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Gear: A Cure for Cold Feet

ThermaCELL’s electronically heated insoles aren’t perfect, but they are the best cure for my biggest late-season deer hunting problem: cold feet. When temperatures drop into the teens,  toes can start to burn with the cold unless wearing heavy felt-lined boots. If hiking to a stand or do some still-hunting, however, pac boots make feet sweat, which guarantees  toes will be cold when standing still.Thermacell-Insole-1

The best thing about ThermaCELL’s heated insoles is the fob-like remote and built-in control board and battery. Unlike chemical toe warmers, which start out hot and gradually cool down, these let you wirelessly select “No Heat” when you don’t need any supplemental warmth, then either “Medium” (100 degrees F) or “High” (110 degrees F) heat when you do, all without clumsy external batteries or switches.

That allows for wearing a favorite pair of lightweight, moderately insulated knee-high rubber boots when on the go, with the assurance that the heat can be vamped up if on a stand or stop for whatever reason. And even if wearing heavier boots, the control board acts like a thermostat and temporarily shuts off power to the heating element when it reaches the selected temperature.

B_5v_OnVAAAS60U

It’s genius—though not without a few flaws.

  • For starters, the molded, cushioned insoles are much thicker than the insoles that come standard with most boots and can only use them with light socks in boots that are large to begin with. Otherwise the fit is way too snug.
  • They could also be a little warmer, and the battery life is disappointing. The lithium-ion unit built into the heel of each insole recharges quickly, but it does not come close to the advertised five-hour run time at medium heat.
  • And they’re pricey, at about $130. If the battery lives up to its promised 500 charges, that works out to only about $0.26 per use, which is about one-quarter what chemical toe warmers cost. At this point, though, that’s still a big “if.”

imagesPO5E8D77

But the biggest complaint is with the remote. It doesn’t confirm what setting the insole is at. Sometimes it’s off when it should be on and on when it should be off. A positive on-off switch, or even better a setting and battery level indicator, would be a huge improvement. So for now we’ll have to wait for the perfect cure. Until then, these are still pretty darn good, and a second pair would be convenient so they can be swap out on all-day hunts.

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Make A Vault From PVC

Whether you’re storing beans, bullets, or bars of gold, you’ll need a secure place to keep these potential survival currencies. For a quick solution, you could purchase some expensive olive-drab burial vaults, but does it really matter what color they are if they’re buried in the ground? Follow these easy steps, and you can put together a PVC pipe vault for $15 or less.

pcv1

Materials
First, you’ll need a length of PVC drain pipe. Many stores sell pre-cut two-foot sections, but, if you’re planning to make several of these, it’s cheaper to buy an eight footer and cut it down. For each vault you’ll also need an end cap, a female threaded coupling, and a plug, plus some primer and PVC cement. Four-inch pipe and fittings give you a lot more interior room than three-inch line, but the cost of four-inch fittings is roughly double that of three-inch material.

Construction

Apply your purple primer around each end of the pipe, inside the cap, and inside the female fitting (but not on the threads!). The primer dries very quickly. Once dry, wipe the cement around one end of the pipe and inside the end cap. Do this quickly, it sets up fast! Slide the cap on and press it onto the ground to force the cap on tightly. If you don’t apply pressure for 10 to 15 seconds, the reaction from the cement, primer, and plastic will actually push the fitting apart. Repeat this process with the female fitting, but push on it with the threaded section facing upward (solid cap on the ground again). This keeps cement from running down into the threads.

pcv2

Let the fumes clear out for a day before storing any food in the vault. Otherwise, wait a few hours for the cement to dry. Once you have filled your vault, screw the plug in place tightly. If you’re burying it in a damp area, use a little Teflon tape around the threads. Use pipe dope compound on the threads if you are burying it in a wet location. Use a permanently glued cap on each end if you are submerging the vault in water.

Burial
After you fill your prepper-style treasure chest with loot, bury it in a smart, secure, and memorable location. Fake pet graves, flower beds, and under a mean dog’s doghouse are a few of my top recommendations. You can either bury it horizontally or, if you have a post hole digger, drive a hole straight down and drop it in. The vertical option means minimal surface disturbance and a smaller profile if someone comes along with a metal detector. Just make sure you can find it!

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How to Use Wood Sorrel for Food, and Hangovers

If you had a little too much green beer over the weekend, don’t worry — you weren’t alone. St. Patrick’s Day may have a rich historical point of origin in Ireland, but here in North America, it’s often just an excuse to chug cheap brews died into verdant colors. So here’s a little shamrock for the outdoor lover who might still overindulge.

