Cocoa: The 11th C of Survivability

by Todd Walker

Cocoa: The 11th C of Survivability | www.TheSurvivalSherpa.com


With winter over, at least in Georgia, you might be tempted to stash that can of cocoa powder in the cupboard for your spring and summer outdoor adventures. Leaving this viral elixir home, my friend, would be a costly survival mistake!

I’m kidding… or am I?

You see, the ancient Mayan civilization prized the wild cacao tree (Botanical name: Theobroma cacao) which means “Food of the Gods”, also dubbed “Black Gold.” So valuable in fact, early visitors to the New World noted that the cocoa bean was used as currency. Back then, money did grow on trees!

Cacao or Cocoa?


They’re the same thing… only different. Raw cacao seeds are harvested for the beans which are then dried, fermented, roasted, and ground into a powder. This process produces cocoa and heavenly chocolate.

For maximum health benefits, raw, cold-pressed cacao beans retain the living enzymes that are lost in the traditional roasting process. Even with high temperature processing (Dutch), there’s still plenty of goodness remaining in the cocoa powder.

No matter what you call it, simply add water to make an ancient, frothy energy drink sipped by royals, warriors, and elites… without all the crappy additives in a can of Red Bull. Drinking hot cocoa made with dairy inhibits the absorption of all the great enzymes.

All who drink in this manner gain strength, endurance, energy, mood-enhancement, and nourishment from this frothy concoction. Cocoa is more than a kiddy drink on cold nights.

The 11th C of Survivability

As a student of Dave Canterbury, I practice his system of survivability. I’ve written about the importance of carrying the 10 C’s of Survivability here and here. However, I submit to you an additional kit item, the 11th C… cocoa!

Here’s why…

Each item in your 10 Piece Kit must have at least three uses other than its intended purpose. Otherwise it doesn’t meet the standard of Survivability and becomes a luxury item.

While it won’t make Dave’s official 10 C’s list, cocoa is more than a luxurious hot beverage sipped around the campfire. A tin of cocoa shouldn’t be overlooked as important in effecting your most critical survival priority…

Priority #1: Self-Aid

Staying alive in a wilderness survival scenario requires that you maintain common sense and avoid stupid stuff. Experts tell us to stay calm and formulate a plan for self-rescue or wait to be found. Easier said than done when your stress meter is pegged on red. This is the perfect time to STOP (Sit, Think, Observe, and Plan).

If your situation allows, make a cup of hot cocoa. By the time you see the bottom of your cup, hopefully, you’ll not only have figured out your plan, you’ll have the energy to carry out said plan.

Benefits of Cocoa

  • Energy – You’ll need the energy after the adrenaline and panic settles.

“This drink is the healthiest thing, and the greatest sustenance of anything you could drink in the world, because he who drinks a cup of this liquid, no matter how far he walks, can go a whole day without eating anything else.” – Anonymous conquistador

  • Morale – Cocoa raises serotonin levels in our brains stimulating neurotransmitters to lift our mood, fight depression, and rejuvenate our spirit. Oh, and lowers your stress level and improves focus and alertness.
  • Endorphins – These natural chemicals are released in the human body to relieve stress and pain. Cocoa triggers the release of these feel-good chemicals.
  • Antioxidants – Your body undergoes “biological rusting” or oxidation. Antioxidants slow this process. Raw cacao powder contains more than 300 different chemical compounds and nearly four times the antioxidant power of your average dark chocolate. [Read more cacao facts at Mercola.com] Granted, this won’t be your biggest concern for short-term survival but certainly boosts your overall health.
  • ♥ Cocoa – Cocoa reduces the risk of heart attack and stroke, high blood pressure, and even reduce the risk of cancer. Furthermore, cocoa consumption is associated with reduced cognitive decline in old age. –  Source

 Priority #2: Food 

Cocoa: The 11th C of Survivability | www.TheSurvivalSherpa.com

Rations for each man on Robert Falcon Scott’s race to the South Pole: 450g biscuit, 340g pemmican, 85g sugar, 57g butter, 24g tea, 16g cocoa. ~ Photo courtesy of Scott Polar Research Institute

  • Raw Cacao – Rich in nutritional value and solidly beats other antioxidant-rich super foods like green tea, blueberries, and pomegranate. Cacao’s nutrition profile includes protein, fat, certain B-vitamins and minerals such as calcium, sulfur, magnesium, phosphorus, iron, zinc and copper.
  • Flavonoids – Cocoa’s high flavonoid content helps to prevent your body from secreting excessive fluids… the cause of diarrhea. No fun in the woods. Unchecked, dehydration is close behind.
  • Dark Chocolate – Cocoa butter, an extraction from the cacao bean, is found in high-cacao chocolate bars. Healthy monounsaturated and saturated fat helps maintain a feeling of being full. The dark chocolate I buy comes wrapped in foil… which can be used to make fire with the batteries from your flashlight.

Priority #3: Container

Of course, this one may be a stretch. But still, if you stow your cocoa powder in a metal tin, the container could be pressed into service for boiling water or charring material.

Cocoa: The 11th C of Survivability | www.TheSurvivalSherpa.com

I enjoy an occasional cup of hot cocoa over an open fire with a pinch of cayenne pepper. However, after researching this article, I’m considering adding cocoa to my daily diet. The benefits of packing a 6 ounce metal tin of cocoa powder (not the sugary pre-mixed stuff) warrants the label… “The 11th C of Survivability“.

