Amazing Artistic Maps of the World’s Rivers and Forests
Like most of you we love nature and the breathtaking views that we routinely see outdoors. So much so that we like to bring those views indoors with paintings and photographs.
Always on the lookout for great nature images, we recently ran across the work of Hungarian cartographer Robert Szucs who has made breathtaking maps showing the world’s rivers and forests by artistically colorizing the data from Geographic Information Systems.
Robert's river maps are detailed watershed maps (grouped together by color) showing the flow of all the tributary streams into main rivers, and these rivers flowing out to the sea. Note how large the Mississippi River basin is in the map of the United States.
Robert's forest maps are stunning two color (green and black) relief maps highlighting the density of the forests in the specific geographic region.
If you want some stunning art, you should really checkout Robert Szucs' Grasshopper Geography website where you can purchase his works as paper prints, wall art, desk art or other nicknacks to “decorate your home or office with some unique new maps”:
Unimi Professional Sharpening Water Stones (600/1,000 Grit and 2,000/6,000 Grit)
Keeping your knives and other blades sharp is critical since a sharp blade really reduces the effort you need to expend to cut something. In our experience, to really sharpen your blades correctly you need three sharpening stones - one to rough-grind, one to sharpen and one to hone. So, although we already have a file for when we’ve really nicked up our machete, hatchet or axe blades, a dedicated sharpening stone (325/750 grit) for normal sharpening, and a small sharpening stone (120/400 grit) for on the spot touchups, and backup in the outback, we decided to add some finer (e.g. higher grit number) sharpening stones to our gear – especially for our knives. To that end, for medium to fine sharpening and honing we purchased two different dual-sided Unimi Professional sharpening water stones; one with 600/1,000 grit and the other with 2,000/6,000 grit – both for use before we head out on any adventure.
You can find the details about the Unimi Professional Sharpening Water Stones on the Camping/Tools page.
Super Blood Wolf Moon Lunar Eclipse
Well, yesterday (20 January 2019) here in New England, we had 12 new inches of snow dumped on us between 5:00 PM Saturday and 6:00 PM Sunday, so we thought that we wouldn’t be able to see any of the Lunar Eclipse of the Super Blood Wolf Moon. Luckily, the storm ended and the sky cleared up (mostly) just before the eclipse started.
The lunar eclipse started at 9:39 PM ET when the edge of the Moon began to enter the Earth’s penumbra (the outer section of the shadow). At 10:33 PM. ET, the Moon reached the umbra and the Moon became significantly darker. By 11:41 PM ET the Moon was all the way inside the umbra and the eclipse really started. The edge of the Moon began exiting the umbra at 12:43 AM ET and the eclipse completely ended at 2:48 AM ET.
Although the snow storm had passed there was still a little haze in the air and, with the temperature at 5 degrees (wind chill of -7 degrees), although we could see the eclipse quite well – it was difficult to take any great photos. Here’s the best of what we captured
If you missed the eclipse, and want to see what it looked like without watching a replay of one of the 5 hour livestreams, here’s a great 1:23 minute time lapse video of the whole event from a Skywatcher (Wouter van Bernebeek) in the Netherlands:
Enhancing Your Backwoods Navigation Skills
When we’re in the outback, especially the deep outback, we like to have all the necessary navigation tools that we can (e.g. trail map, compass, GPS app, etc.,) to make sure that we successfully find our way to where we are going. But, in addition to having these tools, you need to have the knowledge related to how to use them, and the basic knowledge of how to read the signs of the wilderness around you.
So, if you're looking to enhance your backwoods navigation skills, you might want to check out Tristan Gooley's "The Natural Navigator" website. The site gives some great tips on how to use the Sun, moon, stars, sea, plants, animals and weather to help you find your way. The website has lots of great information and write-ups on how to navigate in the wild; it even has tips about how to navigate in a city and in extreme environments.
