Fall Foraging challenge outing. No food, water or modern firecraft implements.

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Jul 10, 2014
Connecticut USA
Disclaimer. Always carry multiple modern means of firestarting. Always pack enough water and a means to filter/purify more. Pack enough containers to carry potable water to satisfy your requirements. This was just to practice skills. The Challenge was complete an overnight bushcraft outing with a focus on foraging wild edibles. Foraging can be used to supplement meals and meals are not required to be 100% foraged. Small game hunting and or fishing is encouraged. But in addition to this challenge I added the following goals.

1. No firesteel, matches, lighters or charred materials unless I char them in the field.

2. No food.

3. No water.

4. Only one packed canteen which will be dry.

5. No water filter or tabs.

6. Poncho for rain gear.

7. Only one edged tool.

8. Tenkara setup for fishing.

9. Only one kettle, pot or pan. No cups, bowls or spoons etc etc etc.

10. Maybe a firearm for hunting.

11. 2.5 days. This will really put the pressure on getting a fire going for purify water.

The goal was to live out of my pack, using only my feet once disembarking from the vehicle. I intended to forage for my consumable needs. In my view water, fire and food are different strands of the same foraging rope. To acquire each of them from environment is to complete the puzzle. A pack is both a person's wings and their albatroz at the same time. There are limitations on how far someone can travel for what they need. During foraging outings decisions must be made as to what's worth the effort. I believe scouting before such an outing is important. I did my scouting, posting the results later in this thread.

My plan was to use 8-10 miles of blue trail to increase my range on foot. These trails link up with multiple environments giving me an advantage in terms of distance on foot and resource acquisition. Also the trail links up with streams for fishing and areas to camp. As the goal was foraging I packed all of my shelter and insulation needs. Let's take a look at my gear.

In addition to these items I have a Hennessy Hammock, UL sleeping bag, clothing and poncho. Here is a list which may or may not be total. No one is perfect so it is what it is.

1. Empty Nalgene canteen.
2. Oyster shells.
3. Chunk of chaga.
4. Empty Altoids tin.
5. GSI Stainless kettle.
6. WCF knife.
7. Bag of bags.
8. Fenix HL50 headlamp.
9. Tenkara rod and kit.
10. Firebox hobo stove.
11. TP.
12. Poncho.
13. Bandana.

So off to the Fall foraging and hiking.

Part 1. The gathering.

I first feared there would be no hickory nuts as checked out several spots along my path. However hit paydirt!

I want the husk black or better yet out of the husk.

Some wild scallions. I find these in spots which have enough sunlight along with rich soil though they can grow in multiple environments. Best part is they seem to thrive well into Fall. The green stems are the scallions.

If one digs down just a bit there are small onions. I believe onion grass is another name for these. I will be taking them to eat.

Hey look! It's a worm. No I am not going to be eating worms but they're bait. Found a few during the day without even looking.

Black Walnuts. These are native and a nice find. Tons of calories high in fat. I want the ones with black husks or better yet out of the husk. The shell is amazingly hard.

Milkweed pods. Milkweed is a useful plant but for this time of the year I will be seeking out the pods. This area has both open and closed pods. I will go more into this later. My primary target is the ovum within the pods and the fluff.

Rose hips. These are going to make some nice tea! Every rose has it's thorns but multi flora roses excel at this. Nasty things. They like the margins of fields and my advice is not to attempt to force your way through them without proper clothing and tools.

But the hips are good! It was a great year for them.

Wild apples. Actually apples aren't wild but were once planted in long forgotten orchards. They might look nasty compared to what's available in the market but they're not bad. It's a BIG score and will forage many. Looks like deer or something else has been chewing on them. Wild edibles is a game with many players, most of which are far better at it than myself.

The bark.

Food isn't the only resource I am foraging for. I still don't have a way to start a fire. No fire means no water because I don't have a filter or tabs either. I won't be risking waterborne illness just to test my skills. If I don't later succeed at starting a fire the game is over. Right by the apple tree was a fallen cedar. The bark wasn't prime but seemed good enough for a tinder bundle. The cedar branches might also make for a good friction fire set so took some as well. I started to notice my lack of a saw or axe. The knife did the trick for both jobs.