Additional Resources:

  1. http://flyingwoodsman.blogspot.com/2014/12/a-real-manly-drink.html
  2. http://www.medicinehunter.com/brief-history-cocoa
  3. http://www.naturalnews.com/029156_cacao_chocolate.html##ixzz3UM20hOtp
  4. http://www.marksdailyapple.com/why-you-should-eat-and-drink-high-cacao-dark-chocolate/#axzz3TyjmAM7n
  5. http://foodfacts.mercola.com/cacao.html

Keep Doing the Stuff of Self-Reliance,


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Categories: Bushcrafting, Camping, Doing the Stuff, Natural Health, Preparedness, Real Food, Survival | Tags: , , , , , , | 14 Comments

The Woodsman’s Secret to a Well-Hung Ax

by Todd Walker

There may come a day when axes top the list of must-have tools for harvesting wood. I can see a couple of pending scenarios where owning a well-hung ax is preferred. And no, the Zombie Apocalypse ain’t one of them!


My top reason appeals to manliness – and self-reliance. My “prepping” paradigm continues to shift from consumerism to self-reliance at a startling pace. With the river of shiny survival stuff flooding the banks of the preparedness community, I began to realize my need to go balls to the wall on traditional skills. Forgotten skills. Like how to properly re-handling an ax.

A point of pride for ax aficionados is how well a cutting tool is hung. The way in which an ax is mounted on a wooden handle (haft or helve) is called the hang…. and getting the hang of it takes practice.

Question: Do you want to be known as the woodsman with a well-hung cutting tool?

If so, here’s how to…

Get the Hang of it

I own a fiberglass handled sledge-hammer and splitting maul. Those tools are mere blunt objects that serve a purpose. Box store axes fall into this same “blunt object” category. But a real ax is a work of art, a thing of beauty, and a joy forever. And art work deserves to be hung well.

I refuse to buy or ever consider owning an ax without a wooden handle. Call me old-fashioned, but I like the feel of a hickory handled striking tool. Tradition matters! So does performance.

Before the turn of last century, a good ax head often came without a handle. Woodsmen, lumberjacks, pioneers, and homesteaders had their favorite handle pattern they created from wood staves. The tried and true designs became family heirlooms.


Because a well-hung ax feels right in your hands. Balance, angle, flexibility, length, weight, and diameter combine for the perfect hang.

Choose Good Wood

The traditional wood used for an ax, adze, and hammer is hickory. When selecting a handle, pay close attention to the run of the wood grain and color. You’re big box hardware store may have a decent handle. I lucked up and found one at a local “Ace is the place” store. This handle will be hung on an old ax I bought at a yard sale a few year back. Nothing special – but almost free – and works for my application.


Some stuff needed to hang an ax… the adze and froe were added for no apparent reason.

No matter where you get your new haft, check the run of the wood grain from the side view. Grain running perpendicular to the handle won’t last long. Look for grain running parallel the whole length. A few stray grains won’t hurt.

Now check the butt end of the handle. Grain running vertically on the end is what you’re after. Horizontal grain in striking tools won’t absorb constant shocks.

The Definitive Guide to a Well-Hung Ax

Vertical grain on the left. Image source

Avoid painted or varnished handles. Paint covers a multitude of sins. A clear varnish can be sanded off if it meets good wood standards and an eye-ball test.

Color Counts

Hickory heart wood is reddish in color. You’re likely to find this in low-grade handles. Look for white sap wood handles. My handle has hints of heartwood but is mostly made of the outer white wood.

Size Matters

The size of your handle depends on the weight of your ax. For our purposes here, we aren’t dealing with specialty S-shaped hafts for broad axes. Today we’re talking about axes used for chopping, splitting, and self-reliance tasks.

Haft length depends on the job and personal preference. Longer handles (36″) for felling and chopping large timber, shorter for lighter work. How short? Pictured below is my Wetterlings Ax. Sadly, I didn’t find this one at a yard sale.


Wetterlings Backwoods Ax measures 16″ long

Hanging Procedures

Gather your supplies. You’ll need a handle, wooden wedge, wood glue, hammer or wooden mallet, rasp, sand paper, gloves, saw (hacksaw or reciprocating metal blade), punch, boiled linseed oil, and a vise helps. Don’t have a vise? Improvise with two sections of 4×4 to support the ax-head.


Some stuff need to hang an ax

First, remove the old handle. Saw it off near the bottom of the ax-head. Use a large diameter punch and hammer to drive the remaining wood out of the eye of the ax. I used a section of 5/8 all-thread. If epoxy was used on the head on the last handle, you may have to remove the wood with a drill.


Don’t clamp the ax-head in the vise unless you don’t mind it being scared. Rest it over a gap in the vise to remove the wood.

Turn the ax-head upside down and drive the old wood out through the top of the eye. The eye on axes are tapered from the bottom to the top – small to large. The old rotted handle on this one was easily removed.


First fit with the new handle

Insert the new haft into the eye from the bottom opening. The ax-head will leave marks on the wood showing you how much wood to remove for proper seating. It needs to sit on the shoulder of the new handle. Mine needed to go another two inches to make that point.


Taking off wood with a rasp

Remove the new handle again and grab your rasp. You can use power tools to remove the excess wood. Be careful not to take too much off though. You can’t glue saw dust back on.


Final fit… after removing extra wood three times.

Once you have a good fit on the haft, apply wood glue to both sides of your wooden wedge. Don’t coat the entire wedge. Spread the glue on the bottom half of the wedge to prevent squeezing glue out of the slotted kerf end of the handle.


I leave about a 1/4″ of the handle above the ax-head.

Use a block of wood or a wooden mallet to drive the wedge into the slotted end. This creates even pressure on the wedge to keep it from splitting. Cut the remaining wedge and excess handle off. I leave about 1/8″ to 1/4″ above the head.


