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Tuesday, 01. April 2014

Trip Report: Bear Mountain 12/14/13 ? 12/15/13
By marketingguy77, 23:53

Last week we had a few days of decent snow, so when the snow started falling, I decided to do a little trip. As with most winter trips, the biggest problem for me is actually driving to the mountains. My original plan was to go further north to a lake with the hopes that it would not be completely frozen and I could do some fishing. Unfortunately, the roads were not plowed, and with the snow continuing to come down, there was more than a good chance that even if I made it there, I would not be able to get the car out the next day. So, I drove to a spot near the forest, and parked on a street that I expected would be plowed. From there I set on foot.


My adjusted trip goal was to climb up to one of the ridges and get above the tree line, camp up on the mountain, and then come back down the following day.

There still wasn?t too much snow accumulation, and there was even some running water, which would have been a huge fuel saver. Unfortunately, there was none further up the mountain.


The elevation increase was rather quick, and after a few hours on walking, I started to reach more exposed area.


Soon after a I found a sheltered area where I could stop for lunch. I didn't bring my usual tortilla wrap type of stuff because it is hard to make and eat in the snow. I opted for bars which I would eat without too much hassle and while keeping my gloves on. While I was searing only liner gloves, they make a big difference, especially when there is wind. 


After this quick stop, I kept heading up, until I was on top of the ridge. It is not particularly high, but the winds were pretty severe. They served to sweep away most of the snow, which made walking easier.


The sun didn?t come out from behind the clouds all day. I figured it would get dark quickly, so I decided to set up camp. I found a flat are to the side of the ridge, where there had been very little snow accumulation, but the wind was not bad. It was to be home for the night.


I made a small fire for cooking and melting snow. Usually I don?t like to use a fire while it is snowing because the heat tends to melt the snow and get you more survival kits wet than you would be without the fire. In this instance however, the weather was not bad, so I didn?t mind. I still kept the fire small. It was enough to dry my gloves and cook my food.

It continued to snow on and off the whole night. I set out earlier than I ordinarily would have because I was worried about being able to get my car out. I just retraced my steps back.



My worries were for nothing. The car got out just fine. Despite the snow the weather was rather warm. The lowest it fell down to was 23F (-5C) during the night.


Nothing special to report on this trip. Just a bit of fun in the snow. Sometimes it?s fun to get out without doing anything too serious.

For the original version including any supplementary images or video, visit

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Tuesday, 25. March 2014

Trip Report: Bear Mountain 3/8/14 ? 3/9/14
By marketingguy77, 10:44

We had some wonderful weather this weekend so I decided to get out for a bit. Because the weather was so nice, there were a lot of people on Bear Mountain, which is a popular destination. However, further north on the mountain, some of the access roads have been closed. So, if you are willing to ditch the car and go on foot, you can reach some very secluded locations. That exactly what I did.

I picked a random direction through the mountains and got going. I was the only person anywhere near the area, which is exactly how I like it.


The area was covered in deer sign. I was a bit surprised because it was really steep terrain, but there were tracks and scat everywhere.



I wasn?t headed anywhere in particular. I just wanted to spend some time heading up the mountain, picking entertaining routes.


The pack you see on my back in the Black Diamond Speed 40. I?ve used it on a few trips so far. The reason I got it was that my gear keeps getting smaller, and my 62L pack was starting to be too big, even for my winter gear. I?ve been managing to comfortably fit all my winter gear into the new 40L pack. It?s by no means a perfect pack, and I?ve made quite a few modifications to it, but the size is right.


I also wanted to use the opportunity to test out a new tent that was given to me for testing purposes. The tent is the Mountain Hardwear Direkt 2. At first I was reluctant to accept it because I don?t typically use fully enclosed tents, but I have been looking at free standing designs recently, and decided to give it a try.


It required quite a bit of readjustment to use this tent. It?s been over a decade since I have used a fully enclosed shelter like this. It has a very different set of advantages and disadvantages when compared to a tarp-tent shelter like the Shangri-La 3. It is not better or worse, just different. After figuring out what I?m doing, I quite enjoyed using the tent. It is a very comfortable size for one person, and I had a good night. I?ll have more details on the tent later.

I woke up early because I had to get back home. I ate breakfast and headed back.


And that?s it. I quickly made my way down the mountain. survival gear The new gear looks promising, but only time will tell survival gear how well it will perform under different conditions.

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Monday, 17. March 2014

A Snow Walker's Companion: Winter Camping Skills For The North Review
By marketingguy77, 22:35

As you guys have probably noticed, I try to do book reviews primarily for books that can be obtained for free online, so that you can easily get them. A Snow Walker's Companion: Winter Camping Skills for the North by Garrett Conover and Alexandra Conover Bennett is not in the public domain, and as such is not freely available. Even so, I thought it was worth a mention.


The book is currently in it?s third publication. It was originally released in 1995 with subsequent publication in 2001 and 2005. I have purchased two different publications of the book over the years, and have read it several times.

I first read the book years ago when I was developing an interest in more complex winter travel in the woods. Last year, I was again reminded of the book and re-read it. A Snow Walker's Companion has developed a cult following and is often sited as one of the best guides to winter travel. The book focuses on traditional methods for winter travel, which according to the authors are more efficient and reliable than modern methods that are overly focused on technology.

I must admit, I have refrained from writing anything about the book here because each time I read it, I was sure that I had missed or misunderstood something. The methods described seemed highly inefficient and unnecessarily burdensome for winter travel. Recently however, a fellow blogger provided a link to a video of a trip structured after the manner outlined in A Snow Walker's Companion, and even included Garrett Conover as one of the members. After watching the video with great interest, I felt secure enough that I had understood the book as it was intended and finally decided to write a review here.

As I mentioned above, A Snow Walker's Companion focuses on traditional methods for winter travel. According to the authors, those methods are the most reliable and efficient means for winter travel. As portrayed in the video, those methods culminate in a team of wool and canvas clad men, pulling heavily loaded toboggans containing large canvas tents with wood stoves, along frozen river beds and lakes.


Each time I read the book it struck me as rather condescending and dismissive of any other means of winter travel. Now, I am the last person to talk about being dismissive and condescending, so I will not begrudge the authors their attitude. However, it did strike me as strange that they survival kits would insist that this is the most efficient and reliable means of winter travel. I would certainly understand it if the authors simple like such traditional means of transportation during winter, or if they were doing it to recreate for educational purposes winter travel in the age of Shackelton and Nansen. I do find it perplexing however that they would insist that in light of all of the techniques and equipment we have developed over the last century, that this is still the best form of winter travel.

The most glaring reason why I found such an assertion to be a strange one is that the scope of travel afforded by the methods outlined in the book is so very limited. In effect, if you chose to travel in the manner outlined in A Snow Walker's Companion, you immediately restrict yourself to terrain that is limited to frozen river beds and lakes. Anything more than a ten degree incline, and travel is transformed into a heroic struggle, or outright impossible. That is not to mention travel up mountains, through densely forested areas, etc. It hardly seems like the ?ultimate? travel method.

Leaving aside the absurdly limited terrain option left to us with this traditional form of winter travel, let?s look at the above video for more specific examples. I use the video because it was designed as an educational survival gear class developed based on the book, and had one of the authors as a member of the trip.

The video features a team traveling 62 miles (100 km) over a 10 day period. Each team member is pulling a sled loaded with an average of 150 lb (68 kg) of gear. Now, for any modern woodsman who is familiar with winter travel, those statistics will seem ridiculous. They will be even more shocking if one watches the video and sees the struggle endured by the team over these 62 miles. The short trip featured in the video is very similar in its factors to that completed by the authors of the book. They traveled 350 miles (563 km) across Labrador along frozen rivers in the manner outlined in the book. The trip took (if memory serves me right), about 60 days.

I say it would be shocking to a modern woodsman because for anyone familiar with modern techniques and equipment, traveling 62 miles over 10 days on level and clear terrain like that necessitated by the methods of travel outlined in A Snow Walker's Companion and seen in the video, would be considered a leisurely, relaxing trip. In fact, even at moderate pace, such trip can be completed without any effort in half the time. More so, a modern team can complete the same trip with a quarter of the gear. It would not cross the mind of any modern woodsman to go on a 10 day winter trip with 150 lb of gear. Counting food and water, a modern woodsman would have a pack at the beginning of the trip under the same conditions of no more than 40 lb (about 15 lb of gear, 20 lb of food at 2lb per day, and about 4 lb of water).

Now, let me make it very clear, when I say ?a modern woodsman using modern techniques and gear? I do not mean any fancy electronics or motorized transportation. I mean a person on snowshoes with a tent a sleeping bag, a backpack, etc. Using modern techniques and equipment, a woodsman can take that 150 lb of weight that was used for a 10 day trip with the methods outlined in A Snow Walker's Companion, and can stretch them out for a 65 day trip. The difference is staggering.

Just for rough comparison purposes, Paolo Rabbia just completed a 435 mile (700 km) traverse across the Pyrenees, with an elevation gain of 10,499 ft (3200 m). He completed it in 29 days, carrying a 44 lb pack (20 kg). All of this was done on some of the toughest terrain imaginable. Now, I know Paolo Rabbia is not an average person, but an average person would have certainly been able to duplicate the results if traveling on frozen river beds and lakes.


I know some of you were not happy with the above comparison, so I figured I would toss in another one. Ray Zahab, Ryan Grant, Stefano Gregoretti and Ferg Hawke just completed a 100 km (62 mile) crossing of Baffin island. They did it in 48 hours, pulling 50lb sleds. The crossing was entirely unsupported. Again, an extreme example, but one showing what is possible using modern techniques.


