Timber Wolf, Lake Superior, Ontario

A lone timber wolf greets
paddlers along the north shore
of Lake Superior, Canada
(Photo by Michael Neiger)

The Rucksack Masthead
By Michael A. Neiger, Wilderness Trip Leader      http://therucksack.tripod.com
Central Upper Peninsula Group, Michigan Chapter of the Sierra Club
Contents copyright © 1984-2004 by Michael A. Neiger.  All rights reserved.


Bear-proof log cabin

How one Canadian
keeps rouge bears
from busting in
the doors and windows
of his remote,
hike-in-only log cabin
in search of grub--
he bolts huge logs across
all openings. This cabin
is located in a roadless
area 1.5 days hump
west of the Agawa Canyon's
west rim. May '98
(Photo by Kevin Manturuk)




By Michael A. Neiger
Copyright 2002

Last updated on March 23, 2002

Contents of page



03-23-02: Drinking-straw firestarters

While Vaseline-impregnated cotton balls have been used as firestarters for years, a new way of carrying them was reported in the March/April issue of the Backwoodsman. John Platt wrote about his success using short lengths of plastic fast-food-type straws to protect cotton-and-Vaseline fire starters. He says they're durable and easy to carry, and that by punching a small hole in one end, they can be threaded on a lanyard to prevent loss. Platt claims that his three-inch-long straw firestarters will burn for two minutes.

After thoroughly saturating a pulled-apart cotton ball with Vaseline, cut a straw to length, maybe three inches. Carefully seal one end with a lighter. Next, tightly pack the straw with the Vaseline-impregnated cotton using the end of a swab. Before sealing the open end, Platt cautions readers to use a clean swab to remove any Vaseline and cotton from the last half inch of the straw's open end before sealing it to prevent accidental ignition. I would recommend you leave any completed straws outside for a few days to prevent an accidental fire, just in case the flame-sealing process conceals smoldering.

To light a straw firestarter, Platt recommends that you cut the straw down one side and carefully fluff-out the cotton before igniting it. He claims they're easy to light, even with a traditional flint and steel tool, or metal match, like the magnesium fire starter, which every seasoned woodsperson carries religiously.

Source: "The Firestraw," by John Platt, in the March/April 2002 issue of the Backwoodsman magazine, pp. 57-58.



03-19-02: Lightweight alcohol stoves from Trangia

If you're in the market for a high-quality foolproof, lightweight stove, check out the simple, alcohol burning Mini-28 and Westwind model stoves from the fine Swedish manufacturer Trangia.

Titan Mountain Sports
http://www.equipment-camping.com/ (select "titanium cooksets" and scroll down)

REI also sells the Mini-28 on its Web site

For more information about lightweight alcohol stoves, visit the rations and stoves page .



03-03-02: Wilderness skills magazines

To learn more about fundamental wilderness skills, read the following journals.

Wilderness Way--Primitive Skills and Earth Wisdom

Wilderness Way
P.O. Box 621
Bellaire, Texas 77402-0128

The Backwoodsman--Muzzleloading, Woodslore, Survival, Homesteading, History, Indian Lore

Backwoodsman Magazine
P.O. Box 627
Westcliffde, Colorado 81252


03-02-02: Technical military field manuals online

A great way to peruse a wealth of information contained in the U.S. Army's Field Manuals (FM) is to log on to General Dennis Reimer's Training and Doctrine Digital Library at http://www.adtdl.army.mil. Interesting titles include:

Map Reading and Land Navigation (Army FM 3-25.26)

Topographic Symbols (Army FM 21-31)
Topographic map symbols

Tracking and Countertracking, Evasion, and Escape, and Survival (Appendix F) in Long-Range Surveillance Unit Operations (Army FM 7-93),

Basic Cold Weather Manual (Army FM 31-70)

Long-Range Surveillance Unit Operations (Army FM 7-93)

First Aid for Soldiers (Army FM 21-11)

Physical Fitness Training (Army FM 21-20)

Survival (Army FM 21-76)

Night Ops (Appendix K) in Long-Range Surveillance Unit Operations (Army FM 7-93)
Good info on how to move in the wilderness after dark



03-01-02: New GPS feature improves accuracy

If you're in the market for a new GPS unit, you may want to make sure you get one with the latest technology, one that's WAAS-enabled. Developed for the FAA, the Wide Area Augmentation System (WAAS) uses a system of ground stations to correct "for GPS signal errors caused by ionospheric disturbances, timing and satellite orbit errors," according to Garmin. What does this mean to you? It means readings that are up to five times more accurate than non-WAAS-enhanced GPS readings.

Michigan users may experience intermittent availability--50 percent functionality according to one local GIS expert--until the system is fully implemented in the northern reaches of the United States. As currently implemented, the WAAS network relies on low altitude satellites positioned near the equator. Trees, buildings, hills, foilage, etc., can easily block signals from these low altitude satellites. If a GPS unit can't lock on to a WAAS signal, it simply reverts to the uncorrected GPS signal.

To learn more about WAAS, as well as what GPS models are WAAS-capable, point your Internet browser to:

Wide Area Augemtation System
Federal Aviation Administration

Garmin International

Magelan Systems Corp.


Brunton Company

Lowrance Electronics, Inc.


01-02-02: Water filter recalls

Sweetwater: in late '00, the Guardian Plus, Guardian Plus Combo pack, and Global Water Express filters failed EPA tests for virus removal. 1-800-531-9531. http://www.sweetwaterfilters.com

PUR: in late '00, the Stop Top Carbon Cartridge for the Explorer, Scout, and Voyageur filters was found to limit virus removal. 1-800-319-7735. http://www.purwater.com
   Source: Backpacker Mag. 10-'00


12-31-01: Restock 1st-aid kits for '02

Now is the time to inventory the contents of your wilderness first-aid kits and restock or replace items that have been used or damaged, or are expired. For supplies, check:

Chinook Medical Gear

More first-aid supplies


12-28-01: Giardia strikes tripper

Giardia lamblia--a protozoan commonly known as beaver fever--caught up with one of our own a couple weeks after the Oct '01 Fox River Trip. For another two weeks, the tripper suffered, loosing 25 pounds before a doctor diagnosed it. Let this be a reminder to all of us. Treat all surface water in '02, and watch your technique. Many trippers get beaver fever from using purifiers and iodine tablets improperly. I have had it twice over the years too. For more info about iodine tablets, visit the camping skills page on the Rucksack and contact:

Portable Aqua


12-25-01: Ultralight Backpacking Center

For ultralight discussion groups, gear reviews, packing tips, equip lists, check out Backpacker magazine's new ultralight page: http://www.backpacker.com/gear/ultralight


12-14-01: Survival Kit Warning!!!

Check your "waterproof" matches!

Pack them to prevent movement: either add additional matches, staggering the heads, or add packing material so the matches cannot move about in the box. If you fail to do this, you may find nothing but several match sticks and some fine powder (ground up matchheads) in the box when you need them most.

Let match heads dry out: these matches are more water-repellent than water-proof: If you get them wet and fail to dry them out, the matchheads will turn to mush. If the box and striker stay wet, they too may become useless. This is one more reason to carry a magnesium fire starter--a standard item in military survival kits. Order one today from Campmor (item no. 23131, $6) so you're prepared when we ford our next river.


12-13-01: New discount gear vendor

Northern Mountain Supply

More at discount gear vendors


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In God's wilderness lies the hope of the world,
the great, fresh, unblighted, unredeemed wilderness.
— John Muir 1838-1914, Alaska Wilderness, 1890