Metal wedge across the wooden wedge

Drive a metal wedge small enough to expand the wood without splitting the handle. Hardware stores sell metal wedges in various sizes for your application. Don’t use nails or screws. Ever seen an ax-head with nails bent over the top edge in an attempt to keep it mounted? NOT pretty… or safe!

Counter sink the metal wedge with a punch. Some folks skip the metal wedge for worries of splitting the handle at the top of the eye. A proper sized metal wedge shouldn’t split the kerf portion. I like the added security.


If your haft came from a box store, it’s likely varnished. Sand the varnish off with 180 grit sand paper. Apply 2 or 3 coats of linseed oil to the wood. Generous amounts should be used at the top eye area.


Applied to latex gloves and spread on the haft

Latex gloves come in handy for this task.


Nothing like a woodsman’s well-hung ax!


Not bad for an “almost free” yard sale find!

Keep Doing the Stuff!


P.S. – You can also connect with us on TwitterPinterestGoogle +, and our Facebook page. The Doing the Stuff Network community can be found here: PinterestGoogle +, and Facebook. Lots of good stuff going on here… check it out!

P.P.S ~ If you find value in our blog, DRG and I would appreciate your  vote on the “Top Prepper Sites“! You can vote daily by clicking here or the image below. Check out all the other value-adding Prepper Sites while you’re there.

Thanks for sharing the stuff!

Copyright Information: Content on this site (unless the work of a third-party) may be shared freely in digital form, in part or whole, for non-commercial use with a link back to this site crediting the author. If you are interested a third-party article, please contact the author directly for republishing information.

Categories: Bushcrafting, Camping, DIY Preparedness Projects, Doing the Stuff, Gear, Homesteading, Self-reliance | Tags: , , , | 21 Comments

Resin-Rich Fat Lighter’d: Nature’s Most Prized Fire-starter

by Todd Walker

Uncle Otha would tell us boys to gather some ‘fat lighter’d’ while out hunting squirrels. He was a retired Army cook and our personal camp chef. Squirrel stew at its finest!

What is fat lighter’d?

You may know it by another name – fatwood, lighter wood, fat lighter, pine knot, or some other alias. Fat lighter’d, as Uncle Otha called it, is a 100% nature-made fire starter. The resin in conifers concentrates in the base of the tree. If a pine is cut down or dies by disease or storm, the pine resin will harden and preserve the wood.

While hunting yesterday, I ran across what you’d look for when searching for fat lighter’d.

This pine tree was snapped in half by a storm

This pine tree was snapped in half by a storm

The base of the tree’s trunk had been damaged. Pitch (resin) had moved to the area to seal the wound. Though it had not been dead for too many years, fatwood had already formed around the existing injury.


Resin-Rich Fat Lighter'd: Nature's Most Prized Firestarter

Resin-rich fatwood!

Resin-Rich Fat Lighter'd: Nature's Most Prized Firestarter

Fat lighter’d has a unique smell and amber color

You can also find fat lighter’d stumps and heart pine core preserved on the ground. Old homestead fence posts turn into fatwood as well.

How to use fat lighter’d

Cut the fatwood into 6 to 8 inch long sections. I like to split these sections into finger size pieces. If you’re in the field, you’ll need a baton and knife for splitting kindling.

My plumber daddy taught me the plumber's vise to cut pipe and kindling in the field.

Cutting a baton in my plumber’s vise

DSCN0159Fat lighter’d splits easily and can be done without a baton. With short pieces, it’s better to be safe than sorry.



With your cutting tool, make a feather stick from one piece of fatwood. The curled strips will catch a flame and ignite the remaining stock of lighter’d. Even if wet, it catches fire quickly.


Resin-Rich Fat Lighter'd: Nature's Most Prized Firestarter

A butane lighter sets the feathered stick on fire

The above photo shows me using a butane lighter. You can also start fatwood with a ferro rod.


Use the back of your knife to shave fine slivers off the stock. Gather them into a pile and ignite with the sparks from a ferro rod.


Before I could get back to my camera tripod to photo the flaming pile of fine fat slivers, the flame was all but extinguished. The resin is very flammable. Place the resin slivers in your kindling bundle before showering sparks!

Fat Lighter’d Facts from the Professor of Useless Knowledge

  • No chemicals or petroleums added
  • Smoke from fat lighter’d makes a great mosquito repellant
  • The longleaf pine, which was clear cut to almost extinction, is the best pitch producing pine tree
  • The term ‘fatwood’ came about from the wood in pine stumps being “fat” with resin that was highly flammable
  • There are between 105 and 125 species classified as resinous pine trees around the world. ~ Wikipedia

If your area doesn’t produce fatwood, what natural fire starter do you prefer?

Keep Doing the Stuff,


P.S. – You can also connect with us on TwitterPinterestGoogle +, and our Facebook page.

Thanks for sharing the stuff!

Copyright Information: Content on this site (unless the work of a third-party) may be shared freely in digital form, in part or whole, for non-commercial use with a link back to this site crediting the author. If you are interested a third-party article, please contact the author directly for republishing information.


Categories: Bushcrafting, Camping | Tags: , , | 24 Comments

Natural Insect Protection

Source: X-Treme X-Training

Natural options for dealing with biting insects: Natrapel & the Bugs Away clothing collection from ExOfficio.

Summer & fall are the times we are most likely exposed to insects: mosquitoes, ticks, horseflies, gnats, chiggers and everything else that bites.  I’m hypersensitive to insect stings and look like someone with hives after a simple mosquito attack.  I remember especially vicious biting flies during my vacations in Sag Harbor, which was once a bustling whaling port.  We would be sitting on the rocky beach looking into Gardiners Bay when they hit.  These HUGE black flies would dive bomb us from the air so we had to run for it and stay submerged in the water.  They were terrible.

