The Essentials Are More Numerous Than You Think
A primary consideration for any adventure, especially one as ambitious as the Boot-Strap Expat adventure is assuring that you have everything you need to successfully get from point A to point B. Having spent over a year living in the wilds I’ve learned that even my best crystal-ball forecast of what I’m likely to need to survive and thrive on the road and in the wilderness is inadequate. The foundational requirements are easy to figure out in advance, but the unforeseen needs along the way will have you feeling like an idiot no matter how well you scrye ahead of time. All your fancy electrical tools and conveniences? Sell or donate them before you even begin packing, even those rechargeable wonders because when you need them you won’t have access to power and the charge will have drained away waiting for you to have a need for them. The only exceptions are tools you can charge in the cigarette lighter of your truck, but even this can be dicey; is it worth wasting fuel or drawing down the battery of your vehicle when there are alternatives that require neither trade-off? (scroll down for my list of essential tools if you aren’t interested in my experience)
Example: After about five months in the wilds, a key part of my cigarette machine wore out. (Note: even if you don’t smoke, always carry smokes and tobacco with you. They are like silver and gold coins if you need to barter for something. Liquor is also a form of currency.) I had in the back of Freyja the Wonder Truck
my rechargeable drill with not one, but two (!) backup batteries. It didn’t matter, they had all discharged over time. So what was I to do? For those of you who don’t smoke, you need to understand that after water, food and sex, smoking is next on the hierarchy of life’s needs, and while you’ll survive sex as common as a Blue Moon in the wilds, not smoking will kill your will to live in less than a day.
After several attempts to get my cigarette machine to work with a worn-out part to no avail, I got resourceful. Addictions breed resourcefulness in even the laziest person, and I wasn’t lazy. So like the Hunter-Gatherers of yore, I set off in search of the materials to make a pipe for my tobacco. I returned to camp with a number of hardwood branches that might work, and finally envisioned a pipe in a Hickory branch with an natural bend mimicking the general shape of a pipe.
Two Out of Three Ain’t Bad: If you ever made a Hash-Pipe in Jr. High Shop class, or if you’ve ever even looked at a tobacco pipe it’s fairly easy to determine what tools you need in the most basic sense: a saw, a drill with a bit big enough to excavate the bowl, and a drill with a bit small enough to create the thin hollow tube in the shank and stem of the pipe – yeah, I just googled “pipe parts” so I would have a clue what I’m talking about. As noted, while I had a drill, I didn’t have a functional drill. Worse yet, I didn’t have any drill bits! Talk about thinking things through, Einstein… What I did have is a few saws, a number of high quality knives, including the folding Buck I’ve carried on my belt for 20 years (except in Courts or Airports), a variety of pliers, a number of screws of various lengths. I also had time. Lots of time, which is something we lose sight of when we are ‘in the world’ or more accurately embedded in the mundane world of modern life. I set to work with my folding bonsai saw and had the basic shape of the pipe complete in less than half an hour, including a flat base that would allow me to set the pipe down without it tipping over and spilling tobacco or ash all over the place. I then began carving the bowl of the pipe, which took over an hour to accomplish. Now came the tricky part, drilling the draw channel (I just made that up, cuz I couldn’t find a real term for it) in the stem and shank of the pipe at the proper angle to assure that it met the bowl, and didn’t come out somewhere in between, using screws and a pair of pliers. And a screw driver! I forgot to mention that. I’d carefully work the screw into the stem a few turns, grab the head of the screw with the pliers, then yank the screw out and repeat. This took hours. I’ve forgotten how many, but a few. When the English Chunnel finally found the bowl I was ecstatic! I increased the depth of the bowl just a bit, packed the bowl with tabacca and enjoyed the rewards of my labors…
Electric drills are “as useless as tits on a bull” to quote my father. I’ve since acquired an antique Bit-Brace (hand powered drill) from a flea market and it is an essential part of my wilderness toolbox. I’ll never be screwed for want of a drill again.
- 1. Vehicle – Pickup Truck, preferably with extended cab and bed cap
While many would suggest some type of SUV or Van configuration, nothing beats a pickup for a number of reasons. One, their tough, designed and built to take incredible abuse. Two there are some items that you need to haul that are unsafe in the interior of any vehicle such as fuel. If you need to carry any fuel, an enclosed space with fuel inside is a hazard, even if it never explodes.
An extended cab is important to haul and store the many things you don’t want exposed to the elements or easily stolen, such as your K9 Masters, firearms, ammo, tools, food (to keep wild critters from gettin’ into your grub), important documents, etc.
A bed cap does not completely negate the need for an extended cab as truck caps merely protect your gear from the elements. Anyone that wants access to your truck bed in your absence will gain access in less than thirty seconds – and you don’t want them running off with weapons, ammo, tools or important documents!
Four Wheel Drive is a nice to have. I’ve had 4x4s and rear axle trucks and the 4x4s are great in rare circumstances. Given an either-or choice, I’ll take the extended cab over the 4×4, especially if the transmission is manual. I can control a two wheel drive vehicle with a stick almost as well as I can a 4×4 on snow or ice or off-road.
