Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Avoiding Injuries in the Wilderness

An injury out in the back-country can be anything from a minor inconvenience to a serious life-threatening situation. Even if it is only minor, it can still ruin your day.

So carry a First-Aid Kit to treat common outdoor ailments, such as:

  • cuts
  • scrapes
  • burns
  • blisters
  • insect bites

Learn how to treat:

Learn to recognize, avoid and treat:

The following are some other safety tips to keep in mind:

  • Walk slowly and purposefully - Step over logs when possible, you're less likely to twist a knee or sprain an ankle. 
  • Use a walking stick - Maintain two points of contact with the ground. It helps keep your balance on rough terrain. Use it to turn over rocks and logs, keeping your distance from snakes, spiders, etc. It can also be use as a defensive weapon against animal attacks.
  • Shield your face when walking through dense brush - the last thing you need is a stick in your eye. Use your arms to shield your face.
  • Wear gloves when processing firewood - Prevents cuts and splinters. Adds a layer of protection against spiders, ticks, etc. Also helps keep your hands clean. 
  • Wear adequate clothing for the weather - Be prepared for rain and cold.
  • Wear long pants and long sleeved shirts to protect from ticks, scrapes from brush, and even sun burn.
  • Wear a hat, insect repellant and sunscreen.
  • Keep your feet dry.
  • Don't overly exert yourself by pushing, pulling or climbing. A walk in the forest doesn't have to be a cardio workout.
  • Don't put your hands into crevices where biting insects or animals might live, use a stick to explore those places.
  • Keep your pack as light as possible.
  • Avoid touching metal surfaces near fires or stoves.
  • Avoid confrontations with wild animals. Even a squirrel will bite.
  • Be particularly careful around water.
  • Watch for dangerous overhanging trees, exposed tree roots loose or slippery rocks.
  • Learn to safely use knives, axes and other cutting tools.
  • Keep your cutting tools sharp. A dull tool requires more force to use. Applying more force can lead to slipping and accidents.

The military's way is will-power and determination, and pushing forward in spite of the pain. These are acceptable for short-term gain, but can lead to serious injuries in the field.

A better way is to flow in harmony with the natural world around you. A walk in the woods should reduce your blood pressure and your level of stress. If it doesn't, then you're doing it wrong.

Try not to concern yourself with minutes and seconds. Slow down... and try to think in terms of hours and days instead.

               "Nature does not hurry, yet everything is accomplished."                                                                                                   -Lao Tzu

So whenever you venture into the wilderness, it's best to be prepared with a basic First-Aid Kit and always thinking "Safety First".

                                       Be Prepared and Be Safe.
                                                            -Muskrat Jim

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Bushcraft vs. Survival - The Importance of Fire

Hello blog readers! Muskrat Jim here, and today I'd like to talk about the difference between Bushcraft and Survival. Specifically, about the importance of fire.

I think we've all made fires with a magnifying glass on a bright sunny day when we were kids. I remember melting crayons, burning grasshoppers and melting those green plastic army figures.

Over the past few years, I've had the pleasure of meeting hundreds of Bushcrafters through the YouTube community. You guys (and gals) are AWESOME! Sharing your knowledge and practicing your skills, but most of all, helping and encouraging each other. I've learned a lot from you... especially in the area of primitive fire.

Before I discovered the YouTube Bushcraft community, I had never seriously tried making a fire by using a bow-drill, a fire piston, flint and steel, or a ferro rod.
Bow Drill
Ferro Rod and Striker

Flint and Steel

Fire Piston and Tinder

Each of these methods start with producing an ember either from heat or spark, then coaxing that little glowing ember into a flame.

However, a lot can go wrong in the process of bringing this ember to flame:
  • your tinder could be too damp or not fluffy enough
  • it may be too windy, raining, or snowing
  • or you may be trying to work in the dark
Mastering these primitive fire-starting methods are all great skills to have and they build your confidence when you're out in the bush.

During my time in Ground Search and Rescue, I talked to a lot of experienced woodsmen, hunters, trappers, loggers, fishing guides and other people who make their living in the woods. Without exception, they all say the obvious:
"It is so much easier to start a fire with a flame, than it is with a spark or ember."
If primitive man had the option of carrying a Zippo, or inexpensive, easily replaced Bic lighter, you can be sure he would have chosen that over any of his primitive methods.
Zippo Lighter

With a lighter you don't have to fuss with your tinder. Even if you're injured or your hands are numbed by cold, you can light a life-saving campfire in seconds instead of minutes.

In a true survival situation, seconds matter. Being able to get a fire going quickly can be a matter of life and death, or at the very least, between comfort and discomfort.

Am I saying you should stop using your primitive methods for bushcraft? Of course not!

Under controlled conditions in your back yard or out on the trail, go ahead and practice those skills.

Like I said before, nothing builds your confidence like being able coax a fire from nothing but a spark, or by rubbing two pieces of wood together releasing the fire within. It re-establishes our connection to our ancestors and also the natural world around us.

Building confidence in ourselves is a perfect remedy for the stressful world we live in today.

So go ahead. Carry a knife equipped with a ferro rod. Put a ferro rod or other fire making systems in your Bug-Out-Bag. But throw in a couple of lighters too... because fire is so crucial for survival.

ALWAYS carry a SURE method for making fire in a hurry, and in any weather condition.

No person should ever have to work hard to build a fire.

So until next time, stay safe. This is Muskrat Jim, signing out.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

My Three Methods of Getting Drinking Water From Snow

Hello YouTubers! This is Muskrat Jim, and today I want to talk about my three favourite ways to convert clean snow into drinking water.

One of the things I like about winter in Canada is that we get LOTS of snow! This means that drinking water is abundant, you only need to know how to process it out of the snow we get.

As many of you are aware, a handful of fresh snow is mostly made up of air. That's right, a little bit of water and a lot of air. If you were to fill a pot with snow and set it on a fire, you would likely scorch the bottom of your pot.

The following are three ways that I like to use to melt snow into drinking water:

Body Heat

In the winter I carry a wide-mouth Nalgene bottle on a lanyard inside my coat. This keeps the water from freezing when it gets particularly cold outside. Whenever I take a drink, I scoop up some clean snow and put it in my bottle. The wide mouth makes it easy to add the snow. The heat of the remaining water in the bottle and the body heat from inside my coat are enough to melt the snow and replenish my water supply. It is simple, effective and is my favourite method because it doesn't require you to stop and make a fire. It also works in the worst of weather conditions.


If you don't have a metal container to slowly melt snow near a fire, you can make do with a bandana and a cup or other container. Simply open the bandana flat then fill the middle of it with clean snow. Tie or pin the four corners of the bandana so it holds the large snowball. Now, using a sturdy branch, suspend the bandana near the fire. Soon the heat of the fire will start melting the snow. Before too long, the large snow ball will start dripping through the bandana. Use a cup or other container to catch the dripping water. This method works well basically unattended. You can go about your business doing other things and just checking back from time to time to make sure your container is still catching the drips and not overflowing.

Solar Power

Putting snow on a black garbage bag (a.k.a. drum liner) in the bright sun will melt the snow to give you drinking water, but then it's difficult to get that water into a container. Because of this difficulty, I didn't add it to my video. Then my brother John told me about a simple improvement on this method. By putting the clean snow in a clear zip-loc bag on top of the black plastic solar collector, all your drinking water is conveniently made inside the easy-to-handle zip-loc bag! BRILLIANT !! So this method works if you're camped in a bright sunny location for a while and if it isn't so cold to re-freeze the water as it melts.