Friday, August 29, 2014

A Word About Our Sponsors

As you may have noticed, Rocky Mountain Bushcraft has had ads from our sponsors for quite some time. I know what you're thinking..."Oh here we go, another blog giving in to the almighty dollar... " I understand that thought, I really do.....

Here's the thing. I LIVE Rocky Mountain Bushcraft. This is what I love doing and it's important to me to keep writing honest reviews, doing field research, and learning about the latest gear at the major outdoor shows.

The reality is that vehicles need upkeep, gear needs to replaced, and trips to major shows are expensive. This doesn't count fuel, food, and other everyday expenses.

Buying products from our sponsors helps foot the bill for all the things that allow us to bring you Rocky Mountain Bushcraft. So when you see an ad on RMB remember, we only partner with select sponsors who are reputable and who I would actually buy something from myself.

I promise you, these ads will not compromise my ability to write honest reviews. We carefully choose the ads on RMB in order to be able to keep living and writing about this exciting, adventurous, bushcrafting life.

I hope you will continue the adventure with me.....


Past and Present SPONSORS:

LifeView Outdoors

Lifeview Outdoors is RMB's longest running sponsor. They sell a variety of outdoor gear including survival knivesbackpacking gear, and survival goodies such as mil-spec, US-made 550 Paracord.

Years before I started RMB, I was buying products from Lifeview, and was always impressed with their unique selection and outstanding customer service. LifeView produced Gretchen Cordy and Doug Ritter's "Prepared to Survive" video back in 2005, so they have been at this quite a while and know the difference between junk and quality stuff that works well in the backcountry.

Ben's Backwoods

Ben's Backwood's, in my opinion, is the greatest online bushcraft store in existence. I liken it to the "Toy R Us" of bushcrafting. I have bought tons of stuff from Ben's as far back as the mid-2000's, and to this day, I still enjoy digging around his site for cool new bushcraft toys.

What makes Ben's such a great place to shop is the fact that its owner, Ben Piersma, is an experienced, well respected bushcraft and edged tools expert. Ben brings years of bushcraft experience to the table, and has also studied under bushcrafting legend Mors Kochanski.

If Ben says something is good, you can count on it being exactly as he describes it. He is also the only online retailer I trust when I'm buying  traditional axes, such as Gransfors Bruks, Wetterlings, Council Tool, Bahco, etc. Many of the axes you've seen reviewed here at RMB came from Ben's store. 

Yes, you heard that right, AT&T is one of RMB's new sponsors. To make a long story short, I attended an outdoor blogging event last year in Denver that was sponsored by AT&T (check out our writeup about it here).

At that event, AT&T asked if we'd like to review their new NEC Terrain Outdoor SmartPhone. We accepted and did a writeup  last January.

AT&T then asked if we'd like to test an Iphone 5 with Otterbox's new Armor-series mil-spec outdoor case. After seeing how great the phone and case were, we asked if we could keep the phone a little longer. AT&T was nice enough to oblige our request, lending us a long term review unit.

The Iphone 5 has turned out to be a huge asset for RMB, especially considering that I'm often away in the wilderness, where I'm unable to use a laptop. The Iphone's ability to take great photos can be seen on our recent Wax Currant Edible Plant Identification article. Its ability to post to our social media from a remote location can be seen in this Facebook post last winter when I was out testing a new hunting/survival product.

To thank AT&T for their support we posted a banner on the sidebar.


Our newest sponsor, CountyComm, is a company that creates "James Bond" style gadgets for the US Military and Federal Government. It sells some of its excess products (overruns) directly to the public.

This means that what you buy from CountyComm is not only made in the USA, but is built to strict government specifications, and frequently has a National Stock Number emblazoned on it.

Many of CountyComm's gadgets are ideal for personal survival kits (PSKs), bushcrafting, EDC, and preparedness kits. Check out our review of CountyComm's excellent SERE survival compasses to get a better idea of the type of products they sell.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Enormous Wolf Spider that was hanging out near my camp in Utah

This spider was so big it was almost as big as my hand. I noticed it because I saw two eyes glaring back at me when I shined a flashlight around my camp one night. I thought it was a small animal so I went to investigate. Instead of an animal, it was this big monster spider!

Monday, August 25, 2014

Rocky Mountain Edible Plant Identification: Wild Wax Currant (Ribes Cereum)

Wax Currant, also known as Squaw Currant, is one of the most common edible plants in the Rocky Mountains in late Summer and early Fall. Wax Currants literally blanket the Rockies from as low as the Foothills to as high as the Montane Zone. In fact, they are so common that the average hiker simply overlooks them while trekking along forest trails.

Wax Currant bushes off a trail near Mary's Lake in Estes Park, Colorado:

(click to enlarge)

Currant bushes growing next to an old, abandoned mine off a National Forest trail in Western Boulder County, Colorado:

Multiple Wax Currants growing on the side of a highway in the Arapaho National Forest:

Wax Currants produce edible berries between late July and early September. Their berries have a mild, lightly sweet flavor and can be eaten straight from the bush, cooked, or made into pies and jellies due to their high pectin content. Wax Currants were also used by the Native Americans to make Pemmican. The young leaves of Wax Currant bushes are also edible. 

