The phrase ‘bushcraft knife’ is one that is occurring more and more frequently, but what does it actually mean? In this latest blog, we look at why there is no such thing as a bushcraft knife, how to choose a tool best suited to the job at hand and a look at knife law in the UK.

With that in mind, if you are not already familiar with the ins and outs, read our blog on knife law in the UK here

Read on to learn more about bushcraft, knives and what you should be looking out for.

 

What is a bushcraft knife?

Knives are tools. As far as we are at Wildway Bushcraft are concerned, knives are designed to do certain jobs, provided that they do these jobs then they are good by us. There is no need to fetishize knives; ones that are kept locked up and perfectly clean are for show, not for practical use. We like our knives to be practical, not an object of art. 

choosing your first bushcraft knife


It is really a matter of skill 

Despite the huge amounts of discussion surrounding ‘bushcraft’ knives online, it is really a matter of skill. The highly trained, skilled woodsman who is equally at home in the woods as he is in his living room, can be more useful with a penknife than an amateur with a rambo-esque machete. Keep this in mind when first using your bushcraft knife. Before you get to make the first cut, there is a huge amount of skill involved. You need to be able to identify the best material to use, how to use it and for what ends.

Learn knife skills, friction fire lighting , shelter building and more on our
weekend bushcraft course.

Choosing your first bushcraft knife

Sharpen your bushcraft knife


On all of our courses, our pupils use a
Morakniv Heavy Duty Companion. These quality knives cost about £15 and can be obtained through places such as The Bushcraft Store. These knives have a 3.2 mm wide carbon steel blade and will withstand tough use. Remember though to always use it safely, particularly around children. Our blog on knife safety and children can be read here.  If you are interested, Wildway Bushcraft use Bear Blades, learn more about Bear Blades here.

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Carbon steel and stainless steel bushcraft knives 

Some knives, such as the Mora Heavy Duty Companion are made from what is known as carbon steel, while others are made from stainless steel.  While the pros and cons of each vary from knife to knife, generally speaking, stainless steel knives are easier to sharpen and much better at resisting rust and corrosion than carbon steel knives. On the other hand, carbon steel knives hold their edge a lot better, meaning that they stay sharper for longer, they also get much sharper.  While they need a bit more TLC to keep them in good condition, this is a good thing as it teaches care and responsibility – two things that are important for any serious bushcraft practitioner. 

Learn knife skills, friction fire lighting , shelter building and more on our
weekend bushcraft course.


Learning how to use it effectively and responsibly

Bushcraft knife Bear Blades


If you are over 18, the minimum legal age at which you can buy a knife in the UK, then it is worth learning how to use it effectively and responsibly. So, before you dash off and spend your cash, learn the knife skills that you will need for basic (and more advanced) bushcraft skills on our
Weekend Bushcraft Course, if you can’t spare the time then we highly recommend our One Day Bushcraft Course as an alternative.

 

Learning to look after your knife 

The following blogs will help you to look after your knife, keeping it sharp, clean and ready for action.

 

Learn knife skills, friction fire lighting , shelter building and more on our
weekend bushcraft course.

Being able to use a bow drill to create fire is a cornerstone of bushcraft. This method of making fire by friction has been used by humans since prehistoric times since the 4th or 5th millennium BC. The mechanical element of the bow drill gives an advantage over other methods of friction fire lighting, such as the fire plough. 

In this latest blog, we will help you to construct your own bow drill from scratch. Read on to learn more. 

 

Making your own bow drill

bow drill being used in the woods

 

Like most things in bushcraft, constructing your own bow drill begins with a deep understanding of the natural world. Being able to identify the trees and understand how and when the different woods from each can be used is a cornerstone of bushcraft.

 

Understanding the component parts 

A bow drill is composed of the following parts:

  • The drill
    The drill is the piece of the bow drill that comes into contact with the hearth and bearing block. It is rotated by the bow itself and more specifically the cord attached to the bow.
  • The hearth
    The hearth is the piece of wood that the drill rotates into, it is a rectangular block in which the drill sits and where the embers are produced.

  • The bearing block
    The bearing block is the piece of the bow drill in which the drill sits. It should be carved so that it fits into the palm of your hand. 
  • The bow
    The bow is the part of this friction fire lighting device which gives the bow drill its name. The cordage or string that you will be using will be attached to this bow, like on a hunting bow. Unlike a hunting bow, the bow on a bow drill should be slightly curved with as little spring in it as possible. The bow gives the bow drill its mechanical advantage.

                   The image below shows the component parts in more detail. 

https://www.wildwaybushcraft.co.uk/product/one-day-friction-fire-lighting-course/

The different parts of the bow drill.

