26 January 2014

Winter Shelter Build Part I

Even with my travel schedule I'm trying to get out for at least one day on the weekends. In this case I wanted to build a winter shelter, piddle with an axe and just breathe some frozen northland air, all of which I was able to do.

Cold doesn't do justice to describing the temperatures. We were -15F* today and with the wind it was a sharp cutting kind of cold. Nevertheless I had to go, some time in the snow among the trees was in order.

Ace tagged along to supervise my construction.

While it was cold and the wind was blowing snow all about I was relatively comfortable throughout the day. Heavy wool pants and pullover along with a merino wool base layer was sufficient.

Once the frame was in place I started filling in between the logs and adding boughs over and on the ends.

Time to enjoy a couple of the finer things in life, good tobbaco, shelter from a storm and a warming fire.

With some luck I'll finish the shelter or get close to it next weekend, maybe an overnight in it as well. Thanks for looking, see yas next weekend.

19 January 2014

Modding the Frost River Big Manitou

The Frost River Big Manitou shoulder bag is made from 18oz waxed canvas with leather accents and for all intents and purposes is a great bag as it comes, however it's lacking a couple things that I think it should have.

First is a handle. I am not sure why they elected to not have this, and in their product description they say; "The largest of the shoulder bags and least handle clad of the briefcases, the Big Manitou is distinctive. It is strictly a shoulder bag, and has no traditional handle". Again I am not sure why but for me it needs one. A shoulder strap is fine but anyone who travels a lot with a shoulder laptop bag knows you'll be shifting that bag fore and aft regularly as you navigate airports and aircraft for example. To do this without a handle you'd basically either grab the bag from the side and push or pull it, or pinch it in the middle top to move it. Neither option is ideal in my opinion. Additionally I like to grab and go, pulling it from the passenger seat in my truck or out of an overhead compartment you don't really want to grab it by the shoulder strap and without a handle, well it just doesn't make sense.

So the first mod is a handle for mine.

I used an old leather belt cut to the length I wanted it. I didn't want it flat or flopping on the bag so I folded it in half and stitched. This gave the leather quite a bit of rigidity.

 I left the flat ends long enough so I could insert them into the slots I cut on the bag, folding the leather under so that it would be reinforcing itself rather than relying on the canvas alone.

Now I needed to cut the slots in the canvas which is double layered. I used my Otzi knife for this.

I drilled the soon to be handle for two Chicago screws on each end plus stitching holes.

From here it was just a matter of putting the ends through the slots and punching the hole through the canvas for the screws.

Just a matter of installing the screws and stitching it up now. didn't take long and I had what I was after. I also installed a strap and buckle on the front.

Next weekend it will get a set of leather straps on one end in the interior for holding a steel water bottle securely.

Thanks for looking.

18 January 2014

Unexpected Incredible Generosity - A Cruiser for the Backwoods

Last week I received a message from KA-BAR USMC on the Buschcraftusa.com forums regarding a 'package' he was sending me. We had recently been discussing some issues he was having with his pack gouging into his back and I'd sent him some beaver fur to pad it out hoping it would help. As always communication with Wayne is a pleasure. I left early the next week for Denver, little did I know the package had arrived at the lodge via UPS.

I got home last night and opened it. I was floored. I know it is often said by many people on those forums that the generosity and kindness is over the top. That's always been true and I've been blessed once more. I was astounded at what I pulled out of that box.

A 2.5 pound Collins Cruiser with a octagon handle. It was evident it had been restored with skill and care. I simply couldn't believe he'd gifted this to me. I've been looking for the 'right' one for a while now, never seeming to be able to pin one that I really liked down. I've got a 'want' gear list and this slot for a woods cruiser has been left unchecked for years. Wayne had no idea that I had been on the hunt for this, not only had he gifted the axe he unknowingly gifted a check by that box. It's perfect and exactly what I had been searching for.

I'm no axe master, not an aficionado or historian, I'm a user of axes but certainly not an expert. I know what I like though and this is top shelf. I spent the morning laying in the edges I wanted and headed to the woods to use it.

Thank you so much Wayne, there are things that happen in life that are rare and unexpected that leave lasting impressions and this is one of them. I am grateful and astounded at your generosity and kindness Sir.

Thank you.

No scenery shots today. I was on a pretty tight timeline and the snow was deep so I just humped back to the spot and got to work.

This is best watched in HD and full screen. Just some stills, some fire making, some plans for something new and a spoken thank you.

Ace approved of the whole venture.

12 January 2014

The Bushcraft USA Jacket

This is NOT a review, it's just my impressions and opinions, yours may differ.

