Factors Influencing Winterizing Your Get Home Bag
Factor #1: EnvironmentThe first factor to consider when winterizing your Get-Home-bag is your general environment. A more specific environmental consideration is the kind of winters that your area experiences. For example, people living in the Southwest do not have to worry about blizzard or whiteout conditions. By contrast, people living in the upper Midwest or New England have to take into consideration the more harsh conditions of winter. Another environmental factor that influences winterizing your bag are the winter temperatures and wind chill factors.
Factor # 2: Travel DistanceMoreover, the next factor to keep in mind is the distance that you will be traveling. People travelling long distances will have also to consider the winter conditions throughout their travel. Additionally, one should consider the type of infrastructures that can serve as emergency stopping points or emergency shelter while traveling. Additionally , experience with using your gear is important.
Factor # 3: ExperienceA third factor you should consider when preparing your Get-Home-Bag is your level of experience. Your experience with the outdoors and survival gear influence what you carry in the bag. A good rule of thumb is to keep it simple. Only place items in your bag that you already know how to use. For example, a Bic® lighter is an item that you already know how to use. However, you may not know to use climbing or rappelling gear. The point here is that being stranded on a major interstate in a blizzard is no place to try something that you have never used. Thus, your attempt to experiment with an unfamiliar skill or gear in the middle of an emergency may jeopardize your life or the life of others of whom you are responsible. Therefore, as you consider modifying your Get-Home bag for winter, what are some things to think about when deciding on survival gear?
Gear Considerations For Winterizing Your Get Home Bag
The Right Backpack
The first thing to consider about your Get-Home-Bag is the bag itself. You may need to replace your current bag with something more durable. A couple of good examples of winter capable packs are the 5.11Tactical® Rush 72 Backpack (55 liters), sold at the Sigma 3 Survival School Store, or the SealLine® Black Canyon ™ Boundary Portage Pack (70 liters). Both of these packs have their strengths and weaknesses.The strength of the Rush 72 pack is its capability for modularity. Its material is a water repelling (not waterproof) 1050 Denier nylon fabric. The main advantage of the SealLine® pack is that its waterproof 300 Denier TPU-double-coated nylon body with a 400 Denier TPU-coated nylon bottom. The waterproof material of this pack guarantees that clothing items in the bag will stay dry in rain or snow conditions. The main weakness of the Rush 72 pack is that it is not waterproof. Lengthy exposure in rain or snow water will eventually have moisture seep into the bag. The main weakness of the SealLine® pack is that it does not have any attachment points on its exterior. Thus, after selecting a winter-capable backpack, what are some winter survival gear options to place inside the bag?
Fire Making ItemsThe first survival gear consideration for a winter Get-Home-Bag is a fire making item. Fire is one of the four essentials of survival (Fire, Food, Water, Shelter). A great piece of fire-making gear is the Sigma 3 Fire Kit. Check out my review of this excellent fire kit for more information about this kit. In a winter scenario, being able to build a fire is critical to keep from getting hyperthermia. It allows you to stay warm, dry your wet clothing, sanitize water, melt snow, and cook food. Furthermore, meeting your hydration requirement is critical to surviving in a winter environment.
Water and Hydration ItemsThe second consideration for survival gear your Get-Home-Bag is hydration. Water is a primary key to survival in winter. Therefore, water procurement, treatment, and consumption are central to surviving in a winter emergency. However, finding fresh running water in a stream may be difficult in the winter. Thus, it is essential to have a capability to melt snow or ice to get fresh drinkable water in the winter. The Sigma 3 Water Kit is an excellent piece of gear to consider putting into any winterized GHB. Check out my review of this water kit for more information this versatile gear.
Shelter and Cover ItemsAdditionally, a third survival gear consideration for a Get-Home-Bag is that of shelter. One option for meeting your winter shelter needs would be the Warbonnet Blackbird XLC hammock system. The hammock is available at the Sigma 3 Survival store. This hammock system comes with some additional add-on items: a winter top cover and under quilt protector. If you are interested in more information on this hammock system, read my review and video at the Sigma 3 Survival Store. A further consideration for this hammock system would be a sleeping bag. The Snugpak® Tactical 4 winter sleeping bag also would be a great addition to the winter shelter consideration for any GHB. The Snugpak® sleeping bag could be attached to the bottom of the Rush 72 pack.
Food and Food Procurement ItemsAdditionally, a fourth survival gear consideration for a winter Get-Home-Bag is food and food procurement. Another item to think about putting in a GHB for the winter is the Yoyo Fish Trap fishing Reel or the Emmrod® Kayak King Cast Rod and Reel Kit. These items are available at the Sigma 3 Survival School Store. Pre-made meals such as MREs or Mountain House® pouches are useful items to meet the food requirements for a GHB. You can also build your meal kit by using instant oatmeal, instant rice, beef jerky, energy bars, crackers, and instant electrolyte powder (Gatorade®/Propel®).
Winter Clothing ItemsMoreover, a final survival gear consideration for a Get-Home-Bag for the winter is addressing clothing needs. Winter clothing items can be bulky and take up space in the backpack. Therefore, choose winter clothing items carefully. Wool and Gore-Tex should be the kinds of materials that characterize winter clothing. Here are some suggestions for some winter clothing items. The first winter clothing item to consider are wool socks. Keeping feet warm and dry is a critical consideration when discussing surviving in the winter. The U.S. Army MIL-84K Wool Boot Socks or Smartwool® Men’s Hunt Extra Heavy Over the Calf Socks are the types of socks to consider for winter clothing in a Get-Home Bag. Some other winter clothing considerations could be having a wool-based base layer set in the bag, such as the Meriwool Men’s Merino Wool Midweight Baselayer. A military wool watch cap and Weather Wool Neck Gaiter scarf would also be a great item to consider for one’s emergency bag.
ConclusionIn conclusion, the Get-Home-Bag is a great resource to have available in one’s vehicle. As the winter period of the year dawns, it is prudent to check your bag. You should analyze what winter specific survival items you need. It is possible that a more substantial bag may be necessary to meet your winter needs. For example, the things in my GHB are easily stored in the current pack. There is no requirement where I live to maintain large bulky cold weather gear. However, I do need to preserve some winter gear in my bag for traveling in the mountainous regions of the Southwest. So as you begin to assess your winter needs for your Get-Home-Bag choose carefully and wisely the gear that you will need.
