Friday, June 28, 2013

There is Just Something About a Girl With a Gun

This past weekend I finally took my girlfriend to do some shooting. She did great. While being in the woods is not her idea of a good time, she really enjoyed shooting. Unfortunately the outdoor range near us was closed, so we had to go to the indoor one.



I don’t know, maybe it’s just me, but there is something about a girl shooting a gun that puts a smile on my face.


A good time was had by all.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Get Out Alive – Bear Grylls Returns to Television in a New Survival Competition

If you were saddened when Discovery canceled their contract with Bear Grylls, there is cause for celebration. NBC is bringing him back to television in a new survival competition show called Get Out Alive.


Here is what NBC has to say about the show:

Grylls leads this non-stop extreme survival journey that tests 10 teams of two beyond their wildest imaginations as they venture into the unforgiving and dramatic landscape of New Zealand's South Island. Their mission is threefold: survive the wild, journey as a group and avoid elimination. Each week, Bear will send home another team. In the end, only one duo will remain - the team that he believes has shown the most heart, courage, initiative and resolve in their quest to "get out alive" and claim a life-changing grand prize of $500,000.

From dense forests and sheer mountain drop-offs, to freezing cold rivers and unforgiving glacier crevasses, the landscapes tackled will be harsh, remote and physically and emotionally draining. Having to navigate the worst that the wild can throw at them every step of the way, the contestants will be battling to survive like never before.

Every team is assigned a task to take charge of throughout each leg of the journey - including food, fire shelter and obstacles. This is not a race, but is a life-changing adventure to reveal the raw survival spirit needed to "get out alive."

All along the way, Bear, the ultimate adventure survival expert, will be watching, either from vantage points or while traveling with the group. He is looking for that survival spirit, resourceful skill and heart-led determination that he knows the wild demands. If the situation requires, Bear will step in, but all the time, the duos must work together to overcome the cold, fatigue and hardships. And at the end of each leg of the journey, there are difficult and emotional decisions to be made by Bear as he chooses who should leave the expedition.

As the stakes get higher, the obstacles become more unyielding. As civilization gets closer, the journeys get harder, until ultimately only one duo remains. That team will have endured and survived the ultimate test of character and fortitude - walking away with the grand prize, along with the scars and pride that they proved themselves capable to "Get Out Alive with Bear Grylls."

The show seems set up like a Man vs. Wild – Competition Edition. I imagine similar stunts being performed by the contestant. It could possibly be more like an adventure race competition. We will see.

The show premiers on July 8, 2013 at 9:00PM on NBC.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Wood Trekker Social Media – Google Reader Replacement Update

If you have been using Google Reader to follow your favorite blogs, you probably know by now that Google Reader is being shut down by the end of this month.

A few months back I wrote a post explaining how you can move all of your content to a number of different readers that are available. You can see the post here.

After writing the post, several people commented that there is a much easier way to follow blogs, using a service called Feedly. I gave it a try, and indeed, it is a much better and a much easier option than anything else I have been able to find.


To use the service, simply log onto Feedly using your Google Reader account, and it will automatically import all of the blogs that you have been following. If you don’t want to import any blogs, you can use whatever account you wand and add blogs manually. The program is intuitive and easy to use, but just to make things easier, here are some tips.

Once you are logged in, you can open your menu of options by moving the pointer over the small rectangle in the upper left hand corner.


When the menu opens, you have a number of options. To add a blog, click on the “Add Content” button.


That will open a box into which you can copy and paste the URL of the blog you wish to follow. When done, just press the “Add” button.


I use Chrome as my browser, and Feedly actually has an add on for the browser, which makes things even easier. It places a small button on the lower right hand corner of the screen, which when pressed open a mini menu which allows you to add blogs to your Feedly.


Anyway, this is just another option I wanted to point out to you guys in case you are currently using Google Reader and are not sure what to do when the service is terminated at the end of the month. I’ve also added a Feedly box on the side on my blog to make it easier for you to use.

