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Zippo Fire Kit: 2 reasons you can’t live without this kit

Everyone’s familiar with Zippo for their top notch, refillable lighters, but that’s not their only fire making item. Recently I came across a device that Zippo has introduced as a survival item, the Emergency Fire Kit. This comes in a waterproof  tube made of plastic, which makes it light enough to float in water. The kit also comes with five tinder balls that can catch a spark, wet or dry, and burn for five minutes a piece.

This is a great little addition to your survival kit; however it is a bit “gimmicky” if you ordinarily carry a lighter with you as a smoker. Where it isn’t gimmicky and becomes vital however, is for those instances when you need an extra edge to get a fire going. Here are two reasons that you really need one of this in your survival kit.

  1. When it is raining. If you’ve never tried to start a fire in the rain then you don’t know the misery of trying to hunch under a ledge somewhere, trying to stay out of the torrent, while you clasp a scratchy wet birds-nest in the hollow of your armpit trying to get it dry enough to combust from your body heat. This little kit comes with five combustable pellets that are infused with accelerant and fuel.
  2. In the event of a fall in the water during cold weather. If you’ve never soaked your lighter in the cold, you don’t know what fear is. I’ve had to start a fire with a shredded knot of tinder and a piece of flint, striking off of the back of my bowie with shaking fingers and knocking knees before finally catching a spark and gaining a life saving flame. Trust me when I tell you, that experience isn’t nearly as fun as it sounds…
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Survival 101: 3 ways to make your own knives

Two handmade knives constructed from re-purposed materials

If you are reading this the chances are that you are the type of person who is self sufficient and who wants to do things on your own.

I am the same way and am even self sufficient to the point that I make my own knives.  Though I am a big fan of shows such as “Forged in Fire“, I actually learned to hand forge and craft my blades from a American Blade Smith, (ABS), certified knife-maker.

The good news is that if you want to learn how to make your own knives, you don’t have to set up an apprenticeship for yourself, there are lots of resources available to you that will allow you to easily learn some simple ways of making your own knives.

Here are three methods that you can use to make your own knives for both survival and utility use. These are just concepts. The scope of this blog is too narrow to allow for the intricacies of techniques involved; however, these will give you some research direction if you are interested in pursuing these ideas.

(1). Forging and grinding. We forge first so that we don’t have to grind so much. Plain and simple, the easiest way to shape your steel is to get it pliable and hammer it in. This type of blade can usually be finished by hand with files and sandpaper and don’t actually require a grinder.

(2). Hollow grinding. This is a different form of bladesmithing that usually involves just grinding to shape the blade you want from a piece of steel. The blade angle in a hollow ground knife is very different from the blade angle in a forged knife usually, it is less tapered.

(3). Flint napping. This is the lowest form of knife-making but is the best to be known for survival situations.  Basically you take rocks to make the knives you need to use as tools.

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Honeysuckle: 2 reasons you must learn about nature’s treat

When I was a little boy running around my grandpap’s farm, some of my fondest memories came from learning from Grandpa and Grandma how to live off of the land.

They taught me many things about farm life and wilderness survival, having both lived through the Depression in Gobbler’s Knob, Kentucky… (Seriously)!

One of the things my grandma taught was one of nature’s simple little sugary treats, the dewdrop of nectar that can be ha from a Honeysuckle flower.

Now, don’t be surprised when you go to gather honeysuckle flowers, if you find it necessary to compete with any manner of bee-folk who will busily be buzzing around trying to gather sap themselves. Try to avoid the bees because if they sting you they will die, (usually because you slap the hell out of them), but sometimes because they are the type that gut themselves by using their stinger.

Here are two reason’s you should learn how to gather the drops of sap from these flowers:

  1. Because they are delicious. Though not much in quantity, these flowers are high in quality and the sweet droplets make a welcome respite when in a survival situation.
  2. Because they make a delicious and refreshing tea.  Simply take a pitcher of water, soak 25-30 flowers in it in the sunshine for 6-8 hours. The sun will brew the flowers into a crisp and refreshing sweet tea if you can get it cold, (a two hour dip in the creek will do it), but if you try to drink it warm you probably won’t like it much… at least I don’t.

I almost forgot to share the technique to enjoy the dewdrops of nectar straight from the flower. Simply pinch the petals between the thumb and forefinger of one hand, and pull the pistil out slowly with the other. The drops will appear on the end of the petals as the pistil is withdrawn… simply apply gently to the tongue for maximum effect.

