Tag Archives: bushcraft

CAJUN JAMBALAYA FROM DEHYDRATED INGREDIENTS USING MINI TRANGIA CAMPING STOVE

In the turn of the millennium, right before Katrina, I spent two years in New Orleans. In the party town I was invited to a number of parties in local households, and according to my experience, there just were no parties without some version of Jambalaya being served. And there are some good reasons for that; Jambalaya is at the same time both simple and sophisticated. Garnished with some fresh herbs, it can be served on your finest silverware, or scooped into disposable cups by your drunken friends from a shared large bowl. It is relatively easy to prepare in large quantities using very limited number of pots and pans, and it tolerates a fair amount of variation in ingredients. And most importantly, most often, despite the variable ingredients, it tastes damn good.

A little while ago, while preparing Chef Emeril Lagasse’s version of Cajun jambalaya (recipe is at the end of this article), I decided to try to develop a hiker/backpacker friendly modification of this wonderful dish.

First thing to do was to dehydrate everything heavy and/or easily spoiled material, ie. veggies and meats. I seasoned thin slices of chicken breast and shrimps with Emeril’s Bayou Blast (recipe below), hot sauce, and Worcestershire sauce. Then I fried the chicken well done (you cannot be over careful with the chicken), chopped it to small cubes, and dehydrated them together with shrimps and tomatoes over night in conventional electric oven. At the same time onions, garlic, celery, and green peppers were dehydrating in my homemade food dehydrator.

The only “wet” ingredient I did not dehydrate was the Chorizo sausage for two reasons; first, Chorizo and other similar kind of sausages are so heavily salted, that they stay good for days, if not weeks, at room temperature, and second, the sausage is pretty dry to begin with, and any attempt to dehydrate it would probably only melt away the delicious fat in the sausage.

The reason why I used Chorizo instead of Andouille of the original recipe was the fact that when you ask for Andouille sausage at the arctic circle, most of the shop keepers just roll their eyes, and the friendliest ones advice you to take a quick 800 km (500 miles) flight to Helsinki, where some small exotic delicacy shop may, or most probably, may not have Andouille available. So, my Andouille is Chorizo. Sorry, chef Lagasse.

Then it was time to test whether it is possible to turn rattling small bits in plastic bags into mouth watering Jambalaya. My original plan was to prepare one portion of Jambalaya using only the Mini Trangia camping stove, but since a friend of mine wanted to join me for a nice day in the forest, and I didn’t want to see him starve, I changed my plan to also test the little Trangia stove’s ability to heat up a larger carbon steel pan packed with enough food for two hungry guys.

So, I started with rehydrating all of the dehydrated stuf in the Trangia pot. After about 30 minutes, I added some chicken broth concentrate (a cube of the same stuff works equally well), and some oil, and let the whole thing simmer for about another 30 minutes. At this point you can add some bay leaves into the pot, but due to the fact that I have never been able to tell any difference between two dishes, one with, and one without bay leaves (maybe something wrong with my taste buds), I skipped the bay leaves. Then I poured the content of the trangia pot into the larger pan, added the rice and chopped Chorizo, and let the Jambalaya simmer till the rice was cooked.

The end result was an absolute success! The only difference to the freshly made Jambalaya was in the texture of the chicken and the shrimp. They were not bad at all, but the truth is that de-, and then rehydrated meat and seafood can never be as tender as freshly cooked ones. However, taste wise it would have been almost impossible to separate the camp site version from the fresh one.

This test also proved that the tiny trangia stove packs enough punch to heat a relatively large carbon steel pan. I wouldn’t try use this combination in the middle of the winter, but at least at above freezing temperatures, it seems to work just well.

