We are thankful for all the feedback we get from people using our axes. But recently we heard from one person about using our Allagash Cruiser while a contestant in the wilds of Labrador on Season 9 of the History Channel's "Alone." If you are not familiar with the show, Alone drops bushcrafters in the wild to fend for (and film) themselves. Jacques Turcotte was gracious enough to cue us in on the secrets of surviving in the wild and how he put his trusty Allagash Cruiser to work.
10 QUESTIONS FOR JACQUES TURCOTTE
1. Jacques can you explain the rules that you had to follow as one of the contestants on Alone in the Labrador wild?
The Rules of Alone are fairly simple in nature. There are 10 participants from all over North America. Those 10 folks then are allowed 10 items to help them survive and live off the land for an undetermined amount of time. During that time you are responsible for your own safety, shelter and food and the only time you will interact with people is during spread out and unpredictable medical evaluations with the safety team. And the kicker is that you have to film every minute of it all by yourself.
2. How did you get into bushcraft and learn those wilderness survival skills?
I got into Bushcraft at a fairly young age in the North woods of New England, mainly in New Hampshire and Maine. I taught myself pretty much all I know through YouTube and books written by some of the forefathers of modern Bushcraft such and Mors Kochanski, Ray Mears, Dave Canterbury, Lars Flat, Horace Kephart etc. Starting around 12, I spent every waking moment in the woods behind my childhood home building shelters, practicing fire lighting and various other Bushcraft skills. As I got older and got my drivers license I went on bigger and longer trips, backpacking, mountaineering, climbing canoeing and fishing. I wanted to immerse myself into the natural world and uncover as many of her secrets as I could. Which to the dismay of my mom meant a significant lack of focus and time spent in school and much more time and energy spent focusing on the outdoors.
3. How did you go about physically and mentally preparing for this Alone challenge?
Before I was asked to be on the show I didn’t fully understand how time consuming being an Alone participant is. I spent much of my free time eating to put on as much weight as possible and practicing shooting my bow. There wasn’t much time to think about the big picture, what it would be like out there and what I was expecting. I was too preoccupied by thoughts of “would I want my synthetic or wool jacket, would a double bit or single bit axe be more useful, would I want brass or stainless snare wire, would I miss not having a fixed blade or…”. To put it lightly, personally and I think all of the other contestants were driving ourselves crazy with the minute details. All the while I was in the middle of a really busy season of guiding, with a new puppy, living in the back of my truck in a rainforest. I made sure all of the stuff at home was taken care of before I left so I didn’t have to worry. Made sure all the bills were paid, that my now wife was going to be set up and comfortable while I was away, etc etc. My goal was to leave Alaska and head to Labrador with my belt a little tighter than normal and not have to worry about what’s going on at home so I could let the experience be whatever it was going to be.
4. Given the harsh environment what clothing and gear did you bring with you?
This is a great question, from the get go I felt really lucky that we were heading to a wet place because I had spent years guiding and living in an extremely wet and cold environment honing my gear selection.
For my clothing I chose wool, for me personally wool is king. Not only is it much more environmentally responsible than synthetic based clothing but I find it does a much better job regulating my body temperature whether it be warm or cold out, managing odor, insulating when wet, not melting next to fire and in general being extremely durable. Instead of going into every specific item of clothing I brought, I'll give you some brands that I’ve come to really like and trust over the years. I don’t work with any of these brands, they've just done really well for me after season and season of guiding up in Alaska.
- First Lite: They make incredible wool base layers and the very comfortable and functional
- Swandri: Their wool bush shirts are one of my all time favorite bits of kit, very durable and functional
- Johnson Woolen Mills: Make a very fine wool pullover that I wear on a daily basis now
- Fjallraven: Extremely well made and thought out gear, during my guiding season I never take their pants off
- Swazi: Great functional rain gear
- Filson: Durable and beautiful sweaters and Coats
- Boreal Mountain Anorak: Their Anorak is one of the finest bits of clothing I own and kept me very warm
- Lure of the North: I took one of Kielyn’s Anoraks out into the field not only for its function and beauty but also as a nod to Kielyn from season 7 who was a really big inspiration to me.
For gear I wanted things that I could rely on without question and would serve multiple purposes for me, here’s what I brought:
- Axe: B&C Allagash Cruiser
- Knife: Puukko made by Sacha WLT
- Multi tool: Leatherman Surge
- Pot: 2 quart stainless steel
- Snare wire: both stainless and brass
- Sleeping bag: -20 degree synthetic bag
- Ferro rod: 6” with an antler handle
- Bow & Arrow: Bear Archery Grizzly 50lb draw with an assortment of broad heads and blunt tips.
- Misc. fishing flys, hooks & line:
- Rations: Pemmican
5. We know you took one of our Allagash Cruiser Maine wedge camp axes with you. What did you use it for and how did it perform for you?
I’m somewhat of an axe guy, I’ve been collecting, restoring and using them for years now. I don’t think a day goes by where I don’t use and axe for some reason so I had a lot at my disposal when choosing one for Alone. At first I wanted to bring a double bit axe I had restored a year or so prior because I love the functionality of a double bit. But I got to thinking, what axe do I always grab without thinking? If I’m doing trail work, bushcrafting, camping, or anything else where I need an axe what’s the tool I take 90% of the time? And the answer was my Allagash cruiser. It’s handle fits me like a glove and never hurts my hands. The head weight to handle length is perfect for a wide variety of tasks, from carving to feeling trees and splitting firewood. In my opinion the Maine wedge is one of the best head patterns ever designed and the way the Allagash cruiser implemented this old design was perfect, not too wide so it still chops well like a lot of American made axes you see these days and not too narrow so it still splits really well as opposed to a lot of my narrow bit Scandinavian axes. It’s just right. Durability and elegance combined. And since I wasn’t taking a saw my axe would be the tool my life depended on so I needed something that would fail and that’s how I landed where I did. While I was out there I cleared a section of bush for my shelter, cut a trail down to the river, felled trees, debarked logs, built my shelter and split firewood. The axe performed flawlessly and it’s still my go to tool! Now I can’t wait to get my hands on one of the new B&C double bit, that might just be the perfect tool combination!
