Do you have the four essential hand tools for your vehicle? The official winter solstice is just a few days away. Cold weather, ice, snow, blizzards, and extreme temperatures are the experience of this season. Many people in the northern parts of our nation ready themselves for this time of the year. Furthermore, a person driving on the roads in these conditions can find themselves stuck on the side of the road. There are four hand-tools that you can store in your vehicle that can help you to self-recover when you are stranded on the side of the road if you are mired in a rut.
The U.S. Army requires the operators of wheeled-vehicles to carry these four items on their vehicles at all times. They are accountable items. Moreover, many soldiers have lost some of their pay because of losing this equipment. These essential hand-tools have a name associated with them. They are called pioneer tools. The main reason for this designation is that the early pioneers carried these tools in their covered wagons as they moved to settle the western United States. A recent experience of mine reminded me of the value of bringing such tools in your vehicle.
The first of the essential hand-tools that you should consider storing in your car is a shovel. The size of your vehicle will determine the size and type of shovel that will work for your vehicle. For example, the standard military d-handle shovel would be too large for a small compact car. Moreover, a standard military entrenching tool might be too small for an SUV. Shovels come in various sizes and styles. However, the best shovel for emergency roadside vehicle recovery is the d-handle, round-tip. By contrast, military folding shovels (aka. entrenching tools) are not designed for this type of application. Therefore, I would not recommend them for this purpose.
The best shovel for smaller vehicles is the ANViL® D-Handle Utility Shovel or something similar. Utility shovels are miniature d-handle shovels. They are small enough that they can be stored in the trunk of most sedan-type vehicles, such as the Chevy® Cruze or Nissan® Sentra. The best shovel for larger vehicles is the regular d-handle shovel, such as the Razor-Back® 30-inch, Wood D-Handle Digging Shovel. The digging shovel works best with mid and full-sized pickup trucks and SUVs such as the Chevy® Traverse or Toyota® 4Runner.
Furthermore, the value of carrying a shovel in your car cannot be overstated. A shovel allows you to dig out your stuck vehicle. A shovel can be used to place gravel or dry dirt in front of your tires to help with traction. Also, they can be employed to dig a fire pit or fire trough for building an emergency fire. They also can be used to construct a hasty shelter or windbreak.
2. Ax or Saw
Another of these essential hand-tools to carry in your vehicle is an ax or saw. We could collectively call them wood-processing tools. However, the value of carrying an ax or saw in your car is immense. The saw or ax is useful to cut wood. Wood logs can be laid in front of the tires of your stuck vehicle to provide some traction for your tires. Moreover, a saw or ax can be used, along with the shovel, to build a hasty shelter, build an emergency fire, or any number of other uses or needs in an emergency.
There are several sizes of and types of axes, as there are saws. You can read my article on woodcutters for more information on axes. The best kind of ax for a small sedan or economy car is the Estwing® 26-in., Camper’s Axe. It is not as heavy or bulky as a regular woodsman’s ax, but in an emergency roadside situation, it will be handy. Yet, the best ax for SUV’s and pickup trucks is the regular woodsman’s ax. The best ax of this type is the Hults® Bruk Akka Forest Axe. Those who are looking for a budget-friendly and dependable ax, there is the Echo® 28-in., Hickory Handle Limbing Axe.
Many people do not travel in large SUVs or pickup trucks. Therefore, storage space is limited in many sedans and hatchback vehicles. If you own such a car, then a hatchet is a good option if your car is too small to carry an ax. Hults® and Estwing® have great hatchets to consider as an alternative to the ax. Hatchets are smaller than axes. However, they give some chopping capability that can be useful if you are stuck on the side of the road.
The working principle for finding a good ax is the material of the handle, type of bit, and weight of the bit. Remember that in a roadside emergency, you do not need a dedicated heavy-duty wood-splitting ax. Wood-splitting axes are not good choppers. They are most efficient using vertical strikes. They are inefficient for striking at angles or swinging horizontally.
Another consideration for these essential hand tools is a saw. The best kind of saw for roadside emergency applications is a folding saw. The best folding saws on the market are made by Silky® or Bahco®. I would recommend the Silky® Big Boy or the Bahco Laplander. However, the Fiskars® Power Tooth 10-in., Steel Bade, Folding Pruning Saw is an excellent option to consider. Saws tend to be more efficient in processing wood for emergency fires and building shelters. However, with a good ax and a folding saw, most wood processing needs during a roadside emergency can be accomplished.