Even found some dead White pine. Going to take this cedar and White pine for a friction fire set.

I used my knife to both remove and fluff the bark at the same time. Looks like I am starting to have the makings of two different methods of starting a fire. The more options the better.

Wild carrots or rather carrot. Seems their numbers were sparser than I expected. Oh well.

Not exactly a feast but will make for a snack later on. This is one wild edible which proper ID is very important. It's possible to mix up the ID with Hemlock so make 100% sure as this is a fatal mistake. Like all wild edibles if not 100% certain don't eat them.

I still have that fire problem. I would really prefer a Bic lighter or ferro rod but unfortunately don't have them, not even as backups. A fire failure would mean an outing/challenge failure. My goal is to use items only foraged on this outing too make and sustain a fire however have contingencies.

1. I could find quartz and use that to toss a spark off the spine of my knife. That spark would hopefully be caught by the previously foraged chaga. That coal could then be blown into flames.

2. Use the previously foraged shells as a bearing block for a foraged bowdrill set.

But that really wouldn't accomplish my goal as those resources were foraged before this outing. I do have some milkweed fluff and ovums foraged during this outing. The ovum might catch a spark and the fluff could then be used within a cedar tinder bundle. It could also be charred for future use during this outing. But to do all of this I would need a rock and not any old rock would do. My pack was starting to get on the heavier side with all those apples and nuts. Time to stop to look for those rocks and assess the situation.

I noticed this Tulip Poplar branch. It might make for good friction fire materials however that bark is just screaming tinder bundle. It could make for natural charred materials as well.

I found this quartz in a drainage area not too far from my pack. The leaves made the quartz more difficult to see but this was a good start.

And what do we have here? Looks like punky Black birch. Punkwood can make for a good coal extender and natural charred materials. I found punkwood smoke seems to deter mosquitoes however it was too cold for them.

End of Part 1. Here is a video of part 1.


Part 2. Nuts, hydrocarbons, water and camp.

I was feeling rather good if not a bit dry. That firecraft monkey was still on my back but kept on moving. I still wanted to go fishing but also needed to find water and a camp. The food foraging continues. I found several species of hickory which was good as some produced and others not so much. Hickory nut bark. This might be a mockernut hickory but not sure and it really doesn't matter as though some are better than others in my area they all seem to be perfectly edible.

Green and still in it's husk. Green Hickory nuts are extremely bitter. This one isn't ready yet.

Oh nice. Out of the shell!

The green ones are just for show as they're a no go but the rest are perfect!

I am hungry so lets have a snack. I find using two rocks is the best way to crack both Hickory and Black Walnuts. It's best not to go all planet of the apes. Tap them between two rocks at first fracturing the shell. Add more force if needed however too much force will pulverize the nut. I think Hickory nuts are some of the best Fall forage. IMHO they rival most nuts purchased at the market. Like many wild edibles they don't run away. I didn't have to set a figure 4 trap or other contraption. I didn't have to fight them. They were just on the ground for the gathering.

Time to get water then decide on my next course of action. Do I fish or forage some more before setting up camp? For now I had to watch my footing as the leaf litter was covering gaps and openings between these rocks.

This brook which does hold trout was so low that even getting water was a challenge. I feared this would be the case based on my previous scouting. It was so dry fishing was more of a question mark than anything else. I would have to try my luck the next day in another stream.

Bad news for fishing but at least there was water.

But there is a problem. I only have one canteen. When it comes to foraging containers are a big part. Without something to hold water, food and other forage items you're very limited. I am used to having more than enough water storage capacity so for now would have to improvise. My kettle can hold about the same as the Nalgene so decided to carry it full. This proved to be a pain in the back side. I could do multiple trips to the brook however it's a very rocky area and I don't want to be hiking around from camp at night even with the headlamp.