Although not particularly high in calories, the Wax Currants' pleasant flavor and abundant supply can give you an all important energy boost when you're lost and hungry. They also make a great addition to oatmeal, cereal, or your favorite trail dessert. One of my favorite ways to eat Wax Currants is to pick a handful and throw them into my morning oatmeal breakfast. The boiling water brings out the rich pectin which adds a fresh, lightly sweet flavor - yum!

NOTE: It has been reported in several edible plant identification books, and by some Native American tribes, that eating too many wax currants can cause nausea. I have eaten quite a few wax currants without issue, but results may vary. You might want to moderate how many you eat until you know how your body will respond to them.

How to Identify Wax Currant

For the unfamiliar, Wax Currants look like a common, scrubby bush with little value. The easiest way to identify them is by their distinctive leaves and scrubby, bushy appearance:

Closeup up the bark:

The leaves are reminiscent of the edible plant Mallow, but are much smaller, usually not more than 1-2 inches wide.

Wax Currants range from as small as a foot high to as tall as seven to eight feet, with most being between two and five feet. When you smell Wax Currant leaves, they have a distinctive, pleasant smell as if you were walking through a fruit farm. 


Wax Currant berries range in color from light orange-red to crimson red:

To the untrained eye, Wax Currant berries can be a bit hard to see at first, because they are small and tend to be concealed behind the leaves. Once you know what a Wax Currant bush looks like, it's just a matter of walking up and looking behind the leaves to find their juicy berries.

Wilderness Survival Tip: Wild Currant thickets are also a good place to catch dinner. Birds and small game like to hide under the natural cover. Simply set a trap or flush the game out and try your skills with a throwing stick.

About the author
Jason Schwartz is the founder and senior editor of Rocky Mountain Bushcraft, and the author of Edible & Medicinal Survival Plants of the Rocky Mountains Pocket Guides. 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)

Wilderness Survival: Use the North Star to set your compass declination to True North

Compasses are indispensable tools for wilderness navigation. Problem is, they point to Magnetic North instead of True North. Why is True North important? Consider this-- Magnetic North was located near Ellesmere Island in northern Canada in 2005. In 2009, it was still situated within the Canadian Arctic territorial claim, but it was moving toward Russia at between 34 and 37 miles (55 and 60 km) per year.

By contrast, True North is where the North Pole is located, and does not change. As you can see, using Magnetic North for your bearings could result in less than accurate navigation in the wilderness, especially as it relates to using a map.

"Declination" is the difference in degrees between these two poles. Setting the declination on your compass's bezel is what allows it to point to True North instead of Magnetic North. Declination varies from region to region, and the exact setting is usually obtained from a topo map, local USGS Office, or via the NOAA site online.

So what do you if you're lost and don't know the declination of your area, or the map you had with the local declination setting got lost on the trail? No worries, just use the North Star (Polaris) to set your declination.

The North Star is always positioned over the North Pole in the night sky, so it can be used to adjust your compass's declination to True North.

Simply find the North Star as shown in the main photo above, point your compass at it, and set your compass's bezel to a bearing of 0 Degrees. This will then set your compass's declination to True North, giving you more accurate navigation in the backcountry.

NOTE: Contrary to popular belief, the North Star is not the brightest star in the night sky. In fact, it can be quite dim compared to many other stars. It is important to find it by memorizing its position in relation to the constellations instead of looking for a bright, prominent star.

High Altitude NOTE: At high altitude, you will need to use a crude Plumb Bob (rock tied to a string) to get a more precise alignment with your compass and the North Star in order to set your Declination. For more information on how to do this, check out Rescue Dynamics's detailed writeup about dealing with Magnetic Declination in the backcountry.

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)

Friday, August 22, 2014


Hello RMB readers!

Hope you are well. As you may have noticed, I haven't posted much lately. RMB has not stopped functioning-- I've just been working on lots of behind-the-scenes stuff, plus, taking some time out to take care of personal obligations, so no worries! Thank you for your emails of concern- much appreciated.

So what's new since I've been away? Lots!........ To start with, RMB passed 2 million pageviews recently. This could not have happened without your repeat visits, so a big thanks to you!

2014 Summer Outdoor Retailer Show- While I was away, I traveled to Salt Lake City, Utah and covered the 2014 Summer Outdoor Retailer Show. I should have the Edge Tools report for the show posted this week. While I was in Utah, I also spent some time camping in the Uinta Mountains which are part of the Rockies in Utah. Got to do some great field research while I was there, and also had some fun bushcrafting with my friends at Emberlit Camp Stoves.

Backpacker Magazine-  I am in the "10 Feet of Paracord" writeup in Backpacker Magazine this month (September issue). I will also have an article about fire-making tinders in the October Survival Issue. Backpacker is an outstanding magazine run by a great staff, so I'm honored to be able to guest write for them.

Survival Project- I'm really excited to be involved in a brand new project with somebody you might recognize...can't reveal the who, what, when and where yet, but I'll let you know as soon as I can!

RMB photo published in Brigham-Young University journal- Brigham Young University was impressed enough with one of RMB's Pine Knot Torch photos to use it in a journal they published recently. I'd like to thank BYU for including our photo, it's definitely an honor.

RMB Articles/Posts- Now that I am back from my summer adventures, I plan to resume posting. Look for a range of articles, reviews, and tips and tricks in the coming weeks!