Posts filed under Tips from the Archive

Tips from the Archive #011

Sportsman's Camping Guide

Sportsman's Camping Guide

Some gold from Leonard Miracle, this comes from "The Sportsman's Camping Guide" which is part of "Outdoor Life Magazine's" Skill Book series. This is his deceptively simple firewood rating system of common trees. I love the cover photography too – plaid and a packboard.

Tip #11 – Good Firewood

The good firewood that is repeatedly mentioned is wood that lights easily when dry, burns with a hot, long lasting flame, and forms a hot bed of coals. The less smoke the better. A tendency to throw hot sparks downgrades the wood. Wood that chops easily and splits easily ought to have extra credit, perhaps, but most of the soft, easily worked woods are short on the other virtues.

A chunk of white ash green with summer leaves and soaking wet can be split into small sticks and will burn briskly. Dry ash is superb wood. Ash is reasonably easy to cutting split wet or dry. It burns steady and long, produces good coals, doesn’t produce excessive smoke or flying sparks. White ash is tops. Willow, which is east to cut with an ax, is fuel for those who have nothing better. It rates along the least common campfire woods.

Good
Ash, Hickory, Oak, Holly, Dogwood, Apple, Birch, Maple, Locust, Mountain mahogany.

Fair
Beech, Mulberry, Buckeye, Sycamore, Tamarack, Pine, Cedar, Juniper, Spruce, Cottonwood, Fir, Aspen.

Poor
Willow, Alder, Chestnut, Magnolia, Tulip, Catalpa, White elm, Cherry
— Leonard Miracle - Sportsman's Camping Guide, 1965

Tips from the Archive #010

Robert J. Kelsey -  1974

Robert J. Kelsey -  1974

A quick tip by Robert J. Kelsey from his wonderful book "Walking in the Wild - The Complete Guide to Hiking and Backpacking". This might be controversial to some, in fact many ultralight hikers argue to the nth degree about the finer points of Esbit and Hexamin vs alcohol to avoid just this, but this old tip is interesting and worth some further investigation.

Tip #10 – The Pot Black

Whatever cooking ware you choose, prepare it properly for cooking. That means blacken the exterior! I will brook no argument on this point from spotless-pan paranoids. A pot blackened with good hardwood soot, which is shiny black and sticks to the pan, distributes heat more evenly and does a better cooking job.

Never scour the outside of such a treasure. Simply wipe off any loose soot and spilled food with a damp paper towel. Put each kettle in its own plastic bag and nest them, then put the whole collection into a master cloth bag.
— Robert J. Kelsey - Walking in the Wild, 1974
Posted on September 4, 2014 and filed under Tips from the Archive.

Tips from the Archive #009

Mother Earth News -The Backcountry Handbook, 1989

Mother Earth News -The Backcountry Handbook, 1989

A top tip from "The Back Country Handbook" written by the team at Mother Earth News in 1989. This is a tip I hope I never have to use but very good to know. What do you do if you get skunked in the back-country miles from a grocery store?

Tip 009 – The Big Stink

What if you’re way off somewhere in the boonies and fresh out of tomato juice, mustard, vinegar or bleach? In that case build a small fire, and stand (or hold your pet) in the smoke of burning grass, hay, juniper or cedar. Similarly owners of wood stoves can help freshen a skunked house by building a slow fire of cedar or juniper, then closing the top damper and opening the stove door so that the fragrant smoke fills the room. (Neither of these sister woods contain pitch or other resins, so, unless you drastically overdo it, you needn’t worry about smoke damage.)
— Mother Earth News -The Backcountry Handbook, 1989
Posted on November 12, 2013 and filed under Tips from the Archive.