Our Cabin Home in Turkey Swamp

Outdoor Life Can Bug You
Needless to say, many outdoor excursions can be ruined by insects intending on making a meal of you.  Trust me, you don’t have to be the main course.  We have actually camped in a swamp for an entire week so I know what works (and what doesn’t).  Forget the garlic.  Totally useless as is ingesting large amounts brewers yeast and other nutritional supplements. Avon’s Skin So Soft is a bit chancy too.

Spray On Insect Repellents
Products which contain a high amount of DEET such as Off Deep Woods with 25% of the active ingredient are often recommended.  We used it but it didn’t really last so we ended up reapplying and reapplying. We’ve since tried a more natural insect repellent that lasts.  Natrapel by Adventure Medical is said to offer 8+ hr protection.  We’ve used it for years and have to say that it was MORE effective and longer lasting than the Off Deep Woods. Here is a quote from the Adventure Medical Kits website regarding Natrapel:

“…CDC-recommended 20% Picaridin formula. Unlike ineffective DEET alternatives, Picaridin is the only formula that consistently shows equal or better performance than DEET in independent, clinical tests. Even better, Natrapel 8-hour is completely safe on gear and will not melt jackets, fishing line, and other synthetic materials.”

Natrapel also comes in individual wipe towelettes and go in all of our medical/first-aid kits.  This way you don’t have to tote a 6oz can if you are concerned about pack weight.  We especially like the 6 oz continuous spray which lasts quite a long time as it doesn’t have to be reapplied every five minutes. One thorough spray in the morning and I’m usually good for the day.

Don’t miss any spots though.  This product is good but any un-sprayed areas are up for grabs (and bites).  I did accidentally over-spray my sun dress one time but the excess washed out and did not leave a stain.  Whew!

Bugs Away Insect-Shield Clothing Collection by ExOfficio

Bugs Away Breez’r Vented Hat by ExOfficio

While using natural, DEET-free sprays is good start, wearing clothing that offers the some insect protection also has its place.  This is especially true when you are involved in swimming or water sports.  Once you get out the water, most of your spray insect repellent has washed off.

Bugs Away Halo Shirt by ExOfficio

What if you can have insect protection built into your clothing?  I’ve worn ExOfficio’s Bugs Away collection for a few years and the current pieces are now lighter and even more comfortable.  Their current Halo Shirt, (pictured in the lead photo) is an example of the new trend towards lightness.  Made of high tech synthetics and as an added plus, these pieces have built in 30+ UPF protection to safeguard from harmful sun damage.

Ziwa pants with Insect Shield

What I like about the Bugs Away Collection is not only the superior insect protection, but the versatility and fresh styling.  The Halo Shirt has two zippered security pockets, mesh vented panels and sleeves that can be cinched up to a 3/4 design.

Insect Shield
Permethrin, the active ingredient in Insect Shield®, is invisible, odorless, and tightly bonded to the fabric fibers, and lasts the expected lifetime of the garment (70 washes). It repels mosquitoes (including those carrying West Nile virus and malaria), ticks, ants, flies, chiggers and midges (no-see-ums).

I’ve found that mosquitoes, flies and any other type of insect won’t even light on this material.  However if the sleeves are rolled up, any exposed skin is fair game.  The best case scenario in a highly infested insect zone is to spray yourself  with Natrapel and then don the Bugs Away pieces.  It’s hot in the summertime so you may naturally want to roll up your sleeves and pants, which these pieces allow you to do.  Still the safest route is to keep all skin covered if possible.

Got a bug bite anyway?  Adventure Medical Kit’s AfterBite and Cortisone Cream are tried & true itch soothers!


Categories: Bushcrafting, Camping, equipment, Gear, Preparedness | Tags: , , , , , , | Leave a comment

8 Ways Your Phone Doubles as a Wilderness Survival Tool

Source: Mashable.com

No one can predict when they’ll be in a survival situation, but it’s never too late to be prepared. When you’re lost in the middle of nowhere with limited resources, everything you have on your person becomes important — including your smartphone.

We’ve combed through outdoorsy smartphone apps to find the ones that would be most appropriate for a survival situation where internet connections and phone signals are nonexistent.

1. Flashlight

First, there’s the trusty flashlight. The aptly named Flashlight (download for iPhone, iPod touch and iPad) and Brightest Flashlight (download for Android) are simple apps that use your phone’s tiny LED flash to illuminate as well as any small modern flashlight you’ll find in the camping aisle of your favorite retail store.

We chose these two apps for their simplicity and ease of use in a situation where getting light is more important than any unnecessary extras that are included in other light-up apps.

2. Map

Your map is the ultimate tool for making it out of a lost situation, and app stores are swimming with choices. For the sake of this article, we’re going to take a look at two of our favorite apps that can be used completely offline. TomTom USA and Canada (download for iPhone, iPod touch and iPad) and Navigon (download for Android or Navigon North America for iPhone and iPad) both use preloaded maps and your phone’s GPS to track your current location. You can also set a path to track your movement, so you don’t have to worry about walking around in circles.

3. Compass

An essential partner for your map is a compass, and thanks to a simple magnetometer within your phone (which doesn’t require an Internet connection), you can find your direction quite easily. Spyglass (download for iPhone, iPod touch and iPad) is an app that has more bells and whistles than you’d normally want to use, but they’re all helpful features. Smart Compass (download for the Android) is a slightly less feature-rich version for Android that gets the job done reliably and easily.

4. Wild Edibles Database

In addition to these real-world archetypes, there are also some very useful research apps that will help you survive in the wild. Foraging for wild edibles is an important first priority for survival, and the Wild Edibles app (download for iPhone and iPod Touch or Android) has everything you’ll need to help identify which plants are friends and which are foe.

