Monday, 27 March 2017

3 Tips for Better Tinder

Tinder is the dead, dry plant-based material that is capable of turning a coal, ember or spark into a flame. Tinder is one of the foundation pieces for fire making, and you can often find excellent tinder in the form of grasses, leaves, pine needles, fibrous tree bark, weed tops, seed down, wood shavings, and more unusual stuff like palm fibre and certain mosses. Whatever you choose, these natural materials should have several things in common.

First, it should all be dead—but usually not rotten—plant based materials. Rotten plants usually lose more and more of their fuel value as they decompose. But there are always exceptions. Just remember ... dead plant-based materials.

Second, it should be as dry as it possibly can be. In rainy weather, this may mean finding a few scraps of tinder at a time, even one leaf at a time, and KEEPING the tinder dry while you search for more.
Finally, it should be light, airy and have a lot of surface area for its mass. In other words, it needs to be fluffy. Materials that are not fluffy should be processed in some way to increase their surface area so that they can reach their combustion temperature as quickly as possible.

Not every tinder type is “ready to use” when you find it in nature. It may be too coarse, too flat, or too solid to burn effectively. But with the right processing technique, we can change this vital material - increasing its surface area and enabling it to burn quickly and easily. Here are three ways you can get your materials in shape for fire starting.

1. Shred It

That’s right, tear it apart by hand! Start by tearing at large sections, and then tear the remainders into shreds. This technique works well for tree bark fibre (like tulip poplar, basswood, cedar, pawpaw and many others). You can also shred weed tops and seed down into a fluffier form.

2. Pound Away

Easy and therapeutic, pounding your tinder with a rock can separate the fibres nicely (and give you a constructive place to vent your rage). Most of the fibrous dead inner tree barks and plant stalk fibres work really well with this trick. Wad up the fibres into a ball or fold them into a linear bundle, and pound them with a rock or similar hard object. Turn the bundle often, and you’ll cover all of your surface area with no trouble. Pound your tinder on a hard log or a stone for best results. Keep working until your tinder has the desired fluffiness. If you don’t have a dry place to work, shred the tinder instead of pounding. By pounding on damp or wet surfaces, you’re driving moisture into the tinder and reducing its flammability.

3. Scrape and Scratch

When dealing with trees that have a fibrous outer bark (like cedar, cypress and juniper), you can use your trusty knife or even a sharp stone to scrape off fibrous tinder. This can even be done on live trees, without harming them. Just scrape off some of the fibrous outer bark, and collect the fuzz you remove. You can also scrape wood to make wood shavings if no other tinder is available (or dry).

Saturday, 18 March 2017

Product Review: Lomo SW1 Sports Watch

Lomo® Watersport and Ewetsuits UK were kind enough to send me a couple of their huge range to review. For this review, I will focus on their SW1 Sports Watch.

This watch does not come in any fancy packaging which is not really needed and helps to keep the cost down. On receiving this, the first test I put it through was to drop it in a glass of water for a couple of hours. after which, it carried on working no problem at all.

The second test was the pedometer. I walked into work on a route I normally drive, which is 2.74 KM. The pedometer was surprisingly accurate as it measured the distance at 1.72km.


  • 12/24hr time
  • Dot Matrix LCD Display
  • Heart Rate Display
  • Pedometer
  • Usable down to 10m underwater
  • Dual Alarms
  • Countdown timer
  • EL backlight
  • Hourly Chime
  • Durable strap
  • Uses CR2032 battery

As far a watch for work and activities goes, there is no superior to the Lomo SW1. It's virtually invincible. I spent a lot of time out in the woodlands and I wear this watch as it's so reliable and does everything you could want. I've swum with it, gone neck deep in mud with it, been in below freezing temperatures for days, got oil on it, scrambled on rocks, covered in grit, in salt water for prolonged periods and yet it still goes on!! The battery life is amazing as well. All my friends agree this is a watch to have. Sure, have a fancy watch for events and going out but this watch cannot be bettered for the working day. The generous watch strap is long enough to wear on your wrist over a wetsuit.

