Wednesday, March 28, 2012

REVIEW: Light My Fire (Mora) Swedish FireKnife


In early 2011, Light My Fire and Mora began a collaboration to design a revolutionary new fixed blade survival knife-- one that would integrate a firesteel right into the handle. This had been done in the past with folding knives like Light My Fire's SL3, but never with a mass-produced fixed blade knife. In the wilderness, fixed blades have obvious advantages over folding knives, such as greater strength, increased comfort, easier to clean, etc. So it follows that having a fixed blade with a built in firesteel is the obvious choice over a folder like the SL3. 


Being longtime fans of Mora knives, we were especially excited when we heard rumors last year of this knife being developed. Then, back in January, our friend Joe Flowers at Equipped to Endure did a nice interview/preview video on the FireKnife at SHOT SHOW 2012 which piqued our interest as well. So when Light My Fire offered us the opportunity to be one of the first to review this knife, we literally jumped at the chance. 

Now, let's take a quick look at the specs:

  • Blade Steel- Sandvik 12C27 stainless steel
  • Modified Scandinavian grind
  • Polypropylene sheath with clip
  • High-friction, TPE rubber handle
  • An original Swedish FireSteel Scout, with approximately 3,000 strikes, twist locks into the handle
  • Dimensions (in sheath): 8.7" x 1.8" x 1.2" (22 cm x 4.5 cm x 3 cm)
  • Knife Length: 8.5" (21.5 cm)
  • Blade Length: 3.75" (10 cm)
  • Weight (w/ sheath): 3.9 oz. (as weighed on a digital postal scale)
  • Country of origin: Made in Sweden my Mora Knives
  • It also comes in five colors:


Right out of the box, my first impression was that it was a bit smaller than I was expecting. I was thinking the FireKnife's blade length and thickness were going to be similar in proportion to Mora's new Companion Knife, but in fact, it's more like Mora's discontinued 860 Clipper. The FireKnife and Clipper share the same blade thickness, but the Fireknife sports a shorter 3 3/4" blade compared to the Clipper's 4" blade:

(click to enlarge) 

Blade thickness comparison between the Clipper and Mora Bushcraft Force:

(click to enlarge)

Overall size comparison between the Clipper and Bushcraft Force. The blade also has a more "machined" appearance compared to the high polish of the Clipper 860 and Force:

(click to enlarge)   

The sheath is made of a tough Polypropylene plastic and appears to be a new design by Mora and similar to sheaths on the Companion and Allround knives. The belt clip is also big enough to accept belts up to 1.75" in width:

(click to enlarge)

Of all the Mora sheaths I've tried and tested, I like this one the best so far. The belt clip really clamps down tight during use, enough so that it can be clipped to your pants pocket safely without it coming off easily (see pics below).

Knife retention is good as well. I held the sheath upside down and shook it vigorously to see if the knife would come out, but it stayed firmly in place. When inserting the knife into the sheath, it snaps into place with a reassuring "click", letting you know it's inserted all the way.

The lanyard can also be wrapped around inside the belt loop clip for additional knife retention as well (photo on the right):

(click to enlarge)

This clip also makes it a breeze to attach to your backpack waist strap, providing easy access to your knife. After clipping it onto the strap for the photo shoot, I had to use two hands to pry it off, so it definitely stays attached securely.

(click to enlarge)

Firesteel

The firesteel that comes with the FireKnife is a shortened Light My Fire "Scout Model." Here's a side by side comparison of the two (the Scout model shown is an older 1.0 model but is the same size as the current 2.0 model):


Removing the Firesteel

To remove the firesteel from the handle, grasp the end cap, turn clockwise about an 1/8 of a turn, then pull straight back. It will be a little stiff when new, but it loosens up after a few uses. To put it back in just do the reverse.
(click to enlarge)

Ok, so this leads to two big questions: 1) Can the firesteel come out easily and be lost? 2) If the firesteel is lost, will the grip still be large enough to hold the knife comfortably and securely?

To answer the first question, I'd say definitely no. Light My Fire and Mora really did their homework on this one. The firesteel locks securely into place, and there's no easy way to get it out without manually unlocking and pulling it out. Now, I can't say if it will loosen up over many years of service, but since it's made of a fairly tough, resilient type of plastic I think it will hold up well.