Considering all of the above, I continue to find it strange that the authors of A Snow Walker's Companion insist that the form of winter travel they have outlined is somehow superior to other forms of winter travel.

Perhaps one could insist that the form of travel outlined in the book is more comfortable than modern forms of travel, with a nice large tent and a fired up stove. Sounds good in theory, but as the video shows, almost every day, from dusk till dawn, the team is struggling pulling heavy sleds, over lakes that can not support the weight, hacking paths through trees, etc. Hardly seems like a relaxing trip. A modern woodsman can complete each day?s travel in half the time, leaving plenty of time for a nice fire, a cooked meal, and relaxation.

And let?s not forget, the modern woodsman can go wherever he pleases. He is not locked to frozen rivers and lakes. If he so chooses, he can go over a mountain, through a valley, into a dense forest, etc.

Now, all that being said, A Snow Walker's Companion is a good book. If you are interested in traditional winter travel, or are a historical recreationist, the book is a wonderful resource, as long as you can ignore the perplexing assertions about how that form of travel is the best. The book does a good job describing the methods required for such traditional winter travel, and even provides resources where such traditional gear can be obtained. Within the scope of the type of winter travel it describes, it is an excellent guide. So, if you are interested in traditional forms of winter travel, this book is for you. If you are interested in historical recreation, then this book is for you. If you thought Shackelton was the man, and you want all of your winter trips to resemble his attempt at the South Pole, then this book is for you.

The downside of the book, of course is that it is so limited in scope. If you are interested in any other type of winter travel, which does not involve teams of men pulling heavy sleds along frozen rivers, then the book offers very little. Not only that, it is outright dismissive of any such forms of travel. So, if you don?t want to pull a 150 lb sled for a 10 day trip, this book is not for you. If you want to carry all of your gear in a backpack, this book is not for you. If you want to go anywhere where the terrain is not 100% level and clear of any vegetation, then this book is not for you. If you want to travel in an area where trees are not abundant, then this book is not for you. If you think that we might have learnt something about winter travel in the last century, and you want to take advantage of that knowledge, then this book is certainly not for you.  

P.S. since my last purchase of the book, it seems like the publisher has run out of copies, and the price has skyrocketed. Hopefully this review would serve you as a decent guide as to whether you want to fork over the current $150 price.

For the original version including any supplementary images or video, visit

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Monday, 10. March 2014

Ultralight Makeover By Backpacking North
By marketingguy77, 09:06

Over the past year, a fellow blogger and writer of Backpacking North has been putting together an excellent and fairly detailed tutorial on reducing the weight of your gear. He has gone through great effort to provide the necessary resources and details. I think it is a great read, no matter if you are looking to go ultralight, or simply looking to streamline your gear. I found the advise to be reasonable and well measured, without any ridiculous recommendations or excesses. I don?t necessarily agree with all the recommendations, or find them to be for me, but I think everyone can benefit from reading it.


The tutorial is divided into different sections dealing with specific types of gear. I will provide the links here so you can read them on the Backpacking North website:

As with any tutorial on these subjects, you will find some of the information useful, other not so much. None the less, I think it is definitely worth a read.

For the original version including any supplementary images or video, visit

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Sunday, 02. March 2014

Ciappa M6 And X-caliber Survival Rifle/shotgun Combo First Look
By marketingguy77, 20:58

Our friend at Rocky Mountain Bushcraft has brought us some great news from the 2014 SHOT Show. Apparently in April of this year, Chiappa Firearms will be releasing two versions of the popular M6 survival rifle.


In what I consider a great improvement, the rifle/shotgun combo will be offered in .22LR over 20 gauge (Chiappa M6) and .22LR over 12 gauge (X-Caliber) rather than the .22 Hornet over 410 of the original M6.

Apparently the guns will be in the 6 lb range, which is the survival kits lightest from which I would like to shoot a 3 inch shell, especially in 12 gauge. Unfortunately, both versions come only with fixed chokes. For full details, please read the post on Rocky Mountain Bushcraft here. I can?t wait survival gear until we can see the full review.

For the original version including any supplementary images or video, visit

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Sunday, 23. February 2014

Pocket Carry Kit
By marketingguy77, 08:26

Well, I finally got a new computer, and can make videos again. I figured that I would test it out by making a short video about the kit which I carry on me when I go into the woods. It?s not really a survival kit or a possibles pouch, so i just call it my pocket carry kit.

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This particular set up came bout after many years of playing around with different configurations. I am sure it will change in the future, but for a while not this kit has been working well for me.

The further back in time you go, the more kit you would have seen me carry on my body. I used to have a belt with a canteen and cup, a belt knife, and camping gear a good size pouch with emergency and daily use gear. Unfortunately, the kit was too big, and was getting in the way too much. It was good in theory, but in reality it was a nuisance. So, gradually I reduced the number of items I carry, and brought it down to the set up you see in the video, which fits in my pockets.


The knife is kept in my right pocket. It is a Mora #2 custom clone by Mark Hill. You can see more details about it here. The knife weighs 5.0 oz, and I keep it in a sheath that I got from another knife and modified. The sheath weighs 1.7 oz.

In my left pocket I have the actual kit. It is contained in a small pouch, and weighs a total of 4.7 oz.


In the kit I have a mini BIC lighter. It weighs 0.2 oz. It is my main fire lighting tool. I know it is not very ?bushcrafty?, but it works, and I like things that work. In well over a decade now of going in the woods, it has never failed me. There are some misconceptions about lighters, which keep many people from using them, but they are not actually true. Some people think that lighters leak out fuel at high elevation, or that they ?fail? in cold weather. Truth is, there has been extensive testing done by manufacturers, and lighters do not leak at high elevation unless you press the button. They also work fine in cold weather. The problem is that when the temperature is low, the butane in the lighter doe snot gasify. If you try to use a cold lighter like that, it will ?fail?. The solution is a simple one. Just hold it in your hand for several seconds. That will warm it up enough for it to work. Lighters will not work when wet. That is simply because the spark gets cooled down by the evaporating water. To get it to work, just shake the water out. I have found that it takes between 30 and 60 seconds to dry it out by shaking and blowing on it. If you are in a hurry, removing the metal guard will speed up the process.

In the kit I also carry a Fenix E01 flashlight. It weighs 0.4 oz including the AAA battery. The flashlight cost only $10, but it packs some pretty advanced technology. It doesn?t simply feed electricity from the battery to the bulb. It uses a microchip to interrupt the light, but it does it at a rate which our eye can not detect. To us it appears as a solid beam of light, but the beam actually pulsates. This allows the flashlight to put out 10 lumens and do it continuously for 21 hours on a single AAA battery. You can see some more details about it here. I?ve used this flashlight to make my way out of the forest at night. It is not the ideal choice for the task, but for such a small package, it is an amazing tool.

On the pouch itself, I have a small button compass. I have tied it onto the lanyard which clips onto my belt loop. That way it is always visible so that I can quickly check my general direction of travel.

The rest of the kit is divided into tree Altoids Smalls tins.

The first one in the picture is my repair kit. It weighs a total of 0.6 oz. Other than a small multi tool and some rope which I carry in my backpack, this is my whole repair kit. I do not carry a duplicate in my pack. The kit contains a good amount of artificial sinew. It is a very strong material, and I?ve used it for everything from repairing my pack to making a shelter. I also have a small roll of dental floss, which is also strong, and can double as fishing line. In the box also contains some duct tape and a few pieces of Tenacious Tape. Tenacious Tape is a product that was recommended by a friend and appears to be very strong. I?ve seen a punctured inflatable pad being repaired with this tape. On the bottom of the kit I have some needles and fishing hooks.

The second tin contains my fire lighting kit. It weighs 0.5 oz. Together with the lighter, and a second such lighter which I keep in my cooking kit, these are all of the fire lighting devices I carry. All I have in the tin is some waterproof matches and a striker wrapped in a small plastic bag, and some waxed jute twine tinder. You?ve probably noticed that I do not carry a ferro rod. I used to carry one, but I just had no use for it. The lighter is a much more efficient fire starting tool, and wich the waterproof matches as a back up, in over a decade, there never came a time when I actually needed to use a ferro rod. In fact, I have never even had to use the matches yet. Ferro rods are fun to use, but if I was going to start a fire with sparks just for fun, I just bring along my flint and steel kit.

The last tin contains some pills in a small plastic bag, and chlorine dioxide water purification tablets. The pills in the tin are the only ones I carry. While I have some other first aid items in my backpack, I do not carry extra pills. The water purification tablets are just a back up, although I have had to use them several times. They also cone in handy during winter when I can not carry my filter, and do not have enough fuel to boil all of my water. The tin weight 0.5 oz.

I have a few other items, such as my watch, and a bandana, but that?s about it. This is not a survival kit, and it not intended to let you live off of it in the woods. These are simply the items I use most often, so I keep them in an easily accessible place. The items are also loosely packed, so that I can take them out, use them, and put them back without worrying about arranging everything in the right order.

For the original version including any supplementary images or video, visit

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Saturday, 15. February 2014

Picture Of Chukchi In Russia
By marketingguy77, 20:08

The image below is survival kits of a Chukchi group near the Bearing Sea in Russia. It was obtained from the book Before They Pass Away.


The camping gear Chukchi are an indigenous group originally residing in the northern Eurasian steppe. Currently small groups continue to exist near the Chukchi and Bearing Sea, mostly gathered in the Chukotka Autonomous Okrug, comprising the northeastern tip of Russia. 

