camping

All posts tagged camping

It has been a very long time since my last post; about nine months actually. I had even taken my blog down. The end of 2012 was not a good time for me, with the end of a relationship I though was going to be it. It nearly killed me, literally. I lost 20Lbs in a few weeks and ended-up in the emergency room. Fortunately the money I had saved for an engagement ring (I never got to ask) helped me survive the end of the year. I would have gladly broken my other femur rather than go thought that. But you don’t need or want to hear about it.. I am doing better now, but for a stomach ulcer that came back with a vengeance. During these dark few months, I simply had nothing to post, and certainly didn’t feel like it.

Ham radio did give me something to think about and keep my mind occupied. I built more kits and got better at Morse code. It was therapy in a sense. A recent week-long camping trip completed my recovery, sort of.

Dagny is gone. Someone ransacked the boat and cut out all the bronze ports, stole the chain and anchor, anchor winch and everything else of value on the boat. In the end, it wasn’t worth it anymore for me to try to salvage what was left.

The Hornet gyroplane project is on hold. It has to take second place now to a more important and useful project. I have not given up on it. It will just have to wait. I did sell the engine unfortunately (along with my beloved guitar and my planenews.com site. None of these can be replaced.) to buy that ring. What a waste.

Life goes on.. I need to take care of my health and decide where to go from here. I am thinking about either leaving the United States, or moving to another state. The way things are going around here, option one might be better. We’ll see. Bottom line is, something has to change.

The Best of All Worlds” is where we live today. Unfortunately humanity has bipolar disorder. Find an asteroid on a collision course with earth, and all the industrial nations of the world would chip-in to build a spacecraft and go blow it up. After that, we’d just go back to killing each-other. History is full of lows we would rather forget. I was inspired today by my friend Victoria’s blog entry on the Holocaust. We must remember such events, and most importantly how they started. But knowing the signs doesn’t help much. Knowing that you can drown doesn’t teach you how to swim.

When I was twelve-years-old, my grandfather hung a couple old pots on a tree branch, handed me his sixteen-gauge shotgun and said “go ahead, aim carefully.” He used to tell me stories about the war, when I bugged him enough to get him to talk. That’s probably when I first realized that it wasn’t always the best of all worlds. He never warned me about watching for signs of impending doom, he just taught me skills that had helped him survive the darkest years of the century. I did not think much of it at the time, it was all fun and games for a boy my age. I did however feel compelled to keep studying and spent a decade handling and shooting small arms, hundreds of rounds a week, with rifle, sub-machine-gun and pistols. I practiced martial arts for years. I went camping, traveling, learned basic survival skills and street-smartness. I could as well have picked-up golf or tennis. Something in me told me I had to learn those things. That compulsion is part of me. It is not a fad, not an ego trip, not a hobby. I do not wonder why.

We humans have a tool no other animal possesses, self deception. It is a curse. If you ever wonder how some people can be very intelligent but have no common-sense, there you go, self-deception. No animal in the wild is going to think “what what that noise? Oh, probably nothing..” We do it all the time: “The government would never do that,” “that guy would never hurt me,” “that could never happen here.” Why think about unpleasantness..

I spend enough time in coffee shops to hear it all, mostly rants about politics and how civilization as we know it is about to end. There is a lot of talking going on. Not much else. I am not a proponent of revolution mind you, the best answer to political problems is informed vote. Emphasis on “informed.” What I am a proponent of is preparedness. Things occasionally do go to hell in a hand-basket, on a macro, or micro scale, doesn’t matter, you can end-up just as dead. Being killed by a horde of thugs after an economic breakdown or a mugger at the ATM machine makes no difference. I will tell you exactly what most people do when something like that happens: Nothing. It’s too late for learning how to swim after you fall off the boat. Even worse: It’s too late to learn how to swim after your family falls off the boat. Take a few minutes to think that one over…

If you’re a loner and plan on crawling into a fetal position and keel-over when the going gets though, be my guest. It’s your choice. But of course, it won’t happen to you, right? I am addressing most of us here however, husbands, wives, boyfriends, girlfriends, friends, and most importantly, parents. It is parent’s responsibility to learn how to defend their children, and teach them to defend themselves. And here is what baffles me the most, almost nobody does. Parents tell their kids not to talk with strangers, but they have no idea about what to do if the stranger has a big knife and is not interested in talking to them at all. Any decent parent would fly to the rescue, but unfortunately, whatever they do next would probably not be the best action, as far as outcome is concerned. Sorry about giving you a guilt trip here, but if I don’t, who else will? You’re not a bad parent, you just deceived yourself. Now you have no excuse, you have been informed. Yet, I will tell you exactly what most of you will do: Nothing.

