24 December 2018

Of Hares, knives, and Chaga

I haven't been procrastinating, I've just been doing other stuff, I thought to myself as I stitched the rabbit furs together in the loose form of mittens. This was the second and final pair, they are to be gifts for my daughters on Christmas, tomorrow.

As I was rounding the bend on the last curve, using a locking stitch, I heard the mail truck pull up outside. The dogs were sounding the alarm as usual. I came back inside with several boxes, one of which went to the top of the list for opening.

A pair of the newest Bushcraft USA knives. I'd ordered two as I wanted one for myself and I intend to give the other one away on the BCUSA forums. They set the rabbit fur mitts off, don't you think?

With the mitts done and itching to go outside I shouldered a new hybrid pack and frame I put together from an Alaskan Guide Frame and a Bundeswehr Rucksack. I'll do a write up in the future on this rig, for now I just wanted to go for a walk, make a fire, and drink some tea.

I walked to an area where I've been cutting some fire wood. Good spot to have a fire and a sit. Before I started on the fire fixins I took some shots of the BCUSA knife that I am going to keep.

From the Bushcraft Outfitters listing for these knives:

The Bushcraft USA Knife is made by LT Wright for us. The steel is 1/8" O-1, which is my personal favorite. The grind is Scandinavian. The blade length is 3.75" with a overall length of 8.25" including the Micarta handle and exposed tang. The spine of the knife is ground to 90 degrees for striking a firesteel and smoothing wood. A brown leather dangler sheath with fire steel loop is included. Handle options include OD Green, Natural Canvas, and Black. These will be available in small batches.
I ordered the OD Green and the Natural On a Friday and received them on Monday, during the Christmas rush no less.

So I set about gathering some dead standing wood, some birch bark, some low spruce limbs that were dead. I did baton some of the dead standing stuff into smaller pieces. While the blade on the knife is sub 4" it had no problem with this task. One just needs to pick the right wood to work with.

Shaving and feather stick making were also a breeze and quite enjoyable. I had no hot spots with the handle, was able to make fairing fine feathers as seen below.

These are bushmen knives, they do not have the refinements of burled scales, liners, coke bottle shaped handles. They are just as sharp though, mine would shave arm hair out of the box, the spine has one of the sharpest 90s I've ever gotten on a knife. It's a working bushcraft knife from LT Wright, it's a serious knife packing some serious capability into a light and small package.

As per my favorite method of fine making I used the knife's fine edge to scrap up a porous, fibrous, patch of fine birch bark. One slow scrape of the ferro rod on the spine of the knife and viola, fire was had.

With that out of the way I dug my kettle out and added some water. These days I just leave a chunk of chaga in my kettle full time. One chunk about the size seen in the kettle will make multiple kettles of tea. Just add water and settle over the fire.

Obviously this is not a review, just some thoughts on the knife as I received it. Some additional notes, the sheath the knife comes with is perfectly serviceable and good quality leather with a fire steel loop and dangler, it is well stitched and again, high quality. That being said I wanted to try the knife in the sheath I use for my Skookum Bushtool. Pretty much a perfect fit.

Speaking of the Skookum, the two knives are similar in blade length and design, obviously the handles, for those who know skookums', are different. The BCUSA knife is lighter in weight by a few ounces at least.

I'll be back with a more comprehensive piece on the knife in the future. I can say right now, there's nothing wrong with it, it's a great design made by a fantastic knife maker, it's very robust, very sharp, and handles very well.

More to come, thanks to for taking a look.

12 December 2018

godaddy rant for piss poor customer service

I spent nearly 8 hours in some form of support chat or call yesterday. A ridiculous series of escalations because the tech support at godaddy couldn't figure out an issue I was having.

Over and over again they'd come to the same conclusions which typically was to blame squarespace for a hosting issue, never mind the fact that squarespace isn't the host, godaddy is, or was.

At one point they blamed propagation issues and told me to wait 72 hours and the issue would resolve itself. Really? Even though the site had been function fine for over a year now, and only that morning developed redirection issues, it must in fact be propagation problems.

So, eventually they said they would escalate my issue to advanced troubleshooting.

I got an email this morning, screen shot below.

When a company begins to determine their issues are solved because they lost a customer, how long before said company implodes?

So what should they have done besides being able to resolve the issue in the 8 hours I spent trying to get the issue resolved? Were I still employed in the positions I held before I retired I'd recommend setting up a customer save team that the technical support team pitches customer to, that have elected to transfer away after a failed attempt to correct a problem. Said save team reaches out to save the customer.

At least make the effort, because patting yourself on the back for losing a customer isn't going to keep you in business in the longer term.

08 December 2018

What's In Your Parka?

Living, working, playing in the depths of winter? By winter I don't mean anything north of zero Fahrenheit. The winter I'm referring to commonly has temperatures well below zero and wind chills in the significant double digits below zero. Skiing, snowmobiling, snowshoeing, hiking, or working for a living in extremely cold environments can put a person in a bad place if not properly prepared.

