Monday, February 25, 2013

Wilderness Survival: Use a sharp rock, broken glass or seashell to strike your firesteel in an emergency situation

If you've lost the steel striker for your firesteel and need to start a fire, don't panic. Just look on the ground for a piece of common, silica-based rock, such as quartzite (generally the easiest to find), quartz, chalcedony, obsidian, agate, chert, or jasper and use it to strike your firesteel instead. You can also use broken glass or ceramic pottery in the same manner (be sure to protect your hands if possible).

If you're by the ocean, look for dead seashells. Here is a video from one of our readers, who was inspired by this article to try a dead clam shell (special thanks to Cattledog for this video). It works amazingly well!

Tip for using a rock

You might get lucky and find a rock that is already sharp, or, you might have to break it up with a larger rock to get a piece with a sharp edge. This same principle would also apply to unbroken glass or ceramic.

The piece of quartzite shown in the photo at the beginning of this article was broken by a bigger rock to get pieces with a sharp edge.

Once you have a sharp piece, just use it like you would use a steel striker to ignite your tinder:

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 @ (without spaces)

Backpacking trip up Longs Peak tomorrow

Come tomorrow morning, I'm going to attempt to backpack to the boulder field near the top of Longs Peak. It will be a strenuous trip, especially considering the amount of heavy winter gear I will need to carry (6 miles uphill on snow, carrying roughly 60-80 pounds), so I'm not sure if I will make it all the way, but I'm definitely going to try! I'm going to take my camera and a cool new toy- a pair of Pivothead video sunglasses, so I will be sure to record as much of the trip as possible.

According to the weather forecast, windchill temperatures could be as low as -25 degrees F, which will be perfect for testing out a North Face Inferno -40 Degree Down Sleeping Bag I'm reviewing. I expect the trip to take roughly 3 days, less if I have to turn back because of low visibility/blowing snow.

I am making the trip alone, which can be dangerous this time of year, but it is a well patrolled trail, and I will have plenty of cold weather gear with me. Every year, an average of two people die attempting to hike, backpack, or summit Longs Peak, so it can definitely be an extreme environment, but that's what also makes it a great place to test gear. Plus, it's just an extraordinarily beautiful place to backpack.

UPDATE: You can check out the full trip report here

Using a seashell to strike a firesteel

One of our readers, who lives on the coast of Florida, got inspired by our "Tips & Tricks: Use a sharp rock to strike your firesteel" post and decided to see if seashells would work in a similar manner. To my amazement, he found that an old clam shell was enough to strike a firesteel. Check out this video he made (thanks Cattledog):

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Cold Steel releases Bushman Bowie with Secure-Ex Sheath and Firesteel

For 2013, Cold Steel's popular Bushman Bowie knife will come with a new Secure-EX Sheath, along with an attached firesteel. Cold Steel also squared the spine so that it can act as a striker for the firesteel, similar to the spines on the Mora Fireknife and Mora Black Carbon Bushcraft knives. Retail price is $37.49


Blade Length: 7"
Overall Length: 12 1/4"
Steel: SK-5 High Carbon 
Weight: 10.1 oz 
Blade Thickness: 2.5 mm 
Handle: Hollow: 
Sheath: NEW Secure-Ex® Sheath With Ferrocerium Fire Steel

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

REVIEW: Boeshield T9- The Ultimate Axe and Machete protectant?

Several months ago, an acquaintance of mine asked if I'd ever heard of Boeshield T9. He spends a lot of time sailing, and told me that T9 was highly respected by sailors for keeping steel components rust-free in salt water environments. Knowing that I review axes, he suggested that it might be good for protecting them as well. Intrigued, I went online and did a little research.

As it turns out, Boeshield was originally developed by Boeing Airlines to protect jet engine components from rust under extreme conditions. Eventually, it was released to the consumer market, where the marine industry found it to be superior in protecting steel components from salt-water corrosion.

It also found its way into the hands of wood workers and gun enthusiasts, who used it as a lubricant and protectant to keep carbon steel tools and firearms rust-free. Check out Wood Magazine's "Rust Busters" article to see a good test of Boeshield T9.

In our "Rub Candle Wax on your Axes and Machetes" article, we discussed the highly effective practice of using candle wax to protect your bushcraft tools.  What makes Boeshield so effective is that it's a paraffin wax-based lubricant, so it functions in much the same way as candle wax yet penetrates deeper and more effectively.

