BUSHCRAFTING ON A BUD­GET

Af­ford­able and ef­fec­tive camp tools from UST

American Survival Guide - - CONTENTS - By Mike Travis

Ultimate Sur­vival Tech­nolo­gies (UST) has been in con­tin­u­ous op­er­a­tion since 1936. For­merly a fam­ily-owned busi­ness, UST was pur­chased in 2016 by Bat­ten­feld Tech­nolo­gies (a sub­sidiary of Smith & Wes­son Hold­ing Cor­po­ra­tion), join­ing other well-known brands such as Schrade, Un­cle Henry and Wheeler Engineering. UST con­tin­ues to add to its line of pop­u­larly priced wilder­ness sur­vival prod­ucts that are eas­ily ac­ces­si­ble to the masses. When I was first asked to field-test the Her­itage Camp Ax and Para­saw Pro, I was hes­i­tant to ac­cept the as­sign­ment. My job as an out­door gear and skills writer has al­lowed me to have ac­cess to some of the finest tools and gear that money can buy, and I was con­cerned that these tools might not be up to the task. How­ever, I quickly re­al­ized that my ac­cess to high-qual­ity gear as a tester and eval­u­a­tor is the ex­cep­tion and not the rule. The vast ma­jor­ity of peo­ple pur­chase their camp­ing gear from one of many large re­tail chains and web­sites on which a wide se­lec­tion of UST prod­ucts is available at pop­u­lar prices. It is to this huge group of camp­ing en­thu­si­asts and prep­pers that UST mar­kets its prod­ucts. I took this op­por­tu­nity to com­bine my ex­pe­ri­ence with these tools to pro­vide solid in­for­ma­tion on what can be ex­pected when you’re work­ing with them.

THE UST HER­ITAGE CAMP AX

UST in­tro­duced its Her­itage line to pro­vide con­sumers with prod­ucts that have a “vin­tage es­thetic” but are still made from mod­ern ma­te­ri­als. The UST Her­itage Camp Ax is de­liv­ered in the clear, plastic blis­ter pack­ag­ing we have come to ex­pect from items sold at large re­tail stores. While this en­sures that the con­tents are highly vis­i­ble and well pro­tected, it does not al­low the po­ten­tial pur­chaser to get a feel for the tool be­fore us­ing it. When I re­moved the Her­itage Camp Ax from its pack­ag­ing, I was struck with how light it is. This is not a heavy chop­ping tool. The Camp Ax is made from a solid piece of stain­less steel. The grips are made from a light-col­ored hard­wood that pro­vides cov­er­age about three-quar­ters of the way from the butt of the tang to­ward the head of the ax. The grips are well beveled, cov­ered with a clear lac­quer and af­fixed to the tang with four Torx screws. The grips weren’t what you’d ex­pect on a $200 ax, but they did not pro­duce any hotspots dur­ing use. The grip also in­cor­po­rates a lan­yard hole, and a small leather lan­yard is included. Mov­ing up from the grips, I saw that the ax had er­gonomic cutouts in the tang just be­low the ax head. These are pro­vided to al­low the user to grip the ax high un­der the head, pro­vid­ing more con­trol when us­ing it for fine carv­ing tasks. The ax head, it­self, has a clas­sic pro­file. The bit of the ax has a hol­low-ground edge that came rea­son­ably sharp. The butt of the ax head has been formed into a ta­pered wedge, which UST says can be used as a pry bar.

The Her­itage Camp Ax was pro­vided with a leather ax mask. The mask is a sim­ple, two-piece de­sign with an added belt loop. The seams are stitched and riv­eted, and a welt has been in­cor­po­rated to pre­vent the edge from cut­ting into the stitch­ing or com­ing into con­tact with the riv­ets. The mask gives full cov­er­age to the head and is well se­cured with two snaps. With a proper ap­pli­ca­tion of some leather con­di­tioner, I think this mask should last for the life­time of the ax. Over­all, my first im­pres­sions of the Her­itage Camp Ax were that it was a solidly con­structed, light-duty chop­ping tool that should per­form rea­son­ably well in the field.

