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4 Skills to Perfect in Fort Backyard

So you’ve been reading our articles, went to one of our camps, or maybe just looking for something fun to do with the family. Here are four skills you can perfect in your back yard before you have to use them for real.

Fire Craft

The single greatest skill for both confidence and usefulness is mastering fire craft. But don’t play with matches; work on two paths of mastery. The first is using a sparking device like the Light My Fire from Industrial Revolution. The second is learning a primitive technique such as the bow-drill.612

Once you begin to master- push yourselves to experiment with various tools and harder conditions. A great activity for gaining experience is to tie natural fiber rope to two stakes or rods in the ground about 18 inches high and time yourselves on how long it takes to bundle materials, get a flame, and then burn the rope down.

The ability to start a fire is key to staying alive in the wilderness. This means fire starting is a priority in the list of bushcraft skills.

Some residential zones may restrict fire to specified enclosures. If restricted then use a homemade or purchased fire-pit for containment. We built a pit using 8”x12”concreate pavers to create a pit to practice in.

Gimme’ Shelter

Many backyards don’t have ready-sized trees to practice with. Still, there are many things you can do to create shelter. You can use t-post stakes purchased from local farm and feed stores to create anchor points that simulate trees and common tent stakes to represent natural wood stakes you would normally make in the back country. Just know where water, electric, and sprinkler lines lay.

Experiment with tarps, ponchos, and even a few discarded pieces of lumber. You kids will love that you are building a fort with them.

Learn a few knots, get some decent 550- cord and get to it!

Wood Splitting- Knife Skills

608Wood splitting with a survival knife- also known as batoning can add a valuable wilderness survival skill to your toolbox. This is useful because it helps you in creating smaller- easier to ignite pieces of wood even when the wood is wet. Learn with a full blade survival knife and work your way to using a small axe or hatchet.

Bushcraft Cooking

You’re getting the hang of fire building so might as well use it to try your cooking over an open fire. You can choose to use a grate in the beginning- but move yourself into experimenting with cooking with Dutch Ovens, #10 cans, and wooden spits.

Try making a “survival stew (anything you find in the fridge) in a coffee can or pick up a Cornish hen and cook it over open coals. Be sure to follow all safe food handling protocols- and it’s okay to use a meat thermometer to help you learn.

We still use Fort Backyard to master skills, and these four will get you on a path to perfecting skills before you have to use them.

Ten Things Your 10 Year-old Should Know about Survival

Your job is to provide your kiddo with skills and knowledge to make it back alive if something was to happen

Your job is to provide your kiddo with skills and knowledge to make it back alive if something was to happen

Every year I run between 400-600 kids through survival training through venues like Scooters Youth Hunting Camp, Idaho Hunters Ed, the Adventure IQ Survival Day Camp, and multiple seminars at outdoor events, sporting good stores, church events, and private workshops. From this experience I have found there are a few essential skills every 10 year-old should know.

A big part of this is parent/mentor involvement. Don’t just buy a bunch of cool survival gadgets and throw them in a pack. Take full advantage of your base camp- ie- Fort Backyard to learn and practice these skills. If you have been in one of my workshops you will remember that one of the keys to teaching kids is to teach them one skill at a time, let them gain mastery of it and show they are responsible, then place it in their hunting or hiking pack. For us the basic building block of any pack is a hydration bladder and a solid pack designed for the size of your kiddo.

Below are the 10 things I believe every 10 year-old should master and be responsible/accountable to :

How to Build Shelter

This not only has to do with keeping warm, but also making shade as well as staying put. From basic methods of using a light-weight nylon tarp to making shelter from natural resources, a shelter provides the psychological benefits of keeping busy-ie-keeping fear at bay, keeps them at one spot and from wandering around, and the sense of “place” they need to survive. In addition it will keep them out of the elements.