6. What was the most surprising thing you learned about surviving in remote Labrador?
This was quite a profound journey for me. From start to air date it consumed a year of my life. Shockingly I never even applied to the show, just through sheer luck they found me and I was presented with this incredible opportunity. Like a lot of this year's contestants I went into it not caring about the money but wanting to be a part of this amazing thing and have a life changing experience. My end goal was to walk out of the wilds of Labrador a better man, for myself, my wife, my family and for my friends. I proved to myself I can survive, I was fed, warm, dry and hydrated. But I came away with a profoundly different view on life. This is what I wrote in my journal when I came out…
From the moment I stood on this land I felt like an intruder. This perfect pristine landscape, wild and free. Free of human interference and ugliness. I stood on the shore and hacked my way into the bush, cutting down trees, digging up roots, starting fires, marring the landscape. For 15 days the only relationship I had with other living things was hurting them, killing them. I felt like this big dark force moving through the forest trying to find and kill all its inhabitants. There are few undeniable truths in this world. One of them being that killing something is an incredibly final act. It can never be taken back, it can never be reversed. It’s something that should never be taken lightly and carry an immense amount of weight. You have to be aware of the fact that weather we have fur, feathers or scales we are all sentient beings that are capable of feeling fear and pain. I need to preface this with that I am passing no judgement in anyone out there here on the land or out in the world hunting and fishing. I’m a hunter and a fisherman myself and I will continue to be so. But it’s one thing to take life for the sole reason of providing for yourself and family. There is something pure about having a relationship With the land where you are both mutually beneficial and you take only what you need. It’s still a heavy thing but I can totally get behind it. But once you start hurting things taking from the land for the purpose of money and entertainment of others, things can take on some ugly connotations. Once you start taking life and that is only relationship with living things for half a month it’s impossible to not think about the fragility of life and how it’s not guaranteed for us. Life is an incredible miracle, and can be taken away from us at any moment. The happiest moments of my life have never been alone in the woods. They’ve always been with the people I love. Being with Catherine and Pip. And by being out there I was missing those moments. I was loosing time with two if the things I love most on this planet for nothing. I have everything I have ever wanted waiting for me at home, a truly beautiful life. Throughout all of my teenage years and adulthood I’ve been running from a traumatic childhood. I found the outdoors at a time in my life where I didn’t feel safe and strong and it made me feel both of those things. I wanted so badly to be this badass solo adventure because I thought it was the answer to all my problems and if fueled my ego. Don’t get me wrong I’m incredibly grateful for all of the experiences, I wouldn’t change a thing and the outdoors will always be a essential and key part of my life. I was terrified of living a life of quiet desperation but I don’t want that anymore. I have this beautiful little life with this beautiful little family I’m creating. I don’t need to be the badass adventurer, I just want to be the selfless family man that loves being outside. I’m realizing the is nothing wrong with celebrating a simple life and that’s what I want. It feels so good to be running to something finally. Running home. I went on Alone with intention of engaging in a bushcraft experience, not a survival one. Survival and bushcraft are both under the umbrella category of wilderness living. There’s so much overlap with them in terms of the hard skills that they are often used interchangeably but i think that is misleading To me they very are different on a philosophic level. In survival your only goal is staying alive more or less by any means necessary. You have to do whatever you have to make it out. And because of that there are different spiritual forgiveness available because it’s born out of pure necessity. Survival is brutal and ugly because it has to be. Bushcraft on the other hand is the art of living in harmony nature in an effort to use its resources to tred more lightly in the planet. It’s done with purpose and grace. In bushcraft you can cut down one tree in a stand of 7 and move to the next. In survival you must cut down all 7. In bushcraft you can sit back and admire the moose and take photos. In survival you must be aggressive and take the shot because if you don’t you may die. There is a…. In bushcraft, it’s done in a way to be beautiful to be elegant. Things are done in best practice for no other reason than because it’s the right way to do it. The art of Bushcraft is an incredibly spiritual and beautiful experience for me and one I enjoy being in. Survival on the other hand in its nature is harsh and not enjoyable. I do not wish to live my life my the rules of survival if I don’t have to. I wish to tred as lightly as I can on our wild and free places.
7. What was the most fun part of the Alone challenge for you?
The people. By far the best part of the Alone experience was getting to meet this incredible community and spend time with them. Truly the most wonderful folks I’ve ever met.
8. If someone wanted to follow in your footsteps and take up bushcraft what advice would you give them?
Just get out and do it! I start off in the woods behind some train tracks. If you are passionate, listen to that feeling and do your best to make things happen. Oftentimes folks feel a barrier to entry for a whole host of reasons but the most common one I see is monetary. Pick yourself up a little $10 mora knife and go out and have fun, leave the expectations of being the best at the parking lot and enjoy being outside and interacting with nature. There are so many resources now to learn from that anything you want to know about Bushcraft is a click away.
9. What do you consider essential gear that you take with you into the bush on every trip?
I always carry an axe, a puukko, ferro rod and rations no matter where I go or what I do. With those four things I feel can get through anything I need to In the climate that I live in.
10. If someone wants to follow your adventures how can they do that?
@livewildak on Instagram will be the best way!