I imagine that Ray Mears wanders through the woods, sipping tea in his cup made from riverbank clay, making bird calls, and generally being at ease in the wilderness.Ã‚ He is like the polar opposite of Bear Grylls, and while both have their entertainment value, Ray’s advice is usually much easier to trust and follow.Ã‚ In the below video, Ray shows how to select an axe and then safely use it.Ã‚ Even if you have been using an axe since you were a toddler, the video might teach you a new good trick or two.
While I am not stranger to regulary popping pills thanks to a lifetime of allergy and sinus problems, I try to limit my intake of pharmaceuticals to below Hollywood starlet levels.Ã‚ I kept on reading about the benefits of taking Ibuprofen to help reduce recovery time after a hard workout, long hike, or other strenous activity, so I figured I’d give the little orange pills a shot to see how well they actually did.
I haven’t hit the electric wheelchair at WalMart levels quite yet at 5’11″ and 185 lbs, but I could definitely stand to lose a few pounds, or at least convert some fat into muscle.Ã‚ I recently started exercising several times a week again, after a few months of being slack about my fitness level.Ã‚ After doing a circuit type workout of squats, lunges, pushups, bicycle crunches, etc., I would be left sore for a few days, making further workouts in the days ahead less enjoyable and less productive when my body should have recovered by that point.Ã‚ I did warm ups, cool downs, and did not push myself to extreme levels of pain, so I knew I was just out of shape and my body was telling me as much.
I started taking two Ibuprofen immediately after a workout.Ã‚ The same went for a strenous hike, spending a day chopping wood, or any other heavy sustained physical activity that could possibly leave me sore.Ã‚ I was amazed at how little sorness I felt in the days after each activity.Ã‚ Just to make sure the lack of pain wasn’t because I was suddenly channeling Lance Armstrong’s fitness level, I tried stopping the Ibuprofen regimen.Ã‚ Sure enough, I was back to being gimpy after a workout.Ã‚ Starting back on the Ibuprofen meant going right back to short recovery times.
Give Ibuprofen a shot.Ã‚ The pills are dirt cheap, with a bottle of 500 being under $10 at Costco.Ã‚ If you can actually sustain a long workout (I can’t quite yet), I have read that taking a pill or two before the workout as well will also help reduce inflammation and recovery time.Ã‚ As with any medical advice you read on the Internet, you should probably also consult your doctor before following the advice of some weirdo (me).
There has been a fairly large pine tree in our yard since we moved in to our house a few years ago. At least since then, it has had a decent sized split at the base of the trunk, with a chunk splitting off for about the first 10′ of the three. The tree was large enough where it didn’t seem to matter, and was plenty healthy at the top of the tree. Over the past few months, however, I have noticed a LOT of carpenter ants crawling around in the split, and the way the tree was situated, the weak part of the tree would have meant that if it fell, it would have come down directly on our bedroom. I like adventure, but a 100′ tall pine crashing down on top of my wife and I at 2 AM is not what I have in mind, so my landlord had some guys come out and cut it down this afternoon.
Watching someone cut down a huge tree in a residential neighborhood is awfully entertaining, since they have to climb up and cut down each branch, then start cutting chunks off the top.Ã‚ Huge limbs come down with an almost soft landing thanks to all the needles, but the huge chunks of needleless wood leave log sized holes in the yard with a resounding thud.Ã‚ My neighbors had free entertainment for a few hours and some even sat of their porches watching the whole process. The main thought in my head the whole time: “I bet there is fatwood in the damaged part.” I know, I’m a weirdo.
Sure enough, I was very right.Ã‚ The split portion was dead and rotted, but the other side of the split that was still part of the relatively healthy tree was completely saturated with resin.Ã‚ Hardened resin was also caked all around the edges of the split.Ã‚ I took a small hatchet and chopped in a little way to be sure of the fatwood content and was rewarded with a tool that kept sticking in the gooey mess (good sign, but not good if you like clean tools).
As I pushed the logs around, I came to the base pieces and was suddenly very glad that they took care of the tree when they had.Ã‚ A good 1/4 of the lowest part of the trunk was completely rotten, filled with carpenter ant larvae and adult ants crawling around looking none too pleased.Ã‚ The wood crumbled at the touch, which made me wonder what would happen in the summer thunderstorms a couple of months away.
After confirming the fatwood content, I grabbed my axe and chopped off a small tub full of chunks.Ã‚ This was seriously some of the best fatwood I have ever found, with an almost translucent appearance from the high resin saturation.Ã‚ I put a flame to a small piece, and it instantly caught in a nice, hot flame.Ã‚ With three stumps worth of fatwood sitting in the backyard, I didn’t exactly need more cluttering up the patio.Ã‚ I also don’t exactly need more flashlights and knives, but that doesn’t stop me from pursuing them to the ends of the earth.
If you are unlucky enough to have pine trees on your property (I should probably move out of the south due to my hatred of pines), take a close look at them.Ã‚ You might already have all the fatwood that you need sitting in your yard, but hopefully the tree is further away from your house than mine was.
My personal level of preparation greatly depends on the situation. My level of knowledge also factors in heavily.
We’ll discuss knowledge first. Many survival instructors I have read about or seen will start out with only a few simple items: appropriate clothing, a crappy knife, a way to carry water, a way to start a fire, and maybe an item more or less. They live and breathe the outdoors and survival situations, so they are prepared to handle almost anything using the few tools they have and what is in the wilderness around them. They understand that if they lose or break their knife, a sharp stone will cut just fine. If they lose their firesteel, they know 20 different ways to start a friction fire. If they lose their way of carrying water, they can use bamboo to hold water, make a clay pot, use a sheep’s bladder, or whatever.