How to Use a Knife

Using a knife well is a skill that has long since been lost. In days of old- if you were 10 and had not whittled something cool you were pretty much relegated to go play dolls with your sister. It wasn’t long ago boys would sit at recess and compare blades. Sometime around the 8th or 9th grade most of us made a bowie-knife in shop.
A knife is a practical tool and one of the first to add in a kit when they learn to use it safely and have a maturity for it. Start kids out young with a simple pocket knife with no more than four tools- main blade, skinning blade, can opener, and one other implement. Keep the blades small at first then move up from there.
Most important, receiving a knife is a rite of passage so have a small ceremony and when your kiddo is old enough present them with a very special knife. My daughter received her first one at 9 during a camping trip. We made a huge deal out of it. Recently we did the same thing when she became one of my instructors, receiving an Air Force survival knife. Make them earn it, learn to use and respect it, then reward them with it.
I still have my first Buck 110 that my grandfather gave me.

How to Swap Batteries in a Head Lamp

Basic-but I know adults who struggle with this. The head lamp is one of the first survival items you can add to a pack. Practice changing batteries at Camp Living Room then move it out to Ft Backyard. Practice at night since this is when most dead batteries are discovered.

 

How to Make Fire

This is the single most confidence building skill for kids going into the back country- but take it beyond learning how to produce a flame with a cotton ball and petroleum jelly. Teach them how to clear an area, when fire is at high danger, and how to build at least two types of fire pits.

Start with simple skills- then progress to more difficult scenarios

Start with simple skills then progress to more difficult scenarios

Get them proficient with one method (striker and cotton)and move them into other techniques. Practice on clear days and move them into adverse conditions like rain and snow. Be patient. This can be a difficult skill to learn, especially when working in wet and windy conditions. If you don’t have one, build a fire pit in Ft Backyard for practice.
This is a skill that needs to be practiced regularly at home, on family camping trips, and days hiking in the woods.

As an added bit of fun, experiment with friction methods like the bow drill.

 

How to Signal for Help

Signal mirrors and whistles are just a start. By the time your kiddo is 10 they should be able to properly use both of these. At 10- this is a solid start into other signal skills.

Signal is simple in concept- but teaching correct target aquisition takes practice

Signal is simple in concept- but teaching correct target acquisition takes practice

Know How to Fish
Teach a kid to fish. Then teach them how to use the small kit in their survival bag. Also- have them clean, cook, and eat what they take.

 

How to Give First-Aid/Self-Aid

Start simple. Being prepared and knowing how to use ALL the contents in their kit is essential.

 

How to Get Water

A small filter system is best for 10 year-olds olds and then moves them into more advanced skills with tablets, boiling, etc.
Don’t forget the obvious– where potable water is help in parks and camp sites.

How to Use a Slingshot or Bow
Another lost art. Teach the basic, go to the woods for some stump shooting, then either at FT Backyard or on a camping trip have them take game. We purchase quail or chickens for practice. It is good for a kid to understand that life must be taken in order to preserve life. Eat what you harvest and have them begin to learn how to field dress game respectfully.

How to Handle a Fire Arm

Shoot or don’t shoot. Just teach them how to handle it safely, and it’s not a toy. If you are gun adverse, at least teach them to leave it alone. If you are okay with your kiddo handling guns, get them training to do it correctly.

Abby and Dan

All of these are basic skills any 10-year-old can perform, but it is up to you to provide them a safe educational environment. For more information or to get us involved and partnering with you, please check us out at http://www.AdventureIQ.com

Touring the Owyhee Back Country Byway

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Rock’n the red JK on this one. Answered lots of questions about the winch and other gear.

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Be mindful of private property. Most land owners are friendly, but remember, this is home- and for most for over a hundred years. Be polite and ask for access.

