Sunday, April 26, 2015

High-tech backcountry gear -- with wilderness smarts- can save your life

(photo credit: Monica Tymcio/Rocky Mountain Bushcraft)

Article courtesy of the San Jose Mercury News

"The influx of technology in the backcountry has been both a godsend to hikers and a headache for rescue crews. As tech for the wilderness becomes more sophisticated and lighter to carry, more backpackers and long-distance hikers have access to lifesaving devices, but the security these high-tech gadgets provide are convincing more novices to tackle rugged outdoor adventures for which they are ill-prepared, wilderness leaders say."

Check out the rest of the story HERE

More information about the death of hiker/mountain climber Kate Matrosova:

The Conway Daily Sun- Expert: Woman's climbing death offers lessons

American Rifleman Magazine: Building An Affordable Survival Rifle

Building An Affordable Survival Rifle'

Emergency preparedness kits come in all shapes and sizes these days. From the pocketable homemade kits tucked into empty Altoids tins to professionally packed 72-hour supply sets, there's something for everyone. There is one idea that’s been floating around the Internet discussion forums for a while now that piqued my interest. It involves repurposing a youth single-shot .22 rimfire bolt-action for wilderness survival.

Read the rest of the story over at American Rifleman Magazine HERE 

(RMB note: I got a chance to hold one of these little Savage Rascal rifles at SHOT Show 2015 and was impressed. For such a tiny gun, you can get a good sight picture, which is usually tough for guns this small due to the shorter length of pull. I plan to test and review one these in the Fall. On a side note, I am working on finalizing the initial reviews of the Chiappa Survival guns and Marlin Papoose .22 Survival Rifle. I think you will find the results rather interesting. Cheers, Jason)

Council Tool discontinues popular 22.5" handled Velvicut Hudson Bay Axe, leaves 17.5" as only option

In a move that is bound to cause head-scratching across the bushcraft world, North Carolina-based Council Tool has discontinued selling their Velvicut Hudson Bay Axe with its highly popular 22.5" handle size. This leaves the diminutive 17.5" handle, shown above, as the only option.

Council Tool Velvicut Hudson Bay Axe with the original 22.5" handle
(photo credit: Rocky Mountain Bushcraft)

From left to right: 19.5 inch Wetterlings Large Hunting Axe, Original 22.5" Council Tool Velvicut Hudson Bay Axe, and  26.5 inch Council Tool Standard Hudson Bay Axe (far right)

(photo credit: Rocky Mountain Bushcraft)

For many, the 22.5" handle was the perfect size for the Council Tool Hudson Bay. According to one online axe reseller we spoke with, Council told them that they were having an issue with getting enough high grade hickory wood to make the 22.5" handles. Council said that this led them to the decision to discontinue the popular 22.5" Velvicut model.

If it's true that Council is having a hard time getting enough high grade hickory to build these axes, could this be the start of a shortage for Grade "A" axe handles, or is it just a company related issue with a specific supplier? Hopefully, it's only the latter. We plan to contact Council Tool this week and see if we can get more information. We will post an update here as soon as we hear back from them.



Wednesday, March 25, 2015

GEAR REVIEW: Bob's Folding Bucksaw- Best bucksaw on the market?

Okay  folks, here is another "run, don't walk!" piece of outdoor gear to grab- Bob's Folding Bucksaw sold by the Four Dog Stove Company of Minnesota. Bob's Bucksaw is bar none the best folding bucksaw I have used.

I came across this excellent bucksaw while checking out Four Dog's vendor table at the 2014 Winter Camping Symposium last October. Four Dog is a small outdoor company that specializes in portable wood burning stoves for use inside canvas tents during winter camping.

Four Dog Stove's vendor table at the 2014 Winter Camping Symposium:

Four Dog's owner Don Kevilus is an experienced and knowledgeable outdoorsman with over 50 years of field experience under his belt. He has spent time in the bush with his friend Mors Kochanski, legendary author of the seminal book "Bushcraft." I think it's safe to say that Don knows a thing or two about what makes a good woods tool!

Don Kevilus (photo credit: Jason Schwartz/Rocky Mountain Bushcraft)


As Don explained to me, this ingenious folding bucksaw was invented by Bob Dustrude, a 92-year old WWII Fighter Pilot and veteran outdoorsman. Bob painstakingly handcrafts each saw at his Northern Minnesota home. The saw is constructed of lightweight aluminum held together by sturdy copper rivets, and is a marvel of simplicity and ruggedness.

