Sunday, June 1, 2014

NAPO TO BABAG TALES LXVI: Knife Tests and Cold Weather Discussions

I HAVE PROMISED TO discuss Cold Weather Survival to my adherents in Camp Red Bushcraft and Survival Guild but, unfortunately, the proper timing to do so was off. I have come upon cold weather during my several mountain climbing sorties in the past, even gaining resistance to it for a time, but it waned when my visits to high-altitude places became few and far between.

I have used my only struggle against hypothermia in 1988 as a yardstick of the limitations of my body and, beyond mine, I could not discuss it properly to my fellow outdoorsmen except unscientific advice based upon my experiences. I could do so little to teach about cold weather resistance (beyond what I had perceived) as I was totally ignorant of the mechanisms why heat is being taken away from the body without our knowing.

When I chanced upon an article of GreyOne in Bushcraft USA Magazine titled Heat Loss: Cause and Prevention, I begin to understand better this aspect. It is simply disorienting how the body could lose heat in less than an hour when in the colder regions like highly-elevated places where exposure to wind chill is great. I had discussed this subject for the first time when I taught a survival seminar to mountaineers last week in Antipolo, Rizal.


Today, October 27, 2013, I now have the time to introduce it to bushcrafters. Although these people are smart enough to evade exposed places, all could not help it when caught walking on ridges in the foulest of weathers or getting wet for several days. Nevertheless, I have to discuss this to inform and prepare them about cold weather, its causes and how it can be prevented. Some of those that came had spent some time in cold temperate zones and, maybe, they could relate about this too.

On the parking lot fronting the Our Lady of Guadalupe Parish, the pure breeds of Camp Red came and waited for my arrival. They are Jhurds Neo, Glenn Pestaño, Aljew Frasco, Dominic Sepe, Christopher Maru and Nyor Pino. We have guests too like Joe Bisaya and Xerxes Alcordo. After breakfast and, after procuring the ingredients for our meal, we proceed to Napo. When we hit the trail for Lower Kahugan Spring, some of us carried openly our survival knives on our belts.

We deem it right to carry blades openly and there are no reservations about it. We are on a lawful activity and we know our rights when it comes to that. If you think seeing knives that close would shrink your skin, then keep your distance and we do not care what are your opinions about us. If you think we are badass, then, so be it. It is not everyday we are called that and you may enjoy that without fear of payback.

So, after rehydrating, we tackle the easy Kahugan Trail for the Roble homestead. We arrive there at 10:10 AM and all crowd in to the visitor’s shed while I choose one of the empty benches for myself. Instantly, Glenn and Dom separately boil water for coffee. Christopher help Aljew source firewood from Fele Roble while Jhurds get ready his meat and rice.


During that flurry of activities, Aljew tested his new creation – a shorter version of the AJF Gahum – by chopping a well-seasoned but dry trunk of a Mexican lilac tree (Local name: kakawate, madre de cacao or lubas). This kind of wood is prized by firewood gatherers for it is gnarled and gave off efficient heat when it is used to cook food. The knife cut the trunk in half while I test my AJF Gahum on another trunk. Aljew seems to enjoy the feel of my knife and started splitting wood with it.

On the other hand, I tested Glenn’s prized Chipaway Cutlery Bowie knife on another trunk and it was able to cut it in half but the effort caused a flaw on the knife’s edge near the well. It is a big clip-point knife with an American bison bone handle but it is rather light for chopping big pieces of wood. I help it put on more weight by wearing my Guess stainless-steel band wristwatch to achieve more cutting power.

When we think we got all the firewood we need, we start making a fire. Aljew used a ferro rod to strike a spark where it is caught by his own-manufactured candlewax-on-cotton tinder and progressed into a fire by feeding it with pinewood shavings and dry twigs. Jhurds cooked rice atop a trio of stone anchors while I cooked milled corn on a suspended pot hung from a tripod made by Aljew.

Aljew, a gentleman from a good family of Lilo-an, never ceases to amaze me with his enthusiasm about primitive-living skills. He makes quality knives and leather sheaths; devise his own fire tinder; introduce his ideas and techniques; and even volunteer to prowl and forage among the bushes for wood or cordage. In the short span that I have known him, he accomplished a lot more than what I had expected. He is one of those rare jewels I am talking about when I got interviewed by a University of the Philippines student.


Anyway, Dom and Nyor help in the slicing of eggplants, gumbos and bell peppers while Jhurds produce coconut milk from grated coconuts I bought at Guadalupe. When I think the milled corn is almost cooked, I transfer most of the burning firewood into another set of stone trio to cook the mixed vegetable soup. After sauteing the vegetables and strips of pork, I pour the coconut milk and then stir. No MSG is used; just the right frame of mind.

When the rice got cooked, Christopher grill pork meat over metal bars as Nyor fried eggplants assisted by Dom. When all the cooking had been finished, lunch is served. It is always a feast when bushcrafters eat. I discouraged the eating of canned food, pre-cooked meals and packed lunch. It does not make you a human being but a parasite of modern convenience. I prefer that people polish off their culinary skills outside the comforts of a kitchen.

Dessert came next and it is in the form of green coconuts provided for by Fele. I also prefer that all should know how to open their coconuts with their own knives before indulging on it. A knife is not an object to be kept in your home, immaculate and shiny, or used as an item for bragging. It should be used like any other tool and pushed to the limit of its design and material composition – like I did with Glenn’s knife - but with reverence.

When the conversations have stilled a bit, I called on everyone to fill the spaces on the empty benches and start my discussion about cold weather. There are five physical mechanisms that steal away body heat and it is enumerated as follows: (1) Respiration; (2) Conduction; (3) Convection; (4) Evaporation; and (5) Radiation. For each problem, author GreyOne provided solutions which are very helpful.

At around 3:30 PM, we finish the day’s activity and go down the valley. Glenn is a revelation today. He showed all that he knows how to run and he ran for all he cared. Aljew chased him on the trail. Then me. And then the rest followed, like a war party of Osages. It is good to run again and I hold the knife in its sheath by my side from swinging. Everybody’s panting and sweat flowed, making everybody feel better.


We reach Napo and hiked about 250 meters up the road to reach the parked vehicle brought by Aljew in the morning. We left for Guadalupe but, unfortunately, a liquor ban is imposed because of tomorrow’s election. We transferred instead to Lilo-an, the very base of Aljew and Christopher, and celebrated another round of quality activity that is very unconventional where only Camp Red could accomplish.


Document done in LibreOffice 3.3 Writer


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