5. Hunter’s Helper

If you’re more into the meaty side of the food chain, you have several options to help you trick and trap your next meal. Qwik Hunting Calls and Sounds (download for iPhone, iPod touch and iPad) contains 35 of the most popular calls and sounds from animals you may encounter in the wild. Critter Call (download for Android) is another great choice with 30 animal calls and sounds and the added ability to play up to five sounds simultaneously.

6. Animal Tracking Tool

A wide variety of animal tracking apps can help you better identify what types of animals are in your area. MyNature Animal Tracks (download for iPhone, iPod Touch and iPad or Android) is the most comprehensive tracking app out there, with databases for front and hind animal feet, scat identification, gait patterns, animal sounds, range maps and much more.

7. Fisher’s Friend

If you’re near a large body of water, fishing is also a viable choice for survival. MyNature Fishing Knots (download for iPhone, iPod touch and iPad or Android) is an invaluable resource for tying the 13 most common knots used in modern fishing. The app features illustrations, detailed instructions, and even animated videos to make sure you won’t have to worry about the one that got away.

8. First-Aid Resource

A large part of survival involves more than just food and navigation. Safety and first aid is essential to making it out alive, and First Aid (download for iPhone, iPod Touch and iPad and Android), an app from the American Red Cross, walks you through any injury or accident. With comprehensive step-by-step instructions, videos and preventive safety tips, this app is full of the expert advice you’ll need.

Keeping Your Phone Charged

Now, you may be looking over this list and wondering how on earth your smartphone’s battery could possibly keep up with all of these apps. Luckily, there are a few products that will recharge your battery — but with a twist.

Vodafone Booster Brolly

The Vodafone Booster Brolly might look and feel like a normal umbrella, but it’s actually a solar charger and signal booster in one.

It uses an antenna and low-power signal repeater to connect phones to its networks, with the added bonus of boosting the signals of all phones around the device. Solar cells are literally sewn into the umbrella material, allowing the product to be both lightweight and sturdy. Unfortunately, the Vodafone Booster Brolly isn’t available for purchase just yet, but don’t fret! There’s another option on the current market that we absolutely love: the BioLite Campstove.

Campfire Charger

The $129 BioLite Campstove is a lightweight gadget that allows you to charge your USB devices by burning wood. Cook up your soup or boil your tea while charging your smartphone’s battery, all through the use of renewable biomass like twigs or pine cones. In a wilderness survival situation, this stove would prove more reliable than solar, since it can be used day or night.

Image courtesy of iStockphoto, gaspr13

Categories: Bushcrafting, Camping, First Aid, Gear, Medical, Preparedness, Self-reliance, Survival, Wildcrafting | Tags: , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Lighten Your BOB: Pack The Alpha Tent

I spotted this while visiting Paratus Familia Blog. Here’s Enola Gay’s full post on their experiment with the Alpha Tent.

The Awesome Alpha Tent

When we posted our adventures with the Survival Net, one of our readers sent a link that he thought Sir Knight might enjoy.  The link was for the Alpha tent, fashioned from nothing more than a USGI Military Issue Poncho, tent poles and 4 wire nuts.  Thats it!  The wonderful thing about this tent is that is consists mainly of things you already carry in your gear so you are not adding unnecessary weight and bulk.  And, did I mention this was really cool?  To get the real skinny on this tent, and the gentlemen who came up with the idea, you must go to his site, Alpharubicon.  He has dimensions, specifics on the components and explanations for the uses of the Alpha tent.

Knowing a good thing when he sees it, Sir Knight began compiling the necessary articles to put together his own Alpha tent.  He already had a USGI poncho, so he laid it on the ground and measured it to be sure it was the same size as the one used on the Alpha tent site.  Next, he dug up some tent poles that we had saved from a long-ago defunct tent, measured them and proceeded to cut them down to the correct size for the tent.  Sir Knight cut each pole to the same size, rather than just cutting down the one pole that was too long, so that the tent poles bent in the correct manner when inserted into the poncho.  After cutting the poles, he strung the shock cord through the modified poles, tied it off at the end and fitted RED wire nuts to each end of the poles.  The wire nuts keep the poles from going through the grommets on the corners of the poncho and red wire nuts are the perfect size.  The directions on the Alpha tent website instruct you to drill a hole through the wire nuts and run the shock cord through the holes and tie them off.  Because of technical difficulties with our poles, we glued the wire nuts on instead.  The shock cord through the nuts would have been a better option, however, we made do with the materials that were available to us.

Wire nuts through the grommets

Once the tent poles were inserted into the grommets, we tied them down with cording that was already in the poncho.  It was almost like they were designed with the Alpha tent in mind!  Within a matter of minutes we had put together a lightweight one man tent, camouflaged and with a reduced IR signature, with nothing but a poncho, 4 wire nuts and some cast-off tent poles.  The folks at Alpharubicon really know their stuff!

Poles tied to the cording
The Alpha tent can even float your gear across creeks!
Very roomy

It makes perfect sense to fill your 1st and 2nd line kits with a few articles that have multiple purposes.  Rather than carrying a poncho and survival net and a hammock and a tent, you can carry a poncho, a net and a few odds and ends and still have all your bases covered.

USGI Poncho’s can be challenging to find, but really, you can use any poncho.  The difference is that you will have to measure your poncho and customize your tent poles accordingly.

Thank you for coming along for the ride as Sir Knight and I pare down our kits to the bare essentials and find out what works and what doesn’t.  Try an Alpha tent of your own and let us know what you think.


