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Archive | Preparedness

Pine Needle Tea with Kit Badger and JTT

Pine needle tea is easy to make, tastes great, is good for you, and it might be growing all around you. It is one my favorite hot drinks on the trail when it is too late for coffee (if that is even a thing).

You can make it from a number of conifers but Douglas Fir is my favorite. There are some needles that should be avoided like Ponderosa Pine but it is really up to you to know your area and which trees are safe.

It is easy to make. Just gather your needles. You may need to trim the bases off if they are extra sticky or woody at the base. Bring water to a boil and then take it off the heat. Add your needles and steep to taste. I always advise not boiling the needles because it can bring out a sort of turpentine taste.

Arm yourself with a bit of knowledge and then give it a try.

KitBadger.com

Kit Badger on YouTube

WoodKnot Gear 750ml Titanium Cup with Press

Even if you aren’t a coffee snob, you’ll probably appreciate the WoodKnot Gear 750ml Titanium Cup with Press. A lot of people carry a lightweight cup to serve as their cook pot and cup when they are in the back country. A lot of those same people also carry some method of preparing coffee. The WoodKnot Gear Cup with Press can fill both of those roles!

The kit consists of 4 parts that can be mixed and matched to suit your needs: Titanium Cup, Titanium Lid with Press (the lid and press can be separated), Plastic Drinking Lid, and Mesh Stuff Sack. The total weight for everything is 10.1 ounces.

The titanium cup looks very well designed on its own. It has the three features that I consider necessary for a cup like this: graduated volume markings, ability to nest on a water bottle, and folding handles. It also has two features that are just really nice to have and harder to find on cups like this: a bail and a pour spout.

If all that isn’t interesting enough, you have the built in (removeable) French Press. Having this built in saves weight and pack space over many other ways of making coffee on the trail.

WoodKnotGear.com

New from Lynx Defense – Goby IFAK

Lynx Defense has released a new vehicle based IFAK. The new Goby IFAK is an 8″ x 6″ x 3″ IFAK pouch with internal elastic organization and a PALS webbing face. It comes with a universal headrest mount that allows the pouch to be mounted on most vehicle headrests. The pouch portion of the Goby is affixed to the mount via hook and loop so that it can be quickly removed should you need to access the contents of the pouch or hand it off to someone.

Check out LynxDefense.com.

Hill People Gear Decker Pack Frame

Hill People Gear (HPG) has released the details of their new Decker Pack Frame. The Decker is built on the same proven frame used in the Ute and qui-Ya backpacks but with the adaptability of a pack frame.

The Decker features an array of 8 compression straps (3 on each side and 2 on top) and a central compression yoke that serves as a hub for attaching the side compression straps. This yoke is easily replaced with an HPG pocket or pack like the Tarahumara, Tarapocket, Palspocket, and similar. The Decker Pack Frame also features a hypalon capture flap/shelf that can be tied into the frame in multiple locations.

The applications for a relatively lightweight but still very robust pack frame like this are many and varied. HPG states that it can handle everything from awkward loads like jerry cans to multi-day loadouts. It can also be coupled with something like a large ultra-light dry bag to create a very lightweight pack system (less than 4 pounds).

You can expect to see HPG continue to develop the Decker Pack Frame into an entire load carriage system by introducing other accessories designed to work with the frame. One accessory already in the works is a Decker Pocket that will be a large capacity pocket with a sewn in hypalon yoke that docks in place of the Decker Pack Frame’s included yoke.

The Decker Pack Frame will be available soon (it is already listed on the website but not available to purchase). You can sign up for email notifications at Hill People Gear.

HillPeopleGear.com

Review: Olicamp Hard Anodized Aluminum Space Saver Mug

What if I told you there was an aluminum mug/cook pot that rivaled titanium cups for weight, performed better than Ti for cooking, and costs less than half of a similarly sized Ti cup? That cup is the Olicamp Hard Anodized Aluminum Space Saver Cup and it is one of my favorite pieces of gear.

