instead of just the stove because I wanted the grate for the top to be able to cook meat or other things right on it without needing a pot or pan. Because of what it is, it’s a bit heavy, but I expected that. It’s really well made and I anticipate it holding up to years of use. The stove also comes with its own pouch which makes storing it in your pack nicer and cleaner. I do still use an alcohol stove and a butane stove as well depending on the type of trip so it’s not like this will be used as my only stove, but who knows, it’s possible I may like this stove enough to stop using my other cooking methods. Only time will tell. This is my first venture into twig stoves so we’ll see how it goes. Most places I hike and camp have plenty of branches laying around so I like the idea of not having to carry all of my fuel.

Bushbox LFStove Kit

 

The third item is an Expedition Research Bushcraft Grill (regular size not mini). My preferred way of cooking is right over an open fire but I’ve tried other small campfire grates and they’ve always failed because they lacked the grid pattern that this grill does have. There’s not much to say other than I’m looking forward to testing this grill out and will probably christen it with some bacon (one of the things the other grills failed to handle as bacon shrinks as its cooking and would fall through the cracks). It does come with a lightweight pouch so that you can easily store it in your pack without getting other things dirty.

Bushcraft grill bushcraft grill 2

All in all these are three pieces of gear I’m really excited to get in the woods and test out. Hopefully after the holidays are over and with hunting season nearing its end soon here in New York, I’ll have a chance to get out and give these new pieces of gear a try. What new pieces of gear did you acquire that you’re excited to use? Have fun in the wilderness and take time to just “be” and enjoy 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.

Quick Tip #10

Use hydration bags for kids to carry water and food. It will free up their hands for other things like picking berries and exploring. It will also get them use to carrying a bag on their back and slowly introduce them to backpacking over time. I found that with my own kids, they got tired of carrying a water container and the containers were too heavy to clip to their pants. I bought cheap hydration bags from Sam’s Club at the end of the season. I think I ended up only paying $15 per bag. I threw out the plastic bladder bag because it was a cheap plastic and I couldn’t remove the plastic taste and some of them leaked. I prefer to use Stainless bottles anyway. We just place the bottle in the area where the hydration bag would go and place snacks or any other items in the other pouches. There is also a nice little pouch inside of these bags where I place an emergency blanket for each child. That way if something happened where all or any of us got lost and had to spend the night in the wilderness unexpectedly, we would each have some shelter from wind, rain and cold. I like these bags better than other more expensive bags because there is more storage than a standard hydration backpack and they were a lot cheaper. They are a cross between a small hydration pack and a small backpack, perfect for our purposes. Someday I plan on doing a lightweight backpacking trip using one of these packs just to see how well it would work. I’ll let you know how it works out. Have a great time enjoying the wilderness with your kids.

Choosing a Backpack

Choosing the right backpack for your needs can become very overwhelming quickly and seem like an impossible task. Many people don’t even think about what they actually need their pack to do, and just go to the local outdoors store or online store, cover their eyes and grab a pack and call it good. They never ask themselves any questions about what their intentions are with the pack they are intending on buying. Buying the right pack for the wrong use can be burdensome and frustrating to say the least. Here is a sample list of questions you should ask yourself before buying a new backpack.

Sample Backpack Questions

  • What is my intended use of the pack?
  • Will the pack be used for all four seasons?
  • How rugged does the pack have to be?
  • How well made does the pack need to be?
  • How much does the pack need to hold?
  • Do I want internal or external framing?
  • Does the pack need to be compatible with a hydration system?
  • How much weight am I putting in the pack?
  • What size pack do I need for my body size?
  • Do I want one big open compartment or a pack with sectioned off compartments?
  • How much use is the pack going to get? (be realistic, it could save you a lot of money)
  • What extras would you like the pack to have? (rain cover, gear attachments, extra pockets etc.)
  • Does the pack need a good padded hip strap and well padded shoulder straps?
  • Does the pack I’m trying out fit properly and comfortably across my shoulders and hips?
  • Is the pack made well enough to hold up to constant use?
  • What color pack do I want?

The very first thing you need to do is figure out what your intended use is for the backpack and then you can go from there. I recommend that you lay all your gear out ahead of time and see how much you really have to fit in the new backpack. Depending on how much you hike, camp, hunt or if you are just putting an emergency bag together you might just need multiple bags. For summer camping I like to backpack as light as possible so I use what most people would consider a daypack. This makes for easy long distance hiking and a really enjoyable time. For colder backpacking I use a bag made by Golite. It is still lighter than most packs out there but I can now carry the extra needed things. For my emergency/bug out bag I use a Rothco medium transport bag. It is much heavier and rugged but if I’m in an emergency situation I don’t want my bag to fail me. This works for me but it might not work for you. Each person has different needs in a pack. A rock climber is generally not going to be using the same pack as someone lightweight hiking and so on. If you take the time to figure out what your needs are ahead of time it will make your backpack shopping much easier and less of a headache. The best time to buy a pack is in the winter. In February-March you can find great deals online and in stores. Many stores are trying to get rid of last year’s models and make room for this year’s inventory. What do you use your pack for? Are you in need of a new or proper fitted pack? Do you maybe need multiple packs? One side note there are some manufacturers out there that do design packs specifically for women so that you’re not stuck with a pack that was really made for a man’s body type. Golite is one of those manufacturers. I know many of us are looking forward to spring with much anticipation. Now is the time to get all of your gear out and check it over, give it a wash if needed and replace anything that needs replacing. Heres to warmer weather, beautiful greenery and wonderful memories made on the trail!