If you have read Dave Canterbury's "Bushcraft 101" but have not yet read Mors Kochanski's "Bushcraft," then you really ought to! Mors wrote his book back in 1988 and has been one of the leading survival instructors out there teaching wilderness skills for more than 30 years in Canada. What is unique about Mors's book is that he goes into areas and details that Dave's book does not cover completely. And yet, what is awesome about Dave's book and what he focuses covers the areas and points that Mors's book didn't. It's very evident that Dave indeed admires Mors and his knowledge as you can see his influence in his own direction of bushcraft yet is still his own. However, you can see they share a similar bond at the same time.
When structuring the direction of his book, Dave, places emphasis on the importance of understanding your essential gear and its purpose, while incorporating his own take on bushcraft survival basics, What I like about his book is how he wants you the reader to understand how to get started and what you should consider so that you can literally take the book and physically do what it says to get out into the woods. Whereas, Mors's focus of his book is directed at understanding the dangers of environmental conditions which can lead to further problems that he would rather a person seek to avoid all together, as he guides the reader to understand the essential knowledge of firecraft and the needed foundations of it. Now, when I say "firecraft" I am not merely talking about just making a simple fire, but that it dives right into the subject to cover all the needed points. He goes into detail of variables such as how to make fire, what tools to use to construct one, how to use those tools, what type of fire lays exist for both group camping as well as individuals, how to perform different cooking methods with fires, warming fires, what advantages do some fire lays have over others, wood processing, tinder bundles, where to make a fire, where not to make a fire and so on.
When you begin to see the layout of each author you begin to realize more about their woodsmen knowledge and perspective. Dave wants you to know where to begin before venturing out in the woods and where to start. Mors wants you to be careful and know the importance of being safe and smart as he guides you to know and understand things like proper axe and knife skills while giving you tons of pictures to demonstrate his points. Sure, Dave is not in any way against safety as he himself brings up these points now and then such as knife safety, the four W's and other topics. What I really like about both their books is they completely compliment each other. It would be like spending time with Dave for some time when reading his whole book and then being trained under Mors afterwards as he goes into more depth covering certain topics in his book that Dave didn't spend as much time in. But after finishing you really feel the overlapping of issues both spoke about, to the point it really begins to click and sink the very points the made inside you really well. and that is priceless!
Rules of 3 to remember
When I was going through my old Marine Corps gear, pictures and other things I accumulated back then, I found a gear list I once used before heading out into the field. I thought to myself that this list is a perfect place to start in relation to a basic pack/gear set-up for long term/short term outings. Back then we called it our "Junk on the Bunk" list which was basically comprised and depended upon, what our mission was and what the needs were at the time. Were we going to the field? Were we being deployed? Was it for an inspection and so forth?
When we went to the field, we always had a gear list which consisted of all the things we needed, or shall I say, the gear that was mandatory. Although we did not always use every item we were required to have, we still had to carry it with us.
A gear list may fluctuate based upon mission needs but these items which are called 'basic" are those we never removed from our packs or LBV list. As you would not go out into the field without those items period. As opposed to those which can fluctuate based upon weather conditions and other possible mission changes and needs are those which are also listed as (optional).
Below is a gear list of those items we had to carry. Those items which were mandatory will be listed as (required); and those listed in which we had the freedom to take of our own accord will be listed as (optional); those items which are things I have added to fit today's needs will be listed as (changed); and those items which where required in regard to our basic needs will have (basic) as these items will express the main core of what we carried at all times.
(1) Flack Jacket
(1) Kevlar Helmet
-On The LBV (Load Bearing Vest)
(Required Gear List)
(1) LBV Load Bearing Vest
(1) Butt Pack
(1) First Aid Kit
(2) Canteen Cups
(2) Canteen Holsters
(1) Compass and Case
(1) Pistol Belt
(1) Bottle of Water Purification Tablets
The vest itself came in two types: the infamous Y-Harness, and the LBV. The LBV was mostly worn because it held eight thirty-round magazines and two hand grenades. Whereas the Y-Harness pouches only held six thirty-round magazines. The butt pack seen in the picture below was where gloves, duct tape, writing gear, MRE's, eating utensils, water purification tablets, and other things were stored.
