Dealing with your vices

I’m sitting at my desk at work, having an anxiety attack from the normal stresses of life, I’m sure you can understand.  I don’t get how these normal things can freak me out, in fact I wish to god that they didn’t. That’s not the point though, back to the story. I’m sitting at my desk worrying about this and that, and when I can’t take it anymore I inevitably run to the fridge, grasp a cold can of pop and let the intoxicating burn of the liquid run down my throat until I feel the burn in my stomach too. The weird thing, it calms me down, don’t ask me why, if I knew I probably wouldn’t have to use it as a crutch. We all have these small things, some healthy some not, mine happens to be the latter. I have been addicted to pop since middle school. It started with mountain dew, really unhealthy I know. It later evolved into a serious health matter when my dentist told me I needed to stop drinking mountain dew or face serious dental issues. I stopped drinking mountain dew that day, that was somewhere around my junior or senior year of high school. Now it’s Pepsi. I try to keep it to 12 ounces or less per day, while drinking over 100 ounces of water a day, but I often drink more pop then I should. It all sounds trivial right? Why not just stop?

If you suffer from depression, stress, anxiety or all of the above, you probably have your own vice or method of coping. Maybe it’s a stress ball, maybe it’s alcohol, maybe its weed or coke, maybe it’s lashing out at someone or maybe it’s letting your mind go numb while you watch mindless television for hours. We all have something whether it’s healthy or unhealthy. If you have a healthy way of dealing with the anxiety, that’s great. I really want to focus on talking about the unhealthy management of anxiety. To those who turn to alcohol, I get it. I by no means am an alcoholic, but I know what it’s like to feel intense sadness and anxiety and turn to a bottle of whiskey to numb the pain, only to find hours later that it has instead intensified it to an unbearable point. Unhealthy vices help momentarily, but they always seem to leave me worse than before. I have an anxiety attack, my muscles tense up, my mind swirls in worry so I pop open a pepsi, and it clears my mind for a while. Then 20 minutes go by and the anxiety is back. No lasting relief, no long term positive effect. And that’s it, the extent of the relief from my anxiety attack that I can muster.

Everyday I try to stop my destructive behavior and try to start better behaviors. Behavior’s like writing, reading and exercise (Although I struggle very much with the exercise part). I’ve committed to reading one book every week this year, and the last couple weeks I have actually averaged two. I have started to seriously work on a novel I’ve been thinking of writing for a long time, and camping and hiking really help me get away from destructive behavior and away from stress to just focus on the good things in my life.

If you have a bad habit that you use as an escape from your anxiety or depression, I get it. It won’t help you though, it will only delay and amplify your feelings. Try putting positive things into your life, focus on your relationships, do more things that you love, try changing your routine or completely changing out things that have a negative affect on you. Put your old behaviors behind you and move forward into new, positive ones.


From here on out

Today marks a change in the direction of this blog. Since it’s inception my goal was to document my camping adventures while focusing on my personal journey through anxiety and depression. I believe I have fallen short on that.

I have decided that from here on out this blog will be primarily focused on anxiety and depression, and how I use camping and other activities to deal with it, not the reverse. I have been increasingly having anxiety attacks and suicidal thoughts and they are ruining my life. I believe this is true for so many others out there as well. Anxiety and depression are not made up problems. They are real and they are crippling. To this end I have decided to make this blog my personal journal of dealing with these issues, in hopes that they help someone else out there. I also will be starting a podcast, talking about these issues in another format and in a different way.

My hope is that you will join me in this journey, and that through my own personal journey you might also be able to overcome your struggles.

Thank you.

Garrett Near

2 night winter camping trip – Day 1

I went on another winter camping trip.

Why? Ya i’m not really sure either. I think winter trips are just a bit more fun because they are more of a challenge to stay warm and just comfortable. Before I get into it, there are two things I learned on this trip:

  1. I need a pillow, like no joke. I cant sleep at all in a tent with no pillow.
  2. Related to number 1, don’t ever feel like you aren’t a real camper because you have to bring some comforts with you that more hardcore campers feel is cheating. Camping isnt about being hardcore or being more rugged than the next guy, its about having fun and making memories. And hey, I love no sleep as much as the next guy, but I have a lot more fun when I get at least an hour of sleep. So the point is, don’t worry about being made fun of or judged. If you need to bring a home comfort to make the trip more bearable, just do it. You do you.

