Gear

A few good tools!

Bushcraft is not a gadget sport in that you need as many expensive things as possible. On the contrary, it is often the case that the one who gets by with the least number of bushcraft gear is the one who is looked up to!

It is very important to have proven, proper and durable equipment with you in the forest! In some cases, you are completely dependent on the knife to get through the night. Even when it comes to the axe, you rarely choose a small tactical variant with speed stripes on the sides over a classic normal-sized axe!

The Essentials

What is the bare minimum for practicing bushcraft? Think of it like a skillset, or a few different types of actions and needs you have to fulfill in a survival situation. Since bushcraft is the extention of survival it’s pretty much the same gear. However, in a bushcraft situation, more emphasis is put on being prepared before heading into the forest. You might, for example, bring a robust bushcraft knife instead of that small foldable Swiss Army Knife you carry on a day to day basis.

The Cutting Tool

Even if our modern society doesn’t always force us to use a knife, the situation is vastly different out in the wild. Practically everything you do in the wild will be so much easier with a good knife to accompany you. It’s a reason it’s humanity’s oldest tool and the most important part of our bushcraft gear.

My Mora Bushcraft together with my daughter’s Mora Scout.

With a good knife you’re able to process wood for a campfire, shelter, first aid, and also to build almost all other tools you’ll need.

But, what knife should I get?

The eternal question for bushcrafters and knife enthusiasts! Depending on who you’re asking the answer might be vastly different. The truth, however, is that the grind, tang, length, shape, and handle doesn’t matter one bit if you’re not bringing it. Practically any knife can be the best knife for your specific needs in a specific situation. Go by your gut and get a knife you’ll be happy to bring outside and can’t wait to use and you’ll learn to use the knife to the best of its and your abilities.

Shouldn’t I get a full tang knife?

Well, that depends. Full tang knives are the most robust ones and can handle more rough handling like battoning. They’re normally not that great at more precision work and does require more space and a separate sheath. With a lot of practice, you’ll probably end up being able to use a larger, full tang knife for finer work as well.

A couple of knives I use:

The Mora Bushcraft in the picture above is my go-to knife for all-purpose stuff. It’s sturdy, full tang, works for just about anything I throw at it. The downsides of this knife is that it might rust if not cared for, slightly bulky to carry (I’m not a fan of carrying my knife on the belt, even though I do do it at times), and not very good at detailed work and for eating.

Mora Eldris is another favorite of mine. Small, easy to use and can take a beating. My version came with a firesteel, which has come in very handy on numerous occations. Downsides, as I see them are that it’s quite bulky for its size. It has also no “smooth” side like most leather sheaths, and is thus not very comfortable to wear around the neck.

Swiss Army Knife Ranger is probably my favorite folder. I can use another folder if I want, like my Eka Swede, and get a slightly sturdier knife. This is rarely what a folder is supposed be, though. A folder is something you pull out for smaller tasks, like cutting some paracord, slicing tomatoes for dinner, and carving some firesticks for the dinner fire. That, the SAK Ranger can manage without flinching. In addition it has several other tools, like a small saw, bottle- and can opener, and corkscrew for when you bring the mrs to a romantic bushcraft evening under the stars!

The Container

So, you’ve got your knife and built your little campfire. That’s great, but now, the hunger and thirst is starting to make themselves known. The easiest and most efficient way to clean water, cook food, carry water, etc. is with a container. Preferably a stainless steel container.

My Zebra Billy Can 12cm has been a lifesaver over and over again (my life was never really in danger, but had a real thirst for coffee!).

Stainless steel is somewhat heavier than plastic, aluminium and titanium, but a lot more sturdy and reliable. You can use it over an open fire with no issues for cooking and boiling water. The best containers also have a lid making the boiling and cooking quicker and also easier to carry along with you.

The whole point of bringing a container is to be used to carry and prepare nutrition for you in a survival situation. While I myself also tend to bring my 1L Nalgene bottle on most trips, I also make sure to bring Kleen Kanteen 0.5L stainless steel bottle. I’ve used it on many occasions to boil water for coffee and hot chocolate!

Read more about different ways of carrying water around:

Hydrate or Die! Hydration Bladders vs. Bottles

The Cordage

Cordage kind of goes with the cover, allowing for you to set up shelter in many different ways. Using just one piece of paracord and a simple tarp will allow for you to stay comfy even in the worst rainstorms.

It does, however, go without saying that a paracord is useless if you’re not able to tie a simple knot. Just as with the knife, be sure to practice a few knots on a regular basis. I myself have a piece of paracord about 0.5 m in my pocket when I’m out (and sometimes when I’m home, too). With this small piece I can practice setting up a tarp, and I can use it as a tightener for the tarp when I’m out.

I recommend bringing, not only one piece of >20m paracord, but several smaller pieces as well. These smaller pieces can be used to stretch the tarp and help you create anchor points for stakes, etc.

The Cover

When talking about cover, what most bushcrafters mean is a tarp. A medium sized tarp (about 3x3m) will be quite enough to host yourself and perhaps one or two other people when set up properly as a shelter.

If a cover is to be useful, you must learn to set it up properly, and preferably quick. Setting up a tarp the wrong way may lead to it blowing away leaving you exposed to the elements. Here it’s important to take your time and learn to set it up properly!

A good idea is to learn 3 ways of setting up your tarp. Make sure they are good for different situations. Protection against the summer sun is a different setup from when it’s storms outside, which is not the same as a setup for keeping as much heat as possible from the campfire.

I would suggest learning to set up your tarp in the following 3 ways:

  • “A” frame that you can walk comfortably underneath.
  • Lean To, that is perfect for keeping the warmth from the campfire during cold nights without wind.
  • Bivy bag-setup. Like an “A” frame but with only one end tied to a tree and the other corners anchored to the ground. Good option for when the rain is comming down hard.

After these 3 basic setups, go ahead and experiment! Different setups are better in some climats and weather conditions than others.

The Combustion

Finally, the fire making-kit! The strategy I go by here is that the fire kit need to be fool proof and work in any condition, in any weather and no matter how cold I am. There are several different options that require different amount of training and prepping of materials:

Flint & Steel

Flint and steel is the most traditional and simple method since it require you to basically have access to a hard type of rock and something made of steel. Then you smash them together making sparks, hoping for a spark to find its way to the charcoal or charcloth you’ve prepared. Downside of this method is that the sparks are quite cold and require charred and dry material to catch. You also have to prepare a dry bird’s nest to light the actual fire from the embers.

+ Simple, reliable and robust method

– Takes practice, require access to dry charred materials

Firesteel

Firesteel is a modern take on the classic flint and steel and is often sold as a kit with one striker and the firesteel itself. Normally these are made of ferrocerium, a material that produces much hotter sparks (>3,300°C) than flint and steel. A modern firesteel can thus light a lot more types of materials, like birch bark and fatwood.

+ Simple, reliable, lights many different materials even when wet

– Takes some practice

Lighter

Lighter is such a useful tool that everyone should carry one at all times. It’s easy to operate, even when cold (light it by running it across your pants, for example). You can light even thicker materials, like feathersticks directly.

+ Simple, lights all materials

– Doesn’t work as well when wet, sensitive to winds

Matches

Matches are the classical way of lighting a fire but does come with a few downsides nowadays. They’re a lot more sensitive to even the slightest of winds and has to be kept dry or they won’t light. They can be quite hard to operate when cold, and sometimes even when dry.

+ Lights all materials

– Sensitive to the elements, can be hard to operate

Read more about fire making and different ways of lighting a fire in these articles:

The Swedish Fire Torch: A Fire for the Ages!

What is Bushcraft? #4 The Fire


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