Tools of the Trail

by Green Deane

in Blog

Over the years I have added a few items to my back pack that can make foraging more easier.  You might want to add one or two of these items.

The handiest thing I take foraging with me is an ultra fine point permanent marker. It will write on anything. If I need to make a note I just grab a good leaf and write on it. Why carry paper?  I can also write on leaves I’m interested in. I write the date on them and place them collected as well as identify them if I know.

Recently I decided to make a video of a plant I came across while out hiking. I had my little video camera with me. I don’t need a script per se but I did write down the items I wanted to cover on the back of a leaf.  And I carry two cameras, a digital still and a digital video camera, plus batteries.  Neither are expensive and are among the simplest of designs… less to go wrong. One hint is to make sure your still picture digital has a good close up function. My little Lumex is excellent but a NiKon I was given is very poor with close ups even though it has a close up function. Try the camera first. Can you take a picture of a dime that fills the view finder? A close look at small difference many times makes the difference between identifying a species or not.

I also carry an excellent pair of waterproof binoculars, and I usually wear them around my neck for three reasons. First,  no one is afraid of anyone wearing binoculars, from hikers to the police. (You would be surprised how many times I’ve been looking at plants around a mall only to be approached by the police. As soon as they see the binoculars I am dismissed as some bird lover. If an officer does inquire further I tell him looking at the flora as a hobby and that usually convinces him I’m a harmless tree hugger.)

With the binoculars I can look at a lot of leaves a long ways away or up, which is often quite handy. And quite a few conversations have started over the binoculars. It usually begins with “out bird watching, eh?” Answered by, “no, leaf watching…” And truth be known I do look at a bird or two now and then, and other fauna.

The next items of importance are a few baggies and plastic bags. I am always finding something I want to take home to eat or investigate. Plus the baggies can be used to protect the cameras should I get caught in the rain.

In my pocket are always three things. A 10-powered loop, very handy for some identification issues, a pocket knife, and a fire steel. The latter just in case I get stranded and need to spend the night in the woods.  Might as well be comfortable. Surprisingly I use the pocket knife quite a lot, usually to show cross sections or to cut up some edible for students to taste.

Many years ago I also bought a six-inch trowel, heat bent the end two inches to a 45 degree angle. It makes a fine digging tool, light but strong. Painting the handle flourescent orange helps to find it after you put it down.  If I know I am going to do a lot of digging I also take along a digging/walking stick made from an ash shovel handle.

Last on my must-carry list is part of a bar of Fels Naptha soap. It can be found in most grocery stores in the laundry section near the floor. It’s inexpensive and can stop such things as poison ivy if washed off in a few minutes.

The grand dame of toxic and edible plants, Dr. Julia Morton, said she would have gotten a lot less calls on topical irritations if folks carried a few latex gloves with them when handling plants they didn’t know. I carry them, they weight nothing and take no space, but I rarely use them.  The soap I do use because one forgets about the latex gloves but remembers one should have but didn’t. The soap saves the day.

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{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

TinMan October 2, 2012 at 17:23

Thank you for reminding me about using a sharpie…. So many times I have ventured out on a foraging/ wild crafting adventure and gathered samples of multiple herbs and or roots. The herbs aren’t so much a problem with later identification, but digging and gathering roots, I have gotten them mixed up by the time I could get them back to be processed/ dried. A sharpie to label them or the bag they’re in would prevent a simple mistake in the field.
A sharpie is now in my field wild crafting bag.
Thanks for the reminder.


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