31 October 2012

Fire Through Magnification

As part of the BCUSA Intermediate BushClasses this was one of the electives.

I've played with magnifying lenses since I was a kid, this exercise brought back some fond memories.

The video at the bottom shows the process.

From my experience, it's easier if you mount your lens in a stick and stabilize it, focused, then you have both hands for manipulating what you are trying to ignite. My hand is a little too shaky to hold the lens steady on one focal point, I can still do it as seen in second part of the video, it is just easier for me to set the lens and focus on the combustibles.

Used the rectangular lens as found in Turley's kit and an old 3" lens I've carried around for ages. These small rectangular lenses work really well, smaller than a credit card. If conditions are right they make fire starting easy. No reason not to carry one around with you, besides, I find other uses for them. Pulled a splinter out of my palm the other day that I couldn't see with my naked eyes.

The basswood inner bark worked well, the mix of paper-wasp nest, dry grass, and birch bark worked real well too. I did find that focusing the point on darker material resulted in faster coals. All the particulars are in the video.

30 October 2012

Adventure Sworn Navigator Pouch

When I first saw these I figured they'd be a great fit for my compass or my fire kit, and while it works for that just fine, I am using it differently.

I've always been a fan of leather cartridge carriers, the belt slide version and this Navigator pouch works very well in that capacity, across multiple calibers too!

Seven cartridges, 7mm Remington Magnum 3.29COL, at this length this is about the maximum for the pouch. Any longer and the clasp won't close.

It also works perfectly for Moose Pills too! (.45-70)

Quality is beyond question, top end leather work no doubt about it, some of the best work I have ever seen.

I'll be getting the bigger one, the Traveler, soon. It'll be used for navigation and fire kits.

Backwoods Bum Approved!

21 October 2012

Peace in a Piece of Two Days

I've come to despise the first month of each new quarter, because of my work I travel heavily during those months. Of them all I think I hate traveling in October the most, the month for me that is just between fall and just ahead of winter. Our snows will come in November and while I love my snow I do enjoy the transition month of October.

I've finally gotten around to affixing my BisonGear Lost River to a MOLLE frame, setting it up for colder weather. I was surprised at how well the pack mated to the frame. This particular version is a generation IV. It carries very well but this isn't the first time I've humped this frame so that really wasn't a surprise. Here's a look at what it looked like for this weekend's outing.

On top, inside of a cuben fiber stuff sack is a Mountain Serape from Hill People Gear. I'm thrilled with it so far, what a versatile piece of gear! It's a quilt, an insulated poncho, a great coat, and a sleeping bag good to around 40 to 45 degrees by itself. Here is a link to the discussion about the Serape and additional photographs.

Below that is a rolled up polyfil insulation jacket from Cabelas. It will compress nearly as well as down filled, but isn't worthless if it gets wet, like down is.

On the bottom is my 10x10 tarp with a woobie inside of it. I've found this to be a great way to carry this combination. Lay the tarp flat, put the woobie on top, fold over the sides to the middle and then in half once more. Roll it up. This keeps the woobie dry and eliminates needing to carry it inside the pack.

I was also carrying a Hill People Gear Kit bag. It's a chest pack for lack of a better way to describe it. I've been wanting to get my critical gear, fire, water, navigation, and other miscellaneous things I consider critical attached to my person. In the past I've used hip pouches, cargo pockets and so on but I've never really been satisfied with that set up. The kit bag so far, is shaping up to be an ideal way to carry that kind of gear.

Here's a few shots of how it carries and a little of what I have in it. I'm not going into great detail on the kit bag and what I've been carrying in it yet. I'm going to wait until I've had ample time with it first.

The foray this weekend was to first and foremost find a little peace! I've been running hard for a while now and needed some woodstime to refocus. I also wanted to get a camp laid out that I'll be spending some time in later this winter. I wanted to try out a couple new pieces of gear too.

Obligatory shot of Ace on the trail.

It didn't take long to get the campsite set up. A relatively simple affair, of a ridge beam lashed to a tree, the other end placed in a lashed up tripod. 10x10 tarp over the ridge beam, and a gear platform on one end. Pictures illustrate what I'm trying to say.

I picked up a Klymit Static V sleeping pad for use year round. I was very surprised at the specs for this pad and the price point for those specs.
Weight: 18.1 oz,514 g
Dimensions: 72" x 23" x 2.5",183 cm x 59 cm x 6.5 cm
Type: inflatable Sleeping Pad
Packed Size: 5" x 9", 12.7 cm x 22.8 cm
Includes: Stuff Sack, Patch Kit
Warranty: Limited Lifetime
The pack size is extremely small, and very light weight. I can't even compare it to the old Thermarest pad I used to use, this pad rolls up smaller than a standard Nalgene bottle. I liked this format over the regular pads as the design makes it easier to stay on the pad versus the typical slick top flat pad. The channels improve friction, and they also hold air, increasing the insulation value. 

From their website:

  • The Klymit Static V is a lightweight camping pad using body mapping technology at an entry level price.
  • It features the v-chamber design which limits air movement and heat loss while offering a uniquely ergonomic body map which is optimized for performance and comfort.  
  • Inflating in approximately 10-15 breaths it will save you time and energy wherever you are.
In the image below, the sleeping pad is on the left, mountain serape in the center, woobie on the right.

