Thursday, June 26, 2014

Dual Survival Season 4 Wrap Up and Final Thoughts

So, last night was the season finale of Dual Survival Season 4. It has been a long journey for the show, with many ups and downs. In this post I just want to give a brief recap of the show so far and give you some of my thoughts on the way this last season finished.

Season 1 of Dual Survival began long time ago in a land far away with the two original hosts, Cody Lundin and Dave Canterbury.


I followed Dave from his YouTube channel and remember when he has trying to get on the show. As such, I was very interested to see it. The show started out great. While it was obviously staged and had a solid hint of producer created drama, Cody and Dave seemed to get along, and the show was enjoyable to watch, with the added benefit of picking up a trick or two here and there.

The pair was back for Season 2, but things started to unravel. Clearly Cody had lost respect for Dave’s skills, and took every opportunity to point out that Dave’s wilderness skills were lacking. To make things worse, it was discovered that Dave Canterbury had lied on his resume, particularly about his military career. When word got out, Discovery cut their losses and fired Dave at the end of Season 2.

These days Dave Canterbury is completely unrecognizable from the person we saw on Season 1 of the show. Currently he is sporting long, flowing hair, and wears hand made clothing and gear made form natural materials. I suppose Cody imprinted on him quite a bit. The two seem separated only by a pair of shoes.

For Season 3 Cody Lundin returned with a new partner, Joe Teti.


The first few episodes of Season 3 were okay, with the pair somewhat getting along, although it quickly became clear that Joe Teti had no idea what he was doing in the wilderness. It wasn’t long before every other word out of Joe’s mouth was “when I was in Special Forces”, and everything became a threat to be neutralized. The producers however had a plan. Instead of focusing on survival skills, they amped up the drama. The show became just one step removed from a soap opera. You couldn’t get through more than two minutes of the show without something staged and overly dramatic happening.

Most of the original fans of the show were sure that this would be the end. The producers however knew better. In fact, the staged drama drove the Season 3 ratings of the show to an all time high. As they say, give the people what they want.

Season 4 returned with the same two host, Cody and Joe, and the exact same formula for entertainment: don’t waste too much time on showing skills, go straight for the drama.

The pursuit for fake drama however had the unanticipated effect of getting on Cody’s nerves. After what seemed to be quite a bit of back and forth fighting between Cody and the producers, he was fired mid season.

The firing of Cody upset many of the fans. It was clear to everyone who has ever been in the woods that the wrong person was fired. To make things worse, Discovery made the huge error of creating an episode where they pretty much dragged Cody through the mud, That caused even further backlash. Discovery had to spend day after day deleting posts from their Facebook page written by upset viewers. Negative comments outnumbered positive ones by about twenty to one, even after all of the deleted comments.

The show however continued, and a new host was paired with Joe Teti, Matt Graham.


The season continued just as before. Joe continued not knowing anything about the woods, but functioned well in his role as drama creator for the scripted fights scheduled by the producers.

The backlash against Discovery got even worse. Not only were people upset that Cody was fired while Joe remained on the show, but people seemed fed up with the fake drama and lack of information.

Surprisingly, Discovery seems to have listened. The last two episodes of Season 4 were shocking devoid of drama. The two hosts got along, and actually had time to show some survival skills. Joe was appeared highly coached and heavily sedated. Both Matt and Joe appeared to function well together, and the producers had decided to significantly cut back on the scripted drama.

While watching the season finale last night, it actually reminded me of Season 1 of the show, where the hosts worked well together, and the show was fun to watch, and in places even educational.

I really hope the show continues in the same line. I’m sad that Cody is gone, but Matt is a good replacement. I just wish Discovery would fire Joe and replace him with John Hudson, another host of the show Dude You’re Screwed, on which Matt Graham previously appeared. He has the military background, but also has very solid wilderness skills. I would love to see him paired up with Matt. It’s unlikely, but one can hope.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Trip Report: Island Pond 6/21/14 – 6/22/14

I know I have been lazy with the trip reports lately, and haven’t been posting many of them. It just gets very annoying trying to take pictures of everything. But, I figured I would post the one from this past weekend. For this trip, I figured I would go up to the very northern end of Harriman Park, and do some backpacking that would take me near Island Pond, where I would be able to do some fishing.

I started out at a parking area called Elk Pen. From there I could take a trail that went along the lake, and then would continue up the mountain. I set out early.

Copy of IMG_9619

I had read some trip reports from people in the area, and I got the impression that reaching the lake was very easy. It wasn’t as easy as I expected. The lake is surrounded by marsh on most sides. To get to it I had to go up and over a mountain, and approach it from the north, where there are some rock outcrops. It took me about two hours to reach it. I bushwhacked most of the way because I ended up losing the trail early on. Here is the “view” from the top of the mountain.


While the approach is steep, the mountain is beautiful. It is very open so you can bushwhack without constantly having to push through brush.


After a nice walk, I reached the lake. There was another person fishing there already, but otherwise it was empty.


I pulled out my fishing kit and got to work. I know there is trout in this lake, although my this time of year they are pretty heavily fished out. I wasn’t picky though, and was willing to settle for some perch or bluegill.


The sun was bright and hot and the mosquitoes were swarming like crazy. They did a pretty good number on me. Even so, eventually I got lucky and hooked a decent size sunfish.


