Tuesday, February 7, 2017

The 5 C's of Survival 
Gear Selection and a Day Trip to Siamese Ponds Wilderness - Adirondacks

Whenever trekking into the Wilderness or even a local hiking/adventure spot there are certain items you should always carry with you. Dave Canterbury from Pathfinder School has deemed these the 5 C's of Survival. Anything can and will happen when you are out in the wilds. As the Boy Scouts say "Be Prepared". The 5 C's are the basic few items a knowledgeable person could use to stay in the wilds indefinitely and are what we are going to cover in this article. The 10 C's expand on the basic kit to make things a little more comfortable and easier which we will cover at a later time. 

There are many options out there for gear. A plethora of companies are flooding the market with what they call the latest and greatest gear. Some of it will work, some of it will work better, and some of it is crap. When choosing gear it is important to think in terms of multi use. This will lighten your load and make packing things a lot easier. For example - A 32oz Stainless Steel Water bottle vs a 32oz Nalgene Bottle. What does a plastic Nalgene Bottle do? Carries Water, snacks and small supplies without BPA's. Ok, great! What does a Stainless Steel Water Bottle do? Carries water/supplies without BPA's,  boil water in it to disinfect, cook meals in it, make char cloth, crush nuts with it...etc. Nalgene bottles don't do well in fire or when cracking open a walnut. Get the picture? Their are many genres of gear available. Modern Outdoor Gear,  Bushcraft Gear, Tactical Gear, Traditional Gear and so on. A lot of your choices are going to boil down to personal preference and what appeals to you. 

Ever hear of Murphy's Law? Well, Murphy and I are old friends. What can happen, will happen, at the least convenient time. Recently, I went on a day hike to Siamese Ponds Wilderness in the Adirondack Park. My friend and I hiked a couple miles deep into the forest through 1ft+ deep of snow. It was 25 Degrees with a light snow falling. We were both wearing snowshoes as we hiked. At one point rather early into the hike I fell victim to a dreaded Adirondack spruce trap. This is an area where either young Spruce trees or branches from larger Spruce trees are buried beneath the snow. It creates a pocket that when stepped on collapses and swallows you whole. They are even more deadly in really deep snow, especially when hiking by yourself. You might not be able to get yourself out without help. 

 I didn't think much of it at the time. We both had a laugh, I dug myself out and we continued on. Not too long after, I felt a small but sharp pain in my hip area. It slowly worsened until we found a nice spot to setup a fire, cook lunch and relax. I didn't have to move far in our little camp so I didn't really notice the pain in my hip anymore. My buddy prepped the grub and I processed the firewood.

We had an amazing meal of Venison, Potatoes, Onions, Carrots, homemade bannock and coffee. And saw some really great scenery.

We said our prayer, ate our meal and relaxed for a bit. By God's grace I have been blessed by a pretty amazing internal clock. At a certain point I looked over to my buddy who was recording some video for his YouTube Channel. Knowingly, I asked him if it was 3:30pm. He confirmed it was. We then packed up for the couple mile hike out. We had set up 100 yards or so off of the main trail. By the time we hit the trail I had felt that nagging pain in my hip reappear. It didn't take long before it was excruciating to walk. Standing still wasn't bad, but, when I tried to lift my right leg to walk it was all but unbearable. I'm of Irish and Swedish decent. Inherently, I am a tough and very stubborn individual. I fought through the trek back to the truck having to stop about every 20 paces or so. If I would have had to walk 100 yards more than 2 miles to get to said truck I would have most certainly collapsed. Thankfully my buddy took my haversack from me, much to my chagrin I might add, but it did help a bit. I had the 5C's + of survival with me. Both of us were confident if I couldn't make it back that I would be ok until my buddy could go get help. Here is the kit I was carrying.

1. Cover - Cover from the elements is priority one as far as I and most people in the survival realm are concerned. One thing I hear a lot is " I'm just going on a day hike, I'm not going to carry a tent with me, it's too heavy.". Fair enough, I would agree that a tent might be too cumbersome to carry on a day hike. The lighter, easier to pack options would be a small Tarp or Bivy Sack. You can go from mild to wild depending on your budget. Tarp's are a great multi use item. especially the one pictured below. Besides creating shelter you can use them as a makeshift backpack/carrying sack, water collection device, signaling device or my friend and I could have used it as a drag to get my hurt leg self out of the woods. This is the one I carry in my kit during winter months Grabber All Weather Blanket/Tarp. For your viewing pleasure here is a YouTube video I made about using one for a shelter. YouTube video.

