Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Blog Update- I'm back!

Hi everyone,

Well, it's been a crazy 2 weeks. Laptop hard drive failed, vehicle coolant system problems, 60mph winds, wildfires everywhere, bears waking me up every few nights. It hasn't been dull, that's for sure!

Laptop and vehicle issues are now fixed, so it's back to blogging finally! I plan to write a full blog post (along with pictures) detailing my first 30 days living in a wilderness "bugout" situation later this week. I will also be posting several new edged-tool reviews, including the Fiskars X15 Chopping Axe, Puma Bowie Knife, Bear Grylls Ultimate Fine Edged Survival Knife, and the Husqvarna Forest Axe. These will be followed by our massive "Made in the USA" wilderness gear article that I've been working on for several months.

So lots of good things going on, provided I don't have to evacuate from one of the many wildfires that seem to be springing up around here lately!

Cheers,

Jason

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

EDITORS NOTE:
      Leah here.  Ah technical difficulties, they always seem to crop up and they have in the case of Jason-in-the-wilderness.   Jason is out there enjoying the bushcrafting life, and the company of bears, but for a week or so will be unable to include the rest of us in his adventures.  Don't worry, once he gets those pesky little tech difficulties worked out I'll make sure he gets us up to date ASAP!

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

"Made in the USA" Gear Review: LifeView Outdoors Mil-Spec 550 Paracord


Paracord (Parachute cord) is a cheap, yet important piece of gear that everyone should carry in their pack. It has a multitude of different uses, far too many to list in this review, but a few that stand out are lashing together shelter poles, making a ridge line for a tarp, and separating the small inner strands from the outer sheathing to make snares, traps or even fishing line. For a more in-depth writeup about the history and uses for paracord, check out this excellent article by Scott Wickham at WoodsMonkey.com called "The Many Uses of Paracord."

One thing I've noticed recently is a decrease in the quality of paracord sold at both online and brick and mortar retail stores. In particular, the sheathing seems to be flimsier than what I've seen in the past.

I'm by no means an expert on paracord, but I've been carrying it in my kit since the 1980s, so I know what quality paracord is when I see it. Finding good paracord has become more difficult lately, so it was a great relief when our new sponsor LifeView Outdoors sent us some high quality paracord to review for our "Made in the USA" series. It was genuine MIL-C-5040H Type III certified 550 paracord.

To give an idea of what low-quality paracord looks like compared to the stiffer, higher quality Mil-Spec stuff that LifeView sells, I took the comparison shots below. The orange paracord was bought from a well-known internet seller of survival supplies, while the coyote brown cord is the LifeView Outdoors US made Mil-Spec paracord. Note how the orange paracord is more flat than round. It's because the sheathing is flimsier and lower-quality.

(click to enlarge)


LifeView also provided us with a copy of a test report that's included with each of their orders, showing just how thoroughly this paracord is actually tested.
(click to enlarge)

We were also sent a 100 ft spool of Type I "micro-paracord" that comes from the same manufacturer. This paracord has a break strength of 100lbs vs 550lbs for the larger Type III paracord. It's smaller size and lighter weight make it a great choice for ultra-lite packs or to stash in tiny places where the larger 550 cord might not fit.



A nice trick with the Type I micro-paracord is to cut up an old credit card, punch a small hole in one end and use it as a spool to hold the cord for your survival kit.


So if you're tired of the flimsy, low quality paracord being foisted on hapless bushcrafters, check out LifeView's high quality, certified mil-spec paracord. It's affordable and you can find it at the links below. Don't skimp on quality,  your life may depend on it some day.

To buy certified LifeView Outdoors Mil-Spec Type I micro-paracord, visit www.lifeviewoutdoors.com/hiking-and-camping-gear/cordage-tape-and-accessories/type-1-paracord-mil-c-5040.html

To buy certified LifeView Outdoors Mil-Spec Type III 550 paracord, visit www.lifeviewoutdoors.com/hiking-and-camping-gear/cordage-tape-and-accessories/mil-spec-550-paracord.html

 
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)

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Gear Review: Smartwool Midweight Zip-T Wool Shirt and Midweight Bottom base-layers


Several months ago, Smartwool asked us to review their Mountaineering socks, which didn't take much arm-twisting since I was already a professed fan of their hiking socks. When I was offered the opportunity to test out their Merino-Wool base-layer Midweight Zip-T and Midweight Bottom, it was pretty hard to say no!

Unlike the rest of the country, the Rocky Mountains can still wallop you with nasty, winter-like weather even in the warmest parts of summer. I've seen three feet of snow fall in the high country in August, so carrying a proper layering system is critical for both comfort and surviving the elements.

Field Testing

I was able to test the Smartwool Midweight Zip-T Wool Shirt and Midweight Bottom on several occasions, including a couple of Spring backpacking trips, a day hike up to 11,000ft on Longs Peak Trail, and a couple of weeks of base camping. Weather conditions varied from warm, dry days to cold, snowy nights. Both the top and bottom proved to be warm and comfortable next to the skin, and the fit was similar to Smartwool's socks. In other words, excellent.

The only negative is that the shirt tended to shrink a little more than expected, even using a delicate wash cycle with cold water and hang drying it. It didn't shrink dramatically, but more than I would have liked. I would suggest buying the next size up from what you normally wear to compensate for this. The Midweight Bottom didn't seem to suffer from this issue. One other negative is that these are not made in the USA like Smartwool's hiking socks. If you feel strongly about buying USA made products, this issue may affect your decision on what to purchase. The Smartwool Midweight Zip-T and Midweight Bottom felt very durable, so I do feel confident in saying that the quality seems high for a foreign-made product.