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Wilderness photography: tools to take it to the next level

If you are an adventurer, survivalist, hunter, fisherman, outdoorsman, prepper or any other form of military surplus equipment connoisseur, then you are probably a photographer as well, at least on some level. Photography is my passion. I am an avid hunter and outdoorsman; however, in this day and time I have traded in my rifles and bows for cameras.

Not that I have anything against hunting, I still will if and when the need arises, but in the meantime I prefer to keep my skills sharp by  taking photographs of the animals that I like to hunt and eat. I have found that it is less expensive in the fact that I don’t have to pay Big Brother for the privilege of shooting deer with a camera, (not yet at least). There are several plusses to shooting with a camera as opposed to using a rifle; if I accidentally shoot my buddy, it’s no big deal. Me and my buddy can each shoot the same deer, (several times), and if I happen to see the game warden sashaying down the trail, my guts don’t turn to jelly…

But that’s not the purpose of this blog, I want to turn you on to a great little invention that I have recently stumbled upon that has taken my wilderness photography to an entirely new level, that is the window based camera mount. I discovered this at my local outdoor outfitters store and couldn’t buy it quickly enough.

Now I don’t need to scramble for a camera when I see a sasquatch hunting feral pigs in a wooded meadow, or a fox squirrel riding a blue heron as it flies around Acton Lake… no, from now on I have my camera mounted to my driver’s window and merely have to turn it on and focus as best I can.  This thing is even designed to offer one handle operation for tilt and swivel.

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Survival 101: Making acorns edible

It is a fact of life that you cannot live off of meat alone indefinitely. And though you can often find black walnuts, pecans, and other nut trees to forage from, there is no nut tree as common as the Oak. Acorns, the product of the Oak trees, are prevalent, and if you could just eat them as is, then survival would for the most part be pretty easy as far as gaining food goes. You actually can eat them as they are if you don’t mind the bitterness and it is a funny sidenote to add that in the movie Jeremiah Johnson, the item that Jeremiah’s Indian wife gave him to eat that made him gag was an acorn cake which hadn’t had all of the tannic acids leeched out.

Making acorns palatable:

  1. Shell them. This is easiest done on a large rock with a smaller one. Separate the meat from the shell, and then grind the meat to flour with two stones.
  2. Leech the tannic acids. You can boil them out, changing the water periodically as it gets discolored. Make sure the water is at a boil each time you put the meat in, as going hot to cold tends to lock the tannins in for some reason. Another method is to put them in a sock and let it seep in running water for a time. This will remove the tannic acid and distribute it into the water source. You are losing tannic acids which are useful if you do this.
  3. After leeching the tannins out, make cakes out of the flour. These will be coarse and dry when done. A better acorn bread involves flour of some sort being added. However, these acorn cakes are very nutritious, high in energy and carbohydrates, and will hold you over for a while. I can imagine they are delicious with maple syrup.
  4. Bake on a rock over your coals.

As a side note, if you boil the tannic acid out of your acorn mush, make sure that you save it. It can be re-used as antiseptic, tannic acid for hides, or a low grade dye for leather.

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Winter fly fishing: 5 things I’ll bet you didn’t know

Did you know that you could fly fish in the winter? There are lots of hard core anglers who do just that and relive the wonders of a Jack London book in their own back yard.

Winter time is a great time for camping, and the only thing that I have found to be more solemn than the sound of winter snowflakes falling gently on the canvas of my military surplus tent is the hush they bring when falling quietly in the purple morning on a mountain stream. Here are 5 thing I’ll bet you didn’t know;

1. Bugs hatch all winter long. Any sunny days in the winter there will actually be very small midges that have been lying dormant. During a winter hatch, trout will do what is called “selective feeding”, in other words they’ll focus on a certain food and won’t vary from it. This is a good time to fish your midge flies.

  1. Another fact of winter fishing is that many if not most of your fly fisherman are “fair weather” fisherman, (or at least warm weather fisherman), and you will find that the trout streams are quite barren of competition in the winter months, while the trout themselves are much more approachable because they haven’t been pressured.
  2. Unexperienced fly fisherman don’t realize and know that steelhead actually run the rivers, in the tributaries, in late fall or early winter, and this results in this being the best time for steelhead even though in the spring time they make their way out of the rivers.
  3. Of course winter fishing also comes with its obstacles, and one of the biggest obstacles is ice forming on your fly rod guides, so you have to be concerned about breaking the ice off. There are some things you can do to help combat that like placing Vaseline on the guides and applying commercial line dressing to keep your line from freezing.
  4. Fishing in the winter can be made much more enjoyable by wearing a good pair of insulated stockings in your waders and stacking a few layers of fleece pants over your legs to create dead air space. With a good pair of wool or thinsulate stockings you can wade all day long and hit every hole that you need to.
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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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The Military Surplus Store, several reasons you need to shop there