2. Combustion - Fire is life. In order to survive for any given period you need to have fire. Obvious reasons being to stay warm, keep predators at bay or cook food/boil water. The secondary benefits are to keep your mind occupied while tending the fire as it makes a great companion. To affect fire you need spark/friction, fuel and oxygen. In higher elevations oxygen is a premium. If at all possible move to a lower elevation. If that's not possible you are going to want make sure to carry pocket hand/toe warmers and a space blanket like the ones seen in the kit pictures above. Most of us are adventuring in the lower elevations most of the time so we only need to think about Spark/Friction and Fuel. Spark and Friction can be achieved many different ways. You should always carry a backup for your backup in this case. Redundant sentence? That was the point. Modern cigarette lighters will work just fine in most cases to affect flame. Even though they might be considered blasphemous among the hardcore bushcraft and survival folk. Should they get wet, too cold or run out of fuel...no fire for you. You should always carry a Ferrocerium Rod (Ferro Rod or Fire Steel) and a striker. They come in all sorts of shapes and sizes. From simple to custom like the Fire Steel I made, seen here. I use the spine of the knife to strike a spark across the rod.You could also use a steel striker that comes with most readily available ferro rods. If you are feeling squirrely you can go really old school with flint and steel shown below.  

In the above pictures are great examples of natural tinders that you can use for your base fuel to build a fire. There are also many sure fire tinders that are commercially available. A book could be written on tinder alone. You can probably take a class in your local area like the ones we will be giving at our store location to get familiar with natural and man made tinders and fire craft. Here in the Northeast a couple really good places to go and learn about natural tinder among a whole lot of other bushcraft and survival skills are Raven Wilderness School in Mass. and Roots School in Vermont. Another really great resource no matter where you are in the world is the online forum for BushcraftUSA.

3. Cutting - If you spend any amount of time in the wilds you are going to need a knife. You can accomplish a gargantuan amount of tasks with the right knife. Cutting cordage, processing food, processing firewood, carving wooden tools/camp implements or getting a splinter out of your finger to name a few. You don't want to cheap out on this one. The right knife will hold an edge with minimal maintenance and serve you and your descendents well for years to come. I always suggest a fixed blade knife over a folding knife as your primary tool. As a mechanic by trade I know all too well of the failure potential of moving parts. I'm not saying you shouldn't carry a folding knife or multi-tool as they can serve their purposes well. A fixed blade is more rugged and less prone to breakage under hard use. Great examples are the offerings from Morakniv.  

4. Container - Two types of containers are essential. One to carry gear and one to carry life giving water among other things. A quality backpack will last a lifetime. This also runs into the personal preference realm of things and what your intentions for the adventure are. Their are Fanny packs all the way up to 75L monstrosities. I generally carry a backpack and a haversack. The haversack I have is made by Malcolm at The Hidden Woodsmen. My backpack varies and is always one that we sell in our store. I keep bulky items like sleeping gear, extra clothes, food and cooking equipment in the backpack. All of my Go To Items are placed in the haversack that conveniently hangs at my side at waist level for easy access. 

There is a lot of style factor to consider when choosing the right pack for you. However, you want to make sure it is going to be comfortable to carry and rugged so you don't end up using your tarp to carry your gear. Here you can find some examples of different packs in the traditional, tactical and hunting world. A waxed canvas bag like the ones we sell from Frost River have the added benefit of excellent waterproofness. They can be used as a large water container for either bathing or washing gear at camp. There are a bazillion options in packs so chose what works best for you. 

We spoke a little bit about water containers at the beginning of the article. To me the best option is Stainless Steel and I believe Dave Canterbury would agree seeing as we sell his Stainless Steel Cooking sets in our store location.. Rugged, food grade and multi-use. Note!!!! I am talking about Single Wall stainless steel bottles. This is very important. Yes, it is a nice convenience to be able to keep liquids or foods hot or cold for extended amounts of time using a double wall vacuum bottle. The major downfall there is the possibility of turning your container into a shrapnel bomb by placing it in the fire. Heat makes air expand. In a sealed space this is no good. Here is pic of a single wall stainless steel bottle in action.

