Sunday, January 24, 2016

The Search for the Perfect Hatchet

I was reading Woodcraft by Nesmuk the other night, and I was amused to read that he had spent 12 years in search of the right hatchet to carry while hiking in the wilds.  He is a fast learner.  I’ve been looking for the right hand axe for 50 years, and I’m not sure that I’ve found it yet.  I’ve always been looking for an axe that’s light and convenient to carry; but it needs to be rugged, well balanced, and heavy enough to do camp chores.  The following is a brief, illustrated history of my quest.

I all started when this was sitting on the mantle for my 8th Christmas. 

It was a Boy Scout hand axe, and man was I excited.  It was a good axe and I carried it on many hikes and camps.  I still have it, obviously; and I keep it for sentimental reasons; but I no longer carry it.  It’s a little on the heavy side, and I don’t really care for the balance, but it’s a pretty good axe.

I tried a light-weight, back-packers hatchet; but it was just too light. 

It was not much better than a sheath knife for cutting or splitting wood, and the poll (the hammer end) was so narrow that it was useless for things like driving tent stakes, mashing up coffee beans, or cracking hickory nuts. 

Handy for dressing a deer, but as an all around camp axe, it just wasn’t the one.

I carried a tomahawk for a while, but I it was pretty heavy and I didn’t like the balance. 

The fact that it didn’t have a flat poll to hammer with was pretty inconvenient also.  You could use the front to hammer, but it was about as likely as not to glance off what you were hitting.  I kept the tomahawk, but now I only use it for a throwing axe at mountain man events.

I bought a Fort Meggs axe, but I was splitting some light wood and broke the handle the first time I put any side-ways torque on the axe.  It was just too light. I don't have it anymore so I can't include a picture, but it is really small.  The handle is thin all over, and inside the head it is really thin, only about 3/8 inch.  So, not really up to the job.

I thought maybe I could kill two birds with one stone by carrying a knife that was big enough to serve as both knife and hatchet.  I picked up a Pakistan Bowie knife and carried it a few times. 

I’ve heard that these things are made out of what ever is laying around, and some are good steel, and some are bad.  I got lucky on this one, as it seems well tempered and will take and hold a good edge.  But it missed the mark on several fronts.  It was too big to be a good camp knife, and not heavy enough to be a good axe.  Also, it didn’t fill-the-bill as a hammer. 

I tried a machete for a while.  I figured that East Texas is kind of a jungle so maybe a machete would be appropriate.  

It was nice that it had a saw on the back, but you can't really hammer with it, and I hated the way it was always banging on my leg when I walked.  So, I only pull this one out when I'm specifically going to be hacking brush and vines.

Currently I am carrying a hatchet that may be a winner. 

I have been using it for about five years and it has held up well.  It is light, but it feels good in the hand.  It will cut down small trees (3 or 4 inches in diameter) and it will split light wood.  It has a nice big head on the front and serves well to hammer in tent stakes, mash up berries, crack nuts, and etc.  It may be the one….. or then again, it may not.

I round out my woods tools with a Russel knife that a friend gave me, and a pocket-size Leatherman multi-tool.  I find that with these three implements I can do just about anything that needs doing in the woods.

Sunday, January 3, 2016

The Home First-Aid Kit

Whether you’re a prepper or not, every home needs a first aid kit.  I’m not talking about the stuff that you keep in your medicine cabinet.  When there’s an accident or injury it is not a good time to be digging through cologne bottles, out of date prescriptions, vitamins, and make-up to try and locate bandages and anti-biotic ointment.  And be honest; how many times have you ended up driving to the store because you were either out-of or couldn’t locate what you were looking for in the medicine cabinet.