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Great photo ops out here

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Stone cattle chute- only one I have ever seen made from stone

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Post Office in (defunt) Fairly Lawn, Idah

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a real “two-holer”

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Post cards- most from the 1930-1950 in the outhouse

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You are going to get your off-pavement fix with this trip

This last weekend I was able to finally get Melissa and her camera gear out to the Owyhee Uplands Back Country Byway. Abby and I hit this road last year on the Idaho Overland trip with Beau Johnston from Living Overland. On that trip I saw a million photo opportunities so I knew I had to get her back out there.

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Taking a lunch break with the group and listening to the history of the Owyhees from people who have seen it in some cases more than 50 years.

Locally known as Mud Flat Road for its impassibility when rain and snow make the terrain an absolute mess, is the primary
access to central Owyhee County. An area rich in history has something for every overlander wanting a day or two of exploration. Off the byway, there are multiple trails to explore, and though most people do it in a few hours, we prefer either an all day trip with lots of stops or a multi-day trip to fully absorb all there is in the area.

There is really only a small window of travel. As mentioned earlier, rain makes the road slick and due to the terrian, it takes several weeks to dry out. In the summer, the heat can become unbearable for many. When Abby and I passed that area last July the temps in the shade were at 108.

We started our trip in Jordan Valley, Oregon which is about an 90 minutes from our base camp in the Boise area. Another route is from Hwy 78 near Grand View, Idaho. If you love off-pavement travel like we do, you will get mostly gravel and dirt road. You will also get the thrill of crossing back and forth over state lines a few times. There is about 90 miles in Idaho and 15 miles within Oregon.

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You are alone for the next 120 miles- be sure you go with the right gear. We help back country travelers get ready for trips just like this

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Carry a spare tire, fuel, jack, and other roadside repair equipment with you. Also, a Trasharoo helps with picking up trash along the way from the other morons.

As we say in all of our workshops and seminars, prepare for adverse situations. You are alone out here. There are no services, cell phones are out of range, and even our testing with the 2m HAM set up proved that we were alone. This makes a great case for carrying a SPOT GPS unit with you. Top off your rig with fuel in Grandview or Jordan Valley, carry 3-5 gallons of water, your survival kit, and if possible and extra gallon of two of fuel. We also carried a full tool kit along with extra hoses and belts.

IMG_0380We were incredibly fortunate to have “Frankie” along on our trip. Third generation rancher in the area, at 95 years-old has more life in her than most people. Through her we were entertained and educated about some of the small historic details including a trip to the school house in Cliffs, the old post office in Fairy Lawn (both now defunct towns) stories of moonshiners, wagon train contracts, the people she knew in the area, and even games played as children.
Please be aware that there are many parcels of private land along the Byway. Please respect private property by having the right maps and equipment to avoid trespassing.IMG_0366

This is a great trip and recommend it for all regional overlanders. Make sure you checkout our facebook page to see when we are going to be out there again or exploring other regional areas as part of Project ROVE. And as a small reminder, remember, we do workshops and seminars to prepare you for safe back country travel.

We will be doing a full podcast on this trip soon.

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School house at Cliffs, Idaho, a now defunt town

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Road Trip Tunes

Today's youth don't understand the relationship of the two...So how many of you did this at a point in life- had that special tape that you played endlessly on a road trip…okay, allow me to modernize…a cd….wait…a set of tunes on your mp3?  I admit to the mp3, but there is something really special about sifting through a box of old crap and find that special tape that you played so much you know EXACTLY the point it is going to drag or skip.

I love music. Road trip songs were an important part of my youth and a tradition I carry on today. When my family moved from Arizona to Texas in 1979 I listened to Bobby Vee the whole way. It was my Mom’s favorite…… 8-track. Yes, I even know where the songs break in between tracks 3 and 4. For my Dad it was Roger Whitiker, Neil Diamond, and Alabama. Dad and I are allot alike in that we have a variety of taste.

