Preparedness

Wilderness Survival: 3 Core Skills to Keep Your Child Alive

by Todd Walker

Two roads diverged in a wood… and your child is lost!

Wilderness Survival: 3 Core Skills to Keep Your Child Alive - TheSurvivalSherpa.com

Hiking and camping season is upon us. Families are hitting the trails to enjoy nature and all its benefits. Nature is neither for you or against you. Nature is neutral. But Mother Nature can also be brutal. Any survival instructor that says otherwise is delusional.

Over the past two years, my 9 year-old grandson and I have spent time together learning survival and self-reliance skills. When he visits now, he usually asks if we can build a fire. The thermometer reading in Georgia matters not, he wants to burn stuff.

Leadership equals influence. Influencing your child to get outside is often easier achieved by you Doing the Stuff. Share your knowledge, demonstrate the skills, and let your child imitate the skills until they become proficient. If your child knows nothing else about survival, the following will keep him alive if ever lost in the backcountry.

3 Core Survival Skills

What is survival? It may be easier defined by stating what survival is not.

Survival isn’t wilderness living, camping, foraging, or bushcraft. Your child won’t have to carve a spoon, make a survival bow, know 21 edible plants, or build an elaborate shelter to stay alive in the unfortunate event he is ever lost in the woods. It’s highly probable that search and rescue will find him before the weekend is over.

Survival is any situation where if you don’t take corrective action, you die.

Train your child in three core survival skills…

Shelter – Hydration – Sleep until rescued.

Core Skill #1: Build a Microclimate

Wilderness Survival: 3 Core Skills to Keep Your Child Alive - TheSurvivalSherpa.com

Testing the Kochanski Super Shelter

Clothing: The most important piece of the survival puzzle is having the ability to build a microclimate for core temperature control. The first layer of shelter is the clothing your child wears. Dress appropriately for the weather and location. Cotton is a killer in cold weather survival due to its ability to hold moisture against the body. However, it can be a lifesaver in hot weather by exploiting this same property for evaporative cooling.

Tarp/Cover: Beside clothing, go out prepared to use every shelter option available in your kit. A reusable mylar space blanket is my #1 option to build an emergency microclimate. Add a clear 9 x 12 inch plastic painter’s tarp and you have a lightweight, effective cold weather microclimate called the Kochanski Super Shelter. You’ll need to teach your child to collect enough wood to build a fire in front of this shelter for it to be effective through the night.

Insulation Layer: A closed-cell foam ground pad is what I carry when backpacking or camping. This piece of gear offers a barrier from cold ground (conduction) or helps prevent heat loss from convection when laid in the bottom of my hammock. From my experience of hanging and ground camping in a sleeping bag, this insulation layer is essential to creating a microclimate.

Without a commercial ground pad, two contractor trash bags can be used as an insulation layer. Fill both bags with leaves or fluffy stuff so that, when compressed, you have a 4 to 6 inch barrier of insulation. In a pinch, the forest litter filled bags can be used as a makeshift sleeping bag. There are multiple survival uses for plastic bags. Two bags won’t add much weight but multiply your survival chances.

Fire: The main reason I teach fire craft to my 9 year-old grandson is to reinforce its forgiving nature as a survival tool. Yes, even with no other shelter options, fire can keep you alive. We have many articles parked on our Bombproof Fire Craft Page.

Microclimate Preps

  • Clothing
  • Reusable Emergency Space Blanket/Tarp
  • Clear Painter’s Tarp
  • Two Contractor Trash Bags

Core Skill #2: Hydration

Wilderness Survival: 3 Core Skills to Keep Your Child Alive - TheSurvivalSherpa.com

Ways to disinfect water

Find and drink enough water to cause urine to be clear. Remember, even if you don’t have a way to disinfect your water, drink it anyway. You want to die from dehydration or have the trots a week later after being rescued hydrated and logical in the wilderness?

The above statement may seem counter to “proper” survival advice. But if you’re not prepared with water treatment gear, drink the water to stay alive. Food should not be a concern for short-term survival. If you have enough calories to consume daily, eat up. Otherwise, fasting is your best choice. Physiologically, our bodies can go several weeks without food with no ill effects.

Be prepared with water disinfection equipment. My preferred method of water disinfection is boiling. You’ll need a metal container and fire. Fire plays such an important role in survival. Without a suitable metal container, use your garbage bag to boil water using the stone boil method. Practice fire craft! I also like the lightweight Sawyer Mini filters. More detailed information on water treatment can be found here.

Plants and trees are also a source of water and need no filtration. Cut a wild grapevine and water will drip into a container. A clear plastic trash bag can be used to get water from leafy, low-hanging tree branches through transpiration. John McCann has a great article on using this method.

Hydration Preps

  • Metal Container
  • Water Filter
  • Water Purification Tablets
  • Trash Bag and Hot Stones
  • Transpiration Bag

Core Skill #3: Sleep

Wilderness Survival: 3 Core Skills to Keep Your Child Alive - TheSurvivalSherpa.com

Sleep is a survival tool

“The quality of a survival kit is determined by how much it can help you when you need to sleep.  If you can sleep well at night, you have it made.” ~ Mors Kochanski

When camping, I call sleep the number one skill of a good woodsman. But in a true wilderness survival situation, restorative sleep is key to staying alive. If you’re child has learned to build a proper microclimate and learned at least two methods of disinfecting drinking water, then sleeping 8 hours is his next survival skill.

Scared and alone in the wilderness, I always go back to fire. Beside being a great survival tool for shelter and water disinfection, a fire offers phycological comfort. Kind of like a nightlight in the woods. It not only keeps the boogieman at bay, but gives some peace of mind concerning predators.

Your child should sleep at opportune times. Not all eight hours have to be consecutive like we stress when home. An hour here and there adds up.

With sufficient sleep, your child will be better prepared to deal with the stress of survival. Our physiological body needs sleep for rational thought and decision-making. Sleep deprived, we make stupid mistakes. Use every available resource to make a comfortable microclimate for sleeping and shelter from the elements.

Sleep Preps

  • See Microclimate above – Core Temperature Control
  • Fire
  • Practice in the backyard with minimal gear

Your child can beat the odds of surviving by having the knowledge and practiced skills mentioned here. Spend some time rehearsing the plan before he needs the skills. As the Boy Scout’s motto states, “Be Prepared.”

Keep Doing the Stuff of Self-Reliance,

Todd

P.S. – You can also keep up with the Stuff we’re Doing on TwitterPinterestGoogle +, YouTube, Instagram, and Facebook… and over at the Doing the Stuff Network.

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

Thanks for Sharing the Stuff!

Copyright: 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. All links in articles must remain intact as originally posted in order to be republished. If you are interested a third-party article, please contact the author directly for republishing information.

Categories: Doing the Stuff, equipment, Gear, Preparedness, Survival, Survival Skills, Water | Tags: , , , , , , | 5 Comments

Off-Grid Winch: Incredible Power from Two Logs and a Rope

by Todd Walker

The power of simple machines, smartly employed, are capable of moving most anything. Over the years I helped my daddy move really heavy stuff in his plumbing/welding business and on our farm. He once moved and installed a new 3,000 gallon metal water tank at our elementary school using only ropes, pulleys, and levers… by himself.

Daddy didn’t possess superhuman strength, he simply understood the power of simple machines.

Give me a lever long enough and a fulcrum on which to place it, and I shall move the world.

Archimedes

Off Grid Winch - Incredible Power from Two Logs and a Rope - TheSurvivalSherpa.com

I first discovered this ingenious flip-flop winch from a YouTube demonstration by Mors Kochanski, the Godfather and author of Bushcraft. A search of flip-flop winches on YT will garner several clips demonstrating the power of using two logs and some rope. So why would I add my video to mix? Because it’s only theory until you put it into action by Doing the Stuff!

The flip-flop winch combines two simple machines, lever and pulley (wheel and axle), as a force multiplier to free vehicles stuck in the mud, safely dislodge hang-ups when felling trees, and/or move heavy rocks. I decided to pull my truck up a slight incline in a field.

Flip Flop Winch

In an emergency vehicle kit, weight and space are not an issue – unless you tool around in a Smart Car. For this winch, all you need are two logs and some rope. Of course, you’re not hauling eight foot logs in your vehicle. You will have to cut those with your truck ax or takedown bucksaw.

Material and Tools

  • Ax or Saw – cut two logs about 8 feet in length
  • Rope – non-elastic is preferable for safety reasons
  • Cordage – enough to make two loops about 1 foot in diameter
Off Grid Winch - Incredible Power from Two Logs and a Rope - TheSurvivalSherpa.com

L to R: Green paracord loops, 100′ of rope, truck saw, truck ax. Top pole – lever pole. Bottom pole – pulley pole.

Cut Two Poles

You’ve hit a ditch or snow bank (rarely happens in Georgia) in the hinter-boonies and need to get unstuck. Reach into your vehicle emergency kit and fetch your saw or ax. You have an emergency vehicle kit, right? Be sure to add 100 feet of strong rope to the kit if you haven’t already. A tow strap won’t be useful with this winch unless it’s really long.

Scout for a straight tree (dead or live – it’s an emergence) to cut. Anything between 4 to 6 inches in diameter is suitable. Cut two lengths in the 8 foot range. De-limb the poles by chopping any branches off with your sharp truck ax. You can saw them off but proper ax-manship makes quick work of the de-limbing. This process is best done by cutting from the trunk end to the top end of the pole. Keep the pole between your body and the moving ax.

Lever and Pulley Pole

Now that you’ve got two poles, one will be used as the “lever pole” and the other will be your “pulley pole.” I noticed in my video that I called the drum pole a “barrel” pole interchangeably. In this written tutorial, I will use “pulley pole” to hopefully clear up the verbiage. The terminology is not that important. What you need to know is that the pulley pole is where the rope will coil similarly to that of a modern come-along.

