29 September 2015

Gear Used on the Brooks Range Caribou Hunt

I've gotten a few requests to itemize the gear used on that trip so here it is. I didn't go into food as I did that pretrip. Most of the gear I took was used but I did indicate the items that did not see use.

Kifaru Duplex Frame/High Camp 7000 Bag – Used
HPG Original Kit Bag - used

Shelter: Base Camp
Kifaru Megatarp
Bear Paw Wilderness 1.5 Net Tent
MSR Ground Hog Stakes - Used

Shelter: Spike Camp
$20 Bandit fold over
Titanium Goat Kestrel Bivy w/stuff sack – Not Used
SOL reflective bivy - not used
Tyvek Ground Sheet - Used
MSR Ground Hog Stakes - Used
3mm Reflective Cordage - Various Lengths – Used

Sleep System
Sea to Summit e-vent compression dry bag - Used
Kifaru 0 degree side zip – Used
Therm-a-rest Neoair Xtherm Large - Used
Therm-a-rest Z Pad - Used
Small Sea to Summit e-vent stuffed with clothing as a pillow

Vortex Talon HD 8x42 Binoculars - Used
Vortex Ranger 1000 Rangefinder – Used

Outdoor Research Ultralight Drysack - 5L - Used
Delorme PN-30 GPS w/ 2 AA batteries - Used
Samsung Note 3 w/ 2 spare batteries - Used
Sony A5100 w/18-55mm, a 55-200mm, and a 16F28 f/2.8 WA,3 xtra batteries- Used
Sony RX100 3 xtra batteries- used
9000mAh battery pack - used

Tikka T3 7mm Rem Mag, Vortex Viper HS2.5-10x44 - Used
Rifle Sling - Used
Rifle Scabbard - Used

162 gr. Hornady SST .284 (7mm Rem Mag) (30 Rounds) – Used (2 Rounds)

Tops Cuma Tak Ri 3.5 - Used (removed the antler skull plates on both caribou)
MP Knives Original Otzi
Opinel filet knife
SAK Huntsman
Pacemaker Expedition Poles – Used

Kill Kit
T.A.G. Bags - Used
Sea to summit large eVent compression dry bags - Used
Havalon Piranta-Edge Knife - Used
Kifaru Meat Baggie - Used
25 ft. Orange 550 cord – Used
Latex Gloves – Used
Tyvek sheet 5x7 - used

Kifaru Ultralight Medium Pullout - Used
Petzl Tikka XP Headlamp - Used
Petzl E+Lite Headlamp – Used
fire steel - used
Exotac Matchcap XL w/Matches - not used
Sea to Summit Head Net - Used
Alpin Compass – Used
Blistex - Used
One Wipe Charlies - Used
Warrior Wipes - Used
Tums - Used
Shemagh - used
Toothbrush - Used
Toothpaste - Used

First Lite Red Desert Boxers (2) - Used
First Lite Chama Qz - Used
First Lite Allegheny Bottom – Used
First Lite Kanabs - used
Kryptek Merino top - used
Kryptek merino bottom - used
Kryptek Alaios Pants - Used
Kryptek Aquillo - Used
Kryptek Zeus Gloves - used
  Kerri (Lucky 1 2) LRRP Hat - Used
Sea to Summit eVent - 3L - Used
Wool beanie made by my wife - Used
Sitka beanie - Used
Lorpen Heavy Weight Merino Wool Socks - Used
Kenetrek Mountain Extreme Uninsulated Boots - Used
Outdoor Research Crocodile Gaiters - Used
Wiggy's Waders - Used
Kuiu Belt - Used

Rain Gear
Kryptek Koldo Rain Jacket - Used
Kryptek Poseidon Pants – Used

First Aid Kit
Customized Personal FAK – Used

Water/Cook Kit
Kifaru small Pullout - Used
MSR 4L Gravity Works Filter - Used
Nalgene Bottle - Used
Heavy Cove Ti canteen & cup - Used
Saywer Mini Water Filter w/Squeeze bag – Used
MSR Pocket Rocket - Used
MSR 8 oz. fuel canister (2) - Used
Eagle 1.5l kettle - Used
Alpine Fry bake - Used
Optimus Titanium Long Spoon - Used
McNETT Tactical 30x50 microfiber towel – Used

Mini Reviews:

Kifaru Megatarp- Single best shelter set up I've used. During buggy weather the addition of the 1.5 net tent makes the set up very comfortable, colder weather with the annex and a small stove makes it four season capable.

