Just got back from another super-fun overnight adventure in the backwoods. It was a bit of an adventure just trying to find a spot to camp, actually. The spot we went to last time was closed-off so we had to re-route and it was a happy thing we did, because we found a spot I’d never explored before. It’s always a bit of a thrill to explore and find a spot other people don’t know about. It’s a bit like having your own little secret hideaway.
I decided not to ‘rough it’ this time with building my own shelter / setting up a tarp and brought my backpacking tent instead. I didn’t feel like sleeping in an open-type shelter because the weather has warmed up and that means…BUGS! Mosquitos are my sworn mortal enemy. So here’s my little MEC Spark UL 2+ tent sitting in the woods:
So instead of working on shelter-skills, I used this overnighter to work on my other bushcraft skills. I managed to successfully make charcloth. It was surprisingly easy. I googled this in the morning before we left. Charcloth is a great tinder as it ignites and takes a spark very easily.
It is essentially cloth made of organic material (such as cotton) that has been almost burnt up, leaving behind a material that is mostly just carbon, as per Wikipedia. It’s a technique that has been used for hundreds of years. All I used was an old hot chocolate tin, strips of an old t-shirt (must be 100% organic material, like cotton, linen, etc), and I punched a small hole through the top of the tin using a nail to let the air escape.
I knew my t-shirt was “cooked” once the smoke stopped coming out the top of the tin after a few minutes. Took it out of the fire then and made sure not to open it until it was completely cooled off. This isn’t just to avoid burning yourself, but apparently, if you open it while it’s still hot inside, this may allow oxygen into the tin, and ignite your char cloth, burning it all up instead of leaving you with the incompletely combusted material. Very much looking forward to seeing how this takes a spark on my next camp-out!
The other exciting development on this trip was I finally managed to make fire by using a firesteel and ONLY natural materials. Meaning, no matches, no lighter, no artificial firestarters. Finally, watching YouTube has paid off! Look how happy this survival / bushcraft nerd is:
Like most things in life, it really was 90% preparation, 10% execution. What took the most time was just making sure I had all the right tinder, kindling, and different sizes of firewood, before I even attempted to ignite anything. Here’s my tinder, some dried moss, and my firewood, all nicely organized and ready to go:
There’s something about having a fire at night that is just so comforting. It gives you a place to gather, even in silence, just staring into it. It brings light, warmth and a real sense of comfort, as the woods around you begin to darken. Again, we were lucky with a clear night and the moon was hidden, so we had a pretty good view of the stars. The Big Dipper hung right over our heads.
The next morning we ate our breakfast and tried out Grand Fir tips for a conifer tea. I don’t know if I didn’t boil it long enough or didn’t use enough needles, but it didn’t taste like much:
Overall, I came home very tired, my car VERY dusty, and already I can’t wait to go back!