Giorgia Hofer Photography
One of the things that we love the most about the outback is the clear night skies that allow you to see the moon and dramatic star scenes that are not visible from most locations due to light pollution. Many people try to capture the beauty of these sights, but in our opinion, few are as successful as Giorgia Hofer, an Italian photographer that’s a member of the Cortina Astronomical Association.
One of her photos that we really like is “Lunar Curve”, which shows the position and phases of the moon over 28 days. Each individual photo was taken from the same location at the same time of day.
Here’s a video showing some of Giorgia beautiful work; “Starry Nights in the Dolomites”:
If you want to see more of her spectacular nighttime photos, here are direct links to Giorgia’s website:
- Nightscapes: https://www.giorgiahoferphotography.com/nightscapes
- Moon: https://www.giorgiahoferphotography.com/moon
- Astrophotography: https://www.giorgiahoferphotography.com/astrophoto
Knots You Need to Know and Help to Remember How to Tie Them
This week we ran across an interesting article discussing the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s (MIT’s) new mathematical model which predicts a knot's stability; “A New Mathematical Model Predicts a Knot's Stability”
To examine the issue MIT mathematicians and engineers developed a mathematical model that predicts how stable a knot is based on several key properties, including the number of crossings and the direction in which the rope segments twist as the knot is pulled tight. "Empirical knowledge refined over centuries has crystallized out what the best knots are," said Mathias Kolle, the Rockwell International Career Development Associate Professor at MIT. But what exactly makes one knot more stable than another has not been well-understood, until now. "And now the model shows why."
In comparing the diagrams of knots of various strengths, the researchers were able to identify general "counting rules," or characteristics that determine a knot's stability. Basically, a knot is stronger if it has more strand crossings, as well as more "twist fluctuations" - changes in the direction of rotation from one strand segment to another. For instance, if a fiber segment is rotated to the left at one crossing and rotated to the right at a neighboring crossing as a knot is pulled tight, this creates a twist fluctuation and thus opposing friction, which adds stability to a knot. If, however, the segment is rotated in the same direction at two neighboring crossing, there is no twist fluctuation, and the strand is more likely to rotate and slip, producing a weaker knot. They also found that a knot can be made stronger if it has more "circulations," which they define as a region in a knot where two parallel strands loop against each other in opposite directions, like a circular flow.
If you do any Camping, and to a lesser extent Hiking, then a working knowledge of the most commonly used knots is essential. Based on our years of experience the 10 knots that we think it is critical for you to absolutely know are:
The problem is that there’s actually a lot to remember, especially if a significant amount of time passes between you actually tying these knots. So we use two items to help our memory as needed, and to give us information on other knots too. The first is the Ultimate Survival Technologies (UST’s) “Learn & Live” Knots card which has instructions and illustrations on how to tie 11 commonly used knots. You can see the details on this card, and the other 5 credit card sized cards that we think are valuable to have, on our Hiking/Emergency Supplies page.
The second item that we use to help us with knot knowledge is the “Knots 3D” app. What a great tool this is! The $4.99 standalone app (i.e. no internet required) by Nynix is worth every penny since it shows you in detail how to tie 135 knots.
The app includes the following information on each knot: best uses, other names that the knot is also known as, related knots, “Ashley Book of Knots” (ABOK) number, classification, structure, strength and reliability and a 3D animated video showing the knot being tied. In addition, the app allows you to:
The Knots 3d app’s ability to rotate a knot to see the front, back and everything in-between is indispensable and provides interactivity you can't get from a knot book’s static photographs. You can get the app at the Apple Store, Google Play Store, or Amazon Store.
If you’re looking for other good information on knots used for camping, or survival, here are four good online articles that we recommend you take a look at:
5 Best Survival Knots – Strong Life Saving Knots You Need To Know
Camping Knots: 6 Essential Knots Every Camper Needs to Know
The 7 Most Useful Survival Knots You Need to Know
Essential Knots: How to Tie the 20 Knots You Need to Know
Safariland 6004-173-6114 STX Black Tactical Holster
Since a large handgun is normally too big to carry in an Inside the Waistband (IWB) holster, you really need to carry it in a different type of holster. For concealed carry the only option is really a shoulder holster – so we have one of those (a Bianchi 4601 Ranger Viper). But for unconcealed carrying, or for ease of access for activities like 3-gun shooting, you really need to carry the firearm as a “sidearm”; and that means either an Outside the Waistband (OWB) holster or a drop-leg holster. Since an OWB holster makes the firearm sit high on your waist, that can cause issues drawing a large firearm since you have to lift your arm up fairly high to allow the barrel to fully clear the holster. Because of this, the more popular option for large handguns, like the Beretta 92FS, is a drop leg holster. After looking at the many options on the market, for unconcealed carry for our Beretta 92FS, we selected a Safariland 6004-173-6114 STX Black Tactical Holster.
