One knot every survivalist should know – The Trucker Hitch

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TRUCKER HITCH:  Step-by-Step Tutorial + Video!

The Trucker Hitch is an impressive knot that is comprised of two very basic knots.  The name comes from its use in the transportation industry when tying and securing heavy loads.  It can be used to tie down a load using rope with crushing force.  It is the ratcheting strap of the knot world.  I use the Trucker Hitch to secure my kayak to the roof rack on my truck.  In survival, I primarily use it when setting a rope shelter ridgeline or when sleeping in a hammock.  However, it is extremely useful, whenever the need may arise, to stretch a rope very tightly between or across two anchor points.  While the Taut Line Hitch is also a tensioning knot, the Trucker Hitch allows the user to tighten a rope with considerably more force (if that is necessary or desired).

To tie it, start with forming an overhand loop on the standing part of the rope.

 

Then, pull a bight from the working end up through the loop.  This creates a slippery overhand loop.

 

Next, run the working end around an anchor point, such as a tree.  Note that pulling the working end too hard during this step will result in undoing the slippery overhand loop, so care must be taken here.  This is why it’s called “slippery”.  The working end should then be run through the slippery loop, pulled tight, and then secured with two Half Hitches.

Pinching the line on each side of the slippery overhand loop will allow for easier tying of the Half Hitches.

In a frictionless world, the design of the Trucker hitch allows for a 3 to 1 advantage when pulling a line tight.  As can be seen in the labeled diagram, every unit of force pulled on the working end results in three times that unit on the standing line.  The physics of this mechanical advantage is what allows the user to pull the standing line so tight between two objects.  Due to friction through the loop and around the anchor point, the mechanical advantage isn’t a true 3 to 1, but it’s still enough to tighten with impressive force that will rival even modern ratcheting straps.

I’ve also filmed a video about how to tie the Trucker Hitch.  You can watch it here:  http://www.creekstewart.com/trucker-hitch/

If you liked this tutorial and would like to earn 18 more of my favorite survival knots, consider my POCKET FIELD GUIDE: Survival Knots – VOL I.  It can be purchased anywhere books are sold for $6.99.

Remember, it’s not IF but WHEN,

CR///EK

 

Creek’s “Anyone, Anywhere, Anycondition, Anytime” Fire Kit now available at CreekStewart.com

 

 

 

SURVIVAL TREES: BASSWOOD – Amazing survival resources from the Basswood Tree

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As spring quickly approaches, I’d thought I share with you why the BASSWOOD tree is one of my favorite Survival Trees!

Introduction

Trees can provide a survivor with elements from all four core survival priorities:  Shelter, Water, Fire and Food.  Trees can be used for warmth, hydration, food, tools, and self-defense.  It’s crazy to think that one can use a tree to start a fire, take shelter under it, and then find themselves able to eat and drink from it.  Trees provide an immeasurable number of materials essential to survival, and studying the different species, as well as what they offer, is a worthwhile endeavor that will pay major survival dividends time and time again.

This article is an except from my much more extensive POCKET FIELD GUIDE titled SURVIVAL TREES that will ship (autographed) in the APRIL FORAGER EDITION APOCABOX.  Each tree is accompanied with illustrated drawings of its leaves and (on occasion) other identifying features, such as fruits, nuts, barks, or buds.  The guide (nor this article) is not designed or intended to be a tree identification guide. Rather, it should act as a supplement to other guides on the subject, offering survival specific information and insight that typically is not covered (or even mentioned) in the average identification guide.  

The use of each tree type is broken down into some or all (if applicable) of the following five survival categories: Shelter, Water, Fire, Food, and Tools & Miscellaneous.  The information contained in these categories has taken me nearly two decades to compile, learn, and test.  Yet, I am sure there are still uses and resources for each tree that I do not know.  It is my hope that this article deepens your knowledge and appreciation for the amazing BASSWOOD tree.

Basswood (American Linden) : Tilia americana

The American Linden, or Basswood, is one of my favorite survival trees.  Not only is it entirely edible, but the Basswood also provides a surprising number of other survival resources.  In Britain, this species is often referred to as the Lime Tree, though it is not the source of the lime fruit.

