… [T]he modern woodsman is a person who is able to undertake long term trips, deep into the wilderness, only with supplies one could carry and what could be gathered from the surrounding environment… He uses technology, skills and equipment based on efficiency and practicality. He applies modern hunting techniques, modern understanding of nutrition, and modern climbing, mountaineering, and packrafting techniques. His equipment includes tools that are best suited for the task without consideration for nostalgia and sentimentality.
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I’ve had a few requests to do a gear list for some of my recent trips. Since it’s been over a year since the last one, I thought I would acquiesce. What follows is the list from my recent journey to the Goat Rocks. Though that was a short trip, my gear has varied very little on any trip this year. I’ll take warmer clothing earlier (and later) in the year, and of course the amount of food varies based on the length of the trip, but most everything else remains static. This is quite the change from even just a year ago, where it seems like my gear would change drastically from trip to trip! Perhaps I know what I’m doing a little better now.
Some of the gear is light, some of it isn’t. Regular readers know that I always struggle to find a balance between lightweight, functionality, and durability. Certain items that I carry — like, say, the saw — are not likely to be found in the pack of an average backpacker, but are suited to my method of travel. In all, my base weight for this trip was right at 20lbs. I’m not too ashamed of that. In fact, considering that my pack alone weighs 6lbs when empty, that base weight is pretty darn good.
If you have any questions or comments about the items, feel free to get in touch.
- Kifaru ZXR
- Sea to Summit Ultra-Sil Dry Sack (13 liter)
- Kifaru 20F Slick Bag
- Coccoon Silk Mummy Liner
- Sea to Summit Ultra-Sil Dry Sack (8 liter)
- Ex-Officio Boxer Briefs
- Fox River AXT Wick Dry Off Road Crew
- Ibex Woolies Bottoms
- Icebreaker L/S Inca
- Bandana (22” x 22”, cotton)
- Montbell U.L. Down Inner Jacket
- MSR Packtowl UltraLite (large)
- Mountain Laurel Designs Spintex EXP Stuff Sack (XLarge)
- LOKSAK OPSak (20 x 12.5)
- 4 days of food
- REI nylon mesh bag (5” x 6”)
- Mountain Laurel Designs Super Glide Bear Bag Line
- Mountain Laurel Designs SuperFly Mini Biner
- LOKSAK OPSak (20 x 12.5)
- Mountain Laurel Designs Silnylon Stuff Sack (8” x 12”)
- Outdoor Research Rocky Mountain High gaiters
- Marmot Precip Full-Zip pants
- Gatorade Bottle
- 2+L Platypus w/ hose, mouthpiece, and bite valve cover
- Cut down Platypus scoop
- 2x ~25ft paracord
- Stake bag
- 4 Durapegs, 2 Eastons, 2 X-pegs, 2 Nite-Ize Figure 9s
- Kifaru Paratarp
- Black Diamond Alpine Light Carbon Cork Trekking Poles
- Kershaw Folding Saw
- Barefoot Ted custom huaraches
- Kifaru Ultralight PullOut (small)
- Aquamira water treatment chemicals (liquid)
- Platypus Pre-Filter
- Sawed-off toothbrush
- Small travel floss
- 1 oz All-Terrain Weathershield (SPF 30)
- 0.5 oz Dr. Bronner’s Peppermint soap
- Reflectix sit pad
- Trail Designs Ti-Tri with 900mL pot and accessories
- Therm-a-Rest Z-Lite
- TAD Gear BC-8
- Silva Ranger CL compass
- ACR Whistle
- MapTools.com 1:69,500 Grid Tool
- Outdoor Research Foray Jacket
- Kifaru PackLock Windshirt
- Sea to Summit Ultra-Sil Dry Sack (13 liter)
- Kifaru Longhunter Lid
- Shoulder strap
- 1 quart ziploc
- Toilet paper
- 1 oz Hand sanitizer
- Emergency fire kit
- First aid kit
- Kifaru Ultralight Pullout (small)
- Sea to Summit Headnet
- Petzl Tactikka headlamp
- Tyvek Stuff Sack
- Rite in the Rain No. 393-M
- Large garbage bag
- 1 quart ziploc
- 3x Green Trails maps
- Plastic vial-type container (found on street)
- 16x cotton balls w/ petroleum jelly
- Hard glasses case (unknown brand/model)
- Oakley soft lens cloth bag
- Julbo Micropores (Rx)
- Sea to Summit Ultra-Sil Dry Sack (2 liter)
- Bandanna (22” x 22”, cotton)
- Spare camera battery
- Joby Gorillapod
- Smartwool Medium Hiking Socks
- Railriders Weatherknickers (old Weatherpants cut to knicker length)
- Mountain Hardwear Canyon Shirt
- Boonie hat
- Lowa Renegade II Gtx boots
- Luminox 3001 watch w/ Maratac Bond Regimental NATO band
- Suunto Micro Clipper Luminous compass
- Paracord necklace
(I do hope that I haven’t forgotten anything. If you notice anything conspicuously absent, please let me know!)
