All posts by Michael Zimmermann

IMG_2344

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.

Lost Survivors

Interview: Mykel Hawke from “Lost Survivors”, “One Man Army” and “Man, Woman, Wild”

A Conversation in the Woods, with Mykel Hawke

Mykel Hawke

Mykel Hawke is a retired U.S. Army Special Forces Officer with a list of documented accolades too long to go into here. He is also a major driving force — both on and off-camera — for television shows “Man, Woman, Wild” and “One Man Army” and has hit the screen again recently with his wife, Ruth England-Hawke in The Travel Channel’s “Lost Survivors.”

He is the author of several books, and the founder of SpecOps.com, a global support, training, and adventure company.

He exhibits a tremendous amount of respect and admiration for other members of the Special Forces, as evidenced in his work supporting that community.

He was also generous enough with his busy schedule to make room to chat with me about a few survival-related questions.

AWitW: You’ve said before that survival is in your blood, that it’s something you’re always thinking of. I think that passion is what makes people want to watch you and learn from you. Where did that passion come from?

Mykel Hawke: Great question! I think basically some folks are just born with passion. And if they are fortunate to find something they are passionate about, then it is always a bit magical to watch those kinds of people in action. My passion came from how I grew up poor and had to do a lot of survival as a kid. Of course, I didn’t see it as survival, it was just how it was. But when I got into Special Forces and learned those basic survival skills, I realized we do not learn anywhere near enough and that is what set me on a path to learn more—and over time, to begin teaching it; as surely if I felt we didn’t get enough REAL survival in training, then others must feel the same way.

AWitW: The will to survive is often cited as one of the most important things in an extended crisis. What’s your motivation to keep going when in survival mode?

Mykel Hawke: That is true enough but it comes with a HUGE quantifier- one MUST have the SKILLS, too. The will is what sees you through the hard times, helps you overcome failures, makes you not quit when everything else tells you to throw in the towel. But you must have some skills or you will perish, no matter how much will you have. The good news is that most skills are common sense and most folks can figure out a lot of things, so long as they don’t panic and don’t quit. The will is what sees you through that. For me, and most folks I teach, it is simple to find you will, ask yourself one question, what is it that you want to live for? Most folks will say their family and that is true for me as well. I WILL LIVE TO SEE MY FAMILY AGAIN is my mantra when times get tough and so far, it has seen me through.

AWitW: “Man, Woman, Wild” was one of my favourite shows, not because you argue with your partner, but because you treat your partner… like a partner. I get tired of seeing the arguments on TV all the time, and it was refreshing to see people that could disagree on something but still be caring and civil, and get on with what needed doing. How did the experience of doing a show like this with your wife differ from what you thought it would be?

Mykel Hawke: Hahaha! I am sorry to laugh, but it doesn’t differ, that is simply life in the Hawke Household, simply relocated to the woods and played out on TV. However, I will say surviving on TV is a lot harder than doing it for real by yourself.

Ruth England-Hawke, Mykel Hawke

AWitW: We’ve all watched Ruth become a competent outdoorsman over the course of MWW. How do you think Ruth’s greater experience changes your outings? Do you push her limits further now, the more you rely on each other?

Mykel Hawke: In actuality, Ruth was pretty good before. They edited a lot out to make her look more ‘girly’ than she was. I’ll make no further comment about that. However, she has learned a lot, and can help more with less discussion and debate. One thing we both learned was that the physical difference in men and women for strength, naturally lends itself to a certain stereotypical division of labor. And the surviving together has helped us learn better how each responds under duress when apart.

AWitW: Immediate adaptability and creativity is very important for your survival situations. Do you apply this flexibility to anything else in your daily life?

Mykel Hawke: Yes. I think I have always been like this but the survival has enhanced and honed my skills at dynamic improvisation as I like to call it.

AWitW: What’s your favorite piece of kit?

Mykel Hawke: It’s a hard call, but a lighter will always be my first choice, then a knife, then a canteen, canteen cup and a spoon, then a poncho. With these a man can conquer the world, haha!

AWitW: What do you think is your most important learned skill?

Mykel Hawke: Handsdown, fire-making. Then food procurement, then shelter building.

Lost Survivors

AWitW: I enjoy being in the woods, where I don’t really have to sweat the big stuff (well, except for an occasional angry moose in the rut). We know you’re good at surviving in the jungle, but where do you go, and what do you do to enjoy yourself?

Mykel Hawke: I simply go in my back yard and go fishing!

AWitW: You come across pretty fearless onscreen. What scares you?

Mykel Hawke: I am not really afraid of anything except letting my loved ones down.

Lost Survivors Mykel Hawke

AWitW: You’ve typically concentrated on stressful survival situations, where some other survival experts swing more towards bushcraft and primitive arts. Many skills overlap quite a bit, so do you have any interest in exploring that side of things (on or off camera)? I don’t think we’ve seen you in a canoe, yet.

Mykel Hawke: I do not focus on living off grid, end of the world, going green, reverting back to caveman, or gettin back to nature. I focus on getting through any environment and any situation and getting back home to fort living room and my family. That is my style and focus of study and teaching. I practice skills that I feel enhance that end state objective.

AWitW: Do you have anything you’d like to say to your fans?

Mykel Hawke: We do what we do because we believe in it and want to share so that others may benefit. We couldn’t do it if they weren’t interested, so we see it as a two way street, and we appreciate their support.

AWitW: On behalf of my readers, thank you for your time today, and thank you for your service to your country and around the world.

Mykel Hawke: I appreciate that you care and take the time to share and so, thanks for what you do. All the best and happy holidays to you and your family from me and mine!

Mykel Hawke, smiling

Lost Survivors premiered Tuesday, November 12th at 11 P.M. (EST) on The Travel Channel.

2013_icestorm

Winter Power Outage Tips

 

It’s December, 2013, and although it usually means mild times in Toronto, a severe ice storm has left a good many residents without power, and by extension, heat. The temperature as I write this is -10° C (about 14° F), and will be dropping, not rising throughout the day. #icestorm2013 and #darkTO are the only things on many people’s mind. Many people have been without heat and power since Sunday morning, and will continue in the dark until after Christmas.

Not cold by Canadian winter standards, but with an urban dwelling and no alternative way to heat it, many people are left unprepared in a dangerous way. Assuming you have a half-decently stocked fridge and groceries for the week, the cold is probably going to be your most immediate challenge.

There are, of course, many things to keep in mind like turning off appliances, stockpiling water, etc., but here are some quick and dirty tips for those caught in the cold and dark: Continue reading

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:

http://www.windcatchergear.com/pages/about-us

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 windcatchergear.com, where you can see more photos, instructional videos, and, of course, find out how to get your own Windcatcher Air Pad.