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The Appalachian Trail: Using military surplus to achieve your travelling dream

March 12, 2018


If you’re an adventurer, lover of nature, history enthusiast, or part time hippie/tree hugger, you should consider all or a portion of the Appalachian Trail as one or more of your summer adventures. Though the trail is roughly 2180 miles long and it encompasses 14 states, it has many numbers of accommodations available for travelers.  Many travelers along the Trail have found that used military surplus and tents have come in quite handy while traversing the trails. It stands to reason that military equipment would be quite well suited to travelling the Trail. Military backpacks and clothing, not to mention wool blankets and portable cots were designed to offer the best comfort and greatest mobility.

In the summer months, there are thousands of volunteers who commit thousands of hours of community work to the trail. This includes upkeep on the more than 250 three sided shelters which are available to those who do not want to pack the weight of a tent around. If you are a novice hiker, then Maryland and West Virginia offer the easiest parts of the trail to hike, and if you are a hard core, adventurer with granite thighs and stainless steel sinew you should jump in at Maine or New Hampshire, where the hard parts are. Those who have traversed the Trail from Georgia to Maine are said to have done the equivalent of 16 times, and have at some time or another been in the company of black bears, Moose, porcupines, snakes, woodpeckers, salamanders, foxes, chipmunks, bobcat, and whitetailed deer.

You’ll meet plenty of other hikers too. Two to three million hikers walk a portion of the Trail every year, and there are literally hundreds of access points. Of those that try to hike the entire trail from Georgia to Maine, (usually about a six-month journey), only one in four make it.  You could be that one in four, especially if you give yourself the advantage of gearing up with used military equipment and surplus before you start out.

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Survival 101: 3 things you must do now to get your sugar on

If you are a survivalist, prepper, self sufficient, hobbyist, naturalist, do it yourselfer, or just a fan of delicious sugary goodness then now is the time for action!

I speak of course of the time of year for those of us who are self-sufficient to get our tin buckets out of the shed and tap those trees that are good for syrup making. Of course we all know that we can tap all types of maple trees to get the sap for syrup, but did you know that you can also tap walnut trees and birch trees?

If you are into this, or if you have ever wanted to get into it, then now is the time to get started, and here are three things you must do right now in order to get started.


  1. Go out and find good sap trees. The bigger the better, and you need to map your trees and mark them as you go so that you don’t forget where they are. A quick Google Maps search or check through your local auditor site will usually leave you with a great topological map that you can print and use in the field, but a better option is to use a smart phone and make a gps map in an app.
  2. Gather all of your equipment together at once. You will need cans, tops, taps, a rendering pot, and lots of receptacles for storing your sugary goodness.
  3. Set up a block of time. Though I’m not going into detail on technique in this writing, I will tell you that it will take hours for your sap to render to syrup… it takes ten gallons of sap to make one quart of syrup. There are plenty of tutorials out there for making maple syrup, and it is not rocket science. As a matter of fact, Penn-State University has an excellent resource for sap rendering and syrup making. 

Making and rendering your own maple, walnut, or birch syrup is second only to churning your own butter or grinding your own flour. It is also inherent to having your morning pancakes become something that is more than just breakfast… they become an experience.


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Camping 101: 3 new ideas that will blow you away

If you are looking forward to the upcoming summer and military surplus tent adventures that come with it, then you are not alone. However, if you are finding yourself getting tired of the mundane and same old same old that you have been doing for the last several decades, here’s some good news.  These are three great ideas for new military surplus tent adventures that you probably never thought of.

