Desert Bushcraft

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Re: Desert Bushcraft

Post by Mojave » Wed Dec 15, 2010 2:01 am

When I've no other choice - but something in me just recoils in disgust at eating out of something that was cleaned by what amounts to dirt and a sock. Mind you, I know I've eaten much worse things, but...

I guess I was just hoping someone had a magic bullet to make my inappropriate-fastidiousness tendencies happy.
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Re: Desert Bushcraft

Post by doctor patches » Wed Dec 15, 2010 10:55 am

Mojave wrote:When I've no other choice - but something in me just recoils in disgust at eating out of something that was cleaned by what amounts to dirt and a sock. Mind you, I know I've eaten much worse things, but...

I guess I was just hoping someone had a magic bullet to make my inappropriate-fastidiousness tendencies happy.
i'm pretty sure that sand is rather sterile, considering the UV rays beating down on it all day. just use the top bit of sand, like a quarter inch or something.
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Re: Desert Bushcraft

Post by Squirrley » Wed Dec 15, 2010 3:12 pm

lick your shit clean as soon as you're done eating - that way all it takes is a very small amount of soapy water to actually clean your stuff (or you can just not wash it after, hardcore mode.)
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Re: Desert Bushcraft

Post by Jeriah » Thu Dec 16, 2010 12:33 am

Is there something to be said for a point of view that if you have to hump every ounce of water on your back, with no local resupply, that you shouldn't be doing anything that creates the need for washing? I'd be thinking like this: Mountain House or whatever makes perfect sense if you can use local water to cook with and wash dishes. MREs might be a better weight tradeoff if you have to carry all the water to cook and clean with.

Some no-washing solutions might be worth looking into as well, like licking your dishes clean and then sand scrubbing them until next time, but I'd still be thinking about the water lost to cooking.

Obviously, survival vs. backpacking vs. car camping will change everything. If you're living in an RV with hookups, the fact that you're in the desert is incidental. If you're backpacking, well, you calculate your weights and pack accordingly, but I'd probably be planning on drinking any water I pack, and eat stuff that doesn't fuck with that. In a survival situation, water is FAR more important than food, esp. in the desert.

Thoughts on this?
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Re: Desert Bushcraft

Post by Abel » Thu Dec 16, 2010 3:28 am

Jeriah wrote:
Obviously, survival vs. backpacking vs. car camping will change everything. If you're living in an RV with hookups, the fact that you're in the desert is incidental. If you're backpacking, well, you calculate your weights and pack accordingly, but I'd probably be planning on drinking any water I pack, and eat stuff that doesn't fuck with that. In a survival situation, water is FAR more important than food, esp. in the desert.

Thoughts on this?
Errrgghhh...that is a tough one to answer without contradicting myself. Alright, yes, water is immensely important in the desert. I also agree that if someone is concerned about washing their dishes while backpacking in the desert, maybe the dishes shouldn't come along.

However, food *is* important. Specifically, the types of food. Cody Lundin says it better than I do in both of his books, but I'll try to paraphrase.

"All digestion requires water. Certain foods require less of your body's water supply to be digested."

Here's the contradiction that I was hoping to avoid...you need calories to survive in the desert. Extreme temperatures(heat AND cold, not just cold) require your body to burn a shit-ton of calories to keep your core temp stable. You need calories...but you need water to digest the food that's providing the calories.

Short-term, if you're stuck in the desert, drink tons of water and worry less about food.* Longer than say, three or four days, you better eat something, or you're more likely to succumb to the effects of calorie deprivation. Just try to have food with you that requires less water to digest.

*Caveat: Sweating your nuts off will make you lose important salts very quickly. If you are sweating profusely, drinking lots of water, and have no salt intake, you can be affected by hyponatremia.
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Re: Desert Bushcraft

Post by ninja-elbow » Thu Dec 16, 2010 1:33 pm

My desert experience is Eastern OR and many years ago at that. My Dad is from Baker and grew up in that area and we'd go out there every summer. We even turned a planned 3 day trip into a one day trip in Hell's Canyon because my Dad thought we just did not bring enough water and there was no guarantee of more.

Through me experience, here is what I have to offer:

Drinking tube. I have one salvaged off an old Camelback bladder in my "canteen kit" about 2 feet long. You can also get one from any aquarium shop. You need to be able to get water from anywhere up to and including that little crevice in the rocks you found with a cup of water in it. How you sanitize it is up to you but the tube gives you access where you once did not have it.

Less food. Enough but less.

Cotton is OK. Get a proper hat ... not a cap, but a hat.

Now - for bushcraft:

Use natrual shelter as much as you can. You probably will not have the materials you will need to bushcraft yourself a shelter.