Off Grid Winch - Incredible Power from Two Logs and a Rope - TheSurvivalSherpa.com

Using Rig 2 causes the rope to coil on one side of the pulley pole

A larger diameter pulley will winch more rope with each revolution. The pulley pole I used was a standing dead pine which was a bit lightweight for the job. I was forced to drive two stakes in the ground to prevent the pulley pole from swinging in towards the tensioned rope in our video. With two people available, the stakes wouldn’t be necessary. A heavier pulley pole will solve the issue as well. I wanted to simulate and experiment with the lowest quality wood I could scavenge. The lever was a smaller dead cedar but the most solid of the two poles.

Locate an Anchor

The base of a live tree is perfect. A dead tree is not a good candidate. You’ll risk toppling the tree down if the object you’re pulling is really stuck or heavy. Wrap the rope around the base of the anchor twice and tie it off with a tensioning knot.

Off Grid Winch - Incredible Power from Two Logs and a Rope - TheSurvivalSherpa.com

The base of a Sourwood tree was used as an anchor point.

Ideally, you want the anchor point and the object you’re pulling to form a straight line sighted down the rope.

Off Grid Winch - Incredible Power from Two Logs and a Rope - TheSurvivalSherpa.com

Both truck and anchor point are lined up for optimal pull.

2 Rigging the Systems

Midway between the anchor and object lay the two poles perpendicular to one another. Run the rope on top of the pulley pole about a foot from the larger end of the pole. Pull the rope back under the pole to form a loop. Insert the lever pole into the loop from the side of the pulley pole where the loop is formed. Give yourself about a foot of lever sticking through the loop.

 

Off Grid Winch - Incredible Power from Two Logs and a Rope - TheSurvivalSherpa.com

The loop formed to receive the lever pole.

There are two methods of rigging the winch. Rig 1: One causes the rope to coil on both side of the pulley pole where the lever pole crosses (demonstrated on the video). Rig 2: This technique causes the rope to spool on one side of the pulley pole. I’ve found that the latter method causes less side-to-side torque since the rope remains in a straight line.

With the winch rigged, pull the slack out of the line and tie to the object you’re pulling. Another tension knot will work.

Start the Flip-Flop

Flip the lever pole up and over the pulley pole. Once on the ground, check the first wrap on the pulley pole. This is the time to straighten the loops around the pulley before real tension begins. Try to keep the rope from spooling on top of the previous coils as this may weaken the rope. With each flip-flop, the rope will begin coiling on the pulley pole.

Off Grid Winch - Incredible Power from Two Logs and a Rope - TheSurvivalSherpa.com

Rig 1: This set up will spool rope on both sides of the pulley pole (shown in the video)

Note: I’ve watched others spool rope on one side of the pulley pole only. This technique decreases the swing of the pulley pole towards the rope under tension. To use this method, place the rope attached to the anchor and the object on the same side of the lever pole before flip-flopping.

Off Grid Winch - Incredible Power from Two Logs and a Rope - TheSurvivalSherpa.com

Rig 2: One revolution with the rope spooling on one side of the pulley pole

Off Grid Winch - Incredible Power from Two Logs and a Rope - TheSurvivalSherpa.com

Notice how the rope coils to one side of the lever pole (Rig 2). With the rope in line, the pulley pole is less likely to torque in towards the tow rope..

Now, flop the pulley pole over the rope for the next flip of the lever. If the pulley pole was magically suspended off the ground, no flop would be required. This would become a Spanish windlass. You’d simple spin the lever around a wheel and axle. The earth prevents this continuous spin. But the ground is what keeps the system from unraveling. The flop of the pulley pole is necessary for the lever to make another 180 degree revolution.

Off Grid Winch - Incredible Power from Two Logs and a Rope - TheSurvivalSherpa.com

The rope spooling down the long end of the pulley pole (Rig 2).

Continue this of flip-flop action until the object is freed. Six full revolutions around the pulley is what it took to inch my truck up the incline to level ground in the video.

Flip-Flop Tips When Alone

If you practice the technique with rope coiling on the pulley pole on both sides of the lever, you’ll find that the pulley has a tendency to swing in towards the rope as tension increases. My fix was to drive two stakes on opposite sides of the rope where the pulley pole lands on each flop. If the ground is too hard for stakes, a heavy rock or object may prevent the slide. As mentioned above, a heavier pulley pole would decrease the chances of this happening.

Experimenting with the rope spooling on one side of the pulley pole remedied the torque issues. I recommend using this method (Rig 2) vs. the rope spooling on opposite sides of the lever pole (Rig 1).

Also, under tension, the lever pole can rise off the ground with either method. Attach a loop of cordage on the tow rope where the flipped lever lands. Slide the loop over the lever on each flip once a good amount of tension is present.

Off Grid Winch - Incredible Power from Two Logs and a Rope - TheSurvivalSherpa.com

A Prussic Loop is a quick way to connect to the standing rope

Disconnecting the Rig

Obviously, once a vehicle is freed, the rope is no longer under tension. However, when pulling a tree or rock, tension can be released by reversing direction of the flip-flop. Once tension is removed, the spooled line can be handled safely.

Safety Concerns

There are inherent dangers when tension is applied to a rope or cable. If the rope has elasticity and snaps, the potential energy turns to kinetic energy moving like a slingshot or bow and arrow in opposite directions. Use rope without elasticity, nicks, abrasions, and a working load suitable for the task.

If you’re alone, you must cross over the rope in this process. Minimize the risk from flying rope by laying a heavy coat or blanket (if available) on the rope at both ends. With two people, nobody has to step over the taut line.

Another safety precaution is to wear leather gloves and eye protection. A smart thing to have handy is a knife handy to cut the rope if you somehow manage to get a hand pinched between the rope and pulley. Not sure how that might happen but better safe than sorry.

This powerful simple machine takes practice to perform properly. With a minimum of tools and some rope, the flip-flop winch can be a life saver on the homestead or in the backcountry. Add it to your preparedness toolbox. Give it a try and share your results.

Keep Doing the Stuff of Self-Reliance,

Todd

P.S. – You can also keep up with the Stuff we’re Doing on TwitterPinterestGoogle +, YouTube, Instagram, and Facebook… and over at the Doing the Stuff Network.

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

Thanks for Sharing the Stuff!

Copyright: 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. All links in articles must remain intact as originally posted in order to be republished. If you are interested a third-party article, please contact the author directly for republishing information.

 

Categories: Bushcraft, Camping, DIY Preparedness, DIY Preparedness Projects, Doing the Stuff, Gear, Homesteading, Preparedness, Self-reliance, Survival Skills | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

A Beginner’s Guide to Avoiding Bloated Bushcraft

by Todd Walker

A Beginner's Guide to Avoiding Bloated Bushcraft - TheSurvivalSherpa.com

Growing up as a simple country boy in the 60’s and 70’s, we camped. We made forts (aka ~ survival shelters today) from forest resources. We hunted, fished, and ate things we found in the woods. We learned woods lore from elder family members and friends. There was no internet. There were only books and young boys with a pocket knife and a cheap hatchet sleeping under an open southern sky.

I later discovered that my childhood adventures had a proper name. What we called camping and having fun in the woods is now known as bushcraft. I’ve spent my life avoiding labels. However, for the purpose of this article, we’ll use the term bushcraft but could easily be applied to some other labels below.

Whether you choose to call your outdoor life – bushcraft, woodcraft, camping, survivalism, primitive skills, scouting, wilderness living, etc., etc. – we all share a common desire to be comfortable, connected, confident, and more self-reliant in the wilderness.

I recently received this message on our Facebook page…

“What would you recommend for someone who is interested in learning about bushcrafting… for a beginner?” ~ DW

My suggestion to you, DW, and anyone starting out, is to remain a student and stay away from “experts” promoting bloated bushcraft. The beauty of bushcraft is hidden in simplicity. Start with skills, not elaborate gear.

You may be unfamiliar with the life and writings of Horace Kephart, so allow me to introduce you to one of my favorite authors and a quote from his book, Camping and Woodcraft (1917)…

“In the school of the woods… There is no graduation day.”

Bloated Bushcraft

Somewhere along our modern journey, going to the woods became complicated. You may be under the impression that you need a specific list of “bushcraft” gear to get started. Beware of the wiles of marketers. You’ll need some gear and we’ll address the non-bloated bushcraft gear required to get started.

Bushcraft knives, bushcraft books, bushcraft gear, bushcraft YouTubers, bushcraft schools, and lots of shiny survival stuff are begging for your attention and money. Internet experts have a way of confusing beginners by using the bushcrafty buzzwords yet some have little field experience. Be careful who you listen to and learn from.

The journey to any aspect of self-reliance begins by Doing the Stuff. This will take time and experience in the field. Your “wilderness” may be your backyard. No shame in that. The bushcraft-purist’s protocol is not important. Practicing skills wherever you are, with the equipment you have, is where experience is gained. Experience carries more weight than head knowledge.

Fundamental Bushcraft Skills

Bushcraft encompasses a deep and wide field of knowledge. For the beginner, information overload has the real possibility of stopping you before you can even start this new hobby. To avoid bloated bushcraft, build a firm foundation by developing these two core skills outlined below.

A.) Fire Craft

How to Extinguish Your Child's Fear of Fire with a Single Match | TheSurvivalSherpa.com

Max, my grandson, igniting a pile of fat lighter scrapings

Non-Bloated Fire Recommendations

  • Cigarette lighter
  • Matches

Harnessed fire changes everything. It disinfects water and the 21st century soul. For paleo people, life was sustainable because of fire. The same holds true for us moderns – only our fire is fed through convenient copper wire behind walls. Learning to build a fire lay from what the forest provides and then successfully lighting and managing the fire is your first fundamental skill.

I’ve covered many fire craft fundamentals in the article links below which may help you with fire craft…

Recommended Reading:

Practice Makes Permanent

Practice does not make perfect. It will, however, make skills permanent. With that being said, an ugly fire lay that ignites and burns still achieves your goal… Fire!

“Fire don’t care about pretty. It eats ugly. In fact, fire loves chaos.”

Now it’s time to practice.

