Monday, April 30, 2012

Worlds Toughest Expeditions with James Cracknell

Interesting premise, catchy title, possibly interesting content, but this is another show that only our UK friends will be able to watch due to the mysteries that govern the operation of the Discovery Channel.

In this series, James Cracknell, endurance athlete, rower, and two times gold medalist, retraces the footsteps of some of the great expeditions. The show premiered on April 22, 2012 on Discovery UK. For some unexplainable reason however, it doesn’t appear on any of the Discovery channels we have here in the US.

I’m sure the show will have it’s flaws, but is something I would love to see. People in the UK have already managed to watch several episodes. Hopefully Discovery will decide to show it here in the US, rather that another Mythbusters marathon.

If you guys can find some place where we can watch the show online, or better yet, want to send an email to Discovery, maybe the rest of us will be able to watch soon enough.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Trip Report: 4/21/12 – 4/22/12

Well, I was in the woods this past weekend. To be honest the trip was rather unplanned. I had indeed planned on going into the woods, but my plan was for a completely different trip. At the last moment something came up which required me to drive to a location on the opposite side of the mountain where I had intended to go into the woods.

As I didn’t have time to get to my planned location, I had to re-plan my trip on the other side of the mountain. I had planned out a route in that area before, but I had intended it for a later date as a three day, two night trip. It is not an extremely long route, about 10 miles, but the elevation changes from almost sea level to 1,200 feet in under five miles. From experience, I know that doing a trip like that would be pushing my abilities. However, I figured I would try it. Worse case scenario, I wouldn’t reach the mountain I was aiming for and would have to camp earlier and then turn back without achieving my end goal-still not a bad weekend in the woods.

The beginning of the trip crosses an area where in 1890, building began on the Dunderberg Spiral Railway, which was intended to take people up the mountain. The project was soon abandoned and never completed, but remnants of the work can still be seen. It was my intention to check out some of the areas where the railroad was intended to pass. Soon after starting the trip, I saw one of the tunnels built for the train.

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The area is overgrown now, and it is clear to see from the other side of the tunnel that it was never finished.

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Even after a short way up the mountain, the views were quite impressive. I can see why they planned the train track there.

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You can probably see the clouds in the picture. The weather forecast was for rain all weekend. I used to avoid going out in the rain, but these days I rather enjoy the challenge. It makes the trips more interesting. Despite the forecast though, the weather was warm and sunny. It was in the 60s (F) most of the day, making me rather annoyed that I was carrying two fleece tops in my backpack.

After a good amount of climbing, I saw another tunnel that was started and never finished. This one was in the earlier stages of construction when the project was canceled.

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In some areas, you could actually follow the graded area where the tracks would have been placed. If I had more time, I would have followed the proposed line, but because I was in a hurry, I had to push on with the planned route.

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If you look closely at the picture, you will see that an elevated, leveled path has been created with rocks for the train tracks.

Around 2 pm I stopped for some lunch. When moving fast, I need food, or I burn out quickly. Lunch was a granola bar and some cheese, which unfortunately had melted because of the heat.

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I have mentioned this before, but in this area, finding water is a big issue for me. These mountains are mostly rock with a very thin cover of soil. Because of that, any rain water runs off very quickly. In warm weather, after a few weeks without rain, water becomes very difficult to find. I had started out the trip with 2 1/2 liters of water, and by lunch time had already finished one liter. Luckily, I ran across a small stream, and decided to fill up.

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For this trip I decided to bring only one Nalgele bottle, and rely more heavily on my 3L Platypus bottle. It worked just fine and saved me 8.2 oz (including the neoprene sleeve). I was also very happy with the Sawyer Squeeze Filter. I was skeptical when I first started using it, but the more I use it, the happier I am with it. I will stress again, the need for a pre-filter. After each use, it is covered in dirt, which would otherwise clog up the filter itself.

From there on, it was just climbing, and more climbing.

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It is a beautiful area, that sees very few people because of the quick change in elevation.

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By this point I was getting rather burnt out, and I was still in the middle of nowhere. I found myself stopping and taking pictures, just so I can give my legs a chance to rest.

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I still had two peaks to climb if I was going to stick to the planned route. I decided that the only way I can do that was to try to catch and follow some of the trails. Besides, some of the best passes through the mountains are marked as trails anyway.