As to the second question, I wear a medium glove and found that the handle works well without the end cap and is still reasonably comfortable. I don't think people with larger hands will find that the knife is all that uncomfortable without the end cap either.

With and without the end cap:
(click to enlarge)

FIELD TESTING

To test the performance of the knife and firesteel, I conducted four tests: 1) General carving ability and making feather sticks 2) Batoning wood 3) Tip strength test 4) Testing the ability of the knife to create fire with the attached firesteel. The knife came shaving-sharp right out of the box, so no additional edge work was necessary before proceeding.

Feathersticks\Carving

As mentioned in the blade comparison section above, the FireKnife has what is essentially a shorter Clipper 860 blade but with a modified Scandinavian grind, along the lines of Mora's Bushcraft Forest Knife. Upon seeing this new grind for the first time, I was a bit dubious since my experience with Mora's regular Scandi grind has always been excellent and I thought "why change it?"

All that changed after actually using this knife. I've always regarded the Clipper 860 as the best overall wood carving knife I've ever used, but amazingly, the FireKnife out-carved it. The new knife feels more controllable and has the ability to make even finer cuts.

Dave, who already carries a Mora 840 Carbon Clipper for his main bushcraft knife, tried it as well and agreed with my assessment. Here are a couple of feather sticks I made from well seasoned Ponderosa Pine with the FireKnife:

(click to enlarge)

Batoning Test

To test the FireKnife's strength, I decided to try batoning a small Ponderosa Pine log into several smaller pieces. I felt confident in performing this test because of past experience with other Moras. I've batoned many logs with them and never had a failure or chipped edge. I did once roll an edge slightly when I hit a frozen knot but was able to fix it easily with a sharpening stone.

Moras are rather "petite" for a fixed blade but are built tough as nails for their size. The Sandvik stainless they use is very tough with the ability to resist chipping while also holding a great edge. This test would be a way of seeing if the FireKnife could live up to this reputation.

(click to enlarge)

More batoning:

During the baton test, no chipping or rolling of the edge occurred. In fact, the edge was still sharp enough to shave with. Excellent performance but not surprising based on my past experience with Moras.

Tip Strength Test

To test the strength of the tip, I jammed it into the split log from the baton test and twisted it around in a circular motion to create a small hole. No breakage, edge rolling or chipping was detected:

(click to enlarge)

Fire Making

Ok, now for the fun part-- let's see if this thing really lives up to the name "FireKnife!"

Light My Fire included a pre-release "Tinder on a Rope" with the FireKnife they sent and asked us to test it out, so we thought this would be the perfect opportunity. It's basically a piece of pitchwood (also known as fatwood) with a lanyard attached to it.

(click to enlarge)

Light My Fire says this pitchwood comes from the Montezuma Pine Tree in Mexico. According to Wikipedia, the resin in this tree "is so flammable that a cut branch will burn as a torch emitting black smoke when ignited." Being an absolute nut about using pitchwood for natural tinder, I was eager to try out this new variety (look for several upcoming articles here about pitchwood).

On the day of testing, winds were howling at up to 50mph, so I had to dig a small pit with a piece of split wood from the batoning test to keep the tinder from blowing away (also a great technique for keeping magnesium firestarter scrapings from blowing away too).

The tinder from the pitchwood was then scraped into the hole using the back of the blade. Mora intentionally ground the back of the blade with a sharp edge to make striking the firesteel more effective, but it also works perfectly for scraping tinder into shavings for fire prep as well.

(click to enlarge)

I was able to spark the tinder shavings on the third try. Though not visible because of the bright sunlight, the back of the FireKnife threw an incredible barrage of sparks when striking the firesteel. Also, the "Tinder on a Rope" was some of the best pitchwood I've ever used outside of the stuff I get from Douglas Fir trees. Once lit, even the strong winds wouldn't blow it out (note the flame blowing sideways in the bottom pic).