I've tried just about every axe protectant I could think of, including motor oil, gun oil, mineral oil, pretroleum jelly, various types of automotive grease, etc. All of these will rapidly rub off of your axe head and onto the things in and around your backpack - no fun.

Once Boeshield has fully dried (usually in 4-8 hours during warmer months, 1-2 days during winter), it leaves a durable, waxy finish that won't easily easily rub off inside your pack. T9 comes standard in a 4 ounce spray can, but it also comes in a more packable 1 ounce squeeze bottle, which is a nice, lightweight option to have on longer treks.


I've been using T9 on all of my axes and machetes over the last two months, and it's simply the best lube/protectant I've ever tried. Zero problems with rust, and I don't have to worry now when I throw an axe in my trunk that everything in it's vicinity will get covered in oil or grease. Based on my experience, T9 does appear to be the ultimate protectant for axes and machetes.

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 @ (without spaces)

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

1961 documentary showing how Native Americans made sinew-backed hunting bows

This is an excellent video showing how Native Americans in California crafted sinew-backed hunting bows, using nothing more than primitive tools. At the time this was filmed, the tribesman shown was the last living descendent to have have learned this skill under the old masters. 

When I was growing up, I was fascinated with bows of all kinds. I made many of my own, some successful, some that weren't, including a couple that literally snapped in half on the first pull! This is a subject that I definitely want to write more about in the future.



Saturday, February 16, 2013

Hultafors\Hults Bruks Classic Double Bit Axe

Thought I would start the morning off with a little bit of "axe porn." Hultafors' Classic Double Bit Axe made by Hults Bruks of Sweden. Enjoy!
(click to enlarge)
Photos by Jason Schwartz/Rocky Mountain Bushcraft ©2013

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Wilderness Survival: How to survive during a Blizzard

I've criticized Bear Grylls in the past for being overly-sensationalistic in his approach to wilderness survival, but this is actually an excellent video on how to survive a blizzard. I also noticed that Bear is using a Kestrel Weather Instrument in this video. I wonder if he's been checking out our reviews!?

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Body found in Rocky Mountain National Park believed to be lost hiker

(Reposted from the Denver Post)

Officials believe they have found the body of a Texan missing in Rocky Mountain National Park since late last week.

Park officials were notified Tuesday afternoon by two persons who were snowshoeing north and west of Bear Lake that they had found a body in a thick timbered area, approximately 100 feet off a summer hiking trail.

Larimer County Coroner's office will not make a positive identification until completion of an autopsy. However, officials said they believe that the body is that of Troy Green, 39, from San Antonio.

The body was found near the Flattop Mountain trail, was inside the search area but approximately one mile north of the Tyndall Gorge and Nymph Lake region where searchers believed that Green may have hiked. 

The area had been searched several times by ground personnel, a dog team, and helicopter flights.

The body was against a tree and wearing dark-colored clothing, park officials said in a news release.

Rescuers had scaled back their efforts Monday in light of avalanche conditions.

On Sunday, searchers, dogs and helicopters combed the area, which was in use by park skiiers and snowshoers, the park said in a news release. Ground search teams found deep snow, and aerial searchers noted large slab avalanches on the northeast side of peaks.

Green disappeared after coming to Colorado for a conference. His wife called the Denver Police Department when he failed to contact her Thursday.

Two people told Rocky Mountain National Park rangers that they spoke with Troy Green at 1 p.m. Thursday, but they didn't see what direction he went.

Park rangers on Friday located a car that matched the description of Green's rental car at the Bear Lake parking lot.

An investigation by rangers coupled with reports from witnesses determined that Green purchased hiking gear after arriving in Colorado.


Tuesday, February 12, 2013

List of upcoming articles and reviews/commentary- February 12th, 2013 UPDATE

February 12th, 2013 UPDATE

Dear readers,

Things have been winding down quite a bit since covering both the 2013 SHOT Show and Outdoor Retailer Shows. For the last several weeks, I've been finalizing a new list of product reviews, articles and cool destination spots that I'll be visiting this year for plant and tree identification, and to experiment with new wilderness survival and bushcraft techniques. Some of these locations will include Idaho, Montana, Utah, and Southern Colorado. Should make for an interesting year!