This brings me to one of my biggest problems when navigating in the woods, both on this trip, and in general. I do fine when I am navigating without trails, but once I get on trails, unless it is some type of brain dead loop, I get complacent and get lost easily. This is what happened here. Once I got on a marked trail, I stopped paying close attention to the topographical features, and just started walking. I reached what I though was a clearly marked area on the map along side the trail, and calculated my distance from there accordingly. Unfortunately, the marker I saw did not correspond to that on the map, and as a result, my distances were completely off. Consequently, when I left the trail to follow a valley, it turned out to be a different valley than the one I though I was entering. Within half an hour, I was completely lost.

My solution was to roughly orienteer towards the highest mountain in the area, after all, that was the intended destination of my trip, and head directly there. From the map, I knew that near the top there was another trail. If I bumped into it, I would know my exact location. After quite a bit of uphill climbing, I reached my destination around 6 pm. In retrospect, if I knew how to properly use my GPS, I might have been able to figure out my location more easily, but as of now, I only know how to use it to track my route. I’m not accustomed to using it, and forgot about it completely, until i started writing this.

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This was the time I had given myself to try to figure out my location, before I had to start making camp. As expected, I saw the trail markers, and I knew my location. Now my goal became to get below the tree line before I made camp. This was made more difficult by what appears to have been a forest fire, which had burnt most of the vegetation.

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I saw what looked to be a good area, that had been spared by the fire, but when I got there, there were some animal remains.

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I looked like the winter coat of an animal that had shed, but since I know very little about any of this stuff, I figured I better find a new area. After some more walking, I got into a gulley where I decided to set up camp.

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Thanks to Tobit from Blades and Bushcraft, I finally figured out how to attach the tent door open. As he explained, there is a doohickey that attaches it open.

I decided that because of all the burn damage and charred material on the ground, a fire would not be a good idea. On top of that, I was exhausted. I decided to just stick to the stove.

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As you might have noticed, this is not my usual MSR Whisperlite. I was indeed using a canister stove. Other than removing one of the Nalgene bottles, this was the only other gear change from my last trip. I will have more on the stove next week.

As an added benefit of the location, some water had gathered in a puddle at the bottom of the gulley, so I filled up my water for the next day. Around 8 pm I turned in for the night.

I woke up around 11 pm because of a very loud noise. The noise was a heavy thunderstorm that had moved in. For some reason I was not bothered at all. I have been in this shelter in much worse conditions, so it didn’t cross my mind to worry, although it probably should have. In a half asleep state I planned out how to pack up my gear if it was still raining the next day, and went back to sleep. I did have a passing worry that there might be some runoff that wound flood the area under the tent, but all the burnt ground absorbed the rain well. In turn, that created a very sticky and nasty mud that got on everything the next day.

Luckily though, when I got up at 6 am, the rain had stopped. The storm however had brought a cold front. The temperature was in the low 40s (F), and stayed that way all day. I made some oatmeal and started packing up. At that time I noticed that the rain had washed up some bones. I am not sure what animal it was.

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After I packed up, I figured I would follow the trail I had intersected for as long as practical. As it turns out, the trail quickly started climbing. Unless I wanted to go all the way around the mountain, the only way was up. You can see the trail markers on some of the trees in the picture.

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This brought me to the highest point in the trip, about 1,200 feet above my starting point.

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The trail soon dipped down. At another, lower peak, I was able to see a group of hawks (I think) hunting.

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The sky was as dark as it appears in the picture. It kept drizzling on and off the whole day, but fortunately, it never turned into heavy rain. While I brought my rain gear, I never ended up taking it out.

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After a few hours, I recognized an area where I had passed the previous day, and decided to trace my steps back. The terrain was very frustrating, constantly going up and down. I was exhausted by this point, and was not in the mood to drag myself over rocks any more.

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I stopped for lunch, and had to stop a few more times for snacks. This is the first time in a while that I finished all of my food. My energy level was so low, that I had to keep eating constantly for the energy boost.

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Eventually I made it back to the car. The trip was more tiresome than I like. I don’t mind distance, but the constant up and downs of the terrain were killing me. I knew that when I started. That’s why I had planned it as a longer trip, but I’m glad I managed to finish it.

