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Minimalist camping without a fixed blade

Discussion in 'Wilderness & Survival Skills' started by kalan850, Oct 26, 2016.

  1. Ramrodmb

    Ramrodmb Gold Member Gold Member

    Jun 9, 2010
    Last edited: Nov 4, 2016


    Feb 23, 2000
    Went through your list.
    Anyone who loves the outdoors knows that a good knife is handy. There seems to me a new industry has grown up to provide those essential items that no self respecting person should venture outside without.

    They are now marketed as Bushcraft or Survival, and people now make a living from teaching these skills. I don't have a problem with that and for many students they learn stuff that is useful and interesting. Some of these skills may well get them out of a mess, every bit as good as a First Aid course.

    However, where ever I've been in the world the locals have never needed any of the "essential items" or Bushcraft and Survival skills to live. Because they already have them living and working in those environments. Most people I've come across in remote areas certainly could never afford the $180 knife, nor other high cost gear. Somehow they manage, flourish even, without them.

    In our high living standard, metropolitan world, then the outdoors has been packaged up into manageable labeled classes, each with their own rules. Bushcraft rules and badges of honour. Survival and its survival tin and tools. Orienteering, Mountaineering, Trekking, you name it there are books and kit list to match them all. This thread's "minimalist" is a label as well.
    My old Forester did fine and never needed any of it labelled up, he just worked the land. As do most farmers and those who live in rural, wilderness even, environment. Generally they make themselves as comfortable as possible.

    My gripe with all this is that there is far too much marketing going on. Some of the knives offered are more marketing than any great revelation; a Mora would be fine. A ferros rod, nice to have but really a Bic or some matches is what "normal" people use. No self respecting forester would go without a saw and axe, so we take a knife... why? To me its all getting a bit out of hand and almost some business. Certainly a whole lot of lecturing going on. A whole lot of must do's, must have.
    My pet hate is the abuse of the use of Survival. Survival is dealing with any adverse situation and getting through it successfully. Its not buy a list of "essentials" for the outdoors.

    I think my gripe is metropolitans trying to tell country folk how to do things. Packaging it up and selling it to the point of fantasy. Most country folk I know carry a small knife, penknife, lock knife, and some a sheath knife. If they need more they will get it out of the shed/barn.
    Last edited: Nov 4, 2016
  3. Steve6387


    Jul 1, 2013
    The distance one goes in the type of terrain one is in dictates what one brings to a large extent. While we have all been kicking each other in the jimmies over how "required" a fixed blade is, I feel like that point is lost or marginalized in all the squabbling. People looking to practice their "survival" skills and build a shelter in the woods have a very different set of priorities than someone who plans to travel many miles over multiple days, in difficult terrain. I also noticed many of the "experts" referenced in these posts also seem to focus their content differently based on this as well.

    I am not dictating personal preference and I don't care what you do or don't bring with you into the woods (unless you are in my group), but I thought it worth emphasizing that point.
    Last edited: Nov 4, 2016
  4. 22-rimfire

    22-rimfire Gold Member Gold Member

    Nov 20, 2005
    One thing about fires, they take a bit of time to build and usually enjoy to some extent. Using the small stoves is more akin to turning on your kitchen stove to make whatever. Some would rather spend the time hiking. Some are content to camp in a public campground and build a fire to be nursed and enjoyed for many hours. There is room for everyone. But I do believe in low impact use of public lands.
  5. jackknife


    Oct 2, 2004
    Actually, Otzi was bleeding to death internally from the arrow that hit him in the back as he was fleeing a good fight. At least a couple of other blood DNA samples that were not his were fond on his cloak and knife, indicating he'd been in a heck of a fight. That he still had his ax indicates he outran his attackers even with the arrowhead in his back. Otzi was a bad a$$ guy who really PO'd someone with friends. A 5,000 year old murder mystery.
  6. Quiet

    Quiet "That guy" Platinum Member

    Oct 11, 2013
    Which is fine, just as long as you understand that the part you're missing is "Community formed, and commonly accepted by those who are in that particular community and accepted by those". Common to your group only, no one else. Sorry.

    Edited to add: As one example, the Boy Scouts of America teaches the concept of "Leave no trace". They teach us to leave a place presentable, no trash, turf fire spots when you can, don't kill animals, or chop down trees for no reason. What they don't teach is "Carry your own waste out in little bags and only use little stoves as sources of heat and cooking." And if you think your team's use of the term is more correct than the BSAs, whelp (pats on the head) that's special, real special.
    Last edited: Nov 4, 2016
  7. Quiet

    Quiet "That guy" Platinum Member

    Oct 11, 2013
    Not evidence like the footsteps walking up to the site, or the depressions where your sleeping bag was, or the rope scores around trees where your hammock was hung.

    See why this whole idea that you guys are twinkle-toeing into the outdoors but leaving "no trace" is silly? Because it's not true.
  8. Quiet

    Quiet "That guy" Platinum Member

    Oct 11, 2013
    You look like you're having a great time. LOL

    P.S. I've made fires with snow on the ground before, what's the big deal?


