Wednesday, May 30, 2012


...portaging is like hitting yourself on the head with a hammer: it feels so good when you stop. – Bill Mason

Monday, May 28, 2012

MEC Paddlefest @ Kelso Conservation Area.

This past weekend I received a newsletter stating that the MEC Burlington's Paddlefest is going to be held at Kelso Conservation Area on June 24. I have never been to one of these events, filled with workshops and seminars out on the water. They showcase all forms of water activities, canoeing, Kayaking, and paddleboarding just to name a few. As well they're showing some films and land focused seminars (orienteering etc.). They are also offering a "Gear Swap", where one can rent a table to unload some of your extra gear. That's where I come in. Seeing as Kelso is a 3 min drive from my house I will be loading up the car and hopefully putting some new life into the gear that I don't use anymore.  Here is the site with details, There is also Paddlefests related to all the MEC's across Canada. If you come to Kelso on the 24th stop by and say "Hi".

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

A Damaged Canoe Makes For A Bad Day.

With canoeing season here, please be safe and do not try to canoe down any moving water without prior experience and/or instruction. A damaged canoe look so bloody unhappy, and is such a waste of a beautiful thing!

Friday, May 18, 2012

A Field Test: The Littlbug Junior.

We are going to touch base again on commercially available wood camp stoves. Last time we took a look at the Emberlit, and this week we are going to look at a stove made by Littlbug Enterprises; The Littlbug Junior. Made in the Bemidji, MN, and invented and designed by Kent Hering. Kent is an avid outdoors-men himself with a great sense of sustainability. The Littlbug is made out of stainless steel, is designed to burn wood as well as be part of a alcohol burner set up. The Littlbug clocks in at around 5 oz as the basic stove. When disassembled it retains a slightly concave form, At first I was perplexed how how to store it in your pack flat with out damage, but it fits around a sleeping pad perfectly making it a very compact stove. The basic stove consists of 4 parts. Two halves of the outer wind shield and two parts of the inner "grate/stand". There are no moving parts, and no latches or snaps. It comes together in about 20 seconds to a very stable surface.

Aside from the basic stove there are some accessories one can get to help in their outdoor cooking experience, although you will find it just as good without them. The two accessories I received are the nylon Cordura bag and the stainless steel pot sling. The bag fits the stove perfectly, and prevents the user from any unwanted cuts or damage to equipment from the semi-sharp edges of the stove, and also keeps all the pieces on one spot nicely. It aldo does a great job of keeping soot off of anything while the stove is not in use. I will touch base on the pot sling later on in this write up.

 Like I mentioned setting up the stove was simple and couple quick movements and bends and the stove is ready to go. The inner grate can be positioned in two fashions depending on what fuel source you plan on using to cook. The grate sits higher out of the windshield if you are going to be using wood, and sits more recessed if your going to burn spirits.  I collected some pencil size twigs to get the littlbug started to make some tea. With a quick strike of the fire steel on some birchbark I had it lit. The wood was fantastically dry and became ablaze in seconds. When I first got the stove, I was actually concerned that there was no access to feed the stove while the pot was resting on top. After I had it lit I realized why the wood burning position sits so high! It allows about a 1" area all around the stove to throw sticks in to the fire pot.

 After coming to this realization feeding the stove was really easy, being able to access the whole way round to drop sticks where needed. I was even able to slip in some small pine cones for some wicked heat.  The holes around the base on one side of the Littlbug adequately fed air into the fire, keeping it burning pretty much smoke free. I did notice that it was handy to have a small "poking" stick handy to guide some of the burning sticks and ash around.  One thing that was different compared to the Emberlit is the lack of bottom grate, The Littlbug  has none, it just sits on the ground. So I suggest that while using the littlbug, find a nice solid surface of dirt or even use it in the fire-pit at your campsite.

The water quickly came to a boil for my tea. I think I used a bit more fuel than last time, as the Littlbug is slightly larger and longer than the Emberlit. It still was not a heck of a lot of twigs used, a good mitt-full brought it to a boil with a couple twigs left to spare. Pine cones are great fuel, they burn hot and quick. The only down side is that the resinous smoke cakes onto your pots, but a black pot IS in fact more thermo-efficient than a shiny one!? Again as I mentioned with the previous test, please let the stove die out before storing it, as dumping water on it to cool could be disastrous to the hot metal, warping and contorting the stainless. In my case the Littlbug was cool to the touch in under 5 minutes, ready to be disassembled and stored.  UPDATE: I have been informed By Kent (Owner and Inventor) that the curved geometry of the Littlbug prevents warping of the metal in case water was dumped on it....I still wouldn't, unless it was an emergency.

