Gear

Years ago I pulled the trigger on a 17” Maca dutch oven (seen in the photo above). It’s big, deep, heavy (29 quarts, 67 pounds empty), and has fed countless big groups at the field school. Maca made a name for themselves with their large-capacity dutch ovens. If you wanted to feed an army, a [...]

By the time spring arrives I’ll have spent six weeks in remote, off-grid camps this winter. We just returned from our trip to northern Quebec, and today I’m provisioning for the first of two Boreal Snowshoe Expeditions, starting next week. Below are a few random ideas on living out in the winter that crossed my [...]

Yup, Another Knife Blog

It is amazing how many blogs, web sites and discussion forums are committed to outdoor knives. A cursory jaunt through the web will quickly inundate the reader in barrows of gigabytes covering every weekend warrior’s 2 cents on knife construction, design, material, use and even a slew of experts piping in to pitch their new [...]

Video about the new Jack Mountain Winter Expedition Tent. I left three things out of the video. First, the height of the center pole is right around 8 feet, making the dimensions 8’6″ wide by 11’6″ long by 8′ tall at the peak. Second, the material is 10.10 oz cotton. Third, if you’re interested you [...]

Put this under the heading “gear I’ve wanted for years.” After reading my friend Oblio13’s post in 2008, I’ve wanted a large Thermette boiler that would handle a few gallons at a time. I’ve had a 2 quart model for 15 years, but it just isn’t enough water for camp chores. If you’ve never heard [...]

I just got back to the Jack Mountain Field School from a great day hike in Baxter State Park in Maine.  We arrived around 10 am (a few hours later than we’d planned, gotta have coffee right?) to find the parking lots servicing the three trails that wind up to the peak of Katahdin full [...]

Bushcraft Bling

It never fails to amaze me just how pervasive and prevalent the reach of our consumer culture is these days.   Even those of us who claim to have a modicum of immunity from the world of image, identity and worth via the stuff we’ve bought, find ourselves from time to time really wanting that new trinket for [...]

I can’t remember if someone told me or if I read that coffin-shaped toboggans, widest a few feet from the bow and tapered at both ends, pull better than rectangular toboggans. Regardless of how I came to know that as true, I’ve believed it since I started pulling toboggans and camping with them in the [...]

I was a boy when I received my first pair of snowshoes, a wood-framed, rawhide-laced (the rawhide was traditionally made from moose hide and known as babiche, pronounced “bab-eesh”) pair made in Maine that took me on countless boyhood journeys through the winter woods. Since then, I’ve snowshoed all over Maine, New Hampshire, New Brunswick, [...]

Royalex, the tough and forgiving plastic material that has become a standard with canoe manufacturers everywhere, is no more. They stopped making it a year ago, and the canoes for sale now are the final ones that will be available. There will be Royalex boats available used for the foreseeable future because it’s so tough [...]

In 2004 we had a few (fewer than 40) oilskin baseball caps made up. They’ve since become highly sought after collector’s items. I hadn’t thought about getting any more made, but was contacted this summer by the wife of an old friend, who was also one of the few to have an original hat. She [...]

Eleven years ago I bought a rain jacket from Tentsmiths. They call it a Watchcoat and it’s made out of oiled cotton. I’ve always hated nylon rain gear because of it’s noise, and this one is quiet. I wear it with a wide-brimmed rain hat, and have used it hard every year I’ve had it. [...]

There are two main ways that people cook over a fire: suspend a pot from above or prop it up from below. Of course there are other ways, but these two are by far the most common. Of these, I prefer to hang a pot from above when cooking over an open fire because it [...]

If you carry an axe, a sturdy sheath is a must. It protects both you and the axe. Many of the sheaths that come with new axes are flimsy and won’t hold up, so either make one or get one. Don Merchant at Pole And Paddle Canoe makes them out of thick leather. Don’t let [...]