-Inside Alice Back Pack
(1) Back Pack - Alice Pack
39.52 liters (2412 cubic inches) Load bearing 125 lbs.
(1) Flash Light w/extra batteries
(1) Pair of Gloves w/liners
(1) Pack of Baby Wipes
(1) Cammo Face Paint
(1) Field Mirror
(1) Poncho w/ Poncho Liner
(1) Foot Powder
(2) Pairs of Socks
(1) E-Tool Shovel w/ Case
(1) Writing Gear
(1) Large Black Trash Bag
(1) Waterproof Bag
(1) Sleeping Bags w/outer cover
(1) Shelter Half (Half of a Tent) /with tent pegs
(1) Clothing Repair Kit
(2) Pair of Boot Laces
(2) Pairs of Boot Bands
(1) Hygiene Kit
(1) ISO Mat (Insulation Mat)
(1) Extra Pair of Cammies (Blouse, Pants and Cover)
(1) 5/50 Cordage
(1) Ear protection
(2) Pairs of Underwear
(2) Skivvy Shirts
(2) Bungy Cords (To keep the ISO Mat attached to the bottom of the pack)
(1) Gas Stove or Sterno Fire Gel (If allowed when not training in a tactical environment)
(1) Camel Water Bag
(1) 2 qt Water Bladder Canteen
(1) Leatherman Multi-tool
(1) Bic Lighter w/ Cigarettes (Only if allowed when not training in a tactical environment)
(1) Soap w/case
(1) Mosquito Net
(1) Electrical Tap (To make gear quite for tactical reasons)
(1) Jacket Liner (Only when during cooler seasons)
(1) Gortex All Weather Gear (Only during cooler seasons)
(1) Can Opener (Only if you brought tuna to add extra protein to your diet)
(1) Wrist Watch
(1) Axe w/ Cover
(1) Folding Bucksaw w/ Cover
(1) Bushcraft Knife /w Case
(1) Solar Calculator
(1) Map w/ Case
(1) All-weather writing Gear
(1) Plant and Tree Identification Material
(1) Wrist Watch
For Fire Starting
(1) Firebox Stove
(4) Fire Sticks
(2) Ferro Rods
(2) Magnesium Bars
(1) Stormproof Matches
(1) Bic Lighter
(1) Mag x 5 Lens
You will notice the gear listed above which we used in the Marine Corps Infantry units covers all the 10 C's of survivability which is used by David Canterbury in his Bushcraft Courses.
Cutting Tools: knife, axes, saws
Combustion Devices: ferro rods, lighter, mag lens
Cover Elements: clothing both summer and winter, wool blankets, sleeping systems, tents, hammocks, and tarps
Containers: canteens, water vessels, cooking gear
Cordage: 5/50 Cord, bankline, rope, webbing, tape
Cotton Materials: shemaghs, bandanas, pieces of cloth
Cargo Tape: Duck Tape, Gorilla Tape
Candling Device: lamps, candles, headlamps
Compasses: Lensatic compass, flat protractor compass
Canvus Repair Needle: Speedy stick sewing awl
Mors Kochanski's Tools of Survival which is taught by Karamat Wilderness Living Skills and Survival Course in Canada:
The Tools of Survival
4. First Aid Kit
6. Sleep System
7. Cooking Pot
10. Pack Frame and Bag
11. Saw, Shovel and chopping tools
It makes complete sense why our mission as Marines was to have all the necessities needed to remain self contained out in the field for long periods of time. Some times while training we would literally stay out in the field for a month, and the only thing we got replenished with was food and water. All the other items were all in our packs, or on us.
If you are like me you probably don't even take anything you watch serious. And why? Well unfortunately there is an agenda in much of anything media produced, and well those who desire to pollute their desired agenda upon the masses will use their money to do it at all cost. Sean Penn who both directed and produced this horrible version of the story of Christopher McCandless whose sad life ended do to starvation, desired to pervert the idea that eating wild edibles was the real cause of his young ended life. And well according to this lame movie the bad guy of the story was Mr. Wild Sweet Pea (Hedysarum mackenzii). Why oh why does the public have to continually get feed garbage instead of the truth? The whole focal point is they want to demonize wild edibles so as to no allow people to think "their is gold to be found in them woods."