Olicamp’s Space Saver mug has been around for a long time in various forms. It is so called because of its ability to nest on the bottom of wide mouth Nalgene bottles (and other bottles of similar size). I have used (and still use) a stainless steel version for years. Olicamp also offers a bare aluminum version but the pick of the litter is the Hard Anodized Aluminum version.

Most 24oz/750ml single wall Ti mugs weigh in at around 3.2 – 3.3 ounces and cost $35 or more. The Olicamp Hard Anodized Aluminum Space Saver Mugs weighs in at 3.6 ounces and costs less than $15. Best of all, you actually get some functionality for that extra 3/10ths of an ounce so the slight weight increase can be justified.

Aluminum cookware transfers heat more readily and heats more evenly than Ti cookware. The hard anodized finish is durable and relatively non-stick (not quite like a true non-stick finish but better than bare metal). Finally, the Olicamp Space Saver has longer and larger butterfly handles than most Ti cups. These handles are handy when you are heating with a fuel source like wood or solid fuel tablets that often allow the flame to lick up around the sides of the cup.

This cup can obviously serve as well… a cup, but it is actually an excellent cook pot complete with volume markings which are handy for cook dehydrated foods. It can be paired with lightweight stoves or solid fuel burners to make a truly compact and lightweight hiking mess kit. I can fit my ultralight Esbit burner, foil for a windscreen and ground sheet, and few solid fuel tabs inside the cup for a sub 7 ounce 3 season cookset.

You’ll want a lid to maximize the usefulness of this cup for cooking. Olicamp offers a lid for this cup at a reasonably price but you can also pick up aftermarket lids. One very reasonable option is the lid from the Stanley Adventure Camp Cookset (on Amazon) which is another great bargain in its own right. Finally, you can easily make your own lid with heavy duty aluminum foil, a pie tin, or any other suitable material.

This is an excellent piece of gear. Check out the Olicamp Hard Anodized Aluminum Space Saver Cup on Amazon.


The above article contains affiliate links.

Helikon Tex Swagman Roll Poncho

The Helikon Tex Swagman Roll Poncho is an insulation layer with a number of uses. This insulated poncho is constructed from Helikon’s Windpack nylon with Climashield Apex insulation and YKK zippers. It features a large zippered closed front pouch, insulated hood, and cinch straps that allow the Swagman Roll to be gathered around the wearer.

The Swagman Roll is 57″ x 78″ and weighs in at 26 ounces. It can be packed into a stuff sack or into its own pocket (which is printed with suggestions for use). At that weight, you won’t mind taking it along in your kit for use as a quick access insulation layer when you stop moving, as a light sleeping bag, or to add insulation to your normal sleeping bag. It is compatible with USGI pattern ponchos for use as a bivy.

Check out the Swagman Roll Poncho at Helikon-Tex.com.

New from Bushcraft Outfitters – Koretemp Hooded Poncho Liner

Bushcraft Outfitters’ Koretemp line of lightweight, modular, multi-use shelter components is about to receive a very interesting addition – the Koretemp Hooded Poncho Liner. This insulated poncho liner has features that make it extremely versatile as both a stand-alone insulation layer or for enhancing your existing outdoor kit.

The Koretemp Hooded Poncho Liner is made in the USA from from mil-spec quilted batting faced by coyote fabric, webbing, and thread. It weighs 40 ounces and is 62″ by 93″. It has an integrated hood with drawstring closure, a sewn in chest pocket, and 2″ channels at the top and bottom that can be used to close the ends into a foot box.

All of those features mean that the Koretemp Hooded Poncho Liner can be used in a number of ways. You can cinch up the hood and a foot box to use it like a warm weather top quilt (like a sleeping bag). It can be used inside the Koretemp Poncho as an insulated bivy or hung over head to protect from the heat of the sun. It can be used as an insulation layer that can be quickly be donned over your thinner shell layer and pack when you take breaks on the trail or stop to glass for game. Even if you already have a well sorted out sleep system, the Koretemp Hooded Poncho Liner can serve to increase the temperature rating of your sleeping bag.

Regular poncho liners are already very useful as I am sure you are already aware. With the addition of a few thoughtful features, Bushcraft Outfitters has taken that concept to the next level.

The Koretemp Hooded Poncho Liner will be available soon (and will likely sell out fast) at BushcraftOutfitters.com.

