We are often asked questions about our “PSB” or Personal Survival Blanket series. Here are 5 commonly asked questions about our Personal Survival Blanket.
In my younger days, things were different then, our camping was simple and austere by today’s standards. Even the animals seemed to behave differently. When I was four years old I was camping with my grandparents in Yellowstone Park, in the cabins there. One morning my grandmother called to me, there was a little bear cub wandering through camp, I went up and petted it, as did many others, soon its mother moved it along and out into the woods where it came from. Today that is unheard of, something like that seems like it would result in certain death. But then no one thought anything of it. We were just enjoying nature at its finest.
Last week we took our Boy Scouts out for a summer camp in the desert, here in Utah. Of course the views were spectacular, the campsite primitive, we had to bring everything needed. I brought along ponchos for everyone, not that we anticipated rain, but for their alternate use, hammocks. As we were getting settled I heard the boys complaining about the heat, the blazing sun, the lack of shade or water, or trees for that matter. They were saying we should pick up camp and head for the mountains where it was cool.
I decided I needed to say something, they were already negative and we just got there. I didn’t want to spend the rest of the week listening to this kind of talk. With the boys together, I assured them we were not leaving this location, this was our planned camp. I wanted to end any speculation that we might pick up camp and go to the mountains. My next focus was to address the comfort issues they had brought up. The boys needed to know that the adult leaders were not entertainment directors or camp construction managers.
My intention with the boys was to try to turn on their creative juices, telling them to think about what they didn’t like and why, then try to figure out how to make it better. I said, “Is it too hot, too sunny, too windy, think of how you can make the situation better.”
I further explained that the camps we go on are for enjoyment, but also for learning and to gain experience. “You cannot truly learn without actual experience,” I said. I talked of the miners and their families who used to live in the area, somehow they learned to manage with the harsh conditions. We’ve become soft, used to easy, cozy living. We can make of camp whatever we decide we want it to be.
Our camp was up next to a north facing cliff that had large holes eroded in its face. These holes became places of refuge during the intense heat and direct sun of the midday. There were trees, but they were sparse and small generally speaking, which meant we didn’t get much shade from them, we had to scatter out to get our hammocks hung. We soon had everything situated. We all napped for a couple hours in the holes in the rocks while we waited for things to cool down a bit.
My little lecture did not solve everything, but it helped to at least direct some attention to being positive and to look for solutions. It’s always easy to give up, to quit and to do something else. But I’ve learned some of my best lessons when challenged by adversity.
In all it was a great camp, we gained experience, explored, and had a fun time. We hiked a fun slot canyon, Little Wild Horse Canyon, we also explored in Goblin Valley one afternoon. Here is a link to a fun video of the camp YouTube
I think every camp should be a learning experience, and not just when with some Boy Scouts, but even when camping by oneself. Adults should help youth to learn the outdoor ways, provide experiences for them and guide them. It is good for them to figure some things out on their own, perhaps with a subtle occasional hint. Boys gain confidence and receive a feeling of achievement through these experiences. In successive encampments youth will learn to be more independent and importantly, they will learn how to help others.
Occasional tough camps are good for all, both youth and adult, they stretch us, they make us learn in a way that really can’t be duplicated in any other way.
Until next time, this is Perry Peacock, for “Simplifying Survival”
On a cold late January day Ben and I were on our way to a little adventure. We drove up a canyon kept open through the winter, only because it was the only connection between distant communities to the East and the city to the Northwest. Up and up the canyon we drove till we reached the ridge, at this point the road turned and following the ridge took us to nearly 10,000 feet, before beginning a long slow descent.
Not much below the summit lay our destination. The road winding along the floor of the canyon. To our right as far as one could see was the summit ridge, partially obscured by the blowing snow as the wind carried it, creating huge cornices on our side of the mountains.
I pulled the truck off the road and into a small plowed area kept to enable ice fishermen access to the lake. It was late afternoon as we arrived. Looking out the windshield I could see the furious wind blowing in front of us, snow horizontal as it whipped by, at times impossible to see very far.
