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.

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

At Wildway we believe that bushcraft is about more than just survival. It is not about overcoming the elements or battling with nature, it is about living in harmony with it. For both children and adults, bushcraft can provide important learnings beyond just the skills needed to light fires or build shelters. We believe that whether an adult or a child, a bushcraft beginner or an old hand, there is something to be learned from living in the woods, in harmony with nature.

Read on to learn more

To find out more about the amazing range of courses that we offer, click the button below.


Respect for nature

beautiful woodland


Bushcraft teaches practitioners of all ages a deep respect for nature. By learning the names of the flora and fauna around us, their uses and their limitations bushcraft practitioners are more connected with the woods than many other people. Trees stop simply being ‘trees’ and instead become useful sources of sustenance, or firewood, or wood for bow drills. The skilled bushcraft person will also understand how the tree fits in the ecosystem around it and therefore only use its resources in a sustainable and environmentally friendly manner.

To find out more about the amazing range of courses that we offer, click the button below.


Connection with nature

Mushrooms in autumn in the UK woods bushcraft courses in the UK


* indicates required

Please select all the ways you would like to hear from Wildway Bushcraft:

You can unsubscribe at any time by clicking the link in the footer of our emails. For information about our privacy practices, please visit our website.

We use Mailchimp as our marketing platform. By clicking below to subscribe, you acknowledge that your information will be transferred to Mailchimp for processing. Learn more about Mailchimp’s privacy practices here.


According to recent reports, seven out of 10 people admit they’re losing touch with nature. And more than a third of parents admit they could not teach their own children about British wildlife.  If people aren’t connected with something then you can’t expect them to care about it. Bushcraft teaches children to develop a connection with nature and look after the planet.

To find out more about the amazing range of courses that we offer, click the button below.

Patience and importance of proper technique

Sharpen your bushcraft axe

Nothing in bushcraft can be rushed. It is not about acting without thinking, it is about patience and proper technique. Without patience and proper technique, selecting the right woods, making the right cuts, etc. whatever technique you are trying to perfect is likely to fail. The skilled bushcraft practitioner will approach each task in a calm manner, confident of their skills and ability.

To find out more about the amazing range of courses that we offer, click the button below.


Stillness and quiet

Get away from it all on a bushcraft course


Being comfortable in the woods is key to bushcraft. Once comfortable in the woods, the skilled bushcraft practitioner will find stillness, peace of mind and quiet. Something that is so difficult to find in the modern world with its 24/7, always-on culture.  The ability to sit outside and find quiet in the woods is not just a ‘nice to have’, studies suggest that it is also beneficial for your health. It is even thought that regular time outside can reduce stress, improve academic performance and improve mental wellbeing

To find out more about the amazing range of courses that we offer, click the button below.

Courses at Wildway Bushcraft are about more than just survival. They are about true bushcraft, about living in harmony with nature, about existing in harmony with the world around us. This philosophy underpins all of our courses. No ridiculous, over the top macho stuff from us, just practical, tried and tested techniques which, once learned, enable you to live comfortably in the woods.

One of our more popular courses is the Weekend Bushcraft Course. This IOL Accredited course takes place over three days (Friday night, Saturday night, Sunday morning) and gives you a chance to take your Foundation in Bushcraft Skills and Wilderness Living Level 2 – Assessment at a later date.

In this latest blog, we take a look at what is involved in our Weekend Bushcraft Course. Read on to find out more.


Overview of our wilderness living course

shelter building on our Weekend bushcraft course Wildway Bushcraft

Each of the elements of our courses is designed so that they inform one and other. Everything you learn on this course will have multiple uses and will be used many times over the course of the weekend.


Fire lighting

Fire lighting is a key wilderness living skill. Without the ability to cook food and keep yourself warm you will soon be very uncomfortable in the woods and what should be an enjoyable time will turn into a miserable experience. 

On our weekend bushcraft course, we show you how to make fire through a variety of means. This includes using components that you can pre-prepare, such as cotton and vaseline balls and char cloth. We will also show you more immediate ways of fire lighting, that could be deployed in an emergency, such as using wire wool and batteries. Our main focus though is on traditional fire lighting techniques.

bow drill being used in the woods


* indicates required

Please select all the ways you would like to hear from Wildway Bushcraft:

You can unsubscribe at any time by clicking the link in the footer of our emails. For information about our privacy practices, please visit our website.