Shelter

The Basswood tree is not a particularly good tree for shelter.  However, mature Basswoods are notorious for sending up a slew of smaller sucker Basswood trees from their base.  This is one way I am able to identify Basswoods in the winter when their leaves are gone.  These sucker trees are usually very straight, tall, and easy to harvest.  Although not very strong, like oak or maple, they still make great shelter poles if fallen branches aren’t available.  Basswood is a very soft wood and a favorite among wood carvers. Even 2-3” diameter saplings can be cut easily with just a knife.  Consider this option before spending significant calories on a tree of a different variety.

Water 

Basswood trees can be tapped just as a Maple can be tapped.  Although not nearly as high in sugar content and not worth boiling down for a sweet syrup, Basswood sap is incredibly refreshing and is one of the fastest sap trees I’ve ever tapped.  Young sucker trees, as well as 1st season growth on branches (1/2” in diameter or smaller), can provide a survivor with a very functional spile.  The centers of these two are very pithy and can quickly be reamed out with a wire or a thin branch with a sharpened point. I’ve used many a Basswood spile while gathering drinking sap from Basswoods, Maples, and Birches.  Friends of mine who make tobacco pipes will often use a young basswood sucker for the tube because of its hollow nature.

The Basswood is also a sign that you are probably near water, as they prefer moist, water-rich environments.  If you’ve found a Basswood tree, keep looking because there is likely a water source close by.  

Fire

Basswood is not a great wood for extended warmth and heat, but it is without question my favorite wood to use for friction fire kits such as Bow Drill and even Hand Drill.  Basswood, especially sucker trees and 1st year growth branch wood, is the perfect consistency for friction fire lighting.  The light-weight, porous wood generates a nice hot ember very quickly.  Sucker trees at the base of mature trees are my favorite for this, but fallen limbs and branches will work just fine as well.  Regardless, it is one of the softest woods available.  When available, I use Basswood to make both the hearth-board and spindle for my Bow Drill fire kits (see POCKET FIELD GUIDE:  Master the Bow Drill).

Food

Young Basswood leaves are my favorite wild edible green.  I eat a basswood leaf salad at least two times a week from March-May.  When their flowers are in bloom, I will add them to the salad, as they are edible too.  The leaves are very mucilaginous and may pose a texture issue for some.  While edible all throughout the summer, Basswood leaves are best when young and smaller than a silver dollar.  I also like to steep 10 or so flowers in a cup of hot water for 10 minutes to make a fragrant tea that I very much enjoy.

The seeds of the Basswood are edible as well, though, they are time consuming to collect.  They dangle from underneath the leaves in small clusters and are attached to a tongue-shaped bract.  The hard, outer shell must be cracked away to access the edible seed. I simply do this inside my mouth and spit out the hull, although I’ve been known to chew it up on occasion.  When green, before the hull turns hard and brown, these can be ground into a paste or added to soups and stews.  Basswood seeds, leaves, and flowers can all be added to soups and stews.

The inner bark of Basswood (the whitish layers between the rough outer bark and the solid wood) is edible as well and has a very refreshing texture and flavor.  It reminds me of cucumber.  It can be scraped away in handfuls and eaten raw or boiled to break it up and soften it for chewing and digesting.

Basswood leaves can get quite large and make perfect natural tin foil for baking meals in earthen pits or in the coals of a fire.  Wrap food in at least 5-6 layers of green leaves and tie with the peeled bark from young basswood suckers or branches.

An old-timer once told me that he heard of families in the Great Depression who added basswood sawdust to bread-mix as a filler to make rations last longer.  The wood is not poisonous, so it’s something to at least file away in your brain.

Tools & Miscellaneous

As mentioned previously, the hollow tubes from basswood suckers and young branches have many uses.  Some of these include: 

  •        Spiles for tapping trees
  •         Drinking straws
  •         Blowing tubes for making coal-burned containers
  •         Smoking pipes (not necessary for survival but interesting nonetheless)
  •         Trap systems that require a hollow tube (yes, there are some)
  •         Bobbers/floats for fishing

Basswood is a very soft, nonpoisonous wood and makes an excellent medium for a variety of cooking utensils including spoons, ladles, forks, chopsticks, stirring sticks, and spatulas.  Most of these can be carved with just a knife in very little time and with little effort.  Using basswood for such tools also reduces wear and tear on your knife blade.  Due to their fast and straight growth, basswood sucker saplings also make excellent quick and dirty arrows for bow and arrow or atlatl.  They are lightweight, have few branches, and very easy to fire or heat straighten.

