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Thursday, October 29, 2015

Demonizing The Campfire

A “campfire,” Just the word alone conjures up a special picture for most of us. 
Cavemen had campfires, and all indigenous peoples had them. It was not just for pleasure but to cook and stay warm, to keep back the unknown during the dark of night.

    Bringing it right up to date, we have a long history and tradition in this country surrounding the campfire. It is legend. It seems to some to be part of our DNA, rushing through our blood from ancestors who are unknown but speaking to us through the campfire. It brings us a special message, a bonding of a kind we do not find elsewhere, when you have shared a campfire with friends and strangers alike. 

Mental pictures of campfires are like a TV, flickering in front of our mind’s eye. Sitting around toasting marshmallows, cooking ash cakes, and a dutch oven sitting on the coals, at the same time keeping us warm. The smell of smoke and the glow of the coals, holding back the night, all this is hardwired into our DNA.

 It seems like a gift we should always be able to use and to have when we need it. I cannot begin to relate all the collective memories millions of us have stored as a part of our outdoor experience around the campfire.

Assault Against the Campfire

Over the last 50 years and more, an unfair war has been waged against the campfire. And this battle has been waged against us, the campfire users, the real woods-runners, the hunters, the trekker, the casual camper -- anyone who uses a campfire. We are made out to be mad demons and stupid for wanting to be part of nature. A bunch of louts, and drunken bums starting fires in reckless abandon. 

The campfire as we know it is slowly being taken away from us, by mostly well meaning but misinformed petty government workers on all levels. From the city, county, state and federal levels, it is a war against us, The Demons. It is a battle that has heated up over 50 years and continues as a hard core brainwashing of the public and themselves, demonizing the campfire. WE are the said Demons. We had a campfire, we are bad. It’s the law. 

Getting Real

It is getting very difficult in many places to have a “legal” campfire. By legal I mean getting a permit! What? For a campfire!

The pitched battle rages on. An assault like no other on all outdoorsmen and women.  And by now, most folks fell for it hook, line, and sinker. Campfires are bad, they start wild fires and cause billions of dollars’ worth of damages, etc. After all, man accounts for about 85% of all wild fires and forest fires. Well, that’s factual, but let’s go deeper.

I began to dig. I’m not happy with what I found. On the other hand it shows how we are not all that smart.  And we are not the demons they make us out to be. 

 The road I took was amazing, I was astonished at the twists and turns. The maze of statistics that became meaningless in the redundant repetition. Finally a few breaks, buried deep within the right wording when doing a search on the net, finding the right set of documents; the wording has to be just right to find the real deal about forest fires, wild fires, “manmade fires,” accidents, which are man-made or from lightning, etc. All things get lumped into a huge statistic, and it is very misleading. I am going to throw some statistics at you.

Gathering facts on Wild Fires, Forest Fires

West Virginia statistics for forest and wild fires, the cause: debris burning 32% (man-made fire), arson 35% (man-made fire), children 6% (man-made fire), equipment 12% (man-made fire), smokers 4% ( man-made fire), lightning 1% (not man-made), railroads 1%, and campfires stand at 2%!  Very interesting.  In a lot of cases, the “investigators” can claim it was a campfire when in fact all the evidence has been so trampled by fire fighters that if they find a “fire ring” somewhere, that is where the finger points, and it’s a done deal. 

Fire is an exciting thing for many people for many different reasons. Serial arsonists are very seldom caught, and some go on for years and years. Solving arson-set fires stands at 10%. Not a very good track record. 

Across the country, the statistics are about or close to the same for arson set fires. Of those arson fires, a shocking 30 to 35% are set by firefighters themselves! A forest service arson investigator is in prison for setting dozens if not hundreds of fires in southern California.

In another case, a volunteer fire fighter set wild fires.  A serial arsonist used mosquito coils fit with a timing device. The mosquito coils are a clay-like substance and can smoulder for hours.  These can be thrown from a moving car like a frisbee at high speed. The coils vanish as they turn to ash, they get trampled on or are washed away by water.  Dozens of fires were most likely started by this method in Yolo County, California. 

In 2008 over 800 fires were started by lightning in California. In 2000 more than 122, 000 wild fires ignited in the western mountainous states of Washington, Oregon, California, Nevada, Idaho, Montana, Wyoming and Utah. According to the data base complied by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, lightning starts almost 60% of all fires on “public lands” in these states. To date (2009), Yellowstone has had 15 fires, 13 by lightning. There was no other data on what caused the other two fires.

Damage by lightning is estimated at $4 to $6 billion a year. 

More Statistics For Making Our Case

Department of Forestry statistics: Open burning or a “controlled”“ burn caused wild fires 30%, arson 20%, smokers 14%, house, cars, and aircraft, 11%, children 9%,  equipment use 7%, railroads 5%, lightning  5%, campfires 1%.  You can see the statistics vary a bit from place to place, but the campfire, always remains at the bottom of the list. 

A “prescribed fire” as opposed to a wildfire is supposed to be “contained.” In Arizona, 9/21/09 through 10/23/09, four fires of 2,100, 2,200, 2,800 acres each were “prescribed “fires that went out of control. The National Interstate Fire Center reports that for Idaho, Montana, Oregon, and Washington, fires are from lightning, followed by trains, and machinery, sparks, and cigarette butts.  Not one mention of campfires. “What is the main cause of wild fires?” My question and the answer is, In  order, they are: Lightning, fireworks, debris burning, arson, slash and burn farming, lawn mowers, kids with fireworks, cars, downed power-lines, pot growing operations, but not one word about campfires.

