The Story of Cedar

Cedar has a long time history. From a more contemporary standpoint, cedar is used to make chests to protect woolen garments and blankets, though it has been used in times past for that as well.

To Native Americans, cedar, where available, was used for other things. In this Documentary, Phil Ives does an excellent job of showing how the Cowichan Indians made cedar hats. It includes a walkabout with an elder who takes along a group of onlookers to collect cedar bark in long strips straight off the tree. In my opinion, this part of the video alone is worth the entire piece. From there the video moves on to cleaning the bark and finally weaving it.

The video is 30 minutes and is a bit slow to get to the meat of the topic, but it is worth the wait, as the intro is nicely done with voice over and music

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Two Winters in a Tipi

In 1989, a midnight August storm unleashed a bolt of fire, connecting heaven and earth through the mountain farmhouse in which I had been living for the past seven years. Crude columns of hand-stacked stones propped the old wood-frame building, built almost a century earlier, two feet above the ground. Its sagging interior wood flooring had at some point been covered with creaking linoleum, its roof nailed with tin. That roof, the fire investigator later told me, reflected heat downward like an oven, turning the fire into a blistering inferno. Nothing survived it, not even metal tools.

Everything I owned was incinerated in an unstoppable blaze that must have lit up the driving rain like falling diamonds. I don’t know because I didn’t see it. My dog, Elly, and I were fifty miles away, sleeping at the summer camp where I had just returned campers after a week-long wilderness program on this same leased mountain land.

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Ferro Rod vs. Bic Lighter


This article grew out of a post I started on and Facebook as a way to summarize and discuss some thoughts and findings on the often hotly debated topic of ferro (ferrocerium) rods, versus lighters— Bic during quick research.

It has been a commonly held belief the ferro rod is superior than a Bic lighter, because:

A ferro rod will not run out of fuel like a lighter will
A ferro rod is not affected by altitude like a lighter is
A ferro rod is not susceptible to a very cold temperature like a lighter is
A ferro rod uses gross motor skills (this is partially correct and is dependent on the size of the ferro rod)

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Fixed Blade Knife Comparison

I always find interesting knife comparisons, especially those that involve Moras stacked up against their more expensive competitions…

Here is a great article from one of my favorite blogs

I’ve noticed that my requirements for a fixed blade knife have changed over the years as my backpacking, hiking, and bushcraft skills have developed. I won’t be getting into a debate here about fixed blade versus folding knives. I have both and love them equally for different reasons. What I will be doing is comparing my three favorite fixed blade knives and describing their good and bad points based on my usage and general observations.

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PCT Bear Bag Hang Method


Looking through many outdoor recreation books, the recommendation of hanging your food from a tree to keep the bears from getting to it still persist. And while the suggestion is right, many of them show the wrong technique.

The common idea is to throw a line out over a branch and hoist your bear bag at least 10 feet off the ground, then tie off the line to the tree itself. Unfortunately, that is a prime example of what NOT to do. Bears are very smart, as are other critters. And tying off the line to a tree is inviting the bear or other animals to just bite through the line, thereby causing food bag to fall, giving the animals a free meal.

In response to this problem, the counterbalance method was created. Though much improved over the idea of just tying off the line to the tree, it still has it’s own set of nuances to get it to work right.

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Emergency Blanket

The ubiquitous mylar emergency blanket has been a main stay of many survival kits for many years. On the surface, the idea is to wrap yourself in it and it will help get you through a cold night. But the devil is in the details and not addressing one critical detail can bring more harm than good.

Many moons ago (years), I was travelling extensively for survival related reasons. Determined to reduce my pack load even more, I decided to use an emergency blanket in lieu of carrying a sleeping bag. So, for an entire year, I traveled around, from the Cascades in Washington to lowlands of Texas and many places between, using an emergency blanket. In the beginning I learned a valuable lesson, however.

My first trip to the Cascades would be my first attempt at using the E-blanket as part of my sleep system

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Homemade Oil Lamp

Whether or not we need a fire to keep warm, cook our food, or purify our water; it is still useful for illuminating our way when we find our selves without power.

The oil lamp is nothing new and has been used for centuries. There are many variations; from a bottle with a cork and wick on the end, to a dish with a wick laying partly in it.

While the two above mentioned methods work, they are not necessarily useful in an environment with even a mild breeze. Instead, I like to use a wick that can be suspended inside of an open jar—The jar acting as a votive to protect the small flame. The other added benefit of a wick in a jar is that the oil and wick can be secured and easily transported, without fear of spilling oil, when the lid is secured in place.

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DIY Air Conditioner

If you don’t have air conditioning, you really don’t have to spend a fortune to cool yourself during the hot summer months. You can make your own portable air conditioner that will perfectly cool any room that you are in at the time.

This little gem costs only about $8 and will really lower the temps in any room. Plus, it only takes about 10 minutes to build from start to finish.

You will need to pick up a Styrofoam cooler, which you can get at your local Dollar Store for around $4. You also need those little metal dryer vents which are around $2 each at most home improvement stores. Add to that an old fan and a few frozen water bottles and you’re ready to build your own portable A/C unit.

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Easy to Make Fire Piston

Fire pistons have been used in South East Asia and the Pacific Islands as a means of kindling fire for years. They are found in cultures where the blow pipe is used as a weapon and this suggests they may have developed out of blow pipe construction. Their use has been reported from Burma, the Malay Peninsula, Indo-China, Borneo, Sumatra, Java,Kalimantan, Sulawesi, the Philippines, Madagascar and South India.

An 1876 New York Times article reported the discovery of the earliest date of its use in the west. It reports an address by a Professor Govi that claimed a book written by Father Boscovich, of Rome in 1755, De Litteraria Expeditione per Pontifican Ditionem, (The Clever Mechanism) makes the claim that the fire piston was invented in 1745 by Abbe Augustin Ruffo. This report also claims that the modern fire piston was reinvented independently in the west through experiments with the air gun and not modeled after Asian designs.

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Smokeless Fire

Okay the title is a bit of a misnomer for what I am going to write, but you’ll see what I mean.

I watched this video and it reminded me of the funny occurrence that happened at Durttime, campfire smoke following people. This wasn’t localized to just this one event. It happens all the time. It’s just that this incident was more recent in memory.

It was entertaining to see people run around the campfire attempting to avoid the smoke accompanied by comments from them. “Smoke is attracted to good looking people”

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