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Choosing wood

Discover our weekend bushcraft course

 

Bushcraft is about living in harmony with nature, not overcoming it. It is about so much more than just survival. Being able to identify and choose woods for a bow drill is a key part of bushcraft, as is choosing wood for your shelter, spoon or anything else that you need to make while living in the woods.

What follows is a list of woods that are suitable for making a bow drill. This list is not exhaustive and is limited to UK woods. The best way to find out what woods work for you is to experiment. Try a mixture of woods to find out what works for you.

  • Elder (Sambucus nigra)
  • Willow(s) (Salices)
  • Hazel (Corylus avellana)
  • Silver Birch (Betula pendula)
  • Field Maple (Acer campestre)
  • Sycamore (Acer pseudoplatanus)

Learn more about these trees in our blog Choosing Wood for a Bow Drill.

Choosing wood for a bow drill in the UK

                           Learn the art of friction fire lighting on our weekend bushcraft course

Carving your bow drill

A bow drill works, as with all friction fire lighting techniques, by rubbing two combustible materials against each other until the material is taken beyond its auto-ignition temperature.  In order to do this, it is important to carve the component parts of the drill correctly.

 

The drill 

The drill should be around 20 cm in length. It should be around 2-3cm thick and as straight as possible. One part of the drill will be in contact with the hearth and the other in contact with the bearing block. The end of the drill that is in contact with the hearth needs to be carved into a blunt point, while the end in contact with the bearing block needs to be carved into a sharp point.  The bluntness of the hearth end increases the amount of friction being generated. The sharp point reduces the amount of friction being generated in contact with the bearing block. 

 

The hearth 

The hearth should be about 40mm wide, 5 mm thick and around 30 cm long. Once the bow drill has been made, the hearth should be broken in by rubbing the drill into the hearth until a charred depression has been created. Once this has been satisfactorily achieved you need to cut the notch. This should be a straight ‘V’ extending from the depression to the outside of the hearth. Underneath the notch, place a piece of bark to catch the coal and the embers.

 

The bow 

The bow, as mentioned, should not be springy. It can be made of any wood that you like and should be about the length from your fingertips to your sternum. The cordage can either be made of any string that you have at hand, or you can make the cordage yourself – you can learn about making cordage on our intermediate bushcraft course.

 

The bearing block

The bearing block works best if carved in hardwood. It should be big enough to fit comfortably in your hand. Carve a small depression into it for the pointy end of the drill. There needs to be as little friction as possible between the drill and the bearing block. Waxy leaves such as holly can be rubbed into the bearing block in order to reduce friction.

 

                           Learn the art of friction fire lighting on our weekend bushcraft course

Fire lighting in damp conditions

Introduction to Friction Fire Lighting: Bow Drills and Hand Drills

 

The history of friction fire lighting is bound up with the history of human civilization. The ability to light a fire when needed provides security, warmth, the ability to cook food and many other tenements of human civilization. The ability to light a fire by friction is a cornerstone of bushcraft and a key part of our weekend bushcraft course .  This blog provides an overview of friction fire lighting and an introduction to getting started.

 

friction fire lighting with W

A short history of friction fire lighting 

The ability of humans to make and control fire was a huge turning point in human history. There is evidence that humans were able to control fire from about 1.7 million years ago. This control of fire would have most likely been around wildfires.

Learn the art of friction fire lighting on our weekend bushcraft course.

Making fire

The ability to make fire, as opposed to controlling naturally occurring fires, was thought to have occurred about 700,000 years ago. It allowed humans to change their locations, provided security, warmth and lead to massive changes in diet.  The ways in which people made fire was through friction, using devices such as the hand drill or fire plough.

 

Impact on human evolution

The impact of fire on human evolution is enormous. It allowed people to migrate to cooler climates as they were now more able to survive the cold winters. The ability to make fire also provided protection from animals and, it is argued, helped humans to clear out caves prior to living in them. The ability to fire also played a key part in tools and weapon making, as well as ceremonial occurrences and art.

 

An introduction to friction fire lighting

Friction fire lighting is a large and complex topic. The ability to make fire by friction is not something that can be learned quickly or even mastered. Rather it is a lifetime of learning and honing skills. Like anything in bushcraft, the ability to make fire by friction begins with understanding materials.

Learn the art of friction fire lighting on our weekend bushcraft course.

Understanding materials

 

Bushcraft in Dorset using a bow drill

 

Being able to identify trees, plants, fungi, animals, etc is the cornerstone of bushcraft. Without the ability to identify the best material for the task in hand, you are unlikely to be successful. 

Suitable woods for the bow drill/hand drill

The following are the most suitable woods for the bow drill and hand drill. For the sake of simplicity and relevance, we are only focusing on European woods.  Keep in mind that this is not an exhaustive list!