Bushcraft Gear

Over the past month of weeklong courses we got into many discussions about gear.  Longtime readers know that I have mixed feelings about it.  I like gear.  I especially like simple, traditional gear.  But I never want it to be about the gear.  I never want to see gear, or lack of a specific piece [...]

I’ve had a bunch of reflector ovens over the years and they’ve all shared one thing in common; bake pans that aren’t a standard size.  After threatening to do so for several years, when we took off the river June 2nd I took a small, non-folding reflector oven and a standard half-sheet pan (13″ x [...]

Spiller Axe, Oakland Maine

On my way south from the county I stopped in to see my old friend Don Merchant at Pole And Paddle Canoe. He had a sweet Spiller axe for sale for $90. Spiller was an axe making company in Oakland, Maine, back in the day. I’ve been told that Gransfors patterned their American felling axe [...]

If you’re coming to the field school this year and want to upgrade your accomodations to include your own private bathroom, consider bringing your own toilet seat and 5 gallon bucket (or 2 buckets).  These Luggable Loo toilet seats clip onto a bucket.  You can also improvise your own seat or build a toilet box [...]

Dusk at forty below in northern Quebec The old loggers who spent their lives in the woods wore suspenders to keep their pants up in cold weather. They were practical people, and as such there was a reason they did so. Tight clothing was always avoided, as it is uncomfortable and doesn’t insulate nearly as [...]

Most of the winter footwear on the market is heavy and doesn’t keep your feet warm. Pac boots, for example, seem to always leak in wet conditions and trap moisture and become cold in frigid conditions. Most of the big companies market their footwear by insisting that it is both waterproof and breathable (for some [...]

The Best Axe

There is no shortage of advice on the weight an axe head should be and how long (and what shape) the handle should be. Today I wanted to inject a my opinion into the discussion, as well as describe my favorite axes. An axe with a longer handle is safer than one with a shorter [...]

Choosing An Axe

The axe is the most versatile and useful tool to have with you in the forest. It can help you build a first-class shelter, put up a sizable pile of firewood, drive tent pegs, split logs, etc., etc., etc. As with all tools, when looking for an axe you should try and get the best [...]

We stopped using sandpaper for smoothing wood on field courses years ago. Sandpaper is sand, or grit, glued to a piece of paper in a thin layer. It doesn’t last very long, which precludes it from being taken on long trips. A simple alternative is to take a piece of fabric (denim or cotton duct [...]

When Gear Fails

Gear breaks or fails.  It happens.  If you’re prepared for it the consequences can be minimized.  I prepare for it by bringing a back-up on trips.  If something is crucial to my well-being in the bush I either have, or am prepared to make, another.  How do you prepare for it?

A guarantee on a piece of gear doesn’t mean it won’t fail. It means that if it does fail, the maker will stand behind it and repair or replace it. This is a good policy, but it doesn’t help you when you’re on a remote trip. This past spring I guided a 105 mile trip [...]

My Favorite Skillet

For a trip of any duration, a good skillet ranks just behind the axe, knife and kettle as an irreplaceable piece of kit. Ever since fellow Maine guide Bud Farwell turned me on to “The One Eyed Poacher And The Maine Woods” during a fall Allagash trip, I’ve been a big fan of Edward Ware [...]

The Windpouncer jacket is the premiere wind and rain layering system jacket I’ve ever encountered.  Three layers of ultra-thin imagi-foam stand between you and the elements ensuring you stay warm and dry, and your hands are sure to be warm in two large slash pockets lined with their proprietary “cold-be-gone” spun polyester… OK, this is [...]

I just gave my son his first knife.  It’s one I’ve had and used extensively for 11 years, and he was really excited.  I explained to him that he’s only allowed to use it when I’m with him because he needs to learn how to use it safely, but this didn’t dampen his enthusiasm at [...]

I stopped in to see my old friend Don Merchant at Pole And Paddle Canoe the other day.  In addition to our usual discussions about the weather, water levels, and just getting caught-up in general, he showed me a new, beefed-up 30″ collapsable bucksaw he plans to start offering soon.  After handling it for a [...]

