The Weekend Woodsman’s belt pouch

This will be the first post in a series covering my gear selections/philosophies. Some of you may have seen my gear posts at The Sharpened Axe almost a year ago. Since then, I’ve stripped out some unused items andย  made a few changes by adding some self-made and modified gear. Most of the changes to my loadout were spurred on by two factors, lessons learned from a few longer backpacking trips from the summer and the motivation/inspiration to tackle some projects which finally got my equipment the way I really want it. I’m sure there will be more changes in the future (there always are), but I have noticed that these changes are slowing down over time as I get a precise idea of how I like things to be.

There will be five parts to this series: belt pouch, shoulder bag, backpack, cutting tools and seasonal gear. This is the way I separate my gear, both in my mind and physically as well, so I thought this would be the best way to cover it. First up is my belt pouch.

I recycled the pouch itself from a small woman’s backpack made of leather which I got at a consignment shop for 2 Euros (3 Dollars). I cut out a pocket from the backpack, so let’s say the pocket itself cost 0.50 Euros (0.75 Dollars). I applied brown shoe polish to the pouch to change it from the original green color and also cut two slits in the back for my belt. Its approximate size is 10 cm x 8 cm x 4 cm (4″ x 3″ x 1.5″).

And the contents (listed going clockwise from the top):

1. Swiss card knock-off: 1.50 Euros (2 Dollars)
2. Birch bark match case: free, self-made
3. Mini fishing kit and needle: scavenged, say 1 Euro (1.50 Dollars)
4. Wenger Classic 07 SAK: 7 Euros (10 Dollars) bought used from consignment shop
5. Twine: cut from a spool, a few cents
6. Small flashlight: gift, probably about 2 Euros (3 Dollars)
7. Whistle: bought as part of a set, probably about 1 Euro (1.50 Dollars)
8. Small compass: bought as part of a set, probably about 1 Euro (1.50 Dollars)

Total cost: about 14 Euros (20 Dollars), plus a little time and effort

I decided to cover this belt pouch first because it is something that I ALWAYS have, whether it’s a 1-hour hike or a week-long trip. I will bring other items depending on the length of stay and purpose of the trip, but this belt pouch always comes long. The contents cover fire starting, light cutting tasks, hole punching, can opening, bottle opening, splinter removal, signaling (visual and auditory), general direction finding, lighting, general binding tasks, aid in shelter building (twine), sewing repairs and emergency fishing and possibly trap making.

The pouch itself is already about as full as it can get, and I’m not planning on adding anything to it. I keep other essential items in my shoulder bag and backpack, so I don’t consider this kit to be the ultimate of anything. It’s not intended to be a complete survival kit, emergency kit or anything like that. It contains often-used items which are nice to have in an easily accessible place. I like to keep them separate from my backpack and shoulder bag and secure to my body so that I still have some basic capabilities should I somehow lose those packs.

EDIT: Just to clear things up, this belt pouch does not contain my only means for fire lighting, navigation, fishing, cutting, lighting etc. It is a small part of my gear selection, and many of the items are backup items to better and more robust items in my shoulder bag, which is what I consider to be the “meat” of my kit, and which is attached to me even more securely than the belt pouch.

EDIT 2: The discussions and suggestions in the comments section have got me thinking. Being a person who would rather be safe than sorry, I’m going to take Perkunas’ advice and incorporate a firesteel either into my belt pouch or the new sheath knife I will be receiving. I know how much experience Perkunas has, and I listen to those with real experience (not word for word, and not blindly, but I value what they have to say). Should I somehow lose my shoulder bag (unlikely), it would be wise to have an extra firesteel tucked away somewhere. I’m not averse to using firesteels, I just prefer to keep mine in my shoulder bag. Seeing as how fire is extremely important, especially here in the north, it does make sense to be very well equipped with fire-making equipment.

This made me realize that this blog is a great way to tweak my gear thanks to readers’ input. So in subsequent parts of this gear series, I will welcome suggestions from readers. Be aware, though, that everything I carry and use is tried-and-tested, so don’t expect too much. ๐Ÿ˜‰ But if you have a great idea that hasn’t crossed my mind or experience, I won’t be too proud to incorporate suggestions into my gear loadout.

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23 comments on “The Weekend Woodsman’s belt pouch

  1. Perkunas says:

    Well i do like this series, as you might guess.

    I always, always wonder, among many Finnish hikers, who are almoast bit against carrying a simple kit like yours.

    I appreciate keeping kit simple but kit like yours, would not make any meaningfull addition in weight, nor bulk and as long as you keep it in pocket or belt, you have better chance to survive if ou loose you backpack. I am not saying that yours, is a survival kit, but it sure as hell, is a Lot better have your kit, than have none. No, i am not saying that yours is next to none, dont get me like that. This is all good feedback.

