There’s no doubt about it, winter is well on its way and summer a distant memory. Winter in the United Kingdom, as with everywhere else, brings with it wonderful changes in the natural world. One of the most dramatic changes occurs to trees. As leaves fall and they take on a totally different character making it much harder to identify deciduous trees in the winter. Keen students of bushcraft should be able to identify trees in winter as well as summer. This skill is a foundation of bushcraft on which all further skills are built; after all, you can’t make a bow drill if you can’t identify the most appropriate type of wood to use.

Read on to learn about five trees that you can practice identifying this winter

Common Ash

Bark of the ash tree

Bark of the ash tree.


Ash or Common Ash or, if you would prefer the Latin Fraxinus excelsior is a tree found throughout Europe.  It is native to the United Kingdom and, in the right conditions, can 
live for up to 400 years. Fully grown ash trees can reach a height of around 35 meters (around 115 feet).  Ash trees are dioecious, this means that male and female flowers normally grow on different trees, although in some cases male and female flowers can grow on the same tree, although on different branches.

Identifying Ash in the winter

In the winter months, after the leaves have fallen, ash trees can be identified by its bark which is either grey or a greyish-brown. With older trees, the bark can grow to feature deep ridges.  The tree’s distinctive black buds are also a key feature for identifying ash trees.

Bushcraft uses for ash

Ash has a great number of uses in UK bushcraft.  Dead, standing wood from the ash tree makes for great firewood, and it is also a favoured tree for making bows.

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Silver Birch

Silver Birch Bark trees


The Silver Birch or Betula pendula is native to Europe and the UK.  
The presence of silver birch trees can often help improve the soil quality, helping other surrounding plants to grow. This is because the roots of the tree go deep into the earth, drawing up otherwise inaccessible nutrients to the tree, these nutrients are then recycled on the surface when the leaves fall from the trees.

 

Identifying Silver Birch in the winter

Silver birch is one of the easiest trees to identify. Its white, or silver, bark remains that colour all year round, in addition, the tree can be identified in winter through its twigs which are rough to the touch.

Bushcraft uses for Silver Birch

Silver birch is one of the most useful trees when it comes to bushcraft. Most importantly, in winter, its bark can be used in fire lighting. To learn more about how the bark from the silver birch can be used in fire lighting watch our video below.

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

 

Elder 

Bark of an Elder Tree


Elder, Sambucus nigra in Latin, is native to the UK and throughout much of Europe. Apparently, the name comes from the Anglo-Saxon word ‘aeld’ which means fire, due to the fact that the
hollow stems are used as bellows to blow air into the centre of a fire.  

 

Identifying elder in the winter

In winter elder can be identified through its green and distinctive smelling twigs and ragged buds which often have leaves showing through the bud scales.

 

Bushcraft uses for elder

Elder has several uses in UK bushcraft. It typically grows near rabbit warrens, providing a good indication of a source of food, the flowers can be used to make wine, cordial or tea. The berries, while mildly poisonous, can be eaten if they are cooked first.

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Hazel

Hazel Trees

 

Corylus avellana or hazel, is native to the United Kingdom. Hazel trees can live for up to eighty years and reach a height of 12 meters.  Hazel trees are associated with doormice, doormice fatten themselves up for winter by feasting on the hazelnuts and, in the spring, doormice eat caterpillars that are found on the leaves of the hazel tree.  Hazel trees are also associated with magic or myth and has been thought to ward of rheumatism, to encourage fertility and was considered the ‘tree of knowledge’ in Ireland.

 

Identifying hazel in the winter

Hazel Trees


Hazel is best identified in winter by the small nuts that are held in short leafy husks which cover about three-quarters of the nut. In autumn it is likely that the tree will bear small catkins, though these are not likely to be found in winter.

Bushcraft uses for hazel

Hazel is perhaps best known for its flexibility, this makes it an ideal material for shelter building. It is also a favoured wood for being used in bow drills. Hazelnuts, of course, are also an excellent source of nutrition, containing over 600 calories per 100 grams

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Beech

Beech Trees


The beech tree, or
Fagus sylvatica, is native to southern England and South Wales.  Beech trees are also found across Europe from southern Sweden to northern Sicily. They can live for hundreds of years, some coppiced trees can even live for around 1,000 years. The tree has a long-standing association with femininity and is considered the ‘queen’  of British trees. Historically, it was thought that beech trees have medicinal properties.

 

Identifying beech trees in the winter

Beech trees can be identified in winter by its sharply pointed leafy buds. See the image below for an example of these buds.

Bushcraft uses for beech trees

Beech trees are notorious for dropping their branches, often called widow makers, hence never camp under a beech tree! Dry beech leaves can be used for tinder and the wood can be burned, although it doesn’t burn as well as ash.

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 blog, we’re going to have a look at some of the things that change in our woods in autumn. As all skilled bushcraft practitioners know being in tune with nature is the key to improving one’s skill set. Every time we go out into the woods it is important to look around and take it all in, this blog will help you do just this by providing you with some autumn characteristics of UK woodlands to look out for.

 

Animal behaviour 

autumn in the UK woods


Autumn doesn’t just bring with it a change of colour in the leaves, it also brings a change in animal behaviours. Here are a few to look out for.

  • Birds
    Falling temperatures and declining availability of foods cause some species of birds to migrate throughout the autumn.  Keep an eye out for birds such as Swallows which migrate from Europe to Africa in the winter, returning to their feeding grounds in spring.  There are other less long-distance migrants, altitudinal migrants – those that migrant short distances from north to south – include Skylarks, Meadow pipits and Snow buntings.
    For more information see the RSPB’s website here.
  • Hedgehogs, dormice, and bats
    Hedgehogs, dormice, and bats consume large quantities of fruit, nuts, and insects in the run-up to winter in order to increase their proportions of body fat and prepare for their hibernation.
  • Deer and Boar
    For larger animals, such as deer and boar, autumn can be a busy time of the year. These animals are all seeking mates, so while it is a good time of the year to see them it is best to keep your distance.