Burnweed as Food
American Burnweed is an underrated and unappreciated wild edible. Although Burnweed has no history as a food source here in America, everywhere else in the world that it grows it is eaten. It’s a common food in all of Asia and most of Europe. It is a strong flavored plant, but the flavor is good in my opinion. It is somewhat comparable to mint and tarragon The younger leaves are milder than the older ones and can be eaten raw. The leaves, young and old, can be cooked as a green and are really tasty. My method for cooking them is really simple. Heat some butter in a frying pan. Throw in a handful of leaves and fry for a few minutes. When all the leaves are wilted and covered in butter they are ready to eat. The stems of the plant are traditionally pickled and are delicious. Making them is simple as well. Cut young stems into 6 inch sections and stick in a jar. Pour in pickling spices and cover the whole mess with apple cider vinegar and a little bit of water. Let that sit for a couple weeks and you have a real treat.
Burnweed as Medicine
Although this plant was not used as a food in native America, it was used as a medicine. One of the common names of this plant is Pilewort. That’s because it was used to get rid of piles, which, nowadays we call hemorrhoids. Oil was extracted from this plant and applied directly to affected area. Apparently it was very soothing. Algonquin peoples made a strong decoction from this plant to treat Poison Ivy and Poison Sumac. I haven’t tried this myself but I will in the future. A number of early North American sources indicate medicinal uses of the plant in treatment for hemorrhage, wounds, skin diseases, dysentery, and cholera, but note that it may cause nausea. In fact the oil was used to purposefully cause nausea as it’s listed as a purgative and emetic. Have you used this plant as a food or medicine? I would love to hear about your experiences in the comments. Also i would be glad to answer any questions. If you would like to learn more about this and other great plant foods and medicines, come spend a day training with us at our Plant Identification course. If you REALLY want to learn more spend a few days with us at our Wildcrafter course.
Knife grinds? What are the advantages of different grinds? What are my favorite knife grinds for bushcraft? In this article we are going to breakdown everything you need to know about knife grinds and what you should choose for your bushcraft blade. So you’ve heard just about every single so called survival expert in the world tell you the most important tool to have in a survival situation is a knife. But they don’t go into much depth about what grinds you need for the type of work you expect that knife to do. So here are the top ones you need to know and what they are meant to do!
TOP 5 Knife Grinds:
- Scandinavian Grind
- Saber Grind
- High Flat Grind
- Convex Grind
- Hollow Grind
Performance Factors to Consider
- Cutting Ability- Heavily outweighs all other factors. If knife doesn’t cut well, then what is the point of carrying it. You can have the best steel and ergonomics in the world and it means nothing if it doesn’t cut well.
- Edge Retention- How long does the knife hold a sharp edge? This becomes very important when you plan to be in the field for longer periods and need you edge to hold up through tough tasks without resharpening.
- Overall Durability- Does the knife hold up to heavy use? All that really matters is whether you can slam this baby through a cinder block un-scathed or not. I kid, I kid. Though it does seem many in the industry consider extreme durability a much higher priority than they should. Just take care of the knife and use it for what it was intended and it’s not likely to break. But always buy the best your budget can afford. Because this is the most important outdoors tool you can carry.
- Ergonomics- How does it feel in your hand? If you have to use your knife a lot, then how it feels in your hand is pivotal. There are a lot of great knife makers out there, but very few of them understand how to build a professional grade handle.
- Sharpenability- How difficult is it to sharpen? Can you sharpen it in the field? With all the new super steels coming out that hold an edge forever, its hard to know what is the best choice. But it really boils down to a matter of preference and what you plan to do with the knife. Many people prefer a softer steel so they can sharpen it super quickly. Other prefer something they only have to sharpen a few times a year. I lean towards the super steels that are harder to sharpen, because I don’t like maintenance that much, and they tend to perform better.
Scandinavian Knife Grinds
Scandinavian Grind style knives are hands down the king of bushcraft knife grinds because they are capable of doing numerous types cutting tasks efficiently. They are definitely my favorite knife grind and I think almost all outdoors instructors can agree for woodworking and campcraft, the scandi grind cannot be beaten for general use. This is also an exceptionally easy knife to sharpen and any beginner can get one sharp in no time.
Think of the scandi grind as a double sided chisel and we all know chisels to be efficient at carving and removing wood in a controlled manner. The single most important performance factor for any bushcrafter to consider is how well the knife cuts through wood. If it can’t do that well, then sell it or chuck it in the bin for use with some other kind of job. Because cutting performance is the main priority. We need to quickly and efficiently remove wood for survival trap building, making friction fire kits, and other camp craft that is essential to our comfort and survival.
Saber Knife Grinds
I truly believe that the saber and scandi grind blades go hand in hand. You should carry both because each grind has a preferred use. Though you’ll use your scandi grind 10 times more, you should have both. The saber grind is good because it offers superior durability and will hold up better than the Scandi grind will to more abuse. The Saber Knife Grind is essentially a really high scandi grind, with a secondary edge bevel at the edge to add durability. This grind is best for limb chopping, light batoning, and taking down small trees when a saw or axe isn’t handy. Pick a blade with some weight to it that can chop and handle heavy tasks.
While this grind has better durability and edge retention, it will suffer when it comes to cutting wood efficiently. So it should be used as a backup and for heavier camp tasks. But we really think you should always have two different knives in your kit in case one is lost or broken. We also love a two sheath knife system when using kydex and for leather sheaths we like dangler options.
Favorite Saber Grinds Knife: The Standard Blade
High Flat Knife Grinds
I really love a good flat grind, because it is somewhat of a mix between a saber and a scandi grind. The cutting performance is right on par with the scandi, and I tend to like a flat grind in a larger style knife, that I want to make cut as efficient as smaller blades. You can have a very thick spined blade and cut as well as a thin blade with a flat grind. Because the edge is so thin, it has similar performance but the downside of the flat grind is the durability. Even with a super steel, you can still roll the edge or damage the steel from heavy bushcraft use. It has a very thin edge and really should be used for lighter camp tasks. This isn’t my go to knife grind and is considered more of a hybrid option.
