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The First Step

December 5, 2017

Perhaps the greatest discovery of one’s own courage is found in taking the first step into the unknown.

There’s nothing like a good journey to lift the spirit. An ongoing adventure of discovery to see where life takes you. In my mind’s eye, I can see myself walking the lands of Middle Earth with the Fellowship, living off the land and tackling all the challenges that come to face us. I feel connected with the outdoors, the missing part of my soul I could never have found without taking that first step into the wild.

Being a part of OG Wild is my great adventure. Through outdoor living, I can walk in the boots of some of my favourite characters; Legolas, Aragorn or Bilbo and Gandalf, spirits most akin to my own and more at home under the expanse of the natural world than in vast cities of stone. There is healing to be found in the forest landscapes and many benefits to the body, mind, heart and soul few doctors and absolutely no pharmacy will admit to.

The Earth is a living network. It feeds and maintains itself, thrives with her own energy we have lost touch with in our artificial landscapes. We are taught we will catch a cold, get germs and infections if we go outside. Ideals pushed on us from medical companies hoping to cash in through chemicals claimed to protect us. The truth hidden from us is that constant ingestion of these chemicals weakens our immune systems so when a virus does latch on, it does far more damage.

And we convince ourselves it’s because we went outside.

I am proof to the contrary. I was not raised on pills and pharmacies’ remedies. I sleep outside in minus forty degrees Celsius on a bed of spruce bows and haven’t caught the flu since I got a flu shot nearly twenty years ago. I haven’t been practicing outdoor living that long but I always knew what was better for me. Man-made chemicals weren’t it.

I am the type of person who gets caught up in the gentle movement of the trees in the wind. I imagine the leaves rustling is a secret language used by the forest. I am captivated by birds gliding through the air and I am instantly calmed by those experiences. I am at peace sitting in front of a fire with nothing but good friends and a tall forest around me. I am grounded when I walk in the grass in bare feet.

I feel the energy of the Earth when I am in direct contact with her and I feel I must apologize when I need to break off branches to make a bed or start a fire. I see along things as living entities deserving of respect.

Discovering why I am this way is my journey. It’s learning who I am by learning more about the natural world. Living a life surrounded by technology is my illness and seeking the calming, healing force of nature is my medicine. She has so many stories to tell and I am only finishing the prologue.

If you feel the same as I do, join me on my quest, comment on this post or on OG Wild’s new YouTube playlist, Kevin’s Journeys. Share with me your stories as I share mine as we take these first steps back into Mother Nature’s embrace and learn some truly amazing secrets!

 

What You Don’t Carry in Your Backpack Can Save Your Life

October 30, 2017

The backpacking market is flooded with great new gadgets and kits that allow you to tuck away just about anything and everything you need for a great trip outdoors. But we at OG Wild have noticed one important factor most of those stores, how-to and survival blogs fail to stress upon the wary hiker – what happens when you have to leave your pack behind?

 

So many of these neat, new kits have even our mouths watering with the desire to try them out. They come with so many pockets and molle straps, plus they’re scientifically designed for maximum weight distribution to ease the strain of carrying so much gear. There are pockets and compartments specifically for sleeping bags and tents. Compartments are arranged for items you need to access more often like sunscreen or bug spray while the stuff you need at the end of the day stays buried until you make camp for the night. Truly great inventions followed with innovative tutorials on how best to use them.

However…

Let’s say Levi and his wife, Whitney, are hiking in the majestic back country of our glorious Alberta forests with their two dogs Igor and Gidget. They are walking in single file, chatting with each other so the wildlife is aware of their presence and they come upon a fast moving stream they need to cross. Whitney, being the more sure-footed of the pair, wades through without a problem but Levi, being of slightly shorter in the leg, slips on a stone and the current topples him over and starts to wash him downstream.

That’s a problem.

Whitney drops her pack to run after him, hoping to get ahead to a shallow area to pull him out with a sturdy branch but he’s going down fast. His pack has a lot of weight with the extra cans of spam and it’s causing him additional stress to find his footing and keep his head above water. Every so often he is able to bob his out just long enough for a quick gasp of air before he sinks again under the current. He has but one option; he must ditch the weight of his pack so his body will be lighter and he can get to the surface.

By this time, Whitney has been calling to him, trying to get him to push toward the edge where she has a long branch waiting for him to grab onto. Levi is wearing down. The water is cold, stripping him of his energy and his body heat but he needs to muster that extra little bit to reach for that branch and to safety.