We use Mailchimp as our marketing platform. By clicking below to subscribe, you acknowledge that your information will be transferred to Mailchimp for processing. Learn more about Mailchimp’s privacy practices here.


Traditional fire lighting techniques


Friction fire lighting UK

We will demonstrate more traditional fire lighting techniques including the bow drill. You will also get a chance to make and try out your own bow drill. Don’t worry if you don’t get it the first time, our expert instructors will be on hand to help you out and give you tips that you can practice at home.

If you would like to know more about what to expect when using a bow drill then take a look at these blogs:

Book your space on our weekend bushcraft course


Shelter building

shelter building on a weekend bushcraft course

Having a solid shelter that can withstand the elements, keep you warm and be livable is another key element of wilderness living.  On our weekend bushcraft course, we will teach you various cutting techniques, using knives and axes, tips for making cordage and site selection. These skills will be combined to help you build your shelter. You will then have a chance to sleep in your shelter on Saturday night.


Remember, this course is what you make of it. If you would rather sleep in a tent or under a tarp on both nights just let us know!


Campfire cooking 

campfire cooking

Ah, the joys of cooking over a campfire. Is there anything better? On our weekend bushcraft course, set in a beautiful Dorset woodland, we will teach you the art of campfire cooking. You will have a chance to cook the small game (fish, fin, and fur) that you will prepare throughout the course over a fire.


If you have any dietary requirements or preferences, let us know and we can accommodate them. 


Water sourcing

Water sourcing is a key wilderness living skill. Without the ability to find drinkable water you won’t be able to live in the woods for long. On this course, we will show you how to find water and then filter it in order to make in drinkable. We will also show you how to make a filter using natural materials and what you should consider when sourcing water in the wild.


* indicates required

Please select all the ways you would like to hear from Wildway Bushcraft:

You can unsubscribe at any time by clicking the link in the footer of our emails. For information about our privacy practices, please visit our website.

We use Mailchimp as our marketing platform. By clicking below to subscribe, you acknowledge that your information will be transferred to Mailchimp for processing. Learn more about Mailchimp’s privacy practices here.

Knife skills

bushcraft knife skills


Aside from knowledge a knife, or in certain circumstances an axe, is the most important thing that you can take with you. At Wildway Bushcraft, we are not precious about knives. They are tools to be used and you should be able to rely upon them. Like all tools though, they are worthless unless you are able to use them correctly. On this weekend bushcraft course, we will teach you a few basic knife and axe skills which will enable you to construct shelters, prepare small game, make tent pegs, construct a bow drill and much, much more.

Learn more about knives and axes for bushcraft in the blogs below: 

Book your space on our weekend bushcraft course


Much more 

There is loads more to learn on our weekend bushcraft course. Read what previous customers made of the course on TripAdvisor here.

                                                      Read our reviews on TripAdvisor here.


In 2019, our weekend bushcraft courses will take place on the following dates: 



Book your space on our weekend bushcraft course


Weekend bushcraft courses UK Dorset Hampshire

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:


* indicates required

Please select all the ways you would like to hear from Wildway Bushcraft:

You can unsubscribe at any time by clicking the link in the footer of our emails. For information about our privacy practices, please visit our website.

We use Mailchimp as our marketing platform. By clicking below to subscribe, you acknowledge that your information will be transferred to Mailchimp for processing. Learn more about Mailchimp’s privacy practices here.

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.


* indicates required

Please select all the ways you would like to hear from Wildway Bushcraft:

You can unsubscribe at any time by clicking the link in the footer of our emails. For information about our privacy practices, please visit our website.

We use Mailchimp as our marketing platform. By clicking below to subscribe, you acknowledge that your information will be transferred to Mailchimp for processing. Learn more about Mailchimp’s privacy practices here.


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.

With its long evenings and warm days, summer is the perfect time to start learning bushcraft. Unlike what you might see on the TV, bushcraft is not about eating grubs or swimming through muddy ditches. Rather, bushcraft is about living in harmony with nature. It is about a lot more than survival.

Read on to discover how to learn bushcraft as a family this summer.


Something for everyone


Perhaps you enjoy camping out under the stars, or maybe you have never been anywhere near a tarp in your life. Whatever your situation, and you can read about the Indoorsy Mum here, our family bushcraft courses are for you.

