Weak Hand Fearher Sticking and Fire Starting

curlsSome time ago, under one of my YouTube videos, a viewer asked me if I was up for a challenge. The challenge was to make a feather stick with your weak, non-dominant hand.  I sure was up for it as I had experienced the need to use my weak (left in my case) hand for about three weeks when I stabbed myself in the right hand, which effectively made me left-handed for a period of time.

I could still use my right hand to some degree. Hold or maybe even lift things without overloading the palm of the hand. But anything requiring grabbing, squeezing and manipulating using the fingers was out of the question. So if I had to start a fire at that time I’d have to do most of the fiddly work with my weaker hand which has no experience with this type of tasks whatsoever.

Should such injury create or worsen a survival situation, I’d have to be able to do most ‘right-handed’ tasks with my left hand. And believe me if I tell you it’s not easy! Of course, since I’m pretending my right hand is injured, I thought I should strike the ferro rod with my left hand too. But then I realized that holding the rod in my right hand isn’t exactly something I’d be able to do with my injured hand anyway. So I added a new skill to the challenge – lighting a fire with only one hand.

The trick is to use your foot to immobilize the handle on your knife resting on your feather stick with its blade sticking up, and use the exposed sharp spine to create sparks like in the pictures below. It takes time but it’s possible and quite reliable.
One handed fire  trick

Perfect Feather SticksDon’t expect things to go smoothly or be perfect. They most likely won’t be. Under normal circumstances, I can make feathers that look a bit like a piece of art and it’s really frustrating to see myself struggle to make a single curl with my left hand. It’s a bit like being a child again. Only you already know what it feels like to walk and run without falling down on your knees every other step. You just can’t do it for some messed up reason. Really annoying feeling.

Bear in mind, that in a real survival scenario things are going to be even more difficult, frustrating and the injured hand will most likely hurt like a bitch, which does not help focusing on the job. To make everything even more ‘fun’, add a possibility of strong wind and rain (which happened to me when shooting the video below), and the fact that you will not be ok with just one stick. You’ll need more like four to six nice and big feather sticks with the feathers attached to the main shaft.


Feather Sticks

Why attached? Well, if you’re lucky and it isn’t windy and rainy, you can afford to collect whatever’s fallen off to the ground. But if you’re not, the wind will blow away everything you incautiously cut off, and drench it in the wet grass or mud. And it’s not easy to make those curls stay attached when carving with your weak hand. Especially when the strong hand is hurting, you are cold and wet, and under a lot of stress and pressure to make that fire going as soon as possible.


The three rules of comfortable bushcraft camping

One of the most important things in long-term camping is a good night sleep. To achieve that, you need to follow three basic rules regarding your camp site, roof and bed.

Bushcraft Camp

1. First of all, make sure you’re not wasting your time. Your camp cannot be too far or too close to a river.

Wilderness bedToo far, and all your basic needs and tasks will be a pain, requiring you to walk for several minutes to bring a litre of water just so you can go and repeat the process a few minutes later.
Too close, and you won’t be able to hear anything but the roar of the water running by. It may seem pleasant and relaxing when you just want to chill out and listen to it for a few minutes. But after some time, you realise that even the quietest creek can make falling asleep difficult and, what’s even more important, interfere with your most useful night-sense – hearing.
Camping too close is also associated with the risk of flooding.

Beaver dam

2. Make sure your roof is not leaking. I see a lot of pictures of shelters on Facebook, Twitter and so on, with roofs less than adequate. I never criticise them because they’re often erected more for fun with kids than as a survival training.
wilderness bed rear viewBut habits are habits and personally, I think practice is only fruitful when it makes you better at something. So what’s wrong with most of those roofs? For starters, the slope is way too gentle and thatching much too thin. If you’re going to make a roof strictly from natural materials, it needs to be at least 30 cm (12″) thick and at a 60 degree angle. The roofs I see most often are at 30 to 45 degree angles and you can literally see daylight through them. That’s not even gonna protect you from wind, not to mention heavy rain, and you will not sleep at all, let alone sleep well.

Bushcraft Cooking Notch StickOn the other hand, making a proper roof to the right specification takes hours of hard work. Therefore, I’d suggest using bashas, tarps, ponchos or something of that nature whenever possible and only resorting to boughs, grass and moss for better insulation or to protect your tarp from sparks.

Tarp with hammock rear view

3. Do not sleep on the ground (if you can avoid it) and make sure your bed is as comfortable as you can afford to make it at the time!

Dog in bushcraft campA slightly raised bed has several advantages. Firstly, it’ll keep the, so called, creepy crawlies out. At least to some degree. You shouldn’t have  problems with snakes, mice and rats either. But  most importantly, it’ll keep you dry in case of heavy rain. Your roof may be perfect but it won’t stop water from flooding your camp when inch-deep puddles begin to form. Not the best way to find out you forgot about something important.

Bushcraft camp front viewA raised bed acts a bit like a hammock but allows you to roll over as much as you like and even sleep on a side or your belly with your back straight. The extra space under the bed can be used for storing things in waterproof bags/containers or for placing hot rocks to keep you warm at night. Such configuration makes getting rid of ticks from the bedding easier as well. Simply put some smoking logs, fungi or pieces of punk wood under the bed for some time before you turn in. The smoke will take care of the parasites.