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Modifying Your Gear

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Simple Techniques to Enhance Photos ot Videos

Simple Techniques To Improve Taking Photos Or Videos

I do a lot of photographing of products for my website, as well as taking photos for articles that I write. I also, on occasion do a YouTube video. Over the years I have learned some simple techniques which allow me to enhance my photos, as well as videos. I thought I might share some of these techniques so you can do so as well.

DIY Tomato Cage Bird Bath

DIY Tomato Cage Bird Bath

Last year I saw a post somewhere, possibly Pinterest, where a person used an old tomato cage to make a bird bath. I thought it would be an interesting project that would quick, yet provide another dimension to some of the other bird baths I have made.

EDC Pocket Striker

EDC Pocket Striker

Awhile back I posted a photo of this small striker on facebook and I had a lot of people ask how I made it. So I thought I would do a quick tutorial explaining what I did.

Making A Can Whistle

Making A Can Whistle


This is a whistle that can be made from any old can found in the field.  This technique was originally in Boys Life, a Boy Scout magazine, back in the 1950's. 

Noggin Multi-Use Lanyard

Noggin (Kuksa) Multi-Use Lanyard


Most belt toggles I've seen for a noggin are single strand and are short. The single strand is tucked up under the belt and the toggle on the end keeps the strand from pulling out under the belt. I wanted a multi-use lanyard that would have various uses.

Nalgene Stainless Bottle Bails And Lifters

Nalgene Stainless Bottle - Bails & Lifters


I have always preferred the Nalgene Stainless Steel Water Bottle (originally made by Guyot) as it is the most substantial bottle made, has deep threads, and a completely flat bottom. I wanted to be able to hang my the bottle over a fire in order to boil water, one of the advantages of having a stainless steel bottle.

Free Standing Bails

Free Standing Bails


Back when I was young (a long time ago), most pots for camping seemed to have bails on them.  It made them easy to hang over a fire, and lift out of a fire.  However, in today's world of ultra-light gear, bails are often deleted from smaller pots, and replaced (sometimes) with small folding handles.

Vehicle Camp Kitchen

DIY Vehicle Camp Kitchen

Being we were going truck camping, as I call it, because although we were using tents and a hammock, the truck would be at the site.  We could bring all kinds of tools and other stuff to practice skills with.  I remembered that about fifteen years ago I had built a "Camp Kitchen" in a Pelican case.  These cases are waterproof and animals can't get into them.  You can leave them sitting on a picnic table, which all State campsites provide.

Kydex Monitor Mount

Kydex Monitor Mount for Youtubers

Well, it seems like I have found another use for Kydex. The problem started when I realized my eyes aren't as good as they used to be.  Most of my videos I do by myself, so I spend a lot of time setting up the shot so everything is in the viewing area.

DIY 5 Gal. Bucket Clothes Washer

DIY 5 Gal. Bucket Clothes Washer

In an extended emergency situation you will find the need to wash your clothes. Of course, if you do not have power, you will not be able to use your normal washer and dryer. The following article is an excerpt from John's book Practical Self-Reliance - Reducing Your Dependency On Others, which shows how to make a DIY Clothes Washer.

Slush Lamp Pipe Cleaner Wicks

This shows how to use cotton pipe cleaners as wicks for a slush lamp. All you need is some cotton pipe cleaners, some cooking or lamp oil, and a shallow dish.

DIY Countertop Water Filter

DIY Countertop Water Filter

I wanted a gravity filter for filtering water in an emergency situation. There are various commercial brands available like the Katadyn and Berkey. These units cost in the $200.00 to $350.00 range and basically use ceramic filter elements in a top container which you fill with water.

Water DistillerDIY Water Distiller - For Purification & Desalination

I have been interested for some time in building a Water Distiller, as it can be used to purify water and to desalinate water. Both would be handy in a survival situation. Keep in mind that distilled water can also be used in soap making, for use in steam irons, and to refill lead-acid batteries.

DIY Solar Oven

As an introduction, my wife, Denise, and I have been playing with solar cookers and ovens for awhile. Denise built a wooden one with a shop teacher, many years ago, when she was a Home Economics Teacher in Switzerland.

Moveable Candle WicksDIY Moveable Candle Wicks

I was always interested in the moveable wicks on the Nuwick candles, as they were unique. A few years ago I was looking at the wicks and something about them was very familiar, but I couldn't figure out what it was.

Thumb LanyardThumb Lanyard for Knives

I want a lanyard to keep me from dropping the knife, as well as help me control the knife.  I use the following type of lanyard on my knives, which I call the Thumb Lanyard, which provides me with both security and controllability. 

Self Igniting FS Small Self-Igniting Fire Starter

I am always on the lookout for a new fire starter, and when I find a new idea, of course I have to try it out! Well I have found a new interesting concept and I thought I might share my attempt with it. It is a fire starter that has an ignition source, an accelerant, and fuel, all in one.

Making SheathsMake Your Own Leather Knife Sheaths

Some of the leather knife sheaths I was getting with new knives left a bit to be desired. I thought it might be a good time to start hand making my own so I could decide on the type and style of sheath. After buying some leather, a few leather tools, and a few short lessons, I was on my way.

Leather HolstersMaking Leather Holsters

Making your own holster can be time consuming, but the finished product is one you can appreciate and be proud of.  The following article will address making a handmade custom leather holster, in this case, for a Smith & Wesson 640 revolver.

Baldric Rig AdapterBaldric Rig Adapter

I always wanted to make a Baldric Rig Adapter, so in the winter, I didn't have to dig under my Filson Coat to get to my belt knife.  I wanted to design something I could slip into the belt loop of any of the leather sheaths I make for my knives, and then hang it from a leather Shoulder strap.

