Nothing beats a nice, hot shower after a hike….

Oftentimes during my several hikes, and especially whilst negotiating a particularly taxing climb, I had often wondered about the possibility of rigging up some kind of a shower system in the bush, that would help relieve the tremendously tiring and sweaty periods of any hike in the wilderness.

Unfortunately, all my thoughts remained as thoughts and I never had the time or patience to design something like that, until I found the very thing at my local hiking shop!

As you may have read in my past articles here, I am a sucker for MEC, a fantastic mecca for folks like you and me who are into any kind of leisure pursuit, be it on land, up a mountain, on the water or snow and ice.

There I found The Hot Tap wilderness shower pack. It’s a superb idea, and is capable of providing you with a very adequate hot shower for up to 10 minutes.

All you do is dunk the pump in water, light the propane burner and hey! presto, you have an instant hot water shower in the middle of nowhere.

What is it like in use? As always, I only comment on the things I have used personally, and this is one of them. It comes with it’s own fully illustrated instructions that are clear and easy to read.

The shower is able to give you around 8 to 10 minutes of hot water. I found it to be enough to remove the normal grime, sweat and tears of a normal hike….of course, with any shower, you really want to stand under it as long as possible, savouring the life-giving heat of the water on your body, but don’t forget, this is not the shower in your home, and so you have to get on with cleaning yourself rather swiftly before the water runs out!

Batteries for the pump are needed…if you forget to pack them, well, let’s just say your hot shower in the wilderness will remain a dream! I do know some of my friends who bought this unit have used rechargeable batteries, which last longer and can obviously be recharged when required.

All in all, a very, very ingenious item and well worth packing for your hike.

Click here to read more about this very useful hiking must-have accessory.

😉

I can never start a fire quickly enough…

That’s a common complaint I hear from several of my friends when we talk about hiking in the wilderness, where it can sometimes be so damp that starting a simple fire for cooking etc can take a long time, if it is successful at all…I know many people give up after just a few tries!

So here’s a fabulous tip that I picked up from another hiker and it involves using nothing more than something we all carry, or should carry on our hikes or in our cars etc.

It is nothing else but that simple little bottle of HAND SANITIZER…..yes, indeed…..you can start a roaring fire in the dampest of conditions with just a small squeeze of your hand sanitizer onto a piece of paper or cotton wool.

Once the fire takes hold of the paper kindling, slowly place small wood shavings, twigs and other combustible material on your fire and in no more than a few minutes you will have a nice, warm, comforting fire.

How does it work? All hand sanitizer contain alcohol as the active ingredient…it is the alcohol that kills the germs on your hands!

Magic!

 

The disappearing world of the ‘shroom pickers…

 

Well, I think that should be “The disappearing ‘shroom pickers” really.

Because mushroom picking is the only thing that still remains from humankind’s ancient history. It’s the last remnant of the nomad life still remaining in the world, aside of the real nomads in places like Mongolia, the Sahara desert etc.  The last time where this kind of camaraderie existed, the gold mines, died out years ago….the freedom, independence and all the rest that comes bagged with this kind of life.

I’m fortunate in living in BC, Canada where a lot of the mushroom hunting goes on. Some time ago, I ventured out to the Charlotte Islands myself, or to give them their real name, Haida Gwaii…..mushroom hunting was the least thing on my mind at that time….I just wanted to get away from the rush-rush life of the city, and a trip to a far away place such as the Charlottes was too good to give up! Pity my wife, who ‘volunteered’ to stay at home!

It’s a long way away, and getting to the place all depends on how urgent your visit is. You can fly there from Vancouver via AirCanada which drops you off at Sandspit, or you could take the BC Ferry from Prince Rupert to Skidegate.

I had plenty of time on my hands, so I decided to take the more scenic and laid-back route, driving from the mainland to Port Hardy on Vancouver island, and thence the BC Ferry to Price Rupert as above.

The Haida Gwaii are an archipelago of 138 islands, 80 miles off the coast of northern BC and most of them are uninhabited, the native peoples having been moved forcibly when Canada first became populated by the white man.

Anyway, my idea was to travel alone and just camp by myself whenever the opportunity arose, but a chance encounter in a drinking place changed all that. nevertheless, I was still able to go it alone afterwards.

I met a guy in the bar who started small talk etc and very soon the topic of “where are you going…” came up, both from my side and his. I told him what I was planning to do, and he told me that he was there to pick ‘shrooms.

That intrigued me, as I’d never met anyone in person who’d done so, and we got talking further. He saw that I was interested, but I could sense a wariness about what he was telling me…he steadfastly refused to talk about where he  would be going, who with or when. And he was quite open about his secrecy, too. “Their places are as sacred to ‘shroom pickers just as the Vatican is to Catholics!” he said!

I asked him if he was going in his own. He replied that some of the pickers work alone, but he works with a gang, whom he’d be happy to introduce me to if I wanted….but he warned me that they were a rough n tough bunch and don’t take too easily to meeting strangers!