Now on to the trip.


We walked into the woods through the two track, 5 of us on day 1, to make camp next to pigeon lake for the night. There had not been snow for days before our trip despite the freezing temperatures, so the ground was covered in a hard crust of snow that made it more tiring to walk into with our packs on. I had packed a little differently than I do for most trips, as I planned on doing some bush crafting on this trip. For 30 minutes we hiked in, mostly down hill through snow to get to our overnight spot.


As soon as we arrived, we felt the harsh wind hit us from the south. We soon realized that because of the valley the lake was in, the wind was tunneled right to our spot. We immediately set to starting the fire. Before I set up my tent, I wanted to warm up my hands and possible even some tea. Brandin and I decided to make a fire up the hill about 30 feet, mostly too stay out of the wind a little more.


I’m just too cool to look into the camera. (PC – Thea Near)

Well we quickly realized what a dumb idea that was. I mean who wants to walk 30 feet up a snowy hill every time they want to go by the fire.  So instead we started a fire down the hill closer to our tents. (awesome GIF provided by my dad).




After Brandin had built the fire, we went to setting up our tents. The first night we only needed one tent since the rest of the group was not there, so we quickly set up the tent and went immediately back to the fire. We decided that since it was about 4 that it was dinner time. Luckily I had planned way ahead and bought some good steak with Italian bread, so we fried up the steak with some potatoes and toasted the bread for a filling dinner on the first night.



Dinner came and went, and it was time to clean our dishes (because I am weird like that and cant stand dirty dishes). So we dug out some snow and started boiling some water in all of our pans.



After that, Brandin and I spent the bulk of our time cutting wood to keep the fire going. The pictures down below show the valley we were in, with the lake in the middle giving us absolutely no protection against the howling wind rushing into us. This meant our fire was burning hot and rapidly, causing us to have to constantly feed it wood. Factor in that with the fact that the only wood we really had access to was dead, dry jack pine, it meant that Brandin and I were getting more wood every 20 minutes.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA


(From day two, notice there are three tents instead of two)

One thing Ive learned from this trip is that since it’s winter, dark falls early and it starts to get cold and boring quickly. We sat around the fire for a little while and talked but at around 9 I was ready to go to bed. Which was a mistake. I had no pillow, just my sleeping pad and mummy bag, which made for an uncomfortable and FREEZING night. I may have gotten 1 hour of sleep total that night, because it was much less sleeping than it was me in the fetal position trying not to die.


Overall the first day of the trip was a lot of fun. Winter camping is a mix of relaxing with busily moving to stay warm and keep the fire going. Next Friday I will be posting Day 2 of the trip!



Winter Camping in Manistee National Forest


It pretty much sucks. I live on the west side of Michigan not 10 miles from the lake, so you can imagine the kind of snowy weather I see throughout the winter. In years past I have pretty much gone into hibernation whenever the snow hits, I get home from work and cozy up to my computer and put away the camera until spring. This year I have decided to push through and persevere. After all, one of my New Years resolutions was to be more adventurous and deliberately put myself into uncomfortable situations.

New year new me right?

I find myself always trying to be comfortable and shying away from the slightest discomfort, which has made me less outgoing. So what did I do? I decided to go hiking overnight in the middle of winter at Manistee National Forest with some friends.

I woke up early on Saturday morning at 7, frantically making sure I had all my gear ready. I had spent the entire night prior packing and repacking my pack to make sure everything fit in perfect. We had planned to rendezvous at my parents house at 10:30 am, where we were borrowing some of my dads equipment and then setting off on our hour drive up to Manistee National Forest.

When we arrived we started packing up everything, making sure we had our food packed away. Because I was the only one with a sleeping pad, we grabbed a piece of foam from my parents camper and tied it to Freddy’s pack in the least ridiculous looking way possible. (Still looked hilarious though). At this point I wasn’t sure how 3 grown men were going to share 2 sleeping pads, but I figured we would improvise once we got to that point. At 12:30 we set off into the woods to start our ~2 mile hike to the Bowman Bridge campsite.


