My every day carry (EDC) gear

Posted by El DiPablo | 7:00 AM |

After my first post on the four essential things I recommend when going out in the wild, I of course received some criticism from Internet "know-it-alls". Here is a perfect example from Reddit user user5618:

I suppose he has a point. I didn't specify what type of activities by saying, "anywhere you might find yourself in a survival situation". I guess I assumed that people who read my blog would be able to figure that out. My bad...

Still though, when out walking my dog I am not carrying my canteen set, or my fixed blade knife. I am however, still somewhat prepared at all times. Here are some things that I always carry that I'm sure even user5618 wouldn't feel embarrassed carrying:
  • Swiss Army Knife. Has lots of uses including driving screws and opening cans. I use the Super Tinker.
  • One handed folder. I always have my Gerber 06 FAST tactical spring assisted one handed opener knife. In a pinch it would make a pretty decent survival knife.
  • Lighter. Simple and fast method for starting a fire.
  • Mini Fire Steel. I have this little sucker on my key chain in case my lighter fails. I have resolved to never put myself in a position where I have to start a fire by rubbing sticks together! 

  • Cordage. I never leave home without my paracord bracelet!
All of these things fit comfortably in my pockets or on my wrist, and I don't have to worry about what people might think of me (As if I gave a crap anyway). I'm sure even user5618 wouldn't feel ashamed!

Like I said last week, "Always Be Prepared" is not just a good motto...

What do you have for your EDC gear? Let us know in the comments!

"Always be prepared" is not just a good motto

Posted by El DiPablo | 7:00 AM |

Extreme Survival
Extreme Survival (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
One of my favorite survival TV shows was Extreme Survival with Ray Mears. It predates Man vs Wild or some of the other popular survival shows on TV. The thing I like about that show is that it stresses why you should always be prepared instead of glorifying aboriginal survival skills and improvisation like most modern shows. Sure Mears would demonstrate some of that stuff, but a vast majority of the show talked about what to take with you depending on where you were planning on going in the wild.

Another thing I like about Extreme Survival is that it showcased real survival scenarios of real people who got themselves into a terrible situation. In some cases, the people survived, and in others they didn't. The moral of each show though is to inform people how they could survive if they were only prepared.

If you know you are going to be in a certain area, whether it is the mountains, desert, or jungle knowing your terrain before you go can be the difference between life and death. If you know you're going into the desert bring a ton of water! If you are going into the mountains, bring ways to build shelter and purify water. If you are heading into a cold climate, be sure you can start a fire! It really shouldn't be that hard.

It is with that thinking that I wrote my first article on the four essential items you should always have when venturing into the wild. Depending on the place you are heading, you may want to bring more gear. You want to bring enough to ensure your survival, but not too much that it will be a burden. You have to use your judgement there.

Anyway, I think if you are reading this you are one step closer to being prepared. What's your take on being prepared? Overrated? Not stressed enough? Let us know in the comments!

Incidentally, Extreme Survival is no longer on there air, but you can buy the series here.

Review: Dave Canterbury's Bushcraft 101

Posted by El DiPablo | 7:00 AM | ,

Dave Canterbury is probably my favorite famous survivalist. Like most people, I first heard of Dave Canterbury from the first two seasons on Dual Survival. Dave was let go after the second season for embellishing his resume when he applied for the job on Dual Survival. One of the things he told the show was he was an S.R.T. Sniper in the U.S. Army, which is not true at all. That being said, Canterbury is still one of the best survivalists out there and knows his stuff!

Canterbury is also the co-owner and supervising instructor at The Pathfinder School in Ohio which was named by USA Today as one of the top 12 survival schools in the United States. It's hard to beat knowledge from a guy who runs a school with accolades like that.

Well Dave Canterbury just released his first book, Bushcraft 101: A Field Guide To The Art of Wilderness Survival and when it became available I immediately had to order a copy. I have other survival manuals like both of Mykel Hawke's manuals and Lofty Wiseman's SAS Survival Handbook. I feel you can never have too much information on the subject.

The difference between Hawke's and Wiseman's manuals versus Canterbury's manual is that Canterbury takes the entire first half of the book talking about what to take with you when venturing out into the wilderness. Canterbury's book is way more based around wilderness preparedness than emergency survival like the other two books. The first half of the book is based around Canterbury's 5 C's of survival which are:
  • Cutting tools
  • Combustion
  • Cover
  • Container
  • Cordage
In general this book is really aimed more at the type of person with little to no wilderness experience. It really is designed for the outdoor beginner, hence the name "Bushcraft 101" where like a college class, 101 is the first class of the subject. If you have any hunting or camping experience I don't think this book is for you. If you want to learn a lot about making friction fires you are better off with Wiseman's or Hawke's manuals. In fact, speaking strictly of fire making, Canterbury only discusses the bow drill when talking about friction  fires and really only lightly touches on it.