Decided to boil the kettle water first in camp then worry about what to do with the Nalgene after. Odds are I would dump the water from the Nalgene into the kettle to be boiled once that was empty. Normally I like to have containers designated for just potable water but that really wasn't practical given the limitations. For now I would be walking around with a full kettle.

Some more quartz this time encrusted in these rocks. Used a smaller rock to smash a chunk off. Quartz can be inconsistent in it's ability to toss a spark off carbon steel. Sometimes it's great, other times it just crumbles. The life of the sharp edge on quartz tends to be short. As this has just gotta work best to get a multiple samples.

More punky wood, this time it looks like Hemlock which often has nice punkwood for firecraft. In the same area found Yellow birch bark. Happy about that as the kettle was getting on my nerves.

Daylight is burning. I really have got to settle down for the night and start to boil my water. Some food would be nice as well. This spot seemed to be ideal for a Fall foraging hammock camp.

So why was it good? First and foremost the site had properly spaced small trees for the hammock and near as I could tell low widowmaker risk.

It even has some wild edibles. Ate a few partridgeberries found around camp. The location was near more Hickory nuts and not all that far from the brook though the distance was still more than I would like for a simple water run in the dark if needed.

There was more quartz here than any other place during the outing.

Speaking of quartz it was time for knapping. This knapping technique involves years of practice. One must understand complex physics such as objects heavier than air will drop and often things will break into small pieces when smashed by rocks. As stated complex stuff! I am looking for sharp edges. The leaves ate up many of the smaller broken pieces but found enough after during the smashing session.

My camp. Nothing fancy but then again there is really nothing fancy going on. Just what's required to get the job done.

The harvest. My foraging including the friction fire woods and water.

The area had plenty of easy to find and process wood. The conditions were very dry. Lots of rocks to make a fire ring but decided to use the hobo stove for safety. It was that dry and with all of those leaves around it just seemed like the smarter play. There would be both pros and cons to this decision. The immediate pro being a hobo stove doesn't burn much wood.

Camp rocks to crack nuts and for other uses as well. The quartz is ready to GO!

Wild apples, hickory nuts and Black walnuts.

Wild carrot, wild scallions and onion, rose hips, punkwood, cedar bark tulip poplar bark and milkweed.

Don't these rose hips look wonderful!

End of Part 2. Here is a video of part 2.

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Jul 10, 2014
Connecticut USA
Part 3. Milkweed fire. Time to eat!

With the foraging done and camp setup it was time to start a fire. My field made options included making a bowdrill set or attempting a natural flint and steel fire using the foraged milkweed ovum, broken quartz, cedar bark, milkweed fluff and my knife. The 100% natural flint and steel fire using only items foraged on the same outing with a carbon steel implement, not pure dedicated striker is the holiest of holy grails of flint and steel. Well this is maybe a bit less holy as I am using a full sized striker knife but it's still darn holy just the same. LOL! The real question is will it work?

From the left to right. The first milkweed pod is too small and green, the next is larger but still too green, the third still has it's fluff so the ovum could be damp, the fourth pod is open with ovum exposed which is good and the last is just an ovum which is ideal. I forged more than what's shown in the picture. Milkweed isn't very common in my area and wouldn't want to depend on this firestarting method. Much of foraging is about opportunities that present themselves and should be taken within that context. You can be in the right place and season yet still not find with you're looking for. In this case the place was an open field and time Fall. I was fortunate.

I am not taking any chances. Made a layered tinder bundle to ensure any coal would hold.

And it worked but just. Took me longer than expected. As stated flint and steel with natural materials foraged during the same outing is an iffy proposition. To see the action you will have to watch the video for part 3.

Put the grill on for the next step.