Freddy and Mark unpacking the car


Mark looking psyched up for the hike



I don’t even know


The hike in itself was pretty uneventful, it was just an hour and a half of trudging through the snow. When we got to the campsite, we decided to not set up at one of the actual camping spots, but instead set up in the woods where we felt it would be a little more rough camping.


Our campsite

Once we arrived we rested for a couple minutes, and we began to gather sticks for the fire. I wanted to try a new firestarter which was wine corks soaked in alcohol but they were either too frozen or it just doesnt work. Freddy took over fire duties and had a real hot fire going within 10 minutes.


It didn’t take long before Mark noticed we had no way to sit around the fire without sitting directly in a snow pile, so he went on hunt for some stumps, of which he somehow found exactly 3.



Freddy likes to help


Mark was kind of cold

Freddy brought his fishing pole and decided to walk down to the river and try to catch dinner (don’t worry we brought back up food!). After about a half hour he decided to stop since he had no bites and his line kept freezing up. So instead we threw the steak and potatoes on the fire and let them cook for a while. If you are wondering, I use an old aluminum cook set which i think is army surplus. I am in need of a new one because I am pretty sure aluminum is not good to cook and eat off of.



We seasoned the steak with just garlic and salt.



As night fell we stoked up the fire and tried to stay as warm as possible. I definitely underestimated just how cold it would get, as we did not get any sleep at all since we were all in the fetal position trying to stay alive. But somehow night passed and morning came. We ate oatmeal in our tent since we were too cold to go outside, and unfortunately I was so cold and focused on oatmeal I forgot to get my camera out!



Freddy started another fire so we wouldn’t freeze to death


Our messy tent after sleeping

After breakfast Freddy made another fire so we could stay warm while packing up. We packed up fairly fast and were able to start hiking out  by 10:30. As we were hiking out, Freddy realized that since our hiking trail crossed 56th street twice, that must mean that we could skip the 2 mile hike and just walk straight up the road to our car. Tired as I was, I was all for it. We hiked about 3/4 of a mile up the road and found the trail head where our car was parked. It sure beat walking 2 miles up and down hills in the cold morning.

All in all this was actually one of the most fun trips I have ever had. I was with good friends and unlike summer camping, this was actually a real challenge to us. Sometimes summer camping can feel like its just too relaxing, you just go out and cook food and relax in the sun. Winter camping however, is much more of a struggle, and somehow there is a lot of enjoyment in the struggle. I will definitely be going winter camping again very soon, if only it didn’t cost so much to buy a whole other set of camping gear for the cold!



My Tattoo…

I was always against tattoos. Growing up in a baptist church taught me that tattoos were unprofessional and gave you a bad image to other Christians. As I grew though, I realized I didn’t really care what they thought anyway. My tattoo to me was a way to remind myself of what I thought was important and what my goals in life were. With one simple picture I can constantly remind myself what is really important.



So for my first tattoo i decided to get a sailboat, although I do like sailing, my primary reason for getting it was for what it represented…Freedom. I have lived in the same general area of Michigan for almost my entire life, and I’ve never actually left the continental United States. Every time I look at my tattoo, it reminds me that i want to leave America and see the world. Sometimes at night I stay awake and look at it, imagining I am on a boat far away, going somewhere new and escaping everything. My tattoo sums up everything i want in one simple drawing.

So if you want a tattoo, but don’t know what to get, just think about what is most important to you, and place it somewhere that will constantly remind you what you are here on this earth for.

Making Your Own Survival Knife – Part 1

I have always been fascinated with creating things, whether its writing, graphic design, YouTube or Photography, i love creating things myself. There is a certain feeling of accomplishment when you can make something beautiful out of nothing. I have always loved knives, so I decided it was time for me to learn how to make one myself. I started with a 5/8 inch thick steel sheet, and cut it into what I thought would be a good block for my knife template.

From there, I grabbed my grinder and just started grinding away steel until I had a shape that roughly resembled what I wanted the knife to look like.


After a lot of filing to get the excess metal shavings off of the corners, I proceeded to grind in the bevels. Of course I don’t have access to a big belt sander like most knife makers do, so I got my hands on the next best thing. A hand held belt sander. The problem with this is its hard to make any kind of rig to control the angle of the bevel. So I had to eyeball the angle, fortunately it came out close, but there were differing angles as you went up the blade, it really didn’t look too bad but it wouldn’t have passed quality control.