I am also advocating building strong communities. Look at Switzerland. Every house in Switzerland has an assault rifle provided by the government. Kids in Siberia learn to shoot Kalashnikovs around ten-years-old. Young men and women in Israel serve in the IDF for three or two years respectively. Anybody thinking about invading Switzerland, Siberia or Israel is going to think twice about it.. Anyone attempting to invade Western Europe would have no problem at all. It has been done more than once before. The United States would be a different story, with the number of guns in circulation. The question is, do you have one? Do you know how to use it safely and efficiently? Oh, you are anti-gun.. That’s like being anti-life-vest on a boat. But we are in the same boat. You don’t live in a separate world where everybody is nice and respectful. You live in the same world as the people who were killed by home invaders or raped and killed by sexual predators. Sure, it might not happen to you. What if it does? What if the mighty Dollar takes a plunge and the gangs from that other part of town want your food after they ramsack the supermarket that just closed down? Anyway, enough scare tactics. I don’t spend all my time thinking about such scenarios, actually, I almost never do but for times like today. You know all this anyway. Yet, I will tell you exactly what most of you will do to be more prepared: Nothing.

Now, if you are still reading and haven’t crossed me off your list of friends for being a psycho survivalist type (I’m not, far from it) who makes you feel guilty about spending too much time watching television and getting fat on junk food, you might be onto something. I am not telling you to go to the Gym every day or run 10K twice a week. I get pretty lazy myself at times. There is however a minimal physical condition you should aspire to reach. Now is the time to make new-year resolutions. Read my blog on combat conditioning. If you want to exercise and learn useful skills at the same time, don’t go hit balls with a racket, learn a martial art. Go camping with your kids, learn and teach them what it takes to survive outside your cozy house, how to catch a rabbit, a fish, gut it, cook it. Learn about firearms, safety first.. If not to defend yourself in your house, you might need one someday to shoot your food! You’re vegetarian? Doesn’t matter. When you’ll be hungry enough, your brain will make you seek proteins, and you will eat meat, I promise you. There are whole books about self-sufficiency, I am not going to tell you what to do. If you need advise on firearms or martial arts, you can ask me. I am no expert, but I’ve been around, and if I can’t answer, I know people who can, or where to look. Just ask yourself “Can I take care of myself without society? Defend myself without the cops?” The police can’t be at your door in one minute, can they? But sometimes, that’s all the time you’ll have. Be glad you are now wondering about your personal well-being and you family’s, because I’ll tell you exactly what most people will do to be more prepared: Nothing.

I had noticed those odd-shaped knives before, but really got interested in purchasing one after reading the excellent James Clavell book, “Whirlwind” where, among a flurry of characters, a few British Gurkhas roam Iran on a covert operation during the 1979 revolution. They are armed of course with Nepal’s “official” knife, the Kukri, or Khukuri. After some research on the web, I decided to trust Khukuri House with my hard-earned money, and settled on the Raw Panawal model.

Raw Panawal Kukri

Raw Panawal Kukri

I didn’t want a highly polished blade because it was to be used for camping and, as it turned out, a few other unexpected chores around the house. The knife is hand-made form a truck suspension spring, and let me tell you, it is a heavy chunk of steel. As you can see on the photo, the tip is a wide drop-point, perfect for chopping, as the handle shape also suggests. The box arrived from Kathmandu a couple weeks after I paid the $45 plus $35 shipping on the site. Now, how often do you receive parcels from Kathmandu? The mailman must have scratched his head about that one.. The whole knife was nicely wrapped in heavy paper and plastic, fully oiled. My first impression was “It’s big,” then “It’s heavy.” I tried to shave hairs off my arm (if you ever noticed, I often have bold patched on my forearms ;-), but to no avail. I took it to the sharpening stone right away, coarse, then fine, then cardboard; still, no shaving, but more on that later..

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[tip]The best knives are made of carbon steel. This means that they will rust very quickly. If you own a carbon steel knife, clean it and keep it oiled after every outing, or every other month. I use an old electric toothbrush with dish detergent, then any oil at hand at the time..[/tip]

My friends and I were going to have a bonfire in the backyard, and I decided to clean-up the area of low palm frowns. The ten-inch blade cut through like a hot knife in butter; well, not quite, but I certainly didn’t have to exert much effort to accomplish the task. The weight of the blade did the work for me. I am not so worried about sharpness anymore, this one is a chopper and a keeper!

The rosewood of the handle seems to be affected by changes in temperature and humidity. I noticed the problem when the rivets felt as if they were slightly bulging out, and the wood separated from the handle on one side by maybe half a millimeter (not much at all). It isn’t really a problem per say on a work knife. I would be pissed if it happened on a $200 knife, but let’s face it, I paid $85 total. The assembly feels as solid as ever, so I am not worried about smashing it on a log with all my strenght. This is what my friend Ted did when he borrowed it from me to spilt logs! He brought it back in one piece, and without any dents. To whomever built it and heat-treated it, my hat off to you sir..

