Guest Author: Rob Schneider of Old World Alliance
The best part of the outdoors, bushcraft, woodcraft, survival, or whatever word you choose to describe your experiences, is the gear. Let’s be honest; if sawdust is man-glitter, the gear is man-cessories.
One hidden joy of gear is customizing it to your needs, requirements, or preferences. This allows certain creativity to flow and challenges you to formulate solutions to your “problem” sets. Working these issues out before you head out are great exercises for critical thinking and reviewing them when you get back; the by-product allows you to analyze what worked and what didn’t. Both are great ways to develop your learning and skill sets. Here are a few small modifications I have done to various pieces of gear that can help you somehow or at the least get the creative thoughts going.
My pocket knife is with me every day. To say it is a piece of my kit is an understatement, as I always have it, regardless if I’m at work or out in the woods. But there were certain things I did not like about the blade. The tip was very rounded, so I squared it up with a file to give it more of a point. I like to use this knife for small carving and sometimes drilling holes in wood for things like friction fires or small projects.
Very simply, with minimal tools, I used a file to flatten the back end of the blade; this will level out and form the pointed tip and narrow the tip; it’s such a slight modification it is barely noticeable. The tinder zip (Exotac) attached to the knife is an even easier modification or add-on.
Packs are probably the most versatile pieces of gear which we can modify or customize as we see fit. I made one modification to my Campcraft Rucksack for the main pack flap. The pack came with carabiners to secure the flap. They work great, but as I was packing things, I wanted to make full use of the flap at different levels. I decided to replace the carabiners with leather straps and toggles. A simple addition does not change the pack entirely but adds what I needed the pack to do for me. I still have the carabiners and have repurposed them for other gear and use.
My Savotta Jääkäri Large pack is a complete opposite of the Campcraft Rucksack. Don’t get me wrong, I love traditional packs, and the Savotta is a more modern option and offers MOLLE webbing to customize and add on pouches. I chose not to add on pouches but a shock cord. I wanted the sleek function of not having a lot of stuff hanging off my pack (pouches and then some), so I weaved the shock cord on the top of the pouch and face of the pack. My intent is to use this for drying clothing or attaching small items I find on my trips that I don’t want to place in the pack. Again, this suits my needs.
Another simple mod is to the handle of this Old Hickory Butcher Knife. I cut the knife down, but that was for practice and learning. The specificity was for taking a small thin handle and expanding outward to fit your hand better. Some gorilla glue and jute twine get the job done. This feels much more comfortable in my hand now and has become one of my favorite knives. Not bad for 11 dollars. But again, simple and easy mods make a good piece of gear better for yourself.
I prefer not to call things hacks, or tricks to be quite honest I don’t care for labels all that much but that’s another story. These have all been examples of some simple modifications, that don’t necessarily make the gear perform better, but it helps them work better with me. They work best for my needs and how I want to use the gear. They are not designed with flaws or anything of that nature, these are just some ways I prefer to use my gear. The goal here was to get you thinking critically, and looking at what and how you do things, so you can better assess what works for you, and not spend a lot of money customizing your stuff.