We pulled on our gear as we got out of the truck, it was nothing conventional for sure, but what would be the point in that, no adventure was ever conventional nor attempted by normal people. A person has to have a bit of the eccentric in him to do some of these types of things. We weren’t climbing any mountain, nor were we heading for the poles, we weren’t even exploring some vast unknown place. We were just piling out into the winter with our unconventional gear, just because.
Ben and I were wearing our Wilderness Innovation PSS Ponchos as winter coat shells, there was no rain in these conditions. Under our ponchos we had a new item at the time, a Fleece Poncho Liner, thus we created a long winter coat out of these two items.
Having our winter coverings on, Ben pulled the sled out of the back of the truck and we began loading our supplies. Soon we were on our way, heading off across the gravel dam a half mile to the other side.
Travel across the dam was more difficult than anticipated. I had to lean well into the wind to keep my balance, the ski poles I had brought along were nearly useless as the force of the wind kept me from planting them where I intended. At times a sudden drop in the wind meant I nearly fell off the dam due to how much I was leaning. To make matters worse, conditions were not ideal for pulling a heavy sled. The constant wind meant there was little snow, so we were pulling the sled on rocks and gravel most of the way. Finally after what seemed like forever and having negotiated the spillway. which was another challenge in itself, we were on regular ground.
We headed toward the canyon ahead. After a bit of time we came upon a hill and looking down one side saw a small alcove that looked like it could serve as a sheltered area for our campsite. It was nearly dark now, so we really did need to decide on a spot to settle into, we couldn’t really see much anyway at this point. Ben selected a site for camp about halfway in the length of the alcove.
First order of business was making a fire and after gathering a few resources and getting the lay organized properly I got out my Doan Magnesium bar and got things going. We had a simple dinner and some hot chocolate. Now a reality set in, we were going to need to get some wood for the fire, enough for the whole night. Our intention was to keep warm by the fire all night, which of course meant a good amount of wood was needed.
We soon discovered that there was not nearly as much dead wood in that area as we originally thought, this partly due to the settling darkness at the time we found the camp location. Ben and I worked well into the night getting firewood, and hauling it from farther and farther away. It became apparent that we were not going to get all we needed for the cold situation we were in at the rate we were going, and neither of us had any desire to spend the whole night hauling wood. We needed the fire however, as we had purposely not brought much along with us in the way of sleeping gear. It was then that I proposed that we burn half dry wood and half green wood as there was plenty of that near camp.
Our fire was a parallel log fire about 8 feet long so that we could both get enough emitted heat to warm us. Behind the fire we built a log wall about three feet high, that most people would think was a reflector, but of course that does not really work, our purpose was to create and direct an airflow from the snow in front of the fire to the back of the fire and then up the wall, this effect made for a sheet of flame the length of the fire. The IR from the flames is what heats us. We did not need a big tall fire, just a few logs and that sheet of flame to keep warm.
With the fire in place we decided to build a platform above the snow to lay on, which we did with logs and boughs. Next we decided to notch some more logs and build up some sides and a back, funny, it looked like an over sized couch, realizing this we piled more boughs on like stuffed pillows, for a nice cozy factor.
This was in the days before the cell phone cameras, and we didn’t worry much about taking pictures, we were just out to have a good time, and indeed we did.
Until next time this is Perry Peacock for, “Simplifying Survival”
What’s a lazy camp anyway, aren’t all camps lazy? Well perhaps they used to be, today the hustle of life is so engrained in folks that they can’t settle into camp life. Dennis is wound up so tight from a demanding job that he sits in his chair fidgeting, looking around, and checking his phone for non-existent service. His phone is like an addiction apparently, it kills him not to know what’s going on. Dan and Barbara visiting from across the country are antsy, Barbara keeps looking at her watch, they have a busy itinerary for this trip, lots to see in the area each day, and they don’t want to waste a minute. Jeff’s kids want to play at the lake, but he had planned to drive down the canyon to a museum. Camp is a flurry of activity, no one is resting but me, and in a way, I’m kind of glad that everyone is leaving camp for the day, so I can have some peace, ha-ha.
