Thursday, December 5, 2013

Bushcraft Basics; starting out

Bushcrafting can be a lot of fun. It gets you out into the woods with minimal equipment, and thereby minimizes your connection to the rest of society. It gives you a feeling that cannot be replicated. But your visit to the woods can easily turn into a nightmare that could kill you as well. If you are not able to be comfortable with minimal equipment and little to no support from the outside world, you are starting off on the wrong foot.

That said, my advice to you is that you learn about the outdoors by storing out with what you know, and can in fact feel comfortable and go from there. Dependent upon where you are going, and the weather you expect to encounter your needs will vary, and you should build upon your experiences to develop your Bushcrafting kit, or bag of goodies. It needn’t be complicated, and as the months roll by you’ll find your kit changing as you gain new knowledge and develop new skills.

But there are some basics that everyone should have. These basics should at the very least cover your prime needs of safety, water and food. In my preparedness planning, I call this the SaWaFo pyramid. Safety, water, and food. You cannot survive without these three elements, whether you live in Manhattan or the middle of the backwoods of Maine. They are absolute essentials.

To address the concerns of how to carry and obtain all of the things you might need to assure you can seem like an indomitable task, but really, you don’t need half as much as some of the gurus claim you need. There are, however, some essential tools that can carry you through to the end of your trip without mishap.

The most important tool you need is knowledge. The more knowledge you have, the less you need to rely on external instruments to fulfill your needs. It is as simple as that. But this is something you’ll have to learn along the way.

To get into the physical part of your tool collection, you’ll find that there really isn’t very much needed along those lines, provided you have the knowledge needed to utilize what you have at hand, and require the minimal amount of tools required to get the job done. This list can be longer or shorter, dependent upon many factors, but here I am just going to address the minimalist list, as these are the things you will always need.

One of the tools you will need is a good knife. The exact type you get is not really all that important, but I would suggest you carry at least two different types with you. One would be a belt or sheath knife, and the other would be a smaller folding type of knife. Along with the knife, carry a small Arkansas stone or other tool for sharpening the edge. While it is true that you can sharpen a blade on many types of rocks, you may find yourself in an area with few if any of those rocks easily available. However, if you have a stone in your pocket, there is no need to waste time and energy looking for one.

The second tool you will need is something to start a fire with. I’m talking about something beyond a box of strike any where matches here. You should have a kit with a ferro rod, a striker and some tinder. We’ll get into these items more in depth in a later post, by the way. Again, this little kit shouldn’t weigh much, and it is a lot more reliable than a box of matches that most likely will not work if you fall into a stream or you are caught in a deluge.

You should also have some cordage with you, and for that, I usually carry a 50’length of paracord. Of course, the main reason for the cordage in shelter construction, and for that, I tend to take along a couple of 5 X 7 nylon tarps, with which I can make a shelter for any type of weather. Again, more on that later.

A container for cooking, as well as collecting water is also needed, and that about sums up the raw basic list of what you need. You’ll notice I emphasized the word raw here. That’s because it is very basic, and I do intend to go into more depth about all of this as time goes by.

One other very important tool you should carry is a compass. This tool may not keep you from getting turned around, but it will help you get back on a straight line when you do wander off of it. of course, if you learn to use it properly, it will help keep you from getting turned around. But that is another lengthy discussion for later on as well.

I have subtitled this post starting out because it is a starting point for bigger and better things to come. Those of you that are old hands may be bored with it, but for those new to the idea of Bushcrafting, it can be a learning experience they may not be able to get anywhere else.

Remember, tool one for your pack is knowledge. Keep it sharp and it will never let you down.

Until next time, see you in the woods!

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Bushcraft Cutlery

Cutlery for your bushcrafting adventure is really no different than cutlery for your bug out bag is. You need to make the same decisions, based upon your needs and skill sets that you have learned for both tasks. I have included an older video I made called "Cutlery For Your Bug Out Bag" here for a couple of reasons.

For one, I still carry some of the same blades as I suggested in this video, and for another reason, I wanted to show you that it is OK to make changes as time goes by. Generally, we ant to learn to stick with what works. However, sometimes we need to make a change. As our skills develop and expand, we find that we can make do without something, and we also find that maybe there is something new we can't do without.

That said, I have indeed made some changes in my usually carried blades. I still use my True Temper hatchet, the machete, the SOG multi-tool, and the hobo tool fer eatin" grub. I also still carry the faux bone handled Stag Hunter belt knife. The big change I made was that I omitted the folders in exchange for a Leatherman C33 folder with a black bolster. One of the good things about this knife is that it has a bottle opener that folds out. very valuable tool to have, especially after a hot day out in the woods.

This knife isn't quite so good at gutting fish as the slender little stainless job in the video, but all around, the Leatherman C33 is a great little pocket buddy, and the clip is better than many folders sport today.

Enjoy the video, and remember, it is OK to make changes!

Monday, November 25, 2013

Foraging in the Bush

One of the prime considerations for human existence is the procurement of the food necessary for survival, as well as for everyday living. We all eat, butit surprises me as to how many people out there will go to great lengths to overload their packs with foodstuffs when heading out into the woods for an adventure. This probably is not such a big deal for a day hike, or even for an overnighter, but what if you are planning to go out for a week or more.

Food means poundage, and poundage can be ones worst enemy after toting a heavy pack through the woods. When I go out, I try to carry the least amount of equipment with me. Since I go out with the intent of making videos, poundage means a lot. My camera equipment alone weighs about twenty pounds, so you can see why I like to economize as much as possible when it comes to weight. I can go for several days with just a forty pound pack, not including water.

Therefore, it is in your best interest to learn about the plants that are in the area you are going to, and learn which ones can be used to provide needed nourishment along the way. There are a lot of good books on the market that can help you to learn what is and is not edible. Some of them even have recipes along with the descriptions to give you an idea of how to prepare them. If you have never foraged for food before, I suggest you get a couple and study them thoroughly. Then pack them along so you can make positive identifications. Some edible plants closely resemble poisonous plants, so you need to be 100% certain of what you are picking. Remember, if you get sick from eating poisonous plants, you likely will not recover, especially if you are alone on your journey.

You’ll want to make sure you have a small knife, such as a pocket folder with a very sharp edge and a bag to collect your find in. I use a commonly available shopping bag that I fitted an adjustable strap to the handles. It is made of soft nylon. And folds into a bundle small enough to easily carry in a cargo pocket on my shorts, or stows easily in my pack. These bags will hold several days worth of food, although I never pick more than enough for a meal or two. The way it is made also means it won’t have a tendency to crush whatever is inside it as well.

Come springtime, when the foliage starts to grow, I’ll be doing some posts and videos on harvesting your meals on the go, but until then, pick up some books and study for next season.

Welcome to the Maine Bushcrafter Blog..

Hey folks, welcome to my new blog! I'll be talking and sharing things about getting out in the woods of Maine and beyond, as well as some of my observations regarding the impossible phenomenon commonly referred to as Bigfoot. My video series, Into the Woods, with Dan the Bigfoot man will be shared here as well. Sit back,grab a Sam Adams, or whatever, and enjoy the woods of Maine!