Thursday, October 11, 2012

Initial Review of the OKC Ranger Little Bird Knife

Though my gear reviews are tediously long and comprehensive in their tests, this is my initial impression of the Ontario Little Bird knife.  Before lashing out at my general lack of cohesiveness and use of hardcore testing methods which snap blades in half, please remember that this is an initial review only.  
First of all - I have a lot of knives - a lot of them.  That said, I am extremely picky about the ones I carry.  Unfortunately, most of my knives sit unused and under-appreciated in boxes in my basement.   
There is something, when you first hold a knife in your hand, when you can tell it is meant for you.  Or perhaps you are meant for it.  Who knows what ancient chemistry awakens when we touch a fine blade?  Perhaps this is the "riddle of steel" after all.  

OKC Little Bird

Manufacturer: Ontario Knives OKC (Ranger)
Model: Little Bird II
Overall Length: 4.25 inches
Blade Length: 1.8 inches
Steel:  1095 carbon steel
Handle Material: Micarta (tan or black)
Weight: 3.8 oz
Sheath: Kydex
Why Did I Want This Knife?  
So, you may ask yourself, especially those of you with Crocodile Dundee knives, why I would actually want such a miniscule knife.  As a backpacker, SAR-team member, and general outdoorsman I have grown to love neck knives.  There is nothing handier than a fine blade around your neck - this becomes especially handy when you are wearing shell pants without pockets.
I also wanted this knife for personal protection purposes. Though I usually tote around a Spyderco Rescue as my everday carry, there are certain defense applications that a stout little blade like the Little Bird may excel at.
I've also been a big fan of Ontario knives for a long time.  Not only are they made in the USA, their plant is only a couple hours away from me in the scenic Southern Tier of New York State. I carried one of their Spec-plus knives when I was in the Army and they haven't failed me yet. 

Testing so Far:

  • General carry around neck around town and while hiking.  
  • Cutting parachute cord.
  • Cutting 4mm climbing accessory cord. 
Notes on this Knife (So Far): 
  •  The fit and finish is fine for a workhorse knife. On the glass-breaker pommel, the handle doesn't conform as nicely as I would like - but just a minor point.  
  • I have large hands, well at least my gloves are sized large or extra-large, and this little knife fits my hand fine.  The beefy micarta handle really conforms to my hand well, even with cutting tasks.  
  • The thick blade cuts nicely through nylon cord  - which is my primary cutting task.  I'll see how it works on wood.
  • The cord that came with the Little Bird is rather short for a neck cord.  I strung some 550 cord and tied it with a double figure 8 for a comfortable neck carry.  
  • In preparation for hiking, I attached a Ultimate Survival Jet Scream whistle to the neck cord. 

      Sunday, October 7, 2012

      Wilderness Survival Resources for Venturing Powder Horn Training

      As a consultant for the "Wilderness Survival" section for Powder Horn training, I thought that an online resource list would help Venturing and Scouting leaders.  If you have an additional resource that you feel would be appropriate,  please use the comment section below.  As always, keep the links appropriate for Scouting. 

      What is Powder Horn training?  Powder Horn training exposes Venturing leaders to different high-adventure opportunities from horseback riding to backpacking.  Check out BSA Powder Horn Training for more information on this exciting course.

      Remember the Rule of Three: You can survive ....
      • 3 minutes without air
      • 3 hours without shelter
      • 3 days without water
      • 3 weeks without food

      What are the seven survival priorities?  
      1. Positive mental attitude
      2. Shelter 
      3. Fire
      4. Signaling
      5. First aid 
      6. Water 
      7. Food

      Risk Management: 

      • For an introduction to hiking and backpacking safely, check out my article on the Ten Tips For Safe Hiking.
      • Components of a good trip/float plan: 
        1. Who is going? Include names, phone numbers, vehicles driven, and emergency contacts. 
        2. Where are you going?  List not only the destination, but the route traveled.  
        3. When? What is your rough time table, and when do you expect to return? 
        4. What are you carrying? List the types and colors of your crew's gear.
        5. Map I always leave a copy of my map at home with my travel route and times/dates listed.  

      Survival Kits: 

      Survival kit contents vary upon your environment and personal survival style. 
      Just walk into an outdoor store and you'll see just how much gear is out there.  It can be rather overwhelming when deciding what to buy, what to carry, and where to carry it.  In the following articles, I've addressed the basic essential items for survival kits and for what we should all carry with us whenever we venture outdoors. 

      First Aid: 

            A medical emergency can quickly catapult "first aid" to the top of the survival priority list (just under positive mental attitude of course). Though an online article is no substitute for actual first aid training, the following link from NOLS has outstanding information. 

