Knife-making with Dean Piesner and Robb Martin

Knowing as much about my tools as I can has always been the way I’ve been wired. It’s the reason I took up an interest in blacksmithing in the first place — I took a one-day historical society course on how to make a traditional Native neck knife (the pocketknife of the fur trade era). That cemented the fact that if you know how to make your tools, you adopt a mindset that is very versatile, very flexible.

This lends itself well to survival, to bushcraft, and to daily living, in or out of the city.

That course was a revelation, and started me down a road that had me seeking out new teachers, building my own forge, and realizing how tough it is to actually spare the time to get good at anything. I tried to keep moving forward nonetheless, but it wasn’t until recently that I was able to bring the past few years of occasional smithing experience (including studies with Robb Martin of Thak Ironworks) together, and learn how to hand-forge the ultimate general-use tool, the fixed blade knife:

I’ll be writing a bit more about the process involved from start to finish, but for now, I still need to finish and haft the first of these knives, and of course, I’m looking forward to making the sheath. After that I have many more to make, and still much to learn.

Mike Zimmermann - Forge work

Cody Lundin announces he’s “been fired by Discovery Channel”

Cody-LundinCody Lundin, “Dual Survival” television host and survival and primitive living instructor, announced on his Facebook feed yesterday (February 17, 2014) that he has been fired by Discovery Channel, citing differences over safety and health concerns.

More details have yet to be revealed. As of this posting, the Discovery Channel website still sports Cody Lundin’s bio, with no mention of the change.

Lundin’s Facebook post appears below.

Interview: Ryan Frayne from Windcatcher Gear


A Conversation in the Woods

I recently caught up with Ryan Frayne, Co-Founder of Windcatcher gear, and inventor of their flagship product, the Windcatcher Air Pad.

He was nice enough to answer some questions for your reading pleasure.

AWitW: Thank you for taking the time to talk with us. Can you tell the readers a bit about the inspiration and background of the company, and the Windcatcher Air Pad?

Ryan: The story behind how I identified the need for a better inflation system can be found here:

After discovering the need, I started to do a lot or research and trial-and-error prototyping. During that research, I stumbled upon the phenomenon of entrainment, which is the scientific principle the invention is based around.

AWitW: Who are your main adopters? How has the reception been so far?

Ryan: Our adopters vary from campers to home bodies that want to use the pad to lay around the house or as a quick guest bed. We’ve also found that several people bought the Windcatcher just because they’ve never seen anything like and just want to try it for themselves.

The reception has been amazing. I think the problem of having to inflate an air pad or other inflatable is something many people can relate with, so the general reaction we get is “why has no one else invented this before”.

AWitW: Do you have any interesting testing/development stories you can share with us?

Ryan: I think our Kickstarter campaign was interesting. Mainly because it looked like we were doomed. I wrote a blog post about it here.

AWitW: Many outdoor enthusiasts develop strong opinions about their sleeping systems that go beyond the specs. There are, of course, other products that are lighter, smaller, warmer, or cheaper (of course, no one system has all of these attributes). How do you feel you compare with them?

Ryan: Other air pads compete within the competitive factors that you mentioned. But I think we’re in an entirely different space. People buy our pad because they want to take it camping but also want to use it at the park, or to power nap at work, or to crash at a friend’s house. Other pads are just to inconvenient to both inflate and deflate for anyone to consider using them for activities that many only last 15 minutes. The Windcatcher’s speed really opens up whole new opportunities not possible with conventional inflatables.

AWitW: You mention on your Kickstarter page that you hope that this approach will inspire entirely new lines of products.

Ryan: The inflatable tent is something that a lot of companies have tried to bring to the market. I think with the Windcatcher, the idea of an inflatable tent is much more feasible. I’d love to see other companies or individuals use the Windcatcher tech to bring new ideas to life.

AWitW: What are the next steps for you as a company?

Ryan: Fulfilling our Kickstarter orders and obligations are still our top priority. Without them we wouldn’t have a company and I’d still be working at a job I hate.

Beyond that, we’re currently in talks with a number of companies about licensing the Windcatcher technology to use in their products.

AWitW: Do you have any closing comments?

Ryan: If you’ve got an idea for a consumer product and you’ve been thinking about doing a Kickstarter, just do it!
Do a lot of research and don’t half-ass it. Kickstarter projects are far from easy. But they’re the best way to launch a product that I know of.


AWitW: Again, a big thank you to Ryan for taking the time out of your schedule. Best of luck to you, and Windcatcher Gear.

Windcatcher Gear’s official site can be found at, where you can see more photos, instructional videos, and, of course, find out how to get your own Windcatcher Air Pad.

Lost Survivors: Mykel Hawke and Ruth England-Hawke

It may not be the most imaginative show name, but if The Travel Channel’s new show “Lost Survivors” is anything like the hosts’ previous project — “Man, Woman, Wild” starring husband and wife team Mykel and Ruth Hawke — then it’s something worth looking forward to.

The appeal of “Man, Woman, Wild” was that I didn’t get the feeling that the production was trying too hard for drama. I bought into the premise of an experienced survival expert teaching and working with his wife in various survival scenarios. They’re both mature, intelligent, professional people, who, while having different approaches and philosophies, still share common goals, and mutual respect.

Too many “reality” shows try to play on the odd-couple, resulting in unrealistic conflict and a lot of shouting and crying, but I find it insulting at how heavy-handed this sort of thing is normally executed. Here’s hoping “Lost Survivors” continues to be good television without succumbing to that particular reality show crutch.

There are few details beyond Mykel’s Hawke’s official page, and the Lost Survivors Facebook page, which appears to be updated by Mikel himself. Although it looks like the official name of the show is “Lost Survivors,” I’ve also seen it announced as “Get Lost” — possibly a working or localized title.

Lost Survivors, premiers Tuesday, November 12th at 11 P.M. (EST)

A Prize in the Woods #1!

In honour of the end of bug season, I’d like to send a lucky fan a Mosquitno 10-piece prize made up of their three products, SpotZzz, Adult BandZzz and Kids size BandZzz.

All you have to do is “LIKE” this post on the A Word in the Woods Facebook page (if you’re not already a fan, you may as well like the page while you’re there!).

To make it easy, I’ve even embedded the post below for you, so there’s no excuse!

A city-dweller's outdoor travels, gear reviews and field tests, survival tips and tricks, camping and canoeing.