Quinzhee Snow Shelter

Winter is here. For some of you it is here with real gusto.  Growing up in Missouri and being sent out to ‘play’ no matter what the weather or who was around I learned a lot about how to entertain myself.  Snowfall in the Mississippi valley could be heavy and wet throughout the winter and was a great medium for construction snowmen, fortresses, and quinzhees.  Of course, we didn’t know such an exotic word at the time but we did learn good tricks and techniques for safety later in the Boy Scouts.

Image from Boy's Life magazine. Click for the link.

Image from Boy’s Life magazine. Click for a short “how to.”

I’m certain there are no photos of the sometimes elaborate, and often not so elaborate, snow shelters my friends and I built as kids (I don’t think parents played outside with kids in my era).  I was reminded that we had our own photos of one built with my daughter several years back.  We were staying with a friend in the Sangre de Cristo mountains for the holiday at about 8,000 ft AMSL (ca. 2,500 meters).  The snow was perfect and wet so we couldn’t pass up the chance for a little shelter building.  “Teachable moments” surround us every day.  It’s up to us to take advantage of them.

Working on the wind wall.

Working on the wind wall.  If you look closely, you can see the miniature chimney and rain shield on top.

The snow wasn’t deep and we weren’t intending to spend the night inside so it was kept pretty small for ease of construction.

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View into the vestibule. The opening was kept narrow for warmth.

It was a chance to talk about safety, collapse, and fresh air exchange.  Valuable information for later in life.  Ours faced south.

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The dog was, of course, a great help, mostly chasing snowballs.

Testing out the fit.

Testing out the fit.

It was definitely kid-sized but an adult could squeeze in more-or-less comfortably for a while.  The dog was not enamored with the confining space.

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Enjoying the evening by the warmth of a candle.

It was just another fun day, experimenting with the gifts that nature provided, and passing on knowledge to the next generation of wilderness lovers.

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“Make yourself a wool bush shirt” my article on ‘The Bushcraft Magazine’!

Excellent work from our Tuscany comrade. I hope to find the magazine and make one myself!

Wild Tuscany Bushcraft

One of my dreams  comes true!

Last month I’ve written a tutorial on making a wool bush shirt and this article… has been published in the Autumn issue of “The Bushcraft Magazine“!!!

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How to Improvise and Use a Three Stick Roycroft Pack Frame

Thanks to Survival Sherpa for posting this look at making a pack frame.  Making a quick, three stick pack frame is a valuable bit of knowledge.  How serendipitous that this came up (seems to be a lot of convergent thinking around my world lately) as I am beginning to tweak my own wooden pack frame for some experimental travel.  And while we’re on the subject here’s a link to a broad look at pack frames from around the world on Markus Kittner’s fine web page.

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Have a look at Survival Sherpa by clicking the link below.

Source: How to Improvise and Use a Three Stick Roycroft Pack Frame

how-to-improvise-and-use-a-three-stick-roycroft-pack-frame-thesurvivalsherpa-com

Bois d’Arc Primitive Skills Gathering and Knap-In

BoisdarcA fun and relatively tame primitive technology event for a good price located in southwest Missouri put on by good friends of mine.  Here’s some information from their website:

This unique event has two parts – a free knap-in/native arts-crafts show starting Thursday, with top-notch knappers, artists, and crafters from a 20-state area making and selling their work. In the Workshop Area starting Friday, a pool of some of the area’s finest instructors offer workshops on various wilderness skills and crafts. You can learn the survival skills of our ancestors, and in many classes, take home a completed project. 

Overnight camping and vendor-knapper setup – $5/night, a limited number of electric sites available on a first-come basis – $15/night. If you arrive before Wednesday, leave camping fee in the deposit box, Wednesday and after, please pay at the Registration Booth. Food Concession provided by the Dade County Historical Society.

Admission to the Workshop Area – $60/day or $150/3 days:

Get your hands on it, and learn with some of the finest primitive skills instructors in the midwest!

Below is a partial list of workshops available – the list may change to to instructor availability, check registration for an updated schedule.

  • Friction Fire
  • Flintknapping
  • Flute-making
  • Basketry and Pottery
  • Deadfall Traps
  • Pine Pitch and Hide Glue
  • Pump Drills
  • Bow and Arrow Construction
  • Atlatl Construction
  • Bone Tools
  • Tracking and Trailing
  • Primitive First Aid
  • Bowls & Containers
  • Knife Sharpening
  • Primitive Cooking
  • Braintan Buckskin Hide Tanning
  • Buckskin and/or Cattail Moccasins
  • Cordage & Netting
  • Shelter
  • Rivercane Blowguns
  • Edible, Medical Useful Plant Identification
  • Edible Insects and much more!

HEAD OVER TO THEIR WEBSITE FOR MORE INFORMATION, MAPS, ETC.

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http://www.boisdarc.info/

How to make a ‘medieval style’ possible pouch; more traveler’s gear

Here is a great little instruction set on how to make a European Medieval-style belt bag. You see these in paintings and illustrations on just about every traveler. Not only will you come out with a nice bag but it is a fine and simple introduction into leather working and sewing. All makers need to start somewhere and this might be the right project.