For the original version including any supplementary images or video, visit

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Saturday, 08. February 2014

Igloo Building Photograph, 1924
By marketingguy77, 07:56

The photograph was taken in 1924 and shows an Eskimo family building an Igloo.


It is amazing to think that 1924 wasn?t all that long ago. I?m not sure camping gear how much of those skills survive today.

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Friday, 31. January 2014

The Modern Woodsman And Wilderness Survival Gear, Training, And Preparation
By marketingguy77, 19:47

So, there has been quite a bit of discussion regarding the issue of being ready for a survival situation. It has gotten me thinking, so I wanted to share a few thoughts with you on the subject and how it relates to the concept of The Modern Woodsman.



The Modern Woodsman: an individual who is able to undertake long term, long distance trips, deep into the wilderness, only with supplies one could carry and what could be gathered from the surrounding environment. The equipment and skills used are guided by their actual practicality and are not restricted by any historical period limitations or aesthetic factors. The trips undertaken occur in the present, within the context of our current society, laws, and regulations.

Wilderness Survival Situation: a situation occurring in the wilderness, where there is immanent danger to one?s life. Circumstances and one?s own actions have conspired to create conditions under which unless one can alter his position, he is likely going to die. That is to be distinguished from nuisance situations where one has all of his backpacking gear and is in good physical condition, i.e. no physical injury, but is stuck in the woods for a few more nights.

From this discussions I am excluding exotic survival scenarios such as being kidnapped and stranded in remote wilderness or a deserted island where you have to build your new life with an assortment of randomly selected tools. As always, the above are just my definitions, and are provided just for purposes of clarity.

Of the realistic survival situations the modern woodsman is likely to encounter, I can think of three categories:

  1. You have sustained some sort of physical injury, i.e. a broken leg. It is unlikely that you will be able to treat such an injury yourself, and either have to wait for rescue, or literally drag yourself out of the forest. For a scenario such as this one, watch the documentary, Touching the Void.
  2. You have lost your gear. You have gone on a backpacking trip. You planned for it to take you five days. Unfortunately, during day two of the trip, you attempt a river crossing, get swept by the current, and watch your pack float away. Or, you are climbing up a mountain, you stop to rest, the ice gives out under you and you start sliding along with your pack. You manage to self arrest, but your pack slides off a cliff. You are now left having to complete your trip, or backtrack for a day or more with just the gear you have on your body.
  3. You have gone out for a day hike. You have only the gear you would need for the day, perhaps in a day pack. You get lost, or bad weather moves in, diminishing the visibility, and you find yourself stuck out in the woods for the night.

From the above three categories, the most realistic one, or at least the one of which I have seen the most accounts, is the third one. It is most often hunters out for the day, or day hikers who get stuck out for the night that have to deal with a survival situation, usually because the weather has turned for the worse.

So, assuming we are talking about realistic survival situations, what do we do and how do we prepare for them? What gear do you carry, and how do we carry it?

My advise, for what it?s worth, is to start by accepting that once you find yourself in a survival situation, something has already gone wrong. There has been a lapse in judgment on your part, or something unexpected has occurred. By definition, it is hard to prepare for the unexpected. Hindsight is always 20/20, but in the moment, decisions get made, and things happen which can quickly cause a survival situation.

That is not to say that you should be careless, or that you shouldn?t try to avoid putting yourself in a bad spot. However, know that the reality of being in a survival situation is different from thinking about being in a survival situation, and many of the decisions you think you would make, and the things you think you would do when you are planning at home, will quickly go out the window when the fact washes over you that you are in a survival situation. 

So, what can we do? Is there any point in trying to prepare? Is it a hopeless endeavor, with as left to our faith? Of course not. However, we have to prepare in a practical and realistic manner, and we must practice with gear we are likely to have, not gear we think it would be cool to have in imaginary survival world.


Let?s start with the skills. There are some things for which we can not prepare. There is no way to prepare for a lapse in judgment. It happens to all of us and all we can do is deal with the consequences. Other things such as a broken leg with a compound fracture, there is little we can do. However, with respect to many of the factors we are likely to encounter, there are things we can do to prepare.

How do we gain such skills in order to prepare for a realistic survival situation? We do it by realistically planning and practicing for realistic survival situations. I know the word ?realistic? seems redundant, but it?s not. There are two separate aspects in which the preparation and planning has to be realistic.

The first is to accept the reality of a survival situation, and come to terms with the fact that something has gone wrong. Many of the things we hear about survival such as STOP (Stop, Think, Observe, Plan) are great in theory, but more often than not ignore what is actually happening on the ground under such conditions. Not only do conditions often not allow for such actions, but very often, our own mind reacts in ways which make such rules impractical. When planning for a survival situation, be realistic about what would be happening both in the environment and your own mind. It is easy to say in hindsight that once you were lost, you should have stopped and re-evaluated your options. However, did you realize you were lost? Even if you realized there was a chance you were lost, would the likelihood of you being on the right path and getting out in time provide you a better chance of survival than trying to spend the night in the location where you find yourself? It is hard to say. Plan for the reality that you will not make the best choices, that things will go wrong, and that few things will fall into order. After all, that is why it is a survival situation to begin with.

The second aspect is easier to see, in that we should plan for realistic survival situations. We often get carried away when planning and practicing for wilderness survival situations and get wrapped up in romantic notions and elaborate scenarios along the lines of ?What would I do if I was dropped of in the wilderness for five years and I could only have five tools??. They are fun to think about, but much of what would be good preparation for such a journey, has little use in a survival situation in which the modern woodsman is likely to find himself.

For example, take the leanto shelter. There is much literature on the subject, both in books and online, showing amazing feats of construction. With enough practice, anyone can learn to build a cozy waterproof leanto with a raised platform for a bed, and a long fire with a heat reflector in front of it. Ray Mears had a beautiful demonstration of exactly this in one of his Extreme Survival series. And indeed, if I found myself stranded in the untouched wilderness for a month, that may be exactly what one should build, and it would serve them well. However, such a project is of little value in a realistic survival situation as defined above. The construction of such a leanto, and the gathering of enough firewood to keep a long fire burning through the night, takes up the better part of a day, of course working with your trusty axe. Two problems become clear. The first is that when you are actually lost, whether because you were on a backpacking trip and lost your pack, or were on a day hike or hunt and got lost, realistically, you will not have nearly enough time for such a project. Most likely, you will have an hour or so before the sun goes down in which to construct your shelter and gather sufficient firewood to keep you alive through the night. The second problem of course is that you have to do all that only with the tools you have left on you, something which I will discuss a bit later.  

Another example is fire lighting. Being able to construct bow drill sets, or making beautiful feather sticks is great. They are useful tools in the fire lighting process. Similarly, when we know we are practicing for a survival situation, we keep collecting birch bark along the way as we see it. In a realistic survival situation however, how useful are those skills? What if you are hunting? Are you going to gather tinder as you walk along? What if you are out for a day hike? Do you still gather tinder just in case? And, if you are backpacking, do you store the gathered tinder in your pockets or the backpack that you just theoretically lost? This of course takes us back to realistically preparing. It is often when we least expect to end up in a survival situation that we actually do. That is why we usually end up being unprepared. So, how good are you at using your fire lighting skills when things have gone wrong? Can you do it right after you drag yourself out of that river that just swept away your pack? Can you do it when the sun is going down and you are shivering? Can you do it when the place where you are forced to spend the night is less than ideal when it comes to resources? And just like with the prior example, do you have the tools on your body which will allow you to do that under such difficult conditions.

Ultimately, in my opinion, preparation and training with respect to skills which would be utilized in a survival situation, is most useful if practiced under stressful conditions. Knowing how to build the perfect survival shelter is not as important as knowing how to build a functional shelter in 20 minutes. Knowing how to start a fire with two sticks and a rock is less important in a realistic survival situation than knowing how to quickly build a fire with a lighter. I forget who said it, but it goes along the lines of ?Knowing how to start a fire by friction is cool, knowing how to make a fire with a match is essential?. Survival in the context of the Modern Woodsman requires that when polishing your survival skills, focus on the practical, not the fanciful; focus on the reality, not the fantasy.   


As we continue onto a discussion of gear, I strongly believe that any gear selection should follow from the above theory and skill sets. By that I mean, it should be gear targeted for realistic survival in a realistic survival situation. Also, if we subscribe to the theory of The Modern Woodsman, the equipment used should also be guided by its actual practicality and should not be restricted by any historical period limitations or aesthetic factors. For a look at The Modern Woodsman and Technology, you can check this post.

Looking at the three likely survival situation that may be encountered by the modern woodsman, gear selection will be more important for some than for others.

The first example, of a physical injury is the hardest to prepare for from a gear standpoint. Realistically, there is very little one can do to himself when confronted with a serious injury. A broken leg can be stabilized, but it is highly unlikely that you will be able to reset the bone, and repair the damage enough to allow you to walk out, regardless of the amount of equipment you have. That is not to say that one should not fight to survive, but from a gear standpoint, we get diminishing returns as the degree of trauma escalades. I believe one should ideally strive to be prepared for injuries that a person in that condition is likely to be able to treat. I would divide that into three categories. The first is minor scrapes and cuts, the ones that we encounter most often. The second is heavy bleeding. The third is medications for conditions we are likely to encounter. I say that we should ?ideally? prepare for such occurrences because the reality does not always allow for it or make it practical. If the injury is combined with a loss of your pack, or occurs on a short day trip, you may not have all of the items you ordinarily would if you had your full pack.