    Feb 23, 2000
    He must have made a joke about someones wife.

    Certainly something was up with Otzi. Can't see him fleeing with allies as they would have taken anything of worth. He was fleeing over the mountains and must have lost his pursuers as they would have stripped him too. The Revenant bronze age style.
  10. craytab

    craytab Gold Member Gold Member

    Jan 26, 2012
    And I guess all that kit came to be leaving no trace?
  11. craytab

    craytab Gold Member Gold Member

    Jan 26, 2012
    Trading poop for a fixed blade. Which one is "good weight"? If this is what minimalist or LNT means I want no part.
  12. Quiet

    Quiet "That guy" Platinum Member

    Oct 11, 2013
    Well, it's like anything else. Some folks take what is actually a very good concept with worthwhile goals behind it and then promptly go off the deep end into absurdity. Carrying your own poop? I mean, what the heck is that about?
  13. pinnah


    Jul 28, 2011
    Quiet, we may be getting closer to understanding and agreeing.

    If somebody tells me they are going fly fishing, then I would say a fly rod is necessary.
    If somebody tells me they are going hunting, then I would say a gun or bow is necessary.
    If somebody tells me they are going backcountry skiing, then I would say skis are necessary.

    I've never said that people who carry fixed blades to support their preferred and chosen method of camping shouldn't carry fixed blades and I would certainly agree that to do the kind of camping they've chosen to pursue, a fixed blade is necessary. I've never said and would strongly oppose telling anybody that they're "doing it wrong" unless they're ignoring the regulations for that area and damaging the land.

    What I've said is that it is not required to carry a fixed blade to be safe in the backcountry and I've done this because some fixed blade advocates have insisted that you can't travel safely in the backcountry unless they carry a fixed blade.

    It's at that point that I've pointed out that LNT techniques are well proven. Thousands upon thousands of people travel in all parts of the country using LNT techniques and because they rely on those tools and techniques, they don't need a fixed blade to stay safe.

    As you say, that's a very low bar and I definitely agree with that. It happens all the and is so common, I'm honestly surprised that the conversation has been so heated on this point.

    Let me turn the question right around in the other direction. Are you or other fixed blade fans really telling the thousands and thousands of LNT hikers and camper and skiers and climbers who rely on folding knives that they're "doing it wrong"?

    I don't think really that you are. Using LNT techniques, people can go where you go without a fixed blade (with the exception of clearing kudzu to move forward).

    There are two issues here and I'll reveal my strongest objection to one tenant of LNT technique as it is often taught and that is the principle of "distributed impact". The idea of distributed impact is that you should hike and camp in a different place than the person before you so that the land can recover before the next person chooses the same spot. I think this is hogwash.

    My family's hunting camp is a long way from the road. Backcountry skiing is essentially bushwhacking on skis, often a long way from any maintained trail, much less road. I've done a ton of bushwhacking at lower elevations on foot. What I've seen with my own eyes is obvious camp sites. Our woods are rough enough that if you put 10 people in the same area, 9 of them will end up camping in the same spot. When I lived in CA and hiked in the Big Sur and Sierra, I saw the same thing. You get somewhere what you find is obvious common use camp sites or trails that split and merge.

    Here in New England, the hard wood forests at lower elevation and heal up pretty quick. My cousins do logging and run a sugar bush. Here's a working forest where I hunt up in VT.
    [​IMG]Vermont Clear Cut by Pinnah, on Flickr

    That'll heal up after a few years. Vermont was 80% cleared of trees in the late 1800s and is almost all second growth forest.

    Up a bit higher in the spruce and boreal forest, it's another matter entirely. This shot is at about 3000' feet in NH (Garfield for my fellow New Englanders) and the forest is exactly that thick and mossy and fragile as it looks. You *can* bushwhack through it but a) a machete won't be enough and b) you'll leave a very obvious path that will be easily visible for years to come. You'll also have a practically impossible time finding a place to even put down a bivy sack, the ground is that rough. It's too thick and fragile to support hammock's too.
    [​IMG]Misty Trail by Pinnah, on Flickr

    The only way we can hike in New England in a way that protects the land is not follow distributed impact and to, instead, practice concentrated impact. Most hiking happens on maintained trails. There's an active bushwhacking community and I've certainly done more than any hiker I know personally, but the reality is that when bushwhackers go to the same spot repeatedly, they create common use paths and those paths aren't maintained and end up causing more damage in run off times than a properly engineered trail with water bars and log walks. The common use path up Owl's Head (a 4000'er) is one example.

    The situation at and above treeline also demands concentrated impact.
    [​IMG]Untitled by Pinnah, on Flickr

    In the foreground of this shot, you see wind compacted spruce and fir. We call it krumholtz and there's no realistic way to bust through it without wrecking it. Staying on a maintained trail is the only to be up here and not wreck the land. In the background, you can also see the trail extending along the ridge above treeline and this is a result of scree borders that remind hikers to stay on the maintained trail instead of wandering around on the rocks above treeline.