(click to enlarge)

Later in the day when the winds died down a bit, I performed a second test of the FireKnife and Tinder on a Rope. This time it lit on the second try:

(click to enlarge)

Mora vs Folding Knives Comparison

I mentioned in the review that the Mora is considered "petite" for a fixed blade. However, when compared to most folding knives it's actually fairly large as shown below:

(From top to bottom: 1) FireKnife 2) Gerber 3.5" EZ Out 3) Leatherman Charge AL w/ 2.9" blade 4) Victorinox Camper w/ 2.5" blade):


CONCLUSION

I think Light My Fire has a winner on its hands with this one. At only 3.9 ounces total, you get a proven Swedish fixed blade knife, quality built-in firesteel, and a tough yet versatile sheath. At this weight, it's even viable for ultra-lite backpacking. Plus, it comes in cool colors, and I actually had fun with this knife, which I definitely can't say about all knives I've used in the past.

Complaints? Yes, two in particular. First, I'd like to see the blade highly polished like the newer Mora Bushcraft and Companion knives. Highly polished knives are easier to clean and resist corrosion better. It's not that the finish on the FireKnife is bad, but it could be a little better.

Second, I'd like to see the same 4" blade length on the FireKnife as the Clipper 860. This makes batoning a little easier without giving up dexterity for closer work. My guess is that Light My Fire chose this shorter length to comply with the various knife laws around the US. That said, most people won't even notice these minor shortcomings and will enjoy the knife regardless.

With a great combination of useability, innovative design and Mora's legendary quality, I'll bet Light My Fire will sell these by the bucketload.

5 out of 5 Stars (Highly recommended)

January 29th UPDATE- Replacement firesteels are now available and can be purchased directly from Industrial Revolution's website at: 
The FireKnife is available from LifeView Outdoors:


Was this review helpful? If so, please stop by our Facebook page and "Like" us


About the author
Jason Schwartz is the founder and senior editor of Rocky Mountain Bushcraft. He is a former Red Cross certified Wilderness & Remote First Aid Instructor, and has taught bushcraft and wilderness survival techniques to the Boy Scouts of America, interned with the US Forest Service, and studied wilderness survival, forestry and wildland firefighting at Colorado Mountain College in Leadville, Colorado. Jason has also written for magazines such as The New Pioneer and Backpacker, including writing the "Tinder Finder" portion of Backpacker's "Complete Guide to Fire," which won a 2015 National Magazine Award (NMA). Email him at rockymountainbushcraft @ hotmail.com (without spaces)

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Bear Grylls bites the big one! - Discovery Channel cancels Man vs Wild after seven seasons


Say it ain't so Sammy! In an apparent contract dispute, the Discovery Channel announced it was terminating the popular Man vs Wild TV show hosted by former British Special Forces soldier Bear Grylls. Man vs Wild helped to popularize bushcrafting and wilderness survival in both the UK and the United States, so the loss of this show is certainly a setback. Looks like it's down to Dual Survival now to carry on the torch of survival-oriented TV shows.

About the author
Jason Schwartz is the founder and senior editor of Rocky Mountain Bushcraft. He is a former Red Cross certified Wilderness & Remote First Aid Instructor, and has taught bushcraft and wilderness survival techniques to the Boy Scouts of America, interned with the US Forest Service, and studied wilderness survival, forestry and wildland firefighting at Colorado Mountain College in Leadville, Colorado. Jason has also written for magazines such as The New Pioneer and Backpacker, including writing the "Tinder Finder" portion of Backpacker's "Complete Guide to Fire," which won a 2015 National Magazine Award (NMA). Email him at rockymountainbushcraft @ hotmail.com (without spaces)

Monday, March 19, 2012

"Made in the USA!" Late Winter Wilderness Gear Roundup


Dear readers,

Below is a list of winter-specific wilderness gear made entirely in the USA. This list is the winter portion of a massive upcoming article that I am working on that asks one simple question-- Is it possible to equip oneself with all US made outdoor gear? The answer may surprise you.

The upcoming article will include many of these products as well as over 30 additional US made products that were all field tested by Rocky Mountain Bushcraft, along with reviews and location photos. It will encompass everything from knives and multi-tools to clothing, backpacks, sleeping pads, water purifiers, you name it!

Make sure to sign up to receive a notification when this article goes live in the coming weeks. You can also sign up for Twitter updates at our new Twitter and Facebook pages.

