New Direction for Prick-Eared

1417774_10200792642530449_1986058220_oOver the the last half decade, Prick-Eared evolved and was on haitus for a few years. First it started with dog politics and backpacking with military-surplus gears, and gradually evolved into a hunting platform and absorbing traditionalist methods, then incorporating modern lightweight backpacking, contemporary alpinism, bushcraft and eventually mountain athleticism.

With the majority of spitz-owners in North America possibly becoming adult-onset hunters, a neologism coined by Tovar Cerulli, it is vitally important to have some kind of mentorship system in place. Those with skills who acquired a  hunting spitz such as West Siberian Laika come from a squirrel-dog or hounding background and were born into the culture. Unfortunately, the majority who own other breeds such as Finnish Spitz, Karelian Bear Dog or Norrbottenspitz do not come from those background and are left in the dark in how to start hunting or where to let their dogs roam free.

While much of the information seems rudimentary to experienced hunters or backpackers, they are not necessarily common sense for someone new to the hobbies. One may recommends all sort of books, videos, TV shows and schools, but much of the information is inaccessible either through language barriers, cultural differences or financially. So even the simplest solutions which may seem stupid to others get blogged often at the request of others.

Secondly, there are loads of traditionalists out there from all over the world. They are wise, and their strategies work well for the region they inhabit. Unfortunately, conventional wisdom of local hunters and aboriginals are ignored often because of ultranationalist chauvinism, or because simply there are no common ground shared between the two camps. The truth is that modern hunting is a marriage of all the fields and a blend of all cultures, especially when it come to hunting with dogs outside their homelands. Successful people keep their opinions to themselves, listen to others and incorporate those skillsets.

It would be stupid to discard people’s advice and explore the benefits and limitations of those suggestions. Here, mistakes are documented and every avenue will be ventured into within reasons and hopefully ease the learning curve for others.

While at times Prick-Eared may seem specifically about ultralight backpacking, old-fashioned woodscraft, primitive living, wilderness skills, bushcraft, packrafting, canoeing, kayaking, backcountry hunting, fly-fishing, mountain-biking or whatever flavour of the month, it will still ultimately be about hunting over a spitz.

The lessons learned here can be used to teach others within the same vein. Instead of telling others what to do, it is time to lead by example. This is not a self-proclaimed expert shouting down to others, but rather blazing trails and possibly going up the wrong creek from time to time. With perseverance, we will attain self-actualization and develop a deeper relationship with our dogs, the wildlife and the land.

By |April 25th, 2015|Editorial|0 Comments|

Preparations for 2015: Planning, Training and Gears

Around March and April, it is the time of the year where hunters must plan out their year in advance.  Currently, I am planning for: capercaillie hunt in northern Finland, black bear hunt in Albertan wilderness and elk hunting in the mountains.

Most importantly, one should focus on their fitness. Rob Shaul of Strong Swift Durable offers two plans for backcountry hunters: an Afghanistan Pre-deployment Training program to build up the core, then specialization program for Backcountry Big Game Hunting. The hardest part is realizing youth is fleeting and maintaining constant fitness need an hour a day dedicated.

Secondly, it is time to dial in the rifle and practice. A deviation of 4 centimeters or an inch and half over 150 meters or about 165 yards is permissible. With elk, one should try to hit a pie plate or gallon milk carton at various distances from 20 m (20 yd) to 365 m (400 yd).

At this point, the gear lists are mostly dialed in. The only issue are variables such as a backpack for load carriage from Stone Glacier or Seek Outside. Kurt Racicot recommended the Solo for most purposes. Internal frames and frameless are not going to be able to pack an elk or a bear out of the bush.

With more winter-backpacking experience under the belt, it is time to transition to devising an active layer and rest layer. Convention wisdom says to use direct layering to stay warm, but many of my pursuits are constantly on the move and the traditional system doesn’t really work. The ventures alternated between being too warm or being too cold.

In the summer, merino short-sleeve and long-sleeve with a bug suit and mid-weight rain-jacket will be necessary along with a light parka and down-filled pants for increment weathers in the mountains. In the corner seasons, two weights of fleece will be on stand by. For frigid temperatures, merino or fishnet base-layer, woolen pants for still-hunting, water-breathable boots, synthetic vest, down-filled parka and pants and synthetic over-pants, softshell pants and cotton wind-parka or wind-shirt will be much better than some weird invention of a vapor barrier suit.

For camouflage, either Predator or ASAT would work. However, the hunting-related gears will be purchased on clearance from KUIU, Stika and First Lite. All of these brands have similar patterns and concepts. Brand loyalty is an expensive pursuit, and one would be better off looking for deals. Worst case scenario, one can always throw on a patterned over-shirt or over-pants ontop of the hiking clothes.

Apart from MSR XGK for extreme cold-weather and a lighter trekking pole, the focus is more on transportation such as backcountry skiing, packrafting and off-trail mountain biking as well as including more outdoors activities such as bushcraft and stream fishing.

This year is more doing with trip reports and less gear obsession. The year before was dominated by trimming weight whenever possible.

By |April 23rd, 2015|Log|0 Comments|

Survival Kit with Mors Kochanski and Its Applications

Mors Kochanski, generally considered the father of modern northern bushcraft, discussed survival kits through a video lecture uploaded by Karamat Wilderness Ways. He defines a survival kit as something which can help a person cope with the cold while sleeping as well as find and collect water.

The content of his kit includes:

  • Metal match, firesteel or ferro rod
  • Knife
  • Pot
  • Mylar sheet
  • Polyethylene sheet
  • Varieties of cordages including paracord and muletape
  • Tweezers
  • Whistle
  • Compass
  • Wire
  • Sewing kit
  • Signal mirror
  • Down jacket
  • Saw blade

The lecture basically stuffed the entire content inside a pot. For someone from a backpacking background, this seems to be rather unwieldy. When is the last time anyone carry a big pot in their pack? Also, most of the survival situations involving backpackers usually means losing their entire rucksack. The pot is so awkward to carry that many of these stuff would be carried inside the pack and can just as easily be lost.