Look to your local forest (or backyard) to provide you with the necessary fire resources. This is where context and locale come into play. Your fire resources may differ from mine. But rest assured, indigenous people once lived in your neighborhood and created fire in your woodland.

Gather your first fire’s meal: Breakfast (tinder), Lunch (kindling), and Dinner (fuel).

Breakfast – You may not easily find natural tinder material in your backyard. If not, use a commercial fire-starter or make a diy alternative. You can learn to find and process plant-based tinder as you have access to them. You can also use your knife to create tinder material from a single stick.

Lunch – Collect an arm-load of dead, small twigs (kindling material) hanging off the ground. Each twig should give a distinctive snap when broken. If not, the wood is not dry and shouldn’t be used. Look for the smallest twigs available – pencil lead in size to pencil-size.

Dinner – While your out collecting kindling, gather finger-size to wrist-size branches to fuel your fire once the twigs ignite. Organize your wood into kindling and fuel in separate stacks.

All fires need three items to come to life; oxygen, fuel, and heat. Your heat source will be a lighter or matches. Even with an open flame the fire lay must be properly prepared. With your fire lay built, light the tinder and observe. Did it ignite the kindling, and eventually, the fuel? If not, what do you need to do different? Experiment until you have a sustainable fire.

B.) Knife Craft

No other area of bushcraft holds more potential for bloating than knives. However, you don’t need an expensive cutting tool to get started in bushcraft.

Mora makes cheaper (under $20.00 US), durable blades worth your consideration. By the way, I’m not affiliated with or receive compensation from any products/company I mention on our blog. However, when I find a product that I like, I’ll share my thoughts with our readers. Simply put, I highly recommend Mora knives for beginners. I gave my grandson his first fixed blade knife last year – a Mora Companion.

Once you have a knife that feels good in your hands, it should be able to spread peanut butter and slice meat, whittle sticks, carve wood, make notches, butcher animals, clean fish, and many more camp tasks.

“The quality of a survival kit is determined by how much it can help you when you need to sleep.  If you can sleep well at night, you have it made.” ~ Mors Kochanski

Yes, knife craft will help you achieve a good nights sleep in the woods. Click here to read how.

Non-Bloated Knife Recommendations

  • Mora knives
  • Old Hickory butcher knives
  • The above knives can be purchased for under 20 bucks
A Beginner's Guide to Avoiding Bloated Bushcraft - TheSurvivalSherpa.com

My grandson’s Mora Companion (top left), a smaller Mora with a bark neck sheath, and butcher knife – not Old Hickory.

A sharp knife is a safe knife. Dull knifes take more force for cutting and increase the risk of injury. You want your knife shaving sharp.

Below are a few safety tips for using your knife…

  • Cut in a direction away from your body. That’s good advice for beginners and seasoned woodsman.
  • Work with your knife outside the triangle of death (an imaginary triangle between your knees and crotch).
  • Work within the blood circle when others are nearby (a circle made with your outstretched arms as you turn 360 degrees).
  • Grip and body mechanics ~ standard grip, reverse grip, chest lever, knee lever, and thumb assisted grip for push cuts in fine carving tasks. These will be covered in detail in a later post.

Two knife skills I recommend for beginners relate to fire craft. Find a dead soft hardwood or pine limb about arm’s length and thumb to wrist-size in diameter with no knots. Grip your knife in a standard grip like you’d hold a tennis racket. Lay the cutting edge against the wood and cut down along the wood surface. Keep your elbow slightly bent but stiff and use your shoulder to push the knife. After each thin cut down the wood, move the blade slightly to shave the ridge of the previous cut. Keep the knife perpendicular to the wood with each pass.

Use this exercise to get the feel of how your blade profile engages (bites) the wood. Learn to tilt the knife for finer or thicker shavings/curls. The object is to produce surface area that will easily ignite with an open flame. Ugly curls are not a problem. They’ll burn. I rarely carve feather/fuzz sticks since my woodland has other abundant tinder options. This is still a good way to practice your knife skills. We called it whittling as a child.

Another really quick method to produce tinder with lots of surface area is to scrape the wood with the back (spine) of your knife – my preferred method. Try this using the same technique described above. Collect the fine shavings for your fire lay.

Below is a quick video demonstrating this technique with a piece of fat lighter (fatwood).

Once you feel more confident with safely handling your knife, move on to making notches to further enhance your skills. Mr. Kochanski recommends carving basic notches by creating a Try Stick.

A pot hook made with two notches: Pot hook or beak notch (bottom) and hole notch at top.

A pot hook made with two notches: Pot hook or beak notch (bottom) and hole notch at top.

Learning to carve notches develops knife skills which enables you to craft useful items for camp and outdoor self-reliance.

Continuing Outdoor Education

Good books, blogs, videos, and instructors with field experience who encouraging independent thinking is of more value to beginners than regurgitated information. The more time you spend gaining experience in the field the more confident you’ll become. For continued education, check out one of the best online resources I’ve found by going to the Resources Page at Master Woodsman.

This article is not a comprehensive guide for all you’ll need to get started in your journey to outdoor self-reliance. It is, however, my advice to beginners pursuing the simple art of non-bloated bushcraft. Now… get out there and get some experience!

Keep Doing the Stuff of Self-Reliance,

~ Todd

P.S. – You can also keep up with the Stuff we’re Doing on TwitterPinterestGoogle +, YouTube, Instagram, and Facebook… and over at the Doing the Stuff Network.

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

Thanks for Sharing the Stuff!

Copyright: 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. All links in articles must remain intact as originally posted in order to be republished. If you are interested a third-party article, please contact the author directly for republishing information.

Categories: Bushcraft, Doing the Stuff, Gear, Preparedness, Self-reliance, Survival Skills | Tags: , , , , | 13 Comments

Camp Craft Challenge: The One Billet Boil Up

by Todd Walker

Camping is a time to renew friendships and experience the fellowship of kindred spirits. There is no other place quite like the glowing sticks of a campfire to rejuvenate my soul.

Camp Craft Challenge- The One Billet Boil Up - TheSurvivalSherpa.com

Fun times at Georgia Bushcraft campouts are often around a fire. Fire challenges, to be more specific. Most competitions consist of bringing a container of water to a rolling boil. There are other ways to gauge the woodsman’s or woods-woman’s firecraft skills, but none are more important (or fun), in my mind, than boiling water in the woods. With hot water, a camper can disinfect creek water and cook squirrel stew while sipping hot coffee, tea, and cocoa.

To prepare for these fire challenges, I’m known for collecting a trash bag full of “smalls” (pencil lead and pencil size twigs). Gathering enough twigs to boil water in under three minutes can take 30 minutes to an hour depending on how sidetracked I become in the woods. Squirrel! 

Collecting resources on woods treks is wise. However, you won’t find me walking through the woodland with a 55 gallon bag of sticks unless I know there’s an upcoming water-boil competition. With that being said, I’d like to introduce, and challenge, our readers to a time-honored way to boil water which incorporates ax, knife, and fire skills…

One Billet Boil Up

One-stick-fires are not new to me. However, I discovered the interesting history behind this challenge on Chris Noble’s site, Master Woodsman. Chris is always willing to share his wealth of woodsy knowledge at our campouts and his website. Find more on the history of this challenge here and here.

Challenge Guidelines

Here’s what you’ll need. Keep in mind that these are challenge guidelines not competition rules. You’re only competition is you for the sake of testing your skills.

  • One dry wood billet (species of your choice) around 6 inches in diameter and about one foot long – I used a standing dead red cedar billet for my challenge
  • Sharp ax or hatchet
  • Sharp knife
  • Bush pot or tin can large enough to hold one quart of water (32 ounces)
  • Kitchen matches (strike anywhere type)
  • Timer and camera (optional) if you’d like to share with us

I filmed the challenge on our channel if you’d like watch. The previously mentioned Master Woodsman links have useful video examples. Those guys and gals are fast!

Disclaimer: I’m well aware of the competitive spirit among my camping buddies. Should you take the challenge, know that you are using sharp cutting tools which do not discriminate about what they cut… fingers, shins, and hands included. If you are new to ax and knife work, spend time learning to properly handle these cutting tools. You are responsible for keeping appendages if you take this challenge, not us. No prizes are involved, so keep it safe.

Challenge Strategies

With my normal twig fire for water-boiling, surface area is guaranteed. Not so with a solid log. You must create surface area from the log as quickly and safely as possible. Split off a few one inch shingles from the round with your ax. Cut one of the shingles into smaller pieces. Immediately create shavings or fuzz sticks with your knife or ax from one of the smaller pieces. Light these shavings/fuzz sticks with a match as soon as possible. If you’re match goes out without achieving ignition, you’re allowed another match.

Split down more wood to begin building a log cabin fire lay around the fire. Use the smallest split wood to lay over the fire inside the base of the fire lay. The object is to build a couple of layers of burning kindling inside the log cabin.

Place the water container on top of flames supported by two of the cross pieces of the log cabin. Blow the base of the fire as needed to fan the flames.

Build the log cabin up to the top of the container with more split wood. Use what’s left of the original billet to split off four shingles. Lay the shingles against the fire lay in teepee fashion to trap and funnel the heat around the water container.

Just as a blacksmith billows air into his forge to increase the temperature, lay on the ground near the base of your fire and blow. This should only be done if your container is positioned on a steady log cabin structure. You wouldn’t want hot water falling and hitting any part of your body… another inherent risk.

Camp Craft Challenge- The One Billet Boil Up - TheSurvivalSherpa.com

My tin can is somewhere in there.

Once you’re satisfied the fire lay is sustainable, stand back and get your timer ready. Stop your timer once you have a rolling boil in your pot. Side bubbles around the edges of the container does not count as boiling. The entire surface of the water should be dancing and rolling with bubbles.

If you take the challenge, be sure to let us know your results. On social media, use the hashtag #OneBillitBoilUp so we can find you. Remember, the only prize you’ll receive is enhanced camp craft skills. Have fun and be safe!