According to, wild fires in California, from 1997 to 2001, an average of 392 wild fires were arson, more common than by lightning. They also state animals short circuit powerlines and oil well drilling contribute their fair share also. 


Campfires or the remains of a campfire (i.e., the remains of a campfire, a circle of stones, a “dug pit” etc.)  are often pointed out as the culprit with no evidence that these particular “campfires” started anything. They are just easy targets, and insurance companies want answers as well. The term “man-made” or human cause of wild fires is very misleading. It invites the mind to jump to conclusions. And the wrong conclusion most of the time. From these statistics, about 99% of the time. 
Glass fragments with lens properties such as a concave reflecting light onto a small focus with the temperature in the 90s can start a fire. Human caused?  Of course. This is from the “Kirks Fire Investigator,” NFPA by John Dehaan. What an eye-opener this book is. It is the bible for fire investigation, where I found the info above. 

The Demon Is Not Us

The war against us and Campfires is way out of control and we are losing. Why? Simple “propaganda,” the railing about and against campfires, demonizing in its best suite. The propaganda is winning and we have bought into it for years. By the time my grand kids are young adults, no fires will be allowed anywhere if this nonsense keeps up. 

Have campfires actually caused wild fires?  Of course they have, but not on the massive scale we are led to believe -- not even close.
What we need is proper education in the preparing of a campfire space, choosing the right place for the campfire, the importance of what can happen, how fast a fire can get away from us, a bucket of water, and shovel for dirt – these are no- brainers. It is really pretty easy for the responsible camper to use a bit of common sense, and the skills to handle the situation. 

You do not need a giant blazing monster to cook with – that’s only in the movies.  You need to be prudent and clear the forest duff at least 3 feet around the chosen spot, and watch the overhead and the wind. These things are easy to handle with the right skills, observation, and education. 
Campfires are a part of our heritage, our tradition, and we just should not stand back and let them take it away from. In light of the misleading statistics, we are being demonized because we are an obvious target, and an easily-brainwashed target at that. When you consider that we account for 1% and maybe less of all wildfires, we should not even be on the radar. The big deal is arson -- and many times arson from within the ranks. I’m not taking a low shot at the brave firefighters -- not even close.  But the facts are there and cannot be denied. These men do put their lives on the line, and unfortunately they lose those lives because of sick renegade firefighter arsonists and other reasons. By the same token we do not want them to continue to make us the demons; we just want our campfire.
“Going green,” by the way, is part of fire. Many plants, such as oaks, manzanitas, and many others, cannot grow well without fire.  Fire is not the demon and neither are campfires.  

By Dude McLean

Please feel free to post comments on my articles, I enjoy hearing from and responding to my readers. When you're finished posting your comment please click PUBLISH to share your comment with me and my readers. 


What is safe queen, a moniker mostly used by collectors of knives and guns that are non users in order to keep them pristine for possible resale in the future. A fine idea in some respects, but not for me, Many years ago I sold the last of any safe queens I had. For me it was a waste of space and non use, if I have knife or a gun it is to be used like any other tool, if it is so good why not use it, why keep the so called best in the shadows. If they are the best, then they should be used as they were meant to be. This is what they were made for so use them. 

Like any fine tool the best are a delight to handle and to use for the purpose they were intended for. If I need reliable then these are my choice for use. They do me no good in a hide just sitting looking pretty. A fine race horse is used for racing or breeding but they used, they just stand for years in a paddock. Since I have never been able to breed a knife or a gun it leaves one option open to me, use them.  Oh sure I have a few knives and guns that have seen little use but that has been dictated by the time I have available and human nature of, I'll take this knife today and we follow that pattern but I try and keep my mind open about which tool I will take on any given day, and that is often dictated by what I foresee as the chores that tool will be used for on any day in the bush. A good tool should last you a lifetime plus be ready to be handed down few generations, and keep on ticking for more. I do find myself picking up the same tool many times in a row because I have bonded with it and already know how it feels to me, a mistake perhaps but I do make a concentrated effort to break the habit of a certain tool choice just to expand my use of the tools at hand. 

Like many of you I have way too many knives and though they do not breed, it sure seems like at times they do so. My choices are myriad for any chosen craft I might be the bush. I like to experiment using a knife, for instance for a chore it was not meant to be used for just to see if I can make it work for me. I have been surprised many times by how well a knife worked for me in a craft it was not intended for. For the most part I am not a fan of large knives for instance but have more than a few.  I have found many of them to be useful in areas I would normally use a smaller knife, like for trap triggers, and they worked just fine. My own preference is to not chop with a large knife as I carry a hatchet or a tomahawk. My hawk is a Vechawk. They will out chop any large knife. But this not about what the tool is it is about using them. 

