Monday, December 31, 2012

Gear: #15 ULA Pack Revisited

I shot a supplement video to answer a couple questions about the ULA Circuit backpack. I still think it is a great pack and has met my needs for the last four months. I look forward to doing some more backpack camping soon.

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Bushclass: Charring Natural Material

This is one skill that can be quite useful if you have to deal with wet or less than ideal. By having a material that will readily catch a spark and smolder, it can increase the change that a secondary tinder will ignite. So for this class I used punk wood, which is wood that is slightly soft but not rotted out. There is a line between the two, but getting out in the woods will net you plenty of material. The Altoids tin proves its use time and time again. It was an easy process from start to finish. I encourage everyone to try this class out. This can also be done without the container by burying the material and covering it with coals for awhile. I have not tried this yet though.

The Handy Hammock

The Handy Hammock is a treeless hammock system that is lightweight and strong enough to hold someone up to 275 pounds.  The system is made in England and has just started to ship to the United States. I had the opportunity to check out the system and it is quite nice.  I have more adventures planned to feature the Handy Hammock system.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Adv: #20 Cold Weather Overnight

Did a quick overnight out at Cuivre River State Park with another member of the forums.  Lowest the temps got was 24 degrees.  I had a leaking hot water bottle followed by a failure of the zipper on my sleeping bag.  Needless to say it got a little cold at night.  But it was an experience and it taught me to get a new sleeping bag. As well as make better plans for the next trip.

BCUSA Intermediate Knots

Knots. They are a good thing to know. The intermediate bushclass for knots has 4 quite useful knots. A few of these I already knew but they are all good knots to know.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Bushclass USA Sew a Ditty Bag

The bushclass USA is always good for teaching or improving skills. I am fairly proficient at hand sewing from my days doing Medieval reenactment sew this class was not that hard to do. But I did get use my sail needle with paracord guts, which was something new.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Gear: # 13 Mors Bush Pot

Mors Kochkanski is a legend in the outdoors community. He practically invented bushcraft as it were and lived the life to back it up. So a pot like the one he has made coffee in for 30 years can't be all bad.  I needed a new pot anyway.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Geocaching Adventure

The weather is perfect to get outside. What better excuse to go places you have never been than searching for treasure with the GPS.  Geocaching is fun.

Boot Cleaning Time

Time to get out the cleaner and sealer for the boots. Winter is on the way and I eagerly await tromping quietly through snow.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Flint Knapping Bottles

Flint Knapping is something I watch with awe at the skill many knappers possess. I have recently decided to give it a go, the only issue is the rocks I have found are not the best for knapping. They contain micro cracks or generally don't work well for me so far. Glass is another option so I decided to give it a go.

Friday, November 2, 2012

Adventure: #17 River to River Trail Section Hike Part 4

The 2nd and 3rd day of the section hike.  It was a long trip but one I was glad to do. I have hopes of doing the entire 160 miles some day but I am not sure I can maintain a 20 mile a day pace. I think after 3 or 4 days it may take me out.  Perhaps I will plan a trip and do it in halves.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Adventure: #17 River to River Trail Section Hike Part 3

This is the video from Day 1 of the hike. It rained a portion of the day and the Dri Ducks performed well. Stripping off the shirt and rolling the Dri Duck top commando worked the best. I got to a point where I was not sweating and therefore not getting as cold. Hypothermia is a real possibility in temps like this, low 60s-40s, so it is important to do what you can to minimize the moisture. I knew that if I did sweat my shirt and fleece were dry in my pack ready to warm me up.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Adventure: #17 Update

Well I did the hike.  Grand total of around 50-55 miles, I am still calculating the GPS tracks.  It was a good time but quite demanding physically. My right ankle is quite swollen so hoping no permanent damage there.  There is quite a bit of video to go through so it may be a little while before the vids get posted. The weather was rainy on Friday but was nice on Sat and Sun. It certainly gave me a good indication as to whether I would be able to attempt the entire 160 mile trail, at this point I would say no.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Adventure: #17 River to River Trail Section Hike Part 2

This is the second part of the River to River Trail Section hike.  All the food I am bringing.  I hope it is enough and I don't go hungry.

Adventure: #17 River to River Trail Section Hike Part 1

This is the first in a series for a hike I am planning later this week.  This part is the gear I am taking along with me.

Moose Goo

Quick vid of me making up some moose goo.  Some good food for on the trail.