And then the recipe for the Cajun Jambalaya, and the spice mix. Unfortunately, the link to the original source of the recipe did not seem to work anymore, but all the credits for the recipe (except the Chorizo part :)) belong to chef Emeril Lagasse and www.foodnetwork.com

CAJUN JAMBALAYA
Ingredients

12 medium shrimp, peeled, deveined and chopped
4 ounces chicken, diced
1 tablespoon Creole seasoning, recipe follows
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/4 cup chopped onion
1/4 cup chopped green bell pepper
1/4 cup chopped celery
2 tablespoons chopped garlic
1/2 cup chopped tomatoes
3 bay leaves
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1 teaspoon hot sauce
3/4 cup rice
3 cups chicken stock
5 ounces Andouille sausage, sliced
Salt and pepper

Emeril’s ESSENCE Creole Seasoning (also referred to as Bayou Blast):
2 1/2 tablespoons paprika
2 tablespoons salt
2 tablespoons garlic powder
1 tablespoon black pepper
1 tablespoon onion powder
1 tablespoon cayenne pepper
1 tablespoon dried oregano
1 tablespoon dried thyme

Directions

In a bowl combine shrimp, chicken and Creole seasoning, and work in seasoning well. In a large saucepan heat oil over high heat with onion, pepper and celery, 3 minutes. Add garlic, tomatoes, bay leaves, Worcestershire and hot sauces. Stir in rice and slowly add broth. Reduce heat to medium and cook until rice absorbs liquid and becomes tender, stirring occasionally, about 15 minutes. When rice is just tender add shrimp and chicken mixture and sausage. Cook until meat is done, about 10 minutes more. Season to taste with salt, pepper and Creole seasoning.

How to dehydrate eggs

Eggs are wonderful things. However, from a hikers point of view, there are some issues with them. a) they are somewhat delicate to handle (you know, all of your eggs in one basket etc.), b) in comparison to their nutritional value, they are rather heavy, and c) even though they stay good at room temperature for quite a while, it still would be nice to find a way to store them for a little bit longer.

To get rid of all of the mentioned problems, one can easily dehydrate the eggs. Dehydrated egg powder does not break and soil the content of your back pack, the weight reduction is about 80%, and the egg powder stays good for months, if not years.

The process is ridiculously easy. First, take 3 to 5 eggs, and break them into a bowl. Beat the eggs with a whisk or a fork to a homogenous pulp. Then pour the eggs onto a baking tray lined with baking paper. (one baking tray can handle up to six eggs). Set the oven temperature to about 45 C (about 113 F). Be careful with the temperature. The goal is to dehydrate, not to fry the eggs. Then place the tray into the oven, and wedge the oven door open with a wooden or metal kitchen tool.

After about 6 to 9 hours, the consistency of the eggs should resemble that of the Kellogg’s corn flakes.

Collect the “corn flakes” into a bowl, and grind them to as fine powder as possible. It is possible to use the old fashioned mortar and pestle, as well as some kind of a sieve and suitable grinding tool to obtain the egg powder, but based on my experience, an electric mixer is the most convenient tool for the job. If you decide to use the mixer, cover the grinding bowl with a lid, saran wrap, or something like that, otherwise you will end up having half of the dry egg flakes all over the table (trust me, been there, done that).

Once the the eggs are in the form of powder, store them in a cool, dry place, protected from light.

Due to the fact that most of the recipes in the world measure the amount of eggs in the number of the eggs, it is advisable to split the egg powder into separate “one egg” portions.

In comparison to other commonly dehydrated ingredients, rehydrating the eggs takes a bit more time and effort. If you pour boiling water on your egg powder, like you would do with practically any other dehydrated stuff, you end up having denatured, cooked egg protein, which is still edible, but not good for anything you would use the fresh eggs for. Start the rehydrating process by adding about 0.5 dl (1.7 fl oz) of no warmer than the body temperature water per one dehydrated egg. Close the container (a small freezer bottle or an empty plastic soda bottle are good for this purpose) , and shake it well. Keep on shortly shaking it every now and then for the next few hours. As I mentioned earlier, rehydrating eggs properly, really takes some time. Therefore, in a hiking or camping situation, if you wish to enjoy crepes in the evening, start rehydrating around lunch time. That may sound like a lot of work, but during the day the eggs will practically rehydrate themselves in your back pack. Just a little shake every hour or two, and that is all.