In 1994, I uprooted from Abilene, Texas and transferred as an instructor to the Air Base Ground Defense School at Ft Dix, New Jersey. Before Mapquest, Google Maps, and GPS it was just me and the Gin Blossoms finding our way both topographically and emotionally. I had just come out of an “interesting” four years that had been soured with a broken marriage, a breaking relationship, and a need to begin being the person I was meant to be and not what others expected me to be. 1500 plus miles of “New Miserable Experience” not only spoke to the present but reached back into my past. (Gin Blossoms also hail from Tempe.)

Poison’s “Flesh and Blood” or Motley Crue’s “Dr. Feel Good” would pump me up while flying nap of the earth during operations in Southwest Asia. I would blast it through my headphones as we skirted the sand in CH-53’s.

Rush always has and always will speak to me in different phases of life. Practically everything from the “Roll the Bones” reflects my life post Desert Storm and the humanitarian missions I would be involved in during both my military and post military career. When I was working through many of the distant thoughts I would carry with me, I would lay down some distance on the road with both Albums on CD.  I guess I should add the Counting Crow’s “August and Everything After” when I was deployed to Korea- right after Melissa and I met. Each word spoke volumes to me and I would fall asleep eachnight thinking of her and listening to that tape.

Currently I am threading a compilation of tunes from Creed, Tonic, Roger Clyne, The Refreshments, Foo Fighters, and Goo-Goo Dolls fill my ears. All these are on my iPod. Somehow it’s not the same as the old cassette tapes. Nothing gets stretched, worn, and it never skips. Only so much can be said for audio perfection…

Finding those old tapes and CDs brings back so many memories. Lost love, forgotten friends, goals I have strived for that mean nothing now. Words that touched my life then, and bring back the smiles and the scars of a man I used to be and who I have grown into today.

Firepuck Demo and Review

As many of you know—I have been burned (no pun intended) by survival products I have purchased in the past. Sometimes the concept is great, works well in the lab, works well in limited field testing, fails when you really need it.

I am also conscious of where I spend my hard-earned dollars. Sometimes though I have to be aware that there are guys out there that may not have the same experience as me, so I have to think about the guy or gal who is new to the woods, is cold in the woods, or the person who pulls up to a camp site and has to get it quickly situated.

Okay, enough of the prelude, let me tell you about a product we strongly endorse… Firepuck.

This is by far one of the coolest things (there is that pun thing again) we have tested in a long time. I can start fires with everything from shotgun shells to belly button lint. If you have been to one of my seminars we do just that. I will still carry a couple of these. This is a great way to get a fire started whether you are a survival expert or the guy who has to start the fire pit in the backyard.

Starting with the stats, this thing burns at 1400 degrees.  To get a fire going you need oxygen, fuel, and heat. If your fuel source is wet it is going to be difficult to light. Put yourself in a situation where you are hypothermic and all sources are wet, you are in deep trouble if you can’t get a fire going. I won’t matter how many cotton balls you can light with flint and steel, wet fuel source means trouble. The advantage of the hot temps produced by the Firepuck is that not only does it provide quick ignition of your fuel source, it actually dries your source.

For our test I soaked seasoned pine in a 5 gallon bucket for approximately 60 hours. (I had intended to do it for only 48 hours, but got side- tracked so the wood stayed submerged and extra day.) I then used a modified Tee-Pee build for the fire with no other kindling. Please check out the video for more perspective.

The Firepuck is easy to use. It has a friction based ignition system integrated into the cap. It took me three attempts in the video to light it…this is because I was a pansy and was over-cautious. In reality, like all of you laughing at my failure in the video.  I was impressed with how concentrated the flame source was, a feature you want in high wind conditions. Unlike all those cotton balls I fill with petroleum jelly, this product is petroleum free.

One of the points made about the product is that it is not water proof. Honestly, there are not a lot of products that are truly waterproof that are this easy to use when it comes to fire starting. This can be made water proof though by using either a Mylar bag also sold by Firepuck or a Zipper style baggie. I am currently testing one in a zipper baggie with two small moisture tabs (designed to pull moisture out) and will test that next week. They are sitting in a backpack in the downpour we have been receiving off-and-on the past few days. They show no signs of taking on moisture at all.

