If you've owned a backpack you know that no matter what pack you get it never has enough straps for securing objects. Well I've found a company that sells straps and rope with WAY more customization options than you could ever need and at a very affordable price. My order was shipped extremely fast, and the customer service was very helpful when I did something wrong on the order form.
Its very rare that I spend a few nights outdoors with a tool and have zero complaints. But this ax is as close to perfect as you can get. For that reason, this review will be pretty short.
The Cold Steel Trail Boss is essentially the tank of the ax world. Its listed as a tomahawk, but once you see it in person you'll realize its really a mini ax. A mini ax that is tougher than anything than you'd ever need. I've used this ax for throwing (I was bored, don't judge me), I've used it ice ax style to climb up slippery slopes, i've even hacked through 6 inch trees. Just about anything you think of to put this through it will survive.
And all of this comes in an ax small enough to strap to a backpack. I will go ahead and say that it does add a bit of weight. If you're the type who is worried about weight you may want to think about a light machete or large knife. Personally I think the benefits strongly out weigh the hassle.
Cane plants can be found most everywhere in the East and are a perfect plant for many different applications. They're strong, flexible, easily sharpened, easy to find, and available all year round. I've used these for many different tools (which I will eventually write about), the most recent of which is insulation while sleeping.
Cane poles are decidedly not that comfortable. I'm just going to say that up front. If you plan to do this as a survival technique without a camp mat I'd suggest finding other bedding to lay down on top of this. That being said, the actual process is extremely simple. Just lay down as many poles as you can in the same direction that you're sleeping. This will give you .5-1" clearance from the ground, and since cane is made up of pockets of air it helps a lot to insulate from the cold ground. I know from experience that insulation is absolutely mandatory for cold weather...
Right now I'm sitting here on my couch, planning my next trip and watching that fool Bear Grylls break just about every survival rule in the book. Don't get me wrong, he DOES have the occasional good tip, but when he decides to set a bad example he goes all out.
Let me begin by addressing anyone new to survival camping/hiking. Survival is about just that, surviving. There is no logical reason to jump off waterfalls, climb up OR down any cliffs, or eat anything covered in feces, or swim down a stream in a freaking cave unless you absolutely have to. His depiction of survival is horribly skewed and because of it I worry too many will try and copy him. I've seen him sprint to "rescue" after supposedly being in the wild for 5 days. Yet anyone who's been camping for even a single day without food knows you will be in no condition to sprint. He portrays animal trapping like going to the grocery store and shelter building like using legos. He makes you believe that the proper way to move through the forest is at a full sprint without explaining the consequences of a sprained ankle or broken leg from moving too quickly. He acts like scaling 50ft cliffs is common place during survival, but doesn't think about the people who watch his show and actually want to learn to survive.
And despite the ease in which he handles every (staged) event he still insists on putting himself in stupid dangerous situations. On top of that he only bothers describe a handful of those situations as purposefully demonstrating what not to do. At best he's a entertaining crazy person disguised as a survivalist. At worst hes a sold out fraud who makes a living by staging most of his show while sleeping in hotels and distributing false information.
As many of you know weight is a huge issue when backpacking. The more you have to lug around the more calories you urn and the more food you have to take in to compensate. This can cause problems when food is scarce. For this reason I decided to try a new approach to sleeping. Instead of lugging around a tent I decided to try this :
Tru-Spec H2O Bivy bag. This bag is meant to cover a mummy style sleeping bag and keep the user dry. Its waterproof, tear resistant, and extremely light. It also claims to raise the temperature of your bag by 10 degrees, although this seems pretty unlikely.
First night I spent with this thing was...problematic. This was mostly my fault as I didn't have a camp mat to sleep on and the temperature was way to cold. But one thing I noticed about the bag on every camp out was that it is difficult to breath with the head flap over you. It isnt THAT noticeable, but its enough to speed up your breathing. This is a problem for sleeping...
I've also noticed that the material is thick enough to stay up on its own, and with enough clearance between your face and the bag the breathing problem isnt an issue. Still, I plan to try and make something to hold the fabric off my face at night, we'll see how that goes.
The material is extremely strong with no tears yet. It also repels water beautifully, but I haven't had a chance to try it in strong rain. Overall I like it, but if the breathing problem continues to be an issue I may switch over to a one man tent.
Pros: Low cost, light weight, camo (if this is important to you).
