Seeking Advice on Outdoor Gear, Horsemanship, Knives, Etc.

My projects for 2014 will include doing more hunting and camping, becoming a much better horseman, and getting back into martial arts, and I need some advice from my good companions here. I have been out of all of these activities for quite a few years now, and I was never especially good at any of them, so any advice would be appreciated.

As for hunting, does anyone have advice for hunting wild pigs? The local area apparently has a lot of trouble with them destroying crops, etc., and I'd like to be part of the solution.

For camping, I like to carry as little as possible, something that apparently is called "ultra-light camping" these days. Years ago, I used to go out for weekend trips in the summer with a military rain poncho, a set of bungee cords, and poncho liner, and that was my tent and sleeping bag. I'd like to expand into spring and fall camping as well, but still carry the minimum in terms of tent / sleeping gear. Any suggestions? And does anyone have thoughts on the military's "sleep system"? Also, any advice on hiking / trekking / hunting boots would appreciated.

Let's talk horsemanship. I am a long-term beginner; I have ridden a couple times a year since I can remember. I would like to get a lot better. I'm not sure what my long-term goal is, but I have a couple of possible aims: I think it'd be a lot of fun to join a Civil War re-enactor cavalry unit, and I'd like to be able to do some longer-term trail riding / camping, or off-trail riding / camping. Any thoughts or advice on improving?

OK, on to knives. In a post from 2005, Grim mentions he carries a Gerber folding fighting knife. That was years ago and I'm curious whether it's still his preferred knife for daily carry. I'm also interested in any other opinions on these kinds of knives in general, and what I should get if I'm going to carry one.

Finally, if you have any other advice about any of these topics, whether gear, what / how to learn, groups or associations to check with, cautions, etc., I'd be glad of it.

Thanks in advance.


Eric Blair said...

Hunting feral swine? Michael Pollan wrote a chapter in one of his books on hunting feral swine in California. Get a rifle.

Otherwise, treat it as hunting boar, which means get a rifle if you are doing it alone.

If you want to get all traditional, you could combine all your interests, and go hunting on a horse, and finish the hog off with a knife, but you'd have learn how to throw a spear as well. And include several of your best friends as well.

And trust me, stay away from the reenactors.

You could do a lot worse than tracking down L.L. Bean's (yes, that one) 1942 book "Hunting-Fishing and Camping" which I think is a very basic but thorough listing of what one would need to know or think about for the listed activities.

I don't have any particular opinion on knives, (I carry a US Army folding knife as a habit) other than the thought "What is more important, the sword or the hand that wields it".

raven said...

A lot of gear these days seems designed to sell to those who have it all anyway- the "latest and best" sales tactic. Simple, quality items usually do fine and cost less.
Boot choice is an individual thing, and very dependent on use- The most comfortable boots I have are a pair of logging boots with a deep vibram sole (no "corks" though) , but they are verboten in the house, because they drag in half the back forty with them. And they are heavy. But for tough outside work they are great. For a hiking trip, I don't know- they say a pound on the foot is like five on the back. But I wear work boots all day anyway. A lot of folks like the new composite boots with fabric, they are very light and flexible -the most important thing with any boot is to break them in for a while. I once cut the toe box off my brothers very expensive brand new german hiking boots deep in Kings Canyon -he had never worn them before the trip and they were wearing a big blister on his toes.
I like Mora knives- they are very inexpensive, have great steel, and are very light. They are not "survival" knives, if you need a pry bar, get something else.
They have an extensive line,something there may serve you well.
I am not a hunter, but suspect local advice and mentoring is the way to go, as conditions vary so greatly across the country.

DL Sly said...

"What is more important, the sword or the hand that wields it".

I'll answer that. In today's day of exquisite steel properties, it's neither. A poor blade can be made better by the skill of the wielder, and a superior blade can aid the less-skilled through it's sheer strength and sharper edge. Combine a superior blade with any modicum of skill and you have a complete weapon for utility and defense.