All in all, I cannot find any fault with the Lomo SW1 and for only £25 it is a serious rival to many sports watches costing over £100

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Monday, 13 March 2017

Make the Most of Your Fire with a Reflecting Wall

Retain more heat from your fire with a fire wall.

The reflecting wall is a great structure to build in semi-permanent camps, and you can even build quick ones at overnight stopping points. These walls block some of the wind (when positioned correctly) and they reflect more of the heat of a fire back toward the user. When used in conjunction with a survival shelter, these walls can create a much more comfortable micro-climate by literally “fencing in” the heat. The wall can be any size or shape, and built from many different materials. Of course, bigger is better. And smoother walls reflect heat better than rough ones. But as long as you have something in place to reflect back lost heat, each stick you burn will make you feel warmer than you would feel without the wall.

Wooden Walls

Any wood can be used for a reflecting wall. If you’d like it to last, cut and stack green wood for your wall. The extra moisture of live wood will limit its flammability. If you’d like the wall to double as a firewood drying rack, you can build it from dead wood that is wet. Just pull out the sticks as they dry, throw them in the fire, and replace them with new wet pieces as you go. You could even use rotten wood to build your wall, if that’s all you have available. The bottom logs or poles that are closest to the fire will dry out and begin to burn first, unless you plaster them with mud, prop flat stones against them, or build the wall far enough away (about 1 yard) that it cannot burn. To build your wall, gather a pile of logs or poles, and drive two stout stakes into the ground. They should be closer together than the length of your shortest log. Set your thickest log on the ground, butted up against the two stakes, then drive in another pair of stakes to pin the log in place. If you plan a low reflecting wall, use stakes about a yard long and drive one foot into the ground. Go for longer stakes is you want a higher wall.

Stone and Mud Walls

For semi-permanent camps (or when stone is your most abundant resource), build a stone wall to bounce back the heat of a fire which would normally be lost. The rocks can be laid “dry” (without any mortar), or you can use mud or clay as a mortar substitute. Mixing dead grass with the mud will add additional strength to the mortar. And if enough mud and grass were available, you could even build your reflecting wall entirely from mud mortar (also known today as “cob”). Make it wider at the base for stability, insert sticks here and there for internal support, smooth the surface for heat reflection, and don’t go too high all at once. Top heavy mud walls tend to flop over.

A Note on Safety

For any rocks you plan to use near a fire, make sure you get your rocks from a dry location. It’s also smart to test them in a campfire (while you’re at a distance) to make sure they don’t explode. NEVER use rocks you collected by a waterway (high rate of explosion). Ever built a fire reflecting wall? Please share your results by leaving a comment.

Saturday, 11 March 2017

How to Build An Emergency Shelter

You could be out in the woods you discover that you are lost. Or perhaps you’re driving along a rural road and your car stalls or gets a flat tyre. Maybe you’re doing some canoeing and it overturns on the lake, forcing you to swim to shore after which you find you’re many miles away from your camp and anyone else.

Regardless of the situation, when you’re stuck outdoors away from civilisation, lodging, or nearby help, you may need to build an emergency shelter. Especially when the weather conditions are cold and wet, or will be soon due to an approaching storm or nightfall, an emergency shelter could literally be a life saver. Here’s how to build a good one that will offer you protection from the elements and hold you over temporarily until you can get to safety or get rescued.

State of mind

Before you get started on a suitable shelter, though, you must be in the right frame of mind. Okay, so you’ve gotten into a sticky situation. The first thing you must resist is the urge to panic or make a hasty decision that makes a bad situation worse. Rather, do this instead:

  • Stop and breathe slowly for a couple of minutes. Accept the situation as it is, and calm yourself. Think clearly and rationally.
  • Assess your surroundings. What kind of environment are you in? Forest? Mountains? Countryside? What’s the weather and temperature like? How much daylight remains?
  • What materials do you have with you? What’s out in the environment that you can use?

Choose a suitable location

Now that you’ve gotten your mental bearings, you can begin planning your shelter. And that first requires picking a location. This is the part where the evaluation you performed earlier comes into play. You’ll want to set up your shelter on dry ground, out of the wind if possible, and near resources such as trees and bushes. If a stream of clean drinking water is nearby, even better.