I’m not saying camp is free from any form of work or activity, there is always wood to get for the campfire, meals to cook, dishes to wash, but that’s all enjoyable to me. I do try to make a healthy amount of nothin’ time, an example of this from a recent camp goes something like this.
I’m sitting here in my old grey camp chair, seems like I’ve had it forever. The edges are tattered, the arm does not stay secured anymore and every time I have to move it, the arm has to get reattached. There are a fair amount of pea sized burn holes in the seat, which I look at in a positive way, they let rainwater drain out. The fabric is so worn that is soft and cozy, like an old shoe, I like to be in it. My chair is my camp observation post, I find it easy to look around for hours.
A small chipmunk runs down the trunk of a large pine and across a fallen log, stopping every few feet and rearing up on his back legs takes a quick survey of the area, before scurrying on. A good number of little blue birds fly around camp, keeping an eye on things, their distinctive chirps fill my ears with pleasant sound. Turning my eyes towards the fire pit I discover a spider crawling in and out of the crevices in the rocks that make up the pit. I watch patiently for a while to see what he is up to.
Out of the corner of my eye I detect motion in the low brush that surrounds my camp, there, a few deer grazing on the new green grass, undeterred by my presence. I sit as motionless as possible and watch them for a while. They seem to have a rhythm to their activity, eating the grass, then popping their heads up they look around while chewing. Just fifteen feet away I stare at the eyes of one as if trying to peer into her mind so as to figure out what is going inside that head. Twenty minutes pass and they gradually graze away from my camp.
The chair is cozy, the temperature is perfect, a slight breeze blows, all this work observing has made me drowsy, I slide down in my chair till my head rests on the back and fall into a sleep. In about an hour I awake, groggy, I look around trying to get my bearings, a pretty good sleep for sitting in a camp chair! A few things stir in my mind and I recall I was going to work a bit on some camp improvements today. Staring across the fire pit I notice a young pine seedling not quite knee high, it’s location is not ideal for my camp, too close to the fire, too close to where I’m going to set up a bed. I marvel that this little seedling exists, all the old forest around has already given way, disease and insects have taken their toll. I discover a bit of inspiration from the little pine.
The little pine seedling grows quickly, summers are short up on the mountain. As I scan the forest around camp there are two things I could choose to see, the old fallen trees, and lament the great loss, or the new rising seedlings, like the one at camp, defying the odds, growing where the old trees have died. I can look at the fallen and say to myself, “look how tragic, all those majestic trees have died and crashed to the ground,” or I can say, “look how nature is refreshing itself, the old trees will rot and become soil providing new rich mulch for the future forest.” I can look with hope on the new trees, the future is fresh and alive, what beauty awaits in the decades to come.
Is my time wasted, sitting around camp in my chair? I think not, my eyes have seen, my nose has smelled, my ears have heard the sounds of camp. A memory has been created, which can be remembered, and relived at any time I choose. Put away your watch, throw out your schedule, be lazy at camp and enjoy the world.
Until next time, this is Perry Peacock, for “Simplifying Survival.”
There are few things that are common mistakes in setting up tarp shelters.
- Roof set up
- Reinforcing the tarp fabric
- Making a livable Space
I love tarps because I can make so many different styles of shelters out of them. A tent is already pre-designed, its shape is predetermined, the advantage to that is a person does not have to think about how to set it up. I like to be able to look around at my surroundings which is one of the pluses with tarp shelters. One of the other great things about tarp shelters is they can be set up so many different ways, whatever the need it can be configured to match. The disadvantage with tarps is that a person has to be creative to use them properly. At each campsite you evaluate the layout, the surroundings, you think about how best to set up. It’s possible with our PSTL tarp to do more than 50 kinds of set ups, with this in mind it may be helpful to learn the style groups for square tarps, then you can easily choose the style first, then dial in the best set up.
The listing below is to give an idea of how the styles are broken down. A subsequent blog article will cover these in greater detail. The brief definition of each style should serve to form a mental picture for this article.