Woods for bow drill

  • Elder
  • Field Maple 
  • Willow
  • Hazel 
  • Oak 
  • Popular 
  • Yew
  • Sycamore
  • Ivy

Woods for hand drill

  • Elder 
  • Juniper 
  • Pussy Willow 
  • Sycamore

Learn more about choosing woods for the bow drill and hand drill in our blog:
Choosing Wood For a Bow Drill

 

Bow Drill

The bow drill is perhaps the best-known friction fire lighting tool. It is thought to date back as far as the 4th or 5th millennium. They were used by cultures around the world including Native Americans, Eskimos, and Aborigines in Alaska and Canada

The bow drill has one massive advantage over other friction fire lighting methods – it’s mechanical nature; that is, the drill is turned by a cord, not by the user’s hands.

Learn the art of friction fire lighting on our weekend bushcraft course.

 

Making your bow drill

A bow drill works in the same manner as all other friction fire lighting methods. That is two combustible materials being rubbed together until the material is taken beyond its auto-ignition temperature which creates an ember. This ember is then used to ignite tinder.

Component parts of the bow drill

The image below shows the component parts of the bow drill – the bearing block, bow, drill and hearth. We will then look at each of these parts in detail.

https://www.wildwaybushcraft.co.uk/product/one-day-friction-fire-lighting-course/

The different parts of the bow drill.

The Bow

The bow for your bow drill can be made of any wood that you have to hand. As the name suggests it needs to be slightly curved and should be the length from about your fingertips to your sternum.

The Drill 

The drill should be around 20cm in length and between 2 -3cm.  The wood for the drill should be made of one of the woods identified earlier in the blog. The end of the drill in contact with the hearth should be carved into a blunt point, while the end that is in contact with the bearing block should be carved into a sharper point.

The Hearth

The hearth of a bow drill should be made of one of the woods identified previously. It does not need to be made of the same material as the drill. It helps to play around and find the combination of woods that works the best for you. Ivy and Hazel are two types of wood that we particularly enjoy using. The hearth needs to be carved into a rectangle about 4cm wide and 5mm thick. Narrow a depression into the hearth in the centre of the blog then, using the bow, wear down this depression into a smooth bore then cut a V shape extending towards and over the edge of the hearth.

The Bearing Block 

The bearing block can be made of any wood that you have to hand. It should fit comfortably in your palm. You will need to carve a notch into the bearing block for the sharper end of the drill to sit in.

Learn the art of friction fire lighting on our weekend bushcraft course.

bow drill being used in the woods

Hand drill

The hand drill works on the same principles as the bow drill, although it lacks the mechanical advantage. The drill is composed of a drill and a hearth. It works as the drill is spun between your hands and is spun with downward pressure being applied. As the smoke begins to appear, increase the speed until you have produced a small ember.

fire lighting Dorset

The Drill

The drill for the hand drill is largely a matter of personal preference, experience and what type of wood you are using. It should be made of one of the woods identified previously and be between 40 and 75 cm long with a diameter of 9mm to 13mm. It needs to be as straight as possible to work effectively.

 

The hearth

The hearth should be made in a similar fashion to the bow drill but slightly shorter. Once again, it should be made of the same wood as those mentioned previously in the blog.

Friction fire lighting on our weekend bushcraft course

On our weekend bushcraft course we introduce you to the art of the bow drill. If you have never used a bow drill before, we will talk you through how to carve each of the component parts and how to correctly use it. If you are familiar with the bow drill then we can help you to troubleshoot any issues that you are having and give you tips on how to perfect your bow drill technique.

Learn the art of friction fire lighting on our weekend bushcraft course.

 

Wildway Bushcraft Owner John blowing an ember into fire

Bushcraft is about more than just survival. It is about living in harmony with nature. It is about understanding the natural world around you and how it can be used to your benefit and comfort. At Wildway Bushcraft, we promote wilderness living and encouraging understanding of the natural world. Bushcraft is about learning and perfecting the techniques that our ancestors used to keep themselves alive and to thrive in the ancient world.

Read on to learn more about what the woods meant to our ancestors.

Ancient bushcraft


Ancient Briton

The Paleolithic period, also known as the Stone Age is used to describe human prehistory and dates from around 3.3 million years ago. Mesolithic period describes a period around 9000 to 4,300 BC. During this period, ancient Britons – a mix and match of peoples from throughout what we know as Europe and further afield – were hunter-gatherers. It was not until the Neolithic period, around 4300 – 2000 BC that people first began to domesticate animals and plants. It was during this period that people began to settle down into more fixed communities. These timescales make the Iron Age (750 BC – 43AD) seem positively recent!