This past week I read Dominic Reeve’s Smoke in the Lanes. The book is a first-hand account of the lives of Romani in England during the mid-1950s, which marked the end of the era of horse-drawn wagons. It’s an interesting read if you’re at all interested in itinerant lifestyles.
Toward the end of the book the author describes lighting his daily fire in very wet conditions:
Nobody had collected any wood for the morning’s fire, so I scrambled into the middle of a tangle of thorn-bushes, the limbs of which were heavy with rain that showered down on me; and within a matter of minutes I was completely soaked. I did not possess a raincoat and my old jacket and cord trousers were inadequate to withstand the water. Nevertheless, I managed to gather quite an imposing amount of dead wood, all sodden, and I returned with it to the site of the previous night’s fire. I took a stump of candle from my pocket and broke it in half, then I lit one half and set it upright in the watery ashes, piling some twigs and small wood round and above it. When I had placed sufficient twigs above the tiny flame I laid the other half of the candle stump in the wood directly above the flame so that the heat from below gradually rose upwards, melting the wax which then caught fire and ignited the soggy twigs. It is an old Romani trick, and a very successful one.
Le Loup often talks about carrying a beeswax candle in his 18th century fire kit. I always assumed that this would be used to keep a flame below damp tinder to dry it out, similar to how today we might take advantage of the long burn time of cotton balls soaked in petroleum jelly to light slightly damp materials. It never occurred to me to break the candle in two and melt the second half above for even more heat. Neat trick!
None but the Romanies, or perhaps the few remaining tramps, can know how great a comfort is afforded by a fire. Once its warming tongues lick upwards into the pile of sticks and one’s tingling, numbed fingers are eased in its glow, one experiences great pleasure and satisfaction. It is a creative, aesthetic, pleasure. On countless grey winter mornings, often in company with other travellers, I have sat huddled close to an immense [fire], my front glowing and steaming with heat and my back running with rain or heaped with snow. The fire is everything to us. With it we can cook, eat, survive and live: without it we should perish.
This kit is kept in the lid of my rucksack, which also functions as a man-purse for short trips away from camp. It is intended for emergencies only, and so is secondary (or even tertiary) to my normal fire starting equipment: ferro rod(s), rubberized BIC lighter, matches, and a fair amount of cotton balls covered in petroleum jelly. The kit here is to be used only when these other methods of starting fire have for some reason failed.
It is quite simple and is probably nothing unique. Everything is kept together and dry inside of a small aLOKSAK (measuring 5”x4”). It weighs 2.8 oz. The contents are as follows:
- 9 Tinder Quik tabs
- 6 Ultimate Survival Technologies WetFire cubes
- 16 REI Storm Proof Matches (sealed in a ziploc bag with two inner-tube ranger bands around the outside)
- 2 REI Storm Proof Matches striking surfaces (sealed)
- Spark-Lite fire starter
- Rubberized BIC lighter
That’s a whole lot of fires that I can start with just this small kit, and I don’t even have to start messing around with natural tinder or making char-cloth yet!
Previously the envelope held a small ferrocerium rod and striker in lieu of the Spark-Lite. I’ve never been too impressed with the Spark-Lites: the sparks produced are relatively small and weak. They are fine for starting a fire with prepared tinder such as cotton balls or those commercial products included in this kit, but trying to get a natural tinder to take with them can be a bit of a pain. As for the whole one-handed fire starting thing — well, I have never broken my arm or hand. I have been cold enough to not have the fine motor control needed to reliably operate a Bic lighter or Spark-Lite. So for me, given the choice between a normal ferro rod and a one-handed Spark-Lite, I’d go for the normal rod. It requires a gross movement that I know I can always achieve, even when cold.
I decided to remove the ferro rod and add the Spark-Lite to this kit because I figure that I have enough ferro rods stashed here-and-there (including at least one tethered to my body) that the chances of me losing all of them are very slim. (I would be more likely to lose this kit, which is kept in my pack, not on my body.) I should never have to depend on whatever spark-making tool I keep in the envelope, but by opting to make that tool a Spark-Lite, I do give myself the possibility of one-handed fire making (without depending on lighters or trying to light a match held in my teeth). Doug Ritter would be proud.
I don’t like paying for brand-name ferrocerium rods with handles when blanks can be got for much cheaper — usually $5 less than their handled counterparts. But I do like to have a handle on the rod, and I require some sort of lanyard. When it comes to something as important as a ferro rod, I find comfort in knowing that it is secured to this-or-that.
The simplest solution is to tape a loop of paracord to one end of the rod. I use gutted paracord. The tape can be wrapped a few extra times to make a handle however thick I like.
The other rod in the above photo has a similar lanyard attached in a different manner. The paracord is first taped to the rod with a small piece of electrical tape. Then, on top of that, I slid a small piece of heat-shrink tubing (the kind used for electrical wiring). That was blasted with a hair dryer, causing it to shrink.
A small hole could also be drilled in one end of the rod. This is something of a fire hazard: the drill and rod will be throwing a whole lot of sparks as the drill works its way through. And it requires access to power tools, which isn’t always practical.