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Fungi 

Mushrooms in autumn in the UK woods


Autumn is a great time of year to spot fungi. Remember though, never eat anything that you have not 100% positively identified as safe. The kingdom of fungi is an enormous one, with over 15,000 species in the UK alone. The Woodland Trust outlines several of the most common types of fungi found in the UK,
here on their blog

 

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Trees

Alder trees for bushcraft 

The UK woodland is a fantastic sight in autumn. The deciduous trees are losing their leaves and the woods are carpeted with an amazing array of colours. Identifying deciduous trees in autumn and winter is a key bushcraft skill that will help you with other bushcraft skills including friction fire lighting and shelter building.  The Woodland Trust has an introduction to identifying trees in the UK in autumn and winter in their blog here. 

 

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Kit 


Autumn is a fantastic time to get out into the woods and practice your bushcraft skills. We’ve listed some equipment below that might come in handy when practicing your autumn bushcraft.
Please note that aside from Bear Blades Wildway Bushcraft is not associated with any of the brands or pieces of equipment listed below – we don’t get anything extra if you choose to purchase one of these items!  

 

Further Reading 

Here are some other blog posts that might interest you. Use the arrows to navigate. 

Lighting a fire in damp conditions is a vital bushcraft skill. Fire is key for keeping warm, cooking food and a whole host of other bushcraft activities; as with all elements of bushcraft the real skill comes in being able to do it in less than ideal conditions. This week, we’re going to look at how to light a fire in damp conditions. This will include a recap of the basics of fire lighting, a look at some basic axe techniques and a video of how to make feather sticks – a very useful tool when it comes to lighting a fire in the rain.

Feel free to read the whole blog or skip to the sections that interest you by clicking on the links below.  

 

Fire lighting basics 

Light a fire in damp conditions


No matter what the conditions are, successfully lighting a fire relies on following some basic principles. In this section, we’re going to quickly recap some elemental fire lighting principals. Never rush these as getting the basics wrong will make it much harder for you to succeed in lighting a fire and therefore cause you to waste more energy than is needed. 

 

  • Start with tinder

    Successful fire lighting begins with finding appropriate tinder. Whether this is natural tinders such as birch bark, or tinder that you have brought with you, such as balls of cotton wool. In damp conditions, you will need more tinder than you would in dry conditions.  If it is going to be damp it is better, if at all possible, to plan in advance and bring your tinder with you. After all, you don’t want to have to spend time looking for tinder when you are already cold and wet.

  • Kindling

    Now that you have more tinder than you think you might need, it is time for kindling. Kindling is small twigs or sticks no more than pencil thickness. It very important that kindling is dry, we will look at how to find dry kindling in damp conditions later in this blog. After gathering kindling of pencil thickness,  collect sticks that are around as thing as a thumb. If wood this size is not readily available it can be made by splitting thicker pieces of wood into smaller individual pieces.

     

  • Larger pieces of wood

    After the thumb-thick pieces of wood, it is time for larger pieces of firewood. You need to several pieces of firewood of steadily increasing size and thickness. Split wood will burn faster than wood that has not been split. We will look at axe techniques for splitting wood later in this blog.

  • Preparing the ground

    Before lighting your fire it is important to prepare the ground. In damp conditions, it is a good idea to raise your tinder off the ground. This is best done by clearing away any fallen foliage, down to the bare earth and then laying a platform of small, pencil-thick sticks. You can then use this platform to build your fire on.

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

 

Sourcing wood in wet conditions

Fire lighting in damp conditions


Keeping in mind the basic steps for fire lighting, the first step (after having checked that you’ve brought your tinder) is sourcing dry wood for kindling – or for making into tinder if necessary.
Remember, when you’re looking for wood, dead, standing wood is the best for fire lighting. With that in mind here are some tips and techniques for finding wood in damp conditions. 

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  • Gather as you go


    One of the most common mistakes is in waiting until you are at your campsite before starting to gather fuel for your fire. Rather than waiting until you’ve arrived at your destination gather materials as you walk into camp.

  • Look for dry patches and don’t pick wood from the ground


    Look for patches of dry ground around trees, such as patches that have been sheltered by the tree’s canopy. If dry, dead, standing wood is not available then look for twigs on the ground under the shelter of the tree. Dry, dead twigs will snap cleanly if pressure is applied to them if the twig does not break cleanly or simply bends then discard it and continue your search.

     

  • Look for the wood inside


    While the outside of the wood, be it a branch or twig, might be wet the chances are that the inside of the wood is dry. Provided that the wood is not soaked through then whittling away the outside of the wood can give you access to the dry wood inside. For larger pieces of wood, you will need to split it either by batoning or by using an axe.  We will look at the finer points of both techniques further on in this blog. 

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Techniques for batoning

Batoning is a technique for splitting smaller pieces of wood with a knife. It involves placing the knife on one end of the piece of wood and the other end of the wood on the ground. The back of the blade should then be struck with another piece of wood to force it into the piece of wood that you are trying to split. With the blade of the knife now embedded horizontally into the piece of wood you should now strike the front part of the protruding blade. Strike this part of the knife regularly with equal force each time until the wood is split.

Considerations when batoning

When batoning it is important that you use a fixed blade, e.g. not a folding blade, knife. The knife should ideally be full tang, or narrowing tang otherwise you risk breaking the blade on the knife and causing yourself injury. Batoning should only be attempted on pieces of wood that have a diameter that is smaller than the length of the blade of the knife. For larger pieces of wood an axe should be used.