Kydex Machete Sheath Making A Kydex Machete Sheath

I got a 16" Fiddleback Machete and the quality id great. I really like the micarta grips... but the only problem was... no sheath.  So I figured I might as well take a few hours and build a Kydex sheath for it.

Vargo Lid ModVargo Pot Lid Modification

I like the Vargo Titanium "Ti-Lite 750" mug because, like my Snow Peak Solo Pot, it fits tightly over a Nalgene® bottle. However, the lid on my Snow Peak pot has a lid lifter that lays flat when not in use. The Vargo "Ti-Lite 750" has a stationary knob attached to the top which sticks above the rim of the lid. It doesn't sound like much, but it will not slide into a nice flat space like my other lid. So, I figured a quick modification was in order.

Robo Rat TrapMaking a "Robo Rat Trap"

I always wanted a thinner rat trap so I could carry more in the same space in my pack. I wanted to make one out of 1/8" aluminum, lighten it with holes, and peen over staples on the bottom made from 3/32 piano wire (which I use for bails). For a full photo tutorial, click on the title above.

Vargo Flink LighterShortening a Titanium Flint Lighter for EDC

I liked the new Vargo Titanium Flint Lighter, but didn't personally care for the spring loaded clip for attachment. It only worked on smaller split rings and upon looking at the device, I realized that if I could cut off the back, I could drill a hole for a split ring and attach it to my EDC key ring. Here is how it is done.

Trangia Support StabilizerTrangia Burner Pot Support & Stabilizer

I really like the Trangia Spirit Alcohol Burner for short day hikes as it carries alcohol in the stove, so I don't have to carry extra alcohol. It allows me to make a couple of cups of coffee and takes up very little space. But in order to use it with a small pot or mug, you need to set up some type of contraption to hold the mug or cup above the stove. I wanted something that would be light, small, and easy to carry along with the stove.

Ti Cup ModModifying A Titanium Cup As A Stove

I have carried a titanium Snow Peak Solo Pot for many years. It came with a small cup that fit over the bottom, but was too small for my use as a coffee cup. I liked the fact that it fit over the pot, but was just didn't have enough depth for a real coffee cup. Looking at it one day, I though if it was modified, it could be used as a stove, using Esbit tabs or an alcohol stove, or even be used as a small wood burning stove.

Hat Band LinkMaking a Parachute Cord Hatband

I have received dozens of emails and calls in regard to making the braided band on my hat. Therefore, I thought I might do a short tutorial in regard to making a five plait braided hatband from parachute cord.

M9 on WristSurvival Bracelet for Suunto M9 Compass

I have always been interested in wearing one of the Suunto M9 Wrist compasses, as they are handy as a backup compass, and can be aimed through the side. However, I always wear a watch on my left wrist and a survival bracelet on my right wrist. I really didn't want to give up either.

Compass Mirror PouchTransferable Compass/Mirror Pouch

There are various pouches out there that have Velcro flaps on it so it can be put on around a strap... but I haven't found one I like. However, I have some pouches that I really like as they have a strap over the cover with a Fastex Buckle. I sewed flaps on each side of the back with Velcro on them. The flaps can be wrapped back around any shoulder strap.

Guyot BailA Bail and Handle

for the Stainless Steel Guyot Bottle


In order to hang the Stainless Steel Guyot Bottle over a fire to boil water, I found it handy to make a bail to hang the bottle from. A handle for lifting it out of the coals was also nice!

Pocket Ferro RodMaking a Collapsible Pocket Ferro Rod


I wanted a Ferro rod for my pocket, but they are always too long for a decent size rod..... so... I modified some existing stuff to work for my purpose.

Canteen Cup ModMilitary Canteen Cup Modifications

Old Style with Handle Folding Under Cup

I have carried the Military Canteen Cup for years. I carry the old style that has the handle which folds under the cup. They are made from stainless steel and are very robust. However, I needed to make a few modifications in order for it to be for versatile for my use.

Mule Pack ModCamelBak Mule Modifications

It now holds a jacket on the back!

I always prefer a small daypack to side carry slung units if it is for more than a short hike. A pack I have always liked is the CamelBak Mule. It has everything I want in a small daypack... except...

Maxped DIY ClipsMaxpedition Clips

Do It Yourself

I needed a new pack like a hole in the head, but I wanted to play with the Maxpedition Falcon 2, and add a Maxpedition 10x4 Bottle holder on each side. Anyway. when I tried to attach the bottle holders with the new strap connector thingies, the bottles just flopped.

Esbit Stove ModsEsbit Folding Pocket Stove

With Windscreen Modifications

I have been carrying an Esbit Folding Pocket Stove forever... great for a quick cup a coffee. However, I've had both a wind problem, and a problem with balancing some cups...

One Hand Treker Spike1 Hand Trekker

With a Marlin Spike

The other day I was talking to my wife, Denise, and complaining how nobody makes a decent knife with a marlin spike on it. Denise (who is from Switzerland) say's, "Gee, you would think that Victorinox would put a Marlin Spike on one of their knives." All of a sudden a big light goes off over my head...... I say, "How stupid can I be.... don't answer that.... Victorinox did put a Marlin Spike on the One Hand Trekker.... they just camouflaged it as a Phillips screw driver.

Short Hike SidecarryShort Hike Side Carry Rig

As I've indicated before, I really like a small pack for day hikes... However, for short hikes, or exploring for edibles, etc. I like to carry the basic, but be relatively light. I've tried various side carry bags, like the Fatboy, etc, but keep going back to one I made many years ago.