Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Review: Helle 'Les Stroud' Temagami Knife- The Featherstick King


Hey friends, here at long last is my review of the Helle "Les Stroud" Temagami Knife. I have had this knife for a several years now, and after carving a boatload of wood with it, I wanted to share my experiences with you. First, a little info about the blade.....

The Helle "Les Stroud" Temagami Knife was originally conceived in 2010 as a collaboration between "Survivorman" star Les Stroud and famed Norwegian knife company Helle Knives.


The knife gets its name from a region in Canada known as the Temagami Wilderness, an area Les Stroud enjoyed hiking as a youth.

Lake Temagami in the Temagami Wilderness. Photo credit: Wikipedia

While out trekking in the Temagami one day, Les found a knife lying on the forest floor. Les started using the knife and found that it fit his hand perfectly, and that the steel was easy to sharpen.

Unknown to him at the time, the knife was a Helle blade. When he later figured out what kind of knife it was, it started Stroud on a lifelong love affair with the iconic Nordic knife manufacturer.

Les discussing the design of the Temagami knife with Anders Haglund, Marketing Director of Helle Knives:
Photo courtesy of Helle Knives

Although Les liked Helle's existing line of knives for woodcrafting, he wanted something a bit more stout for survival use. So he approached them and asked if they could create a whole new blade with a larger, stronger tang, The result- The Helle 'Les Stroud' Temagami Knife.

Temagami Knife Specs

Blade length: 4.33 Inches 
Blade Width: 3mm
Handle Length: 4.72 Inches
Handle Scales: Handmade using either Curly Birch or American Walnut
Blade Material: Triple layered laminated stainless steel blade (The Temegami is also offered in laminated carbon steel. 
Sheath: Custom full grain leather sheath
Weight: 5.0 oz knife & sheath/ 3.5 oz knife only
Country of Origin: Made in Norway
Street Price: $175 to $190 depending on retailer

The Knife

The Temagami is a laminated, semi full-tang fixed blade knife. The steel consists of 3 layers of Stainless Steel. The layer in the middle is harder for better edge retention, and the outer layers are softer for greater strength and break resistance. The blade is 4.3" in length, with an overall length of 9". The handle scales are crafted from Curly Birch and are permanently attached to the tang using brass rivets. 


The Temagami's Semi-Full Tang:


The Temagami comes with a traditional Scandinavian style brown leather sheath as well as a cleaning cloth:


Field Experience with the Temagami

The Temagami, plain and simple, is a pure cutting machine. It's ability to fine carve and create feathersticks is simply the best I've experienced from any factory blade.

Feathersticks of Alder, Salt Cedar and Pine carved with the Temagami during a visit with friends at the Emberlit Camp Stove shop in Sandy, Utah:

I've had so much fun with this knife that I started making featherstick "flowers" as ornaments for some of my friend's homes. One of these friends even put one in her art studio and prominently displayed it as some type of post-modern art!

This sharp edge also makes cutting cordage and rawhide a snap.

As a survival knife, the Temegami is not as stout as its competitors, but its break-resistant laminated steel works well enough for light batoning tasks. Owing to this lighter construction, I would not recommend the Temagami for heavier use. If you're a Helle fan and want something stronger, check out their full tang Utvaier Knife

The Temagami's slightly rounded back edge also does not strike a firesteel very well. I always carry a K1 Firestarter with me which includes a tempered steel firesteel striker, so this hasn't been too much of an issue.

I've found the Temagami's sculpted Birch handle to be supremely comfortable, probably one of the best I've used.

CONCLUSION

As a pure cutting tool, the Helle Temegami is simply the finest sheath knife I have ever used. The knife carves so effortlessly, it takes feathersticking and fine carving to a whole new level.