We understand that everyone has different levels of experience, that’s why we let you choose the level that you want the course to be run at. If you want to build your own shelter and sleep under that – brilliant! At the same time, if you would like to sleep in a tent then that is absolutely fine.


Family bushcraft course knife safety children


Cook over an open fire together

On our family bushcraft course, you and your family will learn how to light a fire and cook over it. This is a fantastic way to introduce children to eating outside and is a far cry from pizza in front of the TV! Cooking over a fire that you have made together is a fantastic family bonding experience and teaches children about where food comes from and how cooking it can be a fun experience.


* indicates required

Please select all the ways you would like to hear from Wildway Bushcraft:

You can unsubscribe at any time by clicking the link in the footer of our emails. For information about our privacy practices, please visit our website.

We use Mailchimp as our marketing platform. By clicking below to subscribe, you acknowledge that your information will be transferred to Mailchimp for processing. Learn more about Mailchimp’s privacy practices here.



Learn to make fire

family bushcraft courses


While mastering friction fire lighting is a lifelong study, we will introduce you to the basics. Friction fire lighting is one of the most rewarding ways of making fire and has a history as long as human civilization. You can find out more about the art of friction fire lighting here


Sleep out in the woods together

On our family bushcraft course, you will have the chance to build your own shelter using natural materials. You will have a chance to sleep out in this shelter that you have built together. As we said though, if you would rather sleep in a tent or a hammock then you are more than welcome to!

At night, our instructors will stay out in the woods with you but leave you alone to spend time as a family so that you have your own privacy.



Carve your own spoon or make a bow and arrow

During the course, you will have the chance to make something of your very own to take away. Whether you choose to carve your own spoon or fashion a bow and arrow out of natural materials our instructors will be on hand to help you.  You get to take away your spoon or bow and arrow with you as a memento of the weekend. 

Family bushcraft course

Family bushcraft courses to suit you

Our family bushcraft courses can be put on at a time to suit you. So, this summer, learn something amazing – learn the basics of bushcraft. You can find out more about our family bushcraft courses here


A tarp is one of the handiest pieces of kit when sleeping out in nature. Whether you are hiking, cycling or generally exploring and looking for a wild camping spot, a tarp will give you a waterproof comfortable shelter for the night.


Why choose a tarp rather than a tent?

Firstly, they are lightweight and small to carry, this will minimise the weight on your back and the valuable space in your bag. There is no excess packaging, no inner and outer layer to wrestle with. It’s just a simple, minimalistic, user-friendly shelter. Perfect.

To ensure a comfy night’s rest don’t just throw your tarp up anywhere, there are a few considerations to be made:

Your kit;

Check your kit before you go, it would certainly make your trip less enjoyable to discover you have a big hole in your tarp or haven’t bought any paracord with you for your tarp guy lines. Likewise, with your sleeping system, check the zips on your sleeping bag as these can perish over time and it’s best to find that out in the warmth of your home rather than the cold wet moorland after a long hike.

Tarp set ups learn more on our one day bushcraft course

Hazel approves of the tarp set up.

Tarp Configuration

The tarp configuration is usually a combination of personal choice combined with the environment you are sleeping in. It’s a good idea to familiarise yourself with a few different set-ups before you go on your trip and often handy to have some notes to remind you, especially if you are still new to using a tarp. You may plan to use a certain configuration but arrive at your spot for the night to discover it wouldn’t be appropriate for that environment.

We all have our favourite set-ups but these are usually discovered through trial and error, so make changes, play around with your set up, find what works best for you. You’ll then find that you want or need to make changes in certain weather conditions too and if you’ve experimented with different set-ups and made alterations then you’ll be more adaptable and able to keep yourself warm and dry under your tarp.

Learn about tarp set-ups in our latest blog

Check the ground; 

Avoid marshy areas, no one likes a soggy sleeping bag. Check the vegetation around you, this will give you clues. If bog-loving plants are growing in the area this is a sure sign that the ground beneath your feet is soggier than it looks and is likely to make your tarp set up more unstable. Just because it’s not squelching beneath your boots doesn’t mean it won’t soak up through your kit if it isn’t properly waterproofed.

Pitches close to water also need to be considered carefully too, especially if it’s next to a river. You need to ensure your spot is not at risk of flash floods because as the name suggests, they happen in a flash and you really don’t get a warning that they are about to rush through your camp. This puts you in a dangerous situation.