PUT­TING THE AX TO USE

I took the Her­itage Camp Ax to one of my fa­vorite hik­ing and camp­ing ar­eas to see how it per­formed do­ing real-world tasks. My first task was to re­move branches from a dead­fall hem­lock tree. I con­fined my chop­ping to the area where the branches exit the main trunk of the tree. Chop­ping into this part of the tree can be hard on an edge, and I wanted to see how the thin-edge pro­file would hold up. Af­ter re­mov­ing sev­eral of these branches from the tree trunk, I ex­am­ined the edge and found no ob­vi­ous dam­age. The thin-edge pro­file helped the ax bite deeply into the branches and made short work of re­mov­ing them. The handle was rea­son­ably com­fort­able through­out this task, al­though its lac­quered fin­ish made it a lit­tle slip­pery. I tried us­ing the sup­plied lan­yard to firm up my grip; un­for­tu­nately, the lan­yard is too small to fit around my wrist. The Her­itage Camp Ax would def­i­nitely ben­e­fit from a larger lan­yard, but it’s easy enough to re­place it with some para­cord if you have the same is­sue. My next task was to use the ax to split some cut branches into smaller pieces of kin­dling for a camp­fire. In­stead of re­ly­ing on my poor aim to swing the ax and hit the branch in just the right spot to cre­ate a split, I chose a safer, more re­li­able method: By brac­ing the branch be­tween the butt of the handle and edge of the ax, I could con­trol ex­actly where I cre­ated the split. Swing­ing the wood and the ax to­gether and strik­ing them on the dead­fall log split the wood ef­fi­ciently and with lit­tle risk of in­jury. The Camp Ax did a great job with the split­ting task. Next, I wanted to see if the Camp Ax could handle some larger split­ting tasks. I used the Para­saw Pro to cut two sec­tions of wood. I used the first sec­tion to cre­ate a ba­ton. The

UST IN­TRO­DUCED ITS HER­ITAGE LINE TO PRO­VIDE CON­SUMERS WITH PROD­UCTS THAT HAVE A “VIN­TAGE ES­THETIC” BUT ARE STILL MADE FROM MOD­ERN MA­TE­RI­ALS.

sec­ond sec­tion would be used for split­ting. Af­ter cut­ting the wood for the ba­ton, I used the Camp Ax to re­duce part of its di­am­e­ter to form a handle. Again, the ax did a good job. Its light weight and thin edge as­sisted in mak­ing pre­cise, con­trolled chops and cuts. In ad­di­tion, it had no is­sues with the green wood I had cho­sen. Due to the ax’s light weight and thin pro­file, I knew split­ting a larger-di­am­e­ter piece of wood would not be best ac­com­plished by swing­ing the ax. With this in mind, I placed the edge of the ax di­rectly against the wood and used the ba­ton to drive the ax into the log. Us­ing this tech­nique, the Her­itage Camp Ax could eas­ily split larger-di­am­e­ter wood. My final cut­ting task for the Her­itage Camp Ax was to cre­ate a few feath­er­sticks to help start my fire. The hol­low grind and thin-edge pro­file should have made this an easy job. I chose some dry-split pieces of kin­dling from the hem­lock, placed my hand up high un­der the ax head and got to work. While I could cre­ate feath­er­sticks, the job was more dif­fi­cult than I ex­pected. The ex­posed metal edges around the ax head and tang are quite sharp, and this made grip­ping them very un­com­fort­able. Ad­di­tion­ally, the edge of the ax, it­self, had lost enough of its sharp­ness to hin­der its abil­ity to do fine cut­ting tasks. While I could get the job done, I cut this task short in fa­vor of an­other fire-start­ing ap­proach. My last test for the Camp Ax was to see how it struck a ferro rod. All of those same ex­posed sharp edges that made carv­ing so un­com­fort­able al­lowed the Camp Ax to strike sparks like a pro!

THE UST PARA­SAW PRO

Fold­ing saws have long been a sta­ple of most ex­pe­ri­enced woods­men’s out­door kits. They are light­weight, com­pact and ef­fec­tive enough to ac­com­plish most of the tasks typical out­doors­man need to do. In my ex­pe­ri­ence, I have found that a good-qual­ity saw is of much greater value to me than an ax or other heavy chop­ping tool. Out­doors­men in colder cli­mates will quite likely have a dif­fer­ent opin­ion, but I live in a tem­per­ate cli­mate, so a good saw is an in­valu­able woods tool. The Para­saw Pro is a kit that, like the Camp Ax, comes in a clear blis­ter pack­age. Included in the kit is the Para­saw, a ny­lon sheath, a length of Paratin­der para­cord and a fer­ro­cerium rod with an at­tached whis­tle. The Para­saw is a com­pact, light­weight tool that can ride, vir­tu­ally un­no­ticed, on a belt us­ing the sup­plied sheath. The handle of the saw is made from plastic with a sec­tion of rub­ber over­mold­ing included to pro­vide ad­di­tional grip. The grip ini­tially feels good in the hand and gives the im­pres­sion of be­ing solidly con­structed. The black­ened, stain­less steel saw blade does not lock in the closed po­si­tion and is eas­ily de­ployed by grasp­ing the blade and swing­ing it open. The blade locks in the open po­si­tion us­ing a large liner lock that is sim­i­lar to those found on many pocket knives.