I haven’t used my Kukri for camping yet, but it will certainly be with me on my next trip.


 
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I have abused it removing baseboards in my bedroom, chopping through nails and all, without visible harm. If someone broke into the house at night, it would be high on my list of things to grab to go investigate (I always have a few other choices at hand).. As to getting it to shave hair, I gave up. The concave edge makes it difficult, or maybe I am not using the right method. Anyone? I even dropped it at a shop to have it professionally sharpened, it came back just the way I brought it in, reasonably sharp, but not “razorly” so.. That said, a razor edge is not needed on such a beast.

I may sandblast and parkerize it, if I get bored enough.. It would give it a nice dark-gray finish impervious to the elements, and I wouldn’t have to oil it very often. I’ll post my method if I ever get to it.

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This knife will come with me every time I hit the woods. It is well built, with a very strong edge. Get one and you’ll be the coolest looking camper around with that thing on your belt! If that’s all you have, and you camp in remote areas, it will give you some piece of mind on dark lonely nights. Now, I’m ready for a trip, who else is coming?

Update October 17, 2009: I just used the knife to cut a tree! Not a bush, a real tree. The trunk was about five and a half inches in diameter. It took mere minutes to chop through it. While cutting it to pieces, I even accidentally hit the cement below in the driveway, twice. No chipping of the blade! I didn’t even bother resharpen it after, it was just fine..

James Clavell’s book is a great adventure novel that, although from a British perspective, sheds a lot of light on middle-east politics and religion. I highly recommend it..

There are skills in this world that, independently of where you live and who you are, you need to know. Not only to be prepared, but to be worth of being called human, may I say. Our long line of ancestors made it through a multitude of obstacles, from saber-tooth tigers to World War II, and everything in between. I believe we owe ourselves and the people around us to be capable, strong and knowledgeable.
We are lucky enough to live in a time of relative peace and abundance. I am talking here about Europe, the United States, and many other countries in the world. It isn’t the case everywhere, I know. Pandemics have ravaged the world in the past, killing millions. We dodged a few bullets more recently with Influenza, as well as Ebola (search Wikipedia on “pandemic”). Many other killer strains are only waiting for an opportunity. New wars, civil unrest are never out of the question. Natural disasters such as tsunamis, volcanoes, hurricanes, tornadoes and earthquakes can happen at any time. Hopefully none of these disasters will happen in our lifetime. Some of you guys though may have children, and who else will teach them but you? Not the public school system. And even if nothing bad happens, why not be a stronger, more capable individual?
A lot of the skills we learn today are based on work, not survival. We have everything at our disposition: Shelter, supermarkets, gas, electricity, communications, transportation. We become very good at using computers, complex phones, and rely much on them. We drive cars, even for short distances. We become dependent on technology and services provided by others to survive. We grow fat and become lazy. When was the last time you walked for ten miles? When was the last time you had to hunt or fish for food (not counting doing it for fun)? Now, imagine that all the supermarkets in your town close. Then, the power company shuts down; no more internet either, and you can’t recharge your cell phone. Land phone lines are cut. Gas stations close. How long will it take for the situation to become dicey, for people to start panicking? What would you do then?
Acquiring the skills you would need to survive or get out of the area can be fun week-end projects. Learning them when the shit has already hit the fan is too late, you probably will become a statistic. You don’t have to think about catastrophes all the time and live in fear, simply learn what you need, and put it in a compartment of your head somewhere, until you need it..

Learn to navigate: In an evacuation, roads could be blocked by traffic jams. They could be blocked by people, or physically destroyed. Buy topographic maps for your area, or your state, and get a compass. One without the other isn’t of much use. Learn dead reckoning, where you pick a landmark in the direction you want to go, walk to it, and pick the next one. Count your steps, know how many you take typically per mile.

Building shelters: A few days of camping should suffice for this. Have a comfortable tent with you, but bring a hatchet and nylon string. Don’t try anything new or fancy, good shelters have been built for eons by cavemen who’s lives depended on it. Copy them. Look into the history of your area, you will find out what they used. Try to isolate yourself from the ground. Make sure you know what trees or plants to use, some might be poisonous.