Indeed, one wouldn’t be alone in being critical. There are several blog posts and forum posts questioning the usefulness of a kit inside a big pot.

There is only really several scenarios I can think of which involve a kit like this: with a horse, in a canoe, in a truck, on a snowmobile or ATV or as a cache in the wilderness. In those cases, most people carry these equipment in their vehicles anyway.

There is one application most people don’t consider: caching. Caching water in various locations is very popular with backpackers, and many wilderness trappers will cache different gears in various cabins. Horace Kephart wrote about this strategy in his 1906 book on camping and woodcraft.

Those who have no intimate experience of the trapper’s life would be wise to watch The Last Trapper or Happy People: A Year in the Taiga. The first film is not particularly good, but it gives an insight into the disappearing Canadian way of life, and the latter demonstrates the harshness of the Siberian taiga. While watching these documentations, however, they don’t have a pot full of stuff but rather they memorize all the cabins in the region which they can seek out if they ever need to alleviate themselves of the cold.

The pot kit really shouldn’t be called a “survival kit.” In the introduction, Kochanski is honest about being a wilderness living skills instructor. Over the last few years though bushcraft became synonymous with survival. Many instructors took notice and quickly picked it up as a marketing tool.

Now, Kochanski is not wrong. He is an experienced woodsman with 40 years of experience under his belt. Clay Hayes produced something similar in a video as part of the Backcountry College serial for Backcountry Hunters and Anglers. The content are similar, albeit without the jacket, stuffed inside a 1L pot.

If anyone intend on copying Mors Kochanski’s survival kit and don’t have a method of transportation other than foot, then one can always seed their stomping ground with these caches. The only catch, however, is that there is always the risk of someone else finding them and stealing the content.

In this scenario, these caches should be best thought of wilderness courtesy commonplace in Canada and Siberia where the cabins are left open for anyone who wish to use them. Materials can be borrowed or taken by people who need them. It would be foolish to be angry at someone taking the items as one must have faith in humanity and hope the favour will be repaid someday to someone else.

The other issue is that these caches fundamentally violate the principle of Leave No Trace, and would be useless if the person planting them forget where they are. It is vitally important that people have extraordinary mind-mapping memory or at least have decent orientating skills with the caches marked on the map.

As a survival kit, a backpacker shouldn’t rely on it to get himself out of trouble as the biggest problem is losing the rucksack and its content. Those who are reliant on other methods of transportation will be carrying similar contents in a box or a bag somewhere. As a survival or wilderness cache in the same vein of woodsmen of old and wilderness trappers, such a kit is rather ingenious.

 

By |April 21st, 2015|Editorial|0 Comments|

Ultralight Binocular Harness

ultralightbinocularharness
Everyone is going ultralight these days, and there are silly inventions for everything. The unsuspecting consumerist ends up spending $20 to $30 on someone else making something which only costs a fraction at home.

Let us deconstruct with ultralight binocular harnesses essentially are: a length of cord, split ring and some buckles. With these simple materials, anyone can make a minimalist harness at home.
C360_2015-04-10-18-11-02-628

Materials

  • 2.5 meters (about 8′) of cord
  • 2 keychain rings or split rings

The is no specification for the rings as each binocular vary. For Ziess Terra ED, 3.5 centimeters (1/16 inch)  rings seem to do the trick. However, spit rings vary in materials, diameters and gauges from 3 milometers (0.15 in) to 8 cm (3 in).

A gram-weenie might prefer plastic rings, or something like spectra or Dyneema. The only issue is that while they are 34 grams for every 15 meters, spectra is static and is quite abrasive. 550 paracord, on the other hand, is 79 g per 15 m. Most people will not notice the weight difference unless the entire base-weight accumulates and use long length. After all, it is debatable if 5.5 g versus 13 g is noticeable.

Dynemma or spectra tend to be abrasive and saw into the skin and clothes. Also, they tend to be static whileas paracord is dynamic which means the cord is more elastic and has shock-absorbing properties. Therefore, it rides on the shoulders more easily.

C360_2015-04-10-18-12-19-148

First, slip both rings through the strap eyelets and ensure that the rings are not thick enough to cause the rubber or cord to stretch. We would not want to cause too much wear and tear and have the binoculars drop to the ground and shattering the glass, would we?

Don’t forget to feed the rings through the rain-guard as well. We need to protect the lenses from sand and grit.
C360_2015-04-10-18-15-57-995Feed the cord through the rings. Pull both ends until they are even in tension on both side to ensure equal length on both sides.

C360_2015-04-10-18-17-05-615 (1)Then tie a knot, but leave about 10 to 15 cm 4 to 6 in at the end. We need this length to create a second knot. Make sure the knot is nice and snug and won’t slip.

C360_2015-04-10-18-18-03-986Go back to the rings, and pinch the center of the cord strung inbetween and pull toward it toward the knot we created. Place the cord inbetween the two ends of the strand and tie another knot.

C360_2015-04-10-18-23-49-574With the center of the cord straddling the first knot we created, tie another knot at the end. Now, we effectively created a simple harness.

To put it on, just simply put the cord over the neck like a strap. Put the arms through loops, and configure as necessary. There are many different ways to wear and feel free to experiment.

Feel free to shorten the cord for one’s personal comfort and if they want to shave off even more weight. Some people likes theirs to be around 180 to 200 cm.

The entire thing weighs only 26 g. Compared to the original neck strap of 56 g, or some of the more popular harnesses weighing 200 g to 370 g,  While the set-up does not have a quick-release buckle like the other harness models for mounting to tripods and monopods, the rain-guard comes with the buckles and serve the same function. If necessary, they would not even weigh a gram and are easy to install.

Of course, if one goes with different materials, they can easily get the harness down to a mere 18 g or less depending on the rings and cord.

Have fun, and play hard.