So how did this all come about? Well according to Wikipedia "On July 30, McCandless wrote a journal entry which read, "Extremely Weak. Fault Of Pot[ato] Seed" Based on this entry, Krakauer hypothesized that McCandless had been eating what he thought was the roots of an edible plant, Hedysarum alpinum, commonly known as wild Eskimo potato, which are sweet and nourishing in the spring but later become too tough to eat. When this happened, McCandless may have attempted to eat the seeds instead. Krakauer first speculated that the seeds were actually from Hedysarum mackenzii, or wild sweet pea, instead of the Eskimo Potato, which contained a poisonous alkaliod, possibly swainsonine (the toxic chemical in locoweed) or something similar. In addition to neurological symptoms, such as weakness and loss of coordination, the poison causes starvation by blocking nutrient metabolism in the body." And well this false idea went raging mad all over thanks to his stupid 1996 book "Into the Wild" which reported this non-factual idea.
But special thanks to Edward M. Treadwell and Thomas P. Clausen who did a study at the Ethnobotany Research and Applications and wrote in their research their wonderful findings, which finally discredited the stupid lie Krakauer who began his version in 1996 and Sean Penn promoted his version in 2007 was finally laid to rest in 2008.
Ethnobotany Research and Applications
Hedysarum mackenzii (wild sweet pea, bear root) is widely regarded as toxic and warnings about confusing it with its edible cousin H. alpinum (Eskimo potato) abound. To find the chemical basis for this claim, we performed an exhaustive comparison of the secondary chemistry between the two plants as well as a search for nitrogen containing metabolites (alkaloids) in both species. No chemical basis for toxicity could be found. These results were consistent with a subsequent cytotoxic assay performed on an extract of H. mackenzii. Finally, a critical examination of the literature could find no credible evidence that H. mackenzii is toxic in spite of these widespread rumors.
What is even sadder is how Sean Penn went about this by falsifying and completely altering reality as he portrayed to the public a book entry which never actually existed in the first place. And we can give thanks to Samuel Thayer for this information as he records in his book Natures Garden pg 43-60
Natures Garden By Samuel Thayer
Tanaina Plantlore (Kari 1987)
The book live found in the movie Into the Wild "The lateral veins, nearly invisible on leaflets of wild sweet pea plants poisonous seedlings. If ingested symptoms include partial motor paralysis, inhibition of digestion, and nausea. If untreated leads to starvation and death. Another way to distinguish is that the stem of the wild sweet pea is mostly unbranched."
The actual book "Tanaina Plantlore (Kari 1987)" page 128 says
"The lateral veins of the leaflets of wild sweet pea are hidden, while those of the wild potato are conspicuous. Another way to distinguish between the two plants is that the stem of the wild sweet pea is mostly unbranched, while that of wild potato is definitely branched."
If your like me you can't help but want to see the actual source I went to my local library and searched for it. And here it is.
Why was this plant ever thought to be toxic? Well in the report from Edward M. Treadwell and Thomas P. Clausen findings they went back into the deep archives to bring to light how this false conclusion ever got started in the first place in saying;
"Statements of H. mackenziei’s toxicity can be traced back to a journal entry by Sir John Richardson of his exploration of the Alaskan interior in the early 1800’s. According to Richardson, H. mackenziei tubers were included in a stew for dinner one night, and the next morning the expedition was so ill that no progress could be made. A published version of this journal is available in University of Alaska’s Rasmunsen library (Houston 1984), and in it the incident is reported, as well as other episodes where the Richardson party included ledum and cranberries in their meals (both of which are known to cause sickness if consumed in large quantities). Even more disturbing, there are descriptions of the party feeding on lichens, leather, rotten meat, warble-fly dung, and fish entails dug up days after the original meal of fish. The party was not well-prepared for boreal exploration, and were often at the point of starvation, and thus any claim of “poisoning” by Richardson is circumspect, to say the least." (Is Hedysarum mackenziei (Wild Sweet Pea) Actually Toxic? by Edward M. Treadwell and Thomas P. Clausen 2008)
So there you have it people don't always believe what you see and hear let the research prove what is and what really isn't.