The Littlbug markets itself as a alcohol stove, so I thought I would give that a try as well. When I was sent the Littlbug I was also given the "Pot Sling" to that out. I first set it up with my Trangia Burner directly on the ground, remembering to flip the top grate to the "alcohol" position with make the gap between the pot and windscreen quite small, about 3/8" or so. This enables the heat to be slightly more retained in order to allow the burner to heat up and burn the alcohol properly. However with the large size pot that I was using with the stove the distance between the burner and pot was quite a bit, allowing time for the heat to disperse around the pot and out the sides. There is an ideal distance one want between the burner and pot to minimize fuel consumption.

This is where the Littlbug Pot sling comes in. The idea behind it is that if you remove the upper grate, and attach this "web" of stainless ball and chain to the windscreen, you then place a smaller pot within the windscreen and adjust the distance from burner to pot. Again, the pot must fit with the diameter of the stove. Since I had the smaller Littlbug Jr. my pots did not fit in, but I was able to place the actual burner within the center of the pot sling and suspend the it right under the upper grate. By doing this I was able to close the distance to allow for maximum cooking power from the trangia burner. I think if I had tried the Littlbug Sr. my pot would have fit fine and could have used the pot sling as intended. I will definitely need to look at options for a smaller pot to fit within this set up. After boiling the second pot of water with the alcohol I found the flaw in my set up. How do you put out the Trangia with the upper grate attached?!? So with a glove I was able to remove the grate and put the "snuffer" on the Trangia.

I really enjoyed this stove, and seeing it perform, It definitely will be going out on more trips with me. I like the option of being able to use wood and if its rainy or there's no wood around being able to use alcohol. Also with the alcohol, being able to tune it for optimal output. I am really digging how simple these wood stoves or and how fun they make backcountry cooking. I would like to thanks Kent from Littlbug for the opportunity to give their fine stove a whirl. If interested you can purchase them directly from Littlbug, or form good pals Canadian Outdoor Equipment Co. Stay tuned for the third wood burning stove field test in the coming weeks when we give the Vargo Hexagon Wood stove a run in the bush.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Some Custom Work.

Today is our good friend's Daughters 1st Birthday. Happy Birthday Jolene! For her birthday I made her this pair of booties hopefully to get her through a month or so before she out grows them. They are 12 oz tooling leather soles, and moose-hide uppers, super soft and comfy. They were a blast to make, and turned out exceedingly well!

I also was commissioned to make a custom pancake style sheath for this antler knife. The shape of the knife was really curved in the handle and made it harder to bring the sheath up high, I brought it up as high as I comfortably could while making it secure in the sheath. This sheath is made from 10oz Veg-Tanned, then soaked in propitiatory wax mixture for protection and stiffness.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Canvas Water Bags.


The Bag pictured above is one my Dad got for me many moons ago, it hangs off my display of camp stoves. It was the inspiration for when I made the canvas cups, a soak-able seal that works exceptionally well. These canvas bags cool via evaporation, and do a pretty damn good job at it. Growing up my Brother and I used those old wool covered plastic canteens, and these cooled pretty good as well. My dad being super frugal, had a wool sock with a handle he could slip a 2L bottle into and soak and hang off the side of the canoe to cool. For those who don't know about evaporation cooling, I found a pretty good description on how it works.

"Evaporation is a cooling process. The water molecules that escape the surface of the bag were those that were fast moving. If you remove the fast moving molecules, the ones left behind are slower and, thereby, colder. The faster you remove them the colder the aggregate becomes. Hanging the bag on the front of a fast moving car is a good way to remove them quickly."

They were typically made of flax canvas, and for the first couple weeks the water would taste horrible as the flax slowly got "washed". One trick was to let the bags sit in a moving stream for a week, then another week soaking in baking soda and water. One the taste was gone, it was gone. while mentioned above that hanging it from your car is a good way to chill it, it also aided in cooling the car in the desert heat. Back in the day one would hang the bags off of the rad cover and place it in front of the rad itself. As the wind blew the water off of the bag to cool it, this water would also blow into the rad and give it a slight cooling effect as well. One of the disastrous things that could have happened while hanging on the car is a drop of gasoline or diesel dripping on the bag, which would in-turn taint the whole bag of water. I love how similar to grain bags of the day the front designs where, classic typography. Canvas Specialty still makes these bags, and can be ordered online. And as you can tell the longer bags were meant to hung on your rad, as it would fill up more area. Also Check the bay and Etsy as there might be a couple on there.