You can find the details about the Safariland 6004 Holster on the Shooting/Holsters page.
Where the Moose Are and What to Do If you See One on the Trails
Back in March I wrote a blog about the expanding bear population here in New England (“It’s Springtime and That Means the Bears Are Out"). Now, based on the latest Wildlife survey, it’s clear that bears aren’t the only large mammal increasing in population in the area since the number of moose in the area is evidently growing too.
Although moose in Massachusetts were nearly hunted into extinction during the Colonial era and 19th century, after hunting was regulated in the early 1900's their population began to rebound. "It was a slow progression from Maine to New Hampshire to Vermont, and then started to show up in Massachusetts in the 1960's and 1970's. But it wasn't really until the late 1990's and early 2000's that we started having moose year-round." - Moose biologist David Stainbrook of the Massachusetts Division of Fisheries and Wildlife.
Over the past four years there have been hundreds of moose incidents (to include sightings, injuries and deaths) in Massachusetts. Here’s a map showing where the moose are concentrated and another showing the specific locations where moose have been sighted, or sadly died – mostly due to impacts with cars since moose are taller than deer so headlights don’t normally reflect off of their eyes making them harder to see at night.
Here's a more in depth article on the resurgence of moose in our area:
If you want all the details on the Massachusetts Moose population, and other detailed fish and wildlife statistics, here’s the link to the Massachusetts Division of Fisheries & Wildlife’s 2018 Annual Report.
Since the probability of a sighting is increasing, if you do see a moose while you’re out on a hike, you should know that they're not typically dangerous. But it's still good to give them plenty of space — and definitely keep any dogs hiking with you away from the moose. Although rare, you can tell if a moose will become aggressive by its body language. Here are 7 signs to look for (from Emergency Essentials Blog – “7 Signs You’re Going to be Attacked by a Moose”):
The Appalachian Mountain Club also has some good information in their article titled “Do You Know How to Respond to a Moose Encounter?”
We routinely see deer, coyotes, black bears, foxes, turkeys, fischer cats, beavers, wood chucks and even a few bobcats in our neck of the woods. I guess we’ll have to start being on the lookout for moose too.
Our Latest Hiking, Camping, Disaster Preparedness and Shooting Gear Checklists
Everybody that's been Hiking, Camping and Shooting for a while has a list of gear that they always take with them on their adventures. For some people their method of keeping track of their gear is to keep it all in one place. Others make a checklist to ensure that they have everything that they need. We do both.
Based on our experience the gear that you need for Hiking comes in 10 categories, Camping has 10 categories, Disaster Preparedness has 9 categories and Shooting gear comes in 17 categories:
To make it easier for you we have updated and added downloadable PDFs of the Hiking, Camping, Disaster Preparedness and Shooting gear checklists that we use. The checklists include the types of gear that we think you need in each of these 46 categories.
Our website also has the details on the specific gear that we use (477 items from these 46 categories at last count), the reasons that we selected it and links to Amazon, or other locations, where you can buy the gear.
You can find these downloadable PDF checklists on the main Hiking, Camping, Disaster Preparedness and Shooting pages.
A.G. Russell Knives
While we were spending time in Arkansas in October we had a chance to stop by a great knife company that most knife aficionados know about – but that many other people that like hiking, camping and shooting do not; “A.G. Russell Knives”.
A.G. Russell Knives was established in 1964 and runs the oldest mail order knife business, the oldest knife collectors club and the oldest after-market knife business. They make shopmade knives in their headquarters in Rogers, Arkansas and have their own brand of A.G. Russell knives that are produced around the world. Their store also carries all the major knife brands such as Benchmade, CRKT, Kershaw, Buck, Case, SOG and others – and many different blades from handmade knife makers such as Randall Knives, Bob Dozier, Keith Murr, Dietmar Kressler, William Henry, Arno Bernard, and others.
Although they have a store at their shop location, the bulk of their business is done online. Currently they have over 1,500 different knives on their website (https://agrussell.com/).