- Canopy – is defined as a tarp set up where no part of the tarp touches the ground
- Lean To – this style is characterized by having only one edge touch the ground
- Diagonal or Diamond – these are set ups in which two adjacent edges touch the ground, these edges are on each side of an anchored corner
- “A” Frame – this variety of shelter is set up with two opposing edges touching the ground and includes not just the “A” shaped tarps, but also those with rounded tops or divided angle tops
- Ground Cloth – there are many varieties of ground cloth set ups which may be included, at least 1/3rd of the tarp must rest on the ground
- Hybrid – primarily this style is for use when combining more than one tarp to form a larger shelter. It may also include anything that does not fall into one of the five styles listed above
There are some basic ground rules or tips that should be observed to maximize the value of tarp shelter. In easy weather almost anything will work, it’s when things turn sour that a proper set up pays huge dividends. As mentioned at the beginning, three areas of concern, any of which can make or break any set up. Next I’ll examine each of these, for purpose of this article, let’s use a Lean To.
In most cases the roof is the primary reason for constructing the shelter in the first place, the only other reasons really would be ground cloth or a wall. For this article we are going to assume correct location of the shelter, suitable ground for it and safety.
Some Factors for a Proper Roof
- Anchoring and support
I have seen quite a lot of Lean To shelters where the roof has so little slope that it is nearly horizontal. A flat roof is fine for shade purposes, but if there is any rain or snow it had better have a decent pitch to it. With a good tarp it is advised to have at least a 45 degree angle. For reference, do a salute, this is about right. For heavier rain or snow, it would be best to have a 60 – 70 degree slope. Water should run off as quickly as possible, no pooling, any tarp can develop a leaky spot either from tiny holes or wear in the sealing coating, a steeper pitch helps to offset these possible conditions. Generally a flatter roof is often chosen to accommodate more people since the steeper the pitch the smaller the footprint of the shelter.
TIP – Another option in set up, is allowing for an awning. Anytime there is rainy weather an awning should be used. On a Lean To an awning is simply made by putting the ridge pole or ridge line a foot or more back from the top edge of the shelter, then tying it off so it slopes at about 45 degrees.
Many times this step is neglected by not giving it the consideration it deserves. Shortchanging this step results frequently in the need to get up in the night, in the rain to try and secure the shelter. Unfortunately it often leads to torn or damaged tarps as winds whip loose sections around.
In a Lean To a stout ridge pole or taut ridge line are essential, this one edge has to bear considerable force in a wind against the shelter. A ridge pole needs to be plenty secure. Often it is assumed that all is well, but when the storm hits, things move far more than one might expect. Securely tying off pays big rewards when a storm blows in at 2 am.
When staking the edge on the ground try to pull it taut, loose fabric has more friction in the wind, and excess flapping will keep you from sleeping. When staking, I like to do the corners first, then pull out the middle. One more thing to consider while getting the tarp adjusted is to make sure there is nothing to impede the flow of water. Sometimes supports or cord that runs laterally across the tarp can cause a high point that will collect water, even a small puddle can grow as the weight of it causes the fabric to sink, making a larger collection basin. Areas like this can lead to leaks or even pull at the shelter perhaps causing it to fail.
When building an outdoor camp shelter, it is important to think about how it is oriented to get to most good out of it. If a storm is eminent make sure it can’t blow into the shelter inasmuch as possible. In cold weather it can be helpful to face the shelter to take advantage of the sun for heating. Many times capturing the morning sun can get the day started right. Also make sure entry and exit are clear, nothing is more aggravating than having to make a fuss every time a person gets into or out of a shelter.
When able to, make sure to set the shelter up to allow comfort, make it livable. Many people just make shelter with little thought other than a roof over their head, others try to be primitive and austere, actually the goal should be to make oneself comfortable. To me the beauty of using a tarp shelter is being able to see nature, to see the forest from the comfort of my Lean To. There is nothing quite like laying on my bough bed with my Survival Blanket hearing the rain pounding on the tarp fabric and seeing the mist in the trees, feeling the breeze and smelling the fresh ions released by the rain. A well thought out tarp shelter can be the key to enjoying the outdoors.