5 out of 5 Stars (Highly Recommended)

The Helle Temagami is available from Lifeview Outdoors- https://lifeviewoutdoors.com/products/helle-temagami-designed-by-les-stroud


About the author
Jason Schwartz is the founder of Rocky Mountain Bushcraft, and the author of Edible & Medicinal Survival Plants of the Rocky Mountains guides. Jason has also written for The New Pioneer and Backpacker Magazine, including writing the "Tinder Finder" portion of Backpacker's "Complete Guide to Fire," which won a 2015 NMA/ELLE Award Email. him at rockymountainbushcraft @ hotmail.com

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Budget Bushcraft Gear: Finnish Army Wool Jacket and Pants


Hey friends!

I wanted to share with you one of best gear deals I've seen in years-- Finnish Army Surplus Wool Jacket and Pants. 

I was surfing the net recently and saw these advertised on a military surplus store website. The jacket caught my attention because it was listed for only $14.95, and the pants for just $24.95. 

The Finnish Jacket and Pants look very similar in style to Filson's famed Mackinaw Jacket and Pants, which I reviewed back in 2012. So they really piqued my curiosity. 

Anyone familiar with Filson knows that their wool Mackinaw Jacket and Pants are NOT cheap, running in the $300-$400 range. Even buying them used on eBay will cost anywhere from $125-$200.

I looked around the net for more information about the Finnish Jacket and Pants, but there wasn't a ton of info about them. However, the small number of reviews/comments I did find were all glowing, so I called the surplus store and ordered a set to see if they were any good. 

When I received the jacket and pants, I was astounded. They both looked almost new, and quality was every bit as good as my Filson wool. 

Not only is the quality there, but these are some of the most stylish wool military clothes I have seen. The jacket looks and fits so well that it could easily be worn out for a night on the town.

(Note: the tag in the photo was still on the jacket when I took the photo. It was not permanently attached and came right off):







The Finnish wool is a little thinner than the Filson Mackinaw jacket and pants, but still thick enough to be usable in the bush for three season use. The pants could work in the winter if you wear some long johns under them or wear a pair of military surplus Goretex shell pants over them to block the wind. 

I read on one of the forums that the last time these popped up on the market was 3-4 years ago, so I expect that they will be sold out pretty fast once word spreads. To be able to buy Filson quality wool bushcraft attire at this price is the deal of the century in my opinion. 

I will put links to the store where I got mine below. 

Cheers!

Jason

Surplus Finnish Wool Army Jacket- https://vtarmynavy.com/finnish-wool-jacket.html

Surplus Finnish Wool Army Pants- https://vtarmynavy.com/finnish-wool-pants.html

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

GEAR REVIEW: North Face Inferno -40 F Down Sleeping Bag- Great for Bushcrafters, Backpackers and Preparedness Kits- UPDATED


North Face claims their Inferno -40 Down Sleeping Bag is "Suited for use at the edge of human tolerance." I thought that was a pretty bold statement, but I have to say that after spending a year using the Inferno under extreme conditions, their claim isn't outlandish after all. Warm, waterproof, comfortable and rugged, as you'll see in the field notes below, the Inferno more than proved itself in our winter gear testing trials.....

The SPECS:

  • 20D Pertex® Endurance™ shell
  • Side-block chevron baffles
  • Vaulted footbox
  • Winter heat trap with center draw
  • Expedition fit
  • Compression stuffsack doubles as a summit pack
  • 850 fill Goose Down
  • Glow-in-the-dark, glove-friendly Zipper Pulls
  • Weight: (Size Regular)- 4lbs (Size Long)- 4lbs 5 oz
  • Street Price- $700.00, available from Backcountry.com

FEATURES

Featuring a healthy 850 fill Goose Down, waterproof -20 denier Pertex Endurance Shell, a generous draft collar, and an "expedition fit," the Inferno certainly has all the features in a bag meant for extreme winter conditions.


The generous draft collar:

The Inferno has over-sized zipper pulls that glow in the dark, making late night zipper adjustments in frigid temps a little easier.


The Inferno just fit inside the sleeping bag compartment of my Kelty Red Cloud 90 pack:


Stuff sack:

FIELD TESTING

As I mentioned in the beginning of this review, the Inferno proved to be an excellent sleeping bag when mountain weather turned extreme. It's been a faithful companion on multiple winter gear testing trips, where I've had to endure temperatures approaching -30 F.