The next day, I met him again at the same bar, we had a few drinks and he said he was going to drive over to where the rest of his friends were camped and I could come with him. The camp was about a 30 minute drive away, in a quiet forested area just off a dirt road. Sure enough, when we arrived and I got out of the pickup, the few people who weren’t in their tents all suddenly stopped doing whatever they were doing…and started staring at us…well, not us, but ME!

My friend Jon winked at me and said “…told you so…”, relating to me what he’d said about strangers in camp etc. It was late afternoon by the time we finished talking and telling our own stories, so Jon asked if I wanted to stay with them overnight or a few days, which I jumped at….I was not going to give up this golden opportunity easily, I tell you!

During the next few days, I met and talked to, it seemed, a whole cross-section of people……from a group of Chinese who kept themselves to themselves, only mixing with the rest of the people if they needed to, a single mother with her 4 children, some Hispanics who couldn’t speak a word of english but were the happiest people on earth, judging by the smiles when they met me, a native Indian guy who’d been picking mushrooms for coming up to 15 years, an office worker who, like me, had become fed up with the rat-race and had taken to mushroom picking because “it paid the bills and let him be with the eagles and the wolves..”, a student who wanted to make some cash, two russian guys who were as inscrutable as they come, and many more such colorful characters.

I got talking the office worker, seeing as he had the same ideas as myself. I asked him why he gave up what was a very comfortable life, to live in the wilds. I knew what he’d say, but what the heck. And sure enough, his answer was text-book.

He explained that he’d been working in administration for over 20 years, and in that time, all he could see was that he was working himself to death….it was the same boring pattern that I escaped from myself….work, eat, sleep, work, eat sleep, work, eat, sleep….ad infinitum.

Here in the wilds, he said, there were no deadlines….no boss to answer to, no office politics, nobody to please but himself. He still had an apartment in downtown Vancouver which was paid for, so there was no problem with paying a mortgage or anything, but he’d rented it out as he was away for most of the time.

And he also confirmed that mushroom pickers were a very secretive bunch indeed…and rightly so, as the crop was very elusive at the best of times and one could make substantial money once a site was found.

Bc was not the only place in Canada where mushrooms could be picked in large numbers….when the crop in this area was depleted, they’d head over to the East coast, Nova Scotia, Saskatchewan or the Yukon.

I also learnt that there some varieties of mushroom that could be grown artificially, but some could not, only becoming available in the right conditions in the wild.

I spent a total of 3 days in the mushroom pickers’ camp and in that time everyone had become friendly with me, knowing that I was a person who loved the wilderness just like them!

😉

 

 

 

 

 

http://www.wholeearth.com/issue/2100/article/145/migrant.mushroomers

A bit of magic for Monday morning!

A Russian team discovered a seed cache of Silene stenophylla, a flowering plant native to Siberia, that had been buried by an Ice Age squirrel near the banks of the Kolyma River. Radiocarbon dating confirmed that the seeds were 32,000 years old.

The mature and immature seeds, which had been entirely encased in ice, were unearthed from 124 feet (38 meters) below the permafrost, surrounded by layers that included mammoth, bison, and woolly rhinoceros bones.

The mature seeds had been damaged—perhaps by the squirrel itself, to prevent them from germinating in the burrow. But some of the immature seeds retained viable plant material.

The team extracted that tissue from the frozen seeds, placed it in vials, and successfully germinated the plants…and here’s the result! You are looking at a plant that grew 32,000 years ago….

 

 

 

 

 

Taking up an outdoor activity for the first time?

I know from experience what a shock it is when you first decide to take up a new outdoor activity.

And the shock is nothing to do with the activity itself…it’s the price of the equipment!

It just doesn’t make sense to spend hundreds of dollars on equipment when you may just change your mind on the first trial.

But never fear, help is here….in the form of a superb rental scheme set up by MEC, suppliers of outdoor equipment.

Rather than spend hours listing it all, just click here to see what is on offer for you.

😉

 

 

 

3 most important items if you are lost in the wilderness…

By taking part in a pastime that necessarily involves an element of danger, we should always be prepared for times when the worst can happen.

Having a set of the important tools for survival is the first most urgent point.

Let’s have a look at these 3 items.

Knife

Compass

Fire lighter

Of course,it really depends upon where you are lost….if it is a barren area, or solid frozen snow-covered wilderness or the desert, then we may require a few other items than those listed.

If we are in a dense forested area or a jungle (very rare in N America!), then these items will save your life, if used correctly.

The knife is one thing you DO NOT want to lose when you’re hiking….it is said no matter how honed your survival skills, if you don’t have a knife, you’re chances of survival are very low indeed.

