On Sunday afternoon, I drove out to the property with the old cabin we’ve been working on restoring. Instead of doing work on the building, though, I wanted to explore the area around it. Fortunately (for me), we got our first snow of the season the day before, so I was able to enjoy a little early taste of winter. Also fortunately for me, the weather played along nicely!
I parked the car near the cabin, took some pictures of the fields and woods on the property and then explored the woods adjacent to the property.
There’s a small cliff at the back edge of the property and a stream at the bottom.
I spotted these (probably fox) tracks nearby.
Frozen moose dumplings:
Being that it’s moose-hunting season, I wore my blaze orange vest for safety’s sake. At this time of year, I usually wear either an orange hat or vest like this in potential hunting areas (though I make a conscious effort to NOT disturb hunters’ hunts with my doings).
After hiking around with my pack for about 2 hours, I returned to the property and picked out a nice level and open spot to set up a tarp shelter (more on this shelter type in an upcoming post). For a ground cloth, I used a heavy-duty garbage bag, and on top of that I put my pack and a small foam pad. The woods nearby provided a dead standing pine sapling, which I chopped up into firewood.
As a side note on the shelter, I added a loop at the middle of the long side of the tarp because there were no grommets there. As you can see, I reinforced the tarp in that area with black repair tape and stitching.
The temperature at the site was about -1ºC (30ºF) at the time, and by the evening had dropped to -3ºC (26.5ºF).
Not having my grill with me, but needing some way to keep my pot over the fire, I found a small sapling and made a stick with a fork on one end and a point on the other.
Then I cut down a larger and heavier sapling, stripped off its branches, carved a notch near the end (for the pot bail) and laid it on the forked stick stuck in the ground. The weight of the far end of the sapling meant that I didn’t need to do anything else to keep the “pot end” up.
Now that my cooking rig was ready, I needed to gather some tinder and split some of the pine for the fire. I found a birch tree nearby with some great bark peeling off it. It was like paper and had a nice feel to it.
Dinner for the evening was pasta in cheese sauce, which is a nice way to say “mac n’ cheese” ;)…
…and bannock, aka stickbread. After I added water to the dry mix, I put the dough ball down for a minute or two to do something and then found that it had already started to harden because of the below-freezing temperature outside!
It took longer than normal, but I managed to squeeze the dough into a strip and wrap it around a stick to bake near the fire.
As it started to get dark, I ate the bannock and drank some water and then packed up most of my gear. Here’s one last shot of the tarp tent at dusk. Normally, I put the fire a little closer to the shelter if I’m going to use it for warmth on an overnight stay.
Finally, I’d like to talk a little bit about “bushcraft gear”, specifically the price of said gear. Almost every item you see in this post was either a discount store item, military surplus item, consignment shop fixer-upper or recycled. The only exception is my BushProwler knife, which was hand made to my specifications (though cheaper Mora-type knives etc. would certainly also suffice). Here’s a little rundown:
- Shelter: 2 Euro ($2.60 USD) tarp from hardware store, pole and pegs from old tent
- Pack: 25 Euro ($32.50 USD, cheaper in the US) Swedish LK-35 military surplus
- Axe: 10 Euro ($13 USD) from consignment shop, rehafted and fixed up by me
- Pot: 5 Euro ($6.50 USD) from discount store
- Spoon: Taken from a cutlery set from my cub scout days
- Kuksa cup: 4 Euro ($5.20 USD) from consignment shop (boiled before use)
- 1 liter aluminum water bottle: 1 Euro ($1.30 USD) from consignment shop
- Sitting pad: 1 Euro ($1.30 USD) from discount store
- Garbage bag ground cloth: A few cents
- Matches: A few cents a box, housed in a birch bark container I made
- Knife: Let’s say I used a Mora instead: 10 Euros ($13 USD)
- TOTAL: 58 Euro ($75 USD)
My suggestion when looking for gear is to shop around, see what you can make using things you have at home, trade with other people, recycle things other people are planning on throwing away etc. Outdoor gear does NOT necessarily have to be expensive!