The companies in this product list want YOU to know that they still make these products domestically. Buying USA keeps dollars here where they help our economy, so please show them your support!


SNOWSHOES

MSR Lightning Ascent 30 Snowshoes w/ Modular Flotation Tails- MSR designed these snowshoes to deliver "unmatched traction and security on any terrain, in any conditions" according their product literature. They are also meant for maximum flotation when bearing loads up to 300lbs with the attached tails.

To see if they would live up to this description, we each loaded up with over 80 pounds of gear, including boots, backpack, winter clothing and other essentials and hit the four foot deep slopes off of Colorado's famed Longs Peak Trail.

During this test, we also wanted to try out key features like the PosiLock AT Bindings, 360 degree traction frame, pivot crampons and especially the Ergo Televators, which are supposed to increase traction and reduce fatigue when trekking uphill. The photos below illustrate some of these features:

(click to enlarge)

Lightning Ascent 30 Specifications :
Weight per pair- 4 lbs 8 oz / 2030 g
Weight- 8 in / 20 cm
Length- 30 in / 76 cm
Gait- Unisex/normal width
Footwear size range- 4.5 M - 15 M / 35.5 - 49.5
Load- 150 - 280 lbs / 68 - 127+ kilos
Load w/tails- 180 - 300+ lbs / 82 - 136+ kilos
 Made in Seattle, Washington USA

FIELD TESTING

As mentioned, we loaded up to full multi-day winter backpacking weight and picked an uphill slope with fresh, unbroken snow to test the shoes. Average snow depth was roughly four feet and powdery. We normally use two poles for better balance, but one of our Chinese-made ski poles broke right before testing! (Sorry, American made ski poles were one of the only things we couldn't find for the upcoming article). We figured it would pose an even greater challenge to these snowshoes, so we went ahead with testing anyway.

 (click to enlarge)


Flotation was generally good, though not on the level of wooden snow shoes of course (to be expected from modern technical shoes). However, the Lightning Ascents were much better at handling tight spaces and traction-challenged surfaces than I've experienced with wooden shoes, so it's a worthwhile trade.

The PosiLock AT straps functioned as advertised and were indeed easy to use when taking the shoes on and off. We also never experienced any loosening or slippage during the test. The pivot crampons made the shoes feel secure and comfortable on some of the slicker surfaces as well.

Our favorite feature though was definitely the Ergo Televators. Simply flip up the Televators with the handle of a ski pole (see the photo below) to set them in place and steep slopes suddenly become fun to traverse. Dave and I both raved about how much of a difference these things made! 

(click to enlarge)

Overall, we really enjoyed these snowshoes and they helped to inspire confidence on the steep slopes and tight spots we encountered during testing. Definitely a great choice if you plan to do any serious winter trekking or backpacking, plus, they're made in the good ol US of A!

For more information, please visit MSR's product page for the Lightning Ascent 30


SNOW\AVALANCHE SHOVELS

Voile T-Wood Avalanche Shovel- Voile's T-Wood Avalanche shovel is not only a great safety tool for skiers, it's also an excellent winter wilderness survival tool for bushcrafters. Aside from the obvious benefit of carrying a snow shovel to dig snow shelters, the inclusion of a "Saws-all" blade brings it up to a whole new level. With this saw, you can easily process firewood, cut snow/ice blocks or wooden poles to build shelters.

It features a tempered aluminum shovel, retractable aluminum handle and easily breaks down to fit into most backpacks. The T-handle itself is made of plastic. The saw blade is made of stainless steel and roughly 7" long. When not in use it easily stows away inside the handle (replacement saws are available directly from Voile).

(click to enlarge)

Specifications:

Weight- 1 lb.10oz./0.74kg
Length- 23.75in/60.3cm
Extended Length- 29.75in/75.6cm
Made in Salt Lake City, Utah USA

The Aluminum used in the shovel is certainly heavier than comparable plastic avalanche shovels, but what it loses in weight advantage it makes up for with increased strength. During our testing, we used the Voile to shovel out several teepee sites in deep snow as well as building snow mounds for insulation around them. We also used it to pick up and move hot rocks around the campfire several times. The Voile didn't even have a chip in the paint after all this, very impressive. 