What I like about this product is that you don’t have to be an expert to use it. It takes the guess-work out of staying alive. I would ensure that I don’t use it at the back end of my jeep, in doors as a gag, or substitute it for birthday candles. I also like that it does not leave residue like a road flare would, and for the same size of a flare, I can carry six of these.

I will be carrying these in my EMT/ Wilderness Rescue bag, survival bag, and in my vehicles. If you buy anything new to go into your survival or camping kit, this should be first on the list. I would also include this on a list of something to keep on hand for those back yard parties where you have a firepit. This is a no hassle way to get a fire going for your guest.

Checkout the video on YouTube

 Be sure to check out Firepuck at their website for more info.

Spinning Wheels

 

Bike Racing in Texas

From 1998 to 2007 I was a bike commuter. I did everything by bike. At one point I commuted 36 miles round trip to work. As a family we did our grocery shopping by bike. Riding 5 miles to the store with panniers, and bike trailers, we took care of our dietary needs. One trailer held Abby, the other a huge ice chest. We attended hockey and football games, the Fat Tire Festival, and took in some great movies- all a 30 mile round trip. I have hunted bear by bike, planned entire vacations, and even moved across the country to be in better biking conditions.

Riding in Ojanaga, Mexico...the crossing was...interesting

Bikes are simple and efficient. I believe in so many situations bikes are better than cars. Traveling around the world I have found that where more people have used bikes instead of cars, the environment seems to be a much better place for it. I have found that people are healthier in spite of other contributing factors to bad health. They are without a doubt more physically fit, and with the exception of the stress placed on them by cars, are mentally healthier.  

I often hear about cars complaining about bikes.  Not going to start a rant, but the fact is everyone benefits from fewer cars. Fewer cars mean less traffic, less pollution, and fewer  traffic deaths . Since I enjoy hunting, the pollution in my city has an effect on the woods I roam. I enjoy the beauty of the landscape and know I am doing my part to preserve it. If you don’t believe the effect pollution has on the woods, check out recent pictures of Shenandoah National Park now and what it looked like 30 years ago. Devastating.  To be a hunter means I am a conservationist, which means I care about the environment.

My journey through biking began like most, that first bike as a kid. This granted freedom, adventure, and independence. Later in high school I began commuting 15 miles each way. In between that commute I also participated in track, cross-country, and football. I wasn’t out to become a super athlete, I only wanted to avoid trouble on the school bus.

When stationed in Germany, my bike was often the most reliable means of getting to work each day. 12 KM back and forth with a 45lb ruck with all my gear for the day tucked in home-made panniers. My cars (yes plural) were always breaking down so I became proficient on the bike.

Several years later I was introduced into mountain biking by a boss and I instantly fell in love with it. I devoted hours to weeknight rides, weekend trips, and vacations that would include several weeklong treks in some of the most remote regions of the south and southwest.

 I took bikes with me on business travel so I could explore areas like Mobile, Tucson, Chicago, and other cites and country sides. I shipped my bike ahead of me and it was ready when I got to the hotel. For me it was much better to do some exploring along the Gulf of Mexico than hanging out and drinking in a bar.

The other advantage, I could eat whatever I wanted. I tipped the scales at a consistent 155, a weight I would love to be back to again.

In 2005 we moved to Boise to get closer to biking. The first year I commuted by bike for the majority of my work and week days. I was also really big into restoring old bikes, including a 1953 Columbia and a 1968 Raleigh. I was also building bikes for people who for one reason or another lost the ability to commute by car. I was in great shape and felt very complete. I also completed a season of bear hunting all by bicycle. With my longbow mounted to my handlebars and gear pulled behind me in a trailer, I peddled my way through April to June in search of a big brownie. I also hunted a deer season as well, at least until both bike and hunter were snowed in.