In other news.......It's been totally insane here at RMB since our Dave Canterbury post went viral on January 1st. When Season Three of Dual Survival hit the airwaves on that day, most viewers were completely unaware that Dave had been replaced by Joe Teti, so they flooded the internet looking for answers. Apparently, the major search engines ranked our Canterbury post as #1 for associated keyword searches, and RMB went viral. We ended up getting hit with over 200,000 visitors in just a matter of days, and nearly 500 combined comments. We were even contacted by the National Enquirer for a comment on Canterbury's departure (as if we really knew anything- ha!).


What else is new? Video! Within the next 1-2 months, I am going to start incorporating video into our posts. While at the OR Show, I ran into a couple of really cool new types of portable video cameras, and will be using them to add a new dimension to the site. I'm really excited about this, since there are lots of things I can demonstrate better on video than I can with photos.


Yep, our social media presence sucks. Our Twitter page works normally, but I have been trying to get our Facebook page to work correctly for over a year with no success, which is why I haven't featured it on the main RMB page yet. Still hoping to figure out something soon. Facebook has ignored our technical support requests so far, so I'm hoping to get an IT guru friend to help us fix it.


So what is Rocky Mountain Bushcraft's review philosophy? Plain and simple-- To write the kind of reviews that we would personally want to see when we're looking for gear. 

Do we get paid to write reviews? Nope. Do we sometimes receive free media samples to review- yep. Rocky Mountain Bushcraft operates on a tight budget (namely, yours truly's budget!), so it would be impossible to purchase all of the products we review. If a company sends us a media sample, they still take the risk that the product could get a bad review. The fact that they send us a sample does not influence us in any way to write a good review. If it did, we would be just another schill site, and our reviews would be worthless. That's the last thing we'd want people to think. We do have mostly positive reviews on our site simply because we try to find great products before we feature them, using word of mouth, internet forums and personal experience. 

In closing........

Thanks for continuing to visit us, and make sure to check out the list of upcoming articles and reviews below. If you have any suggestions, or would like to see a particular piece of gear reviewed, make sure to leave a comment!


Jason and Leah


  • "Made in the USA" Gear Review: Wintergreen Northern Wear Expedition Anorak and Guide Pants
  • Benchmade Bushcrafter 162 knife
  • Long term updates- Best Made Hudson Bay Axe and Danner Raptor GTX Boots
  • North Face Inferno -40 F Down Sleeping Bag
  • Hultafors line of Classic and Standard axes
  • Kifaru ParaTipi w/Small Stove
  • Wetterlings Forester's Fine Axe
  • Kelty Red Cloud 5600 Backpack
  • Mora Black Carbon Bushcraft Knife Update
  • Terra Nova Survival Bothy
  • Snow Peak Kettle #1
  • Les Stroud Helle Knife
......and many more!


  • Rocky Mountain Tree Identification: Pinion Pine
  • Lots of new "Tips and Tricks" articles
  • Lots of new wilderness survival and bushcrafting how-to's
  • ARTICLE- "Outdoor Gear YOU need that's still made in the USA!"

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Les Stroud Bushman Axe Issues\Conversation with Julia Kalthoff

Last December, we had the opportunity to review Survivorman Les Stroud's cool new Bushman Axe manufactured by one of our favorite axe companies-- Wetterlings of Sweden.

Not long after we posted our review of the Bushman, a reader commented that his brand new Bushman Axe's edge rolled while chopping a softwood log. Not long after this, I also ran into a post over at Bushcraft USA about a Bushman Axe losing its wooden wedge from the top of the handle on the first day of chopping.

Concerned by this news, I took our Bushman review axe out again for another chopping session. Sure enough, the edge rolled on the top of the bit after chopping through a dead Ponderosa Pine:

Normally, we have many months to put an axe through it's paces, but with the Les Stroud axe, we were trying to get the review up in a narrow time frame in order to coincide with its consumer release. This meant a rather brief chopping session in comparison to what we normally do. Unfortunately, this edge issue slipped under our radar until we started hearing about the problem from other sources.

Sadly, these problems seem to be appearing on other Wetterlings products as well, mainly due to heat-treat issues like those affecting the Les Stroud axe. One of our readers, fellow bushcraft blogger OutdoorEnvy, recently had a major failure on his Wetterlings Large Hunting Axe, in which a section of the heel broke cleanly off while chopping.

