2018 South Africa Field Management Hunt

African Safari Survival Trip

EWE is headed to South Africa in 2018 for a plains game management hunt that will put food harvested in the field on the table of poor communities

In late July 2018, Estela Wilderness Education will be headed to South Africa. Teaming up with Primo Adventures and Russ Field Safaris, Estela Wilderness Education will be part of a plains game management hunt that puts food directly on the table of impoverished schools and villages. This 7-day hunt will be featured in various magazine articles in widely-distributed publications available internationally. Impala, blesbuck, wildebeest and warthogs will be harvested and the hunting party will document the “field to table” aspect of the operation. Estela Wilderness Education will work closely with the professional hunters to show ethical hunting practices and logical conservation. 

Kevin Estela will be joined by a few close associates who will also hunt and document their journey. This hunt will highlight responsible conservation activities in South Africa and how a professional hunting operation is essential for game management and anti-poaching activities. Additionally, Kevin will document the process of traveling with firearms internationally and what gear works well in the field. Numerous blog posts will supplement this trip’s published print content and original photography will be incredible.

A rare opportunity, there are a few spots remaining on this trip that are open to the public including other writers/photographers. If anyone is interested in joining Estela Wilderness Education and being part of this trip as either a hunter or a non-shooting observer, please contact Kevin at estelawildernesseducation@gmail.com The rate for this trip is discounted, is all inclusive (minus flight) and space is very limited to ensure the highest quality hunting experience. A deposit can be called into Primo Adventures at the contact information listed below.

Primo Adventures, LLC

Mark J. Enie

860-575-8960

www.primoadventurellc.com

primoadventure@sbcglobal.net

South African Flag

South African Flag. Will your sense of adventure take you there?

Pack-Based Budget Bushcraft Starting Fall 2017

Pack-Based Budget Bushcraft

The popular Budget Bushcraft class is back for 2017. This time around, Budget Bushcraft will focus on the bushcraft pack. Students will be encouraged to operate out of a minimalist pack over the course of the weekend for a more “in-touch” experience with the outdoors. The objective of this change is to prepare students for advanced travel in the backcountry where resupply (i.e. walking back to a car or house) is not possible. What does this change? Well, instead of doing multiple trips back to nearby parked vehicles, the goal is to have everything needed within the pack carried. There will be a lot of self-discovery but little self-suffering. Students will learn what they can get by with and what is unnecessary weight. No one will be deprived of water, food, shelter or other necessities.  What doesn’t change? The quality of instruction, the number of teaching hours Kevin will provide students, students providing their own food and of course, the weekend of instruction is only $99. Yes, $99 if you are unfamiliar with this event.

Fiddleback Forge Bush Hermit and Fuzz Stick

A fuzz stick AKA feather stick will challenge your knife skills.

Bushcraft is about being able to adapt to your environment. Instead of bringing equipment from the outside world to camp, instructors and students will utilize what is available in the surrounding woods.There will be a lot of carving and woodcraft with knives, saws and hatchets. For 2017, students will build various tarp shelters, one natural materials “group shelter”, bannock (what EWE course would be complete without it?), a camp kitchen with natural utensils, and much more. Each Budget Bushcraft is different and there have been many students who have taken the course multiple times as there is always something new to learn. Even the EWE Associate Instructors learn each time they are in attendance.

EWE Associate Instructors

EWE Associate Instructors Lt. Mike and Big John

The following is a list of gear suggested by Kevin for this training event originally posted to Facebook. Students are encouraged to modify and adapt this to their individual needs.

A basic packing list will follow but for now plan on having
1. A knife or a collection of cutting tools (knife, saw, Swiss Army)
2. Water bottle and metal nesting cup
3. Fire starter (3/8″ ferro rod and tinder)
4. 6’x8′ or larger tarp
5. 50′ paracord and a roll of jute twine
6. Flashlight/headlamp
7. Whistle and mirror (to be carried at all times)
8. First Aid Kit
9. Compass (need not be high-end)
10. Food and drink (Go with Mt. House if you want to pack light)

Budget Bushcraft Food

Heavy Cover Titanium Canteen, Center-Line Systems Mother Canteen Pouch and Mountain House Food. Camp life luxuries!

Misc. Gear
Pack a good notepad, pen, camera to scribe what you learn. Appropriate clothing for the weather is obviously important. Since we will be camping out, a 20 degree bag and CLOSED CELL sleeping pad is recommended. Treat clothes and sleeping bag with Permethrin and use bug dope on yourself when you’re there. Bring anything you want to test but don’t pack too heavy. We’ll add more to this list as the date nears.”

There will be very limited gear to share. Students who participate in this course should show up prepared with the basics.

The first Pack-Based Budget Bushcraft is kicking off on September 15 through 17, 2017 near Illion, NY.  Please E-mail estelawildernesseducation@gmail.com to sign up. More information about this course is available on the Estela Wilderness Education Facebook Page under Events.

See you there!

Please Note: Kevin recently passed 100 published magazine articles and the demand for his work is growing. As a result, the courses he offers have been drastically cut back to focus on writing. Also, due to limited availability, spaces are limited on courses and courses fill up quickly. Should you want to hire Kevin for private or group instruction, please contact him at estelawildernesseducation@gmail.com 

Book Review: Extreme Wilderness Survival

Extreme Wilderness Survival

“The following review was cut from an article I wrote from American Survival Guide. I strongly believe in Craig’s book and was disappointed it didn’t appear in the issue. That’s not going to stop me from posting it here. You should check out this book. It gets an Estela two thumbs up!” -Kevin Estela

Craig Caudill, Founder and Owner of the Nature Reliance School is a Contributing Author to American Survival Guide. Craig, a lifelong outdoorsman,skilled tracker, and martial artist, has compiled a new book for 2017 called Extreme Wilderness Survival that offers a glimpse into his philosophy of survival and instruction. Craig’s book does not lure readers into the hype and over exaggeration of some texts but rather provides a very authentic and practical approach to dealing with realistic survival scenarios.


Extreme Wilderness Survival includes a lengthy introduction on survival mindset, the power and importance of awareness and how proper prior planning will prevent many situations in the first place. Craig covers skill sets before he even mentions any equipment and also discusses the need to be equally prepared in terms of self-defense as you are in your ability to make a fire. Afterall, survival skills are more than those meant for the wilderness and we are potentially as likely to face a human foe as we are a wild animal or emergency situation.


As you read through Extreme Wilderness Survival, you realize Caudill provides you with a formula, a routine, to develop yourself continually. He encourages the reader to form their own survival strategies and plans and even includes a section on the realities of solo survival vs that of a larger group working as one. His words suggest the reader should personalize their training and kit to their needs, not those of someone else. Craig explains the realities of short-term survival and the difficulties of long-term survival. It isn’t until the very end of the book when he finally addresses the gear one should carry. Gear can be lost, broken, stolen or forgotten whereas the skills and knowledge Craig provides can be carried in your mind.


Overall, this book is an excellent read filled with essential knowledge and devoid of sensational survival hype. Craig is a reputable instructor with solid skills and a knack for getting the most out of his students. This book isn’t a replacement for one of his courses but it is one of the best books you’ll find on the subject of survival instruction today.


Publisher: Page Street Publishing Company
URL: Naturereliance.org
MSRP: $21.99
ISBN: 978-1-62414-336-6

2016: A Year in Review

2016: A Year in Review

     It’s that time of year again. It’s time to look back over the past 12 months and make plans for the year coming up. This year was, by all accounts, highly successful and I am incredibly grateful for all of those who have helped me along the way. There is no doubt, I CRUSHED my goals and am very satisfied with my accomplishments. If there is a theme to 2016, it is “new adventures”. 2016 brought me to new places, found me participating in new activities and offered me great opportunities to train. Much like last year, the growing writing endeavors allowed me to research and test survival skills and information. As always, presenting what I found in a text and photo format was the challenge but ultimately it makes me a better instructor when I’m not bound by still photos and word limits.

 

Adirondack Hornbeck Canoe Paddling

Kevin Estela paddling Little Square Pond, Fall 2016, in the Adirondack State Park



     2016 was a year of adventure and it was also a year of new friendships. I worked with more companies this year bringing their gear into the wild and testing it out. When possible, I was able to feature the best of the best gear in magazine articles for my readers to see what worked for me. My philosophy on testing and evaluation has always stayed the same; make it real! Many manufacturers realized the authenticity to my work and the extra mile I was willing to travel to get them the honest feedback backyard/basement reviews can’t match. Even though I cut back on instruction, I managed to meet some fantastic new folks as students in the courses I did offer or attendees at the seminars where I was a presenter. Attending trade shows, I met some really great people who I truly consider friends. Working as an editor for the first time, I was able to share the tricks and tips I’ve developed as a writer with the writers who contributed and now they are on their way in their own writing careers.  At the end of the year, I know who is really with me going forward to even great adventures.

