Sunday, 15 April 2012

Hard as Nails

I posed a question on Natural Bushcraft recently on the possible uses of a nail. The original forum post can be found here. It raised some interesting results, so I thought it worth presenting them. Take a moment to think of a few yourself before reading on.

  1. nail something to something
  2. make a blade out of it
  3. use it as a fire steel
  4. use it as a hook for hanging things on
  5. make an arrow head
  6. make a hook for baiting
  7. use as a fishing lure
  8. make a compass from it
  9. use it as a bradawl or punch
  10. use as the head of an ice or glass breaker
  11. fashion into a large needle
  12. as an electrical conductor (as opposed to a fuse)
  13. use to play "bang the nails into the log" on your own
  14. throwing knife toy
  15. sap tap hole maker
  16. plumb-bob
  17. marlin spike
  18. scribe, marking gauge or scratchy pen
  19. clapper for a metal or glass bell
  20. manicure tool
  21. snail and winkle extractor
A lot of uses, I'm sure you'll agree. A humble nail, providing us with many possible tools, a fire lighter, fishing & hunting potential, navigation, a component or utility piece, entertainment as well as giving us the ability to nail things together.
As I mentioned in my article on compact survival kits Things in Tins, it is important to have equipment that has multiple uses. It is also important to view all resources, natural and manufactured with wide eyes and an open imagination. Our nail is simple, but has much potential. How about the following items, what could we do with them?
  • bottle of water
  • tin of beans
  • paper cup
  • bin liner
  • packet of Wotsits
  • mince pie
I remember an episode of Survivorman, where Les Stroud developed a scenario where he had become isolated due to a failure with his mountain bike. As a good survivor, he carried a multi-tool, but more importantly, he viewed his now defuncted bicycle as series of new connected resources, each with numerous uses. He proceeded to take detach parts which he deemed useful, leaving the bulk behind. There was no good reason to take it all, as it's quite large and heavy. Trying to take the whole thing would have been a bad investment of energy.

As you may recall from my article on basic decision making All Things Being Inequal, we have to view our actions in terms of energy use, and water too, of that's in short supply. With this in mind, when deciding what to carry, we have to take into account how much it weighs, since every step will cost us extra energy.

So, what sort of thing do we take? My view on this related to how easy it might be to replace that we're taking with resources from nature. Food is a bit of a no brainer. Also, we can boil water in a knot hole with hot rocks, but it's so much easier in a metal container. Yes, we can make cordage from bark, roots and plants, but it takes time and energy. Conversely, gallon of diesel, a laptop, a truck tyre or a copy of the the Oxford English Dictionary might better be left behind, at least in their entirety. A bit of oil, rubber and a few pages might be quite useful. The laptop might contain some useful bits too, but I'll bet there's something better in that truck.

Remember that it's always a good idea to stay where you are of you can, but if you have to go, resources are all around us and their use is only limited by our skill and imagination. Keep an open mind and think about weight, convenience and how difficult or otherwise it would be to replace from nature that which you're about to put in your bag and if do bump into something on your travels, give some thought to other uses beyond it's primary function. 

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