Additional Resources

Keep Doing the Stuff of Self-Reliance,

~ Todd

P.S. – You can also keep up with the Stuff we’re Doing on TwitterPinterestGoogle +, YouTube, Instagram, and Facebook… and over at the Doing the Stuff Network.

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

Thanks for Sharing the Stuff!

Copyright: 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. All links in articles must remain intact as originally posted in order to be republished. If you are interested a third-party article, please contact the author directly for republishing information.

 

Categories: Bushcraft, Camping, Doing the Stuff, Preparedness, Self-reliance, Survival Skills | Tags: , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Hunt-Gather-Eat: Identifying Plants the Real Food Eats

by Todd Walker

At our spring Georgia Bushcraft campout, Chris Noble began his Plant I.D. class with seven wise words written on the white board…

“Plants are what the real food eats!”

Wild edibles are popular among survivalists and outdoorsy types. Would you survive the learning curve if you were dependent on wild food only?

Hunt-Gather-Eat- Identifying Plants the Real Food Eats - TheSurvivalSherpa.com

We have several articles parked on our Foraging Feral Food page. However, foraging is a hobby of mine and is used to supplement my diet and knowledge base. The supplementary part (knowledge) is what the average person, like myself, should concentrate on when learning to forage. More specifically, which plants are favorites of your local Real Food (animals)?

The idea of long-term survivability as a vegan without our modern food delivery system would be, in my mind, starving times. Even omnivores would be hard pressed to feed their family if semi-trucks stopped rolling. If you’re reading as a vegan, this is not a slam on your food choices. I have nothing against vegetarians or vegans… except for the occasional radical who bashes bacon. In my wild foraging experience, learning to safely identify wild edibles takes time, experience, and preferably guidance from someone with actual expertise in the field. This is not to say living off the landscape can’t be done by hobby foragers. It’s just unlikely.

Crop cultivation signaled the beginning of the end of our hunter-gatherer lifestyle 10,000 years ago. Today, the domestication of our species seems to be complete… almost. Our wild genes remain but must be reprogrammed.

Like any other skill, harvesting the Real Food (non-farm raised) will require hunting and trapping wild animals. Ethical practices should be followed. This is not about killing “trophies.” This is about feeding your family Real Food in hard times.

Favorite Plants of the Real Food 

Most creatures in the Eastern woodlands with fins, fur, and/or feathers are edible, with a few exceptions, and, of course, personal bias. Crawlers and scaly critters aren’t off the menu either.

Having knowledge and familiarity of which plants wild animals prefer can help supplement your food supply. Understanding their habitats and patterns is also important. Even if you’ve never hunted or trapped wild game, or choose not to at this point, find these plants and the Real Food will follow. Below is a list of critters and their favorite munch-ables.

Whitetail Deer

Anyone who has ever grown a garden knows the damage deer can cause. Rows of young butter beans can turn into match sticks poking from the earth overnight. Farm land is a white-tailed deer smorgasbord. With no agriculture in an area, deer browse on a variety of foods available in different seasons.

IMG_0402

  • Browse: Twigs and leaves of woody plants, vines, and shrubs
  • Forbs: Broad leaved flowering plants (herbaceous)
  • Mast Crops: Acorns, hickory nuts, beechnuts, walnuts, pecans, etc.- In my experience, white oak mast is preferred over other oaks
  • Fruit: Apple, persimmon, muscadine (wild grapes), blackberry, mayapple, etc.
  • Fungi: Mushrooms
  • Grasses: Makes up less than 10% of their diet
A power line full of forbs.

A power line full of forbs.

White-tailed deer are typically most active during morning and evening hours. The “rut” (breeding season) in the fall causes bucks to throw caution to the wind in pursuit of receptive does. Conventional hunting wisdom is gone with the wind as well.

Bear

All bears are classified as carnivores even though most of their diet is plant-based. They are not shy about scavenging from trash cans, carrion, campsites, and landfills. Meat and fish, when available, add needed protein and fat to their diet.

This big boy drug our son's trash can to the edge of the woods to help himself in Florida.

This big boar drug our son’s trash can to the edge of the woods to help himself in Florida.

Seasonal plants, especially high-energy fruit, are favorites for bear.

  • Spring: First sprouting grasses and roots in areas where bears hibernate. Grubs and insects under decaying logs.
  • Summer and early fall: Blackberries, huckleberries, persimmon, blueberries, and, near human developments, fruit trees.
  • Fall: As berries disappear, foraging turns to fish and dead carcasses of animals.

Feral Hogs

In Georgia, and many other states, there is no closed season on feral swine. This non-native animal was introduced in North America in the 1500’s by explores. Wild hogs are opportunistic omnivores who can also play the role of predator. Not only a nuisance to landowners, they compete with native wildlife for food sources and destroy natural habitat.

Wild hogs are known carriers of disease and parasites which can be transferred to humans when butchering and consuming. Precautions should be taken when handling/processing a carcass. Wear rubber gloves, dispose of waste properly, cook meat to an internal temperature of 160ºF, wash hands with soap and warm water, and clean/disinfect surfaces/tools after butchering with a bleach solution.

Hogs range to find a wide variety of food in different seasons. Recognizing sign, habit and food sources is your best bet for locating wild hogs…

  • Tracks are more rounded with blunted toes than deer. Dew claw impressions are wider than the toe prints of white-tailed deer.
  • Wallows and tracks in creeks and ponds
  • Bedding areas created by rooting to find cool soil
  • Agriculture crops: corn, peanuts, soybean, watermelon, etc.
  • Large wire traps are used successfully by landowners to control pig populations

Small Game Animals

Part of developing a Possum Mentality applies to not only salvaging resources but trying new food sources. Are you willing to eat meat from mink, otter, raccoon, fox, coyote, opossum, muskrat, skunk, bobcat, and weasel? Sounds disgusting to our refined palate but many of these are abundant.

This post is already getting too long. We’ve only got space and time to cover one of the most prolific of small game animals…

Squirrel

This member of the rodent family deserves the nickname “tree rat.” Squirrels don’t just eat nuts and seeds from your bird feeder. They’re omnivores, and, at times, cannibals. Their favored habitat is deciduous forests but aren’t shy of pine trees. Their diet and habitat are very similar to deer.

  • Soft and Hard Mast: Acorns, hickory nuts, beechnuts, walnuts, pecans, pine nuts, winged seeds of maple, tulip poplar blossoms (one of their springtime favorites), black cherry, fruits, mushrooms
  • Meat/Protein: Baby birds, eggs, lizards, insects, frogs
  • Picture what rats eat (most anything) and add a bushy tail to your mental image

Large rat traps are effective for passively harvesting squirrels. I’ve used peanut butter as bait in the past.

Fun Survival Fact: A squirrel’s nest may appear to be built in the same manner as a bird’s nest with an open roof when viewing from ground level. Not so. Squirrels need a roof over their head as shelter from the elements. Nature’s design for squirrels, an orb shaped home, can be modified for humans caught in the woods unexpectedly without cover. We will address their design in detail in an upcoming post on debris shelters.

 Birds

All birds are edible. However, not all birds are legal to kill and eat. They also produce another good survival food, eggs.

Wild turkey

Wild turkey

All birds do not eat seeds. Fish and insects make up the diet of many birds. Birds need water for hydration and bathing. The water’s edge is always a prime location to find food with fins, fur, and feathers.

To have a realistic chance of trapping a bird, understand their habits and fly patterns. Pellet rifles, sling shots, and bow and arrows were weapons of choice for me growing up to hone my hunting skills. Check your local laws first.

Fish

No worries about eating poisonous freshwater fish. To my knowledge, there are none. They all contain protein and fat and are fun to catch.

The 4 W’s of Wilderness Campsite Selection | TheSurvivalSherpa.com

Rainbow trout on fly rod!

I’ll refer you to our article on fishing techniques for more ideas. Also, consider making a fish trap.

Snakes and Reptiles

I know, I know. People have an innate fear of slithers. But snake meat is tasty and can supplement your diet. Properly prepared, the meat does taste similar to chicken.

This water snakes is often times falsely accused of being a water moccasin.

Water snakes are often times falsely accused of being a water moccasin.

I have dispatched a water moccasin or two in the woods within striking distance of my dog (“Moose”) when my only options were a vet bill or a dead cotton mouth. Snakes are part of nature’s balancing act and are best left alone to do what they do… unless you really need to eat to survive.

A word of caution here. Snake metabolism is really slow so they die slowly. A rattlesnake may be cut in half by your garden hoe, but it can still deliver a strike and envenomation. A large number of people are bitten by venomous snakes after they’ve “killed” the serpent and pick it up to show their buddies.

Where to find snakes…

  • Where you least expect them but should… under the tarp in your woodpile.
  • In a wilderness setting, streams, swamps, ponds, lakes, dead logs, brush piles, etc.
  • Wherever rodents, birds, large insects, frogs, and lizards are plentiful
  • Warm/hot months in daytime hours: brush piles, holes, under fallen trees.

Other reptiles like alligator and turtle (MRE on the half-shell) are also good eating.

Really Small Eats

Opportunities to eat Real Food in the form of small stuff occur more often than finding a large four-legged meal. Again, the water’s edge is a smorgasbord in the wild.

Crawfish

The exoskeleton of crawfish (AKA – creek lobster, mud bugs, crawdads) encase some of the tastiest meat you’ll find in the woods. They can be trapped or caught by hand. I’ve caught them with a piece of bacon on the end of a string. They latch on and you pull them out of the water before they release. Trap bait can include fresh fish or animal guts or any form of fresh meat. I’ve discovered that they love bacon! The key is to load lots of fresh bait in your trap to keep ’em coming.

The woven funnel is inserted in one end of a hollow log with the other opening plugged to create a bushcraft crawfish trap.

The woven funnel is inserted in one end of a hollow log with the other opening plugged to create a bushcraft crawfish trap.

Insects

The most abundant non-plant edible on our planet. I’m not a bug eater, but I’d eat them if my survival were on the line. A rule of thumb when eating insects is…

Red, orange-yellow, forget this fellow. Black, green or brown, wolf it down.

