Sunday, August 29, 2010

Walking Sticks

My walking sticks
Whenever I head out to the woods, one of the things that is always with me is my walking stick.  On those rare occasions that I forget it or can't bring it, I feel like something is missing.  The picture on the right is two of my walking sticks.  The one on the left I've been using for a few years.  It's made from a Basswood sapling cut off to chin height and has an ivy pattern woodburned into it.  Basswood is lightweight and fairly strong although it dents and marks fairly easily.  This one has a couple of years and quite a few miles on it and it still looks good, but you can tell it's been well used.  The stick on the right is one I'm currently working on to try out.  It's a hardwood tool handle from the local lumber store, I've sanded the finish off of it and woodburned a rattlesnake around it.  I still have some details to finish on it but it's almost ready to go.  It's an imported hardwood (Ramen, I believe) and it seems very close to Maple in workability, weight and strength.  A little more pyrography and an oil finish and it'll be ready to go. 
As with most of us, I don't like to carry anything in the woods that doesn't have mutiple uses, So as shown in the picture below, I drill a hole in my sticks at the perfect height to be used as a pole in various tarp setups.  That way I'm not looking around for the right height stick and I can get a tarp setup quickly if it starts raining or getting dark out. 
Tarp Setup with walking stick
I also have a little bit better peace of mind with a good, heavy piece of wood in my hand while on an outing.  I've used my sticks to ward off loose dogs in the woods, to encourage wild creatures to keep moving across a trail and to clear debris from my path. I've never had an altercation with another person in the woods and hope I never do, but I'm confident a hardwood walking stick would make an effective defensive weapon if that were to happen.  So if you don't already use one, grab yourself a walking stick and give it a try.  I can't imagine being in the woods without one. Thanks for reading.

Friday, August 20, 2010

My Bushcraft Journal

I have a collection of outdoor books. Almost all of them have some information that is useful or a technique I want to try out. Some of the books I have are in pretty rough shape (I buy most of them at library sales and garage sales) and I really don't want to take them on an outing and risk any further damage.  So a few months ago I made myself a small leather bound journal and started to take notes of the things I thought were interesting or things I wanted to try the next time I was out. So now while I'm sitting at home reading a book and come across something I want to try, I immediately write it in my journal for the next time I'm in the woods. Now I am no longer carrying two or three books in my pack or trying to remember which book I saw what in.  I have sections on finding direction, knots and ropework, weather lore, recipes and camp tips and crafts.  I also reserve some of it for trip reports and notes.
If it's been an eventful day, I'll sit next to the campfire and write about it while it's still fresh in my mind.  When the weather has you under a tarp or in a tent for a couple of hours, It's a lot of fun to go through it and relive some of your previous trips or study up on some techniques.  So give it a shot and start keeping your own bushcraft journal, see if it works for you.  Have a great weekend !

Monday, August 16, 2010

8/13 - 8/14/10 Trip Report

My buddy Tim and I have been planning an overnight bushcraft trip since last summer. We finally got around to it this weekend. We headed out to some state land about 20 minutes away from my house (see the "Close to Home" post). The weather was great, we got started hiking in about 5:00 pm and decided to stop at one of the beaver ponds so Tim could test his emergency fishing kit. After catching 4 or 5 monstrous bluegills with some local bait, it was deemed successful (I will be putting a kit together for myself ASAP, Thanks Timmy!) and we headed out to make camp.

One of the Monster Fish
I had already scouted a couple of camping spots while day hiking with my family so we headed in that general direction. We got off trail and followed a dry creek bed for a while, hoping to find some decent water. The closest thing to a water supply we found was what appeared to be a spring fed creek puddle next to a downed tree... good enough for me. About a hundred feet up from that, Tim spotted the perfect camp spot. We got our packs off and the tents setup. Tim built a fire ring, We collected some firewood and settled down for a delicious dinner of Ramen noodles. We were both using homemade alcohol stoves and they worked just fine to prepare that culinary delight. After the dinner dishes were taken care of we started a fire, kicked back and attempted to perfect the fine art of around a campfire for the rest of the evening.

Ahhhhh.... Campfire
In the morning, my standard breakfast of coffee and bannock was supplemented with some Vienna sausages I discovered hiding in the back of my kitchen cupboard. After eating a few.... We decided that they may make a better fish bait then breakfast so we set them aside for that noble purpose.  After breakfast we started trying out some different tarp setups and made up a couple of bow drill sets, making a lot of smoke but unfortunately no fire.... I'll keep trying, someday I will get a bow drill fire started.  With lunchtime quickly approaching we stoked up the fire and cooked up.... More delicious Bannock!!! (Did I mention I like bannock?).  Actually I discovered a secret recipe that I will only share with a few close friends on the internet..... Chicken Noodle Bannock!  Take about a cup and a half of bannock mix, add one package of chicken noodle "Cup o' soup" and mix with water to make a stiff dough. Fry in a little oil in a pan over a campfire and believe it or not.... It's pretty darn good.  After lunch it was time to tear down and start getting ready to head home.  It was beautiful weather, excellent company and pretty cheap.... A fine trip to the woods.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