Fortunately, he was able to make it back to shore where Whitney and the dogs were very happy to see him safe on dry land. Unfortunately, he sat up in time to peer downstream and the shrinking sight of his backpack bobbing in and out of the water, sailing off into oblivion.

If they were stuck in the wilderness, they might be in dire straits having to survive only on whatever Whitney had in her pack. It may be enough for them to hold on until rescue. That is not always the case though. Many hikers still go out alone, people still get lost and hunters still believe they have an extraordinary sense of direction and it would never happen to them.

But it does.

Our rule of travel is simple. It’s the Three Layers of Life:

  1. What you have on your back
  2. What you have on your belt
  3. What you have in your pockets.

You carry the bulk of your gear on your back, that goes without saying but as in Levi’s scenario, what does he have left after his pack is gone and irretrievable? The other two layers. He has a military waist pack system with shoulder harness that is capable of carrying more than enough survival items to make it through a night or two if the situation calls for it. We all almost always wear cargo style pants with extra pockets on the legs where we keep another supply of essential items, just in case. You may have to lose your pack, you may have lose your belt, you rarely have to lose your pants… Willingly.

I prefer to reuse one of the cheapest and greatest inventions of portable carrying devices – the fanny pack! Of course, we tenderly renamed it a Tactical Waist Attachment cause it sounds cooler. TWA all the way!

What should you put in have in the additional two layers? Anything falling under the 5 C’s – combustion, cutting tool, cordage, cover, container. An extra lighter, pack of matches, or ferro rod; a swiss army knife or Mora Eldris or anything in the Classic series; a hank of paracord or bailer twine; a poncho or emergency blanket; condoms for carrying water. Larger containers to cook with may be more difficult to carry but then a bowl can be carved or coal burnt from wood.

The 5 C’s are the essential tools necessary to maintain a comfortable existence in the wilderness, though nearly all of them can be produced from natural materials if you have the knowledge. We have a field guide on the 5 C’s of Survival available on our store that fits just about anywhere.

Your pockets will have considerable less than what you can keep on your belt using a waist attachment system but if anything, always carry a spare knife because that is the one item more difficult to make. Anything else in the 5 C toolset can be made with a knife.

Having a great time in the wilderness is the key. Proper planning before you make any trek is essential and that includes common sense. Think about your situation, environment, weather and think about any precautionary measures in case something goes wrong. Things don’t always go wrong, but it still happens. It’s far better to have some back up system and be prepared than being stuck wishing you had thought of some sort of back up system. You know everything in your backpack will make for a more comfortable experience but in a situation where you are forced to leave your pack behind, the stuff you don’t have in there because you have two extra layers of survival, can really save your life.

 

Play safe out there from OG and the guys!

Clothes, The First Shelter

October 22, 2017

There is an old saying, “There is no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothing.”

Since the early days of humankind’s existence when we began to shed the thick, insulating fur covering from our bodies, we very quickly adopted another means of staying warm and somewhat protected in the outdoor environments – clothing.

Imagine those first moments of the hunter’s thoughts when he was shivering in the cold with a spear in hand waiting for game to throw it at. He was cold as he walked around yet here were all these animals around him that seemed barely affected by the temperature at all. ‘Must be its fur!’ The hunter must have thought. ‘I’m going to take it and wear it and I will stay warm!’ And there sprouted the beginnings of our first mobile shelter system.

It's funny when you think about it now how evolution took that nod toward irony. With the discovery of fire we shed our fur so we had to wear the skin of other beasts to compensate. Fortunately, technology has moved us forward and we have learned to weave other materials like cotton, wool, fleece, plants and even plastic. Shortly after, the purpose of clothing became esthetic over survival but for us bushcrafters, we need to remember what we wear is our personal shelter, the first layer of protection against harsh weather conditions. This is where the choice for clothes becomes more for necessity and less for fashion.

What we wear for outdoor occasions is just as important as how we wear it. Clothing is a shelter system, meaning it needs to be layered for maximum effectiveness. The inner layer is the wicking layer for pulling moisture away from the body. The next layer is for insulation to keep our core temperature constant and the final layer is the shell which serves as the immediate barrier against the weather.