Monday, May 7, 2012

A Field Test: Emberlit Stove.

Over the next month or so I will be testing out and showcasing some commercially available wood burning backpack sized camp stove. I'm not talking about collapsible wall tent stoves, but referring to compact thin walled metal stoves to replace typical liquid fuel single burners. With twigs and small sticks readily available everywhere on the forest floor, wood burning camp stoves are a fantastic option for those looking for simpler ways and possible lighten your load by not having to pack fuel. As mention these showcases are not to compare cooking or boiling times or weight of the stove, those have been done and if you are in that kind of rush to have your water 2 minutes ago, you need to question why you are camping in the first place. These are really to open the door to those who are new and looking for alternatives to the regular Coleman or MSR stoves. These ideas and burners are already quite popular among the bushcraft community, and I can really see them taking off more in the near future with the family campers and average Joes.

In this first post I will be showcasing the Emberlit. A US made stove that is available in both Stainless steel and Titanium. I was very fortunate enough to be able to test out the stainless version. When I got the stove in the mail, I was blown away at how flat it packs down to, in total it's 1/8" thick and stored inside a heavy duty zip top bag. The bag is similar to "quick cook" backpacking food bags (super thick). The package included instructions on how to assemble the 6 pieces of metal (FYI weighs 11.2 oz) and how to maintain a decent cooking fire within it. With assembly taking all but 15 seconds the Emberlit forms a rock solid sturdy stove. There are small cut outs around the side of the stove to provide adequate airflow to feed the fire, as well the stove is built with solid plate bottom. On one side (the front) there is an access port allowing the user to feed sticks into the heart of the stove to keep it going without having to take the cooking pot off the heat. The only thing I need to warn the user about is the possibility of sharp edges, connecting the last plate to form the stove requires some force and twisting, and there is a chance of slipping and getting a cut.... so be careful. The owner could take a small file to round the edges to make it a touch softer.

While testing it out on our recent S24O it took no time at all with the help of some birch bark and a handful of pencil sized twigs to get the stove roaring, as I added thicker diameter stick to the fire it, I was able to drop the pot and fill up the feeding port with 1 " thick sticks over a foot long, As the fire burned hot and under control within the fire box, my wife was concerned about "smokey" tasting water. In previous trips while boiling water over an open fire we were forced to swig "jerky" flavoured water. After a very short time the water came to a boil, and surprised me that I did not need to add any more fuel. The water was as clean tasting as if it was boiled on my alcohol fueled Trangia.

I was quite amazing at how sturdy the assembly was; I could (but I do not recommend it) give the built stove a kick like a soccer ball and it would stay assembled. I am sure that the Emberlit could handle any massive pot that you could throw at it, as well as smaller pots. On the Emberlit website they have solution for very small cups, and that requires a small grate to be placed on top to equalize the balance. While the stove is not huge and does need some constant attention to keep the wood being fed, it brings some welcome hands on work to backcountry cooking. The solid plate bottom of the stove provides you with the knowledge that ashes and embers are not scorching the earth underneath the fire, and makes it a viable option for those who are very stringent about the "leave no trace" aspect of camping or prefer camping off the beaten track.

In the evening we heated up our dinner on the stove and again it was super quick to light and keep stoked. Almost smokeless the meal came to a boil and with glorious dead silence. The opening on the front for feeding the fire seems to be perfectly sized to cook a single meal. You just load it tight with about 12" long twigs and you should be able to complete your meal for two. As per the instructions, the user should let the fire die instead of drowning it with water as the thin metal could warp and damage the stove. The compact size of the stove and with the removal of the cooking pat, the complete burnout occurs in no time flat.

I have been collecting camp stove for a long time and it is so interesting that there are so many different designs to do such a simple thing. To build a decent stove one needs 3 or 4 different design elements, where you place them is extremely important to its function. The Emberlit is spot on in design, and one can tell it has some serious thought put into its final design. I would like to thank Mikhail, the owner and designer of  Emberlit for the opportunity to showcase his design to you.

If interested in purchasing the Emberlit, please visit their website for options and more details.

In the coming weeks I will be posting part two of four of these field tests, Up next.... The Littlbug Junior Stove.

Friday, May 4, 2012

Damn Yak On Garrett Wade.

I am happy to announce that my Axe Holster is now carried by long time tool distributor Garret Wade. This might it a touch easier for my US friend to get their hands on one. Take a look and they even made a sweet small video showcasing how bloody secure it is! Also good friends Archival Clothing Rucksack is available...make it a combo.