OutdoorEnvy's broken Wetterlings Axe

After hearing about these issues, I decided to search through the forums at Bushcraft USA and to see if this problem was more widespread. What I found was that this was even more prevalent than I initially thought:

Bushcraft USA: "Broken Wetterlings Axe" "Wetterlings Axe Woes"
Bushcraft USA: "Wetterlings Edge Rolled(several posters mention this same problem) "Wetterlings axe fail...." "I had two Wetterlings fail within 3 times of use"

This spurred me to make phone calls to various online axe retailers to see if there was more to this story. All sources wished to remain anonymous, but the overwhelming response was that Wetterlings began to have heat-treatment issues after it was sold to Gransfors Bruks in 2009. I was told that since that time, the return rate has gone up considerably, and the issues continue to this day in spite of complaints to Wetterlings.

Since I am a huge fan of Wetterlings axes, I was very disturbed by my findings. Luckily for me, I obtained this information just prior to SHOT Show 2013 (which I attended), and was able to arrange a meeting with Wetterlings' CEO Julia Kalthoff. Upon hearing the information I presented to her, Julia seemed very concerned, and she asked me to bring the Les Stroud Bushman Axe (with the rolled edge) to the show so that she could inspect it.

Julia inspecting the Les Stroud Bushman Axe we reviewed

After inspecting the edge, Julia confirmed that it did have some type of heat-treatment issue. For an experiment, she suggested that I re-profile and re-sharpen the edge, and then use it some more to see if the problem continued, and then report back my findings to her. I plan to use the Bushman Axe for a few weeks after this post and then I'll post my findings for both Julia and our readers.

Julia seemed very concerned about Wetterlings quality control issues, and wanted the axe buying community to know that Wetterlings is backing up all of their axes with a lifetime warranty against manufacturer's defects.

She said that if someone has a problem, they should contact the retailer they bought the axe from to get it replaced.

Julia did indicate that they've had to train new workers in order to replace retiring workers since she took over, and that this might have affected quality control, but she said that everything is improving, and she is working diligently to address these problems. After almost four years of these issues, the proof will obviously have to be more than just promises though.

This doesn't appear endemic to all their axes, only a minority of them, so if you have one that works well, keep it and enjoy it- they are some of the best axes out there (in this author's humble opinion).

I can't speak for everyone, but I think it's safe to say that a lot of us in the bushcraft community love Wetterlings axes and hope that these issues will be resolved soon.

Have you had an issue with a Wetterlings Axe that was purchased since 2009? Leave a comment below.

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 @ (without spaces)

Monday, February 4, 2013

Wilderness Survival: How to make a Pine Knot Torch for emergency light

Photo Credit: Rocky Mountain Bushcraft, ©2013

For thousands of years prior to the invention of electricity and the kerosene lantern, pine knot torches were used to illuminate the darkness of night. Though candles and oil lamps were the preferred form of lighting, pine knot torches were sometimes used instead during times of economic hardship, or when candles or oil for lamps simply weren't available.

An illustration of Swedish life in 1555, showing a husband and wife illuminating their cottage at night with pitchwood torches (taken from Olaus Magnus's "History of the Northern Peoples" circa 1555).

What inspired me to investigate pine knot torches was a passage in JRR Tolkien's "The Hobbit," in which Bilbo Baggins and the Thirteen Dwarves sneak around the dark tunnels of the Lonely Mountain, trying to figure out a way to steal back the Dwarve's treasure from Smaug the Dragon:

"But in the end, when Bilbo actually began to stamp on the floor, and screamed out "light!" at the top of his shrill voice, Thorin gave way, and Oin and Gloin were sent back to their bundles at the top of the tunnel.

After a while a twinkling gleam showed them returning, Oin with a small pine-torch alight in his hand, and Gloin with a bundle of others under his arm. Quickly Bilbo trotted to the door and took the torch; but he could not persuade the dwarves to light the others or to come and join him yet."