Whether I was winter backpacking up to the treeline on Longs Peak, spending the night in sub-zero temperatures in the mountains of FishLake National Forest in Utah, or testing the comfort limits of winter gear in Colorado's Roosevelt National Forest, the Inferno always kept me warm and comfortable. In fact, I found that if it's used in temperatures above 0 Degrees F, it will quickly become it's namesake-- a real 5-alarm fire if you don't unzip and vent it!

Sleeping under the stars in the mountains of FishLake National Forest, Utah, January 2014:


The morning after:

Roosevelt National Forest, near Mount Meeker, March 2013. Testing out a Kifaru ParaTipi "hot tent" for 3 days. With night time temps approaching -20, I brought the Inferno along to keep me warm when I couldn't run the wood stove after turning in for the night. I intentionally slept in the ParaTipi with the front flaps opened to let the icy air in to ensure a harsh test of the Inferno.


Longs Peak Trail winter backpacking trip, March 2013. Longs Peak Trail is an incredibly beautiful trail, but even in winter with snow covering everything, the National Park Service does not allow you to make a campfire, important if you get chilled and need to warm up. With day time highs hovering at 0 F, and night time temps dropping to near -30 F, the Inferno became my most cherished piece of gear. When I got chilled after setting up camp, I would jump into it and quickly get warm. It would even warm up my cold toes, one of the hardest body parts to warm quickly.


Camping in Goblin's Forest on the way up to the treeline:

Near the treeline of Longs Peak, with the Inferno tucked safely away inside my pack:


Conclusion

After the lengthy testing I did with the North Face Inferno, it has become more than a sleeping bag to me. It has become my most trusted piece of gear for winter survival. Whether out trekking in the mountains, winter camping, or driving in my vehicle, the Inferno stays with me at all times once Old Man Winter hits.

Spending time in remote mountainous territory, the way I do, with the constant threat of extreme weather conditions, I just can't take any chances. The Inferno gives me the confidence that no matter what happens, I'll have a good chance of surviving.

Sure, I could just build a good longfire to keep warm, but having spent many a winter night in the Rocky Mountains, I can tell you from experience, the fire is going to go out at some point, leaving the possibility of hypothermia if the conditions are extreme enough. Plus if you're injured and in a high snowdrift area, making a fire is a much harder proposition. Using the Inferno might not be the "purist" way to survive, but it works, and that's what counts. Even bushcrafting legend Mors Kochanski requires students at his winter survival school (which focuses on using natural materials and fire to stay warm at night) to bring winter sleeping bags as backups. I think this speaks for itself.

Cons? I would like to see some type of face screen built into the bag to keep your nose warm during use. The Inferno is also a 1/2 pound heavier than some of its more expensive competitors.


The final verdict on the Inferno? I think it's splendid. The Inferno is one of those rare pieces of gear that actually lives up to its hype and description, and in the case of camping, trekking, or "bugging out" in dangerous sub-zero weather, it could be a real life-saver. Yes, it's not cheap ($700.00 street price), but then again, no quality -40 F degree rated down sleeping bag is. Is $700 too much to spend on your life? You'll have to be the judge of that, but when a piece of gear is such a decisive game changer in a survival situation, for me, the answer is quite clear.

4.5 out of 5 Stars (Highly Recommended)


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, January 10, 2017

REVIEW: Winchester Super Sport AA 2.5" .410 Shells- Best Birdshot for Wilderness Survival?


The .410 Shotgun has been popular as a wilderness survival gun ever since the Air Force adopted it as part of their M6 Air Crew Survival Weapon in the 1950s. The Air Force chose the .410 because it is the lightest of all shotgun calibers, yet is reasonably effective within 25 yards on birds or other small game.

The 410 Conundrum 

Although light in weight, the 410's Achilles' Heel has always been the limited number of pellets in its small shell. This translates to thin patterns when you get past 20 yards compared to its larger 12 Gauge and 20 Gauge siblings.