Some of you may know the Buschcraft jacket is available from BCO, found here. I ordered a couple weeks ago and as usual got it promptly. Several years of doing business there and it's all been exemplary.

The base jacket is the Condor Phantom, which is a three layer soft shell. The construction of the jacket looks good, stitching is strong and well done. The outer fabric is certainly water repellent and has a 'stretchy' feel too it, it is a 100% polyester, 4-way elastic high density fabric. The inner most layer is like micro fleece. The middle membrane, Condor calls it a 'breathable film membrane' but doesn't state exactly what that is that I could find.

The number of pockets and layout is great. The shoulder pockets are great for compass and notepad/pen which is what I am using them for. The chest pocket is nice for about anything else,I put a fire kit in mine,leaving the hand pockets empty and well, for your hands! There's also pockets on the interior, two of which are large.

There are also pit zips under each arm which I found necessary for ventilation, more on that later.

I'm 6' flat and average weight between 225 and 235 so I ordered the XL version. The fit is snug with enough room for thin layer, undershirt and a single merino wool layer was all I could fit before it became restrictive. Were I to order another it would be the next size larger. Keep that in mind if your of similar build or want more layers.

The first time I tried wearing it outside it was close to -35 and the fabric actually froze, the sound of moving in it was akin to breaking plastic. I know the jacket wasn't meant for temps like that, but I wanted to try it out when it arrived. The middle layer of unknown material, the film, was what was freezing and as I moved created a crackling sound. It was very loud and started within five to ten minutes of exposure. I wouldn't recommend this jacket at those temperatures anyway but felt it was worth noting.

Flash forward to a spike in the temps and I got a chance to use it in reasonable temperatures. We got into the 20s yesterday so I thought it would be a good opportunity to try the jacket out. So with a moderate load in my pack and snowshoes on my feet I headed out.

Snowshoeing can be physically demanding, if your trail is packed it isn't so bad but breaking trail will cause you to break a sweat, especially in deep powder. Within a half hour I could feel some clamminess building. Again I believe the middle 'film' layer was the culprit. If more than moderate exertion is required the pit zips must be opened or it will not breathe.

Condor markets the jacket as; This durable, waterproof, lightweight, breathable fabric contains billions of microscopic pores smaller than a raindrop, but hundred times larger than a molecule of water. The triple layer combination wicks moisture, stops water from passing through, and circulates body heat. The jacket is windproof that much is a fact, even in stronger winds I didn't feel it coming through.

Some more images of the jacket.

This is the inner lining.

The shoulder pockets as stated are very nice, the patch panels are also a nice touch.

I don't really do video recaps of stuff, I'm not good at it. I did put this video together for the jacket to try to verbally explain a few things. This is NOT a review, it's my personal impressions and opinions. I'm no expert so take everything I say with that in mind.

For the money it's a nice jacket, good for three seasons. Well made, fits snug but looks sharp I think. Love the pockets, and the logo!

11 January 2014

Bacon & Rabbit - Chaga & Otzi

A day in the Northwoods walking the snare line. The weather was changing again, warmer, almost a heat wave as we made it to the mid to upper twenties today. The warmth cause a mist to rise from the frozen snow, everything was promptly encased in ice as the mist solidified.

Undeterred I wanted to make the best of it, this will likely be my last weekend of freedom for a while. Every year at this time my work intensifies dramatically with travel. Most years I am absent from the woods for the first four months or so. Only occasionally getting out, when my sanity has been stretched to the breaking point I'll turn to the woods for solace.

*I messed the timing up for the text versus the images they go with. Took several hours to get this one uploaded and I'm not going to redo, I figure you folks can bear with it. Sorry for the timing mess up.

The video captures the day but for those who don't want to watch it the stills are below.

Some scenery on the way into the frozen halls of my backwoods.

There was a rabbit in one of my snares, going to be a good lunch!

I headed back to my hunting camp.

Gear for the day. BisonGear pack, Wetterlings axe, broad hat from Lucky 1-2 Sutlery, and a wool beanie my wife made for me.

Fire prep time. I don't post a lot of pics of the Otzi that Matt made me, it was his first Otzi and he's made a lot more since this one. It's one of my most prized possessions, it rides in a neck sheath made by Skab, nuff said.

The action for the fire prep including ignition with Otzi via firesteel is in the video.

With a fire on it was time for some Chaga tea. I've been carrying it in a Saami style pouch, really like this.

Once I had some hot tea in me it was time to clean the rabbit. I had something special in mind for lunch.

Bacon & Rabbit Kabobs! The video has some nice grease dripping crackling action.

The walk out was much like the walk in.

I tossed the bacon and rabbit stick to Ace when I got back. He seemed to thoroughly enjoy it!

Thanks for looking.