            For those of you that have taken the American Red Cross "Wilderness and Remote First Aid" training class, check out the Wilderness First Aid Reference Guide.  


      You never know when you'll have to rig a tarp with a tautline hitch or rig an emergency rappel with a munter.

      Primitive Skills: 
      Carving a fire board for a bow drill with my Esee Izula
      Though food and water are low on the survival priority list, the ability to acquire food and water is essential for long-term subsistence. 

      Survival Shelters: 

               Everyone should be able to make a improvised shelter for the region in which they are traveling; the debris hut is an ideal shelter for most situations.  That said, the process of building a primitive shelter can be environmentally destructive and violate the principles of Leave No Trace.  For eco-friendly survival shelters, consider the following: 
      1.  Build debris huts in the Fall using fallen leaves as the weatherproof barrier on the sides of the shelter.  
      2. After a storm rips down live trees, use the boughs in a hands-on survival shelter demonstration. 
      3. Teach Venturers how to find improvised shelters that occur naturally: overhanging rocks, uprooted trees, and tree holes.  
      4. In the winter build quinzees and snow caves.  
      5. Emphasize that each person should carry shelter items with them in their survival kits.  A mylar space blanket can be easily rigged into a tarp when the weather turns foul.  

      A debris hut is the ideal wilderness survival shelter in most circumstances
      Once we have some snow on the ground, building a quinzee is a fun activity for Venturers. 
      Train Venturers how to find an improvised shelter like this uprooted tree. 

      Great Survival Books:

      "Wilderness Survival" Core requirements for the Ranger Award. 

      NOTE: (Before you begin wilderness survival, you must have completed the cooking, land navigation, and first aid core requirements.)
      1. Write a risk management plan for an upcoming crew high adventure activity such as a whitewater canoeing or rock-climbing trip. The plan should include nutrition, health, first aid, supervision, insurance, safety rules and regulations, proper equipment, maps and compass, in-service training, environmental considerations, emergency and evacuation procedures, and emergency contacts.
      2. From memory, list the survival priorities and explain your use of each in a survival situation.
      3. Learn about and then make a tabletop display or presentation for your crew, another crew, a Cub or Boy Scout group, or another youth group on the following subjects:
        1. Emergency signals used in the outdoors
        2. Search and rescue patterns
        3. Evacuation procedures and value of when to move and when not to move in a wilderness emergency
      4. Explain the following environmental exposure problems. Discuss what causes them, signs and symptoms, and treatment.
        1. Hypothermia
        2. Frostbite
        3. Sunburn
        4. Heat exhaustion
        5. Heat cramps
        6. Heat stroke
        1. Explain dehydration and the necessity of conserving fluids in a survival situation.
        2. Explain at least four methods of obtaining water in the outdoors and demonstrate at least two ways to purify that water.
        1. Demonstrate at least two different fire lays-one for cooking and one for warmth.
        2. Learn and discuss the use of fire starters, tinder, kindling, softwoods, and hardwoods in fire making.
      5. Explain and demonstrate how you can gain knowledge of weather patterns using VHF band radio and other radios, winds, barometric pressure, air masses and their movements, clouds, and other indicators.
        1. Explain the different rope materials and thicknesses that are best for wilderness use and how to care for them.
        2. Know the use of and demonstrate how to tie the following knots and lashings:
          1. Sheet bend
          2. Fisherman's knot
          3. Bowline
          4. Bowline on a bight
          5. Two half hitches
          6. Clove hitch
          7. Timber hitch
          8. Taut-line hitch
          9. Square lashing
          10. Shear lashing
        1. Explain the usefulness and drawbacks of obtaining food in the wilderness, including things to avoid.
        2. Prepare and eat at least one meal with food you have found in the outdoors.
        1. Make a list of items you would include in a wilderness survival kit and then make copies to hand out to visitors to your wilderness survival outpost camp.
        2. Using your list, make a wilderness survival kit. Explain the use of each item you have included.
        1. Set up a wilderness survival outpost camp and spend at least two nights and two days in your site.
        2. Use and demonstrate several knots and lashings from requirement (h) in your wilderness survival campsite demonstration.
        3. Know how to plan a wilderness shelter for three different environments and then build a shelter as part of your wilderness survival campsite demonstration.
        4. Have your crew, another crew, a Cub or Boy Scout group, or another youth group visit you in your outpost for a presentation you make on wilderness survival (at least one hour).
          (Note: Remember to use the Leave No Trace principles you learned.)