Camping, to me, is camping. I've never read a book. Perhaps it was growing up in the shadow of the Nike facility that makes me "Just Do It". Perhaps it's that my folks started taking us camping as early as I can remember. So, it's as second nature to pack up gear and go camping as it is to get in the car and go to out to dinner.
As for the gear itself, I would recommend either North Face or Columbia for their lightweight and weatherproof clothing. Columbia, in particular, has outstanding hiking boots and camp shoes. Both are PacNW based organizations and their gear is tested on the mountain ranges out here.
As for blades themselves, I will show you what I carry on a daily basis and when out in the woods. I'm sure Grim will chime in soon enough with his thoughts on steel and blades, as well, which will, by far, be the more experienced voice.
For daily carry this is on me at all times that I'm dressed:
Kershaw pocketknife; two boot knives similar, but much more superior in every way, to these, but mine are very old and I couldn't find the exact ones; and my *Amercian Express* knife, my Buck. It used to be my dinner knife, but I traded out when we retired to Montana.
For excursions into bear and cougar country I add:
One of my favorite Christmas presents from MH; This Timber Wolf set for utility blades that I don't mind mucking up; and usually I'll switch out my Buck for something a little larger. It is bear country, afterall.

Grim said...

Boy, did you come to the right place.

I do still carry that knife. I was carrying it last night, in fact. If you want a folding knife, it's a good choice.

E Hines said...

You didn't ask, but you implied: Krav Maga. It's thumping good exercise (says the man who got a type III shoulder separation getting careless with a move), as well as top drawer...fighting...skills. It combines the best practices of nearly all the martial arts with hagana and ordinary brawling into a superior form of fighting that doesn't depend on habit, or rules, or anything but keeping your head clear, avoiding the fight if at all possible, and if it's thrust upon you, finishing it on your terms, as violently and permanently as you deem necessary, the attacker having with his assault forfeited all opportunity to comment further.

Eric Hines

douglas said...

I suppose where you plan on spending most of the time camping/hunting would make quite a difference what gear works.

Raven makes a great point about boots- new 'sneaker' styles vs. more traditional boots. I've noticed that almost all the military elite seem to have gone to the more modern boots. Then the question of hunter/logger/traditional military style or mountaineer/hiker traditional boots?

I have a pair of Danner Hood Winter Light boots, and I figure they'll last me nearly the rest of my life if I don't cut the leather too badly and resole them when needed. After about three years, through a variety of terrain, they've held up well. A buddy of mine has older Danners, which he's run through it all, including bad scree that really tore at them, took a few nubs off the soles, but no bad cuts in the leather and still going strong. They require almost no break-in, surprisingly enough (for a traditional style boot especially) as the tanning process they use leave the leather at just the right balance of pliability and strength. I have very narrow feet, and their widths fit me much better than my old Redwings. I added Super-feet insoles and they took up a little vertical space in the forefoot, making it tough to wear thick socks, but I like thin socks. They do get a little heavy after hiking all day though- I'll admit that. Quality is first rate.

I've been looking at that sleep system too, but hadn't got one yet so I'd also love to hear if anyone knows about it.

Tom said...

Thanks for the advice, everyone.

This year, most of my camping and hunting will be done in Missouri, Arkansas, and Oklahoma, and maybe a few other places.

I have an old rifle that will work for the hunting. As for spears, a friend suggested I attach a bayonet ... And, I spent some time today talking to a man who's hunted hog locally. Very informative.

What's the matter w/ re-enactors? I've had very limited contact with some, but it's been generally positive.

I already know I can't afford the latest and best in most gear. I'll buy used, military surplus, or make my own when I can.

I've been looking at Danner boots online, but didn't know if they were good quality boots or not. I'll give them a more serious look.

Tom said...

If you want to get all traditional, you could combine all your interests, and go hunting on a horse, and finish the hog off with a knife, but you'd have learn how to throw a spear as well. And include several of your best friends as well.

Wanna go?

Tom said...

Here's the L.L. Bean Book

Tom said...

Oh, and any further advice on any of these is certainly welcome.

Grim said...

I want to go. That sounds like an awesome trip.

Tom said...

Let's say that making that hunting trip a successful one were my goal in improving my horsemanship. How would I go about learning the equestrian skills I'd need?

It seems like it might be similar to fox hunting, w/ spears and close-in work.

Grim said...

Start with ring jousting, which is fairly safe (as safe as riding horses can be) and will begin to teach you the right skills. Get good at that, and then learn dressage (so your horse will be accustomed to moving very specifically at your directions, which you will know how to give). Then join a fox hunting group, and get good at that aspect. Put it all together, and you should be able to make it work.

Grim said...

In terms of gear, a minimum: a good knife (I really prefer a fixed blade, but that folder is good), rugged clothes appropriate to the season and weather, good boots (spend more on the boots than the rest of the clothes put together), a broad-brimmed hat.

DL Sly said...

