"Building Outdoor Gear" by Gil Gilpatrick. The author shares his decades of wilderness experience with nine trail-tested projects. You'll find clear, concise instructions for making the equipment you need for a pleasant outdoor adventure.
And just as I was preparing my workshop and getting everything ready for a spring start date, Mr. Gilpatrick's publisher contacted me to ask if I'd be interested in a re-release of another of his books, Building Outdoor Gear, 2nd Edition. After having finished it, I can say without a doubt that it's the perfect companion to Building a Strip Canoe. It shows you how to construct a variety of things, including a beautiful canoe chair (for use in or out of a canoe next to a campfire is perfect). There's a pack frame, a reflector oven (for campfire cooking), a handmade bucksaw, and my favorite: a trip box that will fit perfectly inside your canoe. A total of nine hands-on projects (one of which is duplicated in Building a Strip Canoe - canoe paddles) that go hand-in-hand with the canoe-building book. Oh, it's in full color as well, and contains the same quality of text instructions and large color photos. And, as with Building a Strip Canoe, this is an update to a very hard to find first edition, so grab a copy of this one as well before it disappears, too.
I can't wait to start building my own canoe. I even have hopes that my 5 year old will be able to offer some help here and there. I want him to be involved as much as possible, and I hope he'll enjoy not only the hands-on work with his dad but also the enjoyment that comes from making something that he'll (hopefully) enjoy for many years. (My heart will likely explode should he or his younger brother one day tell me they want to build their own canoes and then ask for my help.)
I reached out to Mr. Gilpatrick with some questions about both books, and he graciously responded with some advice and stories that have further convinced me that I made the right choice for my instructional material. And should Mr. Gilpatrick ever make it down to Northwest Florida, I'd like to offer him a tour of one or two of the rivers that I spent much time on during my younger days and hopefully it'll be a tour in my very own hand-crafted canoe.
Spending time in the outdoors is, in my opinion, the best way you can spend a day. However, for many outdoor activities at least some gear is required. You can always stop at a local store and buy your required gear, but there is more satisfaction in being able to build you own gear and tailor it to your needs.
In Building Outdoor Gear, Gil Gilpatrick presents all sorts of great projects that will meet your needs, whether you are fishing, hunting, camping or canoeing. Each project is laid out in a chapter that will guide you with ease through the steps necessary to create a useful peace of gear. Each chapter contains many photographs and diagrams for reference, which I found very useful when I was unable to visualize a step. At the beginning of each chapter you will find a list of materials and tools required to complete each project. Upon first glance, I was a little daunted by the length of some of the lists, until I took a closer look and realized that many of the items were things I already had, or stuff I could readily acquire. There is nothing missing from these lists, if you follow them you will find you have everything necessary to complete the project.
I know many people choose to skip the introduction part of a book. Do not do that with this book. Not only will you learn more about the author's qualifications, but it will guide you to the layout of the book. While you may be tempted to skip over chapters to a project you can't wait to begin, have some patience and read the first two chapters before starting anything. Chapter 1 focuses on using epoxy, a skill required by many of the projects, and chapter 2 teaches you the technique of caning, something that will be required for some of the projects.
I began by reading the first two chapters, and then found myself browsing through the other chapters, depending on my interest on a given day. Eventually I realized I had read the several times! As I read through the book I found my fingers were itching to get a start at some of this gear.
Some of the projects found in this book are:
Canoe Motor Mount,
Canoe Chairs, and
While I have not had enough free time to dedicate to one of these projects yet, there are two I am most eager to get to - the trip box and the reflector oven.
The trip box has so many uses, aside from keeping your food protected on a trip. It can be used to store items, as a tethering point for tarps, a table, almost anything you can think of, and I think it would be one of the biggest assets I could add to my camping trips. The idea of being able to bake some fresh biscuits or bread on the reflector oven makes me a whole lot happier about being away from my own oven for a length of time.
Scattered throughout the book are handy tips and recipes that the author has come across in over 40 years as a master Maine Guide. The Maine Guide Breakfast Buns (found on page 51) look like a great way to start another wonderful day in the outdoors.
Building Outdoor Gear is a beautiful book and great resource that you will be happy to have on your bookshelf or coffee table, whenever you don't have it beside as you go through the steps of creating a unique and wonderful piece of gear for your outdoor adventures.
In this revised edition, Gilpatrick (Building a Strip Canoe ) includes better-developed instructions and new illustrations for the nine projects. The pack frame, canoe accessories, trip box, saw, and reflector oven are particularly useful for campers. Peppered among the projects are camping advice and recipes; instructions for caning (weaving thin strips of cane or flexible wood for chairs) and using fiberglass for boat building are included. VERDICTWhile a bigger selection of projects would have been appreciated, this original collection fills a niche and features solid instructions. Pair it with A.J. Hamler's Civil War Woodworking, which showcases timeless projects for camp living. Recommended for outdoorspeople and backpackers.
Gil Gilpatrick has been a Master Maine Guide for over 40 years and taught Outdoor Resources at the Skowhegan Vocational Center in Maine for nearly 30 years. He has written extensively about his experiences in the outdoors and his knowledge of how to build outdoor equipment.