To kill parasites, cook the protein-packed creepy-crawlers.

Additional Resources:

Keep Doing the Stuff of Self-Reliance,

Todd

P.S. – You can also keep up with the Stuff we’re Doing on TwitterPinterestGoogle +, YouTube, Instagram, and Facebook… and over at the Doing the Stuff Network.

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

Thanks for Sharing the Stuff!

Copyright: 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. All links in articles must remain intact as originally posted in order to be republished. If you are interested a third-party article, please contact the author directly for republishing information.

Categories: Bushcraft, Camping, Doing the Stuff, Frugal Preps, Preparedness, Real Food, Self-reliance, SHTF, Survival Skills | Tags: , , , , , | 3 Comments

Spring Camping: 4 Keys to Avoid Unexpected Hypothermia

by Todd Walker

One of the top concerns of winter outdoor activities is hypothermia. We are well aware of that possibility and prepare accordingly. With summer approaching, what’s the worry?

Spring Camping- 4 Keys to Avoid Unexpected Hypothermia - TheSurvivalSherpa.com

I’ve been chilled to the bone on a few spring camping trips in Georgia… especially in wet conditions. One I’ll never forget was a fishing trip my brother-in-law and I made on the Flint River in mid-March of 1981. We motored up river, set trot lines, and made camp near a sandbar. We woke to a heavy frost blanketing our lightweight summer sleeping bags under a freezing Georgia sky. We were unprepared for the evening temperature change. It was springtime!

A good scare is worth more to a man than good advice. ~ Edgar Watson Howe

Our mountain temperatures in June are sneaky and cold enough to drain your body heat by morning. On planned overnighters, having the means and skill to regulate core temperature is critical to enjoying your camping trip. On unexpected stays, it could mean staying alive.

We tend to associate hypothermia with frigid winter temperatures. However, people can die from losing body heat with temperatures in the 50 degree range. Why?

Most people take day hikes or camp in late spring and early summer unprepared for this unexpected threat. Body heat generated from hiking a mountain trail is a double-edged sword. Yes, you’re warm while active… and sweaty. The mercury drops and the wind picks up at higher altitudes. Evaporative cooling is a wonderful to a certain point. Dressed in minimal, sweat-soaked clothing, you may find yourself on a slippery slope of suffering from exposure. You must be prepared to take steps to protect from further cooling.

Hypothermia Warning Signs

Hypothermia is subtle. No matter how experienced you may be in outdoor adventures, core temperature control should be a top priority on every outing. Sadly, just two summers ago, a well-known and experienced hiker succumbed to the elements in Washington. It can happen to anyone.

Few places in this world are more dangerous than home. Fear not, therefore, to try the mountain passes. They will kill care, save you from deadly apathy, set you free, and call forth every faculty into vigorous, enthusiastic action. ~ John Muir

There are inherit risks in outdoor activities. Heck, just rolling out of bed holds its own risks. That doesn’t keep adventurous types out of the wilds. Managing risks successfully keeps us alive out there.

Here are the stages and symptoms signaling a drop in your core temperature.

Mild Hypothermia

(Body temperature between 89-95F/32-35C )

  • Constant shivering
  • Tiredness
  • Cold, pale, blotchy skin
  • Numbness and tingling skin
  • Blue fingers and toes
  • Fast breathing

Moderate Hypothermia

(Body temperature between 84.2-95F/28-32C)

  • Ability to think clearly and attention suffers
  • Confusion
  • Slurred speech
  • Lose of judgement and reasoning ability
  • Stiff muscles and cramping
  • Shivering stops
  • Slow or irregular pulse
  • Drowsiness

Severe Hypothermia

(Body temperature below 84.2F/32C)

  • Unconscious/unresponsive
  • Pupils dilated
  • Irregular or no pulse
  • Undressing and terminal burrowing occurs in 1/4 of the people who freeze to death
  • Bodily functions and organs begin shutting down

Immediate medical attention is needed to stay alive.

Reduce Your Risk

Being unprepared this time of the year is hypothermia’s power. Dirt Road Girl and I have passed many day hikers happily enjoying mountain trails in early spring and summer wearing shorts, t-shirt, and maybe a water bottle with no contingency day pack in sight.

Who knows, these folks may possess skills and fitness levels to able to construct an emergency shelter from leaves and sticks to stay warm if an unexpected stay in the wilderness happens. Unless you’re on a self-imposed survival adventure, always carry a minimum of core temperature control gear.

Shelter

No matter what clothes you’re wearing, pack a 5 x 7 foot emergency space blanket. Add a cheap plastic painters tarp and you have two items used in constructing Mors Kochanski’s super shelter. My experience with this design is very favorable if you’re able to maintain a fire throughout the night.

best-emergency-core-temperature-control-gear

Super shelter

A bright orange tarp is also useful as a signaling device. Large contractor garbage bags weigh little but offer many uses in core temperature control. I pack two.

Fire

Fire is the most forgiving of all survival skill. Even without proper cover, a good fire can keep you alive.

Carry a fire kit with redundant ignition sources: Open flame – Bic lighter, matches; Spark ignition – ferrocerium rod, flint and steel; Solar ignition – magnifying lens.

Spring Camping- 4 Keys to Avoid Unexpected Hypothermia - TheSurvivalSherpa.com

Fire and hydration

There is dry tinder material even in a wet forest. However, be prepared and carry a proven source of dry tinder in your kit. It doesn’t have to be natural material either. Commercial or diy fire starters are highly recommended when fine motor skills have said bye-bye to cold hands. Also, duct tape burns long and hot. Here’s a compact method of carrying several feet of duct tape.

For more fire craft basics, check out our Bombproof Fire Craft page.

Keep in mind that a person’s early-stage shivering may stop after being warmed from radiate heat around the fire, but their core temperature may still be dangerously low. If one person in a group is experiencing obvious signs of hypothermia, it’s very likely that others are in early stages as well. Watch out for each other and take action when needed.

Hydration

A well hydrated person has a better defense against hypothermia. More fluid increases blood volume and conserves heat in your core longer than if you are dehydrated.

Carry a metal water bottle which can be used to boil water in the fire you’ve built. A hot cup of cocoa adds some warmth to the core while hydrating the body simultaneously.

Prepare for Extremes

Check the local weather report before heading out. I just returned from a weekend with our Georgia Bushcraft group. I planned to bring my sleeping bag (MSS). The weather report showed temperatures in the 80’s to the low 60’s with rain on Saturday. I typically only use my poncho liner in those temps in my hammock. However, I wanted to over-prepare. When setting camp, I realized I’d forgotten my sleeping bag. That’s why checklists are helpful… most of the time. I made do but was rather chilled the first morning.

The lesson on this trip was to double-check the checklist. Extra layers I had packed came in handy for warmth in the hammock. Plus, I had my closed cell foam ground mat which I employed. Coupled with my emergency space blanket, the cool, rainy Saturday night in Georgia posed no problem to a good night’s sleep.

Summer temperatures are headed our way. Under normal circumstances, hypothermia never crosses most of our minds this time of the year. We welcome cool breezes and rain showers. By following the above mentioned points, core temperature control shouldn’t be an issue.

Keep Doing the Stuff of Self-Reliance,

Todd

P.S. – You can also keep up with the Stuff we’re Doing on TwitterPinterestGoogle +, YouTube, Instagram, and Facebook… and over at the Doing the Stuff Network.

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

Thanks for Sharing the Stuff!

Copyright: 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. All links in articles must remain intact as originally posted in order to be republished. If you are interested a third-party article, please contact the author directly for republishing information.

Categories: Bushcraft, Camping, Doing the Stuff, Gear, Preparedness, Self-reliance, Survival Skills | Tags: , , , | 2 Comments

River Cane: 25 Self-Reliant Uses for “Cherokee Plastic”

by Todd Walker

Bamboo can quickly takes over yards and even entire fields. Though it has many uses world-wide, non-native woody grasses are not our topic of discussion. Today we’ll cover what some describe as the Cherokee Nation’s equivalent to modern plastic… River Cane.

River Cane- 25 Self-Reliant Uses for -Cherokee Plastic- - TheSurvivalSherpa.com

River cane (grass family, Poaceae) is the only native bamboo in the eastern woodlands. Three have been identified: River cane (Arundinaria gigantea), Switch cane (Arundinaria tecta), and a newly discovered (2007) native bamboo called Hill cane (Arundinaria appalachiana). Source

Historical accounts of vast canebrakes stretching for miles along river floodplains were noted by early explorers of the New World. William Bartram, America’s first professional botanist, described clums of river cane “as thick as a mans arm.” John Lawson (1674-1711) recorded that one culm (hollow stem) of river cane could hold “about of pint of liquor.” Cheers!

Without delving into the botanical differences, which would require more space than this article allows, the historical use of cane is well documented as a rich resource for self-reliance. It’s uses are not lost on modern primitive practitioners and experimental archeologists.

Below are three books on primitive skills and technology which have helped me on my journey of experimental archeology and the practice of primitive skills…

I never had the pleasure of personally meeting and learning from Steve Watts but he treated me like a good friend through our online communications. His recent untimely passing spurred me to re-read his book, Practicing Primitive: A Handbook of Aboriginal Skills.

I’m fortunate to have Scott Jones, a student and colleague of Mr. Watts, less than an hour from my Georgia home. I’ve had the pleasure of attending several of his Workshops at the Woods. I have both of his books, A View to the Past, and his most recent work, Postcards to the Past: Context and Continuity in Primitive Technology, gifted to me by my good friend, Kevin Bowen.

My pursuit of primitive technology and skills is largely due to these two authors. Outside the modest cane fishing pole, most of the cane projects within this article come from Watts and Jones.

Though my cane craft is limited, every Georgia country boy I know is intimately familiar with catching blue gill from ponds and creek banks with a homemade cane pole. The use of river cane extends far beyond boys fishing and raising cane on hot summer days. Below I’ve listed 25 traditional uses for this amazing plant.