You can check out “The Natural Navigator” at: https://www.naturalnavigator.com/
If you want to read a brief overview of natural navigation, here’s a good article, written by Sommer Mathis for Atlas Obscura back on 25 July 2017, that provides a good overview – “An Animated Guide to Nature’s Best Wayfinding Secrets”. The article covers five of Tristan’s favorite natural navigation tricks:
You can read the entire Atlas Obscura article here:
If you want to learn even more than is covered in the brief Atlas Obscura article, or what is written on Tristan’s website, you might want to check out one (or more) of the books that Tristan has written to share his knowledge and expound on his point of view:
What’s the Right Saw for You?
After I posted the blog about getting a new Silky Ultra Accel Curved Blade Folding Saw (Large Teeth 240mm, 446-24) for Christmas I received a few questions asking about the pros and cons of different types of saws and how a person should go about choosing a saw. So I thought that I would take a crack at answering those questions in this blog post. Note: We also have a Chainmate CM-24SSP 24-Inch Survival Pocket Chain Saw. You can see the details related to both of these saws on the Camping/Tools page.
Types of Saws Overview
First of all there are three basic types saws to consider when looking for a saw to take with you into the outback (specifically excluding the typical “wood shop” hand saw – which is great for construction at your house – but lousy in the woods):
1) Bow Saws
2) Folding Saws
3) Pocket Chain Saws
Since each of these types of camping saws are significantly different let me touch on their advantages and disadvantages.
Bow Saws – Bow saws are probably the most efficient type of camping saws. A reputable brand’s saw will have a stronger frame, more clearance and longer blades, improving your ability to cut larger logs and green wood. The biggest advantages of bow saws are that they are sturdy and efficient. The biggest disadvantages are that they are heavier, oddly shaped and do not pack very well. To address these disadvantages there are several folding bow saws on the market, but in our opinion these hybrid designs decrease the effectiveness of the saw (mostly due to the reduced clearance space between the saw blade and the frame) and only partially solve the packing issue since you have to reassemble the saw to use it. If I was in a stationary campsite, I would choose a bow saw because of their stability and efficiency – but a bow saw would not be my choice if I’m hiking and camping due to their packing shortfalls. If you want to check out bow saws you might look at the following 8 popular ones:
Folding Saws – Folding saws are our preferred type of saw for camping since they do the best job of balancing cutting efficiency and packability. There are lots of folding saws on the market, but we prefer saws that cut on the “pull stroke” instead of saws that cut on the “push stroke”. In our experience the fatal flaw on most folding saws is the thickness (or thinness) of the blade. On pull stroke saws there is less pressure on the blade when it is cutting since it is being pulled back toward you. Whereas on saws that cut on the push stroke there is maximum pressure on the blade when it is being pushed forward to cut. Often times this causes the saw blade to flex and bend/break if it binds up while cutting. In contrast, if a pull stroke saw binds while cutting it just gets stuck – without bending/breaking the blade. The biggest tradeoff on folding saws is the length of the blade since that dictates what size wood you can cut and how long/heavy the folded saw is. We think that you need a blade that is at least 8 to 9 inches long to be effective. The other critical component of a folding saw is the handle – so make sure that you have one with an ergonomic design that fits your hand (diameter, length and material) and how you saw. Also make sure that the saw has a mechanism that locks the blade into position when it is in use since there are few things more painful than having a saw blade cut into your hand while sawing. If you want to check out folding saws you might look at the following 8 popular ones:
Pocket Chain Saws – Pocket Chain Saws are just what they sound like; a chain similar to that on a gas-powered chain saw that is driven by you pulling back and forth instead of a motor. The critical considerations on a chain saw are the length (since that determines what size wood you can cut) and durability (since the only component is the chain and a cheap one will either quickly wear out or break). If weight is an overwhelming consideration then a pocket chain saw is a good option since it will pack into a small pouch (approximately 3" x 4" x 2"), weighs only 3 to 4 ounces and will get the job done on any reasonable sized log that you want to cut. The biggest shortfall of the pocket chain saw is that it really can only be used for rough sawing of wood; you can’t easily use it for cutting notches or joints. So if you are using it for bushcraft activities it might suffice for the getting the timber – but not for the finer cuts. If you want to check out pocket chain saws you might look at the following 4 popular ones:
Selecting the Right Saw for You
So now that we’ve covered the basic differences between saw types, what factors should you evaluate when looking for a saw to take with you on your outback adventures? Although the evaluation factors differ a little depending the type of saw you prefer, in general we think that you should look at the following: 1) length, 2) strength, 3) weight, 4) number/type of teeth on saw, 5) diameter of log that can be cut, 6) durability, 7) ergonomic design, 8) ease of blade replacement and 9) cost.