Gear Loft

Quick overview of my pack cover/gear loft. Thing looks like it will work well as a gear loft.  Certainly works well as a pack cover. I did have to take down my tarp while working on getting the "doors" figured out.  Seems it is against the laws to hang things from a tree.

Sunday, September 30, 2012


Out on a 5.5 mile training hike for my upcoming River to River Trail section hike I came across these mushrooms. I believe both are edible. The photos are Chicken of the Woods and the ones in the vid are Giant Puffballs. Mushrooms are not something I want to mess with too much ad far as an edible goes. More chance of mistakes when compared to plants. But if they are what I think they are, they would make a good addition to the wild edible book.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

The River to River Trail

One adventure on the horizon would a thru-hike of the River-to-River trail located in Southern Illinois. This trail is around 160 miles through the Shawnee National Forest. I have seen several different mileages listed but the 160 seems to be about the average. That type of mileage takes some time, how much time will depend on the pace I can maintain over 7-10 days. It may be easy enough to hit the 20-25 mile per day with my current pack load, but can I sustain that over the extent of the trip? It is hard for me to know.

Therefore, to find out, I am planning up a section hike of one of the nicer areas of the trail, Garden of the Gods to the Lusk Creek Trailhead. This section is only about 25 miles but I will do it in a loop so I can get back to my car. The terrain is listed as challenging enough to reduce a hiking pace to 1 mile per hour. This is a heavy contrast to the standard 3 mph I usually do on hilly terrain. I had an adventure in the area I will be going back in February. I did not find the terrain that difficult and that was with a pack quite a bit heavier than what I plan to take.

So will I be able to make the 50 miles in the 3 days I have allotted?  Right now, all I can do is plan. To help I purchased the River to River Trail Guide written by John O'Dell. The guide is useful and contains all the color maps that can also be found on the Shawnee National Forest website. I had hoped the guide would provide clear detailed information on water sources, good camping sites or, in general, more details about the technicality of the trail. Unfortunately, it did not, but it is a good source on some of the touristy things that can be found on the trail like petroglyphs or other natural wonders.

A second book I picked up contains nothing but GPS waypoints along the trail. Written by John Voigts, the River to RiverTrail Pocket Guide. This book has quite a bit of information crammed into a small package. Locations of caves, possible water sources, campgrounds as well as scenic points. Between the two, this one is the most helpful. Compiling this with the maps available at the Forestry Service website gives a clearer picture on what to expect on the trail. 

Monday, September 3, 2012

Gear: #9 ULA Circuit backpack

Quick overview of the ULA Circuit backpack. Overall the pack is working quite well. It is light and surprisingly fits all my gear. I was skeptical at first since ULA calculates the pack volume by including the exterior pockets and not just the main chamber. It all fits though. Definitely a pack company to check out.

Adventure: #15 Pine Ridge Recreation Area

I got out for a short overnight to a stretch of the Mark Twain National Forest south of Columbia, MO.  The weather was cooler and I feel that Fall is on the way. I spent considerable time on the first day working on my tarp setting up some self-tensioning guylines. Overall I am happy with the outcome of the efforts. I still need to work on setting up a mechanism for closing the ends of the tarp to create "doors" should the weather get nasty.

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Gear: #8 USGI Buttpack Shoulderbag

When I first started getting out more I needed a small bag that I could use while fishing or just general bumming around. I liked the look of the stuff Maxpedition made but I did not like the giant price tag. I had this USGI buttpack lying around so I decided to modify it a bit to make a shoulder bag. The strap is from about 70 feet of paracord while the shoulder pad and organizer are made from simple cotton duck cloth. The entire thing was pretty cheap to make.  It works well as long as it is not loaded down too much. Excessive weight can wear on the shoulder after awhile.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

ULA Circuit Backpack

I replaced my REI Crestrail 70 pack with a ULA Circuit. It is slightly smaller but is also half the weight of REI pack. So far I have about 12 miles on it fully loaded without food.  It is comfortable and handles the gear quite well.  I tried using the water bottle loops on the pack straps. I can't say that I like that set up. I found the water bottle to rub on my arm as I worked the trekking poles. Not to mention when it was empty, it made that bending plastic sound when I brushed against it.