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I finally figured out how to do the elevation graph of the trip on the GPS, so here it is:

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The small changes in gear brought the base weight of my pack, without clothing, to 17 lb 2.3 oz. With food, water, and fuel, my pack weight was about 23 lb.

The trip was stressful at times because of the time limitations, and it was certainly exhausting, but I’m glad I was able to do it. You know how people say that when you get lost you should just stop and make camp? Well, it’s hard to do when you have to be back at work on Monday. :) I might go back there another time to just follow the proposed train track and see where they lead.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Tool and Symbol: The Success of the Double-Bitted Axe in North America, by Ronald Jager

This is an article published in 1999 in Technology and Culture. In the article Jager discusses the ascent of the double bit axe in America and some potential reasons for its popularity. He makes a few brief guesses as to potential practical advantages, and while he makes a technically correct point about the aerodynamics of a double bit axe as compared to a balanced single bit axe, I am not sure it translates to any practical and therefore competitive advantage. I found his discussion of the social forces behind the transition however very interesting. I think he makes a good point that the choice of even something as practical as a tool can have nothing to do with practicality. I think we see that a lot today in our own outdoor community.

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The article is available on JSTOR if you have an account, or you can get a copy here. I want to thank Joe from Woods Monkey for providing it to me. 

Monday, April 23, 2012

Has “Bushcraft” Missed the Point?

Let me start out by saying that for this post I will be using the term “bushcraft”, not in the way that I ordinarily do to designate wilderness skills, but rather in the way it is usually used these days, to designate the activity itself.

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I have to be honest, when I first started my blog, I wanted to make it clear that I am not a pure bushcrafter as I saw people use the term. I am a mix of a lot of things. I don’t pretend to live off the land. I carry what I need, and have nothing against technology. Once I started writing however, I found myself pulled in the direction of what is typically called “bushcraft”, largely because I found the prospect of using natural resources rather than gear enticing. Because of that, I joined all the forums, started going to meetings, and tried to learn what bushcraft is really about. What I write about here comes from those experiences.

Well, I quickly became disillusioned with “bushcraft”. It hit me at one point last year when I realized that I was going into the woods almost every weekend, practicing skills, and then coming home, while the whole time rarely being more than an hour from the road. It struck me that I was practicing and preparing for some event that never seemed to come. Yes, it’s fun practicing to start a fire using different methods, but what was the point if I just went home afterward. I remember spending a lot more time in the backwoods before this “bushcraft” thing.

Then I started looking around and what I saw with other bushcrafters seemed to follow the same pattern. We would sit around a camp fire, not too far away from the road, split a stick or two with the latest $500 knife we got, cook some bacon and then exchange stories. I can not recall a single instance where someone said something along the lines of “Let me tell you about this trip I did crossing the Sierras with just an axe and a blanket”. The stories were always about who can light a fire the fastest, or has the best knife, or can make a fire from one stick, etc, etc.

I started wondering, what’s the point? As bushcrafters we spent a lot of time talking about living off the land, thriving in nature, relying on the resources around us, and so on. We naturally stick up our noses at those people who are “just backpacking”. After all, they are just passing through nature, while we have this deep understanding that allows us to live in harmony with it.

The reality however did not match our words. Sure, we can light a fire with a bow drill while the average backpacker can’t. However, I would look at backpackers who did extraordinary things in the woods under extreme conditions, climbing mountains and crossing forests, while we sat around the campfire talking about from where each of our wool blankets was imported. We seemed to prepare for all these extraordinary trips and adventures that those “mere backpackers” were doing; we talked about how much better we would be at it because of all our knowledge; but the trips never came.

This made me question everything I was doing. I decided to stop practicing and start doing. It seemed that we were all practicing these skills with the only end goal of impressing the other people at the next meeting. We had gathered all this knowledge that we never used other than to show others that we had it.

In the pursuit of skills, I had lost the spirit of adventure that originally drew me to the woods. I didn’t start this so I can barbeque in a camp site, carve spoons, or coordinate my wardrobe, so it looks more “authentic”. I got into it because I wanted to be like the explorers of old; travel through the woods; living with the gear I had on my back; discovering places I had never seen. I love the feeling of freedom when I know I can go wherever I want in the forest with the gear I have on my back. What I love even more than that however is actually doing it.