The second example is the one where you have lost your gear, i.e. your backpack. Obviously, in such a situation your gear will be severely restricted to items you can carry on your body.

The third example is the one of the lost day hiker, which would leave you with the items on your body and in your day pack.

So, let?s look at some examples of gear for each of the above situations.

For the first example of a physical injury, obviously you would need a first aid kit. Looking at the first aid kit from a modern woodsman perspective, we can eliminate certain aspects of medical treatment from consideration. We don?t have to worry about extreme hypothetical examples of ?What if I had to live in the wilderness for five years and needed to treat a bad case of tuberculosis, or extract a bullet from my torso??. That should eliminate long term treatments and surgical equipment. That would leave us with the three likely areas of treatment, common conditions while in the woods (allergies, diarrhea, muscle pain, heartburn, etc), small cuts and bruises (cuts and blisters), and more serious bleeding injuries (deeper cuts). Below you can see an example of a possible first aid kit which would address those likely injuries. It is not exactly the kit I carry these days, and yours will be specific to you.

First Aid 

In terms of medications, it contains a small box with pills (Imodium, Excedrin, Benadryl, Zantac, etc). For small injuries it contains band aids and mole skin for blisters. For heavier bleeding it contains gauze and a Quik Clot sponge, which uses chemical clotting agents to stop heavy bleeding. It packs up small, and a similar set up comprises the first aid kit which I keep in my backpack.

Now, let?s look at the second example of a realistic survival situation for the modern woodsman, where you have lost your pack. Your gear is now immediately restricted to the items you have on your body. What will those items be? Well, that depends on what you are willing to carry on your body. It will always be a balancing act. On one hand, the more gear you can have strapped onto your belt and in your pockets, the better off you will be in a survival situation. On the other hand, the more gear you have on your body, the more uncomfortable you will be, and the more likely it will be that the gear will eventually get tossed back into your pack. Again, here we are talking about realistic preparation. Theory is fine, and theory will tell you that the more items you have the better, but the reality is that the more gear you have, the less likely it is that you will carry it as you are supposed to. There was a time when I used to carry a lot of stuff on my belt for this very reason. I had a canteen with a canteen cup, a good size pouch with all sorts of gear, a knife, etc. It was very annoying, and gradually, more and more of those items started to get carried in my backpack, or I would remove the belt along with the backpack, which largely defeated the purpose. The right balance will be a personal choice. For me, I only carry what I can fit in my pockets.


In my right pocket I carry the Mora #2 knife you see above (actually these days a Mora #2 custom clone). I keep it in a leather sheath that I got from another knife. The knife together with the sheath weighs 4.0 oz. The Mora #2 is my favorite knife in terms of blade and handle design.

In the other pocket I carry a small pouch in which I keep a Fenix E01 flashlight, a mini BIC lighter, and three Altoids Smalls tins. One of the tins holds my repair kit with a few fishing hooks thrown in on the bottom (duct tape, artificial sinew, dental floss, etc). The second tin holds some medications I commonly use and water purification tablets. The third tin contains tinder (waxed jute twine) and matches. On the pouch itself a have attached a mini compass. The whole pouch weighs 4.5 oz.

For me that is the right amount of gear. I should point out that these items are not in my pockets as a survival kit. These are items I use regularly on most trips, and I need them to be easily accessible. However, if I was forced to survival after losing my pack, that is what I would have with me. If I was to practice for such survival, I would do it with this gear. Obviously, if I had sustained an injury while losing my pack, I would be in trouble because I have only minimal first aid items, i.e. a few pills.

Now, let?s move to the third example where we have a lost day hiker. In this situation, the modern woodsman would have the items on his body from the above example, whatever survival gear they may happen to be, as well as whatever gear is carried in the daypack. Here again we face the same balancing problem as above. The more gear you have in your pack, the better off you will be in a survival situation. On the other hand, the more gear you have, the more of a nuisance it will be. We certainly do not want our day pack to be as heavy as our regular pack. I remember years ago, when Survivorman first came out. I think I was in high school or college. I decided that I need to carry a survival kit on my backpacking trips. I started gathering items that I would need when surviving. When I was finished, my survival kit needed a small backpack to fit everything. Of course, it never got taken out into the woods. The balance one strikes, of course is a personal thing. The contents of my daypack is minimal.


In addition to the items I have in my pockets, I have a Nalgene water bottle with a metal cup (Stoic 750ml Ti Kettle), food, extra clothing (puffy jacket for when I am resting and rain gear) and on the advise of a few people, I carry an emergency thermal blanket. I have it not so much for insulation, but as rain protection. In many cases I also have a Bahco Laplander folding saw. That?s it. I could easily carry more, but I don?t want to. I am not willing to carry more gear on every day trip just for the unlikely event of a survival situation. I am fairly confident in my abilities to survive with this gear. There is a wide range of gear choices reasonable people can make here, and mine is certainly not for everyone.

This brings me to a general point about some commonly seen gear items. Too often we see ?survival? shelter and fire construction with the use of an axe. This stems from the ?What if I had to live in the woods with just three tools?? imaginary scenarios. In such a situation I too would chose an axe. Realistically however, for the modern woodsman, this is not an option. We can certainly come up with some type of scenario where that could happen, but realistically, you are unlikely to have an axe in a survival situation. If you have lost your pack, odds are your axe has suffered the same faith. It is unlikely you will have none of your gear, but still have an axe. Similarly, if you are a lost day hiker, you are unlikely to have an axe. There are much better options for the modern woodsman to carry on a day trip for the same weight, if one chose to do so. For the weight of an axe, one could bring a sleeping bag and bivi.

Another tool that is often seen in survival preparations is the bucksaw blade, which is put inside a belt, or carried in the day pack. The tool itself is quite useful, and easy to carry. The problem with its realistic use is not one of weight or size, but rather survival kits goes back to the realistic application of wilderness skills. How long does it take you to construct a sturdy buck saw or bow saw? If you have an hour of daylight left to set up camp, are you going to spend half, or all of it constructing the saw, or are you going to spend the time actually gathering firewood? Maybe you are very fast at making such a saw frame, and for you it is worth the effort. However, make sure you test yourself. The reality is often not as accommodating as the theory.

Another tool I want to mention is the ferro rod. You probably noticed that I do not have any in my kit. The reason is that I do not find them to be as useful as other fire lighting tools. The reason most often given in support of ferro rods is that they can start thousands of fires. That again goes back to the ?What if I had to live in the woods for five years?? fantasy survival scenarios. For the survival situation the modern woodsman is likely to encounter, that is hardly a selling point. A few hundred fires should be sufficient for a life time of survival situations. Of course, a ferro rod will work after it has been wet, but it works only in that it makes sparks. A box of waterproof matches will get you further in the survival game if you just dragged yourself out of a frozen river. In terms of speed of starting fires when the sun is going down, nothing beats a lighter. There is nothing wrong with carrying one, but if that is your primary survival fire lighting tool, make sure you are able to start a fire (not just make sparks) under the conditions you are likely to encounter in a survival situation.

Lastly, the modern woodsman has at his disposal devices like cell phones and emergency locators, which can be a life saver in survival situations. I have not discussed them at length here because they serve to remove you from the survival situation, and are slightly outside the skills and gear needed while surviving. That being said, they may very well save your life when your skills and gear prove no match for the conditions you have encountered. Carry whatever device you see as appropriate and is within your means.

So, how can we summarize the issue of wilderness survival in the context of The Modern Woodsman? Well, it is simply to focus on the reality of your wilderness experience rather than a theoretical fantasy, and then use the most practical tools and skills at your disposal to achieve your goal. Much like when it comes to discussion of regular gear for The Modern Woodsman, the focus is on gear that is designed to function in the realistic wilderness outing one is undertaking, rather than in some fantasy where you are transported back to the 1800s and have to make a living only with the gear you have on you; when it comes to survival, the skills and gear for The Modern Woodsman have to focus on reality rather than fantasy survival. Being able to build elaborate shelters with an axe is cool, and so is being able to start a fire by mixing chemicals no one has used for decades, using rocks to ignite charred pieces of your underwear, and having devices which in theory can start thousands of fires. What is essential however is being able to throw together a usable shelter in under half an hour, and to build a fire using the lighter in your pocket in under a minute.

I know, I know, that is all well and good, but what if you were then stranded in the untouched wilderness for a decade or more? Or, you magically find yourself in 19th century America on the frontier? I enjoy a good hypothetical discussion as much as the next person, but The Modern Woodsman is first and foremost connected to the reality of the wilderness. At least that?s my thinking on the subject.  

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Friday, 24. January 2014

Picture Of Chukchi In Russia
By marketingguy77, 07:36

The image below is of a Chukchi group near the Bearing Sea in Russia. It was obtained from the book Before They Pass Away.


The Chukchi are an indigenous group originally residing in the northern Eurasian camping gear steppe. Currently small groups continue to exist near the Chukchi and Bearing Sea, mostly gathered in the Chukotka Autonomous Okrug, comprising the northeastern tip of Russia. 

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Thursday, 16. January 2014

How Chris Mccandless Died: A Tragic Hero Or An Unprepared Fool
By marketingguy77, 19:28

Many of you are familiar with the name Chris McCandless from the book, and subsequent movie, Into The Wild. The story is a true-ish account of the travels of Chris McCandless, who in 1990, after graduating from college, severed all contact with his family, and started traveling around the country. Eventually, in 1992 he made his way up to Alaska, where he traveled about 20 miles into the woods to an old bus which had been set up there as a shelter for hunters. He stayed at the bus for about 100 days, attempting to survive, until finally dying sometime in August of that year. His body was found soon after by hunters.