As with any other food related stuff, keep your containers and utensils clean, and use only the cleanest water. If you are located in warmer parts of the world, to avoid the growth of unwanted bacteria, reduce the rehydrating time accordingly (you should be able to get decent rehydrated eggs in less than four hours).

Air dried meat, Lapland style

https://youtu.be/I1e08KLS4RA

Dehydrating the  salted meat is probably one of the oldest ways to store meat. Methods to achieve the best results in various climate conditions vary a lot. Italians prepare their prosciutto di parma by dehydrating the selected salted pork meat for over a year in carefully controlled conditions. The best Spanish hams “Jamon pata negra” may take up to three years of dehydration in carefully designed dehydrating cellars.
Above the arctic circle, everything is a bit easier. In the arctic spring, the locals just hang the meat under the eaves of their houses, wait for, depending on the weather, for two to five weeks, and the desired delicacy is ready to be served. Cold nights combined with barely above freezing temperature days and dry arctic spring air prepare the meat to perfection in no time.
Unfortunately, the Lapland style air dried meat is only available for those of us who live above the 66 degrees north (or similar kind of climate), or for 200€/kg (about 100$/pound) at your very, very specialized delicacy store.
However, if you happen to belong to about 99.9% of the unfortunate people of the world, who live south of the 66, you may still want to know how the savages of the north prepare their meat.
So, here it is; Take about 5 kg (10 pounds) of good quality meat. The real Laplanders use only reindeer meat, but meat from moose, elk, or deer works equally well. Today, most of the Lapland style air dried meat is made out of sirloin steak or equivalent, and it tastes damn good too.
Cut the meat to 2 to 3 cm slices (about an inch) along the fiber direction (opposite to the beef jerky directions). Then cover the bottom of a bucket or any other similar container with coarse sea salt (you will need about 3 kg (7 pounds)). Place a layer of meat on the salt. Cover the meat with another layer of salt, and repeat the process till all of the meat is buried in salt. Place the container into the fridge for 10 and a half hours. This may sound like nit picking, but from years of experience, I have found out that 10.5 hours is pretty much perfect time to salt the meat. You may try your own timing, but from my experience, 10 hours is a bit short time, and 11 or 12 hours makes the meat too salty.
Another way to salt the meat is to soak in in the 6 to 7 % salt water for a day or two, but I have never tried it in that way, and therefore I cannot give any suggestions about timing of the project.
After 10.5 hours, rinse the solid salt out, dry the meat with paper towels, and hang the meat strips outdoors under the eaves of your house.
In Lapland during the early spring, the bugs are nowhere near to bother you, and the birds do not care too much about salted meat. Therefore, most of the locals just stick small holes to the meat strips, and hang them in the open air from pieces of strings or wires. I, and some of the other people I know, are sissy enough to use a protective cage made out of chicken wire or equivalent to protect the meat from carnivorous tits and such.
Whatever method of salting, or hanging the meat you are using, the end result depends a lot on the weather. In the ideal conditions, the constant shift of the temperature from below to sligthly above freezing keeps the meat fresh while dehydrating it at the same time.
By following these instructions, in 2 to 5  weeks, the meat gets blackish brown color and firm texture, and the traditional Lapland delicacy should be ready to be served.
The right way to serve the meat is to use a very sharp knife, and cut the meat into paper thin chips against the fiber direction.
One thing to mention is that the final content of salt may be well above 10%, and therefore one should never think of it as survival food in any condition where the water supply is limited.
For the old time Laplanders the availability of water was never a problem, and as well as a source of protein in many kind of soups and stews, they used plain air dried meat as light weight snack in the wilderness. Most of the modern people  find the taste of soups or stews made with air dried meat a bit strange, but I haven’t yet met a person who does not love the plain meat as a snack.
Finally, a word of warning; Lapland style air dried meat is highly addictive. Once you start eating the meat chips, it is very difficult to stop, and pretty often, due to the serious salt over dose, the end result is a swollen face and stiff joints in the following morning.
Salted dried chunks of meat stay good in room temperature for days, and in the fridge for God knows how long, but if, for some strange reason, after a day or two, you still have some meat left, for the long time storage the freezer is the right place.