My favorite method is the tape. The lanyard is secure and the tape provides a thick, padded handle.
The greatest disappointment about any Mora knife is the sheath: a flimsy, plastic thing that won’t easily fit on a decent sized belt and does not even hold the knife very securely. As they come, I consider them unusable. But a few simple modifications and additions make them quite acceptable.
The Mora knife sheaths are designed to be mounted either on a button on a pair of coveralls or through a belt. Apparently people wear very small, skinny belts in Sweden. Over here in the United States of Gun Belts, that doesn’t fly. The belt slot on the sheath can be forcefully enlarged by shoving in a piece of wood, such as a ruler, and applying heat to cause the plastic to expand, but I don’t trust that such an act will not over weaken the plastic. I’m not a big fan of carrying a Mora directly on my belt, anyway. Usually, I’ll carry the knife either on a lanyard around my neck or as a dangler off my belt. But both of these setups allow the possibility of the knife and sheath to swing freely, accentuating the problem of an insecure fit.
Both the problem of how to carry the sheath and the problem of the insecure fit can be addressed with a single piece of paracord.
With the knife in the sheath, I take a piece of paracord and run both ends around the handle and through the slot for the belt. Then, tight against the back of the sheath, I tie an overhand knot in either end of the cord. This creates a loop of paracord on the front of the sheath that can be made smaller, but cannot become any wider than the bottom third of the handle. Because the handles on Mora knifes are somewhat tapered — fatter in the middle than on either end — this loop prevents the knife from being removed from the sheath. Even if the knife is only lightly dropped into the sheath rather than securely pressed, it cannot be removed without first sliding off the loop of paracord.
After tying the two knots against the back of the sheath in either end of the paracord, I take both ends and tie them together, forming a loop on the back of the sheath. This provides my carry options.
If I want to wear the knife around my neck, I take a pre-tied loop of paracord that I carry and loop it through itself around the loop on the sheath.
To carry the knife in a dangler system, I prefer to use a Maxpedition Keyper rather than a carabiner. The Keyper is mounted on my belt and clipped into the loop of paracord on the sheath. (To reduce movement in this setup, I’ll stick the knife and sheath in my pocket.)
The last thing that I do to this part of the sheath is add a small wrap of electrical tape around the very top, covering the upper bit of the belt loop and the button hole. This prevents the paracord from sliding to the top of the sheath and forces the securing loop to be about .75” from the very end of the handle. I’ve found that if this is not done, the securing loop is like to slip off the handle.
That’s all that is needed to make the sheath usable, but a few other additions can be made to increase its utility.
Around the top of the sheath, I wrap tape. In the sheaths pictured here, one has 2” olive drab duct tape, the other has 1” black Gorilla Tape (which is like duct tape, but thicker and stickier). One can never carry enough tape. I imagine, also, that the tape likely increases the structural integrity of the sheath.
On the back of both sheaths, I have a #17 sailmaking needle, pre-threaded with black kevlar thread, taped down with some electrical tape. As I mentioned in my review of the RAT Izula, this is an idea I first picked up from one Dave Canterbury’s videos. The extra needle and thread adds no noticeable weight and could be a welcome addition to the sheath if you ever find yourself separated from your pack, with the knife and sheath as your only piece of gear.
The next modification on the body of the sheath was also inspired by Dave Cantebury. In another of his videos, he showed how he had layered different width pieces of inner-tube on a machete sheath to create pockets that could store small items, such as a sharpening stone and magnesium fire starter. With that in mind, I add a wide piece of inner-tube onto the middle of the Mora sheath (which also serves to cover and further secure the taped down needle). Then, on top of that, I put a skinnier piece of inner-tube. Slid between both pieces is a backup ferro rod. Because the rod has rubber below it and rubber atop, there is an incredible amount of friction. The ferro rod becomes difficult to remove. I have carried blank rods in these “pockets” and they have never fallen out. Still, I prefer to carry rods with a lanyard of some sort on them. I loop the rod through its lanyard around the paracord loop on the top of the sheath, guaranteeing that the rod is secured.
The sheath for my KJ #1 knife has only a ferro rod. That knife is carbon steel and can generate sparks off the spine. On the sheath for the larger SL-2, however, I have added a small striker slid between the two pieces of inner-tube on the back. The SL-2 is made of laminated steel, which is too soft to reliably produce sparks.
These modifications made to the Mora sheath help to secure the knife, allow for different carry options, guarantee a source of fire, and provide a needle, thread and tape for repairs. They turn what is otherwise a near useless sheath into a functional item worthy of being matched with the Mora blade.
(I also own a high-quality leather sheath made by JRE Industries for the KJ #1 knife. I tie a loop of paracord through the top loop of leather on the sheath so that the knife may be carried around the neck or on a dangler, similar to the modified plastic sheath. The leather sheath does not require a loop of paracord on the front to secure the handle. Nor does it need pieces of inner-tube to create a pocket for a ferro rod. The only thing that it lacks is a repair needle, but I have found that most tape does not adhere very well to leather, so I cannot stick one on the back.)