Over the last several decades, manufacturers tried to remedy this shortcoming by developing larger 3" Magnum loads, which carry heavier 11/16th ounce or 3/4 ounce payloads compared to the .410's standard 1/2 ounce load.

Most of these 3" Magnum shells do throw denser patterns, but this performance comes at a cost-- increased weight. When you have to hump everything on your back in a survival situation, EVERY ounce adds up.

So this led me on a search. Was there a standard 1/2 ounce 2.5" 410 shotshell that combined the pattern density of the 3" Magnum shell with the lighter pack weight of the classic 2.5" Shell?

After posing this question to some experienced shotgunners in my area, they all advised me to check out Winchester's AA .410 2.5" Super Sport Target Loads.

They said Winchester AA shells patterned better than other shotgun shells because of their unique construction.

Hoping they were right, I wrangled up a few boxes of AA from my local gun store, grabbed my Double Badger 410 Shotgun, and headed off to the mountains with targets in hand.

Winchester's 410 Super Sport Sporting Clays Ammunition

Winchester's AA Super Sport is a high grade shotgun target ammunition that has been popular with trap and skeet shooters for decades.

Its popularity stems from the fact that due to its unique construction, it patterns better out to farther distances.

Here is Winchester's description of their AA shells:

  • Proven Hard Shot
  • High-Strength Hull
  • AA Wads
  • Best-in-Class Primer and Powder
  • Sporting Clays, Trap and Skeet

FIELD TESTING

To test the AA Shells, I gathered up an assortment of popular .410 ammo, a handful of my favorite Champion Squirrel targets, and set them up at 25, 30, and 40 yards to see which one would pattern the best. 

I made sure to do testing on a calm day to ensure that the wind would not effect the results.

The gun used was my Chiappa Double Badger .22 Magnum/.410 Shotgun folding combo gun, which I reviewed in July of 2014. It has a 19" barrel and a full choke. Here are the test results......

Winchester AA 410 #7.5 Shot, 25 Yard Pattern (Click any photo to enlarge):


25 Yard Patterns from other popular 2.5" and 3" 410 loads (please note that the different sized holes are due to pellet deformation):



Winchester AA 410 #7.5 Shot, 30 Yards


Comparison with popular 3" Magnum .410 loads at 30 yards 
(unfortunately, my Sharpie pen died after using it on two targets, hence the difference in the circled/uncircled targets):




Winchester AA 410 #8 Shot, 25 Yards


Winchester AA 410 #8 Shot at 30 Yards


Winchester AA #9, 30 Yards


Winchester AA 410 #8 Shot at 40 Yards

Even at 40 Yards, the Winchester AA #8 Shot still managed to put 8 pellets into the squirrel target:


CONCLUSION

In my pursuit of the ultimate .410 birdshot ammunition for wilderness survival, I was trying to find the lightest yet best patterning load on the market. After field testing Winchester's AA, I found that it fulfilled this role perfectly. The AA shells patterned better at distance than any of the 3" shells I tested despite the AA being just a 1/2 ounce shell. 

Aside from its excellent patterning, Winchester AA also has better penetration due its harder shot and sizzling 1300 F.P.S. velocity.

AA shells can also be reloaded, thanks to the high quality hull and brass base that is used in their construction.

On top of all this performance and the ability to be reloaded, Winchester's .410 AA is also usually the cheapest 410 ammo you will find on your local store shelves.

Pound for pound, I cannot think of a better all around .410 small game/bird hunting shell for wilderness survival.

5 out of 5 Stars (Highly recommended)


About the author
Jason Schwartz is the founder of Rocky Mountain Bushcraft and the author of Edible & Medicinal Survival Plants of the Rocky Mountains Pocket Survival Guides. Jason has also written for magazines such as the The New Pioneer and Backpacker, including writing the "Tinder Finder" portion of Backpacker's "Complete Guide to Fire," which won a 2015 National Magazine/ELLE Award (NMA). Email him at rockymountainbushcraft @ hotmail.com