3. Pick Mattock
The pick mattock is the classic pioneer and miner tool and one of the essential hand tools that you should carry in your vehicle. They are digging tools. These tools break up hard and rocky ground. The ability to dig around wheels stuck in mud or softened dirt is essential. Shovels are not effective in breaking up icy, rocky, or dry, densely compacted soil. Troops fighting in the Battle of the Bulge and at the Chosin Reservoir found out the hard way that a small entrenching tool is inadequate to break up the frozen ground. Therefore, a good pick mattock is a great asset to keep in your vehicle, if possible.
Pick Mattocks come in two sizes, miniature and regular size. A miniature pick mattock is an option if you are driving a smaller car. However, remember, that like the hatchet, a miniature pick mattock has its limitations. A good pick mattock to consider is the Husky 2.5 lb. Pick Mattock with 36-in., Hardwood Handle. The miniature pick mattock that can be a good option is the V&B Manufacturing Mattock & Pick Combo, 26-In. Hickory Handle, or something similar.
Sledgehammers are part of the essential tools that you should carry in your vehicle. They are excellent tools for larger vehicles. However, they also should be a consideration for smaller vehicles. The value of a sledgehammer is the ability to drive wooden logs into the ground or heavy stakes. In a roadside emergency, these hammers can be used for several applications. They are great for helping dislodge or breaking up large rocks. Yet, their most common use is to help with securing logs in front of your vehicle tires. Additionally, a sledgehammer can be used to break windshields to get an injured person out of a car. Yet, the most common sledgehammer used for roadside emergency use is the 2.5 or 3-pound sledgehammer. Smaller vehicles can store miniature sledgehammers or a heavy-duty hammer.
The storage of pioneer tools (shovel, ax, pick Mattock, and sledgehammer) in your vehicle will pay dividends in a roadside emergency. The size of your vehicle storage space will determine the dimensions of such tools. Your full-sized pioneer toolset can be stored in a military surplus duffel or seabag or your truck bed utility box. Moreover, a smaller version of these tools can be stored in a medium or large gym-type bag. I would also recommend purchasing a military HMMWV pioneer tool rack and mounting your pioneer tools in that manner on your bug-out truck or SUV if you can do so. So, be prepared, be safe, and consider storing some of these tools in your vehicle.
https://survivalschool.us/wp-content/uploads/2019/12/CR-Cars-II-Snow-Breakdown-11-15.jpg547750Bill Lavenderhttps://survivalschool.us/wp-content/uploads/2018/05/inner_header_logo.pngBill Lavender2019-12-22 22:22:332020-12-19 20:58:354 Essential Hand Tools For Your Vehicle
Do you know the four levels of shelter? The topic of emergency survival shelter is an essential discussion in outdoor survival. It also is one of the core essentials for any survival planning, along with food, water, and fire. The Fall season is here. Camping, backpacking, hiking, and hunting are the activities winding down before the first winter snows begin to blanket the North American continent. However, before the snows come, there are the fall rains to contend with outdoors. Thus, shelter is an essential area to address for your end-of-the-year wilderness adventure.
1. Level 1: Personal Clothing
Most survival experts agree that the clothing you wear is your first level of shelter consideration. As such, it is essential to understand how your decisions about apparel can help you or endanger you in the outdoors. The principle of layering outerwear is useful when deciding what to pack and what to leave behind. A modified version of layering can look like the following:
1st Layer: Underwear, Socks and Silk-Weight Base Layers
7th Layer: Moderate Cold Weather Outerwear (45°F to 32°F)
A representative of this layer is the U.S. Army M-65 Field Jacket and Field Pants with Liners and the Condor® Summit Softshell Jacket.
8th Layer: Extreme Cold Weather Outerwear (31°F to -40°F). The TruSpec® H2O Proof Gen 2 Parka falls into this category
The principle of layering is essential to controlling your body’s loss of heat while in the fall and winter seasons. Equally important are the kinds of materials that you consider for your personal clothing needs. There is much debate about natural fiber versus synthetic fiber clothing. Each type of material has its benefits and disadvantages. Therefore, it is best to do some research and see which kinds of clothing materials work best for you and in the environment that you will traverse.
2. Level 2: Hasty Shelters
The next level of shelter consideration is what I call, hasty shelters. These kinds of shelters are not meant to be a permanent solution. They are often associated with emergency outdoor survival or military escape-and-evasion techniques. They are temporary solutions to avoiding extended exposure to the elements, such as wind, rain, snow, or heat. Moreover, they can be a source of concealment in a military context. Examples of hasty shelters are caves, overhangs, lean-tos, debris huts, wickiups, various kinds of tarp shelters, tents, or portable hunting blinds. Furthermore, some hasty shelters can be a solution for several days to several weeks.
Generally, hasty shelters are formed from the available natural resources along with the shelter items that you are carrying and the tools you have in your pack. Some areas that you may be in will not provide much for sheltering material. Therefore, what you are carrying in your backpack may save your life and prevent you from getting hypothermia or even frostbite. It is advisable to bring an SOL Escape Lite or Escape Pro Bivy and a U.S. Army GoreTex Bivy Cover as a minimal emergency hasty shelter system.