Categories: Bushcrafting, Camping, DIY Preparedness, DIY Preparedness Projects, Equipment, Frugal Preps, Preparedness, Self-reliance, SHTF, TEOTWAWKI | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 13 Comments

Survival Sunday Roundup # 2

Here’s a list of reads on this edition of Survival Sunday Roundup:

I just ordered ‘The Pulse’ on Kindle for my summer reading. It’ll be delivered on the release date of July 10, 2012. I’ll try to do a review as soon as I finish it.

‘The Pulse’ by Scott B. Williams

Bug Out Survival

As promised in my last post, I wanted to follow-up with a bit more detail about The Pulse and why I wrote it.  My reading (aside from online) these days is usually divided about evenly between fiction and nonfiction, and eventually, I’d like to split my writing about the same way.  Over the years as I’ve worked on my various nonfiction books, I entertained the idea of writing novels but there always seemed to be another book project in the works that kept me from devoting much attention to it.  I still have nonfiction projects in progress, and over the next few months will be completing two new manuscripts that will go along with my survival books most of you are familiar with.  But over much of last year and the beginning of this one, I completed my first novel and now it is about to be released in a few days.  Here’s a bit more about it and why I wrote it the way I did.  I posted this “From the Author” description on Amazon last night:

Read the rest here

Order ‘The Pulse’ here

Jack Mountain eBooks – Free

Jack Mountain Bushcraft Blog

This week only, I’m offering a 100% discount on the downloadable versions of our books (not paper, sorry).  You can get them from our Lulu store.  The titles include:

  • Jack Mountain Bushcraft Student Handbook
  • First Person Ecology
  • Bushcraft Education; Riffs And Reflections On Teaching And Learning Outdoors
  • Simple Little Sourdough And Outdoor Baking Book
  • On The Trail: Canoe And Snowshoe Trip Journals
  • Jack Mountain Bushcraft School Canoe Handbook

Paleo Planet

Primitive Technology site/forum. I’ve always wanted to make a long bow from scratch. This is a good source of real people making primitive stuff. Very useful.

Our favorite survival gun

Rocky Mountain Survival, LLC

When considering a must have survival gun the things I had to consider were weight of gun, weight of ammunition, cost of both gun and ammunition. So the survival gun we chose to add to our survival gear is a 22 semi auto. Keep in mind that in a survival situation my biggest concern is putting meat on the table. I know and understand that there are better rifles for hunting game primarily big game but if I bring down large game then I have to worry about preserving a large portion of it. I was taught how to properly smoke meat while living in Alaska but after you preserve it you have to store it where predators can’t get to it. So I would prefer to take smaller game as much as possible.

Read the rest here

A+ Slingshot Rough and Ready Review

Survival Monkey

I grew up in a rural village on the New York Tug Hill Plateau. Most of my extended family lived deep in the Adirondacks and I spent many weekends and summer weeks with them in the mountains. Kids my age grew up without iPods, iPads, computer games and cellphones. As a matter of fact, we didn’t have much at all – rarely did we even have television. Where there was TV, there were never more than three channels available. One thing we did have was good, clean fun and plenty of it. We learned to make and to make do. We spent time with each other and we spent time outdoors. Learning how to hunt, fish, gather and process were just a part of the way of life.

Lead PhotoA

Read the rest here

The Importance of Community and Neighbors to Survival

Backdoor Survival

There is no question about it.  I am a some-times recluse.  I enjoy my home, my dog and my little family of two and can go for days without talking to anyone else outside these four walls.  Given a choice of staying home and watching a classic period piece on TV or going to a party with dozens of people, well, the choice for me is clear.

Yet from time to time, it feels good to be a social butterfly.  Get me out on the dance floor or at a small gathering and I will bloom and shine.  And so it is.  We as humans crave our privacy while at the same time we long for the intensiveness of a satisfying social experience.

So how do we find the right balance, especially when it comes to living the preparedness lifestyle?  On the one hand we need to feel secure that our “stuff” is safe and that out painstakingly gathered preps will be there for our use when and if we need them.  On the other hand, we need to defend ourselves, our homes and our loved ones from physical harm.  Is this something we can do on our own in isolation or would we be better served with some help?

Read the rest here

That’s it for this edition. If you have preparedness/self-reliance topics, websites, books, etc. you’d like to see covered, please let me know. As always, comments and suggestions are always welcome.

Keep doing the stuff!



Categories: Bushcrafting, Free Downloads, Preparedness, Self-reliance, SHTF, Survival, Survival Sunday Roundup | Tags: , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Home Remedies for Poison Ivy (Including Plain Hot Water?)

Poison ivy

Poison ivy, with its “leaves of three.”

by James Hubbard, M.D., M.P.H.

Lately, several desperate-sounding readers have asked about home remedies for poison ivy. I feel sorry for them. Poison ivy, poison oak, and poison sumac—whichever grows in your neck of the woods—can cause some of the worst itching known to mankind. And it can last as long as a couple of weeks.

And all you who brag you can wallow in the stuff without as much as a scratch: Your day may be coming. As with other allergies, you can not be allergic all your life and, wham, one day you feel the itch and see the blisters. After that, you’ve become one of the chosen—allergic for life.

There’s no vaccine and no surefire cure for rashes from poison ivy and the like. But here are some things you can do.


1. Know what the poison plant looks like and avoid it.
If you know you’re allergic, first thing is you better dang-well know what the plant looks like and stay away from it. Leaves of three, let them be.

I know, I know. Not all leaves of three are poison ivy, oak, or sumac. But, if you’re like me and not really an expert in plant identification, I’d advise not taking a chance. Even vines and stems without the leaves can cause the rash, so unless I’m sure, I’m staying away from vines also.

Jewelweed flower

A flowering spotted jewelweed. This plant is a natural home remedy for poison ivy.