 I think it was during this time though I began to lose focus….and gain weight. I went through some staggering depression in 2006-2007 and after the initial weight loss gained 55 unwanted pounds. I lost motivation to build, repair, or ride any bike.

This last weekend, the desire to bike has returned. Once I get a rack built on my Jeep, I plan to trek across some of the most remote regions of Idaho. Already feeling better and dropping 20 lbs through swimming, going back to the bike is a natural step for me.

Repost- The Warrior is Back (2004)

Before I start I have to give a huge thumbs up to my iPad. I am on a steady path to making this my sole device. There are a few limitations to it…but for blogging, managing our social media, etc it is awesome. I still have to go into my laptop for podcasting and website updates, but I tend to carry it much less. I only wish I had this thing when I first started blogging. Now if I can teach my fingers to hit the space key instead of “b” and “n”.

We are such creatures of habit. Yesterday when I found my old blog, I realized I was drifting back into the trap I sprung us from several years ago. Maybe this is more of a reminder for me to continue to pursue the life our hearts so desperatly battled for.

In 2003 and through 2005, I was on a fast track. People where interested in my career. I was enrolled in a graduate program, given assignments at work to expand my horizons, placed with an image consultant who monitored every action I took, how I dressed, my hobbies, and what kind of vehicle I drove. I found myself either on the road each week or trapped in work for 12 to 18 hours a day. The only saving grace was that when I was home (rarely) I was allowed to work from an office in my house. Money was great….life was a drain.

During the project I took a highly controversial day off. Against the wishes of the project team, I took a personal day. Eight years later I’m sure nobody voluntarily recalls the event, the project went fine and within six months of execution they moved on to a different model anyway, and I have a great memory of a day with my daughter. You do the math….

The Warrior is Back (2004)
To be checked out. Seems like I have been taken out of the battle more lately than I ever hoped to be. Odd thing is–its been situations that don’t normally bother me.

The past few weeks I’ve been developing new management training courses for my company. Day and night–this is all I have been focused on. All the things that seem to matter most have taken a back seat. Important things like prayer, spending time with my family, spending time with myself, calling to check on my band of brothers, oh yea– and time for God. So I carved out time for two important events today.

The first was an all out mountain bike assault combined with a little “geocaching”. Geocaching–heard of it? It a new sport–very similar to an exercise we used to do in the military when GPS units became part of our map and compass training. It a sport where you use your GPS device and find hidden caches. In the caches is usually a log book and some kind of memorabilia. Today I signed my name to the log book and took a finger puppet as a prize for my effort. In return I left an old Susan B. Anthony dollar.

The second item on today’s agenda was to take my 3-year old out to play. Putt-putt was scheduled but the sign that said “year round” didn’t include Mondays and Tuesdays as part of that year. So we sacrificed and found ourselves at the playground in the nearest McDonald’s. So after 40 minutes of stairs, slides, smiles, and sticky seats we headed back to the house. She worn out from the play- me worn out from the Happy meal I picked at in addition to my “Number 1- Super-sized”.

My realization is this. We work hard- but we also have to play hard. And in the end–getting a cool toy in the bottom of a burger bag or in a sealed bucket in the middle of the woods is an extra bonus. The real prize is the time we spend with those we love.

I have no regrets for taking the time off and I think its time to do that again. A few weeks ago I became very concerned in a meeting I was going to die. I was so focused on that one thought, I barely remember the meeting. I am currently on another demanding project that is robbing me of time with family. I need to reconnect with my crew at home. I do not want to leave this earth doing fantastic things….and yet never taking my daughter to the Boise Zoo. My mission next week is to do just that. We have to have missions in life that make a difference.

Abby and I are incredibly close. Part of that is the emphasis we place on time together. In addition to Daddy/Daughter dates, we have been doing weekend breakfast together since she was six-months old. Again….do the math. Figue out the 1×1 time we have had together.

Taking off next Monday to take my kiddo to the zoo….and Friday to do lunch with the wife. These are the things worth fighting for. The Warrior is back…….again.