If you are a prepper you probably have some medical supplies stored up.  You don’t want to be breaking open a bottle of 1000 acetaminophen tablets because one of the kids came down with a cold and you hadn’t noticed that the 50 tablet bottle in the medicine cabinet was empty.  Or maybe you’ve injured yourself when you’re working in the garden or out in the woods.  You need sit and hold direct pressure on the wound while your spouse or one of the kids goes to the house to get some tweezers, a bottle of water, an irrigating syringe, a roll of gauze, some bandage tape and some anti-biotic ointment.  Wouldn’t it be a lot easier, and save a lot of time if all you had to say was “Run to the house and get me the first-aid kit and a bottle of water.”

So, just like every home should have smoke alarms and fire extinguishers; every home should have a first-aid kit.  The kit should be of a reasonable size so that it is portable.  If you are going on a long drive or a vacation you should be able to grab it and throw it in the car or truck.  It should stay in a readily accessible location, and everyone in the family should know where it is.

You can buy pre-packaged first-aid kits, but I have not been real impressed by the ones that I have seen.  To get a well equipped one is a costly endeavor, and most kits seem to be long on cut and abrasion care and short on a lot of other things. 

You can build your own first-kit, as I did, but I will say right up front that it was not cheap.  I probably spent about $50 on our kit, but I feel comfortable with the contents, and I feel like it will handle most common home or travel emergencies.  Of course first-aid is meant to be just that.  If you have a serious injury that requires debriding and sutures, the first-aid kit is not going to handle it.  The first-aid kit will allow you to control the bleeding and help avoid infection until you can get professional medical help.

I was very lucky in obtaining a case for my first-aid kit.  My wife brought an old first-aid box that was being replaced home from her work.  The box was in good shape, of course the few items left inside of it were either dried out, torn open, or out of date; so they went to the trash.  I cleaned the box up, and my wife used her vinyl cutter to make a new label for the front of it.

Now came the stocking with first-aid supplies.  Here is what I ended up filling the box with:

For Wound Care
            2 pair non-latex exam gloves
            large syringe for wound irrigation
            6 q-tips
            tube of triple anti-biotic ointment
            30 sterile adhesive bandages
            10 butterfly bandages
            10  2” x 3” non-stick gauze pads
            1 roll  2” guaze
            1 roll ½” adhesive tape
            1 small tube surgical adhesive (Super Glue)
            1 pair small scissors

For Disinfecting
            1  2oz. bottle of jelled alcohol hand sanitizer
            100 alcohol prep pads

For Removing Splinters
            plastic tube containing 3 needles
            disposable lighter to sterilize needle tips

For Removing Objects from Eye and Eye Irritation
            small mirror
            magnifying glass
            eye drops

For Pain Management
            40  500 mg acetaminophen caplets

For Digestive Problems
            3 rolls Tums anti-acid tablets
            12 generic Imodium gels for diarrhea

For Colds and Allergies
            6 eucalyptus lozenges
            24 generic Benedryl capsules

For Burns, Stings, Poison Ivy, and Skin Irritations
            1 tube 1% hydrocortisone cream

For Muscle and Joint Pain
            1 tube menthol and methyl salicylate cream (Ben-Gay)

To Help Treat Shock
            1  reflective mylar survival blanket

For Dental Emergencies
            4 tongue depressors
            1 oz. bottle of oil of clove (for toothaches)
            dental repair kit to temporarily replace lost fillings and secure loose crows and caps

For Dehydration
            1 pack of electrolyte replacement (Gatorade) to be dissolved in one quart of water

For Snake Bite
            snake bite kit (to be used only as a last resort when no professional medical care is possible)

So, here’s my finished kit.

Of course you may need to add other things to your kit.  You may need to include an emergency asthma inhaler or some epi-pens if you are allergic to bee stings.  If you have small children you may want to include some syrup of ipecac.  I personally would like to include an Ace Bandage for wrapping sprains, but they are just too bulky to fit in my box.

When you get your kit put together, be sure and put it in an easily accessible place.  I hung my kit on the inside of the coat closet door, right next to my front door.  It’s easy to get to, and it’s easy to grab on the way out the door and throw in the car.

By the way, I never claim to be the end all and know all.  If you can think of something that you think I need to add (keep in mind that this is a first-aid kit, not an EMT bag) then let me know in the comments.