I cast for another hour or so without any luck. I hooked some smaller sunfish that I let go, but nothing worth eating. I thought of switching to a bobber set up with some Powerbait, but decided not to. I didn’t want to spend my whole day at the lake. I entertained myself by trying to photograph the dragon flies.


I packed up and moved on. I had another few miles until I reached the area where I wanted to camp for the night. I got there with time to spare, so I set up camp and got to cooking the fish.



The next morning I got up early. I wanted to make it to the trap range before the day was over, so I made my way out of the forest without much delay. The deer were plentiful in the area, and so were the ticks. I had to remove several of them before going to bed.


On the way back, I bushwhacked through a different part of the forest, and stumbled upon the ruins of something that looked like an old aqueduct leading from the lake. It had been destroyed, and there was water flowing through the area and spreading out into a marsh. I imagine the aqueduct was there probably to keep the water flowing as more of a stream rather than defusing into a marsh, but it seems it had fallen into disrepair a long time ago.



I also figured out why people made it seem like it was very easy to get to the lake. Apparently, if you have a boat you can purchase a a boat permit for the lake. That will give you access to a gate and a separate road that takes you up the mountain and very close to the lake, from where you can unload your boat. If you want to hike in however, it is still not difficult, but it’s not as quick as I first thought.

So, that’s about it. That’s how I spent this past weekend. I hope you enjoyed the report. Sorry for the poor quality pictures; the sun was really interfering with my point and shoot camera.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Helko Traditional Hinterland Hatchet Review

Some of you may not be familiar with Helko, but they are a well known German axe manufacturer. Their axes have been very hard to get here in the US, but it appears that the company has now opened a US branch, so their products will become much more available. One of the products that caught my eye was the Hinterland Hatchet from their Traditional line of axes. I’ve been using it for about a month now, and wasted to do a brief review for you.


Manufacturer: Helko
Axe Head Weight: 1.25 lb
Axe Length: 15 inches
Axe Head Material: German C45 carbon steel
Handle Material: Hickory
Cost: $90.00

The first thing that came to mind when I first saw the hatchet was that it is virtually identical in size and weight to the newer Husqvarna Hatchet. With a 15 inch handle and a 1.25 lb head it has a very similar feel. For the sake of consistency however, here I will look at it next to the Gransfors Bruks Wildlife Hatchet.



The head is well attached to the handle using a wooden wedge and a metal pin. You do not have much protrusion of the handle above the eye, which these days is used as a method to secure the head stays on, but I did not experience any issues with regards to the head coming loose.


The geometry of the head is excellent. The profile is narrow, allowing the hatchet to bite well, and the cheeks are slightly concave, continuing smoothly to the eye. The bit is very well profiled, at least for my preferences. It is slightly thicker than that on the WIldlife Hatchet, but not by much. It did not come shaving sharp, but it certainly did not need any work with a file or a course stone. Some minor sharpening with a ceramic stone got it shaving sharp.


Since this is Helko’s traditional line, the head has not been ground and polished. What I really like about Helko is that they are honest about the production process of their axes. Unlike companies like Gransfors Bruks and Wetterlings, who claim that their axes are hand made, even though they are clearly open dye drop forged, Helko outright states that they are drop forged. That doesn’t make for an inferior axe, it just makes for a more honest company. 

The grain on the handle was perfectly oriented, and it was comfortable to hold. It had a nice linseed oil finish on it. Those with small hands might find it a bit large, but it was fine for me.

The leather sheath was functional, although it is not my preferred style. It definitely needs to be oiled.

Overall, I am very happy with the hatchet. It is well designed, it is good quality and it performs well.


Now, earlier I mentioned that the Helko Traditional Hinterland Hatchet is very similar to the Husqvarna hatchets. In my opinion the fit and finish on the Helko hatchet is much better, and it required much less work to get a good edge on it. That being said, a Husqvarna hatchet currently runs for about $43. That is about half the price of the Helko hatchet. Something to think about.

That being said, Helko has several different lines of axes. Much like other manufacturers like Gransfors Bruks and Wetterlings, their “traditional” lines of axes are actually a fairly recent creation. Gransfors Bruks introduced their “traditional” looking axes with which we are familiar today in the 1990s, with Wetterlings following soon. Helko actually has earlier lines of axes that don’t have the “traditional” look, which come at a much lower cost. I believe they are worth a look, and I’ll try to get my hands on one to check the quality for you guys.

The hatchet was provided to me by Helko North America free of cost for testing purposes.

Monday, June 16, 2014

Long Term Wilderness Living, Wilderness Self Reliance, and Long Term Wilderness Survival – Concepts For The Modern Woodsman

Wow, long title! What am I going to ramble on about here? Well, all of the above terms, Long Term Wilderness Living, Wilderness Self Reliance, and Long Term Wilderness Survival get tossed around a lot these days. In particular, they get used when discussing skills or gear selection for the outdoors. Here I want to attempt to define these terms from my perspective, as it applies to the concept of The Modern Woodsman, so you know what I mean when I use the terms in a discussions, and my thinking behind it. I believe a lot of the conflicts and disagreements we have when it comes to discussing issues related to these terms stem from us having widely different definitions of the terms themselves.