By |April 11th, 2015|Tutorials|0 Comments|

Thru-Hiking Bucket List

There are very few places in the world which interest me, and most of them resembles very closely to western Canada, namely: Siberia, Lapland, New Zealand and Patagonia. Indo-China and China also offer note-worthy places with dramatic landscapes. However, there are not a lot of information on long-distance hiking in English outside of North America. As the result, there will be a slanted bias.

However, let us look at some of the trails which captured some attention. There are a few addenda supplemented by my girlfriend, Halla.

20130605_045444_0609trailmap_300Pacific Crest Trail

It can takes as little as two months with the current record standing at 53 days and 6 hours. However, on average, it takes four to six months to complete and it’s generally advised for international hikers to take out a  B-2 visa. It’s also expected planning to take six to eight months. The Pacific Crest Trail Association estimates about 60% completion rate. At the moment, it’s suggested go from south to north to stay in tune with the changing seasons.

This one in particular stands out since it is on the West Coast and it goes through a number of different ecosystems. Also, it happened to be outside my front door when I was living in Vancouver.

Great_divide_trail_mapGreat Divide Trail

After we went to Yukon in summer of 2014, Halla became interested in this trail system after she discovered a website about a French-Finnish couple, Piia Kortsalo and Julien Schroder, who travels the world and completed the journey over 1350 kilometers in 37 days. The trail is largely considered to be informal or theoretical. However, that does not stop people from attempting it as there is a blog about it and several books published.

Spine Trail

VanIsleMapNov08The trail-system is largely incomplete, and it’s being spear-headed by the Vancouver Island Spine Trail Association who took up  Gill Parker’s works. At the moment, it’s proposed to be 700 km long.

It is rumoured the trail won’t be complete and is purely conceptual like the Great Divide Trail. However, it does not stop people from trying to transverse the whole island from Victoria to Cape Scott. It’s not one without history as Phillip Stone published a guide in 1997 which covers 500 km from Port Alberni and Port McNeill. Even William Bolton was recorded to having done it in the 1890s, and recently Peter Bicknell completed walking from one tip to the other in 2002.

VTSelectionMapVoyageur Trail

The Voyageur Trail is one of Canada’s longest hiking trails at 1 100 km. It loosely follows the coast line of the Great Lakes and highlights some of central Canada’s well-known sceneries.

However, since the trail system is still incomplete, it takes some bush-whacking and off-trail navigation skills to complete the trip. Unlike the Spine Trail or the Great Divide, the Voyaguer stands a very good chance of being complete since it is relatively close to the major population centers which consist of half of Canada’s entire population.

Pacific Northwest Trail

pnttrailSam Haraldson’s coverage of the trail is actually one of the reasons why I became interested in lightweight backpacking in 2011. It took him 61 days to complete the whole thing.

The PNT about 1200 miles long. Since the trail is largely incomplete and requires some bush-whacking and using other trail-systems to complete it, there is no official record of the fastest time completed. Some reported having completed within 35 to 50 days.

The PNT is actually a component of one of the fives which make up the Great Western Loop which Andrew Skurka completed 6 875 miles in 208 days.

More information can be found via the official organization of the Pacific Northwest Trail Association.

Nordkalottleden Trail

nord_kungs_padjelanta_mapThe other side of the Atlantic offers many choices including the Via Alpina (2 400 km) and Alpe-Adria Trail (700 km). It should be kept in mind there are no thru-hiking communities in Europe since most of the paths are restricted to one country. With some route-planning, one can have similar experience by piercing the trails together. By doing this, the transverse can be anywhere from 700 km to 4 000 km. For more information, one can check out Christine’s blog who is an accomplished Triple-Crowners with a lot of mileage in Europe.

However, Europe seldom capture my imagination. Two of the reasons being are the volume of people and population density. Most of the long-distance hiking trails carry distractions such as livestock and ski-lifts. On the other hand, there are regions such as Iceland, Scandinavia and the Balkans which are very interesting.

Only a third of one of North America’s shortest popular thru-hike spots, the Nordkalottleden is a 800-km journey through Europe’s largest uninhabited wilderness. To enhance the experience, the Kungsleden (440 km) and Padjelantaleden (150 km) can be conjoined to make the hike even longer.

It also holds the distinction for crossing international borders 15 times.

Camino de Santiago

rutas_caminoThis one is more famous for being a pilgrimage routes than as a wilderness hiking. For European Christians, alongside Rome and Jerusalem, during the Middle Ages, it was one of the most important endeavors one could accomplish in their lifetime.

It is only about  791 km, however it can be interconnected with other significant European networks to enhance the experience. It is not uncommon to include the Pyrenees and the Alps as part of the whole package. Most are able to accomplish this within a month, however the journey could take longer if detours to see the historical sites are important.

Halla is interested in the Camino de Santiago due to the historical significance which led people to take the pilgrimage for centuries. It is also supposed to contain some of the most beautiful sights in Europe as well.

Sendero De Patagonia

landendsThe first thing which comes to people’s minds when South America enter the discussion are imagery invoked by Costa Rica and Brazil. However, the Andes and Argentina are much more similar to Scandinavia, New Zealand, Alaska and western Canada than anything else.

The Patagonia is one of the last truly wild places in the world. It is also one of the most heavily-visited places, other than Alaska, for wilderness hikers as well. Since Spanish is relatively easy to learn and South America remains within the Anglo-American sphere of influence, it is more accessible for budget-travelers than, say, Siberia. As the result, there is lots of information about this region of the planet.

However, attempt at thru-hiking this region varies in distances. So, there is no definitive measurement. Many people are only interested in traveling in national parks or historical areas while others launch themselves into full expeditions lasting two years traveling from the Panama to Cape Horn.