First Lite Base Layers – Of the big four or five companies who make merino base layers I believe FL to be the best, I've used nearly all of them.

Kryptek Apparel – The rain gear combo of Koldo Jacket & Posedion pants were stand outs. I knew they were good going in as I'd been using the set up for nearly a year but I hadn't used them virtually continuously over several days. They worked very well, breathed enough, broke the wind, kept me dry and worked like armor in the willows. The pocket layout on the Koldo is superb, roomy enough and placed correctly. Outstanding combination.

Wiggy’s Waders – My thoughts are the same as Throc's, I was suprised at the durability and lightweight, very good value for what you're getting.

HPG Original Kit Bag – What else needs to be said? Still working wonders when you want to carry some micelaneous items plus your glass. I also use it as a 'grazing bag', blue berries were every where, I'd also opened a zip lock back of trail mix in a pocket, grab blue berries and a handful of trail mix and graze while hiking.

Alpine Fry Bake - Hard to get excited about a pan but I am about this one. Non stick, fairly lightweight, I often cooked my Mountain House in this pan instead of the bag. Mixes better, less clumps, just put the MH in the pan, add the hot water and put the lid on it. I placed the pan on top of my still hot kettle and then covered it with a HPG 25cm bag to insulate. Also used that method to cook some 7 grain cereal with some fresh blueberries. I cooked my grayling in the same pan.

Tenkara Rig - I used the Yamame though I also had a Iwanna with me. The Tcreel and Ebira are from thomdarrah and worked wonderfully well. All in I caught perhaps 6 or 8 grayling of varying sizes and ate one of them. I am the first to admit that having been a fly fisherman my whole life I have not adapted well to Tenkara. I am so used to managing line and rod, not just rod that I find myself trying to figure out something to do with my left hand. I'm working on breaking a lifetime of fly fishing habits, while there are some similarites the two are not the same and sometimes I feel like 50% of the equation is missing with Tenkara. I continue to work with it and the fall trout seasons are when I hope to finally find my Tenkara 'magic moment'.

Vortex Talon HD 8x42 - They did not disappoint, clarity, low light use, field of view, all around great glass that did everything I asked of them.

27 September 2015

Quick, Cheap, & Lightweight Comfort Improvement for a Frost River Isle Royale Mini

Isle Royale Mini

Previously I posted about adding a Frost River Isle Royale Jr to a ALICE pack and because I've seen several posts about making these packs more comfortable with weight over longer distances Ill add my most recent improvement, specific this time to a Isle Royale Mini.

Note in the image below that the shape of the back of the pack appears 'odd'? Almost looks like the back of one of those old Swiss Rucksacks...

That's because there is a internal frame of sorts.

This is a $7 'tree back' found in most hunting type stores, on line etc etc. It's intended to be strapped to a tree, you lean against it and makes pretty much any tree super comfortable. Well it also fits near perfectly in a Isle Royale Mini, with it in the pack the pack hugs your back and with the straps adjusted correctly the pack pulls into the shape of your back and sort of 'rides' on your lower back, some of the weight there and some on your shoulders.

Note the vertical bands with the cross webbing? With the stuff in your pack pressing against this area it provides quite a bit of comfort against your back.

With it inserted in the pack.

For about $7 or less depending on where you pick it up, it is a very light weight option to dramatically improving the fit and ride of a Mini!

21 September 2015

Archery Opener- Father & Son Up The River Weekend

Minnesota archery season opened on Saturday the 19th so second son and I hiked up the river to our favorite camping spot. We only had Saturday to hunt as we had a lot of things to get done on Sunday. It's early too so as much as we like to bowhunt neither of us wants to really end a season on the first day. Sometimes it is enough to just be in the greedwood, bow in hand and walking the mountainsides.

The path down to the river is worn away, the river sees a lot of hikers and fishermen through the summer. Come the fall though we usually have the place to ourselves, post snow and freeze I've never encountered another person in that area. Counting the days till winter!

Son snapped this pic as I started down the trail. We were wearing our hip boots with our hunting boots strapped to our packs as the crossing is upper thigh deep in some places.

If the area looks familiar it is because it is the same one we spent three days on last year, much later in the season. Back then we packed in our big tent and wood stove as it was cold enough to need it. This early in the year we had lows only in the high 40s with highs in the 50s.

I loaned my Kifaru 7k Highcamp on a duplex frame to the son for the trip. He's between packs and trying out much of his dad's collection, looking for something to trip his trigger. I think all he has accomplished is to have contracted my 'needanotherpack syndrome',  a condition for which there is apparently no known cure.