Before I begin, I want to make clear that when we talk about the definitions of “long term wilderness living”, “wilderness self reliance”, and “long term wilderness survival”, or any other variant of the terms you would like to use, I don’t want to get bogged down with trying to distinguish “living” from “self reliance” from “long term survival”. We can split hair forever. The bottom line as far as I am concerned is that you have found yourself somewhere in the woods for one reason or another, and you have to stay there for an extended period of time. Whether we call it wilderness living, self reliance, etc, is immaterial as to what I intend to discuss here. For purposes of this post, I will refer to all three of the above phrases as long term wilderness self reliance.


The part of the above terms that I do want to talk about, and which we often define in very different ways, is the term “wilderness”. It seems like a simple enough term, but very often you will hear people talk about gear or skills for a long term “wilderness” self reliance scenario, and will quickly become very perplexed because the gear is clearly unsuited for the actual wilderness. After going back and forth with several people who are proponents of these concepts, it finally struck me that we are talking about two very different things.

For me the wilderness involves being in an area where you do not have any contact with people or civilization. My understanding is that incorporated into my thoughts on The Modern Woodsman: an individual who is able to undertake long term, long distance trips, deep into an area devoid of human contact or civilization, only with supplies one could carry and what could be gathered from the surrounding environment. More specifically, as the Mirriam-Webster dictionary defines it, wilderness is a tract or region uncultivated and uninhabited by human beings.

Unfortunately, this is not how the term is used by a lot of people who talk about long term wilderness self reliance and all of its permutations. It appears that what they call wilderness is in fact a rural, or suburban environment. Long term rural self reliance (encompassing the phrases “rural self reliance”, long term rural living”, and “long term rural survival”) in my opinion is very different from long term wilderness self reliance. Using the term “wilderness” for both concepts creates a lot of confusion. If your “wilderness” hunting or trapping involves being on the edge of a farm, then this is not wilderness but rather rural self reliance. If your plan for ammunition resupply involves going into a house or store to get more ammunition, then this is rural or suburban self reliance, not wilderness self reliance. If your concept of long term wilderness living involves transporting 500lb of gear with your truck on a road, then that is rural homesteading, not long term wilderness self reliance. I don’t want to get bogged down into what “true” wilderness actually is, and there will be grey areas, but the distinction is easy to see for people who are not philosophers.

That is not to say that there is anything wrong with either concept, or that one is better than the other. Having rural self reliance skills and gear may prove to be much more valuable to a person than having wilderness self reliance skills or gear. Rural environments are much more common these days than actual wilderness, so in a prepping type of scenario, having rural self reliance skills may be the better way to go. Knowing how to run a trap line behind your house may keep your family much better fed than knowing how to run a trap line 50 miles into the woods. However, they are not the same thing. Gear and techniques that may work in a farm area are not necessarily well suited for the actual wilderness.

A prime example of this difference is hunting and trapping. Hunting and trapping in a rural setting is very, very, very different from hunting and trapping in a wilderness setting. People often brag to me about how many deer they killed, or how many raccoon they trapped, but the reality is that that was all done within a mile from the back of their house. There is nothing wrong with that, but it’s very different from hunting in an actual wilderness. You can go to the edge of an apple orchard and shoot fat squirrels one after the other all day long. You can trap raccoons in that same area who come to eat the farm produce or human trash, with similarly spectacular results. That however has little to do with hunting or trapping those animals in the wilderness. What we are hunting and trapping in a rural setting are partially domesticated animals. They are currently going through the same process that transformed the wolf into a dog. There is a lot of food around areas of human habitation. Animals come close for the food. Over time they become less afraid of people. They start to gather in larger numbers because of the abundance of food. The result is game that is relatively easy to hunt and trap. Go 50 miles into the woods however, and it will be a very different story.

Another obvious impact of the difference between rural self reliance and wilderness self reliance is that of gear selection. In particular, the portability of gear has a very different impact on the two systems. Carrying a base weight of 40lb is not a big deal if you plan on carrying it a short distance into the woods where you can set up a base camp from which you will set trap lines. It is a different story if you have to carry all of your gear for 50 miles, or even more so, if you are carrying it 20 miles a day for months at a time. The value of having a 10lb tent changes drastically depending on what type of long term self reliance situation we are undertaking. Bomb-proof gear is an easy and obvious choice when you don’t have to carry it anywhere.

Again, there is nothing wrong with knowing how to hunt and trap in a rural setting, and that may prove to be the more valuable skill from a prepping stand point, but it is very different from wilderness hunting and trapping.

Long Term:

The second aspect of the above terminology that I would like to address is the words “long term”. “Long term” is a vague concept that can cover anything from a month to a lifetime. Very often we speak of long term wilderness self reliance, without specifying what we mean by “long term”. That can create a lot of confusion. Gear designed for long term wilderness self reliance where “long term” means six months, is very different from gear designed if by “long term” we mean 20 years. Unfortunately, we tend not to make these distinctions, and someone who has spent a month camping out will then talk about what gear you need if you are going to spend 10 years in the woods. Unfortunately, this creates a lot of confusion.