Some choose to walk the entire Andes from Colombia to Ecuador  through Peru. However, others opt for political stability and skip those nations entirely. Attempts to cross Chile and Argentina range from 2 500 km to 3 000 km depending on the path taken.

te_araroa_trail_karte_kl

Te Araroa Trail

By now, the readers should recognize a pattern. Most of the trails were selected based on their geography. New Zealand is well-known to be stunning for its extreme geography, ruggedness, remoteness and its temperate rainforests. The landscape is perhaps most famous for its displayal in films such as Lord of the Rings trilogy.

Like the Spine Trail, the Te Araroa transverse the whole length of the nation from tip to tip. Some have accomplished the entire network within two months. However, many advised taking 100 to 150 days to complete it.

Icelandic Transverse

There are two way to view the country. One can either go from east to west (450 km), or from north to south (550 km). Circling the island (1 300 km) by hiking around the coast-line with a bicycle is a popular option. However, many hikers prefer to go into the interior for the sight-seeing.

Either way, it usually takes a month or two, depending on the pace, to complete the journey. The compact nature of the island makes it ideal for anyone who want to see the sight without being too far from civilization.

Alexander MacKenzie Heritage Trail

amht

Most of the long-distance hiking trails in Canada suffer from the same issues as the Spine Trail or the Great Divide. Due to low population density and only 30 million people living in the entire country, the terrain are harsh and the trails are not mintained. However, the pristine wilderness is one of the reasons why the Great North holds a lot of appeal.

The AMHT (420 km) hardly constitute as a “proper thru-hike” venture by some purists. It is, however, one of Canada’s national heritage sites and is definitely longer than many of the multi-day trails such as the West Coast Trail (75 km),

Admittedly, it does fall short of the East Coast Trail (540 km), the Bruce Trail (800 km) and the Voyauger Trail (1 100 km). However, the remoteness and ruggedness are two of the reasons why this one made the list. The scenery from Quesnel to Bella Coola is supposed to be one of the most breath-taking sight in the world.

Via Alpina

Via-Alpina-map2This trail is already previously mentioned before as one of the rare examples of European thru-hiking ddestinations

Halla shown great interest in the German Alps. The Via Alpina is the most extensive network throughout all of the nations. It connects about five international trails through 8 countries for a grand total of 5 000 km and 342 sections. Naturally, the Alps is a romantic symbolism of Europe’s natural wonders.

The longest one is the Red Trail which has 161 sections for the length of 2 400 km. It currently holds the title for the longest trail in Europe and crossing international borders 44 times. While it is recommended for hikers to take two seasons to complete it, an endurance hiker can complete it under two months.

Great Himalaya Trail

01_great-himalayan-trail_mapThe Himalayas is home to the world’s most striking photographs and video-footage. The region has attracted adventurers from all over the globe, and India, Bhutan, Nepal and Tibet serves as a pilgrimage for many new-age hippies and spirituals.

The GHT is a proposed 4 500 km project which, once completed, will take the title of both the highest and longest alpine hiking trail. However, it is not a new one as there are modern thru-hikers having completed it in the 1980s and many more throughout history. One of the reasons why most have not completed the trail is largely due to the political strife which  lead to restrictions and closures.

However, the first time the thru-hike was completed in one attempt, it took about 162 days. Later, a record was established at 49 days and 6 hours.

However, the Maoist insurgency in Nepal, the border-conflict involving Kashmir and the Chinese-Tibetan debate render the region subjected to uncertainties.
clubs_map

Appalachian Trail

This one is at the bottom of the list since it is the one most of my friends raved about. It is rather extraordinary popular in popular media. It is entirely possible to travel the whole trail without a map or GPS. As the result, the interest in this region dwindled. The eastern United States suffer from the same issue as Europe. Having a lot of friends who live along the trail provides an incentive to visit this part of the world though.

However, the trail is 2 200 miles long and the record for the fastest unsupported hike is 58 days and 9 hours. On average, it takes six months to complete and an estimate of 20 to 30% actually finish.

 

By |March 20th, 2015|Editorial|0 Comments|

Simple Alcohol Stove

Everyone should know how to fashion a stove out of nothing. In this tutorial, we will demostrate how to get a stove-and-potstand out of a food-can. For a pot 1L or under, find a can which less than 3″ (7.6 cm) wide, ideally 2 ½” (6.4 cm) wide, and 2″ (5 cm) tall or under. For pots over 1L, seek cans which are 3″ or wider.

Learning how to produce an alcohol stove can is a valuable skill as denatured alcohol or high-proof alcohol are found everywhere in the world. Now, an alcohol stove takes 8 to 10 minutes to boil water, which is not as efficient as a canister or white-gas stove, however the supply is much more reliable as not every town carry white-gas, canisters or other fuel sources such as kerosene.

Plus, if one ever lose his or her backpacking in middle of a fire-ban, it’s not a difficult task to get back on track.

For finding fuel to burn, an alcohol stove can burn: methyl hydrate found in hardware stores, home-improvement stores and paint-supply outlets; ethanol fuel for artificial fire-places; drinkable alcohol which is at least 151-proof (75% alcohol), but 190-proof (90%) such as Everclear available at liqour stores burn cleaner: anti-freeze (such as HEET) which can be found at gas-stations, automotive stores and big-box stores such as Wal-Mart or Canadian Superstore, rubbing alcohol (or  isopropanol) found at the pharmacy can be burned if the content is 90% or higher. And there are other places sold under variety of names, but the listed ones are the easiest to find.

For a fuel bottle, ensure it won’t get mistaken as a water-bottle or juice-container. Denatured alcohol is designed to be toxic by nature so people won’t drink them. If one is repurposing a drinking vessel, be sure to label it in a way that no one can miss the danger signs. For this reason, bottles for rubbing alcohol and contact-lenses are best as people seldom drink from white plastic containers.

article-catstovesuppliesTools

  • Puncturing tool (eg. awl, hole-puncher, drill)
  • Pliers (optional)
  • Felt marker (optional)
  • Measuring tape (optional)

Supplies

  • Cat food can, potted meat can or tuna fish can

The main thing to remember with steel and aluminum is steel, when fractured, will be sharp and must be filed down or have the edges coerced and folded safely. Aluminum can also be sharp, but generally do not have to be mended.