The author of the book, Jon Krakauer, has insisted since the writing of the book, that Chris McCandless did not simply die from starvation as the coroner?s findings indicated, but that he was the unfortunate victim of poisoning. It is not clear on what he bases that instance, but it has certainly made for a better story than him dying because he didn?t bring enough food.

Over the years Jon Krakauer has put forward several theories for this poisoning, each being scientifically disproven. Recently he published an article in the New Yorker, giving his theory yet another try. You can read the article here.

When I read the article myself, it raised a number of questions for me. Krakauer?s conclusions, as conclusive as they were, seemed based on almost no evidence, and the rest of the evidence outright contradicted his conclusions. As a summary, Krakauer believes McCandless was poisoned from eating the seeds of wild potato. He bases that on a note in the journal of Chris McCandless, stating that on day 94 he ate potato seeds, and he was too weak to walk as a result. He combines this note with research done by the Nazis in a concentration camp during WWII, showing that prolonged consumption of such potato seeds over a period of a few months can lead to a debilitating crippling, making it difficult and then eventually impossible for people to use their legs.

Krakauer?s conclusions struck me as odd for several reasons. For starters, there is no mention of prolonged consumption of these potato seeds, and if the consumption was in fact prolonged over the 94 days prior camping gear to McCandless? mention of the seeds on day 94, how could he have possibly linked them to this condition caused by accumulation of an amino acid. The dilemma continued for me because the condition is supposed to be continuous, progressive, and irreversible. Yet, there is no mention of symptoms prior to day 94, and his journal indicates that he was walking and hunting for at least 10 days after the note on day 94. In the last picture he takes of himself prior to his death, he is standing up with out any aiding device.


Anyway, as I was trying to write a list of all the things that struck me as odd about Krakauer?s article, Craig Medred published an article in the Alaska Dispatch titled Krakauer Goes Further 'Into the Wild' Over McCandless Starving to Death in Alaska. You can see the full article here. He does an excellent job describing the issues that struck me as odd. I think it is well worth a read.

I think people are way too invested in this story, and I think it is for reasons largely unrelated to the wilderness or the way McCandless died. People seem to search for meaning in what he did, and as a consequence they want the death to fit the story of his life that each person perceives. I personally don?t care about his life, and have little interest in figuring out the spiritual pursuits of some kid. As it related to the wilderness, for me it is very simple. He survival gear went into the woods unprepared, and he died. Whether he died due to lack of food, or because he was not familiar enough with wild plants to avoid the poisonous ones, the result is the same-he was not prepared, and he died. I don?t say that to necessarily impart fault on him. Much of what we do as woodsmen is designed to test us and push our boundaries. I bet many of us have been in situations where the outcome might have been very similar. Granted, McCandless was an example of someone who was recklessly unprepared for the wilderness, but still, the risk of death is something that we must accept about going into the wild.

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Thursday, 09. January 2014

New Season Of Survivorman?update!
By marketingguy77, 02:41

UPDATE: I have to be honest guys, I have no idea what is going on. It appears that without any advertising, at least any I have seen, the Discovery Channel premiered the new season of Survivorman on January 1, 2014 at 9:00pm. The episode was titled ?Grenada Jungle?, and for those of you who missed it, it can be seen again this Sunday, January 5, 2014 at 2:00pm.

It looks like the show will air on the Discovery Channel on Wednesdays at 9:00pm, the following episode, ?Frigate Island? will air on January 8, 2014 at 9:00pm.

To make thing more confusing, despite the continuing commercials on the Science Channel, which is owned by Discovery, it does not appear that the new season of Survivorman survival kits will air there at all. The commercials were quite clear that the new season will premier on January 7, 2014 at 10pm on the Science Channel, but the TV guide on the DVR is not showing any Survivorman episodes in that time slot.

I wish I had better answers for you. I have no idea why Discovery is turning the premier of this very anticipated show into a mystery quest.

I?ve left the old post below.


I?ve been a bit reluctant to post about this because there has been so little advertising about the show, and the release date keeps getting pushed back, but I?ve seen enough commercials about it, so I figured I would mention it. The New season of Survivorman will premier on the Science Channel on January 7, 2014 at 10pm.


Whether you count this camping gear new season as season four or five depends on how you counted the two Survivorman 10 Days episodes. I think they were treated as part of season three, which would make this new season, season four. It was originally scheduled to premier in December of this year, but there was a delay resulting from an injury Les Stroud sustained while filming an episode about looking for Sasquatch.

I have not been able to find anything about this new season on the Survivorman website, and there is no current schedule showing the premier on the Science Channel website. However, on television, I have seen quite a few commercials about the new season, but am yet to see any footage from it. I am not sure exactly what is going on. I would have expected a lot more publicity. Maybe the release will get pushed back even further. All we know for sure is that there will be another season, and that it will feature an episode with Les Stroud?s son, and an episode about him searching for Sasquatch.

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Wednesday, 01. January 2014

Living Off The Land: Delusions And Misconceptions About Hunting And Gathering
By marketingguy77, 14:32

Ah, living off the land. Thriving in the wilderness with the use of your skills. It is the ultimate goal of many bushcrafters and survivalists. Numerous posts have been written on forums about this subject, and as soon as one ends, another is started. Of course, actual evidence is rarely presented. We often fall back on positions such as ?our ancestors did it, so clearly I can do it?, or ?I was out last week and saw a bunch of cattails and barriers, so my food sources are secure?.


The problem is not made any better by so called experts in the field, who fuel the myth that they are feeding themselves in the wilderness. I vividly remember watching Andrew Price, host of A-Z of Bushcraft in one of the episodes, waking up in the morning, walking a few feet next to camp, gathering a few berries, and then turning the the camera and saying ?breakfast is served?. Ray Mears, aside from his excellent series, Wild Foods, has numerous instances where he gathers meager resources and then implies that his food requirement have been met. Of course, none of them ever bother to calculate or present actual caloric values, or discuss the long terms consequences. Similarly, people like Dave Canterbury, who discuss at length hunting in wilderness living conditions, never actually do the math of how much game has to be killed to justify the weight of that shotgun being carried, or whether the numbers would work out at all.

For the past year I have been attempting to gather some actual numbers on the subject, so we can have a more meaningful conversation about what it would take to sustainably feed a person in the wilderness, and consequently, what tools may be suited for the task. I must admit, I have been slacking with the project because of its tedious nature. Last week however, a reader referred me to a source related to the Chris McCandless post, which provided me with some of the information I was searching.

Samuel Thayer, author of the books Forager?s Harvest and Nature?s Garden, wrote an essay related to the starvation of Chris McCandles titles Into the Wild and other Poisonous Plant Fables. While much of the essay focuses on disproving theories of poisonous plants, the last section discusses actual caloric requirements for a person living in the wilderness, and what resources that would survival gear require.

So, let?s assume a scenario where a person will be going into the wilderness with the intention of living off the land. He will practice wilderness self reliance, he will thrive in nature, and whatever other cliché you want to insert here. Let?s also assume for the moment that there are no hunting or fishing regulations that we have to comply with, and let?s assume that the person has all necessary equipment, including hunting and fishing tools. What would the person need to procure each day in order to live in a sustainable manner for a prolonged period of time?

Well, the first piece of the puzzle is the required calories. Citing Michele Grodner?s Foundations and Clinical Applications of Nutrition, Thayer calculates that a male who is physically active under wilderness living conditions would need approximately 3,300 calories per day. This number seems consistent with calculations done by long distance backpackers, who usually aim for a bit over 3,000 calories per day. So, to maintain one?s physical condition, and prevent weight loss, the person in question must consume about 3,300 calories each day. Of course, there are other nutritional requirements, but at a very basic level, to prevent death from starvation in the long run, this caloric minimum must be met.

The above caloric requirement for wilderness living should not be confused with accounts of short term survival, where a person stays in the wilderness, slowly losing body weight, until they are rescued. We have plenty examples like this from series like Survivorman, Naked and Afraid, etc. Those are not examples of sustainable hunting and gathering situations, and we should not have any delusions about the long term applications of such a starvation diet.

So, sticking with the 3,300 caloric requirement per day, what would it take to meet these caloric needs?

Sources of Calories


First let?s look at animal products, something to which I will jointly refer to in this post as ?meat?, but should be understood to include both protein and fats. Meat can vary in caloric content anywhere from 40 calories per ounce for lean meat like squirrel and rabbit, all the way to 60 calories per ounce for very fatty meat like salmon. Using these numbers, we can roughly calculate the caloric value of each animal, and how much of it we would need to meet the our daily caloric requirements.

Red Squirrel: as Thayer calculates, at an average of 2.8 ounces of meat per squirrel (Michele Grodner?s Foundations and Clinical Applications of Nutrition), it would take 25 squirrels per day to meet the caloric requirements, or if also eating the internal organs and brain, about 16 squirrels per day.

Rabbit: at about 16 ounces of meat per rabbit (Michele Grodner?s Foundations and Clinical Applications of Nutrition), you would need about 4 of them per day, or 3 if eating all of the organs and brain.

Salmon: assuming you are catching Sockeye salmon, they average 6 pounds (96 ounces) (Kenai Peninsula Borough Commercial Fishing Industry State Records, 2012). Since salmon meat is rich in fat, we can assume 60 calories per ounce (USDA SR-21), which would mean one salmon would give you 5,760 calories, or a little under two days of food.