 

The Ancient Landscape

The landscape during the Neolithic and Mesolithic period would have been very different from the landscape today. Rather than the rolling hills and urban centres we see today the landscape would have been thickly forested with small areas of grassland. Animals such as reindeer, wild horses, and pigs roamed the landscape, and elk, red deer and wild boar formed a large part of people’s diets.  In addition to this meat, people also ate shellfish and a large number of plants.

old wood, ancient Briton imagined

Ancient intuition

Our ancestors would have been in tune with this ancient landscape, knowing which plants and vegetables were safe to eat, which ones were dangerous, where animals were likely to be found and where water was likely to be.  It is this understanding of the natural world around us that bushcraft practitioners seek to cultivate.

 

Ancient Britons and fire

The ability to make fire was a key moment in human history.  Not only was it used to keep potential predators away, it was also used for cooking meat and even defrosting meat from kills during the long and bitter winters. Evidence of controlled fire by humans dates back to around a million to 200,000 years ago. Bow drills have been thought to date back to the 4th – 5th millennium BC.  The ability to use a bow drill to generate fire as and when one wanted would have been key to ancient people’s survival. 

 

Bow Drill

 

bow drill being used in the woods


The bow drill is one of the ancient technologies that form the cornerstone of bushcraft. Our ancestors would have been able to use the bow drill to make a fire in all but the worst circumstances. It is also thought that people would have carried fire with them as they traveled. This fire would be carried by means of an ember bundle.  This is a glowing red ember in a tinder wrapped around in moss and carried like this. By carrying fire in this method ancient people would be able to light a fire in a new location without having to expend large amounts of energy.

 

Book your space on our intermediate bushcraft course today

 

Resources for learning the bow drill

Here is a list of resources that might be useful in learning the art of friction fire lighting:

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Using all of the kill

Bushcraft cooking in the UK with Wildway Bushcraft


For our ancient ancestors, killing animals was no easy manner. It was often dangerous and used up a lot of energy, something that would be hard to replace if you had to work for every calorie that you were consuming. This is why our ancestors would use every part of the kill for something. The skilled butchery of  large and small game enables every part of the animal to be used, from the hide for clothing to the sinews for cordage.

Food preservation

Primitive peoples would also preserve their food through methods such as smoking and curing. This would enable them to use all of the animal, and not waste any food. In our Intermediate Bushcraft Course we teach participants how to skilfully skin and butcher game as well as making pots and pans to cook their food in and, of course, transport it.

 

Book your space on our intermediate bushcraft course today

 

Our intermediate bushcraft course


Our five-day intermediate bushcraft course gives participants a chance to learn and to perfect these ancient bushcraft techniques. Running over five days, this course truly lets you live and breathe wilderness living. It will build significantly on any knowledge that you have gained on our weekend bushcraft course. The course will cover skinning and butchery of large game, food preservation techniques, the making of glues, tar and pitch. Additionally, we will look at long term shelter building, green woodworking, advanced fire lighting techniques, traps and snares, basket making and much, much more.

 

Book your space on our intermediate bushcraft course today

friction fire course

There’s nothing better than being outdoors, cooking over a fire with your friends or family. There is something almost primitive in sitting around a fire and cooking. It links us with our ancient ancestors who would have been doing something essentially similar since man first discovered fire.
In this blog, we are going to take a look at how to cook over an open fire with your friends and/or family. We are going to cover safety and responsibility, which type of fire to choose, and some ideas for recipes.

 

Safety and responsibility when cooking over a fire

Fire lighting damp conditions


The most important thing when setting out to cook over an open fire is doing it in a safe and responsible manner. Fires can spread, especially in the dry weather of summer, and easily get out of control.  There are several things that you can do to reduce the risk of your fire spreading out of control. Ultimately though, you have to make a decision as to whether or not it is okay to have a fire. Ask yourself, has the weather been dry? What is the state of the surrounding vegetation? What is the soil, is it a type liable to catch fire such as peat?

 

1. Clear the ground

Make sure that the ground where you intend to have your fire is clear of vegetation and debris. Be sure to look up and around and make sure that there are no overhanging branches, bushes or anything else that could catch fire. 

2. Keep water to hand

Keep a bucket of water nearby your fire so that should a gust of wind catch it or a log fall off you can extinguish it. You should always keep an eye on your fire to make sure that it is always in control.

3. Treat the environment with care

Bushcraft is not about overcoming your environment. It is about living in harmony with the natural world. This approach to bushcraft is important to keep in mind when cooking over a fire with your family and friends. Use only dead standing wood, never chop down anything or use any living wood. Ensure that your fire will not scar the earth by clearing the ground underneath it, as with point two. Practice principles of leave no trace, douse the embers of your fire after extinguishing it, check the ashes are cool and then disperse of them by scattering them in a large area. 

4. Keep it small 

Only build the fire to the size that you need. For cooking outdoors you don’t need a roaring bonfire, you just need something small enough to do the job. Make sure that any children you have with you don’t feed the fire unnecessarily, making it bigger than it needs to be. 

 

Learn fin and fur preparation and campfire cooking on our weekend bushcraft course.