What good were any of those skills, if they were never used to support any meaningful experience in the woods? What good is having all that knowledge if someone else without it is doing more backwoods travel than I am? What good is being self sufficient in nature if we are always in sight of our cars?

There is no reason why bushcraft can not be used differently. For some reason, at least from what I have seen, it is not utilized in that way at the moment. And to be fair, there is no need for it to be anything other than what it already is; it just wasn’t what first inspired me to go into the woods.

Friday, April 20, 2012

A Choice of Cups

Some of you guys might have noticed that recently I have been using a plastic cup from a Trangia army cook kit. For a long time I used to use a metal US Army canteen cup, but decided to change for a few reasons. I figured I would take you through some of my thinking, and the options at which i looked.

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The first reason why I decided to stop using a canteen cup is that I wasn’t actually using it. It nested very well with the canteen, but I never wanted to bother pulling it out. Also, after using it, it always had to be cleaned well before putting the canteen back in it. As a result, I very rarely took it out. It certainly wasn’t getting enough use for how heavy it was.

The other reason was that the metal was too hard to handle when it was cold. It would just suck the heat out from your hands unless you had something warm in it. Also for reasons involving the cold, I switched from my canteen to a wide mouth Nalgene bottle, so the canteen cup no longer had a home. Even with replacement cups though, I wanted to stay away from metal due to issues with the cold. I also wanted to avoid nesting cups.

The first cup I looked at as a replacement was the Fold-A-Cup (Large).

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The cup costs about $9, weighs 1.6 oz and holds about 2 1/2 cups of liquid when fully filled. There is a smaller version that holds about one cup of liquid, but i found it to be too small. The largest benefit of this cup is that it can be folded up.

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The reason why I didn’t hose this cup is because I found it to be extremely hard to hold. The walls of the cup are just too soft. When it is filled with liquid, it is impossible to hold by the handle without the cup completely distorting.

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It is fine if you can support the body of the cup with your other hand, but if you have something like hot tea inside, you can not do it without gloves on. It was just too difficult and uncomfortable to use for it to be worth the effort.

I then decided to go with the simplest cup I could find. I ended up trying a GSI Outdoor Infinity Stacking Cup.

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The cup costs under $3, weighs 1.8 oz and holds about 1 3/4 cups of water. It is a perfectly good cup. It is sturdy and light. In all honesty however, I just didn’t like the way it looked.

While looking at the above cup, I saw another GSI cup that I liked a lot. It is the GSI Outdoors Infinity Insulated Mug.

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The cup comes with an insulative sleeve and a cap. It costs $5, weights 2.9 oz (2.3 oz without the cap), and holds about 2 1/2 cups of liquid. The insulative sleeve can be removed in case you want to use the cup as something like a scoop. It actually works very well to protect your hands form hot liquids.

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Quite honestly, this is a great cup. I have not been able to find anything wrong with it, and I may end up using it at some point in the future. The only issue that has kept me from using it as my cup is the sleeve which has the potential to get wet and dirty. It’s not a big deal, but seems like a slightly more complicated design than the mindless, simple cup I was looking for.

That is why I settle don the Trangia army surplus cup. I was able to find it at a surplus store online, after quite a bit of searching. I understand that there is a newer model around with some minor changes.

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The cup cost me about $2. It weighs 2.4 oz and holds about 1 3/4 cups of water. I wish it was slightly larger, but overall I have been very happy with the design. It is very strong, and there is nothing sophisticated about the design. Because it is shallow, it fits fine in my pack, it’s easy to clean, and very comfortable to hold. The handle also works quite well, and the plastic is thick enough that you can hold it without burning your hands if you have a hot liquid inside.

Anyway, that’s what I am using right now. So far it is working well. I’m sure at some point I’ll find something else, but for now I am happy with this choice.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Lapin Puukko Vuolupuukko #31 Review

This is another puukko style knife I have had for a while. I just never got around to the review. With a bit of a delay, here it is.