Convex Knife Grinds
So I really love convex style knives and they have a plethora of uses. Essentially a convex knife grind offers slightly lower durability of the edge than a saber grind, but cuts closer in performance to a scandi grind. Here is the kicker, a convex grind will work better at taking small amounts of material off or doing finer cuts. While the zero degree scandi will take large amounts of wood and be harder to control for tasks such as feather sticking. It is trying to play in both worlds while offering durability & controllability. The Bark River line of knives is done in convex and is a great choice for any woodsman.
Hollow Knife Grinds
This knife grind is ALL about cutting ability and remember that the thinner the edge, the better it will cut. The hollow grind is one of the thinnest and weakest edges you can get but will get razor sharp. This type of grind is always used best for skinning, gutting, and butchering animals. I’m absolutely a believer that you should carry several knives in your outdoors kit. You should have a scandi for fine wood working, a saber for heavy camp tasks, and hollow grind for cleaning game. When it comes to longer term survival, you will spend more time cleaning game than almost anything else you will with a knife. So this knife grind is a must have in any bushcrafters kits if he plans to get his meat from the land.
There are so many options when trying to pick a bushcraft blade or set of blades for outdoor use. The options can be mind numbing and overwhelming. So here is what I tell students about knives in general.
Get the best you can afford! But if you can’t afford much, then get something with a great knife grind for the task. You can put a great grind on a terrible steel and it will still cut good for awhile. Put a bad grind on a fantastic steel and it will still cut bad despite being great steel.
Grind geometry is far more important than steel choice, ergonomics, or anything else about the knife. It needs to cut well, and the grind & sharpness are the most important factors to consider. Each grind has something it’s designed to do so use the knife for it’s intended purposes. Carry several if there are several cutting tasks to be done. They weigh very little and you can rebuild almost anything with a good set of blades. So why not have them all?
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Founder of SIGMA 3 Survival School
With all the growing interest in the survival industry there are dozens of different fire starters on the market. Everything from fancy ferro rods, fire pistons, blast matches, and even electronic igniters. However; without a proper understanding of how to select and prepare natural tinders these fancy gadgets become nothing more than expensive sparklers.
Don’t get me wrong, survival gear is vital, and could very well save your life. The problem is we develop a false sense of security when we purchase these items without putting in the adequate dirt time to hone the skills necessary to operate them. For example anyone can take a ferro rod and light a cotton ball on fire, but what if they were told to go out into the forest and try to use a ferro rod in the rain with only natural materials?
Knowing what natural tinder to use, and having the ability to go out collect and harvest it is vital to being able to survive in harsh conditions. Below is a list of my favorite natural materials to use for fire starting.
Cedar bark is amazing due to it’s ability to be lit when damp. It is extremely fibrous, and because of it’s resinous nature it produces a hot flame aiding in lighting damp kindling. Simply scrape the outer bark from the tree, and create a softball size birds nest tinder bundle. Cedar/Juniper trees grow in abundance across the nation, and can be found in several different climates and elevations. It truly is the go to for fire starting.
Fatwood is bushcraft gold when it comes to fire starting, and is the king of wet fire. It burns super hot and last a long time. Fatwood is a resinous enriched dense pine wood that can be found in the roots and base of limbs. It can be a challenge to harvest, but once you do you wont regret it. I prefer to gather fatwood from the base of limbs of dead standing pine trees. Once this material is processed down to a 4-6″ pile of fine scrappings it will light very easily with a spark. Another option is to make a feather stick from a section of the fatwood.
Birch bark is an amazing fire starter. It is rich in resins and comes off the tree like sheets of paper. I have used paper (white) birch and river birch. Both work extremely well. I find the river birch tree most often in areas that collect water – river beds, valley bottoms, marshes, and other moist areas. Peel off the bark in sheets, and scrape it to reveal tiny fibers that will light with ease.
Cattail would be considered a flash tinder. It takes a spark easier than any of the previously mentioned tinders, but it burns extremely fast. Cattail is best mixed with cedar bark, pine needles or grass. You will find this amazing plant in still standing water such as swamps, ponds, or lakes. Process out the cattail heads by crushing or wringing it which will expose all the tiny fibers. Hit is with a spark and watch it go up in flame.
Polypore mushrooms make excellent tinder fungus. Look for dried mushrooms that look like shells, fans, horse hooves, or shelves. On the underside of the mushroom it should not have any gills. It should look like tiny pores, similar to pores in the skin. I have found these mushrooms on dead and alive trees, but they are usually found on trees with a dense overhead canopy. The tinder fungus is not the best for lighting, however; it is one of the best materials for transferring a coal or extending a fire.
Additional Natural Tinders
Pine Needles, leaves, and grasses are also descent options for tinder. The pine needles and leaves can be a challenge because they do not make a good bundle, but they are better used to extend a fire once you have flame. Grasses often times contain moisture, and can be challenging to light, but they work good when mixed with other fibers. Old Man’s Beard (Usnea) is another type of tinder that people sometimes use. For me it has extraordinary medicinal uses. I would rather save this amazing lichen, and find something else.
To learn more about natural tinders and different fire starting methods register for one of our UPCOMING SURVIVAL STANDARD COURSES.
I hope you found this Natural Tinder blog to be educational and informative. Be sure to watch the companion video below, and show your support by liking, sharing, and subscribing. Thanks Justin “Sage” Williams
Over the ages, nature has helped evolve the best solutions for survival in the very animals that live off the land. Every species must adapt to it’s environment and find a way to stay warm in the coldest environments. So when you are looking for the warmest fibers on the planet, it makes sense to look at animals that survive in the coldest, nastiest environments on the planet. The one domestic animal that survives at the highest altitudes, experiences the biggest temperature changes, and endures constant moisture is the sheep. Sheep are purpose bred to survive in the highlands and grow a fiber that is natures miracle to mankind. The wool fiber truly is an amazing thing to behold once you really study it on it’s deepest levels.
And I definitely consider myself a wool dork.
Check out this diagram of the breakdown of whats actually in a woolen fiber. Then it all begins to make sense on why this fiber truly is the king of all fibers for cold wet weather. As outdoorsmen, we tend to be in wet cold weather when pursuing our passions in the wilderness. The real difference between wool and other synthetic options is performance when wet, durability, fire resistance, and the anti-bacterial properties. The real problem with synthetic fibers is that over time they will begin to stink and there is never a good way to wash clothes in very cold weather. You don’t encounter the same issues with wool and I’ve owned my WeatherWool anorak for over a year and wear it on average three days a week and it doesn’t smell.