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Choose the best type of fire for cooking on

friction fire lighting from Wildway bushcraft


Not all fires are created equal. Some constructions are best suited for keeping warm, while others are best designed for cooking on. It’s the latter type that you will want to build.


Whatever type of fire you choose to construct, be sure to follow the basic principles of fire lighting. That is, ensuring that you have enough suitable tinder and fuel of progressively larger diameters close to hand. After all, you don’t want to be running around looking for fuel once the fire has started.

Remember, when cooking over a fire, use the embers – not the flames. 

 

The Hunter’s Fire 

One of the most useful fires for cooking is the Hunter’s Fire.  This fire can easily be adapted for different types of cooking such as baking and grilling. This fire works by building fire between two logs the same distance apart as your cooking utensils. Be sure to use green wood or, if none is available stones. If there are no stones to hand a trench will be equally as practical.

The Star Fire 

As its name suggests, the Star Fire is made with four or five logs arranged into a star shape sticking out of the fire. Each log should be 15cm or thicker. As the fire slowly burns, push the end of each log further into the fire thereby providing more fuel. This fire burns for long periods of time and the thick logs make them ideal for supporting cooking pots, such as mess tins.

The Indian’s Fire 

The Indian’s Fire is, essentially, a collapsed tipi style fire with long logs, about an arm’s thickness, sticking out of it. These logs which make up the collapsed tipi are then slowly fed into the fire to keep it burning. One of the differences between this and the Star Fire is that the logs used for this fire should not be as thick as those used in the Star Fire.  

 

Learn fin and fur preparation and campfire cooking on our weekend bushcraft course.

 

Ideas for recipes 

Here are some favourite campfire recipes from Wildway Bushcraft.

 

 

    • Bannock Bread
      One of the favourite recipes of Wildway Bushcraft pupils is Bannock Bread. This simple to make flat bread is a favourite of bushcraft practitioners and hikers the world over.  You can discover our amazing recipe for Bannock Bread in this post here.
    • Stews
      Whatever your dietary preferences, you can’t beat a good stew. Easy to make and scale up or down to feed as many people as you have camping with you, the stew is a campfire classic. If you are in a survival situation, or somewhere where hunting/trapping is allowed, then the addition of rabbits or pigeons can add an extra dimension to your stew.

    • Steamed Trout
      Steamed trout, cooked over a campfire, is an outdoor classic. It is the stuff that boys’  own novels are made out of. After gutting and cleaning the fish, stuff it with wood sorrel. Wrap the trout is sphagnum moss, big handfuls of it, then carefully place the trout on the embers of your fire. Keep an eye on your fish and it should be ready until you see steam rising from the moss.

 

Learn fin and fur preparation and campfire cooking on our weekend bushcraft course.

Benefits of being outside

People are becoming increasingly aware of the benefits of being outside. A desire to get away from it all is hardly surprising when you consider all the noise around us. The pinging of phones as emails, texts, WhatsApp messages all disrupting the peace. Then there’s the background hum of the television or radio, the endless scrolling through Instagram or Facebook…whatever way you look at it, modern life if noisy and distracting.

 

Discover the benefits of being outside on our family bushcraft course

Getting away from it all

With all that noise, it’s no wonder that more and more people are wanting to get away from it all. Spending time in nature though is not just a ‘nice’ thing to do, it has actually been proven to have positive mental and physical health benefits.

 

Physical health benefits of being outside

A study of 290 million people by the University of East Anglia found that living close to nature and spending time outdoors reduces the risk of type II diabetes, cardiovascular disease, premature death, preterm birth, stress, and high blood pressure.  Being outside can also have other physical benefits. Walking up and down hills, strolling through the woods, whatever form of exercise that you choose to do, being outside can help to increase your fitness.

Truly get away from it all


Mental health benefits of being outside 

It is not just physical wellbeing that can be improved by spending time outside. Spending time in nature can also work wonders for your mental health.  According to the mental health charity Mind, spending time in nature can improve your mood, reduce feelings of stress, help you to feel more relaxed, and improve feelings of confidence and self-esteem.

 

 

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That’s not all…other benefits of being outside

There’s more! It is also thought that spending time in nature can help you to reduce the signs of aging, improve your immune system and even increase creativity

 

Benefits of being outside to children

Children also take loads of benefit from being outside. In addition to all the physical benefits that adults get, playing in the woods also creates a unique sense of wonder in children’s minds. Studies also suggest that people who spend time outside as children typically experience better mental health as adults.  Spending time in nature as a child can also mean that they are more likely to recognize the importance of nature in our lives when they reach adulthood.  Given the current state of nature, encouraging children to value and protect it can only be beneficial to everyone.