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Specifications:
Knife Length:
8 ½ inches (217 mm)
Blade Length: 4 1/8 inches (105 mm)
Blade Thickness: 3/32 inches (2.4 mm)
Blade Width: 3/4 inches (20 mm)
Blade Material: Carbon Steel
Blade Hardness: HRC 59 on the Rockwell Scale
Type of Tang: Rattail tang
Blade Grind: Scandinavian with a slight secondary bevel
Handle Material: Wood
Sheath Material: Leather
Cost: $50.00

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This is a very affordable knife. I would say it is about medium cost. The only place where I have found to buy it in the US is Ragweed Forge. It is their #31 Lapin Puukko.

When compared to the Mora #1, the knives are very similar. The blade of the Lapin Puukko is a little longer, in fact just as long as the Mora #2 blade, and it has the same thickness as the Mora #1/#2 blades. For some reason however, the blade feels thicker when you are cutting. I think that is because the grind might be at a slightly wider angle. The handle of the Lapin Puukko is slightly longer than that of the Mora #1. The longer part curves into the hook shape you see in the picture. Otherwise, the two handles have similar proportions and a similar feel in the hand. The blade has a rattail tang, similar to what Mora used to use before they switched to using epoxy.

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When I first started to use the knife, my main worry was the handle. It looked like that hooked part would be very uncomfortable. When I originally ordered the knife, I imagined that the handle would be longer, so that the hooked part would just stick out of the hand. However, at least in my hands, it is part of the handle you are actually holding. That being said however, I was surprised that it was not uncomfortable at all in any of the grips I tried.

When it comes to batoning, the Lapin Puukko performs about he same as the Mora. It gets the job done, but I would not use it for routine splitting.

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You can also use the knife to truncate. I got a question about it recently, although I can’t remember where, but this technique is used to cut through a branch. You would use the knife to form V shaped notches around the branch, similar to what you would do with an axe. The knife does well because of the relatively thin blade.

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As with most wood working puukkos, carving and simple feather stick making are not an issue. I actually found the secondary bevel to be a rather nice addition when it came to making feather stick, although, I prefer the slightly thinner edge of the Mora for carving.

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Overall, I have been happy with the knife. Again, my only concern was the handle, but for some reason it feels comfortable to use. That being said however, I still use my Mora #2. For the money the Lapin Puukko Vuolupuukko #31 is a good alternative to a Mora and a good choice if you want to “step up” to a different puukko.

Monday, April 16, 2012

DISCLAIMERS and Other Obvious Things!

It saddens me deeply that there is a need for me to make such a post. While, as the rest of you, I was aware of the overly litigious nature of modern society, I had not anticipated that this type of mentality had spread to the bushcraft community as well. I always wrote with the assumption that we are all reasonable people with integrity, and that the equivalent of “The Coffee Inside this Cup is Hot” would not be necessary when it came to bushcraft, but apparently other people strongly believe that it is.

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It was brought to my attention that Iz Turley, of Turley Knives, some of you may know him as Hardwoodsman on YouTube, along with a few of his friends, recently did a whole diatribe on BCUSA about me. What I managed to ascertain from the posts was that he was upset that in my videos I state “This is how YOU do x,y, and z”, rather than saying “This is how I do x,y, and z”, as a result, appearing to be an “expert”. While the post itself was not motivated by genuine concerns, but rather by a personal issue between the two of us, the thread did go on for 73 pages before it was closed as customary for too much disagreement. While I am flattered that I would generate this much attention on an online forum, I figured I should address some of the issues in case there are people out there with genuine concerns. I’ll use this post to just list out all of the disclaimers as well as provide you with my thinking behind them.

1. All statements made on my blog, YouTube channel, Twitter account or any other medium, represent only my personal opinion on the particular issue, unless I specify a different source. I foolishly assumed that this would be obvious considering that this is just my personal blog and YouTube account, but I guess in this day and age even the obvious has to be stated.

2. I am not an expert on any issue concerning bushcraft, survival, camping, or any other outdoor pursuit. This is just a hobby for me. Again, I naively assumed that would be obvious, if for no other reason, the about me section of my blog: “I don’t know much about the woods, but I’m happy to share the little that I do know”. The reason why I do not preface every post or video I make with something along the lines of “This is just how I do things”, is that I believe men should stand behind their words. I do not believe in using disclaimers of that nature as cheap copouts for providing bad information. I do not believe that I am absolved of any responsibility for making a whole video showing people how to do something incorrectly, just by starting out with “This is just how I do it”. I think it’s time we all man-up and stand behind what we say. As you guys know, I am always happy to stand corrected if I have provided factually inaccurate information.