How to dehydrate pea soup, and prepare it with a mini trangia stove

Pea soup has been, and still is, commonly used food in the Finnish military for several good reasons: a) it has excellent nutritional value, b) the main ingredient, dry beans, is very light weight, and has a very long storage life, c) the soup itself is easy to prepare for a large group of people, and d) in practice, it cannot be over cooked, and it can be reheated for several times.

Pea soup is also a very good dish for any campers, hikers or survivalists, who wish to enjoy tasty and nutritious hot meal every now and then. However, the soup has some unpleasant properties. One, preparing the soup from scratch, ie. from dry beans, takes a good 16 hours (at least 12 hours to soak the beans, and few hours of cooking), two, home made soup does not stay good for a very long time, and canned soup does not taste good to begin with, and three, as all of the soups, also the bean soup, even concentrated canned pea soup, contain lots of water, and is a bitch to carry around.

Fortunately, to circumvent these problems, it is possible, and very easy too, to dehydrate the soup.

Dehydrated pea soup, even with some meat in it, stays good for weeks in a backpack, and the weight reduction in comparison to the wet soup is about 80%, and best of all, preparation of delicious pea soup from dehydrated ingredients at a camp site is as easy as it can get.

Due to the facts that soup spills easily, and that a large flat area speeds up the evaporation, for dehydrating soups, or any other relatively liquid stuff, a conventional oven is better than a regular food dehydrator.

To begin the process, heat an oven to about 50 C (122 F), and line an oven tray with baking paper. Then spread the soup (either home made or canned) evenly on to the tray. One average size tray can handle anything between 500 and 750 ml (2 to 3 cups) of soup. Place the tray in to the oven and wedge the oven door slightly open with some wooden or metal kitchen utensil. Dehydrate for 14 to 24 hours (depending on the amount and the water content of the soup) till the soup is dry and the consistency brings corn flakes into your mind. Pack the dehydrated soup into a ziplock bag, and store in a cool dry place. If your soup contains meat, I recommend freezing it for long term storage.

To prepare pea soup at a camp site, try to remember what was the original volume of the soup, and heat up equivalent amount of water, and pour it into a pot on top of the dehydrated materials. Then simmer the soup on low heat (use the simmering ring with Trangia burner) for 20 to 40 minutes till the peas, and especially the meat, are rehydrated, tender, and hot. The slowly boiling soup can pretty much be left alone for the whole time, but a little stirring a couple of times during the process is recommended.

When the soup is done, season with some mustard, which, in addition to tasting good, also thickens the soup a little bit, and enjoy.

One full Mini trangia pot of soup contains about:

Energy 2500 kJ

Proteins 35 to 60 grams (depending on the meat content)

Carbohydrates 85 grams

Fat 25 grams

Creamy risotto with Mini Trangia

Based on the fact that failure to cook decent risotto seems to be one of the most common reasons of elimination of the competitors from TV shows such as Master Chef, Top Chef, and Hell’s Kitchen, the idea of making risotto in camping conditions, from dehydrated ingredients, with a Mini Trangia stove, must  be doomed from the beginning.
So, of course I had to try it.
To my pleasant surprise, the risotto in the wilderness was a success. I could not notice the difference to the home cooked (from fresh ingredients) risotto, either in the taste or in the texture.
Some one could  of course now say that I’m obviously a damn horrible home cook who only repeats his unfortunate cookings outdoors, but at least this time I have to disagree with that, the risotto was as creamy as it should be, and the taste was excellent.
Well then, how was it done?
Knowing that the perfect risotto requires a perfect ratio between the rice and the liquid, in this case the beef broth, I carefully measured all of the ingredients at home using the same 1.5 dl (5 oz) coffee cup I was about to use out in the field.
To extract every last bit of flavor from my dehydrated ingredients, I used the rehydrating water as a part of the beef broth.
The secret behind the creaminess of the real risotto is to slowly absorb the broth into the rice by adding small portions of the hot broth onto the rice, letting the real risotto rice, in this case the Arborio rice, release the starch into the broth.
The broth should be boiling hot. Therefore, if you don’t have two burners or nearby open fire, this dish is limited to relatively warm weather (say, above 10 C or 50 F).
The rest of the story is pretty straight forward, stir, add broth, repeat. When all of the broth has been absorbed, add half a teaspoon of black pepper, about 40 g (1 oz) of grated parmesan cheese, mix and enjoy.
If you happen to be camping in an area where you can find some wild chives, garnish the dish with it.
And, as I said in the video, if you wish to impress your significant other, or make Gordon Ramsay jealous, replace some of the water with dry white wine.