Tips from the Archive #008

Harry Roberts -  Movin' Out By, 1975

Harry Roberts - Movin' Out By, 1975

A tip from Harry Roberts' "Movin' Out" first published in 1975. This is only a thin book but it goes into more detail than most, with exhaustive information about what to look for when choosing each piece of kit, delving into the pros and cons of different stitching and seam constructs and the architecture of pack-frames. Roberts was a freelance photographer and writer spending some time in the 70s as the editor of "Wilderness Camping Magazine", he was also a certified cross country ski instructor and examiner.

Tip 008 – A Novel Insect Repellent

For those of you who dislike chemicals with strange names, I offer a novel insect repellent technique I learnt from one of my Habitant kin years ago. Take a garlic bud and slice it up into little pieces. Swallow them whole and wait a while–say a couple of hours. Pop a fresh bud about every twelve hours, and the bugs shun you. Perhaps it alters the scent of your perspiration, but if it does, its not noticeable. That’s all right the USDA doesn’t really know why deet works, either.
— Harry Roberts - Movin' Out, 1975

Interesting stuff, the way I understood it was that bugs were attracted to exhaled breath, which means eating garlic makes some sense. One last bit of foolproof advice, however, is to simply hike with me, I attract mosquitos like no other human, making life very pleasant for everyone else.

Posted on April 28, 2013 and filed under Tips from the Archive.

Tips from the Archive #007

Bradford Aniger - How To Stay Alive In The Woods, 1956

Bradford Aniger - How To Stay Alive In The Woods, 1956

A tip from Bradford Angier, one of the godfathers of outdoor writing. This  is from "How to Stay Alive in the Woods" first written in 1956, it is common knowledge how to use a watch to find north, but if we reverse the principle it is also possible to set your watch by using a compass.

Tip 007 – Setting Your Watch Using A Compass.

If we are in the United States or Canada and want to set a watch, let us ascertain by compass which way is due south. Then using the shadow to help us keep the hour hand of the watch pointed at the sun, let us turn the hour hand until south lies midway along the shorter arc between it and the numeral twelve. The watch will then be set within a few minutes of the correct local standard time.
— Bradford Aniger - How To Stay Alive In The Woods, 1956

Tips from the Archive #006

John "Lofty" Wiseman - SAS Survival Guide, 1986 

John "Lofty" Wiseman - SAS Survival Guide, 1986 

This is from one of my all time favorite books, The SAS Survival Guide by John "Lofty" Wiseman. I got my hands  on a copy when I was about 10 and read it cover to cover many times. I even made my own SAS survival kit based on Lofty's instructions. This book is full of useful stuff. Wiseman is the real deal he served with the Regiment for 26 years. He was "Sergeant Major, B Squadron (Sabre Sqn) 22 SAS, Sergeant Major 22 SAS Training Wing, Head of Operational Research 22 SAS, set up the SP Team (Counter Hi-Jack), he set up the SAS Counter-Terrorist Team and trained the first members of the US Green Berets to return to the USA to form the famous Delta Force (US Special Forces)." Like I say - the real deal. It is still in print and is easy to find.

This is a great tip for dealing with wet matches.

Tip 006 – Drying a wet match.

If your hair is dry and not greasy, roll a damp match in it. Static electricity will dry out the match.
— John "Lofty" Wiseman - SAS Survival Guide, 1986
Posted on November 11, 2012 and filed under Tips from the Archive.

Tips from the Archive #005

Tree Bark to Find North

Tree Bark to Find North

A good tip from Berndt Berglund's "Wilderness Survival."  There are hundreds of ways of finding north but this is the first I'd heard of this method.

Tip 005 – Using a tree stump to find north.

If you find a stump, it’s easy to tell north by looking at the annual growth rings. Annual rings are formed by living cells just inside the bark of a tree. These cells serve as a transportation system from the roots to all parts of the tree. To protect this delicate system, the tree protects the cells from the cooler northerly winds by growing a thicker layer of bark on north and north-east sides of the tree. These facts have been known by woodsmen in many parts of the world. A recent study by one of our leading universities proved this fact beyond doubt.
— Berndt Burgland - Wilderness Survival, 1947

This book was intended as a guide to North America so I'm not sure this counts for the rest of the world, but it's still interesting.