Now, aluminum is preferred as they weigh three times less than steel, and conduct heat better due to the thinness of the walls. Some people prefer steel, however, due to the more durable nature of the material.

Many tools can be used from an awl to an electric drill. The only thing to remember is awl produces tiny holes which doesn’t boil water as quickly, but might be the better option for someone who want to simmer. With a drill-bit, wear eye-protection as shrapnel will fly.

For this project, we will use a hole-punch. Not all punch are created equal. For instance, some of the ones available at the dollar-store is only good for punching paper; but one of the same price-tag at an office-supply or craft-store will go through thin metal.

article-catstove1First, we procure a cat-can from the recycling bin, or just simply buy one and feed it to our pets. Then peel off the labels and wash thoroughly. Dish-soap will remove the adhesive.

Before starting, flatten protruding sharp edges with a blunt object. Pliers would make life easier, but not necessary. We would not want to be accidentally slicing ourselves.

article-catstoves3 article-catstoves4

article-catstoves5

For those who want to simmer to cook their food, one row of holes is sufficient.

To start, we want to punch our first hole ¼” below the rim. Afterward, space the holes about somewhere between ⅛” (3 mm) and  ½” (13 mm) apart until the first row is complete. For the second row, go adjacent to the hole in the first row and lower it by ⅛”. The distances between the centers of the two holes should be approximately ½” apart. Repeat the same step for punching holes for the second row.

One from a previous project. To boil water quickly as possible to rehydrate food, two rows is best.

Now, we seldom need a third row of holes for a cat-can stove. Some, however, who are using awls might have to do this. For a tuna-can, just the first row alone is sufficient.

By puncturing holes in the can, we are essentially turning it into a side-burner where the flame surrounds the pot in the flame. If we wish to burn alcohol inside the can without the vents, then the pot would have to be elevated on a stand to allow the flame to heat the pot more efficiently. So, by creating holes, we are eliminating the need for a stand.

Operating Instruction

article-catcanstovedemo3Using an alcohol stove is simple: just pour in some alcohol and light it and wait 20 to 30 seconds to warm up then place the pot on top. Now, the flame will be invisible, unless it has additives such as the ones found in anti-freeze.

To light it, most people use a Bic; however matches are easier to use and puts one’s hand out of harm’s way.

To increase fuel-efficiency and blockade from wind, add a wind-screen. A windscreen can easily be fashioned out of aluminium foil by cutting a sheet 3″ longer than the circumference of the plot, folding it in half and doubling over the edges by 6 mm.

article-catcanstovedemo2Now, for how it takes to cook will require some home-experimentation. As a general rule of thumb, it takes anywhere between 6 to 10 minutes to boil water. For many hikers who eat prepared meals packaged in zipped lunch bags, usually by the time the fuel is exhausted, the meal is ready to eat. Those who wish to make meals from scratch should consider a canister or white-gas stove.

Now, an alcohol stove will reliably light until about 20°F or -7°C. Swedes and Finns, in the homeland of the Trangia stove and where alcohol stoves are the part of every Army mess-kit, report they are able to get these stoves lit in -25°C or -13°F by using tealights or priming it by warming up the solution. In order to catch flame, the alcohol need to be warm enough to evaporate.

The cat-can stove may not be as light as the soda-can stove, but it does not require a pot-stand and can be reliably made anywhere without too many tools.

By |February 22nd, 2015|Tutorials|0 Comments|

Stepping Up: How to Make a Plyometric Box

Not all of us are blessed to have mountains in our backyards. For many flat-landers, they need to go to the gym to master the stair-climber. However, going to a commercial gym is expensive and the machines themselves are cost-prohibitive. For many, having a garage gym or an outdoor gym saves money in the long run. Do It Yourself projects are even cheaper than buying the equipment.

In this tutorial, we will be building a three-sided plyometric box measuring 20″×24″×30″ for $25-$50. This way the trainee benefits from various heights without sacrificing floor space for extraneous equipment.

Toolsarticle-plyobox1

  • Drill or screwdriver
  • Circular saw
  • Plywood blade (for the circular saw)
  • L-square (optional)
  • Jigsaw or router (optional)
  • Clamps (optional)
  • Pencil

Supplies

  • 4’×8′ sheet of ¾” plywood
  • 2×4 plank board, 4′ long (optional)
  • Wood glue
  • 1 5/8″ to 2″ deck-screw, wood-screws or dry-wall screws

First, draw out the plan to cut the plywood. To keep the waste to a minimum, here is one already prepared.

Digitized based on the drawings of Scott and Derek Wales from "How to Build a(nother) Plyometric Box" by Jerred Moon.

Digitized based on the drawings of Scott and Derek Wales from “How to Build a(nother) Plyometric Box” by Jerred Moon.

The reason why we are using ½” increments is simple math. The plywood are ¾” thick, and doubled up would be 1 ½”. So what is 28 ½” will become 30″ and 18 ½” will become 20″ in the final project. This will yield the desired 20″×24″×30″ box.

article-plyobox2After the pieces are cut, we should have 8 pieces in total, which one will become scrap and the other seven will be used for the project. Technically, one would only need 5 pieces for the project and for that the measurements of the cuts would have to be adjusted for an open-ended box to give us the desired height. also, the cross brace will give the box some weight-bearing strength. The other thing is that having all four sides will make the box stronger and heavier which would give us more of a workout while lifting and carrying the box.