None of those imperfections really mattered however, because the next step was heat treating the knife to harden the steel. A plethora of YouTube videos made it look much easier than it was. First I tried using a large propane torch and shooting the flame into a brick where the knife sat, this did not even get the metal close to hot enough. So I decided to go a more traditional route and cover the metal in charcoal. I spent about 20 minutes heating up a mound of charcoal until the metal was red hot. ( I didn’t test it with a magnet, my first mistake).


I pulled it out of the coals with my tong and proceeded to dip it into peanut oil. Unfortunately it seemed that the charcoal had stuck to the metal, and through the quenching had fused into the metal. This not only bent and ate into my steel, warping my knife, but it fused a mount of charcoal remains onto the metal, which was NOT easy to file off. Needless to say, the end product looked like this. Back to the drawing table…..

Realizing What Is Important In Life…

Last weekend I spent some time at Ludington State Park to relax and spend some time away from the rest of the world. Truth is, I have been struggling with some relationship issues for the last month and I needed to get out of town to spend some time with some good friends and reflect on my life.

If you are like me, you struggle with letting go of things whether its stress, relationships or just problems in general. The only way I can really let go of things is to just spend time away from my phone and computer, sever contact with the outside world and just spend time with good friends and once again realizing why I should appreciate my life. I let the problems of my life halt me in fear so much, it stops me from being happy. I haven’t been really, truly happy for the last 10 months, and hopefully this was the start of my healing process.

Sitting there, by the fire having good conversation while surrounded by people who love me and care about me really helped me realize what I should be focusing on in this life. Not fear, not the stresses of my job, not damaging relationships, but family and my own personal emotional health.

If you haven’t been truly happy with your life for a while, I encourage you to focus on whats truly important in your life and let go of those things that constantly drain you emotionally. It is a hard process, I am still going through it, but it will be worth it in the end.



DIY Fire-starter For Your Next Adventure!

One of the most important parts of camping is having a warm fire to cook food on and warm up by, and if you are like me, sometimes you have a hard time actually starting the fire. While there are plenty of products you can buy that will help make your next fire much easier to get going, there are also a myriad of great DIY methods. One of the best ways, is Char Cloth, which is cheap and very easy to make!

Having a flint and stone out in the woods can be a huge start to getting a fire started, but from my past experiences, sparks can be a  fickle way of starting a fire, so its important to have something that will light on fire at the smallest spark. Thats where Char Cloth comes in. The Art of Manliness says that “Char cloth is created through a process of pyrolysis, which Wikipedia tells us is the ‘thermochemical decomposition of organic material at elevated temperature in the absence of oxygen.’ Basically, char cloth is created by combusting an organic material in a way that releases its gasses without burning it up completely”. This makes a material that will combust at the slightest spark, making it the ideal method of starting a fire in a survival situation.

What you need: 

  • Altoids mint tin (or any enclosed tin)
  • Small pieces of cloth
  • An open flame



The first step is to place the cut up pieces of cloth into the tin can as flat as you can ( I placed them in all clumped up and they didn’t char as evenly as they should). Next poke a small hole into the top of the can for the gasses to be released and place into an open flame.


As you can see, I messed up my first batch and had to switch tins, so don’t be scared to mess up, you can always retry. The process of pyrolysis can take anywhere from 5 to 15 minutes, but generally you just want to wait until you cant see any gas coming out of the vent anymore. Once the gas is not coming out, that means the cloth is ready.


Open up the can once it is cooled down and your cloth should be completely black and feel more brittle than it did before. Test it out by using a flint and steel to spark it, it should light up very easily.


Once you have perfected your process, repeat as necessary. Make sure you bring with you on any camping trips for the next time you might have to make a fire and have no other methods available to you.

Know of a better way to make it? Comment below!


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Dealing With Stress and Anxiety

I started this blog with a mission in mind, exploring my issues of anxiety and depression and the effect that facing my fears and taking adventures would have on them. I’ve found that spending time in the outdoors away from the distraction of work and technology, i have time to stop thinking and focus on the moment.