The Chevy Avalanche and Ford Sport-Trac are truck wanna-bes. Their beds are too small to accommodate your gear. in fact some fishing poles can’t be stored in a standard six-foot bed without having to bend the rod, so if you’re serious about trucks for adventures think “utility,” not “sport-utility.”
- 2. Tents – Yes you need more than one
At the half century mark this ol’ bag of bones needs a few things I could do without when I was ten feet tall and bullet-proof. For my primary tent I need three accommodations – I need to be able to fully stand up inside since I’m prone to back spasms; I need it to accommodate my cot (it’s amazing how many tents don’t consider such a basic piece of equipment; and I need room for my K9 Masters and their beds, even though New Moon will climb into my cot and sleeping bag, if able to anyway.*
*When New Moon was about five months old she was attacked by wild dogs after ripping my tent open and was ripped up pretty bad. While she was in shock, I put her in my sleeping bag and wrapped myself around her to keep her warm. Ever since, she feels most secure under some type of covering and pressed close to someone she loves and trusts, either Maximus, my daughter or myself.
I also pack a backup tent (because shit happens) as well as a one-man backpacking tent that the dogs think is loads of fun when I’m trying to sleep under the stars while they roll all over their favorite monkey in the dark.
- 3. Sleeping Bags and Cot
I usually have two sleeping bags (because shit happens) that are rated to 20 degrees Fahrenheit, and made of some polyester material, one of the only instances when I prefer fake to real materials because they’ve kept me warm when temps were in the single digits and keep me cool when I’m sweltering in the summer heat of the bayou.
I prefer a cot to any inflatable nonsense because they are sturdy, easy to pack and set up, don’t take up much room when packed and not a pain in the ass in any way.
- 4. Food Prep Equipment
See my post Essential Tools: Real Food for Real Life (https://7thpillar.wordpress.com/2013/11/13/the-boot-strap-expat-essential-tools-real-food-for-real-life/) for the basics. Aside from these items be sure to include a safety can opener, the type that cuts the outside edge of the seam between the can body and top rather than puncturing the top near the edge; at least three real kitchen knives (a Ginsu is not a real kitchen knife, nor are serrated blades of any type. Real men cut hard-crust bread with a saw.); Pyrex glass, not plastic storage containers with lids; a good garlic press and cheese grater like those available from Pampered Chef, several wire racks for roasting, toasting, smoking and making jerky; and sharpening tools for your knives, including a whetstone.
- 5. Tools
Arrgh, Arrgh, Arrgh! Aside from a basic tool box of drivers, wrenches, pliers, cutters, ratchets and the like be sure to have.
A quality hatchet like Fiskers. One of the best investments I ever made before hitting the wilds.
A quality axe. Single blade is fine since you can use the back side with wedges to split wood, but you’ll also need…
… a sledge hammer and at least two steel wedges for splitting wood.
Shovels – a folding pack shovel and a real short handled spade.
Bit-Brace AND drill bits.
A couple good metal files for keeping your hatchet and axe at optimal sharpness.
A few C-Clamps of varying sized to hold your axe or hatchet to a table while filing.
Rubber mallet for driving tent stakes without destroying them.
Pullies or a block and tackle of some sort because we aren’t nearly as strong as we think we are and neither is our truck.
At least two saws, one of which is designed to rip through wood rather than be neat.
Jumper cables and a jump starter that can be charged from your truck lighter.
DC-AC Converter that connects to your truck battery to supply short term power in a crisis.
Rechargeable batteries and charger that can plug into your cigarette lighter if necessary.
Weather band radio – you can now find multi-band radios with a hand-crank generator for about $20.00.
- 6. Hunting and Fishing Gear
Spin-cast and or Bait-cast rod and reel for everyday use and a fly rod and reel for the good stuff. If you’ve never fly-cast before you’re in for a treat. Easier than it looks with a bit of practice and when nothing else works, the fish love to hit a fly!
Tackle – You know what you need. If you don’t, you will soon.
.22L caliber rifle (Don’t buy the hype, .22s have brought down more deer than any other round)
.22L caliber handgun, I prefer the Beretta and Taurus pocket .22s with tip-up barrel.
Ammo including .22L shot shells.
- 7. Odds and Ends
Tarps – At least six good size tarps, but keep in mind that modern tarps are not waterproof. If you need to keep something dry, use plastic sheeting with a tarp or netting over it.
Paracord – at least three fifty foot lengths of paracord that you will promise never to cut unless absolutely necessary.
Awl – This simple, inexpensive tool will save your hundreds of dollars repairing your boots, taking in your jeans and shorts after you’ve been in the wilds for a while, repair your tent, sleeping bag etc. Easy to master as well.
- 8. Technology
Cell phone, signal booster and charger.
Paper maps – GPS is of limited use and takes your attention away from where you are and what you are doing. Besides, it’s in your phone anyway.
- Supplies will be covered in a future article…
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