Creamy risotto

1.5 dl (5 oz)         Risotto Rice (Arborio rice. Liquid to rice ratio may                                                                    vary with other rice variants.)
1 small onion (dehydrated)
Mushrooms (dehydrated)  100g (3 oz) fresh weight
30 ml (1 oz)        Olive oil
40 g (+1 oz)        Grated parmesan
½ teaspoon         Black pepper
1                                Beef bouillon cube
Some                      Chopped wild chives
3 X volume of rice    Water

Rehydrate mushrooms and onions for 15 to 30 minutes.
Prepare broth from rehydrating water, plain water, and a beef bouillon cube (total vol. 450 ml (5 oz)).
Pour the oil and the rice into the pot, and stir for few minutes.
Add mushrooms and onions.
Add some hot broth.
Stir, add broth, repeat till all of the broth is absorbed into the rice.
Season with black pepper.
Add cheese.
Garnish with chives.

DIY Greenland Wax

Due to Gore-tex and other space age thingies, hiking and camping can be a lot more comfortable than it used to be, and according to the producers of those wonder layers, if you want to hike or camp under a light drizzle, the only way to survive is to use some thousands of dollars/euros to get a complete set of gear made out of the miracle materials.

OK, I admit that most of these miracle fabrics are better than cotton, or rubber, or combination of them, but most of the people who hike or camp are a) not filthy rich, b) do not need gear that is proven to be 10% better than some other gear on top of the mount Everest, and c) I’m interested of low cost outdoor gear and low cost ways to make their gear better.

If you listen to the sales pitches of the miracle layer salesmen, on contrary to the vast amount of literature, no one born before the nineties would have ever enjoyed anything outdoorsy, and from the survivalist point of view, we should not even have any ancestors.

However, even in the miserable last century, some people enjoyed hiking and camping, and, as surprising as it may sound, not one of us would be here if survival in the wilderness would require gore-tex.

I am an open minded guy, and I honestly appreciate laser torches which work in the vacuum of space, as well as I appreciate water proof ultra light weight aramid fiber back packs. However, I do not expect to be lost in space in an immediate future, and my German army surplus back pack has been quite decent hauling device for the last decade or so. Therefore, I’m not going to buy a 100000 $/€ laser torch to replace my 10 c box of matches, and I’m not going to spend 1000 $/€ to get a back pack little better than my current one. However, a bit more water proof back pack would be nice to have.

Fortunately, there are some companies, which still sell some ancient, reasonably priced solutions to many of the camping problems. Probably because they don’t have the patent rights to sell the wonder products, but anyway. One of those companies is the legendary Fjällräven from Sweden.

They have made a number of very very high quality camping and hiking gear for decades, and one of their wonderful products is something they call the G-1000 fabric. They use G-1000 in their line of extremely well designed outdoor clothing.

The secret behind the G-1000 outdoor gear is a treatment with the Greenland wax. The Greenland wax makes their gear pretty much water proof while preserving the breathability in the fabric. They also sell the Greenland wax to their customers to maintain the wonderful properties of the G-1000 fabric.

In order to protect the customers, and unintentionally to destroy any free enterprize, European Union requires them to reveal the content of the Greenland wax. And of course, as a law abiding Scandinavian company, they did so. So, the content of the Greenland wax is paraffin and beeswax.

The original ratio has not been revealed, but there has been several tests to figure that out, and a common belief is that the ratio is about 9 to 1.

I would love to support an ingenious private Scandinavian enterprize by buying their product, but I am a greedy, flat broke individual, who does not want to use any more money than is absolutely necessary for anything.

