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.