 

Chris Reeve Inkosi in Knives Illustrated Buyer's Guide

The Knives Illustrated Buyer’s Guide featured a full color spread of an article written by Kevin Estela called, “Knife Buying 101.”


      2017 is only a few days away and there is already a growing number of days on my calendar filling up. Look for Estela Wilderness Education events scattered around the country hosted by different friends of EWE. 2017 is also going to be filled with a few surprises. I’m working very closely with a couple companies and you’ll see some “Estela Inspired” products coming out on the market. These products are going to make survival and bushcraft much easier and they are inspired by countless hours in the field. You’re also going to see me in places you haven’t before. After hearing people ask one certain question over and over, I’ve decided to answer a particular call and am very happy with the product developed. I really wish I could disclose it all right now for an end of the year grand finale but for now, you’ll just have to wait and see what 2017 brings in time.

 

Kevin Estela

See ya 2016! Let’s make it happen in 2017! Time to get after it!




Travel
-Attended the NRA Great American Outdoors Show in Harrisburg, PA and BLADE SHOW 2016 in Atlanta, GA
-Traveled to British Columbia to discover the “Rambo Junkyard’, hiked the Stawamish Chief and skied Whistler
-Traveled to Florida for Hog Hunting near Daytona
-Spent 5 Weeks in Alaska (Anchorage, Seward, Fairbanks, Sag River through the Brooks Range with Mark Knapp) 3 of which were off-grid north withiin the Arctic circle
-Filmed a pilot for the History Channel (Destination Top Secret) as Co-Host

Training:
Introduction to Survival and Bushcraft with Manchester, NH Sayoc Kali Training Group
-Adirondack Sportsmen’s Dinner Guest Speaker
Gossman Knives Budget Bushcraft in Whiteford, MD
-Mohawk Valley Budget Bushcraft
-Team Newt (of Martin Knives) Fundraiser on Hawk Mountain, PA
IMBCT Intro to Survival Course in New Hartford, CT
-Bristol, CT Police Explorers (Advisory role for specialized training)

Published over 25 articles in
RECOIL
RECOIL/OFF-GRID
American Survival Guide
Knives Illustrated
-Blogged bi-monthly for Fiddleback Forge
-Served as Editor (first time editing a magazine!) for the American Survival Guide Prepper Field Manual

Martial Arts Training

Sayoc Kali Sama Sama and Winter Sama Sama
-Sayoc Tactical Group Warrior 1.0 Handgun
Sayoc Kali Northeast Region Training at Kapatid Martial Arts in Pleasantville, NY and RiSu Martial Arts
-Attended Sifu Richard Bustillo Seminar at IMBCT
SIG Sauer Academy successful completion of Handgun 102.5, Handgun 103, Handgun 104, 3 Day Precision Scoped Rifle,Defensive Rifle and Cold-Weather Carbine

Keep up with me on Facebook here www.facebook.com/estelawildernesseducation or on my Instagram account @Estelawilded

The Lost Photos

The Lost Photos
By: Kevin Estela, Owner/Head Instructor of Estela Wilderness Education

At the tail end of my Alaskan trip back in August, while sorting through gear used on a 3 week trip through the Brooks Range down the Sag River, I thought I had all my belongings cleaned, organized and packed for the trip down the Dalton Highway. At some point during the morning of the buffer day between river travel and the trip home, it dawned on me I could not account for the whereabouts of my phone. It had survived numerous trips into the outdoors prior and just made it through whitewater, hikes in the tundra and Alaska’s elements and somehow, in the safety of the tent, it went missing. Long story short, after multiple walks around the perimeter and with the assistance of my friend Mark and an impromptu search party of folks waiting for rides and flights, we couldn’t find it.

Fast forward to September 4th. Bree from Happy Valley Camp sent me an E-mail with great news. Someone from Deltana Outdoors found my phone and turned it in. A day or two later, they tried powering it on and it lit up. After some communication back and forth, Bree sent me my phone, I sent the gentleman who found it (thank you Jeremy B!) a check as a finder’s fee and I waited for it to arrive in the mail. After a couple days, it showed up and without issue, I was able to power it on, sign into my home WiFi account and upload “The Lost Photos” to my Google account.

What follows are some of the better shots from Alaska that were initially lost but eventually recovered. Enjoy!

Kevin Estela Arctic Circle

When you need to look like a tourist. The author standing near the Arctic Circle sign off of the Dalton Highway.

Galbraith Lake

View from Galbraith Lake camp (Night 1)

Alaskan Pipeline

Alaskan pipeline warning sign

Mark Knapp Mosquitoes

Mosquitoes atop Mark’s hat. No escaping these buggers.

Prospect Landing

Prospect Landing Bathroom Facilities. The last toilet seen for 3 weeks.

Kevin Estela bush plane

Johnny Cool Guy (AKA Kevin Estela) riding “co-pilot” in the bush plane.

bush plane beaver view

Alaska from the air. Looking down from the co-pilot seat in a Brooks Range Aviation Beaver.

Sag River Float Trip

Geared up for 3 weeks. Location: Upper Sag Lake. Time to inflate our raft and head to the river.

Alaskan Mountains

A typical day in the mountains. Scouting around the Brooks Range.

Drying socks and boots Alaskan Survival

Cold, ok. Wet, ok. Cold and wet, not ok. Drying boots/socks on the hike back from spike camp.

Sag River bear attack.

When bears attack. Raft Damage along the Sag River.

Alaskan survival. Bear attack.

Ripped raft bag. When bears attack part II.

Bear attacks action packer

Did I mention the bear went through everything?

Fishing in Alaska with a rifle

Kevin Estela fishing the Sag River with a Remington 700 rifle in 300 Win Mag strapped to his back.

Mark Knapp setting the trap.

Mark Knapp setting the trap.

Mark Knapp snare

The trap (snare) is set. This setup was carved in the bush.

Captured parky squirrel

When we checked the trap, it was triggered.

Captured squirrel released.

Caught and released unharmed. No need to kill when we had food on hand. He lived to see another day.

Heavy Cover Alaskan Survival

Camp life. Cooking up Mountain House foods in my Titanium cook kit from Heavy Cover.

RMJ Tactical Pathfinder

RMJ Tactical Pathfinder Axe. This was my preferred chopping tool on this trip.

Paracord and Kevlar cross

Paracord and Kevlar thread cross made while on the river. Faith is a good companion.

Trail nibble, alaskan survival

Wild Alaskan Blueberries everywhere. Great trail nibble.

pebble stacking along the sag

Pebble stacking along the Sag River. One way to find peace and balance in the wild.

Cleaning firearms in camp. SIG Sauer P220 10mm

Camp life. Eating freeze-dried food, cleaning firearms, hanging out in the tent.

Alaskan Weather

Around day 16. Hiking to a mountain pond, we saw this weather on the horizon. Looked ominous, passed us by.

Mark Knapp fly fishing an Alaskan Mountain Pond

Mark Knapp fly fishing a remote mountain pond

Kevin Estela fishing survival

A nice lake trout caught by the author. Ultralight tackle was the way to go to put food on the table.

Alaskan char on gathered materials

Mark Knapp caught this arctic char on a fly he tied with gathered materials in the field during this trip. Outdoorsman level: Stud!

Arctic char hook and cook

Kevin caught this arctic char later that day. It was delicious.

alaskan survival fishing lake trout

Mepps spinners were the ultralight tackle of choice. A nice lake trout in the rain.

Arctic char catch and release

A char caught and released within the 5 mile corridor. What a beautiful fish. Another day my friend!

mark knapp lake trout alaska

Mark with a nice lake trout caught and released within the 5 mile corridor.

Kevin Estela heading back to camp

Kevin Estela heading back to camp with catch in hand

fish steaks grilling on the Sag

Fresh fish steaks grilling along the Sag River

Willow Ptarmigan grilling

Willow Ptarmigan grilling up

Ptarmigan legs are furry. Winter is coming

Ptarmigan legs are furry. Winter is coming.

alaskan survival float trip

Perhaps one of the coldest days of the trip. Dry but the water on my rain gear never dried and combined with the wind, it brought me to dangerously cold levels.

alaskan survival hypothermia

To combat the cold, we heated water on the float in a Jetboil and filled my metal canteen. This was placed near my femoral arteries and then I drank the water when it was still warm.

Alaskan survival north slope

The last photo taken on my camera before it was lost. The furthest north I’ve traveled to date.

 

As you can see, the photos here were once in a lifetime and impossible to replace. Other photos not posted here include my parents reading my articles with a look of pride on their faces and photos from previous trips. My lost phone is now my backup phone I will carry with me as a backup WiFi device I can use should my first go down. I’ll likely pick up a pre-paid phone as well. Communication is extremely important and this experience highlighted that for me.

