Quick Tip #21

So, you made it to where you want to camp for the night, and you’re all setup, then you realize it’s going to be dark soon and you start scrambling around to gather natural tinder and wood to get a fire going. Does this sound like your normal routine? It used to be mine years ago until I started carrying a tinder pouch on my belt. Now as I hike along, I gather natural tinder, birch bark, small twigs and anything else I might be able to use to make a “birds nest” and get a fire going. I also grab a few pieces of wood (sticks) that are slightly thicker than my thumb and break them short enough to fit in the pouch. I use these for making feather sticks.

Carrying a tinder pouch and filling it as you hike makes for a less stressful time later trying to get a fire going and it means you’ll most likely have better quality material to work with. Some advantages to carrying a tinder pouch are that everything you put in the pouch gets mixed together and ground together as you hike and if anything is damp it will help dry it out by the time you get to camp. Also, if it starts raining along the way or by the time you get to camp or before you get a fire going, you’ll have a bag full of quality dry tinder to work with instead of trying to scrounge around in the rain.

I highly recommend training yourself to grab natural tinder as you hike, whether you put it in your pocket, pack or designated tinder pouch, you’ll thank me later when you have a much easier and relaxed time starting a nice warm cozy fire. Do you already carry a designated tinder pouch? If so, what natural things do you grab to fill your pouch? Thanks for stopping by and feel free to leave a comment with your answers to the previous questions.

Ax and Saw Leather Carry Bag

For awhile now I’ve wanted an ax and saw carry bag. I really like the one Meandering Maker makes as well as Bear Essentials, but I didn’t want to spend the money, even though I know both bags are well worth the money. I thought to myself, why not make one out of leather? I’ve never seen anyone else make one solely out of leather and I had just acquired some nice 4-5 oz Kodiak stone oiled leather that I really liked the look of. So, I quickly began thinking about how I wanted to make it and what I wanted it to look like.

I made sure to design the size of my bag so that I could fit my Boreal21 saw or a 24” take down buck saw once I get one made. When cutting the leather for the ax sleeve I laid my ax on the main pouch and then ran the piece of leather over the ax that would form the ax sleeve and cut it so that when the ax was removed it still formed a pocket.

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I saddle stitched the whole bag and retention strap with waxed thread. I used Chicago screws to attach the anchor points for the shoulder strap as well as on the shoulder strap pieces so that it would make for easy maintenance or changing out any parts that fail over time.

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I used 8-9 oz veg. tanned leather for the carry strap and made sure to have enough adjustment for use during warm months as well as colder months over thick jackets.

I really like how my new ax and saw bag turned out. It should last me years of use and I should hopefully be able to pass it on to my kids someday. The only thing that I wish I had added was a small pouch to hold a sharpening puck. I decided what I’m going to do is make a small pouch that will hold the sharpening puck and a fire kit that will mount on the bottom of the shoulder strap but is easily removable so that it can be placed on my belt. What do you think about the bag? What would you change or add? Any leather projects your working on? Have you ever thought about using an ax and saw carry bag? I’ll keep everyone posted on how well the bag holds up as I use it over this year. Thanks for stopping by and enjoy your wilderness wandering.     ax2.jpg

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Practice

With five active and energetic kids its hard to find time to continue to practice bushcraft/wilderness skills that need constant practice. It forces me to be a multitasker and to think outside the box.

Here’s an example; just the other night, we have a wood/coal furnace, I needed to get a fire going in the furnace but instead of getting the fire going and just sitting there waiting for it to get up to temperature I figured why not practice bow drill friction fire. It seemed like a better way to spend my time than staring at my phone like I often do well waiting on the furnace. I knew all of the wood was dry, so it wasn’t really a question of whether or not I’d get an ember but more about continued practice and for muscle memory.

It was fun to spend my time doing something more useful and we all know practice makes perfect. I knew I couldn’t be in the wilderness but there was no reason I couldn’t practice wilderness skills. I forget sometimes, as I’m sure others do as well, that we don’t necessarily need to be in the woods to practice our skills. Although that is a nicer environment to practice in, it’s not necessary.