Revolt against "safe queens " and put them to the work they were intended for, they will thank you by performing like the Kings they really are. Safe Queens are for the non-outdoor crowd in my estimation, oh sure you might make a few bucks but is it really worth it? I think not. My opinion may not be shared by many of you and this is really to get you thinking in a direction of use rather than as a passive collector. On your last day on earth you will not be able to make up to all those tools and use them in one day. Damn I never got to shoot that gun or use that really cool knife. Too late bye bye , Have fun now. 

 by Dude McLean 

Monday, October 12, 2015


By: Dude McLean and Alan Halcon

Alan and I had just finished an interview for a possible Wilderness Way article. A field editor’s work is never done. As we were driving through the San Gabriel Mountains, I asked him if he had to work the next day.

He said, "No, and no work the next day either."

"Very convenient! We’re going into the bush right now with what we have in our pockets" I responded with a smile. "We can’t take anything we have in the SUV."

"Okay, let’s go!" Alan responded without hesitation.

Halcon and I had been talking about doing this kind of thing for quite some time. For some reason, this time it fell into place, so we went for it.

Halcon had on shorts, t-shirt, sandals, cap, and sunglasses. In his pockets he had a Kershaw knife and keys with magnesium and flint striker.

Dude had on long pants, a t-shirt, long-sleeve shirt, hat, and kerchief. In his pockets he had a Swiss Army Knife--model Rucksack. He also had keys with a magnesium and flint fire-starter.

We drove up a remote, twisty canyon road and headed down an unidentifiable road, as far as the trail would allow us to drive. Knowing it was noon and getting late, we parked the vehicle and headed into the bush… post haste!

Our first order of business was finding a suitable location to build our campsite for the night. We followed a very dim trail, parts of which were difficult to find. We figured we went into the bush about a mile, maybe a bit more.

Along the trail, en route to our campsite, we gathered yucca leaves, which would serve us well for various projects including securing our shelter.


We found a glade surrounded by rivercane, willows and cottonwood. Alan cut some rivercane for the lean-to while Dude put the pieces into place. The cane was pretty easy to cut and the work progressed pretty fast.

Dude took the yucca and shredded the leaves into thin fibers in order to secure the shelter There was no need to twist the fibers into cordage. The yucca fibers would be plenty strong for our intended uses.

Alan constructed a heat reflector out of rivercane, so the heat would be reflected back into our leanto.

Dude gathered some rocks for a three-fold purpose. One, to line the fire pit, so we might be able to cook on the heated rocks, since we had no containers or utensils of any kind. Secondly, we were making a fire-bed. Third, we were to heat stones to boil water and perhaps make some soup with the food we gathered… the stones were useful and answered our needs on many levels.

With our lean-to in place and our heated rocks in position, covered with a generous amount of earth, we lined the inside of the lean-to with leaves from the surrounding cottonwoods and willows. This would further insulate us from the cold ground.

Water was one of the first obstacles we needed to overcome. While we were sure the water was good enough to drink, we did not want to risk getting sick. We looked around for a while, in search of a rock with a suitable depression, or some trash bottleor can to hold water, but didn’t find one. In the end, we hiked back to where we had gathered the yucca leaves and collected about a three foot section of the yucca stalk. Dude took careful aim at splitting the stalk in half and carefully cutting out the pithy fiber, making a trough out of one of the split halves.

We chose yucca as our water vessel because of its pithy center, which made it easy to carve out. We would like to point out, however, we could have made a water trough out of a harder wood, but it would have only taken a little more time to carve out.

Alan started a fire and placed several small stones into the fire. Once the stones were sufficiently heated, Alan took a wrist sized branch, whose end he had whittled into a sort of shovel, scooped up the piping hot stones and placed them into the water filled trough where they quickly boiled the water, to the point we felt the water was purified and good enough to drink.

While filling our trough with water we noticed there were trout in the stream, a great sign as we were both hungry.
We both started making a net from the yucca strips. While we’re both versed in making nets, it still took about five hours of construction. Again, we didn’t twist the yucca into twine, as that would have added more time to the construction process. Besides, for our intended use, the yucca strands were more than adequate.

Dude cut a green willow branch, bent it back on itself, and secured it in a circle with another yucca fiber. We then secured the net onto the willow branch, with additional yucca strips, to complete our dip net.

By this time it was getting so late and chilly that the fire became our most welcome guest.

We ate the wild edibles we had collected on the way in, as we discussed our goals for the next day.

Morning came early, at zero dark thirty. Our night was pretty comfortable and warm. Our fire reflector worked well as did our firebed along with our padding and blankets made from leaves.

Armed with our net and fishing skills we proceeded to go after our prey… TROUT! It only took a few minutes to catch two, the one you see here and the one that got away from Alan, because he tried to pose with it for a picture opportunity. 

Alan is a big fan of sushi, Dude, not so much, so we cooked the trout on the spit back at camp. Along with some wild edible plants, our meal was delicious and satisfied our hunger.

After a successful day, we settled into a quiet time. Dude took another piece of yucca stalk and made a fire kit, a place where he could keep his primitive fire-making tools secure and dry. Alan took the net and checked the integrity of all the knots. During this time, we discussed the day’s activities and told stories as we waited for nightfall to arrive.

Our fire went out during the night! One of us was too lazy to keep it going. We won’t mention any names, but let’s just say Alan already had one screw up by losing a fish, and he certainly wasn’t going to screw up twice.

While it got chilly, we still managed to keep relatively warm because of our fire bed and our thick blanket of leaves.  Morning rolled around quickly, or so it seemed. We managed to stumble down to the stream, filled our yucca trough, made a fire, heated rocks and purified our water…. Aaaahhh! A hot breakfast.