Let me start by stating that if we are talking about really long term wilderness self reliance, then we have to understand that no gear lasts forever. Several years of daily use of a piece of gear in the wilderness will destroy just about anything. A canvas tarp that has been exposed to the elements daily for several years will rip like paper. Iron pots will fall apart. A prime example of this is the Lykov family in Russia, who lived alone for decades in the wilderness. They brought large amounts of equipment with them, including a wood stove, pots, agricultural equipment, etc, but by the time they were discovered, none of that equipment had survived. For more of their story, you can read the post here.

So, if we are talking about “long term” wilderness living, we have to be realistic about our expectations. I strongly believe that a Modern Woodsman can develop the skills and carry the equipment necessary to live in the wilderness for a year or so. That of course presumes a certain amount of luck. A broken leg on day 10 will make the rest of the year quite challenging. Barring such occurrences, I personally think that discussing long term wilderness living through a one year time frame is reasonable as well as productive. This view of “long term” wilderness living largely conforms to the historical examples we have such as the long hunters and mountain men, who also functioned seasonally or annually between resupply and re-establishing contact with civilization, however temporary.

Of course, the above approach to the phrase “long term” will change radically if we are talking about rural self reliance rather than wilderness self reliance. In a rural setting you can resupply with ammunition, tools, supplies, etc. That will greatly alter how long a person can stay in the woods.

With respect to The Modern Woodsman however, i.e. a person with all the gear on his back traveling through the wilderness, such an approach is not available. The Modern Woodsman is an individual who undertakes long term, long distance trips, deep into an area devoid of human contact or civilization (wilderness), only with supplies he can carry and what could be gathered from the surrounding environment. Again, nothing wrong with either approach, and if civilization ended tomorrow, living in a rural setting might be the better choice, but that is very different from long term wilderness self reliance, and quite removed from the concept of The Modern Woodsman. So, when you hear me discussing “long term” wilderness self reliance in the context of The Modern Woodsman or even generally, I am usually speaking about periods of time around a year in length. 

Rule of Law:

Rule of law is not a specific definition, but rather a concept that governs the understanding of the above terms. Simply put, whether or not rule of law still exists at the time you are undertaking your long term wilderness self reliance or long term rural self reliance journey, will greatly impact how you would be able to accomplish that.

One possible scenario that we may encounter when speaking about long term wilderness self reliance, is one where the rule of law still exists. This is a scenario where you have chosen to go into the wilderness for an extended period of time, and will do so while complying with all regulations and laws. This is the type of situation where the concept of The Modern Woodsman is designed to function. A good example is Dick Proenneke, who in 1968 decided to construct a cabin near Twin Lakes in Alaska, and live there for a year. He liked it so much, that with regular resupply flights done by his brother, he continued to live in his cabin until 1999. His journey was accomplished while complying with all laws and regulations.

A different scenario would be one where civilization and the rule of law has ended (insert your favorite apocalyptic story here), and you have gone into the wilderness out of necessity. A good realistic example would be the Bielski partisans in Belarus, who in 1941 had to hide in the forests in order to escape the Nazi occupation.

Obviously the above scenarios would heavily influence the requirements of skill and gear. Keeping aside any military action that may be needed, being able to hunt deer three weeks out of the year in compliance with local laws is very different from being able to hunt deer year round. On the other hand, in a situation where there is no rule of law, hunting pressures would be much higher due to the increased hunting by people other than you. People often worry about what would happen if whole cities went to the forest to start hunting. The reality is that even without such huge population shifts, simply allowing existing hunters to hunt year round without any regulations, would drive most species to the brink of extinction. It has happened with white tail deer here in the north in past decades, and even the huge beaver populations were nearly driven to extinction across the continent of North America by a handful of mountain men trapping for fur. These are all things to keep in mind when planning your long term wilderness self reliance journey.

With respect to The Modern Woodsman, as I’ve mentioned before, the concept is designed to function within existing laws and regulations. The Modern Woodsman is one who develops skills and gear which would allow him to undertake long term, long distance trips, deep into the wilderness, only with supplies he could carry and what could be gathered from the surrounding environment. More importantly, the trips undertaken occur in the present, within the context of our current society, laws, and regulations.

Bringing It All Together:

I have written all of the above as an attempt to define how I use, and will continue to use the terminology involved in discussions about long term wilderness self reliance. I view it in the context of The Modern Woodsman. As a result, when I speak of long term wilderness self reliance, I am assuming an actual wilderness setting, not a rural or suburban one, I’m speaking about a time frame of roughly a year, and I am assuming the activity will be performed under current laws and regulations.

There is nothing wrong with studying self reliance in a rural setting, or planning for stays longer than a year, or thinking about skills and gear needed in the event civilization collapses. However, that is not how I use the terms. I think understanding exactly what we mean when we use this terminology will prevent a lot of the conflicts out there when it comes to the subject.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Sea to Summit Ultra-Sil Compression Dry Sack

I’m a strong believer that my sleeping bag is perhaps the most important tool I have when in the woods. As such I want to protect it well. For years now I have been using a Sea to Summit eVent Compression Dry Sack to do just that. It has worked wonderfully for me. The stuff sack is completely waterproof with a roll-top closure. It is also very well designed to distribute the applied forces, so you can really compress it. I use the Medium size, and you can compress it from 14 litters to 4.5 litters without a problem.