Therefore, instead of buying the Greenland wax for 10$/€ per 100 grams (about 3 oz), I bought some paraffin candles for 30 c a piece, melted one of them together with a teaspoon of beeswax (value 5 c), and used the end product to treat my German army surplus cotton camo pants.

I rubbed the wax against the fabric of the pants, heated it with a hot air gun (hair dryer would be better, but I don’t have one), rubbed the wax with a piece of cotton cloth, and repeated the treatment three times.

To test the effect of the treatment, I showered the pants. And in the end, the untreated part of the pants was instantly soaked, as the treated part repelled most of the water and stayed relatively dry.

In conclusion, I would say that the home made Greenland wax (25 times cheaper than the commercial version) works unbelievably well. However, I have not tested how my washing machine behaves with the treated clothes, and therefore, I would limit the usage of the Greenland wax for the fabrics in tarps, tents, back packs, and any other things that do not require frequent washing.

Pasta stew from dehydrated ingredients with Mini Trangia

Pasta is one of the best sources of carbohydrates for a camper/hiker/survivalist. It weights next to nothing and stays good for a very long time. If, in a post apocalyptic scenario, I would have to pick a single source of energy, I probably would fill my back pack with dry pasta.
Pasta is also a very good foundation of  a variety of delicious meals in pre apocalyptic situations. In fine dining culinary circles, it may be important to know from which northern Italy river valley the durum wheat of your fresh pasta comes from, and how well it fits to the aroma of black truffles. However, in most of the home cooking, as well as survival situations, pasta is the filling material, and the sauce gives the taste to the whole meal. Therefore, in this excellent camping dish, the pasta part comes from an instant noodle pack. You know, those 39 cent packs of noodles, which contain some very thin curly noodles and a pack of industrial waste bad taste aroma seasoning. But the sauce is made out of pure love. For those of you who do not know what love is, it is:

Dehydrated tomato paste        1 dl (½ cup) Fresh
Dehydrated ground beef           100 g (3 oz) Fresh
Dehydrated mushrooms            30 g (1 oz) Fresh
Dehydrated onions                        ½ Fresh
olive oil                                                  30 ml (1 oz)
Beef bouillon cube                          1
Oregano                                               ½ tsp
Basil                                                        ½ tsp
Black pepper                                      ½ tsp
White pepper                                    ½ tsp
And some water (+some processed cheese, if available)

 

The cooking process is easy:
Pour some boiling water on top of all of the dehydrated ingredients and the spices . Let them rehydrate for 15 to 30 minutes. Add the oil and simmer for about 20 minutes.
Add 1 pack of Instant noodles (about 50 g (1 ½  oz)), and for the love of God, discard the seasoning pack.
Simmer for about 3 minutes.
Add about 3 tablespoons of processed cheese and mix carefully.
The beef bouillon cube has enough salt for most of the people, but if necessary, now it is time to add salt to your own taste.

This dish passed the ultimate quality test; my kids asked for seconds.

DIY JR27 Sled

About 15 years ago, I found instructions of how to make a sled with household tools and easily available materials. Already then, the internet was filled with stupid, more stupid, and impossible instructions of pretty much anything. Therefore, I almost ignored this “too good to be true” sled plan. Fortunately, next to the instructions there was a picture of the guy behind the plans, and I realized that I knew him. He was my former teacher from the department of genetics at the university of Oulu, and I had never heard any BS from him, or of him. Therefore, I decided to try to build his Ultimate JR27 sled. I followed his instructions to the last detail (except for the canvas belt, which I replaced with a leather one), and the end result was an absolute success. (Unfortunately, the original plans are only available in Finnish, but at his pages you can find some very nice drawings and measurements of the sled.)

Since building my sled, I have used it in every single winter trip to our hunting cabin hauling food, fuel, and clothing with unbelievable ease. In fact, in the last 15 years I have learned to not pay much attention to the amount of stuff I pack into my car during the winter time. Why bother? My sled can handle that.

This begins to sound like an average internet review of some worthless gadget that has been tested by reading the package insert and walking the gadget around the garden once or twice. Where is the real field test?!