I’m convinced I could travel to Alaska again, repeat this trip and not encounter or experience the same trip even if I followed each one of my steps perfectly. Getting my phone back was a real surprise. If you ever lose your phone in your car or in your house, remember my story. My phone was lost on an air strip, deep in the Arctic circle, exposed to the elements and over 3000 miles from its home in Connecticut. It still found its way back to me. If my phone can be recovered, there’s a good chance yours can too!

-Kev

Alaska Sag River Float Trip Journal

Alaskan Float Trip Journal
By: Kevin Estela, Owner/Head Instructor of Estela Wilderness Education

 

Sag River Floatdragging

Kevin Estela and Mark Knapp on the Sag River

In the summer of 2016, I traveled to Alaska to meet up with my friend Mark Knapp of Mark Knapp Custom Knives for a float trip down the Sagavanirktok (Sag) River. We intended to explore, hunt, fish and camp along 100 or so miles of river and practice the skills we both have spent many years learning in the field. Mark had a couple knives he wanted to put through a real field test and he wanted to see this area he previously guided around back in 1999. We didn’t know what to expect on this trip and it would certainly test us over the course of 3 weeks. What follows is a collection of my daily thoughts while on this epic adventure. It is a trip I’d recommend for anyone seeking out a real adventure in a place not everyone is willing to travel to.

Planning Day #1: July 27
After spending 2 weeks touring the lower part of Alaska (Anchorage, Seward, Denali), I spent a couple days resting and recovering in a hotel in Fairbanks. Today, I checked out and headed over to Mark’s shop, The Cutting Edge. We sat, drank coffee and went over trip particulars. Mark printed out copies of the maps we would use and pieced together our trip. Also present this day and providing input was Mark’s wife Angel and their good friend Mike. We occupied our day with setting up the tent and fixing the stuck zipper as well as inflating our raft and making sure the parts were all present. With one missing Oar-Right lock, we were forced to travel around for a replacement. We found the part we needed at a local dive shop and proceeded back to the shop to pack the raft as we would on the river.

Mountain House Meals

Mountain House freeze-dried meals would make up most of our diet but even with 1800-2400 calories guaranteed, we would need more

Planning Day #2: July 28
Fairbanks has some excellent sporting good stores like Frontier Outfitters and Sportsman’s Warehouse. Every store should be like these. They have a wide selection of clothing and equipment to choose from and the associates know the gear they’re selling as well as how and where to use it. Mark and I purchased remaining supplies and I added a 3-day fishing license to my pile. My original 2-week license wasn’t starting until 3 days into my trip and there was no point in missing a good day on the water. I selected a handful of lures to carry (mostly ultralight spinners) and made sure to pack them along with the rest of the gear into Mark’s truck.

Smart phone de Lorme

This is what a smartphone tracking us synced up with the deLorme InReach looks like

    Late that night, Mark created a new knife based on the handle of his patented 1911 Combat Survivor Bowie. This knife, an Ulu pattern, uses the same modified magazine as his bowie but the handle has a cut out to pin an ax handle into it. It took until 10 at night but the knife was finally finished and ready for the trip.

Day 1: July 29
We intended to leave at 8am but our departure was delayed as we had to finalize various details of our trip including flight confirmation, who would pick up the truck and shuttle it, and how we would communicate with the “connected world”. Mark had purchased a deLorme In-Reach text communicator and needed to sync it with his cell phone and computer.
We stopped for breakfast at the Hilltop Truck Stop and didn’t forget to order some slices of their famous pies for the road. Next stop was the Yukon River and then the Coldfoot station where gas was $4.75 per gallon. Expect to pay more as you head north and the laws of supply and demand become obvious. That night, we camped at Galbraith Lake.

fireweed in Alaska

A patch of fireweed and the first sunset in the Arctic Circle during this trip

Day 2: July 30
I woke up at 7am and took a walk to the lake. Within minutes, I caught my first fish, a 34” lake trout on a Mepps Aglia #1 Roostertail spinner. I showed Mark and we took our time eating our Mountain House breakfast and having coffee.

As we made our way north, we stopped to put flagger’s tape up for Angel and Mike to find.  We drove all the way to Happy Valley and stopped at possible take outs along the way including Gustafson Gulch and Pump Station 3. We spent remaining time this day fishing as we headed back down to Galbraith Lake. I caught my first grayling in a creek with a Mepps Comet #0. We camped at Galbraith Lake for a second night.

Galbraith Lake

View of Galbraith Lake looking South

Day 3: July 31
At 6am, both Mark and I woke up with the intention of fishing. We hiked to the lake and within minutes, Mark and I were on the fish. I caught 3 and Mark caught 6. Mark used his fly rod and I used my 7′ ultralight spinning rod from St. Croix and a PT15 Energy spinning reel from Quantum. He may have caught more but he admits I caught the biggest.

Lake Trout Knapp

Mark Knapp with a nice Lake Trout caught and released at Galbraith Lake

Ultralight lake trout

Kevin Estela with a 30″ lake trout caught on St. Croix and Quantum Ultralight gear

Skies cleared for our drive south. We continued to catch grayling in the small creeks and watched even more nip at our offerings but ultimately reject them. Since Mark’s wife sent us a message about a shuttle service we could take back down the Dalton Highway, we removed all the flagger’s tape we had put up. We eventually found our way to Prospect Landing (1070’ elevation) and camped there for the night. We unpacked the truck and packed our bags for the bush plane flight the next day.

AK Air strip

Prospect Landing Air Strip

Day 4: August 1
We woke up and did our normal routine of WuWu (Wake Up/Wash Up) and began the waiting game for the bush plane. In Alaska, there is so much of everything including time to wait for others. We knew the flight would arrive sometime in the morning and we just kept our ears open for the sounds of a propeller.
I changed into my Kryptek hunting clothes I would wear for the next 14 days. Shortly thereafter, the De Havilland Beaver showed up and our Pilot, Garrett, picked us up for a quick flight to Bettles, AK where Brooks Range Aviation is. At the airstrip, we filled out paperwork and our gear was weighed before we head over to the float plane. We loaded up and flew an hour to the Upper Sag Lake. Upon landing on the lake, we unpacked our gear and inflated our raft to make the portage across the lake to the outlet easier. After inflating the raft, we took the time to verify the zero of our rifles. You never known when a rifle optic could be shifted in transit. My Schmidt Bender Zenith held true. I grouped 2” low at 100 yards. Mark had trouble with his rifle and it wouldn’t hold a good group. It could have been damaged in transit or it could have been because it is 30 years old.  He used my Remington 700 instead and he was 1” right with it. We planned on using my rifle for any big game we encountered.I also took the time to verify the zero on my Tactical Solutions XRing .22 Rifle. Using CCI Mini Mag ammo, I was spot on at 25 yards. After, we moved all the gear (503 pounds total) about 200 yds from the lake and we traveled down the creek to the main branch of the Sag. We set up camp (According to my Kestrel, the altitude where we camped was 2450’) and “popped the corks” on the raft before calling it a night.

Brooks Range Aviation

View from a bush plane flying over the Brooks Range

Rifle Sight in

Mark sighting in his rifle. After 30 years of service, it wouldn’t group well and we planned on using mine depending on who was actively hunting.

Sag River Camping

View from the first camp along the Sag River looking downriver

Day 5: August 2

     Yesterday was filled with a lot of movement and today is the total opposite. We were rained in and at some point, the rain turned to snow. We hunkered down until about 3pm when there was a brief break in the weather. We continued to sleep and read doing what we could to pass the time in the tent. We looked through gear and absolutely felt a chill in the air. At 4:45pm, the sun finally came out. Mark told me on Arctic trips, it isn’t unreasonable to lose ½ your time to weather and conditions. There was more sleeping and since I slept during the day, I woke up midnight, 4am and 630am that night/next morning. This day reinforced the need for a good book on trips like this.

Kevin Estela reading Last of the Breed

The author reading “Last of the Breed” in his tent during bad weather. See kiddos? Even teachers read over the summer.

Day 6: August 3
Woke up at 630am to foggy skies. Mark and I ate our Mountain House breakfasts and found the Breakfast Skillet to be the most caloric at around 800 per package. By 930am, we had our bags packed and we headed up river 5.1 miles to spike camp. I carried my 300 Win Mag, .22 Rifle and 10mm pistol along with an ultralight fishing rod.  Along the way, we spooked plenty of ptarmigan but that season wouldn’t open until August 10th so we didn’t harvest any. We both packed 2 meals per day, a breakfast and a dinner to save weight. We experienced wet conditions along the way and it rained on us the whole time. Once we set up our camp, we used our sleeping bags to dry out our clothes.  My Kifaru Center-Zip 0 degree sleeping bag couldn’t have been more comfortable on a day like today. Mark noted we should have taped our barrels before leaving camp with electrical tape. We slept early that night.