Still though, Canturbury's book does have a lot of useful information like making feather sticks, what type of material makes good tinder, how to navigate in your terrain and the like. Even someone with experience in the woods will find tons of useful information in this book, so it isn't a waste of money if you order it.

All in all, I think Canterbury's book is very well written and I think it is a great book to add to your collection. The price at the time of this writing is around $10 which is hard to beat. If you are looking to get into Bushcraft and general survival, you should definitely pick this one up to get your feet wet.

On Saturday I took my kids on the biggest hike of their young lives. I took them on a ten mile hike in the Grand Mesa National Forest. The trail we took is called the Crag Crest Loop Trail. Here is a video from the local PBS Station about the trail from 2008:

The trail is rated as moderate on, and I'd have to agree with that for adults. For kids I'd say it is difficult. A great portion of the trail is over fallen basalt rock which is tough on your feet. Plus no matter which trail head you start on there is a lot of uphill hiking.

I brought my two kids (daughter 9, and son 5) as well as my dog on this trek. I think I may have bit off more than my kids could chew with this one. My daughter didn't complain very much, but my son did nothing but whine, cry and complain for the last four miles. It was really tough on him, but he pushed through (I'm proud of him!).

Here are some pictures of my kids on the trail:

Eating canned "trail food" for lunch

Smiles after doing our best Bear Grylls yells from the top

Playing on the basalt rocks
The only really bad thing about the hike is that my dog Sadie lost a fight with a porcupine. She always runs off to hunt on our treks, and at one point when she hadn't been back in a while I started to worry. We were about three miles from the truck when we all stopped and started calling her. When she came back she had porcupine quills in her lips, gums, tongue, roof of her mouth, nose and feet.

Here she is pre-porcupine:

I managed to get a lot of the quills out of her on the trail with my bare hands, but a few were really stuck in good including one in the bottom of her left paw. At that moment I wished I had a multi-tool on me instead of just my swiss army knife because I couldn't get a good enough grip on the rest. I ordered one yesterday from Amazon.

She had to walk three miles to the truck with a big quill in the bottom of her foot! When I got her home I used a hemostat to get all but three out. The rest I will have take her to the vet for today. Poor thing...

Anyway, both my kids are okay and my dog will be fine after today, but I'll never forget this trail. It was so beautiful throughout the entire hike, and I'd recommend it to anyone (Except maybe small kids)!

How to make char cloth

Posted by El DiPablo | 7:00 AM | ,

A really cool thing to have in your back pack when out in the wild along with your fire steel is some char cloth. If you are not familiar with it, Wikipedia describes it as:

...a swatch of fabric made from vegetable fiber (such as linen, cotton or jute) that has been converted via pyrolysis into a slow-burning fuel of very low ignition temperature. It is capable of being ignited by a single spark that can in turn be used to ignite a tinder bundle to start a fire. It is sometimes manufactured at home for use as the initial tinder when cooking or camping and historically usually provided the "tinder" component of a tinderbox. It is often made by putting cloth into an almost airtight tin with a small hole in it, and cooking it in campfire coals until the smoking slows and the cloth is properly charred. Char cloth ignites with even the smallest spark, and is therefore commonly used with a flint and steel.
In short, it will take the tiniest of sparks so you can get a fire going in the wild to warm yourself up! It's super easy to make. Here's how you do it:

1. Get a tin like an old shoe polish tin that has been cleaned out, or like I used an Altoids tin:

2. Take a nail, a small drill bit, or even the awl on your pocket knife and poke a small hole in it.

3. Cut up some cotton cloth squares. I used a pair of my daughter's old blue jeans that she grew out of. Then put them in your tin. You can put a whole stack in.

4. Start a fire! Here I just used my standard charcoal grill.

5. Wait until you have some really hot coals then put your tin on the coals.

6. Let it cook until you see a lot of smoke coming out of your tin. It should only take about ten minutes or so.

7. Take your tin off the coals, and let it cool down for a few minutes. When you open it up you will have a bunch of very flimsy black pieces of char cloth!

8. Now you can take something like your fire steel, or a piece of flint and steel and you can rain sparks on it to get an ember that you can use to light a tinder bundle!

Char cloth is a really nice thing to have in your survival kit because it makes starting a fire so much easier. This technique has been around for a few hundred years, and was used by soldiers in the American Revolutionary War and even by beaver trappers in the 1800's to get a fire going with sparks. It certainly beats rubbing sticks together!