We hung around camp a few more hours, deciding whether we should actually leave or not. In the end, we concluded if we stayed out another night, we might not have a real home to return to.... But then again, Alan didn’t know if he could deal with Dude any longer.

We finally decided it was time to go and proceeded to break down our camp. While Alan completely dismantled the shelter, Dude made sure there was absolutely no trace of fire.

Our hike back out was relatively uneventful, other than the satisfaction of having successfully overcome the challenge "With what we had in our pockets," and not having killed each other.

Hmmm! Now that we’re back in town, it’s only a matter of time before either one of us springs this challenge on ourselves again…. Knowing each other as we do, it’ll probably be windy, cold, and raining. 

Friday, October 9, 2015

Water.. The Ohio Lesson

What happened to Ohio’s water should be a call to arm yourselves with water. No war, no government takeover, but nature at its worst aided by industry, no doubt. I suggest this is the time to make sure you have water and then more water.
A water problem can come from myriad causes. Without it, you and your family are are in the deep end of the empty pool. I know it is not sexy to store water, not like having weapons of choice and all of those cool things folks who practice the survival arts like to do. Even storing food is more sexy. Water is life.
Without water you can die. Water is so common, even well prepared people overlook it. We are spoiled by being able to turn a tap on and like magic water is there. Well, in Ohio the water is there, but you cannot drink it or cook with it. The only answer is water storage. I wonder how many had any in storage and if was enough. The rule of thumb is a gallon a day per person. I suggest that is way low in real use. Bathing, cooking, drinking, or just a sponge bath will deplete that water very fast, but a gallon is at least a first step. I would start with 3 gallons a day per person, but that is still conservative. It takes work to gather the containers and then fill them. Finding a storage place is a problem for many. If you have a yard and a garage that is a huge boost. Keep the bottles in the dark or at least no direct sun.I stored water under beds, under furniture, and in the garage. Outside I placed them in boxes and covered them over. Buy those cases of bottled water to start with, then work your way to bigger containers.

55 gallon containers are easy to get, but 30 gallon containers are easier to move. Be sure you have a hand pump to get the water out. There is no need to change the water out, because there is nothing to spoil. Water does not go bad, unless the container is contaminated by other factors. So make sure your container is really clean. Bleach is easy to do . I had bottles stored for many years and the water was just fine.
You also can go bigger. I have a container that holds over 600 gallons of water on my property. More will be added. Why? for my own peace of mind. and it is prudent.
Some donts:
  • Do not try and store water in used milk jugs, they have tiny pores that you cannot get clean, no matter how hard you try and the water will be contaminated.
  • Do not buy those water containers that are really thin and have a little push tap on them. Most will fail in 6 months or sooner. Any container that is thin plastic is a NO. The soda bottles are thicker and have to withstand the pressure of the carbonation process. these bottles will not fail over time. If you have doubts about the water, just go ahead and boil the water.
If your water tastes flat, take two containers and pour back and forth a few times. That will aerate your water, so it will taste fresh and not flat.
In the long run any amount of water you have stored will put you ahead of the game. Under stress you will need more water to drink than normal.
In 1971, because of an earthquake all the water lines were broken where I was living. It took the powers that be at least 5 days to bring water to the area and 5 to 6 weeks to repair the water lines. I had water stored in 55 gallon containers, so me and my family were okay with it. Lesson learned? Store way more than you might think is smart. Dont forget your water heater can have as much as 100 gallons and your toilet up to 5 gallons in the tank, however those both failed me in the earthquake. The water heater fell over and the toilet tank broke.
The Ohio situation is a wakeup call to all. At least it should be. Store some water.

By Dude McLean

Please feel free to post comments on my articles, I enjoy hearing from and responding to my readers. When you're finished posting your comment please click PUBLISH to share your comment with me and my readers. 

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Archie Belaney… Grey Owl!

I think it is most likely most of you have never heard of him. If you are from Canada you might have, depending on your age. Archie was a beloved public figure in Canada, Britain and the U.S.
Readers were more than thrilled with his tales of life in the Canadian bush. They loved his hardscabble background. He claimed his father had been a Scotsman adventurer on the American wild west. His mother an Apache indian. After growing up on the frontier, he went to Canada and ranged across the country’s vast wilderness, as a trapper, woodman and riverman.
He embraced the indian heritage earning the Ojibway name Wa-Sha-Quon-Asin, or He Who Walks By Night, something for which he was known to do on most of his land and river travels. With four books under his belt ” The Vanishing Frontier , Pilgrims of the Wild, The Adventures of Sajo and her Beaver People, and Tales of an Empty Cabin he was firmly established as charming story teller and a passionate lover of nature. There was no doubt he could back up everything he wrote about. In 1938 he died suddenly, at age 50. It was then a startling truth came out. He was not the man he claimed to be. He was in fact and Englishman who emigrated to Canada in 1906, at the age of 18. Even his close friends and associates had no clue, including his book publisher.
No doubt can be cast of his sincerity of his passion for nature, as reflected in the life style he rarely strayed from, as found in his book, ‘Tales of an Empty Cabin,” published in 1936, two years before his death.
His first hand look at the wonders of the forest is still compelling, regardless of the fact he was not an Indian. He had two pet beavers who lived in the cabin with him and he raised from the time they were kits. He named them Jellyroll and Rawhide. He had been a beaver trapper, but after raising his two beavers he never trapped beaver again.
His knowledge was very real, I have found his books a joy to read. A movie of his life was made and played by Pierce Brosnan and followed his life pretty well. As a young boy in England, he found
himself captivated by the American Indians, so when he showed up in Canada he aligned himself with Indian mentors and learned to live as an Indian. His skills were real and for years earned money as a trapper. He married an Indian lady who never knew he was not an Indian. He also wore makeup to look darker—how he got away with the wife not knowing is a mystery if in fact she did know she never said so.
You may know him as… Grey Owl!