The only downside to the stuff sack has been its weight. It is very robust, but that comes at a weight cost of almost 6 oz. Well, recently Sea to Summit came out with a new version called the Sea to Summit Ultra-Sil Compression Dry Sack, which addresses that problem. In the picture below you can see the new Ultra-Sil Dry Sack on the left and the older Event Dry Sack on the right.

stuff sack

The two stuff sacks are nearly identical. The main difference is that the Ultra-Sil Dry Sack comes in at 3.2 oz, almost half the weight of the Event version.

Now, the names of the two stuff sack are actually very misleading. The fact is that they are both made of eVent. The difference is that the Ultra-Sil version has the eVent base bonded to 30 denier nylon, while the previous eVent model has the eVent base bonded to 70 denier nylon. In short, both are eVent stuff sacks, but one is thinner than the other. The Ultra-Sil version also has thinner and slightly narrower straps and buckles.

I’ve used the new Ultra-Sil Dry Sack on several trips now, and I’ve been very happy with it, so I wanted to give you a closer look, as well as inform you that it is out there as an option.


The stuff sack has four buckles on the side, which allow you to operate the synch straps. In the above picture you see a Medium size stuff sack with a compressed MSS Patrol bag inside. As you can see, the design of the base as well as the top lid allows for very good distribution of the compression forces, which translates into extremely well packed gear. Using this same stuff sack, I can take a 0F down sleeping bag and compress it to the same size as what you see above.


Once the compression straps are loosened, and the lid is slid to the side, you can see that the bag is closed with a roll-top. This makes it completely waterproof.

In a prime example of how the little things matter, the stuff sack has a strap on the bottom by which you can pull it out of your pack. It makes a significant difference when you are trying to get you bag out without emptying your whole pack.


So, if you have been using the Event Dry Sack or other models for that matter, and have been looking for something with similar utility, but at a lower weights, the Sea to Summit Ultr-Sil Dry Sack is an excellent option. It feels significantly lighter (because it is), and folds up into a much smaller package.

At first I was concerned that the thinner walls may not handle the pressure and abrasion as well, but that doesn’t seem to be an issue. I have seen absolutely no hints of weakness, and have not felt the need to baby the stuff sack. If there are any negative developments in the future, I will let you guys know.

Monday, June 9, 2014

The Liebster Award

So, recently I was tagged by Cesar for Cesar and The Woods for The Liebster Award.


No idea what it was, so I had to look it up. The award is bestowed by bloggers on other bloggers and intended to allow people to learn more about each blogger and lead people to new content. Each person can ask eleven questions to eleven other bloggers, and so on. In effect, it is a tagging game designed to spread awareness of different blogs within a field. So, thanks for the award Cesar, and here is my attempt to answer the questions:

1. What is your favorite flower and why?

Dandelions. A weed is but unloved flower.

2. Do you have any tattoos?  Why or why not?

No tattoos for me. I’m just too indecisive. What I think is cool one year, I find ridiculous the next. I suspect that if I got a tattoo, I would be very annoyed by it shortly after.

3. What is a simple little tip that helps you often on the trail that maybe not many other people do or benefit from?

I keep my shelter (tent, tarp, etc) in a waterproof bag. People always worry about how to keep their whole pack dry, but forget about to keep the items inside dry from each other. It makes no sense to have a dry bag for your gear if you are then going to put a wet tent or tarp inside of it with the rest of your gear. Then you have to resort to doing things like strapping your shelter to the outside of your pack until it dries. By keeping different types of gear in separate dry bags, it makes it easier to keep everything in the pack while preventing moisture transfer from one item to the next.

4. What are a few of your favorite encounters with wild animals?

My favorite encounter was probably my latest one because I was able to finally photograph a bear. I run into them often, but they always run away before I can take any pictures. This one stuck around for a while, and gave me the opportunity to take a few shaky pictures.


5. What is the worst injury you sustained while backpacking and how did it happen?

About five or six years ago I dislocated my shoulder on a trip. It was the middle of winter. We had had a few warm days, so the top layer of snow had melted. The temperature then dropped significantly, and everything turned into ice. I had spent the day backpacking, and was setting up camp for the evening. I was carrying some firewood that I had cut. I slipped and fell back, landing on my right shoulder, dislocating it. It popped back in fairly easily. The next day I packed up and made my way out. It wasn’t an easy task. Back then my gear was quite heavy. I had a full 75L pack to drag out. When I got to the car, I found it had been buried in snow, which had turned very hard. I wasn’t able to get the car out. I had to wait another day for them to clear the roads and have a tow truck come and pull me out onto the road. By then my shoulder was feeling better. 

6. What is something that other people do out in nature that annoys or irritates you BESIDES littering (which of course ought to bother us backpackers!)?

Luckily that hasn’t been an issue for me. I usually backpack alone, and tend to stick to areas that don’t see much traffic. When I have encountered other people, they have always been polite. My troubles with people tend to be online mostly. I tend to rub people the wrong way. In the woods however, it’s never been a problem. Even when with other people, everyone knows what needs to be done, and there isn’t much room for conflict.

7. What are a few of your funniest moments while out backpacking?

It’s usually my dogs being stupid. For some reason they can’t recognize me when I am coming back to camp with firewood in my hands, so they start barking at me. In the picture below Rhea was so tired that she jumped in the trunk of the car as soon as I opened it to put in my pack, and wouldn’t come out.