2. Look out for jewelweed too.
If you do get into poison ivy, oak or sumac, find some jewelweed. Grab a bunch, crush it up, stems and all, and smear it on your skin. Apparently jewelweed likes growing in some of the same places the three-leaf stuff likes—boggy, wet bottomland. Know what it looks like. No, I mean really know. I’d hate to have you smearing a bunch of poison ivy all over you.

3. If you wash the oil off soon enough, you might not get the rash.
The oil that causes the rash is called urishiol. A brush against a leaf, a vine, whatever, and it’s on you. Sometimes I think it hops on some people who even dare venture nearby. I know it can get in smoke because I’ve see some bad cases of poor souls who inadvertently burned some with other brush.

The sooner you can wash it off the better—hopefully within fifteen minutes. Maximum is probably about four hours. Use soap and water, or rubbing alcohol. Some people swear by Tecnu products for poison ivy/oak/sumac, such as Oak-N-Ivy. Jewelweed soap can be super too.

Don’t forget to wash your clothes, and your dog. But, a word of advice about the latter: Be sure to bathe your furry pal with gloves so you don’t the poison ivy back on you. You’ll probably want to jump back in the shower after you’re done, just in case.

Where to Find the Poison-Ivy Remedies

The links below are for your information. I’m not vouching for the companies, and I don’t make any money if you buy from them.

Here’s where you can get the pharmaceutical products:

  • You can find some Tecnu products at the Tec Labs store.
  • Oak-N-Ivy is available in various places, including REI, or you can order it from your choice of companies.
  • Pharmacies sell hydrocortisone cream, calamine lotion and oral antihistamines (Benadryl) over-the-counter.

You can buy or make these poison-ivy remedies:

  • Jewelweed soap: Hard to find. You can order it from the Alternative Nature Herbal Online Store.
  • Witch-hazel astringent: Widely available at pharmacies.
  • Quercetin drops: Hard to find. I’m not positive you can make it, but it does come from onions. You can order the drops from Source Naturals.
  • Oatmeal baths: Widely available, including at Walmart.

Home Remedies to Treat the Rash and Itching

The rash is normally red and raised, with blisters. It usually occurs in the spots where you’ve come in contact with the plant. I say usually because some rashes start that way and seem to spread to other parts of your body. That’s rare, and it’s not the open blisters or soap you use. Blisters don’t spread the rash. Rather, it’s a more severe, systemic allergic reaction you’re having. The treatments are the same.

For the rash and itching, you can try more jewelweed soap and maybe some witch–hazel astringent. Quercetin drops have anti-inflammatory effects and can be taken orally and rubbed on the rash. Cool baths, cool compresses, and oatmeal baths can help the itching.

Here’s one you may not know: If none of the other is working and the itching is driving you crazy, try getting in the shower with the water as hot as you can stand it. (Obviously don’t burn your skin.) Apparently this depletes your body’s supply of itch-causing histamines and can give you relief for a few hours.

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Conventional At-Home Treatments

Hydrocortisone cream may help. The strongest you can get over-the-counter is one percent. Calamine lotion is an option. Don’t get the Caladryl since it can cause its own allergic reaction. Oral antihistamines like diphenhydramine (Benadryl) ease the itching but can make you drowsy (sometimes a good thing.)

Doctor Treatments

A shot or course of oral steroids, or both, may help—even shorten the course of the rash. (No matter what, you’re likely in for a few days to a couple of weeks of the misery.) You might also get a stronger steroid cream from the doctor.

If you run fever or there’s pus in some blisters, or you’re having any other signs of infection, get to the doctor. If that’s not possible, start on antibiotics if you have them.

What Home Remedy Works for You?

There are probably about as many home remedies as there are people with poison ivy. Some work for some; nothing works for everyone. Trial and error is the name of this game.

So, please help all our readers and do tell. What’s your favorite home remedy?

And while you’re at it, please share your worst horror stories regarding those pretty green leaves.

Poison ivy photo by Jan Miller, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Jewelweed photo by Dr. Thomas G. Barnes, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Categories: Bushcrafting, DIY Preparedness, Herbal Remedies, Homeopathy, Medical, Self-reliance, Wildcrafting | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Pemmican: The perfect primal stick-to-your-ribs survival food

Here’s my dilemma…

I subscribe to a primal/paleo lifestyle. I don’t have tons of grains stored as most preparedness gurus recommend. Some for extreme emergencies, but not tonnes. I’ve written about my lifestyle choice here, and over on my other blog here. No need to re-hash.

So what’s a preparedness minded, Primal Blueprint groupie like me suppose to store for lean survival times? A must-store, life-sustaining item is pemmican. No refrigeration required, full of hunger stopping fat, long storage life, tasty (with the right seasoning), and easy to make. What’s not to like?

Here’s Mark Sisson’s recipe on how he made pemmican. A simple search (use Startpage – it’s the world’s most private search engine) for pemmican recipes will yield many results. Now, get started rendering that fat!

Source: Mark’s Daily Apple

How to Make Pemmican

rii0lxVihljamur Stefansson, eminent anthropologist and arctic explorer, went on three expeditions into the Alaskan tundra during the first quarter of the 20th century. His discoveries – including the “blond” Inuit and previously uncharted Arctic lands – brought him renown on the world stage. People were fascinated by his approach to travel and exploration, the way he thrust himself fully into the native Inuit cultures he encountered. Stefansson studied their language, adopted their ways, and ate the same food they ate. In fact, it was the diet of the Inuit – fish, marine mammals, and other animals, with almost no vegetables or carbohydrates – that most intrigued him. He noted that, though their diet would be considered nutritionally bereft by most “experts” (hey, nothing’s changed in a hundred years!), the Inuit seemed to be in excellent health, with strong teeth, bones, and muscles. He was particularly interested in a food called pemmican.