 

WOOL

Personally, I love wool. I can’t say enough about wool, I think it’s the best bushcraft material on the planet. For moderate temperatures, I’m ok with cotton breeds of shirts and pants because I can stay comfortable but I have to pack at least two pairs of everything – one to wear and one to wash. I always keep wool on hand whenever I go out for a camp because I can layer up for warmth or layer down to cool off. Wool breathes and wicks moisture from the skin. So when I’m sweating from walking around or gathering firewood, my clothes are allowing air in to cool my core temperature. In other words, the process of perspiration is not hindered. On the down side of that, I find in warmer temperatures, I sweat more in wool and that means I need to drink more water to compensate and avoid dehydration.

In rain or winter, I have thicker layers of wool. I have been out in heavy rain with only three layers of wool on and stayed comfortably warm. Wool retains up to 80% of its insulative value when wet and it dries quicker because of how well it breathes. With the right type of weave, like those old army shirts and wool blankets, you can watch the rain run off. Winter is great because I can layer up just enough wool to stay warm without limiting my range of motion. Most of the time, we are busy doing chores in camp to maintain that comfortable existence anyway so there isn’t much time to slow down. That’s when I shed layers until I hit comfortably cool.

Wool also does not have to be washed constantly. Bacteria can’t survive in wool so it doesn’t mold or smell and when you do wash it, you do so in cold water then air dry. Perfect for the outdoors where there are no laundry services nearby. Rinse thoroughly in the stream and hang by the fire. Done.

 

FLEECE

Fleece is the next best alternative to wool. Especially for those who find wool itchy. It’s lighter in weight, dries faster, only retains about 1% of its weight in water and, like wool, keeps you warm when wet. I’ve tried fleece before but find I sweat in them because they really retain heat well but for me, they didn’t breathe as well as wool so all that moisture collected with no place to go. That makes me uncomfortable and I believe it’s because some types of fleece are made from recycled plastic bottles. Also, fleece does need to be washed more and it does stink after a short time of wearing. Given the different qualities of fleece, it is a functional clothing option for the outdoors but requires choosing the right type. When compared to my wool, however,  I’ll leave fleece at home.

 

GORE-TEX

I don’t have any practical experience with GORE-TEX but what I do is that it is a breathable, waterproof membrane consisting of a fabric lining with microscopic pores 20 000 times small than a water droplet yet allows for adequate wicking of moisture from the body. That makes for a really good outdoor material very comparable to wool – even in price!. There’s a whole bunch more information on GORE-TEX  on www.evo.com and an entire line of products from long underwear to one piece snowsuits. I’ll have to try some and let you know!

 

LEATHER & FUR

I haven’t seen to many bushcraft wearing old school hide leather and fur for bushcraft purposes but that’s not to say it doesn’t have its uses. Obviously, early frontiers folk wore this type of clothing because it was readily available while they were hunting and trapping for furs anyway. I always  got the impression it was very bulky and heavy which may be the reason this clothing choice is not common practice today with the more accessible textiles and materials we have today. It isn’t a common trade nor skill most people want to put the time into when it’s so easy to head over to the store and buy stuff off the shelf. Would be cool to see though!

Thanks for the read and we welcome any comments based on your own clothing experiences in the wilderness!

 

The Freedom Emotion

September 26, 2017

The Freedom Emotion

The great outdoors. The liberating sense that your current lifestyle is somehow in the past and the present is all that exists as you walk among the trees. You pay no mind to the ground before you but the gentle sway of the branches and mesmerizing landscape around you. The chirping of birds or squirrels or a river babbling over the rocks and the mixing aromas of pitch, greenery and untainted earth fill your nostrils with every breath. This is the sense of an unchained spirit, the Freedom Emotion.

I haven’t met a bushcrafter who did not experience this to some extent. It is what draws us to the wilderness, this longing to be in it, to be a part of it, feeding it as it feeds us. For those of us who are truly seeking to regain that connection with the natural world, it is a journey into the soul, to be wholly unbound by commercialism and jurisdiction and regulations. There is only natural law and our God given right to be no more nor any less than that which we are. To discover what the Freedom Emotion is for yourself, make the time to exist in the wild and you will discover that truth soon enough.

How can you not sit under a tree or lay in an open field, listen to the melody of the water amongst the chorus of the leaves, basked in the golden warmth of the sun and not feel connected to this world? To lose the sense of being stressed or rushed or boxed in to any corporate standard? To understand the wilderness is not as much wild as we perceive and are taught but only unfamiliar when compared to the conveniences of the urban jungle we have grown so accustomed to?