Cons: Hard to breath
Where to buy: http://www.armysurpluswarehouse.com/product/truspec-h2o-army-digital-bivy-sleeping-bag-sack4915-4689.cfm
Here is a handy piece of knowledge that every outdoors man should know. Here in the south its called Fat Wood (I have no idea why) but I've also heard it called fuel Wood and several other names. Essentially its extremely old pine that has rotted away and left the core and knots of the tree in tact. These left over pieces contain a highly concentrated resin that burns EXTREMELY well. This resin is actually used to create turpentine. To give you an idea of the flammability, I've personally lit an arm size log on fire with a single match...no kindling, no building up the fire.
Finding Fat Wood is as simple as keeping your eyes open. It will usually be in seemingly rotten pine stumps or more commonly actual fallen pine trees. These will be slender with thick "branches" or flat "fins". these are actually the knots that were inside the tree.
This is a knot that has been cut from the tree.
Splitting the knot open reveals the yellow/orange resin. Strips of this wood shaved off will light under almost any condition.
Always look for these trees during hikes and always keep some extra on hand. I bring some sticks of Fat Wood with me but I still like to gather some while I'm out.
This probably my first real tool knife. Most knives I buy are for self defense and for that reason they don't have to hold up to nearly the same stress as a camp knife. The D2 is marketed as a knife that can hold up to just about anything, and hold up it does..
At around $90 its not the cheapest survival knife out there. With a decent amount of shopping around you can get a large Cold Steel knife for 30-40 bucks. Still, I wanted to try something different so I decided on the D2.
Its named after the steel its made out of. D2 tool steel. This steel is EXTREMELY hard in comparison to 440c or 1050-1095 carbon steels. This makes the knife strong, but brittle. Now when I say brittle I mean relatively brittle. I've seen a 230lb man stick the blade in 2 blocks of wood and stand on the handle. Only after he started jumping up and down did it break...so yeah, "relatively" brittle. This hardness comes at a price though; sharpening the d2 takes patience and more than a little knowledge.
The handle is probably the most comfortable I've ever held. That coupled with the perfect balance makes this knife feel almost weightless. This is both good and bad depending on the usage. For handling its excellent, but for chopping its a little TOO balanced.
Sturdiness is a huge factor in camping knives. Have to be able to put that knife through hell and back and have it still working properly. In that respect its performed beautifully. I never seen a rattail tang blade thats so solid. After many hours of hacking, prying, hammering and carving the blade is still solid and all the fittings are perfect. In retrospect, this is pretty standard for ka-bars.
This is mine after that "hell" I spoke of. The black coating is probably the toughest I've ever seen. The silver at the tip only showed up after splitting and prying Fatwood while hammering on the butt of the knife. I'm pretty happy with it...
I've been asked many times why we do what we do. In all honesty thats probably a very logical question. Why would you willingly choose to stay outdoors in 19 degree weather with very little food or comfort? I've thought about that question many times, and I've concluded that there are four major reasons for why we do it...
Freedom - This is a large factor in wilderness survival. The feeling you get when you realize that you can get by without electricity, running water, fast food etc. is truly a unique experience.
Adventure - Lets face it, sitting on your couch is only entertaining for so long. Most of us feel the urge to do something interesting and out of the ordinary, but without the opportunity most turn to video games or mischief to break the monotony. Thats where wilderness camping comes in. When you leave the main trails (which i do NOT recommend without a partner and navigation equipment) you'll be amazed at what you find.
Exercise - This is simple enough. High physical stress + low calorie intake = weight loss. Also the intense physical strain of hiking, setting up a shelter and gathering firewood builds muscle.
Challenge - For me this is the biggest reason for survival. I enjoy exploring the limits of my abilities and improving those that need work. Just knowing that literally everything around you is trying to keep you from succeeding makes success so much more enjoyable.
Over the last year or so I've browsed through literally countless pages on various aspects of survival camping. What I've noticed from day one is the variety of websites all offering random information but none of them offering ALL the information. Thats where I plan to come in. I, along with some of my closest friends, regularly embark on survival/camping trips and will provide product reviews, tips for survival, tutorials, and anything else vital for the outdoors man.
Right now we're starting to get our information organized and uploaded. I'm still the only one with posting privileges but we'll have 3 more guys updating in the near future. Until then its just me giving information. God help us all... ;-)