October 9, 2011

firesteel – my way! (25th vid contest winner!)

i spent another weekend indoors (because of a lower back problem), so i find the time to finally close the 25th vid contest.

if you don’t remember what was the contest about, here it is: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tRo6jkYKF_k

the mysterious prize J is a firesteel that i made from springsteel.

i like to light my fires with the firesteel (the old-style “real” one, not the ferrocerium rod) and i think this is a really good method for the outdoorsman. that is why i made one to meet my requirements: it throws good sparks, it’s lightweight, small, comfortable to hold and use. also, it can be used as a scraper too (to throw sparks from a ferrocerium rod or to scrap a piece of fatwood). i put my logo (which is ursa minor) on it, polaris being represented by the lanyard hole. the indentations are improving the grip, so the fingers will not slip when you strike the firesteel. you can see it here:

so, who is the winner? 198 youtubers sent me the right answer (frog eggs), but the lucky one is… “maveraver” – congratulations, my friend!

as for the other 197 – thank you for participating, and i wish you all good luck for the next contest J.

also, i'd like to thank to all my friends and subscribers for their support – since i posted the contest vid, the number of upload views almost doubled! thank you all!

July 17, 2011

5 items kit for zombie apocalypse!

let me state right from the beginning: “the x items kit” thing is not a practical exercise, because if you can have x items, why not have y items?!? there is no limitation, and you can take as many items as you like and you can (and are willing to) carry…

that being said, “the 5 items kit” is an interesting theoretical exercise, because it will make you think… you will consider a lot of items and how can you use them, in conjunction with your skills and prior experiences, in order to narrow it down to 5.

so, in order to begin the exercise, i had to set the frame first: what is “zombie apocalypse”?!? in my understanding, it is a situation that made the inhabited areas impossible (or very dangerous) to live in. therefore, a “zombie apocalypse kit” is composed of gear that allows me to spend a looong time in uninhabited areas, with no probable possibility to “return to civilization” (because there’s nothing left to return to). these pieces of gear should serve my basic needs until i can find a better alternative.

now, i'm not going to cheat (you know… “the next item is my fire kit”, “I count my metal cup, my canteen and my water purification tabs as one because they fit together” and so on) and i will choose only 5 items.

the most important is shelter… i need a shelter that can be used regardless of weather conditions, time of the year or location, that keeps me warm and dry even on the move,  that is easy and quick to set up or break down – so i choose the poncho and the wool blanket (also, the poncho can be used to gather and carry water and the blanket can be used to carry the rest of the kit and everything i might add to it). i can get lucky and find a natural shelter, or i can make one if i have the right materials at hand, but this 2 items will provide a decent shelter in almost any conditions.

the next item is a cutting tool (for obvious reasons that i’m not even going to discuss):  the knife that i choose is a general purpose one, not a big one… i know, this will rise some eyebrows! but please hear me:  on longer term, the small tasks tend to get more important than the big ones… so, if i’d rather have an axe (or a tomahawk) for a short-term emergency, for a longer timeframe a small bushcraft knife is more suited for me; however, different skills&experience might require some other cutting tool.

my fourth item is a teapot for disinfecting water and cooking and for other uses that i go on about in the vid J… it has one flow, though: i can’t carry water in it. still, i prefer it over a metal bottle because it boils water faster, it is easyer to cook in and (very important!) to clean it afterwards. also, it has a very important “like&enjoy factor” as it makes (for me) the difference between camping/bushcraft and survival… so let’s call it a “moral-supporting item”.

the last item is the ferrocerium rod (the modern firesteel) because it lights a fire waaay easyer than any fire-by-friction method… also, it can be used to make a fire with less conventional materials (just try to make fire by friction when all you have is dry cow droppings J ) and/or in less-than-perfect conditions.

so, my 5 items are (the order is not important): poncho, blanket, knife, teapot, firesteel.
also, there are 2 important items that i need to find/make asap: a walking stick (to help... walking, but also to use as a pole for the shelter if there are no trees available or as a weapon against zombies!) and a water container (it is very probable to find a plastic one even in the most remote area, as the human ability to litter is really astonishing, but if not - i can make a water container  from a variety of materials... until then, i can use my poncho to carry water).
having all from the above, i can set up traps and i can start making other things: tent pegs for the poncho, a bow and some arrows, a bow-drill setup, a cup, a bowl, a spoon, cordage, a tinder bag etc...
enjoy the vid!