Really know your flora. More so than up in the trees like me. There is much to be had in desert flora if you can recognize it and then know how to process it. I'm not the guy to ask as all I know about desert flora is what I've seen Cody and Les do on TV or what I have read but all the desert rats I know know the 14 things that little bush over there can do for you.
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Re: Desert Bushcraft

Post by Dawgboy » Thu Dec 16, 2010 2:39 pm

I have lived in the desert most of my life. Anza-Borrego and the Lower Colorado to be exact, and all the coastal sage to the west. I have spent a lot of time roaming these areas and I have honed my kit for it.

First off, a great read about things to eat and their cultural significance: http://www.amazon.com/Gathering-Desert- ... 0816510148

Awesome writer, awesome book. 15 years ago I put it to the test and made mesquite drink and it was actually very good. Since then whenever I am out there at that time I will gather some screw beans and make the juice. I also have been doing it with Manzanita berries forever.

Things I suggest for desert hiking. A good hat, a good stout walking stick, and sturdy boots are at the top of my list. Also figure out how much water you need and double it. after a few hikes you will learn what you really need.

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Re: Desert Bushcraft

Post by ninja-elbow » Thu Dec 16, 2010 2:40 pm

Elaboration on drinking tube: This is a water collection method. Collecting water in the desert is way different than collecting it in the Cascades where I am. Try this experiment: fill your tub with 1/4 inch of water now try to fill your canteen with that. For us Cascadians it's more like filling the tub with 8 inches of water and keep the faucet running, on a good day at least.

How do you pick up and place 1/4 inch of water into a container? Let alone determining how clean it is and purifying it.

Re Mojave's question about H2O conserving: Less utensil and food needing prep with water. When cleaning the one bowl or cup you did mess up - use a bit of water if you have to to rinse and then "human sump" it aka drink the rinse water. It's just a watered down version of what you just ate - you just consume 3 more calories and 1/4 cup of water and rinsed your bowl and spork. Clean the rest of it via the hanky/shemagh you carry (as we all do :wink: ) and/or sand scrub.
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Re: Desert Bushcraft

Post by Mojave » Thu Dec 16, 2010 3:13 pm

Well, yeah. My point is that I do minimize the amount of utensils I foul up. I was just always sort of hoping I was being dense, and there was a super-secret desert-rat trick that I didn't know about.
ninja-elbow wrote:Use natrual shelter as much as you can. You probably will not have the materials you will need to bushcraft yourself a shelter.
This. I grew up mostly in the Midwest. When I first moved to a desert in my teens, I never thought a person could ever be in want of "Just one *&^%*# STICK" quite so badly as I've since found myself a few times. :lol:
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Re: Desert Bushcraft

Post by Abel » Thu Dec 16, 2010 4:31 pm

Ninja-elbow made great points on the drinking tube. They are great for sipping water out of crevices and other hard to reach areas. I carry one myself when out hiking. I also carry freezer-grade Ziploc baggies. These are made out of tougher plastic, have a double seal, and laid flat, make scooping water out of very shallow pools a lot easier. Also, because they are clear, if the water you've scooped isn't too murky, you can lay the baggie of water in the sun to disinfect the water via the SODIS method.

As a matter of fact, this method can be used with almost any clear container, and is one of the best ways to take advantage of the abundant sunlight in the desert. Basically, the SODIS method uses the ultraviolet radiation from natural sunlight to kill off any potential critters in questionable water.

As for building shelter, as others have pointed out, good luck. Carry a decent shovel and tarp with you, dig a trench big enough to lie down in, and hunker down. I say decent shovel because cheap ones will get beat to hell trying to go through the caliche out here, not to mention the naturally rocky soil.
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Re: Desert Bushcraft

Post by HossDelgado » Thu Dec 16, 2010 5:18 pm

Abel wrote:As for building shelter, as others have pointed out, good luck. Carry a decent shovel and tarp with you, dig a trench big enough to lie down in, and hunker down. I say decent shovel because cheap ones will get beat to hell trying to go through the caliche out here, not to mention the naturally rocky soil.
I agree with this ONE HUNDRED PERCENT! Trying to dig a shallow "foxhole" (as we called em back in the day :oops: ) with a crappy walmart shovel is NOT fun...

Also, be sure to wear thick socks for walking, as sand, gravel, and other things will make it's way down past your pants, into your boots, and it chafes like none other!

A decent sleeping bag is a must, even if it gets up in the temperatures during the day, night's can get down into the 40's and 50s.


But on the note of Bushcraft in the desert?....

You have the ground to dig in, some rabbitbrush (at least in my AO) and some rocks :lol:
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Re: Desert Bushcraft

Post by ninja-elbow » Fri Dec 17, 2010 1:37 pm

Walking Sticks: I have little experience with actually using a walking stick but my Dad sure loved them and espoused their use. His current walking stick is a piece of cherry that I used to play with as a "sword" when I was a kid. It has a nice curve to it. He modified it for a bit and it's all carved up and useful now. He don't hike as much anymore - all into his BMW motorcycles now - but he still has that walking stick.