The Ultralight Bushcraft Stool

I like to get outdoors in all kinds of weather, In good weather I'll sit right on the ground next to a campfire, If it's cold or rainy I like some sort of seat. I like to use a stool but couldn't find one light enough so I decided to try making my own.  Basically this is just a triangular piece of heavy fabric with a pocket sewn in each corner.  When I get to camp, I cut three good pieces of wood about 18" - 20" long, round one end with my knife and point the other one.  Lash the three together in the middle, spread out the legs, put the rounded ends in the fabric and push the sharpened ends into the ground........Taa Daa... Instant camp stool.  The picture above was a prototype I quickly made up to test on my last trip.  It worked great and I will now be making one a little nicer and in a heavier fabric.  Have a great weekend.

Close to Home

Got back this afternoon from an overnight trip about 20 minutes from my home.  It always amazes me the amount of state land that exists in the Northeast.  In my home state of New York there are thousands of acres of state land for camping, exploring, hunting, fishing and of course bushcrafting.  In neighboring Pennsylvania, there is acres upon acres of excellent state land to enjoy.  All within an hours drive of my house.  Look around the area you live, talk to your local forest ranger, find yourself some state land close to you and enjoy it.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Comfort in the Woods

I started getting ready for a quick overnight trip this weekend.  As I gathered all my gear and spread it out on the bed, I started to question what I really needed to carry, and what I wanted to carry.  Do I take my stove and cook set or leave it at home and cook over an open fire?  Do I carry the water filter or just boil all my water?  Should I really take a tent or would just a tarp be fine?
Most people (myself included) who head into the woods take too much gear. I'll happily carry a bit more gear to make my time there a pleasant experience but I don't want to haul a 40 pound pack if I don't need to.  So I stared at all the stuff in front of me and asked myself  "What's the purpose of this trip?".  The answer to that question pretty much answered all the rest of the questions I had.
A buddy and I are taking this trip to hang out in the woods, practice some bushcraft skills and just generally bum around for a day or so.  My basic kit was already going so that covered the bushcraft practice part of the trip. The rest of the time will hopefully be spent relaxing and hanging out so a hammock went into the bag. I'm a much happier camper when my morning coffee is ready shortly after waking up, so the stove and cook set got thrown in.  I'd rather spend my time practicing with a bow drill then boiling drinking water so the filter was a go.  Finally, as I have had a few people tell me that the area we are heading to had a fair share of rattlesnakes, I decided that a tent that zipped up tight might just be a good idea.
I packed everything up and set it on the scale.... 25lbs... Just about perfect, not too heavy and hopefully, containing everything I needed for a comfortable couple of days.
I'll post a trip report when I get back, I'm pretty sure there will be some item left at home that I'll wish I'd brought but I'm hoping it will only be a minor annoyance.  Until then... Have a great weekend!

Monday, August 9, 2010

The Rule of 3's

Almost everyone who is into bushcraft and the outdoors knows the Rule of 3's when it comes to survival.  Basically the rule of 3's state that you can survive 3 minutes without air, 3 hours without proper shelter in the cold or heat, 3 days without water and 3 weeks without any food.  I take the rule of 3's a bit farther.
Whenever I am in the woods... whether it be a day hike a couple of minutes away from my house or a week long trip in the Adirondacks, I follow my own rule of three which is always carry three of each essential item. The following is my own personal "Rule of 3's" each followed by what I have been working on or carry in my kit.

Always carry 3 ways to start a fire.
I carry Strike anywhere matches, A "bic" lighter and a magnesium fire starter.
Always carry a tarp and know 3 ways to set it up.
I carry either a homemade 8x8 tarp or a 8x10 poly tarp.
Always carry at least 3 pieces of rope or cordage and know at least 3 basic knots.
The three I use the most in the woods are a Bowline, Square knot and Tautline Hitch
Know at least 3 ways to find direction.
Learn how to use a Map and Compass, Stick and shadow method or how to navigate by the stars.
Know 3 ways to find food.
Pick a plant like the Cattail and learn how to prepare it, know how to make a basic trap and carry a small fishing kit.
Always carry 3 cutting tools.
I carry a full tang sheath knife, a swiss army knife and a small tomahawk.
Know and carry at least 3 ways to purify and gather water.
Carry a metal container to boil it in, carry a filter, carry a plastic sheet for a solar still or a bandana to collect dew in the mornings.
Carry at least 3 light sources.
I carry a small LED flashlight, a couple of candles and 2 lightsticks.

Everything I carry fits into a daypack or shoulder bag, It's always ready to grab and go hit the woods. On longer trips I'll add a tent, stove\cooking kit and a blanket or sleeping bag but my basic kit rarely ever changes.


Sunday, August 8, 2010

Welcome to the Northeast Voyageur Outdoor Blog

Hello and welcome to my blog. Hopefully this will be a place to share and learn about the great outdoors. My name is Chris, I'll be adding outdoor philosophy, woodlore and bushcraft techniques. Feel free to email me at with any ideas, thoughts or opinions. I'm off to go canoeing but will be back to update soon.