Spike Camp

Kevin Estela loaded down in the Brooks Range of Northern Alaska not far from spike camp

Day 7: August 4
It was 42 degrees today and sunny. Despite a night in the sleeping bags, our clothes were still damp from the previous day. We hoped the sun and wind would dry them out today. We loaded up our packs and walked up some of the valleys for 7 hours and 17 minutes. We covered 6.88 miles glassing for Caribou and spotting sheep on the mountains just for fun. Mark used a pair of Swarovski binos and I had my Maven’s. Sheep season doesn’t start until the 10th but we just wanted to see what was around. About a mile or two away, we watched 5 sheep traverse a mountainside.
I determined today, light hiking boots suck.  Luckily my Buffalo Wool Company socks stay pretty warm even when wet. After jumping creeks and dodging puddles of water, I only plan on hiking with my waders from now on. Both Mark and I could feel the effects of eating only 2 meals a day for the past few days. With very little sign of caribou movement in this area, we decided to head back to the raft tomorrow.

Buffalo Wool Company Socks

Buffalo Wool Company socks drying in the tent. One set was used exclusively to sleep in each night.

 

Sag River Scenery

Looking up river to the location of Spike Camp along the Sag River

Day 8: August 5
Another nice day for walking. Today was 43 degrees at 6:30am. We headed back to base camp and took our time fishing the Sag along the way. We spooked even more ptarmigan today. We should have walked faster. While we were away, a bear had rummaged through all of our gear. Mark estimated, by the tracks found, it was approximately 6’ and 250-350 pounds. All of the gear was inspected and by inspected, I mean torn into by the bear. A Nalgene bottle filled with cooking oil was pierced open and most of the contents were consumed. The boat seat was ripped apart and the bear punctured a hole in the bottom. Good thing we deflated it. If the bear had ripped a tube, it would have been beyond our repair. I was annoyed because two of my Watershed Dry Bags were ripped into and our action packer had a distinct set of teeth marks in it. We rearranged our gear and repaired what we could. I used my Kifaru compression sacks to limit the size of the gear going into the dry bags to fit more. After making a quick lunch, we loaded the boat and headed down river. We weren’t going to chance having that bear return. We floated about 3.5 miles and set up camp. By 8pm we had dinner and turned in shortly after that.

 

Day 9: August 6
We woke up to 52 degree windy weather. We slept well but we woke up repeatedly to check on the boat. This generally meant opening the zipper of the tent with handgun ready to throw a round over the head of a bear. We feared it would be visited by a bear again and if so, it could be destroyed to a point where our trip would be over prematurely. One good claw slash is all it would take. That meant we would have to call for an airlift out. We didn’t want to do that. We moved further downriver to put distance between us and that original bear from base camp. We found a beautiful spot with water flowing all around. Not too far from our tent “platform” on high ground, were fresh 7” grizzly tracks in the riverbank. Mark concluded it was not the same bear from the previous day and our presence would scare it off. This bear though had a cub with it. We’d be vigilant for obvious reasons.  Mark built a fire using his 1911 knife and the magnesium/ferro rod contained in the handle.

Mark Knapp 1911 knife in action

Mark Knapp creating sparks on Eskimo Cotton to get a fire going on the Sag River Float Trip

Mark Knapp Survival Ulu

Mark created a prototype Survival Ulu that uses the same handle as his 1911 bowie. It performed as an axe with amazing cutting ability on this trip.

 

At night, I loaded up some gear and sat across the river looking for caribou movement. I brought a fishing pole with me and caught a 14” grayling. I cleaned it on the spot with my Victorinox Ranger Swiss Army Knife. We would have it for part of our breakfast the following morning. That night, we moved our food far from our tent and raft. We put rocks on the action packer and cooler to create a poor man’s perimeter alarm and checked our travel data from the day on Mark’s GPS. We moved a total of 8.1 miles.

Campfire coffee pot

Water boiling over a willow wood fire. Boiling water made cleaning frying pans easy.

 

Day 10: August 7
At 630am, we woke up to 57 degree weather. We were pleasantly surprised our food cache was intact. We sat in the tent and learned we would have 2-3 days worth of bad weather ahead. During some down time, I repaired a torn foot box on the inside of my sleeping bag using the fish hook from the 1911 knife and a single thread unwound from the braided Kevlar cord I carried. Luckily, this day was good weather for us. After a quick breakfast, I sat and waited across the river again for caribou. There were no sightings. Once back to the tent, Mark and I ate crescent rolls we fried up in the remaining oil and bacon fat. After that meal, I walked the perimeter of the island with my .22 looking for squirrel. Spotted dens but none running around. That night, we created traps and Mark set up a counterweight lever snare to catch one of the squirrels. I fished the same hole as last night and caught another good grayling caught on a gold Panther Martin spinner. Pound for pound, my ultralight rod is proving to be the best game getter. By the way, grayling is light, flaky and so incredibly delicious. It tastes great.

Ultralight spinning reel

The author’s #1 protein provider. St. Croix Premier Spinning Rod, Quantum PS15 Energy Reel, 4# flourocarbon line and asst. spinners.

 

Day 11: August 8
Woke up early and walked the perimeter of our camp. I looked up into the hills and noticed a large animal walking around. It was a grizzly bear and her cub and after poking in and out of some willows, it flushed a moose. That cow wasn’t going to stick around and it ran far and fast from the two bears. I wanted to take a good photo of the encounter but at about 600 yards away, I could barely make it out with my 7x power Vortex rifle scope let alone my cell phone camera zoomed in. When Mark woke, we gathered our gear and fished upstream  from our camp. I caught a 15” grayling and we returned to the camp to cook up the remainder of the bacon we had leftover and the fish I just caught. The rain set in and I decided to read the remainder of the book I brought. We checked on the counterweight snare Mark set up and found it paid off with an arctic ground squirrel caught by the rear legs. With plenty to eat back in camp, we decided to let it go. There was no sense in killing something if we didn’t need to. Mark told me a story about the saying, “never kill a porcupine.” Apparently the expression stems from the idea that a porcupine is easy to harvest and it should be left for someone who is hard-pressed for food and needs an easy meal. Made sense to me and leaving that ground squirrel for another person didn’t bother me one bit.

Sag River Swimming/Fishing Hole

This type of deep blue-green hole is common along the Sag River. Beautiful scenery is everywhere.

Day 12: August 9
The rain from last night continued through the morning today. Mark and I finished the rest of the bacon leftover from yesterday. We added it to the Mountain House scrambled eggs. As it rained, I worked on articles for RECOIL, RECOIL/OFFGRID and American Survival Guide. When the weather improved around 10:30am, Mark and I set off on various tasks. I collected wood and built a fire to burn any trash we had. This meant using my RMJ Tactical Pathfinder axe to break the largest pieces of willow from the sandy river banks. The Pathfinder is incredibly durable and one worthy of placement on any expedition packing list.   Mark used a piece of willow as a “vice” and tied an original fly from the materials he could find. These included feathers he picked up from around the camp and even the threads from his socks and foil from an energy bar wrapper. I took photos for a few magazine articles. We ate supper early and consolidated bags for our float downriver. We plan on waking early, inflating our boat and floating downriver to the next stop.

Sag River float trip

The raft the author and Mark Knapp took down the Sag River at the base of a mountain in the fog

 

Day 13: August 10
August 10th was the day we expected “all hell would break loose”. Today, wolf, ptarmigan and sheep season opened. We woke up at 6am and the weather that was predicted the night before didn’t materialize. Instead, the visibility was approximately ¼ mile and became clearer. We packed the boat and headed down river. We were not looking forward to a very wide stretch in the river that could have been bone dry and would have required us to drag our raft and do an extensive portage. We noticed a lot of wildlife today on the river. As we approached an artesian spring that came from a high point in the surrounding land, we noticed a large grizzly not far from us. We watched hawks defending their territory and a river otter poked it’s head up to look at us before swimming down river. After tanking up our canteens at the spring, we continued downriver where we met up with two state troopers (Dan and Dan) who Mark knew were in the area. Dan and Dan floated through Atigun gorge on Alpacka pack kayaks and were drying their gear. They had 70 pound packs and were in the area for sheep. We talked about our respective journeys so far and then Mark and I continued on our way. Not far from where we saw Dan and Dan, we had to portage around a very large rapid (the largest we would see on this trip) that had the potential to swamp us and flip the boat. We had to completely unpack the boat and portage it over very sharp rocks. As we walked our gear downriver, we noticed the bubbles from the rapid emerging a hundred feet down from the main rapid. Had we run the rapid and tipped, we too could have been pulled underwater for just as long. After seeing the rapid from the downriver side of it, we both agreed there was no way we wanted to run it. Our thoughts quickly shifted to Dan and Dan upriver and Mark sent a message to Angel to reach out to the police station to let them know about the rapid just downriver from their location. We found a good camping spot downriver at the base of a grassy hill. I wasn’t tired yet so I hiked to the two ponds west of our location but couldn’t catch anything in the wind and drizzling rain. Despite the anticipation for today, we didn’t see anything hunt and legally harvest.