4 clover

Wood Sorrel

The little green plant known as wood sorrel (Oxalis stricta) has often been mistaken as clover because of its three leaflets. On closer examination, you’ll find a big difference. Sorrel’s leaflets are heart shaped, while clover leaflets are round or oval. Wood sorrel grows in both sunny places and shady spots on the edges of woods throughout North America and it has many relatives growing coast to coast.

Wood sorrel usually tops out at under a foot tall, and it typically has small yellow flowers, though some species have more pinkish or purplish blooms. Looking much like a classic shamrock, the fresh leaves can be eaten raw as a tasty sour salad green.

4-Leaf Clover

4-Leaf Clover

You can also make a helpful hangover cure with wood sorrel. A handful of the leaves can be steeped in hot water for 10 minutes and then chilled to make a cold drink. This cold beverage looks and tastes like a green lemonade, and has the remarkable ability to calm nausea and soothe upset stomachs, which often go hand-in-hand with the headaches of hangovers.

While there’s no problem with the occasional consumption of this plant, use it in moderation over the long term. The sour tasting oxalic acid in wood sorrel can inhibit the body’s absorption of calcium and possibly contribute to kidney stones over time.

Look for related edible species such as the violet wood sorrel (Oxalis violacea), the pink wood sorrel (Oxalis montana), and other members of the Oxalis genus.

Have you eaten this wild edible? Or used it to treat nausea? Leave us your comments.

Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

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Make A Vault From PVC

Whether you’re storing beans, bullets, or bars of gold, you’ll need a secure place to keep these potential survival currencies. For a quick solution, you could purchase some expensive olive-drab burial vaults, but does it really matter what color they are if they’re buried in the ground? Follow these easy steps, and you can put together a PVC pipe vault for $15 or less.

pcv1

Materials
First, you’ll need a length of PVC drain pipe. Many stores sell pre-cut two-foot sections, but, if you’re planning to make several of these, it’s cheaper to buy an eight footer and cut it down. For each vault you’ll also need an end cap, a female threaded coupling, and a plug, plus some primer and PVC cement. Four-inch pipe and fittings give you a lot more interior room than three-inch line, but the cost of four-inch fittings is roughly double that of three-inch material.

Construction

Apply your purple primer around each end of the pipe, inside the cap, and inside the female fitting (but not on the threads!). The primer dries very quickly. Once dry, wipe the cement around one end of the pipe and inside the end cap. Do this quickly, it sets up fast! Slide the cap on and press it onto the ground to force the cap on tightly. If you don’t apply pressure for 10 to 15 seconds, the reaction from the cement, primer, and plastic will actually push the fitting apart. Repeat this process with the female fitting, but push on it with the threaded section facing upward (solid cap on the ground again). This keeps cement from running down into the threads.

pcv2

Let the fumes clear out for a day before storing any food in the vault. Otherwise, wait a few hours for the cement to dry. Once you have filled your vault, screw the plug in place tightly. If you’re burying it in a damp area, use a little Teflon tape around the threads. Use pipe dope compound on the threads if you are burying it in a wet location. Use a permanently glued cap on each end if you are submerging the vault in water.

Burial
After you fill your prepper-style treasure chest with loot, bury it in a smart, secure, and memorable location. Fake pet graves, flower beds, and under a mean dog’s doghouse are a few of my top recommendations. You can either bury it horizontally or, if you have a post hole digger, drive a hole straight down and drop it in. The vertical option means minimal surface disturbance and a smaller profile if someone comes along with a metal detector. Just make sure you can find it!

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ID the Morel – Spring’s Best Mushroom

When the spring gobbler season and shed hunting is in full swing, you’ll probably spending a lot of time in the woods looking at the ground for antlers and turkey sign. Something else you ought to be on the lookout for is a weird little pitted thing that looks like a small, lumpy, brown brain. This time of year, that organism is most likely a common morel mushroom, a popular item of spring foragers. Here’s how to properly identify this delectable fungus.

mush

ID a Morel
The common morel (Morchella esculenta) is a prized wild mushroom that grows in forests and shady areas, primarily in April and May. These mushrooms are usually 2 to 4 inches tall. The tan, gray, or brownish colored head with irregular pitting is well camouflaged against leaf litter. If you cut the mushroom completely in half, it should be entirely hollow inside. Look carefully for the cone-shaped head to be fully fused to the stalk at the lower end.

mush2If the head is only attached at the top, and hangs like a skirt, you are probably looking at a false morel, which can be very poisonous. False morels (the genera Verpa and Gyromitra) usually grow in the summer and fall, which are great times to avoid anything resembling a morel. Another way to properly ID an edible morel is to make a spore print, which, for a common morel is yellowish. Here’s how do that.

Make a Spore Print
1. Handle your foraged mushrooms carefully, and assume that any unidentified mushroom is deadly. Get the whole thing if possible, but the cap is the part you need for spore prints.