One of the things that we like about the A.G Russell website is, that in addition to their products, they are big supporters of the “knife community”. In this vein their website also has some great general information that makes it a good source for knife terms and steel formulations. Here’s some high level information on, and links to, their “Knife Encyclopedia” and “Steel Charts”.
Knife Encyclopedia: To assist knife lovers A.G. Russell thought that putting together a set of terms and drawings/photos about knives would be helpful to his customers. So he contacted Walter Gardiner, the President of Schrade Cutlery, who sent him their "Handbook of Knife Knowledge and Terms" along with Schrade’s approval to put it online. A.G. Russell took many of terms from the Schrade handbook and used it to start an online encyclopedia. Here are the links to the encyclopedia, the fixed blade knife types page and the blade shape page:
Knife Encyclopedia: https://agrussell.com/encyclopedia
Fixed Blade Types: https://agrussell.com/encyclopedia/fixed-blade-knife-types
Blade Shapes: https://agrussell.com/encyclopedia/blade-shapes
Steel Chart: Because of the explosion in the types of steel formulations used to make knives, in 1988 A.G. Russell posted a knife steel chart online. They continue to routinely update the chart in an attempt to keep it up to date with the ever expanding number of steel formulations. Here are the links to both the Stainless Steel and Non-Stainless Steel charts:
Stainless Steel Chart: https://agrussell.com/chart
Non-Stainless Steel Chart: https://agrussell.com/chart/non-stainless
While we were in their store we purchased an A. G. Russell “Agents Office” Knife. The lockback folding knife has a tear drop shape handle with a double ground dagger-like blade (it is only sharp on one side) made from 8Cr13MoV with a 57-59 Rc. hardness. The handle is made of Mother of Pearl with Abalone spacers. The liners, bolsters and caps, and lock bar are all stainless steel. The knife has a 3” blade and measures 3 7/8” closed. It weighs ~2.9 ounces. It also has a leather lanyard through the butt and comes with a leather pouch with a pocket clip. It’s a beauty!
To complement their main website, A.G. Russell also has an online marketplace that “provides a unique service to knife owners who decide to sell knives they own or knife buyers looking for that special knife that is extremely popular or hard to find.”; The Cutting Edge® (http://www.cuttingedge.com/). For over forty-five years, The Cutting Edge® has been the largest aftermarket for knives of all kinds. Most of these knives are owned by individuals and A.G. Russell sells them on consignment.
As if that wasn’t enough, in 1998 A.G. Russell began Russell's For Men (https://russellsformen.com/) “because we appreciate high quality personal products, but could not find the quality we wanted. Then we realized that a lot of our customers were having similar problems finding items that their grandfathers enjoyed. Fine leather goods, watches, gun accessories, home art, and office items are just a few of the many categories of products we carry.”
In addition to founding the company and designing most of their early knives, A.G. Russell was a recognized leader in the knife making industry. His accomplishments and honors included:
Although A. G. Russell III passed away in 1998, his expertise and designs live on in the current A.G. Russell knives. You really ought to look at their websites; they’ll definitely have something that you’ll want to buy.
The Brilliance of New England in the Fall
Two weeks ago I posted a few photos of Autumn here in New England. Luckily the winds and rain have been gentler this year so we still have lots of leaves on the trees – enough to get some great close-up photos of them.
Since words don’t do justice to the beauty of Nature, I’ll just post some of the photos that showcase the trees’ stunning reds, oranges, yellows and greens (click on any photo to start the slideshow).
United Cutlery M48 Tactical War Hammer with Vortec Sheath
Over the years we’ve found that Hiking, Camping and Shooting gear comes in 4 categories:
1) Essential Necessities – Gear that you absolutely must have to even consider a Hiking, Camping or Shooting adventure. Gear like a good pair of hiking boots, a quality tent or hearing protection. Without these items you either can’t start your activity, or you risk having a bad outcome during the outing.
2) Need to Have Gear – This is gear that is one step up from the minimum necessary gear. Gear that you might get away with not having initially, but that really need to have to be prepared for the Hiking, Camping or Shooting activity. This type of gear includes items like a hiking first aid kit, lightweight trail food, a sleeping pad, slings or paper targets.
3) Nice to Have Gear – This category includes the gear that you invest in as you participate in more Hiking, Camping or Shooting adventures. You really don’t “have to have” this gear, but it makes doing the activity easier or more fun. In this category we would include a camera to take on your hikes, a good saw to take camping with you and a good range bag to keep all your stuff together when you go shooting.