Wild Tuscany Bushcraft

Old style bushcraft: a medieval possible pouch Old style bushcraft: a medieval possible pouch

During the Middle Age was common carrying small items like coins, keys, inside pouches or purses attached to the belt.
There are many archaeological and iconographical documents, you can search for your favorite patterns, but there is a model that in my opinion, is one of the best for a bushcrafter.

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Making Containers via Primitive Process Pottery

I wanted to re-blog this excellent post about functional pottery construction from “Survival Sherpa”. I’m no great pottery maker but appreciate the craft for sure. Have a look.

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Survival Sherpa

by Todd Walker

Making Containers from Primitive Process Pottery - www.TheSurvivalSherpa.com

Coffee drinkers like myself usually have a favorite mug or cup. My all-time favorite “tankard” developed a crack and DRG trashed it. A sad day indeed!

My sob story may seem petty, but there’s nothing trivial about not having a way to “contain” stuff. Think of all the ways you use containers daily. Then imagine all your modern containers being gone… poof, no more. Welcome to the Stone Age!

Here’s what else disappears with your containers. Your ability to…

  • Cook stuff without skewering it on a stick
  • Collect, disinfect, transport, and drink water
  • Raise plants and livestock
  • Store food without stuffing it in an animal stomach
  • Dispose of waste
  • Personal hygiene
  • Ferment food and drink
  • Make medicinals
  • Gather food
  • Keep stuff clean
  • Organize stuff
  • etc., etc., etc….

This is why containers are king! 

After attending a local two-day primitive pottery class, my respect and appreciation for the humble container grew…

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Magnetic Compass, a Gimme from an Iron-Rich Earth

Compasses

Starting as a field scientist in the heady days when men were men and GPS was not available to common civilians, I learned my way around a compass pretty well.  I thought I knew something coming out of Boy Scouts but putting those skills to the test mile after mile in order to locate a distant waypoint or build a map by hand honed those skills and etched them indelibly on my brain.  Friendly competition arose amongst colleagues testing our pace and compass work over miles of rough ground in the eastern woodlands.  The West is easy in comparison with open forests, plains, and grand vistas for taking long sightings.  To this day, I generally prefer a pocket compass to a GPS and if I could choose only one, it would be one of these wireless beauties.Compasses2A surveyor’s sighting compass can just about perform miracles in the right hands and my trusty Brunton Pocket Transit, after all these years, still finds it’s way into my field bag for big jobs.  Get a compass, learn to really use it.  Keep it handy, and you may never be truly lost.

Travel Essentials

This is part of an ongoing theme to document travel and camping gear that has served me over the years.  These will be mirrored on the Traveler’s Gear page as I get them up.

As a traveler, primitive technologist, peaceful survivalist, affected provincial,  long-time Idler, and sometime field scientist I find the necessity for a shoulder bag to carry essentials.  I have two size shoulder bags as well as various backpacks, brief cases, and messenger bags that have served me well over the years walking thousands of miles on survey and in my travels.

DSC_0005I made this bag a few years ago based on an 18th century gentleman’s shooting bag.  If you are interested to see it’s construction, it is documented HERE.  Carried by naturalists, sportsmen, and explorers, this small compartmentalized bag keeps the essentials handy.  Sturdy 10-12 oz vegetable tanned leather from Hermann Oak means that this bag will serve many decades without fear of damage from wear.

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This is most of the contents from the above bag; mostly things I don’t like to be without. Clockwise (more-or-less) from the upper left: Brunton pocket compass with signal mirror, Moleskine notebook, pencil, folding knife, whetstone with bag, belt knife, wooden spoon, 550 paracord, insulated mug, hand lens, sunglasses.

Since I was eleven, I have been infatuated with mountain man style wilderness survival.  It was, by far, my favorite merit badge as a Boy Scout.  The merit badge book taught about the old idea of a “possibles” bag carried by early explorers that we now think of as a survival kit.  Although the above is far from a complete survival kit, this little bundle, with the addition of a water bottle, gets me through many long days of travel and field work.  Additional items include: lighter, flashlight, bandanas, and some first-aid essentials.  However, traversing the wilderness, or even through civilization, means more than having the right stuff handy, being dressed properly is probably even more important.  After years of walking in the wilderness I have learned the same lessons that our forefathers did; the importance of being well shod and covered with a proper hat.

Those topics will be covered down the trail.

Knots

Learn them, use them.  I understand that some folks are topologically challenged but knots are always a great skill to have under one’s belt.  Learn ’em.  Have someone teach you.  Carry a bit of rope and practice until they come naturally.  Teach your kids!  I suggest learning the dozen or so from the Boy Scout Handbook.  That is really all most people will ever need.

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Ultra Minimalists, Part 3

For the Ultra Minimalists, Part 1, click here.