Conclusion

My overall impression was very good, with the exception of the shrinkage issue with the shirt. The fit, durability and comfort were similar to Smartwool's excellent wool socks. Anyone looking for a comfortable, durable and well-fitting base-layer set will find these to be a good choice.

For more information please visit www.smartwool.com


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, June 6, 2012

BLOG UPDATE- Off the Grid!

No, RMB hasn't been sleeping on the job! If you're wondering why the post count has dropped recently, let me take a minute to explain........


I was lucky enough to secure a remote test location in the mountains thanks to a fan of the blog, who owns property which borders the National Forest and Rocky Mountain National Park. I have been working very hard to set up a base camp there from which to blog from, hence my conspicuous absence.

This location is completely off the grid, to the point where I will have to backpack in my food, water and supplies. My home will consist of a single 10'x14' canvas tent, with power coming from a portable solar power unit, which I will use to charge my digital camera and laptop. This will allow me to edit photos and write reviews offline, which will then be published when I visit town once or twice a week. I will be staying there for the duration of the summer, and since this location is in active bear country, performing tasks as simple as eating and sleeping should be "interesting" to say the least.

This place is also perfect for launching on and off-trail hiking and backpacking trips, and the extreme weather makes it excellent for field testing gear. Due to these extreme conditions, there are lots of blow-down trees that make great fodder for reviewing axes, hatchets and saws. With Dave's assistance, I will also be testing bug-out scenarios for natural disasters as well as base camping gear. This should keep me very busy indeed!

I am very excited to have this opportunity to live the bushcrafting life 24/7 and to take all of you along with me on this new adventure!

My base camp:

(click to enlarge)




Blow-down trees illustrating the high winds that frequent this location:



View from the clearing!

(click to enlarge)


Cheers,

Jason

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)

Saturday, June 2, 2012

"Made in the USA" Gear Review: Liberty Bottleworks 32 ounce Aluminum Water Bottles


Yakima, Washington-based Liberty Bottleworks is quite proud of the fact that not only are their bottles made in the USA, but so is the machinery that makes them. Liberty also touts itself as a "green" company, using 100% recyclable materials to construct their bottles. In addition, Liberty prides themselves on being "financial stewards, with a percentage of every bottle sold helping organizations and people in need." If you ask me, that sounds like an awesome company philosophy.

The SPECS:

  • Made in the United States from 100% recycled aluminum; all materials used are 100% BPA free
  • Screw cap is made with food-grade polypropylene; O-ring helps prevents leaks and is made with food-grade silicone
  • Food-grade polyester powder coating on the inside of the bottle is BPA free
  • Available in 24 fl. oz or 32 fl. oz sizes
  • Deep Drawn Aluminum Construction for greater durability
  • Flexible Food Grade Coatings ensure no chips or flakes. Coating also insures  no heavy metal leaching and no porous surface for bacteria to build up on.
  • 1/4 turn on/off design (patent pending)
  • Splash free drinking- Gradually tapered neck mimics the smooth pour of a wine bottle.
  • Weight- 6.4 ounces (as measured on a digital postal scale)

A couple of months ago, Liberty sent us some of their 32 ounce "Straight Up" water bottles to test for our upcoming "Made in the USA" wilderness gear article. What's different about these bottles is their "1/4 Turn" on/off cap design. Having only used traditional screw cap-design water bottles in the past, I wasn't sure how this newer design would hold up in the field. A "1/4" turn on/off just didn't sound very secure to me.

Close-up of the cap:

(click to enlarge)

Field Testing

To test the bottles (and especially the cap design), all three of us used them under a wide variety of conditions over the last couple of months, including tossing them in our cars and letting them roll around freely, taking them into the backcountry on hiking trips, and dropping them on ground several times. We are happy to report that no problems with the cap or leakage occurred.

In fact, the cap design grew on us, to the point where screw caps on other brand's bottles became slightly inconvenient after using the Liberty bottles. Another plus is that the bottles weigh no more than a standard 32 ounce plastic Nalgene bottle, so they're light as well. We also enjoyed drinking from the smooth, tapered neck as shown on the photo below.


Editors note:
    Leah here, I used my Liberty Bottle under different conditions than Jason and Dave... I live in the city, and used my Liberty bottle to take water with me to work.  I was especially impressed with the 1/4 turn cap.  No matter what kind of bottle I've tried before, I've always had problems with leaks.  It didn't matter, plastic, metal, souvenir, whatever - they always leaked!  But not the Liberty.  It was so nice to be able to carry it and not worry about getting my papers etc. wet.  The only problem for city use was that the bottle does not fit comfortably into the drink holders in my car.  In fact when I took the bottle out, the holder actually came out of the car with it!  But that's a minor issue and the Liberty will be my new liquid carrier on the way to work or fun!

Summary


Liberty water bottles are environmentally friendly, completely different and extremely useful. Like many bushcrafters, the environment is important to us, so the Liberty Bottles get an A+ for their use of recycled materials. We were also delighted with the innovative and easy to use 1/4 turn cap which we felt set a new standard for backpacking gear.

The bottle's aluminum construction makes it versatile enough to be used in emergency situations to melt snow for water. One negative to the 1/4 turn cap is that the mouth of the bottle doesn't have threads and so it isn't compatible with most portable water purifiers. However, this is easily overcome by using a rubber tube to fill the bottle.

So if you're looking for a light weight yet versatile backpacking companion, the Liberty Bottle is a great choice.

For more information or to purchase Liberty Bottles, visit http://www.libertybottles.com

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 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)