To avoid making mistakes, make sure to label the edges with a pencil with the measurement. Also, it would be wise to label what each pieces are for. In the project, we will have two end caps (20″×24″), two sides (28 ½”×24″) and two top/bottoms (18 ½”×28″) and one cross brace (11″×28 ½”).

article-plybox3To prevent the wood from splitting, place the screws no less than 2 inches from the edge, and to maintain the structural integrity, place a screw every 4 inches. Some sections will require 3 inches away from the edge to prevent the wood from splitting, and these ones are when the ¾” meets the ½”. It is sufficient in some cases to only place one screw in the center.

article-plybox4It might be helpful to trace where the center of the adjacent plywood is, and anchor the screw with a hammer before drilling them. This will assure the edges are straight and will hold in place while the glue sets.

article-plybox5

Squirt some wood-glue on the edge of the plywood and keep a continuous pressure until reaching the end. Remember, once the two pieces are joined and the glue dried, it will be difficult to separate the two as they can handle up to 3 500 kg of downward pressure.

This is why placing the screws before joining the pieces is crucial as by drilling them in after joining the pieces with glue will ensure a 90° angle. Do not be afraid to use the L-square to double-check the the corners are squared. It is important to keep the edges squared as the final product might rock a bit while jumping on and off if not done correctly.

Once the third piece is joined, then any further progress is self-correcting. One does not have to corner himself whether or not the corners will square to be a perfect 90°.

article-plybox6

At this point, it is a matter of personal preference to finish the four sides or to add the center-brace with the addition of the third side. For a center-brace to be installed, the piece goes in length-wise as it is 11″ by 28 ½”.

article-plybox7Remember to recess the cross-brace by ¾” inside the box as the plywood is of equal thickness. It would be wise to mark where the third-quarter inch is inside the box on both side to ensure the brace is level before closing the box up.

article-plybox8

Don’t forget to mark where the brace is on the connecting pieces as one will have drill screws anchoring the top and sides to the brace. While marking the sides, draw a line down to about 11 ¾” down. It is far too easy to miss the brace if one goes too low.

article-plybox9Once the brace has been screwed in, finish the box with glue and more screws. Remember to make sure there is nothing inside the box before sealing it as it will rattle while being moved around. Once the glue dries, it is not worth one’s time to disassemble the whole project.

Now, we have a psychometric box which is 20″ by 24″ by 30″ which we can practice stepping up and improving our explosive jumps.

article-plywoodfinal2 article-plywoodfinal3 article-plywoodfinal1

Since the box weighs about 23 to 27 kg, sometimes it is a bit awkward to pick up and carry. Some might find it beneficial to cut holes into the sides as handles. Handholds are best done before the project is in construction. For the purpose of this project, the addition is a mere after-thought.  For this, we need a jigsaw or a router. A router will result in a cleaner cut.

Since some plywood readily splinter more than others, some people will fill in the screws with putty or some kind of filler and put on a coat of paint to halt the deterioration. Ask around the neighbourhood if anyone has a pail of paint they need to dispose of. Paint and fillers are not in short supply, and many garages have them laying around. The decision add some cosmetic is a personal choice.

By |February 12th, 2015|Tutorials|0 Comments|

Blogs Worth Following in 2015

Every so often there are blogs which I come across and sometimes they are followed. Some of the new ones are promising and the old ones have a wealth of information which still takes time to absorb it all in.

This year, rather than focusing on ethics, it is more about gaining experience, taking chances, and getting messy.Most of the blogs have been added to the feed based on their relevance to wilderness-adventures such as hunting and fishing as well as remote travels.

Click on the titles to be directed to their blogs.

  1. Azart Ohoty

    While Finnish Spitz and Karelian Bear Dog remains in the hands of show-fanciers in North America, Eirik Krogstad probably has done more for West Siberian Laika than anyone else in the world. In United States, Vladimir Beregovoy and Alex Schubert ignited the passion for hunting with the breed by writing a few books, wrote a few articles to various magazines, starting up Laika Hunters’ Association of North America for spitz-men and kept an extensive network of people keeping dogs. The mantra of “hunters only sell to hunters” rings very true.

    What Eirik did is different: by writing about his hunting trips, maintaining a YouTube channel and responding to people’s questions on forums in English, no longer the excuse of untranslatable information or lack of hunters’ interest can be used to justify why other exotic breeds are not used for the task they were bred for. These days, we now have more people who are interested in hunting game of all kind and not just limited to squirrels, raccoon and the occasional boar. People like to follow examples, not be told what to do by others. As a hunter, he speaks to other hunters who share commonality and experience from the heart.

    While there is not a lot of information yet and very few updates, considering what he has done for West Siberian Laika for both the international community as well as American hunters, his website is surely a promising gem and will become the Library of Alexandria of hunting spitzes with time . It is strongly recommended to check him out.

  2. Wood Trekker

    Wood Trekker has been around for a few years, many already know who Ross Gilmore is and the blogger has been slowing down as of late.

    I do have friends however who has no experience in the woods and are constantly misled by know-it-alls. While Ross may not has as extensive experience as others, his rational approach by combining woodcraft of the old, modern bushcraft and backpacking to create the modern woodsman is a sound one and is worthwhile considering. These days people get too hung up on what others have done before them, and this writer in particular encourages people to try different things. His focus on using the knowledge inbetween the ears and utilizing what is available in the 21th century is a fresh of breath air for fledgling hunters and wilderness-users.

  3. Andrew Skurka

    For a few years, lightweight backpacking was of interest but often supplemented gear-lists with heavy military-surplus instead of investing into quality. At that time, the ultralight movement was mostly seen as an on-trail experience touting fragile items. There were only a few people willing to break the stereotypes.

    Andrew Skurka has been known for a few years as the super-star of the ultralight hiking community and as a super-athletes in the thru-hiking world. He came to national attention after completing the Great Western Loop and to fame after the Alaska-Yukon Expedition.  After his wilderness hike in the North and his fueled passion to seek more of it which also led him to take up hunting, he is now breaking grounds in busting old myths. In addition to the blog, The Ultimate Hiker’s Gear Guide is a worthwhile read for any wilderness backpackers or backcountry hunters.

  4. Bedrock and Paradox

    It is really difficult to find a blog about backcountry-hunting. Many of the existing blogs are dead, or contain very sparse information. If one wishes to find any meaningful information, they would have to mine through Rokslide, Alaska Outdoors Forum and other similar ventures.