June 19, 2011

outdoor cooking - just try it!

i never understood why the average bushcrafter/camper/hiker is afraid of cooking... gorp, granola bars and dried fruits are good trail food, but you will get fed up with this diet in a couple of days. many live under the impression that they are cooking, but boiling water for re-hydrating food can not really be considered as such (funny thing, this never occured to me and it was pointed out by one of my youtube subscribers!).

so, why cooking outdoors? well, simply because there's no reason to eat strange things when you can eat good real food. now, please don't get it wrong: i am not questioning the "trail food" (which has it's place), i'm just saying that you can have better.

i think that the main reason for not cooking outdoors is the fear of "cooking process", which is nowadays looked upon as a more and more strange and complicated one (and that's why fast food and frozen food companies are prospering), even if it's not...

i posted several vids on bushcraft cooking on my youtube channel, and i will post some more... what i'm trying to achieve is to prove that anybody can do it and to inspire those who watch my vids to just try it.

many receipes are easy and quick to make, doesn't require special resources or exotic/perishable/heavy ingredients, are flexible enough to adapt to (almost) whatever situation/prefferences and provide you with a good, complete, nutritionally-ballanced dish.

there is a book to write on camp-cooking (as suggested by one of my youtube friends), and maybe one day i'll write it, but until then :) there are some ideas (i am assuming that you are familiar with the basic cooking, if you are not... well, you'll have to wait for my book! :D ):

- cornmeal, rice, cous-cous, packs light and compact, store well and are easy to transform in a variety of dishes, depending on what else you have with you or you can forage from the trail. beans are a good ideea, too, but it takes much longer to cook. pasta packs bulkyer and cooks slower than cous-cous, but not so much that you don't want to mess with it. regular flour is easy to transform in bread of some sort or pancakes. potatoes are great baked directly in the ashes, and you can use them for a variety of other dishes, too.

- dried or fresh vegetables are a good addition, and there are numerous plants that you can pick up from aroud the camp (obviously, only if you really know what you are doing!).

- onion and garlic are allways great tasting, high in calories food, no matter if you eat them as they are or you cook them.

- meat can be packed in many forms: jerky, pemmican, salami, sausages etc., but my personal favourite (for longer trips, as it requires some preparation) is this: cut one-bite-size different kinds of meat, deep-fry it, put it in plastic jars, pour melted, slightly salted lard to completely cover the meat and keep it for few hours in the fridge. in this form it will keep for several months even in summer temperature. also, you can get some fresh meat by fishing (don't forget about frogs!), trapping or hunting.

- fresh fruits are great, and you can cook them, too! a baked apple with honey and cinnamon is a real treat for the half-frozen winter hiker. you can bake other fruits too (bananas are great - don't forget to slit open the skin!), or you can add them to pancakes or bread. you can use dried/caned fruits, too.

- condiments are important, so don't forget about them! use whatever you like to add flavor to your food.

also, there is an important skill to master if you want to become a "bushcraft chef" - and that is how to make fire! the fine art of how to build the perfect fire for every dish is something that comes with the experience... and the only way to gain the experience is to do it! so... go out and start cooking!

June 18, 2011

a night outdoors: at 4 C under the tarp

it was cold. i was ill. it was beautiful!

that seems crazy... what can possess a person who is fighting a bad case of flu to spend the night outdoors, at just above freezing temperature, sheltered only by a tarp and a wool blanket?!?

well... it's a matter of perspective. we lost our link to nature. we are no longer able to live outside our artificial environment. we are seriously threatened by cold, heat, wind, rain, sun, wildlife... but some of us still crave for that natural kind of life. some of us still feel the call of the wilderness. some of us still get pleasure from being outdoors.

for me, a night like this is a way to enjoy the sheer beauty of nature. it is a way to find my peace. it is a way to get rid of all the stress that is generated by our modern way of living. it is both a pleasure and a necessity.

so, going out in that conditions is not crazy... going out without knowing what you are doing is! for instance, a very common misbelief is that you can freeze in your sleep... no, you can't! that's because you will wake up when you get cold, no matter how tired you are (exactly the same way that you get up at home if you need one more blanket). but (and that is really important), once you are up from being cold, do not go back to sleep until you are warm again! if you do so, this will have serious consequences, including the possibility to die (if it's cold enough). so, get up, walk around the camp, take a leak (that is to elliminate a stress hormone that is generated when exposed to cold), put more wood on your fire, drink/eat something hot, do some pushups (carefull there, you don't want to sweat), do whatever you can to feel warm and confortable again, than go back to sleep - you will wake up if you get cold again.

i posted a vid on youtube that captures some of that night, including bird-songs, camp setup, my thoughts and so on... you can see it here:

if you want to simply enjoy the birds singing and the fire, you can do so by clicking the vid above, or (much better!) by going out yourself.