 Another shot for size comparison with my Adventure Sworn knife.

 Out of the stuff sack.


I put two timbers down, roughly seven feet in length, then several cross members making a bed that got me about a foot off the ground once it was all in place. Over that I tossed the woobie, then the sleeping mat.

Once all of that was in place I put the mountain serape in and brought the sides of the woobie up over and tied it closed over the serape. So far so good with the serape, the sheer functionality of it, the many different formats that it can be used in, along with the warmth versus weight ratio make it a very versatile and unique piece of equipment. A more thorough break down and review is in the works. I don't do table tops, I actually need to use something before I form an opinion about it.

As you can see below, it'll compress fairly well. This cuben fiber stuff sack is a 5" diameter by 12.5" tall (13 cm x 32 cm), 245ci. It fills it out quite well. I don't think it would fit in anything smaller than this. Makes for a firm package that straps to a pack nicely, and since this is the roll top type dry bag it is waterproof.

Here's the serape laid out on the pad.

In the image above you can also see how the tarp is in closed formation. In the following images you'll see I pulled the front left corner up and tied it back. This is my preferred fair weather set up.

The fire set up is somewhat of a departure for me. I always like to use reflectors when I can, either made from logs or rocks, banks if they present themselves. In this case I wove saplings between four trees, in and out. This gave me a framework to add larger limbs and rocks on the front face, and to lean larger wood against the back of the framework.

This made for one of the largest and nicest reflector walls I've ever built. The lower third is made up of rocks, they reflect heat well, and they hold heat even better. Then the large logs on the back side work like charm. Sitting in the shelter with the heat reflecting back in made for a very relaxing break.

I'm looking forward to November and then the depths of winter. Work should slow down some until January anyway. I've been missing my woods something fierce here lately. It was good to get out again.

07 October 2012

From Frost to Fire...

When I left Saturday morning we had a heavy frost on, snow was swirling and that wicked north wind was still coming strong as ever. The plan was to still hunt till around noon, set a camp have some lunch and piddle with the new Adventure Sworn. This was our fourth frost this year and by far the heaviest.

Ace was not happy even a little bit when I told him he had to stay home today. I swear this dog has an intelligence beyond the normal canine reach, he gave me this look like 'fine, but I'm killin everything I see for the rest of the day'.

The snow stopped after a while though, and the sun began what was to become a day long game of peekaboo, blasting bright on occasion to hiding in heavy clouds for an hour or more at a time.

Moving deeper into the lowlands.

All day long I was crossing wolf sign. I passed eleven cross trail markers, they drop scat often where one path crosses another within their territory. All of them full of deer hair and bone, looks like I'm not the only predator taking deer this year. I sometime wonder if they spend as much time monitoring my activity as I do theirs. On two different occasions today I crossed dry ground with a marking bush where they'd sprayed. Because the ground was dry save for that I know I they had been there not long before I found the sign. I won't bore you with multiple pictures of wolf scat.

I believe I crossed a bear as well, as I got deeper into the sphagnum and tamarack country. On one of the trails I found a destroyed beehive, all that remained were these, this is one set but there must have been four or five different groupings like this spread out for about a 15 yard radius.

Early in the afternoon I dropped my pack and gear and started working on a fire and camp.

Fire prep done which consisted of cedar bark and birch bark, then using my new AS with a fire steel I was two strokes to flame. Here only one out of seven trees is hardwood, four out of seven are birch, the rest are soft wood pines and poplars and so on. As much as I like reading and viewing the 'Hardwoodsman' threads the reality here in the north woods is God gave us birch trees to fight the cold north winds. I'm much obliged.

Once I had a fire going I started on shelter. A simple set up consisting of two MEST tarps and a casualty blanket. It is effective and it is easy to set up, I like the tarps quite a bit and I'm always using them. Best purchases of 2010/11 by far, as I've not used any other piece of gear as much or with as much enjoyment as these tarps.

The grouse I killed the other day with my bow would become lunch, along with some Highland Grog coffee.

The grouse bread was split and then I put a forked stick into it, wedge it into the ground at an angle over the fire. The occasionally turned the stick so all sides got cooked properly.

I wish I knew how many times I've used this halulite kettle over the past couple years. Another favorite piece of gear.

Once cooked I leave the stick in the ground, then using a knife just carve off what I want. I'm sure there's a name for eating bird on a stick but I can't think of it, but it does work rather well.

I'm smitten with this new knife, not that I didn't like the other one, I did. It did everything I asked of it and I am sure I'll still use it, ultimately they'll both be left to my boys someday.

I do like this full convex grind in this one though, it did slice better in my opinion. The knife is simply gorgeous to look at and is every bit a user through and through. The leather work on the sheath is top shelf work, superb execution.

Thoroughly pleased with this knife.

At the end of this great day I was treated to one of the most brilliant sunsets that I've seen, just an explosion of color that really set the sky on fire. It was a startling contrast to the frost and snow of morning.