instructional article

DIY survival fishing kits for kids

Colter co. survival fishing kit

This summer I am taking a small group of 12-14 year old scouts (including my son) on a 4 day camping trip. It’s going to be awesome! We are going to be focusing on building shelters, and basic survival skills like fishing. In preparing for this I helped put together some ultra simple fishing kits. I wanted to make these are simple as possible for them to use safely. They would be a little over simplified for an advanced angler but for the sake of young anglers I have made these super simple. They only require one knot to be tied and don’t require any tools to add or remove weights.

Here’s what I included:

survival fishing kit Colter Co.

3 - Red #8 hooks with leaders

1 - #8 spinner with leader

2 - 5/8” bobbers

5 - Swivels

5 - Small bullet sinkers

3 - Small dipsey sinkers

1 - PowerBait nuggets (not pictured)

The weights are all the kind that slide over the line which means you don’t need to use your teeth or a multitool to add or remove them. They also allows you to fish easily from a bobber or off the bottom with floating bait. I find the sliding sinkers preferable for fishing off the bottom. Be mindful that this options should be used only when you know what the bottom of the water is like. If there are lots of snags and down trees a bobber is going to be a better approach.

I chose to include the PowerBait nuggets because they are super easy to put on. I’ve tried to eliminate any possible way for these guys to get their fingers hooks. Putting bait on a hook is prime hooking territory. The nuggets are pre-formed in a good size and are very easy to slip onto the hook. I made sure to get floating bait to be able to fish off the bottom.

survival fishing powerbait nuggets Colter Co.

I decided to use the hooks that are pre-tied to the leader. I don’t usually use these because they take up more space in the tackle box. But I was thinking about these 12 year old trying to tie a a line onto these tiny hooks and imaging all the hooks in finger and I didn’t want to mess with that. These pre-tied hooks just need to be attached to a swivel. The only knot you need is to tie the line to the swivel. I picked the red colored hooks so, in a pinch, you could tie a bit of colorful paracord or something on and make it a lure.

survival fishing kits Colter Co.

I’m going to try a replacement to the tradition rod and reel this year. I got a hand reel, or Cuban reel. It’s basically a plastic line holder that has one lip formed at an angle that allows the line to come off easily. While holding the “reel” facing forward, throw your weighted line out and the line comes off the reel just like a spinning reel. The line is then wound around the reel by hand. It’s very small, light weight, and doesn’t have any of the breaking issues that can happen with the delicate fiber glass rod or small moving parts. Can you cast as far with this set up? Probably not. But I think the pros should out weigh the cons. I’m going to try it this year and I will report back on how it goes!

I did make one improvement to this product by cutting a small slit in the rim with my pocket knife. It gives me a place to hold the line securely when in transit.

Survival fishing kit Colter Co.

In training for this outing I taught the boys how to tie a clinch knot. For this particular fishing set up, that’s the only knot you would really need. If fishing knots are your thing, or if you are looking to do fly fishing (which uses waaaay more knots), we make a handy fly fishing knot reference bandana that will help you refresh your memory on some of the knots that are farther back on the line and tied less frequently.

I am also going to be providing a “Stayin’ Alive Bandana” to each of the boys with reference information on the 4 top priorities for survival: shelter, water, fire, food. If you are teaching youth about survival, this is a solid way to make sure they have a lot of information in a format they can use for lots of other things and are more likely to take with them. Also it doubles as a bright location marker with reflective silver ink for high visibility at night.

Tell us about the amazing outdoor activities you have planned this summer! Are you teaching kids survival skills? What skills are you focusing on?


A more self sufficient life

self sufficient life Colter Co.

If it hasn’t come across to you yet, I am a big believer in the principles of self sufficiency. Now I sometimes feel very under qualified to speak on the subject. No, I do not live on a homestead. No, I do not provide my own drinking water from a well, or have solar panels to provide my energy needs, or chickens for fresh eggs. I would love to be doing all those things, but I am not able to at this point in time. But I can do somethings, and that’s what I’m doing. Each of us can do something that make sense. Maybe you aren’t going to be buying a draft horse to plow a field anytime soon, but you can grow herbs in the window sill of your apartment. I’ll be sharing my experiences and learnings as I go and I hope it inspires you to do something on the level that makes sense for your own life.

Since the age of 10 I have been fascinated with primitive skills like flint and steel, foraging, leather tanning and basic survival skills. To me, these feel like the foundation of human existence. Sure, we live in an advanced world that makes all of these skills feel straight out of the stone age (which they are). I would argue that they are still important to know. Some things don’t ever truly become obsolete. Human survival is one of those.

I will certainly be talking more about those skills later, but today I’m going to move up a rung on the ladder of human progression to agriculture. Being able to plant and harvest food without having to travel great distances foraging allowed humans to establish permanent residence and really develop. And on an emotional level, there is something very healthy about working in the soil to produce your wont food!

The garden suggests there might be a place where we can meet nature halfway.
— Michael Pollan

Every year that I grow a garden I learn a lot. Mostly, it seems, through failures. But that’s how we figure things out, right? Hopefully sharing my failings will help others learn and avoid them.