Axe techniques for splitting wood

Weekend bushcraft course

Larger pieces of wood will need to be split with an axe. Remember to ensure that you are stood or knelt in such a way that, should the axe slip, it will not strike your legs (or any other part of your body).

Splitting smaller rounds

Smaller rounds of wood can be most easily split by holding the axe and the round of wood horizontally together so that the head of the axe is in contact with the top of the round. The axe and round of wood should then be brought down together hard on a raised surface – such as a tree stump.

Splitting larger pieces of wood

Choose a stump about knee height and place the larger piece of wood on this stump at the furthest stable distance away from your body. Position your legs away from the stump so that should your swing miss the axe will not hit your body. Raise the axe to around chest height, ensuring that you have a good two-handed grip on it, then bring the axe down, in a smooth and slow motion, into the wood that you want to split. Remember to let the weight of the axe do the majority of the work.

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

 

Carving feather sticks

Feather sticks are a great way of lighting a fire when it is damp. The can be made from small rounds of wood that have been split either by axe or by batoning. Watch the video below to learn how to make feather sticks.

Watch: Carving Feather Sticks

 

Kit

Here are some pieces of kit that you might find useful when lighting a fire in damp conditions. Please note that aside from Bear Blades Wildway Bushcraft is not associated with any of the brands or pieces of equipment listed below – we don’t get anything extra if you choose to purchase one of these items!

 

Further Reading

Here are some other blog posts that might interest you. Use the arrows to navigate.

 

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

In certain situations, the ability to source clean, drinkable, water from seawater is an essential survival skill. This blog looks at this vital coastal survival skill in more detail, as always feel free to read the whole blog or skip to the section that interests you the most. While we don’t yet cover desalination on our current courses we do look at water sourcing and water purification on our weekend bushcraft course and our intermediate bushcraft course.

 

What is the problem with seawater?

Seawater into drinking water

‘Water, water everywhere and not a drop to drink’ as the Ancient Mariner said, but what exactly is the problem with sea water? Basically, seawater contains salt and humans can only ingest so much salt. The salt content of seawater is much higher than what we can safely consume. Our kidneys have to produce urine that has a lower quantity of salt than salt water, therefore in order to get rid of the amount of salt consumed by drinking salt water we would need to urinate more than we drink. This would mean that we slowly dehydrate ourselves while becoming thirstier.

Removing salt from salt water

Seawater into drinking water
Removing salt, from salt or rather saline water, involves separating the salt particles from the water particles. The easiest way to do this in the field is through evaporation. This process involves heating the water in one container until steam forms and can be collected in another container. The easiest way to do this is to run a piece of tubing from the first container through which the steam condenses when entering, into the second container.

This may not always be practical though so be prepared to improvise the tubing with plastic sheeting angled so that it catches the steam from the first container and allows the water to run into the second.

 

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Weekend bushcraft courses UK Dorset Hampshire


Other considerations

Drinking water in the bush
Desalination is a complex and energy-intensive process. It can be difficult to get right and consumes fuel supplies. When looking for sources of water in coastal area desalination should be a last resort. Some other methods of gaining fresh water are outlined below.

  • Transpiration
    Water moves through plants, including coastal plants, from its roots through to its leaves, stems, and flowers where it evaporates. If the coastal area in which you are looking for water has a lot of vegetation or there is nearby vegetation inland then these plants are an excellent source of water. Simply throw a bag, such as a survival bag over the leaves of a nearby plant. Tie the bag off at the opening over the branch, then wait. In a few hours, the water from the plants should have evaporated and gathered in the bottom of the bag.
  • Search for other water sources
    Coastal areas have water running to them, through the form of rivers or streams. Finding where one of these water sources comes out and then tracing it back upstream will provide you with a source of freshwater. Be warned though that if you select water from a stream close to the beach then it is likely to be saline.

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What to expect on our bushcraft course 

Discover our weekend bushcraft course
On our weekend bushcraft course, we will introduce you to the principles of water filtration. Although we won’t introduce you to desalination we will show you how to source water and create a basic filter using natural materials.

We will also introduce you to the principles of shelter building, friction fire lighting, food preparation (fin, feather, and fur), knife skills, axe skills and many other bushcraft essentials. If you would like to develop your bushcraft skills further then our intermediate bushcraft course is for you. 

 

Click here to find out more about our intermediate bushcraft course. 

Kit mentions 

Here is a run through of some of our favourite kit, while we don’t use this for water purification we do take it out in the woods with us. 

 

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Intermediate bushcraft course

Further reading 

Use the arrows below to navigate these related blogs.

 

LEARN HOW TO USE AN AXE, BUILD SHELTERS, LIGHT FIRES AND MORE ON OUR IOL ACCREDITED WEEKEND BUSHCRAFT COURSE.

If you’re thinking about booking our weekend bushcraft course then this blog shows some of the things that you can expect. There is so much more than you will learn on this course than could ever be covered here, but hopefully, this will give you some idea of what you can expect.

As always, feel free to read the whole blog or click on the section that interests you the most.

 

A word about our courses 

Weekend bushcraft courses UK Dorset Hampshire

Wildway Bushcraft courses are taught by experienced and knowledgeable instructors.  Everything that we teach we have first-hand experience of using in a variety of situations. Our weekend bushcraft course is IOL accredited and aimed at those who want to delve into the basics of bushcraft and build upon their knowledge. If you would like to take your bushcraft skills to the next level then our intermediate course is for you, click here for more information on our intermediate bushcraft course

CLICK HERE TO LEARN MORE ABOUT OUR INTERMEDIATE BUSHCRAFT COURSE 

  • A relaxed and friendly environment


    We believe that bushcraft is best taught in a relaxed and friendly environment, our instructors will be on site at all times and will be able to answer any questions that you might have. It’s not a military style, ‘survival’ weekend, there are no macho attitudes it is all just about helping you to get the most out of your weekend and as much hands-on experience as possible. If you’re interested in our women’s only course then click here for more information.