    David Chenault brings that to the table, and many of his discourses about ethics, principles, applied and practicals are intriguing to read. He also introduced several controversial concepts like bike-packing or hunting which are sometimes seen as the antithesis of the hiking world.

By |February 1st, 2015|Editorial|0 Comments|

Trekking with Dogs Across the Canadian Arctic

Halla recommended Across Canada with Lars Monsen. The serial has been uploaded to YouTube by AdventureEurope in eighteen parts. Although it is a Norwegian production, the uploader took the liberty of hardcoding English subtitles. She found it intriguing because of the dependence on dogs for transportation, the length of the journey and the vast emptiness of the Canadian North.

Lars Monsen is a Sami-Norwegian born in 1963, and spent two years and seven months in the Arctic with a team of eight dogs travelling from Kaktovik to Goose Bay over 8 252 kilometers which ended in 2002. The NRK, or Norwegian Broadcasting Company in English, later pieced together fragments and aired the series in 2005 as six one-hours long episodes. His most recent adventure is living for a full year in Nordkalotten which was made available by the broadcaster via BitTorrent.

Across Canada is an interesting documentary for many reasons. The biggest take-away for me is the harshness of the tundra and the taiga, and how even though bushcraft or woodsmanship was crucial in keeping his consumption to a minimal, they still had to be balanced by making long treks until taking advantage of the last hour and a half of sunlight to set up camp. Even though he tried his best to make use of his resources, both carried and from the land, frequently he had to break due to the harsh spring thaw, or inability to continue while the lake is or river during the autumn freeze; or because he has to interview the locals to obtain knowledge about the landscape and the terrain.

We also see he tried to balance lightweight equipment with long-term durability, and at this point of the film-making, the ultralight cottage industry was just budding. It would not be until 2006 before Ryan Jordan, Roman Dial and Jason Geck would attempt to trek up the Wulk River drainage for 20 days unsupported with lightweight gears; and Andrew Skurka tested the limits of his equipment in 2010 during a 7 368-kilometers long trek which occurred over 176 days and two weeks inbetween resupplies in the wilderness of Alaska and Yukon. It is remarkable Lars managed to traverse the entire Canadian Arctic with dogs, skis, canoe and on foot.

As an owner of a breed extracted from aboriginal landrace of dogs, the documentary is also a stark reminder of how harsh and unforgiving the tundra and the taiga are. Two dogs were lost while pursuing caribou, and probably drowned or eaten by wolves; one died during the night for unknown reason, as the night wasn’t cold enough to kill a dog yet the carcass was frozen; one got frostbitten and fell victim to gangrene; one had to be shot since the dog broken its leg in the pack-ice so severely that it couldn’t be properly set; and another died to the jaw of a fellow pack-member. These kind of testaments are a strong reminder of where Siberian dogs came from, and how strongly natural selection shaped them. The unfortunate events also highlight how trivial discussions are about which trial-, sporting- or hunting-dog is superior when faced with the harsh reality of the wilderness. While we are sipping hot cocoa in front of the television or the computer with our precious dogs kenneled up or taking comfort on the sofa, these kind of dogs fall to such fate every day while living alongside the few remaining trappers and aboriginals who still live off the land. There is a saying in Russian “the taiga gives, and the taiga takes”.

Years of planning went into this expedition, and there were many times things went wrong and having them filmed is valuable to the rest of us. Although the footage do not improve our skills or knowledge, they do tell us how difficult the journey is and how much experience makes the difference between life and death.

By |January 4th, 2015|Editorial|3 Comments|

2015 New Year’s Resolutions

  1. Become more fit

    Being fit does not necessary mean being healthy. There are growing evidences being slightly overweight is actually better for one’s health than to be lean. There are many fit people who burn out early, or die a few years sooner than others. Becoming fit, however, means better performance. There is little point in being a gram-weenie if one cannot cover 50 to 60 kilometers per day with a 25 or 45 pounds pack, or cannot haul an elk-carcass out of the bush over 10 to 15 km.

    It is a bit difficult to determine what fitness means. Some people measure by body measurements with tape and body-fat calipers, but they only offer a glimpse in the picture as sometimes it is beneficial to be a bit more chubby, and sometimes to be extra lean depending on the circumstances. Taking measurement of muscles tell us nothing about strength or endurance. Mountain Athlete of Jackson Hole in Wyoming, who trains outdoors athletes in the southern Rockies, defines fitness as: front squat – 1.5× body-weight; dead lift 2.0× body-weight; and bench-press – 1.5× body-weight. If a pace of 4.3 to 6.2 minutes per kilometer on the trail could be maintained with a steady heart-rate, then one would be a very happy man.

    Many in the backpacking community believes in just loading up the pack Marine-style, contrary to the well-known fact many military veterans suffer from life-long disabilities only after a few years of service due to the all the gears on their personnel. So just strapping on an over-loaded pack and running it in the city is not exactly the best idea.

    But most importantly, people tend to forget to build their aerobic base. They focus too much on interval training which helps them with climbs and descends, but not enough emphasis on endurance. Without building a good base, then one quickly finds himself tired or exhausted. Recently, trail-running became one of life’s pleasures.

    Ideally, the best form of exercise is maximizing the backpacking potentials such as going on backpack-hunts, backcountry-fishing, snowshoeing, cross-country skiing, mountain-biking, kayaking, canoeing and packrafting. Ideally, it would be nice to dedicate about 10 to 20 hours a week to these kind of activities. The most important thing on our feet as much as possible as each hour of sitting negate 6 to 8 minutes of training.

    Not all of us can accomplish this with our busy lives. So, some of us combine 45-minutes of strength training a day three times a week with marathon training.