Hill People Gear Introduces New Color Options for Several Packs

Hill People Gear is rolling out a new color option for many of their packs. The new Elk color is reminiscent of the iconic brown color used for duck canvas work wear. It is available now in the Tarahumara and will eventually be available in the Umlindi, qui-Ya, and Original Kit Bag V2.

You can also expect to see a number of other new color options coming soon, including:

  • Recon Kit Bag in Multicam Black
  • Tarahumara, Ute, and Umlindi in Manatee (grey) with black webbing
  • Tarahumara in Multicam Tropic
  • Aston House Back Country in Black and Multicam

HillPeopleGear.com

Mora Robust and Companion Heavy Duty – The Tough (but Still Cheap) Moras

Mora knives are no secret. Many knife users in the USA are well aware of the excellent quality and value that they offer. However, many knife users in the USA are also still hesitant about carrying them as their only knife in situations where an only knife can be very important (like backcountry travel) due to the perceived weakness of the light weight, partial tang, molded plastic handle design. This is in spite of the fact that Morakniv has moved production toward longer and wider tangs across basically all of the current Mora knives.

I feel that those fears are mostly misplaced or misinformed but I am also sympathetic to those who just want to have a bomb-proof tool they can count on. If that is you, I have good news. You don’t have to spend a lot cash to get a durable knife. You don’t have to carry 8-10 ounces of pack weight. You don’t even have to look outside of the Mora line.

Let’s take a look at why the Mora Robust and Mora Heavy Duty Companion might offer the best value in the entire Mora line.

Top: Robust, Bottom: Companion Heavy Duty

Durable But Still Affordable…

The Robust is basically just a beefed up version the the Mora Craftsman line with its hand filling grip, ample guard, and taller, more drop point blade. The Heavy Duty Companion is a beefed up version of the Companion series. Both of these knives have very similar dimensions to the other knives in their respective lines with one key difference… They have thicker, 1/8″ carbon steel blade stock. This stock is considerably thicker than most other Mora knives in their price range but still thin enough to cut very well.

These knives are more durable than other similar knives in their lines but they are still very affordable. The Robust sells for $10-15 and the Heavy Duty Companion with its longer blade and finished spine sells for $17-25. Morakniv offers other 1/8″ thick models but they all cost $40 or more. The Mora Bushcraft Black is often touted as the best value in the Mora line but these two knives together cost less than half of a Bushcraft Black while offering most of the functionality, all of the durability, and less weight.

Mora Robust

If you like the typical drop point blade shape (a very common blade shape in the US), the Mora Robust might be more your speed. It has a taller blade with a deeper belly than those we are used to seeing from Mora which will likely appeal to those of us in the US who are very used to this shape.

It weighs just 135 grams or 4.76 ounces (including the sheath and the “ranger band” I use for secondary retention) with a 3.6″ blade. Don’t let the light weight trick you into believing this knife isn’t “Robust”. The tang is very wide and extends almost the full length of the handle. There are very, very impressive torture test videos online for this knife and I am confident in saying that it is a tool you can trust.

The Robust feels great in the hand. It has a hand filling, rubberized grip and a full guard that ensure the knife stays put in your grip and is comfortable for long periods of work. If you like a pronounced guard or plan to use this for field dressing game, this might be the one for you.

Mora Companion Heavy Duty

The Companion Heavy Duty has a blade shape more like what is typically seen on Mora knives. It is shorter in height and longer in length than the Robust. The point sits lower in relation to the spine and more in line with the handle which is common among “bushcraft” knives.

The Companion Heavy Duty has a longer 4.1″ blade but weighs only a few grams more than the Robust due to the shorter height of the blade (138 grams or 4.86 ounces including the sheath and the “ranger band” I use for secondary retention).  It too has a robust, nearly full length tang.

This knife also has a slightly more hand filling handle than typically found on the Companion series. It will fit the same sheaths in most cases since the guard area is virtually identical but the rubberized portion of the grip is slightly larger in diameter. It is an extremely comfortable knife to use.