In my joy of learning trees, plants and mushrooms, I will never forget reading about the infamous Sassafras tree that unfortunately, has been tarnished by the continued misinformation and hearsay about this tree. If you were to google the name sassafras, you would undoubtedly come across this:
"Sassafras contains an element called safrole which is found in the root bark and oil of which can cause cancer and even liver damage. Consuming just 5 mL of sassafras oil can kill an adult. Even “safrole-free” sassafras used in medicinal amounts has been linked with tumors. Thus in 1960 the FDA banned this as a potential carcinogen."
Oh my, this indeed sounds very serious, doesn't it? Why would anyone even want to get near this plant let alone use it? Well, we can be thankful for people like Samuel Thayer who before daring to speak about this plant did his homework, unlike all the people who merely run with the crowd yelling, "Stone her, my lord, stone her!"
It's sad that few people out there actually prefer the truth rather instead prefer regurgitated words passed down with no knowledge or facts to back up the real claims.
As Thayer points out, "The decision to ban safrole was made based upon weak findings and very limited data from the FDA study (Long et al. 1961) in which groups of rats were fed safrole at different doses for two years. Only at the highest dose 5,000 ppm of diet (the equivalent of me drinking about 25 cups of sassafras tea per day), did rats show a significantly elevated frequency of malignant liver tumors. Two other studies were reported about the same time: Homburger et al. (1961) found benign liver tumors in protein-malnourished rats fed safrole as 1% of the diet for 200 days. (To get that does I would have to consume fifty 8 oz. cups of sassafrass tea per day.) Abbott et al. (1961) found that when rats were continuously fed safrole as 1170 ppm of diet, some of them developed cancers after 22 months." (Incredible Wild Edibles by Samuel Thayer pg. 332)
So, if you are like me saying to yourself what the heck is ppm, here is what it means. It is an abbreviation for "parts per million" and also can be expressed as milligrams per liter (mg/L). So, yeah, like it says above, 5ml of sassafras oil can kill an adult, however mind you, this is if your being fed this like a rat for 200 days straight and or how about continuously for 22 months straight, I mean seriously, this is called being scientific?! Hey Bob, want to be told milk is bad for you because someone used this as their sole source of food for a year? Please, these people should seriously be rejected as being anything but a scientist. If they had made sassafras tea and fed it to rats from time to time and gave them a normal diet then we have something worth looking into. Let’s really get to know the facts about what this really means when it comes to producing this stuff.
So what does this 5ml actually mean? Well, as Thayer points out, the 5ml was actually pure safrole, yeah you got it, pure safrole. Which means, they were being given safrole oil that was produced through distillation, a processes that requires a minimum heat of 293-302 degrees Fahrenheit to extract out 100% pure safrole oil. You can’t extract it out at that level if you are only boiling the sassafras root in 212 degrees Fahrenheit water. For a full understanding of the distillation process of safrole oil and how it is achieved, you can click here.
What is so frustrating are those who are purporting all this false information about false dangers while running around screaming to the public things that are not logically sound. I don’t know about you, but I don’t see myself or anyone else for that matter, going and drinking some 25 cups of sassafras tea per day, let alone coffee. LOL!
Anyhow, If you are curious to learn more about this subject then, trust me, buy the book! It is worth every penny as I have greatly enjoyed learning about this as well.
If you want to make a cup of Sassafras tea for yourself, boil the root twice as the first boil will taste bitter, but the second boil will taste awesome and then add the sweetener of your choice with a little creamer.
So, despite all of the crazy claims and information out there, just chill and laugh and well, take a moment to think about those poor rats who died in vain.
When I was serving with 3rd Bn. 7th Marines, Lima Company as a grunt, getting "down and dirty" was normal for me. Having only my pack and essential gear showed me life was best lived simple! Sure, it was nice to get a hot shower here and there or sleep in a nice comfortable bed but I also knew it wasn't essential. I learned that simplicity in life was really what made me feel normal and frankly, happier. The more we went out into the field the more I started to analyze and change what things I carried with me. I started to adjust my gear to what was actually practical to bring, gear-wise as opposed to just the mandatory junk we had to carry..lol!