I really need fire for the rest of the outing but my hobo stove won't hold coals all night. The available methods are the remaining milkweed ovums, packed foraged chaga fungus and as of yet hypothetical bowdrill set. I gotta be honest here. That sucks. There is a reason why people carry lighters, ferro rods and matches. Modern methods aside the next most reliable and easy would be flint and steel using charred materials. This was the primary method of starting fires for generations. That said I don't want to cook my bandana and don't have any cotton clothing. But that's not necessary and I question if people really charred their clothes back in the day. What I did have was plenty of annoying milkweed fluffy flying round, punkwood and bark The solution was a fire chain. The initial fire is used to char materials for subsequent fires. Let's start with the milkweed fluff.

It works so much easier.

Now the punk.


One spark coals are totally possible. Clearly charred materials offers enormous advantages compared to other marginal methods.

I also charred some cedar bark. Ended up with enough charred materials to stuff the tin to capacity with overflow in a plastic bag. I will be using this charred materials for this and future trips. When the charred materials gets low I will make more adding links to the chain. I now had two field made means of starting a fire.

Tossed in a good amount of wood to get a nice coal base for cooking. Hobo stoves often require more fussing around than a traditional fire ring.

With that issue mostly behind me it was time for dinner. I can see why we had a stone age. Stones don't make for bad tools IMHO. Best of all they're not available at REI. I am using the camp processing stones to remove husks from the Black walnuts.

Roasting them over the coals 5 at a time.

Time to roast those wild onions.

Let's put the tea on!

Looks like the tea is doing well.

All done. It has a nice color and dang am I thirty. One of the downsides of not drinking all day and moving around. Oh well it is what it is.

My dinner. Ok it looks like something out of the walking dead but so what. I was feeling really good about everything.

The roasted Black walnuts were fantastic.

The tea was a really winner! Some of the best Rose Hip tea I ever made. When You're thirsty and there is a chill in the air warm tea hits the spot.

Ate some Hickory nuts as well.

For dessert roasted apples.

The skin got a bit charred but that was easy to peel off. Wasn't bad all things considered.

Reasonably well fed and hydrated I remembered the old adage. Best to pack at least 3 ways to start a fire. Before turning in messed around working on two friction fire sets. I missed not having a saw but got to work anyways. This would be something to be finished the next day.

The end of Part 3. Here is a video of Part 3.


Part 4. Fishing and breaking camp.

It was a good if not a bit chilly night. I like to hang out my bag and other insulation kit if weather permits.

Looks like a wild party. Broken rocks, turkey feather, shells, husks and ash among other things. Crazy times for sure.

The camping spot also had very near access to Hemlock trees. Going to make morning Hemlock needle tea. How does this differ from afternoon Hemlock needle tea? Time of day of course!

When out and about I picked up a bow for the set. Gotta start that fire for the tea somehow.

Why am I working on a bowdrill set? I already made 2 methods of starting a fire so far on this outing? Simple. I want 3 reliable methods and a proven set in some ways is really good. I wanted to try the lid of my kettle for a bearing block. I would use the bandana as a heat shield for my hand.

Ready to GO!

And it was a no GO! The spindle was too small or maybe the idea just sucked as I am no master of anything. I am going to revisit this idea again but for now would be using the oyster shells foraged a week before.

The shell bearing block did the trick.

Used some of the left over bark and other tinder bundle materials to blow that coal into flames. I nearly lost the flames when putting the bundle into the hobo stove. Found it harder to ignite the hobo stove using a flaming tinder bundle than a twig fire with a raised back platform. Still results are the ultimate arbiter as to success or failure in firecraft. Once again I had success.

I actually made two sets but the other one failed. So what to do with the proven set? Some say burn it but I say why? It's no longer just sticks but a proven set. Given my marginal circumstances why toss out anything? Unlike charred materials many proven sets will still work even if dunked in water for some time unless it's totally on the edge of working. Here are my field made 3 ways to start a fire. This insured I wouldn't need to worry about fire starting for the rest of the outing. I did the burn in, V-groove, sharpened and roughed up the spindle before the actual need. This way if I should misplace the knife my set is ready to go. In addition to the charred materials I also had the remaining milkweed ovums.