 

 

Book your family bushcraft course

 

Bushcraft and the benefits of being outside 

 

Escape the noise of modern day life


Learning bushcraft is a fantastic way to get outside and reap all the benefits! Remember that trueBushcraft is about more than just survival, it is about being comfortable in nature. It is the study of ancient (and some more modern) techniques that are designed to help us live in harmony with the natural world.  On their journey to learn the art of bushcraft practitioners grow to understand the different characteristics of plants and trees, understand the calls of birds and sounds of nature. All of this means that bushcraft practitioners are truly comfortable living in the woods, they can relax, breathe in the woods and reap the mental and physical health benefits.


Introduce your family to bushcraft

Introduce your family to bushcraft this summer and enjoy the benefits of being outside as a family. The easiest way to introduce your family to bushcraft is to join our family bushcraft course.

 

Learn more about our family bushcraft course

On this course, you and your family will have a chance to build your own shelter in the woods; make fire and then cook over it and much more.

This course can be as exciting and adventurous as you like. You can choose to sleep in a hammock, under a tarp or in the shelter you made as a family team or just bring a tent! You can delight in cooking your own evening meal over a fire or if you like we can supply you with ingredients and you can cook your own meal. Our instructor will stay in the woods with you should you need anything, but you will be left alone as a family to relax and enjoy spending time together and away from all the hassle of modern life in a great woodland surrounding. 

 

 

Book your family bushcraft course

Generally speaking, children and knives are not a good mixture. If, however, you are introducing your family to bushcraft then sooner or later your children will need to understand how to handle a knife. The ability to handle a knife is, after all, a key part of bushcraft.

Family bushcraft course knife safety children

 

Supervising children with a knife 

At Wildway Bushcraft, we strongly encourage children to get involved with bushcraft. We believe that it strengthens their bond with the natural world, but also teaches them respect, understanding and has mental health benefits. That is one of the reasons why we run a Family Bushcraft course and work with schools.

Sooner or later, children on their bushcraft journey will need to learn how to use a knife. Read on to find out our top tips for teaching children how to use one safely.

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Explain the importance of safety 

The key to supervising children using a knife in bushcraft, is that they should be old enough to understand the seriousness of what they are doing.  Safety should begin with sitting down with the child/children in question and explaining to them what they are about to do. This is not only important before supervising them, but will also (hopefully) prevent them from messing about with the tools after you have finished supervising them.

Family bushcraft course from Wildway Bushcraft knife safety

Run through basic first aid

Explain to children, before they begin using a knife, some elements of basic first aid. Ensure that they have their own first aid kit and know what to do should they cut themselves. If they do not already know how to do so, then now would also be a good time to teach them how to call for an ambulance.

 

Give clear instructions

It is vitally important that when teaching knife safety to children,  you give them clear instructions. Tell them calmly and in as plain English as possible exactly what you want them to do. Be clear and precise when it comes to instructions such as being very aware of their hands, never cutting towards themselves, to never point a knife at anyone or to ever throw a knife.

LEARN BUSHCRAFT AS A FAMILY
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Choose the right knife

When it comes to knife safety for children, the selection of the knife is also very important. The handle of the knife should fit comfortably in their palm. Likewise, the blade should be no longer than the width of their palm. The knife should be well made and therefore unlikely to break. It is best to go for a simple fixed blade knife with a sheath for storage, Mora knives have a range of inexpensive tools that fit this description.

 

Take a course with a bushcraft instructor

Bushcraft for schools courses from Wildway Bushcraft

 

The best way, of course, to teach knife safety to children is to take a course with a bushcraft instructor. That way, you and your child can learn together, ask questions in a safe space and have a shared experience where you learn a large variety of bushcraft skills. 

 


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Whether you head outside for your job, your hobby or simply to explore, you’re sure to have noticed how much better being outdoors can make you feel. Feeling the wind on your face, the sound of the rain or the warmth of the sun on your back, being outdoors makes you feel truly alive, but why?

Spending time in nature is good for your health

Multi-tasking modern lives

In our increasingly busy lives, with many of us being pulled between the demands of our work and home life, we can all be guilty of neglecting our physical and mental health. Multitasking, particularly with electrical devices, is one of the leading causes of stress in the western world. People who are constantly ‘connected’ and able to receive calls, emails, messages and social media updates have been found to have higher levels of physical and mental stress, so taking a break is essential. The longer the break from being so ‘connected’ the better the health benefits. So taking an ‘off-grid’ break to become connected with nature rather than wifi will do wonders for your health as well as allowing your body and mind to fully recharge.

Nature can lower blood pressure

Nature is good for your health


Why does time in nature actually make us feel so much better though? There is strong scientific evidence showing that time in nature helps to reduce the stress hormone, cortisol, in our bodies. If your body is under constant stress for prolonged periods of time this can be damaging to your general health, your mental state and will limit your ability to lead a full and active life. A reduction in stress helps to reduce our blood pressure which reduces the pressure on all of your vital organs. It also helps to boost our mood as well as improving memory and concentration. Other studies have shown time in nature helps to reduce symptoms of depression and anxiety. These are significant findings being as at least half of us will suffer from these health challenges in our lifetime. 