3. Level 3: Semi-Permanent
The third level of shelter is those that are semi-permanent. Semi-permanent shelters take more time and energy to construct. Therefore, they are not the best solution to consider when you are lost in the woods. However, if you find one already built, this kind of shelter will enhance your chances of survival over an extended period. The main difference between semi-permanent and permanent shelters is the foundation. Most permanent shelters are built upon and anchored to a rock, brick, concrete block, or slab foundation. By contrast, some examples of semi-permanent shelters would be log cabins, trail shelters, sheds, or mobile homes. Semi-permanent shelters can be elevated off of the ground by sitting on concrete blocks, yet they are not permanently affixed to them.
4. Level 4: Permanent
Permanent shelters are the final level or category of shelters to consider as you are planning your fall outdoor adventure. If you are lost in the wilderness, you are not going to spend your energies constructing a permanent shelter to get out of the elements. However, one can potentially run across a permanent shelter while attempting to self-recover in an emergency survival situation. One survival personality once stumbled across a permanent shelter while trekking through the jungles of Costa Rica. Thus, it is possible to happen upon such an accommodation. As stated earlier, permanent shelters are built upon and anchored to a rock, brick, or concrete foundation. Suburban and Urban shelters are mostly permanent shelters. In the outdoors, sometimes a person’s weekend cottage or mountain home may be hidden away until a lost person discovers them.
Permanent shelters offer a longer-term solution to your shelter needs. They usually have central air and heating. There is often running water, food, and cooking implements to access. Therefore, it is best to have a working idea of what permanent shelters may exist in a ten to a twenty-mile radius of your operating area or hiking trail. For example, when I was in Virginia, I would hike a well-used trail system. I could hear in the distance the sounds of human activity.
Fall-time outdoor activities can be fun and memorable. However, this time of the year can also be fraught with its unique hazards. Therefore, you must take the time to think through the shelter requirements necessary to be safe while outdoors. Weather at this time of the year can change quickly. One story of a missing hunter that I read recently centered on his being caught in a sudden snowstorm in the mountains of Idaho in October. Therefore, you must have a good clothing plan and shelter plan before you head out for outdoor activity during this time of the year.
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There are three common types of cold weather injury. Cold weather injury prevention is an essential part of preparing for outdoor activities in the winter. The three significant injuries of which to be concerned while enjoying your outdoor adventure are frostbite, hypothermia, and immersion/trench foot. By far, frostbite and hypothermia are the injuries that gain the most attention in the survival literature. However, immersion/trench foot also is a cold weather injury. There are several factors to keep in mind when assessing risk for getting a cold weather injury. Here are some risk factors to consider before heading outdoors:
Temperature: What are the current and projected temperatures?
Humidity: What is the current and projected humidity levels?
Wind Chill Factor: What is the current and projected wind chill factor? Do I have my wind chill factor assessment card?
Previous Cold Weather Injury: Have I or anyone in my group had a previous cold weather injury?
Frostbite is the condition in which the exposed skin tissues of the body begin to freeze (“Frostbite,” WebMD, 2019). The most likely people to get frostbite while outdoors in the winter are people typically men between 30-49 years old. The reason is that men are the largest demographic that spends the most time outdoors throughout the year. The parts of the body that tend to get frostbite are nose, cheeks, ears, forehead, chin, wrists, fingers, and toes (FM 4-25.11, 2002, 5-11). There are two basic categories of frostbite: superficial and deep. Furthermore, there are four stages or degrees of frostbite: normal, frostnip, superficial frostbite, and deep frostbite (“Understanding Frostbite–The Basics,” WebMD, 2017), (“Frostbite,” Mayo Clinc.org, 2018).
Kamler writes the following, “When heat production can no longer fend off the cold, the body conserves its warmth by constricting blood vessels in the areas that leak the most heat. Hand and feet, noses and ears become pale and cold.” (Kamler, Surviving The Extremes, 2004, 199). Consequently, these parts of the body become subject to frostbite very quickly by continuous exposure to cold temperatures.
Moreover, I remember being stationed at Fort Riley, Kansas in the winter of 1989, when one of our African-American sergeants passed me by in the motor pool. I noticed that he had an incredibly vivid white spot on his nose near his left eye. He had recently come from Korea and had suffered frostbite during his time there. It was -30°F on that day. Even though he was wearing all of his Army-issued cold weather clothing, the limited time his face was exposed to the cold, his previous frostbite appeared on his face.
Medical conditions such as diabetes or other medical concerns that affect blood flow to the extremities.