A ferro rod or lighter would have made life much easier. People recommend packing a good modern firefit for a reason.

So what's for breakfast. Honestly not much.

Once the water is brought to a good boil it's removed from the heat. Then after a minute or so the Hemlock needles are added then allowed to steep. My experience says not to boil the needles as the tea develops a turpentine (for lack of a better word) taste. The amount of needles and steep time are up to the individual.

Yup more nuts. I am starting to feel like a squirrel.

Might as well finish off the rest of the hips.

The steam hitting my camera lens.

What to do next? Didn't have to worry about my camp (within reason, I was a bit apprehensive about leaving it setup). Didn't need to worry about fire given my foraged kit. To be honest I was ok with food and water at this location. Just a reasonable walk to the nearly dried up brook and there were Hickory trees about. But I just gotta do something today. I knew of a Chestnut tree a little over a mile away in one direction. In the opposite direction there is a larger stream. That's one advantage to scouting and knowing an area. There is a reason why both people and critters have territories. To run out "naked and afraid" IMHO is to fail. I knew there would be Chestnuts but didn't know if the water would be too low in the river to properly fish. It was a late start so had to pick one.

I am going fishing! The Kifaru E&E ready to GO! Among other things I packed the charred materials and knife but left the proven set back at camp. This way there would be a reasonable chance of starting a fire if something should happen to my kit. I don't like taking chances and this is skills practice without the training wheels. I would try a fly first then worms if that failed.

Seems I screwed up. The river looked more like a wide leaf covered path with an occasional large puddle. I worked it hard but the few trout seen took off. They were so spooked.

Kept on walking. I like to climb up little cliffs, ledges and larger boulders but let this one go.

Even the worms didn't produce. When I was sure all hope was gone got a little trout!

But that's the problem, it was a little trout. I was hungry but won't keep a short so this little one got to live.

Hold on what's this?

Ok, it's not a trout and I never ate one of these but at this point beggars can't be choosers.

Ran into some mullein hiking back to camp. I have all my firecraft and coal extender requirements already covered so left it but kept a mental note of the location.

I past by some trash like this on the first day regretting not taking it. Normally I pick up trash when hiking but was so focused on business didn't bother. However this was a nearly full water bottle. I filled up my canteen at the river but an extra water container would be useful. The water could be used to wash off my hands and knife when cleaning the fish as well. I hope the person didn't have the cooties.

Back at camp. I don't have plates so made one out of leaves. Time to clean my catch.

I don't have much for condiments or other niceties but do have a wild scallion.

Hey it's something. LOL! Stuffed it into the fish.

So it's time to see if all that charring of natural materials pays off in the field. I used more than was required but had plenty and wanted to take no chances. I think foraging among other things is about mitigating challenges and taking advantage of opportunities IMHO. Also it's just fun and that's really what this is all about.

The second link in my all natural flint and steel fire chain. With luck one of many.

I think it caught the first actual spark off the spine of my knife or maybe it was the 2nd or 3rd but who cares. This was so much easier than spinning a coal or trying to eke out fire from a milkweed ovum. If memory serves me correctly I was all out of cedar bark but did have the tulip poplar bark. Fluffed it up for the tinder bundle. There was no need for a coal extender or layering.



Dinner. Yup it's a little fish and a few funky apples. No hiding that but it wasn't bad however it wasn't a nice trout either. Ultimately foraging is also a game of chance.

I was all set to spend a second night when a family emergency called me back. Cleaned up my camp hiking out at dusk. Normally I leave no trace to the point of covering leaves over an area but it was so dry. Better to leave good enough alone incase I missed an ember or something.

End of Part 4. Here is a video of Part 4.


Some stand out gear items and missed opportunities. Everyone likes knives and lights.