The government warehouses are full of treasure and buying surplus military clothing and equipment is the way to mine it. Though the days of the battle ridden surplus of World War Two and Korea are gone, many can still recall the joy of sifting for hours through piles of olive drab. Treasures back then were different than they are today.  A long bayonet, canvas .45 holster, or a metal canteen – often replete with a bullet hole or two – could set both man and boy aglimmer with excitement at the prospect of a world at war. The bullet riddled items scarcely cost much more than the ones that could actually be used but they were always the first to be snatched up.  Old Colt .45’s and Tommy Guns with thirty round magazines could be found next to Springfield 1903’s and M1 Garand’s, all silent after having barked their destruction into the mass of an invading army. There was so much equipment left after WWII that the government had a rough time getting rid of it.

The world moved on and the rules have changed. You can’t buy old flamethrowers and weaponry as surplus anymore but that does not mean that there aren’t treasures galore to be had in the new piles of military surplus gear and equipment. Today’s market isn’t restricted to USA surplus either. European military surplus has been made available to the masses, as has Russian, German, and Israeli.  A trip to your local surplus store can reveal almost anything. Of course you buy camo pants and shirts, but did you know that you could possibly find a BPS, (military jargon for a big plastic shoppingcart)? Was your father or other family member in the armed forces during a conflict? Quite often you can find unit insignia and period surplus uniforms which match those that he, she, or they wore during their service.

There are many practical civilian uses for military surplus items. Old document cases and shoulder packs make excellent ipad cases. Modern day hunters who like to shoot primitive weapons such as black powder rifles will be well pleased with a military bread bag to use as a “possibles bag” for quick at hand shooting supplies. Two bread bags would be an ultimate for dove hunters, one to hold shells and the other to hold birds. Military surplus makes a great medium for artist and upcyclers as well. Consider upcycler Jake Wright who makes beautiful furniture from decommissioned, upcycled military surplus; while others find surplus gear and accessories useful as an artistic  medium for a memorial day war display.

No matter what your needs are you won’t find equipment and gear more rugged or well crafted

Than that used by the military.    You won’t find a better value for your money either, as some statistics show that military surplus usually sells at 1 – 2% of its commercial value.1 So if you are a hunter, outdoorsman, picker, artist, upcycler, war buff, or collector, make sure you check your local surplus store. You just might be surprised by what you find.

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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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The view from here: two things you must remember about multitasking

As I sit quietly in the woods with my camera set up on a tripod and equipped with a 500mm lens for maximum focus and range, (at least to my college student budget), I contemplate what life is about and I ponder on what brings true happiness.
I am waiting for wildlife to happen by. I don’t really care what they are or what they’re doing, (though I would prefer -if given my choice- to film a family of sasquatches digging for roots in the ditchline), but beyond that I am good with squirrels, deer, coyotes, or any form of bird that wants to present itself to me for film capture.
It’s quiet out here, and there is a very light snow gently falling… the first of the year. Though it isn’t significant it’s getting us to where we want to be and this is, speaking for myself at least, into the midst of a white Christmas. We haven’t had one in mid Ohio for about five years now, and we’re way past due.
It’s cold here, 29 degrees or so, and as I write my iPad is freezing up… literally I think.
The point I’m making here is that multi-tasking can take on relevance in any scenario, and I am right now fulfilling obligations to two different clients as well as getting data for research projects. Thanks to the advent of things such as iPads and wireless technology, I am sitting in the woods adjacent to the local college campus, gathering footage for a client on Ohio whitetail deer, filming B-roll for a media class assignment and writing blogs for another client. I am also out of the house and getting some fresh air.
If I didn’t need to be quiet and at least somewhat attentive, I could be doing this from my iPhone either through thumb typing or by voice to text dictation.
Plus, I am also on a military surplus tent adventure with a friend of mine as well, so I’m killing several birds with a handful of stones I guess, but I digress. We’re camping for a few days in the local woods trying to get footage and just having a grand old time doing it. I’ll post some inconsequential footage with this article.
I want to urge you to think about the technology that you already posses and ask yourself how you can apply that technology in such a way that you can recreate while you work. You’ll be surprised, I think at what you’ll find, and all of a sudden work might not seem so much like work. Particularly when you are able to do it from the midst of something you actually enjoy doing.

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