Previous frostbite or cold injury
Being at high altitude, which reduces the oxygen supply to your skin
Hypothermia is the next type of cold weather injury. It is a potentially deadly condition in which the body loses heat faster than it can produce. Prolonged exposure to cold or wet-cold conditions coupled with fatigue, inadequate food intake, and dehydration can lead to a person getting hypothermia. A person can die within a few minutes to a few hours if they develop hypothermia and go untreated. In severe cases of hypothermia in which deep frostbite has formed on the body, medical professionals should treat the individual. Improperly warming a person with an extreme case of hypothermia with frostbite can potentially cause the person to die from shock to the heart due to the circulation of cold blood (Kamler, Surviving the Extremes, 2004, 225-26).
Several risk factors that contribute to enabling the onset of hypothermia are the following:
Cold temperatures along with wet or high relative humidity can foster the development of hypothermia. Wearing damp clothing for an extended period in these conditions will lead to the onset of the loss of body heat. That is why mountain climbers can die wearing mountaineering suits that are heavily insulated. They sweat in them while climbing.
Consequently, they become wet on the inside. The frigid temperatures and wind at higher elevations cause the clothing not to retain the body heat being generated by the climber. The climber cannot remain warm. Hypothermia and frostbite begin to overtake the climber.
Low activity or remaining stationary for too long a period in cold weather can be a cause for developing hypothermia. In the military, standing in a trench or foxhole or sitting in a forward observation/listening post in cold weather can lead to someone getting hypothermia. In World War II, the servicemembers that fought at the Battle of the Bulge were caught by surprise, and many died from hypothermia or froze to death because of sitting in fighting positions in frigid temperatures with minimal clothing to keep warm. A similar experience occurred for the United States Marines who fought at the Battle of the Chosin Reservoir in the Korean War.
Physical fatigue coupled with dehydration and inadequate food intake can contribute to the onset of hypothermia in cold weather conditions. This is why in the movie, Everest, based on the 1996 Everest Disaster, many of the climbers wanted to stop and rest after struggling to descend the mountain to safety in the middle of extreme weather conditions. They were exhausted, frightened and getting cold by their losing the ability to generate body heat at that altitude as well as being encased in their sweat-drenched mountaineering suits. Kamler writes, “Even perfect insulation won’t protect a body that’s not generating heat.” (Kamler, Surviving The Extremes, 2004, 185). Their bodies were wanting to rest from the combined effects of sleep deprivation, physical exhaustion, loss of body heat, and low oxygen at high altitudes. However, in those conditions, stopping to take a break meant almost certain death. Thus, it is important to closely monitor yourself in cold weather conditions to see that you do not over exert yourself to the point of exhaustion whether you are hunting, trapping, mountaineering, backpacking, or camping.
Mental and Emotional disposition in cold weather conditions while enjoying the outdoors is influenced by some of the other factors already discussed. When you are tired, wet, cold, and hungry, your positive mental attitude (PMA) will diminish relative to the time that you are in those conditions. Therefore, it is critical to get dry and warmed up as soon as possible.
3. Immersion/Trench Foot
The third kind of cold weather injury is immersion or trench foot. This type of injury affects the feet due to them being continuously wet in cold conditions (“Trench Foot or Immersion Foot,” CDC, 2014). Some of the medical literature calls it immersion syndrome (FM 4-25.11, 5-8). It is considered a non-freezing injury. Those who suffer from immersion foot in the wilderness can develop frostbite due to the nature of how the problem arises. Immersion foot will begin to form on a person’s feet if they remain continuously wet over several days in temperatures between 30°-40°F. If a person develops immersion foot in those temperature ranges and the temperature begins to drop, it will not take long before the water on the footwear, socks, and fluids on the exposed skin will start to freeze. For more information on keeping your feet healthy in the field, check out my previous article, 3 Essential Tips To Keep Your Feet Healthy.
The winter months bring some severe risks to the bushcrafter, hunter, backpacker, or even those working around the outside of their homes in frigid conditions. A person can have an enjoyable experience outdoors if they remember the medical threats that come with winter outdoor activities: frostbite, hypothermia, and immersion foot. A medical professional can better instruct on how to prevent and treat these injuries. A basic wilderness first aid class will also help you to understand better, prevent, and deal with these injuries.
There are 3 critical factors in wearing winter clothing of which to be aware. The holiday and winter season is a time of great joy. Many people travel during this time of the year to visit relatives. For example, AAA® estimates that over 54 million people will travel by car over Thanksgiving this year. The winter months are a busy time of the year. Winter clothing is a critical consideration when traveling or outdoors. What are the four essential characteristics to remember about winter clothing?