  • Flexible content

    While all our courses follow a syllabus (which we will look at in this blog) we are happy to tailor parts of the course to suit your interests. Just email Wildway Bushcraft or send us a message on Facebook and we can discuss how we can tailor the course to your interests with you.  Check out our TripAdvisor reviews here, and see what others had to say about our courses.

Read on to learn more about what you will learn on our weekend bushcraft course.

Weekend bushcraft courses UK Dorset Hampshire

CLICK HERE TO LEARN MORE ABOUT OUR INTERMEDIATE BUSHCRAFT COURSE 

 

Shelter building 

Weekend bushcraft courses UK Dorset Hampshire

On our weekend bushcraft course, you will have the option to sleep under a tarp on the first night and in a shelter of your own creation on Saturday night. Remember though, you don’t have to if you don’t want to – you are welcome to bring a tent if you would prefer. 

Sleeping under a tarp

DD Tarp and Hammock

On the first night, we will provide you with a tarp and show you how to put it up. You will then have a chance to try it yourself and then spend the night under it. Don’t worry though, the evening is very relaxed and before you’re sleeping under a tarp you will have a chance to meet the rest of the group and enjoy some food cooked over the campfire. 

Building your own shelter

Bushcraft course build your own shelter

Throughout the course of the weekend, we will introduce you to some knife and axe techniques that will help you to make your shelter.  Towards the end of the day, you will have an opportunity to construct your own shelters from the materials that you find in our wonderful Dorset woodland. That evening you will have the opportunity to sleep in your shelter, by the side of your own fire. What a brilliant way to gain a real experience and understanding of the woods.

 

Highlights: 

  • Sleep under a tarp
  • Learn knife and axe skills
  • Sleep in a shelter that you’ve made by your own fire!  

CLICK HERE TO LEARN MORE ABOUT OUR INTERMEDIATE BUSHCRAFT COURSE 

Fin, feather and fur prep 

Bushcraft cooking in the UK with Wildway Bushcraft

On our weekend bushcraft course, you will get the opportunity to butcher, prepare and cook fin, fish and fur. You will also get a chance to cook and eat the fish or small game that you have prepared for a fully immersive bushcraft experience. Don’t worry though, you don’t have to take part if you don’t wish to. If you’d rather sit it out then let one of our instructors know and they will help you to develop your bushcraft skills in another area while others in the group learn small game butchery.

We can also cater for vegetarians and vegans, just let us know in advance and we can sort another activity out for you!

 

Highlights: 

  • Prepare fin, feather and fur
  • Learn the skills of small game butchery
  • Cook and eat the food that you have prepared 

CLICK HERE TO LEARN MORE ABOUT OUR INTERMEDIATE BUSHCRAFT COURSE 

 

Campfire cooking

Weekend bushcraft courses UK Dorset Hampshire

On our weekend bushcraft course, we will introduce you to a variety of fire lighting techniques, including friction fire lighting, and the basics of campfire cookery.

Learn how to cook over a fire

Our instructors will guide you through making a variety of meals from bannock bread through to cooking fish, pigeon, and rabbit. As always, they will be on hand to answer any questions that you might have about cooking over a fire.

Learn how to light a fire

Of course, you can’t cook over a fire until you can light one! With this in mind, our instructors will introduce you to a variety of fire lighting methods, including the bow drill. Our instructors will demonstrate how to make and use a bow drill for you and then you will be free to make your own. Don’t worry though, you won’t be made to use a bow drill to light your fire in the evening.

Make your own fire and cook over it

After being introduced to the basics of fire lighting in the day you will be free to make your own fire next to your own shelter. You can cook over your fire or over the group fire in the centre of camp – the choice is yours. That night, if you choose to sleep in your shelter, you can keep your fire going late into the night to warm you as you sleep.

 Highlights:  

  • Learn different methods of fire lighting
  • Discover the bow drill, make your own and try and get an ember
  • Cook over a campfire
  • Have your own fire next to your shelter  

CLICK HERE TO LEARN MORE ABOUT OUR INTERMEDIATE BUSHCRAFT COURSE 

 

Discover more! 

Weekend bushcraft courses UK Dorset Hampshire

That’s just a snippet of what awaits you on our weekend bushcraft course! There is so much more that you will learn, far more than we could ever hope to fit in one blog post.  If you would like any more information about this or any of our courses then feel free to contact us today.

 

Kit 

Here is a some of the kit that you will be using on our weekend bushcraft course. Don’t worry though, you’re not expected to bring it with you. A full kit list for our weekend bushcraft course can be found here

 

Further reading 

Use the arrows below to navigate these related blogs. 

At this time of year, when the days are long and the sun is high in the sky, keeping hydrated when out in the woods can be particularly difficult. In this blog, we’re going to look at what dehydration is and how to prevent it. We’re also going to look at what to do what you haven’t been able to prevent dehydration; how to recognise the signs and how to treat it.

 


What is dehydration?

Learn about dehydration and how to prevent it

Simply put, dehydration is losing more fluids than you can take in.  Water makes up at least two-thirds of our body, it plays a vital role in keeping our organs and therefore bodies functioning. Dehydration, losing more water than your body can take in, impacts on your body’s ability to function.  While mild dehydration can be pretty easily treated more severe dehydration can very quickly become life-threatening and may require immediate medical treatment. The key to ensuring that mild dehydration does not become anything more severe is in recognising the signs of dehydration. 