 5. Cordage - We can talk for hours about the uses of cordage and how you can make it from different plants and such from the wilds. There are far too many uses to list. To keep it simple I'm going to talk about two primary types that are most popular to carry in your pack for general use. Paracord is exactly that. It was designed for use in the sport of parachuting. Most commonly comprised of an outer nylon sheath with numerous smaller strands of string inside for strength. The more strands the stronger the cord. The most common is 550 Paracord. The 550 means that it can handle up to 550LBs of breaking force. It is very strong for a small diameter cord. The advantage of paracord lies in the strands hidden by the outer nylon sheath. You can cut open the sheath and pull out the inner strands to use for smaller tasks like making fishing line or repairing clothing and packs if need be. The other very useful and somewhat forgotten type of cordage is what we call Bank Line. It is a braided or twisted, tarred nylon twine. It was primarily made for Marine use. This stuff excels in not only making nets but many different lashing objectives as well. It is strong, tough and weather resistant. I carry both types of cordage in my pack for redundancy and options when needed. Here you can find both Paracord and Bankline

The 5 C's are the basic items needed for survival, whether it is an overnight scenario or extended stay in the wilderness. Sure, you can make stone tools, "rub sticks together" to create a friction fire or use natural materials to make containers, shelter and cordage. In a short term survival situation you need the 5C's and you need them right now. Like the saying goes, it's best to have them and not need them, than need them and not have them. I hope you enjoyed this article. We have lots of these products available in our online store and even more available at our physical store location in Clifton Park, NY. Thank you for reading.

 Happy Adventures! 
-D.H. Peterson, Vice President of Wilderness, Water and Woods Trading.

Friday, January 13, 2017

Wilderness Village @ Raven Wilderness School
Raven Wilderness School
Earthwork Programs

Last Weekend I had the opportunity to head out to Williamsburg, Massachusetts to visit Jeff Hatch who is the owner and lead instructor at Raven Wilderness School. As a bonus I also met a gentleman by the name of Frank Grindrod who runs Earthwork Programs and helps Jeff out at the school. Two of their students ( T.J. and Jim) were also there and we all quickly became friends. I had met Mr. Hatch at Roots School in Corinth, Vermont last fall during the Roots Rendezvous. Since then we have kept in touch through Instagram. I had been wanting to check out his operation and especially the primitive camp he had setup. I waited for the perfect weather... 5 Degrees Fahrenheit, Wind and Snow.   
Jeff Hatch Chopping Wood w/Double Bit - Photo Credit T.J. Loughlin

As I drove from the Capital Region of NY into the Berkshires of Mass. the weather changed dramatically. The higher elevation produced colder air and the snow started falling. By the time I reached the camp a couple inches of fresh snow blanketed the roads and woods. Jeff greeted me at the entrance to the dirt road that lead back to the camp in his Jeep Cherokee. The beast had a 6" Suspension Lift, 33" Mud Terrain Tires and an Old Town Canoe Strapped to the roof. Luckily I drive a 4X4 Tacoma, although not as pimped out as Jeff's Jeep, I was still able to follow him down the snowy road into the pines towards the camp. I was in Heaven!  

Jeff's Beast
Once at the parking area we had to cross the west branch of the White River on foot by way of an old covered foot bridge. It was big and sturdy enough to where you could cross the bridge with an ATV if you so chose. A quick walk through the tall pines revealed the camp. The ambiance was amazing. From the distance you could see the warm glow of the camp fire through the falling snow. Upon entering the camp there was eggs cooked with tomatoes, potatoes with bacon and of course baked beans on the side that had just finished cooking on the fire. Perfect timing, It was about 4pm and my stomach was devouring itself because I had not yet eaten that day.

After wolfing down our delicious grub we quickly got to work collecting firewood for the long cold night ahead. They already had a good stockpile going we just need a few extra big ass logs (that is a technical bushcraft term) to keep the long fire going through the night. TJ and Jeff did the hacking with Axe and Saw while I carried the cuts back to camp. Yay for Teamwork! Once we had a sufficient pile of dry and ready to burn wood we headed back to the camp.
One of  Several Big Ass Logs

Jeff had forewarned me that he had obligatory date night plans with his wife and wouldn't be able to stay long after dark. Happy wife, happy life, right? He said goodbye with confidence that we had it under control and he dissapeared into the darkness. At this point it was T.J., Jim and I. I didn't meet Frank until the next day. We finished setting up our sleeping quarters in the leantos of the camp. After we were squared away we settled around the fire. Just like for eons before us the stories started to flow as the warmth and glow of the fire consumed us. We talked for hours and had really awesome conversations. T.J and Jim were good company. 