PUT­TING THE PARA­SAW PRO TO USE

I used the Para­saw to cut a va­ri­ety of dif­fer­ent types of wood. When cut­ting dry, small-di­am­e­ter wood, it did well enough. It could cut through some small hem­lock branches up to about half the di­am­e­ter of my wrist with no is­sues. How­ever, when try­ing to cut larger pieces and/or

wet wood, the saw blade had a ten­dency to bind. This bind­ing not only made cut­ting in­ef­fi­cient, it also made the handle un­com­fort­able. Try­ing to use the Para­saw Pro to cut green wood was frus­trat­ing, be­cause the wet wood quickly clogged the teeth, forc­ing me to con­tin­u­ously re­move the saw from the cut to clear them. The sup­plied fer­ro­cerium rod is glued into a plastic handle and in­cludes a short length of Paratin­der to at­tach a small, plastic whis­tle. The whis­tle is loud and will make a good sig­nal­ing de­vice. The fer­ro­cerium rod, it­self, is of the softer va­ri­ety. This al­lows the user to gen­tly scrape off a pile of shav­ings with­out cre­at­ing a spark. The abil­ity to do this can be of great help when try­ing to ig­nite mar­ginal tin­der. I tried to use the back of the saw blade to strike the ferro rod, but the edges on the spine were not sharp enough to cre­ate enough sparks. The Paratin­der is a fairly use­ful item to have around. It not only func­tions as any other para­cord would, it also con­tains a sin­gle strand of flammable tin­der. To test how well it worked, I cut off a 3-inch piece and re­moved the sin­gle, red tin­der cord from the para­cord. I set the para­cord aside for an­other project, as you will see in the im­ages at the bot­tom of this page, and used my fin­gers to “fluff up” an end of the tin­der cord to in­crease its sur­face area, mak­ing it eas­ier to ig­nite. Af­ter gath­er­ing a tin­der bun­dle full of tiny, dry hem­lock branches, I used the Camp Ax to scrape off a pile of ma­te­rial from the fer­ro­cerium rod. I placed the pre­pared end of the tin­der cord into the pile of shav­ings and used the ax to throw a spark from the ferro rod. One strike was all it took to ig­nite the shav­ings and the tin­der cord. The tin­der cord burned long and hot enough to eas­ily ig­nite my tin­der bun­dle. Af­ter a pleas­ant day in the woods test­ing these prod­ucts from UST, I came away with a few con­clu­sions: The first was that you need not spend a lot of money to have fun in the woods. I could ac­com­plish ev­ery­thing I set out to do with these tools that vir­tu­ally any­one can af­ford. I could eas­ily learn to work with their lim­i­ta­tions, and they would be a good choice for first-time campers. The sec­ond was that bud­get-priced gear will force you to fo­cus more on your skills and less on your gear. In my es­ti­ma­tion, skill trumps equip­ment ev­ery time!

106

Be­low, left: The ax makes quick work of de-limb­ing this dead­fall hem­lock tree.

Left: The Her­itage Camp Ax is de­signed to look like the clas­sic camp­ing tools of yes­ter­year.

Bot­tom, left: The edge of the Camp Ax is thin enough to do some fine carv­ing.

Bot­tom, right: With the help of a ba­ton, the ax is ca­pa­ble of split­ting some larger pieces of wood.

Be­low, right: Af­ter the Para­saw Pro cut a branch to size, the Camp Ax did a good job mak­ing kin­dling for a fire.

Far right: The Para­saw uti­lizes a liner lock to pre­vent the blade from clos­ing on the user’s hand.

Near right: The Para­saw Pro is de­liv­ered with an er­gonomic, high-vis­i­bil­ity or­ange plastic handle and a black­ened stain­less steel blade.

The Para­saw is de­liv­ered with a sim­ple, ny­lon belt sheath.

The saw was used to make two cuts on op­po­site sides of this branch. Each cut stops half­way through the wood and will as­sist in split­ting the wood with­out an ax or knife.

The end re­sult of split­ting wood us­ing only a fold­ing saw

The re­main­ing piece of para­cord, with the Paratin­der re­moved, can eas­ily be used to cre­ate an ef­fec­tive fish­ing lure.

The Paratin­der para­cord con­tains an eighth (red) strand that is im­preg­nated with wax to make it use­ful for start­ing a fire.

Fin­ish your para­cord lure by melt­ing the cord around the front of the hook and fray­ing loose ends at the back.

Here, the au­thor is shown sep­a­rat­ing the in­di­vid­ual strands of the Paratin­der to make it eas­ier to catch a spark.

The Para­saw Pro ar­rives with a fer­ro­cerium rod and an emer­gency whis­tle.

A piece of pre­pared Paratin­der is ready to ac­cept a spark from a ferro rod.

As al­ways, hav­ing a well-pre­pared tin­der bun­dle is the key to suc­cess when us­ing Paratin­der to start your fire.

By scrap­ing some ma­te­rial from the ferro rod onto the Paratin­der, it caught fire eas­ily with a sin­gle strike.

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