Being near water increases your chance of having unwelcome guests, midges! Anyone who has wild camped in Scotland will know that these guys can be more than just a nuisance, and it’s amazing how big they can so think carefully about your location before inviting these little critters as dinner guests.


Environmental features;

Don’t tie yourself in knots and make life too difficult for yourself, take advantage of environmental features around you. If there are trees of an appropriate distance apart then use these rather than faffing with poles and extra lines. Or if there is a bank or large boulder that naturally provides shelter then why not incorporate this in to your tarp set up for more stability and extra shelter.

Direction of your tarp;

Consider the direction of your tarp, even if it isn’t windy when you are pitching it, that doesn’t mean that the weather won’t change through the night, you don’t want to be sleeping in a wind tunnel. Set up as if the weather is actually bad now, pitch as if the wind is strong with extra securing measures, this way if the wind does pick up in the night you won’t have to scrabble about in the dark when you are half asleep trying to prevent your tarp from turning into a parachute. Look around you for natural indicators to determine the prevailing wind direction, the trees are a good indicator for this, if the treetops are windswept and growing in a definite direction then this will tell you there is often a strong wind passing through that area so direct your tarp accordingly.


Tarp set ups from Wildway Bushcraft

Have fun

The most important thing though is to have fun. Packing lightly with just your kit and tarp can allow you to explore of the beaten track and discover areas you wouldn’t usually find. Obviously, follow the rules of wild camping and make sure you have the land owner’s permission to be there if on private land. So what are you waiting for, pack your kit and get out there to explore, discover and have fun.



  1. Check your kit is in working order
  2. There are many different Tarp configurations, find which works best for you
  3. Check the ground is OK to pitch on to avoid a soggy night’s sleep
  4. Where appropriate use environmental features to help your set up
  5. Get your tarp direction right to avoid sleeping in a wind tunnel




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.



Book your family bushcraft course


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

I had come up with every excuse of why we didn’t ‘need’ to go camping as a family, and yet the kids were still desperate to sleep outside in the great outdoors. I’d even tried “Why not just build a den or sleep in a tent in the garden? Your dad will sleep out there with you.” They did it. They loved it. Now they wanted more. My next response was, “Why don’t you go away to a campsite, your dad will take you.” They did. They loved it, but it was too tame, they wanted to experience camping in nature.


Would a few chilly nights under canvas put them off?

My plan really wasn’t working, I thought a couple of chilly nights out under canvas would really put them off of camping. It had certainly put me off when I was a child. I remember being freezing cold in a wafer-thin sleeping bag, on an even thinner excuse for a roll mat and waking up damp and miserable. “Never again,” I had said to my equally cold and miserable friend next to me. Needless to say, I never went camping again……until now.

Being a Mum changes you, and your kids have special powers over you it seems, in more ways than you often realise. “Please Mum, we loved camping, please come with us this time.” The look on their little faces, I couldn’t disappoint them and say no yet again.

I’m always nagging my husband about the importance of family time, especially when he’s been working late, again. So they had me cornered on this one, they were asking to do something together, this is what I’m always saying we should do more of.

I hate to admit it but a family camping trip ticked all of the boxes as far as things I’d preached were important for our family; Quality time together- Tick Fresh air is good for you- Tick The kids need less screen time and to be more active- Tick I had no more excuses that I could use. “Please Mum, please can we all go camping together, as a family?” I caved, “Ok, I’ll try it one more time.” “Yay!” was the reply, accompanied by excited bouncing around, from the kids, not me. I poured myself a large coffee with a sense of impending doom, what had I agreed to. I reassured myself with the saying What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger, but actually, that wasn’t helping.

Family bushcraft courses

A camping experience…

My husband said he would sort the trip out for us and soon after said that he’d booked us an amazing camping experience where we’d learn new skills and have quality family time. The words camping experience got my heart racing, and not in a good way!

We made a trip to the camping shop, I’ve never seen my husband and children so excited at the prospect of shopping. There were lots of very enthusiastic families there buying all sorts of gadgets, I felt very out of place. My husband bought me a luxury roll mat and the thickest sleeping bag I’d ever seen, OK there was hope for this trip yet. Apparently, this gift was an anniversary gift, I did explain that I was happy with the usual flowers or chocolate option, but no, this year I was the lucky recipient of a roll mat and sleeping bag, yep, I’m a lucky lady! Now that I knew I’d be comfortable and warm, I tried to be more open-minded and excited about this trip, after all, it couldn’t be that bad, could it?

