by Todd Walker
There are many scenarios where you may be separated from your backpack and gear. Tipping a canoe or tumbling down a ravine come to mind. These types of accidents can quickly relieve you of the gear which makes for a comfortable wilderness outing. Having essential gear in your pockets and attached to your belt could turn your luck around, and, not being too dramatic here, could literally save your life.
I leave my main pack at base camp on short scouts on backcountry outings. Depending on the purpose of my trek, I usually grab my canteen set and head out. Of course, the ring belt I made is secured around my waist… always! No matter what happens to my other gear, essential stuff is attached to my ring belt. That’s right, I wear two belts: 1.) A traditional belt to prevent me from looking like a hip-hopper “who be sagging” in the woods; 2.) My ring belt to keep self-reliance tools secure and accessible.
Here is what’s on my belt…
Belt Kit Items
First, let’s look at the ring belt itself. I bought a strip of leather and crafted the belt using a D-ring, Chicago screws, and waxed thread. It’s a simple design I first learned from Justin Wolfe at Wolfe Customs. To make your own, use a leather belt blank which measures about 20 inches longer than your normal belt. Attach a ring or D-ring and your set.
To tie a ring belt, thread the end through the ring around your waist. Run the end under the belt from the bottom creating a loop. Pass the end back through the loop and cinch tight. If you don’t have a ring belt, traditional belts will work. However, one advantage of ring belts is their ability to be worn over heavy winter clothing for easy access to frequently used tools in the field.
One alternative use for the leather ring belt is a strop for cutting tools. Loop the belt around a tree and pull tight. Strop your knife by moving the blade up and down the leather with the cutting edge facing the opposite direction of the stropping motion.
Arguably one of the most important tools for outdoor self-reliance, a sharp knife is essential. Whatever knife rides on your belt, testing its abilities and limits is paramount. Before depending on a particular knife, put it through blue-collar woodcraft work for several months. By the end of your test period, you’ll know whether or not it fits your needs.
If you’re just new to bushcraft/woodcraft, I’d recommend reading my article on Bloated Bushcraft to give you some perspective on knives and skills.
My main belt knife is a L.T. Wright Genesis I purchased for my lovely Dirt Road Girl at the 2015 Blade Show. Ya see, I’m just running it through its paces to see if it’ll be dependable for her.😉 This article isn’t a Best-Knife discussion. There’s no such thing. However, I have found her Genesis to be very robust and resilient over the last year in the field.
At our last Georgia Bushcraft Campout, I was fortunate enough to win a really well crafted possibles pouch made by Reliance Leatherworks in a fire challenge. This pouch replaced an old military pouch I carried for five years which had previously housed my fire kit.
The contents of my fire kit pouch consist of multiply methods to burn sticks.
- Bic Lighter – open flame ignition
- Flint and Steel – spark ignition
- Tonteldoos (Tinder box) – redundant spark ignition
- Magnifying Lens in a birch bark container with a small bed of dried natural tinder – solar ignition
- Char Container with charred material – next fire kit
- Small piece of Fat Lighter’d – the best natural fire starter in south
- Sure Fire material – commercially made fire starter that will burn floating in water
You may have noticed that my ferrocerium rod is not in the pouch content list. The reason is that I carry a rather large ferro rod in a leather sheath alongside my folding saw. More on those items later.
The idea behind a good fire kit is to carry multiple methods of starting a fire in various weather conditions. Having different ignition sources gives you options. You can read about the advantages and disadvantages of each source in our Bombproof Fire Craft Series.
Ferrocerium Rod and Folding Saw
Being resourceful, I shop antique stores, thrift shops, and yard sales. I found a one-dollar leather sheath which was used to hold screw drivers and re-purposed it to hold my Bacho folding saw and large ferro rod. A carabiner connects the sheath to my belt. A pair of leather work gloves also hang from the carabiner.
For a handle on my ferro rod, two feet of one inch Gorilla Tape is wrapped around the end of the rod with a loop of paracord taped into the wrap. Here’s my reasoning for this handle:
- Extra Gorilla Tape is never a bad thing
- Epoxied handles tend to come loose with heavy use over time – not so with this tape
- The loop allows me to clip the rod to the carabiner on the ring belt and insert into the folding saw sheath
I carry a sidearm in the woods and everywhere legally allowed. You just never know what you’ll walk up on in the woods. Four-legged predators don’t concern me much in Georgia. Walking to my base camp recently I saw gang graffiti painted on rocks in the pristine creek. Just up the creek my semi-permanent shelter was tagged in red spray paint as well. This happened on 70 acres of private land.
Not all who wander the woods are there to enjoy nature. Paying attention to human nature, I choose to pack heat in the back country.
Pants pockets serve as a redundant reservoir. I carry a Swiss Army Knife, chap stick, and a mini Bic lighter in one front pocket. My truck keys are in the opposite pocket with a spare ferro rod attached. My wallet is in my back pocket. Yes, my wallet contains survival items like duct tape. My cell phone rides in the opposite pocket. Even without cell service in the hinter boonies, the camera feature is invaluable to me in documenting my adventures.
I can attach my 32 ounce canteen kit to my ring belt if necessary. However, I prefer wearing it over my shoulder with a paracord shoulder strap for emergency cordage. The front pouch of the carrying case has redundant fire starters, an EmberLit stove, and an eating utensil.
My backcountry belt kit, coupled with the last two items mentioned above, gives me essential tools to enjoy my time in the woods. What do you wear on your backcountry belt?
Keep Doing the Stuff of Self-Reliance,
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