Sag River Rapid

The rapid Kevin and Mark portaged around as seen from approximately 100 yds away/above. The vertical drop was 10′ with a strong hydraulic.

Willow and Blueberries

Dwarf Willow and Wild Blueberries in the Arctic Tundra

 

Day 14: August 11

     Woke up to lifting fog. At 9:40am, we walked to the ponds west of us. From a ridge line, we noticed fish rising and proceeded down to that point. It took a while but we eventually unlocked the grayling code. Mepps Aglia worked for me and gold streamers for Mark. All told, we caught (and landed) 6 fish. There were others but they were lost since I didn’t have an effective stringer handy and I was chest wading. I used a paracord lanyard to string up the fish caught and threaded it through the fish gills and out the mouth. We returned to the boat and cooked our fish. We had a combination of grilled and fried fish with the last of the fish fry. I mixed some fish into my Mountain House Pasta Primavera and ate really well. After a brief afternoon rest, we organized and packed our gear for an early morning departure. Mark tied a fly and I cleaned some grit and surface rust off my firearms.

Mountain Reflection

A mountain reflection in a remote pond off the Sag River

 

Sag River Camp

Sag River camping. Mountains dwarf everything here!

 

Day 15: August 12
At 12:30am, Mark woke me to take a photo of the distant sun. This was the first time on this trip we experienced what can be considered a quasi sunset. In fact, it was more like a simultaneous sunset and sunrise as the sun moved sideways along the horizon and never fully disappeared. It turned the sky brilliant purple, blue and pink. When we eventually woke that morning, we floated to our site at the foothills of another lake. After lunch, we hiked to the lake 2 miles away. Along the way, we spotted the first caribou of our trip, a cow. I legally couldn’t take it as non-residents must only harvest a bull with my tag. Mark and I headed in the direction of it and we hoped it would rejoin a larger group of caribou that would include a male. Once Mark and I found the lake we sought out, we fished the inlet. The water was clear and deep and in minutes Mark caught a nice grayling. I moved along the perimeter of the lake and caught a fish I thought was a char before I landed it but it ended up being a lake trout. I caught another lake trout near the outflow to the creek we would follow back to our boat. We grilled our 3 fish for dinner as a storm approached and I took a couple Tylenol to deal with some knee pain caused by walking on the tundra. We counted the Mountain House Meals we had left and determined we had exactly enough to get us to our take-out date.

fish stringer surprise

This is what happens when your camera’s timer is set on multiple photos and you react to the one you didn’t expect coming

Fish stringer in Alaska

Kevin Estela with the stringer of fish he and Mark Knapp caught in ponds to the west of their camp

 

Grayling Sag RIver Fillets

Mark Knapp grilling up grayling fillets along the Sag River

AK Sunset/Sunrise

Sunrise or sunset? About as dark as it gets this time of year.

Day 16: August 13
Slept well after a long hike yesterday. After breakfast, I took another couple Tylenol to deal with some lingering knee pain and the inflammation was still bothering me from the day before. Again, we decided to hike west to the lakes beyond the one we fished yesterday. The bugs (mosquitoes and flies) were horrible today. I used my NxN Merino Scarf to wrap around my head to cover my ears, neck and face. Every time I wiped my brow, I had a half-dozen or more flies on my hand. The bugs were unrelenting. For 3 miles, we hiked in these conditions. We eventually found the lake we wanted to fish and I was able to catch a lake trout and Mark caught an arctic char on the fly he tied earlier in our trip. This was a proud moment for him as it was a fish he wanted to catch, in a body of water with an unknown fish population and on a fly he tied himself. Once we knew there were char in this lake, we continued to fish it and I remarked “now I need to catch a char”. As if I called in a request, I hooked a small char and landed it. We moved to the lake immediately adjacent to the one we were fishing at and fished it as well. I caught a beautiful arctic char there (21 ¾”) along with 3 more char (that had to be thrown back) as I worked my way around the lake. Mark caught 2 more lake trout. We hiked back to our boat and I made a fire while Mark cleaned the fish. This time, he cut the fish into a combination of fillets and steaks. We ate like kings that night and had plenty of fish leftover for breakfast the next day. All said, we hiked 7.55 miles according to Mark’s GPS.

Arctic Char Fishing

Kevin Estela with a 21 3/4″ arctic char caught within the Arctic Circle 3 miles west of the Sag River

Arctic River Fish

A successful day in the mountains. From top to bottom: Mark’s arctic char caught on a fly he tied, Kevin’s lake trout and Kevin’s arctic char.

 

Hook and cook arctic char

Arctic char steaks ready for the grill. Rember: You can’t grill it, until you kill it.

 

 

Day 17: August 14
At 12:30 in the morning, Mark tapped the foot box of my sleeping bag to wake me. When I realized he was trying to get my attention, I noticed a familiar sound coming from outside the tent. Mark whispered, “there is a ptarmigan outside”. My fatigue was replaced with excitement as the prospect of having a new protein after two weeks woke me up better than a full-pot of coffee. I reached over to my Tactical Solutions X-Ring take down rifle and quietly chambered a round. I slowly unzipped the screen door of the tent and then the rain fly to prevent them from making too much noise that might spook the birds. As I cautiously peered out of the tent, I spotted the birds at the edge of the river silhouetted against the water. The bird on the left offered me a better shot as the bird on the right only exposed its head. Because of the tent fly getting in the way, I shouldered the rifle (left-handed),aimed at the better of the two targets, and smoothly squeezed the trigger. I knew I hit the bird and looked for a second sight picture. Unfortunately the scope I had was zoomed into 7x power instead of 2x and before I could get back on target, the other spooked and flew over the water. We ate the ptarmigan that morning with the rest of our fish from the day before. I butterflied the breast meat as well as the legs. With only ½ a day of travel until we reached the 5-mile corridor, we took the opportunity to stop and hunt every stand of willows along the way. Unfortunately, we didn’t find any and had to put the rifles away and it’s a good thing we did. We encountered class III whitewater and had to bail the boat several times. We fished an inlet that appeared to be a lake and Mark caught a single grayling. We set up camp about 5 miles south of Pump Station 3. I cooked the grayling on a hot rock. We planned to get far past it the next day.

TacSol .22 ammo ptarmigan

A willow ptarmigan shot from the author’s tent

Mtn House Fish

Mountain House Pasta Primavera mixed with fresh arctic char

 

Mark Knapp floating the Sag

Mark Knapp in the 13′ NRS taken down the Sag River

 

 

Sag River Camping

Sag River Camp just below Pump Station 3

 

Day 18: August 15
Woke to an absolutely miserable kind of day. The skies were gray, the hanging fog was thick and there was a persistent mist in the air. The weather was the kind that makes travel difficult. The weather is just part of the price we had to pay for incredible fishing in the high country. On a positive note, I changed my thermal underwear to a set of clean Coldpruf Merino wool top and bottoms for the first time in 14 days. You live in a different state of clean/dirty when you are out in Alaska for this long. We paddled downriver in the rain. We encountered serious whitewater along this stretch. The rapids included some very long chains of rolling waves, some big hydraulics that were unmistakable as dangerous and some very tall standing waves. On more than one occasion, we just narrowly made it by the side of a rapid to safety. Wearing waders and a rain jacket, my clothes were soaked on the exterior only. With the wind blowing against me, I had a hard time staying warm and developed a deep body chill and shiver. This required pulling off the river and boiling water to put into my Heavy Cover titanium canteen. I tucked this between my legs against my femorals and when the water simply became warm, I drank the contents. Despite the cold conditions I encountered, I was witness to some incredible nature along this trip. We spotted a herd of muskox, a juvenile caribou that crossed the river in front of us as well as a red fox that snuck up on me as we walked to the road to determine our relative location. We pushed on from our lunch location and around 8pm we made it into Happy Valley Camp/landing strip. We traveled 38.8 miles in one day along the Sag. As we put our gear into our makeshift camp, a muskox ran right by us and then down the runway.  Before we turned in for the night, the resident state trooper came by to check on us and confirm we had valid licenses. He was a good guy and after his business was covered, he talked to us about fishing, hunting and Alaska in general.

 

Heavy Cover Ti Canteen

The author used hot water inside his Heavy Cover canteen to keep his lower extremities warmed. A metal canteen is a great piece of gear to always carry.