25 Uses for River Cane in Self-Reliance

Hunting

  • Arrow Shafts ~ A preferred material for Southeastern Native American tribes.
  • Atlatl and Darts ~ Cane was used to make darts for these spear throwing tool. Jones describes in Postcards from the Past (pg. 193) and has made spear-throwers entirely from cane.
  • Knife ~ Some tribes made fire-hardened knives from cane capable of skinning game. I have a deep cut on my knuckle which is finally healing from a brush with sharp river cane.
  • Blow Gun ~ Nodes (joints) were removed to form a long, hollow tube of cane to blow darts from. These were effective in hunting small game animals and birds.

Fishing

  • Fish Trap ~ The Cherokee used a funnel style trap at an opening of rock dams and weirs in steams to catch fish.
River Cane- 25 Self-Reliant Uses for -Cherokee Plastic- - TheSurvivalSherpa.com

Cane fish trap in progress

  • Split Cane Gig ~ Easy to carve and fire-harden harpoon style gigs for fish or other aquatic species.
  • Floats ~ A small clum between both nodes can be used for a line float on a cane pole.
  • Jug Fishing ~ Bundle several lengths of cane together with a line and hook attached for passive jug fishing.

Containers

  • Baskets ~ Cane was split into splints and woven into baskets for food gathering and storage, clothing storage, ceremonial uses, and day-to-day containers. Natural pigment were used to dye and decorate.
  • Mats ~ Woven mats were used for covering walls, floors, bedding, burial, and seating.
  • Cane Vial ~ The hollow portion of a clum makes a great container for storing liquid, salt, pepper, medicine, needles, etc.
River Cane- 25 Self-Reliant Uses for -Cherokee Plastic- - TheSurvivalSherpa.com

A vial for my repair kit

  • Sheaths ~ I traded with James Gibson (Knob Creek Forge) for this handy antler-handled awl with a river cane sheath.
River Cane- 25 Self-Reliant Uses for -Cherokee Plastic- - TheSurvivalSherpa.com

A simple but effective sheath

Wildlife

Canebrakes are an ecosystem unto themselves.

River Cane- 25 Self-Reliant Uses for -Cherokee Plastic- - TheSurvivalSherpa.com

A small canebrake

  • At least 23 mammal species, 16 bird species, four reptile species and seven invertebrates that occur within canebrakes (Platt et al. 2001). Source
  • Swainson’s warbler builds it’s nests in dense canebrakes.
  • Canebrake Rattlesnake (endangered) live and hunt in canebrakes.
  • Whitetail deer eat young shoots in the spring.

Farming

  • Food ~ Attractive to many grazing bovine, young cane was the highest yielding native pasture in the Southeast. Indians managed large canebrakes by controlled burning every 7 to 10 years. For humans, boil and eat young shoots in early spring and summer.
  • Riparian Buffer ~ Canebrakes improve water quality by filtering ground water nitrates/phosphates, trapping sediment, and stabilizing erosion.
  • Tomato Stakes ~ If river cane isn’t abundant in your area, use bamboo instead.
River Cane- 25 Self-Reliant Uses for -Cherokee Plastic- - TheSurvivalSherpa.com

Bamboo or cane is a great garden companion

Construction

  • Shelter ~ Cane and other flexible saplings were used in wattle-and-daub walled houses.
River Cane- 25 Self-Reliant Uses for -Cherokee Plastic- - TheSurvivalSherpa.com

The crew from Georgia Bushcraft constructing a shelter from river cane’s cousin (bamboo).

  • Watercraft ~ Bundles of hollow river cane lashed together to form pontoons.
  • Pipes ~ Stem for smoke pipes.
  • Blow Tube ~ Perfect for making burn and scrap containers and spoons.
River Cane- 25 Self-Reliant Uses for -Cherokee Plastic- - TheSurvivalSherpa.com

A burn and scrap spoon made while camping with Bill Reese (Instinct Survivalist)

  • Furniture ~ Chairs, beds, tables, etc.

Crafts

River Cane- 25 Self-Reliant Uses for -Cherokee Plastic- - TheSurvivalSherpa.com

Two excellent resources: A river cane handle on a tulip poplar bark berry basket.

  • Paint Brush ~ A short, hollow portion of river cane will accept animal hair or plant fibers to form a brush.
  • Jewelry ~ Necklaces, bracelets, and pendants can be made from cane.
  • Burnishing Tool ~ Used to burnish leather edges or other craft items.

Music

  • Flute ~ A famous poet from Georgia, Sidney Lanier, was also a flutist. It is said that he made his first flute from river cane collected on the Ocmulgee River in central Georgia.
  • Whistle ~ Hank at Sensible Survival shows you how to make a simple survival whistle.

We are fortunate to have such a rich native resource growing in our Southeastern woodlands. Efforts are being made to reestablish river cane on land once covered with native bamboo. Keep stewardship in mind when harvesting from canebrakes. Select only what you need without over-harvesting. Non-native bamboo can be substituted for many of these projects mentioned.

In what ways have you used cane for self-reliance?

Keep Doing the Stuff of Self-Reliance,

Todd

P.S. – You can also keep up with the Stuff we’re Doing on TwitterPinterestGoogle +, YouTube, Instagram, and Facebook… and over at the Doing the Stuff Network.

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

Thanks for Sharing the Stuff!

Copyright: 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. All links in articles must remain intact as originally posted in order to be republished. If you are interested a third-party article, please contact the author directly for republishing information.

Categories: Bushcraft, DIY Preparedness Projects, Doing the Stuff, Gardening, Homesteading, Lost Skills, Preparedness, Primal Skills, Self-reliance, Survival Skills | Tags: , , , , , , | 7 Comments

How Cherokees Used Trees of Southern Appalachia for Food, Medicine, and Craft

by Todd Walker

How Cherokees Used Trees of Southern Appalachia for Food, Medicine, and Craft - TheSurvivalSherpa.com

Foraging wild food requires practice, knowledge, and experience on your landscape. Notice I used the word your land. What you’ve read in books and watched on YouTube may not apply to your locale. While survival principles may never change, self-reliance is local.

Many of us are self-taught in skills of wilderness living. However, one way to shorten your learning curve is to find an experienced skills practitioner in your area who is actually Doing the Stuff. After receiving instruction, you gain knowledge. Knowledge weighs nothing but is not enough. You make knowledge applicable through time and experience and context. There is no substitute for time in your woods.

I had the recent pleasure of attending my third class at Medicine Bow, A Primitive School of Earthlore in the North Georgia Mountains. If you look up Renaissance Man in the dictionary, Mark Warren’s bio should appear, but won’t. He’s not only a walking encyclopedia of woods-lore, he won the U.S.National Champion in Slalom/Downriver combined and the World Championship Longbow Tournament in 1999. On top of his wealth of outdoor knowledge, he is also a musical composer and published author.

Mark’s knowledge of the Cherokee uses of plants and trees is the foundation for anyone interested in wilderness living and self-reliance. I wrote him an email after the class asking assistance on a question for this article. I wanted to know the degree to which Cherokees depended on domesticated crops verses wild foods.

Mark’s response:

“Everyone knows about Cherokee farming and the 3 sisters (corn, squash, and beans), but the wild growth of forest and field was actually “farmed” too, by pruning or clearing for light. For example, swamp dogwoods were pruned to encourage survival shoots for basketry and arrow shafts. Large areas along flood plains were burned to help create a monopoly of river cane (for the same two crafts). A lot of those “brakes” can still be seen. The same is true of foods. I have a sense of why Amicalola was sacred to the Cherokee. I suspect it was for the prolific sochani that grows there. It’s also called green-headed coneflower. Cherokee women in NC still harvest it in spring and freeze for the year.”

Click here for more information on Sochani (Green-Headed Coneflower).

Think about this astounding bit of research…
“The Cherokees of the 19th century are listed as having around 800 plants in their repertoire (Mooney, 1992). This from a pool of about 2,400 species of plants to work from or about a third!” ~ Source

Every year I add more plants and trees to my food-medicine-craft list. But 800! I’ve got a lot to learn and experience.

“In the school of the woods, there is no graduation day.” 

~ Horace Kephart

Trees of Southern Appalachia

Wild plant foragers get excited this time of the year. Green shoots make their way through the soil for another growing season. Autumn turns to winter and the smorgasbord disappears. But trees, they stand ready to share their resources year-round.

Winter tree identification would not be challenging if trees would stop dropping their leaves. Mark taught winter botany lessons which I had never been exposed to. Sharing all I learned would take several articles. For our purposes today, we will explore 3 of my favorite trees in my woods and how the Cherokee and settlers used them for food, medicine, and craft resources.

Tulip Tree

Tulip Poplar (Liriodendron tulipifera) it is not a poplar at all. It is actually in the Magnolia ((Magnoliaceae)) family of flowering trees. There are many common names for Liriodendron tulipifera besides Tulip Poplar… Yellow Poplar, Canoe Wood, Yellow Wood, and Tulip Tree. That is one reason it is important to use scientific names of plants and trees… if you can manage to pronounce them. This will remove any confusion over common names.

Related Resource: Trees for Self-Reliance

Food

The Tulip Tree, while not a nutritional powerhouse, is a favorite of mine mainly for craft and outdoor self-reliance. Tulip Tree blooms are a main source of nectar for honey bees which produces a dark, amber honey loaded with antioxidants.

  • The only part of a Tulip Tree that I know is edible is the nectar in the flowering blooms.
  • Edit: Darryl Patton, The Southern Herbalist, sent me a message saying he collects, dries, and pounds the inner bark into flour for baking in his spring classes. Thank you, Darryl.

Medicine

Tulip Tree’s inner bark and leaves were used medicinally by the Cherokee and settlers in Appalachia for treating…

  • Poultice from leaves for inflammation and sores.
  • Inner bark tea for periodic fevers, diarrhea, pinworms, as a digestive aid and for rheumatic pain.
  • Supposedly, inner bark was chewed as an aphrodisiac.
  • The bark could also serve as a substitute for quinine in treating malaria.
  • Tooth aches.
  • Used as a tonic to induce perspiration to treat fevers.
  • Root bark and seeds useful as a wormer for the body.
  • Cough syrup from bark.