When I went to go train in Bridgeport, CA for Mountain Warfare Training, it was there that I really got to learn a lot about bushcraft and survival. Being stationed in Twentynine Palms, CA most of my enlistment, which was in the middle of the Mojave Desert, we mainly focused on desert survival and tactics so getting to go train up in the mountains was a nice change of pace and learning experience for me.
When I reflect upon those days and the training I received, a lot comes to mind about the reality of how you define survival. On one hand, I wished we had spent more time out there being able to do more and experience more. On the other hand, the real mission of military training is based on a collaborative and group affect where this just doesn’t transfer over real well into civilian life where you don’t have this massive support system and tons of people to be right there with you working together. As service members, we are dependent upon the government to supply, train, support and take care of all of us who are serving. Whereas, in civilian life, what you know and are able to do or carry out rests completely upon you alone and the resources you are able to get a hold of.
After being in the military, I feel there are a lot of crazy ideas that surround people’s ideas of survival or prepping. Some view it as some kind of preparation for a civil war trying to invade our homes and property or to take away our freedoms. While others have this fear that the government will enact Marshall Law and put people in concentration camps while removing whole groups of people. So they stock up on guns and create these bunkers and so on. And yes, I do think these ideas are completely crazy and unrealistic and fueled by foolish ideas and fear that plague people’s far-out imaginations.
So, when I think about how survival is defined through my own journey and thoughts, I think of it as simply doing the best that you can to survive by educating yourself and preparing for difficult things you might be forced to face. Also, when I think of survival skills, I frankly see them as the skills you need and should have in order to use in any kind of difficult circumstances you could find yourself in. You want to be able to protect your life and those around you such as your family and loved ones.
Mors Kochanski once said, "I have yet to find anyone, even myself, accurately define survival," which makes complete sense. How can we sincerely define it since the variables one could encounter are indeed immeasurable and innumerable? It could be you get caught in a huge winter storm with little resources, or go camping and someone gets injured in the process, it could be losing your home and becoming homeless, the possible variables are just endless but very real.
However, if we were to list the many possible dangers or challenges, one thing would become evident is that compiling a list of skills and gear would be needed in order to lay out how each problem should be solved or what actions should be carried out to help deal with those dangers.
Rethinking things in my own life was what began my own personal journey to earnestly seek these things out for myself. It also became a sincere desire to teach and pass down to my children the real skills they need and can use for the rest of their life and pass down to their children as well. I tell my kids all the time, ignorance is not bliss, it’s what affects your ability to know how to do something, and it’s the disadvantage of not knowing there is a solution that’s the problem.
Teaching my children the Bible has always been my first priority. Helping them learn to live morally and ethically with others has been my passion. But, the more I delved into those things the more I felt I was missing other parts I needed to have as well. As I began to sincerely see and ponder how those in the Bible lived, I began to see the skills they had and we don’t that I began to search out and learn these lost skills. Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, King David, the list goes on, were truly the ultimate Bushcrafters! Unfortunately, I realized I had become much like everyone else out there who are a product of their own environment. A generation left to reclaim and learn the skills, we were not taught, nor given by our elders as we ought to have been.
As a whole, my own generation has not been learning nor preserving these skills as those of long ago generations once taught, passed down and lived by. But rather, we have been forced because of our previous generation’s failures to preserve this knowledge and pass down these things down to us to search out these answers for ourselves. And those who have sought out these things have had to toil severely to acquire this knowledge which we owe a sincere gratitude for that. It’s hard to see how the morals and values of each generation can be lifted up one minute then completely gone the next. I thank God for His moving the hearts of people who are out there who aren't following the social norms of life but are teaching people, what some may call primitive skills, and passing them down for others to hold onto and learn.
However, in all this there still lies huge gaps and disconnections in survival methodology. Because of these gaps I have been on a journey to learn and grow and hopefully, if possible, I can help in any way I can with what I have learned and hope to learn to bring about positive change.