I strongly agree with the boots sentiment. I would suggest that you have at least two knives. My pocketknife is a tanto blade for the main reason that it's harder to break the tip when I need to dig into something with it. Not to mention it's a great emergency screwdriver. I live in bear, cougar, wolf and wolverine country - meaning my house encroached on their natural habitat long ago - and this is the reason why I carry multiply knives on any given day. YMMV
The hat! Yes, don't forget a good broad-brimmed hat. Good for many things from sun and rain protection to bucket duty when needed.

Tom said...

It looks like fox hunting is a possibility around here, as well as "eventing" -- dressage, cross-country, and show jumping. But it looks like ring jousting might be an east coast thing; I can't seem to find anything on it out here in the middle.

DL & Raven gave some good advice on knives, and I like the Buck. Grim, any preference on fixed blades?

raven said...

On rifles- new or old, fancy or plain, a rifle is just a bullet launcher- buy quality ammo, sight in your rifle carefully and know where it shoots. I never have done any hunting, but word is that hogs can be tough and dangerous- like Rourke said- "use enough gun."

A tough point on a knife can come in handy for stuff like opening cans, but there are always trade offs- a nice rounded point is desirable for skinning, a sharp point for digging out splinters, a nice flat end for getting the last of the jam out, a long blade to slice bread, a short one for controlled carving, according to use.

DL- regarding knives and bears - I am in awe - normally in grizzly country I carry a shotgun with slugs- in truth, the one time I have been in close proximity to a upset bear, it felt like a Daisy BB gun- those bears are something else! Sorta like a 600 lb Russian Acrobat on meth...

Grim said...

Knives... what you really want isn't a brand-name knife. What you want is a custom-made knife, by a smith who knows his trade. Like this one.

That knife was made by stock-reducing a piece of old sawmill blade steel. It's so light, and so sharp, you can carry it without remembering it's on your hip and cut a tree with a few whacks.

But it's possible to forge a good knife too, and I've a few of them. It's one of those things, like boots, that is worth focusing your resources.

If you decide to buy a stock knife, though, I like SOG knives. Their quality of steel is very good. Any of the SOG Bowies are acceptable.

Tom said...

Thanks again, guys.

So, what about martial arts?

At Eric's suggestion, I've signed up for a Krav Maga clinic, just to see what it's about. (I'm not at all familiar with it.)

I was also considering Brazilian jujutsu / MMA.

Anyone have any thoughts on these or other MA?

Grim said...

I got started with jujitsu -- not the Brazilian stuff, which was intended for competition, but Wally Jay's "small circle" school (which is intended to break people and kill things). I still think it provides an excellent introduction, and for most people will be adequate by itself.

These days I'm mostly working out with ARMA, studying historical European martial arts. It's kind of an interesting project, as much academic and scholarly as physical (because of the work involved in reconstructing the forms from texts such as fencing manuals). It's making me a better fighter, but more slowly; on the other hand, I think I'm beginning to grasp the principles of martial arts at a more fundamental level from the combination of physical and reconstruction aspects.

But if you're going to be learning all that horsemanship I mentioned above, you don't have time for martial arts too. You're going to have a lot of full days ahead of you.

E Hines said...

Grim: Well, autoregressive moving averages will give you quite a mental juijitsu workout. Oh, wait....

Tom: Listen carefully to your Krav instructor at the outset (and always, but especially as he introduces the program). He should lay out the three principles of Krav, but there's a prior principle that only the quality instructors even mention, much less emphasize: that of avoiding the fight in the first place if at all possible (which is not the same as "at all cost").

And your warm up exercises should start slow, but you should be sweating, slightly, by their end. This is not a thing that lends itself to shortcuts, even in an introductory clinic.

Eric Hines

Eric Blair said...

Why stay away from the reenactors? You've already set a pant-load of goals for yourself; to add the sheer *time* required to reenact something correctly, (which nobody has, so the entire enterprise typically degenerates in to self indulgent costume play.) is just setting yourself up for disappointment.

Nobody actually fields the numbers for a troop of cavalry, much less a squadron or regiment, and never mind actually learning the dressage and weapon work that real soldiers did, because, reeanctors are not real soldiers.

You will only be wasting your time. And I don't say that lightly, as I have spent a great deal of my spare time over the last 30 years reeancting, and have recently retired from it, mostly because I am too old to play the part anymore, partly because as I noted above the entire thing (no matter what period) seems to increasingly be just some sort of fantasy role-playing.

Tom said...

Yes, time is the biggest issue. When I'm talking about goals, I'm thinking in terms of 5-7 years down the road.