The fateful day of our trip away arrived. “It’s just one night away isn’t it?” “Yes,” was the reply from my husband who was now just as excited as the kids. They’d packed their bags the week before, without even being asked, I only usually get this amount of enthusiasm at the mention of Christmas or sweets. My kids clearly loved sleeping out under canvas far more than I ever did.

As we loaded our kit into the car the excitement levels grew, though my stomach was now churning, what had I agreed to? This feeling wasn’t helped by the following conversation. “Have you packed the tent Dad?” “No, we don’t need it on this trip,” …….what?! No tent? this clearly meant one of two things, either he’d seen sense and booked us into a hotel, yes I hope it’s that option. Or…. we are sleeping out under a shelter, full on Bear Grylls style! The colour drained from my face as my husband confirmed it was the latter option, yep, we were, in fact, camping out under a tarp! He’d booked us on to a family Bushcraft Course he announced proudly. “Yay!!!!” was the response from the back of the car. “You are joking right?” was the politest response I could muster. “It will be fun,” he said with a grin. “We’ll be having quality family time together and learning new skills at the same time, it’s a win-win. It will also help engage the kids in nature more and keep them off of their screens.” I couldn’t argue, these are things that I had said we needed more of as a family….

We arrived at a woodland where we were met by our instructors for the weekend. They were friendly and made us feel welcome. These guys were clearly used to excited children and anxious looking parents. With a couple of other families, we walked into the woods and found our camp area. The kids were very excited about this adventure, I’ve never seen them so keen to learn, which was echoed by my son’s, “I wish school was this exciting.”

family bushcraft courses

A family bushcraft experience

Once we were at our camp we sat around the fire as our instructors welcomed us and talked us through the weekend. Though still feeling out a place a little I was interested to hear what we were going to be taught and to

see what all of the excitement was about. I was also pleased to learn that it wasn’t compulsory to eat bugs or in fact drink our own urine as my son had joked on the way here, so things were looking up.

The first session was shelter building, who knew there were so many different types. Sadly a hotel wasn’t mentioned at this stage but when the instructor spoke about the importance of staying warm, dry and comfortable then I began to relax a little as those were definitely my priorities too. Having watched the instructor demonstrate and talk through the different shelter types it was our turn to try. The kids were straight into it, collecting all of the right vegetation needed to make a natural shelter, even making a bed area out of moss that was surprisingly comfortable. We then put up our tarp shelter, this was our ‘home’ for the night. Even I had to admit that once we’d set up our roll mats and sleeping bags ready for tonight it did actually look cozy and inviting, or maybe that was the fresh air affecting my judgment.

Our next session was fire lighting. This seemed to be the one my son was most interested in, it seems he’s secretly a caveman, I’ve never seen him listen so intently. This was another hands-on session where we all had a go at lighting fires using different techniques. There was an edge of competition amongst our family to see who could light their fire the quickest amongst us. Seeing the look on our daughter’s face as she beat us all was priceless, she was so proud. Here she was, our usually shy little girl, asking the instructor questions, confidently lighting her own fire out in the woods and fully embracing this weekend. I could learn a lot from her.

Before we knew it, it was time for dinner, where had the day gone. We headed back over to the main campfire to be welcomed by fantastic smells of cooking. While we were learning about shelters and fires there had been an amazing stew prepared and bubbling away over the open fire. Obviously, it’s amazing to have a meal cooked for you at all. I hate the daily grind of prepping and cooking meals day-in-day-out at home. So to be presented with a bowl of stew cooked by someone else was a treat, but cooked over the campfire just made it that bit more special and taste even more amazing.


Spending time outdoors

family bushcraft courses

One of the things I have always loved about time spent outdoors and immersed in nature is how it relaxes you. You have that calm physical tiredness at the end of the day rather than that stressed and frazzled tiredness that comes from juggling work, home life, and general commitments. So here we were, sat together, calmly eating our stew around the campfire. There was no rushing, there was no arguing, no tv in the background, no homework to be done, no work phone ringing, no washing machine needing to be emptied. Just us, together, talking, laughing, eating, relaxing and reconnecting.