A friend sent me this photo of his wooden canoe after a tough day on the river. You’re looking at broken ribs, half-ribs and planks inside a 20′ wooden canoe. The good news is that everything on a wooden boat can be fixed. That’s one area where these old boats are far superior to their [...]

Solar Powered Forge

We do quite a bit of knifemaking (crooked knives, mostly) in our longer courses. In trying to keep things as simple as possible, we use the campfire or woodstove to anneal the blades, and an open fire to temper them as well. We’ve got a coal forge with a hand crank blower, but we’re always [...]

I’ve recently been reading about axes with very short handles, and it doesn’t make a whole lot of sense to me.  Historically, the difference between an axe and a hatchet has been one hand. An axe is a tool traditionally used with two hands. A hatchet is used with one. While the various companies will [...]

Maine Axes

Here’s a photo of my two favorite axe heads.  The top one is one that I managed to find a few years ago; an original Emerson and Stevens, made in Oakland, Maine.  This is the axe head that Geoff Burke sent to Sweden when Gransfors Bruks needed a template of a good American felling axe.  [...]

The new stainless steel water bottles are all the rage these days, and while fashionable trends aren’t something I tend to engage in, there are real benefits to them over their plastic predcessors.  The most important benefit is that you can boil water right in them, eliminating the need for carrying a separate pot when [...]

The cord I’ve been using for a decade is finally available online. I got tired of paying the high prices for paracord in the 1990’s and switched to using commercial fishing twine. It’s tough and much cheaper than paracord. The place where I get it recently added an online store. To check out the cord, [...]

As the result of numerous requests for a small bushcraft kit of core components that people can bring to our courses, we’ve partnered with Ben’s Backwoods and put together a bushcraft kit of the most useful items. It consists of a Mora knife (you choose whether you want a wood or plastic handle), metal pot [...]

Over the years I’ve used a wide variety of lanterns and lights in camp. For winter trips I’ve just used candles to light up the inside of the wall tent. On solo or non-guided trips I carry a small headlamp to read with, but for guided trips I like to have a lantern of some [...]

Canoe Mold Completed

Yesterday I finished building the 20-foot canoe mold I’ve been working on since late December. Everyone I talked to said that building a canoe mold is a lot of work, and I didn’t doubt them. After building one, I can say that they were all correct – it was a lot of work. It’s the [...]

Build Your Own Pulk

Even though winter is finally over (well, almost as there is still a remaining snow pile behind the barn), I wanted to pass along an informative site and how-to manual on ski pulks. A pulk is a sled pulled behind a skier or snowshoer with a rigid pole system. They’re really useful, but the ones [...]

I was recently given a 2.5 pint capacity Kelly Kettle. If you’ve never heard of a Kelly Kettle, it’s a device made from aluminum used for quickly boiling water using a small fire that burns in the open center of the kettle that is surrounded by a hollow jacket that holds water. Yesterday a friend [...]

I’ve wanted a water-cooled, slow rpm grindstone for years to touch up old axe heads I pick up at junk, antique, and used tool stores. The good ones cost way more than I’m willing to invest, and the cheap ones don’t have the water bath and they spin too quickly. But while in New Brunswick [...]

This coming weekend is our town’s annual ski and skate sale, where you can pick up used skis very inexpensively. For those of you live in snow country and want to make a winter sled for hauling gear in the bush, you can do so without having to boil and bend wood for a toboggan. [...]

Simple Alcohol Stove

The topic of alcohol stoves comes up from time to time in winter survival and bushcraft workshops. This simple homemade alcohol stove comes from the newsletter of the Inuit Sled Dog International, and is especially useful north of the treeline.

 


 

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Note: Anything that appears to be an error in spelling or grammar is actually the author’s clever use of the vernacular, and as such is not an error, but rather a carefully placed literary device that demonstrates his writing prowess.

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