Lanolin, the wool fibers secret?
The real key thing that separates wool from many other fibers that are available is that it is coated with lanolin and each type of wool has different amounts of it. I’ll let Wikipedia define exactly what lanolin is.
Lanolin (from Latin lāna ‘wool’, and oleum ‘oil’), also called wool wax or wool grease, is a wax secreted by the sebaceous glands of wool-bearing animals. Lanolin used by humans comes from domestic sheep breeds that are raised specifically for their wool. Historically, many pharmacopoeias have referred to lanolin as wool fat (adeps lanae); however, as lanolin lacks glycerides (glycerol esters), it is not a true fat. Lanolin primarily consists of sterol esters instead. Lanolin’s waterproofing property aids sheep in shedding water from their coats. Certain breeds of sheep produce large amounts of lanolin. There is an inverse correlation between wool fiber diameter and lanolin content.
A little known fact about winter camping is that it is essential to have an oil coating on your skin to stay warmer. That can be done in two different ways, either by build up of the skins natural oils over time or the by rubbing your skin with natural oils. Either will produce a similar result, though putting natural oil on your skin is more hygenic than natural oils, its not sustainable in the field long term. I always tell instructor course students before long stays in the cold, that they should not take showers and allow the oil to build up on their skin to protect them. And it’s definitely key to make sure you aren’t taking hot showers because that will de-acclimatize your skin to the cold conditions around you. In fact, getting in cold water can help you acclimatize your skin to very cold conditions and will cause a rush of blood to your skin. It helps you build that natural comfortable cold you get from a long time in the woods in winter. And like the oils that protect our skin, the lanolin in the wool protects the fiber.
Different types of Wool Available?
Alpaca- I’ve used Alpaca wool for years and it has some amazing properties. Alpaca socks are hands down some of the warmest socks I’ve ever worn in my life and I still prefer them for many things. But the main problem I’ve had with it is durability issues. You can’t hike long distances in these socks without wearing a hole in them quick. There also isn’t a lot of options on the market right now to even purchase Alpaca wool clothing or socks. The fiber just isn’t used that much by American companies for durability issues, so that limits the products you could hope to purchase.
Yak Wool- This is something new to the market and hasn’t really been utilized much yet. There is one company that I recently purchased some base layers from that I haven’t used in the field yet that is making yak wool products. Kora is making a revolutionary new Yak wool that is suppose to be much warmer and more durable than other fibers to date. It makes sense considering Yak’s are exposed to the siberian tundra and the worst winter conditions on the planet as their daily life. But none of this has been substantiated in field testing yet and since they are the only company I’m aware of offering these products. It makes your selection extremely limited!
Merino- The most used type of wool on the planet is merino wool by a landslide. One of the reasons is that it is a commonly kept domestic animal and have been raised for generations by farmers. These sheep have survived in all types of conditions to high mountain fields to low land wet weather areas. They are one of the best overall fibers you can choose from for several reasons. It is a thinner, softer, and more workable fiber that can be processed into tougher outer garments or soft undergarments to wear next to the skin. In essence, its one of the more versatile wool fibers and their is a huge plethora of products to choose from on the market. Almost anything you can think of can be had in this wool fiber.
Rambouillet Merino- This is a big upgrade from the standard merino wool and rambouillet are bred in order to produce the highest quality wool fiber you can get. With the main goal in mind being performance in the elements and softness against the skin. WeatherWool is the only brand using this material and they only choose the top 1% of the top 1% of any merino wool available. There purchase costs for this fiber are 5 times higher than any other type of merino available to date. In fact, this material wasn’t really available before WeatherWool came along and Ralph Dimeo is a pioneer of it. With the sole goal of building a garment that performs flawlessly in any environment, looks good, and is comfortable to wear. Because lets be honest, if the wool is itchy and scratchy, you’re less likely to wear it. Finding high quality wool that you can wear directly on your skin is difficult, meaning you’ll have to wear warm base layers to keep your skin away from it. And that means you might get to hot and makes the garment less flexible for use in the field. This is my favorite wool so far by a landslide and I’ve owned all the competitions stuff. If you have an interest in learning more about the WeatherWool fabric and the tedious process of selection they use then visit: WeatherWool Fabric
Mouton- Mouton is French for sheep. In the fur trade, Mouton refers to an extremely select pelt of a lamb that has evolved to offer some remarkable properties to the outdoorsman.
Here is an excerpt from WeatherWools fabric page:
“Like all WeatherWool components, our Mouton is pure American. Americans have very little appetite for the meat of adult sheep. Virtually all sheep that are raised for meat in the USA are processed as lambs at about one year old. The pelts of all these lambs are used. Those pelts that are of the very highest quality; less than 1% of all pelts, are selected for processing into Mouton. Mouton was originally developed as an alternative to wild furs such as beaver and seal.
There are several steps in the creation of a Mouton Fur. First, the lamb must grade out to ‘Mouton potential’. Only one in one hundred lambs will have the dense, soft, and uniform fleece necessary for Mouton. When the raw pelt is shipped to the tannery, it is graded again, and about 15% of the Mouton candidates are rejected at this point. Acceptable pelts are tanned, then heat treated to make the wool fibers relatively water-resistant and straight, and extremely soft and glossy. The fleece is sheared to a uniform length of 5/8 inches (1.6 cm) and dyed. Our favorite color is a rich BROWN, but BLACK, WHITE and GRAY are also available. Wool, and therefore Mouton as well, is considered by the medical profession to be hypoallergenic. Mouton cannot be washed, because of the leather, but does resist soiling fairly well. If necessary, it can be cleaned by professionals who launder furs.”
Interesting fact about Mouton and sheeps pelt jackets is they were worn by World War 2 bombers. The guys flying at the highest altitudes, with the windows opening and blaring machine guns under Japanese fire, chose to use sheeps pelts and leather jackets. Why is that? Warmth when wet, the leather stops the wind, and good breathability under tense conditions. And all these mouton clothing options from WeatherWool are just a modern and elegant version of those. They can be worn in the arctic circle or in the finest restaurants because of their beauty and comfort. You might think they are overpriced, but there is really no mark up on this product. The company makes almost nothing for their efforts, but Weatherwool is committed to making the highest quality garments you can get, regardless if they make much on it or not. And I can tell you from personally wearing these mouton items, that they are hands down the warmest garment I’ve ever put on.