Each bucksaw comes with its own handmade cordura sheath, and for an extra $6, Don will include a Raker Tooth saw blade, which is great for cutting green, frozen or pitchy wood (the bucksaw comes standard with a Pegtooth saw blade, which is better for cutting dry firewood). You can read a more detailed explanation of the two types of saw blades here (scroll down 3/4 of the way to see it).

The 24" model used in this review weighed in at a very reasonable 15.6 ounces (20.7 ounces with the sheath and extra blade). The bucksaw folds down  to a very compact size, making it easy to throw inside a backpack, preparedness kit, or saddlebag of a horse or motorcycle.

The lever action handle is made from Northern Minnesota Ash and hot soaked in paraffin wax to make it waterproof. An illustration printed on each handle gives instructions on how to put the saw together.

The saw comes in three sizes-- 21", 24" and 30" (a photo of the 30" model was unavailable at the time of this review)

(photo credit: Four Dog Stove Company)

When it comes time to deploy the bucksaw, it is simply a matter of unfolding it, attaching the saw blade to one of the aluminum saw arm ends, then attaching the wood lever-action handle onto the opposite end, and snapping the handle into place.

Here is a video of Don demonstrating how Bob's Bucksaw works:


To field test Bob's Bucksaw, I took it into the northern Minnesota wilderness around Gunflint Lake after attending the 2014 Winter Camping Symposium last October. There was a ton of dead Lodgepole Pines there, making it an ideal test environment to see how the saw would perform. I found a healthy-sized Lodgepole Pine and proceeded to buck it in half.

Success! The saw made short work of this job.

Colorado Pitchwood Hunt

Although I was impressed with Bob's Bucksaw after my initial test up in northern Minnesota, I wanted to give it some more backcountry use before recommending it.

After returning to Colorado, I thought it would be a great test of the saw's strength to use it during one of my pitchwood hunts. I've twisted and bent the frames of cheaper bucksaws when trying to saw pitchwood. Pitchwood is a tough, dense, waxy\pitchy wood that's great for starting survival fires, but it is hard on edged tools. I figured if Bob's Bucksaw could make it through this kind of test, it would be one tough saw.

On this particular hunt, I was looking for elusive Pinyon Pine pitchwood tinder in the Southern Rockies.

Pinyon Pines produce less pitchwood than their Ponderosa Pine cousins, so finding it can take some searching. Once you've found it though, you know you've found something special. It smells like sweet incense and burns with an intense flame.

After a bit of hiking, I found what looked to be a good candidate. 

A quick check with my Leatherman's blade on one of the hard roots revealed that I had hit pitchwood paydirt!

I then grabbed Bob's Bucksaw to harvest some of this wonderful natural tinder.  

Bob's saw buzzed through the rock-hard pitchwood roots easily.

The sweet, incense like-smell that emanated from the sawed roots was heavenly!

Bob's saw didn't flinch while I was sawing through the dead Pinyon Pine pitchwood roots. One great advantage Bob's saw has over many of its competitors (such as the Sven Sawis that it has a lot more room between the blade and the frame, allowing it to cut  larger logs.


What else can I say? Bob's Bucksaw is ingeniously simple to use, lightweight, strong, yet saws like a demon. With a street price of just $50.00, this handcrafted tool is an absolute steal. Rumor has it that Bob is looking to retire soon, so if I were you, I would grab one of his awesome bucksaws while you can.

5 out of 5 Stars (Highly Recommended)

Bob's Bucksaw is available from Four Dog Stoves-

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Initial field testing with the Chiappa X-Caliber Folding Survival Rifle

Shown above is a 5-shot group at 21 Yards with the Chiappa X-Caliber 12 Gauge/22LR Folding Survival Gun. So far, the replacement guns are looking much better than the first test samples. We should have a major update with detailed field test results posted soon. 

Cheers! Jason

Friday, March 20, 2015

Leah's Corner: Leatherman Wingman Multi-Tool conquers the suburbs

by Leah Klocko

As you many of you know, I am the editor of Rocky Mountain Bushcraft. While Jason lives and tests gear high up in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado, I edit from the less illustrious Pittsburgh suburbs, not exactly a wilderness mecca. However, I am always excited to check out new gear, and thanks to Leatherman, I was lucky enough to be able test out their new Wingman multi-tool which they were kind enough to send my way recently.

I have to say it was a little intimidating at first. Lots of implements all in one. However, once I started working with the Wingman I appreciated having all my tools right there, with no need to go grab a screwdriver or dig up a pair of pliers.