These past two weeks have been especially difficult for me in terms of stress and anxiety. I have had bad anxiety attacks twice the last couple of weeks, and had difficulty sleeping almost every night. I decided this weekend that going camping, even if it is at a campground and not out in the woods, would be beneficial for me.


The moment I got out of real life and into the campground and sat in front of a fire, it was like all of my anxiety and worries just disappeared. So next time you feel overwhelmed with life and cant handle life, sit in front of a fire and try to let the calmness of nature take your worries away.


5 Reasons Why You Should Have A Knife On Every Trip…

One of the most important tools you can have while camping is a knife, and not only for survival (Although we will get into that later in this post) but also for general tasks. The blog Eating Utensils states “From the early days of our race, the knife represented one of the first and most important tools that enabled rise of our technology, military, culture, science and all other things that brought us to this point of modern civilization. As a vital tool for survival, combat, construction and food preparation, the knife quickly became the most basic tool from which all other were born.” We can see that obviously the knife is one of the most important tools invented by man, and rightly so.

I myself have started carrying a small folder around everywhere with me for the last month and found that I use it a lot more than I would have thought. So without further adieu, lets get into the 5 reasons you should always bring a knife when hiking.




The knife is pretty basic right? Just a piece of metal with a sharp edge, but it serves many important purposes. One of the most important purposes a knife can serve is obviously cutting through packaging. When you are eating dry freezed food that is served in tough plastic packaging while on the trail, you need something to open it with, otherwise it will be a messy experience. And this goes not only for packaging but also for food. Sometimes when I go on shorter overnight camping trips I like to bring more unconventional food with me since I am not worried about weight, as you can see below. A knife really helped me cut up my vegetables (And even open my can of beans!) to get them cooked up for supper.




But of course knives are not only good for food and food preparation. A good knife can also be used for tasks like carving out a walking stick as I did when on top of the Appalachians, I realized I needed a support stick to get down the mountain. Not only can they be used for simple carving tasks like that, but they can also provide you with a tool for whittling, something to pass the time as you relax in the wilderness.


(This photo is from, which is a great post I would recommend reading.)

There is nothing so relaxing as sitting around the fire with friends and carving a piece of wood into a remotely noticeable shape.


First Aid

When you are in the woods anything can happen, and sometimes it can take hours for emergency medical personnel to reach you. While obviously you should always have a first aid kit on you with band aids, antiseptic and gauze pads, a knife is always an important tool to keep on you in case of a medical emergency. If you get a large sliver or need to cut Gauze or a tourniquet to bandage your wound, a knife is a great tool to have with you. It also helps that you feel a bit like Rambo when using a good sized knife to get out a little sliver.


(I can’t promise you will look this good, but get a knife that big and you just might.)


Self-Defense & Hunting

This may be the most obvious point, but it goes without saying that when it comes to self defense, a good knife may be the most effective and efficient tool in your arsenal. Now of course, some of you may say that a gun is more effective at stopping a charging animal that is wanting to attack you, but do you really want to lug a heavy pistol and ammo up a mountain with you for this sole purpose? No. When it comes to self defense in the wilderness, your best choice will be a good bear spray along with a sharp knife. It goes without saying that you will not want to rely on the knife solely for self defense, as none of us want to get close enough to a large predator to stab them, but if worse comes to worse and all else fails, its nice to have some type of last defense on you. A knife may also be used for hunting if your trip ever forces you to have to hunt for food. Although I don’t recommend hunting a grizzly bear with one.


(Ok, I know its another Rambo picture, but can you blame me?)


Utility (Splitting Wood)

Fire is one of the most important elements when using a knife to survive, and we can all agree that most hikers are not bringing an axe with them on a 5 mile hike. This is where a good (When I say good I mean high quality) full tang (More on this in a future post) survival knife can come in handy. Just use another piece of wood to push your knife blade through the other piece of wood and split it, thus creating smaller chunks of wood to warm both you and your food up.


(Just don’t try this with a pocket knife)


So there you go, 5 reasons you should always carry some kind of knife around with you (and make sure it is always sharp!). Have any other uses you find for your knife on your travels? Comment down below and make sure to like and share this post!