What is wool not good for?
There is no one tool option for outdoor clothing and each item you purchase should be well thought out and something you’ll wear regularly. And as always, I’m a buy once cry once kind of guy, so always buy the best you can afford. As survivalists, we choose wool because of it’s wet weather performance, warmth under the wettest conditions, durability, fire resistance, and long term hygiene benefits in the field. That being said, wool is the heaviest and least packable of all the products available. It is also much heavier when wet than almost any other garment out there. Its not recommended for long hiking expeditions, where speed and staying lightweight is the key. It is however the king of camping and any kind of sedentary outdoor usage. Unless are you choosing lightweight performance hiking wool products, you’ll find most wool products have limited uses for people moving long distances. But the upside, is the main outer wool clothing you use can be worn under almost any temp conditions and you don’t have to put it in a backpack or worry about shedding it much. So packability becomes less of an issue when you use wool base layers and proper choice of outer garments.
I’m a big believer in mixing fibers to combine the best of both worlds. My favorite non wool clothing brand is by far and away Fjallraven outdoor clothing, and I like too wear Fjallraven Vidda Pro Pants with wool under garments and wool jackets. The pants are the best hiking pants I’ve ever used, they shed water easily, and dry even faster than nylon does. Combine these pant options with wool outer garments and base layers and I promise you that you’ll love them. Lightweight, packable, tough, and they have the best fit and tailoring I’ve ever seen on any pants.
So my philosopy on outdoor clothing is to mix and match these fibers for optimal performance for your specific outdoor trip. But just remember that wool is always your fall back clothing or you base foundation. Base layers, socks, wool caps, scarfs, underwear, tshirts, and much more are available in wool today. Use the wool products for the areas close to your skin. And then combine the wool with fjallraven pants, goretex shells, ponchos, and other garments that compliment the wool for each specific trip you take. Mix and match different materials for optimal performance. Just remember there is no one tool option, but if there was one, it would be wool.
Difference in Design?
So one of the big problems with most wool designs is that many manufacturers use cotton in their apparel. Cotton stitching, cotton liners, and some even use cotton inside the actual wool material. That isn’t a big issue until you get wet. I’ll give you a for instance, the Columbia wool clothing I own has a cotton lining in the hood of the jacket, and if I was to fall into a creek or get rained on that cotton would begin to freeze. And once that cotton freezes, it eliminates the benefits of having the wool in the first place. Remember that we choose wool because of it’s wet and cold weather performance. So ask yourself why a huge majority of the manufacturers out there would have large amounts of cotton in their apparel. Why? Because its WAY WAY cheaper to do it that way for one. But the sole purpose for adding liners is because the wool fabric they use is so scratchy that it will irritate any skin it touches. So why buy rough wool when you can have soft wool with much better performance? The only reason to buy rough wool is if you just can’t afford wool that is soft. Which is fine because budget is the single most important factor when purchasing something like this. Some guys will never be able to afford the higher quality performance products, so they should stick with surplus stuff and not feel bad about it all. But if you have the money, and if you travel to places where the cold can kill you, then get the best you can. I promise when your warm at deer camp and everyone else is freezing their ass off, I promise you’ll then begin to appreciate the purchase. And the big difference with WeatherWool, is that you can wear your hunting equipment EVERYWHERE up to 80 degrees.
Price for Premium Wools?
What most people fail to understand is there is a big difference in rough run of the mill production wool and a high grade premium option. If you want real wool and the performance of it, there is no getting around opening your pocket book for a big hit. Whether it’s buying base layers or a fullweight jacket, they aren’t going to be cheap. I recently paid almost $300 for just some baselayers in Yak wool, and that is only one layer in the wool options. If you’re going to have an entire wool outfit, there isn’t any way around spending a $1000 or more unless you go for recycled or mixed blend wool options that don’t perform as well. And I’m of the mindset, that if you’re going spend a lot of money, I’d rather spend a little more and get something that will last a lifetime. The only cheap option available for 100% wool is thrift shops and european military surplus, which can be found in abundance all over the web. And I’m not going to say the performance of these items are bad because they are good for what they are. But they will all universally feel scratchy on the skin, sizing can be difficult, and performance has improved incredibly since the invention of those older garments. But those garments are a testament to how long wool clothing lasts. It doesn’t matter where you go to find wool, it’s expensive everywhere. The cheapest wool product available in our industry is the Lester River Wool Anorak and I own one of them. It’s an okay piece of equipment, but it’s a cheap and scratchy military wool blanket of the lowest quality. It will get the job done in cold weather, but it won’t be a piece of equipment you wear often. Whereas high end WeatherWool is a piece of clothing you’ll wear year round to all your life events. It’s comfortable to wear in temps up to 80 degrees because of how well it breathes. You can wear it directly onto your skin with no base layers, unlike most other wool. So all in all, I’m a component for spending more for wool equipment and have something I’ll pass onto my kids. Versus something that will sit in my closet most of the time.
Wool is natures answer to all things cold and wet. It is the base fiber to build all your other fibers upon. Learn to mix and match fibers for different performance in different environments. Remember that you always wear wool socks no matter the climate hot or cold. Wool next to the skin will help the most of any fiber with long term hygiene issues. And weatherwool garments are the top choice for no scratchy, high performance wool outwear. I personally own most of the major companies wool products available and choose weatherwool hands down over the other guys. If you’re interested in purchasing some WeatherWool gear, click the links below or visit:
WeatherWool Our Fabric: https://weatherwool.com/pages/the-weatherwool-difference
WeatherWool Anorak: https://survivalgear.us/collections/weatherwool/products/weatherwool-anorak
WeatherWool Pants: https://survivalgear.us/collections/weatherwool/products/weatherwool-pants
5 Best Bushcraft Saws
For years we have been using silky saws in the field and they have performed exceptionally well. So this list will heavy on the silkies, but we will cover some other saws as well. There is a ton of different saws out there on the market to choose from, the options can be overwhelming to a newbie. So we have tried everything out there and narrowed it down to a handful of saws for you that will work best for bushcrafters and outdoorsman. All of this equipment has been in use by SIGMA 3 Survival Instructors for years, since it is one of the single most important survival tools we bring to work. Our day job consists of showing up in the woods with a knife, saw, axe, and nothing else. That is what we teach with for most classes, so we use them a LOT!