Do you have their knowledge? Probably not. I know I don’t. Because of this, you will probably need a few extra tools to make yourself comfortable and keep yourself and your loved ones OUT of a survival situation. (Side note: I always hate referring to uncomfortable situations as “survival situations” or my tool kit as my “survival kit.” Such language conjures images of Y2K and the end of the world. I use the items in my tool kit on a regular basis and use my knowledge to do everything possible to keep myself and my wife comfortable and safe. The likelihood of being in a survival situation is minimal, but the likelihood of being uncomfortable is damn high, in my experience. I plan and learn accordingly. Back on track…) Plus, how comfortable will you be if you only take a few items? I want a tent or hammock, a sleeping pad, a nice sleeping bag, a comfortable pack, rain gear, etc. I think the experience of going out in the woods with just a few items would be fun and a great learning environment, but to do that every time I step outside? No thanks. Take what makes you feel comfortable and you know will help you handle the scenarios you will likely encounter. As you gain knowledge and experience, the amount of needed gear may go up or down.
Now, different situations can make the amount of gear I feel necessary vary immensely. If I went for a week in the Smokies in the summer with nothing but a knife and a firesteel, I’d probably be miserable and uncomfortable, but I’d like to think I would be fine at the end of it. If I did the same thing in the Sahara or in Siberia, I’d probably be dead in a day.
I may not take an extra fleece (OK, we all know it would not be fleece, it would be merino wool) during a summer trip in the southeast. What are the consequences of this? The temperatures might dip at night, but to what? 75F? The risk is not high if I am not prepared for cold weather. If you do the same thing in Canada in the winter, then you are either an idiot or Les Stroud. I personally do not want to burrow inside a caribou carcass, so I would plan and prepare accordingly.
The point is, pack and prepare the amount of gear that YOU feel is appropriate for YOUR skill and knowledge levels and the scenarios you are likely to encounter. If you think you need 20 ways to start a fire because you are terrible at it, then take 20 ways. If you can start a fire by staring really hard at a downed tree, then you might not need as much.
Wired has an interview up with Neil Strauss, a best-selling author that likes to immerse himself in a new (to him) world to learn new skills or gather material for his books.Ã‚ His latest effort is Emergency: This Book Will Save Your Life, in which he heads into the woods with just a knife, gets locked in a trunk while being handcuffed, and generally spends time in situations that would make most peoples’ sphincters pucker right up to lean how to survive various situations.Ã‚ The interview talks about his thought process in approaching and researching the book, but the real gem of the article is the video where he shows how to make a knife out of a cigarette.Ã‚ The how-to portion is mildly entertaining, but the goat that takes center stage and eats all of Neil’s props is the real winner.
He also discuss the “philosophy of the sphincter:”
The basic idea is that, in a high-pressure situation, the first thing that happens is people get nervous and uptight. And as soon as your sphincter tightens, as the metaphor goes, it cuts off circulation to your brain. So one of the best survival skills you can have is the ability to quickly and coolly assess a situation rather than panicking and doing something stupid.
After that interview and video, I’ll definitely be picking up the book in the near future.
I went out searching for a good paracord supplier recently, and came across a company that makes some excellent paracord.Ã‚ The first thing I noticed when I received the samples was that it is not 7 strand paracord, but 8 strand.Ã‚ I thought that was pretty awesome and ordered a whole crapload of it.
This is the highest quality paracord you will find.Ã‚ 8 strands of the best nylon the manufacturer could buy, with an outer sleeve of also high quality nylon.Ã‚ I have it in seven colors:
I also have some of their older 7 strand cord, but only in camo green.
The apocalypse is surely upon us, as these pictures clearly indicate.Ã‚
It snowed for the first time in a couple of years on Sunday.Ã‚ The snow wasÃ‚ blizzard level for metro Atlanta at a whopping 1/4″ or whatever it was.Ã‚ Argo enjoyed it once he realized that it was not out to kill him and was less wet (temporarily) than the rain that he so vehemently despises.Ã‚ Of course, it was in the 50s the next day, meaning we did not have much of a chance to play in the snow.
The snow made me think about how (un)prepared I am for cold weather conditions.Ã‚ Sure, I can make a fire 100 different ways and have enough jackets to stock an REI, but the coldest weather I ever see is the very rare occasion when the temps dip into the 20s around here.Ã‚ What would happen if I were spending some time outdoors up north and a blizzard hit, obscuring the trail?Ã‚ Would I be able to find shelther?Ã‚ Make a fire?Ã‚ Get out without becoming completely lost?Ã‚ I would like to think that I could, but without very much cold weather camping experience, I can’t really say for sure.
How about if I went to the other extreme?Ã‚ Could I survive in a desert?Ã‚ Would I last a single day where not having the right preparations can kill you in a matter of hours?Ã‚ Again, I like to think so, but who knows without having experienced such a situation?
I need to broaden my horizons and spend more time in conditions that I have not seen a thousand times.Ã‚ I could probably spend a month blindfolded in the Smokies, but I would like to be able to say the same about Alaska and Arizona. I would die a little inside if I were one of those chumps that was pulled off the top of a mountain by SAR because I went into a situation completely unprepared.
How about you?Ã‚ Do you feel like you are capable to handle any climate and any location?Ã‚ Let me know in the comments.