Fortunately, this particular type of sledge has been tested. In 2004, a guy named Erkki Lampen skied from south coast of Finland to the northern most border of the country. It took him a good two months and 1200-1300 km (750-800 miles). He hauled his 50-60 kg (110-140 lbs) load with a home made JR27 sled. During his epic journey, he kept an online diary with daily text messages, and I was lucky enough to notice that and follow his whole trip. According to his diary, especially for the first hundreds of kilometers in southern Finland, he dragged the poor sled in not so good snow conditions, sometimes practically on gravel. Due to the treatment of the sled, after about 800 km of skiing, a runner of the sled broke, and it had to be replaced. No other serious problems during the trip. After the trip he wrote that if he would do the same thing again, he would use 15 mm runners instead of the original 8 mm, and replace the 10 mm fiber glass tubes with 15 mm tubes.

As a conclusion from his experiences, and mine, I would say that the JR27 is pretty well tested, and if you are going to drag ridiculous loads on gravel and steep hills, thicker runners and pulling bars are recommended, but if you rank yourself mortal, the original design does its job very well.

As promised on the video, here are some building instructions:

Materials

For the sled:

4 m (13 ft) 4 to 5 in wide, 12 mm (½ in) thick board

0.5 m (20 in) 2X2 in wood

40X200 cm (16 in X 7 ft) sheet of 1 to 2 mm (1/24 to 1/12 in) high density polyethene (HDPE)

Two 180 X 2 cm (6 ft X 4/5 in), 8 to 15 mm (1/3 to 5/8 in) thick strips of HDPE

For the pulling gear:

Two 2 m (6 ½ ft) long 10 to 15 mm (2/5 to 3/5 in) glass fiber tubes

1 m (3 ft) 10 to 15 mm (2/5 to 3/5 in) id rubber tube (coolant tube from a car)

One belt

For covering and binding the cargo:

1.5 X 2 m (5 X 7 ft) tarp

5 m (17 ft) of 6 mm (¼ in) bungee cord

4 to 5 pieces of 10X2X1.5 cm (4X4/5X3/5 in) wood

For attaching everything together:

Duct tape

4 hose clamps

Some screws, rivets, staples, and nuts and bolts

 

Work flow:

Cut the rear panel from the board symmetrically so that the top and bottom lengths are 42 and 32 cm (16 ½ and 12 ½ in), respectively.

Cut the front beam from the 2X2 in wood to the same angle with the rear panel so that the top of the beam (the longest side) is 41 cm (16 in).

Cut the side panels to about 170 cm (6 1/2 ft).

Shape the side panels as seen in the video.

Drill the holes for the screws (2 for each corner).

Screw the frame parts together.

Plane the bottom edges of the side panels.

(If planning to paint, do it now)

Attach the HDPE sheet to the front beam with screws and washers.

Place the HDPE strips against the bottoms of the side panels (HDPE sheet between the runners and the side panels).

Drill holes for the screws (12.5 cm (5 in) intervals) using a thin drill bit.

Drill sink holes for the countersunk screws with a bit thicker drill bit .

Attach the runners and the HDPE sheet to the side panels with the countersunk screws.

Attach the rear end of the HDPE sheet to the rear panel using screws and washers.

Cut four 20 cm (8 in) pieces from the rubber tube.

Drill holes to the side panels and attach one tube to the each side of the sled using two bolts and nuts per tube.

Rivet remaining tubes to the belt so that they are evenly on both sides.

Wrap the ends of the fiber glass tubes with 2 to 3 layers of duct tape.

Slide the fiber glass tubes into the rubber hoses and secure with hose clamps.

Staple a piece of tarp close to the interior bottom edge of the side panels.

Thread the bungee cord through the holes on the side panels and the wooden locking pieces.

Pack the sled and go.

Quick Snow Shelter

Every now and then, an adventurer, or just an average hiker/camper, may end up being in a situation in which building a proper overnight camp requires too much time or energy, or is downright impossible due to a broken tent, lack of firewood, or some other, afterwards hilarious event.