Right before bed time I cooked up some Ramen Noodles in my Pathfinder Stainless Steel Cooking Pot on the Pathfinder Alcohol Stove. When it is cold outside it is always good to eat a small meal right before you go to sleep. It helps to keep you warm while your body is working to digest the food throughout the night. My sleeping setup included the Grabber All Weather Blanket set up as a heat reflector on the back side of the Leanto, a Reflectix Mat for further heat reflection and cushioning, ALPS Mountaineering 0 Degree Sleeping Bag, a mylar sleeping bag liner and a Wool Blanket as a fire retardant to keep any rogue embers from burning a hole in my sleeping bag. I slept snug as a bug in a rug.

My Sleeping Setup

Ramen - Which I have since found out is really, really bad for you...
Around 4am I heard T.J. rustling around so I peaked my head out and saw the fire had all but burned out. Both T.J. and I got out of our sleeping setups. T.J gathered more kindling as I split wood into smaller pieces by batoning with my Mora Garberg . Once we had enough kindling it was easy to get the fire going again. T.J. blew on the embers a couple times and we had flame. We built the fire back up, threw a couple more big ass logs on and climbed back into our beds. Several hours later I woke to the sound of Jeff's voice as he returned back to camp. He was smiling so I am assumed he had a good night with the wife as we slept out in the frozen wilderness.
Boiling Water for Coffee and Washing

We built a small fire back up, boiled some water for coffee and washing up and chatted for a bit. They invited me to go to a Tracking Class that Frank Grindrod was holding at a local conservation area. I gladly accepted so we broke camp and headed out. On the way to the conservation area we stopped at a local eatery and grabbed some awesome breakfast. We arrived at the spot and I was introduced to Frank who was there with around 15 people that were there to also take the class. As Frank gave the welcoming speech I knew it was going to be a good class. Frank was a very good speaker and I could tell right away he knew his stuff. The first stop along the way was at a beaver lodge where we discussed the life of the beaver in winter and how the conservation group had worked so hard to get beavers to thrive and survive in the pond on site. Frank shared a funny story about a close encounter with a beaver he had and then we moved on deeper into the woods. The next couple hours we spent tracking a red fox, whitetail deer and porcupines. All the while discussing how to differentiate the tracks and decipher what the animals were doing as they left the track. It was very informative and Frank was on point.
Frank Grindrod - Photo Credit T.J. Loughlin
Red Fox Track - Photo Credit T.J. Loughlin

As the class was wrapping up Jeff and I invited Frank to meet us back at the camp. I was going to video record an interview with Jeff and thought it would be fun to have Frank join us. Jeff and I left and stopped at the same eatery as earlier, this time for a couple slices of Pizza. It wasn't NY pizza but it was still good.

Jeff and I arrived back at camp, gathered more kindling and made our way back to the fire ring. After we broke up and sorted the kindling, Jeff pulled some Tinder he had collected from around the area out of his Frost River haversack. He then whipped out his knife and Ferro rod, like the pro that he is with a couple sparks we had a fire going again. Just as we got the fire going Frank appeared through the pines and joined us. As the light was fading I set up the camera and we settled by the fire. We filmed a great sequence talking about what Frank does and then moved to some other really great conversation. At the end of the sequence that is when the Camera died...Cold and electronics do not mix so well. My intentions were to interview Jeff and talk more about his school. Nonetheless it was some great content. Stay tuned for the Youtube video that will be coming this weekend. It was getting late and I had to head out on the couple hour journey home. Jeff and I agreed that we would meet up again to finish the interview. Whether I go back out there or I take him on an adventure in my home turf the Adirondack Mountains we will get it done, soon.   

All in all it was an excellent trip and adventure. Meeting Frank, T.J. and Jim was a true honor and I now consider them friends and an extension of my bushcraft and survival family. I hope they feel the same. Jeff and I will get to finish the interview and perhaps do a little more skill orientated video in the very near future. Huge thank you to Jeff Hatch from Raven Wilderness School for the hospitality. Make sure you check out his school and website linked above. I assure you it is well worth the trip.

Like mentioned I will be posting a YouTube video of the adventure very soon! I will include some great footage and pics that I didn't post here. Please subscribe to my Youtube Channel so you can be alerted when the video is posted! Thank you!
T.J. - Locklainn on Instagram
Jim - jims.outdoorz on Instagram