The first notable characteristic to consider about winter clothing is that it fits properly to your body. Winter clothing that fits appropriately will function more efficiently to keep you warm. Clothing that is snug or tight around the body hinders the breathability of the fabric. Clothing that is too loose or long when worn will also lose its ability to keep you warm efficiently. Therefore, it is recommended to get measured, so you know your waist size, inseam length, neck size, and arm length before purchasing winter clothing. It is also important to try clothing on before purchasing if possible. Sizes vary among manufacturers so be careful about sizing when purchasing winter clothing online.
The concept of layering is critical to the effective functioning of winter clothing. There are three layers of winter clothing: a base layer, an insulating or middle layer, and a shell or outer layer. These categories are: silk weight, mid-weight, and shell. The U.S. Army has seven layers of winter clothing: Lightweight, Middle Weight, High Loft or Fleece, Wind Breaker, Soft Shell, Wet Weather, Extreme Cold Weather. Most layering systems do not count your shirt or pants as part of the layers. However, you should consider it as a layer. Thus, for the average outdoor enthusiast, the primary layers should be the following: Undergarments, Shirt and Trousers, Outer Garments. Your head, face, hands, and feet are covered, as necessary. Why is layering important?
Importance of Layering
The layering concept helps keep your body warm in cold environments. Layering works by creating layers of warm air around the body. The fabric of winter clothing also employs this concept. Winter clothing traps small pockets of air between the fibers. These micro-pockets of air are heated naturally by one’s own body heat. Poor personal hygiene in the field will hinder the efficiency of winter clothing. This is also one of the reasons why mountaineers freeze to death at high altitudes wearing all of that bulky winter clothing. The warming properties of their clothing diminish after days of sweating in this gear. They, then, get caught in a blizzard, and their winter clothing does not help them stay warm, thus precipitating hypothermia and frostbite in concert with fatigue and high altitude sickness. What about the layering of the head, hands, and feet?
Layering of the Head, Hands, and Feet
The covering of your head, hands, and feet is also an area to consider employing the layering concept. However, most winter gloves and shoes use Gore-Tex fabric in them to enable the warming of hands and feet. Some headwear also uses a Gore-Tex membrane to help the head keep warm. Therefore, understanding and practicing the layering concept of wearing winter clothing is an essential factor in staying warm outdoors. Footwear and gloves that use Gore-Tex linings already have the layering concept within them. However, there are glove liners of wool or acrylic that can be complimentary if necessary, to add a second layer of protection to Gore-Tex gloves. Thus, as you consider the wearing of winter clothing, layering is an important concept to remember. What about fabrics for winter clothing?
The primary concern with fabrics in winter clothing is whether or not the fabric retains moisture and keeps you warm. There are only three categories of textiles in winter clothing: natural, synthetic, and blends. All of these categories have their strengths and weaknesses. For example, natural fabrics come from wool or cotton. Synthetic fabrics like acrylic or Gore-Tex come from petroleum processing. They help retain heat and whisk moisture away from the skin and offer some durability over natural fabrics. The blended fabrics are an attempt to combine the best qualities of natural and synthetic fabrics. A common type of blended fabric is rip-stop (60/40 or 50/50 cotton to polyester ratio) material common in modern military fatigues.
Outdoor experts agree that wool winter clothing is the best if you can obtain it. An excellent example of wool clothing is the WeatherWool® All Around Jacket or the WeatherWool® Neck Gaiter. You can purchase both of these products at the Sigma 3 Survival School store. The outstanding qualities of wool clothing are many. Wool is a natural fiber that comes from sheep. It helps keep the moisture off of your skin even when it is wet. It maintains its heating qualities even when wet. Therefore, purchase wool clothing when you can.
The second best type of winter clothing to purchase are those of Gore-Tex® fabric. Gore-Tex® is a type of fabric that is a derivative of Teflon. It allows water vapor to escape away from the skin while simultaneously not allowing liquid water to come through the fabric to the skin. Thus, various combinations of Gore-Tex® fabrics are in winter clothing. Gore-Tex clothing combines some of the desired qualities of wool with the durability of Teflon. An example of quality outerwear made of Gore-Tex® is the U.S. Army’s Generation III Extended Cold Weather Clothing System (ECWCS) Parkas and trousers. Thus, Gore-Tex® is outerwear is the best on the market for winter clothing made of synthetic fabrics.
These three essential factors of wearing winter clothing are at the core of keeping warm this winter. A person would do well to remember and practice these basic tips for the wear of winter clothing. Whether traveling for the holidays or going on a winter backpacking trip, wearing the right clothing in layers are keys to keeping warm in cold weather conditions. Equally important to remember is that poor personal hygiene while in the outdoors will diminish the warming qualities of winter clothing. Therefore, to get the most benefit from quality winter wear, keep yourself clean as much as possible when outdoors. Quality winter wear should be part of your emergency bag or get-home bag that is in kept in your car. Thus, the proper use and care of winter clothing will save you a big disappointment in an emergency.