 

LEARN HOW TO USE AN AXE, BUILD SHELTERS, LIGHT FIRES AND MORE ON OUR IOL ACCREDITED WEEKEND BUSHCRAFT COURSE.

Signs of dehydration 

Prevent dehydration with these tips
When out on the trail, backpacking or practicing bushcraft it can be easy to neglect one’s water intake and become dehydrated. That’s why it is important to keep an eye out for the following signs of dehydration – not just for yourself but for those in your group as well.  
With that in mind here are the following signs of dehydration.

 

  • Feeling thirsty
    This is a great indication of when you should drink. While some schools of thought might advocate only drinking at certain times not drinking when your thirsty may impact on your decision-making abilities. Therefore it is better to drink when thirsty rather than risk making a situation worse.
  • Dark yellow or strong smelling urine
    This is one of the best indicators of dehydration. Every time you go to the bathroom check the colour of your pee. If it is dark yellow or strong smelling then drink some water immediately after going to the bathroom.  If you are peeing little and not many times per day then this can also be a sign of dehydration.
  • Feeling dizzy or light-headed
    This is a warning sign of dehydration. If you start feeling dizzy or lightheaded then sit down immediately and drink water. In reality, though you shouldn’t ever let it get to this stage. By drinking water regularly and when thirsty you should avoid any feelings of lightheadedness or dizziness.
  • Dryness of mouth and lips
    Dryness of mouth and lips is a key indicator of dehydration. Once again though it is better not to let it get to this point by ensuring that you are drinking regularly and whenever you are thirsty.

There are certain activities and/or conditions which can make you more susceptible to dehydration. These include, but are not limited to drinking too much alcohol; being out in the sun for too long, illness – such as vomiting or diarrhea. Diabetes can also make you more susceptible to dehydration.  

LEARN HOW TO USE AN AXE, BUILD SHELTERS, LIGHT FIRES AND MORE ON OUR IOL ACCREDITED WEEKEND BUSHCRAFT COURSE.

How to treat dehydration

Prevent dehydration with these tips

Treating dehydration begins with prevention. Taking certain steps to avoid becoming dehydrated in the first place is the best means of treating it, as they say, ‘prevention is better than the cure’.

When you’re out in the woods it is important to either be carrying in enough water to sustain you or to be sure that there are nearby sources of water which you will be able to access. To find out more about how to source and purify water take a look at our blog post here.

If you have underestimated the availability of water in your location or on your walk and yourself or members of your party have become dehydrated then there are a few steps that you can take to treat it. Remember though, if signs of severe dehydration are present then ensure that the casualty receives professional medical treatment as soon as possible.

The best way to treat dehydration is to rehydrate the casualty. Ensure that the person suffering from dehydration takes onboard plenty of water, sweet, water-based drinks, such as squash can also help the casualty to replace lost sugars. Salty snacks can also help to replace lost salts.

 

Kit

Here is a run through of some of our favourite kit, at Wildway we often take this kit out with us in the woods.  

Further reading

Use the arrows below to navigate these related blogs.

LEARN HOW TO USE AN AXE, BUILD SHELTERS, LIGHT FIRES AND MORE ON OUR IOL ACCREDITED WEEKEND BUSHCRAFT COURSE.

 Maximising the effectiveness of your sleeping kit means getting the most warmth out of the lightest set-up. This enables you to sleep out in nature in all seasons and carry less weight, in terms of backpacking this means that you can cover more miles. Maximising your sleeping kit does not, though, mean that you need to spend a fortune on a lightweight sleeping kit. While lightweight backpacking kit is, typically, more expensive by understanding how your current setup works you can get the most warmth out of it without spending any extra money.

As always, please feel free to read the whole blog or skip to the section that interests you the most. We will cover the kit that we mention towards the end of our blog but it is not a definitive list, if you’re looking to buy new pieces of kit then it is always best to try it yourself rather than relying on recommendations.

 

Understanding your sleeping kit

Understanding your sleeping kit

Understanding how your sleeping kit works helps you to maximise its warmth. Essentially, your sleeping kit is made up of your sleeping bag and a sleeping mat of some kind, we’re not going to cover tents, tarps or bivvy bags in this blog. We will look at sleeping bags in more detail later in this blog but this section shall focus on the general details.

  • Sleeping mat

    Sleeping mats provide two essential elements of a good night’s sleep – comfort and insulation. Insulation is provided by keeping your sleeping bag, and therefore your body, away from the ground as no matter what the temperature the ground is going to be colder than the air around it and, obviously, colder than your body temperature.

     

  • Closed cell foam mats

    These are the typical ‘Karrimat’ style sleeping mat. They are pretty inexpensive and by and large indestructible. They are also very well suited to cold conditions as they do not compress easily. In very cold weather they are best used in combination with a self-inflating or blow up mat.

     

  • Self-inflating mats

    These mats work with a combination of foam inside an air-tight pocket. The valve, when opened, lets air in and inflates the mat. Mats that you blow up work in the same principle but without the valve.

  • Insulation

    When a warm surface, in this case, your body, comes into contact with a colder surface heat is conducted away from the warm surface. So in the case of camping, particularly in colder weather, the ground will slowly take heat away from your body. Mats of all types, closed cell foam mats, self-inflating, blow-up, provide insulation from the ground reducing the speed at which heat is conducted away from your body.