    What i like, is that your kit covers, actually pretty well,all the basics, and that you have included a high quality knife in it. In many cases i see some suspicious ” it was the cheapest” pocket knives in small kits, but maybe, since this is your EDC kit, you have included a far better knife in it than if it would be a deicated survival kit, in which people tend to gather cheap useless junk because its seen as “well i wont be needing that maybe at all so this junk will have to do” kit.

    I do like that theres a needle and a thread too, as its forgotten in many cases due to rare need but when you need needle and thread, they are worth their price in gold, as in nature, those are hard and slow omake from natures offerings.

    The things i would change, are minor adjustments only.
    -Compass, in to quality item that also works in subzero temps. I donno wil yours, though,so i had to say it. I just have suspicious thoughts about keyring compasses with carabiners, from ny own experience. Mine, looked just like yours, and it showed wrong and froze up at winter, and the carabiner busted while it was hanging from my packs shoulder strap. But if you know your shows to true north always, then its ok to me as well.

    -Twine. Why ? For bushcraft old school appearance, or due to firemaking purpose, instead of paracord thats stronger and has useful removable strong inner threads as well `? Just a statement against “paracordism ” or why the use of twine ๐Ÿ™‚ ?

    – That huge bottle opener ? You can open bottles with your pocket knife as well.
    Or is that the flashlight ? Theres some button like thingy in that opener as well , think.. If so, is it waterproof and could you get a better, with smaller size, or coul you cut the bulky bottle opener part off it away, to get more space in the pouch for other necessities.

    -Whistle, iยดd rather have plastic one, as in winter, youll lips actually tend to glue in to frozen whistle and bleeding after ripping the whistle away from lips, is funny looking but pretty annoying :). Cold whistle, aint a risk for your health, though. cold is cold, and thats it, you suck it up and get away with it, this is a minor note. And steel whistle, is still a whistle, better than having none when you need one.

    -Last one you guessed :). The match case. I truelly like the looks of yours, and as i know its made by yourself, its a pretty damn cool too, as i like to see people doing gear with their own hands.
    But, for a 1.5-3 euros, youll get a o-ring sealed waterproof case as well, as you kit does not seem to have firesteel or any other firemaking aids, so you should take special care to have the only fire making way, as reliable as you can.

    • Thanks for the comments.

      As to your suggestions:

      1) Compass: This small compass is a backup compass. My main compass is a Suunto with a rotating bezel and degree markings. I carry my main compass in my shoulder bag. I do not rely on the belt pouch compass for navigation, that’s why I said it’s for general direction finding.

      2) Twine: The reason I use twine instead of paracord is because I can fit a much longer piece of twine than paracord in the belt pouch. The space inside the pouch is limited, so I have to maximize it. Also, I do carry plenty of paracord in my shoulder bag. ๐Ÿ™‚

      3) “Bottle opener”: That’s the flashlight. The bottle opener is just a bonus. It’s actually very flat and not bulky at all, and much easier to hold the light with the “frame” on it (bigger grip), so it’s good as it is. By the way, I also have a headlamp in my shoulder bag, so it’s not my main light.

      4) Whistle: You have a good point here. Here’s my solution: I’ll wrap the part that touches my lips with duct tape or electrical tape. Then my lips won’t stick. ๐Ÿ™‚

      5) Match case: I have to admit, this one is for fun. It’s not very waterproof, but I enjoy using matches instead of firesteels, so I keep this in my belt pouch. However, I have a firesteel in my shoulder bag and several boxes of extra matches in a water-proof bag in my backpack, so I’m well covered in terms of fire.

      So as you can see, there’s still a lot to come, and this belt pouch can’t really be judged by it’s contents without seeing the rest of my kit, which is coming soon. ๐Ÿ™‚

      • Perkunas says:

        Well allrighty then ๐Ÿ™‚

        I though alreay that this aint a “stand alone” type of kit, closer to survival kit, so i tried to take it easy. If iยดd see it as your survival kit, i would have suggested a few items more to add, but i guessed, by your previous kit topics elsewhere that you might be carrying the gasmask pouch with wider range kit in it, and this tiny pouch is only to allow quick access to stuff often needed.

        But still, keep the matches allways in waterproof pack,man. If you loose your gasmask pouch, and you go thru lakeยดs ice etc, you gotta have reliable way to put up a fire. You can try to explain why not pack matches waterproof, by saying that you wont get That Wet, or that you havent got That Wet yet, but someday you just might, be all dripping water and with a bark container, that you could use as tinder if you only had the dry matches ๐Ÿ™‚

        From my own experience, i know this Does happen. You get separated from everything but the stuff thats secured in your closed pockets and stuff thats well put in belt.

  2. Finnman says:

    Nice well thought out little belt pouch kit. Like Perkunas said itยดs good to invest on quality led-light which works when you most desperately need it. Some good ones are ASP Sapphire or Photon microlight.
    Samething I would definitely add:
    – few buttons
    – safety pins
    – metal wire (iron or brass)
    – firesteel

    • Thanks for the comments Finnman.