What to look for?
Folding saws are the best option. Pack-ability is always a concern when carrying woodworking tools. You can only carry so much and you want it to be lightweight, durable, and very efficient at cutting small to medium-sized logs. As well as being able to take something larger down if need be. You’d be surprised how large of a tree you can take down in a short amount of time with a mid sized saw. Well over 12″ trees are possible and as a survivalist, you really shouldn’t have a need to take anything larger down. But if you do, then plan on carrying an axe. Our favorite axe at the moment is the Hults Bruk Akka Forest Axe. You can take down anything you need with an axe this big, and the head is light enough you can choke up on the handle and do light cutting work.
Why a folding saw over a buck saw?
The problem with bucksaws is that the depth of your saw will determine how large of trees you can cut. Which can be a problem if you’re carrying a big clunky buck saw, and it won’t even cut large logs if needed. They tend to be heavier and much bulkier, which makes them an issue to carry in backpacks. Whereas a folding saw can cut larger logs and will slide right into one of your pockets. The Silky Ultra Accel actually fits perfectly into the upper left cargo pocket of the Fjallraven Vidda Pro Pants (My favorite outdoor pants of all time).
Some things only a saw can do:
- straight cuts for notching, survival traps, shelter building, and much more
- Faster cutting and less work than axes. It takes about 1/3 the effort to use a saw versus an axe.
- Fit into small pockets.
- Cut quickly in confined areas.
- Strap it to a pole and cut limbs way out of your normal reach.
Why does a survivalist need a saw more than an axe?
People who travel in the woods often, tend to try and do it lightweight. Tool heavy yes, but as light as they can go to get the job done. Why carry a big 3 lb axe if you don’t need it? I primarily carry an axe for winter trips in colder climates and in places you need to chop lots of standing dead wood to burn. Unless I have to process and split a lot of wood, I don’t really need an axe for most 3 season trips. The saw can do anything I need and then some. Plus it fits in your pocket and the only survival tools that matter are the ones you’ll actually carry regularly.
There issues with almost every folding saw on the market. It isn’t designed to necessarily replace an ax, it should be paired with one. Because of the two items, the axe is far more durable, even though it’s not as efficient. I typically carry both and end up using my saw 80% of the time. Remember that your wood working tools are your survival tools, because they can help you construct items for your longer-term survival. Not to mention a fire is pivotal to survive in any environment and you want a few tools at hand to process wood.
Silky Issues- This saw has the hardest steel by far, meaning it holds an edge much much longer. But the harder a steel, the more brittle it is. The only issue people have with silky’s ever is that if you abuse the blade it will break. You have to use it properly and never force it through wood or allow the blade to bind. If done right it will fly through the wood with very little effort on your arms. The silky also has a very wide kerf (thickness at cutting edge), meaning it binds the least of all the saws. This is a professional tree trimming saw and is by far and away the fastest cutter. Just be careful when using the blade so as not to break it. I’ve never personally broken one after years of use, but I have seen it happen.
Corona Issues- This saw has a thinner kerf and will bind a little more than the silky’s. It also has an issue with the bolt loosening and once you lose the bolt, the saw is almost worthless. The blade is also softer so the edge won’t last as long. And it’s more likely to bend than the silky saws. That being said, it’s durable enough that you can straighten bends in the blade. All in all, this a fantastic saw for the money. It was my go to saw before finding the silky ultra accel.
Bahco Issues- This saw is the slowest cutter of all the saws by far. But it is probably the most popular bushcraft saw in the world. Not sure why they are so popular other than the durability of the blade, which is why it made the top 5 list. You can literally bend the bushcraft saw blade at a 90-degree angle, and then bang it out straight with a log. Its an amazingly tough blade, but it has some drawbacks. The kerf on the saw is very thin, meaning the blade binds a lot. It is also a small saw, and can only process small limbs. You can’t cut even half as large of trees with this bushcraft saw, as you can the silky or corona. You also have to be careful the bolt doesn’t fall out on this saw. It has to have loctite added to the threading or it will come loose in the woods and be rendered useless.
Top 5 Bushcraft Saws:
- Silky Ultra Accel (All time favorite saw)
- Silky Pocket Boy (Best Pocket Sized Saw)
- Corona Clipper 10-inch Curved Blade Folding Razor Tooth Saw RS 7265
- Silky Big Boy (Largest bushcraft saw in class)
- Bahco 396-LAP Laplander Folding Saw, 7-1/2 -Inch Blade, 7 TPI
Just a couple of good buck saws:
ANNOUNCEMENT: We are proud to announce that SIGMA 3 will be the first US distributor of these reflective tarp products and currently the only place you can get this in America.We highly recommend this shelter after having used it in the field!
For years, I have been looking for a really good shelter made of reflective material that was designed for use by bushcrafters. In the US, you really only have the small emergency blanket tarps made of this material and they are all too small for comfortable use. Previously bushcrafters have had to resort to canvas, cordura, or other tough materials if they planned to sleep next to a campfire without damaging their tarp. Until recently I was completely stumped on how I could get a shelter made like I want because a company in the US has almost a total monopoly on reflective tarp material. That makes it super hard to get a hold of the material for making your own tarps. Then I stumbled onto the company Vihe Vaellus in Finland and was shocked at the AWESOME lineup of reflective bushcrafting shelters!
This company has really thought out these reflective tarp shelters very well and has a setup that will fit almost anyone’s needs. You can get solo shelters all the way up to 6 person shelters, and they all weigh less than 3 lbs. All the smaller reflective tarp shelters weigh less than 2 lbs and are surprisingly durable considering their weight. This traditional style of bushcraft shelter is designed to be placed next to a fire and will keep anyone sleeping in them really warm. They are not like a traditional nylon tarp that loses heat easily and has no sides to protect from the wind. This rip stop nylon has been coated with an aluminum spray that helps reflect all the heat back towards you. It is so effective that you don’t even need to keep the fire close to you at all. For a good size long fire, we recommend placing the fire about 4-5′ from the edge of your shelter.
To Purchase Click Here!