Be sure to watch our YouTube playlist, Tarp Setups, to see how to set up our tarps and for ideas on types of set ups. Check out our website to look at the tarp options available. Our tarps are sold ready to use, and include cordage, stakes, and shock cord.
Until next time, this is Perry Peacock, for Simplifying Survival
OK so I’m saying I don’t believe in the big doomsday, is that what I really mean? I think there are a couple of things to clarify first. I’ll just question myself.
Do I think there will be some kind of catastrophe?
Yes, I do.
Would that not be considered Doomsday?
There have always been very tragic occurrences, there will be more. Doomsday engenders the thought of a final day when everything everywhere falls apart. It carries a very negative connotation.
Could there be civil unrest?
Absolutely. Some of the worst events recorded have been social in nature.
How about some sort of natural occurrence?
Certainly I also believe in terrible events in and on the earth such as floods, mudslides, earthquakes, hailstorms, droughts, and the like.
Yes I do believe in an, end of this world event, as well as other events called signs of the times.
It sounds like I believe in Doomsday.
Well, although I do believe in tough times, and I do think there is an, end-times, I do not subscribe to the philosophy of a doomsday, i.e. that there is some almost mystical day when pretty much every good thing ceases and only death and destruction remain. Doomsday seems to signify a time when it is every man for himself, in a battle for survival.
My view is of a grand and glorious end of the world as we know it, a time when evil is replaced by good. It is a time not to be feared, but hoped for.
Do I think then that there is no need to prepare for tough times of all types?
On the contrary it is my belief that I am obligated to do the best I can to ready myself against any and all possible circumstances. There will be famines, drought, terrible storms, floods, tornadoes, the seas heaving themselves beyond their bounds, earthquakes, fires, hail and every conceivable natural event. There will continue to be war, pestilence, civil unrest, societal decay, murders, horrifying debauchery, and every kind of evil man can discover.
How in the world is that not “Doomsday”?
It is in the attitude, Doomsday is more like the day it all ends, I believe in the day of victory, of new beginnings, that the end is good, not of doom.
Does that change how I would prepare?
It does, however in the physical sense things are much the same. As I noted earlier in my list of terrible events that will likely occur, there is much to prepare for. The beauty is I know essentially what lies ahead, this gives me not only signs, but specific information that allows me to prepare well.
Still it seems like the same thing as Doomsday, what really is different?
I am preparing my way through it all. It is like “battening down the hatches” to get through the storm, to the sun and clear sky on the other side. I do not think of it at all as me against everything else. I think our success in making it through lies in working together, neighbors, friends and families helping each other, I sincerely believe in the saying, “united we stand, divided we fall.” A person cannot possibly make himself an island and expect to make it through such times. Sure it may be a tough romanticism to envision such a thing, but it is not practical. We need each other, we are meant to be a society. A good community can get through much more than an individual. The old pioneering adage, “many hands make light work” does not expire just because tough times come upon us, rather its truth is magnified.
I am not looking to soften the scene, nor to suggest that most of the preparations people are doing are not needed. The thrust of my view is of working together, helping each other, both now and especially during hard times. My eyes should be on the victory at the end, not on the storms of life. Of course we must be careful and cautious, yes there are deceiving and dangerous people who will need to be dealt with. Additionally there will be some, perhaps many thousands who may have to flee their current homes and cities for safety elsewhere.
So how do I prepare, and how do I help those around me?
A few years ago I started working on an article to show what we need to do and why. it still needs some cleaning up, but the concept is there and worth reading. Here is a link to that article, Circles of Priority. The real key to prepping is to do a little at a time, don’t try to do it all at once. It is amazing what can be accomplished when a person makes a list and does a little on it each week or month, before you know it you have quite a collection of goods stored up. Be sure to get reliable items, there will not be a way to replace faulty items in the time of need.
To break things down we can divide up necessary items, knowledge, and skills into six elements as follows.
Six Elements Essential to Survival – not in any order none can be left out
- fire represents heat in all its forms to include stoves, solar, etc.
