There are men who, on finding themselves alone in a pathless forest, become appalled, almost panic stricken. The vastness of an unbroken wilderness subdues them, and they quail before the relentless, untamed forces of nature....

And there be some who plunge into an unbroken forest with a feeling of fresh, free, invigorating delight, as they might dash into a crisp ocean surf on a hot day. These know that nature is stern, hard, immovable and terrible in unrelenting cruelty....

But, like all tyrants, she yields to force, and gives the more, the more she is beaten. She may starve or freeze the poet, the scholar, the scientist; all the same, she has in store food, fuel and shelter, which the skillful, self-reliant woodsman can wring from her savage hand.

Nessmuk, Woodcraft and Camping, p. 80 (1963 edition)

Five Things More Affordable than Health Care

Ever since the Affordable Care Act passed, my health insurance premium has been climbing faster than a Titan rocket, which should have prepared me for this year’s rate jump. It still managed to catch me off guard.

To give a little background, before the Affordable Care Act I paid $423/month to insure a family of six. The passage of the Act brought an immediate $250/month increase, with increases every year since. Last year I got sucker-punched with a $270/month blow. I thought I’d gotten numb to these rate hikes. Think again.

This year dished out a whopping $340/month jump. That hurt, but worse than the jump itself was the new milestone my premium reached. As of this year, I pay over $2,000 a month to insure my family. Let that number soak in a minute; I know I had to.

With a nice number like $2,000 the math becomes too easy to hide from. $2,000 a month adds up to $24,000 a year. Twenty-four thousand dollars. TWENTY-FOUR THOUSAND. I struggle to even say the number, much less breathe while I do it.

As I continue struggling to wrap my mind around that number, I can’t help but imagine what that kind of money could buy if I didn’t have to spend it on health insurance.

So as my way to help ease the pain, here are five things that, for my family at least, are as affordable as health care …

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Review: Paracord Bracelets and Products

My Grandpa could re-purpose anything. He would take the discarded, broken down trash of the world and shape it back into something not just useful, but so visibly valuable that you’d stop and wonder why anyone would have thrown it out to begin with.

I couldn’t help but think of my Grandpa as I started clicking through the website, probably the premiere source of 550 paracord accessories.

If you’re looking for a cheap, Chinese-made paracord bracelet, stop reading now. If you’re a deeper sort who likes the idea of products with soul — products infused with a backstory — then it’s time you learn how is taking coils of ordinary paracord and using them to repurpose some of the broken things of the world. And turning out remarkable results. How do they do it? It’s all in the hands.

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My Favorite Gear: Knives, Saws & Axes

What’s your favorite blade? A big chopper? A nimble bushcrafter? A small axe? Or maybe you prefer a saw blade to a knife blade? Or a multitool to everything else?

In this article, I reveal my favorite blades and wood-processing tools, from small to large. These are the tools that my hand wants to grab, the ones that perform so well I look for excuses to use them. So if you’ve got a few minutes, step on in. I’d love to give you a tour.

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Swedish Axe Models Compared: Gransfors Bruk, Hults Bruk, Hultafors; Wetterlings Alternatives

Wetterlings. Gränsfors Bruk. Hults Bruk. Hultafors. Husqvarna. Somehow Sweden has managed to carve out a place for itself as the world’s preeminent axe maker — hand-forged axes known for their distinctive style and legendary for their balance and quality, pounded into existence in some of the oldest forges on earth.

Wetterlings played a major role in earning this reputation for Swedish axes. Then, on March 10, 2017 a splash emanating in Sandvik Sweden sent ripples speeding across the Internet, stirring up shock and sadness in axe and bushcrafting forums the world over: The Wetterlings Axe Forge announced it would discontinue the Wetterlings line, a line dating all the way back to 1880:

Wetterlings, by striking a balance between price and performance, had become a favorite in the United States. With its disappearance, which Swedish axe models should you now be looking at? How can you know, at a glance, which Swedish Axe makers have models in a given size? How do they all compare?