Remember that it is important to know your prevailing winds when using this type of reflective tarp shelter. Fire placement and prevailing winds will be an important decision to insure that you aren’t breathing much smoke from the fire. It is best to set these up in low wind forested areas but we have set them up in high winds several times and they have held up well.
Reflective Tarp Technical Specs:
- Width at the front 114″ or 9.5′
- Diameter 125″ or 10.4′
- Depth 62″ or 5.1′
- Weight: 1.7 lbs
- Pack Size in Compression Sack: 6″x6″
Because we have to import these from Europe, they do hit us pretty hard on shipping but we don’t plan to pass on that cost to you. If you buy this reflective tarp shelter from us, you will pay roughly the same price as if you were living in Europe. We are the only US distributor of this product and you won’t find it anywhere else in America! Only other place to get them is from foreign website, most of which are in another language.
Warning: Do not get the fire to close to your shelter, it is essential that it stays the proper distance away to avoid sparks. Now we have had this shelter in 50 mph winds on several occasions and it took some huge spark showers with no damage. We have even had the flames wicking extremely close to the material without it melting or deforming in anyway. But I would play it safe and make sure to protect the tarp the best you can from fire damage.
For over a year now we have recommended the Warbonnet Hammock system as our top survival shelter for all uses. But not everyone likes sleeping in hammocks and some people want to sleep next to fires. Well this is the perfect option for people that like sleeping on the ground next to a fire. You can carry all types of bed rolls with this setup and won’t have to worry about damaging them next to the fire. I used an Exped Down Mattress in the video below and I have to tell you that it is by far the most comfortable ground pad you will ever use. By far the best for comfort, but very pricey!
You can also make a bed using dry leaves, boughs, or other soft material for sleeping if you plan to go lightweight. I recommend a small mat and lightweight sleeping bag. When using a fire next to this shelter you will not need a large sleeping bag as long as you stoke the fire through the night. It is a great way to cut weight out of your hiking setup by bringing a smaller sleeping bag.
Conclusion: This is the best ground based reflective tarp shelter in the world and is a must have for those that sleep next to a fire. You really can’t beat the packability of the product or it’s weight. There is simply nothing else on the market that really compares with it. I truly believe these shelters will take over the bushcrafting community and all those canvas/cordura/oil cloth fans will be switching over to this once they try it. No need for heavy bulky shelters so that you can sleep next to the fire. I still totally recommend the Warbonnet system as my go to shelter for most people. But if you like sleeping on the ground next to a fire, then this is the only way to go. I’m getting rid of all my canvas tarps after using this system!
If your interested in purchasing this product:
Sure there are tons of articles and info out there on the subject of fatwood, so what makes this one different. In this article, we plan to reveal a few things you probably didn’t know about it and what works best when using it. This survival blog will even show you how to make it on your own if you can’t find any good fatwood.
What is Fatwood?
Fatwood, is a resin impregnated pine wood that can be found on pine trees and is probably the best natural fire starter available. It’s waterproof, rot resistant, extremely flammable, and in abundance when pine is in the area. Most evergreen trees contain terpene in their tree sap. This sap flows to an area that is scarred and damaged, attempting to heal that area. As the terpene evaporates in the sap it will harden, becoming resin and over time it will not be sticky any longer. The resin at all stages is flammable and burns well. This same resin can be used for pitch glue and all types of bushcraft needs.
Where to find fatwood?
The best way to find fatwood is to find fallen dead pine trees that are on the ground. When a tree dies the terpene in the wood will move to the interior heartwood of the tree and it will saturate the inner wood creating fatwood. Sometimes you can find sections of it the size of a small tree, within the inside of a large fallen rotten tree. You can also dig around rotten pine stumps to find large sections of it as well. Remove the punky rotten material from around the fatwood and this wood will be golden in color and very resinous in feel. You will also smell a heavy scent of turpentine in the wood and the stronger the smell the better the wood.
Fatwood can also be found in the lower branches of the tree in the small node that connects the branch to the tree. Where the tree connects to the trunk, is usually where it is found and most times it can be 2-6 inches in length out along the branch. Spruce fatwood is found only a couple inches up the branches and does not have as much fatwood as pine. Having some fatwood in a tinder box or tinder pouch , can be very useful in all type of weather conditions. So see if you can find some in your area then you definitely want to store it for later fire making uses. Fatwood makes a great tinder anytime, it will burn long and hot. When in wet conditions, its used for drying damp materials so they will combust into flame and this can make the difference with marginal wet tinder material. It will catch almost anything on fire if you have enough of it.
Large sections of it can also be used as a torch for lighting purposes around camp. Put the fatwood into the spears we make on the youtube channel and have a portable torch you can use for light in the woods. These can be used to attract fish for night time fish spearing as well! Since the fatwood puts off a tremendous amount of toxic smoke, this can also be used to combat mosquitoes in your camp. You do not want to breath fatwood smoke though, so caution should be used when in primitive shelters. Some people even take large sections of fatwood and make them into walking sticks so they are insured to always have a great firestarter.
How to make your own fatwood?
If you can’t find any fatwood in your area then you simply need to make some. It is so simple to make fatwood and you will have the same types of results as the natural fatwood. All you need do is melt your sap down in a container large enough to soak your sticks into. Once the sap is melted completely in the container, then add your finger sized sticks of cedar or dried pine to the melted sap. Lightly simmer the sticks in the sap for around 30 minutes and make sure you don’t get fire to hot or the sap will ignite into flame. Once the sap has soaked into the pre-cut sticks, then all you need do is let them air dry and they are ready for fire making.
You’ll need the following 3 items:
- Sap from pine, cedar, or fir tree
- Good flammable dry wood such as white cedar or dried pine
- Boiling container; preferably something you don’t mind ruining such as an aluminum can.
How to Prepare it?
Methods to prepare fatwood for fire starting is most commonly done in a two ways. The first is by taking a knife and thinly shaving off the fatwood to make shavings. The shavings should be thin and usually will be curled. A small pile the size of a golf ball or larger is a good amount. The shavings will light easily by using a flame or even sparks from a ferrocerium rod. The second way is by taking a sharp edge on the spine of a knife and scraping the fat wood to make a sticky dust. Also, the fine dust can be scraped off with a sharp stone, a piece of broken glass or other sharp object. After getting a small ball of dust in a pile you will be able to light this with a flame or ferrocerium rod. The SIGMORA (Official S3 Survival Knife) has a custom scraper on the back that makes perfect scrapings of fatwood for catching sparks and it is our preferred tool for this job.