By far the most incredible resource the Basswood tree provides is cordage.  That name “BASS”wood is actually derived from the word BAST, which means plant fiber.  The inner bark of the Basswood tree is one of the most easily accessible fibers I’ve ever gathered from the wild.  It is best gathered when the sap is running heavy during the spring months.  With saplings that are 3” in diameter or smaller, the tree can be scored from left to right.  A knife can be used to pick at the score line and once a piece large enough to grab is available, entire strips that are many feet in length can be pulled from the sapling.  If care is taken, saplings can be cut down and the entire sheath of outer and inner bark can be removed in one piece by carefully peeling from the bottom.  Pounding the bark with a wooden mallet (metal will damage the inner bark fibers) will help it to loosen and will be necessary to process trees much larger than 3” in diameter.  I’ve seen sheets of bark pulled from basswood trees (with many hours of careful peeling and pounding) as large as 2 feet wide by 15 feet tall.

The inner bark fibers, just beneath the rough outer bark, can be processed into cordage that can be used to make nets, clothing, baskets, traps, or any other accoutrement necessary for survival.  On the younger saplings with a thin layer of outer bark, the freshly peeled strips of bark can be used right away as crude cordage for shelter building or rough bindings.  In my courses, I’ve seen two adult men pull on opposite sides of a 2” strip of basswood bark and not be able to break it.

For a finer, more pliable cordage, the bark must be soaked (called retting) in water for at least a couple weeks.  The rotting process loosens the inner bark fibers from the outer bark.  It can then be easily pulled away in long ribbons that can be used as is or stripped down into thinner cordage.  The soaking can be done in a container or at the bank of a pond and river.  This process of retting works for many varieties of trees including, Walnut, Willow, Tulip Poplar and Cottonwood to name a few.

Because Basswood bark can be removed in large chunks from the tree (typically during spring months only), it is an excellent candidate for crafting bark containers.  Below is a basic pattern for making a seamless bark container.  The dashed lines represent fold lines.  

 

Conclusion

If you’re like me and like to learn how to glean food and resources from trees and plants, consider subscribing to the APRIL APOCABOX called the FORAGER EDITION.  It is all about foraging and includes an exclusive signed copy of my POCKET FIELD GUIDE titled SURVIVAL TREES where I detailed the survival uses for many more incredible trees on the forest.  To subscribe to the FORAGER APOCABOX, CLICK HERE:  http://www.myapocabox.com

For more of my Pocket Field Guides, please visit my Amazon.com page at: https://www.amazon.com/Creek-Stewart/e/B0076LIRK6/

Remember, it’s not IF but WHEN,

CR///EK

You’re not going to believe what I do with this 2-liter bottle.

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Just in case you missed the most recent episode of FAT GUYS IN THE WOODS, I had to write this blog post and show you a cool survival skill that I think you’ll really enjoy.  And, it’s a great way to source some awesome cordage in a pinch.  I call it the 2-Liter Bottle Cordage Jig.

2-liter-jig

Years ago I saw a video about how a small factory was recycling 2-liter bottles to make woven baskets.  They had a fancy electric powered piece of equipment that would allow an operator to feed in trash 2-liter bottles and it would strip them into long pieces of plastic that would then be coiled on a spool and used to weave baskets.

2-liter-trash

Trash 2-liter bottles (or similar) can be found all over the world, especially in coastal areas.  During our week filming FAT GUYS IN THE WOODS in the Florida Swamps I decided to create a primitive version of making cordage from 2-liter bottles using just my knife, my folding saw and a sapling stump.

2-liter-jig-knife

 

Below is a link to the YouTube video filmed for the show that I think you will find very educational.  It’s rare to find a survival skill that you’ve never seen before and I’m proud to bring one to you in this post!

!!!VIDEO LINK HERE!!!

Like I always say, survival is about using what you have to get what you need and this skill is a prime example of that philosophy.

Remember, it’s not IF but WHEN,

creek-stewart-survivalist

Improvised Tarp Boat

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Summer is the time to practice summer survival skills.  Here’s a great one I think you’ll enjoy.  This one comes right from the pages of my latest book, Build the Perfect Bug Out Survival Skills.  This is a step-by-step photo series about how to build an improvised boat from a tarp!

Step 1: Lay your tarp flat on the ground.  This is a 9’x12′ tarp.

2-30

Step 2:  Pile pine boughs or leafy branches in a circle about 12″ tall.  This will be the diameter of your boat.  Leave at least 1′-2′ of tarp around the perimeter.