 Today I did about 6 miles and used my 3 liter platypus. Still had the normal issues of having to unload some gear to get the bladder into the pack. The hydration sleeve barely held the bladder, I think it is designed more for a 2 liter model. So far I am liking the pack. I plan to pull everything out and get some proper weights as I repack things to find the best spot to put them. I will do up a video then.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Adventure: #14 Herrican Creek

I took a weekend trip down near Poplar Bluff, Missouri to hang with a few guys from the Bushcraft USA forum. It was a quite a good trip. The new BCUSA tarp survived a couple rain showers, including a fairly heavy down pour, in the A frame configuration without any issues. I never did make up the self-tensioning
guy lines like I planned. They are on the list of things along with some snakeskins for the tarp.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Adventure: #13 Castlewood State Park

I went on a day hike to Castlewood State Park which led to a search for some Mullein and as well as arrowheads. The temps got well into the 90s but the 8 miles wasn't bad. It was nice to get off the trail and wonder a bit.

Gear: #7 Caldera Clone

I created a Caldera Clone, which is a clone of the famous Trail Design's Caldera Cone, out of some aluminum roof flashing. It is an easy item to make and is not expensive. Simple tools and a computer are all that is required to use a script to make a template.

The template script and instructions are located below. The download of Ghostscript is very easy and required to view the postscript file for the template. Be sure to check out some of the other stove designs as well. Snag the template script over at Zen Stoves.

You can also check out the original thread created by Captain Paranoia  at Outdoors Magic.

Gear: #6 BCUSA 10x12 Ultralight Tarp Overview

Quick overview on the new Bushcraft USA tarp. This is the ultralight fabric and it only comes in Multicam at this time. I have not had a chance to get out with it so this is the first chance to set it up. It boasts a ton of tie outs that will give it multiple set up options. At 1.39 pounds it is quite light compared to other lightweight tarps manufactured. Although the 10x12 is a special order, the 10x10s are nice. They have quick turnaround and great communication. The whole line of tarps are built quite well. I look forward to getting this up over the hammock and doing away with the cheap poly tarp.

Be sure to check out the Bushcraft Outfitters.

Professor's Cooking Challenge #1

The Professor has put forth a cooking challenge. There is 5 parts, part one is boiling up water on a fire. Simple enough. I made up some dehydrated Mac and Cheese. Be sure to check out The Professor's channel too!!

Adventure: #12 Hawn State Park

Jaunt out to Hawn State Park for some hiking. My goal was to see if I could get the mileage up in anticipation of some long distance hikes. The heat slowed me down as well as the terrain. I managed 2 days of hiking and only one night before I headed home. I had a cold night as my poncho liner underquilt seemed to let the draft in, hard to believe you will be cold when it is 90 degrees out, but it got to 54 at night. I have plans to make a proper underquilt and I will post of up the vid once I am done.

I also suffered with water filter issues which compounded the heat problems. My sawyer gravity filter worked but slower that I had planned. This is something I will need to work on over the next few weeks. I did manage to get in about 26 miles over the two days, not too bad. Getting out and using the equipment is important, gives you a chance to know what is working and what needs to be worked on.

Here is the gear list for the trip.

Gear: #5 Groundsheet

I made a ground sheet out of window insulation material. It is lightweight at 120 grams and compacts to fit in a sandwich bag. Not only can it be used as a groundsheet with a hammock but also with my bug bivy. It could be fitted for a tent footprint if need be. The material is cheap and light,the design opportunities are only limited by the imagination. Definitely a useful material with plenty of options.

Gear: #4 Turtledog Hammock Stand

I built myself a pair of portable trees also known as a hammock stand. It was fairly simple to make. This design was found on Hammock Forums and proves to be an easy project with minimal tools.  The stands fold up flat so they can fit in the back of a car or even on a roof rack. Quite useful for car camping at this parks where there are no trees or hammocking is not allowed. I used a full length ridge pole but others have used fencing material that breaks down into smaller manageable sections.

Gear: #3 REI Crestrail 70 Backpack

Quick, on the trail review of the REI Crestrail 70 backpack that I have been using for the last year or so.

Adventure #11: Indian Camp Creek

05-25-2012. Day hike along the Cannon Trail in Indian Camp Creek Park. Found a few turtles along the way as well as plenty of wild edibles. Quick lunch on the creek with a poncho shelter. New shoes worked great with an almost 7 mile route and full pack.

Adventure # 10: Western Illinois BushcraftUSA Meet

The BushcraftUSA forum is known for having meet ups all over the country. I missed the local one in April due to a nasty cold. I made up for it by traveling into Illinois to a meet on a forum members farm. It was an excellent weekend in every way. The company was good and the weather was warm with no rain at all. There was plenty activities to do from forging iron flint strikers and cooking irons to land navigation and leather work. It was well planned and a great time.

