Canoe Camping List Item Descriptions continued...

Following up on my previous post, here are more descriptions of pack items for the upcoming camping trip. I spent a hour on the lawn yesterday with my camping gear strewn about me, ensuring everything was properly packaged, and in top condition. I reduced the weight as much as possible, and made a quick a review of outstanding items. What I was most surprised at was that the food seemed to weigh more than the equipment itself. I also noticed that the weight and indeed the number of items all creeps up on you quickly... I thought I had everything in a neat row, and then began counting off additional items I will need to either affix to my knapsack or place in a separate canoe bag. I would rather not bring the additional canoe bag, as it may necessitate me going on a second lap of the portage, but then again, having an extra person with me might obviate this.





A fishing rod, gear & license is useful if you want a fresh meal from time to time, plus fishing is a great way to relax and watch the world drift on by. I covered the fishing license in a previous post. I don't need a really fancy fishing rod, and to be honest, I don't know a thing about the right lures to use. I got a $20 fishing rod from Bass Pro and some snelled hooks (they have a short length of fishing line tied on to them already), lead weights, and some squishy, wormy looking lures.





I think the trick is to find the right conditions and location - under overhanging vegetation, near big rocks, basically imagine that you are fishing in your fish tank at home, and note that the fish like to congregate around the pirate ship and stones you have dropped in over time. It is a bit like a small town on a Saturday night - teenagers hang out outside the 7-11 convenience store, and in parks near swingsets and near car parks... not in the open in the middle of a field, or in the middle of a street. Yes, excellent analogy Mungo - Bob Izumi, eat your heart out.





Garbage bags will stash your trash, I will find a discrete area of the site to hang it on a tree. I think it is important though to thoroughly clean any trash of food, either my diverting it in the first place by burning it or by washing. Racoons like to sneak up at night and chew through the bag. In the event of a leak in the fabric of your tent or tarp, garbage bags can be used to seal the hole, and in a pinch can be used as a personal rain coat. It will also hold water for a trip into the woods, create an impromptu shower bag, and more. I use them for garbage.





A limbing axe is important in the backcountry - while you can gather wood in the forest, by dragging limbs and branches back to the site, taking down a dead standing tree will give you a lot of good, dry firewood with a minimum of effort. Keep it sharp, and well cared for and you will never go camping without one again! A limbing axe has a concave face, whereas a splitting axe has a convex face. You won't be splitting large diameters of wood, so a limbing axe (being smaller in weight and length) will do you well.





To keep your knives and axe sharp, you need some kind of sharpener. I use a diamond-bit pocket-sized sharpener... works well enough. The diamond bits are aggressive, so I just use it for initial corrections and sharpening, and use a river stone or ceramic stone to hone the blade.





I used to bring a flashlight with me camping, it was mostly for reading in my tent at night, or poking about the site late after the fire had died out. I thought headlights were gimmicky and over-priced. When I had the opportunity to buy one with a gift certificate, I gave it a try (roughly $40.00 Cdn). I won't bring a flashlight anymore with me. The headlamps today use white and green LED lights (for example) and thus consume only a fraction of a regular flashlight's-worth of energy, but with similar light output. Great for reading in your sleeping bag, just position it correctly, it aims where you aim your head at. Good for hands free operation while poking around camp at night, looking within a bag etc...





Radio - many spots are radio-free zones, but I will bring in a shortwave and AM radio to quietly play talk radio or the news from time to time during a long trip. Makes it feel like home. I keep it very low in volume though, because despite the isolation of the backcountry, sound carries over water a surprising distance, and the last thing I want to do is spoil someone else's experience in the backcountry.





I will cover the remaining items soon:





  • Lantern & Mantle (filled with fuel)
  • Rope
  • Stove & full Fuel Bottle
  • Knifes - Mora & Drop-Point Hunter
  • Extra Fuel
  • Folding Bucksaw
  • Dry Sacks
  • Reflective Emergency Blanket
  • Folding Chair
  • Tarp
  • Camera & 2 batteries
  • Bug repellent
  • Mattress
  • Repair kit
  • Sleeping Bag
  • Compression Bag
  • Tent
  • Blanket
  • Pillow case
  • Jacket, Jeans, Cap
  • Socks, Underwear
  • T-Shirt, Shirt, Sweater
  • Aspirin/Anti-inflammatory
  • Pepto-Bismol
  • Band-Aids
  • Toilet paper
  • Tooth-brush
  • Alka-Seltzer
  • Imodium
  • Mirror
  • Camping Suds
  • Insect Repellent
  • Food
  • Instant Mashed Potatoes
  • Evaporated milk
  • Lemon Drink Crystals
  • Margarine
  • Tinned meat
  • Pasta side-dishes
  • Bisquick
  • Pancake batter
  • Salt
  • Tabasco
  • Pepper
  • Tea
  • Sugar
  • Chocolate bars
  • Raisins
  • Rice
  • Dried Sausage
  • Pre-cooked bacon
  • Instant oatmeal
  • Tuna
  • Tortillas


Algonquin Canoe Camping Equipment List Descriptions

With the addition of possibly 2 more trip members, I have updated the equipment and supplies list for the trip.