Last year we built a few garden boxes and ended up grown quite a lot of food! Lettuce, kale, tomatoes, cucumbers, chives and a carrots. We ended up eating salads from our garden once a day for a couple months. It was fantastic! I think it was the first year that we feel like we actually saved money from it. So this year we doubled the space and are going all in! We ended up adding some raspberries as well for a nice, perennial feature. So what did I learn last year?


I hate thinning plants. It feels like I’m killing all my hard work just as it’s starting to grow. So I didn’t do it very well and my plants suffered. Especially the kale. It was stunted, and grew and strange angles to try to get sun. The leaves never ended up growing to full size. We still got a lot of food from them, but they would have produced much more. This year I have been way better at it, and have already seen huge benefits. I thinned our radish plants and the ones left immediately started to thicken up. Within a week and a half they were ready to eat. Thin your seedlings. Many seedlings (like beets, kale, lettuce, radishes, and more) can be thrown into a salad. So don’t think of it like thinning, but as the first harvest.

#2 Kale will grow for 2 years

Kale is super hearty and grew through the week of snow that we got this winter. They got a little wilted and I thought they were gonners for sure, but they came back after that. You can get 2 years of growth without having to replant. I’ll be leaving them where they are for my winter garden this year.

#3 Prune your tomatoes

You can get way more tomatoes if you learn to prune them. Each branch puts off a sucker stem in the “armpit” of the branch. Pinch those off. They will never produce fruit. Plucking them lets the plant focus its energy on tomatoes and growing taller. Be careful not to pitch the top branch of the plant! It will stop growing taller if you do.

tomato sucker plant Colter Co.

#4 Go with indeterminate tomatoes

There are two kinds of tomato plants: determinate and indeterminate. Determinate plants will grow to a specific size and produce through a determined season. Then then stop. Indeterminate will grow as tall and produce as many tomatoes as the weather conditions will permit. I had both last year and loved that the indeterminate plants gave us tomatoes way longer than the others. If you’re super smart about pruning and fertilizing you can grow 8’ tall plants that produce a ton of fruit! This year I made sure to only buy indeterminate plants.

#5 Copper foil for slugs

This is a classic, but it came in handy for us already this year. Our first round of kale starts got decimated by slugs… Very disappointing. So I put copper tape around all our garden boxes and they haven’t been an issue since. Worth the effort!

I think that’s enough for today’s entry :)

I will check back in from time to time as I learn more (from success or failure).

Please share your gardening learnings with us!


instructional video

Mountain House food packaging styles

I’ve been planning out our summer camping and backpacking plans and doing some meal planning. I frequently do freeze dried meals for backpacking trips. Especially if it’s a long haul that I know I’m going to be super tired at the end of the day. It’s hard to beat the speed and ease of a freeze dried meal in those circumstances.

I’ve tried a few different brands but generally I go with Mountain House meals. I know what I’m going to get and enjoy what they offer. I noticed a while ago that there are a few different packaging styles that they offer. I decided to order one of each style to see what the difference is. Sometimes it’s hard to get a good idea just based on a website.

I put together a video of my thoughts on the comparison. Hopefully it helps you understand the difference and figure out which style will work best for the trip you’re going on.

Let me know what you think!

- John

instructional article

Do you know the 4 fundamentals of Survival?

Knowing how to keep yourself alive is a fundamental human skill! In our increasingly convenient modern world some of these fundamentals can seem less important. When we can easily turn on the faucet and get water whenever we want it’s not hard to forget that one day you might be in a situation that doesn’t provide you with such a luxury.

In a moment your focus can shift from “ugh, my phone battery is at 7%” to “what do I need to stay alive through the night.” It’s best to have a store of age old human knowledge for just such an occasion.

The fundamentals of human survival can be simplified into 4 priorities:


In that specific order. If you spend your time working on finding food before you have a shelter established you might just end up freezing to death with a full belly. Make sure you approach them in the right order!

When I started Colter Co. it was for the purpose of providing outdoor information in a format that was in itself multifunctional (enter the bandana…) I don’t really like packing books on camping trips, especially when weight and space is an issue. I’m super happy to add a TRUE wilderness survival bandana to our collection!

Yes, there are other survival bandanas on the market, so what makes this one better? It focuses not just on helpful outdoor skills, but on the PRIORITIES for your efforts. One of the biggest challenges of being in a survival situation is not panicking! Many other survival bandanas are a shotgun blast of facts and tactics that don’t help an already frantic mind know WHEN to take on your next task.

It’s also printed with high visibility reflective ink on a bright hunter orange bandana. Being visible is key to being found. When you build a shelter out of natural materials it can become very easy to blend in. The worst case scenario would be having a rescue team walk right past you while you sleep in your shelter. This bandana makes an awesome shelter marker and with the reflective ink it will light up super bright when hit by the beam of a flashlight.

As always, our bandanas are printed on American made cotton for superior durability and softness.

This is a great way to add a higher lever of preparedness to your survival kit! It also makes a great gift of knowledge and preparedness to a young adventurer.

If you can’t decide on which of our designs you love the most you can always make it a part of a 3 pack or a 6 pack :)