  2. Improve marksmanship

    More important than hunting or packing, is the ability to shoot under all conditions. Far too many hunters just attend the shooting range to calibrate their scope alignment, and not enough practice taking ethical shots. For back-country hunters, it is recommended to head to the hills on public lands and practice shooting 4L milk jugs or water jugs over various distances. The jug is about the same size as an elk heart or a moose heart. Additionally, 1 and 2L pop-bottles can be used to evaluate the rifle’s capacity to take a grouse.

  3. Practice bushcraft

    One of the problem with the term “bushcraft” and “survival” is that it means many different things to different people. So, let us frame the situation.
    In this context, it specifically refers to woodcraft practiced by the early 20th century woodsmen such as E.H. Kreps, Horace Kephart, Nessmuk, Bradford Angier, Townsend Whelen, A. E. Järvinen; and to a lesser extent, Mors Kochanski and Calvin Rutstrum, and Richard Graves. It does not refer to the classic camping endorsed by Steve Watts and Dave Wescott; nor some of the survivalist methods popularized by Ray Mears, Les Stroud, Bear Grylls and Cody Lundin. Mears and Stroud have their place in self-rescue, however there are not very many examples of them of them actually going on expeditions.

    In essence, the bushcraft skills discussed would be used to supplement long-distance trips as observed by outdoorsmen such as Lars Monsen. Steven Rinella, Andrew Skurka, Roman Dial and so on. For some reason, bushcraft and backpacking are seen as mutually exclusive, however they were intertwined since their interception and as we see from the progression of various publication throughout the last century of how authors took advantage of the latest gears if they could afford it. For some reason, in the last decade or two, the two became alienated.

    This does not mean historical reenactments should be disregarded, as they are worthwhile pursuits in looking back into the past. In the real world, there is very little room for romanticism and nostalgia; nor is there anything realistic about the doomsday scenarios.

    Integrating woodcraft skills as part of repository adds to knowledge in-beetween the ears and weighs nothing. They become the crux in which an expedition can either succeed or fail.

  4. More “Make Your Own Gear” projects

    When one becomes more experienced, it becomes obvious not everything could be bought or traded. At some point, one would have to make modifications or sometimes make his own equipment. It is not the most cost-effective way, but it is the least frustrating instead of scourging through stores looking for something specific.

    This year, it would be good to learn how to sew and do a little bit of sheet-fabrication.

  5. Write more trip reports

    One of the problems in blogging is the lack of credentials. This especially applies to hiking, woodsmanship as well as hunting. There are many keyboard warriors who brag about their knowledge or intimacy on the subject, but never actually stepped a foot outside their own homes.

    Unfortunately, these days, with hunting dogs particularly, it is easy to stage photographs and pretend the dog is a mighty hunter. Nowadays, more and more hunting clubs and breed clubs are asking for a piece of paper confirming trial results; or video footage when trials cannot be conducted.

    And the same applies to other hobbies as well. It is easy to write about gears, but not put them to the test. Also, it is easy to write about theory and application, but not demonstrate it. It is easy to demonstrate something, but not actually use those skills in real life. The only way to affirm a person’s credibility is with trip reports detailing the successes and failures. Someone who only focus on the former, and not the latter is not one who has potential to grow and mature.

    While it is not necessary to prove one’s worth, the very nature of being published in print or being well-known within a community verify one’s credibility. Nowadays an anonymous can say anything and taken as the literal truth of God.

  6. Participate in winter-trekking

    Winter-trekking is difficult to define as many different people have different opinions of how it should be addressed. It is the time of the year when many otherwise minimalist backpackers begin preferring mountaineereing bivy or free-standing tents; or go the hot-tenting route with a wood-stove. If one pulls a pulk, then the definition of light, fast travel becomes more ambiguous.

    One of the most important thing is to focus on the sleep system which usually consist of an air-mattress, a closed-cell pad and a sleeping bag or quilt. Many who do winter-camping on a frequent basis has about two sleeping bags: one rated for -17°C and a -32°C. Usually, they also have a -1°C or -7°C quilt or bag for the corner-seasons as well. There is no such thing as a “four-season” set-up.

    Getting a good backpack with large volume without external pockets or mesh is also crucial in winter as the gears are not necessarily heavier, but the clothes and the sleeping bag takes up more space. To make a winter-hike successful, it is a good idea to have a camp parka with a layer or two of insulated pants, a wind-shirt, a hard-shell, a fleece and md- or heavy-weight tights. For protection, some mitten, a pair of sunglasses, balaclava  and ski-goggles are taken. There is not really that much more taken on a winter-packing trip except thicker layers.

    Snowshoeing is a horribly insufficient way of travelling in the winter. The designs make sense as they came from the time period when wide, open fields were few and the woods were thick. Now many of the forests have been clear-cut, and roads are making their way into remote regions, cross-country skiing or Nordic skiing makes more sense. In the open forests, Siberian ski-shoes also makes sense as well. Since the weather-type and conditions vary so much, there are countless of different models and makes out there.

    In general, there are about five different types of snowshoes, and an unknown number of variants of skis. Alexander Zubov, a Russian commercial hunter-trapper, has about 12 different pairs of skis for different type of forest, time of the year, weather, snow condition and terrain. A good light pair of skis such as  Goode Carbon series or Northern Lite snowshoes are certainly popular in the lightweight backpacking community. Skis such as Altai, Karhu and Wilmas are popular with northern hunters in Europe. There are so many variables though it is difficult to be decisive.

    Whether the case, it is best to analyze the weather conditions and the preferred mode of transportation to make any headway.

  7. Listen to the locals

    One of the problem with getting advice from the Internet or retail stores is they don’t always prepare a person for the situation. Salespeople are in the game of feeding into the paranoia of the worst-case scenarios, in which majority of the gears are not used by the locals. Likewise, Internet experts only gets a glimpse of the pictures and recommend tactics which are coutner-productive to a good experience within a particular ecosystem or niche. To make a trip fulfilling, it is best to listen to the locals and take their concerns and suggestions into consideration and combine it with one’s own experience and knowledge.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...
By |January 1st, 2015|Log|0 Comments|