Monday, June 24, 2013

Mark Hill Custom Wood Trekker Knife Review

You have probably noticed that I have not done any knife reviews in a while. The reason for that is that the more I use knives, the less it matters what knife I am using. On top of that, I have figured out what I like, so I no longer need to bounce between knife design in pursuit of “The One”. For a while now I have been using a basic Mora #2 as my backpacking/bushcraft/woodcraft knife. Its size and proportions are exactly what I like, so there has been no reason to look for anything else. Recently however, I stopped carrying an axe or hatchet on most of my trips. As a result, more of the woodworking tasks have started falling on the knife. While the Mora #2 is a great knife, I’ve been finding it a bit on the weak side. It wasn’t an issue when I had my hatchet, but as a stand alone woodworking tool, it was not ideal.

There were three possible solutions. The first was to go back to a more robust knife like my Fallkniven S1, something I’ve been trying to avoid, as I have not needed a larger knife. The second solution was to find a knife similar to the Mora #2, just more robust, something I have not been able to find to my satisfaction. The third option was to get a custom made version of the Mora #2, which will have similar dimensions, while being stronger. After some thinking, I opted for the third option.

Of course, all that did was replace the search for the perfect knife, with the search for the perfect knife maker. For some time now I have been looking at different knife makers, but none of them have been exactly right. Either their products cost too much, take too long to make, or are simply Woodlore clones, or sharpened pry-bars (obviously not my thing). A few weeks back however, I stumbled upon a post on Blades and Bushcraft, where a knife maker new to the forum, was showing some of his designs. I immediately liked what he had, and contacted him to inquire if he does custom work, and how much he charges. The makes was Mark Hill, and the knife you see here is the product of his work.


This review is not so much a review of the knife, which after all was made to my specification so it’s hard for me not to like it, but rather a review of the knife maker, Mark Hill. But before I get into all that, let me give you some of the specifications of the knife, in case you are curious. In essence, this is a modified Mora #2 clone. Below you can see the specification. A lot of them are the same as the Mora #2. The ones that are different, I have noted to the side.


Knife Length: 8 3/8 inches (212 mm)
Blade Length: 4 1/8 inches (104 mm)
Blade Thickness: 1/8 inches (3 mm); this is thicker than the Mora #2, which has a thickness of 3/32 inches (2.4 mm). The angle of the grind for the cutting edge however has been kept the same as that of the Mora #2, 16.6 degrees.
Blade Width:
13/16 inches (20 mm); the Mora #2 actually has a slightly sloping spine to the blade, which varies from 20 mm at the ferrule to 18 mm where the drop on the blade starts for the point. On the custom knife I kept the width the same 20 mm the whole way until the start of the drop.
Blade Material: O1 carbon steel; obviously this is different from the 1095 steel of the Mora #2. Other metals are also available. 
Blade Hardness: HRC 59 on the Rockwell Scale
Type of Tang: Full tang; this is probably the biggest difference from the Mora #2, which has a partial tang.
Blade Grind: Scandinavian/single bevel; the type of grind as well as the angle of the grind (16.6 degrees) has been kept the same as the Mora #2.
Handle Material:
Cocobolo wood with liners; other options are also available.
Sheath Material: Leather; I requested a brown dangler sheath. Other designs and colors are also available, and clearly different from the plastic Mora #2 sheath.
Cost: $235.00; much more expensive than the $12.00 Mora #2.

So, to summarize the specifications, it is a full tang Mora #2 with a slightly thicker blade, but with the same grind angle for the edge, and with a better quality handle and sheath. Oh yes, and much more expensive.

As I mentioned above, any review of the knife that I write will not be completely unbiased. After all, the knife was designed to my specifications, so naturally, it will perform the way I want it to. Just a few brief notes though.

The extra thickness and full tang have transformed this knife. While with the Mora #2 you can feel the flex of the blade, and have to be careful under heavier use, the Mark Hill custom knife felt extremely strong, and handled the applied forces without any sign of weakness.


I certainly didn’t take it easy on the knife, but again, not only did it not fail, but felt very strong. Even though the handle and blade are the same length and width as the Mora #2, the slight increase in thickness and the full tang did wonders.


Of course, it is common sense that a thicker knife will be stronger. The big gamble for me was whether the increase of the thickness would effect the knife’s cutting characteristics. I like how thin the Mora #2 grind is, and my hope was that by preserving the same grind angle in the custom knife, the same cutting characteristics would be preserved. I am happy to report that the attempt was a success. The knife cuts just like a Mora #2, and has the same feel when carving or cutting.