My pack was a Kifaru Late Season with some large pockets on either side, a medium in the center, a medium on the top and a dock and lock on the bottom. This was a trial run for this pack and set up. The pack is listed as 3400ci, with the pockets and the dock and lock I'm guessing it's around 5200ci. 

He's taken to using a page out of my playbook. A GSX tent under a BCUSA 10x10 tarp. A configuration I used several times and found super functional and comfortable. Plenty of ventilation, excellent weather and bug protection, gear storage area. It's a economical yet very functional set up.

I was using what I now believe to be one of the top five pieces of gear that I have ever owned. A Kifaru Megatarp which has quite simply become the end all be all 'Taj Ma Hut' for yours truly. Winter, summer, Alaska to the high desert, river bottom to mountain side this has served me so well that I think it's probably as close to perfect for me as I'll ever find. While I have the annex and I also use the Bear Paw Net Tent 1.5 I used neither on this trip and simply left the front end open.

Once we had camp set my son set about getting a bag of water and I fiddled around and got my stove and food ready for dinner. Simple affair, Mountain Hause as usual. This MSR gravity fed water filter is now on its fifth year of use and still going strong!

We crashed not long after dark, excited to chase deer in the morning I well if sporadically. When I woke at 0500 I set about coffee and breakfast in the red light of my headlamp. While I carry a larger headlamp (Petzl Tikka RXP reactive which won my headlamp war last winter) I've been carrying a Petzl e+Lite within my sleep kit. It's perfect for inside the shelter use, has multiple outputs including red lamp and weighs pretty much nothing. I consider it a mandatory piece of kit.

With Breakfast done we wished each other good luck and headed out in separate directions. I no longer worry about him being off on his own. He's quite competent and has shown the ability to make good decisions in the wild, a competent if young woodsman who probably enjoys being on his own these days more than me being over his shoulder.

I enjoyed my time in the woods, more loafing than any serious hunting. Watching wildlife do their thing and learning what I could. We spend the day doing our own thing, while deer were spied no arrow left the string with lethal intent. It was enough to walk the game trails, ghost the timber, spy the beaver and wonder at the majesty of the wild.

Our hike out was uneventful and without much talking, neither had the desire to shatter the silence with what would likely have been meaningless words. It was enough to share the space so to speak.

Sometimes there is no need to talk, this was one of them.

14 September 2015

Unna àksu from Karesuando Kniven

 Unna àksu is Sami for Small axe. When I first saw this axe on Jonas Vildmark's blog I was impressed with his take on it and saw there could be a use for such a small axe, beyond the obvious cool factor!

Karesuando Kniven has been making knives, from what I could gather, for about forty years. They are located about 155 miles north of the arctic circle, Sweden's northernmost 'Church Village'. I've handled a few of their knives and found them user friendly and beautiful.

As I am often drawn to the unusual, this small axe was no exception. It took some time for me to run one to ground as it seems they were in short supply, at least in the states. I knew I wanted to try one the first time I saw the axe.

The first time I saw the axe and I was immediately taken by the beauty of the piece and the materials used in its creation. I love birch, add bone and antler and I am in, put it in such a user friendly size and I am all over it!

Manufacturer: Karesuandokniven AB, Sweden
Model: Unna áksu 
Steel: Stainless tool steel hardened to HRC 54
Length of axe's head: 4.1 inches
Thickness of axe's head: 3/4"
Edge length: 2 3/4"
Handle material: Moose bone, Reindeer antlers and curly birch
Total length: 8.85" mm
Weight (without sheath): a little over 11 ounces
Sheath: thick black cowhide

I was finally able to secure one and when it arrived in its gift box I wasn't disappointed. Craftsmanship was on par with other Scandinavian type knives and axes I've had the chance to lay hands on. Hair popping sharp out of the box. There did appear to me the slightest of twists from the edge to the poll, while I don't think it was on purpose it may have been. I've seen axes built for right and left hand use before, the twist is so light I couldn't get it to show very well in the images but it is there.

I couldn't get over just how little this small axe weighed. Advertised at 317 grams, slightly over 11 ounces, I'm not sure it's that heavy! I spent a few hours with it in the woodshed, some chopping, some kindling making, some shavings and feather stick fun ensued.

It also makes a fine companion to my River Bottom Blades 'Guide'.

I foresee use in this little axe's future, so far I've got nothing but good things to say about it. More to come as I get to use it this fall and winter!