Pemmican consists of lean, dried meat (usually beef nowadays, but bison, deer, and elk were common then) which is crushed to a powder and mixed with an equal amount of hot, rendered fat (usually beef tallow). Sometimes crushed, dried berries are added as well. A man could subsist entirely on pemmican, drawing on the fat for energy and the protein for strength (and glucose, when needed). The Inuit, Stefansson noted, spent weeks away from camp with nothing but pemmican to eat and snow to drink to no ill effect. Stefansson, a Canadian of Icelandic origin, often accompanied them on these treks and also lived off of pemmican quite happily, so its sustaining powers weren’t due to some specific genetic adaptation unique to the Inuit. In fact, when Stefansson returned home, he and colleague adopted a meat-only diet for a year, interested in its long-term effects. A controlled examination of their experience confirmed that both men remained healthy throughout.

So, pemmican has a reputation as a sort of superfood. While I’m usually leery of such claims, the fact that the stuff is essentially pure fat and protein (plus Stefansson’s accounts) made me think that maybe there was something to it. I set out to make my own batch.

I got about a pound and a half of lean, grass-fed shoulder roast, let it firm up in the freezer, then sliced it thin. After adding liberal amounts of salt and pepper, I set the oven to the lowest possible temperature (around 150 degrees) and laid out the strips of meat directly onto the rack. I cracked the oven door to prevent moisture buildup. At this point, I also put a handful of frozen wild blueberries on a small oven pan to dry out with the meat.


I let the meat dry out for about fifteen hours, or until it was crispy jerky that broke apart easily. I tossed the jerky in the food processor until it was powder. After the meat, in went the blueberries to process. Again, you want a powder.


Now I was ready to render some fat. I used grass-fed bison kidney fat, which was already diced into tiny pieces. I put about half a pound of that into a cast iron pan and cooked it slowly over super-low heat.


I made sure to stir the fat as it rendered out, and watched closely so that it wouldn’t burn. When the fat stops bubbling, the rendering is done.


Use a strainer to avoid all the crispy bits; you just want the pure, liquid fat.


Mix the meat and berry powder together, then slowly add the hot liquid fat. Pour just enough so that the fat soaks into the powder.


I think I poured too much too quickly, so I added a bit of almond meal to firm it up. Let it firm up, then cut it into squares or roll it into a ball. I went with a ball.


Pemmican will keep almost forever. Pure, dried protein and rendered (mostly saturated) fat are highly stable, so I wouldn’t worry about it going rancid. If it does, you’ll know.

Now, my pemmican wasn’t exactly delicious. In fact, it tasted a bit like bland dog food [SS Note: Try smoking the meat for more flavor]. Maybe I’ll jazz it up next time with some more salt and spices, but I don’t think pemmican is meant to be eaten for pleasure. This is utilitarian food, perfect for long treks through the wilderness. It gets the job done, and I’ll probably make it again. It definitely doesn’t taste bad; in fact, the taste grows on you after awhile.

My dog certainly enjoyed cleaning up the bowl.

Categories: Bushcrafting, DIY Preparedness Projects, Frugal Preps, Primal Skills, Primal/Paleo Lifestyle, Survival | Tags: , , , , , | 16 Comments

Weed Chowder: Lamb’s Quarter Soup

Source: Willow Haven Outdoor

Weed Chowder: Lamb’s Quarter Soup

May 18, 2011 By Creek Stewart
I never use pesticides or fertilizer in my yard.  Why?  Because all spring, summer and fall I eat a variety of wild growing plants from it.  Spring is an especially good time to ‘graze’.  The younger shoots and leaves of most wild edibles are the best tasting.  Lamb’s Quarter is one of my favorite wild edibles and probably the most common in my area.  There are literally 100′s of Lamb’s Quarter plants growing in and around my yard.  I don’t have to walk far to gather a descent amount of leaves for a classic rustic survival dish: Lamb’s Quarter Soup.

Lamb's Quarter Growing on Rock Wall

Lamb’s Quarter Growing on Rock Wall

I typically just eat the leaves.  They can be eaten saw or steamed like spinach.  For this awesome soup I gather a colander full of Lamb’s Quarter leaves.

A Batch of Lamb's Quarter Leaves

A Batch of Lamb’s Quarter Leaves

And 1 onion…

Onion from the Mini 4x4 Survival Garden

Onion from the Mini 4×4 Survival Garden

I rinse the leaves, chop the onion and steam them both in a pot with 2 teaspoons of butter.

Lamb's Quarter Leaves, Chopped Onion & Butter...Steaming

Lamb’s Quarter Leaves, Chopped Onion & Butter…Steaming

Once the leaves have wilted down and the onion softens I add 2-3 teaspoons full of flour as a thickener.  Then I add 2 cups of water and 3 chicken bullion cubes and bring everything to a boil.

After adding flour, water and bullion cubes.

After adding flour, water and bullion cubes.

I boil it for about 30 seconds and add in 2 cups of milk and then turn it down to a simmer for about 2-3 minutes.

Almost done....Lamb's Quarter Soup

Almost done….Lamb’s Quarter Soup

Finally, I salt and pepper to taste and voila – a Weed Soup fit for a king.

Bowl of Lamb's Quarter Soup

Bowl of Lamb’s Quarter Soup

Serve this as the 1st course at your next get-together and everyone will be amazed that you just picked the main ingredient on the fence row or in your driveway.  This is just one way to make use of one of the most common wild ‘weeds’ in the world.  It normally takes me about 10-12 minutes to make a complete pot of soup and the reheated left-overs are even better.

What weeds do you eat?

Remember, it’s not IF but WHEN,


Categories: Bushcrafting, Preparedness, Primal Skills, Self-reliant, Survival | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

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