8. If you were given 1000 USD to spend only on backpacking gear, what would you buy?

I am pretty well set with gear I want. One thing I would want, is a new shell jacket. Currently I use the Arc’teryx Beta SV. It is a great jacket. I just need something with a more muted color that I can use while hunting. The bright blue of my current jacket is not cutting it. I’ve been eyeing the Arc’teryx Alpha FL jacket, but they just don’t have it in a color I want. I’m staying away from dedicated hunting companies like Sitka because I don’t want to wear camo all the time, even when not hunting, and they don’t make for the best climbing jackets. That would be about $400 right there. A set of La Sportiva Spantiks will bring me just over that $1000 mark. Do I need them? No. But I want them!

9. Of all the online backpacking bloggers that you are familiar with, whose gear list would you say would work for you best (i.e. who has the best/coolest/most dialed in gear list online)?

If I had to replace all of my gear with that used by another blogger, it would be that of Dave from Bedrock & Paradox. His thinking and approach seems very similar to mine. Quite often I would be thinking of something, and then he will do a post about it. I’m a big fan of his blog.

10. If you were to do a thru-hike of any trail, which one would it be and why?

If I had the time to be in the woods for that long, I probably wouldn’t hike any specific trail. I prefer the challenge of determining my own route through the woods. I would love to spend that time making my own way through Yellowstone. That being said, if I was going to do one, it would probably be the Appalachian Trail because it is closest to me, and would be the least expensive to do.

11. What is a mistake you made out backpacking that you learned a lot from?

The biggest mistake I’ve made while backpacking was to not be careful enough about moisture management. In particular, on several winter trips I made the mistake of getting into my sleeping bag with clothing that was not completely dry. The result was several miserable nights. Since then I have been very careful about how much moisture I have trapped in my clothing and how it will effect the rest of my insulation. With careful monitoring, I have been able to sleep comfortably in much lower temperatures then I was able to do previously with the same sleeping bags. Those mistakes have also largely altered my approach to selection of clothing. I heavily prioritize fast and easily drying clothing over other characteristics.

Well, those are the answer I was able to come up with to the above questions. Now, for the even more challenging task of tagging eleven other bloggers and asking them eleven other questions.

The Blogs:

The questions:

  1. Who are some of the people in the outdoor community, either past or present who you either consider mentors, or from whom you have gained knowledge about the outdoors, or inspiration to get out there?
  2. What is the typical duration of one of your trips, and how much distance do you tend to cover on such trips?
  3. What is your favorite instructional book about the outdoors?
  4. What is your vision of the woodsman, or the outdoorsman, at least as related to you and what you hope to achieve?
  5. Do you hunt, and if so, how do you incorporate that into your trips? If not, is there a specific reason?
  6. How much was your pack base weight on your last overnight trip?
  7. Have you been offered the opportunity to film any TV shows related to your outdoor pursuits? If yes, have you thought of accepting them? If no, would you be interested in such an offer?
  8. What is your preferred shelter system for winter trips?
  9. Are you a member of any outdoor organizations whether they be hunting, backpacking, etc?
  10. Have you ever found yourself in a survival or emergency situation while in the woods, and if so, how did you cope?
  11. Why do you blog?

Friday, June 6, 2014

Dual Survival Clarification (again) by Cody Lundin

So, Cody has been away for some time now because he was presenting at the 2014 Bushcraft Show in the UK. He’s back now, and seems to have more to say about Dual Survival and why he was fired. In short, he explains that he had a big problem with a producer who he found to be incompetent and was asking him to do things he considered unreasonable for the sake of ease of filming and editing. Cody also brings up an issue he has had with his replacement Matt Graham. It goes to show, the wilderness survival world is a shallow pull. Anyway, here is Cody’s latest statement:


Dear Campers,

I’ve recently returned from teaching survival skills in Europe. While I wish to move on from the Dual Survival debacle, ethically and professionally I need to set the record straight.

As I wrote earlier, the episode where Discovery and Original Media purposefully defamed my character in an attempt to explain my absence from the show was not their “Plan A.” Weeks after terminating me, they wanted to hire me again for the “original” behind the scenes episode. For this “Plan A” episode, a Discovery Channel executive suggested several times that I tell fans that I quit the show in order to pursue my survival school. As this was a lie, I refused to participate. I would state this under oath in a court of law.

My refusal to lie to my fan base resulted in the hodge-podge of out-of-context footage used to explain my absence. Legions of people saw through this “explanation”. Others…did not.

The real behind the scenes in Hawaii is more telling about the leadership vacuum that plagued the show. As an example, seconds earlier, the Hawaii footage would have revealed to the viewer an inexperienced, twenty-something producer repeatedly telling me to throw fire-lighting supplies over water to make things easier for editors in New York City. When I left this scene my mic was still on. The audio they used was a confidential conversation I had with another producer about repeated frustrations with this producer. This scene and the off-screen audio were between me and the problem producer, and had nothing to do with the show.

This season three producer had mismanaged previous episodes and would go on to mismanage several more. Regardless of numerous complaints from cast and crew, the executive producer at Original Media kept his friend employed. Also, stating that I was responsible for losing shoot time due to this is not true. We did lose shoot time, but this was caused by the actions of another which the entire crew witnessed.