- water is needed not only for drinking but food preparation, washing and cleaning
- not only first aid, but vitamins, needed medications and anything else for wellness
- storing of food is only one part of this, there is also planting, caring for, harvesting, utilizing with practical recipes geared for times of ease as well as trying times
I will cover this items in more detail in upcoming prepper blogs, for now be thinking of where you are at currently and start making plans to improve.
Until next time this is Perry Peacock for “Simplifying Survival”
What is happening to our outdoor activities that is changing them from traditional ways? Are these new ways taking enjoyment away from camping for example? Have we complicated things?
Unfortunately I think the world of the outdoors; bushcraft, survival, camping, fishing, hiking, whatever you want to call it has become polluted. It seems some of the enjoyment of the outdoors has become dirtied. Sharing with others what you like to do is commonly mocked by those who think everything exists to be sensationalized. It’s sad how the “progress” of our culture has at the same time robbed us of the fun and enjoyment that used to be. Oh, and it’s not just the bushcraft part of things that’s changed, even words that used to mean harmless fun things are now thought of as crass, or depraved, or demeaning. Songs that used to be thought of as pleasant are now considered lame and idiotic. The whole of our society has changed. What has happened to us?
Must we be critics of all that is? Can we not enjoy something just for the sake of it? Have we become so dependent on the drug of entertainment served up in our lives that everything before us must constantly be more and more spectacular? Have we lost ourselves? Can we not simply enjoy our daily lives, the little ordinary things?
At times it is almost sickening how much of the culture of survival and bushcraft seems to be absolutely filled with “experts” who know everything. People who cannot even just watch what is presented without feeling the need to say, “it should have been done this way, the way you did it was stupid,” or “you have no business being in the woods.” There are many ways to make shelter or start a fire, there are quite a variety of knots that can be used. Appreciate the variety, one day one of them may save your life.
There is it seems also an insatiable desire for light weight in everything; shoes, bikes, backpacks, containers, shelters, cooking gear, food, etc. At times this is warranted, since every pound that must be carried is that much more work. But it’s hard to believe that everyone is always going camping 20 miles back in somewhere; nothing wrong with that, but surely most are just a few miles in. I have had so many wonderful camps where I just pull off the road somewhere, and hike in a mile, or even just half a mile. Is there some directive that says camping will not be fun if a great distance is not covered? Is camping by car demeaning? I love the book by David Wescott, “Camping in the Old Style” which seeks to bring back some of the joy of camping when it was classic. Canvas tents, iron cookware, oil lanterns, sleeping on a tick not a $120 air mattress, it’s a great book, I haven’t got his new one yet, but I will. Someone asked the question recently, and I can’t recall who it was, “has backpacking ruined camping?” It is an interesting thing to ponder. Who says that camping is backpacking? A person can camp while backpacking, but backpacking is not camping. There are so many ways and places to camp, why limit yourself to freeze dried meals and risky shelter when you can really enjoy yourself. I really like to bring in steak for a dinner meal, or even a few vegetables to cut up and cook for a stew, there is nothing like a stew cooking over a campfire.
Does every hike, every bike ride, does every walk really have to be faster than the last one? Is there no time anymore to listen to the bubbling of the creek, can we not linger long enough to see the fawn peek out from her grazing? Can a person actually sit on the edge of mountain ridge for an hour, or hey, maybe half a day, absorbing all that is? Speed kills, yes it does, it blurs all the beauty of the world in which we live.
Now personally I don’t really care what someone says about me because I’m doing what I want to do, I choose what I do, no one tells me. What is unfortunate is that which many of these folks are missing out on, being either very limited in their scope of acceptable experience, or simply and tragically, “couch potatoes.” I love sharing things I do outdoors, some are funny, some are flops and failures, some are valuable. I’m out camping nearly every week all year long in whatever weather is going on, and I love all of it. To me it’s an experience in reality, there is always something to learn, something to appreciate, and most of all something to think about.