More Historic Minimalists – religious wanderers from the East

Japanese_pilgrimWandering Monks part 1 – The Buddhist monks that travel much of the year throughout Asia are about as minimalist as one can reasonably get.  Early Buddhist monks were instructed to own, as based on the Pali Canon, a very simple set of eight items.  Things have, of course, changed over time and religious wanderers have changed with it.

  • outer robe
  • inner robe
  • thick double robe for winter
  • alms bowl for gathering food and eating
  • razor for shaving
  • needle and thread for repairs
  • belt
  • water strainer for removing impurities from drinking water

Everything thing else was communal or gifted to them, including food.

ThaiMonkWandering Buddhist Monks part 2 – Things have changes in the past 2,500 years and the natural hardships of a traveler’s life warranted a few additions to an allowable kit of possessions.  A revised and more modernized version adds a few more necessities (not everyone is up to the task of living in real poverty or misery; also, the communities of non-mendicants have some expectations about cleanliness, etc.).  So in addition to the above eight possessions, the monks carry:

  • Bowl
  • Three robes, inner, outer, and warm
  • Bathing cloth
  • Umbrella, some sects mention a small tent as well
  • Mosquito net
  • Kettle for water
  • Water filter
  • Razor
  • Sandals
  • Small candles
  • Candle lantern

It should be remembered, these monks were part of a Sangha (intentional community of Buddhists) so there were communal objects for the rainy season when they weren’t traveling and there is a long tradition of charity towards holy men that we no longer practice in the West (other than tax exemption for churches and the National Football League).

PilgrimslargeWandering Buddhist Monks part 3 – Of course, the world changes and the esoteric lifestyle adapts with it.  Modern Buddhist mendicant monks might carry a few extra things in order to live reasonably within the modern world.  This becomes a very realistic list for the modern traveler.  Over many centuries, it became apparent that being acceptable and able to fit into society in general was an important thing.  Good appearance, cleanliness, and preparedness helps one not be a burden on the community.  I understand the need to fit-in and remain incognito when appropriate.  After all, isn’t that what our daily costumes achieve?

Later realists again modified the kit of the wandering Buddhist mendicants in eight types of personal utensils or belongings (adapted, in part from RAHU website, Singapore).  There are a total of 8 necessary requisites of the Buddhist monk garments and utensils. I big part of the teachings of the Buddha are concerned with an intentional, non-harmful, and simple life.

  • Mantle Robe – Traditionally made by the acolyte himself, but may also be a gift.
  • Sarong (Sabong) – This is a simple, unadorned under garment and is worn 24 hours a day.
  • Cotton Belt or Girdle
  • Shoulder Scarf – It is a long thick brownish-yellow scarf and regarded as a monk’s multipurpose cloth and is generally large enough to use as a blanket in winter. During a long trip or visit, this thick Sangkati can be folded and used as a cushion.
  • Black Alms Bowl with Lid
  • Razor
  • Needle and Thread
  • Water-strainer

In addition the initial eight things, some items have been added, not just for survival, but for the comfort and convenience as monks might find themselves as guests in a temple, in major cities, suburban settings, or the wilderness.

  • Three amenities are added for convenience: undershirt,  a small bathing loincloth for modesty, and a bath towel.  One cannot be filthy in a tight, modern setting.
  • Bedding – Still considered luxury items for the monk: grass mat, pillow, blanket, mosquito net, and a cushion for sitting.
  • Necessities for the traveler: hand bag (for carrying all this stuff), handkerchief, knitted hat, palm leaf fan, umbrella (for sun as much as rain), and sandals.
  • Eating utensils: Dish, Bowl, Spoon & Fork, Hand Towel, A set of Food Trays containing plates and bowls, Tiffin Carrier.
  • Hygiene and cooking – Drinking water must be cleansed of dirt and germs.  This is critical for good health.  Water is the only thing a monk can freely ask for or take as needed.  In that vein, several other tools are allowed and encouraged: stove, pot for boiling water, mug for hot water/tea, water glass, water jug/bottle, tea kettle, Thermos bottle for ice or hot water as needed.
  • Toiletries – Buddhist monks should be clean and have pleasant personalities. They need some necessary objects, the same as other people water container, soap, soap container, tooth brush, tooth paste, body towel, tissues, spittoon, medicinals.
  • Domestic Objects: These items should be available to help monks in case of emergency. lantern or electric lamp, flash light, alarm clock or watch.

The latter list is a very complete list of real essentials.  Having a codified list to pack from can be comforting, just like the lists the Boy Scouts still make for High Adventure programs.  Looking at a little knowledge gained by our predecessors goes a long way.

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Pilgrims on Pilgrimage – Vasily Perov (1834-1882)

Why  did I choose the Buddhists specifically for this example? Europeans have our own traditions, just without as much documentation.  We’re a free-form lot.  These folks certainly can sleep rough as need arose on a holy pilgrimage and don’t appear to be overburdened with stuff.

Matthew, Mark, and Luke all report that Jesus taught his disciples; “If you wish to be complete, go and sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven”.

Coming next – Ultra Minimalists, Part 4 – Modern Minimalisma re-blog from Joshua Fields Millburn.