     

  • Sleeping bag

    Your sleeping bag works by trapping air between your body and the outside world. We will look at how to maximise the warmth of this air later. This trapped air is what keeps you warm, it is for this reason that it is important to look for a sleeping bag that has a good baffle, this is the piece of the sleeping bag inside the hood which can be tightened around your neck to trap the air in.

     

  • Pressure points

    When your sleeping the parts of the sleeping bag under your back and shoulders are compressed. This flattens the fill of the sleeping bag and reduces its effectiveness. This is why the mat underneath you needs to be good enough to keep all parts of your body away from the colder ground.

     

  • Understanding temperature ratings

    Sleeping bags typically have temperature ratings that are as follows;  comfort rating, limit temperature and extreme temperature. The comfort rating is the temperature at which the bag can comfortably be used, the limit temperature is the temperature at which a person can use the bag, in a curled up position without feeling cold.  The extreme temperature rating should not be used as a guide when choosing a sleeping bag, as it is the maximum temperature at which the bag can be used without occurring extreme cold injuries, hypothermia or, death. The majority of popular commercial sleeping bags use the EN ISO 23537 system.

     

  • Choose the sleeping bag that you need

    When it comes to maximising the effectiveness of your sleeping kit it is important to choose the sleeping bag that you need. Sleeping bags that have a lower comfort rating are typically heavier. Therefore you need to balance warmth against weight. If you’re mostly camping out in the UK summers then there is no need to have a bag that goes down to – 22.

     

  • Clothing

    Wearing a thermal insulating layer in your sleeping bag can help you to keep warm. Understanding this enables you to take a lighter and lower rated sleeping bag particularly in the early Spring and Autumn months where the temperature can fluctuate wildly. Don’t wear the clothes that you have been walking in the sleeping bag, they are likely to be damp through sweat and dirt. A dirty sleeping bag is less effective than a clean one.  Remember also to protect your extremities, wear socks and gloves to protect your hands and feet.

LEARN HOW TO USE AN AXE, BUILD SHELTERS, LIGHT FIRES AND MORE ON OUR IOL ACCREDITED WEEKEND BUSHCRAFT COURSE.

 

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Warming your sleeping bag

Understanding how your sleeping bag works enables you to use a lighter weight, less warm bag, while still being comfortable. One of the most common misconceptions when it comes to sleeping bags is that they warm you. The reality though is that you warm the air trapped in the sleeping bag, this air in turn is what keeps you warm.

 

Ensure that the air is trapped in

Use the baffle of the sleeping bag, the padded part of the bag close to your neck, and the hood of the bag in order to trap the air in. It is important to do this in order not to create a bellows type effect, where the hot air is pushed out and the cold air sucked in. 

Use a hot water bottle 

There’s no need to take an actual hot water bottle with you, a metal water bottle can be filled with heated water, placed in a sock and put in your bag before sleeping. If you have the water and the fuel to spare this is an excellent way of keeping the bag warm. If you’re camping somewhere where you can have a campfire then simply fill the bottle with water and place it close to the fire.

Down vs Synthetic 

Ah down vs synthetic, it’s an age old debate. The correct answer, when it comes to which should you choose a down bag or a synthetic bag, is whichever one suits you. There are some key differences and considerations when it comes to down and synthetic bags which we will explain in the following section (if you’re going for down though make sure that it is ethically sourced). 

Down bags 

Typically down bags are lighter weight for warmth than synthetic bags. They compress down further than synthetic bags and are typically better at wicking than synthetic bags, therefore making them better in the summer months.

Synthetic bags

The key difference between down and synthetic bags is that synthetic bags are better in damp or wet conditions. When wet or damp down bags will typically lose the majority of their thermal properties, synthetic bags, however, will retain more of their thermal properties. They also tend to be cheaper than down bags. 

 

LEARN HOW TO USE AN AXE, BUILD SHELTERS, LIGHT FIRES AND MORE ON OUR IOL ACCREDITED WEEKEND BUSHCRAFT COURSE.

 

advanced fire lighting

Kit 

We’ve mentioned some kit above and aren’t going to touch upon it here. When it comes to sleeping kit though it is a matter of personal choice and finding out what works for you.  What’s outlined below is a brief run through of our choices of knives, axes and tarps.

Further reading 

Use the arrows to navigate between posts.

 

LEARN HOW TO USE AN AXE, BUILD SHELTERS, LIGHT FIRES AND MORE ON OUR IOL ACCREDITED WEEKEND BUSHCRAFT COURSE.

 

Glue making has a long and rich history, possibly dating back to the Neolithic period and beyond.  Not only was it used in weaponry, fastening arrowheads to arrows and the like, but there is also evidence that it was used to repair broken pottery. In this blog post, we will look at two types of primitive glues, hide glue and resin glue. As always, please feel free to read the whole blog or just click on the section that interests you the most.

Remember, the only way to truly learn these techniques is to practice them in a real-world situation. Join our intermediate bushcraft course to learn more about these techniques.

Making hide glue 

Preparing hide for making hide glue
This section will give you a brief overview of the what, why and how behind hide glue. At its essence hide glue is made from extracting collagen from the hide, bones, sinew, etc. of an animal. It has been used throughout the years in everything from hunting bows to furniture and has even been found in Egyptian caskets.

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Softening up the rawhide

The hide needs to be softened first. The method of doing this depends on where you are sourcing the hide from. The best method of doing this is to cut the hide, if you’re taking the glue from the hide, into small pieces, put it into a pot and cover it with water. The water should be allowed to reach a gentle simmer, not a rolling boil, and allow it to remain simmering until the hide becomes semi-transparent. This can take up to several hours so be patient.


Remove the pieces of hide

Use a strainer or the like to remove the pieces of hide from the substance. Leaving the liquid in the pan, strain out the big bits of the hide using a sieve or the like, then strain the liquid through a finer mesh, such as a cheesecloth, in order to remove the finer particle.