In those kind of situations, it is good to know how to build a snow shelter, preferably rather quickly. The internet is full of instructions of how to build real snow shelters, good for several nights in miserable weather. This is not one of those. Here I describe a building process of a very simple and quick shelter for one relatively comfortable night at temperatures above -10 C. Of course, in an emergency, anything is better than nothing, and this kind of shelter may save your life even at a lot colder temperature, but the comfort zone of this “quick and easy” ends at around -10 C.

The necessary warnings told, it is time to go to the construction:

1. If there is more than 70 cm of snow, pick any flat spot that looks good to you, preferably not at a place which may begin to collect water in case of warming weather, though. If the amount of snow is limited, try to find a dry ditch like place.

2. dig a ditch. About 70-80 X 200-250 cm size should be OK. To increase the height of the “walls”, pile the snow evenly on both sides of the ditch.

3. Build a supporting structure for the roof from any available material. Thick spruce tree branches are the best, but an empty sled, skis, ski poles, and any random sticks will do the job.

4. Cover the roof with a piece tarp.

5. Cover the whole thing with a 30-40 cm thick layer of snow, leaving a ventilation hole at the end of the shelter.

6. Place a camping matress and/or spruce tree branches to the floor of the shelter.

7. Organize your gear: Backpack as a main part of the rear door, boots inside the shelter, flashlight close to your body (it will get dark).

8. Crawl into your sleeping bag and drag yourself into the shelter.

9. Use your feet through the sleeping bag to cover the rear door with overhanging piece of the roof tarp.

10 Have a good night!

Based on my experience, this kind of 30 minute building project provides pretty good shelter for comfortable one night sleep at relatively warm weather (above -10 C). With decent ventilation arrangements, condensation of moisture is not a problem, and the temperature in the shelter stays at reasonable level.

I strongly recommend that you build, and test sleep, one of these in a safe environment. The experience is fun, and in the same time you learn about possible flaws in your building project. Trust me, screwing up your shelter project in your back yard is a funny story you can share with your friends. Screw up a similar project in a real SHTF situation, and your friends may read about it from tabloids, after someone finds your body in the spring.

Mini Trangia Apple Pie

OK, you Rambos, Mad Maxes, Conans, and other mother’s little warriors, admit it! Every now and then, after surviving months with only rattle snake soup to eat, and wolverine’s blood to drink, it would be nice to have a piece of sweet, delicious, grand mom’s apple pie.

If you are man enough to admit that, here is the recipe;

First, mix milk powder, salt, and yeast to about 150 ml of +42 C water. Let the yeast wake up for 5 to 10 minutes, and carefully mix the solution with the rest of the dough ingredients in a ziploc bag. Place the bag in a warm place, which, in wilderness, usually is a pocket close to your skin, for one to 4 hours. Properly closed ziploc bag does not disturb your activities too much, and while the yeast is doing its magic, you can hike to the next camp site or continue doing your things at the present one.

Before baking the base of the pie, it is time to prepare the apple jam, or sauce, or what ever you call the stuff on top of the apple pie. After rehydrating dry slices of apple for about 30 minutes, simmer the slices with cinnamon and brown sugar till the apple slices are soft, and the excess water has evaporated.

Then to the baking of the dough; Squeeze a ball of dough onto the frying pan, which in this case is the lid of the Mini Trangia. Flatten it to about 1-2 cm thick disk, and fry each side for about 4 minutes. Unfortunately, this requires some hands-on time. To avoid burning the dough, it is necessary to hold the pan about 10 to 15 cm above the flame, but trust me, the taste of the final product is worth of all the work.

Now, the remaining work is to scoop the apple jam on top of the baked dough, lift your feet up, think of your childhood and grand mom, and enjoy the apple pie. To get even closer to your childhood experiences, you can heat up the apple jam for about two minutes, and properly burn your tongue (just like when you were three years old).

In my honest opinion, the only way to improve the apple pie would be a scoopful of vanilla ice cream on top of the pie. However, due to the fact that preparing ice cream in the middle of nowhere with the Mini Trangia is beyond my expertise, I must say that I’m quite happy with the current product.