    Our alpine gardens aren't just rocks. They also have lichen, sedges and wildflowers that "grow by the inch and die by the foot".
    [​IMG]Untitled by Pinnah, on Flickr

    The campsites in the Whites follow the same "concentrated impact" model. Lower use ones are spots in the dirt but higher use ones have platforms. In particular, nearly all campsites above 3000' have them.

    I'll put my numbers of dirt time up against anybody here (with the exception of vets like Greenjack and Thomas Linton) but yes, I choose to stay in established campsites when I'm camping up high, unless it's in the middle of winter and there's heavy snow cover. That's one of many reasons I love winter camping in the Whites. More low impact options.
    [​IMG]Lunch stop by Pinnah, on Flickr

    And yes, you can winter camp up here safely with no fixed blade. But that doesn't mean that you're doing it wrong if you bring one, either. It's just not required to stay safe.
  14. Kataphraktos


    Jan 1, 2016
    He also consumed a HUGE meal only an hour or two before dying--mountain goat, bread and herbs cooked over a fire. Initial theory was that he thought he had lost his pursuers right before the arrow punched through his back, most likely from a considerable distance since it didn't exit and the head was undamaged by bone. But seems to me it's equally possible that he knew the game was up and decided to go out like a boss, with a full belly and a warm fire.

    /End threadjack, sorry
  15. B34NS


    Dec 30, 2013
    Natives in this country survived and thrived for well over 15,000 years with little more than shards of volcanic glass. TMYK! :thumbup:
  16. 22-rimfire

    22-rimfire Gold Member Gold Member

    Nov 20, 2005
    I don't think I have ever read anything Pinnah has written that made me feel that he felt his way was the only way. He most aptly summarizes his opinions on a subject whether it be about a knife, using a knife, the LNT concept, or hiking and camping. Clearly he has a lot more experience than me and I take what he says as coming from someone very experienced in the woods.

    The trail erosion picture is telling. Years ago I built some exploration roads in the mountains and was shocked a few years later at the amount of erosion. I then began benching and ditching these roads so that runoff is not concentrated over long distances. There is still erosion, but I tried to protect the environment within reason with my methods. Nobody said I couldn't do these things and I took it upon myself to do it in a way that the environment suffered the least amount of damage but still completing my objectives. I have purposely built such roads around wild orchid communities. Mistakes happen. Had one case where we found an old un-marked grave yard with bull dozers. This was in East Texas. That created a bit of a problem as you might guess. Everything is a learning experience and I like to hear Pinnah's opinions as well as others.
    Last edited: Nov 4, 2016
  17. robgmn


    Oct 30, 2015
    Someone needs to teach the wildlife about LNT.
    Dang woodpeckers are punching holes in my cedar siding, deer and bear are cutting paths through the brush and leaving scat in my yard, beavers are trying to knock trees over and alter the paths of water, carpenter bees in my flower boxes, crows and raccoons dumping over garbage cans and spreading the contents around, skunks & squirrels & chipmunks digging holes everywhere.
    Truly a bunch of inconsiderate ba***rds!
  18. pinnah


    Jul 28, 2011
    Ah, yes.

    There are 2 issues that are related but different.

    The first is the use of harvesting based techniques in public lands where it is prohibited, or on private land without permission.

    The second is carrying and using a fixed blade in the woods.

    Yes, I've challenged you in the first but never on the second.
  19. craytab

    craytab Gold Member Gold Member

    Jan 26, 2012
    And you can't see how you have related the arguments in the past? I'm not going to go look because I don't care that much but it goes something like this "I don't destroy the forest like you so I don't need a fixed blade in the woods".


    Feb 23, 2000
    Elephants can move through surprisingly tight thicket without a chopper; flippin quiet they are too. Believe Moose can too. You wouldn't know they had been.
    Its terrible what wildlife can do to our manicured managed land. They really are so inconvenient :rolleyes:

    Run off erosion from paths and roadways is bolder moving destructive. Doesn't take much of a disturbance for water to cut deep. Like a jet cutter. Those deep tread walking boots we so love really aren't pads. Pigs and deer in numbers almost as bad as walking boots.

    Where trees and vegetation takes years and years to grow an inch, a little damage lasts a long time. Same goes for coral reefs where if every diver chips a little off, in no time everything is battered. Just not some jungle that grows fast if given half a chance; well thats if not chopped down flat to start with.

    I had a dig at commercialisation of outdoor products. I buy into it too, and a succour for titanium. Some of the skills are great to know. Ray Mears and Bear Gryls make excellent entertainment and get me to places where I'll never be able to go. I like playing too in my small way.
    25 years ago I remmeber having a chat with Ray over his new knife by Alan Wood. I didn't like it, and still not that much of a fan of Woodlore Bushcraft designs. Some are better than others. At the time I preferred something longer and pointier, but then I was in the military. So different people have their own preferences. Its allowed.

    Whatever we do try and make the lightest of footprints. Even the "experts" can't agree what is the best way; so its up to everyone to at least try.

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