Of course one of the most critical items on a saw are the teeth on the blade. The standard way manufacturers measure the teeth on a blade is by the inch - often listed as “teeth per inch” (TPI). In addition to the number of teeth, the size of the teeth is also a factor. Larger teeth (and lower TPI) typically provide faster cutting and are better at cutting softer wood and smaller teeth (higher TPI) are good for cutting harder wood. Blades with 2-8 TPI are good for ripping soft woods with the grain. Medium blades with 10-20 TPI are for crosscutting and moderately hard materials. Fine blades with 20-30 TPI (not really applicable to camp saws) are for very hard materials and/or very precise cuts.
If you want to see more detailed information, and reviews, about saws here are some good articles/websites to checkout:
Silky Ultra Accel Curved Blade Folding Saw, Large Teeth 240mm, 446-24
Like most of you we got some new gear for Christmas. One of the best items was a new Silky Ultra Accel Curved Blade folding saw. Although we normally use wood that either is deadfall, or is easily chopped with our hatchet or pack axe, sometimes we find that we need to saw something. If pack weight is not an overriding consideration the best option is a folding saw. As with all of the Silky curved blade outdoor saws, these are pure Japanese pull stroke saws with Silky's proprietary tooth design. While technically there is some cutting done on the push stroke, it is very minimal. The saw will easily cut through logs up to 6” in diameter, and larger logs if you can either rotate the log or vary your cutting position.
You can find the details about the Silky Ultra Accel Curved Blade Folding Saw on the Camping/Tools page.
"Know Before You Go" (KBYG) Online Avalanche Education Program
Just in time for winter the Utah Avalanche Center has produced a new set of Avalanche safety classes and made them available online.
The free "Know Before You Go" (KBYG) online avalanche education program was specifically made to help people learn about avalanches and the best way to ski, ride and hike in avalanche terrain safely.
There are 5 interactive courses designed to help everyone learn the principles needed to be safer and more confident in the avalanche terrain.
You can find out more at both the “Know Before You Go” and the Utah Avalanche Center websites.
Real Avid .30, .308, 7.62mm Bore Boss
Since all firearms need to be kept clean to operate efficiently we recently got around to purchasing a bore snake for our 7.62 x 39mm Norinco MAK-90. Although all of our other bore snakes are from Hoppe’s, when we were looking for the 7.62mm snake we ran across the Real Avid Bore Boss. Since we really like our Real Avid cleaning mat (because of the thought that they put into it) and the Bore Boss appeared to be a “reimagined” version of a bore snake, we decided to give it a shot. We’re glad we did.
The Bore Boss has a round case with an attached rubber cover that stores the cable/brush/mop and acts as an ergonomic grip that helps you pull the tight-fitting cable through your rifle. The snake stays in its container until needed with the cable wrapped neatly around the case to ensure that it doesn’t get tied into knots while it is stored. The case also keeps the cleaning brush from grabbing fabric or poking you, and keeps the dirty mop away from other items in your range bag.
You can find the details about the Real Avid Bore Boss on the Shooting/Cleaning Supplies page.
Decided Which #8 Shot Shells to Use
Back in July we posted a blog related to “Trying Out New #8 Shot Shells” for 3-Gun activities – and ended by saying that we would let you know what we figured out after we had completed our testing of the following 4 types of 12 Gauge 2 ¾” #8 shot shells:
1) Winchester Super X - Upland Game
2) Winchester Super Target - Light Target
3) Fiocchi Shooting Dynamics Target Loads
4) Federal Premium Gold Medal Grand™ Competition Clay Target Loads
Normally we use 2 ¾” 00 Buckshot shells in our shotguns since they are “tactical” in nature (as opposed to being used for skeet shooting or hunting). However, because we had been doing more 3-gun shooting, where 00 Buckshot is overkill when shooting at clay and paper targets, we decided that we needed to find a good #8 shot shell for the 3-gun range.
Well, after putting a lot of lead down range, we’ve decided to use the “Fiocchi Shooting Dynamics Target Loads” 2 ¾” #8 shot shells (Manufacturer #12SD1L8, UPC #762344705538) going forward for our 3-gun activities.
Although all 4 of the shells that we tested worked well, we decided to choose the Fiocchi shells for a variety of reasons.
1) Fiocchi is the world leader in shot shell manufacturing making more than 500 million
cases each year. Fiocchi also helped pioneer the lower recoil 1 oz load.
2) Good quality shotgun shells.
3) Gives a nice tight pattern due to the 1,170 fps velocity and lead pellet
4) Never had a FTF or FTE - always reliable.
5) Good combination of economy and performance – cost per shell ~$0.25
6) One-piece shot cup
7) Clean-burning powder
8) Reliable Fiocchi primers
9) Cushioned wads
10) First-run chilled shot. High-antimony (5%) lead pellets with nearly perfect
You can find the details about the #8 Shot Fiocchi Shooting Dynamics Target Loads on the Shooting/Ammunition page.
Packing Lighter for Endurance and Speed
These days many people are not just out there backpacking, they’re lightweight, ultra-lightweight and super-ultra-lightweight backpacking so that they can travel further and faster. So what are the definitions of lightweight, ultra-lightweight and super-ultra-lightweight backpacking, and what gear do you need to jettison from your normal load to give it a go?
The short answer is that for lightweight backpacking your “base pack” should weigh less than 20 pounds. Ultra-lightweight requires a base pack weight of less than 10 pounds and super-ultra-lightweight requires a base pack that weighs less than 5 pounds. Note that “base pack weight” refers to the weight of all the items in your backpack, including the backpack, with the exception of your consumables (food, water and fuel). Base pack weight also doesn't include the clothing that you are wearing to hike. Alternatively “skin-out weight” refers to everything in your pack plus your consumables and the clothes that you are wearing. In other words, skin-out weight is what you weigh with your clothes and backpack on - minus the weight of your naked body. But there’s a lot more to Lightweight, Ultra-lightweight and Super-ultra-lightweight backpacking.
Luckily one of our website’s readers found a great article on Angie’s List (thanks Steven and Stephanie - who knew that they had hiking articles on Angie’s List) that summarizes this trend and provides lots of links to other websites to give you all the necessary information to get you started. Since the article nicely aligns with our thoughts on the topic we thought that we would pass it along - "Ultralight Backpacking: Keeping the Packing List Short". You can find the article here:
….and here’s a complete listing of the 21 links that the article references:
1) Start Lightweight Backpacking
2) Ultralight Backpacking Guide (How to Easily Conquer Lightweight Hiking)
3) Working Gear List: The Big Three
4) The Big Three: How to Lighten Your Backpack, Sleeping Bag and Shelter
5) Lightweight Backpacking Step 2: The Big Three
6) Ultralight Makeover
7) How Much Should Your pack Weigh?
8) A Weekend Backpacking Checklist for First-Timers
9) Lightweight Backpacking: The Big Three
10) How to Pick Your Big Three
11) Water for Hiking
13) How to Cut Water Weight: A Backpacker's Guide to Hydration
14) Ultralight Backpacking: 10 Tips for Shaving Weight Without Sacrificing Comfort
15) Tips for Lightening Your Backpacking Load
16) How to Calculate Backpack Weight with LighterPack
17) Organize Your Backpacking Trip
18) How to Pack and Organize a Backpack for a Euro Trip
19) Long-Distance Hiking: Lessons from the Appalachian Trail
20) Pack Like a Pro: Ultralight Backpacking with Scott Robertson
21) Making the Switch to Ultralight Backpacking
If you read the article you’ll see that many of the embedded links talk about the need to first sort out your backpack, shelter and sleeping bag/system (the “big three”) since they are the absolute required gear and weigh the most. After that, assuming that you still have remaining weight allowance, you need to add water, food, fuel, cooking/eating utensils, first aid kit, etc.
So, if you’re interested in challenging yourself with a Lightweight, Ultra-lightweight or Super-ultra-lightweight backpacking adventure, look over all this great information and get out there…….
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