Day 19: August 16
My fishing license expired this morning at 12am.  I woke up around 6am and walked over to the Happy Valley Camp. What an excellent operation.  I spoke with Bree as well as her boyfriend Dustin while I drank I coffee. We had some great laughs about Alaska, the camp and the fishing and oil industries in general. I ate one of the last Mountain House breakfasts (a dinner menu option since we ran out of breakfast dishes), cleaned and dried my gear. Around noon, I realized I misplaced my phone. I retraced all of my steps. I looked where I cleaned my tackle boxes by the river, where I used the woods as a bathroom, where I walked around the camp checking out the other operations. My cell phone case was slate gray and all the rocks at Happy Valley are some shade of gray too. When I say I searched for hours, it is an understatement. Mark helped look and anyone who was waiting for a ride who learned of my lost phone checked their immediate area too. I was more anxious to get the photos back from the phone than the phone itself. I had photos of Mark catching the squirrel, of scenery, of me fishing with a rifle strapped to my back, of fish poking their head out of the water with lure in lip and so much more. It bothered me but, in retrospect, we could have lost so much more along the way. We could have had a shortened trip because of the bear. We could have flipped our raft. Hiking up and down the mountains, we could have had an injury sideline us. A phone can always be replaced and photos can be taken again when I return. Speaking to the other people at Happy Valley, it seemed as if we were not the only ones having hard hunts. One outfitter said there were more folks coming back empty-handed than with a caribou. I talked to some of the other folks around the camp and there was even more bad luck shared this day. One couple from Washington had a broken part in their camper cause another part to break and the replacement was days away. Another group of hunters could not fly out for days because of the weather. Again, in the grand scheme of things, we fared well overall. Mark and I took today to deflate and pack the raft and ge our gear ready for our trip back tomorrow.I won’t get my phone back until Saturday at the earliest. After 3 weeks, without, what is another couple days?

 

Happy Valley Camp Office

Happy Valley Camp Office. Very friendly and welcoming folks here!

 

Happy Valley Bicycle

A nice couple from WA had a thing for taking photos of bicycles where there traveled. This one is for both of you!

 

Day 20: August 17
Back to Fairbanks today. I woke up early after spending a lot of time wondering where I could have possibly dropped my phone. I looked for it again in a different light and couldn’t find it. Instead of continuing my search, I broke out my camera and took photos of some of the surrounding area. I watched three female caribou run across the river and Our ride from the Dalton Highway Tours van would arrive sometime between 8:30am and 11:30am. I continued to wonder where my phone could have been dropped and decided I would just have to hold out that someone might have picked it up, found the business card behind the cover and would mail it back to me. While the thought of losing photos bothered me, I used my full-size camera to take most of the main shots I needed and my cell to supplement them along the way. The Dalton Highway Tour van picked us up and we had a good ride back. Angel had sent some snacks for us on the van from Fairbanks to consume on the way home and after almost 3 weeks, some flavors were experienced as if they were forgotten about. We picked up a group of 5 female hikers from Seattle and our entire van stopped at the Coldfoot rest area for the first real meal in weeks. I can’t begin to express how a good fat burger and a side of tater tots tastes after this long. After picking up Mark’s truck at the airstrip, we proceeded down the Dalton Highway. We made a mandatory pit stop at the Hilltop Truck Stop for their pie and continued on our way. By 10:30 we were back at his shop.

Caribou Crossing

3 female caribou crossed the river not far from Happy Valley Camp on the final day

Watershed bags in Alaska

The author’s bags ready for the long ride home

 

Cleaning and Repacking Day 1: August 18
Today was Day 1 of the post-trip wrap up. I showered for the first time in 3 weeks and it made me feel as fresh as a daisy in a school play. I went through the clothes I left behind and put on a fresh set while my hunting/fishing clothes washed. After stopping by Beaver Sports for some repair materials, I patched up my dry bags. I went back to Frontier Outfitters and Sportsman’s Warehouse to replace some lost lures. Without my phone, I purchased some books at Barnes and Noble to occupy my time in the airport. Two Old Women and Shadows on the Koyokuk were ultimately picked up at a smaller book store when I couldn’t find them at the larger. I also began the process of packing my bags for the flight home. I weighed each component carefully and made sure each bag was under 50 pounds again. With my two carry on bags (GoRuck GR1 and Watershed Yukon), Pelican Case and EMS over sized duffel, all my gear came out to 156 pounds total. Even though I purchased some lures and a few odds and ends around town, I was able to keep everything under the weight limit for my checked bags.

Cleaning and Repacking Day 2: August 19
Today was bittersweet. My flight was scheduled for 550pm and I had some time to kill. I spent today doing final prep for my flight and trip home. Something interesting in Fairbanks. The City Dump is actually a very popular place for people to go. There are bins where people can put lightly used gear and others will pick it up to give it new life. There are those who wait there just to see what is being dropped off. To save an extra few pounds, I retired a set of Merrell hiking boots there. I knew someone could get some good use out of them. Before I left for the airport, Mark and I determined what our total cost was for the trip and without going into specifics, I’ll say it is was much less than the cost of a guided hunt/fishing/photography trip would be if we hired a guide. I said my farewell to Angel and Mark drove me to the airport. We gave each other a bro hug and I was on my way to security. Since Fairbanks is a small airport, it was an exceptionally pleasant experience going through security. I bought some last minute gifts for my nieces in the Twigs gift shop and boarded my plane.

August 20 Home
After a long night in the airport with an American Airlines flight delayed from 12:40 to 8am and another flight in Philadelphia that required me to run from the shuttle bus to the gate, I finally made it home by 9pm on Saturday. I made it home and collapsed in my reclining chair. Even though it was good to get home, part of me longs for the next Alaskan trip. The reputation of the remote wilderness is well-deserved and until I get back the thoughts of it will occupy my mind.

Author’s Note:
My sincerest thanks go out to all those who co-sponsored this trip in one way or another. Without your assistance, this trip would have been very difficult to pull off. Your gear kept me safe and I owe so much to you.  A very special thanks go out to Mark and Angel Knapp who welcomed me into their home for the days before and immediately after this trip. You guys are truly fantastic people I value the friendship of. I hope I earned my “Honorary Sourdough” status! Thank you so very much for making this trip unforgettable!

-Kev

***POST NOTE***
Thanks to the good folks at Happy Valley Camp, my cell phone was returned after a patron found it. Look for my follow up article called, “The Lost Photos.”

Buffalo Wool Company Apparel For Survival

Survival Woolen Apparel: Initial Impressions
By: Kevin Estela, Owner/Head Instructor of Estela Wilderness Education

Buffalo Wool Company Wool Socks

April 2016, drying socks and resting feet over a precipice above Squamish Valley in British Columbia. The Buffalo Wool Company Socks are in a class of their own!

I believe in stacking odds in favor of survival. In other words, I make sure to formulate my readiness plan based on logic, common sense, experience and proven performance. Far too often, aspiring outdoorsmen and women are steered toward the latest and greatest gear sold by survival celebrities and catchy marketing. The voices of the popular and promoted drown out the voices of reason and experience. Want proof? Look at the scores of people who wander the woods and walk the streets in equipment that looks nice but is made of sub-survival standard quality. They buy gear simply because it looks cool, they could care less what it is made from. Form does not follow function, for them, it’s the other way around. After many years of being a Survival Instructor and prior to that a Canoeing/Kayaking Guide and Instructor, I’ve seen apparel fail and apparel pass my expectations. Therefore, I take personal gear decisions very seriously. For real survival, in cold weather and for extended periods of time outdoors, one material stands out, wool. For serious comfort and performance, after trying out many types and brands, one type of wool has earned my highest recommendation, buffalo wool from the Buffalo Wool Company.

National Mammal of the United States

The Wild American Buffalo recently became the first National Mammal of the United States.

I admit, I was skeptical at first when I heard there is a wool made from buffalo. I had never heard of it and based my understanding off of the wool I used before. Then again, the wool I used before was from companies with a massive marketing budgets and impressive athlete endorsements. The Buffalo Wool Company on the other hand is a small family business that focuses on quality over quantity and working with quantities of available and sustainable buffalo wool a mere fraction of the quantity traditional sheep wool used by others. After being given a set of socks to test and using them for days on end, the warm and dry sensations my feet experienced signaled me why this wool is so impressive. Not long after this epiphany, a set of wool insoles, hat and gloves showed up to my doorstep. These items would turn out to be equally impressive. Here are my thoughts.

Buffalo Wool Company Wool Insoles

Buffalo Wool Company Wool Insoles

The insoles from Buffalo Wool Company are made from a blend of Bison and recycled wool. They are the perfect edition to my old pack boots. Over the years, I’ve used the original insoles, created a custom set from an old sleeping pad and now these. The Bison insoles are approximately 9mm thick and they provide exceptional comfort when standing on ice and snow for extended periods of time. The insoles don’t absorb much moisture and are easily maintained after each extended use by drying them out or washing them with a mild wool-friendly soap. After a long season of using these outdoors, being able to “get the funk out” before putting them away is an important quality. I have a set of LG insoles for my size 13 feet. They fit true to size but should I needed to cut them down, it’s easy to trace your foot size on them with a piece of chalk and cut them out with a set of EMT shears. Just cut a ¼” at a time as it is always easier to cut it off then put it back on should you make a mistake.

Buffalo Wool Company Wool Beanie

Kevin Estela wearing the Buffalo Wool Company Beanie. It is a year-round accessory for cold nights in camp.

