Archive for September, 2015

How to Use Your Watch as a Compass and Other Things

Monday, September 28th, 2015

The first thing I would like to say is the watch I am talking about is a watch with hands.  I know this is an old-fashioned type of watch and yes stores still sell them.  This type of watch is invaluable when it comes to camping but before you doubt this let me tell you a story.

When I was in Yellowstone, I was hiking up a mountain.  This mountain was beautiful but the bad news for the kids I was with was the fact that cell phones did not work.  While I got tired of hearing the complaining, I was very thankful for this little technology break. luck would have it on the day I left for the trail, I decided to go to town and pick up some supplies.  While I normally am well prepared, I had carpooled on this trip and space was limited.  In doing so, I had to pick up a few things. As I walked through the store I found a sell rack and saw a few old-fashioned watches.  Since I wanted to know what time I needed to be at the classes and mess hall I bought one.  Oh, how serendipity plays with us.

Later on in the day, we headed up the mountain.  About five hours into the trail, the group I was with could not hike anymore.  In doing so, we turned around.  As we were heading down the trail, I fell down and got injured.  While this was a bad thing, the worst part was our guide was not familiar with the area and since signals did not work where we were we had no idea how to get down.  This is where my wristwatch came into play.

I took my watch off and had the dial facing up and parallel to the ground.  Looking where the sun was located, I turned until the hour hand was pointing to the sun.  In the morning sun, the south direction should be halfway between the hour hand and 12 o’clock.  The afternoon sun will place south counterclockwise between the hour hand and 12 o’clock.  The north direction will be the opposite line from the south. 

While this approach did get me out of the woods, it is not perfect.  It is fine enough to give you a general direction to follow so that you can find your way back.  

If your watch is broke, do not throw it out.  Believe it or not, it can be used to save your life.  What do I mean by this?  Well, a wristwatch can be used to carry survival gear, which includes things such as paper clip, wire, dental floss, aspirin, and bandages. 

To turn your watch into a survival kit, simply remove the face.  Once that is done, take out the gears.  Next, fill that empty space with your survival supplies and place the watch face back on.  Now you are ready for any situation.

How to Make Char Cloth

Friday, September 25th, 2015

 Char cloth is one of those camping essentials that many people have never heard of.  It is a unique fire starter that is only to be used to start a fire bundle, which in turn will light the tinder.  While the name may sound a little intimidating, it really is not.  The only complication that exists as far as making it is taking the time to make this fire starter.  But once you use it once, you will never leave for the trail again without your char cloth.

To begin this process, one will need to build a fire.  It really does not need to be a huge fire.  What you are looking for are the coals.  While the fire is burning, you can begin to prepare the container for your char cloth.

char.clothYes, I said a container.  Char cloth is actually cloth that has been seared by heat.  It is not burned but charred in an oxygen free environment.  This process is called pyrolysis.  To accomplish this, requires a container that is sealed except for a very small hole.

When it comes to the container, you are not looking for a large container.  A small metal tin with a lid will work fine.  If you need some ideas, check out the candy row.  There are many candies that are sold in small tins.

Once you have your tin, it is time to punch a hole.  The size of the hole is very important and should be as small as possible.  I know that this seems counterproductive but a small hole will reduce the amount of possible oxygen compared to a larger hole.  A small nail will work fine.  To poke the nail through, simply take a hammer and hit the nail.  The nail will easily go through the metal. 

The next step is to prepare the cloth.  The type of cloth you use is very important.  Use only natural materials for the char cloth.  This includes cotton, jute, and linen.  After you have selected your material, the next step is to cut it into squares that will fit into the tin.  Once the squares have been cut, place in the tin and top with the lid.

At this point, take your tin over to the fire.  Stir the fire down until you have just coals.  Snuggle the tin down into the coals.  As the tin heats up, you will begin to see smoke coming out of the small hole.  Keep the tin in the coals until smoke stops coming out of the hole.  Once that happens, remove the tin from the coals.  Set the tin aside to allow to cool.

After the tin has cooled, your char cloth is ready for your next camping trip.

How to Make a Traditional Dutch Oven Fruit Cobbler

Saturday, September 19th, 2015

One of my favorite desserts to have when I am camping is a fruit cobbler.  While I love all the special camp desserts, a fruit cobbler made from fruit that was picked local or purchased from the Farmers’ Market just makes the campout more memorable.  But before I go on, take a walk down the hiking path of memories with me and let me tell you a story about wild blackberries, two young children and a Dutch oven.

I have always taken my children camping.  When they were toddlers, we went on weekend trips.  Then, they both got into the scouting program and we were camping all the time.  But one family trip always sticks in my head in the fall.  While all our trips were special, this particular one was very special and started with some black fruit.

As a mother of twins, what one does the other one does.  So on this particular day, we decided to take a walk.  As I was walking, I saw some wild blackberries growing along the trail.  I started picking them and eating my way down the path.  Before I knew it, my kids started picking the little black fruits.  Once I saw this I thought what a wonderful teaching moment.  In doing so, I turned back to camp and got each one of us a little bucket.  I always loved to get my kids involved in “cooking” the meals.  Sometimes, it was as simple as making “ants on a log” but today it was going to be dessert.  We were going to have a lesson on where our food comes from.

Once everyone had their bucket, we went back down the path.  The picking started out fine and everyone was eating some and adding some to their bucket.  What more could I expect?  Well, at this point the story changed.  I turned around and saw my daughter sitting in the mud underneath a wild blackberry thicket.  She had her little bucket sitting on the path and was enjoying the feast she had found.  At this point, I really gave up on the idea of having a big Dutch oven full of blackberry cobbler.  Instead, we settled for a small skillet of berries with a topping and a lot of funny memories.

Below is a very basic recipe for making a traditional Dutch oven fruit cobbler.  While “fresh” berries are always best I have made this recipe with frozen fruit. 

Learn How to Make a Traditional Dutch Oven Fruit Cobbler


1 stick of butter

1 cup of milk

1 cup flour

1 cup sugar

2 teaspoons baking powder

4 to 5 cups of fruit of choice



  1. Build fire.
  2. Place grilling rack on top.
  3. Place butter in Dutch oven.
  4. Put Dutch oven on grilling rack.
  5. Melt butter.
  6. Mix the flour, milk and sugar in a bowl.
  7. Once butter is melted, add flour mixture from step 6.
  8. Top with fruit.
  9. Place lid on the Dutch oven.
  10. Put Dutch oven on a heat resistant surface.  Lay down 10 coals on the heat resistant surface, place the Dutch oven on top of the coals.  Add 20 coals to the lid.
  11. Cook until the crust is golden brown.

Once the crust is done, remove the Dutch oven from the heat and serve.