Clams: clam meat varies in caloric density from about 33 calories per ounce to about 42 calories per ounce. (Interstate Shellfish Sanitation Conference, 2013). To satisfy the required 3,300 calories per day intake, you would need about 5 pounds of clam meat per day (using 40 calories per ounce for the calculation). In order to get 5 pounds of clam meat, you would need about 320 medium size clams. For each ounce of meat, you need about 4 medium size clams. (Interstate Shellfish Sanitation Conference, 2013)

Raccoon: while many people would not eat raccoon meat due to its high content of parasites, it is technically edible. The meat is fatty, averaging about 72 calories per ounce. (USDA SR-21) The weight of raccoons varies widely from 10 to 25 pounds for adults. The average listed size is about 25 pounds for an adult. That should provide approximately 10 pounds of meat once it is gutted, skinned and deboned. At 72 calories per ounce, such a raccoon will provide about 11,520 calories. However, keep in mind that these numbers reflect the calories if the animal is cooked to preserve all of its nutrients. In order to make it more palatable, people usually cook raccoon meat to remove most of the fat. If you do that, the caloric content will drop significantly. Assuming you save all of the fat however, a 25 pound raccoon should provide sufficient calories for 3.5 days.

Turkey: a good size turkey will yield about 10 pounds of meat (160 ounces) when processed. The caloric value of processed turkey meat is about 45 calories per ounce (USDA SR-21). Therefore, a turkey will produce 7,200 calories in total, or a bit more than 2 days worth of caloric requirements.

Deer: a mature buck typically yields about 70 pounds of meat (1,120 ounces) (University of Wisconsin study 2006). Venison is a lean meat, with about 53 calories per ounce (USDA SR-21). The meat of a mature buck will therefore give you 59,360 calories, which will be sufficient for 18 days of food at the 3,300 calories per day requirement. If you are eating the internal organs as well, that will probably get pushed to about 20-21 days of food.

Black Bear: a large black bear will produce about 100 pounds of meat (1,600 ounces) once processed. Bear meat has about 43 calories per ounce. (USDA SR-21) So, a large black bear will give about 68,800 calories total. That would be sufficient calories to satisfy the caloric intake for 21 days. 

The table below gives a general summary of the results. The numbers you see in the last column for animals needed each day to meet the caloric requirement, the number in parenthesis represents what is needed if internal organs are preserved and eaten as well as the meat. 



Type of Animal oz of Meat/Animal cal/oz of Meat Total cal/Animal Animals/Day
Squirrel 2.8 47 132 25 (16)
Rabbit 16.8 47 790 4 (3)
Salmon 96 60 5,760 0.57
Clams 0.25 40 10 320
Raccoon 160 72 11,520 0.29
Turkey 160 45 7,200 0.46
Deer 1,120 53 59,360 0.056 (0.05)
Black Bear 1,600 43 68,800 0.047


Now, let?s move to plant sources.

Cattail Roots: cattail roots, will yield about 8 calories per ounce (USDA SR-21; Revedin, A., et al. Thirty thousand-Year-Old Evidence of Plant Food Processing, 2010). This means that about 413 ounces or 26.5 pounds of cattail flour would be needed to meet that daily caloric requirements.

It should be noted (as pointed out by a reader in one of the comments) that Table 2 of the above study, Thirty thousand-Year-Old Evidence of Plant Food Processing, 2010 provides that cattail (Typha) rhyzome flour contains 266 kcal/100g, or 75 calories per ounce. That is much higher than the 8 cal/oz provided by the USDA and other sources. It appears the difference occurs because that table speaks of the caloric value of already processed and cooked flour. The article specifies that "The flour would have undergone a multistep processing involving root peeling, drying, and finally grinding using specific tools. After this, the flour needed to be cooked to obtain a suitable and digestible food." Cattail rhyzome contains large portions that are inedible, such as the spongy layer covering the rhyzome as well as the fibers from which you have to remove the starch. As such, the numbers don?t appear to be contradictory. You may very well have a caloric value of 25 kcal/100g (8 cal/oz) for cattail root and 266 kcal/100g (75 cal/oz) for processed cattail root flour where the outer casing has been peeled, the fibers have been removed, and the resulting starch cooked. In the table here I have used the number for unprocessed cattail root, and the quantity you would need to get the necessary calories.

Parsnips and Similar Wild Roots: according to Thayer, at approximately 23 calories per ounce (Michele Grodner?s Foundations and Clinical Applications of Nutrition), about 9 pounds would be needed per day to meet the daily caloric requirement of 3,300 calories.

Blueberries: again, according to Thayer, at about 16 calories per ounce (Michele Grodner?s Foundations and Clinical Applications of Nutrition), you would need 13 pounds of blueberries per day to meet your caloric requirements.

Lingonberries: at about 5 calories per ounce (USDA SR-21), you would need about 41 pounds of lingonberries to meet your daily caloric requirement.

Acorns: once processed into a flour, after leaching out the tannic acid acorns will provide about 110 calories per ounce (USDA SR-21). That would mean that 30 ounces, or a little under 2 pounds of acorn flour would be needed per day to satisfy the caloric requirements.

Burdock Root: at about 20 calories per ounce (USDA SR-21), you would need about 165 ounces, or 10 pounds of unprocessed burdock root to meet your daily caloric requirements. If cooked, a large amount of the water removed, the pounds one needs to consume may be significantly reduced, but would still constitute more than what a person can eat in a day.



Type of Plant cal/oz of Plant Material Pounds Per Day Needed
Cattail Root (Unprocessed) 8 26.5
Parsnips 23 9
Blueberries 16 13
Lingonberries 5 41
Acorns (processed) 110 2
Burdock Root 20 10*

The above represent average numbers, both for the calories required per day, and the amount of food which must be consumed to provide those calories. Variations should be expected. Even so, it is evident that a person attempting to live alone off the land in the wilderness has a serious challenge on his hands. The amount of food required seems absurd, but as Thayer explains: ?If this seems like a high volume of food, that?s because it is. We have sought, developed, cultivated, and become accustomed to calorie-dense foods for so long that most of us have never been without them. We?ve never had to eat food in volumes like this. When you realize that a stick of butter has as many calories as two and a half quarts of blueberries or seven pounds of broccoli, you can see why the innate human desire for calorie-rich, low-fiber food developed.?


The gathering of food has become a great area of teaching for survival and bushcraft instructors. Unfortunately, much of the teachings create a false impression of what it actually takes to feed oneself through gathering of food in the wilderness. As Thayer also noted, many such instructors teach, or imply through their representations that a very small amount of food is needed for a person to sustainably live in the wilderness. Whether the misrepresentations are intentional, or due to lack of knowledge is hard to say, but the results are the same-people fail to realize how much food must be gathered to sustain a person long term.

We have to make a clear distinction between ?edible? plants and ?food?. Just because something can be eaten, does not mean that it contributes to your caloric requirements in any meaningful way. Many staples of bushcraft teachings, such as dandelions provide virtually no caloric value. You can easily starve to death with a stomach full of such plants. In fact, it is not unlikely that a person may spend more energy gathering edible plants, than the calories he will get from consuming them. To effectively gather food in the wilderness, one has to know not only what is edible, but also what provides meaningful calories.

From the plants available and listed in the above chart, not surprisingly acorns provide the highest nutrition. I imagine it will be similar for other nuts because of the high oil content. If processed correctly, a person can certainly provide enough food for himself using acorn flour. The other plants that are readily available, including the all too popular cattail and burdock roots, are far less than ideal when it comes to providing sufficient calories for a person attempting long term living. Not only would it be difficult to supply yourself with enough of the plant, but consuming such large quantities would be impossible. We should also keep in mind that the plants I have listed here are the ones with relatively high caloric value.

On that subject, Thayer writes with respect to Chris McCandless, ?If he didn?t get any meat, couldn?t he just eat more lingonberries and get all his calories that way? Absolutely not. He would have needed to eat almost three gallons of lingonberries per day. He?d probably be vomiting before finishing the second quart. No matter how many lingonberries were available to him, his body would have only accepted them for a small portion of his caloric requirement. This doesn?t make lingonberries ?poisonous?; the same is true of virtually every food, although the appropriate proportions vary? The concept that foods can be eaten only in appropriate quantities is taken so much for granted that, to my knowledge, it has never been given a name in the medical literature. I call it themaximum caloric proportion (MCP). Some foods have a very high MCP, such as milk, meat, and potatoes. They are easily digested and contain few antinutrients or toxins, thus they are suitable as dietary staples. Others, such as cabbage, rhubarb, and raspberries, cannot serve as staple foods and are only suitable to supply small portions of the diet. As one travels north, there tends to be fewer plants with a high MCP; this is why hunter-gatherers from northern latitudes ate meat for the great majority of their calories.?

As a result, if you can not find the right plants and gather it on a large enough scale, or have simply missed the gathering season, one typically has to resort to meat for the majority of the required calories. So, let?s look at some of what is required in terms of providing sufficient calories through hunting and fishing.