  1. Go on a sasquatch hunt. As ridiculous as this might sound to some of you, many people have found their life’s ambition in proving that this elusive and rare creature is real. As a matter of fact, an internet search will uncover some documentary evidence that is pretty compelling in terms of proving these creatures exist, to include video footage of a young one resting in the underbrush, watching a photographer from afar. A military surplus tent, and equipment will make a great command center for such an endeavor, though it won’t offer much protection from a sasquatch attack.
  2. Go on a quest for gold. I once had an uncle who would gor for weeks at a time out into the Arizona deserts with nothing more than a 4-wheeler pulling a trailer to search the nooks and crags of the arid climate for gold and precious minerals. I don’t recall that he ever actually turned up any such resources; however, he always came back exceptionally tan and seemingly having had a good time prospecting.
  3. Camp out at a ghost town. This can actually be a combination of sorts of the other two adventures, and even if you are not a huge advocate of the supernatural, you can still be an advocate of military surplus ten adventures that  offer some bit of historical significance, and who knows? You might very well find sme buried treasures out there as well.
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Survival 101: 3 benefits of a Canadian candle

A good fire is like a good dog in many ways. I’ve said before that fire not only offers you the ability to warm yourself, it also will cook your food, give you companionship, keep you company, etc… But this is not where the similarities end.  A dog can be useful on top of all of the other attributes that he has by being well trained. He can be used to track, protect, and hunt. As a last resort he can be used for food. A fire can be made to be more useful as well, if, like a well-trained dog, it is trained properly.

I present to you the idea of the Canadian Candle; a fire building technique that gives you the most bang for your buck. This simple technique of taking a single log and using it as a primary fire source, grill, heater, light source, and working tool is a surefire way of turning a normal military surplus tent adventure into a supremo-deluxo glamping excursion.  Here are three ways a Canadian Candle outshines a traditional fire.

  • It’s a Grill. A Canadian Candle can be used as a standalone grill once enflamed. The top focuses the heat of your fire in one spot for a very hot cook stove alternative. This surface will be very hot, and care must be taken to regulate the heat in your frying pan if you are trying to fry food items, you may center it however if using it to boil or poach foods.
  • Wood conservation. The Canadian Candle offers great sources of firewood for a traditional fire after using it as a heat source or cooking utensil. The inner burning ember works its way outward and leaves four good sticks of wood as well as a substantial log for the fire.
  • Makes furniture. If you decide not to break the remnants of your Canadian Candle up for more firewood, then a quick flip upside down results in a four legged piece of furniture. The remnant can be used as a table, chair, workstand, etc… The options are endless.

Whether you are camping or glamping, thriving or surviving, the Canadian Candle is an excellent option for the evening fire. It can be made by sawing or tying a log around the bottom and splitting the top. It is the perfect addition to any military tent adventure and will serve you well in the bush.

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Enjoying Used Military Surplus Tents and Equipment for Profit: How to hunt the wild ginseng

Whether you can believe it right now or not, spring is right around the corner and immediately behind that will be summer.  With it comes opportunities for fun and adventure that involve the use of military surplus tents and equipment. I speak of course of wild ginseng, and if you are willing to spend some time using your military surplus tent and equipment for an endeavor, you too can profit from this amazing root.

First you must know where ginseng grows, it is found most often in the eastern deciduous forest of the United States and in southern Québec and Ontario in Canada.  It is illegal to harvest in Canada because it is considered to be endangered. 19 states in the United States regulate its harvest and have a season in which it may be harvested. The states which offer restrictions are:  Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Maryland, Minnesota, Missouri, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Vermont, Virginia, West Virginia, and Wisconsin. Ginseng is restricted or prohibited in all other states where it occurs. All of the 19 states have a designated harvest season, which is from September 1 to November 30, and require diggers to harvest plants with red berries and to plant the seeds in the vicinity of the harvested plants.

Learn to identify the ginseng plant.
 Ginseng is a perennial herb, (one that lives for more than two years if undisturbed), it grows early in the spring, a single stem that ends with a whorl of 1-4 palmately, (that is, has the basic shape of a hand), compound leaves. Each leaf is comprised of 3 to 5 leaflets. The leaves die in the fall. After germination, a tiny plant emerges from the seed and produces a single thin stem 2–5 inches (5.1–12.7 cm) high with one leaf comprised of three leaflets. Any field guide worth having will give detail description of the herb; however, since it is controlled in most states, the local Department of Natural Resources will most likely have a detailed pamphlet available when you buy your license, explaining in detail the proper method for harvesting.


