Thursday, December 11, 2014

The Season is Fast Approaching

Well after a long battle with the internet world in an attempt to renew and maintain the website we are finally back.

It is an exciting time of year as we experience change all around us. The cool winds have stripped the trees of their leaves. The cold nights have given the grounds their first layer of crust. The moisture dense clouds have dropped their first snowfall. 

These changes remind us that winter is here. They also should remind us that discomfort, emergency and death are around every corner. 

As millions venture outside to enjoy the changing seasons we will undoubtedly hear stories of folks who have found themselves in the throws of a winter survival emergency because they were ill prepared. 

With another winter filled with outdoor activities and adventures soon to begin we want to remind everyone to put preparedness at the top of their list. Regardless of your anticipatied activity duration always be prepared with the proper equipment and field experience to complete the following in a remote wilderness environment:

1. Provide First Aid
2. Create and maintain a sustainable fire
3. Build Shelter
4. Maintain Hydration
5. Create an adequate and functioning distress signal

These 5 tasks are essential to your survival. 

Never underestimate the power of Mother Nature. She is beautiful in her calm and unrelenting and destructive in her angry. 

Friday, December 20, 2013

A Great Emergency Bush Stove

We here at BTF love the opportunity to test out products that either claim to be geared for survival or products that could be used for survival. We like to test them to their breaking point to determine whether those products are truly capable of saving your life in a winter survival emergency. There is a major difference between camping gear and survival gear. Make no mistake - Survival is the difference between life and death. Therefor the right gear is very important. 

The other day while wandering through the local Canadian Tire I spotted a product that peeked my interest. I had seen them before however had never thought of testing them. I took a moment and picked the product up and was immediately engaged with the packaging claims. So for $8.99 I thought it was well worth the risk. 

The product is the Magic Heat Stove. A product that considers itself great for everything from Tailgate Cooking to Natural Disasters.  It claims it will provide 6 hours of heat and is safe to hold,  safe to use with no evaporating fuel. It also claims to be better than gel fuels. The pictures show the Magic Heat Stove cooking a stir fry and heating a Haybox. 

What intrigue me about this product was its lightweight, portability and obvious simplicity. The system runs with a small fuel canister with a screw top covering a soaked wick. Together with a small tin wind shield and steel cross members as the burner top. These 3 items put together make a simple looking bush stove. 

However, products are not often tested to their breaking point by folks like us. So yesterday I had the opportunity to be on the Bat Lake Trail in Algonquin Park for a training day.  With a few minutes to kill I prepped a small area off the trail to test. I lit the Magic Stove and constructed the burner setup. I then took out my survival tin from my pack and packed it full with the fresh snow. 

As most of you are aware, hydration is so vital to your survival. Therefor the ability to turn snow into water and bring it to a boil could be the difference between living or dying. 

Within 15 minutes I was pleasantly surprised to see the melted snow boiling as clean water.  It was a strong rolling boiling capable of sustaining the snow melting process to produce a great amount of drinking water. 

For the 2nd portion of the test I dismantled the 3 parts and buried them in the snow and carried on with the snowshoeing we were there to do. Approx. 1 hour later I returned and constructed the stove again. I then lit the wick with no issues at all. This was a great test to determine how the product would work when frozen and wet. 

Another great reason to have this product is amount of heat it produces quickly. If you've been submerged in ice cold water you have very little time to screw around before you'll find your fine motor skills disappear. This stove allows for quick easy lighting and can rewarm your hands to allow you to function 

This is another product that I will now carry with me. The simplicity and reliability is worth well more than $8.99. Go out and get one. 

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Winter Wonderland or Winter Emergency

Although its only the first day of December a quick glance outside here in Eastern Ontario reveals mid January type conditions. The roads are snow covered, the bush is deep with snow and the trees are heavy with the white stuff. 

For those who love this time of year and all of its outdoor activities this early arrival of winter is an exciting time. With that excitement comes a danger that is often overlooked. Unfortunately most winter enthusiasts are heading outside ill prepared for a winter emergency. 

Whether you are heading out on the snowmobile for the first time or strapping on the snowshoes to enjoy the powder you must be prepared. Here at Beyond the Fire School of Survival we always say "Prepare Today... Survive Tomorrow" and we live by this mindset.  If you escape to the great outdoors prepared for anything rarely will you find yourself in an emergency. If you venture out ill prepared for the dangers of winter adventure than you run a very real risk of suffering a scary fate. 