Now, back to the knife maker, Mark Hill. As I mentioned, when I first saw his work, I contacted him to see if he would be interested in a custom knife. He replied that he is willing to take on any project I might have, and that I should take a look at his website. It is at that point that I realized that Mark Hill is a UK knife maker. I wasn’t sure what that would mean in terms of cost, but he quickly quoted a price for the completed knife and sheath, shipped to the US for $235.00. Now, I know that is a lot of money, but in all honesty, it is cheap for a custom knife. There are plenty of mass produced knives that cost more, and virtually every hand made knife is in the same price range or above. More importantly, this is not just a hand made knife like for example the Woodlore knives, which are handmade, but all identical, made using the same jigs. This knife was made to my exact specifications. I just sent an email with what I wanted, and Mark Hill had to get a Mora #2, figure out all the dimensions, figure out the modifications, and then make it. I think $235.00 is a bargain.

More importantly, working with Mark Hill was a pleasure. The whole exchange consisted of only a few emails. He was quickly able to understand all of the details I was trying to communicate. To be honest, I was sure that something would be wrong in the final product, but to my surprise, he understood exactly what I wanted, and was able to deliver.

Equally important is the fact that the knife was designed and completed in about 10 days. By that, I literally mean, it took about 10 days from the time that I sent him the specification to the time the knife was in the mail. I received it a few days later. As far as I am concerned, that is impressive. Many of the knife makers I had contacted before had productions schedules measured in months, not days, or had waitlists that went on for years.

I have no idea how the knife was made with such speed, or at such cost, but the result is impressive. There are no flaws, or errors. Everything is perfectly aligned and centered.


I purchased this knife as a replacement for my Mora #2. I plan on using it in the exact same way, so it will get some serious use over the years to come. I must admit, I will be doing so with some reluctance because it is a beautifully made knife.

I can honestly say that this has been the easiest and most pleasant experience I have had with any manufacturer. Had I know that this was an available option, I would have done it years ago, instead of spending a lot more money on other knives. I think it is definitely an option to consider, and I would certainly recommend Mark Hill as the knife maker for the job.

For more information, you can visit Mark Hill’s website at There you can see available knife design, blade and handle materials, as well as contact Mark for any custom projects you may have in mind.

Friday, June 21, 2013

Trip Report: Silver Mine Lake 6/15/13 – 6/16/13

This past weekend I had some free time, so I decided to spend the weekend in the woods again. After the last trip along the Neversink river, I wanted something less challenging, so I decided to go to a spot where I did one of my first trips when I came here in the US. The area is along the Silver Mane Lake in Harriman State Park. It is an easy outing without much elevation change for most of the way.

I started the trip off following a trail. It had been raining for the past few days, so it turned out that the trail was now a small stream. I abandoned the trail, and moved closer to the lake.


When I got along the shore of the lake, I saw quite a few geese.


I had the dog with me on this trip. I find it more interesting, especially on relaxed trips like this one.


She always has fun chasing after the animals. Unfortunately, she also found a snake to chase around. I have no idea what kind it was, but i put a stop to it. I don’t know if you can see it in the picture below.


Eventually I started encountering a lot of small streams and river flowing towards the lake, and unfortunately blocking my path. My goal was to bushwhack to the southern part of the lake. All the water had made the terrain less than ideal.


Eventually I reached the part of the lake for which I had been aiming.


It was fishing time! Also known as: me losing lures and tangling up the line time.


After a bunch of messing around with the rod, it was time for lunch. My hope was to get some perch to go along with what I had brought, but no luck.


After some more fishing I decided to start searching for a good camp site further up the mountain, so I could set up camp early. After some climbing I found a nice level area close to a stream. I stopped to fill up with water for the evening.


All that was left to do was set up the tent, and get the fire going. When I am alone, I stick to small fires, which require very little wood to keep burning through the evening.


The following day I had a short trip out of the woods.




The only noteworthy thing was some bird on bird violence that took place when I was almost out of the forest. I was taking some more pictures of the geese.


Apparently this one was at the wrong place at the wrong time, because all of a sudden a small bird dove from a tree and proceeded to attack the goose. It kept diving on it until the goose swam away. This is the clearest shot I was able to get of the attack.