After four seasons, 38 episodes and hundreds of hours of unaired footage, their top picks to make me look bad involve the non-show related footage of an incompetent producer, a backdoor product endorsement, laughing, and a dead Norwegian rabbit held by a crew member…..before the rabbit appears in the show? I could expose much more serious and toxic actions further cataloging a profound and chronic failure of leadership. Hopefully, this will not need to happen. This chapter needs to end.

The survival skills community is very small. Many people have suggested that Matt Graham should have been paired with me. Unfortunately, I needed to end my friendship with Matt three years ago. He chose to claim that he was my “teacher” for several courses to a company in the hopes of getting a product endorsement from them. As this company had never heard of Matt, but had known me for years, they approached me to ask if this was true. It was not. I have a zero tolerance policy with people who knowingly compromise another’s credibility and experience to promote their own. I’m sorry it turned out this way.

On a positive, many of you have expressed your support and asked if I would involve myself with more TV. I have turned down four TV shows to date. Nowadays, as all the experience one needs to get on a survival show is the ability to take off ones clothes, quality programming that integrates self-respect and professionalism is rare. If I find a network that is interested in teaching survival skills I would consider participating. I hope this statement clears a few things up.

Thank you for your continued support!

Stay true, Cody

To be honest, I really don’t get why Discovery did what they did with this situation. If they had simply kept quiet, and introduced the host as a regular replacement to offer yet another perspective on survival, no one would have given it a second thought. Those who followed Cody would have seen his explanation about being fired, but the rest would have known nothing about it. They did exactly that when Dave Canterbury got fired. One episode he was there, the next he wasn’t.

By airing that ridiculous episode, trying to explain why Cody was fired, not only did they lose credibility with a large part of the viewers, but revealed exactly how scripted and unrealistic the show actually is.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

How The Wild West Was Won with Ray Mears

For some time now there has been some buzz about Ray Mears making an new series titled How the Wild West Was Won. It has not aired in the US, and I don’t know if it will, but episodes have already started airing in the UK. The BBC has been kind enough to post up the aired episodes so far on YouTube. I’ve embedded the videos below.


Great Plains


The show is very similar to Ray Mears’ Northern Wilderness, which you can also find on YouTube from various sources. I found the show to be interesting so far. It is not particularly in dept when it comes to history or customs, and is lighter on demonstrations of bushcraft skills, which are dispersed as footnotes throughout the series, but overall, I liked it.

If I come across any new episodes being released, I will try to add them to this post.

Monday, June 2, 2014

Ultralight Backpacking Rifle – Savage Rascal With Modified Stock

As you guys probably know, when it comes to small caliber hunting rifles, I tend to think that lighter is better. These rifles usually come with me when I am backpacking, and want to occasionally shoot a squirrel or other small game. For such use, carrying around a 5 lb rifle is just excessive. To that end, I have been looking for suitable lightweight rifles, primarily chambered in .22LR. About a year ago I wrote about the Ruta Locura Pack Rifle Kit (PRK) which allowed me to build an ultralight .22LR rifle based on the action from a Keystone Arms Crickett rifle. You can read more about it here

I’ve been using the rifle now for a year, and while it works well, I haven’t been happy with the action of the Crikkett on which the rifle is built. In my experience, it’s just not a smooth mechanism and the trigger pull is too heavy. On an ultralight rifle, that makes it somewhat challenging to take accurate shots from an unsupported position. So, I’ve been looking around for a better option. The Pack Rifle was an obvious choice, but I just never liked its design. I’m sure it functions fine, and it’s superbly made, but it just doesn’t appeal to me for some reason. I like having a bolt to work. After some further searching, I settled on trying to make an ultralight backpacking rifle based on a Savage Arms Rascal. In this post I want to briefly go over an easy conversion that will allow adults to more easily use this youth rifle.


I have several Savage Arms rifles, and I am very happy with them, in addition to being used to their mechanism, so the Rascal was a natural choice for me. For those of you not familiar with the rifle, the Savage Rascal is a single shot, .22LR youth rifle. It has a short barrel, just over 16 inches, and a short, miniaturized stock with 11.25 in length of pull. The result is a light rifle, weighing 2lb 7oz, but it is difficult to use for an adult due to the short length of pull (the distance from the trigger to the end of the stock).

I figured, if I could replace the stock of the gun with that provided with the Pack Rifle Kit (PRK), it would make for a very good combination, giving me the longer length of pull I need. I didn’t want to change the barrel to a lighter one, because I wanted a slightly more robust rifle. With the PRK I was always worried about damaging the barrel, and while I like light weight, I don’t want to baby the rifle.

Unfortunately, the results were not good. While the stock that comes with the PRK is made of a cement like material, which is easy to work with a knife and file, the action of the Savage Rascal was too large to accurately fit. I made it fit, but it wasn’t exactly a fine piece of work.

So, I had to switch to plan B. I figured I would shorten the standard Savage Rascal stock to a place near the back of the grip, and then I would attach a back section from the PRK stock to make for a full length of pull. Now, using a section of a PRK stock is an expensive and extravagant option. I only did it because I had one at hand. A bent piece of aluminum tubing will do the same job.