Regardless of your choice of adventure here is a list of kit you should have with you whether your intent is a quick trip on the sled or a half day hike in the back country. 

  • First Aid supplies
  • Matches, lighter, candle
  • Headlamp with new batteries
  • Spare socks, hat, gloves
  • Folding draw saw
  • Granola bar
  • Water
This list could go on and on however the larger the list the less likely people would carry it. This list is realistic and could save your life. Remember our Circle of Survival poster. Each of these items fulfills a need on that Circle. This list is light weight and easy to carry. 

As we enjoy the beauty of the Canadian winter we must respect its ruggedness and ability to test or knowledge, skills and abilities.  Never explore without the necessary tools to survive in the event that Mother Nature decides to unload her furry. 

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Don't ever pass by these two items !

Often times while we are travelling through the bush enjoying our favourite outdoor passion we forget to pause and take stock of what surrounds us.  Mother nature provides us with everything we could ever need to survive whether it be fire, shelter, water, food, signalling or first aid. 

On a recent hike through the bush I was reminded of the materials I love to use while creating fire through primitive means. However, these same items are also the same items I keep in a ziplock bag in every bag I carry into the bush whether on a Search and Rescue, canoe trip, winter survival course or just a hike with my boys. 

So as I paused to enjoy the natural growth of these life saving materials I realized they deserved a blog post. 

The 1st material is commonly known as Old Mans Beard.  A green moss like material which grows on the branches most often on softwoods such as white pines, red pines and Balsam in Eastern Ontario.  The material when picked is spongy however drys extremely quick and becomes brittle. At the brittle stage this material is extremely flammable and makes amazing tinder on its own or within a tinder bundle. 

The 2nd material is simply dried grasses. Whether its ditch grass or farm grasses. These materials tend to grow on the side of roads and trails and in the fall are 2-3 ft tall and extremely brittle. Collecting a handful and folding it in half provides enough tinder material for two to three tinder bundles. The brittle grasses are extremely flammable even when damp.

A ziplock back filled with these two naturally growing materials coupled with a lighter, match or primitive coal method is an amazingly easy and dependable way to start fire.

Remember that we must be prepared to survive a wilderness survival emergency if we have any chance of actually surviving it.  Gather materials, practice their use and then carry them on your person to give yourself a fighting chance of survival.


Thursday, August 22, 2013

A Huge Loss in the BTF Family

A little over 5 years ago John and I wandered through the bush lot enjoying a cup of coffee and sharing a vision.

It was amongst the tall red pines that Beyond the Fire School of Survival was born. A dream to build a cabin where people would gather to share a wilderness experience while gaining new knowledge, skills and abilities.

However a dream will never come to fruition without supporters and believers. For us here at Beyond the Fire there was no one more important to us than John's father Bev.

Bev was unwavering in his support of our dream and never flinched when we approached him with a tall request to use a little piece of heaven on his 100 acres of land. He loved the idea, the vision and the belief that his land would be used to teach people about the wild and rugged places he grew to love.

His support was so much so that he gifted us with all of the building material necessary to construct what would become our cabin and classroom.

Our excitement was never alone during the construction phase. Bev would often travel out to the location to watch and wander the bush and share in our vision.

Until today I had been at a loss as to how to share our loss.

On June 2nd, 2013 Bev passed away and left a void in our lives that can never be filled. However, Bev will live on forever in our hearts and memories.

Bev was born in 1925 and passed in 2013. But what he did between those years was truly amazing.

Rest in Peace Bev.

Monday, April 15, 2013

InstaFlam Field Testing Part I

A few weeks ago I received an email from Derek Trott who is the VP of Sales for a company called Ramagex based out of Quebec.  Derek had visited the Beyond the Fire website and felt that he had a product that was perfect for our School.

The product was called "Instaflam" which he described as an environmentally friendly fire starter that instantly lights when wet.  Well, for those who know us here at BTF you know that begs to be field tested.

Derek and Instaflam were up for the challenge and graciously sent us their product.  I advised Derek that BTF was not a School of Camping nor do we promote products that cannot stand up to rigorous testing in harsh conditions.  Derek didn't hesitate to welcome the challenge.