3. I do not make any income in any way from anything related to my blog, YouTube channel, or anything else related to bushcraft or other outdoor activities. Thanks to you guys, for a long time now I have been in a position to monetize both my blog and YouTube channel, but I have refused to do so, so it does not compromise the integrity of what I write about. I do not accept funding from any manufacturer, and if an item is donated for testing, it is disclosed in the review. I don’t make “bushcraft knives”, I don’t sell outdoor gear, and have absolutely no financial interest in the activity. Like they say, “If you want to know the truth, follow the money”. I want to make sure that financial considerations are never a motivating factor in what information I put out.

4. All videos you see on my YouTube channel are intended to be viewed as part of my blog. I have specified that on the YouTube channel, but I am not sure everyone reads it. If you are just watching the videos, they may be out of context, if not viewed as part of the blog.

5. If you decide to do anything that I show you, do it at our own risk. Again, something that should be obvious.  

So there you have it. These are all of the disclaimers I can think of right now. I’m sure Mr. Turley will come up with some other ones, so I may have to update this post as time passes. I hope this addresses some of the issues other people may have genuinely had. If you have any questions, as always, please let me know.

Unfortunately, as an incredible sign of “integrity”, I have been prevented from posting a response on BCUSA by the people who generated the diatribe, so if any of your friends there were wondering about any of this, please feel free to direct them to this post.

I thank you all for reading this post. It is regrettable that any time has to be spent dwelling on this, but I’ll be back to regular programming with the next post and some more of my Mr. Fancy-Pants Expert opinions. ;)

Friday, April 13, 2012

Therm-a-Rest NeoAir All Season Sleeping Pad Review

This product has been around for a some time now, although I only got mine recently. I had a reader request this review, so here it is:

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As you guys know, the sleeping set up for most people in the woods involves a system. The main component is usually a sleeping bag, with some type of rain protection on top. Under the sleeping bag you usually find a pad. The reason for that is that heat can be lost very easily through contact with the ground; in many cases faster than with air. Also, sleeping bags get more compressed on the bottom due to the weight of your body, losing some of their insulation.

Not all sleeping pads are made equal. They differ in design, from inflatable pads like the one in this review, to closed cell foam solid pads. The main difference however is in the insulation, or R-value of the pad. It is generally said that an R-value of over 3 can be considered a “winter” pad. I’m not sure how accurate that is, but the higher the R-Value, the better the insulation.

For reference, your standard army surplus closed cell foam pad, that you roll up and attach to your backpack, has an R-value of about 2. This is more or less the same with most closed cell foam pads on the market, as well as many of the regular inflatable pads. Traditionally, in winter, people would carry two of these pads.

In recent years, developers have started to come up with inflatable pads that have higher R-value. Some use insulation such as down inside the pad, others, like the NeoAir All Season use heat reflective materials.

Specifications (for Regular Size Pad):

R-value: 4.9
Weight:
Pad:
1 lb 3.9 oz
Stuff Sack: 1.7 oz
Repair Kit: 0.4 oz
Length: 72 inches
Width: 20 inches
Thickness: 2.5 inches
Cost: $100.00

The first thing to note is that the listed weight for the pad is 1 lb 3 oz. Mine came out to 0.9 oz heavier. I have used it a bunch of times, so this could be due to condensation inside the pad, but seems unlikely.

Speaking of condensation, when it comes to inflatable pads, this is one of the largest issues when used during winter. If you inflate it by blowing into it, moisture from your breath will condense inside. If your pad uses something like down insulation, the R-value of the pad can get decreased significantly.

Because of that, most inflatable pads come with a pump of some sort. Typically, the stuff sack will act as a pump. The same is true with the NeoAir All Season. The stuff sack attaches to the opening on the pad. You then let it fill up with air, and squeeze the air into the pad.

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I have given this method a fair try, but in my opinion, it does not work at all. Well, to be exact, it works, it just takes FOREVER. I am yet to manage to inflate the pad using the pump. In fact, I cut out the extra parts and now just use it as a stuff sack. I inflate the pad the old fashioned way, by blowing into it.