In this article, we’ll compare the Swedish axe models by size — Gränsfors Bruk, Hults Bruk, Hultafors, Husqvarna — and show which ones make good Wetterlings alternatives.

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Review: Bark River Golok

Some bushcrafters feel like the Bark River Golok approaches that fictitious Nirvana of a single-tool solution. Whether the Golok deserves that level of praise is up to you to decide. We can safely say, however, that if you’re looking for a lightweight woods tool to fill the gap between your belt knife and your axe, then it’s worth taking a good look at the Bark River Golok:

While it doesn’t fit the image of an American woods tool, it might surprise you what it’s capable of. I’ve been using the Bark River Golok for a couple of years now. Read on for my take.

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Review: Wetterlings Bushcraft Axe (aka Outdoor Axe, Large Hunter’s Axe, Backcountry Axe, etc.)

Drop me in the middle of the wilderness and tell me I can only have one edged tool, I’ll probably grab the Wetterlings Bushcraft Axe. I call my Wetterlings Bushcraft Axe “the little axe that could” because this guy defies his size.

Size of the Wetterlings Outdoor Bushcraft Axe

I’ve heard this axe referred to as a “rucksack axe” because you could slip it inside any pack and carry it at a fraction of the weight a full-sized axe would cost you. Small, light, nimble, but with a serious bite — read on to see why this is my favorite axe.

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Make an Indiana Jones Satchel / Messenger Bag from an Army Gas-Mask Bag

When I was in South America a few decades ago, I noticed how the men there had no problem using a satchel and it made me a little jealous. I think I grew up with too much echoing around in my head. These days, I’m glad to see that satchels and messenger bags have found their way to American streets because, let’s be honest, it’s nice to have a book or a tablet along sometimes, not to mention all of our other EDC items.

When I sat down to decide what kind of satchel I’d like to carry, my mind shot straight to the bag that defined a rugged man’s satchel, that iconic canvas military bag with a sturdy leather strap, the bag that caught everyone’s eye when it showed up on the big screen back in 1981: the Indiana Jones Raiders of the Lost Ark bag:

Indiana Jones Satchel/Messenger Bag

You wanted one too the minute you saw it. And the whip. But let’s stick to the bag for now. In this article, I show how I made my leather-strapped satchel from a vintage military gas mask bag. I also include instructions for making a cotton-strapped bag for those who want to keep the bag as authentic as possible.

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Paracord Info: Everything You Wanted to Know about Paracord

Paracord is popping up everywhere. Once an obscure favorite of the ex-military and survival communities, now 550 cord has even found its way to craft store shelves — a sure sign that it has penetrated every stratum of society. And with popularity comes the buzz: “My brother knows a guy who used 550 cord to lift an engine!” or “I heard that black ops soldiers use this stuff to rappel out of helicopters!”

What are the facts? What’s fiction? And most of all, what are the practical ins and outs of paracord? In this article, we explore the most common questions and misconceptions about the most popular rope on the block — paracord.

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Review: Bahco Laplander – The Ultimate Folding Saw for Backpacking?

You can’t miss the Bahco Laplander reviews. They’re spread all over the bushcraft forums. That’s what I found a couple of years ago when I decided it was time to get a folding saw. So I dove into the reviews, read nothing but the highest praise imaginable for the Laplander, saw little to no mention about any other saw, and came to the logical conclusion that the Bahco would be the perfect saw for my upcoming hike. I grabbed one off of Amazon, and two days later put it to a 2×4. Here’s what I found …

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An Ultralight Backpacking Bellows

Not too long ago, I ran across an ad for a collapsible pocket bellows. “Huh. That’s interesting.” You see, some of my scouts have a gift for turning a decent fire lay into a smoking disaster. So from time to time, I find myself sticking my face in the fire trying to blow the flames back to life. In other words, a bellows could come in handy. I wasn’t thrilled by the cost, but it gave me an idea for a much lighter and cheaper version. An hour later, I had my own bellows, and it’s a winner. Here’s how to make it.

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