Simply put, the Instaflam product is composed of wood wool which is saturated with paraffin wax.  The company states that it will light even when wet and burn for approx. 10 minutes.

So, with snow on the ground, -10 degrees and a good northwest breeze I took the product out for Part I of the field testing.

Test 1: The One Match Test

In a survival situation you must ration every item you have because you never know how long you will be there or what challenged you will face.

Placing the Instaflam product one inch into the depth of the snow I used one regular waterproof match.  Instaflam immediately ignited within a split second of the flam touching the product.  I was impressed.

I then timed the burn time to challenge their 10 minute claim.  Well, 18 minutes and 22 seconds later the single Instaflam unit burned out.  I was very impressed.  This kind of burn time provides the user with plenty of flame and heat to get small tinders and branches igniting into a fire.

Test 2: Fully Submerged and Floating

Not just dipped and wet.  Fully submerged and floating.  This is survival folks - not camping !  If you follow the blog you know full well my thoughts and passion for cold water submersion preparation.  Any product I carry summer or winter must be tested in these conditions.

So with a camping pot filled with cold water I headed back out the snow where I placed the Instaflam product into the water.  I then proceeded to fully submerge the product under the water for 30 seconds.  With the Instaflam floating on the top I again utilized one waterproof match.  With several seconds the product ignited.  I was impressed !

The product stayed lit for 3 minutes and 12 seconds.  Keep in mind that this product was fully submerged and then floating in water.  There was not a dry shred on that product when the testing began.  I was blown away.

I then removed the product from the water and placed it into the snow and manipulated the product a bit at which time I was able to relight it.  Amazing.  It then had a running burn time of 9 minutes.

Part I Conclusion

When I received the product and conducted the research I was sold on its suitability for the camping adventurer.  However, I was not completely confident in its suitability for the hardcore back country employed personnel or search and rescue operators.

In doing Part I of the testing I was amazed at the products resiliency and ease of ignition.  This product has proven itself as more than a ma and pa camping product.  This is an outdoor adventurer product that suits minimalists, naturalists, environmentalist and anyone else who just wants a product that they can trust when a fire is necessary.

This product has already founds its way into my SAR gear as well as into my instructional pack.

Stay tuned for Part II of the field testing where we push the product to points not yet explored !!

Please visit to find out more and to locate your closest dealer.  Do not hit the bush this year without this product in your pack.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Circle of Survival

With years of experience as a Search and Rescue Operator as well as a Survival Instructor I have learned many constants that are known about wilderness emergencies and the responses that have led to successful survivors and their rescue.

Whether you read literature designed for Search and Rescue Professionals or books designed for outdoor enthusiasts you will undoubtedly find information related to successful outcomes from a variety of wilderness emergencies.  You will unfortunately also learn about wilderness emergencies where the individual succumbed to the elements.

When developing our syllubus' for our school I understood that the majority of students were adults and therefor learned more from field and dirt time than from watching videos posted on social media sites.  It was also clear through personal experience that adult learners were more successful when information was delivered through the use of visual aids rather than written documents.

Over the years I have instructed many courses where I have been tasked with presenting topics on the Enemies of Survival as well as the Survival Priorities.  However, Survival Priorities is a topic filled with "What ifs".  I often found myself responding to each question on a case by case basis.  The difficulty in these questions is that there are no correct answer nor is there a consistant numbering of those Survival Priorities.

Survival in a wilderness survival emergency is never a static situation.  This situations are dynamic and ever changing.  That ever changing nature makes your Survival Priorities ever changing and evolving.  

This winter has provided me with the opportunity and time to create a visual aid which I have called the Circle of Survival.  A circle is known as a shape that has no start and no end.  It is ever rotating. 

The inner most circle is your Situation or Wilderness Survival Emergency. 

The middle circle is an area of constant change.  You must Assess your situation.  Plan your appropriate course of action.  Then you must Act to fulfill your priorities in surviving your situation.

The outer most circle contains the options of survival priorities that you must deal with in order to successfully survive your survival emergency or situation.

It is no secret that many of victims have perished in wilderness survival emergencies because they acted without planning or failed to assess because they panicked.  An understanding of the Circle of Survival will provide you with the knowledge necessary to properly Assess your Situation, Plan an appropriate course of action and then Act to prioritize your survival needs.

The Beyond the Fire School of Survival  "Circle of Survival"