Craft

  • Fire Craft ~ Wood for friction fire, inner bark for tinder, hot, quick burning firewood which does not produce long-lasting coals like other hardwoods.
  • Cordage ~ Inner bark fibers can be processed into cordage and rope.
When Primitive Skills and Prepping Have Sex | www.TheSurvivalSherpa.com

Indigenous cordage: Clockwise from 12:00 ~ Dogbane; Tulip Tree; Okra, and Yucca.

  • Containers ~ Outer bark crafted into berry baskets, arrow quivers, and larger pack baskets.
  • Carving ~ The soft hardwood lends itself to easy carving of spoons, bowls, pottery paddles, canoe paddles, and even the canoe itself. One common name of this tree is Canoe Wood.
This design will be carved into the Tulip Tree and used to imprint designs on primitive process pottery.

This design will be carved into the Tulip Tree paddle and used to imprint designs on primitive process pottery.

  • Insulation ~ Shredded inner bark can be stuffed between layers of clothing to create dead air space to retain body heat in a survival situation.
  • Roofing/Siding ~ Outer bark slabs used for shingles and siding on shelters.

Hickory

Hickories make excellent wildlife resource as squirrels and feral pigs love to eat their nut meat. Pignut (Carya glabra), Mockernut (Carya tomentosa), and Shagbark (Carya ovata) are the three hickories I’m most familiar with in Georgia, Mockernut being the most common.

Food

  • Sap ~ Sap water from hickories can be consumed without treatment.
  • Nuts ~ Contains fats (18g/serving), protein (3.6g/serving), and carbohydrates (5 g/serving) – Serving size = 1 oz.
  • Hickory syrup from crushed and processed nuts.
  • Cooking oil from nuts.
  • Kunuche (ku-nu-che) ~ A traditional Cherokee hickory nut soup.
  • Nuts with exterior husks are useful as charcoal for cooking food.
Scott Jones using hickory nuts as charcoal

Scott Jones (Media Prehistoria) using hickory nuts as charcoal.

  • Hickory Milk ~ “They pound them to pieces, and then cast them into boiling water, which, after passing through fine strainers, preserves the most oily part of the liquid; this they call by a name which signifies hiccory milk; it is as sweet and rich as fresh cream, and is an ingredient in most of their cookery, especially homony and corn cakes.” – Source

Medicine

  • Infusion of boiled bark for arthritis pain.
  • Inhaling fumes of young shoots on hot rocks as a treatment for convulsions.
  • Cold remedy
  • Liver aid
  • Gynecological aid
  • Dermatological issues

Craft

How to Handcraft a Custom Ax Handle from a Tree - TheSurvivalSherpa.com

This ax handle started out as the hickory tree pictured in the background

Hickory was used by the Cherokee’s for…

  • Stickball sticks
  • Crafting bows
  • Handles – (Here’s my tutorial on carving an ax handle from hickory)
  • Firewood
  • Smoking meats
  • Furniture
  • Inner bark of Mockernut and Shellbark Hickory used to finish baskets
  • Ashes from hickory were used by settlers to make quality lye for soap.
  • Inner bark used for cordage. Mark described a method of slicing down a hickory limb to remove the bark and twisting it to make a strong rope. I’ll explore that method in a later post.
  • Green nut husks used as dye – (My bed sheet tarp was dyed with hickory and black walnut dye)
  • Nut oil mixed with bear fat as an insect repellent.

Pine

There are 36 pines in North America to choose from. These evergreens are easy to spot for anyone. To narrow down the species, count the needles. The Eastern White Pine (Pinus strobus) is the only species in Eastern North America with 5 needles in the fascicle sheath (the paper-like sheath surrounding the base of the needles).

How Cherokees Used Trees of Southern Appalachia for Food, Medicine, and Craft - TheSurvivalSherpa.com

Hemlock is a part of the pine family and grows in southern Appalachia. Like other pines in our region, the inner bark is edible.

Food

  • Pine nuts are edible and tasty.
  • Inner bark was eaten when other foods were scarce. Should be boiled/cooked since it is high in turpenes. Can also be dried and ground into a flour.
  • Pine pollen can be collected and is edible and used like flour.
  • Long strips of inner bark can be boiled to make pine noodles.

Medicine

  • Pine needle tea has the following medicinal properties: antiseptic, astringent, inflammatory, antioxidant, expectoranthigh in Vitamin C for colds – flu – coughs, congestion, and even scurvy.
  • Shikimic acid, the main ingredient in Tamiflu, is harvested from pine needles in Asia.
  • Pine resin applied to skin conditions.
  • Arthur Haines describes on his YouTube channel how pine pollen provides multiple avenues of protection against radioactive cesium.
  • Warm poultice of pine resin will draw splinters and foreign matter from skin.
  • The inner bark can be fashioned as an antiseptic Band Aid for cuts and scraps
  • Chew softer sap straight off the tree like a gum for sore throats and colds. You could pre-make “gum” with these ingredients: bees-wax, pine sap, and honey.

Craft

See more useful fire craft articles on our Bombproof Fire Craft page.

  • Wood for shelters and bows for bedding.
  • Rescue Signals ~ A pre-made signal fire built with green pine boughs on top will generate enough white smoke to be seen for miles.
  • Pine needles were used to make baskets and resin was used as a sealer.
  • Logs were used in home building.
  • White pine and hemlock are both good wood for friction fire.
  • Dried and ground hemlock inner bark used as flour.
  • Dried pine “flour” is useful when rubbed on the body to cover human scent while hunting.

Mark says that Cherokees called trees “The Standing People.” Trees do not walk to new locations like animals in search of food. They are always in the same spot. Learning to identify trees and their resources will put you in a better position of appreciation and stewardship of your natural environment.

To mention all the trees used by the Cherokee would be better addressed in book form. In this article, we’ve highlighted three of my favorite trees in our woodlands. I’ll write future blogs covering more. Here’s a teaser on future posts… Dogwood, Sourwood, Basswood, Black Walnut, Persimmon, Beech, Black Cherry, and the list continues.

Keep Doing the Stuff of Self-Reliance,

Todd

P.S. – You can also keep up with the Stuff we’re Doing on TwitterPinterestGoogle +, YouTube, Instagram, and Facebook… and over at the Doing the Stuff Network.

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

Thanks for Sharing the Stuff!

Copyright: 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. All links in articles must remain intact as originally posted in order to be republished. If you are interested a third-party article, please contact the author directly for republishing information.

 

Categories: Bushcraft, Camping, DIY Preparedness Projects, Doing the Stuff, Herbal Remedies, Lost Skills, Medical, Natural Health, Preparedness, Real Food, Self-reliance, Survival Skills, Wildcrafting | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 34 Comments

The Number One Knife Skill for Wilderness Survival and Self-Reliance

by Todd Walker

The Number One Knife Skill for Wilderness Survival and Self-Reliance - TheSurvivalSherpa.com

Humans have employed six simple machines throughout history to reduce the amount of work required for tasks. Of these six, my favorite for outdoor self-reliance is the sexy and sleek wedge!

Huh!?

Sleek and Sexy? A wedge sounds rather dull and useless.

Hold on a second. You may change your mind about the humble wedge.

A wedge is an incline plane sharp enough to cut and separate stuff. Stuff like wood, meat, and even metal need to be divided into smaller parts in a civilized manner. No need to gnaw your steak like a caveman.

You see, like all our cutting tools, a knife is a wedge. Hence my love affair with this simple machine!

“I learned how much of what we think to be necessary is superfluous; I learned how few things are essential, and how essential those things really are.” ~ Bernard Ferguson

It’s not just the aesthetics of forged metal that attracts my attention. The wedge may be the most useful tool a person can carry in a pocket or on a belt.

Why?

Knives are designed to do more than spread peanut butter! In skilled hands, stuff can be made. Important survival stuff. Developing knife skills is the best way to replace all those shiny-object-survival kit items. Safely wielding a sharp wedge has always been a top priority for woodsmen and woods-women throughout history.

Survival vs. Self-Reliance

Somewhere along our collective outdoor journey, survival took on the connotation of simply staying alive. I personally don’t get too caught up in the latest terminology… Woodcraft vs. Bushcraft, Survival vs. Self-Reliance, etc., etc. All I know is that spending time in the woods is my passion.

Survival is part of self-reliance. A big part. You can’t develop outdoor self-reliance skills if you’re dead.

Look up a few old “Survival” writers in the 60’s. Survival was much different from how we view it today. These early survivalists taught us more than just making it through a 72 hour scenario. Survival was wilderness living skills back then.

Dial back to the golden age of camping and woodcraft and you’ll find that the knives of Nessmuk, Kephart, Seton, and Miller played an essential role in all their tramping and wilderness adventures. This simple machine (wedge) was a value-adding tool for, not only survival, but for camp comforts and wilderness living skills.

Before addressing skill, let’s begin with safety…

Knife Safety

A sharp knife is a safe knife. Dull knifes take more force for cutting and increase the risk of injury. You want your knife shaving sharp.

Below are a few tips for basic knife safety for outdoor self-reliance…

  • Cut in a direction away from your body. That’s good advice for beginners and seasoned woodsman. However, there are safe methods to cut wood towards your body when carving spoons that can transfer to outdoor self-reliance skills. Experience and band aids will teach more than reading.
  • Work with your knife outside the triangle of death (an imaginary triangle between your knees and crotch).
  • Work within the blood circle when others are nearby (a circle made with your outstretched arms as you turn 360 degrees).
  • Grip and body mechanics ~ standard grip, reverse grip, chest lever, knee lever, and thumb assisted grip for push cuts in fine carving tasks. (These will be covered in detail in a later post.)

#1 Knife Skill ~ Fire

No matter the season or environment, a solid belt knife rides on my hip. If I’m ever separated from my main pack, my knife is on my body. In this case, it is now my one tool option. A good fixed blade knife is your number one tool in a wilderness setting.

Why such a bold statement?

One word… Fire!