Fatwood is probably the single best fire tinder you can carry with you and is usually in great quantity if pines are in the area. This tinder is even better than birch bark and many modern tinders as well. It’s free, abundant, and one of the most useful fire making tinders you can harvest. Go out and get some and try it today!
A lot of people look at Armadillo as some kind of taboo food for consumption unless it’s under extreme survival circumstances. Well I’m here to tell you that not only is it safe but it also tastes great. If you like pork then you’ll like Armadillo as well! They are basically just armored pigs that live in the ground and they are super easy to catch. For fun a lot of people try to sneak up on them and pick them up, which is very easy to do. These animals have such poor eye sight that you can usually sneak up on them with relative ease if the wind is in your favor. I’ve literally snuck up and pet them without them even knowing I was there. While they do have terrible eye sight remember that their great noses is what will give you away the quickest.
What is the best way to catch them?
Since they are typically nocturnal animals, you will most likely see them roaming around in the woods at night time. In fact, most small game animals are nocturnal and that is simply the best time to catch them. Don’t forget that hunting at night for most things is illegal and these techniques should only be used for survival purposes.
Just like you would go gigging frogs or spotlighting a deer, you can use a flashlight to distract your game while you walk up to them and dispatch them with a big stick or other weapon. Simply shine the light in the eyes of Armadilllo then walk over and pick him up to dispatch them. Sound is of the utmost importance when stalking them so you must not make a sound when approaching them. The light will blind them from seeing you but it won’t stop them from hearing you so walk softly. You can also stalk up to them in the daytime as well but your chances of success are much lower.
These animals are hard to trap without a live game box trap of some type because they just aren’t as likely to walk into a trap. You can also quickly construct a quickie bow to shoot them with if you can’t get close enough. It is much easier to catch them or hunt them actively during the best times though. The best time to get them are always during night or during low light. When looking for places to hunt them you need to look for places that have an abundance of food for them. They primarily root up bugs and eat underground tubers so you will want to look in areas that have an abundance of good soil. They will roam almost anywhere but your highest likelihood of catching them is near their feeding areas. They also tend to shelter underground by digging elaborate tunnels where they hole up as a group. These holes they dig can also be snared or trapped to catch them coming and going.
How to Clean & Butcher Armadillo
The Armadillo is just like every other animal except that it has a shell around it that makes it very convenient for cooking. The animal should first be gutted and all the entrails removed and set aside for other survival uses. Once the animal is gutted and well cleaned then we are going to stoke the fire up and use the flames to singe all the hair off it’s body. Once the flames have burnt the hair off then you need to scrape off some coals to one side to create a cooking fire. Then set the armadillo in the coals with the shell facing down into the coals. This shell will help us cook it without losing any of it’s fat to fire. It is really essential is survival that you don’t allow fat to drip into your fire being wasted. So by keeping the shell on this will preserve all the calories in the meat. You need to slowly turn the animal so that it cooks evenly all over the shell and make sure that the stomach area meat is well cooked. This is not an animal you can afford to eat medium rare because just like pigs they have parasites and diseases we must be mindful of. Make sure you cook it well done and that all the meat is cooked evenly over the whole carcass. If one section of the meat is not done then don’t eat it and re-cook that area for safety. You can also slice the excess fat off the animal and render the fat for later use. This will provide you with lard that can be saved for other cooking projects later. This fat can also be used to burn as a bush candle if light is needed at your camp.
Dangers of Eating Armadillo
A lot of people absolutely won’t eat an Armadillo because they have heard that you can get Leprecy from handling them. While some of the animals do carry the disease it is a very small percentage of the population and most people aren’t susceptible to the bacteria. The bacteria is easily killed by cooking it well done and as long as you don’t have any open cuts on your hand then you should be fine. You must remember that you should not clean animals with open cuts and if you do then you need to wear gloves. Don’t forget to clean up and sanitize your hands the best you can after you’re done cleaning the animal. Armadillo is no different than eating pork because swine can carry all kinds of nasty diseases/parasites as well so don’t be overly worried about this meat source. If you love eating bacon then you shouldn’t sherk away from some slab of Armored Pork! It is always best to eat the cleanest eating animal you can get but the best meat to eat is usually the hardest to get. So this is a good first start for meat procurement when in survival mode. You always start with small less desirable game and work your way up to better tasting animals in your survival priorities.
What is leprosy? A bacterial disease, also known as Hansen’s disease, which causes lesions, growths and dryness on human skin. Your chances of getting leprosy are really, really low. Ninety-five percent of the population isn’t even susceptible to the disease, according to the Health Resources and Services Administration. A 2008 study put to rest the belief that you can get leprosy from eating armadillo. Of some 2500 armadillos caught and tested in Florida, none had leprosy. And for many years researchers were hard pressed to find someone in the United States with leprosy who had actually been in physical contact with armadillos in the United States.
Nutrition Facts Breakdown
All in all, Armadillo meat is extremely high in fat and looks very much like a pig meat when you slaughter it. In fact, it is one of the highest calorie small game animals that you can catch. A pound of meat will bring between 700-1200 total calories depending on the fat content and time of year the animal is harvested. So if you catch a 10-15 lb Armadillo then you can be assured to get a minimum of 5,000 calories from it.
Range & Species of Armadillos
The range of these animals is wide spread all over the south of United States, ranging all the way down to South America. Considering how spread out they are over North America to South America, this is a very good pick for survival hunting. There are numerous species of Armadillo ranging in all sizes from super small to extremely large. The giant species can grow in excess of 60 inches long and over a 100lbs in weight. What a meal that would be! While the smaller species can be a little as 6 inches and only a few pounds.
Common South American Dish
While Armadillo doesn’t seem to be the most appetizing of survival foods, it is in fact very tasty and extremely high in calories. Combine that with the fact that they are very stupid and easy to catch makes them the perfect food choice for the primitive survivalist. On top of that they aren’t regulated by most state laws and have no seasons or regulations for taking them. What is there to lose with some proper precautions? We totally recommend that you get out there and try this food and see if it is a potential calorie source for your survival needs!
If you have any questions about this subject please post them in our Facebook Group “The SIGMA 3 Survival University”.
By Robert Allen
SIGMA 3 Survival School