Cool the liquid

Allow the liquid to cool naturally. You will be left with a congealed, rubbery substance. This can then be broken up into small pieces and put aside to dry. These crumbled up bits can then be stored away somewhere waterproof and relatively airtight.


Using your glue

When you need to use your glue, take out as many of the small crumbled up bits as you think that you need and warm them slowly using as little water as possible. The more water that you add the thinner, and therefore weaker, the glue will be. 

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Making pine resin glue

Making pine resin glue

Mix ash with your pine resin glue to make sure that it sticks.

Pine resin glue is, arguably, somewhat easier to make. It relies on using the pitch, or resin, that is excluded by some trees in order to help heal cuts in their bark.

Gathering the pine resin

As mentioned above, pine trees secrete resin in order to close cuts in their bark, and in doing so, reduce the risk of the tree becoming infected. Remember, treat the trees with respect and do not do anything which could damage them. The pine resin that is needed for glue can either be collected from dried, previously secreted, resin or from fresh running resin. If you’re collecting the hard resin, simply lever it off the tree using your knife. If collecting fresh, running resin, take it from trees that have been naturally grazed.

Prepare the pine resin

The pine resin should be prepared before use. In order to do this, heat the pine resin on a stone next to your fire and mix in some fine ash powder from the fire.

Using your pine resin

When it comes to using your pine resin glue it should be remembered that it dries very quickly. This means that the item that you’re intending to glue should be ready to receive the pine resin before you come to use the glue. In order to use the glue, simply heat up the ash and pine resin mix and then apply it to what you are hoping to glue and then let it cool.  

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Kit

Intermediate bushcraft course

There are a few key pieces of kit that you will need for making primitive glues. These are outlined below, remember though, you need to choose the kit that suits your purposes and abilities.

  • Fallkniven DC4
    Fallkniven DC4
    This diamond/ceramic whetstone is perfect for use in the field.  
    https://www.fallkniven.com/en/knife/dc4/
  • Knives
    Bushcraft knife Bear Blades
    Wildway Bushcraft uses Bear Blades.
    “Constructed from superb quality D2 steel this knife is ideal for bushcraft and wood crafting. Our most popular knife due to its versatility and functionality, suited to tough daily use in the woods.”
    http://bearblades.co.uk/  

Further reading

Use the arrows to navigate related posts.

One of the key differences between bushcraft and survival is that bushcraft is about being comfortable in the woods. Working and living in harmony with nature, rather than trying to overcome it. Part of this involves the creation of shelters for more long-term, or intermediate-term, living in the woods. This blog is based on some of the skills that will be covered in our intermediate bushcraft course. As always, feel free to read the whole blog or skip to the section that interests you the most.

Considerations for long-term shelter building

Intermediate bushcraft course

Provided that you have some form of temporary shelter established then you and your group can look at building a more semi-permanent structure. This will enable you to live out in the woods for a longer period and in more comfort. While the following considerations, location, hygiene, etc. should always be considered they become of critical importance when staying in the woods for more than a weekend.

It should also be said that you need to consider your priorities when building a longer-term shelter. Having constructed a temporary shelter, sourced water and started a fire you can then start thinking about building a more permanent structure (provided that your food is covered). Don’t rush into building a long-term bushcraft shelter until these priorities have been met. Doing so will only burn unnecessary calories and exhaust you and your team.

Remember though, the only way that you can really learn and improve your bushcraft skills is by attending a bushcraft course. Take a look at our bushcraft courses here, or click the link below to book your space on our intermediate bushcraft course.

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Location

Long-term shelter building

As with building any type of shelter, building a long-term shelter begins with choosing a good location. This should not only be somewhere where materials are abundant, the ground is free from plants that could cause irritants, such as Giant Hogweed, and the key to long-term bushcraft shelter building, close to a source of water. With a temporary one-night or weekend shelter, you may be able to carry in the water that you need for the duration of the trip you are extremely unlikely to be able to do the same when staying in the woods for a week. We’re going to look at more of these in detail in the following sections.

Water

It is best to build your shelter as close to a source of water as possible, without putting your shelter in danger of flooding. You will want to be within easy access of water as it is likely that you will need to make the trip to your source of water at least once a day.  Be aware of building your shelter on tracks and paths used by animals to access water. 

Materials

You should look to build your long-term bushcraft shelter where there is an abundance of building materials and firewood. The amount of material needed will be dependent upon the number of people in your group and the type of shelter that you are looking to build. A group lean-to for five occupants would obviously require more materials than, say, a simple tripod structure. 

Sun

The sun can provide warmth and light, great for morale when living in the woods for an intermediate period of time. Be sure to try and locate your long-term bushcraft shelter in a position that either shades you from the sun, useful in summer, or maximises your exposure to it, useful in winter.

Wind

Look at the trees in the surrounding area. The way that they are growing can help to give you an idea of the prevalent wind direction.  You will want to build your shelter in a position that is out of the wind and ideally has the prevalent wind direction passing across (e.g. not into or behind) the front of your shelter. This will help to keep the smoke from your fire out of your shelter will ensuring that you benefit from the fire’s heat,  it will also help you to minimise draft.

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Hygiene

Long-term shelter building
Hygiene is a hugely important and often overlooked aspect of bushcraft. Keeping your camp clean and organised is key to avoiding upset stomachs, contaminated food and, in a worse case scenario, the spread of disease.  
We look at organisation in bushcraft, particularly in terms of food, fire, and hygiene in our blog here.