By Dude McLean

Please feel free to post comments on my articles, I enjoy hearing from and responding to my readers. When you're finished posting your comment please click PUBLISH to share your comment with me and my readers. 

A Survival Kit: What For?

Every survival book and guru shouts and pounds you better have a “kit”. We have books and articles warning of the dangers lurking out there. We have folks who sell the kits, dictating what should be in them. It is to the point if you do not have a kit, as dictated, you are going to die. Without a kit you are just helpless and stupid for not having half a brain and not half the sense god gave a goat. With all of that being said, look at what we have, a whole industry on survival kits has arisen, leaving once again your pockets running short of bucks.
The books sell and the articles gain acclaim over the contents of said kits. Whole careers are based on the fear factor of a survival kit. I feel it leads to a false sense of security. Depend on yourself and the skills you own, that factor seems to be overlooked.
How many of you have ever gone into the bush with just your survival kit tucked somewhere about your body and tried to use it? Do you really even know what is in it? Do you know how to utilize what is in it? A prudent person would really test it ahead of time, just like all other gear. I have been asking this question now for a few weeks. What is in your survival kit and have you ever used it? Answers range from “I don’t want to mess up my kit,” to, “I can't get everything back in it” “I’ll
know what to do when the time comes,” to, “I have never opened it,” And so forth. All forums at one time or the other have had threads about survival kits and what the contents are, granted some are pretty clever and ingenious. Again, how many of you have ever really used them to see if it would help you get by? Many of the commercial kits are put together by nothing less than hucksters who have no idea if they could, in reality, help you or not. Another factor is how many really carry one in the bush, leaving in it their pack as they wander around away from camp, just a short hike for a look-see?
My point is, if one has the skills and own those skills, you should be able to survive with nothing but what is normally in your pockets and the knife on your side, and many could do well without the knife. Almost every outdoorsman I know carries a pocket knife. Some carry a few folded up contractors bags in the back pocket, a huge plus for shelter and keeping warm. You can put the contractors bag next to your skin and put your shirt on over it causing you to be warmer. Plus you can use it as a way to carry water and a way to shed rain. You have deeper knowledge than you know and you can reach inside your brain—the survival kit you always have with you—and put it to use.
What do you need? depending on where you are, depends on what you need, but most might need shelter. It takes time to build a good shelter worthy of keeping you warm, so start early and use what is available. Keep it small and tight, so it doesn’t take much to warm up the inside. If you can, pile up duff, leaves, browse or other stuff and burrow into it like a critter. You can stuff your shirt with duff and other forest materials. Even newspapers work by balling them up and stuffing them in your shirt or jacket.
Use stones and break them until you have a discoidal blade that can make cuts. Now you have a knife. This leads you to being able to craft traps for food. The traps I would use are deadfall traps no cordage needed and the triggers are easy to carve. If you must use cordage take off your underwear cut into strips and twist it, now you can make several Paiute deadfalls. If the plants are around for you to make cordage so much the better, however, that is a skill you have to already know. Learn trap placement. Sometimes on a “run” no bait is needed. make a lot of traps, like 15 or twenty.
Most carry a lighter, matches, or a fire tool in their pockets. Failing that, a hand drill or a bow and drill could be the answer for fire.
Water is the difficult one. Being able to carry it will be out of the question, however you just might use one of your boots to haul a bit of water with you. Move it to your camp and with fire heat up some small stones, make sure the stones don’t come from the river, place them in the boot of water and bring it to a boil in no time flat . We have purified water that tastes like your feet, but life saving never the less.

If you are able to make fire, remember that three fires placed several feet apart, that smoke are great attention getters. Place green boughs etc on the fire to make it smokey. Stay in place if you are lost, only if it is safe. No shame in being lost, just embarrassment. Better that dead.
Most survival kits have fishing line and a few small hooks, but alas you don’t have a kit. If fish are in the water and it is a stream, dam it up where the creek is narrow, try hand fishing, try to hit them and stun them with a limb. If you are handy make a fish trap, a worth while skill to learn. A spear might answer the problem. Not saying it will work but at least it will keep you busy for a day or so.
72 hours seems to be the number that is touted about for rescue, most likely fairly accurate. If you have not been able to take meat, look forward to a fine meal when the rescue party shows up. Try to stay at least hydrated . Contrary to all the above if you do have a survival kit it might actually help you or not, depends on whether your brain will help you cobble ideas together for uses of your kit. Your brain is the perfect survival kit.

By Dude McLean

Please feel free to post comments on my articles, I enjoy hearing from and responding to my readers. When you're finished posting your comment please click PUBLISH to share your comment with me and my readers. 