Since I have most of the specialized gear for the trip, I will bring most of it, and the new members will need to bring clothing, food and minor personal kit.

The following equipment will make up my kit for this coming trip - while it may seem a lot, I can probably fit all of this in or on my napsack at a weight of maybe 35 pounds at most:



A cooking pot made of aluminum and a lid will be used for cooking rice, pasta, and other foods - is lightweight and easy to clean. Instead of using detergent, I can just scrub it out using sand from the beach, and boil some water in it afterwards to disinfect it. I never clean the sooty, blackened bottom of the pot because it aids in head transfer I believe, plus, well, it is a pain to do so. The pot has a wire hanger loop on the top, so I can suspend it from a pot-hanger arranged over the fire. I could substitute the lid with a plate, but what's a pot without a lid?

A frying pan will accompany me as well, because it makes it easier to cook eggs or bacon or pancakes on it. I could do without, but it is a nice luxury - again, aluminum, folding handle, and light weight.



Bringing along a can opener is by association verboten in the backcountry, or so say the regulations... You see, you are not really allowed to bring in cans or bottles made of glass, because of certain campers abusing the wilderness and littering their sites with sharp metal and broken glass. I hate seeing beer bottles littering a site, or worse yet, broken in a firepit. I bring tuna in a can, or chili etc... but make sure I both hide it well when I get to the site (in case a ranger happens to land on shore) and of course once done, I burn the tin to clean it, and crush it, and stash it away for a proper return to a recycling depot when I come back from the trip. Glass bottles, well I generally don't bring these at all. Often I can bring a plastic bottle, or if I want to bring wine etc... I can pour it into a Nalgene bottle.

Nalgene bottle - well, this is a sturdy, shatter-proof and heat-resistent bottle which comes in handy. Also in case of a cool evening, I can pour boiling water into it (without fear of it melting), wrap it in a shirt and use it as a hot water bottle.



Stainless steel mug. This lightweight item can be used directly over flame, is easy to clean, and won't bend, break or scratch. I tie the loop of the handle to my napsack and if next to another piece of metal, can serve as a bear bell - alerting bears along a portage route by means of clanging, to keep away - HUMANS are around. Oh, and a beagle.

Zip lock bags are useful to carry small items like firesteels, keys, maps and more - seals in the items from the elements, and generally very useful for organization. It is easy to become very disorganized at camp - bags and bits and bobs everywhere, items used and not put back where they were found. You learn after a while how important it is to leave the flashlight in a trusted place, to leave the knife and axe right where they belong. The sun can drop down quickly, making it difficult to find items afterwards.



Speaking of things being difficult to find - on my way back from a trip a couple years ago, I realized I had left my nice shortwave radio and hat on the camping spot, and by the time I had realized it was too late to return in the canoe. It is a good idea when packing up to go through the same list that you bring, and check everything off. It is far too easy to leave things behind when your attention is focused on the hard slog back...



I always bring a Coghlan's interlocking stainless steel fork, spoon and knife set with me - they tuck together nicely and as such won't poke through bags and get lost in nooks and crannies in my kit containers. I recommend you save up your pennies and invest in a set - it might cost you around $3.



A cotten tea towel is invaluable for kitchen duty, washable, light weight, and in an emergency can be transformed into char-cloth to aid you in your firelighting efforts. As long, of course, as you have a tin can into which you can pack it and then cook it off on a fire.

Tucking a few paper plates into your pack is a nice touch, and weighs almost nothing. Can be used for other reasons, and of course can be burned after a meal.



I always bring a book with me - and not a 'how to survive in the wilderness' non-fiction piece, but generally a novel. It is a nice way to relax in the quiet of a camping trip.

I always bring a compass, but generally don't use it except in siting (and of course 'sighting') a camp spot - to ensure it faces south etc... However it is crucial that you learn how to use a compass, and I always have it on my person if I treck into the woods. I am still amazed how quickly a person can get lost. Even on short walks, I have found myself turned around and going in entirely the wrong direction after a minute or so. Hills, rises and rivers can throw your mental direction-finding completely off. I carry a map while in the canoe, and on portages - using Google Maps satellite view, I simply zoom in on a few regions on my trip and print out a colour image and carry them flat in a large zip-lock bag. This gives a great sense of relative distance and orientation while trekking and paddling.



A fire steel is a rod composed of an amalgam of metals - it is the tiny piece of 'flint' you find in lighters. With friction, small particles of metal are shaved off and ignite, causing sparks. With the appropriate tinder (shaved up birchbark, etc...) you can get a fire going in seconds. I don't bring matches camping with me, period. They can get wet, and you can immerse the firesteel in water, wipe it off and immmediately gets sparks going. Good for thousands of strikes, I always carry at least 2 - one on my person and another stashed away safely in my knapsack.