Latrines

When building a long-term bushcraft shelter it is very important to consider toilet arrangements, this is particularly true if in a large group. Latrines should be dug far away from the camp and dug deep. Toilet paper should be burned or carried out with you. Be sure not to burn your toilet paper on the communal fire but instead burn it by the latrine and carry a Bic lighter or similar with you for this express purpose.

General hygiene

Keeping clean in the woods can be vital for boosting morale. When on a backpacking trip it is also vital to keep your feet in tip-top condition. A daily washing routine, downstream from where you source your water, can do wonders for lifting the spirits.  Be aware though that even natural shampoos can upset the delicate balance of the river so avoid them if possible. 

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Fire

Long-term shelter building


The type of fire that you will need will be dictated by the type of shelter that you have built. A large group lean-to for five or so people will require a different fire to a lean-to or tripod structure for a single person.

Fuel

Fuel should be in abundance, something that you will have ensured when choosing the location of your bushcraft shelter. Firewood should have been collected and stored in your temporary shelter before you start work on your long-term structure. This will stop you having to collect it at the end of the day when you’re tired and the light is fading.

Keeping the fire going

The decision to keep the fire going throughout the day and night, perhaps working in shifts to do so, or to relight it every morning and/or evening is often down to how easy it is to light. If you’re able to ignite the fire using a fire steel and, say, birch bark, cotton wool or such materials then perhaps you would choose to regularly relight your fire. On the other hand, if you were forced by circumstances to light your fire using a bow drill, a method which can be highly energy intensive then it might be a better idea to save your strength and ensure that your fire remains alight.

Advance your bushcraft

Kit

Intermediate bushcraft course

There are a few key pieces of kit that you will need for building a long-term bushcraft shelter. These are outlined below, remember though, you need to choose the kit that suits your purposes and abilities.

  • Fallkniven DC4

    Fallkniven DC4This diamond/ceramic whetstone is perfect for use in the field.  
    https://www.fallkniven.com/en/knife/dc4/
  • KnivesBushcraft knife Bear Blades
    Wildway Bushcraft use Bear Blades.
    “Constructed from superb quality D2 steel this knife is ideal for bushcraft and wood crafting. Our most popular knife due to its versatility and functionality, suited to tough daily use in the woods.”
    http://bearblades.co.uk/
  • Axebushcraft axe
    A small axe, such as the Gransfors Bruk’s Small Forest Axe is indispensable for building a long-term bushcraft shelter. These axes weigh about 900 grams and have a handle length just shy of 49cm.
    https://www.gransforsbruk.com/en/product/gransfors-small-forest-axe/  

Further reading

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This year, we’ve introduced our Intermediate Bushcraft Course. This course is designed to help you to improve your bushcraft knowledge and practical ability. It is a great progression for all of those that have taken part in our accredited Foundation in Bushcraft and Wilderness Living Skills Level 2 Course.  

 Our intermediate bushcraft course runs over five days and provides the foundation for intermediate to longer term living in the woods. This blog looks at what you will learn on the course and how this provides you with knowledge for intermediate-term living in the woods.

As always, feel free to read the whole blog or skip to the section that interests you the most.

What will I learn on the course?

Bushcraft courses from Wildway Bushcraft

 

In short, too much to cover in just one blog! More broadly speaking though our intermediate bushcraft course will cover the following topics; skinning and butchery of large game, primitive food preservation techniques including smoking and curing, how to make glues, long-term shelter building, green woodworking, spoon carving, advanced fire lighting, traps and snares, foraging, basketry and much, much more.

We can’t possibly cover all of these topics in this blog but we will touch on a few of them in the sections below. The best way to learn these skills though is to sign up for our Intermediate Bushcraft Course.

 

Long-term shelter building

Intermediate bushcraft course

On our intermediate bushcraft course, you will be living in the woods for five days. This requires that you build a longer term shelter, we will also look at shelters for winter survival.

By the end of our course, you will have a shelter that is not only wind and waterproof but that is also equipped with a bed, a stool, and a table to work off. Remember, our intermediate bushcraft course is designed so that you can unlock your ability to thrive in the wilderness.

It is not a survival course! Instructors from Wildway will be on hand to give you advice, assistance and more than a few cups of tea and coffee.

 

Large game butchery

Large game butchery

While our IOL accredited Weekend Bushcraft Course covers the butchery of small animals and birds, our intermediate bushcraft course covers, in more detail, the butchery of large game.

In this case, it is likely to be a deer, one of the most commonly available large game animals in the UK. Our course is designed to provide a complete overview of woodland living, therefore the large game butchery lessons will also cover the skinning of large game and the preservation of food using primitive skills. Read on to find out more about primitive smoking techniques.

Primitive smoking techniques

Primitive smoking and curing techniques are just one of the elements of wilderness living that you will learn on our intermediate bushcraft course. These are some of the oldest techniques for preserving meat and fish and help you to maximise your food supplies.

Advanced fire lighting

advanced fire lighting

Building on from the fire lighting techniques we demonstrate and teach on our weekend bushcraft course our intermediate bushcraft course covers more advanced techniques. This includes traditional fire lighting methods, including the bow drill, and teaches this technique from a complete basis – from wood selection to getting an ember. Our instructors work closely with you to help you get the most out of your time in the woods.

Traps, snares, and foraging

Living in the woods on an intermediate to long-term basis means being able to find, catch and prepare your own food. We will cover trapping, snaring and foraging so that you are better equipped for living in the UK woods on a long-term basis.

Book your place

Book your intermediate place

Our Intermediate Bushcraft Course runs from 24th to 28th of September. Places are £335 for the entire week. If you would like to discuss payment plans or the opportunity to put down a deposit and then pay the outstanding balance later, please contact John Boe on john@wildwaybushcraft.co.uk.