Posted on October 7, 2012 and filed under Tips from the Archive.

Tips from the Archive #004

Dutch Oven Cooking Temperature

Dutch Oven Cooking Temperature

This one is a goody,  especially for the outdoor gourmet. It comes from Viv Moon's Outdoor cookbook. This is my go-to outdoor cookery guide. This particular tip is great for anyone trying to master the dutch oven.

Tip 004 – Dutch Oven Temperature

There are various methods around that some camp cooks use to judge how hot the camp oven is, the old, but tried paper testing method being a fairly good gauge.

Paper Test–put a piece of paper such as brown paper bag (not newspaper) inside your preheated camp oven. Within a few minutes it turns:

Dark brown–oven is very hot 240-300˚C [465-570˚F]
Light brown–oven is hot 220-230˚C [425-440˚F]
Yellow–oven is moderate 180-190˚C [355-375˚F]
Pale–oven is slow 120˚C [250˚F]
— Viv Moon - Viv Moon's Outdoor Cookbook, 2002

Hope this helps.

Posted on August 25, 2012 and filed under Tips from the Archive.

Tips from the Archive #003

Dennis Look - Joy Of Backpacking, 1976 

Dennis Look - Joy Of Backpacking, 1976 

A great tip from Dennis Look's "Joy of Backpacking," this is a superb book written in 1976. Look is a passionate writer he cares deeply about the wilderness and everything in this book puts the environment first. The book is still as relevant as it was in the 70's.

Tip 003 – Your Parka Works as a Day Pack.

Have you ever been on a backpacking trip and wanted to take a short day hike? But where will you carry your gorp, water and rain or wind parka? If you didn’t carry a knapsack or hip pack (which most people don’t – too heavy), then it’s rather difficult to hold these items in your hands, or put them in your pocket. Here is one solution

First of all, some type of parka or jacket is required

Lay the parka out on the ground and start stuffing the items you wish to carry inside

When this is completed, zip up the parka, then close the draw cord on the bottom of the parka (this will prevent the items falling out). If your parka has a draw cord on the hood, then do the same

Roll the bottom of the parka over the items which you have placed inside. Make this roll as tight as possible and bind it with the draw cord from the bottom of the parka

Take the sleeves and wrap them around your waste then tie then with a square knot. If your parka is made of nylon this not will prevent it from slipping

Now you have a hip or fanny pack for your trip

One question: What do you do if you have to put your parka on? (stuff the items in the parka’s pockets)
— Dennis Look - Joy Of Backpacking, 1976
Posted on July 21, 2012 and filed under Tips from the Archive.

Tips from the Archive #002

How to remember declination

How to remember declination

A nice tip from Don Geary's excellent 'The Compleat Outdoorsman' (this is the correct spelling which makes me like it even more.) This excellent book from 1981 is an all encompassing guide to the outdoors.

Tip 002 – How to remember magnetic declination.

One way to remember to add (or subtract) the degrees of magnetic declination for an area you are hiking in is to place a piece of tape on the compass telling you what must be done.
— Don Geary - The Compleat outdoorsman, 1981

To find the correct declination for you area, or indeed, for the area you plan to hike in visit the excellent National Gyphisical Data Center. Even if you think you know it's best to re-check as it changes year to year. In Maine I get  'Declination = 15° 44' W changing by 0° 4' E/year'.

As it's a West declination 'Map bearing + Declination = Magnetic' so if I take a bearing between two point on a map and translate it to the real world I add 15° 44' and on the flip-side 'Magnetic Bearing - Declination = Map Bearing'  if I take a bearing between two points (myself and another) in the real world I should subtract my declination to get the same bearing on the map.

Posted on June 25, 2012 and filed under Tips from the Archive.