For horses, money is also a factor. A month's worth of dressage or cross-country lessons at 2 / week would pay for half a year of Krav Maga or jujutsu lessons.

It may be that I take one equestrian lesson a week, and do MA twice a week. Or, maybe I focus on one this year and put the other off for a while. We'll see what can be done.

Tom said...

Eric B., thanks for the answer. Given that, I think fox hunting may be what I'm going for.

DL Sly said...

Raven, I'm not sure I'm worthy of awe. I'm just part of nature when I'm out there, so I don't think about it. I've met and talked down a small cinnamon and a black bear as well as a grey wolf or two over my time, but I've only met a grizzly once. She wasn't upset, though, just ambling on her way.
I was happy to let her. Afterward, I cleaned my pants out and walked quickly in the opposite direction.

I may be crazy, but I'm not a fool.

raven said...

martial arts- depends what you are looking for-exercise? sport? serious combat skills? protection from harm"?

To address the latter-

My all time favorite martial art is "Nike Flew", known colloquially as "beat feet" as it has saved my butt on several occasions, the main injury occurring to my pride.

IMO, the single most important aspect is situational awareness-pick up on dangerous situations, dangerous places, and dangerous people. Learn about pre-attack indicators,"interviews" etc.
If you get involved in a street fight, you have already failed lesson number one. Or been very unlucky. Deal the assailant the single most devastating blow you can muster, and run like hell.

On Bear attacks- this is the best book I have ever read on the subject-free of the usual hysteria. Mr. Herrero is a wildlife biologist specializing in large predators. Some of his conclusions are well outside the mainstream beliefs.

DL Sly said...

"My all time favorite martial art is "Nike Flew", known colloquially as "beat feet" as it has saved my butt on several occasions, the main injury occurring to my pride."

Ah, the Miyagi doctrine:
"Best be there."
I have used that many times myself.

Where I live, there aren't that many attacks as just plain "meet-and-greets" - so to speak. It's the reason why anyone who uses a garbage company to pick up their trash is required to use bear-proof containers. Hunting season is over now, and the bears are all in their winter slumber, so they are on the bottom of the watch list when out and about. We've had a very cold, relatively dry winter which has killed much of the vegetation that usually sustains the deer and smaller critters throughout the winter. As an result, they have become more prevalent in town. Predators such as cougar, wolverine and wolves follow. Those are at the top of the watch list this time of year - when taking the dogs for a walk or just going up to get the paper in the morning.

Tom said...

I'm not looking to get into any fights, but it would be good to be prepared if a fight comes looking for me. If there's no point to it, I too prefer to avoid a fight. However, there are situations that call for picking or risking a fight; I don't want something that's so focused on defense that I can't be aggressive when it's called for.

It has to be a good workout, and it has to at least be reasonable in a scuffle. I don't expect to be in any combat zones, so I'd prefer not to study an art that focuses on killing or maiming as quickly as possible. I want to be able to exercise a broad range of force (and evasion) to properly respond to a broad range of the most likely threats in my civilian environment.

raven said...

By definition, if you need to fight, you ARE in a combat zone. At that point, half measures will get you hurt- remove the threat ASAP, run if you can, fight if you must,and bring as much force to bear as possible.
Usually a predator will look you over for body language, watch your actions,and decide if you are prey. Recognize the signs, and move. Check your 6 o'clock and move-get inside their decision loop.
Most people are so afraid of giving offense they will not take even simple measures to protect themselves, such a crossing a street to avoid a crowd of thugs, or turning around to look at someone walking too close behind them. Do not allow potential attackers to get close!
I would be suspicious of any "martial art" that purport to teach self defense without including a lot of situational awareness training.

Tom said...

if you need to fight, you ARE in a combat zone

Not really. There are any number of situations where you may need to use violence, but there's no real mortal threat. For example, I was attacked by a drunk once where he threw a few punches at me, I easily parried them and maintained my distance, and when he took a breather I just stared him in the eye thoughtfully. He decided he didn't want to play anymore and walked away.

I used to work at a job that required dealing with that sort of situation fairly regularly. Sometimes it was more serious and took longer, sometimes I had to put someone on the ground until they decided they didn't want to play anymore, but it was never lethal. No one came at me with blood in their eyes.

The only times I ever feared for my life were when the cops showed up with guns drawn and aimed at someone / thing that was way too close to me. Cops are scary.

I imagine a combat zone is a completely different affair.