Condensation is not as big of an issue for the NeoAir All Season because it does not use any insulation which would be effected by the moisture. Instead, it seems to use a honeycomb of some material that looks like a space blanket.

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Because of that, even when fully deflated, the NeoAir All Season has an R-value of about 1.5.

I resisted getting an inflatable pad for a long time because I was worried about punctures. I figured, it weighs as much as a closed cell foam pad, it has the same R-value, as most three season inflatable pads have an R-value of about 2, and they cost a lot. With this one however, there is a clear benefit. An R-value of 4.9 is a significant increase in performance, and the added thickness makes for a very comfortable pad. This for me outweighs the added danger of puncture. The pad also comes with a very light repair kit. I am not sure how well it works.

It packs up very small. They say it is about the size of a Nalgene bottle. You could pack it up that small, but a more realistic size is what you see in the picture. This also happens to be the size of the stuff sack.

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My experience with the pad has been very positive. The first time I used it, I could immediately feel the difference when compared to my closed cell foam pad. I have been able to really push the performance of my sleeping bags because of this pad. It is also much more comfortable. The sleeping site requires a lot less preparation, as you are well protected from rocks and branches.

The pad also feels thick and durable. It also seems to do well at distributing the air inside. That way, when you sit on it, it does not compress under you, sending the air to another area of the mat.

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The only down side is its size. When inflated it is fairly narrow. It is just long enough to fit me, and I am about 6 feet tall. When you are moving around during the night, you have to be careful not to slip off. As you can see from the above picture, I use a trash bag as a ground sheet. I do that so that when the sleeping bag hangs over the sides of the pad, it doesn’t touch the ground.

Overall, I am very happy with the pad. I am not big on testing pads, so I am not sure how it compares to some of the other top of the line models, but for my uses, it has been perfect. It has made a big difference in my comfort level when out in the woods. It has also been great not to have a pad on the outside of my bag, catching all the branches.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Dual Survival Season 3 – Cast Changes

Well, it seems that most of the survival/bushcraft related shows that we have had in the past few years are going off the air. Man, Woman, Wild will not be returning for another season, and as we know, Man vs. Wild is gone. Until Survivorman returns, at a yet unknown date, Dual Survival seems to be the main show left in this category.

africa-bush-01

Yes, the show will be back for a third season. However, there will be changes. It appears that Cody Lundin will be back, but Dave Canterbury will not.

Here is what Dave posted on his Facebook page:

“All- I wanted to say Congratulations to the Crew of Dual Survival in the announcment of Season 3, however with that said I will not be involved in Season 3. I have many commitments to Family and Buisness and many more months away from home and family is just not my wish at the present time. My current goals are more based on Pathfinder School Activities. I am sure Discovery has found a suitable replacement and I look forward to watching.”

Here is what Cody wrote about the new season on his Facebook page:

“Dual Survival Season Three!
The Discovery Channel has officially announced season three of Dual Survival. Filming will commence soon and I’ll share more details as I learn them. Have a Happy Easter everyone! Cody”

Who will replace Dave? There is no news about it yet. I am sure it will be someone who contrasts with Cody. After all, the original premise of the show was to put two people with drastically different styles together.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Gransfors Bruks Splitting Maul Modification

You guys have not seen me review any mauls, or talk much about that. The reason is that I don’t know much about them, since I don’t split a lot of wood.

Recently however, I was contacted by a reader who was having an issue with his Gransfors Bruks Splitting Maul. He ultimately managed to resolve the problem. I thought I would share the solution with you in case you have been having the same issue.

The issue was that the Gransfors Bruks Splitting Maul has a sharp transition point where the cheeks meet the area surrounding the eye. When the wood was too thick or knotted to be split with a single hit, those abrupt transitions on the side/edges would get stuck in the wood.

The solution was to file down those areas, smoothing out the sides.

GB Maul_TopView_with Comments

Here you can see the side view. The filed down areas have been circled.

GB_Maul_SideView_with Comments

It makes sense that this would work. I guess Gransfors Bruks had not anticipated that the maul would penetrate the wood all the way to the eye of the maul without getting split. Sharp transition points in those area would certainly cause more binding.

If this has been an issue for you, you may want to give this approach a try. Most of the metal was removed with a file, and then made smooth with sand paper.

I want to thank the reader for contributing this information as well as the pictures.