Lastly, dig carefully, and dry the roots properly. The average price that ginseng brings right now is $500 – $600 per pound, so treat it like you would fragile gold.

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Hardcore rations: 2 must haves for emergency survival

If you have ever been a historian of the Civil War or an aficionado of Native American history, then you will know about the two survival foods that took both the Indians and the Europeans through many of their wars.   I speak of course about Pemmican and Hardtack.  Both of these survival foods are easy to make and will last a long time. Hardtack may even last forever. Both are made from some pretty common items, both are filling and calorie laden, and you could begin stocking up on both very easily. Here is how to make them.


This was the primary mainstay of Native Americans when they were on the trail. Much like beef jerky, it was easily packaged and carried, and didn’t require any preparation for consumption. Unlike beef jerky, it contains fruits, vegetables, and tallow to give a more filling, energy boosting meal than one could expect from just dehydrated meats. To make Pemmican:

  1. Separate meat from fat and jerk the meat. Then melt the fat.
  2. The jerky should be so dry it crumbles, and the fat should be strained to get the detritus out.
  3. Grind the jerky in a coffee grinder.
  4. Grind up any berries or nuts that you want to incorporate.
  5. Mix 50/50 jerky and filtered tallow
  6. Add nuts or berries.
  7. Store in a cool dark and dry place, or freeze. Can keep for years.


This is the food that many a Civil War soldier awoke to for breakfast on both sides. Hardtack and coffee was a common meal, because often the hardtack had to be soaked in the coffee in order to get et. Hardtack is super easy to make, and can last as long as fifty years without getting spoiled. There is nothing easier to make than hardtack, and though it won’t be everything you wanted, it will keep you alive for a very long time. This is how you make Hardtack:

  1. Gather the ingredients, 3 cups of white flour, 2 teaspoons of salt, 1 cup of water.
  2. Mix together in a bowl adding water until it doesn’t stick to your hands.
  3. Heat the oven to 375.
  4. Roll the dough out.
  5. Cut it into squares
  6. Poke holes in each square.
  7. Bake for 30 minutes on each side.
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RDDUSA product review: the heated groundcloth

I was recently excited to see this new concept for outdoor cold weather sleeping, that of the “heated ground cloth”. This concept is not really new, we have all seen it put into play in movies such as Jeremiah Johnson, that 1980’s era movie which depicted our hero Jeremiah digging a hole and filling it full of ember from the fire to sleep on; however, if any of you survivalists out there have ever tried to dig a hole to sleep on, then you know what kind of misery it is to have such a task after a day spent hunting, camping, or surviving in the wilderness.


Now, I have spent many nights camping out in the elements, shivering and experiencing cold sleep which usually involves sleeping thirty minutes and then getting up to put more wood on the ash pit that I had somehow managed to waller into seeking the remaining warmth of the dying campfire. Luckily, this new product might offer some relief into future excursions.


The design is fairly simple, basically it is a minute water heating system that is designed to circulate your heated water through channels built into the fabric of the ground cloth. I am deeply impressed with this concept because I’m all about being comfortable even when I’m out in the bush. This device is fueled by a can of sterno; however, there has to be a way to bring this concept into bearing in the wilderness. The plus to this scenario is the fact that the hot water you are using to keep you warm all night will be utilized when not sleeping on it to make coffee, grits, oatmeal, and whatnot.


So now I have to go out into the shed and see what I can work out to accommodate this concept in the wilderness; however, these items are available on the online marketplaces. Just look up heated camping mat and you will soon be sleeping quite comfortably out under the stars.


In the meantime I will be conducting scientific experiments out in my garage…

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