Adventure #9: Lost Valley

I went to Lost Valley trail in search of some geocache and on beautiful day. I managed to find three out of the four I was hoping to find. Along the way my GPS began to act weird and lose reception. While I knew exactly where I was it was a sobering reminder that reliance on technology is not always a good idea. Had I been in an area that I did not know and not been paying attention to the way I came to the current location, I could have easily ended up lost. Always carry spare batteries and keep a good mental map of your surrounds. It never hurts to sketch a rough map as you go on your own adventure.

Gear: #2 Hammock, Bugnet/Bug Tent and Tarp Pitching

It is good to practice the set up of shelters before heading into the bush. Many times this is just setting up the tent in backyard. With a hammock and tarp you need to have trees the correct distance apart. Unfortunately I don’t have trees to set up with so I headed to a local county park that has campsites. I have only set up the hammock twice so practice is important. I also learned a new method of attaching the tarp to the ridgeline that offers better adjustment especially during a rain storm. By practicing, I learn what I need to do to lower the tarp and tighten up before it starts raining. That way during a storm it will be less hectic.

The bug net I created also doubles as a bug tent. It can be pitched using trekking poles or with a ridgeline of the tarp. Originally I used a velcro closure but I have found this to be a bit hard on the Tulle I used to create the net. I have since added a collar of rip stop with shockcord to cinch up the end. Testing continues on if it is the best route.

Knotty's Gathered End Hammock Tutorial

I got the idea for the tarp pitching from this video.

5 Trees Identified

One of the requirements for the BushClass USA basic certification.

Adventure #8: Shawnee Forest

I had the opportunity to head to Shawnee National Forest for a few nights. It was a good time, it did rain but the weather was cool enough to keep the bugs away. I tried out my DIY hammock and it was fantastic. I plan on integrating it as my shelter going forward. The rocks in the forest are inspirational for sure. I certainly plan on visiting again, as long as the weather is cool.

Directory Reader 3000

Directory Reader 3000 is a simple windows program to save search results to a CSV or text file. Windows Explorer doesn’t have it but now we do. This is a small program I wrote to fill a need, the best kind of program out there, not to mention it works pretty darn good. With options to limit searches by date or file type the ability to create a custom search far exceeds the default. It is a Windows only program and probably requires the latest .Net Framework. Check it out over here.

Adventure: #7 Busch Wildlife

In this episode, I travel to Busch Wildlife in search of some WWII era bunkers that were used to house TNT that was manufactured in the area for the war. I do more testing with the Super Cat alcohol stove and the Caldera Clone. I also try my hand a “freezer bag” cooking with a pouch made of a Reflectix type material. Make sure the dehydrated pasta has smooth edges or it may puncture the bag. I did forget my tripod on this trip, apologies for any shake.

Adventure: #6 Bangert Island

Having lunch outdoors is always the best place to be. Throw in a sunny, warm day at the end of February and it becomes a perfect day. Such was the outing to Bangert Island, one of my favorite conservation areas. This particular day I went on a hunt for some beavers that have made the banks of the muddy Missouri River their home. Along the way I tested out the Super Cat alcohol stove using the Nimblewill Stove as a windscreen. It did not work perfectly but it did work, and that is all that matters. It is important to get out and test the gear while enjoying the day.

Twig Fire

Making fire is a fundamental bushcraft skill and one that can be quite difficult. Regardless of the method, whether primitive such as the bow drill or by modern means like a lighter, the entire process is a skill that must be practiced. Once again the Bushclass USA program has a good class on making a twig fire. It is simple to do and does not even require a knife or saw to cut wood. Practice and plenty or prep is a good recipe for a strong fire.


Bannock is a staple of Bushcrafting and a good historical eat. It is quite simple to make and can be cooked either on an oil skillet, which is how I make it in the house, or over the fire either wrapped on a stick or set on a plank. An easier, and with less risk of losing it to the fire, is to wrap it in tin foil and place it in the coals. On my recent trip to Hawn State park I tried this method and it provided a very tasty breakfast that kept me going to well into the late morning.

My recipe for bannock is.
3/4 cup of flour
1/4 cup flax seed meal
1-2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt

For a sweet bannock I will add 1 tbsp of brown sugar and some raisins. Cinnamon can be added as well as any other fruit. For a more savory style bannock to have with a dinner meal, garlic powder and oregano can be added. That is the beauty of bannock, the base recipe can accommodate many different flavors include a host of wild edibles.