Increased exercise

Discover why nature is good for you


Being outside makes us move more too, and movement is essential for good health. It doesn’t need to be a rigid exercise plan to get the physical benefits. Those of us who are active outside will have increased functional fitness and strength. This is because we will be more inclined to move in a way that nature intended rather than just making repetitive movements. Even walking outside on undulating ground where your body has to balance itself and engage the muscles needed for good posture and balance is far better than walking on level flooring inside. 

Spend time in natural light

Spending time in nature can be good for your health


Daily life can pull us into unhealthy habits without even realising. Many of us are guilty of spending too long staring at a screen during our daily life. This exposure to blue light from screens can have a detrimental effect on our sleep patterns, and let’s face it, a good night’s sleep is the backbone of good health. Not to worry though as this can be easily dealt with. Reducing screen time and increasing time in natural light will mean that your body’s natural sleep patterns are reprogrammed in no time. This will lead to a relaxed and natural sleep pattern which your body will thank you for. 

Enjoy the silence

Time in nature


Finally, and possibly my favourite reason for spending time outdoors is the noise, or lack of it. Every day life can be constantly noisy which adds to increasing stress levels. Time out in the quietness of nature will help to calm your mind, recharge and get the most out of life. What’s more, time in nature is found to be so beneficial that Drs in many countries are now prescribing time in nature, or forest bathing as it’s often called. So if you needed another reason to close your laptop and put your boots on, your health is probably the best excuse yet. So what are you waiting for, get out there and explore the great outdoors. Trust me, your body will thank you for it.

 

Five ways nature can improve your health

  • Nature can reduce the level of cortisol, the stress hormone, in our bodies.
  • Time in nature can help to reduce symptoms of depression and anxiety.
  • We move more when we are outside, leading to improved fitness.
  • The natural light of the outdoors helps us to improve our sleep patterns.
  • Being outside reduces the noise, and therefore stress levels, in our lives.

Natural light is good for our health

After a hard day walking in winter conditions, there is nothing better than a hot brew. That’s why, in this blog, we will be looking at how to make the most of your stove in winter conditions. When we’re looking at winter conditions we are looking at those in places of the UK such as the Brecon Beacons, Dartmoor, and the South West in general. We will not be considering winter conditions in mountainous regions or Scotland where winter conditions can be equivalent to the Arctic. Read on to learn more about maximising your stove use in winter.

 

Key considerations 

Making the most of your stove in winter


This blog is simply an overview of the different types of stoves and their effectiveness in winter. It does not compare stove types nor the enormous number of variations which can impact on the stove’s effectiveness. These variations include things such as, the altitude that the stove is being used at, the type of windshield being used, the temperature of the fuel beforehand, the wind speed/direction and of course the experience of the person using it. 

 

Solid fuel stoves 

Solid fuel stoves use either fuel blocks, such as ‘hex’ blocks or alcohol gels. One of the main drawbacks with these types of stoves is that the fuel is not readily available in your local camping store, nor can you control the heat output of the stove. The fuel is unlikely to be affected by winter temperatures but is obviously prey to the conditions that affect all stoves in winter.

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Unpressurised liquid stoves

Unpressurised liquid stoves, such as the Trangia, typically run on a methanol, parrafin, or kerosene fuels. Typically these have a lower burning temperature than gas or multi-fuel stoves and, once again, the temperature can be hard to regulate. They can be impacted badly by cold weather although there are several things that you can do to improve their performance in winter. These include, insulating the stove from the ground, using more fuel to heat the stove first, keeping the fuel insulated and warm while carrying it and while at camp.

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Gas Stoves

Gas stoves light instantly, without the need for priming, and are largely maintenance free. The fuel for gas stoves is generally widely available and can typically be found in local hardware stores as well as camping shops. Their performance in winter is more to do with the fuel that is being used than the stove itself.  

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Butane/Propane

Pure butane is a poor fuel for use in stoves in winter as it stops vapourising (e.g. the gas will remain liquid) at around – 1 degrees celcius. Propane, on the other hand, can be used at temperatures down to – 42 degrees Celcius, making it an ideal choice. However, it is extremely difficult to manufacture pure propane canisters that are suitable for camping. This leaves us with a butane/propane mix, typically canisters of this type will use a 70/30 butane/propane mix.  Even using this mix, however, effectiveness can be reduced in cold weather as the stove empties.