What can a knife do? Well, a knife can offer you:

  1. Immediate protection and self-defense while you construct more suitable weapons.
  2. The ability to quickly sharpen a strong stick to make a spear for hunting and for protection.
  3. The ability to cut fruits or edible green matter
  4. The ability to cut vines and/or animal hides into thin strips to use as cord so you can make or build things.
  5. The ability to cut and build a variety of primitive traps and snares to capture wild game.
  6. The ability to properly skin an animal and slice the meat 

The important thing about a knife is this….you cannot make a knife from raw materials if you are lost in the wilderness, period. You may be able to use things like broken glass for cutting edges etc but nothing as useful as a proper knife.

For this reason, I always carry not one but TWO knives, one is a folding one and the other a full length sheathed type.

Types of knives

There is a plethora of knives on sale for hikers and campers…it is up to you to make the correct choice and not be taken in by fancy marketing. First and foremost, my advice is not to waste your money on those Swiss Army knives…they may be good enough for the Swiss Army, but there are cheaper and better alternatives closer to home…we” come to that in a minute.

The best knives are those made of stainless steel…these will never rust and will keep their edges far longer than a non-stainless steel knife.

Also, the construction of the knife is of paramount importance….buy one on which he blade extends all the way back to the end of the handle….that will be a very sturdy knife compared to one on which the blade ends at the start of the handle.

A belt sheath is very useful indeed and ensures your knife will always be handy for immediate use.

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The next item in order of importance is a fire. No matter where we are stranded, a fire immediately raises your morale and composure, making us less likely to give up survival.

And we all know that having a fire going will keep dangerous animals away, as well as providing much-needed heat for warmth and cooking….in some cases, a fire may well signal your presence to those searching for you.

Again, as with knives, there are hundreds of suggested ways of starting fires, but from experience, let me say this much….if you are stranded in an area where it is very damp, or raining, or snowing heavily, the so-called primitive fire method is almost next to useless.

Picture the scenario…you are soaking wet, the air is damp or freezing, you are depressed at being in such a situation and any sparks you are able to create, soon disappear due to the amount of moisture in the air.

As well, in extreme weather, one is very likely to become quickly irritable and fearful, so starting a fire using friction or other primitive methods is very difficult indeed during times of emotional stress.

At present, there are 3 methods of starting a fire….butane cigarette lighters, matches and magnesium fire starters.

Matches

There are many kinds of matches available that promise the ability to light fires in any terrain or condition, but they all depend upon you having the very best, dry tinder, as well as being dry themselves.

If at all your matches get wet, then it will be almost impossible to use them…I have tried reusing dried matches that have been wet, but the material on the match head just crumbles off, so keeping matches dry is paramount.

Next we have butane cigarette lighters….these are very cheap and cost around a $1.50 each. Bear in mind that one of these little beauties, though cheap and simple, has the ability to light around a 1000 fires…that’s one fire a day for THREE years….buy a bigger sized one and you’re talking about over 4000 fires. Butane lighters are very reliable and will light up in the wettest weather…I have used them in rain, sleet, high winds and snow with excellent effect.

Finally, we have the magnesium method. This involves shaving thin strips of magnesium off a block and creating sparks from the flint by striking it with your knife. This can also be very good and reliable, as magnesium catches alight very rapidly.

From my experience, it pays to have all 3 with you, as then you have a fail-safe system. Undoubtably, the best method I can vouch for is the butane method.

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And then we come to the compass.

A compass is vital if you are lost. Even though you may not know zilch about map-reading or using a compass to find your way through to civilisation, it will at least allow you to walk in a straight line, hopefully to a road where help will be available.

Without a compass, your chances of walking in a straight line consistently are next to zero.

Always go for a decent compass….you can pick some up in dollar stores, but would you place your trust one of these? Not me!

There are very useful models available that have several life-saving features included in them…..some have the compass as well as a mirror (for signalling), a whistle (for attracting attention) and a small torch.

I have selected the very best items for you here, that I have used myself and that have proven their worth countless times over.

All these items can be purchased at Backcountry.com

SOG Knives Team Leader Knife

SOG Knives Team Leader Knife

The SOG Team Leader Knife exemplifies simplicity and versatility with its plain-edge AUS-8 stainless steel blade and no moving parts to gum up and fail in the field. The comfortable, no-slip checkered Zytel handle with lanyard hole and included leather sheath round out this simple, effective tool to ensure that you have every possible option for survival.    Price: $62…reduced from $103.45

Suunto MC-2G Navigator Global Compass

The Suunto MC-2G Navigator Compass features:

patented global needle that functions flawlessly anywhere in the world

large mirror

additional sighting hole

luminous bezel ring

magnifying lens

standard issue for Military Special Forces.  Price: $75.56

Ultimate Survival Technologies Strikeforce Firestarter

Ultimate Survival Technologies Strikeforce Firestarter.

WetFire tinder wrapped and stored in the tinder compartment starts without hesitation.    Price: $19.96

Matches and butane cigarette lighters can be purchased from any general store.