2. Wrap each individual mushroom in wax paper or a piece of aluminum foil for transport. Plastic bags will make them sweat, and putting multiple mushrooms in a bag can create confusion.

3. Place the mushroom cap gills-down on a piece of white paper and set a cup or bowl over it. Allow it to sit several hours or, better yet, overnight.

4. Remove the cover and lift the mushroom cap. Observe the color of the spores that were deposited, and use that color for identification. Some mushrooms deposit white spores, which are hard to see on the white paper. Set a strong flashlight beside the paper, shining across the surface, to assist in your identification of pure white spores. Check this color against several guides, and double-check the mushroom’s structures against similar mushrooms to ensure that you have the right mushroom ID.

How is the morel hunting in your area so far this spring? Have you ever had a bad run-in with a misidentified mushroom?

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Wild Plants to Cure the Flu and Common Cold

Can’t make it to the drug store right now? Whatever the reason, you do have some natural medicinal options in the winter season. Look for these three plants to lessen the symptoms and shorten the duration of your next case of the cold or flu. All you need is a sharp eye and a patch of wild growth to find these common and potent medicinal’s.

Mullein 
Mullein is a native plant, which favors dry, rocky soil and full sunlight, and is found throughout North America. An easy way to spot patches of this plants in cold weather is to look for the chocolate brown skeletons of the second-year plants. Look for 4- to 6-foot-tall stalks, which often have branching flower heads that resemble the arms of a saguaro cactus.

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The part you want for medicine are the velvety green leaves, which can still be found in winter growing in basal rosettes on one-year-old plants. Treat head colds by crushing the leaves into boiling water and breathing the steam. This medicated vapor acts as a decongestant.
barberryBarberry
The little red berries of barberry contain a compound called berberine. This acts as an immune system booster, helping your body fight off viral attacks like the common cold and the flu. The bitter taste of the berries isn’t very inviting, but eating a handful each day you’re feeling sick can shorten the illness, much like elderberry and Echinacea will. Look for small bushes with small dangling red berries. The two native varieties of the shrubs will have thorns in sets of three growing all over the twigs. The introduced Japanese species will have single thorns growing around the twigs. All three species can be used medicinally. As an additional point of identification, check the seeds in the red berries. Each berry should contain dark, slender seeds—typically two per berry.


Yarrow

This non-native plant grows from coast to coast on sunny open ground, although it’s originally nativeyarrow to Europe. Its most common use is as a poultice for cuts and other wounds. But you can fight colds and flu with it by making a tea from the leaves. Chop up the fresh leaves and add one tablespoon to one cup of scalding hot water. Soak the leaves for 10 to 15 minutes. You can sweeten the drink if you need to, or drink it commando-style. The anti-viral compounds help your immune system through its battle, while the diaphoretic compounds will get a sweat going to help break fevers.

Just make sure you use a field guide or guidance from an expert for positive identification of these plants. The last thing you need to do is poison yourself while you’re already ill.

rosehipsRose Hip Benefits
A Rose hip is the fruit of a rose. The wild dog rose is the type of rose most often cultivated for their hips. This plant grows up to ten feet tall and bears a white, very fragrant flower. Once the flower has bloomed, and all the petals have fallen off, the hip is picked and used in a wide variety of preparations. Rose hips are the best source of vitamin C; they contain 50% more vitamin C than oranges.
A single tablespoon of the pulp gives an adult more than the recommended daily allowance of 60 mg. They can be eaten raw, after being put through a blender, or soaked in water overnight and then cooked in the water for about half an hour. Because of the high vitamin C content they are an excellent immune system booster, and are often used as a supplement to prevent or treat a cold. The pulp from rose hips may be used in sauces or made into jelly.

Have you made medicine from wild plants?

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Making Waterproof Matches

When it comes to matches, waterproof ones are best, especially in dire circumstances like a flood. Since they’re much more expensive than their pedestrian cousins, you might want to make your own.

cabdle

Use the Candle Technique
Burn a candle long enough for a pool of wax to form around the wick. Blow it out, then dip the head of your match into the wet wax, about of an inch (3 mm) up the stick. Remove the matchstick and allow the wax to dry, pinching it closed to form a water-tight seal.

Deploy the Nail Polish Ploy
Coat your matches with clear nail polish to waterproof them. Dip the head of the match and a bit of the matchstick itself into the polish, then rest the match on a counter with the head hanging off the edge to dry. Survive any wilderness situation with these critical tips.

Try the Turpentine Trick
The easiest way to waterproof your matches is simply to drop them in turpentine. Allow the matches to soak for five minutes before placing them on newspaper to dry. After twenty minutes or so, you’ll have waterproof matches that will last several months.

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