One thing I find people do not mention as they ought to is the restrictive qualities you will run across when it comes to kindling. Here are some of the needs and/or weaknesses you will find in these types of kindling methods and when they work best:
1) Friction (bow drill): Your first need is to find dry wood and to determine if the inner bark is damp or not. The longevity and amount of rainfall will determine your ability to successfully acquire dry wood for your bow drill. So if the conditions are too wet in theory they are not the best to use unless in a dry environment. This also will require knife carving skills, paracord, bank line or some rope like material to use to construct the base, the spindle, the bow and the socket for the spindle to rotate freely upon. The good part, however, is most of what you need can be found in the woods and doesn't require you to carry it in your gear bag, except for bank line or paracord and your knife. Remember only use soft wood for your bow drill material!!!
2) Flint and Steel: Although this can be used in windy conditions, the complete downside to this method is that it is completely dependent upon char cloth. Your need to reproduce char cloth will require needing cotton fabric of some sort and a container to burn it in. Also, Rainy conditions will affect it and make it useless if the cloth becomes wet, therefore keeping it covered and protected is paramount. So this method is not very advantageous as it is a source that is very dependent in its needs.
3) 5x Magnifying Lens: This requires a clear day and sun for use which shows its complete dependability on awesome weather conditions. Although usable, repeatable and not needing to be replenished, its required environment makes it vulnerable indeed.
4) Matches: Wind is its enemy and it being easily blown out, cover is its only ally. Seeing that the match head also can rub off making it useless, this form of kindling is very weak. Also something to think about is the amount of matches you have may completely be less than the amount you will be able to actually use. As some may never light and wet conditions can render them useless as they will not strike but smear off.
5) Stormproof Matches: With these matches, wind and rain will not easily blow it out but wind will indeed blow it down faster and lessen the time you might need it to burn depending upon the wind conditions. So cover is also its ally against strong wind. As for wet conditions it will burn but there is a down side in as long as your striking surface is not wet as it will indeed smear and not strike properly. But, if you keep it dry and in the container with the waterproof case you should be fine. Just remember though your limited by the amount you have on you.
6) Bic Lighter: Wind and rain will not easily blow it out unless wind conditions are high. So cover is its ally against strong wind. As for wet conditions it’s great and will burn but the downside is if it gets in direct contact with water drops it will indeed put it out. As long as you keep it under cover or away from direct water contact you should be fine. Just remember though you’re limited by the amount of fuel you have in it.
7) Zippo Lighter: Wind and rain will not easily blow it out unless wind conditions are high. So cover is its ally against strong wind. As for wet conditions it’s great and will burn but the downside is if it gets in direct contact with water drops it will indeed put it out. As long as you keep it under cover or away from direct water contact you should be fine. Just remember though your fuel may dry up as it is completely vulnerable to evaporation and you are also limited by the amount of fuel you have in it. Also, it will require a fuel refueling source.
8) Firesteel: Wind and rain have no effect on this but keep it away from your fire as it will completely disintegrate if it gets in contact with fire. How long it takes to disintegrate will vary depending upon the size and thickness of the firesteel, so keep it safe with you. The amount of fires you can create are only dependent upon the width and size of your firesteel as larger ones will last longer. Literally thousands of fires could potentially be lit with a good firesteel. However, they require wood shavings and feather sticks to use for striking a spark on. Best results are using fat wood, for wood shavings as the oils will burn even when wet.
9) Magnesium Bar: Wind and rain have no effect on this but keep it away from long exposure to rain as it will rust. Since there is a standard size for these the amount of fires are only dependent upon the success of your shaving off enough magnesium and will require a firesteel for striking a spark to ignite it. Seeing they all come with a glued on firesteel it is best to get a firesteel separately to use with this as they tend to come unglued and the striking abilities on the firesteel is limited. But, on the good side it will lesson your firesteel usages as it takes little to nothing to get the magnesium to quickly ignite. Therefore, allowing you two major options in using both for starting a fire, and giving the firesteel and magnesium longer lifespans. Literally thousands of fires could potentially be lit with a good firesteel. However, they require wood shavings and feather sticks to use for striking a spark on. In wet weather the magnesium burns perfectly and wind and rain will not hinder its burn abilities.
Avi Ben Shalom: