Oct 17 2007

Brief Equipment Review

Published by at 4:56 pm under Expeditions and Experiences

I’m going to write brief review of the gear I brought and see what can be left out and what can not. Weight was definitely an issue and as a hunter gather you need to be able to travel light.

Primitive gear:

  • Hafted stone knife – Absolutely essential! Indispensable. It will stay sharp enough for butchering for a long time. Mine looks pitiful, but I took apart more than a dozen moose (elk) legs with it. Sharpening is easily done by pressure flaking. What I now want is a bigger one too.
  • Bone knife – The bone knife wasn’t at all useful for cleaning fish. That particular piece of bone (sheep) was too soft for such. It was however useful for scraping off the bark of spruce roots and skinning moose ears, where you need a dull edge to keep from piercing the thin skin. I’m looking into methods of hardening bone and sharper types of bone.
  • Fishing lines and hooks – Might be useful in the summer and the winter, but at this time I didn’t bother, the fish is so easy to catch by other means: Hands, nets, spears, traps etc.
  • Containers – There may be use for having large bark containers on primary campsites (woman’s camp). Possibly to store berries in caves and similar for later consumption. Ash for bucking skins is also smart to store, since the rain will neutralise the alkality after a while. And you do need a fair amount per skin. On trail you only need one berry basket in case you find edibles during the day. Divide your equipment into several, non-rigid containers to keep it in order. I recommend, though I don’t have one myself, a large bark-tanned sack to form the primary container (rucksack).
  • Carrying basket – Useless, mine was too weak, was obviously not waterproof and had too little carrying capacity. Might be usable for carrying firewood and work near a larger camp.
  • Flint flakes – Nice to have, but you don’t really need them unless you are going to do some precision wood working, in which case you also preferably should have a set of beaver teeth knives.
  • Elk (moose) antler axe – Useless for cutting hardwoods, the edge dulls too quickly. I have to look into hardening the edge. It is quite good for cutting softwoods for firewood and similar though. You often don’t really need an axe, since the beaver provides much of the material ready made.
  • Splitting wedges – Having one or two splitting wedges of antler is crucial. You need it for splitting to make dispensable wooden wedges and splitting wood, bone and antler in general.
  • Knapping equipment – You should have a hammerstone in a more fixed camp, but I wouldn’t care bringing it out in the field. All you need for daily use is a pressure flaker for retouching the edges of the knife and to make points out of already reduced flakes. You should have a buckskin pad for protection.
  • Arrow sizer – Only needed if you are making arrows, something you’ll always make when you live truely primitively.
  • Buckskin scraps – Throw them in a container and keep them in camp. Take a few with you for patching.
  • Hide scrapers – I carry a small one as it is handy to carry along, keep the larger ones in the women’s camp.
  • Bowstring of sinew – If you plan to make a bow, and it is nice to have a spare one regardlessly.
  • Natural cordage – Snares in abundance should have been made up-front. You should have one or two large ropes with you at all time. It is always nice to have extra cordage. Tuck every piece of leftover cordage in a container and store it in a cache.
  • Fishing trap – Make them on site or carry them in and leave them there until next time. Too bulky to carry around all the time. Of great utility though.
  • Sewing needles and awl – You need to patch and repair things at times. My love story with bone needles is over by the way. Although they are sharp and sturdy, really thin ones will easily break. Antler is more flexible. Keep both types. I broke two needles during my trip, leaving me with one. The awl has other uses too. It is useful when sewing baskets for instance.
  • Netting needle – If you carry a traditional net, it will need repair from time to time. Then you of course need the appropriate cordage too.
  • Antler fishing spear points – I didn’t use them, I would make one spear on each locality and leave it for next year. The net rendered the spear unneccesary.

Materials:

  • Reindeer (caribou) and elk (moose) antler – Carry some long, ready split pieces as they have the greatest utility.
  • Nettle fibres – Store them at camp, keep a few for attaching fletchings and similar.
  • Willow fibres – Great for ropes, tuck what you don’t use at site into a cache.
  • Reindeer (caribou) sinew – Keep the best pieces with you, store the rest where animals will not go.
  • Tinder – Gather massive amounts of juniper bark when you are in the lowlands. It is the single best secondary tinder in the area. Carry a large bag of it. Carry a reasonable amount of true tinder fungus if you are using flint and steel like me. With fire by friction, you don’t need any primary tinder. I find it too fiddely to do every day though. I need to get better at carrying fire if I’m to use this method.
  • Quartzite core – The archaeologists tell us that the stone age people around here used to strike off flakes to use for butchering. No doubt it is possible to butcher small animals with them, but on moose I know I’d rather use a much more durable bificially knapped and hafted knife.
  • Birch bark – Most easily gathered in spring and early summer, I reccomend stockpiling it in a flattened state for later use. But it is possible to gather later also. Carrying the sheets will most likely crack them.
  • Raw hides – Store dried in tree caches. Otherwise the scavangers will chew them up. Impractical to carry around without pack animals.
  • Some bone – Carry some long, ready split pieces as they have the greatest utility.
  • Feathers for fletchings – If you have or are making arrows, you need them.

Borderline:

  • Flint and steel – A practical means of getting a fire going. I need to get some proper iron pyrites or skills in fire by friction before I can go purist on that one.
  • Viking era shoes – Being the only traditional clothing I carried it deserves a review of it’s own.

Modern gear:

  • Sleeping bag – I need to make a sleeping bag of reindeer skins. The one I had wasn’t really up to the job.
  • Woolen underwear – Although great, I need skin clothes.
  • Outer clothes – Although great, I need skin clothes.
  • Woolen socks – Although great, I need skin clothes.
  • A wool cap – Although great, I need skin clothes.
  • Wool sweaters – Although great, I need skin clothes.
  • Mittens – Although great, I need skin clothes.
  • Rifle (no bowhunting allowed unfortunately) – Would have been much better off with a shotgun or a 22. rifle. The 306 was a little overkill on almost anything I could legally shoot.
  • Bullets – I’d rather carry arrows.
  • Batteries – I brought way too many.
  • Digital camera – I hope you like the fact that I brought it.
  • Mobile phone – Same as above.
  • Phone charger
  • 1 or 2 fishing nets – Heard the word safety net? Well, that’s what a fishing net is for you. It will provide you with food at almost any time. I only carried one and it’s the single easiest way of getting protein in quantity.
  • Wallet – For carrying your hunting license and bribing officials when you are caught poaching :-P.
  • 2 tanning books for reference – I’m not so great at tanning yet, I can really recommend “Deerskins into Buckskins“.

You should consider making a lot of the camp equipment on each location, since you will probably return to that place several years on the row you can store it in a cache. That also accounts for materials.

Should have had except from what is noted above:

  • Leg bone axe – Axe made from leg bone is next in line of experiments. Diedrik Pomstra has made a similar one. Moose bone is sharp, I am looking for something that has the potential for hewing hardwood.
  • Birch bark kettle – I made one, but it wasn’t suitable for hanging above the fire due to being excessively long. It helps on morale to have a cooked meal with good broth. Photo: Boiling brains in the kettle with the aid of hot rocks.

boiling.JPG

Regards
Torjus

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9 responses so far

9 Responses to “Brief Equipment Review”

  1. Decadoon 17 Oct 2007 at 6:00 pm

    All I can say is…. “WOW”!

    Your ability to make what you need is an envious skill and talent. I am astounded by the skills and knowledge you have attained and even the ones you will be honing to perfection in the future!

    Although I maybe speaking for myself, I am sure that other readers will agree that in some way, not only are you making this journey for you, but also as a journey of inspiration for the rest of us!

    Stay strong, be lucky, and thank you!

    Decado

  2. Paulon 17 Oct 2007 at 8:12 pm

    Dude…thats awesome…I’me going to do it!

  3. Sam_acwon 17 Oct 2007 at 9:09 pm

    What a great post! It inspires me to get out and have a go at making things.
    I’ve really enjoyed the trip journal – it has been the highlight of my web browsing over the past weeks!

  4. Marcon 17 Oct 2007 at 9:34 pm

    Hey Torjusmate,

    my god… am in awe again
    very helpfull list and also a lot of eyeopeners and insights that are valuable
    thank you for sharing this with us
    very helpfull indeed

    MArc

  5. JESSon 17 Oct 2007 at 11:42 pm

    TEACH ME UR WAYS please?

  6. JESSon 17 Oct 2007 at 11:49 pm

    ONE MORE THING CAN ANY BODY TEACH ME TO MAKE A BOW OR EVEN KNAP I CANT DO EITHER AND IS ANY BODY INTERESTED IN TRADING SOME THING FOR SOME DEERSKIN AND KNAPPING STONE I LIVE AND FLORIDA AND IT IS HARD TO OME ACROSS THIS STUFF EXPESHILY SINCE THAT DONT HAVE KNAP-INS OR POWWOWS

  7. michaelon 18 Oct 2007 at 12:28 am

    I am just glad you made it. I will use your experience in my own endevours. You are a great insperation.

  8. adminon 18 Oct 2007 at 9:51 am

    Thanks guys!

    Please hand me the links if you make or do something inspired by this blog (or anything else interesting for that matter).

    Regards
    Torjus

  9. Pabloon 18 Oct 2007 at 8:52 pm

    Brilliant as always Torjus.
    Pablo.

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