Food: While you are camping, try to make a bow and arrows. Have a family competition to see who can be the most accurate. Learn to build traps. You can find numerous designs online. The most commons are the figure 4 deadfall and spring traps. Not only can you make traps for land animals, but also for fish. Buy a book on local flora and comestible plants. Go out in the woods and try to identify them. Ask an expert before you try eating anything you aren’t absolutely sure about! Getting food is one thing, but then you might need to skin it, gut it and cook it. You should have done this successfully at least once. A note to vegetarians here: Do not think that because you don’t eat meat you should skip this. If you get hungry enough, you will eat anything. No, don’t think “No, I still wouldn’t,” because you would, period. If you think otherwise, you are a fool, and you might as well close this page and go cook some tofu.. Learn about cooking methods in the woods, using hot rocks for instance.

Water: How do you boil water without a pot? How do you make one? An important skill to know is how to make a solar still. There aren’t many ways to purify water without chemicals or a special filter. Are there springs in your area? If not, how far would you have to go to find a natural spring. What about wells? Who has one? Do you know the owner? It might be time to go say hi.. Water is heavy, carrying it will only work so far. I would not attempt a journey if no rain is expected and there is no source of water on the way.

Fire: You see it done on television all the time, and it looks so simple and easy. It is not! You could waste hours trying. Making fire without modern source is difficult, and must be practiced until you get it right. Try with wood friction and also with flints. Once your fire is lit, make a fire bundle to carry it. See if you can take it with you and start another fire later with it.

Learn to handle firearms: You may not like guns, but the day you really need one may be your last, or the difference between a good meal and an empty stomach for a few days. If you are not a police officer, a handgun is pretty useless. You can’t really hunt with it, and in a conflict, you will almost always lose to a rifle. So, learn to handle a rifle, starting with safety. Go to a range, and get help. The best rifle for small game would be a .22lr, the best one in my opinion being the Ruger 10-22. You may also use a pellet gun, in .22 caliber. Something more substantial would be needed if you must feed more than yourself, or if there is a possibility, and there almost always is in a disaster scenario, that you may encounter hostile people. A lever action rifle in .30 or .44 mag. will serve you well. Shotguns are very good for hunting too. If the situation is really bad, AK-47. By the way, do you think that you will be the only one in the store the day things go wrong? Buy one now. If you have kids, buy a safe, keep it locked. Teach them gun safety as well.

If you haven already, learn to swim. No comment here. You should be able to cross a good size river, and thread water for some time. Learn to lay flat on your back and float on the water.

Learn to defend yourself empty-handed: This is complex subject, and I probably will write about it in my martial arts section. In brief, there are a lot of martial arts out there that are not worth a dime for self defense. There are also good styles but bad teachers. I would suggest trying to find a school or style that emphasizes principles over form and techniques. Avoid styles that are too stiff in their movements or teachings, and promote violence or aggressiveness. Going nuts in a fight won’t help you. Emotions won’t help you. Also avoid styles that use excessive protections, have too many rules (like not hitting the face, etc.), or simply avoid contact. The style you choose must also consider multiple attackers, armed or not, and fighting on the ground as well as on your feet. If you see twelve-year-olds with a black belt, run! If they promise you a black belt next year, run! Actually, be suspicious of belts altogether. My favorites are, almost in order: Systema, Bujinkan, Penjak Silat, Kuntao, Kali, Wing Tsun, Aikido, Krav Maga, Boxing, and I am sure I am forgetting some. I would not suggest TaeKwonDo, traditional Karate, and other styles based on outdated forms of combat, or geared towards competition. Some combinations are good, like boxing and JiuJitsu for example. Shop around before you sign-up, and don’t bother spending time on martial arts forums on the web, there is nothing to learn from them. If you don’t have a good school nearby, go to russianmartialart.com, load up on DVDs and start a study group in your town.

Get in shape: Well, your martial arts training should help you there, but walking is a great exercise, and knowing how far you can go is a valuable piece of information. Knowing how far your family members can go is even better. Who is going to break first? When? Is there something you can do? Learn to carry people in an efficient manner, by yourself, or with help. Do regular push-ups, squats and crunches. You don’t need any machines or gym memberships for that. Don’t eat fast foods, and when you go shopping, read the labels. Avoid MSGs, high fructose corn syrup, and too much fat or sugar. Stay away from processed foods. Dump sodas, even (or especially) the diet ones. Drink water and tea. Don’t abuse coffee. Stop smoking! Eat raw vegetables and don’t have meat every day.

Learn first -aid: The Red-Cross probably has classes nearby. Take all their classes, and learn resuscitation techniques, and especially how to treat wounds and burns. You can find numerous books on the subject at your local library, and many web sites with tutorials. Learn about the specific threats in your area. Cross-check your findings, because theories do change, and what may have been thought to be a great technique one day may be considered dangerous the next.

I might add more to this blog. I do not claim to be an expert at all. These are just ideas I gathered over time. Feed back and new ideas would be appreciated. I have been intentionally vague here, so please post your comments. I would like this to be a living document.