Assess your materials

The purpose of an emergency shelter isn’t to be all fancy and super comfortable. It’s to get you through the night alive and stave off hypothermia. So don’t worry about having the perfect materials lying around, since all you need is the basics. First, check your own belongings. Do you have a weather parka/poncho? Emergency blanket? Any kind of tarp or plastic bags that can act as covering?

Assess your environment

Now, look at the surrounding environment. Do you have tree branches, boughs, ferns, dead wood, leaves, and bushes around? Is there any “natural” shelter around such as an overhang, rock wall, or cave that can act as part of, or all of the shelter?

Decide what kind of shelter to build

After you’ve evaluated your location, materials, and environment, now it’s time to decide what kind of shelter to build. Keep in mind that it may be cold, dusk may be approaching, or you may be tired, hurt, or ill. So again, nothing fancy, just a quick overnight shelter to protect from the elements. There are dozens of outdoor shelter types you could build ranging from simple to complex, but the one of the quickest to construct is a basic double lean-to or A-frame shelter.

The A-frame shelter, 

For an A-frame, you’ll need to start with a long, thick branch or log about one and a half times your body length. This is the backbone of your shelter. Then, either prop one end against something sturdy like a fallen tree or an upright tree at a low angle and the other end into the ground. Next, place smaller branches along the sides to form “ribs.” The ribs or the walls should be lined up along both sides so that the skeleton of the shelter takes on an “A” shape.

Once the frame of the shelter is erected, you then begin filling in the space with leaves, branches, moss, and ferns. Keep working until you have the entire shelter covered, as you’ll need to keep the wind and rain out, and also trap heat from a fire if you can manage to build one. If you have a tarp, garbage bag, or poncho, you can drape it over the shelter for added insulation. And make the shelter as compact as possible, to help retain body heat. Of course, if there are others with you, then alter the size accordingly.

Try to be comfortable

You’ve got a shelter that should keep the wind, rain, and snow off of you, but it will still be quite cold.  So be sure to insulate your body from the cold ground, which sucks away body heat quickly. Lay down a bed of the same materials you used for the frame right on the ground to lay atop of. Bundle up under an emergency blanket or anything extra on hand, And of course get a fire started if at all possible. Be sure to build the fire close enough to the shelter so that you get some of the radiant heat, but not so close that your shelter catches fire.

When dawn breaks, you might be a bit worse for wear, but you’ll be alive. You feel a sense of accomplishment that you were able to take care of yourself (and others if they’re with you). And you can reassess your situation anew, and determine the best plan to get back to safety.

Wednesday, 8 March 2017

"Made in Spain" First Impression Review: Cudeman MT5 120-K Wilderness Survival Knife

Cudeman was kind enough to send me their MT5 120-K  Wilderness Survival Knife to test and review. I thought I would post a quick "First Impression" review ahead of the main review so that readers can get an idea of the looks, dimensions and sheath.


  • Overall length: 22.5 cm 
  • Handle length: 11.5 cm 
  • Handle Material: Cocobolo wood or Micarta (in various colours)
  • Blade length: 11 cm 
  • Blade thickness: 5 mm
  • Steel Blade: Bohler N695 58-60 HRC
  • Weight: 225 g
  • Sheath: Leather sheath

The Cudeman MT5 120-K   came packaged inside their a beautifully presented box.

My first impression after pulling it out of the box was that the MT5 120-K   looked more attractive than most of the stock photos I've seen on the internet. The leather sheath's earth-toned "Deep Brown" colour coupled with the satin cocobolo wood  handle offers a pleasing contrast, with a look that says "serious wilderness knife."

The Cudeman MT5 120-K features a 22.5CM  Stainless 11CM long blade with a full flat ground/spear-point design and a small bevel at the edge. The cocobolo handle is secured to the tang of the knife with three stainless steel Allen screws. One feature I particularly like is the wide lanyard hole in the handle. It should make lashing the knife to a pole for use as an improvised spear easier. MT5 120-K   has a full tang and the blade is just over a 5MM thick.


The sheath is a high quality, heavy duty leather with multi-position belt fixings. The knife is held in place by a single retention strap with a heavy button snap.