We also tested the saw extensively. While the saw teeth aren't as efficient as those on a Bahco Laplander Saw (shown in the photo collage above), the ability to use it two-handed on a longer shovel handle increases the efficiency enough to closely match the performance of the Bahco. This longer handle also has the added advantage of being able to reach higher limbs on trees if you need to reach dry wood for kindling or branches for shelter/bedding material. 

(click to enlarge)


All in all this is an excellent survival tool to keep handy whether you're a skier, bushcrafter or backpacker and its durable construction should give you years of service. Highly recommended. 

To buy this product directly from Voile USA please click here


WINTER ACCESSORIES

Talus ColdAvenger Expedition Balaclava- No, that's not Darth Vader, it's Dave wearing a Talus Cold Avenger Balaclava! All kidding aside, this balaclava was designed for truly extreme winter weather, so that even if we sent Dave to the frozen planet of Hoth it would still keep him warm and comfortable! 

According to the Talus website, the ColdAvenger was "researched and developed in Northern Rocky Mountain winters and tested in snow and freezing weather......the ColdAvenger keeps your face warm and dry while helping humidify inhaled air and allowing you to breathe freely." Constructed of Polartec Wind Pro, it is windproof and water resistant and also features a ventilated face piece to help protect the lungs from extreme cold air. A nice touch is the face piece being made of medical grade plastic, which is inherently microbial resistant and more flexible under a wide range of temperatures.

(click to enlarge)

Specifications:
Balaclava Material- Polartec Wind Pro Fleece
Soft medical grade, non-toxic polyurethane ventilator
Designed to fit with goggles and helmets
Adjustable, removable interior valve controls up to 60% of air intake
One size fits most* (see the Talus website for more info)
Made in Missoula, Montana USA

We tested the ColdAvenger on several trips to the mountains in weather as cold as -10 degrees F, and it kept our head and neck nice and warm the whole time. One thing we noticed that was different from most balaclavas though is the lack of a gauntlet style neck. According to Talus, the ColdAvenger was intentionally designed this way to protect against snagging in heavy machinery (i.e. oil rigs, etc) since a large percentage of their customer base are workers in Alaskan oil fields. Though Dave and I both prefer gauntlet style balaclavas for comfort, neither of us felt like it was a deal breaker if wanting to use it for serious high mountain adventures. 

So if you're looking for the ultimate in cold weather protection for your head and neck, check out the ColdAvenger, and as always, may the Force be with you!

To buy this product directly from Talus please click here 


SOCKS


SmartWool Extra Heavy Mountaineering and Extra Heavy Hunting Socks (w/liners)- What can I say? I have been using Smartwool socks for years and they are bar-none the best outdoor socks I've ever used. Durable, comfortable, warm yet breathable. I like them so much I even wear them when I'm not running around in the bush.

To test them, I ventured out for 3 hours into 23 degree F weather with a pair of Extra Heavy Hunting Socks and liners nestled inside my non-insulated Hi-Tec Summer Hiking Boots. Normally, this is a recipe for cold and miserable feet if spending any amount of time outside without insulated boots. After being stationary most of the time while testing out the gear in this article, my feet were still warm and comfortable. Pretty amazing.

Smartwool socks also don't bunch up like many socks do because of the stretchy nylon\wool blend they use. Yes, they are pricier than most socks, but for the added durability, comfort and warmth they provide, you just can't go wrong. 

(click to enlarge) 

Made in Steamboat Springs, Colorado USA

To buy Extra Heavy Mountaineering Socks directly from Smartool please click here

To buy Extra Heavy Hunting Socks & Liners directly from Smartool please click here



Sunday, March 18, 2012

Tips and Tricks: Use the corkscrew on your Swiss Army Knife to undo stubborn knots

The Swiss Army knife corkscrew has long been maligned as a useless wilderness tool (unless you're a wine drinker of course), but it's actually great for undoing stubborn knots. It easily weaves into a tight knot after which it can be used to gently pull it apart as shown:

(click to enlarge)


Ok, so you're convinced the corkscrew has worth, but you'd still like to have a phillips head screwdriver on your Swiss Army knife (which the corkscrew replaces). No problem, just use the Swiss Army can opener for phillips screws:

(click to enlarge)

You'll now have the best of both worlds, and can even enjoy an occasional bottle of wine during your wilderness excursions!