Specifically what I did was to cut the PRK stock about two inches past where the carbon fiber rods end and enter into the cement-like substance comprising the rest of the stock. I cut the Rascal stock as well about two inches back from the grip, where the width was the same as that of the cut off section from the PRK stock. I then cut out slots, roughly an inch deep on the top and bottom of the original Rascal stock, just large enough for the carbon fiber rods to fit into. I then shaped the cement-like substance to fit in the hollow Rascal stock. When everything was fitted together, I epoxied the sections together using Gorilla Glue.




Oh yeah, pink Rascal = cheap! A few coats of paint completed the job.


Because the majority of the stock remained unchanged, attaching the action and barrel is easy. The action is simply held to the stock with two hex screws. The only thing to be careful about it to not overdo the paint in the area around the barrel. The Savage Rascal actually has a free floated barrel, which improves accuracy. You don’t want to layer so much paint in that area so that the barrel actually starts touching the stock. You should be able to pass a piece of paper between the stock and the barrel. 


The completed product is simply a Savage Rascal with an extended stock.


The total weight of the modified rifle, with the iron sights that come with the gun, is 2lb 9oz. Most of that weight comes from the barrel. The stock actually weighs only 7oz. If you were able to find a good carbon fiber barrel and replace the iron one, you can probably drop the weight by another pound.

After the stock was modified, the next stage of the project was to install a scope. The Rascal comes with a fixed front sight, and an adjustable rear peep sight. The receiver is tapped for scope mounts, but you have to buy them separately. I was able to order a set directly from Savage Arms, specifically designed for the Rascal.


The mounts are shorter than those you would find on a full size rifles like the Savage Mark II or the 93R17, but are the same width. They are quite a bit wider than the rail used by the Crickett. If you had scope rings for the Crickett mount, they will be too narrow for the Savage Rascal scope mounts.

The mounts can attach to the Rascal without having to remove the rear sight, although sighting through it would be obscured by the mounts.


For a scope, I used the Weaver Classic Rimfire 4x28 Scope. The scope weighs 8.5oz. It is not the lightest four power scope on the market, but I wanted a high quality scope that would be reliable during travel through rough terrain. I attached the scope to the mounts with a set of Weaver Detachable Top Mount Rings. I used these rings because they were the lowest profile ones I could find. They bring the scope as far down to the barrel as possible while still allowing the bolt to clear the scope without any interference. I wanted a low mount because the rifle is light and a scope mounted higher up would make it top heavy. The downside to the low scope mount is that I had to remove the rear sight, which interfered with the scope. If you use higher scope rings, you should be able to keep it.


The final product is a basic, single shot, Savage Rascal with an extended full length stock an a fixed four power scope.


The reason the back of the stock looks slanted is because of the camera angle. In reality it is 90 degrees to the top of the stock.

The rifle with scope weighs 3lb 4oz. It is 32 3/4 inches in overall length. Here you can see it next to my Savage 93R17.


I’ve been shooting this rifle for a bit over a month now, and I’ve been very happy with it. The action on the Savage Rascal is much better than that of the Keystone Arms Crickett. It is virtually identical to the action on the full size Savage rifles. It is a double action rifle, so you do not need to set the pin manually like you do on the cricket. The safety is in the same location as the other Savage .22LR and .17HMR rifles. Unlike the Crickett, the Rascal has a feed ramp in the receiver, which guides the bullet into the chamber, and makes reloading much easier; a big plus considering this is a single shot rifle. The Rascal also has a vastly superior trigger. It is the standard Savage two stage acutrigger. It is adjustable down to a weight of 2lb 10oz, which makes for a very crisp trigger.

While the Pack Rifle Kit conversion for the Crickett made for an accurate rifle out to at least 50 yards, getting that kind of accuracy was not easy under field conditions, in large part due to the heavy trigger. With the Rascal, taking accurate shots at that range is much easier. At 50 yards, from a bench rest. even with low quality ammunition, you can easily get under one inch groups. With good ammunition, you can get well under one inch groupings at that range, which is impressive considering that this is a youth rifle that most people wouldn’t give a second thought to.

Is it an ultralight rifle? Well, you decide. It is certainly heavier than the Pack Rifle Kit (PRK) Crickett (1lb 4oz) or the Pack Rifle (1lb). At 2lb 9oz it is a pound and a half heavier than those rifles. It is however about half a pound lighter than the next lightest rifle, the Chiappa Little Badger (3 b), which is also a single shot .22LR rifle. Above three pounds we have what I would consider lightweight rifles, the Marlin 70PSS Papoose (3lb 4oz) and the Henry AR7 (3lb 8oz), both of which are semi-automatic. All of the rifles I have mentioned here have the advantage of being collapsible in that they can either be folded or have the barrel removed without tools. If you want to do that with the Rascal, you would need an tool. I don’t like collapsing rifles in the field because I find it effects accuracy, but it’s something to keep in mind. On the up side, the Rascal is probably more accurate than the other rifles listed with the possible exception of the Marlin 70PSS.

I think the Savage Rascal with modified stock is a good compromise between light weight, durability, and ease of use. I’ve only shot it at the range so far. Longer term use while hunting this fall will give me a better idea of any shortcomings it way have. I just wanted to toss it out there as an option for you guys.