Personal Experience

I can tell you from my own use that these knives hold up to everything I need them too (then again, so have all the other modern Moras that I have tried). The most important thing I need from a knife is the ability to process wood for a fire and these knives are more than capable of that. The Robust in particular has been batoned through frozen wood on several occasion this year alone.

Wrap Up

These knives weigh about half what many similarly dimensioned full tang knives weigh and yet than can take all the same abuse (maybe more in some cases). They also cost significantly less. I mean, if you felt it was necessary, you could buy 3 of them – one to destruction test so you know the knife’s limits and two to carry just in case you still fear you might somehow break one in the field. That would still cost you less in cash and pack weight than many “survival” knives!

If the thin blade stock and perceived fragility of the standard Mora knives is what has been holding you back from trying one, check out the Robust and Companion Heavy Duty. Try to break one doing something close to a realistic knife task. I dare you.


I buy all my Moras on Amazon. Their prices are pretty hard to beat but it always pays the shop around, especially on the auction sites. The links below are affiliate links:

Mora Robust on Amazon

Mora Companion Heavy Duty on Amazon (available in “Military Green” or Orange)

Review: Tuff Possum Gear Modified 10×12 Center-Zip Pouch

I have really come to like my Hill People Gear Tarahumara. It is an excellent small pack for summer hikes, quick trips into the woods, and more. However, sometimes I wish it had a bit more capacity. It has an excellent harness system that can support far more weight than you could ever stuff into it. In an effort to extend the Tara’s usefulness and capacity, I purchased a Modified 10×12 Center-Zip Pouch from Tuff Possum Gear.

Overview

The Modified 10×12 Center-Zip Pouch is aptly named. This pouch is 10×12″ in dimension and has a single central zip that gives accessing to a single pocket (much like the Tarahumara itself). It has two 1″ webbing anchor points on the top corners that allow it to be docked on the Tarahumara with the included ITW GrimLocs and is constructed from 500D Cordura Nylon.

I don’t have exact volume figures but given the dimensions, I would say that it adds around 200-250 cubic inches of capacity to the Tara (maybe more if you really stuff it). Those numbers are based on my measurements of the exterior dimensions when the pouch is packed normally.

Observations from Use

As straight-forward as this pouch seems, there is real thoughtfulness in the design. For instance, the dimensions are such that it perfectly matches the width of host Tarahumara and the length allows it to be compressed with both of the Tarahumara’s compression straps. Additionally, the Tarahumara has a wedge shape that is thicker at the bottom. The Modified Center-Zip sits near the thinner top portion of the Tarahumara so it does not stick out that far from the wearer’s back. The whole package remains relatively sleek.

The included GrimLocs do a fine job of connecting the Modified Center-Zip to the Tarahumara. They are durable, secure, and very easy to operate even with gloves. However, I have also found that you can use Slik-Clips as a lighter weight, more compact attachment solution. They are harder to connect and disconnect but you likely won’t be taking the Modified Center-Zip on and off very often.

The Modified Center-Zip works a bit like a compression panel in that you can secure items behind it. Beware that the items that you are carrying will not fall out from the bottom. I especially like to carry an axe compressed in this manner when I am working on winter trail maintenance. You can also secure soft gear like a rain shell behind the pouch as long as you apply enough tension on the compression straps.

Obviously, the main use for this pouch is to extend the capacity of the Tarahumara but I have found a few other benefits. The Tarahumara lacks much in the way of organization but the Modified Center-Zip gives me a way to keep gear separated. For instance, I can keep my pitch covered folding saw in it instead of letting it wallow around in the main compartment where it can transfer sticky pitch to my other gear.

Wrap Up

If you have been looking for a way to extend the capacity of your Hill People Gear Tarahumara, I can highly recommend the Tuff Possum Gear Modified 10×12 Center-Zip Pouch. It is well made, easy to use, and works well with the pack’s existing shape and compression features.

Visit Tuff Possum Gear on Etsy


NOTE: Tuff Possum Gear is a small business that makes these pouches in batches. They are usually available in a variety of colors but there are brief times when they may not be in stock. They also offer a number of pouches that are similar in appearance but that are not designed to dock on the Tarahumara so double check your order.

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