Fire covers a multitude of survival sins. That sharp, metal wedge attached to your hip may be your only hope for fire. Campfires are certainly mesmerizing. We build them for much more than to simply stare into the flickering flames. Fire is your best sleep aid. And sleep is the most overlooked skill in outdoor self-reliance.

“The quality of a survival kit is determined by how much it can help you when you need to sleep.  If you can sleep well at night, you have it made.” ~ Mors Kochanski

Which is more important, knife or ax? I totally agree with Mr. Kephart’s statement below.

The thought that a heavy hunting knife can do the work of a hatchet is a delusion. ~ Horace Kephart

However, stuff happens! Situations can relieve you of a fine ax. In that case, you’d be wise to have a knife able to process enough tinder and kindling for fire. In my woodlands, an abundance of small kindling material is available without ever removing my knife from its sheath. However, when it comes to tinder material, a knife really speeds the process.

Processing Wood

Feather sticks are all the rage in bushcraft and an excellent skill to practice. Pretty little curls bunched up on the end of a stick are created by controlled wood removal. Surface area created from these fine curls is what makes them burn so easily.

The classic feather stick

The classic feather stick with a twist

I found a down-n-dirt way to make feather sticks over at Toms Backwoods channel using a spoon knife pictured above. If you have a spoon knife in your kit, use it to process tinder/kindling if you need to do so in a hurry. Here’s a quick video demonstration of the process…

Feather sticks are pretty and all, but my favorite way to make tinder material is using the dull side (spine) of my knife instead of the cutting edge. This technique takes less skill than feather sticks but is a super quick and easy way to produce wood shavings for tinder. Scrape the outer bark of a cedar tree in the same manner to produce a bundle of fine and coarse tinder material. Georgia fat lighter is my all-time favorite, though…

Ax-less, a solid knife can process firewood using the baton method. The baton technique is frowned upon by many in the outdoor community. But as mentioned previously, beating a knife through a piece of wood is my Plan B if I don’t have a proper wood processing wedge (ax). A full-tang knife with a 4 to 5 inch blade should be robust enough to produce tinder, kindling (smalls), and fuel size wood from a single wooden round.

A funny note on smalls: A fellow bushcrafter from across the pond wrote me confused over the term “smalls”. In his part of the world, “smalls” referred to skivvies. I’m not advocating the burning of your underwear. Smalls are pencil lead to pencil size sticks (kindling) used in fire craft from where I come from.:)

Knife and Spark Ignition

The steel in your main carry knife is another fire resource. That is, if you carry a high carbon steel blade. The thought of striking the spine of your expensive wedge with a sharp piece of rock to produce sparks is an abomination to knife junkies. However, knowing that your blade can serve as a backup flint and steel ignition source may one day give you fire if that’s all you have available.

I’ve written a few times about using my favorite spark ignition source, flint and steel, here and here. While ferro rods create hotter sparks, they are consumable. A fire steel should last you a lifetime and then be passed down for the next generation to enjoy… like a good knife.

Remember, fire is life out there. How much is your life worth? I’d say way more than an expensive cutting tool!

To further you fire craft skills, I’ve got an entire page dedicated to this outdoor self-reliance skill. Your wedge (knife) is an essential tool for creating fire.

More knife skill articles are on the way. Stay sharp, my friends!

Keep Doing the Stuff of Self-Reliance,

Todd

P.S. – You can also keep up with the Stuff we’re Doing on TwitterPinterestGoogle +, YouTube, Instagram, and Facebook… and over at the Doing the Stuff Network.

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

Thanks for Sharing the Stuff!

Copyright: 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. All links in articles must remain intact as originally posted in order to be republished. If you are interested a third-party article, please contact the author directly for republishing information.

Categories: Bushcraft, Camping, Doing the Stuff, Gear, Preparedness, Self-reliance, Survival, Survival Skills | Tags: , , , , , , | 17 Comments

4 Easy Ways to Estimate Height in the Woods

by Todd Walker

Ever wonder about the height of a tree on a nature walk? Or how far you’d have to climb to summit a rock face? Curiosity may be the only reason you’d ever need to know or use these techniques mentioned below.

4 Easy Ways to Estimate Height in the Woods - TheSurvivalSherpa.com

Without being overly dramatic, accurate estimations could save you in the outdoors. Take campsite selection, for instance. You find what seems to be a perfect spot to camp. Water and firewood are close at hand. There’s even a fire pit with a bit of wood laid up from previous campers. Being smart, you look up to scan the horizon before dropping your pack. You’re scouting for the 4 W’s. You spot in the distance a very tall, very dead tree. How tall? And could it reach your campsite if it fell?

Do a quick estimate on the height so you can sleep without worry of that tree crashing through your tent.

Here are 4 accurate ways to estimate the height of trees and other structures if you don’t have a compass. By the way, always carry a quality compass!

Lumberjack Stick

This is the easiest method with no math calculations involved. Grab a small stick or twig. Ax handles work, too.

Put some distance between you and the tree or object. Facing the tree, hold a stick/twig vertically so that a 90º angle is formed between your outstretched arm. Align the tip of the stick with the top of the tree. Move your hand up or down on the bottom of the stick until your thumb aligns with the base of the tree while the tip is in line with the treetop.

Now rotate the stick ninety degrees clockwise, for the left-handers, or counterclockwise if the stick is in the right hand. Be sure to keep your thumb on the pivot point (origin) – base of the tree. Make a note of where the tip of the stick appears to touch the ground. If you have a partner, they can stand and mark the spot with your directions. The distance from this spot back to the base of the tree is the approximate height of the tree.

This is an easy method to determine the path of a tree you want to fell in your yard or camp. Check out the video of two of these methods in the woods…

Portrait Method

Knowing the height of a cliff could help you decide whether to climb the obstacle or not. Place an object of known height at the base of the cliff. This object could be a person or walking staff. Stand back away from the rock face. Hold a small stick, as described in the Lumberjack technique above, so that the tip is aligned to the top of the person or walking staff and your thumb is sighted on the base of the known object.

4 Easy Ways to Estimate Height in the Woods - TheSurvivalSherpa.com

Portrait Method

Move this known unit of measure, thumb to tip of stick, up the cliff face to give you an estimate of its height. Let’s say your obstacle measures 4 units. Multiply the height of your known object (person or walking staff) times 4 to determine the height of the cliff. [Ex: 6′ x 4 units = 24 feet]

Use Your Shadow

On a sunny day, a tree casts a shadow. The shadow on the ground is one side of a right triangle. The distance from the top of the tree to the end of the shadow is the hypotenuse. The tree forms the third side of the right triangle.

Remember how we used Pythagorean Theorem (right triangles) to determine distance? Well, we’re using two right triangles again. This time we are using two triangles of different size yet proportional.

Here’s how it works and what you’ll need…

Measure the distance of the tree’s shadow. Now place an object of known height (yourself or walking stick) in the sun. Observe where this shadow ends and measure the distance or length of the shadow.

Now we have three measurements:

  • Tree shadow
  • Your shadow
  • Your height

What we want and need is the missing measurement – the height of the tree “x”.

3 Easy Ways to Estimate Height in the Woods - TheSurvivalSherpa.com

Set up a proportion using the corresponding sides of each triangle as illustrated in the diagram above. Be sure to place the corresponding sides across from each other. For instance, the shadow lengths are the numerators (top numbers) and the height measurements are both denominators (bottom numbers). You can flip-flop these numbers as long as the sides correspond to each other.

Cross multiply and divide to find the missing length. In the example given, the height is 24 feet. If you do your math right, this is a very accurate method.

Eleven + 1 Method

Here’s another accurate way to determine height which only requires a stick.

3 Easy Ways to Estimate Height in the Woods - TheSurvivalSherpa.com

11+1 Method of Estimating Height

From the base of the tree, measure 11 equal units straight away from the tree. The key to using this method accurately is to make the 11 units about the same distance as the object you wish to measure. For instance, you may estimate that a tree appears to be about 30 feet tall. 30 divided by 11 gives you a rough estimate of about 3 feet per unit. One of my walking steps would work for my unit of measure. For a tree double that height, I would use two steps as my unit of measure.

Mark the spot of your 11 unit on the ground. Drive a straight stick in the ground so that it is vertical/plumb. Measure one more unit away from the stick and mark the spot.

Bend down to the ground with your dominate eye as close to the ground as possible at the 12th unit. Sight in the base of the tree to the bottom of the stick. Now look up the stick until your line of sight crosses the stick at the top of the tree. Mark this spot on the stick. The distance between these two points in inches equals the height of the tree in feet.

Your Body as a Measuring Device

It’s always helpful to know your personal measurements in the event you are without a measuring device. The most common way is to measure with steps.

Other personal measurements you should know are…

  • Thumb to pinky finger (8 inches for me)
  • Elbow to finger tip (19 inches)
  • Arm pit to finger tip (28 inches)
  • Height standing flat-footed with hand extended above head (88 inches)
  • Finger tip to finger tip with arms spread forming a “t” (73 inches)
  • Outside boot measurement (12.5 inches)
  • Personal height (5′-10″)

Another clever way to know certain lengths is to know the length of your ax or other bushcraft equipment. The Plumb BSA Ax I carry is 26 inches long. Adding marks to the ax handle in one inch increments will also save time and calculations should the need arise. Don’t forget that Leatherman Multitools have both inch and centimeters marked on the side of these tools.

Each of these methods can be used without any special equipment. All you need is a stick and some basic math skills.

Keep Doing the Stuff of Self-Reliance,

Todd

P.S. – You can also keep up with the Stuff we’re Doing on TwitterPinterestGoogle +, YouTube, Instagram, and Facebook… and over at the Doing the Stuff Network.

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

Thanks for Sharing the Stuff!

Copyright: 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. All links in articles must remain intact as originally posted in order to be republished. If you are interested a third-party article, please contact the author directly for republishing information.

Categories: Bushcraft, Camping, Doing the Stuff, Preparedness, Self-reliance, Survival Skills | Tags: , , , | 8 Comments

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