Growing Tobacco For Trade

We have all heard about using cigarettes as a trade item but they will run out. It is a fact that under stress people smoke more and even take up smoking , when they were never a smoker in the past. With all the talk about bartering, this is a no brainier. Tobacco is a cash crop waiting to be planted.
It’s not all that hard to grow and can grow almost anywhere. Tobacco only needs acidic soil and little care. Creating acidic soil is not hard to do and many instructions can be found online.
You can even buy a mechanical hand roller to manufacture your own brand. You can also learn to hand roll cigars, lots of info on the net just Google how to hand roll cigars. It might be a while before you hit on your own method but it can be done. The videos I have seen are clear and easy to pick up the tricks and the art.
Heirloom seeds are best, as you can recover seed from the plants to regrow your own crop, and sell or barter. Some packets of seed are only a few bucks each , just like any veggies you might buy. I like
The Tobacco Seed Company. They will help you choose the tobacco you will need best for cigars, pipes and cigarettes. Virginian Gold, Turkish Basma, Burley Original and so on are just a few they carry. An added plus is you have no additives , no chemicals or other things that do not need to be in your mix.
Right now it is legal to grow anywhere and there is tons of info on the net about growing and preparing the tobacco for cigarettes, pipes , and cigars. A small patch can yield plenty of tobacco.
The cost of smoking is not going down if you are already a smoker, so just growing some of your own will save you big bucks.
Okay I know it is not the greatest thing to be a smoker and is linked to health issues. I believe is it is the added chemicals and no telling whatever else they have added that contributes god knows what to the tobacco. Growing you own eliminates that risk. and if nothing else just use it as a cash crop or barter.
After seeing the number of smokers at events and the number of cigars that seem to pop up at
campfires, and seeing the trading of cigars, “hey try one of these”, I don’t feel I’m too far off the beam here. I certainly do not suggest you take it up, but this is really an easy way to help yourself to a great in demand barter item. Right now I will kick back after writing this article with a fine cigar.

By Dude McLean

Monday, October 5, 2015

Shoot Me First

Some of us are more prone to this than others. Not even thinking we are making a statement, we are creating a  target… Look at my buzz cut, shirts, do-rag, cargo pants,wrap around shades, camo T-shirt, etc. You might as well put up a sign that says “shoot me first “. The same goes with trucks that are lifted and loaded with gear for escaping the hoards. they are screaming take me out I’ve got cool gear, shoot me first, etc..
A motorcycle or bike is just as bad. why? Because they are easy to take out and if your saddlebags are bulging you have gear… shoot me first!
I think we are making statements without reliasing what we are doing. Perhaps dressing down, kind of like a geek, or differently than we have been in the past is the best camo, because you don’t look like a potential problem. The best tactics are the element of surprise… make them shoot the other guy first.
We are influenced by movies, whether we want to be or not. Step back and just be neatly dressed. A do-rag doesn’t make you a man  with skills… The same with pants and a special shirt. Find a peta shirt, or one with  a peace sign on it etc… now that’s camo.
…Be a survivor not a stat.
It’s really a no brainer… Look less than average— the grey man idea.
Lots of ways to approach the problem. Maybe more later. Shoot them not me… I’m pointing to Halcon and others.
By Dude McLean

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“Whats In A Name, Dude? Poking a Little Fun”

What’s in a name? Sometimes it defines something. Like with names for people, it mostly will define you as a male or female, although that can be blurred. Or, that guy is an… fill in your fave bad name.
We are often defined by what we do for a living, although I feel that is unfair because it only tells partly what we really or are not. A carpenter does not go home and keep building because he is a carpenter by trade. I feel too many folks let the occupation define them, that is a one dimensional label and most are more complex than the one thing. Your job should not define who and what you are.
So this is my way of leading up to the point of my thoughts. I have heard it voiced in person, and many times on forums, that some are not happy with being called a “survivalist”, what with all the negative press who seldom get anything right anyway.. Add to the goofy shows about so called survivalists that are splashed all over the TV, it leads many to shy away from this label. Cant say I blame them, because it seems that all survivalists get lumped into one big nutcase bag, too bad. so this is a quest to find a new I.,D..
” Opportunist”, could be one name. Why? Well, those people buy extra items and stock ahead taking every opportunity they can to prepare themselves. Not as catchy and sounds a bit on the shady side but still applies. “Prudentists”,copyright, I just invented a word. Well, it is considered prudent to prepare ahead for what may come down the road. We hear the word prudent all the time, as in a prudent man would do such and such, mostly pertaining to being ready for something. “A prudent man buys insurance” etc. So it would apply for the new I.D.
How about the word prepper? I dont care for that word at all. It is just a lame word for survivalist. its like saying ” gosh darnit” when everyone knows you mean “god damnit”. So we’re still in search for the new I.D. How about “collectivist “. Why? because we are collecting things to put away and store and later on we can say wow look what I collected to save my sorry ass. Doesn’t it have a ring to it though?
How about “Obviousists” because you are doing the obvious by planning ahead and not being blinded by the crap we hear.. still not catchy eh?
Lets go with “: Americanist”, doing what Americans do covering our own butts and taking care of ourselves without the government helping us. Sowe are being prudent and taking the opportunity because it is obvious to collect the items we need in order to survive by preparing. Why should a label bother us? worse things could bother us… AOPCSO Americanopportunistsprudentcollectivesurvivalobvious. Now that’s a moniker you can hang with. I’m sure it will take off like wild fire, but at last we have a new label. You can give me all the credit for making your life a better one by handing out a new I.D. for free.