Finally, the reason I started writing this little essay, to those of you who comment on my postings or videos saying to me, “BS, prove it, you’re a nutcase, what an idiot you are,” and on and on. You are missing the whole point of all I do. I constantly encourage everyone to get outside and enjoy the nature we have around us, I am trying to lead others to stretch a little, try some things, have a little adventure, that’s what I do, and I love it. What happened to people with gusto, with courage, with some self esteem, the proving of things is up to you, I have already done what I have done. You try it, go ahead make your own adventure. It doesn’t have to be on some deserted island, you can do a lot of it in your own backyard. What point is there for me to do what you think is acceptable, yes I’m different than you are, I may be interested in trying something you may not want to do, perhaps because it’s too cold for you, perhaps you don’t want to get off your couch and venture even a little bit into the outside world. Actually I just want to help people love the world around them and to really do it, you have to do it yourself. You see it’s the experience that counts, that’s where the memories are. No excursion is a failure because each one is a learning exercise, if you choose to make it so.
Until next time, this is Perry Peacock for “Simplifying Survival” –Get out there and do it–
When I was a kid I used to go camping with my grandpa out on the central deserts of Utah, mostly the San Rafel Swell area. Grandpa had grown up in that place, in the little town of Emery. He herded cattle out in that range. At just thirteen years old he was a teamster, the original type of teamster, hauling freight in a wagon pulled by a team of horses. His dad and some of the family had community department stores in several towns on the frontier. The freight he hauled was to supply those stores. Growing up I heard many a story of adventures on the wagon roads through that territory. A teamster in those days was fully exposed to the elements, those plains were hot as an oven in the summer, blistering sun. Hard driving winds, with no trees to stop them, assaulted the driver like a giant sand blaster. At over 6200′ elevation the area could get pretty cold in the winter too, heavy snow and high winds just added to the excitement. Still the freight must roll.
He knew the area like the back of his hand. A new story was told around every bend. When he was growing up that place was not only dangerous due to the harshness of the elements if you weren’t prepared, but it was also a popular place for outlaws to hide out. Folks like Butch Cassidy and many others much less well known and far more dangerous.
Grandpa used to take me out in “the swell” or the the San Rafel as they would call it, hunting for twisted narly cedars to make lamps and tables out of. Or we might go looking for interesting rocks to bring back. Grandpa learned camping while working; herding cattle, working in the desert, and hauling wagon freight. For grandpa campfire cooking meant cooking up whatever you might eat at home. His cookware was old kitchen utensils, the grill for the pans was a couple of irons across the fire.
One time when I was young I was out with him and we had set up camp. We were in his old Ford, “three on the tree” pickup with a shell on the bed. He made a camper out of it by taking and old iron bed frame with the metal springs and a thin mattress on top, it just fit in the bed of the truck. That was our bed, pretty comfortable actually. The space under the bed frame he used for storing all the camping supplies. He made a fire by the side of the truck, our chairs were the old folding lawn chairs popular in those days.
I wore Levis jeans, cowboy boots and hat, and a plaid western shirt. Grandpa wore what he always wore, khaki pants and a matching long sleeved shirt, on his feet leather boots with gum rubber soles and to top it off a hat similar to what I wear now.
I’ve always been inquisitive and at the time was telling him all about how I had read that you could eat Prickly Pear Cactus, and he was giving me the old, “ya can huh?” And watching to see what I’d do. So I went and got a pad off a nearby cactus, then went over to the fire and explained to him how I had to singe off the prickly needles over the fire so I could peel it and eat it. Grandpa watched me, intrigued to see what I was doing. I got a stick off a Juniper tree, sharpened the end with my pocket knife and stuck it into the cactus pad. I felt so proud showing grandpa my skills, roasting the cactus over the fire. When it looked like I had burnt the needles off I cut into it and peeled off the outside. My mouth was watering as I imagined biting into this delectable treat nature provided us. It sure looked good. “See grandpa, I’ve got a prickly pear, fruit on the desert!” Grandpa smiled at me with a crooked grin. I popped a chunk into my mouth and bit down. Well to my surprise not only did it not taste at all like a pear, it was more like a cucumber, a cucumber filled with Elmer’s Glue. And that wasn’t the only thing wrong with my treat, apparently I had not singed off all the needles or had got them onto the part I was eating, my tongue and gums had an odd sensation, as if I had bitten down on a porcupine, to me at that moment, it was a terrible feeling. Grandpa about died laughing at my adventure. I suppose I was quite the sight to see.