*While I do carry my main gear in my pack, it is possible to become separated from it. As a result I carry immediate need survival equipment in my parka pockets.

The Parka

Empire Canvas Works is the company that produces the parka (Permafrost Parka) I've been using for several years. They're also fellow denizens of Northern Minnesota, and they've been producing solid winter expedition quality gear for a long time. I've been very pleased with mine and have come to rely heavily upon it when I'm spending time outside in the depths of winter.

Before we get into the specifics of the gear let's cover a few important aspects of the parka itself. It's is the primary piece of kit within the system.

A parka in my mind isn't some huge bulky insulated single garment. That's a coat you wear to the mall. A parka for true winter use is a shell that breathes, keeping you from getting cold from perspiration. Blocks wind which is the single largest warmth robbing monster you'll have to deal with. Cold without wind is just cold, cold with wind is an ice demon hell bent on freezing your soul. It should have plenty of easily accessible and roomy pockets. It needs to be able to be cinched down, at the hem, at the waist, and around the hood.

Speaking of the hood, the fur ruff around the hood isn't merely for style points. Wind removes heat from your face by convection, and the faster it blows, the more heat it removes. When the wind hits a solid object, a boundary layer is created in front of the object, inside which the wind slows down. The larger the object, the thicker and more insulating the boundary layer.

In 2004, a research team from the universities of Michigan, Washington and Manitoba quantified this boundary layer effect using a heated model of a human head, thermocouples, a wind tunnel, and a variety of hoods. As expected, the most effective hood by far in slowing heat loss had a sunburst ruff. It was particularly superior to other hoods when the wind was blowing from the side.

Beneath each armpit on the parka there is a delrin loop, these are for cording your mittens off. I like being able to keep my mittens where I need them when my hands are not in them. I frequently remove my hands when nimble fingers are required and simply drop the mitten, it'll hang just below my waist via the dummy cord to the delrin loop.

What's in the pockets?

There's a lot going on in the image above, let's simplify by focusing on the four pockets. There are two chest pockets and two cargo pockets.

Top Right Pocket

 On the parka's upper right pocket there is a wool triangular cravat (15 Uses of a Triangular Bandage), under the cravat there is a Bushcraft Outfitter's Signal Panel. I cannot say enough good things about this thing. It's a signal panel, a bag, a pad, a pillow, scarf, fire prep pad, and tons of other uses. It weighs less than 4 ounces, is 29" square, the material is 70d waterproof ripstop nylon. Blaze on one side, multicam on the other..

Top Left Pocket

The other chest pocket holds my camera and or phone, and a pair of revision photochromic ballistic goggles. I prefer those over a dedicated pair of snowmobile or ski goggles. I also carry a small bottle of Ops Drops anti-fog and a cleaning cloth.

Lower Right Pocket

A red zippered bag made by Foxlite Gear holds some basic goodies. The bag slips easily in and out of the pocket, and there's room for more gear if I need to add to it.

Inside the bag I have what you see in the image above. A tin of caffinated chocolate, Scho-Ka-Kola, medicated chapstic, two cliff gel shots, each equals 100 calories. Couple packs of gum from an MRE along with the TP. a small compass, a Petzl e+Lite, a tin with a fire kit that includes hurricane matches and other goodies, a flannel handkerchief. Incidentally, do not by Scho-kakola from Amazon if you're looking for it. It's three times as expensive through Amazon as it is buying from Varusteleka. Seriously, $3.99 a tin vs $12.99 @ Amazon!

Important parts are energy and caloric.  Your body requires fuel to burn in order to make heat, surviving extreme cold on low energy and low or no calories is very difficult. Besides the calories, the caffeine in both the gel shots and the chocolate help keep me alert and energetic.

Lower Left Pocket

There is a white FoxLite Gear bag in this pocket that has a pre-built pocket 'Super Shelter'. If you're not sure what a Super Shelter is, it is the creation of one Mors Kochanski, one of the most well know Bushcraft and Survival instructors on earth. Author of Bushcraft: Outdoor Skills and Wilderness Survival. This particular version is a prebuilt shelter, it needs only a ridge-line in order to set it up. Here's a video showing the pocket super shelter in action, averaging a 50 degree increase in temperature over ambient outside temps.

Also in that pocket is a small pouch from Centerline Systems. Within it I have a titanium whistle, a Exotac Titan Light, a ferrocerium rod, a compass and a signal mirror. Also attached is a PSK blade.

I practice with this gear regularly, and some of it I use as a matter of course in my activities. There are a number of people who die every year while enjoying winter, some of them because they were not prepared for the unexpected. Snowmobiles break down, run out of fuel, getting lost happens, injuries occur, you might face a night or two before search and rescue locates you or you may be required to effect self rescue. Being prepared isn't hard or that expensive, however, the price for not being so may be the ultimate one.