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Pressurised liquid/multi-fuel stoves

Stoves of this type, such as the MSR Whisperlite, are excellent performers in all but the most extreme conditions.  These stoves can be used with both gas canisters and a liquid fuel known as ‘white gas’, a pure form of gasoline. These stoves, however, can be difficult to use for novices as they typically require priming and can be prone to flare-ups, making them less than ideal for using inside one’s tent.

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Fires

Cooking on a fire in winter


Provided that you are able to light a fire in winter (have a look at our blogs
here and here) then they can be a great source of heat, light and can be easy to cook on.  However, you do need to be mindful of the environment in which you are having a fire. Provided that you are not in a genuine survival situation where anything goes then you need to consider if you have permission, the environmental impact of having a fire and, of course, how you can have a fire without leaving any trace. 

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Kit 

Below we have listed a few pieces of kit that are essential for going out into the woods during winter or at any time of the year. 

 

Further Reading 

Here are some other blogs that might be of interest, use the arrows to navigate between them.

 

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In this week’s blog, we’re going to be taking a look at camping in the winter. Specifically, we are going to be looking at camping in the winter in the lower areas of England, such as the Brecon Beacons and the South West. We won’t be looking at winter camping in the higher areas, such as the lakes or in Scotland where winter conditions approach the positively Arctic. This blog will focus on camping in a normal backpacking tent, e.g. not a heated tent. Read on to learn about camping in the winter. As always, feel free to read the whole blog or skip to the section that interests you the most.

 

Kit for winter camping

Winter camping considerations


When it comes to camping in the winter then a lot of the discussion revolves around the kit. The kit for winter camping runs along the same principles as the kit for camping in the summer. As long as the basic principles are followed then there is no need to spend a fortune on the kit.

Sleeping bag

A sleeping bag for winter in the parts of England that we are talking about needs to be rated down to the minus numbers. While certain people might sleep hot while others feel the cold there is, generally speaking, no need to splash out on anything rated below – 10. The down vs synthetic debate will rumble on, but generally speaking down is lighter weight for fill power whereas synthetic is better in damp conditions. When you’re considering purchasing a sleeping bag you should look for one that is rated along the lines of the EN13537 standards. When looking at the different ratings, you need to focus on the comfort rating, not the extreme or the limit rating. The ‘extreme’ rating is the “temperature at which the average woman can remain for six hours without risk of DEATH from hypothermia – but can still sustain cold injuries” (source: Alpkit). 

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Work with your sleeping bag

No matter what the rating of your sleeping bag you do need to work with your bag to help it to achieve the maximum possible rating. If possible, don’t compress it to its smallest size when putting it in your bag but instead put it in a larger bag in order to allow the sleeping bag to retain its loft. Keep the bag dry at all times and consider carrying it in a dry bag in order to protect it. Consider wearing thermals inside your bag to boost its rating and never wear your wet day clothes inside the bag.

Sleeping mat

A decent sleeping mat is essential for a good night’s sleep. Your sleeping mat keeps you insulated away from the cold, wet ground. The more insulated from the ground you are then the warmer you are likely to be. Sleeping mats that have large chambers filled with air are likely to be comfortable but may be colder in winter conditions, whereas closed cell mats, like the classic Karrimat, are likely to be warm but uncomfortable. Perhaps it is best to consider a combination of the two types of mats.

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Organisation 

 

When it comes to winter camping then a good level of organisation is key to enjoying yourself. Winter conditions in the parts of the UK that we are looking at are likely to be wet, snowy and generally quite grim.  With weather like that, it is important to keep organised, keep your wet and dry kit separate at all times. Store essential items that can be damaged by cold weather, such as phones or water filters, wrapped in something warm, like socks, or stored on or about your person. 

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Tent management

 

Winter camping involves a good deal of tent management. Consider opening ventilation flaps in all but the worst of weather in order to reduce condensation and prevent your sleeping bag getting damp. We will look at how to make the most of your stove in winter in a blog post later this month. If snowfall is heavy then you may need to get up in the night to clear snow off your tent, less it weighs on the fabric and damages it. 

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Recap 

When it comes to winter camping it is essential to upgrade your sleeping kit so that it is suitable for use in lower temperatures. Don’t just focus on the sleeping bag but also consider the quality of your sleeping mat and thermals. Organisation is also vitally important when it comes to winter camping. You need to keep your wet and dry kit separate and items that can be damaged by the cold wrapped up somewhere warm or on your person. Look after your tent, be careful of mounting snow on the side of the tent and try to pitch it with the end into the wind so as to reduce its impact on the tent. 

 

Kit 

Below we have listed a few pieces of kit that are essential for going out into the woods during winter or at any time of the year. 

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Further Reading 

Here are some other blogs that might be of interest, use the arrows to navigate between them. 

 

LEARN FIRE LIGHTING, SHELTER BUILDING, AXE SKILLS AND MORE ON OUR WEEKEND BUSHCRAFT COURSE.