Things have changed a lot since those days when I’d go out with grandpa, and with dad too at times. We even used to camp right in the midst of Goblin Valley, now it’s all fenced off and restricted, probably a good idea I suppose with all the people that go there these days. Camping was simple then, and it was inexpensive for the most part. You got there however you could, you used whatever you had, and you ate pretty much the same food as at home. I look back now and in some ways yearn for that simplicity again. Not that I’m a complicated guy, I still am pretty simple with things, make most of my own gear, and make it multipurpose when I can. The important thing to me is…to get out there. An evening around the campfire is heaven. The crackling sounds, the faint whistling of gasses rushing out of the hot logs, the white, blue and red flames, the aroma of cedar and sage burning in the cool night air. It doesn’t take much to make me happy, just being out there will do it for me, a bonus is to share it with someone else.
Until next time this is Perry Peacock for, “Simplifying Survival”
In early January the sun goes down by 5:30 pm, by the time I park my truck at the bottom
of the canyon it’s already getting dark. Snow
is lightly falling. After clipping into my snowshoes my small day pack goes on loaded with the few supplies I’m taking with me for my camp. No blanket, no sleeping bag and of course no tent, no stove. Food is simple with sourdough rolls and chili for dinner, grits and eggs for breakfast, some jerky to snack on, the ever present sunflower seeds and plenty of Mocha mix for drinking. I’m taking my own made gear for shelter, my Polartech Fleece Poncho Liner goes on next, followed by an HD Poncho in snow camo. For my hands, finger-less mittens, 100% wool, crocheted by my wife, Shauna, with yarn we bought a couple years ago on a visit to the Woodward’s in North Carolina. The last item, essential now, my Fenix headlamp with wide angle flood light to penetrate the dark woods that lie ahead.
Arriving at last I search around for the best spot for my shelter, seeing a large pine and a small Juniper about twelve feet apart it looks perfect. For this camp I’m using my Ultralite silnylon poncho as a tarp for a lean to shelter, over that I’m throwing a very thin painters plastic to form a clear window for the Super Shelter that will result. Very light, and very warm.
The Super Shelter is nine feet long, four feet wide and a little over four feet tall. The invention an idea of Mors Kochanski a now elderly Canadian survival guru, it is a merging of modern materials and Inuit (Eskimo) ways. In effect it makes a greenhouse to capture radiant heat from a fire.
A few arm loads of soft pine boughs make for a pleasant aromatic mattress on the snow. With my poncho off, my Fleece liner will be like a sheet on the boughs.
I don’t know what it is, but it doesn’t bother me. I have plenty to do, whether just camp chores or something I want to make or do. There are times when it would be nice to say something to someone, like talk about a beautiful sunset. Probably the hardest time is around the campfire at night, that’s the time when folks like to talk, but I keep busy cooking, or experimenting or making something and the time passes nicely. Mostly I miss someone to share the beauty I find in the outdoors, it seems there is not much use raving about it to myself, I suppose that gives a reason to come back, for the enjoyment of telling about the time in the wilderness.
Morning finally breaks and the early light exposes my camp and the area around it allowing me to really see it for the first time, having come in during the dark evening and only my head lamp to illuminate things. I find the view at first light simply stunning, fresh snow everywhere, the pines fully flocked, my tracks coming in nearly covered. I see a couple sets of rabbit tracks in the soft snow. I bring my head back inside, closing the plastic again. The warmth from the glowing fire is so inviting while inside my shelter I scarcely can muster the desire to go out in the frigid morning air until I have to. I lay back down to ponder my situation. Sleep catches me and I doze for an hour, till a little chill awakens me and alerts me that the fire needs another charge of wood.
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