When we got back to the car, my dog was so tired that when I opened the trunk of the car to put my backpack inside, she hopped in and laid down.


Here is the gps recording of the trip. It’s nothing special. I just followed the lake until I got to its southern section, and then I went up the mountain a bit to set up camp.


Not a challenging trip by any means of the imagination, but it was a good bit of fun. I always like having my dog with me.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Photograph of an Alaskan Prospector and His Dog, 1900

The photograph was taken in 1900 during the Alaskan Gold Rush.


It appears than man’s best friend also served quite well as a pack animal. I also like that the man is in the middle of nowhere, with a rifle and a belt lined with bullets, but is still wearing a tie.

Monday, June 17, 2013

Ultralight Backpacking Rifle – The Ruta Locura Pack Rifle Kit (PRK)

This is going to be a general post regarding one of the ultralight backpacking rifle options that I mentioned in an earlier post. It should serve as a general overview of the Ruta Locura Pack Rifle Kit (PRK), and to show the assembly process of the gun, at least the way I did it along with my modifications to the final product. This is not a complete review of the product, only general impressions. I have not been using the rifle for long enough and under enough different conditions as to offer a complete in dept review of its performance.


The Pack Rifle Kit (PRK), as the name indicates, is not actually a complete rifle. It is a conversion kit designed to reduce the weight of a standard Keystone Arms Crickett youth rifle. Rutal Locura produces two variants of the kit. The first is a tube stock version, which reduces the weight of the gun to 15 oz. The second version, and the one which I will be looking at here uses a skeletonized stock instead of the tube stock, reducing the weight of the gun to 19 oz (19.8 as measured on my scale).

Since the receiver and bolt are the ones from a Crickett rifle, the firing characteristics and operation are the same as that of the Crickett. The final product is a single action, single shot, bolt action rifle, chambered in .22LR. The replacement stock increases the length of pull (the distance from the trigger to the butt of the stock) to 14 inches. The overall length of the finished rifle is 32 inches. The kit allows easy disassembly of the completed rifle, whereby the stock can be removed using a single wing nut. As mentioned above, the skeletonized version of the PRK weighs 19 oz (19.8 as measured) in its completed form. The barrel is made of a carbon fiber outer with a steel insert. The stock of the skeletonized kit is made from plastic and carbon fiber.

My setup, as seen in the above picture, including the scope, comes in at exactly 1.5 lb. The PRK is not cheap. It costs $250.00. That is a good amount of money, especially considering that you are not getting an actual gun. Together with the cost of a Crickett rifle, the total cost of the gun will be in the $350.00 range. While not cheap, it is not more than its competitor, the Pack Rifle, which sells for $450.00. 

The Components

In the picture below, you can see all of the components of the kit required for final assembly. Of course, you have to start out with a Crickett rifle. The one I have is a new model (without the safety lock), but the older ones work just as well with the kit, and in fact, so do the old Chipmunk rifles. The components that actually come with the Skeletonized Pack Rifle Kit are the stock, the replacement barrel, and the wing nut/bolt which holds the stock to the receiver in the final product. That’s it!


For comparison purposes, in the chart below I have divided the different components as shared ones, those belonging to the stock Crickett, and those belonging to the PRK, and shown the corresponding weights.






1 lb 0.3 oz (16.3 oz)


6.9 oz

Receiver, Bolt and Trigger Assembly  

8.5 oz


1 lb 3.6 oz (19.6 oz)


4.2 oz

Barrel Screw  

Less than 0.1 oz

Barrel Retaining Lug

Less than 0.1 oz


0.2 oz

Total Weight

2 lb 12.4 oz (44.4 oz)


19.8 oz

Where you see a weight of “Less than 0.1 oz” it means I was not able to register any weight on my scale.

Assembly Stage 1 – Putting Together the Components

Please remember that what you see here is simply the steps that I took. I do not work for Ruta Locura, and my methods should not be followed without knowing what you are doing. Do this at your own risk. If you are not sure how to install the kit, take it to a licensed gun smith.