Everyone seems to agree that a good survival knife is an essential item for the outdoorsman, bushcrafters, or preppers. There are many good resources to access to learn about survival knives. However, the key words of versatility and practicality should influence your thinking about knives. Additionally, do you view a knife as a weapon or tool or both? Furthermore, there are at least two major things to consider before you decide on what kind of knife to purchase or carry: the purpose of the knife and the characteristics of the knife.
The Purpose Of The Knife
The defining question for determining the type of fixed-blade knife to carry is the type of use for that knife. What is the purpose or reason for carrying a knife? The term survival knife is a definition for a purpose or an application of the knife. That means that the intent of the knife is personal survival. In other words, it will be the one knife that you will rely on to save your life. However, there are many general categories of survival: combat/tactical, wilderness, urban, water/sea, jungle, mountain, desert, medical, emergency, etc. Thus, there are knives specifically tailored for each of these survival categories. Therefore, a person needs to define what kind of use they want to get out of a fixed-blade knife. Yet, there are some basic characteristics that define a good survival knife.
The Characteristics Of A Survival Knife
The first characteristic in a survival knife is that must be full tang. The term, full tang, means the knife blade and handle tang are formed from a singular piece of steel. The tang is the part of the knife upon which the handle scales are attached. The knife tang should extend to the bottom of the handle and not taper into the handle as in a rat tail design. Some knives marketed as survival knives have a hollow handle molded, bolted, or welded to the blade. Unfortunately, this welding point makes the knife vulnerable to cracking and breaking at the joint where the blade and handle meet. However, in recent years, there has been some significant improvements on the hollow-handle knives and some people are starting to recommend them as a useful knife. What about blade thickness?
2. Blade Thickness: 3/16-1/4 inch
The second characteristic of a good survival knife involves blade thickness. A good survival knife needs a blade thickness between 3/16 of an inch to 1/4 of an inch. This provides a solid and durable blade that will last if you take care of it. The blade thickness is important if using the knife for prying things apart. Other sources will have additional considerations. However, I found that if you find a knife that meets these first two specifications then the other recommended characteristics for a good survival knife will fall into place. Furthermore, blade length is another consideration.
3. Blade Length: 4.5-6 inches
A third characteristic of a good and reliable survival knife is blade length. There are some experts that recommend that a survival or bushcrafting knife should have a blade length of no less than five inches. However, the exception to this rule are the Morakniv® brand knives. Many of the experts in the field of wilderness survival and bushcraft recommend the Morakniv® knives. Yet, a blade length of five or more inches meets the versatility considerations for a survival knife: construct improvised weapons and traps, as well as, process food. One thing to keep in mind about blade length is not to have a knife blade that is too long. A knife blade beyond six or seven inches is probably going to be too cumbersome to wield when building traps or skinning a squirrel. Not only are tang, blade length and thickness important for a survival knife, but also the blade materials are equally important.
4. Blade Materials: D2 or 1095 High Carbon Steel
A fourth characteristic for a quality survival knife is the steel used in making the knife. There is almost universal agreement that high carbon tool steel is the optimum material for a knife blade. D2 and 1095 steels are the most favorable tool steels for the blade construction of a survival knife. These blade steels are the best for those are spending a lot of time in the field such as hunters or bushcrafters. They are easy to sharpen and hold an edge well.
However, a good blade steel to consider is stainless steel if there is only an occasional excursion to the outdoors. This means that it is easy to keep corrosion and rust from building up on the blade or handle. For example, many of the top game processing knives feature a stainless steel blade. So, a stainless steel outdoor knife may be a consideration for only a weekend outing on the campgrounds, cabin, or the favorite fishing hole. Moreover, the type of blade spine is also important to consider.
5. Blade Spine: 90° Spine
The fifth characteristic of a good survival knife is a blade spine that is ground to a 90° edge. This kind of edge is useful in the field. It allows a person to use the spine of the knife to scrape bark from a tree for tinder and strike a ferro rod when making a fire. It is also good for striking flint or chert rock against it to make a spark for starting fires.
6. Blade Grind: Scandinavian or Flat
A sixth characteristic of an excellent survival is the blade grind. There are two common blade grinds that one will find on a quality survival knife: a Scandinavian grind and a flat grind. The Scandinavian grid is the most popular grind of the two. The main reason that these two grinds are popular on survival knives is that they are the easiest type of blades to sharpen in the wilderness. Other blade grinds sometimes require special tools or expertise to sharpen. Thus, most of the high quality, and, expensive bushcraft or survival knives will feature these blade grinds. Moreover, there are some other things to consider when deciding about a knife to carry as a survival knife.