      The light in my kit is bright, reliable and tough. I have another light in my shoulder bag as well.

      As I said, I will not be adding anything to this kit, because I already have other items in my shoulder bag and backpack (for example, firesteel, metal wire etc.). There is no more room to fit anything else in the belt pouch.

  3. To Perkunas: The firesteel is in a snapped pocket in my shoulder bag, which is held onto my body with a shoulder strap and a waist strap. This means that the shoulder bag is even more securely attached to me than the belt pouch, so I am just as likely to have the firesteel in the shoulder bag as the matches in the belt pouch. I could see my backpack coming off somehow, but not the shoulder bag and belt pouch. And if both the shoulder bag and belt pouch come off, I have more serious things to worry about. ๐Ÿ™‚

    Also, I will probably attach the firesteel to my new knife from Ilkka, so it won’t be in the shoulder bag anyway, and will be attached to my belt right next to the belt pouch.

    When I was making the match case, I admitted to myself that it won’t be waterproof or rugged like plastic/metal ones, and I decided that’s OK. As I said before, the birch bark match case is for fun (but also my main fire starter), but of course I have backups in case it fails. Freezing to death is not fun. If I only had one way to start a fire, it would probably be a firesteel, but if I only had matches and nothing else, you can be sure I would keep them in a waterproof case. The fact that I have multiple ways to start a fire allows me to use the bark match case.

  4. Perkunas says:

    Ive pulled twice a man out of fast ice cold stream, or do yu call em rapids. In both cases, they had to rip off the backpacks as the packs were jamming em between river bed & rocks, and wet packs pull you way heavy. Thats why we always open the hip belts of packs while crossing waters, so its fas and quick to get rid off the pack if have to. Thats why i like to see people having some vital gear, on them, and not relying on the hope of not never separating from main pack etc.

    Firesteel on its dedicated loop, with a small piece of shockord or some other elastic cord,on knife sheath is a very good way to keep two of the most important pieces of kit on you always as long as your belt is around you.

    • Well, you could view the shoulder bag as another belt pouch, because technically it can be attached without the shoulder strap. ๐Ÿ˜€ Plus, that shoulder bag is not big at all, nowhere near the size of a backpack (maybe 2 – 3 times the size of a big belt canteen).

      I’m completely aware that someday I may have to ditch my main pack, which is why I carry really important things in my belt pouch and shoulder bag, which are both attached to me very securely.

  5. Perkunas says:

    I tried to use the gasmask pouch too, but i always found it opening by itself,with any load,by branches etc. So i added a small piece of leather strap small buckle to it, that i can use to close it better. It stopped from opening and after i made a “snow lock” type of thing to it, it hasnt either opened by itself, and it also now keeps even the smallest gear in it. I just cut a “mouth” part of old surplus bundeswehr washbag, so that it was about 4 inches wide and with a thread and needle, i attached the part, in the mouth of the shoulder bag. Now you can open the lid of it, and turn it upside down and nothing drops, before you loosen the cordlock. Easy and cheap modification….Well…you might see it in some blog post of mine, carried nowadays by my girlfriend who stole it ๐Ÿ™‚

    • That’s really clever! It’s definitely something I might do to my bag. I have been using the gas mask bag for about 3 years, and luckily I haven’t had too many problems with it opening, even because of branches and stuff. I think it’s because of the way I load the bag, which allows it to wrap around me and keeps the flap on pretty tight. But adding some extra security features is always a good idea. ๐Ÿ™‚

  6. Perkunas says:

    By the way, whats the measures of your existing belt pouch ?

  7. Perkunas says:

    oh there it was ok ๐Ÿ™‚

    Well….IF you were to Get a Free belt pouch, thats 11 cm x 9 cm x 5 cm, would you then put a firesteel in it ๐Ÿ™‚ ? If even that would come with the new pouch .

  8. Ron says:

    Hej Matt,
    I like what you did here and it looks like you know what tou’re doing. Everyting has been spoken about…. except for those 2 metal objects in the top right corner…
    What are those??

    • Thanks for the comment!

      They are part of the Swiss card. ๐Ÿ™‚ One is a serrated blade and the other is a combination screwdriver, nail file and bottle opener. They slip into the Swiss card from the side.

  9. Simple, effective, efficient, and it looks good doing it.

    Great job!

  10. Finnman says:

    Fan-tas-tic !! ๐Ÿ˜‰

  11. Perkunas says:

    If Ray approves, then its good to go and brilliant.

  12. Finnman says:

    Exactly, add some lingonberries and old manยดs beard and you are good to go

    – Ray ๐Ÿ˜‰

  13. Ross Gilmore says:

    ๐Ÿ™‚ I have the same whistle and compass. Good post.

    • Thanks! As you know, the compass is really only meant for general direction finding, so it’s not the one I rely on as a main compass, but it’s good for backup.

      Good to see you back in action at your blog, Ross!!

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