Something that isn’t put away after this winter but will be carried year round instead is the Bison Beanie. It takes the wool cap to a new level and the fleece lining provides serious comfort. From a survival standpoint, an easy way to prevent heat loss is to protect your head. Winter is not the only season when the cold can kill. Fall and spring overnight temps and even a cold dunk in the summer can lead to a hypothermia situation. Having a good hat to keep your head warm is a necessity and this cap will follow me on trips around the country and into the backwoods. A good cap is always with me when I cold-weather camp. Rather than tucking my face into my sleeping bag and breathing moisture from my breath into the bag’s insulation, I wear a hat and keep my face exposed. This hat can be worn for extended periods of time and you almost forget you have it on you. No matter how much I sweat in that beanie, the fabric wicked the perspiration away from my skin and the relative comfort was incredible. No matter what the temps, that beanie kept me warm and protected me from the elements. This hat is a winner.

Buffalo Wool Company Wool Gloves

Buffalo Wool Company Wool Gloves

Last but not least in my initial review of the products from the Buffalo Wool Company are the Advantage Gear Bison/Merino Wool gloves. Gloves like these are absolutely essential items in the cold. What separates us from most of the animal kingdom is our ability to use our hands to create and use tools. When our hands become too numb to function, we lose survivability. These wool gloves have protected my hands while working in the cold around fire (wool is fire resistant, not fireproof), while using working with various cutting tools (the leather does a great job in preventing the wool from wearing down) and even while working around water. When I think about purchasing gloves, I always say to myself, “how much is each of my fingers worth?” A pair of $45 gloves is only $4.50 insurance for each. These gloves will also not be put away after winter as I will use them in conjunction with the hat year round in camp.

 

The Buffalo Wool Company has come out with some excellent products for the outdoorsman. I really look forward to seeing what else is in the works for them and fully expect their future products to live up to the standards and reputation of their existing line. I’ve set aside my other wool hats, gloves and socks and have started to use these exclusively. When I head to Alaska this summer for over a month, I’ll have their products in tow. I’m serious about survival, about stacking the odds in my favor and when traveling to America’s final frontier, I want nothing less than the best for my comfort and safety.

For more information, please visit their website: https://thebuffalowoolco.com/ or check them out on Instagram @the_buffalowoolco

Thank You Harris Publications and Good Bye

Thank You Harris Publications and Good Bye
By: Kevin Estela

Just last week, I received by way of a social media post, Harris Publications was shutting down and closing up all operations. This came as a major surprise to me considering the near 40 year history of the magazine and the ongoing interest in the articles I offered them. It took me a couple of searches but I ultimately found a reputable source online to verify this and only after I spoke with my Editor from Harris did I finally accept this industry standby would be no more. With diverse titles across many genres, the absence of titles printed by Harris will surely be felt. I know the survival community is certainly stirring already.

Harris Publications American Frontiersman

A cover from American Frontiersman Magazine by Harris Publications

Cited as reason for ceasing operations, “digital media, changing consumer content preferences, magazine wholesaler struggles and consolidation in the supply chain…” ultimately resulted in the final decision. The announcement came as a surprise and one of my contacts there would later tell me he was literally looking at an article I had penned in layout when an announcement came over the loudspeaker they would be closed the following day at 6pm. The abrupt message rocked the print community; the writers, editors, layout folks and readers of course. It isn’t everyday a company known in multiple industry circles simply disappears.

Their reasons are understandable. Having recently edited my first magazine, I know the expenses involved behind the scenes. Compare these to inexpensive (often free) nature of blogs, websites and social media posts available with faster turnover on electronic devices and you have part of the reason why magazines are disappearing. Magazines used to be the realm of professional writers and trusted content. To some degree, I still believe this to be the case. But now, many writers/experts/personalities are avoiding the middleman and producing content on their own. (Even this post regarding the closure was produced in a matter of minutes and in less than a week since the notice went out. This type of turnaround in a print magazine is next to impossible proving the speed and timeliness of digital media). Online content is easier to control and no editors are there to disagree or change how it is delivered. Of course there will always be dilettante online web personalities but the savvy reader/viewer can discern content worth reading/watching from content worthy of a thumbs down or navigating away from. There are just as many reliable sources online as there are in the pages of magazines previously considered the singular domain of expertise.

Personally, Harris Publications gave me a shot back in 2013. I had cold called and e-mailed the editors and was very excited when they wrote back to me. When I was looking to transition from one magazine to another and when I needed to occupy myself with something constructive, Harris Publications was there for me. Over the next few years, I’d pen numerous articles for them and the writing assignments took me into the woods to document my training and skill sets and challenged me to communicate complex skills with concise wording. The folks at Harris always let me proof my articles and they were easy to work with. I’ll miss working with them but will always remember they gave me a chance and won’t forget that. Thank you Harris Publications.

The First 50 Articles by Kevin Estela

The First 50 Articles by Kevin Estela

RECOIL Issue 23 Estela Beck

Kevin Estela with the Dave Beck Knives Model G reviewed in Issue 23 of RECOIL magazine.

Owner/Head Instructor of Estela Wilderness Education, Kevin Estela, recently passed the “50” mark for professional writing. With the February 2016 issue of American Survival Guide, Kevin added two more articles to his running list of printed articles written over the years. This list starts with his first departure from electronic reviews on discussion boards and electronic magazines. The first article, a review of the Wilderness Learning Center Plant Course from 2007, appeared in Wilderness Way Magazine which is no longer in production.

After a brief hiatus from writing for Wilderness Way Magazine, Kevin began writing for Self-Reliance Illustrated, a magazine owned by the Pathfinder School and the Owners of Blind Horse Knives (now Battle Horse Knives and LT Wright Knives). It was at SRI Kevin hit his stride writing numerous articles and appearing on the cover of one issue featuring the “Editor’s Choice” article about Teaching Friction Fire methods. Kevin wrote for this magazine from issue #1 when he reviewed a new knife from Gossman Knives  and periodically until the final issue in 2014.

In the fall of 2013, Kevin wanted to continue writing and needed a new a outlet. He reached out to Harris Publications and queried the editorial staff. Kevin’s first article was based on his experience with leatherwork, a skill he learned from his good friend Marty Simon. Through Harris Publications, Kevin wrote for numerous titles and picked up work for a new magazine called Survivor’s Edge appearing in the premiere issue. Kevin continues to write for Harris to this day and has numerous titles that remain in the queue, submitted and waiting to be published.

RMJ Tactical Harris Publications

A sampling of Kevin Estela’s Writing from Harris Publication’s American Frontiersman magazine.

Looking to expand his audience, Kevin reached out to American Survival Guide. Almost instantly, he was given titles to work with and close to 20 years after reading his first issue of ASG as a teenager, Kevin appeared in  an article entitled “Into Thin Air” featuring his photo from a solo trip to Norway where he hiked Preikstolen and around the Lysefjord area. Close to 20 of the titles in the first 50 come from American Survival Guide and Kevin continues to submit articles to this magazine.

Perhaps the magazine with the most subscribers and reach is the most recent Kevin has started to write for. Both RECOIL and OFF-GRID magazine are extremely popular titles in the firearms industry and Kevin has received frequent feedback from readers for his articles on the Bugout Canoe article as well as the review of the new Beck Knives Model G. Kevin’s next 50 will certainly include more titles for these magazines as there is a continued interest for his work to fill the pages.

American Survival Guide Estela

American Survival Guide featuring a review of Estela Wilderness Education Budget Bushcraft by Dwayne Unger and two articles by Kevin Estela pertaining to survival .22 pistols and hammocks

Aside from the print publications, Kevin continues to write features for the website of Joel Lambert, the blogs for Fiddleback Forge and Mountain Khakis and his own website. There are also near daily posts to his Facebook page and regular posts to Twitter and Instagram. Kevin prides himself on being an active writer and doing things the right way, the real way and the most genuine way regardless of difficulty. He has earned a reputation as an honest writer and one who will go the extra mile, literally and figuratively, to research and develop a story.

In true Estela form, Kevin’s list of articles written at time of this post does not stop at 50 but 51. Always looking to deliver more, like he does in his courses, Kevin will continue to exceed expectations and deliver top-level writing to the survival community and then some. As a freelance writer, Kevin will continue to deliver TRUSTED KNOWLEDGE PROVEN IN THE FIELD!

Print Publications
Updated 02/01/16

1. Estela, Kevin. “Plant Intensive Course Review.” Wilderness Way. Volume 14 Issue 2: 20-22. Print. (This first publication appeared in 2008)

2. Estela, Kevin. “Wilderness Learning Center Winter Survival Skills Course Review.” Wilderness Way. Volume 15 Issue 3: 3-7. Print.

3. Estela, Kevin. “Bare Steel to Full Field: The Gossman Military and Field Knife (MFK) Evolution.” Self-Reliance Illustrated. Issue Number 1: 21-24. Print.