This mention of "pine torch" really piqued my interest, so I began researching old texts for references. To my surprise, I found that there were lots of references going back as far as the ancient Greeks, up until the 19th Century. Here are just a few that I found-

In his left hand he raised his curved shield, and in his right a huge pine-torch, and near him in front stood up his mighty spear.-Argonautica, 3rd Century BC

And directly there came out of the cabin a white-headed old man with a lighted pine-knot in his hand, and a blanket on his shoulders.-Jamie Parker, the Fugitive (1851)

It gives, in pictures, with only a line or two of description, the progress of different industries -- such as the locomotive, from the clumsy engine of 1802 to the elaborate machinery of the present day; the evolution of lighting, from the pine-knot and tallow-dip to the electric light; methods of signalling, from the Indian fire-signal to the telegraph; time-keeping, etc.-Richard Rogers Bowker & Charles Ammi Cutter, Harvard College Library Journal, 1895

Another interesting thing I found was that the streets of New England were lit by pine fatwood knots in what were known as "basket torches," as late as 1820.

Photo Credit: Rocky Mountain Bushcraft, ©2013

NOTE: Before you read the instructions below, make sure to check out our "Wilderness Survival: An easy way to find Fatwood in the Rockies and Beyond...." article on how to find suitable pine knots for this technique.

*Tools for making a pine knot torch:

  • A good, sharp hatchet
  • A folding saw
  • A good, sharp knife
  • A way to light the torch (matches, firesteel, magnesium starter, etc)
A hatchet and saw are not absolutely necessary (a fixed blade bushcraft knife and a wooden baton would suffice if need be), but they make the job easier.

WARNING!- Do not ever attempt to carry a pine knot torch around during fire season! Pine knot torches drip flaming pitch while burning (think Mother's Nature's napalm) and they WILL ignite dry wood or grass almost immediately.

You will notice that the torches being demonstrated in this article are burning over large rocks and stone-lined fire pits, with both water buckets and shovels at hand in case of emergency. If you fail to heed the warning above, you will most likely start a forest fire and could be held criminally responsible for widespread death and destruction. During fire season, this technique can only be used in a true survival situation and only if you clear a wide area of dirt around the torch, or put it on top of large rocks or in stone-lined fire pits. Use extreme caution!

Ok, now that I've scared you straight, let's get to the fun part- making a pine knot torch!

Find a suitable pine knot

Find a good, fatwood-laden pine knot and saw it off at the base.
(click any photo to enlarge)

Photo Credits: Rocky Mountain Bushcraft, ©2013

Prepare the torch stave

Using your hatchet, remove the bark on both ends of the stave

On the knot end, split the stave into four sections

Using your hatchet, split the knot end of the stave into four sections

Photo Credits: Rocky Mountain Bushcraft, ©2013

Stuff green twigs into the split to hold it open

Using your hatchet as a wedge to hold open the split, stuff green twigs towards the base of the split to open it up. This will allow tinder to be placed in the gap to ignite the torch, and also allows positive airflow while it is burning.

Photo Credits: Rocky Mountain Bushcraft, ©2013

Score the outside of the knot-end with your hatchet to help the torch burn more efficiently

Stuff the inside of the split with fatwood shavings 

Stuff the inside of the split with fatwood shavings taken from another pine knot or the torch itself.

Also, add a large pile of pitchwood shavings on top of the torch end, at least 3 times the amount shown in the photo. I skimped when I conducted this experiment, and got lucky that the torch still ignited. In a survival situation, don't take any chances. With a large piece like this, the pitchwood, though highly flammable, will have to heat up to release it's combustible pitch. A large pile of shavings on top ensures that this process will take place when you need it most.

Photo Credits: Rocky Mountain Bushcraft, ©2013

Igniting the torch

Ignite the pitch shavings from the top, being careful of wind gusts that could blow them away. For the first 2-3 minutes, try to keep the torch sheltered from the wind. You may have to hold the torch on its side or upside down to ensure that the initial flames heat the pitch enough to create a sustained burning process.

Photo Credits: Rocky Mountain Bushcraft, ©2013

Once it's going, you'll have something that looks like this:

It will burn so intensely that neither rain nor wind will put it out. In fact, during one of my torch tests, a fast moving storm came through and dumped moderate amounts of rain on the torch for about 10 minutes. Incredibly, it managed to keep burning. NOTE: If you need to put out a pine knot torch, jam it into the dirt or snow until it is completely out. 

Photo Credits: Rocky Mountain Bushcraft, ©2013

This torch ended up burning for almost an hour and a half. It will easily illuminate the immediate vicinity of a camp site, enough to build an emergency shelter or render wilderness first aid. 

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 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 @ (without spaces)

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