Some things to think about when deciding on a good survival knife are the type of additional features some knives have on them. For example, some survival knives have notches on the spine of the blade near the handle called jimping. This feature allows additional friction when using the thumb for wood carving or cutting tasks. Is jimping something that you want on your knife?
Another feature to ponder on survival knives are the kind of scale material on the handles. The four most common handle scale materials on survival knives are: bone, wood, rubber, or micarta. Wood, rubber, and bone are understandable scale features. However, micarta is a material that is often used on survival knives. Micarta is a composite material of polymers and linen cloth fibers. Thus, micarta has a wood-like quality to the touch.
Type of Edge: Fine or Serrated?
Finally, some commentary on serrated edges. There is much ado regarding a knife blade with a serrated edge and one without. The decision about this feature is a matter of preference. It is also being able to answer the earlier question, “What is the purpose of your knife”? If you want to cut down on weight in your backpack by carrying only one knife, then a knife with a serrated edge may be a viable option. The serrated edge provides some versatility with the ability to saw small diameter limbs or materials such as plastic. However, if you are going to carry a good multi-tool, you do not really need a knife with a serrated edge. Thus, a good survival knife is an essential piece of gear. Therefore, choose your survival knife wisely.
https://survivalschool.us/wp-content/uploads/2018/11/fieldcraftcoyotetan-1.jpg6621000Bill Lavenderhttps://survivalschool.us/wp-content/uploads/2018/05/inner_header_logo.pngBill Lavender2018-10-27 15:17:032020-12-19 20:58:31Outstanding Features In A Survival Knife
Modifying your Get-Home-Bag (GHB) is a great way to stay ready for a winter emergency. The Fall is upon us now. Yet, Winter is about to arrive. Moreover, the winter season means traveling in dangerous weather conditions. Thus, it is critical to prepare to handle winter emergencies while on the road.Therefore, one of the ways to be prepare to face a winter travel emergency is to keep an emergency survival kit in your vehicle. A convenient way to keep an emergency survival kit in your car is through a 72-hour level backpack. For this article, this bag is different from a vehicle emergency kit. This emergency bag is for personal survival while traveling in inclement weather conditions. Some people call this type of emergency bag, a Get-Home-Bag (GHB). This bag is to enable your survival as you get back your home after leaving your car.Moreover, this article is not about building a Get-Home-Bag. Instead, the purpose of this article is to help you customize the GHB that you already have for the winter. This means examining what contents that are in your bag. What are some factors to consider when winterizing your bag?
Factors Influencing Winterizing Your Get Home Bag
Factor #1: Environment
The 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 Distance
Moreover, 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: Experience
A 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 Items
The 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 Items
The 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 Items
Additionally, 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 Items
Additionally, 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 Items
Moreover, 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.
In 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.
https://survivalschool.us/wp-content/uploads/2018/11/winter-car.jpg13672048Bill Lavenderhttps://survivalschool.us/wp-content/uploads/2018/05/inner_header_logo.pngBill Lavender2018-10-17 01:46:272020-12-19 20:58:31Modify Your Get-Home-Bag For Winter
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 Latinlāna ‘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 sheepbreeds 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:
For many years, I’ve been searching to find the best wool clothing on the planet. Working in the wilderness full time means I need a clothing fiber that works in wide range of temperatures and rough conditions. Clothing choice is a huge consideration when purchasing equipment for work because it means the difference in being […]
In the last year, I have been all over the country living in my hammock. I decided to go homeless by choice in August 2017, so that I could be a nomad and live on the move in my favorite hammock system of all time. The Warbonnet Blackbird XLC is by far and away the best overall hammock system in the world in my opinion. I loved it so much, I got rid of my house so I could travel and live in it full time. They even have a new model they just released, in which we will do a write up on later. But the changes made to the Blackbird XLC are exactly what was needed to take the system to the next level.
During these travels, I’ve lived in my hammock in Puerto Rico after the Hurricanes devastated the island. I lived on the front of an airport, to beaches along the coast, to the front porch of buildings. I traveled from a tropical environment to a winter environment and that made a world of difference in how I set up my hammock to endure the weather. We recently camped out in just above zero temperatures in Northern PA and stayed extremely warm in our shelters even in a foot of snow.
Insulating Hammocks in Below Freezing Weather
The main problem with hammock camping in cold weather is the issue with convection underneath you. Wind blowing below you will suck heat away from you quicker than anything else and that is why you must know how to properly setup for winter hammock camping. There are many ways to set up for winter hammock camping conditions, but not all are equal.