The Leatherman Wingman features tough stainless-steel construction and 14 different tools including:

* 420HC Combo Knife, Spring-action Regular Pliers, Spring-action Needlenose Pliers, Spring-action Wire Cutters
* Wire Stripper, Small Screwdriver, Medium Screwdriver, Phillips Screwdriver,
* Spring-action scissors
* Wood/Metal File, Bottle Opener, Can Opener

I decided to check a few items off of my “To Do” list using the multi-tool. My AT&T Samsung Galaxy S5 Active test phone made taking photos of my progress a snap.

Task number one: Remove rusty nails from an old wicker chair on the porch. My cat likes to use the old chair as a scratching post and some of the nails had become exposed. I didn’t want him to hurt himself, so the nails had to go.

The spring-action needlenose pliers quickly became my favorite part of the Wingman. Their sturdy construction, comfortable grip and spring action made quick work of the nails. Only one problem. One of the nails broke off. Wingman to the rescue! I simply pulled out the wire-stripper which has a curved sharp end and used it to dig out the remaining nail.

Task number two: Tighten the door knob.

For some reason, the knob on my front door has a habit of becoming loose. If you’ve ever tried to work on a doorknob, the angle of access to the screws can cause problems if your screwdriver is too short or the handle is too wide. Not a problem with the Wingman.

Task number three: Cut open a gourd to get seeds for next year.

I had grown some tiny pumpkin-shaped gourdes in my garden this year and I wanted to cut one up to get seeds to plant next year. The knife on the multi-tool cut through with no problem even though gourds tend to have a pretty tough skin.

I then used the serrated part of the knife to cut a twig from one of the nearby shrubs. The Wingman cut through quickly without much effort.

Task number four: Test the Scissors

To test the scissors's cutting ability, I decided to cut a piece of felt. Fabric of any kind can be difficult to cut with scissors unless they are really sharp, and I honestly didn’t think the Wingman’s scissors would be up to the task. I was wrong. Once I got the hang of using them, they cut through the felt almost as well as my full size sewing scissors.

One small issue from a female perspective-- the knife and scissors could be a little easier to pull out. I tended to lose them in the handle and they were stiff enough that they bent my fingernails when I tried to open them.


All in all, the Leatherman Wingman is a very useful well-made tool. Plus it is small enough to fit in the palm of my not-very-large hand, and light enough to add little weight to a backpack or purse. (I had it in my purse at one point and forgot that it was in there!) Easy to carry in a pocket as well, with a nice clip that holds it in place.

Its handy features, especially for a suburbanite like me, has made it my ultimate “To Do” list partner. It saves me time running to get tool after tool. I can just move from one job to another with every tool right there in my hand. The Wingman's sturdy construction also means it should stand up to some serious stress. I can see that as I get used to my Leatherman Wingman, I will find more reasons to love having all of my tools right at my fingertips.

For more information, visit 

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Bushcraft: Can a Swiss Champ's Magnifying Lens ignite Tinder?

There has been a lot of debate on the internet over the years about the effectiveness of the magnifying lens on the Victorinox Swiss Army Champ Knife for starting fires. The general perception is that it is too weak for the task, and that it's best relegated to the role of magnifying small objects, such as looking for splinters, etc.

There's no doubt that the Swiss Champ's magnifying lens is weaker than the Fresnel Magnifying Lenses that are typically used to start survival fires, but don't count it out as an effective survival tool. If used with the right tinder, it can be quite effective.

To get the Swiss Champ's magnifier to work, you must find natural tinders that are easy to ignite. One of the best and most widely available tinders is punkwood, a light spongy, dry-rotted wood found nearly anywhere there are dead trees. Punkwood will easily ignite from the spark of a firesteel or from a Fresnel Magnifying Lens. It can also be charred and turned into a superior form of char-tinder.

To prove my theory on the usefulness of the Swiss Champ's magnifying lens, I took a walk in the Colorado Rockies recently with one goal -- to find a natural tinder that any hiker could find and ignite it with a Swiss Champ magnifying lens. As I was walking, I found an old, dead Pinyon Pine that had been blown down:

(click to enlarge)

Snow and rain had repeatedly soaked the exposed side of the wood, over time, turning it rotten (punkwood):

I was able to easily dislodge a piece of rotted punkwood with my fingers:

Ignition! The Swiss Champ's magnifying lens easily ignited the punkwood, which burned intensely for over an hour.

This burning coal can be placed inside a tinder bundle of dry grasses, pine needles, shredded bark or other vegetable matter and blown into a flame to start your survival fire.

Cheers, Jason