4) Want to Have Gear – Finally there is the category that includes all the gear that you really don’t need – but want so much that you purchase it anyway. Here we include multiple compasses (since there’s always a better one out there on the market somewhere), another knife or other bladed tool (after all who doesn’t need a pocket knife, mid-sized locking blade knife, fixed blade survival knife, machete, hatchet, axe, etc.,), or another firearm that’s a different caliber or design than the ones that you already own.
In our opinion, the problem with being a long time Hiker, Camper and Shooter is that you quickly acquire the “essential necessities” and “need to have” items since they are what really make your adventures possible, practical and fun. Then, over the next several of years, you buy the “nice to have” items since they allow you to do more and make your adventures easier and more comfortable. After that you’re just gilding the lily by purchasing more and more gear that seems novel, better or just cool.
Well, we’ve been Hiking, Camping and Shooting for quite a while, so we are now clearly in Phase 4 – purchasing gear that we “want to have” – but really don’t need. Being in that mode leads to purchases like the United Cutlery M48 Tactical War Hammer with Vortec Sheath; an item that you can have a lot of fun with – but has no real practical value.
The M48 Tactical War Hammer (Item #: UC3069) is a hammer/axe combination with a 7 ¾” black oxide-coated stainless steel head (cast 2Cr13) with a 5-spiked war hammerhead on the face and a piercing spike on the back side. The hammer is 15 ½” in length and weighs 2 ¼ pounds. The hammer has a reinforced nylon handle that includes 30% fiberglass in its construction. The axe head is attached to the handle by three metal bolts. Since the hammer face and the rear spike are so sharp it comes with a Vortec Thermoplastic Rubber (TPR) cover for the entire head. The TPR cover folds in the middle so that you can easily put it on and take it off.
The design allows for comfortable one-handed use even though the hammer feels pretty solid and hefty when you are swinging it. The hammer face has four edge spikes and a thick central pyramid spike that gives it real smashing power. The backside spike is quite sharp and penetrates deeply into wood and everything else that we have used it on. Although it might be useful as a demolition tool, we just use it for fun (poor watermelons, pumpkins and cantaloupes). If you want to see the M48 Tactical War Hammer in action here’s a great video from Adam Celadin, a 4 time World Champion knife thrower, using it to destroy everything in sight.
You can buy the United Cutlery M48 Tactical War Hammer on Amazon.
In addition, if you like tactical bladed weapons, then you might want to check out United Cutlery’s entire M48 line of products at:
Autumn in New England
Well, it’s the middle of October, and here in New England that brings both good news and bad news.
The good news is that we're surrounded by beautiful Fall colors wherever you look. The bad news is that some of the beautiful leaves that you see on the trees will end up on your yard and you will have to rake them. But, most people that live in New England are more than willing to make this tradeoff since the beauty of nature vastly outweighs the effort to pick up the leaves.
Here are some photos from this week showing the magnificence of Nature in the New England woods that surround us (click on any photo to start the slideshow).
Roaming the Ozark Mountains
This week we were fortunate to get to spend some time in the Buffalo River Valley portion of Arkansas. As always the woods are peaceful, the scenery is gorgeous and the wildlife is everywhere. Here are two photos of the elk that we saw as we walked along the Buffalo River.
For those of you not familiar with the area, the Buffalo National River was established in 1972 as America's First National River and flows freely for 135 miles making it one of the few remaining undammed rivers in the lower 48 United States. The park encompasses over 95,000 acres that surround the free-flowing Buffalo, much of which is linked together by a network of trails that accommodate hiking and equestrian activities. These trails allow you to hike to locations that showcase both the natural and human history that have shaped the Ozarks.
Here are a couple photos of the massive bluffs that tower over the Buffalo
Of course the most beautiful areas are those actually on the river - which are comprised of everything from running rapids to quiet pools, all surrounded by the bluffs and forest, as you float through the Ozark Mountains down the Buffalo to the White River.
Although my friends and family don’t want to let other people know about the Buffalo River - so that they can keep it to themselves – you really might want to take a trip to the Ozark Mountains to see it; especially in the fall since that’s when the trees turn the mountains a spectacular set of colors. If you want a little taste of what the area is starting to look like now that it is October, you should check out the recent article from Arkansas Living Magazine titled: “Autumn in Arkansas – Through the lens of Tim Ernst”:
If you want to make the trip, here’s the link to the National Park Service’s webpage about the Buffalo National River:
Here's their hiking page for information and maps about the park's trails:
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