I will cover off the rest of the equipment in my next post, and then provide a list format of all these items, along with a set of photographs of all the gear, once I have assembled and prepared it ready for the trip...



In the meantime, here is what I will cover in the next post:

  • Fishing rod, gear & license
  • Garbage Bag
  • SFA Axe
  • Sharpener
  • Headlamp and AAA batteries
  • Radio
  • Lantern & Mantle (filled with fuel)
  • Rope
  • Stove & full Fuel Bottle
  • Knifes - Mora & Drop-Point Hunter
  • Extra Fuel
  • Folding Bucksaw
  • Dry Sacks
  • Reflective Emergency Blanket
  • Folding Chair
  • Tarp
  • Camera & 2 batteries
  • Bug repellent
  • Mattress
  • Repair kit
  • Sleeping Bag
  • Compression Bag
  • Tent
  • Blanket
  • Pillow case
  • Jacket, Jeans, Cap
  • Socks, Underwear
  • T-Shirt, Shirt, Sweater
  • Aspirin/Anti-inflammatory
  • Pepto-Bismol
  • Band-Aids
  • Toilet paper
  • Tooth-brush
  • Alka-Seltzer
  • Imodium
  • Mirror
  • Camping Suds
  • Insect Repellent
  • Food
  • Instant Mashed Potatoes
  • Evaporated milk
  • Lemon Drink Crystals
  • Margarine
  • Tinned meat
  • Pasta side-dishes
  • Bisquick
  • Pancake batter
  • Salt
  • Tabasco
  • Pepper
  • Tea
  • Sugar
  • Chocolate bars
  • Raisins
  • Rice
  • Dried Sausage
  • Pre-cooked bacon
  • Instant oatmeal
  • Tuna
  • Tortillas


Cheers

Mungo

Making a Fire Drill - Fire by Friction

video

So I decided to practise making fire with a fire drill to prepare for my trip, and poking around the backyard I collected some sticks that were laying around, having fallen in the big wind storm we had last weekend. I had locust tree, maple and pine branches sitting in a pile by my potato patch. I left the pine branches aside - I had a bad experience last year using pine, the wood and resin seemed to melt into a hard smooth glaze, preventing anything significant from happening. Without good friction, no powder and thus no ember can be created.

I first assembled my equipment - Gransfors Bruks Small Forest Axe (a lightweight limbing axe), my carbon-steel laminate Mora knife (incredibly sharp), and of course a small length of military 7-strand 550 parachute cord. Normal string would work. It just sounds cooler to use the latter. Plus it really is a nice consistency for the job at hand.



I debarked a straight section of maple stick for the spindle (i.e. the spinning piece, which is wrapped with cord and spun about to create friction upon the notched fire board), and carved it until it was round and smooth - the bottom tip blunted and wide, and the top tip (around which the bearing block would fit) thin, sharp and narrow.





I had only limited sections of wood around, nothing much that was wide and good for a fire board, so I split the thickest piece of locust tree branch I had with the axe, flattened the bottom, smoothed out the face and quickly carved out a notch and rounded depression.







Making the bow by looping some cord around the ends of a curved piece of wood, I wound around the spindle, dropped it into the fire board, topped it with the bearing block and spun for about 3 or 4 minutes. Very quickly I charred out a round depression by the notch and began to create a dark brown powdery mass of wood dust - and this soon began to smoke. The sweet smoky smell was amazing, unlike a wood fire, more like shop class, that smoky smell you get when you saw wood at a high speed.





And then all of a sudden, as I was hunched over the apparatus, watching the smoke running up through the air from the rounded pile of wood dust, my poorly-prepared and narrow bearing block slipped from the top of the spindle, which had grown very hot. My palm slammed into the head of the smoking-hot spindle and all of a sudden I felt an intensely painful burning sensation.







Instead of igniting the smoking wooden powder into a glowing orange ember, which I would have then quickly blown into a flame within some tinder, I created a very painful burn and whitish blister on my palm. So as I huddled over the disconnected firedrill set, sweating in the sun, cursing the spindle, I gave up. I figured I was *that* close to making fire, and really the exercise was more to create the apparatus quickly, rather than to actually make the flame - I hadn't even gathered tinder for this final element.







Quick lessons learned - create a wide fire board, and of course, a wide bearing block. Use a nice deciduous wood - like birch or willow or even cedar if available - and spend the time to round out and smooth the spindle.







When I go into the valley next, I will collect some good wood for this, and try again - and get some photos. I will use some cedar bark for tinder, and use birch bark to catch the first flame.







I spent the rest of the evening laying on the grass and watching the birds and the planes fly by, and Monty snuffling about the lawn. A very nice evening all in all.





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