An easily understandable guide to key skills for bushcrafters, campers, outdoors lovers, and anyone interested in wilderness living. Kirtley, one of the leading bushcraft educators globally, teaches outdoor knowledge through courses, demonstrations, and more. This is his first book, distilling many years of outdoor experience and nearly two decades of teaching wilderness bushcraft skills.
Clear and comprehensive chapters deliver wilderness axe skills and campcraft knowledge from start to finish. You’ll begin with learning how to select the correct tools for the task, caring for the tools, then applying everyday axe techniques. Next, learn felling, limbing, and sectioning trees, followed by carving techniques and projects. Then Kirtley teaches campcraft projects large and small. Through detailed explanations and step-by-step photo sequences, you too will be able to develop effective and timesaving campcraft skills using materials freely available in the woods, including pot hangers, tripods, cranes, and a variety of group camp set-ups. An indispensable addition to any bushcraft, woodcraft camping, and outdoor library.
I pre-ordered the Wilderness axe Skills and Campcraft book when it was about to be released a little while ago. I already knew the author, Paul Kirtley, from watching many of his films and stuff. He is a bit of a legend in the bushcraft world and especially in the UK. He is also a big fan of Swedish nature! Some of his films and travels are recorded here in Sweden.
Table of Content
Selecting the correct tools for the job
Caring for your tools
Everyday axe techniques
Felling, limbing, and sectioning
Carving techniques and projects
Primarily, the book Wilderness Axe Skills and Campcraft is about the axe. Most of the first 4 chapters are mostly about different types of axes and how to use them. You get a very solid overview of the axe, from what types of axes there are and their different properties. Also the different parts of the axe and how to choose an axe that suits you.
The hand axe
The hand axe is the smallest type of axe and is mainly used around the camp for smaller jobs. Often things that take too long and are a bit too heavy for the knife. Hand axes are normally between 34-38cm long and weigh around 0.6-0.8kg.
The half axe
The half axe is slightly longer than the hand axe and should reach about halfway from the fingers to the middle of the chest. It is just long enough to be swung two-handed but can also be used with only one hand. The half-axe is well suited for somewhat heavier tasks than the hand axe, such as felling small trees, processing slightly larger pieces of wood, etc. Because it can handle a little more, it is very grateful to have with you in your day pack. It neither takes up too much space nor weighs too much in the backpack!
A half-axe is around 50cm long and normally weighs between 0.9-1.2kg.
The three-quarter axe
The three-quarter axe shows its strength when you need something simple and flexible enough to carry with you, but still able to do everything a larger axe can do! At these sizes, however, it starts to get too big for everyday chores around the camp where the hand axe and half axe are best suited. The three-quarter axe is made for heavier activities like splitting wood and felling trees!
A three-quarter axe is around 64cm long and weighs around 1.2kg.
The full sized axe
The full-sized axe goes back to the old days when you didn’t have power tools and other things with you, but felled trees by hand, with an axe. It is almost never swung with one hand but is exclusively a two-handed axe and is therefore well suited for felling trees and other similar rough jobs.
The weight of a full-sized axe is normally twice as much as its little brother the three-quarter axe. Somewhere around 2.2kg and a length of 81-90cm.
Maintenance, usage & extra resources
Just as the table of contents suggests, the book goes through how to choose your tools, how to manage and maintain them, and finally how to use in different environments! The book is probably mainly aimed at beginners, but there are a lot of goodies in it that you can take advantage of even if you are a little more experienced.
In the third chapter of Wilderness axe Skills and Campcraft, we look at different ways you can split wood, both with saw, axe and knife. The pictures really help to understand exactly how to go about performing the very technique he is talking about right there. There are also video guides that you can access after buying the book, where, for example, the part about caring for the tools is almost an hour long!
I personally thought that the last chapter where he shows various things you can do to increase the comfort and functionality of the camp was very nice. He shows a number of different hangers for different occasions and pots, racks for cooking, chairs, benches and other fun! It is of course a little extra fun to read about precisely because you get many ideas for new projects you can tackle, while the rest of the book is more informative.
I would highly recommend the book to people who are both very knowledgeable and beginners. Paul is an “old guard” bushcrafter and has been around for a long time and learned from others. It is noticeable that many of the techniques are well-proven and have stuck around because they actually work.