2-31

Step 3: Lay a gridwork of sturdy sticks (1″-2″ in diameter) on top of the circle.

2-32

Step 4: Pile another 12″ of green boughs on top, again in a circular pattern.

2-33

Step 5: Wrap the tarp around the circle and tie it to the gridwork of sticks.

2-34

Step 6:  Cross your fingers.

2-35

 

Remember, it’s not IF but WHEN,

creek-stewart-survivalist

Follow me on INSTAGRAM @creekstewart.

Follow me on TWITTER @survivalcreek.

 

FAT GUYS IN THE WOODS: BLOG SKILL SERIES: Make an Improvised Bow Saw

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In the first episode of Fat Guys in the Woods, we made an improvised Bow Saw using a bent sapling.  We then used this saw to help build shelters and process wood throughout the week.  This post provides a little more detail about this project.

First, about Bow Saws…

I love a good Bow Saw.  I actually prefer a Bow Saw over an ax.  A good Bow Saw can process an insane amount of wood in a short amount of time.  It’s safer to use than an ax, require less practice and takes far less energy.  It’s also much lighter.  My Bow Saw of choice is the Bahco 36″ model.  Here’s a photo below:

bahco-bow-saw

I’ll be the first to admit that they are bulky, especially the larger ones.  Luckily, the ‘BOW’ part of the Bow Saw can be improvised in the field using a flexible sapling if you just want to carry in the blade portion.  Below is how to do it.

Choosing the BOW.

I typically use either small saplings or branches that are about 3/4″ – 1″ in diameter.  I cut them about 6″ longer than my Bow Saw blade.  That’s typically pinky tip to thumb tip of my open hand with fingers spread.  They must be flexible.  They must also be GREEN wood.  No dead stuff.  I’ll often flex them around a large tree to break them in.  This really helps.

Next, split the end of each sapling in half about 3″ down.  The splits on each end must be aligned with each other.  They can’t be going in opposite directions.  This is necessary in order for the saw blade to be straight.

Key Rings/Wooden Peg Blade Attachment Options

Threading key rings onto each end of the Bow Saw blade in advance of your trip makes attaching an improvised sapling handle pretty easy.  All bow saw blades that I know of have holes in each end.  These holes are perfect attachment points for key rings.  Key rings can be purchased in the key making dept. of virtually any hardware store.

Start by inserting the end of the bow saw blade into one of the splits on the end of your sapling.  Fold the key ring over and around the sapling like shown below.  If your sapling is larger in diameter than the key ring then simple taper down the end with your knife so that it will fit.

key-ring-up-close

If you don’t have key rings, an appropriately sized wooden peg will also work.

peg-in-saw

Next, carefully bend the sapling and attach the blade in the same way to the other end.  Flexing the sapling around a tree really helps to ready the sapling for this step in the build.

bow-saw-profile

I’ll often tie some paracord around the blade and key ring for peace of mind but it isn’t necessary.  The entire build typically only takes 5-10 minutes and is a really fun bushcraft project.

bow-saw-in-log

CONCLUSION

Although not as robust as the metal store-bought versions, these improvised bow saws may surprise you.  I’ve been using one around Willow Haven for a couple years and it still works like a charm.  Besides, there’s nothing quite like the feeling of improvising and making tools in the field.

creek-stewart-bug-out-book

 

Remember, it’s not IF but WHEN,

creek-stewart-survivalist

FAT GUYS IN THE WOODS: BLOG SKILL SERIES: Jam Knot

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Remember these cool shelters that Joe, Opie, Zach and I built in the river valley?

shelter-circle

One very important part of building this shelter is the bed frame similar to what I’ve shown below. 3-4″ diameter logs are stacked log cabin style to build a frame that can contain bedding materials (leaves/boughs/branches/grass,etc) and help brace the arch-style roof.  The logs are lashed together using the JAM KNOT.  I love this knot and it’s one of the most useful outdoor knots I know and I’d like to use this opportunity to teach it to you.

bed-frame

I’ve never been a big fan of teaching knots with the written word or photos so I’ve filmed a short video where I describe how to tie it step-by-step.  Below is the embedded video and here is the link:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sQxPvWTT3PM

It’s such a simple knot to use and works perfect for bed frames to contain loose natural insulation.

creek-stewart-bug-out-book

Remember, it’s not IF but WHEN,

creek-stewart-survivalist