As the daylight started to fade we headed towards our shelter, our “home for the night. We made our own little campfire and sat down together to drink our hot chocolates before bed, then “Look!” our daughter whispered pointing towards the edge of the woods. As we sat quietly together we saw a herd of deer slowly making their way through the woodland. They obviously came through here regularly, this was their home. We sat still just watching them, not wanting to scare them, for their own benefit as well as our own. I watched the children’s eyes widen with wonder as they sat perfectly still and silently together, I realised they had never seen deer out roaming in the wild before. Yes, we’d read about them, but where we live in the city there was never a chance encounter like this. It was humbling, a far cry from being stuck in the office or battling the rush hour traffic, just us together watching these beautiful creatures wander through the woods.

Once the deer had gone on their way the kids willingly got ready for bed, this was some kind of miracle, the fresh air and our learning sessions had certainly worn them out. They snuggled down into their sleeping bags as the light began to fade, and drifted off to sleep listening to the owls hooting overhead. Seeing the children so cosy in their sleeping bags made me want to get into mine. Well, here goes, my first time sleeping out in nearly 30 years, I was apprehensive but my cosy sleeping bag soon engulfed me in its warmth and I drifted off into one of the best night’s sleep I’d had in a long time.


Waking up naturally


At home the sound of the alarm always gives rise from an impromptu groan from both my husband and I, dragging ourselves back into the daily grind with an element of rushing from the moment you force your eyes open, but not here. If you have never been gently woken by the sun starting to rise and the amazing sound of the birds singing, you really must try it. I felt like my body had naturally woken rather than being jolted awake by an alarm. I laid there in my warm cosy sleeping bag, listening to the birds singing and seeing the sun breaking through the trees above us, no rushing, no stressing, just gently easing our way into another day of outdoor fun. Yes, I think I’m liking this outdoor stuff a little bit more. We all had slept well and after getting dressed we headed over to the main camp area to find the kettle boiling on the campfire and breakfast being cooked for us, I can’t remember the last time breakfast had been made for me. As we all sat together eating our warm breakfast the instructors told us about today’s teaching sessions.

Family bushcraft course
The first session of the day was spoon carving. Personally, I was apprehensive about letting my children have a knife and do any kind of carving, but the instructors stayed near, taught them thoroughly and instilled specific rules to keep everyone safe. It wasn’t a skill I’d ever considered learning before but actually, once I started I found it really enjoyable and quite therapeutic. It was a peaceful calm session, sat around the campfire carving our creations. The session flew by and the kids loved the fact they’d made their own spoons that they could take home, oil and use themselves.

On each course you can ask for certain sessions, my husband had been keen to try game prep so had booked this for us. I wasn’t keen on the idea myself so I watched from the back of the group but I couldn’t believe how involved the kids were. They both got stuck in learning how to prepare, gut and pluck a pigeon ready to be eaten. Being as my kids were really getting stuck in I had to at least show willing, so I opted to help them with the fish, or should I say, they helped me. We all gutted and prepped fresh trout ready for our lunch which we then cooked on the fire. I truly didn’t believe my children would eat this for lunch, we’d had enough problems at home with fish fingers, let alone fresh fish that they had gutted themselves. But it seems that actually giving your child that connection with their food can work in your favour. They both squatted down next to the fire with an instructor and cooked our fish over the flames then promptly tucked in without hesitation. I silently stood waiting for the “Err I don’t like this” but actually the response was very different. “Wow, this tastes amazing. Food tastes much better cooked on the fire I think,” my daughter said as she demolished an entire trout fillet and then asked for more. I could take it personally that my cooking actually isn’t that great, but then I tried it too and definitely agreed with her, fresh trout cooked on the open fire is certainly the tastiest way I’ve ever eaten fish.

After lunch, it was time to start dismantling our shelter and packing our things. I know we’d only been here for twenty-four hours but we had done so much in that time and it had gone so fast, the sign of a good time. We’d had an amazing time together and learned some great skills.


Bonding as a family

family bushcraft course

We walked back out from the woods back to our car, we were all calm and content. My husband commented to the instructor how great it is to escape into the woods, and that really summed it up. We get caught up in the fast pace of daily life being pulled from one commitment to the next, never truly stopping or at least slowing down to have proper time together and explore new skills. The look of contentment in the kids as they put their bags into the car boot said it all, we’d all had a good time, yes, even me. This had been good for us, we had needed this time together, to reconnect. “So can we do this again Mum, as a family?” “Yes, I really think we should.”



Discover our 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.



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.



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.