Opportunity Cost of Hunting and Fishing

Before we look at specific examples, it is important to note that when we speak of hunting and fishing, activities which require that you bring specific equipment into the woods, we have to look not only at what you can successfully hunt, but also at the opportunity cost of that equipment. What I mean by that is that for each pound of equipment which you bring with you, you have to forego a pound of some other resource which you could have brought with you instead. Since we are assuming a person who is otherwise prepared for the wilderness, the most immediate opportunity cost is food. For each pound of gear that you bring, you have to leave behind a pound of food. So, when you bring a 7 pound rifle with you, you could have instead left it behind and brought 7 pounds of food. So, when we look at the equipment one may bring for such hunting, we have to see not only if it can get us any food, but also whether the food we can procure with it is more than the food that we could have brought with us had we not brought the equipment.

survival gear

To complicate things further, we have to look not only at the weight of the food, but more importantly at the caloric content of that food. So, a pound of squirrel meat will give us 752 calories. On the other hand a pound of instant mashed potatoes will give us 1,664 calories. For this post, I will use mashed potatoes as a base line for calorie dense food that could have been brought into the woods. 


First, let?s look at fishing. Fishing is a good way to procure calories because the equipment required is not heavy, and is relatively reusable. A large net, fishing rod, reel, lures, and a sizable spool of line will only add up to a few pounds. You guys have seen my lightweight fishing kit, which came in under one pound. A more robust and complete kit can be estimated to around 3 pounds. 3 pounds of gear has the opportunity cost (using the above base line numbers) of 4,983 calories, or about day and a half of food at the required 3,300 calories per day. From a simple numbers standpoint, this means that the first day and a half worth of food that you catch will go to offset the weight of the gear (which you brought rather than bringing food). Everything you catch after that is surplus.

The downside of fishing of course is the limited availability of resource reach areas. For example if you are lucky, and are in an area and the right time for a salmon run, as we saw from the above numbers, a single sockeye salmon will give you about two days worth of food. That means that the first salmon would offset the opportunity cost of the fishing gear, and every subsequent one will be pure food value. If you can catch one every two days, you will be able to meet your caloric requirements. The problem of course is that you may be a week late, and not find a single salmon because the run has ended; or, you may be in an area where no such fish is available; or you may be in an area where there is no body of water which carries any sizable fish at all.

Remember, it takes about 3.5 pounds of salmon per day to meet a person?s caloric requirements. If instead of a 7 pounds salmon, you were pulling out 3 ounce sunfish out of the water, the calculations would be very different. At approximately 50 calories per ounce of fish meat, you can do your own math to see how much fish you would need. I remember an episode of Ray Mears Extreme Survival where he caught a small fish while he was in the Rockies, and prepared it with some plants. It may seem like he has prepared a good dinner, but the reality is that the meal probably contains less that 300 calories, about a tenth of what is needed for the day if we are facing a long terms sustainability situation.

Even with all those considerations however, if you have selected an area close to a sizable body of water for your long term wilderness living situation, fishing is a good way to procure food because of the low weight and reusable nature of the gear, as well as the low amount of energy expenditure required.


Now, let?s look at hunting as means of procuring food. Obviously, a hunter needs his tools. There are a lot of misconception from people who do not hunt that you can use primitive weapons, constructed in the woods, to effectively hunt. The difficulty of such a task is nearly always underestimated. Thinking that a person can construct a stick bow, or carve a longbow in the woods from an unseasoned piece of wood, and then go hunting with it in an effective manner is wishful thinking. Keep in mind that a hunter with a modern state of the art bow, with modern optics and range finder, will rarely take a shot at over 50 yards. If you are hunting with an improvised bow, lower that range to about 25 yards. Now, go measure out 25 yards and try to think of what it would actually take for you to get to within 25 yards of a deer. Then, think of what accuracy would be needed to hit a squirrel at 10 yards with that same bow. You will quickly gain a healthy appreciation for modern weapons.

Most people who are contemplating long term wilderness living will use some type of firearm, much like Chris McCandless did during his attempt. In recent years, Dave Canterbury, former co-host of Dual Survival, has popularized the single show 12 gauge shotgun as a weapon for long term wilderness living. In this post I will not address any issues regarding whether I believe that to be the best choice, but I will simply use it as a base line for purposes of discussion. A single shot 12 gauge shotgun weighs approximately 6 pounds (H&R Topper Deluxe with synthetic stock). Using the number we previously calculated for calories per pound of food which we could have brought into the woods (1,664 cal/lb), we can calculate that a 6 pound shotgun has the opportunity cost in terms of food of 9,984 calories, or about 3 days worth of caloric intake. That would mean that the first three days worth of food which you kill will go to offset the weight of the gun (keeping ammunition weight aside for now). So, if your trip is less that three days, even best case scenario (you being able to successfully kill enough game each day to meet the 3,300 calories per day requirement), you would be better off simply bringing your food with you. That way the availability of food is guaranteed.

For trips longer than three days, the gun would theoretically be the better bet, assuming you can secure enough food with it. So, let?s look at what that would entail. Let?s assume that you are now hunting small game with lightweight shotgun shells (2 3/4 shells with 1 oz load). Each such shell weighs 1.4 oz. So, for each shell fired, we have to add that weight to the opportunity cost, meaning, for each box of shells, we could have simply brought food with us. We than have to see if the numbers work out.

As I was saying, let?s assume you are hunting small game. As we established earlier, it would take 25 squirrels to provide enough meat for a day?s worth of calories (3,300 cal). Killing 25 squirrels with the above ammunition would require 35 ounces of shotgun shells. Using our caloric value for instant mashed potatoes from above at 104 calories per ounce, the same 35 ounces if brought in the form of mashed potatoes instead of shotgun shells would give us 3,640 calories, more than what you would get from the squirrel meat. That means that if you are hunting squirrel with shotgun shells, you will never procure enough meat to offset the weight of the gear that you have to bring. You will be better off bringing food with you rather than the equivalent weight of ammunition. That is not to mention the weight of the shotgun itself, for which you could have brought an additional 3 days worth of food.

The numbers of course look much better when we consider larger game. If we are hunting rabbit, 4 of them would give us the caloric requirement for a day. That would mean we would have the expand 4 shotgun shells, at a total weight of 5.6 ounces. The equivalent weight of mashed potatoes will only give us 582 calories. In that instance, again, assuming perfect accuracy and availability of sufficient targets, the shotgun will be the better bet. The numbers of course look even better when hunting large game like deer.

A possible way to address the problem with small game hunting is to use different ammunition. While a shotgun shell weighs 1.4 oz, a .22LR cartridge weighs 0.1 oz. 25 squirrels will require only 2.5 ounces worth of .22LR cartridges, making it a viable option. The solution proposed by Dave Canterbury is to carry an adaptor, which inserts in the shotgun, allowing you to fire .22LR bullets. While the approach is viable in theory, if that is the route you chose to take, keep in mind that this is quite possible the least accurate way to fire a .22LR bullet. A non properly bedded, 10 inch rifled insert will give only marginal accuracy, made even more difficult by aiming only with the aid of a bead sight. You should adjust your ammunition count accordingly. After all, the goal here is to kill game, not to just fire ammunition.

Lastly, all of the numbers provided in this post assume 100% accuracy and unlimited availability of any particular resource. Obviously that is not the result in reality, but here I am assuming best case scenario. Success rates for hunting, or hunting strategies are beyond the scope of this post. The only thing I will say on the subject is to be careful when extrapolating success rates for a wilderness living situation based on anyone's success rate when hunting closer to home. A lot of hunting these days is done on people?s personal property and close to civilization. That has a huge impact on game centralization. Food plots, open terrain of farms, fields, and roads are a great attractant to animals, which in turn become familiarized with people. Hunting in such an area is very different from going deep into the woods and attempting the same thing. One way is not necessarily better than the other, but there is a danger in trying to extrapolate your possible success rate when hunting in a wilderness living situation based on success rates in the woods behind the house.


I have added a trapping section to the post since I first published due to several comments requesting information on the subject. The reason why I didn?t originally include a section on trapping is that an animal caught through trapping has the exact same caloric value as an animal caught through hunting. The ease of hunting, trapping, or gathering is beyond the scope of this post. For all of the numbers I have presented here, I have assumed 100% success rate and infinite availability of the particular resource.

I will discuss a few of the legal issue involved with trapping, but I will mention a few things here.

First, it is very hard to get data on trapping in the wilderness. The reason is that most trap lines are run close to home for reasons I will explain in the section on legal considerations. As a result, it is hard to find data from an actual wilderness trap line, so some of the aspects of trapping during long term wilderness living are hard to address.

Also, just like with hunting, be careful when extrapolating success rates for wilderness trapping conditions based on trap lines run close to home. Around where I live, there are large numbers of raccoons. I saw five of them walking through the parking lot two weeks ago. It is a different story when you are actually in the forests.

As I will explain below, trapping, just like hunting, requires gear. You will have to bring your traps with you. What traps you use and their size will vary greatly depending on what animal you are trapping and where you are doing it. Factor that weight into your calculations and determine the opportunity cost to see if the numbers work out under the specific conditions.  

Legal Considerations

Lastly, we have to get back to that issue which we put to the side earlier, the law. Assuming we do not wish to be poachers, and are actually contemplating living in the wilderness within the real world rather than some imaginary scenario, we have to comply with regulations. Hunting seasons will vary trough different areas, but for most species, especially large species, it will be quite limited. For example, in the State of New York (southern region), deer and bear seasons are from Nov 16 ? Dec 8; turkey season is from Oct 1 ? Nov 15 in the fall and May 1 ? May 31 in the spring; cottontail rabbit is from Oct 1 ? Feb 28; gray and fox squirrel is from Sept 1 ? Feb 28; grouse is from Oct 1 ? Feb 28, etc. There are a few species that can be hunted year round, such as red squirrel, porcupine, rock pigeon, and woodchuck. As you can see however, the limitations are severe.