Was this tip helpful? If so, please stop by the Rocky Mountain Bushcraft Facebook page and "Like" us!

About the author
Jason Schwartz is the founder and senior editor of Rocky Mountain Bushcraft. He is a former Red Cross certified Wilderness & Remote First Aid Instructor, and has taught bushcraft and wilderness survival techniques to the Boy Scouts of America, interned with the US Forest Service, and studied wilderness survival, forestry and wildland firefighting at Colorado Mountain College in Leadville, Colorado. Jason has also written for magazines such as The New Pioneer and Backpacker, including writing the "Tinder Finder" portion of Backpacker's "Complete Guide to Fire," which won a 2015 National Magazine Award (NMA). Email him at rockymountainbushcraft @ hotmail.com (without spaces)

Friday, March 16, 2012

"Made in the USA" Gear Review: SmartWool Extra Heavy Mountaineering and Extra Heavy Hunting Socks (w/liners)

What can I say? I have been using Smartwool socks for years and they are bar-none the best outdoor socks I've ever used. Durable, comfortable, warm yet breathable. I like them so much I even wear them when I'm not running around in the bush.

To test them, I ventured out for 3 hours into 23 degree F weather with a pair of Extra Heavy Hunting Socks and liners nestled inside my non-insulated Hi-Tec Summer Hiking Boots. Normally, this is a recipe for cold and miserable feet if spending any amount of time outside without insulated boots. After being stationary most of the time while testing out the gear in this article, my feet were still warm and comfortable. Pretty amazing.

Smartwool socks also don't bunch up like many socks do because of the stretchy nylon\wool blend they use. Yes, they are pricier than most socks, but for the added durability, comfort and warmth they provide, you just can't go wrong. 

(click to enlarge) 

Made in Steamboat Springs, Colorado USA

To buy Extra Heavy Mountaineering Socks directly from Smartwool please click here

To buy Extra Heavy Hunting Socks & Liners directly from Smartwool please click here


About the author
Jason Schwartz is the founder and senior editor of Rocky Mountain Bushcraft. He is a former Red Cross certified Wilderness & Remote First Aid Instructor, and has taught bushcraft and wilderness survival techniques to the Boy Scouts of America, interned with the US Forest Service, and studied wilderness survival, forestry and wildland firefighting at Colorado Mountain College in Leadville, Colorado. Jason has also written for magazines such as The New Pioneer and Backpacker, including writing the "Tinder Finder" portion of Backpacker's "Complete Guide to Fire," which won a 2015 National Magazine Award (NMA). Email him at rockymountainbushcraft @ hotmail.com (without spaces)

Thursday, March 15, 2012

"Made in the USA" Gear Review: Talus ColdAvenger Expedition Balaclava

No, that's not Darth Vader, it's Dave wearing a Talus Cold Avenger Balaclava! All kidding aside, this balaclava was designed for truly extreme winter weather, so that even if we sent Dave to the frozen planet of Hoth it would still keep him warm and comfortable! 

According to the Talus website, the ColdAvenger was "researched and developed in Northern Rocky Mountain winters and tested in snow and freezing weather......the ColdAvenger keeps your face warm and dry while helping humidify inhaled air and allowing you to breathe freely." Constructed of Polartec Wind Pro, it is windproof and water resistant and also features a ventilated face piece to help protect the lungs from extreme cold air. A nice touch is the face piece being made of medical grade plastic, which is inherently microbial resistant and more flexible under a wide range of temperatures.

(click to enlarge)

Specifications:
Balaclava Material- Polartec Wind Pro Fleece
Soft medical grade, non-toxic polyurethane ventilator
Designed to fit with goggles and helmets
Adjustable, removable interior valve controls up to 60% of air intake
One size fits most* (see the Talus website for more info)
Made in Missoula, Montana USA

We tested the ColdAvenger on several trips to the mountains in weather as cold as -10 degrees F, and it kept our head and neck nice and warm the whole time. One thing we noticed that was different from most balaclavas though is the lack of a gauntlet style neck. According to Talus, the ColdAvenger was intentionally designed this way to protect against snagging in heavy machinery (i.e. oil rigs, etc) since a large percentage of their customer base are workers in Alaskan oil fields. Though Dave and I both prefer gauntlet style balaclavas for comfort, neither of us felt like it was a deal breaker if wanting to use it for serious high mountain adventures. 