Below are some pictures of the bow drill set I made. It worked great and was smoking within seconds of running the bow and drill. I know we’re all very busy, but I urge you to find time to practice bushcraft/survival skills so that you don’t loose them. Sometimes we must think outside the box when it comes to finding time to learn and practice. What skills are you currently learning or trying to fine tune? Have you ever tried any type of friction fire? Thanks for reading and please leave a comment about what outdoor skills you’re currently learning or fine tuning.fire1.jpg

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Don’t Be Afraid To Try something New

It amazes me how many people are not willing, are afraid, to learn or try something new. Whether it be learning a new skill, learning how to make something or just plain learning. I guess for me it just comes naturally. I’m self-motivated to learn new skills. If I want to know how to do something, I’m going to learn how to do it if it means reading books, scouring the internet and or watching tons of YouTube videos. I can’t imagine letting the fear of not knowing how to do something or the fear of failure stop me from learning a new skill that I desire to know.

In most cases failure in something is not going to hurt you or anyone else. We all have failures during our learning process. Through those failures we can learn and become better. Never let the fear of failure stop you. I contest that you never truly learn a new skill without some failures along the way.

Whether it be a new business venture, life skills, outdoor (survival, bushcraft) skills, learning how to make handmade items, wood work, music, art or anything else, don’t let the fear of failure or the fear of not knowing how to do it, stop you. Try something new today. Learn and don’t be held back by fear. Enjoy the whole process and journey as you learn new skills and gain knowledge.

What is something you’d like to learn how to do or a skill you’d like to learn? What is holding you back? My goal for 2019 is to become more proficient at leather making and crafting tools out of 1095 and O1 tool steel. Leave a comment with one thing you want to learn more about or a new skill you want to learn over the coarse of 2019.

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Fire Kit

 

Pictured are some basic fire kits I made for my older three boys, Father and brother for Christmas. I wanted to make the kit compact but encompass more than most kits do. I put everything in a metal tin (similar to an altoids tin) and included a fero rod, 6 ft of jute twine, a piece of chert and a steel striker I designed, made and heat treated.

I used 1095 steel to make the striker. I drilled an indent in each striker so that they can be used as a baring block for the bow drill, primitive friction fire starting technique. I made all the edges 90 degrees so that the edges can be used to scrape wood for fine shavings or be used to scrape a fero rod.

The tin can be used to make char cloth. They have room to add char cloth as well as add some quik tinder or other modern tinder for fire starting. Hopefully sometime soon I’ll be able to sit down and teach them all how to start a flint and steel fire. I did teach my older son, who was excited when his first try was a success. I’m sure they’ll be addicted to starting a fire in the wilderness this way, just as I am. Flint and steel is by far my favorite way to get a fire going. What’s your favorite fire-starting method? Have you ever used flint and steel or any primitive friction methods? I added some pictures of me heat treating the steel strikers in my simple forge.

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Sometimes Cheap Is Better

During hunting season here in New York, it can be a challenge to keep your fingers warm. Especially since you don’t want thick gloves or mittens on that will infringe on being able to pull the trigger. I own many pairs of gloves, mittens and glove/mitten combos but nothing worked very well for me. As of late I was wearing a lightweight pair of gloves (pair I ware for bow season) with cheap wool liner gloves over top with the fingers cut off. This setup worked fairly well until the temps dipped down into the teens and single digits (Fahrenheit) this season. My fingers and hands were not happy. My brother and I happened to stop at Herb Philipson’s (local sporting goods store) and saw a huge display of fleece lined rag wool glove/mittens. I tried a pair on and thought to myself this might be what we need to keep our hands warm. The best part………they were only $9.99! You can’t beat that for a glove that ended up keeping our hands happy the rest of the season!

With the fleece lining it makes the gloves a little thicker and warmer but with no fingers it allowed for easy trigger pulling and with the availability of the mitten cover being pulled over the fingers made for an ideal glove in my opinion. For really cold mornings we threw hot hands (chemical hand warmers) in the mitten part and when the mitten was pulled over, the warmer would be sitting on top of our fingers keeping them warm without interfering with being able to pull the trigger.

On the last day of hunting season, we stayed out through hours of freezing rain and sleet. Even though our wool gloves were soaked, they kept our hands warm. I can attest to wool keeping you warm even when wet/soaked. Needles to say we were happy campers with our recent purchase. I found that I could pull the trigger even with the mitten part over my fingers. Another nice feature is that the wrist part of the gloves is extra-long, so they easily roll over or under the sleeve of a jacket and stay put because of the extra length. No gaps for wind and cold to get into.

All in all, we are very happy with our inexpensive purchase that replaced many more expensive pairs of gloves that just didn’t cut it in cold weather. I can’t believe I’ve never come across a pair of these gloves until now. What gloves or mittens have you found that work great for cold weather well hunting? What cold weather clothing is a must for you? Thanks for reading and I hope everyone has a wonderful Christmas.

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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.