Seek not the complications of society, but the simplicities of existence.

The Freedom Emotion connects us to the Earth, to the natural surroundings we need to be happy and healthy and to each other. The community of bushcrafters is a family, brought together by good folk seeking the same thing, a way to live better and an understanding of home.

 

To get an idea of what bushcrafting is about, watch this video and subscribe to our channel on the Rat Root Rendezvous weekend hosted at Karamat Wilderness Ways:

https://youtu.be/wquJU0BUnGQ

Beginnings

January 22, 2017

Alone. Huddled at the base of a tree, wedged between the roots for they alone offer any security. Eyes dart all around searching but not seeing with bated breath for breathing too loud may attract the attention of things unwanted.

A chill hangs heavy in the air though it is midday and the sun is high. An urge to run rises but there is no course plotted, no destination to be seen. The thought causes the blood to quicken pace and a throb to stir behind the brow – it is the beginning of a belief, the realization of impending doom.

These are the familiar sensations of panic to anyone who has experienced being lost or faced disaster, and that may be explaining it lightly.

Panic is the first real beast to face in an emergency. It is the first destroyer, the bringer of rain. Too much stress from panic reduces motor skills, focus on details becomes less acute and the ability to think clearly - well, becomes cloudy.

This is a time when energy needs to be conserved but everything inside is screaming to flee because safety is just over that ridge or just around that hill. This is why so many lost hikers are found naked and frozen – fleeing exerts a lot of energy which causes overheating and sweating. We combat sweating by removing clothing. Removing clothing after sweating causes death by hypothermia in prolonged exposure to cool outdoor temperatures.

So how do we slay this monster that lurks in the corner of the mind waiting for its moment to strike?

Take a couple of minutes… Literally.

Sit down, breathe, close your eyes. Take two minutes to recover focus and think of absolutely nothing. A heavy heart rate will slow, an overwhelming desire to run will ease, stress will diminish and panic will subside. Two minutes will make all the difference for your survival.

The next step is equally crucial. The mind needs to remain occupied to keep that monster at bay. Find a long stick, about two fingers wide and about shoulder height. Use a knife or a flat rock with an edge and scrape the bark off of it. Start a fire, if able, for a fire is an immediate sense of security and comfort. Slowly roast the walking stick to draw out the moisture to make it lighter and easier to carry.

These are the beginning principals for overcoming panic in an emergency. The foundation upon which the ability to survive is built. Preparing for emergencies is important, pack supplies and keep them in the vehicle and practice, practice, practice. Get familiar with being outdoors, building fires and shelters. Knowing how to do these things in controlled and safe environments makes them far easier to do when the comforts of home or office are far away.

Then I Ate - Soup

December 8, 2016

I am getting into the habit of fasting every once in a while. Yes, starving myself on purpose for reasons unknown and ‘crazy’ to my family, but for reasons very sound to me. I like the challenge of learning my limits, I want the experience to pass on to students, I want to know I can do it if I ever have to and it is, undoubtedly, a great way to test one’s will power.

Fasting is a healthy approach to cleanse the body of toxins and recycle unused or damaged immune cells. That means your body learns to fend for itself better than most prescribed medications which train your body to not fend for itself. That equals longevity, you may just live longer because your system can even fight the aging process. The reported health benefits of fasting include (and in alphabetical order): antiaging effects, better attitude, better resistance to disease, better sleep, change of habits, clearer planning, clearer skin, creativity, diet changes, drug detoxification, improved senses (vision, hearing, taste), inspiration, more clarity (mentally and emotionally), more energy, more relaxation, new ideas, purification, reduction of allergies, rejuvenation, rest for digestive organs, revitalization, right use of will, spiritual awareness, weight loss. From The Benefits of Fasting, www.allaboutfasting.com/benefits-of-fasting.html.