Different ways of setup:
Top Quilt and Underquilt- This is my preferred method for winter hammock camping. But it is also the most expensive and least modular for other uses. The top quilt is only 3/4 of a sleeping bag, eliminating weight from the bag where it isn’t needed. When in a hammock, it does no good to insulate underneath yourself with a typical sleeping bag because the insulation becomes compressed and provides no warmth. That is why an under quilt is so important because it makes up for the lack of insulation underneath you. And since the under quilt isn’t compressed by your body, it will provide substantial warmth. Down is the material of choice for insulation on hammocks, especially if conditions are consistently below freezing. The only time synthetic insulation would be better is if the conditions were constantly wet. Even then most down quilt manufacturers use silicon-treated down these days, so them getting wet is less of an issue than in the past.
Sleeping Bag and thermal pad- The next best option isn’t as warm, but it allows you to utilize sleeping bags you already own instead of having to purchase quilts that can really only be used for winter hammock camping. The problem with this option is that traditional sleeping bags are difficult to get in and out of in a hammock. The underneath portion of your sleeping bag is useless and a thermal pad is absolutely essential for staying warm. No matter how good your sleeping bag is rated, you will still get cold underneath you without a thermal pad.
Utilizing Tarps for warmth- One of the most important options for warmth is how you use your tarp. I’m a firm believer in having a tarp that will block the wind and rain from all directions. These triangular or partial coverage tarps aren’t good enough for cold conditions. Because if the wind can blow across your hammock because the tarp doesn’t block it all the way around, you are likely to get cold. The Warbonnet Superfly tarp is the best I’ve seen so far in these types of tarps. It is constructed to act like a tent around your hammock and if you want to block the wind in cold conditions you’ll need to put your tarp flaps all the way to the ground. This will block the wind effectively and make your shelter much warmer.
Blackbird XLC Top Cover and Under Quilt Cover- Recently Warbonnet changed some aspects of their Blackbird XLC. They added a top cover that can be purchased at any time because they aren’t custom to each hammock anymore. And they also have two vents added to them, which are essential for letting out moisture from your breath. The top cover itself will add around 15 degrees of warmth to your winter hammock system, but the problem with the original design was condensation build up inside the hammock from your breath throughout the night. This was a very big problem before because your breath would freeze to the inside of the hammock, causing your insulation to get wet. They have also designed a new underquilt cover, that is designed to block more wind and help keep your underquilt compressed against the hammock. This was a problem before with any underquilt, because if you moved too much the quilt could slip off. And this new design prevents that as well as adding more wind protection for winter hammock camping.
Thermal Pads- I truly believe that whether you use a sleeping bag or quilt system, that you truly should use a thermal pad for both setups. Its amazing how much warmth a Therma-rest pad can warm you sleep system up. In fact, I’d say it’s the single most important thing for staying warm when winter hammock camping.
Benefits of Winter Hammock Camping
If you have followed our social media, you know that we are HUGE advocates of winter hammock camping for many reasons. Here the reasons we choose hammocks above other shelters:
Fast setup and flat ground not needed. You can camp on the side of hill, next to a waterfall, or anywhere you can find trees. There are even ways to setup them up without trees.
No need to clean the ground up on your site or prepare sleep area.
Super Lightweight and Packable. The warbonnet blackbird XLC weighs only around 3 lbs for the whole system and more if you add quilts and other accessories.
SuperFly tarp can be used as a tent if hammock not needed.
Most comfortable night sleep you can get in the woods. The blackbird XLC forces your body to sleep in an anatomically correct position and has eliminated all my back pain. I’ve considered hanging one in my bedroom when I quit being homeless.
Lightweight and Packable
Durable and comfortable- I’ve had the same hammock for 3 years and it has no noticeable wear of any kind, even after living in it full time for the last six months.
Of all the choices available for cold winter camping, hammock camping with quilts is by far and away our favorite. The only downside to hammock camping versus other types of camping is you can’t have a fire next to any hammock system. The material is too lightweight to have a fire anywhere even close to it. We recommend keeping your hammock a minimum of 20 yards away from any fire. Other than the lack of exterior heating capability, the only other downside is you must have trees to hang the hammock. But even if you don’t you can put your superfly tarp straight to the ground and it can double as a floorless tent. All in all, you can’t go wrong with a Warbonnet XLC hammock system. If you can’t afford one, ENOS is a great secondary option. But they aren’t even close in comparison to quality, comfort, or utility uses.
Recommended Winter Hammock Camping products:
Therm-a-Rest RidgeRest Classic Foam Sleeping Pad for Camping, Hiking, and Backpacking, Regular – 72 x 20 Inches
ENO Eagles Nest Outfitters – Blaze Under Quilt
ENO Eagles Nest Outfitters – Ignitor Top Quilt, Royal/Charcoal
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!