Stage 1 of the assembly is to put together the components from the kit. Completion of this stage will give you the final product that the Skeletonized Pack Rifle Kit provides. Stage 2 and Stage 3 will show modifications and additions that I have made to the product in order to get the rifle you see in the first picture. For now, let’s continue with Stage 1.

The assembly of the PRK begins with the disassembly of the Crickett rifle.

Begin by removing the stock from the Crickett rifle. It is held to the receiver with just a single flathead screw, which can be found on the bottom of the stock.


When the screw is removed, simply pull the stock away from the rest of the gun. There are no other components holding it together.


Next, remove the bolt from the receiver. You don’t technically need to do this, but there is no reason to cause unnecessary damage to the bolt while working on the gun. To remove the bolt, simply draw it back as far as it will go. Then fully press the trigger. That will release the bolt and allow you to pull it all the way out while holding down the trigger.


With the bolt removed, it is time to remove the barrel. The barrel is held to the receiver with a 1/8 allen head screw and a roll pin. First, remove the allen head screw, which is located within the same threaded tube where the screw holding the stock to the receiver was held. Just place a 1/8 inch allen wrench inside the hole, and loosen the screw.


With the screw removed, it is time to take out the roll pin. This is the part of the assembly that had worried me the most. The instructions tell you to use a hole punch to drive out the pin, but I did not have one. I just used a small screw driver. A few taps with the hammer, pushed it right out without much of a problem.



Completely remove the roll pin, and pull out the barrel. I found it easiest when I held the barrel with a towel, and turned it while pulling. The end result should be the completely disassembled Crickett rifle.


Now that we have all of the component parts, it is time to substitute in the Pak Rifle Kit elements. As you can see, it is a fairly direct substitution. The bolt, receiver, and trigger mechanism stay the same; the barrel is replaced with the PRK barrel using the same allen head screw that held the original barrel, without the use of the roll pin; and the stock is replaced with the PRK stock using a wing nut/bolt instead of of the flathead screw that held on the original stock.


The final product of the Stage 1 assembly, and what the Skeletonized Pack Rifle Kit is intended to produce looks like this:


Now, a few points.

The PRK rifle uses the same sights as the Crickett, so you have to remove the front sights from the original barrel and place them on the new one. That is used by removing and then reusing on the new barrel a single 3/32 inch allen head screw.

Installing the replacement barrel can be a little tricky because you are not using the roll pin. The barrel is held in place just by the original allen head screw, which is supposed to go into an indentation on the new barrel. To align it properly, I first matched the indentations with the screw. I then inserted the bolt into the receiver, and pushed the barrel in until it was flush against the bolt. That is how I knew it was in at the right dept.

The reason why the PRK uses a wing nut/bolt instead of the original screw to hold the stock in place is that this allows you to quickly disassemble the rifle for transport. Just by removing the wing nut, you can take off the entire stock, reducing the packed length of the rifle to 20 inches.

All of the work you see done in this post was performed on my coffee table using a screwdriver, a set of allen wrenches, a hammer, and a small screwdriver/hole punch.

Ruta Locura provides some assembly instructions on their website, which you can see here as Page 1 and Page 2. While the instructions are specifically for the Tube Stock PRK, they are virtually the same ones as for the Skeletonized PRK.

Assembly Stage 2 – Modifications

The above picture shows you exactly and completely, what you get with the Skelotinized Pack Rifle Kit from Ruta Locura. Of course, I needed to make some small modifications to the design in order to make it exactly to my liking.

The first modification was to install a trigger guard. This is a single action rifle, meaning you have to manually cock the firing pin after a round is chambered, but still, I do not feel comfortable without a trigger guard. The solution was simple. That evening I was eating some beans from a can, and when I was finished, I cut out a piece of the can, folded over the edges so it was not sharp, bent it into shape using a pair of pliers, and epoxied it to the stock using Gorilla Glue.


After some cleaning up, the result was a rifle with a simple trigger guard that weighs 0.1 oz.


The second modification was even simpler. I just replaced the wing nut/bolt which holds the stock in place with the original flat head screw which performed the same function. The exchange worked well. The reason why I switched back to the original screw is that I have no intention of taking the rifle apart, so there was no need for a wing nut which would catch onto things.