Improvised Chair

The Bushclass USA is an excellent program to give someone a chance to practice skills and look at things in a different way. Such is the improvised chair elective. Find a away to make a comfortable chair in the bush. During my trip to Hawn State Park I did just that. A few logs, my sitting pad and I was there. No cutting or lashing needed. Have a look.

Adventure: # 5 Hawn State Park Overnight

Got out for an overnight at Hawn State Park. Fantastic place and was a great time backpacking the Whispering Pines trail, even had to leap the Pickle Creek. Had a heck of a time with the fire and the creature in the woods grunting did not help much.

Gear: #1 The Cook Kit

I recently shot a video outline the current cook kit I had put together for both day hikes as well as camping. The kit is comprised of a Coleman Max aluminum set as well as some odds and ends I threw in. The kit is a little on the heavy side but I have already began to make attempts to lighten it up. It is all about trying things and getting out in to the field to see if they work.

Klondike Park 01-28-2012

Frosty morning hike searching for some dry tinder to refill the tinder bag. Along the way I took in a great view of the river. I learned that since Lewis and Clark paddled up the river the course had been moved. Tried to find some beavers and make a quick fire. A good outing.

Supercat Alcohol Stove

A good weekend project is a new alcohol stove. The Super Cat is amazingly easy to build, requiring only a paper hole punch, a marker and a ruler. There is some discussion on the types of cans used to make the stove, regardless the aluminum ones weigh a third less that steel.

I chose a Deviled Spam can for my stove, although eating it was not the wisest choice I have ever made. It is the same size as a 3 ounce cat food can and probably just as tasty. I used a portion of the same style can as a “dock” to hold the stove tight to a base can. The pot sits directly on the stove as it is a side burner. The dock and base can help to stabilize the entire operation

A similar can to the base is used as a snuffer lid to put the stove out. Unlike my Trangia, this burner does not store the fuel. But using a syringe or pipit the unused fuel can be captured for the next burn. A quick test, in the rain even, yielded an 11 minute burn time. More than enough to boil up 2 cups of water.

Like most alcohol stoves, it relies on a good windscreen to maintain the proper flame. I ran mine inside of the Nimblewill Stove for testing. It provided decent wind protect but I still need to play around with it. I tired using tinfoil but it did not hold up to the wind well. This is where a Caldera Cone or windscreen made from sturdy foil will really come in handy.

But a 1.15 ounce package gives a lightweight way to boil water in about 6 minutes. To find the instructions, head over here.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Overnight Cuivre River State Park 01-13-2012

First trip of the year and it was a doozy. It was planned to have a few other meet up but things fell through. Ended up as a solo camp with temps down to +12F. I was not sure my sleeping bag was going to make it but the addition of a homemade fleece liner and some clothes allowed me to make it through the night.

Campground Scouting Hike 12-23-2011

I have made a plan for the next year to try to have an overnight trip at least once a month. This will give me some good dirt time but also subject me to varying conditions allowing me to tweak my gear over the year and learn what works. I have decided to hit Cuivre River State Park and stay at a few of the locations. The park is considered to be very much like the Ozarks which I hope to hit in the early spring before the ticks and mosquito get rampant. On a Friday before Christmas the place was deserted save one lone hiker that had stayed overnight and was on the way out. There was plenty of deer to be seen as well. It is a great day.

Rainy Day Hike 12-20-2011

You can pick the day on which you might hike but you can’t pick the weather. Suck was the case when I left for a Hike at Lost Valley Conservation Area. The rain was not heavy but enough to warrant the use of a poncho. It gave me a good chance to test out my USGI poncho which worked out well. I saw numerous deer as well as items such as fire hydrants left abandoned in the wilderness, remnants of an age when the area was used as a munitions plant for the US government. It hosts 11 miles of trail that is open to mountain bikers as well as hikers. The hike gave me an opportunity to dip into shooting some video.

Bow Drill

With all the gadgets and electronics available today it is nice to go back to simpler tools, ones that need no batteries which will eventually fail. Making a fire is a primal skill that has been used by humans for years. I have taken the time to learn and practice these skills not only for the usefulness they provide but also to preserve the skills and perhaps pass them down to my children. The bow drill is a fairly simple process that requires a bit of technique. I worked on mine the other day and captured it on video so I could improve my form. It took four tries but I got a coal decent enough to surely start a fire. But a lighter or a match is still easier and quite a bit less work.