4. Estela, Kevin. “Beyond the Ten Essentials.” Self-Reliance Illustrated. May/June 2011: 64-66. Print.

5. Estela, Kevin. “Stretching your Survival Potential. Elastic Band Tools/Weapons.” Self-Reliance Illustrated. September/October 2011: 89-91. Print.

6. Estela, Kevin. “ Are You Afraid of the Dark?” Self-Reliance Illustrated. May/June 2012: 34-36. Print.

7. Estela, Kevin. “On-Hand Firestarting.” Self-Reliance Illustrated. July/August 2012: 25-28. Print.

8. Estela, Kevin. “Cold-Weather Shelters.” Self-Reliance Illustrated. January/February 2013: 27-32. Print.

9. Estela, Kevin. “What’s In My Pantry?” Self-Reliance Illustrated. March/April 2013: 7-10. Print.

10. Estela, Kevin. “Breaking Bread.” Self-Reliance Illustrated. July/August 2013: 43-45. Print.

11. Estela, Kevin. “Adventure Abroad: Trip Tips from a Traveling Outdoorsman.” Self-Reliance Illustrated. July/August 2013: 60-65. Print.

12. Estela, Kevin. “Cold Weather Paddling.” Self-Reliance Illustrated. January/February 2014: 9-12. Print.

13. Estela, Kevin. “Bushcraft in Sweden: Lessons Learned in the Lapland.” Self-Reliance Illustrated. January/February 2014: 22-26. Print.

14. Estela, Kevin. “What’s In My Pack.” Self-Reliance Illustrated. May/June 2014: 27-30. Print.

15. Estela, Kevin. “Handcraft a Knife Sheath.” American Frontiersman. #158: 77-80. Print.

16. Estela, Kevin. “Fish For Your Life.” American Frontiersman. #158: 36-39. Print.

17. Estela, Kevin. “Vehicle Preparedness.” Survivor’s Edge. June 2014: 70-72. Print.

18. Estela, Kevin. “Perimeter Protection.” Survivor’s Edge. June 2014: 90-91. Print.

19. Estela, Kevin. “Mastering the Flame.” Survivor’s Edge. June 2014. 96-98. Print.

20. Estela, Kevin. “Teaching Friction Fire Skills.” Self-Reliance Illustrated. July/August 2014: 7-11. Print.

21. Estela, Kevin. “Road-Trip Safety.” Personal & Home Defense. #159: 82-83. Print.

22. Estela, Kevin. “Lon Humphrey Pioneer Camp Knife.” Self-Reliance Illustrated. Fall 2014: 37-41. Print.

23. Estela, Kevin. “Lifesaving Wood.” Survivor’s Edge. Spring 2015: 90-91. Print.

24. Estela, Kevin. “Into Thin Air.” American Survival Guide. May 2015: 58-64. Print.

25. Estela, Kevin. “Going Coastal.” The New Pioneer. Summer 2015: 34-36. Print.

26. Estela, Kevin. “Wearable Gear.” American Survival Guide. June 2015: 106-109. Print.

27. Estela, Kevin. “Bites & Stings.” American Survival Guide. June 2015: 66-71. Print.

28. Estela, Kevin. “Found Alive.” American Survival Guide. July 2015: 20-25. Print.

29. Estela, Kevin. “Essential Axemanship.”Survivor’s Edge. Fall 2015: 118-119. Print.

30. Estela, Kevin. “Carving Out Camp Tools.” American Frontiersman. Summer 2015: 38-40. Print.

31. Estela, Kevin. “The Modern Minuteman.” American Survival Guide. August 2015: 26-31. Print.

32. Estela, Kevin. “When the Levee Breaks.” American Survival Guide. August 2015: 60-67. Print.

33. Estela, Kevin. “Gimme Shelter.” American Survival Guide Gear Guide. Fall 2015: 118-122. Print.

34.Estela, Kevin. “Scorched Earth.” American Survival Guide. September/October 2015: 18-23. Print.

35. Estela, Kevin. “Full Circle.” American Survival Guide. September/October 2015. 50-57: Print.

36. Estela, Kevin. “K9 Survival.” American Survival Guide. September/October 2015. 60-67: Print.

37. Estela, Kevin and Richardson, Will. “K9 RX.” American Survival Guide. September/October 2015: 68-71. Print

38. Estela, Kevin. “Dig Out From Disaster.” Survivor’s Edge. Winter 2016: 16-17. Print.

39. Estela, Kevin. “Survival Psychology.” Survivor’s Edge. Winter 2016: 112-113. Print.

40. Estela, Kevin. “Light and Lean.” American Survival Guide. December 2015: 28-33. Print.

41. Estela, Kevin. “Custom 66.” American Survival Guide. December 2015: 50-55. Print.

42. Estela, Kevin. “A Sharper Knife Edge.” American Survival Guide. December 2015: 118-119. Print.

43.Estela, Kevin. “Rimfire Survival Tactics.”
American Survival Guide. January 2016: 82-92. Print.

44. Estela, Kevin. “Survival Hammock Hacks.” American Survival Guide. January 2016: 110-117. Print.

45. Estela, Kevin. “Up SHTF Creek With a Paddle.”OFFGRID Magazine. Issue 11: 42-47. Print.

46. Estela, Kevin. “Work ‘Hawks.” American Frontiersman. Spring 2016: 58-61. Print.

47. Estela, Kevin. “Belt Pouch Leatherwork.” American Frontiersman. Spring 2016: 78-79. Print.

48. Estela, Kevin. “Ain’t Nothin’ but a “G” Thang.” RECOIL Magazine. Issue 23 Winter 2016:156-162. Print

49. Estela, Kevin. “First and Last Resort.” American Survival Guide. February 2016: 68-75. Print.

50. Estela, Kevin. “No-Cook Survival Foods.” American Survival Guide. February 2016. 106-113. Print.

“If you have enjoyed what I’ve written so far, get ready because I’m just getting warmed up! So much more is yet to come and there are some major projects I am extremely excited about being part of. Here is to the next 50 articles! Thank you for reading and supporting my work.” -Kevin Estela

Estela Wilderness Education is Alaska Bound

Alaskan Flag

Alaskan Flag courtesy of NPS.GOV

Alaskan Survival Expedition 2016

This summer, Estela Wilderness Education is headed to Alaska to pair up with Mark Knapp of Mark Knapp Custom Knives for an extended hungting/fishing/survival float trip on the Sag River. Along the way, Kevin will be testing and reviewing equipment for various companies, hunting and fishing for wild game and taking photographs/journaling the experience for upcoming articles. Mark Knapp is a seasoned Alaskan hunting guide and has planned an exciting adventure highly anticipated by Kevin and the publications he writes for.

Mark and Kevin met at BLADE show in 2015 and after Mark discussed the idea of testing the 1911 Combat Survivor in the field, he suggested Kevin visit. Kevin accepted the offer and has been planning the trip since. Since agreeing to coming to Alaska, Kevin has put the Combat Survivor Bowie through some intense testing and evaluation (soon to be an article for a major magazine in May). Both Kevin and Mark will use their skill sets in the field to present the most honest field test of a knife possible. Some major names in the outdoor industry have agreed to support this trip through providing equipment for Kevin and Mark to use along the way. The editors of the magazines Kevin writes for have also expressed interest in a number of articles inspired by this adventure and experience.

Map of Alaska

Map of Alaska accessed from www.adfg.alaska.gov

The trip insertion will be on the Sagavanirktok River on an unnamed lake after meeting up in Fairbanks. They will float in a 13’ inflatable to pipeline haul road at pump station 3 where they will be extracted. Transportation will be by Brooks Range Aviation.  Gear selection will be critical as space will be limited and there is no room for failure along the way.

Alaska is considered to be the final frontier in the United States and there are many places in the state that have never seen a footprint. At this time of year, the sunlight extends long into the night. The expression, “land of the midnight sun” is appropriate for this reason. The weather will range from 40 to 60 degrees Fahrenheit but that can quickly change as weather extremes are possible in Alaska. Another consideration in this region of the state is bear safety. Alaska is home to the highest concentration of brown bear and Kevin and Mark will be traveling through this territory very carefully.

There is more to come about this trip in the months that follow. More details will be published and equipment lists posted. Keep up with Kevin’s readiness planning on his social media On Facebook, www.facebook.com/estelawildernesseducation as well as on Twitter and Instagram @estelawilded

1911 Custom Knife Survival Bowie

Mark Knapp Custom Knives Combat Survivor from BLADE Show 2015

Corporate Sponsors (Providing Equipment):
Buffalo Bore Ammunition
Buffalo Wool Company
Coldpruf
Hornady
Kifaru
Kryptek
Mark Knapp Custom Knives
Mountain House Foods
Quantum Reels
Schmidt Bender
SIG Sauer
St. Croix Rods
Tactical Solutions
Ultimate Survival Technologies (UST)
Vortex Optics
Watershed Bags