Comparison Shots

MT5 120-K  next to the Mora Bushcraft Forest

First Impression Summary

The MT5 120-K  looks to be a very promising medium-sized bushcraft/wilderness survival blade. It is comfortable in the hand, and the blade is a simple, no-nonsense design that's built for function over style, something I find appealing. The back of the blade is sharp enough to spark a fire steel or to scrape magnesium or natural tinders for fire-making.

The back of the blade is also ground flat all the way to the tip, making it well-suited to batoning. The leather sheath is very attractive and functional.

The knife came shaving sharp right out of the box, something I've only ever seen with mora knives when they're new. It's nice to see this knife rivals the latter.

Overall, this looks to be a great all around bush knife. The Bohler N695 stainless steel blade should hold an edge well, and the full flat grind should lend itself nicely to wood carving, food prep and batoning. I plan to give the MT5 120-K  a good thrashing over the next couple of  months in the field, and I'll report my findings in an in-depth review sometime in April/May

Wednesday, 1 March 2017

How to Purify Drinking Water

In our everyday lives, we don’t often give the purity of our drinking water a second thought. We just blindly assume the water from the tap is safe, and we have even more confidence in the bottled water we buy from the store.

But in an emergency situation like a natural disaster, or being out in the woods without access to pure water, the cleanliness of our drinking water takes on a heightened importance. As ingesting water from a source that harbors dangerous pathogens and/or heavy chemicals can bring on rapid sickness that can lead to death, knowing how to purify water is an absolutely essential skill that everyone should have.

Methods for Purifying Water

So if you’re on a hike or lost outdoors, or in an urban environment where flooding/water main break has contaminated the water supply, you shouldn’t trust any water source that wasn’t already prepackaged. But you’ll only survive a few days at most without water, so you’ll have to drink eventually. In the meantime, here are several ways you can purify your drinking water.

  1. Boiling – This is by far the safest way to ensure the water you’re drinking is free of harmful bacteria. Although water reaches a boil at 212 degrees, it’s been said that you can kill any bacteria at just 158 degrees. To be safe, bring the water source to a boil and let boil roll for at least 2-3 minutes. There may still be sediment or particulates in the water depending on the source, but at least you’ll know it’s free of potentially deadly pathogens. Use a cup, canteen, bottle, or any container you have around for the task. It also helps to have some sort of fire-starting implement on hand to speed up the boiling process.
  2. Purification via pumps and/or filters – You can find all kinds of pumps and filters at sporting goods and camping stores. So if you happen to have a store-bought filter with you, you’re in luck. These work by forcing the non-potable (undrinkable) water through filters of either charcoal or ceramic, and also treating the water with chemicals. Even if you don’t have a ready–made filter, you can use some of the key elements to partially purify your water in a pinch. Filtering water through regular charcoal, for example, is excellent for removing particulates. A regular coffee filter works well also. But you’ll still need to boil the water to ensure no bacteria is present.
  3. Purification drops/tablets – This method uses chemicals such as iodine 2% and potassium permanganate added to the water in drops or tablets to purify it. After treating the water this way, be sure to give the chemical at least 20 minutes to work. Yes, the water will taste bad, but it will be safe to drink.
  4. Evaporation – What you’re trying to do here is get the water source to evaporate, which leaves the bad stuff behind, and then capture the evaporated drops somehow. One way to do it is to wrap plastic around a branch or living greenery and then collect and drink the condensation. Or you could create a still and capture a few evaporated drops, but either way, the amount is really insignificant. So employ this method only in the direst emergencies.
  5. UV Light – Did you know that UV light can kill bacteria? If you have a clear, plastic bottle on hand, fill it up with water and set it out in the sun for about five hours, double that time if it’s cloudy or overcast that day. It’s not the most optimal method, but it’ll work when you can’t boil the water.

Lastly, whatever you do, don’t drink your own urine or any salt-water like that found in an ocean or lake. The salt will bring on dehydration much faster than if you weren’t drinking anything at all, and it will kill you in short order. And if you absolutely must drink untreated water, try to locate a clear, running stream to sip from until an alternative source can be found.