The Wolf Creek Forge large custom striker knife was amazing. It held a good edge. I beat on it to split and cut wood for fireboards and spindles. I beat on it with rocks, literally dozens of times even striking the side of the blade by mistake more than once. I am no knife maker but to make a knife that can hold a good edge without chipping yet have the spine hard enough to toss lots of hot sparks shows an attention to detail. Not only that but the edge was relatively easy to touch it up after the outing. It shaves smooth. The Fenix HL50 so far has proven to be a rock solid performer. All metal construction, good runtimes, output and neutral tinted LED. There is much to like.

Missed forage. There was many forage items I could have gone for. I knew of chaga, staghorn sumac, wood sorrel, hen of the woods etc etc etc etc all within striking distance but didn't bother. Why? Simply there wasn't enough time to forage things for the sake of foraging them. As stated living out of a pack is both freedom and limitation. I do regret my decision to fish rather than go for the chestnuts. Here are photos taken during a previous scouting run.

Don't these look great! I would have really enjoyed roasting them but decisions had to be made.

This was a bunch of fun and thanks for looking through this long winded post.


Jul 10, 2014
Connecticut USA
Here is some of the foraging scouting I promised to show.I think forging is like fishing or hunting in that scouting first can be very helpful. Even critters know their territory. Foraging IMHO requires multiple environments to be truly successful and some luck. Things discovered when scouting may or may not be sought out during the trip but it's nice to have an idea as to what direction something might be at.

Daypack and hiking poles to cover as much ground as possible.

My camping area has access to blue trails and this will be an advantage. A great way to cover ground and multiple streams. Like a highway on which I will travel about 3-4 miles per hour when fully loaded.

Yellow birch bark will be ideal. It's all over the place.

I am still worried about the water level. The dry woods made it very clear a hobo stove is preferable to open ground fire. No red flag is up but honestly if the wind should start blowing I won't even use that.

Acorns are all over the place.

Here is a wild edible I will target. Wild carrots.

Yup. They're not white at all. A biennial plant which is best harvested during the first year's growth.

Remember wild carrots have hairs on the stalks. Also it must smell like a carrot. Don't eat this wild edible unless 100% certain as a mistake here could be fatal.

I like scampering up little ledges and larger rocks. Don't know why, just do.

Stuff mostly under 20 feet but still yea can't be all distracted when doing this. Even a short fall on a rock is a fall on a rock.

Sweet fern which isn't really a fern at all. I got some uses for it but not sure that's worth the additional mile to get. Unless I stumble into some when doing other things.

I intend to make conifer needle tea. Another reason why I gotta get that fire thing working. LOL!

Wonderful time of year but it also felt like summer. Eye gnats and mosquitoes were back in the 70 degree heat. That and I found another tick crawling on me. Nice fallen maple leaves. Actually there are several trees mixed in there.

There were more discoveries but not decided on which are going to be targeted. Some are marginal and not worth the effort and others so crazy good they're a GO! Will have to wait for the actual outing to find out. So what does a person take with them when scouting forage.

1. A drink which was drunk.
2. PSK
3. HL30 headlamp with extra battery.
4. Tissue paper just incase.
5. Mora LMF knife.

The PSK is whipped in 10 feet of nylon cordage. The inside looks like this:

Again this isn't the actual outing rather my second day of scouting.


Full Member
Aug 4, 2013
Impressive stuff, sounds like a great trip out. It's nice to see your thought processes on everything.

Thanks for sharing.

Milkweed pods. Milkweed is a useful plant but for this time of the year I will be seeking out the pods. This area has both open and closed pods. I will go more into this later. My primary target is the ovum within the pods and the fluff.

interesting trip report:eek:

i hope this is not a stupid question: i*m not familiar with milkweed so i did a google search and it says it*s a group of 140 [or so] american species.... does it grow on the ground or as a vine? and what ist the scientific name of this species- do you know? i found a vine with seedpods like this growing in southern korea, too...
i just had a look at the facebook site of wolf creek- some of their stuff looks really nice.... . unfortunately today i got a piece of bad news which means that soon i*ll find myself reduced to what i can carry in my big bagpack and my daypack in terms of worldly posessions- everything else will be either given away or thrown out so getting new things is not an option right now:(.... maybe one day...

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