The last modification can be seen in the above picture as well. At the risk of having a senator pass a law against the gun, I decided to pain the stock black so it matches the rest of the components. I did it using a can of spray paint I got at the hardware store. The material from which the stock is made has a porous surface, which held to the paint well, and I believe the paint will offer protection from the elements.


The above picture shows the completed product at Stage 2 of the assembly process.

Assembly Stage 3 – Additions

The last stage of the project was to add a scope to the rifle. Why a scope? Well, for one, I am not a good shot, so I need all the help I can get, but also, this is a single shot rifle. There is no quick reload here. Therefore, the more you can improve the probability of getting a hit on the first shot, the better.

So, I started looking for a scope that will work for this application. The first piece I needed to get was the scope mount for the rifle. Keystone Arms makes a scope mount for their Crickett rifles, and since the receiver has not been altered in any way, it works perfectly with the Pack Rifle Kit. The scope mount with the three screws that come with it weigh a combined 0.7 oz.

Keystone Arms also makes a 4 power scope for the Crickett, but it was too heavy for my liking. The scope comes in at over 11 oz, which is a lot considering the whole rifle weighs 19 oz. I looked around for a bit, and decided to get the Barska 4x20 Rimfire Scope (AC10730). As the name indicates, it is a fixed 4 power scope with a 20mm objective lens. The scope is listed as having a weight of 4.8 oz, but as measured it was 3.5 oz. I have no idea why there was such a big difference.

To install the scope, first install the scope mount. The process is very easy. You need to loosen the side screw that controls the elevation of the rear sight, and then remove the top screw which holds the rear peep sight on the bracket. Then remove the two place holding screws on the front part of the receiver.


Then, simply use the three screws provided with the scope mount bracket, to install it onto the receiver.


Once that is done, the scope just attaches to it with the clips that it comes with. You simply tighten them onto the mounting bracket. 


The final product is a ultralight backpacking rifle in single shot .22LR with a 4 power scope that weighs 1.5 lb. Now, the scope is not the greatest. The clarity leaves something to be desired. Also, because of the light weight of all of the components, there is noticeable recoil, which actually loosened the scope the first time I shot the rifle. Make sure the scope is well tightened. For comparison purposes, here you can see it next to my Savage Arms 93R17 rifle with a 3-9x40 scope, which weighs in at 7 lb.


Granted, the 93R17 is a much more accurate rifle, with a much better scope and a 5 round magazine, so performance wise there is no comparison, but after holding the Pack Rifle Kit rifle, and barely noticing that it is in your hands, it is hard to go back to a standard rifle.


The rifle may at first glance appear to be a toy, but in terms of fit and feel, it functions just like any other rifle with a 16 inch barrel and a stock with a full length of pull. At first I was worried that I would have difficulty aligning the rifle properly, but it has been working very well for me and has proven to be quite comfortable. 


Accuracy is what you would expect from a Crickett rifle with a 4 power scope. I have seen people take 200 yard shots with a standard Crickett with a scope, although the reality is that 100 yards would be the limit for most shooters. I doubt I will ever use it for shots over 30 yards, so if you want details on performance past that, I’m sure there is plenty of detailed information on the performance of the Crickett rifle.

Copy of IMG_3748

In terms of down sides, there are two, and they are both a result of the kit using the Crickett rifle for components. The first issue I have is that there is no feed ramp. As a result, you can not just toss a round into the breach, and push in the bolt. You have to insert the round precisely into the chamber before closing the bolt. It is not a huge deal, but it slows down reloading times. The second issue is that it is a single action rifle. You have to manually cock the firing pin after chambering the round. Again, not a huge issue, but I would have preferred a double action rifle. In short, I wish the kit was based on the Savage Rascal rather than the Keystone Arms Crickett. Again, those are minor gripes, and the Crickett is a well proven platform that has been around for a long time.

Overall, I am extremely happy with the final product after the modifications and addition of the scope. It is hard to beat an ultralight backpacking rifle with a scope, that comes in at 1.5 lb. In all likelihood, this is the rifle that will most often find itself strapped to my pack for small game hunting. It opens up a whole world of possibilities, where you can hunt opportunistically during a wide range of trips. It is so light that you almost don’t have to justify bringing it along. If you happen to run across some small game, then great. If not, then who cares. It is only 1.5 lb. It’s hard to beat that kind of freedom.