He said, other than being a walking stick, the importance of one is to use it to probe around in spots you can't see because things live there that hate you and will bite/sting you. Another common use for him, as he was an Eastern Oregonian, was to traverse old barbed wire that is all over the place. Not to tresspass mind you, but Eastern, OR is webbed with all kinds of barbed wire that does not denote private property anymore but it had a purpose once and it was just left out there when that purpose was done. A lot of times that wire is still standing and you just throw your ruck over it, open up the wire a 12"or so by propping your stick under it (and he carved a notch in his cherry stick for this purpose), crawl under, and be on your way.

He found and old snap trap with a stick once too. Probably left out there by a coyote trapper. I was there and it scared the heck out of us. We were heading up to a little creek to fill our canteens (I was 12...14??) and Dad thought it was a good time to teach me about trompsing off into tall grass by water so he grabbed a stick and poked around in the grass before we headed to the creek edge: "Poke around because there could be snakes or little animals getting a drink... **SNAP**... holy shit!! or traps."
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Re: Desert Bushcraft

Post by Jeriah » Sun Dec 19, 2010 9:46 pm

ninja-elbow wrote:Walking Sticks: I have little experience with actually using a walking stick but my Dad sure loved them and espoused their use. His current walking stick is a piece of cherry that I used to play with as a "sword" when I was a kid. It has a nice curve to it. He modified it for a bit and it's all carved up and useful now. He don't hike as much anymore - all into his BMW motorcycles now - but he still has that walking stick.

He said, other than being a walking stick, the importance of one is to use it to probe around in spots you can't see because things live there that hate you and will bite/sting you. Another common use for him, as he was an Eastern Oregonian, was to traverse old barbed wire that is all over the place. Not to tresspass mind you, but Eastern, OR is webbed with all kinds of barbed wire that does not denote private property anymore but it had a purpose once and it was just left out there when that purpose was done. A lot of times that wire is still standing and you just throw your ruck over it, open up the wire a 12"or so by propping your stick under it (and he carved a notch in his cherry stick for this purpose), crawl under, and be on your way.

He found and old snap trap with a stick once too. Probably left out there by a coyote trapper. I was there and it scared the heck out of us. We were heading up to a little creek to fill our canteens (I was 12...14??) and Dad thought it was a good time to teach me about trompsing off into tall grass by water so he grabbed a stick and poked around in the grass before we headed to the creek edge: "Poke around because there could be snakes or little animals getting a drink... **SNAP**... holy shit!! or traps."
Took a walking stick when my sister and I climbed Indian Head yesterday, and am a total convert. Ended up giving the stick to my sister to use, and I improvised one from an agave stalk. Seriously a major lifesaver on steep, crumbly, unstable ground, for checking to see how far into the bush the ground is, etc. Got to get myself a pair of trekking poles or something. (The one I used was an old aluminum one-piece my Grandma loaned me for the hike.)
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Re: Desert Bushcraft

Post by Jeriah » Sun Dec 26, 2010 3:04 am

Got a great book with tons of bushcraft skills in it. Not all desert related but many of them are. It's Survival Skills of Native California, by Paul D. Cambell. I hope to do a full book report for the Books forum shortly.

Oh, and I didn't get to do my transpiration still test because it was pouring rain. :lol:
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Re: Desert Bushcraft

Post by Shade~O'Grey » Tue Dec 28, 2010 12:54 pm

Baker (now Baker City), Oregon: Holy shit...I was born and raised there.
I know that area very well as I have walked from Baker to Keating (desert) and back, and from Baker all the way to Sumpter and Granite (mountain) and back again. Spent a lot of time fishing and camping at Phillips Lake, and along the Powder.
'Course that was almost 30 years ago, but still, small world huh?
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Re: Desert Bushcraft

Post by ninja-elbow » Tue Dec 28, 2010 2:43 pm

Heh, cool. Baker (as I grew up there some and will keep calling it that out of habit) is a nice place. I've been wanting to head back there for a bit since I have not been there in such a long time since my Grandma passed (2002)and she was my last family connection there. Some beautiful spots out there - from high desert to alpine up in the Willowas.

I miss the long and hot drives me and my Dad would take out there in the summer. Hmmnnn... next summer maybe. Make a short trip and do an overnighter.
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Re: Desert Bushcraft

Post by Blackdog » Wed Dec 29, 2010 5:14 am

HossDelgado wrote:
Abel wrote:Also, be sure to wear thick socks for walking, as sand, gravel, and other things will make it's way down past your pants, into your boots, and it chafes like none other!:

Gaiters, don't leave home without them.
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Re: Desert Bushcraft

Post by Ufdyixcaff » Thu Dec 30, 2010 9:27 pm

Dont forget to look to desert PEOPLE/CULTURES for their solutions on how to cope.

