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Outdoor Programs in Desert Survival and Bushcraft

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

The value of a good down jacket

I was out in the Painted Desert today, north of Flagstaff. Temps were mighty cold as we had a winter storm roll in (yes it snows in Arizona!) and were hovering around 40 degrees with a 20 mph wind. Snow was on the way later in the day.

In addition to wearing 4 upper-body layers and a Carhart coat, I always pack along a down jacket, which I wore underneath the Carhart today. A down jacket is an indispensable piece of gear. My down jacket is something that is kept tucked behind the backseat of my truck for most of the summer and I have another one that I carry with me in my daypack throughout much of the year, even in summer.

A good down jacket can be had for $80 on up. I usually look for ones on clearance in the spring or through Sierra Trading Post. Mine packs down to grapefruit-size. For longer dayhikes in the mountains, I will actually pack along a tiny, sleeping bag like those made by Mountain Hardwear. Such bags have come a long way from those clunky, polyester bags I had as a scout. Mine packs down to the size of a loaf of bread.

How much space are we talking about in the pack in exchange for what a down jacket can provide if stranded in the wilds for a night?

Down has its drawbacks- loses loft when wet or when used in damp weather for extended periods. Not a good choice for primary insulation in a place like the Pacific Northwest or the Tropics. Here in the desert or as a supplement to a vehicle survival kit, it is excellent.

So, keep an eye out for an extra one next Spring when they''re all going to be on sale. I highly recommend getting one for the daypack or vehicle as emergency gear for when the chips are down and the cold night is upon you.

Enjoy the Wilds!

Monday, October 26, 2009

In the News

Just finished up teaching our 5-week program in primitive skills. We had fantastic weather and a great group of folks! We went on walkabouts in the mountains, spent time tanning deerhides and making bows, visited friends at Hopi, and checked out archeological sites throughout the Southwest to better understand the context for the skills we were learning.

Now I am busy marketing the new book on "The Modern Hunter-Gatherer" and finishing up our Fall season with our November Trapping Course in Utah. I recently had the good fortune to have Outside editor Joe Spring accompany us on a course recently to do some filming for my Outside Online column. He should be posting a variety of how-to videos on the site shortly.

Piggybacking off that, I recently finished 11 videos on Desert Survival that are now posted on our page on Youtube- -These are largely lecture but I will be posting more hands-on videos on bushcraft and living off the land in the near future.

Enjoy the Wilds!

Tony Nester

About Ancient Pathways

Tony Nester is the author of numerous books and DVDs on survival. His school Ancient Pathways is the primary provider of survival training for the Military Special Operations community and he has served as a consultant for the NTSB, Travel Channel, Backpacker Magazine, and the film Into the Wild. When not on the trail, he lives in a passive-solar, strawbale home in northern Arizona. For information on Tony’s books, gear, or bushcraft courses, visit

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