By Dude McLean

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Metal Detector Myth

I am amazed at most survival book writers ignorance when it comes to fooling a metal detector.  They all seem to be repeating each other and it seems it has not changed in years. It is very evident they are all wrong in my not so humble, ahem.
Over the last several days I have reviewed many new books by writers in the survival world all who are very knowledgeable with many skill sets, and this is not to take anything away from those skill sets. After seeing this same mistake over and over in these 4 books, I dove into my extensive collection of survival books and did a fast look for the problem. Each one said the same thing. They all advise scattering nails , BBs and junk metal over your cache in order to fool a metal detector or the operator. Even a novice who has read one book on metal detecting knows what to do in the case of a heavy metal “collection” concentrated in one place. For someone with lots of experience it does nothing but maybe pin point that something is under all that junk . First it is out of context for the area. Modern detectors can cancel out the surface junk and “look” down deeper and ignore the surface crap.
Even an old detector will work because any metal detector operator worth his salt will rake the surface and and scan it again, rake again and check it again. Also the ploy of putting a decoy cache on top of the real deal will not work… all operators always scan the hole again after a recovery.
I have been at the game of metal detectors and making finds for 50 years or more. I have found well hidden caches that had these “fooler” junk metals scattered around, all it did for me was ring my alarm that something is under there. The only place junk metals would work is in a true junk yard… That would be a nightmare.
I mean no disrespect to these fine writers with awesome survival credits and skill sets. For the most part they are right on . Not everyone can know everything. This happens to be an area of expertise that I know well. So in a way this is an open letter to those fine survivalists who offer us their hard won skills in their books.
With the utmost respect to those writers on survival.

By Dude McLean

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Do It Yourself

With winter coming on, you still have time for some Do It Yourself Projects. Most wont take more than afternoon. I’m sure you have been planning to do some of these ideas already, just need that swift kick in the butt to get at it.
A rain catchment system , you can start with any size containers you want. but 55 gallon barrels seem to be a natural. You can buy these at many stores, like home depot and the like, set them up in a series, cutting a hole and adding a plastic pipe to connect to the next barrel with overflow at the top of the barrels. Be sure to include a connection to drain the water, a hose attachment is easy to do at the bottom of each drum. Even if you are in a place that does not have much rain fall you will be surprised at the amount of rain that builds up and you can fill a few 55 gallon drums very quickly. Extra water is always nice to have. You do not even have to drink it, water your plants and critters with it.
A container garden is perfect for herbs. You can use 1 gallon containers and larger.
Plant any herbs, one to a container, depending on the size the herb attains when mature. This is classic way to grow tomatoes. cucumbers grow well in containers, as do squash. You can even provide a lattice work for them to grow on. Peppers respond well to the container garden . Almost anything you want to grow in a container will do well, with just a bit of maintenance. Many of us have all kinds of buckets just taking up space, that,s what got me going. They are easy to move so you can follow the sun or bring them into a shelter on the coldest days and nights . I use one of those heavy duty wagons to move several plants at once. You reap the bounty and it is really free food you grew yourself. Some like to hang the containers or even grow the plants upside down. By growing your own, you know where it came from, no nasty additives etc.
Don’t have chickens, but always wanted them? Building an inexpensive chicken coop is not hard to do. I saw some metal frame windows at the swap meet, 5 bucks each. They are about 6 by 5 feet that lets in the light and the warming sun and stops the wind. A few boards and chicken wire is not expensive. I used some old drawers for the nests and installed an old door I had on hand. Be sure the coop is critter proof. Lots of plans on the net to help you with ideas to slap it together. Now you have fresh eggs and the chickens are not full of some goofy hormones… cost less than a 100 bucks total. Maybe you want ducks or quail or pigeons? The cost should be the same or very close.
One of my daughters raises exotic chickens. Some are very pretty. Some are goofy looking, but they sell for 10 bucks each and up to 50 bucks each. Breeding pairs are more. Many different kinds of pigeons, from racers to tumblers. You can also sell squab as a side line.
On the net are plans for building your own smoker, from an old refrigerator, so you can smoke your own meats. The projects I saw are very straight forward and seems they could be done in an afternoon. I have never done this but as soon as my old box dies, the one in my mancave, that’s how I will recycle it.
Many times, just by driving down the road or through a few alleys, you will find broken fridges that are being thrown out. If I find one that’s my next move. It’s a great way to preserve food, from fish to fowl, to whatever you wish to smoke.
Small projects have a way of not getting done, but they can provide you food for very little effort. Do it yourself. You will feel better. With today’s prices for food, whatever you can do to cut that cost is money in your own pocket and not in the stores pocket… I like that.

By Dude McLean

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Sunday, October 4, 2015


The simple truth in the dangers of a crisis are not the food and water you have stored . not the weapons or tactics it is disease and infections , that kill us , a simple thing as a scratch can get infected and bam you're out of the game , an infection can take you out no matter how big and tough you think you are. Those little cuts can lead to your death , so always clean them and apply what meds are needed , do not just ignore them , our immune system is easy to compromise , from a little scrape to a hardly noticeable cut can lead you into a nightmare of pain and weakness to death   I had a friend who got a tiny cut on his hand he ignored it as most of us would we were in the bush so he didnt bother to clean it well , being in the bush it is not always easy to keep as clean as normal . After a few days his hand was as large as a base ball glove and painful , so bad he could not stand it we rushed him to a ER , another few hours and he could have lost his hand or died. 

