Thursday, December 5, 2013

Bushcraft Basics; starting out

Bushcrafting can be a lot of fun. It gets you out into the woods with minimal equipment, and thereby minimizes your connection to the rest of society. It gives you a feeling that cannot be replicated. But your visit to the woods can easily turn into a nightmare that could kill you as well. If you are not able to be comfortable with minimal equipment and little to no support from the outside world, you are starting off on the wrong foot.

That said, my advice to you is that you learn about the outdoors by storing out with what you know, and can in fact feel comfortable and go from there. Dependent upon where you are going, and the weather you expect to encounter your needs will vary, and you should build upon your experiences to develop your Bushcrafting kit, or bag of goodies. It needn’t be complicated, and as the months roll by you’ll find your kit changing as you gain new knowledge and develop new skills.

But there are some basics that everyone should have. These basics should at the very least cover your prime needs of safety, water and food. In my preparedness planning, I call this the SaWaFo pyramid. Safety, water, and food. You cannot survive without these three elements, whether you live in Manhattan or the middle of the backwoods of Maine. They are absolute essentials.

To address the concerns of how to carry and obtain all of the things you might need to assure you can seem like an indomitable task, but really, you don’t need half as much as some of the gurus claim you need. There are, however, some essential tools that can carry you through to the end of your trip without mishap.

The most important tool you need is knowledge. The more knowledge you have, the less you need to rely on external instruments to fulfill your needs. It is as simple as that. But this is something you’ll have to learn along the way.

To get into the physical part of your tool collection, you’ll find that there really isn’t very much needed along those lines, provided you have the knowledge needed to utilize what you have at hand, and require the minimal amount of tools required to get the job done. This list can be longer or shorter, dependent upon many factors, but here I am just going to address the minimalist list, as these are the things you will always need.

One of the tools you will need is a good knife. The exact type you get is not really all that important, but I would suggest you carry at least two different types with you. One would be a belt or sheath knife, and the other would be a smaller folding type of knife. Along with the knife, carry a small Arkansas stone or other tool for sharpening the edge. While it is true that you can sharpen a blade on many types of rocks, you may find yourself in an area with few if any of those rocks easily available. However, if you have a stone in your pocket, there is no need to waste time and energy looking for one.

The second tool you will need is something to start a fire with. I’m talking about something beyond a box of strike any where matches here. You should have a kit with a ferro rod, a striker and some tinder. We’ll get into these items more in depth in a later post, by the way. Again, this little kit shouldn’t weigh much, and it is a lot more reliable than a box of matches that most likely will not work if you fall into a stream or you are caught in a deluge.

You should also have some cordage with you, and for that, I usually carry a 50’length of paracord. Of course, the main reason for the cordage in shelter construction, and for that, I tend to take along a couple of 5 X 7 nylon tarps, with which I can make a shelter for any type of weather. Again, more on that later.

A container for cooking, as well as collecting water is also needed, and that about sums up the raw basic list of what you need. You’ll notice I emphasized the word raw here. That’s because it is very basic, and I do intend to go into more depth about all of this as time goes by.

One other very important tool you should carry is a compass. This tool may not keep you from getting turned around, but it will help you get back on a straight line when you do wander off of it. of course, if you learn to use it properly, it will help keep you from getting turned around. But that is another lengthy discussion for later on as well.

I have subtitled this post starting out because it is a starting point for bigger and better things to come. Those of you that are old hands may be bored with it, but for those new to the idea of Bushcrafting, it can be a learning experience they may not be able to get anywhere else.

Remember, tool one for your pack is knowledge. Keep it sharp and it will never let you down.

Until next time, see you in the woods!