So if you're looking for the ultimate in cold weather protection for your head and neck, check out the ColdAvenger, and as always, may the Force be with you!

To buy this product directly from Talus please click here 


About the author
Jason Schwartz is the founder and senior editor of Rocky Mountain Bushcraft. He is a former Red Cross certified Wilderness & Remote First Aid Instructor, and has taught bushcraft and wilderness survival techniques to the Boy Scouts of America, interned with the US Forest Service, and studied wilderness survival, forestry and wildland firefighting at Colorado Mountain College in Leadville, Colorado. Jason has also written for magazines such as The New Pioneer and Backpacker, including writing the "Tinder Finder" portion of Backpacker's "Complete Guide to Fire," which won a 2015 National Magazine Award (NMA). Email him at rockymountainbushcraft @ hotmail.com (without spaces)

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Rocky Mountain Bushcraft now on Twitter!

Rocky Mountain Bushcraft is now on Twitter! If you have a Twitter account please sign up to stay informed on updates, articles and reviews. Thank you!



In other news, Rocky Mountain Bushcraft is now approaching 10,000 page views since starting up on December 1st, 2011. Thanks for coming back to visit and as always, comments are always welcome!

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

"Made in the USA" Gear Review: Voile T-Wood Avalanche Shovel- Winter Survival Shovel for Bushcrafters?

Voile's T-Wood Avalanche shovel is not only a great safety tool for skiers, it's also an excellent winter wilderness survival tool for bushcrafters. Aside from the obvious benefit of carrying a snow shovel to dig snow shelters, the inclusion of a "Saws-all" blade brings it up to a whole new level. With this saw, you can easily process firewood, cut snow/ice blocks or wooden poles to build shelters.
It features a tempered aluminum shovel, retractable aluminum handle and easily breaks down to fit into most backpacks. The T-handle itself is made of plastic. The saw blade is made of stainless steel and roughly 7" long. When not in use it easily stows away inside the handle (replacement saws are available directly from Voile).

(click to enlarge)

Specifications:

Weight- 1 lb.10oz./0.74kg
Length- 23.75in/60.3cm
Extended Length- 29.75in/75.6cm
Made in Salt Lake City, Utah USA

The Aluminum used in the shovel is certainly heavier than comparable plastic avalanche shovels, but what it loses in weight advantage it makes up for with increased strength. During our testing, we used the Voile to shovel out several teepee sites in deep snow as well as building snow mounds for insulation around them. We also used it to pick up and move hot rocks around the campfire several times. The Voile didn't even have a chip in the paint after all this, very impressive. 

We also tested the saw extensively. While the saw teeth aren't as efficient as those on a Bahco Laplander Saw (shown in the photo collage above), the ability to use it two-handed on a longer shovel handle increases the efficiency enough to closely match the performance of the Bahco. This longer handle also has the added advantage of being able to reach higher limbs on trees if you need to reach dry wood for kindling or branches for shelter/bedding material. 

(click to enlarge)

All in all this is an excellent survival tool to keep handy whether you're a skier, bushcrafter or backpacker and its durable construction should give you years of service. Highly recommended. 

To buy this product directly from Voile USA please click here


About the author
Jason Schwartz is the founder and senior editor of Rocky Mountain Bushcraft. He is a former Red Cross certified Wilderness & Remote First Aid Instructor, and has taught bushcraft and wilderness survival techniques to the Boy Scouts of America, interned with the US Forest Service, and studied wilderness survival, forestry and wildland firefighting at Colorado Mountain College in Leadville, Colorado. Jason has also written for magazines such as The New Pioneer and Backpacker, including writing the "Tinder Finder" portion of Backpacker's "Complete Guide to Fire," which won a 2015 National Magazine Award (NMA). Email him at rockymountainbushcraft @ hotmail.com (without spaces)