 Stress and trauma is in the mix as well . It is not a movie and just the stress can double one over in pain as the body reacts to the stress of the trauma of the situation , you will never see the hero  in a movie have a reaction that is real as life. our body can handle just so much stress no matter how tough and manly one is. this reaction can take you out of the game and bench you. Sometimes it can happen very fast or can pop up a month later . I have been there and Im no weakling . yet. .Getting sick from the flu can take you out as well . down for days at a time we have all had the flu and it weakens you as you know , now try that in a crisis when you have to act and cannot even get up our will  power will take us just so far.Having some meds might take off the edge  but only up to a point. , Childhood diseases can take us out also , I got the mumps when I was 36 talk about pain . you just never know what is lurking . And in in a crisis the stress lowers our immune system, a bad cold can be a knockout punch . If you have kids they can suffer the same as you .maybe worse . 

 Keeping clean as you can is a plus,  sanitation in all things  is a must to be looked after . An infected tooth can knock one out of anything,  coming it seems from nowhere, first it drains the body and wears you out and then perhaps the pain hits... For me I have been lucky up until now have never had a toothache or and infection  connected to my teeth but I know many who have had this problem and just as an observer it aint fun... If you are a  diabetic that is its own special set of problems and steps have to be taken to keep it at bay if  possible. Some folks are borderline diabetics  and  are not aware of it but can hit you at any time . I am not a doctor but through observation and reading one gets the idea of what can be lurking . Diabetics need a strict diet  and must eat at controlled times , in a crisis this might not be an option . 

Death of a loved one can be a devastating blow and can take you out for a while as one spins into depression  which is hard to fight with no fight left . Compounded by the loss and you were helpless to do a thing to save them, hard enough in a normal life much less in a crisis. We tend to blame ourselves in cases like this and that is  just in a normal lifestyle much less in a stressful situation that is out of our control. I really have no answer to this deal at all. 

 A broken bone leaves one with needing help all the time for the most part . If it is an arm or a leg it is must to get it set in a proper manner, not many know how to do that . No Xrays just guess work, the pain for the victim can be overpowering.and leaves them useless for any help in the crisis pain centers on themselves and is terrible for those who are helpless to fix the problem. An advanced first aid course might cover this for you. Has to be taken  well ahead of time , like now. First aid courses  are not hard and in many places are next to free , one should update if they have not taken a course in sometime as methods change. A broken finger can leave you out of the game as wel no need for a big break to take you out. 

 I really hope in our lifetimes we never see a crisis that is a major deal but looking around the world at the man made chaos and throw in the weather extremes and in some places earthquakes , twisters , floods and so on , we are all in the path of some crisis waiting to happen. We can only try our best to prepare ourselves . I truly hope we are ready as can be, by being aware of  some of the dangers that lurk in the shadows we can be surprised and still be able to handle most of the problems. This little article  by no means covers everything, that would take a book but at least it might serve to give some a heads up. 

 by Dude McLean 


How many of you have read about solar stills in so many survival books and how to make one. Now how many of you tried to make one . My bet is if you made one even under ideal conditions the return was less than a half cup of water after several hours . A lot of effort and sweat went into the project with a huge fail.  First thing is most do not carry a shovel or a large plastic tarp.  Even if you do the failure is just waiting for you and it could  lead to death. Not good . The answer is the transpiration bag , made with clear plastic . you wrap the leaves on a  living plant and tie it off , make sure it is not a toxic plant as the water will taste much like the plant,  the taste is imparted to the water . leave it alone for several hours and return to some real results of enough water to save you , if you can bag several plants, you will gather plenty of water to cook with and drink as you wish. Once you Are done unwrap all the bags and remove them from the plant as you could kill the plant that just saved your bacon, attach more in the morning  in full sunlight . A black plastic bag will not work. I always carry several clear bags in my pockets when in the wild. They take up no room and no weight to speak of, easy as  easy as easy can be. 

 When you wrap the plant leaves be careful not to poke holes in the bags as you can use them over and over. Over the last 20 years or so  my friends Christopher Nyerges and Alan Halcon and myself have constructed dozens and dozens of solar stills just to show they do not work as promoted, in Christophers classes the students are always stunned after the hard work of preparing the still. and that is using a lot of manpower  imagine doing all that work alone , it is staggering and most would never be able to do it in the first place. You will lose more water through sweating than you can gain, that is not good news 

 The transpiration bag is the real deal and no real work to do,  you can tie up a dozen in less than an hour . Even in the high desert where I live they work great , and can be a life saver . Try out the bag in your own yard first so you get an idea of how they work . Always place them in full sun. check them every few hours as they fill up they will drag down some of the smaller branches. I just wish more authors would try some of the skills rather than just assume something works because they read it themselves somewhere . So solar stills are an epic fail , no doubt  We have made stills in all kinds of locations are are supposed to work well , no dice and no water to speak of , wasted time and effort. Hope this helps you when you really need it. Just stuff a few bags in your pack or back pocket. if you can I would boil the water just be safe but we have never done that.  but just cover your 6 

 by  Dude McLean