Aside from those awesome points, we need to know how fasting is going to work in a survival situation. It’s about making smarter choices with your food resources. Most people would think, if they had a four day supply of food on a seven day trip, it is more logical to ration that food to stretch out the seven days. Untrue. This decision will do more harm to your body than good. The Rule of 4 we use goes like this: 4 minutes without air, 4 hours in extreme weather, 4 days without water, 4 weeks without food. Four weeks without food. Your body is designed to withstand certain extreme conditions and going without food for extended periods of time is one of those conditions. During a fast, your body will use up its stores of glycogen from the liver and muscles before it begins ketone production, meaning it starts dipping into the fatty acids for energy. This process does not occur if the caloric intake is less than what your basal metabolic rate requires. So you will be more hungry, more tired and less capable of maintaining your comfort zone. Eat all of your food over the four days as normal, then fast.

Every time I fast, I will extend the time frame and gauge the outcome to find a method that works best for me. My personal experience with a seven day fast so far has shown me that I will go the first three days on water and coffee (bush tea if I’m out in the wild). By the third and fourth day I was the most uncomfortable and started to add 100% real fruit juice (no sugar added) because I knew I was ending and back to normal eating by the seventh day. Day five, I kept on the water/coffee/juice diet and soup, not heavy soup and only two bowls, one at lunch and one at supper. By the sixth day I had a very light breakfast, soup for lunch and a half portion (largely because my stomach shrank) at supper of deer burger meatballs, potatoes and ceasar salad. I lost ten pounds but I knew most of that was everything I still had in my digestive tract and I will get some of that back but I can now eat less and manage my caloric intake with my daily output of energy more efficiently.

The first three to four days are the hardest, I will not sugar coat this fact. I was the most run down and my skin was taking on a pale grey colour by the morning of the fourth day. The juice helped with that. The next time I plan to fast, I will stay on just water for five days to see if the grey colouring still appears. Fasting truly is good for your health, both physically and mentally, I believe that but it is something you want to work yourself into before jumping right into a 7 day fast. Start with one day, then try three and so on. Note what you are experiencing so nothing is unexpected for longer trials. There are side effects you will experience such as hunger, headaches, stomach aches, irritability and fatigue but the longer you stick with your fast, the less you will feel these symptoms because your body is adjusting and conditioning itself.

Further info:

http://masterwoodsman.com/2014/edible-wild-plants-survival/

http://www.lifehack.org/articles/lifestyle/10-benefits-of-fasting-that-will-surprise-you.html

https://authoritynutrition.com/10-health-benefits-of-intermittent-fasting/

https://basisgear.com/edible-wild-plants/

The Importance of Survival Psychology

August 19, 2016

The psychology of survival is an often overlooked topic that deserves its own section. Knowing how to manage your panic and stress when you first realize you are in an emergency situation is a key asset to your survival.

We teach the Rule of 4: 4 minutes without air, 4 hours in extreme weather, 4 days without water, 4 weeks without food. Most people know or have heard of this concept or something similar but let's think about the food part. If you were to envision yourself being lost somewhere, what do you think your first thought would go to? Most think of what they are going to eat and that is what would kill them first.

The Rule of 4 is important to memorize. The average human being can survive up to four weeks without food. Four weeks. It's the last on the list not your first concern. Yes, you will feel hungry and over time, weak and tired but you will stay alive. Having fresh water is more important than food so you will look for that first. Surviving extreme weather is a greater threat than lack of water so you would build a shelter and of course, having no air to breathe will kill you faster than the other three rules.

Prioritize and organize. Not only does it help you keep your mind busy while you do something to maintain warmth and hydration but you are adding to your safety, security and peace of mind until help arrives - which stands a 99% chance of occuring inside of four weeks!

 

 

 

 

 

A Thought on Friction Fire

August 13, 2016

Having tried out a bow drill friction fire starting method and recently the fire plow friction method, I would have to admit that if I'm stuck with no other means of getting a fire going I would put the time into building a bow drill over the fire plow unless I knew I had optimal materials on hand.

I found the bow drill to be more time consuming to construct having to carve the drill, the socket, the plate then string the bow before you go work. The fire plow only needs the plow and the plate but the overall amount of energy expenditure wasn't worth the short cut to use the plow. One has to practice with many different types of wood to get an efficient marriage to get a quick coal built up. I tried an aspen plow on willow, aspen plow on pine, aspen plow on aspen (worked well with the bow drill) and a pine plow on willow. I had the most success with the last configuration, getting a decent plume of smoke going but I physically wore out before an ember would form.

A thorough understanding of softwoods and hardwoods is essential to get a friction fire process to work and I will play around with different recipes and post my findings for the area I live in. Would love to get some feedback and stories of what other folks have tried!

Cheers!

Kev.

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