Testing Winter Gear

Over Thanksgiving the nighttime temps were supposed to be in the single digits here in NY, so even though I was visiting family I still wanted to test some of my winter gear. I didn’t get my 0-degree rated over quilt from Hammock Gear until spring, so I was never really able to give it a good test. I figured this would be the perfect time. All Temps listed in this article are in Fahrenheit.

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Everyone else thought I was nuts wanting to sleep outside in those temps but all I could think about was testing some of my gear and honestly, I love how quiet and peaceful it is outside during the colder months.

So, I setup my DD Hammocks Superlight tarp. I placed my UST heavy duty reusable emergency blanket on the ground as my ground cloth.  I placed a foam pad down and then placed my Klymit insulated static V on top of that. I knew with that combination I shouldn’t feel any cold from the ground down to at least -10 or so.  I laid my 0 degree over quilt out and ran the sleeping pad shock cords around the sleeping pads so that the over quilt would stay put on top of the pads. It’s a nice handy feature for ground camping with an over quilt. I laid may Pathfinder wool blanket over everything just to keep everything safe and dry during the day. I wanted the wool blanket just in case the over quilt didn’t keep me warm.

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The first night went well. It only got down to 11 degrees overnight. I stayed warm all night. The only issue I had was that in the middle of the night the wind changed from blowing on the sides and back of the tarp to blowing right through the door opening. Since I had the wool blanket, I just threw it over top of everything to keep the wind from blowing in any holes between the sleeping pads and over quilt. The wool blanket did the trick. After waking up and remedying the wind issue I slept soundly the rest of the night. Since the temps never reached very low, I really didn’t view this night as much of a test.

The next night got down to 4 degrees overnight and I stayed toasty warm all night long. I even slept in until around 9:30 am so I’d say that was a success. Based on how warm I stayed I’m confident that this setup can get me down to at least -10 to -20. I think I can most likely get away with just the Klymit sleeping pad down to 0 degrees. I think the two pads together was overkill but who doesn’t like extra padding when ground camping?!

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I’m looking forward to doing some more testing and fine tuning of my winter gear. Eventually I’m hoping to get up into the Adirondacks for some winter camping this coming winter. One thing I didn’t like about my setup was the tarp configuration. It looks neat and all but it’s a pain getting in and out off, not roomy at all and since it’s so tight inside, condensation that builds up overnight is constantly getting on clothing and bedding because its impossible to move around without touching the tarp. I’m just not a fan of this tarp configuration. I’d go with something a little roomier so that I’m able to move around with ease without worry of touching the tarp “walls”. This is in no way a reflection on the tarp. I like this tarp a lot.

What does your winter kit look like? What pieces of winter gear are a must have for you? What winter gear are you testing for the first time this winter? What are the lowest temps you’ve camped in so far? Thanks for reading and please let me know what your thoughts are on winter camping or if you have any great winter camping stories to share. Be safe out there and enjoy each changing season.

Tarp Shelter

The tarp I used for this shelter was a Warbonnet Superfly Tarp with the tent pole mod. I originally bought the tarp to use with my hammock because it has “doors” which help block wind and rain out. Plus, with the tent pole mod it gives me extra head room. I’ve used it plenty of times with my hammock, and love it for that use, but this was the first time on the ground. I decided to use it on the ground instead of one of my other tarps because of the doors to block the wind out and because it would be roomier for two people with the tent pole mod. This tarp worked out great as a ground shelter. We dealt with high winds that constantly changed direction and the tarp held up great and kept the wind out with the help of the “doors”.

This tarp in conjunction with UST’s heavy-duty emergency blanket as a ground cloth are a great combination for a winning ground shelter or tarp shelter. If you are on the fence about getting one of these tarps it is well worth the money in my humble opinion. I love this tarp for hammocking and now for ground dwelling as well. I will most definitely be using this for a ground shelter again in the future. What’s your favorite tarp or tarp shelter and why? Thanks for reading and remember to get out and enjoy some wilderness time.

 

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The Hidden Woodsman Deepwoods Ruck

My dad and I have both purchased The Hidden Woodsman Deepwoods Ruck. Mine is mounted on a frame from http://www.tacticaltailor.com with their shoulder straps and hip belt. My dads is mounted on the military issue alice pack frame with straps and hip belt. It is definitely worth getting the straps and belt from Tactical Tailor. The pack rides so comfortably with all of the extra padding and padding coverage. My dad will definitely be upgrading soon. You can see bellow how much nicer the Tactical Tailor shoulder straps ride and cover than the military issue ones do.

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We both absolutely love these packs. There’s plenty of room for everything we prefer to carry. I like the sleeve on the front for carrying a small axe or hatchet and the molle webbing on top and bottom for adding sleeping pads or bedrolls as well as attaching most anything we’d want to. The side pockets have ample room for needed gear, first aid kits, cook kits, water bottles or whatever else you’d like to put in them. The separations inside the main compartment are perfect for my uses and not over done like a lot of packs these days. The quality of materials is also a plus. I like that I don’t have to worry about abrasions or being rough with this pack. I can hang it on a tree, set it on the ground or hike through dense wilderness or brush with no worries about it tearing holes in the pack.

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I can’t recommend this pack enough or any of the other quality gear I’ve purchased from http://www.thehiddenwoodsmen.com My dad and I are both looking forward to years of service from these packs. We both also own Dayrucks and like those as well. I use my Dayruck for warmer camping and wanted this pack for colder weather camping since I knew I’d want to carry more gear/clothing. Its also a huge plus to know that these packs were made not to far from where we live. I love supporting people that I’ve met, live in the same country as I do and that make high quality products. Hopefully you’ll be seeing these packs featured in photos of more trips over the coming years. If you own one of these packs, what are your thoughts about it? What do you like or not like about it? Thanks for reading and I hope you all get a chance to get out and enjoy some wilderness wandering.

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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Cooking over a fire with my Bushcraft grill

The more time you spend cooking over an open fire the better you’ll become and be able to fine tune your cooking skills. I’ve learned over the years that cooking over hot coals is not only a better way to cook or heat up liquids, but it also saves on equipment wear and tear and saves you from having to eat a burnt meal. This also makes cleanup much easier.

I start out by getting a good rip-roaring fire going and once I have larger logs on, which give me larger lasting coals, I let the fire die down a bit. I congregate a bunch of coals so that they will allow my grill to lay over top and allow for even cooking. I keep the fire going much smaller off to the side so that once all of my cooking is done I’m able to get a larger fire going again much more easily. This also allows me to get more coals for cooking if needed.

Cooking on the grill over the coals is so much nicer. Once the meat or vegetables are fully cooked I just lift the grill off the coals with my Hidden Woodsman meat fork and lay it on some level rocks to cool. I do any cutting right on the grill and eat right off of the grill as well. No extra dishes to clean. Once everything is gone I just hold the grill over the flames to burn off anything left. Then I lay it off to the side again to cool. Once cooled, I put the grill in the pouch it came with and throw it in my backpack. You can’t ask for an easier cleanup than that. So far I have nothing bad to say about this grill and absolutely love cooking on it.

Cooking a perfect meal in the wild, over a fire you made yourself, is so satisfying and energizing. If I’m camping in or backing through an area that allows fires I always prefer to cook this way instead of using any modern portable cook stoves. I guess it just helps me to feel more connected to the land and my primal self. What’s your favorite way to cook when you’re in the wild? What cooking tips do you have that you’d like to share? I hope this helps energize others to get out into the wild and cook a meal over a nice hot bed of coals.

 

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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.

 

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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.

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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.

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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.

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?