Sunday, October 30, 2011

Home Made Fire Starters

An online friend, Roger Fandrich, invented a fire starting item called Mini-Inferno. The actual ingredients are secret, but it is basically a makeup cleaning pad with fire extenders like petroleum jelly (PJ) and or paraffin wax. It works wonderfully and it comes in a nice metal tin that makes it easy to carry and also has some other bushcraft uses. The only problem with this product is it costs around $8 plus shipping for a tin of about 6 pads.

With a little searching and some easy work, I have created my own for continued use. 100 cotton pads cost around $2.60 or so, four bars of paraffin wax cost about $3.00; eight ounces of petroleum jelly and some tins to cook it all in cost a dollar each, so that is less than $8 spent.

I had already made some a while back with just PJ and they work well. Just as good as a cotton ball slathered in PJ, but I wanted to try something that is a little less messy, but still works well.

I melted all the PJ and one bar of the Paraffin wax in two of the tins and dipped the pad in the PJ first, let that dry and then in the wax to make it less gooey and still fire worthy. I was able make 45 tinder pads with what I had melted. That is quite a cost savings from the Mini-Inferno.

I had a little wax left and made a few with just the wax to compare the two. I took one of each out back and made a nice fire with some damp wood with ease. I didn't time the burn length, I just wanted to see if each was easy to light with ferro rod and if it would make a decent sustainable fire. Both performed well.

If I want to buy tins, the are about 50 cents a piece. I thank Roger for thinking this up, but I will be using my own version from now on, unless I want to periodically buy some to provide some support for his products.

Let's go make a fire...

Saturday, October 15, 2011

My Yearly Explorations

For the past two years, I have done some interesting things near my birthday. I don't know if it has to do with my approach of the big five zero or if I am just trying to do some things that I will eventually be too old to do before it is too late, but it is what it is.

Last year, I traveled to Ohio and participated in a four day basic survival course and had a great time learning how to make primitive fire and shelters and a few other things. This year, my obsession has shifted to the Appalachian Trail and I went on a one week solo backpacking trip along the AT, just to see what it was like.

I am really enjoying these excursions. I learn a lot about myself and have had some profound experiences.

Now, I think my bride doesn't completely understand my little quirky trips, but she has supported my desire to do them and I am very thankful for that. For our whole relationship, which has spanned almost three decades, we have done a lot of things together. These solo trips appear a bit selfish and I'm sure they are, but the desire that drives me to them is overwhelming I appreciate the indulgence she has granted me to pursue them.

I have plans for more excursions and I'm hoping my bride will be joining me on them. She has expressed the desire to come along, but her sense of motherly duty takes precedence for now, even though I'm sure my babies are fully capable of caring for themselves.

This year, on the day after turning 49, I loaded up my van with a fully loaded backpack and drove to Harpers Ferry, WV. From there I hiked 93 miles north into Pennsylvania. Sleeping on a hammock, in hostels and shelters and I had a very good time. It was hard, but satisfying. I wanted to get the feel of what it like to be a long distance hiker. These seven days of hiking were the most I have ever done at one time. I carried everything I needed on my back. Slept in the woods, sometimes completely alone and met some interesting people.

My obsession with the AT continues. I am completely enthralled with the trail and the people who take a big chunk of their lives and hit the trail to see what they can do with it. It is crazy I think, but for now, it is my obsession.

I got a good feel of what it would be like to hike each day from sun up to sun down and how hard something like that is. But at the same time, I know the satisfaction of doing a big mile day and getting to a shelter where other hikers show up and you meet new people and hear new stories. It is something I feel very strongly that I may want to try before my bucket is kicked.

I kept a journal of my trip on Trail and you can read my entries here. I wrote it about a week after returning home using my notes and memories after processing the whole experience in my mind for a while. Even that short of a trip had a strong effect on me.

I traveled the trail as Jefe. I plan on seeing more of the AT and all its challenges and glory.