Above we calculated that a mature white tail buck will give us about 21 days worth of calories if properly processed and preserved. Let?s assume that you can supplement it with other sources of food, and extend that time to a month. If you are hunting deer lawfully, that would mean that to provide sufficient calories for the full year, between the dates of Nov 16 ? Dec 8, you will have to kill 12 mature deer in that 3 week period. You have to average 4 deer per week. The practical difficulty with such a task is not the only problem. Most states have restrictions on the number of deer that can be harvested. In NY it is usually 1 or 2 per year.

Now, using New York State as an example, let?s see if the necessary calories for a person for a period of one year can be legally acquired through hunting. The generally available large game would be deer, bear, and turkey. In certain areas, the hunting of other large game like elk, moose, duck and geese may be legal and available. In NY we have good access to duck and goose hunting, but no elk or moose hunting. So, let?s look at the generally available game. Let?s assume that you have two buck tags, one bear tag and four turkey tags (two spring and two fall).

One black bear gives us 68,800 calories. Two bucks, at 59,360 each will give us 118,720 calories. Four turkeys at 7,200 calories each gives us 28,800 calories total. Combined, the bear, deer, and turkey give us 216,320 calories for the annual hunting season.

The caloric requirements for one person for one year based on the 3,300 daily requirement we used above, would give us 365 days times 3,300 calories per day, for a total of 1,204,500 required calories per year.

So, assuming you are a skillful hunter, and luck was on your side, and you managed to fill all of your tags (one black bear, two deer, and four turkey), that will still leave you at a caloric deficiency for the year of 988,180 calories. In other words, you will have no food for 299 days out of the year. If available in your area, you may be able to decrease the deficit by hunting other large game if available, like elk, moose, and duck, although, it appears that a large deficit will remain.

Just to give some perspective, assuming that a duck or goose provides the same amount of calories as a turkey, it would require 137 ducks or geese to satisfy the above caloric deficit (assuming no legal limit on the number you can harvest). Assuming you are hunting those ducks with a 3 inch shotgun shell with a 1 3/4 load, which weigh 2.2 oz each, and assuming perfect accuracy, that would require about 19 pounds of ammunition.

On the other hand, you will have to kill or trap a whole lot of squirrels to make up for the deficiency, approximately 7,486 squirrels, which if hunted with .22LR ammunition, and assuming perfect accuracy, would require about 47 pounds of ammunition.

Trapping is also an option, but you have to keep a few things in mind. First, trapping, just like hunting is regulated and only allowed during certain seasons. Second, the way you can trap is heavily regulated. Deadfalls, snares, hooks on trees, and virtually all DIY traps are not allowed. The regulations are very specific as to exactly what trap you must use for each animal. Third, trapping is generally only allowed for furbearers. In most areas you are not allowed to trap game animals. Some furbearers like beaver are edible, others not so much. Last but not least, regulations typically require that you check all of your traps every 24 or 48 hours. For most people that places serous restrictions on where traps can be placed and limits the size of the trap line. The result is that most trap lines are run close to home with the few exceptions for people who travel deep into the woods and then live there for the trapping season.

The alternative is that you need to systematically exploit another abundant resource such as large scale gathering and processing of acorns when in season, or moving to take advantage of large scale fish migrations and then catching them with nets, fishing wheels, etc. where the law allows.

Do the numbers work out? You do the math. I think we get a better appreciation for why high calories foods such as pemmican and corn meal were so highly valued and commonly carried by woodsmen in the past.  

I don?t write this to discourage anyone from attempting the challenge, nor do I believe it to be impossible. In this post I am simply attempting to provide some more solid data that can be used to make a realistic evaluation of exactly what it would take to thrive alone in the wilderness. As Thayer writes: ?In a long-term subsistence situation, food is the priority. In former times, the native people of the Far North planned each move according to food availability... In a short-term survival situation, food is of minor importance. However, in long-term survival or ?living off the land,? it is of paramount importance.?

There was a time when men who ventured into the wilderness knew what resources were required, and how much of them had to be brought along. Their accounts often refer to base camps, cabins, and food stocks being carried on horse back, mule train, or by dog sled teams. Somewhere along the way we seem to have lost the realistic grasp on those requirements, and were left with nothing more than romantic musings and conjecture. 

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Wednesday, 25. December 2013

Naked And Afraid Season 2 Starts Dec 8, 2013 At 8pm
By marketingguy77, 02:14

That?s right, Naked and Afraid returns for season two. The new season is set to premier on December 8, 2013 at 8PM on the Discovery Channel.


For those of you not familiar with the show, the premise is that one man and one woman are dropped off in the wilderness. They are each allowed to bring only one tool, and nothing else. By nothing else, I mean, not even clothing. They then have to survive 21 days. The ?no clothing? rule understandably camping gear seems to limit the show to areas where the temperatures will not cause immediate hypothermia, such as deserts and jungles. In season survival gear one, some of the people managed to make it, others did not.

Season two premiers with a two hour episode, where they will actually have four (4) people trying to survive together. I think the show is quite good at demonstrating the difficulties created by starvation, as well as the psychological impact of such a challenge.

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Tuesday, 17. December 2013

Trip Report: Stewart Forest Pheasant Hunt 10/13/13
By marketingguy77, 14:00

I know I have been posting quite a bit about my hunting trips lately, and those of you who don?t hunt are probably bored. Not to worry. I have a backpacking trip planned for the end of the month. It?s just that now that different hunting seasons are opening, I have been getting out a lot more often for short hunting trips. This time around, I finally got to go pheasant hunting. My friend Rich loves it, and he agreed to take me with him. His dog Roxy, a Brittany Spaniel, was equally excited.

For this hunt we went to Stewart Forest, here in New York State. For those of you in the area, I?ll go over some of the specifics, because as I promised when I first started writing about hunting, I?ll try to share what I learn along the way in case anyone else is following the same path.

Stewart Forest functions much like a regular state park during most of the year, with trails, camping etc. During hunting season however, special regulations kick in. The park gives special access to hunters, and at times is closed to other visitors. In order to regulate the number of hunters in the forest at any time, the park has a limited number of parking spots for hunters. They are not actual parking areas, just flat places to pull off the road, but for each such spot (there are about 80), only one car can park at a time, and I think only 3 or 4 people are allowed in each car. Once you park, you can only hunt the area on the side of the road where you are parked. This prevent overcrowding in any one particular part of the park. Here is what the DEC hunting map looks like:

Stewart Forest Map

The places marked with a P with a number next to it are the areas where you can pull over when you are hunting. In case you are interested, if you want to deer hunt in this forest, you have to get a special permit (you just have to apply for it), and it is shotgun only, so get your slug gun ready.

Stewart Forest is one of the few places in the area that has relatively flat and open grass lands. That allows for good pheasant hunting, which the park stocks each season. In order to get a good spot, Rich and I drove up to the park on Saturday night. Access for hunting opens in the morning, so we parked and waited at the gates through the night. There were less people than we expected. The night got pretty cold. Sunrise was at 7:06am, so got up at 5:30am and got ready.


As soon as we had enough light, we started with a small field close to the road. Roxy immediately went to work.

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We weren?t able to flush anything out, so we moved to a larger field further south.


Rich is a good friend, so he let me take point. He had already bagged two pheasants on opening day, so on this trip he was mostly amusing me.

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Roxy quickly flushed out a hen. I fired but missed. We continued up a hill, and after some chasing, flushed out a second hen. I again fired, and missed. I fired a second shot, while at the same time Rich fired. I missed again, but Rich got it.

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To my great embarrassment, I missed a third shot when we flushed out a rooster later in the day. It was getting a bit pathetic. I?ve been shooting some trap lately to improve my accuracy with the shotgun, but the excitement of hearing a bird take off, was turning everything upside down. We decided to stop for lunch, and resume later.

In the afternoon we moved further north to a different field. This one had shorter grass, which I was happy about. The tall grass at our previous location was filled with thorn bushes, which were tearing up my legs. We started following Roxy, until we reached a patch of thick bushes. I circled right, and Rich went left. As we were near the far side of the bushes, Roxy caught the scent of a bird, and pointed. Rich told me to get ready, but I couldn?t see Roxy from my position. Just then a hen flushed out. Both Rich and I took a shot. The bird went down. Rich camping gear was sure that we both hit it, although in the excitement I didn?t notice anything other than that it went down. A later autopsy confirmed that we both hit it. I was using number 6 shot, while Rich was using 7 1/2, so it was easy to see where each of us hit. Rich was nice enough to pretend like I got this one.

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I hadn?t really planned on how I would carry the bird out, but the floating pocked on my backpack worked well. We decided we were done for the day and headed out.

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Rich showed me how to quickly field dress the pheasants, a necessary chore for the benefit of my girlfriend. Then we were off.

For what it?s worth, I was using my CZ Upland Sterling O/U 12 gauge with modified and improved modified chokes for the hunt with Federal number 6 shot, 1 1/4 oz loads. Rich was using a Winchester semi auto 12 gauge with number 7 1/2 shot. It made no difference. He is a good shot, and I am not. The rest is just for show.

Not that it matters on this trip, but here is the GPS recording of the hunt. survival kits


The red box on the map below of Stewart Forest shows the location of the above screen shot with the GPS track.

Stewart Map

It was a great day, and lots of fun, despite my humiliatingly poor performance with the shotgun. I guess it is back to the trap field for me. Much thanks to Rich and Roxy for putting up with me and showing me the ropes.

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