Loose baggy clothes are used by many desert people, especially those in northern Africa and the Arabian peninsula. It creates a micro climate with a higher relative humidity, this works its way into the fabric, which due to its loose, baggy nature has a high surface area... The result, desert children, is a personal swamp cooler. :wink:

Expand your idea of "food". Insects and small lizards are excellent protein sources. Lots of desert people relied on insects and lizards and as a bonus, skewer them and you dont need water from clean up! just eat them off the skewer!

Water is a biggie... and for the most part, the traditional way of finding water in the desert was having a "cultural memory" of where the water is. Since you dont have the oral history of the San, Tarahumara or the Spinifex people, youre gonna have to hoof it in! You CAN resupply, but a few thoughts... 1) standing water in the desert is probably tainted 2) solar stills cost more water to make than they will return and 3) its often easier to conserve water than to replace it.

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Re: Desert Bushcraft

Post by Dak Kovar » Mon Jan 03, 2011 12:18 am

When we were kids near Reno, during the summer, we would dig a pit about 10' accross by about 3' deep. We'd use two long branches (sometimes more) to span the center and then we'd cover the whole thing in sage brush. It would end up being like a big covered bird nest. Think of it as a desert igloo made of sagebrush. Of course we always picked a site away from the big red ant piles.

Nobody had AC back then and summers were hot and kids were expected to stay outside until dinner time. Our 'Forts' were nice and cool in the summer and to our surprise, dry and warm in the winter. I can remember one winter, one of our forts was BURIED under about 3' of snow and once we were able to find our way in....we found it dry. We used these forts for a number of years (from when I was about 7yrs old to 12) off and on. We would add whatever we would find to help the structure like plywood, cardboard, fiberglass panels, etc. Think of it as a desert igloo made of sagebrush. They were just something fun to build then but if I were I to have to live outdoors for a long period of time I'd quickly build a fort over using a tent in the harsh Nevada winds.

In the service one is expected to constantly improve their field postions...until it is time to move. The same would apply to building and living in something like this.

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Re: Desert Bushcraft

Post by Abel » Mon Jan 03, 2011 12:39 am

That's awesome Dak Kovar. We did the same thing here, but to an even greater extent. We had friggin' tunnel systems. Same idea as yours, basically, but with trenches running between the forts. We would cover the trenches with plywood, old mattresses and scrub. Basically whatever crap people tossed in the desert we used. I seem to remember one fort even had an old refrigerator door used for the entrance.

Its amazing what kids can build. The reason our areas were so expansive is because the empty area we built them was in the middle of three or four different neighborhoods. Kids from everywhere would come at different times, add to the tunnel network, and then go home when the streetlights came on. It was cool, the place was constantly changing.
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Re: Desert Bushcraft

Post by Dak Kovar » Mon Jan 03, 2011 1:26 am

LOL yup kids are industrious. At other sites near our home we dug caves, tunnels (short ones) and all kinds of crazy stuff. There was an old car body. The windows worked and the lock on the trunk was broke. We dug the dirt from the inside and piled it around the outside of the car body. The trunk was the enterence/exit and we would crack the windows for ventilation. Completely water/snow proof. It was a nice little pit we dug from the rear bumper to the front. Not a good place to hide from the pissed off older kids. It was like throwing rocks at fishheads in a barral....or car.

Turns out that when I was in the service in Germany, we were not allowed to dig foxholes but WERE expected to make fighting postions. I'd build mine like those old desert forts but smaller. Just large enough to sit up and lay down in. We'd cover them with our ponchos for overhead chem protection (worked for rain as well). We could hide these real easy and some of us could blend them so well that not even our Sgts could find us. A nice advantage of these nests was that the dirt we dug from the hole created a lip around the edge and the rain would flow around the pit and not into it...assuming you got the ponchos right. lol
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Re: Desert Bushcraft

Post by roOism » Wed Jan 05, 2011 6:47 pm

Ghost_Jaws wrote:Awesome Post
+1 on the Agave needle and thread. I'll re-post a few pictures, this is my use of the agave sewing needle and thread. Had a tear in my glove, sewed it shut. I've used this glove periodically since I sewed it shut and it's holding strong.(On a side note I did the old Les Stroud method of biting the thorn loose, I didn't poke an eye out, but it was sucky and nerve racking, thanks for the easier method Ghost_Jaws).

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This thorn as a standalone would also be great for a frog/lizard harpoon, or other pointy object, the thorn is incredibly hard.

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